Creative cooking for the carefree college chef

    Sick of BK? Cold crumbs from hot cookie bar giving you the blues? Tired of those miserable late dinners at Plex, when the only meat left in the Panini line is some suspect hybrid of spam and baloney (spaloney?) and the spaghetti is dried out to a crisp and plastered to the sides of the metal dish? Yeah, me too. And as a self-proclaimed lazy bum whose income consists solely of coins scraped from various pockets, vending machines and laundry room coin jars, both bona fide cooking and fine dining are ruled out. Luckily, I have stumbled upon the perfect solution: a special bum-tastic genre of cooking that avoids responsible, mature things like stoves and measuring cups and utilizes what college students actually use, like shot glasses, Ramen noodles, microwaves, alcohol and hair straighteners.

    Hair Straightener Quesadillas

    High maintenance has never tasted so good. Photo by author.

    What you need: For this melty moment, whip out your flat iron — make sure to use a model that gets pretty hot. A wide iron is best. For the manly men out there, or those of you blessed with fresh-from-the-iron-straight hair, just chat up the high maintenance girl down the hall. She’s guaranteed to have a hair straightener or twenty. You’ll need some cheese (the kind that comes pre-grated in a bag) and some tortillas (the smaller, soft taco size works best, but if you aren’t into spending, swipe a few from the dining hall). Lastly, unless you want to incorporate cheese into your next hairdo, I recommend the assistance of tin foil to rein in melty cheese and protect your scrumptious snack from the possibly suspect surface of the hair straightener.

    To make this delicious and awe-inspiring creation, fold the tortilla in half over a handful of grated cheese and fold a single layer of tin foil around the tortilla, sealing it around the edges. Holding one end of the quesadilla, use the flat iron to heat the other side, and then switch, repeating until the cheese is nice and melty.

    This is one culinary adventure that I don’t recommend undertaking while under the influence of anything. If you are hell-faced, schwasty-faced or otherwise face-impaired, go to BK — don’t risk burning yourself. Remember, the wonderful girly invention of a hair straightener doubles not only as a cooking appliance, but also as a highly injurious weapon. Take caution.

    Microwave Cake

    Betty Crocker would be all over this little gem. Photo by author.

    Microwave cake— I’m convinced that this NASA-worthy invention will change college culture, if not the world. The very thought of steamy hot cake straight from the microwave makes me practically drool. Sometimes actually drool. It’s that delicious and amazing.

    What you need: Cake mix, of any variety. Funfetti is foolproof, but yellow cake is a classic, and chocolate cake with a couple added chocolate chips or Hershey bar chunks is straight up decadent. You’ll also need Canola oil, as well as some milk or water. I know that’s a lot of special ingredients (well, two) but I would trek to Jewel in a blizzard for this stuff.

    Microwave cake works best in individual portions, so make it in a paper or plastic bowl. Stir together about 4 shot glasses of cake mix, half a shot of Canola oil, and 2 shots of water or milk. It’s all right to approximate here; just add more liquid or cake mix if the batter is too thick or too thin. Aim for a medium consistency; thicker than a milkshake, but thinner than cookie dough. Mix thoroughly until there are no more lumps and then pop the whole thing in the microwave. It takes about 1 to 2 minutes to achieve optimal tastiness, but time varies by microwave and bowl, so watch closely. The cake is ready soon after all the batter has puffed up somewhat evenly and no longer looks moist on the surface. The result is an irresistible cake that is as rich and dense as you’d ever want.

    It’s best eaten hot, like those molten chocolate cakes they serve in fancy restaurants. I don’t recommend saving this delicious dessert for later. In fact, I dare you to try it: it would be near-impossible to refrain from scarfing down a microwave cake within 2 minutes of its completion.

    Penne à la Vodka… à la College

    Channel your inner alcoholic by making this delicious and (kind of) classy dish— all in the convenience of a microwave. Photo by Bonimo on, licensed under Creative Commons.

    What you need: If you are so inclined, you can make traditional Penne pasta, but if stoves intimidate you, go for a package of Ramen noodles. (Who doesn’t adore 15 cent food?) You’ll also need a jar of pasta sauce, such as Prego, and of course the most important ingredient: vodka.

    Follow the directions on the package to cook the Ramen. Preferably, leave it a little undercooked, so it doesn’t get soggy in the sauce. To make the vodka sauce, add 2 shots of vodka to approximately one cup of pasta sauce. Optionally, splash a little milk or cream into your saucy concoction for a quasi-authentic taste. Heat the sauce in your microwave until it bubbles around the edges, stirring periodically. Prevent splattering by using a dish with a lid or placing a plate over your bowl. Finally, add the sauce to the pasta and zap it once more in the microwave. And voilà! A gourmet meal for the semi-vagrant.

    This recipe is also easy to double if you are cooking for two. It would probably be a great way to apologize to a roommate for last night’s drunken antics — if you left any vodka unguzzled, that is.

    Fondue (For Me and You)

    Just the word ‘fondue,’ with its snooty French origins, reeks of elite hoity-toity “let’s schmooze as we chortle politely and hold our fondue forks at rakish angles.” But no no no, folks, erase that image right now: fondue is for you. See, it even rhymes — clearly a sign.

    And when you think about it, fondue is really just dipping some stuff into other stuff that is melted — the nature of stuff isn’t even specified. See? It’s sounding bum-tastic already. You can go for a classic cheese fondue a classy chocolate fondue, or be inventive and create your own. (Hint: melt frozen raspberries for a scintillating fruity delight).

    For Melting

    Chocolate is the simplest way to go. All you need is a bag of chocolate chips or a couple of chocolate bars. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate— whatever floats your boat. For a gourmet touch, melt the chocolate with a couple shots of Kahlua, Bailey’s or liquor of choice. Be careful not to burn the chocolate: it’s best to melt it at half power and stir often. When it is completely smooth, you are set to go! If you are gonna go cheese, cheddar works great, but if you want to do something a little more upscale, use Gruyère, Asiago, Parmesan or Swiss, either solo or with each other. Heat the cheese in your handy-dandy all-purpose microwave with a little bit of liquid — beer is great with cheddar, and white wine pairs perfectly with the fancier cheeses. Use about a fourth of cup (again, about 2 shots) for every one cup of grated cheese. Stir the mixture periodically until it is smooth and serve immediately with dunkables. And by serve, I mean eat it all yourself.

    For Dunking

    There are no limits when it comes to what you dip in your cheese or chocolate or mystery concoction. No need to go out and buy anything, either: just scrounge around your room hobo-in-a-dumpster style. Fruit, pretzels and cookies are all excellent choices, but don’t stop there. Pop-Tarts, granola bars, marshmallows, dry cereal, graham crackers and those sketchy Elfin Crackers that are inexplicably sold in all campus vending machines— these could all stand to be improved with a drizzle or dunk of melted chocolate. As for the cheesier side of fondue, stick to things like bready tasty-tastes of any variety (pita, pretzels, french baguettes), veggies and apples.

    You don’t have to be a real chef to make tasty food. In fact, you can be one step up from a homeless bum and still eat in style. These recipes might make Martha Stewart cringe, but you won’t be thinking of this when you’re basking in your brilliant culinary accomplishments. Bon appetit, Northwestern!


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