How to Make Thanksgiving Dinner in a Dorm Room
Are you one of the few students on your campus who will be staying behind next week when everyone else makes the trip home for Thanksgiving dinner? Maybe your bank account was running a little low and traveling just wasn’t an option, or maybe you’ve had plenty of grandma’s dried turkey to last a lifetime. Heck, you might actually be staying behind to catch up on assignments and prepare for upcoming finals. In any case, remaining on campus doesn’t mean you’ll be forced to spend the holiday alone or eating crappy fast food. In fact, you can put together a pretty impressive spread right in your dorm room; it just takes a microwave and a little planning. Here’s what you’ll need.
As I stated before, you’ll basically need a microwave for cooking everything, but you should also have some larger bowls, measuring cups and microwave bags (optional). Don’t forget some serving spoons and a large knife for cutting the turkey. You can use plastic silverware and plates for guests, or just have everyone BYOS (bring your own stuff).
This is simply a suggested list of items (and instructions) for your meal. I have used these during my time in college, so I know they can be cooked in a dorm and actually taste good, too. Please feel free to alter it to suit your tastes.
Although a small turkey (6 lbs. or less) can actually be cooked in a microwave (depending on its size), I found it easier to work with just a turkey breast (thawed). Be sure to cover the breast with olive oil (or butter) and seasoning (try using onion soup mix or dry salad dressing mix). Then, place it in the microwave bag or cover with microwave-safe plastic wrap. You’ll need to cook it 10 minutes for every pound (a good rule of thumb is ½ pound per guest). If your microwave doesn’t rotate, be sure to turn the breast every 10 minutes, as well. Allow it to set for at least 15 minutes before removing it from the bag and carving the meat.
Unfortunately, you can’t put the stuffing inside the turkey like you would in a regular oven, so you’ll need to do this outside the bird. I’ve never been one of those who makes it from scratch, so to save time (and money) do yourself a favor and grab a box of Stove Top (I prefer the cornbread version). All you need to do is boil some water in the microwave while the breast is cooling, throw in the box contents and a spoon of butter, stir, cover, and fluff after five minutes. Done! Of course, if you want to get fancy, Kraft has some recipes to help put a little zing in your stuffing mix, too.
I actually love having mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes during the holidays, so I tend to make both. Scrub and wash your potatoes (one per person), prick them with a fork all over, and place on a paper towel in the microwave. It will take about 18 to 20 minutes for about four or five spuds, but start checking at the 12-minute mark. Not all microwaves are created equal, so when your fork glides easily through the potato, it’s done. If you want to cut down the time, use a steamer bag instead. Now, here’s the fun part; you can dress your potatoes up a variety of ways. I often add sour cream, shredded cheese and bacon crumbles to my regular spuds (loaded potatoes), or just milk and butter. For the sweet potatoes, you can add butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, or cheat by using maple syrup for flavoring. Just use a fork and spoon to mash everything together in a large bowl. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try blending the regular and sweet potatoes together with just some butter, milk and seasoning (salt & pepper). It’s actually pretty good!
Consider your guests when deciding which other side dishes you may want to include with your meal. I always try to incorporate a healthy vegetable, like fresh green beans or carrots, but the options are endless. If you need some inspiration, check out these sides you can make using your microwave steaming bags. The carrots with orange glaze are delicious!
If you want to keep things simple, try making Watergate salad. You’ll need some pistachio pudding mix, a can of crushed pineapple, a cup of vanilla yogurt, and Cool Whip (two cups). Simply stir everything together (except the Cool Whip) and then fold in the whipped topping. Since I can’t make a pumpkin pie in my dorm room, I typically use this no-bake pumpkin cheesecake recipe instead. It’s basically pumpkin puree, no-bake cheesecake mix and cream cheese, but very delicious! If you need something super easy (and cheap), you can also whip up a Butterfinger pie in under 10 minutes. FYI - it helps to make these items the night before, so they have time to chill.
Don’t forget to pick up some rolls from the grocery store, too. You can’t have Thanksgiving dinner without them, and they are great for making turkey sliders with your leftovers. If you have people over while you are cooking, be sure to set out some cheese and crackers. You can also make a festive, non-alcoholic punch to keep them satisfied while waiting for the meal to be served. Play some board games, host a study session, or just enjoy each other’s company. There’s really no reason why you can't have a wonderful Thanksgiving meal right from your dorm room. Enjoy!