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I don’t get homesick. But I do miss things, and some in particular more than others. More than anything else, I miss cooking with my dad. My dad is an incredible cook, the kind of person who never uses recipes and barely even measures; I swear he has a sixth sense for what flavors and spices and foods will work together, and somehow, no matter what he does, it works. I miss those evenings spent in the kitchen, watching him, helping him, trying to learn the effortless way in which he brings foods together into perfect combinations. Not being able to bake or cook at school has been one of the hardest things to deal with since I’ve been here.

But now that’s changing. This is the cooking column, in which I’ll provide different recipes and instructions for foods you can make on campus, with tips for improving basic foods and how to avoid typical pitfalls. I’ll try to keep it relevant, focusing on inexpensive foods that you can hopefully make in your dorm room. (Or befriend a senior and beg your way into their apartment kitchen. Or sneak into I-Place and pretend to be an international student.)

I’m starting with foods you can make in your microwave, so you don’t need access to a kitchen—anyone can make these, so you have no excuse not to.

Meet my microwave. Actually, meet my roommate’s microwave. Sort of your standard college dorm-room microwave. Nothing that special. I’m sure you all have one. Mine is primarily used for late night Ramen and popcorn.

Microwaves can actually create tons of really awesome and delicious things if you use them in the right way. Here are some quick and delicious recipes that you can make in a mug in your microwave.

1. Omelet in a Mug

I found this recipe on Pinterest (if you’re judging me right now for using Pinterest, you obviously haven’t tried it) when I was hunting around aimlessly for ways to 1. avoid the Pitzer omelet line and 2. have breakfast without leaving my room.This recipe is originally a Food Network recipe, which is not exactly the gold standard, but it had rave reviews everywhere I looked so I decided to try it.

Here’s the recipe:

Prep time: 3 minutes

Cook time: 7 minutes

Ingredients: 

1/4 cup chopped green bell peppers

2 tablespoons (T) chopped onion

2 T chopped tomatoes

2 eggs

1 oz sliced ham

2 T feta cheese

I should mention that the original recipe from the Food Network calls for “fat-free egg substitute” instead of eggs. But let’s be honest with ourselves for a second. Who chooses “fat-free egg substitute” over eggs? No one. Seriously, if you’re consciously doing that, please get help.

Other changes: I added tomatoes and changed the cheddar cheese to feta cheese. Those are just personal things, but the tomatoes and the bell peppers work well together. Also feta is just a good life choice.

(Side note: you can get basically all of these ingredients from the Collins/Pitzer/Scripps/any dining hall omelet line. Obviously, if you’re already in the omelet line, just get an omelet. But you can grab some ingredients in a to-go cup and store them in your refrigerator for the next morning.)

Preparation and cooking:

Spray a mug with cooking spray. Put the tomatoes, green bell peppers, and onions in the mug. Cook in microwave for 1 minute. (I would recommend placing a paper towel over the top of the mug to help keep your microwave clean.)

Add eggs and cook for 2-3 minutes.

This step is a little tricky, because cooking eggs in a microwave is sort of sketchy and you have to make sure they are completely cooked. This step ended up taking me about 5 minutes because I kept getting nervous and pulling the mug of the microwave to stir the eggs and try to see if it was cooking evenly. I actually had a little freak out at this point because the original recipe says cook for one minute, but after one minute my eggs were just slightly dry around the edges and still completely raw in the middle. But don’t worry–give it at least two minutes, probably a little bit more, and they’ll turn out fine. I would recommend stirring them every minute to make sure that the eggs in the middle of the mug cook as well as the outside edges.

Add ham and cheese and stir. Microwave again for 1-2 minutes until set.

This is pretty simple–the only thing to watch out for now is the egg drying out too much. Since you’ve been cooking it for somewhere between 4 and 7 minutes now, you don’t want it to get dry and flaky. If you need to, you can add a tiny bit of milk, maybe 2 teaspoons, but no more than a tablespoon.

Let cool. DON’T IGNORE THIS STEP.

The result: I loved it. In my opinion, it was way better than the Collins and Scripps omelets. Granted, I have an advantage in that I wasn’t trying to make two hundred omelets in a row. But it was amazing. Perfect with a little salt and salsa. The feta added a nice tang, and despite the fact that I don’t usually like ham, it worked well with everything else. It’s a great breakfast option; if you have all the ingredients ready, it only takes about ten minutes, and you’re out the door.

2. Nutella Mug Cake

Okay first of all, you should be sold on this recipe already because you know it has Nutella in it.  Also, it takes about 5 minutes to make.

Here’s the recipe:

Prep time: 3 minutes

Cook time: 2 minutes

 Cooling time: 10 minutes 

 

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons sugar

 

1 egg

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

3 tablespoons Nutella

4 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 (This is a conglomeration of a couple different Nutella cake recipes. Pretty much everyone has their own opinion on what to mix with Nutella, including me. If you don’t like this one, here’s another fairly different one I’ve also tried which is good.)

 

Preparation and cooking: 

Spray a mug with cooking spray. Put all ingredients together in the mug. Mix well. 

This is just as straightforward as it appears to be. The only time I was dubious at all was when I added in the egg, and suddenly it looked like I was making some sort of weird lemon custard. Just keep adding ingredients. By the end, it’ll be fine.

Bake in microwave for 2-3 minutes.

Don’t bake this for any longer than three minutes. The problem with mug cakes is that they often end up being too dry. It might not look completely done when you take it out, but it is.

Garnish with Nutella.  Or whipped cream. Or something else delicious. Or nothing at all, it really doesn’t even need anything.

The result: I couldn’t even handle it. Too much deliciousness all in one mug. That said, it was a little dry. To correct for this, increase the oil and milk, and cut out a teaspoon of flour. Then, shamelessly eat the whole thing. (Technically it’s one serving, right? Right?)

Let me know other things you want me to make! Or if you have any questions or want any ingredients, don’t hesitate to ask. Also if you want to be an official taste tester/food reviewer/take these things off my hands so I don’t eat all three versions of Nutella cake I make, let me know.

(Looking for more recipes of things to make in mugs? Buzzfeed recently published a pretty good list. It doesn’t link to the best blogs, but most of these are pretty good.)