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College freshman learn to be masters of the microwave
Joshua Furay thaws some frozen cookies at 2 Dog Restaurant in Gainesville. The restaurant only uses its microwave for occasionally thawing frozen items, but the restaurant’s chef, Tim Roberts, said college students who have only a microwave to use for cooking can get a little more creative. - photo by Tom Reed
About this series
Throughout the summer, we will be taking a closer look at life skills new graduates — and, for that matter, everyone else — should know. These could be doing a load of laundry, balancing a checkbook or being organized. Look for these stories every Monday through July.
July 5: Focus and multitasking
July 12: Balancing a checkbook
July 19: Washing clothes
July 26: Taking notes

When Derisa Collymore came to Brenau University, she had to leave her kitchen behind.

“I was horrified,” said Collymore, who now serves as a resident assistant for Brenau. “I am a master chef, and the thought of no stove was just not the story I wanted to hear.”

She had to make do with dining halls, restaurants and every college student’s favorite appliance — the microwave.

At Brenau, students can’t bring hot plates, toasters, crock pots or broilers to the residence halls, but most students do come to campus toting a microwave.

And with a little imagination and the right ingredients, your microwave can become your best friend.

Laura Balkcom, a health educator at North Georgia College & State University, suggested students try ready-made microwave dinners for a quick meal.

“What’s great now is companies, like Healthy Choice, have some whole-grain pasta meals that don’t have to be frozen,” Balkcom said. “Students can just stick them in a cabinet in their dorm room and just add water.”

Balkcom also recommended Ramen noodles, but she suggested students use their own spices instead of the spice packets provided in the package, which add a lot of unnecessary salt.

“The key with those is to make sure they are low sodium,” she said, adding that a healthy adult should not have more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day.

But for the more culinary-minded students, it is possible to move beyond the typical microwave fare.

Tim Roberts, a chef at Gainesville’s 2 Dog Restaurant, said the easiest and freshest meal you can make in a microwave is steamed fish.

Just put the fish in a microwave-safe dish with a lid; add butter, seasonings and a little water for moisture; and microwave for about three minutes, depending on the intensity of your appliance.

“That’s a quick and easy way to do something other than a Lean Cuisine or a Hot Pocket or something like that,” Roberts said. He also suggested steamed vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower or asparagus.

However, even something as simple as popcorn can go awry if you aren’t familiar with the way your microwave cooks.

“Some microwaves will burn it, and some won’t cook it all,” Roberts said, noting the variety of microwave temperatures, powers and sizes. “Just like anything, you’ve got to know your equipment.”

Russell Dukes, fire safety manager at the University of Georgia, said popcorn accidents are among the most common cause of smoke alarms in the dorms.

“It overheats, starts smoking and sets the fire alarm off,” Dukes said.

Residents must then file out of the building and wait for the official all-clear, just because someone blackened their midnight snack.

Dukes said this is preventable if students keep an eye on what they’re doing in the kitchen.

“Always attend to the microwave,” he said. “Don’t ever put anything in the microwave or on a stove and then leave. Stay there and attend to it.”

But when students can master the microwave, they’re really only limited by their imaginations.

“I really did get creative,” Collymore said. “I learned how to cook those packages of Ramen noodles in the microwave, and I used to cut up little sausages and throw them in there. It turned into a real soup with everything.”

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