Nutrition for college students

I’m a college student living in a dorm. I have a microwave, a mini plug-in skillet, a hot pot and a blender, but otherwise, not a whole lot else to cook with. I’m thinking about dropping my cafeteria meal plan entirely because it is so unappetizing and unhealthy. What are some easy recipes that I could make here in my dorm room with my few appliances?

If I had dropped my meal plan in college, I would have starved. Keep your meal plan and try to find some good-for-you menu items at each meal. Also, expand your tastebuds and become a food explorer by tasting new foods each day. If you have the time, avoid eating fast foods as staples: If you exist on fatty, high-calorie food for an extended period, it’s going to start catching up on your body a few years down the road.

Believe it or not, opportunities for wonderful school menus abound. If your school food service department isn’t responding to your needs, help them find an enlightened path to student satisfaction. Try to get a face-to-face meeting with the food service decision-makers and help them satisfy their customers. Bring some friends with similar tastes for moral support. Remember, you are not there to complain – arrive bearing ideas and solutions.

Food Management magazine, for instance, is a great trade journal for them to read on a regular basis. It will keep them in tune with all the neat new things that are going on at other institutional food service operations.

Next, challenge them creatively by asking for help with a menu for a special event. Let’s say you’re studying the Mediterranean Basin. Could they come up with a low-cost dinner or lunch menu representing the cuisines of the Mediterranean countries?

This whole exercise may result in a fun and festive get-together for all your friends. It will also help to build a rapport between student customers and the food service management; you will become a valued customer and no longer a meal card with no face.

If all that fails, here is a personal favorite of mine that I’ve adapted for a hot pot.

Chicken Chili

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1″ pieces
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, peeled & diced
1 small red sweet pepper, seeds removed, diced
1 fresh jalepeno pepper, seeds removed, sliced thinly
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp paprika
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup molasses
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (14.5 oz)tomato puree
2 cans (14.5 oz) pinto beans, drained & rinsed
1/4 tsp liquid smoke (optional)

Note: Wear rubber gloves when handling jalepeno peppers. Avoid contact with the eyes and other sensitive areas.

In a large pot, brown cut chicken thighs in olive oil over medium-high heat, approximately 7 minutes.

Remove browned chicken to a plate. Place onion, red pepper and jalepeno into pot and sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, paprika and black pepper to vegetables and sauté 1 minute. Add molasses and stir. Return chicken to pot and stir.

Add diced tomatoes and tomato puree. Stir and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add rinsed pinto beans and liquid smoke. Stir. Continue cooking chili 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Serve hot with cooked rice on the side. Serves 4.

What you have in your mind?