Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

At the moment my life is rather full of excitement in many ways; there’s the book of course, my mother had major surgery just today (in Japan), my father is almost ready to go home after many months in the hospital and a physical rehabilitation center (in the U.S.). But the part that is having the most immediate affect on daily life around here is the fact that I’ve just moved to a new house, which at the moment has no kitchen. (I wrote about my move over on Just Hungry.) There is a sink, but no appliances whatsoever. And since we plan to put in a proper kitchen as soon as plans and workers and so on are in place, we don’t want to just buy stuff that we won’t have a need for in a few months.

This does make it rather difficult to cook anything, including my usual bentos! But I’ve decided to make it a challenge. I thought back to this old post, about making bentos in a dorm room. At the moment, our living conditions are not that different really from being in a dorm room, though we have more space. What better opportunity to see how it really is like to try to make bentos in dorm conditions? I should have plenty of real-life experiments to report on by the time many of you are off to college in the fall.

Stay tuned!

Also, if you’re already ‘cooking’ in a dorm room, let me know what kind of restrictions you have as to appliances and so on. Do you have a refrigerator, or access to one? Microwave? I’m going to try to stick to dorm-like conditions as much as possible. (I’m guessing that a dorm does not allow a small charcoal grill, right? ^_^;)

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Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

Honestly, in my dormitories at uni, we had a communal kitchen -- complete with dishwasher! -- so I cooked on a stove and everything, even when I lived in a dorm room. I suppose most universities don't have this?

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

When I lived in the dorms, a lot of people had rice cookers, and those little "hot pots" that can boil water, and mini-fridges. There were microwaves in the common area. A few people had toaster ovens even though we weren't supposed to. Nobody really did any cooking beyond rice or ramen!

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

At my University we were only allowed to have one of those electric tea kettles and a small fridge. There was a microwave in the lounge that everyone shared. We ate so unhealthy because all our snacks were just junk foods in packages and ramen noodles with the boiled water. Plus the cafeteria was buffet style, so you could eat as much as you like any time of the day! Talk about gaining the "freshman 15" pounds.

I did live in a really tiny studio appartment for a while that didn't have a working stove, and my favorite appliance was my electric fondue pot. It was nonstick, and had variable heat settings. I could make pasta (even though it took forever to boil the water) and stir-frys, and of course fondue lol.

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

I'm living in a dorm room now, and I have a single IH stove. Bought a microwave-oven-toaster, fridge, rice cooker and small 1.2l kettle, and I'm cooking just about everyday, for dinner and lunch the next day. It's usually a one-dish that's fairly complete, like goya champloo or mabo nasu or pork stir-fried with miso and cabbage, since I return fairly late from university everyday and don't have that much to cook and all.

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

We were allowed microwaves and mini-fridges/freezers in the room, and had a kitchen on our floor with a stove and oven. We were not allowed to have hot pots, crock pots, toaster ovens, or any kind of hot plate/heating element for boiling water.

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

I don't have dorm room conditions but I work in a school library and our workroom is pretty much dorm conditions. We have a sink and a refrigerator. We had a small microwave, toaster oven and crock pot. But you said no appliances that would be replaced with the new kitchen so if you don't have those already, you're probably limited to a rice cooker and maybe a crock pot. (I also have a bread machine at home.) Chicken and dumplings comes immediately to mind. Not appropriate for a bento meal but can be done in a crock pot.

You can do a lot of interesting things with a rice cooker and a crock pot. The rice cooker not only does rice but all sorts of beans. And the crock pot can not only do soups and stews (and beans) but you can even do chicken and some meats in it.

If you have a bread machine, there's all sorts of breads.

If you don't have a small countertop microwave or toaster oven you might consider purchasing one anyway if you might use it at work (as I do) or if you have someone going off to college soon. I have nephews getting ready for such. I've saved a hotplate that I don't use for that reason. A hot plate and a crepe pan gives you a griddle.

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

I think a lot of dorms now have a kitchen for everyone to use. There always seemed to be someone baking cookies or brownies in my dorm. Individually though, I know that people would have microwaves, fridges, and electric tea kettles. Hot plates and such were absolutely prohibited. The biggest thing was that even if you had a fridge, if you wanted to make lunch for yourself, you had to be sure that IT didn't need to be refridgerated, since if you had time to walk back to your dorm room to get it, you had time to eat at the dining hall. =/

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

I live with my parents, my dad is a lot older than my mum and he is unwell and cranky a lot of the time.
Without fail he gets up int he morning when im trying to make my lunch he then proceeds to complain about the smell and the cooking early in the morning.

So I am really looking froward to seeing your kitchen-less bentos, as it would make my life so much easier if i had some more ideas for microwave and straight from the freezer/fridge bentos.

Becki

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

In my dorms we didn't get hot plates even. That's becoming a trend now. We had a "shared kitchen" with two nasty pots and a nasty baking sheet nobody ever cleaned properly, an oven and stove unit that gets cleaned probably once a year, a sink, a fridge and freezer open to everyone in the building (shit got stolen) so most people had a minifridge of their own. I'd buy sodas and plastic cups, get meals to go during the day, and spend most nights at my boyfriend's apartment so I could get some real food for dinner.

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

I don't live in a dorm room, but I help manage some here in Australia. The kids aren't allowed to cook in their rooms at all beyond boiling a kettle. They can have one of those itty bitty bar fridges in their room.
They do have a communal kitchen that they share with stoves, ovens, toasters, microwaves and fridges. Well, access until someone does something silly and the College Head is forced to lock the door for a week!

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

We were allowed hotpots (horrid plastic electric kettle things) and refridgerators. My roommate and I ended up using my hotpot for cooking (rice, lentils, pasta, eggs, soup, veg...etc) and hers for boiling water. The second year we snuck a hot air popcorn popper into our room, making ice cubes from our mini freezer compartment and popcorn mainstays of our latenight study sessions.

After graduating, I lived in a studio in France with a microwave, electric kettle and a fridge. You can cook anything in a microwave from omelets to rice, cakes (in glass or silicone 'pans') to stewed fruit. I had to start using canned beans and lentils at that point, cooking them in the microwave was just not a good option (although red lentils might have worked if I liked them?) For pasta I just used the 'ecological method' (boiling the water, pouring it over the pasta, covering the bowl with a plate and sticking the lot in the microwave to protect it from drafts. Wait for 20 minutes and your pasta is cooked!).

I'm a vegetarian so I don't know about cooking meat in microwaves or hotpots, but otherwise, I survived 4 good years without a proper kitchen and on the extreme student budget (while living in France my weekly food budget was 10 euros/week so there was no room for ready meals or convenience foods!)

I quite enjoyed my time with meagre kitchen equipment, it made me extremely creative in the kitchen. Good luck with your dorm room experiment!

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

I guess it's already been said multiple times in the posts above, but these seem to be the major variations in dorm room styles (at least in the US):

* Traditional: Dorm rooms w/ communal bathrooms on each floor; 1 communal kitchen (w/ all appliances) for whole building. Even if the kitchen is available, it's hard to enforce individual accountability for cleanliness...
* Modern traditional: Dorm rooms each w/ one or all of sink, fridge, microwave; sometimes has a communal kitchen for building or each floor, sometimes not
* Suites, cluster-style: 2-3 dorm rooms arranged around a communal bathroom; sometimes has a communal kitchen for each "cluster", sometimes for each floor
* Suites, apartment-style (usually newer-built, reserved for upperclassmen): 3-6 single or double dorm rooms arranged around 1-2 bathrooms and a kitchenette with sink, fridge, microwave, stove, oven (usually no dishwasher)

At least at the 3 schools I have attended/work for, hot pots, microwaves, fridges, rice cookers, etc are all not allowed in the dorm rooms for safety reasons (and for one of the schools, the students are required to be on the meal plan if living in on-campus housing). But, students being students, they of course find ways to bring anything and everything in...RAs tend to overlook such items, and the only time the administration gets to look in a student's room is if he/she has been flagged or if they're doing a fire inspection. Hot pots, coffee makers, or rice cookers are typically the easiest to smuggle in.

Looking forward to seeing your recipes!!

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

Don't think to limit yourself just for the adventure. I think the rest of the house itself is enough of an adventure, give yourself permission to buy whatever temp appliances you need to keep your soul happy and sanity together.

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

I never lived at the dorms at my college since I lived at home/own my own home but I do know how the dorms are set up though at my art college.

Each dorm in the newest buildings are clusters of 4 apartments with 1 shared bathroom for 2 rooms, a laundry facility in the room, and a communal kitchen. There is a glass top stove, dishwasher, and a large fridge. They have a ton of cabinet space, almost more then what I have in my own home, and large sink. You can bring in any type of cook appliances you desire but they do weekly inspections on the cleanliness of space since we live in the south and roaches are horrible.

The second type of dorm we have at my college is a renovated apartment building or house. There are usually 2 to 3 bedrooms in the space and your typical small apartment kitchen. It has a small stove/oven, fridge, and depending on the dorm you get a dishwasher.

Over half of the college's undergrads live in the dorms where I go to school and the school owns a ton of different properties in the area to accommodate students, their needs, and wallets.

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

One of my friends is currently going to college and she has to keep her cooking to a minimum in her dormitory. She's allowed a mini-fridge, a microwave, and a coffee pot. She is not allowed a hot plate (although since the coffee pot is kind of a hot plate she can work around that), or a toaster, or anything that produces heat outside of those two things. I think it's BS, but whatever. She often misses the cafeteria meals because of her class times, so she needed to be able to make food in her room.

I saved the day when I sent her one of these:

http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=16574414

She does all of her cooking in that now. Loves it! I was so impressed with it that I showed it off to everyone before I sent it to her, and my mom got me one. It's super-handy! I've made full chicken dinners in it before. I highly recommend it to all college dorm residents who are allowed a microwave and want REAL food.

Tupperware makes something similar, but it stacks really high and doesn't fit into a lot of microwaves. My mom has one and loves it. You can make like four things in the microwave at once with it, I guess.

Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

One handy appliance is a Nesco brand roaster oven. You can bake in it, you can use it as a slow cooker and you can roast in it. Also an electric water kettle which allows you to make instant soups, oatmeal, teas, instant coffee/espresso, cocoa, ramen noodles, etc.
Here is the Amazon us link:http://www.amazon.com/Nesco-6-Quart-Roaster-Oven-Nonstick/dp/B0000665T8/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1276406720&sr=8-10

Also, since you have amazing cheap produce you might want to experiment with raw vegan food during the hotest months. Skip the stuff that requires a dehydrator and focus on things like shredded zucchini "noodles" with pesto sauce. That way less of a worry on meats and dairy that need refrigeration. Focus on what you have and less on what you can't.

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

Living in a dorm room, I have a small refrigerator, a microwave oven and a sink. It is forbidden to have any other sort of cooking appliances, but like many of my neighbours, I have a small induction cooking plate.
And believe me, my bentos rock !

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

Thankfully I missed out on the dorm experience, but from my friends who did go through the dorms, they had rice cookers...and that's about it. However, we attended a huge public university and our student cards that also held our dining plans not only worked on campus, but also restaurants near campus and any establishment part of the student card program, so "good" food wasn't really an issue for any of them.

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

I am living in a dorm right now. We don't have a shared kitchen, but one in our dorm. I have a microwave oven (without grill function), 2 cooking plate (uh or is it a stove?) and a water cooker. I also have a fridge with a little freezercompartiment.

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

We were allowed microwaves and mini-fridges in the room.
Retrouvez des beurettes rebelles bien chaudes et brulantes en video gratuites. Des beurette arabes qui ne cachent plus leur vices et devoilent tous leurs atouts.

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

Hmm, my dorm had a communal kitchen (plan to clean before cooking), but there was space and equipment restrictions. You don't have a lot of spare space to store kitchen stuff in your room, plus you don't want to have to wash a bunch of dishes, so I learned to plan my cooking better.
To goal is to prep and cook a whole meal using just one cutting board, knife, pan, plate, and fork. Cut the veggies first, store them on the plate you'll eat on, cut up your meat last, while you have the pan heating; stir stuff with the fork you eat with if possible (be careful of contamination with raw meat though) also use it to test pasta for doneness. The veggies that you stored on your plate are thrown in the stir-fry or whatever, then your plate is empty and ready for the finished meal. If you mix your own sauce instead of using store-bought, then you'll have to use a little bowl too.
Speaking of dorm food, the little rice cooker I got in college is finally starting to fail, bless it's faithful heart. Didn't last near as long as my mom's. They just don't make things like they used to.

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

Glad to hear the family are all on the mend. Can't wait to see the new book when it gets out.

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

In Pushino (about 100 km from Moscow), we're not allowed to have anything electric. There is one (!!!) refrigerator per about 80 students, but that really doesn't change anything. We still use electric appliances (waffle makers, tea pots), but since we're only going to be here for about another week, no one really took any serious appliances.
For some reason, people who live in dorms practically don't cook at all here (no one can ever answer me how they don't starve to death that way). But in the year that I've had my bento-box (ok, year and a half cuz I kept stealing my boyfriends', since he doesn't use his), I've really gotten better at cooking and time planning :)

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

When I was an undergrad student in the dorms at the University of Texas, we were allowed to have coffee pots and microwaves and refrigerators, but not rice cookers. Most everyone was expected to eat in the cafeteria, and while the food wasn't bad, it wasn't exactly what I wanted most days. You can only eat so much pizza and fried chicken, after all.

I have to admit that I kept a 4-cup cooker very well hidden for the time I lived in the dorms and used it on a regular basis, but this was only successful because my RA (residence assistant, kind of an upperclassman babysitter for us freshmen) was complicit because I would feed her. She would let me know when fire inspections were happening and I would stash the rice cooker in my car. (I know, I know, I'm lame. Some people hid drugs and booze; I hid a rice cooker.)

However, if you don't want to be some kind of culinary renegade, you might consider trying the microwave rice cookers. I've used one before, and they are not ideal, but they don't violate any policies that allow for a microwave. Essentially they are just a plastic bowl with a lid that is designed to cook the rice as it's microwaved.

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

Hi!!
I really love justbento and justhungry.
Me and my mum (my mum is adopted from s.korea) tried some of your recepies. LOVE the kimchee recipie you posted a while ago! Aswell as the green tea leaf cookies!
You got so innovative ideas! Too bad though that many of the ingredients arent availible in sweden. I really aprecciate it when you put up pictures of the raw ingredients so i can go to "chinatown" and purchase since mum and i dont know what they're called/pronounced.. (the owners, especially chinese women tend to dislike us as customers because of that) ^^

My bf and i live in an "appartment" (just a bedroom and a bathroom) without a kitchen, and we have serious troubles cooking in these conditions.
We do have a fridge with freezer (that keeps buzzing next to the bed during night) :P
We also have a heating element for one pan (maybe that's what's called a cookingplate here by you others?)
,a wafflemaker and a waterboiler.
Cooking takes time with only one cookingplate. We tried to boil eggs in the waterboiler but it didnt turn out as good as we thought :P Also, omelettes and toasts are great to make in a wafflemaker. You have really inspired us (in different ways) to not be afraid of trying new things and experimenting with what we got.

I've heard that in Japan (a friend of mine lived there, that was in the 80's though) many people live with just one cookingplate and a ricecooker/waterboiler as kitchen applicanes, even though all the jeapanese cuisine seems to have so many steps when cooking.

This post got a bit to long, i guess i jsut wanted to say that im really looking forward for tips on "cooking in a dorm"! And goodluck with the new house! ps. gonna buy your cookbook shortly!

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

When I lived in Okinawa, we had a dorm sized fridge, and a two burner cooktop. Made American style meals just too hard to cook! So, we lived Japanese style for a year. I don't think I've ever been healthier!

Re: Just a bigger dorm room for the summer

Ooooh...dorm living. I am not sure how I survived all three years of it. I was pretty lucky in that our dorm had a pretty good-sized kitchen and we could check out pots and pans and the like from the closet. Like others have commented, I got really good at making things in my hot water pot. Having a coffee pot in the room was not allowed so I was French-pressing my coffee (how that didn't give me an ulcer I'll never know). We had a microwave and teeny refrigerator for pretty much everything else. I was rather fond of frozen burritos and instant ramen. My fiance told me that he had a portable charcoal grill which he snuck into his dorm. Granted, he only used it outside and never in the dorm room but it did come in handy for small things like grilled hot dogs and such. He also told me that his dorm refrigerator died so for the last few months of living in there, he was stocking a plastic cooler with ice to keep his food and milk cold. Good luck with the move, Maki! We just got into our new place not too long ago and getting everything in order is such a pain but it will be worth it when all is said and done.

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