One thing everyone has in common is a love of delicious food, Boulder chef Melissa Harrison believes.
"While eating in the campus cafeteria is a great social network," Harrison said, "or scarfing down greasy burgers and sandwiches with your buddies is more fun then eating Cup O Noodles on your bed, don't forget that cooking in your dorm room will save you time, money and could be more fun then any of the other options."
CU students may not using the following in their dorm rooms: toasters, toaster ovens, hot plates, electric griddles, personal microwave ovens, barbecues or grills. All electrical appliances, such as coffeemakers, must be UL-approved. All rooms are furnished with a microwave/fridge combo.
Melissa Harrison recommends that when buying fruits and vegetables, always give it the college try. Fresh is always best, but frozen is your next best choice. When fruits and vegetables are frozen, their nutrients are retained in flash freezing.
Harrison should know: She appeared on Season 5 of Bravo's "Top Chef" along with fellow Boulder chef and eventual winner Hosea Rosenberg.
The Colorado Daily checked in with Harrison, Rosenberg and another Boulder celebrity chef -- Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, Frasca Food and Wine's executive chef and a contestant on Bravo's "Top Chef: Masters" -- for some pointers on what food-savvy University of Colorado students can do to spice up their menus.
Students living in off-campus apartments, with access to full kitchens, will have it easier; those living in CU's dorms will be limited to very creative microwave cooking, since the university bars appliances such as hot plates and crock pots in the residence halls.
Harrison said with a few staple ingredients, proper equipment and free time, cooking in a small apartment or dorm room is simple and cost-effective.
"Instead of meeting at the local college hot spot all the time, invite a couple friends over for dorm room dinners," said Harrison, who has explored different culinary cuisines in the past by working in restaurants around the world, including Boulder's Happy Noodle House. "Making food in the dorm from time to time will save you money for all the things you love to do."
Since college students are often rushing from class to class, finding time to eat can be tough, she said.
"Sometimes you only have 20 minutes and you have to walk all the way across campus to the cafeteria to get food," Harrison said. "It can be easier to make a nice chicken stock, spinach, mushroom and some chicken and pasta in a soup bowl that can be ready in like 20 minutes.
"And it can go a long way because you'll have leftovers when you get back from class."
Rosenberg, formerly Jax Fish House's executive chef, suggested growing fresh herbs in the dorm room to spruce up meals.
"Go to a plant store and get some thyme, tarragon and mint," Rosenberg said. "If you have fresh herbs, you can add them to meals. Students tend to eat a lot of pasta and Ramen. You can get a little more creative and one night cook a big batch of pasta, then the next night use the leftovers to make a pasta salad with fresh herbs."
Salt and pepper
Rosenberg said the main staple ingredient students should have in their dorm rooms is as simple as salt and pepper.
"It sounds silly, but salt and pepper can make a huge difference," Rosenberg said. "Other good ingredients to have on hand are olive oil, butter, garlic and lemons. I always keep some bacon in the fridge, too."
Rosenberg said when he was a freshman at the University of Colorado, he didn't cook much in the dorms.
"In the dorms, I definitely ate the basic freshman meals like Ramen, spaghetti with canned sauce, a lot of canned food, the easy stuff," Rosenberg said. "But you can do so much with just a hotplate and a pan. Students should go out and get a good cookbook. There are a couple of great one-pot cookbooks out there."
Mackinnon-Patterson said he thinks the dorm room can be an easy place to make simple, healthy and tasty meals. He recommends some pantry staples such as San Marzano canned tomatoes, for making a simple tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, sea salt, pepper and Dijon mustard.
The crock pot
One thing Rosenberg said is a great piece of equipment is a crock pot.
"Students can throw a bunch of stuff in the crock pot in the morning before class, and when they get home, it's ready to eat," Rosenberg said.
Harrison said to try to avoid canned vegetables, as the nutrients are lost in the canning process.
"A lot of times people can't afford fresh vegetables because they'll either go bad, they sit in your fridge, there's not enough space, or you're not home enough," Harrison said. "I always say fresh is always best, but frozen vegetables are always a great choice if you can't. There's really great ways to cook with frozen vegetables.
"I think in a college dorm room if you have one of those mini fridges, you can keep a bag of frozen peas and a bag of frozen broccoli in your freezer that's a good alternative when you're doing soups."
Harrison said basics such as chili flakes, soy sauce, box chicken stock and Sriracha are simple ingredients that can really help add flavor to a meal.
"There are lots of easy solutions for students in the dorms," Rosenberg said. "It's easy to set aside some time to make yourself a gourmet meal."