Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s AfterGlo

Holiday-inspired meals for small kitchens

 ByCaroline Shannon-Karasik’s

There’s no doubt about it: One of the best parts of the holiday season for any college student is simple – a break from school! And the truth is, whether you have a thing for the bird or prefer Tofurkey, or you like a slice of apple and pumpkin pie on your plate, holiday foods leave little room for a hungry belly.

But what if you want to get the celebration started early, college style? Kristi King, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, suggested students consider instant mashed potatoes, microwaveable macaroni and cheese, and a pre-cooked ham that can be drizzled with the following mixture: 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons ground mustard and 2 tablespoons of orange juice. (Drizzle on top and allow time for glaze to set.)

“Another suggestion would be to purchase a slow cooker,” King said, emphasizing that a student should first check with a resident advisor about the college’s policy for small appliances. “This is a great way to have healthy, festive foods. Throw the ingredients in, cover and cook from four to eight hours, depending on the recipe, and it will make the dorm smell great!”

Foodie experts also advise students to check out recipe websites, like and, and to consider using a planning tool, like Cooking Planit (, an application that guides users through the step-by-step process of preparing a meal that is suitable to his or her lifestyle, including dorm and small apartment living.

“I think [food preparation] is an incredible skill to know because it helps with building better eating habits, and creates a sense of confidence in students,” said Nisa Burns, author of “Kitchenability 101: The College Student’s Guide to Easy, Healthy and Delicious Food” ( “It also helps them budget. Cooking for yourself in a dorm room setting can be challenging no doubt, but if you have the knowledge, skill and confidence you will find it to be fun and enjoyable!”

Want to try a few recipes on your own? Tie on an apron because here are two dishes from King that you can whip up with minimal kitchen space required.

Microwave meatloaf


1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon yellow mustard

2 eggs, lightly beaten

One half of one whole onion, minced

1/4 cup green pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup saltine cracker crumbs

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

2 pounds of extra lean ground beef or ground turkey


1. In small bowl, mix together tomato sauce, brown sugar and mustard. Stir until sugar is dissolved.

2. In large bowl, mix eggs, onion, green pepper, garlic powder, cracker crumbs, salt and pepper. Mix in the ground beef and half of the tomato mixture. Place meat into a two-quart microwave-safe dish. Spread rest of the tomato sauce over the meat loaf.

3. Cook on high in microwave until juices are clear and meat should be no longer pink on the inside. Usually 10-15 minutes depending on watt power of the microwave oven. Best food safety practice, remove baking dish from the microwave and insert a meat thermometer into the center of the loaf – should read 165 F.

Baked cinnamon apples in the microwave


4 cups of peeled apple slices

3 tablespoons of sugar or 1-2 packets of artificial sweetener

1/2 tablespoon of maple syrup


1. In a glass, microwaveable safe bowl, place the 4 cups of apple slices and sprinkle the sugar/sweetener and cinnamon. Lightly mix so slices are coated.

2. Cook on high for five minutes and remove from microwave.

3. Mix together to ensure coating is on all slices and gradually drizzling maple syrup to taste.

4. Alternative – add 1/2 tablespoon butter or margarine prior to sugar cinnamon mix so the butter/margarine melts during the cooking process (can also use spray butter)

5. Great served with whipped cream or on ice cream!


Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the upcoming author of a gluten-free healthy lifestyle book, set to be released in January 2014. She is the author of the popular gluten-free blog, and is currently training to become a certified health coach. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at


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