Spending Thanksgiving in the dorms

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Courtesy of MCT

Not all students can go home this Thanksgiving break, so rather than panicking or sinking into a pie-less depression right before finals, here are some tips that make a semi-homemade Thanksgiving accessible right here on campus.

Gather a Crowd

The more the merrier. You won’t be the only person on campus during the holiday, create a Facebook event page and invite your friends to find out who else will be around.  Make it a potluck, that way one person is not stuck with all the cooking and the clean-up.

Create Atmosphere

Simple decorations will help get everyone in the mood to celebrate. While you could of course go to the store and buy fall-themed garland of red and orange leaves, an old-fashioned hand-turkey made from construction paper is classic.
Before the big day, gather the dinner party together to make decorations (don’t forget the feathers) and set up the venue.  Seeing a decked out room does wonders creating a great holiday vibe. Scented candles, such as cinnamon, will also usher in the holiday spirit and create a warm environment your friends will find comfortable and cozy.

The Main Dish
Cooking at school is hard, especially when you’re trying to recreate the greatness of a home-made Thanksgiving. But it’s not impossible. With a few tweaks and a couple shortcuts, your Thanksgiving at school will be so successful it may become a tradition.
Thanksgiving is not complete without turkey.  The thought of making your own turkey may be daunting, but fear not.  Buy a small turkey, enough to feed your crowd, and be certain that you do your research since every turkey is different and the cooking time changes depending on the size of the bird, so time management is key.
An easier alternative would be to buy turkey breasts – you can broil them, cook them on the stove or create your own unique stir-fry with veggies.  If you don’t want to risk making your own turkey, head to the grocery store and ask for thick cuts of deli turkey for a make-shift variation on the dish.

The Staples

Many American families enjoy similar side dishes on Thanksgiving. Some include stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and apple pie – all of which are possible to recreate in a dorm kitchen.
Some purists may be completely against the idea but canned cranberry sauce is a great substitute for sauce made from scratch. There are also plenty of easy-to-make stuffings available in the grocery store (some only need boiling water.)
Rather than making mashed potatoes or settling for instant powdered potatoes (which are never as great in execution as they are in theory), get pre-cut sweet potato fries or buy fresh sweet potatoes and cut your own. Since we are talking about college students who don’t necessarily love to wash dishes, keep a roll of foil on hand. Spray the foil with cooking oil, spread your fries evenly on the sheet and sprinkle with salt – about 15 minutes later you’ll have a delicious, and healthy, side dish with vibrant colors that will compliment your decorations.
Even though you’ll probably be full from the main course, there’s always room for dessert.  Local grocery stores, like Fresh and Easy and Trader Joe’s, have all-natural pies that would be perfect served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  If pie doesn’t interest you, or in addition to the pie, buy fresh apples and sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar for a fresh seasonal dessert that might make you feel better about eating all that stuffing earlier.
Remember, this is supposed to be easy – and easy to clean. You have more important things to take care of, like enjoying the time off from classes.  Have a plan, delegate responsibilities and shop early, so everyone can have a simple, stuffed and sleepy Thanksgiving break on campus without sacrificing taste.