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The Perfect Bachelor’s Hot Meal in Seven Minutes or Less

Steak and Gravy

Summer Research kicks off today at Texas Lutheran University, and I’m invited (again) to join the astonishingly fabulous faculty in Chemistry. It’s hard work and harder thinking, but very satisfying! (Good thing too, given the pay rate.) The only small quibble for me, I have the exact same students I had last summer.

I suppose I have to keep trying until I get it right, or something.

I’ve got the ideal living quarters for the summer too. A quiet place, out in the country; no phone, no Internet, no nothing. Just peace and quiet. And cows. And sand burrs. And poison ivy, now that I think about it. Yup, certainly ideal, if you need motivation to stay on campus and work 14 hours a day!

The Barracks, as we fondly call the north ranch house, also doesn’t have a range or oven. It does have two things that are essential, though: A small refrigerator and a bachelor-sized, 600 watt microwave.

Just like the Top Chef Masters, I’m having to work in singular and startling ways to prepare the nutritious meals I’m used to back home. Indeed, armed only with these key tools and my wits, not to mention a $10 coffee pot and a few canned, frozen and dried goods, I’m relearning how to function as if I were a student again (rather than a seriously undercompensated professor). As for the “wits” part, it’s a good thing there are lots of instructions printed on the comestibles.

Here’s one meal I’ve learned to cook in just a few minutes, and that includes the setup time. I begin with a package of breaded chicken tenderloins (or beef fingers), the kind that come (about) a dozen to the bag, and that include a couple of packages of powdered gravy mix. I also buy the pre-stomped taters, and I have a near-lifetime supply of canned Mandarin oranges (purchased at a garage sale, $2 for two cases). I also have several packages of frozen vegetables, such as limas and green peas.

From there it’s simple! Set up everything near the microwave, and measure out 1 cup of water in a heat-proof dish. Pop that puppy in the micro and hit it for two minutes, to be sure it boils. While the water’s coming up to temp, place three of the tenderloins (use beef sticks if you prefer red meat) on the largest paper plate that will fit in the tiny oven. Scoop out a generous serving of potatoes and place next to the meat. Hold off on the veggies for the moment.

When the water’s hot, put the meat and potatoes in and heat for two minutes. Pour the gravy mix in and stir to dissolve. Open the Mandarin oranges and drain. By then, the meat should be mostly hot. Put the gravy in the microwave for another 45-60 seconds, and while that’s heating, place some veggies on the plate next to the potatoes. Swap out the gravy when the bell rings, and nuke the plate of goodies for two more minutes.

You have time during the last heating to stir the gravy (so it’s smooth and just the right consistency), place on your card table dining table put out the plastic picnicware good silver. When the bell rings for the final time, put all the tasty vittles in place and dig in! Don’t forget the Dr. Pepper, er, wine; red with beef, rosé with chicken. (Screw the cap back on to keep it fresh, okay?)

Enjoy the (Home Alone, Eating) Heat!

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