Dorm chefs aim for easy, delicious, and local

Kelly Bartlett and Natalie Dignam are new interns at NCPR this summer. They will be exploring the culinary world from their dorm kitchen, where limited ingredients and make-shift supplies are a recipe for surprisingly delicious and easy to make meals.

Kelly and Natalie here, with our first try at being localvores. We’re two college students on a budget, young people living in Canton, and chefs with limited cooking knowledge and one pie tin. If you consider yourself a ramen and popcorn master, but are ready to make the leap from the microwave and electric kettle to the stovetop, then this post is for you!

Must have local rhubarb. Photo: Natalie Dignam

Must have local rhubarb. Photo: Natalie Dignam

Before our first foray into the kitchen, we went out into the field to do some investigative work. On Friday, we headed down to the Canton Farmers’ Market to gather some tips from North Country farmers and then (somehow) to cook our first local meal. Seeking truth, justice, and delicious food, we asked a series of tough questions such as: “How is your day going?” and “What foods are in season?”

Both Linda Kingston and Zoe Baker from Kingston’s Roadside Stand gave us ideas on how to make the most of our asparagus experience (add eggs!) and told us a little bit about rhubarb. From Gwen Law, we learned that making a good pie crust is a rite of passage. You can check out her daughter’s food blog, The Life and Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch, for more culinary inspiration.

From Ron and Cathy at The Smith Farm Raquette River Poultry Processing, we learned about the various personalities of chickens, including one infamous rooster who was sentenced to death after flipping one too many hens. Definitely the highlight of our farmers’ market experience.

Chicken ready to go into the oven. Photo: Natalie Dignam

Chicken ready to go into the oven. Photo: Natalie Dignam

For dinner, we made homemade biscuits, sautéed asparagus, and roasted oregano-garlic chicken breast. The biscuits (not so local) came from a simple recipe with only six ingredients and were extremely easy to make. Also, check out this video to learn how to “cut in” shortening for the biscuits and pie crust. We just used two forks and made the same motion.

Inspired by an NCPR post, Asparagus Me Anything, we decided to keep it simple and sautéed our asparagus in olive oil. While sautéing in a seasoned cast iron pan is best, a non-stick pan from the Dollar Store works just as well. Especially when you’re living in a dorm where a stranger down the hall might steal your Tupperware—to say nothing of your prized sautéing pan.

For the oregano-garlic chicken, we followed another easy recipe. After washing the chicken breast, all we had to do was place it on top of the garlic head (roast the rest of the garlic without pealing), drizzle it in olive oil, season with oregano, salt, and pepper and bake for a half an hour in our pie tin.

Rhubarb pie. Fresh from the oven. Photo: Natalie Dignam

Rhubarb pie. Fresh from the oven. Photo: Natalie Dignam

For dessert, we baked a rhubarb pie. We give all the pie crust credit to Mrs. Gwen Law. The water really does have to be ice cold (stick it in the freezer for a bit), and putting the dough in the fridge for the afternoon made the crust flaky. We followed Diane Romlein’s rhubarb pie recipe, which was featured in a previous All In blog post.

FYI: The Canton’s Farmer’s Market is open 9am-2pm every Tuesday and Friday.

Things you’ll need to make this meal:

The local stuff:

  • Rhubarb: $3/bunch
  • Oregano: $2/bag
  • Chicken: $6/lb
  • Asparagus: $2.50/half lb


Ready to dig in. Photo: Kelly Bartlett

Ready to dig in. Photo: Kelly Bartlett

Some staples you’ll need:

  • Vegetable Shortening
  • Olive Oil
  • Flour
  • Baking Powder
  • Sugar
  • Garlic
  • Salt and Pepper

Do you have any ideas for recipes that you would like to share? Let us know in a comment below.

5 Comments on “Dorm chefs aim for easy, delicious, and local”

  1. C. Barnes says:

    I’m very impressed – with the interest, efforts, and results! Looks wonderful, and anyone with the opportunity to share should consider themselves very fortunate.
    You may find a variation (based on farmer’s market finds) of Pasta Puttanesca to be pretty adaptable and achievable if you can acquire a pot for boiling the water for the pasta.
    Looking forward to future efforts …..

  2. Martha Foley says:

    I’m impressed, too. Nice-looking pie. Was it good? Also…I might have an extra pot or pan for you!

  3. Monique Cornett says:

    I’ve lived on a college budget and these recipes are really realistic and yummy! Way to keep it local.

  4. Suzanne Filbey says:


    Great writing that had me captured in the first paragraph with “pie tin.”
    Stories about each dish with easy to follow links, ‘secrets’ from the local growers, and pictures strategically placed to encourage further reading.
    When I got to, “The Life and Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch,” that ‘feel-good’ feeling of making home-made pies for the family, and the scent of chicken, garlic, and rosemary (my only substitution) roasting in the oven, became too much to bear.
    You both are off to a stellar start, and I am off to find chicken, garlic, rosemary, rhubarb……

    Can’t wait to see what we’re going to be cooking next!

  5. Anne Marie Couser says:

    “Well done”; Kelly, next time you’re home, guess who’s cooking. Look forward to your next contribution.

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