For all those who will be staying on campus this Thanksgiving, you’re in luck! Read on for Cooking with Bwog’s Matt Powell’s simple and delightful holiday recipes.

Thanksgiving—the great holiday to celebrate food. Thanksgiving is America’s National Day of Feasting, feasting to the point that you feel like you’re about to explode, eating so much pie and turkey that you think you’ll never eat again. In the words of Epictetus, “Live life as at a Feast!”

However, as a college student far from home and tight on cash, Thanksgiving is not quite the same when staying at school for the holiday. With this in mind, Bwog asked me to create time and cost effective holiday dishes designed for dorm cooking. The turkey main dish requires only 30 minutes of active prep time, and the two sides each require only 15 minutes of active prep. Plus, each dish costs only $15!

Photo from Flickr/jelene

1. Beer-Brined Turkey

(Serves 4-6)

At Columbia, it is rare to make a feast for over 10 people at the most, so this recipe calls for just the turkey breasts. To put a college spin on the turkey, I brined it in a beer mixture.


  • 2 boneless turkey breasts, 3-4 lbs. each
  • 1 quart of water
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 C salt
  • 1 quart beer, about 3 bottles (I used pumpkin beer to increase the festivity. Pecan or other seasonal beers work as well.)
  • Small handful of black peppercorns
  • 1 bunch of sage
  • 1 bunch of thyme
  • 1 head of garlic, cut crosswise

For glaze:

  • ¼ C maple syrup
  • ¼ C honey
  • ¼ C cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. pepper
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • A couple of sage leaves


  1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, dissolve the sugar and salt in the water. Once the sugar and salt have dissolved, remove from the heat and stir in the beer. Allow this liquid to cool.
  2. In a cooler, a large mixing bowl, or a brining bag, place the turkey breasts along with the peppercorns, sage, thyme, and garlic. Pour in the brining liquid. Refrigerate overnight to 24 hours.
  3. To cook the turkey: Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Wrap each turkey breast four times in plastic wrap and once in aluminum foil. Insert an oven-safe thermometer into the center of each piece, and place the turkey on a wire rack in a roasting pan. Add water to reach just below the rack. Cook until the temperature reads 135 degrees, about 2-3 hours. Near the end of cooking, make an ice bath.
  4. Once the turkey has reached the proper internal temperature, remove from the oven. Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Submerge the turkey breasts, thermometer and all, in the ice bath to cool instantly. Unwrap from the foil and plastic and pat dry. Brush liberally with the glaze (see below). Roast for another 15 minutes, until golden. Serve, slicing thinly.
  5. To make your glaze: While the turkey cooks in the oven at the 250 degree stage, make your glaze. In a small saucepan, bring the maple syrup, honey, vinegar, pepper and salt to a boil. Allow it to reduce for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in butter and sage leaves.

2. Classic Cranberry Sauce


  • 1 package of fresh cranberries
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 C water
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 strips of orange zest


  1. First, check for bad cranberries: Fill a large bowl with cold water. Toss all of your cranberries into the bowl. Cranberries that do not float are no good. Take special care to discard any mushy cranberries.
  2. Take your good cranberries and combine with all of the other ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved, do not stir anymore. Just watch the cranberries pop! Once most of the cranberries have popped, remove from the heat.
  3. Depending on how you like your cranberry sauce, strain out some of the juice/none of the juice/all of the juice. Remove the orange zest, cinnamon stick, and anise star. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours

3. Macadamia-Coconut Tart

(Serves 8)


  • 1 prepared pie crust
  • 1 ¼ C brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 carton (1 ½ C) of macadamia nuts, chopped
  • 1 C flaked dry coconut
  • Pie weights, or pinto beans


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out your pie crust and place in a tart pan. Make sure to press the sides and the bottom of the pan to ensure that the dough remains in place. Cover the edges with foil and place pie weights (beans) on the bottom of the pie crust. Bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the crust. Remove the foil and pie weights (beans) and bake for another 15 minutes, until light gold.
  2. While the pie crust bakes for its final 15 minutes, combine the sugar, salt, vanilla, and eggs in a mixing bowl, using a whisk. Stir in melted butter, chopped macadamias, and coconut. Stir until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
  3. Once the pie crust is baked, pour in the filling. Bake for another 20 minutes. After baking, cool for 30 minutes. Snatch your piece early; there are never leftovers of this dessert.