It was a sunny afternoon. I was alone at 3:30 pm trapped in my residence hall doing laundry that was long overdue. Looking to pass some time — without doing actual homework of course — I decided to meander downstair to the dining hall in search of scraps. Being in a non-air-conditioned building, I went straight for a bowl of cold vanilla ice cream, piled on the sprinkles, added a blob of whipped cream, and called it a passable sundae. Not long after I had finished my bowl, my roommate joined me at the table with an ice cream sandwich made out of two giant gingersnap cookies and a heap of cookie dough ice cream. I had never thought of combining foods in more interesting ways than how they were presented at meal stations. Thus began my quest for friend-tested dining hall hacks. Here is a list of a few that I have tried:
Obtain a plastic dining hall cup. Add 2 scoops of your favorite ice cream. Fill cup halfway with a milk of your choice. Using a knife, stir the contents until desired consistency is achieved. Add more ice cream or milk as necessary. Ask the dining staff if they have any sprinkles, marshmallows, chocolate sauce, or caramel sauce. Many times these items may be hidden away behind the dining counters, and if you’re nice sometimes you can obtain them with a smile and a simple “please.” This is a great reason to befriend the dining hall workers. If your friends work in the cafeteria, even better! Finish with a dollop of whipped cream or nutella!
Lentil Salad Bowl
Take lentils from the salad bar along with cucumbers (cut into quarters), kidney beans, mushrooms, and onions. Then, mix with grated parmesan, basil, and a touch of marinara sauce from the pizza bar. Add balsamic vinaigrette and mix it all together. For an extra trick, see if there are any sautéed vegetables pre-prepared that you can add on! If you live in a hall with a kitchen, take some mushrooms, onions, and Chinese broccoli up to your floor and stir fry it. Then, add everything together for a musky taste.
Barbecue Macaroni and Cheese
In order to avoid covering bland dining hall mac & cheese with salt and pepper, mix in a touch of BBQ sauce. For a creamier version, melt some asiago, cheddar, and american cheese in the microwave and add it to your dish. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, try adding a splash of tabasco sauce.
Take large lettuce leaves from the grill. Fill with whatever protein you like from the salad bar or hot meals du jour. Wrap it up and enjoy! Make sure to grab smaller plates so that you can add the desired amount of ingredients to your wrap while keeping all the extras neatly separated. Try adding some sauce such as a nice balsamic, ranch, or even creamy caesar. Finish off with a garnish of cheese, salt, and pepper and you are ready to go!
Take your favorite cereal and add yogurt instead of milk. Mix in fruit, honey, jam, raisins — or all four! For an extra sweet treat, add in some hot chocolate powder.
As mentioned above, always make friends with your dining hall workers because they can be super helpful in getting your favorite treats out onto the buffet. Say good morning to the woman behind the breakfast bar. Give a hello to the man who is always re-filling drink machines. Appreciate your dining hall workers for coming in everyday and making sure your food is hot and ready for you when you want it.
In addition to these quick recipes, you can always add carbs to vegetable based dishes and vice versa. Simply take a minestrone-type soup and add barley, rice, or extra pasta. Alternatively, make boring spaghetti with marinara interesting by adding a handful of spinach, mushrooms, or broccoli. Happy eating!