Culinary Corner: Dining hall ‘hacks’

Familiar dining hall ingredients in unfamiliar combinations turn into surprisingly delicious meals. --Alyssa Amos/Executive Editor
Familiar dining hall ingredients in unfamiliar combinations turn into surprisingly delicious meals. –Alyssa Amos/Executive Editor

It’s been less than a month since we’ve been back at the College, and although the dining halls provide a variety of meals that surpass the stereotype of bland cafeteria food, it can be hard to decide what to put on your plate when you’ve already tried everything in front of you. Twice. Maybe even every day for a week. So if you’re looking to take a detour from the normal menu or are just interested in dabbling in the culinary arts, here’s a collection of ideas to jazz up your plate.

For breakfast at Mission or Driscoll, skip the line and go straight to the salad bar. Fill a bowl with Greek yogurt. If you don’t like the sour taste or the thicker texture of the Greek yogurt, add applesauce. Although the combination sounds odd, the applesauce will add sweetness and is a healthy alternative to the sugar in vanilla yogurt. In the middle of the main serving line in Mission and in Driscoll near the deli station, you can find a mini toppings bar. It’s like having a Pinkberry right in the dining hall! You can add raisins, craisins, chocolate chips, chopped walnuts, dried banana chips, sliced almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, peanuts – there are a lot of nut options. If you want to add fruit, grab an apple or banana to slice up and put in your bowl at the table.

Afterward, head to the cereal dispensaries for an assortment of granola. Depending on the day, the dining halls may have crushed Nature Valley granola bars, granola with raisins, or some with nuts. Right next to the cereal bar is an unassuming plastic box filled with “Battenkill Brittle” – the ultimate topping ingredient. Always add the brittle to any meal. It’s a combination of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and pecan meal that’s held together with maple syrup, love and happiness. Not only does this crumbly granola go amazing with your morning yogurt, but it also complements oatmeal, salads, waffles, pancakes, frozen yogurt, ice cream – the possibilities are endless.

If you don’t like yogurt, you can also try this campus favorite: grab a rice cake from the bread counter, slather it in peanut butter (available in both crunchy and smooth) or almond butter and top it with sliced bananas. For extra flavor, drizzle it with the honey that’s located at the tea station. (This also tastes amazing with Brittle).

For lunch and dinner, there are several options other than the same old pizza and pasta. If the dining halls have quinoa, which they will almost every day, try mixing it with the pesto located next to the pasta station and add tomatoes from the salad bar. This tasty concoction tastes like a margarita pizza without the simple carbohydrates. For a Mediterranean spin, try mixing the quinoa with the red pepper hummus and carrots.

If you’re willing to wait an extra five minutes, you can also make your own fried rice. Ask one of the dining hall workers to make you an egg, sunny side up, and mix it with rice or quinoa. Add soy sauce, broccoli, carrots and shredded tuna, all of which are conveniently available at the salad bar and mix in a bowl.

To get a little more fancy, you can make bruschetta by toasting the bread, cutting it up into fours and topping it with tomatoes, pesto, cheese and olive oil.

And although there are always irresistible baked goods and ice cream for dessert, it’s fun to experiment and see how much sugar you can load onto one plate. Upperclassmen favorites include combining ice cream with soda to make an instant float. You can also create ice cream sandwiches when cookies are available. To make this dessert even more delectable, try heating the cookies or even adding sliced apples or bananas to the middle of your sandwich! You can also substitute the cookies with the freshly made waffles available at every meal.

For a combination of a sugar high and a caffeine rush to power through a study session, add coffee ice cream to your actual coffee. And if you’re ever craving strawberry milk in Mission, fill a cup with regular milk and add in the strawberry sauce near the waffle maker.