It is a rite of passage at Hopkins for all freshmen to face the ups and downs of the FFC (Fresh Food Café). As the name suggests, all the food at the FFC is freshly prepared everyday, and a good percentage of it is locally sourced. However, after a while the menu can seem repetitive and uninspiring for anyone who desires a beautiful, healthy, and well-rounded meal.
Luckily there are ways to hack the system to make sure that every single meal you eat is bomb — ways that will inspire so much food envy that others will want to Instagram your (yes, from-a-dining-hall) plate of food. Here’s 11 fun and easy tips to innovate your plate:
1. Stuff your grilled cheese with veggies
While my taste buds are always happy eating these buttery sandwiches, my conscious, pretending-to-be-healthy self isn’t thanking me at all. To make a grilled cheese healthier and also yummier, open up the sandwich and add in some lettuce, spinach, tomato slices, cucumbers, or whatever your heart desires. To make it even better, dip it in balsamic vinegar. The acidity cuts the fat and creates an end result you won’t regret.
2. Add some creamy soup or pasta sauce to your rice
For almost every lunch and dinner, a pot of brown rice sits sadly in the corner. By itself, it can be pretty bland. Try putting some soup on top of the rice, which acts as a creamy sauce. If the FFC doesn’t have a good soup option that day, head over to pasta station to ladle white sauce onto the rice.
3. Top off your plate with green goodness
Try making your plate look colorful, rather than starchy and boring. To simultaneously create a better-looking and better-for-you plate, head over to the salad bar to top off your whole plate with some fresh greens, like spinach, arugula, or whatever salad blend available that day. I often do this on top of mashed potatoes, rice, soup, or pasta.
4. Make a bagelwich
Everyone loves a good bagel, and a great way to make a pretty and balanced meal out of it is by making a bagelwich. Use the salad bar and deli station to add any and all veggies and proteins. My personal favorite combo is dill cream cheese, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, and scrambled eggs on top of an Asiago bagel. The result = perfection.
5. Wait in line for the global station
The global station is the place in the FFC that you have a love/hate relationship with. They’ll cook up a specific dish however you like it, but it also takes forever. Trust me, it’s worth the wait from time to time. If you want to customize your eating experience and have a plate fresh from the pan, this is the station for you. Look out for the soft taco bar which offers a variety of fresh veggies.
6. Make a salad pizza
College = pizza. You’ll probably grab quite a few slices throughout the year, so try making the pizza a salad pizza by going over to the salad bar and topping it with baby greens and whatever toppings you like. A good combo I like includes cheese pizza, arugula, feta, grape tomatoes, and a drizzle of balsamic.
7. Put berries and/or chocolate chips in your waffle batter
At the waffle station, they have tubs of different berries and chocolate chips…probably waffle toppings, right? Wrong. Mix those toppings into the waffle batter so that once it’s done cooking, all of that goodness is already packed inside of your delicious waffle. Finish it off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, butter, syrup, chocolate sauce, or all of the above for an infinitely better waffle experience.
8. Make an ice cream sandwich
Whether it be 8 am before the most boring lecture in the world or 11:30 pm and you’re looking for an extra boost to get you through the night, the ever-present supply of Taharka Bros ice cream will come through for you. To make the dairy delight even more awesome, grab two cookies from the dessert tables and sandwich a scoop of your favorite type of ice cream between it. Calories? Check. Regrets? Nope.
9. Make an ice cream float
Classic combos never fail, and ice cream + soda floats aren’t exceptions. Put a couple scoops of your favorite ice cream in a cup (any flavor will do) and fill the rest of it up with soda. Some good combos include chocolate ice cream with root beer or coke, aka a black cow, and raspberry sorbet with Sprite.
10. When in doubt, add Sriracha
If you like heat, you already know that Sriracha is your best friend. Remember that time that the company almost had to close down the plant because apparently neighboring companies said it smelled too bad? Good thing that’s over, because nothing beats the classic red rooster sauce.
11. Explore Your Options
Okay, so this last rule is cheating a little bit. But if you really want to change it up, try some of the other dining halls on campus. Even though meal swipes only work at the FFC for freshmen, your meal plan still comes with dining dollars that can be spent elsewhere. Levering has a variety of options, from Asian noodle bowls to gourmet salads. Bamboo Café has killer Bahn Mi sandwiches, and the Crepe Studio in CharMar is always a hit. Nolan’s is a whole new frontier. Use those dining dollars!