When people make assertions about “hacking” the dining hall, it can often feel like the writers, not the actions that they are writing about, are the hacks. Everyone and their mother’s Buzzfeed article can tell you to use your panini press to make a… *gasp* panini, or create a quesadilla from salad bar mix-ins and tortillas. These tips are great in a pinch, but when you really want to make your dining experience exciting and delicious (or, let’s face it, are just trying to procrastinate by staying at dinner for an hour and a half) it takes a little more inspiration. Recently, we asked Yale students to tell us their go-to meal when the food being served at the dining hall is looking just… meh. Those responses, plus some Spoon-level pizazz, resulted in this: your comprehensive guide to hacking Yale Dining.
Waffle or French Toast Panini
You know when you are at brunch and you can’t decide whether to go the breakfast route or the lunch route? Have your meal and eat the other one too with this ingenious hack: make your favorite sandwich in the panini press using a waffle, broken into two halves, or two pieces of french toast as your bread.
Craving salt or fat, perhaps? Tori S. likes her panini with “some turkey, some red peppers, some chipotle mayo, some banana peppers…works like a charm.” All those flavors were even more charming piled together between two delicious waffle-halves. Live off campus but want to get in on the waffle action? You can buy a waffle iron cheap on Amazon, and make these amazing homemade waffles!
Want to go a sweeter route? Kristina K. recommends a “peanut butter, banana and Nutella sandwich on toasted bread,” but if you’re feeling ~fancy~ grill it up on some of the Dhall’s Pain Perdu.
This Breakfast Sandwich
“Get a piece of baguette, cut it open, toast it. Fill it with scrambled eggs, hash browns, and breakfast sausage. Add some hot sauce and boomtown, you have a outstanding breakfast sandwich, in the dining hall! Also, if you make it look nice by spreading the hot sauce in a good way, people will compliment you on it and say how tasty it looks. You don’t have to tell me its tasty. I’m about to eat it. Thanks anyway.”
Thanks for the idea, Greg. Who would have thought to put hash browns in a sandwich? Not us. Head to one of the colleges with hot breakfast (Branford, Saybrook, Silliman and Morse & Stiles) to achieve this on a weekday or make it a treat at brunch on the weekends. Bummed by a bare-minimum bread selection? Almost every dining hall now has mini-bagels. These mini-bagel slider recipes show you how to appreciate the diminutive dough-balls.
Fall in Love with Fancy Flapjacks
Pancakes are like your favorite pair of jeans. They are casual, comfortable and won’t judge you for putting on a couple of pounds. But even the most well-loved pants can be bedazzled. These recipes can serve as inspiration for some seriously delicious pancake toppings in the dining hall.
Follow This Call to Action
“CHECK THE SOUP! I feel like the soups are usually the most dependable food item.”
Want to get more creative? Add your own ingredients to the existing soup. Microwave-steam some of the vegetables from the salad bar to add to the Thai coconut milk soup, add croutons to the tomato soup or put a dollop of sour cream in your tortilla-black bean soup. Above is a roasted butternut squash variety.
Get Creative with Hard Boiled Eggs
The centralization of salad-making for Yale Dinning has caused many upsets, but one of the upsides has been that hard-boiled eggs are now a salad-bar staple. Hard-boiled eggs are basically like protein pills, and working them into your diet in exciting ways is surprisingly easy.
Make healthy (mayo-free!) deviled eggs: cut your hard-boiled egg in half and take out the yolk. Mash up the yolk with your favorite prepared salad dressing or make your own with olive oil, mustard and olive oil. Scoop your mixture back into the eggs, season with salt and pepper and voila! You’re an old-school southern belle with some serious dining hall cooking chops.
Use Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is controversial, but Spoon knows, it’s a super healthy source of protein. As a cottage cheese-lover, I have tried to convert many of my friends. The thing I always hear? “It’s the texture.” One way to minimize the texture issue is to mix cottage cheese with other things, since it also serves as a great savory base for a lot of dishes. Elijah G. suggested the college classic “cottage cheese and granola.” Turn this idea into a delicious lunch by swapping out the granola for one of the prepared grain salads, like the ones featuring quinoa or couscous, that have been killing the game ever since salad-prep went centralized.
Make Loaded-Baked Potatoes
When the dining hall has baked potatoes (of any kind–sweet potatoes also work well), capitalize on it by using them as a base for your normal salad ingredients. Cut the potato open, pile on the toppings, and microwave it together for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Some combinations to try:
1) sautéed spinach, blue cheese and pecans
2) corn, black beans, peppers, and shredded mozzarella
3) ham and munster from the sandwich bar, cut into strips.
And then add butter. Lots and lots of butter. As if you needed more reasons to eat potatoes.
Raise Your Salad Game:
Try This Simple but Un-boring Salad
“Ask for grilled chicken and make a chicken salad with Sriracha sauce and honey [as dressing].”
This salad could go full throttle on Thai inspiration if you added peanut butter and soy sauce to that dressing.
Get the Perfect Toss
To create a perfectly mixed salad, place your dressing on the bottom of a bowl and add all of your ingredients. Then, grab another bowl and place it on top. Use the two bowls like a cocktail shaker and go nuts.
Use Warm Ingredients
Many students have already subscribed to the theory that anything can be put on a salad, but it seems like there is an unseen barrier between the salad bar and the hot food line. Break that barrier. When you add warm ingredients like sautéed vegetables or delicious sweet potatoes to your salad of mixed darker greens or spinach the warmth wilts the greens and elevates the whole dish to a restaurant-level warm salad. Bonus: it makes a healthy salad more appealing on these colder days.
Microwave Cereal Bars
Most dining halls have marshmallows, so take advantage by using the variety of cereals we have at our disposal.
The basic recipe for a microwave personal rice krispies treat is as follows:
1. In a bowl, microwave half a tablespoon of butter until melted.
2. Stir in a small handful of mini-marshmallows until blended.
3. Add 1 cup of cereal (rice krispies if you are a purist, but pretty much all cereal works well).
4. Eat with a spoon, your hands if you like to get messy, or spread over a scoop of ice cream.
This classic recipe is going to be delicious. But cereal is fun, so why not experiment a little? Once you have your butter-marshmallow mixture, the possibilities are endless. Make salted-caramel hot chocolate treats by adding in hot cocoa mix, caramel sauce on sundae days and a pinch of salt with your cereal of choice. Peanut butter and Reese’s Puffs to make the ultimate chocolate-peanut butter bars. Nutella and Golden Grahams are go-tos for s’mores-y goodness. There are infinite possibilities, but HuffPost has 43 of them here if you need more inspiration.
When all else fails…
There’s always this approach to the college-dining scene:
“I tend to preserve my energy and lie dormant in bed.”
Don’t we all sometimes?