Every day, we’re greeted by the same procession of scrambled eggs, pastries, fruit and oatmeal for breakfast. Then for lunch, there’s the salad bar, soups, burgers and the hot food line. Though the changing lunch menu provides more diversity in terms of what cuisine is served, the menu will inevitably repeat itself. But the good news is that because there are so many options, you can start creating your own meals using the ingredients provided by the dining hall. For example, a food that we have access to at nearly every meal is: toast. Here are a few ways to dress up an average slice of bread to give yourself a break from the same old meals.
If you’re the type of person who craves something sweet in the morning, try customizing your own piece of toast. With your slice of toasted bread, slather on some peanut butter and sprinkle some toasted coconut flakes or mini chocolate chips from the oatmeal toppings bar. If you are looking for something more crunchy, take the peanut-buttered toast and top it with granola, cinnamon or nutrient-rich flaxseed powder, and banana slices. There’s also the classic option of indulging in a PB&J or PB and honey sandwich, to which you can try adding some golden raisins and coconut flakes. On the other hand, if you aren’t a fan of peanut butter, try spreading some cream cheese with a dollop of jam on your toast. It’s a great alternative along with the other flavored cream cheeses. There’s also the option of buttering a piece of toast and topping it with banana slices, brown sugar and cinnamon.
For those who prefer savory foods, you could go for the typical breakfast sandwich with a toasted bagel, cream cheese, scrambled eggs and bacon. Or you could add spinach, cucumbers and tomato slices to whole wheat toast slathered in cream cheese. Similar to the oatmeal toppings bar, there is usually a bar of assorted cream cheeses, capers and vegetables available in the morning. If the individual components don’t seem appealing, they can be added to your favorite toast combinations for a new culinary creation.
If you don’t wake up in time for breakfast, there’s still a chance to make a delicious piece of toast at lunch! Unfortunately, there are no topping bars at lunch, but there are still useable ingredients. For instance, if you’re in Stern, there’s normally fresh guacamole in the burrito bowl bar. Grab a piece of toast, add some olive oil to it, spread on the avocado and season it with salt, pepper or lemon juice; for some protein, slice up a boiled egg. If your dining hall offers hummus, use that instead of guacamole, and you can add some greens and sliced olives. Or, if you’re craving pizza bagels, you can surprisingly re-create a version with dining hall foods. Toast one of the round pieces of bread (either an English muffin or the whole wheat thins) and spread on some marinara sauce from the pasta bar. Then add shredded or sliced cheese (whatever is available) and stick it in the microwave for the cheese to melt. (Not all dining halls have microwaves available, but the dorm’s kitchenette is always an alternative.) Of course it’s not exactly the same as the delicious pizza bagels from the frozen foods aisle, but you do have to admit that the fact it can be assembled using dining hall ingredients is quite appealing.
Eating the same dining hall food for three quarters straight can be quite repetitive, and even if we do have access to a kitchen, it’s difficult and time consuming to shop for ingredients, prep, cook and then clean. This is why it can be fun to create your own meals using ingredients from the dining hall. With so many options in each dining hall, there’s bound to be some delicious, creative way to incorporate them together, regardless of whether you use toast as the vehicle — the key is to be resourceful. If you have any “dining hall hacks” of your own, please share!
Got any other dining hall hacks? Contact Serena Soh at sjsoh ‘at’ stanford.edu.