From-the-Caf Cuisine

Avoid spending money on groceries by using dining hall ingredients.

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From-the-Caf Cuisine

The Atlantic Dining Hall. Andrew Fraieli | Managing Editor

The Atlantic Dining Hall. Andrew Fraieli | Managing Editor

The Atlantic Dining Hall. Andrew Fraieli | Managing Editor

The Atlantic Dining Hall. Andrew Fraieli | Managing Editor

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If you were like me and stuck with a meal plan and never enough spending money, you’ll find that the Atlantic Dining Hall food quickly becomes repetitive and unappetizing after a few weeks of the semester.

So on the days when the food looked more unappealing than usual, it helped to have a backup plan.

Instead of settling for the same to-go burger, my friends and I turned the cafeteria into our personal grocery store — taking bits and pieces of what it had to offer and using them to cook our own meals.

Every Friday I would fill a takeout box to the brim with whatever looked good, toss the spoils into a pan and cook them until something cool happened. The freshmen dorms only have communal kitchens, but thankfully I was able to use a much quieter private kitchen in my upperclassman friend’s dorm.

I ended up spending no money and avoided having to leave campus. It was fun getting creative and seeing how many different meals I could make and enjoy with friends.

On top of saving pocket money for nights out, an intimate dorm living room makes it easier to talk over your meals without having to compete with the voices wafting up from the dining hall during dinner rush. You might like the busy atmosphere — but a quiet evening every once in awhile has its perks.

With studying, jobs and the occasional house party, cooking every night can be unrealistic. But a dorm-cooked meal with friends every so often can switch up your week and save you on the days that the dining hall’s selection is less than desirable.

Cafeteria Cookbook:

Need some recipe ideas to get you started on dining in and putting that tiny communal kitchen stove to use? Here are the basics for some at-home, cafeteria-inspired cuisine.

CHICKEN AND VEGETABLE STIR-FRY:

Start to finish: 25 minutes

Servings: 1

Ingredients:

  • Vegetables – as much as you want.
    • Go to the salad bar and fill your to-go box as much as possible with peppers, onions, mushrooms and whatever else you can find. The staff usually switches up what’s available, so you won’t have to worry about getting tired of the same old selection.
  • 1-2 grilled pieces of chicken
    • If you want to mix some lean protein into your meal, ask the grill station to toss a couple grilled chicken breasts into your box. Unfortunately, this isn’t available every day so keep an eye out for when it is.
  • 3-4 packets of soy sauce
    • These can be found in the food court near the Jow Jing cash register in front of the utensils on your way back from the cafeteria.

Directions:

  1. Cut up the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Toss the vegetables into a pan on medium heat with some olive oil. This can be found in a glass bottle at the salad bar. Saute until they are cooked to your satisfaction.
  3. Stir the vegetables to prevent overcooking/burning.
  4. Add the pieces of chicken breast to the pan.
  5. Slowly add in the soy sauce packets, tasting as you go.
  6. Serve on a plate.

MACARONI AND CHEESE:

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Servings: 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of cheese
    • Get creative with this one. The salad bar usually has shredded cheese, but you can ask the grill and sandwich stations for slices of cheese as well.
  • Pasta
    • On the nights when the cafeteria offers a pasta bar, ask for your pasta to be cooked al dente.
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
    • This is found in small packages in the breakfast bar.
  • 1 roll
    • If you like your pasta with a side of bread, keep an eye out for either dinner rolls or muffins. (However, students can only take one dinner roll every visit.)

Directions:

  1. Set the burner to high and bring a pot of water to boil.
  2. Add in the pasta and turn the heat down to medium. After 5 minutes, taste to see if it’s cooked to the consistency you want.
  3. Drain the water from the pot.
  4. Add the tablespoon of butter.
  5. Stir in the cheese until thoroughly mixed.
  6. Serve in a bowl.

GRILLED CHEESE:

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Servings: 1

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of toast
    • These are found in the breakfast bar.
  • Cheese
    • Grated cheddar can be found in the salad bar, which stays open during limited serving. Different kinds of sliced cheese can be requested at the sandwich station, which is also open in between regular meal times.
  • 2 slices of ham
    • You can either ask for ham at the sandwich station or use baked ham on the days that it’s offered.
  • Vegetables
    • Tomatoes and mushrooms, as well as peppers, onions or whatever else you want to add, can be found in the salad bar.
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
    • You can find small plastic packages of this by the toast and waffle maker at the breakfast bar.

Directions:

  1. Taking your two pieces of toast, spread butter on one side of each.
  2. Put a saucepan on a burner at medium heat.  
  3. Add butter to the pan.  
  4. Place the side of bread with butter face down in the pan.
  5. Add cheese and any other toppings (ham, vegetables, etc).
  6. Place the second piece of toast on top with the buttered side facing up.
  7. Flip every few minutes to ensure even cooking time on both sides.
  8. Cut in half and serve on a plate.

Tucker Berardi is the features editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @tucker_berardi.

Kerri-Marie Covington is a senior copy editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].