How Eating at Meal Hall Lead to Creative Cooking

I’ve been there, walking into the meal hall at university night after night, seeing the same bland dry food, and after the initial thrill of having pizza and burgers every couple days wears off, you just really want “real food”.
By the middle of my second year i was seriously anemic (as were most of the girls i lived with), and trying to figure out ways to eat better when i was stuck with meal hall food (most meal hall meat is scary, tasteless, or both).
I was luck in some ways, in that there was someone who i met, who had been eating there for years (was a student, then a don at one of the residences) and she taught me something that i will be forever thankful for – cooking with meal hall food instead of just eating it. It may seem crazy but think of it this way – most meal halls have microwaves and toasters – add in some creative uses of bowls, and you honestly have the makings of some really good meals. Here are just a few examples:

Microwave Stir Fry

-whatever the meat of the night is (works best with chicken or roast beef – can even use sandwich meat if that is all you have)
-from the salad bar – things like broccoli, onions, peppers, carrots
-soy sauce (usually somewhere near the salad bar)
-lemon wedges – also usually in the salad bar
-little bit of water (like two spoonfuls max)
-rice (was available every night at my meal hall – but it is not necessary – can use noodles or something similar if you want)

Take all the ingredients, but the rice and put them into a bowl – stir up a little bit. Take a second bowl and place overtop of the first one. Microwave for 2 minutes. Careful taking it out because there will be a lot of steam. Dump over rice. I never measured things, and don’t suggest you do either – bringing measuring cups to the meal hall will get you looks.

Tuna Melt

-Tuna
-pickles
-olives
-cheese
-bread
-mayo

This one takes a couple extra steps. First Toast the bread (you need it to be really toasty or else it will go soggy). Make up the tuna how you normally would if you were making tuna salad. Add to the bread and top with the cheese. Microwave for 1 minute to melt the cheese. (this also works really well on english muffins)

Pasta Primavera

-cooked pasta
-veggies from the salad bar – broccoli, peppers, onions, carrots, etc
-parmesan cheese
-cream cheese

Steam the veggies using the two bowl method mentioned above (without the soy sauce though). Add the veggies including the water you steamed them in into the pasta and add in a couple spoonfuls of cream cheese (usually near the toasters where the bread is) and parmesan cheese. Stir until everything is coated – if it isn’t hot enough to melt, add a spoonful or two of hot water (from where you make tea) or microwave for 30 seconds.

So, with a little creativity, those days when you want to have more than cereal for dinner, even while away at university, can be done by thinking outside the box. Cook with meal hall food instead of just eating it.

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