8 College Dining Hall Hacks That Will Change EVERYTHING

I still have nightmares about meals in my high school cafeteria; even in my college dining hall the food was questionable, to say the least. There were lots of fried things piled high in aluminum tubs warmed by glaring heat lamps. But I took every scoop, no questions asked, and gobbled it up at the shared tables with my pals.

As I aged and my palate expanded past tater tots and chicken tenders, I started to take note of all the other options that dining halls and cafeterias actually do offer. With the right food formula, you might just be able to make something palatable, or maybe even something delicious.

That's where Priya Krishna comes in with her brilliant cookbook, Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks. Check out a few of her most extraordinary cafeteria "recipes" for inspiration — and never look at your blasé dining hall fare the same way again. I might even take a trip back just to make the Greek pizza.
This article was originally published on May 27, 2016
Advertisement
1 of 9
Illustration by (c) Jude Buffman.
Greek Pizza
"It’s pizza — Greek-ified. Swap out tomato sauce for hummus and mozzarella for feta, load on the olives, tomatoes, and cucumber, put it all on top of a grilled pita, and you’ve got yourself a great alternative to your everyday slice of pizza."

Ingredients
Pita
Hummus
Feta cheese
Olives
Cucumber
Tomato
Olive oil

Equipment
Panini press

Instructions
1. Grill the pita in the panini press until you start to see dark grill marks.

2. Spread hummus on top of the grilled pita.

3. Top with feta, olives, cucumber, and tomato. Drizzle with olive oil.

4. Cut the pita into slices.

*Excerpted from
Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks (c) Priya Krishna. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.
2 of 9
Illustration by (c) Jude Buffman.
Asian Lettuce Wraps
"This is a tale of two lettuces. The first is the tasteless, shredded lettuce you get in the salad bar that doesn’t really do much by way of actually enhancing a dish. And then there are the big, crisp lettuce cups you can usually find in the sandwich line that, when used as a wrap alongside a spicy Asian dipping sauce, can be so satisfying at any part of the day."

Ingredients
Lettuce leaves
Bean sprouts
Sliced carrots
PYOP (pick your own protein)
Soy sauce
Chili sauce

Instructions
1. Lay the lettuce leaves flat on a plate and top each one with bean sprouts, carrots, and your protein pick.

2. Roll the lettuce leaves up into wraps.

3. In a small bowl, combine equal parts soy sauce and chili sauce. Use this as a dipping sauce for the wraps. Many dining halls offer different kinds of sauce options. I also like dipping these wraps in Thai peanut sauce or sweet and sour sauce.

*Excerpted from
Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks (c) Priya Krishna. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.
3 of 9
Illustration by Carolyn Eckert.
Chocolate-Granola Apple Bites
"Apple slices are a great snack, but they get boring fast. Take them to the next level by coating them with peanut butter, granola, and chocolate chips for a sweet energizing bite."

Ingredients
Peanut butter
Plate of apple slices
Granola
Chocolate chips

Instructions
1. Spread peanut butter on one side of each apple slice.

2. Crust each slice with granola and chocolate chips.

*Excerpted from
Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks (c) Priya Krishna. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.
4 of 9
Illustration by (c) Jude Buffman.
Banana Boats
"I like this dessert a lot because of the novelty of eating it right out of the banana peel. Plus, the banana and toppings get all gooey when they mix and mingle in the microwave. You’ll never eat a plain banana again."

Ingredients
Banana
Toppings of your choice (Great options include coconut shavings, chocolate chips, granola, nuts, or M&Ms.)

Equipment
Microwave

Instructions
1. Use a knife to make a slit in the banana peel by cutting it down the length of one side. Use your fingers to slightly pull open the top of the banana. Do not remove the peel.

2. Fill the banana with your toppings.

3. Microwave the banana for 30 seconds at a time about three times, or until the peel is dark and the toppings are slightly melted.

4. To eat, use a spoon to scoop the filling out of the peel.

*Excerpted from
Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks (c) Priya Krishna. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.
5 of 9
Illustration by (c) Jude Buffman.
BLT Chopped Salad
"You won’t find many actual salad recipes in this cookbook, because I generally don’t find them very satisfying as a meal. This one, however, is loaded with bacon, feta, corn, and avocado — ingredients that are packed with flavor and also really filling."

Ingredients
Bowl of lettuce
Tomato
Avocado
Corn
Feta cheese
Bacon (Please do not use bacon bits here. They are gross.)
Olive oil
Lemon wedges
Salt and pepper

Instructions
1. Prepare the salad by adding tomato, avocado, corn, and feta to your lettuce.

2. Crumble a strip of bacon over the top of the salad.

3. Make the dressing by mixing olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a cup or small bowl, and then pour it over the salad.

4. Skip the bottled, preservative-laden dressings at the salad bar and make your own. It is as easy as choosing your favorite combination of oil, vinegar, lemon, herbs, and spices. Give everything a quick stir in a cup, and it's ready to dress any salad.

*Excerpted from
Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks (c) Priya Krishna. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.
Advertisement
6 of 9
Illustration by (c) Jude Buffman.
Spinach-Artichoke Melt
"I know many people who hate spinach and artichokes but love spinach-artichoke dip because it has so many crave-worthy characteristics: it’s gooey, hot, melty, and really cheesy. The only way to make this dip even better is to make it portable by putting it between two slices of bread."

Ingredients
Cream cheese
Bread
Garlic powder
Fresh spinach
Swiss or mozzarella cheese
Artichokes (plain canned or marinated)
Salt and pepper

Equipment
Panini press

Instructions
1. Spread cream cheese on one slice of bread and sprinkle garlic powder on top.

2. Stack the spinach, cheese, and artichokes on top of the cream cheese.

3. Add a few shakes of salt and pepper.

4. Put another slice of bread on top and press the sandwich in the panini press until you see dark grill marks, and all the cheese has melted.

*Excerpted from
Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks (c) Priya Krishna. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.
7 of 9
Illustration by (c) Jude Buffman.
Sloppy Joes
"I first learned what Sloppy Joes were when I watched the under- appreciated Mary-Kate and Ashley movie It Takes Two and Mary-Kate (or Ashley?) called them 'big, gooey, messy burgers.' I can guarantee that this Sloppy Joe, which is loaded with plenty of meat and spicy tomato flavor, lives up to both of its names. Make sure you aren’t wearing white when you make this one!"

Ingredients
Meatball
Tomato sauce
Ketchup
Hot sauce, such as Tabasco
Chili powder
Hamburger bun (toasted, if you want your Sloppy Joe to be less sloppy)

Instructions
1. Top a meatball with a few big spoonfuls of tomato sauce, a generous squirt of ketchup, hot sauce, and a dash of chili powder.

2. Use a fork to mash the meatball.

3. Spoon the meat into the hamburger bun.

*Excerpted from
Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks (c) Priya Krishna. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.
8 of 9
Illustration by Carolyn Eckert.
Tzatziki Chicken Salad
"Tzatziki is a constant reminder for me of how perfect and versatile a food plain yogurt is. A common way to eat yogurt is to mix in some granola and fruit and eat it as a snack or as breakfast. But if you add a little garlic, olive oil, and lemon, it becomes a refreshing, savory sauce that makes for a healthier, Mediterranean take on traditional chicken salad."

Ingredients
Grilled chicken
Cucumber
Plain yogurt (preferably Greek)
Olive oil
Lemon wedges
Garlic oil or garlic powder
Salt and pepper
Bread, pita, or chips, optional

Instructions
1. Cut chicken and cucumber into bite-size pieces and put into a bowl.

2. Add a few spoonfuls of yogurt and toss the ingredients. The chicken should be thoroughly coated by but not drowning in the yogurt.

3. Stir in a little bit of olive oil and squeeze in the juice of one to two lemon wedges.

4. Add garlic, salt, and pepper.
5. Enjoy on a sandwich, in a pita, with chips, or by itself.

*Excerpted from
Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks (c) Priya Krishna. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.
9 of 9
Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks by Priya Krishna, $9.44, available at Amazon.
Advertisement