Monday, September 9, 2013

Priya Krishna's Three Simple Tips for a College Meal Plan Makeover

For all the ways we love food here at Storey, we don't speak longingly of the meals we ate in our college dining halls (unless, of course, they involved that magical combination of frozen yogurt and Lucky Charms)We wondered: is there a way to make meals more exciting with what’s on hand without having access to your own kitchen (and without resorting to fast food?). Priya Krishna thinks so. 

A recent college graduate and former food columnist for her college newspaper, Priya has first-hand experience with both meal plans and writing. Storey is excited to be working with Priya on her book, and she's pausing just long enough to provide our blog readers with three simple suggestions for college students who want to rescue tired taste buds from meal plan drudgery with ingredients found in almost every dining hall. 

Personalize your peanut butter! Photo © PiccoloNamek
I have always been a foodie. I watch the Food Network religiously, I read food blogs, I cook often, and I love trying new restaurants. When it came time for college, however, eating wasn’t something I was looking forward to. I was going to be on my own, forced to make my own mealtime decisions without my mom’s delicious cooking to sustain me. I started going to the dining halls and quickly found myself on the verge of getting stuck in a rut — I was already sick of the food I was going to have to eat for the next four years.

So I started getting creative.

I thought of the best dishes I had seen at my favorite restaurants, on the Food Network, and in my family’s kitchen, and I ended up giving my college meal plan a total makeover, using the ingredients I found in the dining halls to craft completely new creations. Soon, I had enough recipes to start a weekly column in my college newspaper, featuring different dishes that students could make themselves in a dining hall setting.

Sure, it’s true that the food in a college dining hall likely won’t ever match a dish at your favorite restaurant, or your parents’ home cooking. But mixing and matching different, readily available ingredients certainly makes eating at school a lot more interesting, not to mention tastier.

Here are my top three most versatile dining hall ingredients, and ideas for using them to change up your food routine:

  • Yogurt. Start with the blank canvas of plain yogurt and the possibilities are truly endless. Yogurt is not only a fantastic breakfast food, it is the perfect topper for practically any dessert (cake, brownies, bread pudding), a savory dip when mixed with ingredients like olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper, and a healthy, easy snack on its own.
  • Peanut Butter. Peanut butter and jelly is obviously the holy grail of culinary duos, and in all honesty, my all-time favorite way to eat peanut butter is just to spoon it out of the jar along with some strawberry jam. But you can also swirl peanut butter into ice cream with chocolate chips, mix it with soy and chili sauces to make a Thai peanut concoction, incorporate it with cereal to make gooey clusters, or spread it on banana slices. Peanut allergy? Try almond butter!
  • Olive Oil.  Anything can be made fancier in an instant with olive oil. Got a plain piece of toast? Dark chocolate ice cream? Grilled chicken? A cup of soup? Drizzle it with olive oil. Even olive oil that's not so great in quality can do wonders to spruce up an entire dish.
Priya Krishna
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Priya Krishna is a recent college graduate and a self-proclaimed pesto enthusiast who is working on a book forthcoming from Storey. Follow her foodie adventures on Twitter @PKgourmet.
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For off-campus cooking ideas from Storey, check out The Healthy College Cookbook.  Or, improve dormitory chi  with  Dorm Room Feng Shui.

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