Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Control Freak

The majority of the meals I eat in the dining hall center around the salad bar. After I heard that the dining hall puts pancake batter in the scrambled eggs, I don't really trust any of their cooked food. I'm not scared to get sick, but I like knowing what I'm putting in my mouth. Eating from the salad bar allows me to obsess over literally every lettuce leaf before I eat it. In eating so many salads, I've gotten good at navigating the salad bars. Sometimes the offerings change, (I get very excited when they offer baby corn, arugula, or snap peas) but I have a favorite salad at each dining hall. Here are my tips for navigating salad bars. 

1. Don’t choose every ingredient that looks good. Salads are best when you stick to a few key ingredients. Choose the freshest vegetables and fruits available and build a salad around those fundamentals. My go-to salad at my favorite dining hall is mixed greens with mandarin oranges, cranberries, and walnuts. 

2. Remember to add protein to your salad. Grilled chicken is an obvious choice, but sometimes dining hall chicken looks suspicious. Instead, add hard boiled eggs or cubes of tofu or toss walnuts on your salad for a fun crunch. I can never find potatoes and green beans for a salad nicoise, but I like romaine topped with shredded carrots, cucumbers, and hard-boiled eggs.

3. Always top your salad simply with olive oil and vinegar. Before reaching for a bottled dressing, ask yourself if you really want to pour high fructose corn syrup on your lettuce. You can never go wrong with balsamic vinegar to offer sweetness and tang to your veggies.

4. Grind pepper and salt on your salad if you used plain vinegar and oil to dress it. Seasoning vegetables with salt is easy to forget, but it can instantly spruce up a flavorless salad.  

5. If you get bored easily, try skipping the lettuce once in a while. Add grilled chicken (if it looks safe) to tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, kalamata olives, and feta cheese (crossing my fingers that it's available) for a flavorful Greek salad. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dorm Room Cooking

I miss cooking. I miss the freedom to eat anything at any time and I miss the control I have over every detail of my meal. I miss the chaotic mess on the counter during preparation and I miss the smoothness of my soapy hands when I'm washing dishes.

I miss buying groceries so much that I've stopped seeing the dishes at the dining hall as complete meals and started seeing ingredients begging to be reformatted. What if I stir fry the raw tofu, broccoli, and baby corn from the salad bar and serve it over rice taken from the action station? What if I roast cherry tomatoes from the salad bar then toss them with hot pasta from the home station and fresh arugula?

Today, I decided that I would find a way to cook even without any equipment. My main constraints were that I have no pots, cutting boards, or utensils and that the kitchen is filthy and I have no way to clean it (paper towels and hand soap isn't working so well). I took a few things from the dining hall and gathered my materials on the table in the lounge. Ready, set, devilled eggs.

Dorm Room Devilled Eggs

mayonnaise packets (from the dining hall)
spicy mustard (dining hall)
salt and pepper packets (from McDonald's)
hard boiled eggs (poached (lol) from the salad bar)
pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds (salad bar)
romaine (salad bar)
plastic camping plate and bowl
plastic knife and spoon

On the plastic plate, cut each egg in half. Scoop out the yolks with your spoon and put them in the bowl. Add three or so mayonnaise packets, some mustard, and some salt and pepper. Squish the yolks with the back of the spoon and mix well. Spread the lettuce on the plate and arrange the whites around the lettuce. Scoop the yolk mixture into the whites and garnish with pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Admire your creation and enjoy!