Maybe because there are no glossy pictures, at first, I was underwhelmed by this little cookbook, “Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks: Create Extraordinary Dishes from the Ordinary Ingredients in Your College Meal Plan.” Instead, the pictures are drawings – almost industrial drawings, which look like exploded views with international symbols of the kind you would see on the street in Europe. But after closer examination, I knew why cookbook writer and recent Dartmouth College graduate Priya Krishna chose this approach. The drawings were easy to understand, and they efficiently outline the construction of each dish.

The layout of the book is unique, too. Simple designs guide readers/cooks directly to recipes, so rather than just looking up, say, “chicken” in the table of contents or index, small maps lead to a recipe using a drill-down method of selection: broad topic to specific recipes, just follow the arrows and make decisions based on what you’re in the mood to cook or eat.

The recipes use the ingredients available at almost any college dining hall to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner items ranging from quesadillas and Asian nachos to peach cobbler and chocolate bread pudding.

I’m a student at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, so I was in a good position to take “Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks” for a road test. I made the recipe for Tzatziki Chicken Salad, and I scrutinized many other recipes and found that most – if not all – can indeed be made in a dorm room with food foraged from the dining hall and just a single piece of equipment: a microwave.

The “cooking” won’t take long, either, from 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the recipe. Most of the preparation actually takes place in the dining hall, simply gathering ingredients. The recipes can be adjusted to serve more than one person, so if a student wants to cook for, say, his roommate, it’s easy to do.

For the Tzatziki Chicken Salad recipe that I tested, the only ingredient I couldn’t find in my dining hall was chopped garlic, so I went out and bought some at a store. The hearty, healthy salad made for a tasty meal and took just 10 minutes to get on the table. Next time, I might prepare it ahead of time for a very acceptable grab-and-go meal or adjust the spices to change it up.


All and all, when the college meal plan gets old, this little book provides a second wind.


Tzatziki Chicken Salad

Use Greek yogurt if you’ve got it. Fresh herbs are best, but if you can’t find those at your dining hall, the pizza area may have dried herbs.

Serves 1

1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped


½ cup yogurt

1 teaspoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon chopped, fresh dill and/or mint

1 cucumber, peeled and chopped

1 breast grilled chicken, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Pita bread or pita chips, for serving

Place garlic in a bowl. Add the yogurt, lemon juice and herbs and mix. Stir in the cucumber and chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on pita bread or pita chips, whatever you can find at the cafeteria.

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