Val 101: Upgrading Your Lighter Side Chicken

With Val open again for indoor dining, a whole host of new culinary options are available to students. Staff Writer Sarah Weiner '24 gives her advice on everything from spicy mayo and mochas to microwaved desserts and the best breakfast sandwiches.

Val 101: Upgrading Your Lighter Side Chicken
Valentine Dining Hall reopened for indoor dining on Sept. 11. Photo courtesy of Brooke Hoffman '23E.
Valentine Dining Hall reopened for indoor dining on Sept. 11. Photo courtesy of Brooke Hoffman '23E.

An email from Dean of Students Liz Agosto on Sept. 11 announced the reopening of indoor seating at Valentine Dining Hall (Val). In honor of this event and the return of the panini press — actually, mostly the return of the panini press — here are some recipes, recommendations, tips and tricks for making the most of your indoor dining experience. The following Val hacks are simply suggestions and should be taken with a grain of salt, just like most things that come out of Val. That said, these ideas come from the fourth grader who squeezed lemon on her apple slices before putting them in her lunchbox so they would stay fresh until lunchtime. And it worked. Enjoy.  

Breakfast Sandwich

You can’t go wrong with the combination of bread, eggs, cheese and meat. Get a scoop of scrambled eggs from the hot breakfast, as well as sausage or bacon if you wish, and a slice of cheese. Toast a bagel or English muffin. Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper and assemble the sandwich. Place in the panini press until the cheese has melted. Jazz it up with tomato, spinach or arugula if available. Dip in hot sauce or ketchup and eat. (If you are in a rush, you can try melting the cheese by placing it on top of the hot eggs in a closed container.)

Spicy Mayo

One of my favorite sauces, spicy mayo is an easy combination of condiments. Mix one packet of sriracha with one packet of mayonnaise. Adjust these as you like depending on your spice preferences. Add a bit of lemon or lime juice for some zing. Note: do not substitute hot sauce (or at least Texas Pete hot sauce…) for the sriracha. I learned that the hard way.

Microwave desserts and pastries

This is not a recipe as much as a brilliant and wildly unique suggestion. Stick muffins, pies, brownies, croissants and pastries in the microwave for about 20 seconds before consuming. Makes you feel super fancy and gives a warm feeling in your stomach (literally).

Peanut Butter, Banana and Honey Sandwich

Back to the panini press! Spread peanut butter and honey on bread and place banana slices on top. Sprinkle on cinnamon too for some extra pizazz. Cover with another piece of bread and place it in the panini press to warm it up. This is delicious — and nutritious!

Mocha, Two Ways

Coffee. Chocolate. Two ways. Oh my! Yes, this drink is available at the coffee machine, but here are a pair of do-it-yourself alternatives, including a vegan one.

Option 1: Combine two parts coffee (hot or iced) with one part chocolate milk. You choose the milk — I suggest chocolate almond. Adjust coffee and milk levels to your liking.

Option 2: Stir a hot chocolate packet into a hot cup of coffee. Add creamer or milk if you wish.  

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

This recipe is already controversial among some of my friends, but give it a try and let me know what you think. Under the unfortunate assumption you make hot chocolate with a hot water base at Val, steep a mint tea bag in the water for a few minutes before pouring in the hot chocolate powder. Makes you feel like Christmas is near.

Coffee Float

Dessert for breakfast or coffee for dinner, the caffeine and sugar levels of a coffee float make it a great energy boost. Scoop out a dish of vanilla or chocolate ice cream from the cooler and place it in a larger cup. Pour hot coffee over the top. Enjoy with a spoon or straw. Or a fork if you are feeling bold.

Salad Dressing on a Sandwich

Thanks to Sydney Ireland ’23 for suggesting salad dressing as a sauce for superior sandwich making. Ireland recommends balsamic on a vegetarian’s dream sandwich of cheese and loads of veggies. She also says Italian dressing does the job well.

We’ve reached the end of my modest cookbook, but that doesn’t mean your own culinary pursuits have to cease. Get creative in Val because you never know what might happen. Keep calm, keep cooking and dine on.