- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Moms, the next time your children complain about college food, take it as a compliment. Based on a survey of more than 150 students at eight Ivy League schools, students who rated the dining hall food as poor rated their moms’ cooking as great.

Conversely, those who rated mom’s cooking as poor thought the food at school was great. This means that students whose mothers are accomplished cooks probably hate the food, and those with cooking-challenged moms love it.

Whitney Baxter, a sophomore at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., perfectly illustrates this idea. “Harvard’s food is good, but my mom’s cooking is great, so I’m a spoiled consumer,” she said.

However, college food is changing to include healthier made-to-order foods, as well as foods that reflect social consciousness, as young people and their appetites become more sophisticated. New dining concepts, such as themed stations, are presented in open-kitchen dining halls. Yet old issues, which include getting the young to eat breakfast, still require attention.

Most students don’t eat breakfast. More than 90 percent surveyed said they don’t consume anything except coffee before 11:30 a.m. Delmar Crim, dining director at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has noticed the trend, too. “One large dining hall will serve a maximum of 300 breakfasts on a given day but over 1,700 dinners.” The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, serves about 300 breakfasts to its more than 6,000 students.

College dining directors, including Stu Orefice of Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., tries to entice students to breakfast with tempting dishes. “We have stations where chefs will prepare eggs, any style, to order. Egg white omelets, too. We make waffles to order every day.”

Cold cereal remains a child’s favorite, but college students aren’t necessarily eating it for breakfast.

Cereal is a late-night snack for many students, and most schools, including the University at Pennsylvania, offer open-all-day cereal bars. Such stations serve a selection of cold cereals with a choice of whole, skim, soy, chocolate or strawberry milk.

Ivy League students chow down on meals with vegan and vegetarian options, kosher menus and ethnic foods.

Executive chef Chris Ince at New York City’s Columbia University is pleased by the college trend toward ethnic fare. “I grew up in England, where curry was popular. Now one of our most popular dining stations is the curry table, where we’ve added other Indian favorites like samosa and tandoori.”

According to the students surveyed, some favorite lunch foods at Princeton include the Fire Bowl, a station where ingredients are stir-fried to order, and Endless Pastabilities, a mix-your-own pasta station. Princeton’s Healthy Eating Lab, which features a sushi bar, salads and specialty teas, is also a hit.

Popular at Yale is the locally grown, seasonal and organic Sustainable Food Project menu, which includes such items as hand-stretched Buffalo chicken pizza and grass-fed burgers. Pizza is popular at Cornell, where it’s made with nutritious bread dough containing a high percentage of soy and molasses.

The Sizzling Salad, a cooked-to-order sirloin or chicken entree that is served as a topper for select-your-own salad ingredients is also popular.

Most Harvard students surveyed agreed that whether it’s broiled, Parmesan-style or stir-fried, chicken rules.

Made-to-order food is also a trend at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. As at other schools, the stir-fry station, where ingredients and sauces are mixed to order, is a favorite.

The least favorite items at all of the schools surveyed? This will come as no surprise to any mom: brussels sprouts and seafood.

“Food means a lot to me. A good meal puts me in a better mood. Considering [my] hectic schedule, a good meal is one way to relax,” said student Whitney Baxter. Princeton freshman Samson Benen agreed. “Instead of going out to a bar like some kids at other colleges, I like to go out to a restaurant for a nice meal.”

College food service executives listen to students like these, soliciting feedback and setting up formal student advisory boards.

Harvard’s head of dining services, Ted Meyer, explained his school’s protocol. “Kids fill out comment cards with suggestions or complaints, which must be answered by the dining hall managers within 24 hours. We encourage their input. They can even make suggestions online.” Requests from students have included serving soy milk, extending dining hours, and adding specialty dishes.

Cornell University dining director Delmar Crim even tries to accommodate socially conscious requests, such as one for fair-trade coffee, which is coffee purchased from small-scale farmers who are reasonably compensated for their product.

While most colleges stop serving dinner by 8 p.m., a snack is never far away. For students who burn the midnight oil studying, snacks such as bagels, nachos, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, milk, coffee, soda and juices are within easy reach.

All this food has a downside. It’s what students for decades have come to call the Freshman 15, those 15 extra pounds put on during the first year of school.

Michael Sarinsky, a philosophy major at Dartmouth, gained 15 pounds his freshman year. “The french fries did it,” he said. “There’s also a great pizza place that delivers until 2 a.m.” Harvard sophomore Whitney Baxter attributed her extra 15 pounds to eating a late “second dinner and to Harvard’s wonderful free ice cream.”

Obviously, not all students gain weight. Princeton sophomore Samson Benen explained, “Most kids put on weight their freshman year. Me, I lost weight. Probably because I didn’t have a nice Jewish mother preparing my meals, making sure I ate right.”

Advice for college students trying to eat well and, perhaps, avoid the Freshman 15:

• Stick to real food, not convenience and prepackaged. Select fresh ingredients when possible. Fresh not only tastes better, it’s better for you.

• If students are cooking, grilled chicken is a good choice. A quick way to change it is with different marinades. A good all-purpose marinade is olive oil, a splash of vinegar, fresh basil and garlic.

• While at home, students should learn to be actively involved in food choices. Include add-ons such as cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots and grated cheeses so that they can learn to customize their dinners.

• Teach them that food and kitchen safety are important. Students with kitchen facilities need to know that food preparation surfaces must be clean and sanitized. Defrosting should only be done in the refrigerator or under running water. Buy them a fire extinguisher for the kitchen and tell them to double-check that there is a working smoke alarm with fresh batteries in their kitchen. Also remind them to never leave a frying pan unattended while cooking.

• As an example at home, vary what you serve to keep their interest. Experiment with vegetables you have never tried, or try a different version of a familiar food such as blue potatoes, grape tomatoes, red leaf lettuce or basmati rice. Commit to buying one special fruit each week so that they can learn to enjoy fresh fruit, which is not only nutritionally rich but often requires no refrigeration.

Orange and black sesame crusted trout

At Princeton, to keep the orange and black theme going in this dish, the fillets are served with a carrot and roasted red pepper coulis topped with dark toasted pumpernickel croutons.

2 tablespoons white sesame seeds

1/4 cup carrot juice

6 skinless trout fillets, about 6 ounces each

2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for greasing baking sheet

Soak white sesame seeds overnight in carrot juice to color them orange.

Spread juice-soaked sesame seeds over an ungreased baking sheet and bake in 300-degree oven until dry, 15 to 30 minutes. (Watch carefully, since seeds can burn quickly.) When seeds are toasted, remove from oven and raise oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Coat one side of each trout fillet with orange sesame seeds, leaving an empty line in the center. (A diagonal line is most attractive.)

Fill empty line with black sesame seeds. Repeat with remaining fillets.

In a large saute pan cook fish fillets in 2 tablespoons oil, seed side up, until golden on bottom, about 1½ minutes. Place fillets, seed side up, on a greased baking sheet and bake in preheated 350-degree oven until fish flakes easily, about 20 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

Black bean chipotle soup

This hearty soup is a perfect way to cope with the cold Dartmouth winters.

2 cups chopped onions

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups minced carrots

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped green bell peppers

1½ teaspoons cumin

3 cups canned black beans, undrained

2 cups chopped tomatoes

½ cup orange juice

½ cup chicken or vegetable broth

1/4 teaspoon dried chipotle chilies

1 cup heavy cream

Tortilla chips, optional

Sour cream, optional

Cheddar cheese, optional

Hot sauce, optional

Salsa, optional

In a large pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat, stirring frequently, for approximately 10 minutes, or until softened.

Add carrot, celery, green pepper and cumin, and continue cooking until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add beans and their juice, tomatoes, orange juice, broth and chipotles.

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool and puree soup to desired texture with heavy cream in a food processor. Reheat and serve warm sprinkled with optional toppings of choice.

Maskes 6 to 8 servings.

Cranberry raisin bread pudding(Harvard University)

1 French bread baguette, cut in 1/4-inch slices

½ cup liquid eggs or 6 whole eggs, beaten

4½ cups whole milk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch salt

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup raisins

½ cup sugar

1/4 cup rolled oats, toasted in oven or frying pan until golden


Confectioners’ sugar

Arrange bread slices on nonstick baking sheet with sides.

In a small bowl whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla and salt until combined.

Add cranberries and raisins to mixture.

Pour mixture over bread slices and let stand 30 minutes, or until liquid has been absorbed.

Sprinkle bread slices with sugar, toasted oats and a dash of cinnamon and cover with aluminum foil.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until bread is firm and set. Serve warm sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.

Makes 4 servings.

Waldorf omelet(Columbia University)

½ cup diced apple

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup diced celery

1/4 cup raisins

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon apple juice

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon sour cream

8 eggs

1/4 cup half-and-half

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided

Toss diced apple in a bowl with lemon juice until coated. Stir in celery, raisins, sugar, apple juice and cinnamon. A

dd mayonnaise and sour cream and mix until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

In a large bowl whisk together eggs and half-and-half until well blended. Melt 1½ tablespoons butter or margarine in a saute pan, add one-half of the egg mixture, and heat slowly.

Using a fork, lift edges of omelet, tilt the pan and allow uncooked egg to cook through. Place one half of the Waldorf apple mixture in the center of omelet and fold in half.

Repeat process with remaining ingredients to make second omelet.

Makes 2 servings.

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