Many college students shy away from cooking because they perceive it as time-consuming, overly complicated and expensive. With patience and an open mind, however, anyone can create excellent food using simple ingredients.
This Easter brunch menu is affordable and easy to prepare, designed for a festive holiday meal with friends. Even the most inexperienced cook can host this get together for up to 12 people, serving homemade dishes that cost less than a dozen donuts from Spudnuts.
Homemade almond-poppyseed granola is a staple item that exceeds any store-bought variety. The recipe takes five minutes to throw together, utilizing ingredients that most college students already have on hand.
You can get creative with the nuts and seeds, substituting cashews or walnuts for the almonds or adding a handful of dried fruit at the end. You will end up with crunchy, golden clusters of granola, ideal for sprinkling on top of yogurt or snacking on plain.
Baked cinnamon French toast is a standout dish that will leave your friends in awe. By arranging the bread in a single pan, save yourself the time and hassle of flipping each piece individually.
This clever layering method creates a caramelized cinnamon-sugar crust and a gooey, custardy center. You can even assemble it the night before, then bake it in the morning. Topped with maple syrup and fresh berries, this French toast exceeds most versions found in restaurants.
To round out the menu, no Easter brunch would be complete without eggs. Every college student should master this essential technique for soft-scrambled eggs — a simple and satisfying dish appropriate for any meal.
Low heat is the key to achieving delicate, silky-smooth curds. Pouring eggs into a scalding skillet causes them to cook too quickly, yielding a burnt and gummy scramble. Be patient, coaxing the eggs gently and removing them from the heat when they are moist and just set.
Using these fool-proof inexpensive and impressive recipes, any student can replicate a homey Easter celebration in his or her apartment. With food this delicious, however, weekend brunch may become a frequent tradition.
Recipe adapted from Belinda Leong, via Food & Wine: America’s Greatest New Cooks
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons honey, warmed
Yields about 4 cups.
Total cost: $2.91
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the oats with the almonds, flour, brown sugar, poppy seeds and salt. In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the maple syrup, then add this to the oat mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are thoroughly coated. Spread the granola evenly on a prepared baking sheet.
2. Bake the granola in the center of the oven for 10 minutes. Stir the granola, then drizzle the honey evenly over the top. Bake for 20 more minutes, stirring once more, until golden and nearly dry. Remove the granola from the oven and allow it to cool completely on the baking sheet before serving. Serve with yogurt and fresh fruit.
Baked Cinnamon French Toast
Recipe courtesy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
16 slices (from a 1-pound or 450 gram loaf) white sandwich bread
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups whole or 2% milk
6 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Yields 8-12 servings.
Total cost: $5.56
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together in a small dish. Line two large baking sheets with foil. Place the bread slices on the baking sheets in one layer. Spread each slice of bread with 1 teaspoon of butter, then sprinkle each slice with one teaspoon of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Toast the trays of bread in the oven until the bread is golden, and until the cinnamon-sugar makes a caramelized crunch on top, for about 7 to 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and let the toast cool slightly.
2. Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cut two slices of the cinnamon toast in half horizontally. Arrange the baking dish so that the longer side is horizontal to you on the counter. Place the bottom half of a divided slice of cinnamon toast in the upper left-hand corner, cut side facing left. Arrange the first full slice of toast on top of it, so that the upper crust of the slice meets the left side of the pan. Arrange six more slices across the top of the pan, crusts in the same direction, overlapping each slightly. Finish with the top of a divided slice of toast. Repeat with the second row, toast facing in the opposite direction, starting and finishing with your second divided slice of toast.
3. Whisk the milk, eggs, salt and vanilla in a medium bowl and pour evenly over the cinnamon toast in the baking dish. Let sit for 15 minutes (or overnight, if you’re preparing this ahead of time) so that the custard absorbs.
4. Before baking, sprinkle any leftover cinnamon-sugar over the French toast. Bake for 30 minutes, until puffed and golden and until no liquid seeps out of the toasts when you nudge it in the pan. Cut into squares and serve plain, or with a dollop of yogurt and fresh berries, or maple syrup.
2 tablespoons milk or cream
1 tablespoon of butter or non-stick cooking spray
Salt and pepper to taste
Yields one serving.
Total cost: $0.30
1. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat them with the milk or cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place a small pan on medium-low heat and coat the pan with butter.
2. Pour the egg mixture into the pan. Using a rubber spatula, whisk gently and repeatedly while scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until eggs are just thickened, creamy and small curds begin to form, 2-4 minutes total. (If mixture begins to stick to pan while cooking, remove from heat; whisk gently for 30 seconds, then continue cooking over heat). Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Prices for each recipe can vary slightly. Maral shares her culinary experiences on “Let’s Live La Vida,” a recipe and travel blog dedicated to enjoying life through food.