Familiar, easy dishes can surprise

When I first began writing this column, my goal was to motivate college students to approach cooking in a new and different way. I encouraged students to depart from unhealthy eating habits and experiment with simple yet unfamiliar techniques. While I stand by this mission and hope that many of you have benefitted from my weekly musings about roasted vegetables and pre-cooked grains, there is also something to be said about foods more traditionally associated with college students’ lifestyles.

Tasty treat · Muesli is a healthy alternative to sugary breakfast cereal and can be adapted using a variety of nuts, seeds and dried fruits. - Maral Tavitian | Daily Trojan

Tasty treat · Muesli is a healthy alternative to sugary breakfast cereal and can be adapted using a variety of nuts, seeds and dried fruits. – Maral Tavitian | Daily Trojan


Students love convenient and familiar dishes such as grilled cheese sandwiches and cereal. Even the most inexperienced cooks have probably fried an egg or made avocado toast before; the recipes are so simple that most of us prepare them almost instinctively. Though these dishes require little embellishment to satisfy, I decided to improve upon the old standards using fresher, more interesting ingredients.

Rather than complicate the fundamental techniques behind these dishes, simple tweaks and ingredient substitutions go a long way. Learning how to soft-scramble eggs will forever change your perception of breakfast. Low heat and patience are the keys to achieving succulent, silky-smooth curds. Coax the eggs gently around the pan, removing them when they are moist and just set. The final result is more luxurious than the usual dry, overcooked scramble but requires no additional effort on your part.

My strawberry and goat cheese quesadilla recipe puts a colorful twist on the Mexican staple. Though the combination may sound unusual, just go with it. The sweet strawberries perfectly complement the creamy, slightly tangy goat cheese and crunchy tortillas. The dish’s fresh flavors make it ideal for any meal of the day, or even as a quick snack to share with friends.

Naturally sweetened with honey and bound together with only two tablespoons of oil, homemade muesli is a healthy alternative to the sugary cereals many college students subsist on. Muesli is similar to granola, except lighter. It takes minutes to mix together in one bowl, and like most of the recipes in this column, can be adapted using a variety of nuts and dried fruits.

So next time you decide to make a reliable dish, healthy or not, try enhancing it using unconventional ingredients and flavor pairings. Treat this week’s recipes as templates rather than strict guidelines, inspiring you to put your own unique spins on the basics.

Soft-scrambled Eggs 

• 2 large eggs

• 2 tablespoons milk or cream

• 1 tablespoon of butter or non-stick cooking spray

• Salt and pepper to taste

Total: 5 min. Serves 1.

1. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat them with the milk or cream. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. 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 to 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.

Strawberry and Goat Cheese Quesadilla 

Recipe adapted from sproutedkitchen.com

• 1 teaspoon olive oil

• 2 large tortillas, preferably whole wheat

• 1/3 cup softened goat cheese

• 1/3 cup grated mozzarella cheese

• Handful of strawberries, thinly sliced

• Black pepper to taste

Total: 10 min. Serves 1-2.

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Spread one side of each tortilla with half of the goat cheese, leaving about a ½ inch border around the edge.

2. Add one of the tortillas cheese-side-up to the pan. Sprinkle it with the grated mozzarella and a pinch of pepper, top with an even layer of the strawberry slices and cover with the other tortilla. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the bottom of the tortilla is browned and crunchy. Flip the quesadilla and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes on the other side.

3. Remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the tortilla to a cutting board and slice into equal wedges. Serve.

Coconut and Walnut Muesli 

Recipe adapted from Whole-Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon

• 1¾ cups rolled oats

• ½ cup raw pumpkin seeds

• ½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

• ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

• ¼ teaspoon salt

• ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

• ¼ cup honey

• 2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil

• ½ cup chopped dried mango or other dried fruit of choice

Active: 10 min; Total: 35 min. Makes about 4 cups.

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together the rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, shredded coconut, salt and cinnamon.

3. Heat the honey and oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until warmed. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until all the dry ingredients are evenly coated. Spread the muesli evenly on the prepared baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on the baking sheet. Add in the dried mango and stir to combine. The muesli can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a month.

Maral Tavitian is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column, “The Epicurean Dorm,” runs Tuesdays.