When I was in college (and my eyebrows were finally normal) I was not rich. Sounds surprising, I know, because college students are known to just be rolling in the dough. I was not. I worked a part time job that paid for mostly party supplies: a new Forever21 top for every weekend, a reasonable supply of Natty Ice, a price-haggled cab ride, and, of course, a late night burrito from Freebirds. It also paid for my weekly groceries and gas money to get to said job.
Making minimum wage meant I could not afford a lot of fancy groceries. My diet mostly consisted of potatoes, broccoli, ramen noodles (so cliche), dried pasta and jarred pasta sauce, cans of tuna, frozen Trader Joe's entrees, and occasionally a chicken breast when I was really feeling weak from lack of protein. At the time I did not have the foresight to understand what lie in my future of culinary wonderment. Cheese and charcuterie boards were a mere twinkle in an unknowing eye.
I still got creative with what little food options I allowed myself. Stuffed baked potatoes made a weekly rotation, overstuffed with all sorts of cheap vegetables and probably some shredded cheese (not from the fancy dairy section). I became a master meatball maker because, you know, ground beef is cheap. I also discovered leaving the spice packet out of your ramen bowl and added a few choice spices of your own from the pantry saved you some of that sodium bloat and tasted a hell of a lot better than the MSG your body had become accustomed to craving.
My college diet did wonders for my culinary creativity. When you are limited in resources you learn to "mix it up" with what you got! You become an expert at a few choice dishes, maybe one fancy one to woo the boy from Statistics, and you learn to not fear the cheaper ingredients some food snobs may cower away from.
Even though I am now older (31 is the "real" adult age, I think) and I have more resources available to me, my college budgetess side comes out and cringe at the thought of paying more than a couple of bucks for something like crackers. I love the Raincoast Crisps line of crackers. I think they are delicious, have interesting combos of flavors, and pair perfectly with any cheese. BUT these are what I call highend snacks. So, I have hacked a recipe for you. Forget about walking up to the nearest fancy pants grocery store, and look in your cupboard for any mix-ins you might like. Have a half a bag of raisins or dried cranberries? Just a palmful of sunflower seeds, or perhaps you are mad at me because you bought a bag of pumpkin seeds for the Chocolate Bark recipe and the rest are still sitting in your cupboard? These crackers are a great catch all for any fruit, seed, or nut mix you might have waiting to be used. OR leave 'em plain! They are basically just crunchy little toasts anyway! Save yourself a couple of bucks, treat yourself to a new Forever21 top, and try these puppies out. I promise they are just as, or almost as, good as the real deal.
The Recipe: Fruit and Nut Crisps
The Bits and Bobs:
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup agave syrup, honey, or maple syrup (whatever you have)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or other dried fruit
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, slivered almonds, or combo of nuts/seeds
Preheat the oven to 350*F and lightly grease a muffin or mini loaf pan.
In a big bowl mix together the milk, honey and brown sugar. Sift in the flour, salt, and baking soda. Whisk all ingredients together until it resembles pancake batter (will seem a little runny). Add in all of the mix-ins.
Fill the muffin or loaf pan about 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the batter has risen, is golden brown, and a knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then seal all the muffins tightly in a freezer bag and freeze for about an hour. They should be completely cooled and slightly firm.
Using a serrated knife, cut into thin slices. ** I sliced from the bottom up to get rounds out of my muffins, but feel free to slice however**
Preheat the oven to 325*F and line a baking sheet with your silpat or parchment paper. Lay out the slices on the sheet (may have to work in batches). Bake for 15 minutes on one side, then flip and bake for another 15 minutes. Crisps should golden and toasted. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. They will continue to crisp up as they cool. Serve at room temp and store in an airtight container.