You should have a handle on breakfast, not because it’s the most important meal of the day—I posit that dessert is, but we’ll get to that later—but because spending $7 a day on a muffin and coffee gets expensive. Really expensive. Did you know you can buy a box of muffin mix for half that price and make 12 times the amount of muffin for your money? At the very least, invest in eggs and a frying pan, or pancake mix or SOMETHING. Your morning will be infinitely better. (Not a morning person? Make breakfast in advance and stick it in the fridge for easy grab-n-go morning sustenance. But if you do this, think frittata over fried egg. Trust me on this one.)
Beginner: Hardboiled Eggs in the Oven
Intermediate: Sweet Potato Waffles, Sweet or Savory
Advanced: Crab and Swiss Quiche
Really. It’s everything your mother, doctor, and grandmother warned you about, but it’s so important to master at least a simple green (or red or yellow or at least some varicolored plant-based) dish for your health, as well as your vegetarian friends. Nobody’s telling you that you have to give up your sacred artisanally smoked bacon, but at the very least, sautéing frozen broccoli in a little olive oil and garlic will make a world of difference to your taste buds and your body.
Beginner: Braised Kale
Intermediate: Charred Mexican Zucchini
Advanced: Roasted Vegetable Galette
A Dinner Party Meal
There are probably horror stories still lurking in the netherworld of the internet about Thanksgiving turkeys gone wronger than wrong, and I have a sinking suspicion that “engagement chicken” (google it, I’ll wait) was Betty Crocker’s precursor to “Single Ladies,” but being able to present something in the middle of the table with panache and confidence will at least give your parents peace of mind that you can actually feed yourself every now and again, and are not subsisting solely on your dedication to the good people of Chipotle. (Though they are saints and deserve praise, do not get me wrong. Let’s just try to see them a little more sporadically.)
Beginner: Baked Salmon with Lemon
Intermediate: Chicken Roulade
Advanced: Bo Ssam
Now, I’m not suggesting you try anything as ambitious as 300 sandwiches (again, did you google “engagement chicken”?) but it does help when you’re trying to stretch your budget. Nestling some premo filling—hummus, roast beef, tuna salad if you want to instill fear into the hearts and noses of your entire office—along with some crunchy little finishing touches in between some bread is a great way to feed yourself and save money at the same time. There’s a reason why your moms and dads spent so much time slaving over cutting off crusts and perfecting that ratio between bologna and mustard. (Okay, maybe Mom was relegated to lunch duty after poor, well-meaning, hapless Dad ended up making tuna with said mustard, but hey, nobody’s perfect.)
In lieu of presenting three options for different skill levels, do the poor girl at 300 Sandwiches a favor and try one of hers. It’s the least we could do for her effort.
I am not above admitting that as a teen, I baked cookies for the neighbor on whom I had a torrid crush, for my parents when I wanted to ask them for a huge favor, and that I continue to bake them for roommates I’ve somehow offended. It’s really easy to make a sweet treat to cap off your aforementioned impressive dinner party. If you can bypass the middle man and make your own cupcakes instead of paying $3.25 a pop per individual cakelet, you’re beating the system, my friend. $40 per dozen cupcakes? Not you, my friend. No longer will your wallet be at the mercy of the latest GOOP-approved trends. Now go forth, and take care not to set off a fire alarm or two.
Beginner: One Bowl Brownies
Intermediate: Mini Cheesecakes with Apricot Jam
Advanced: Tiramisu Yule Log