S’mores Brownies

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People ask me all the time:

“What do YOU like to cook?”

“What’s YOUR favorite recipe?”

“What’s the best thing you’ve ever made?”

And that’s why I’m here now. Not only to show you what I love to cook…but how YOU can make it too.

Okay. Maybe I swiped that little intro from the Food Network show, “The Best Thing I Ever Made.” (Great show, by the way. I wish they’d put out more new episodes of that and “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” instead of the ‘game shows’ they keep just throwing at the wall and hoping that they’ll stick.) But it really is true that people do ask me those kinds of questions, especially when they find out that I have a food blog. I also get asked a lot of random questions about ingredients, dishes, recipes and other cooking related subjects that people need help with in their kitchens- like I’m the resident Julia Child, or something. It’s flattering, and most of the time, I really can give some kind of helpful advice.

But there is the left-field query that I have absolutely no clue how to answer-to which I quickly give an off the cuff reply based upon the .2 seconds I’ve had to actually consider it. Then I say a silent prayer that the advice  I’ve given won’t result in a ruined dish or in them burning their house down.

Don’t act like you haven’t done it too.

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But seriously though, the question “What’s the best thing you’ve ever made?” has always kinda been difficult for me to answer. The truth is, I’m a fan of ALL the food I cook, because I cook the way that I would like to eat. Pinpointing one or two dishes among them as favorites makes me draw a blank…

Most of the time.

Every once in a while, I’ll try out a new recipe and right after I try that first bite, I will LITERALLY let an audible “Oh my GOD!” slip out of my mouth out of sheer shock and disbelief of the nirvana that’s happening in my mouth. Sometimes, I do make a dish that is literally so delicious, so supremely perfect, that I just can’t believe it.

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These brownies were one of those dishes. It all started innocently enough. My older sister asked me to make her some brownies. Then my twin sister asked me to make her some. Then my Dad’s birthday came up and he wanted some. Well, since everyone was getting their own variations of brownies, I decided that I was getting left out, and thus  deserved some of my own too. Am I right? Am I RIGHT?

S’mores is one of my favorite ‘flavors’; I’ll eat it in just about any form. The thought of putting it in a brownie seemed like a tasty idea, so I clashed together a couple of ideas I’d seen on Food Network and the Rachael Ray magazine, and ended up with this dish of brownies.

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Guys.

I wasn’t prepared. I really wasn’t.

After I put that first bite in my mouth, it was suddenly like everything around me stopped. The world was on pause, and suddenly it was just me and the most flawless brownie I’ve ever had in my life. I actually think my eyes may have rolled back a little bit. Nothing else mattered. Every other brownie I’d had up to that point ceased to exist- they were just cheap imitations of the word.

I don’t know how to pick out what I love the most about these: the brownie itself is just so perfectly thick and balanced, with just enough chew to distinguish it from chocolate cake (boo for ‘cake brownies’), but not so dense that it’s like fudge (I don’t like overly rich brownies). It’s a perfect base for the other ingredients. The graham cracker crust on the bottom gives a texture to the smoothness of the brownies and is a wonderful ‘vanilla flavored’ compliment to the chocolate flavor of the brownie. And the marshmallows? Don’t get me started. They’re the sweet, gooey glue that gives the whole thing that campfire S’mores authenticity. Put together, they’re literally one of the best things I’ve eaten. No joke.

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The last time that I made the recipe for My Grandma’s Banana Pudding, my twin sister Jas said that it was so good that it almost made her want to start dancing. For some reason, that compliment really stuck with me- and not just because it buffed my ego. I started thinking about how interesting it was that food can literally give someone so much satisfaction and happiness that they want to start dancing. The more I thought about it, the more awesome I realized that was. Later for all these people that are demonizing certain foods as ‘bad’ or something we should be ashamed of for enjoying. Nowadays the world is filled with so much evil and unhappiness that I believe that we should grab onto all the things and people that make us happy and just embrace the heck out of it. 

If something that you cook for someone has the power to make them so happy they wanted to start dancing- then I say, make it. Spread some of that happiness around….even if it’s for yourself.

 I’m a huge fan of the Pharrell Williams song from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, “Happy”. To me, this song is just all kinds of awesome. I was listening to it the other day as I was writing this post and I suddenly had what I think is a pretty good/fun idea for the blog. From now on, whenever I post a recipe like these S’mores Brownies or My Grandma’s Banana Pudding– recipes that just make me, or the people in my life literally feel so ‘happy’ that we want to dance, I’ll be tagging the post with the Happy Stamp below. I also intend on creating a new section for it in my Recipe Index and updating it for the recipes that I’ve posted thus far. That way, anytime you guys need to find a recipe to cook that’s been tested and guaranteed to spread some happiness to a loved one, or even to yourself, you can find it here 😉

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S’mores Brownies

Recipe Courtesy of Food Network Magazine & Rachael Ray Magazine

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups, crushed graham crackers
  • 1 stick, plus 6 tbsp  butter, separated
  • 3/4 cup, plus 3 tbsp sugar, divided
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 whole square graham cracker

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 2 inch overhang. Coat the foil with cooking spray.

2. Mix the crushed graham crackers, 6 tbsp melted butter, 3 tbsp sugar together and press onto the bottom of the pan. Bake until golden, about 8 minutes; cool.

3. Melt 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips and 1 stick butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring. Off the heat, whisk in 3/4 cup each light brown sugar and granulated sugar; cool slightly.

4. Whisk in 4 eggs, one at a time, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

5. Stir in 1 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread in the pan. Bake for 45 minutes.

6. Remove brownies from oven and turn on broiler. Spread marshmallows and milk chocolate chips  over top of brownies and place back in oven. Bake until marshmallows melt and just begin to brown, about 1 minute.

7. Break whole graham cracker into shards. Remove brownies from oven and press graham cracker pieces into melted marshmallows.

8. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes.  Run hot water over a metal knife to make slicing the brownies easier and less messy.

My Grandma’s Banana Pudding

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Happy Fiesta Friday #26, you guys! I am SO honored to be co-hosting this week’s party with the lovely Prudy@ButterBasilandBreadcrumbs. She’s one of my closest blogger buddies and I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather co-host with. I hope most of you guys that are following me are joining in the fun with us- if you’re not, you’re just really missing out. Go ahead and click on the picture link at the bottom to find out how you can link up with us, we’d love to have you. As this is my first time hosting, I wanted to make my contribution to FF a special one and I really think I succeeded with today’s post.

When I shared the recipe for Banana Yogurt Popsicles, I said that it was based upon an original recipe for Southern Style Banana Pudding that my grandma makes for our family, albeit, a more ‘healthier’ version. I received a lot of requests from you guys asking for the real thing, and because I love when people ask me about food, I decided to go ahead and make some for a photoshoot to share on the blog.

I’ve already shares several of my grandmother’s recipes with you guys, but I never really went into any detail about the cook behind this oustanding food that I was blessed enough to grow up with and in turn, learn to make myself. Behind all food is a story and here is no exception. Yesterday I called up my grandma to ask if she’d mind if I shared a bit of her story, and fortunately she said  it was okay. I’d love to share some of the story with you guys, if that’s okay.

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This is my grandmother, Selma Leander Sanders. She’s my mom’s mom and probably one of the strongest, bravest people I’ve ever met. Her smile and laughter are some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. She’s the first of 3 daughters born to Isaac and Lily Mae Haynes 79 years ago in  Carson, Mississippi. Isaac was unique among many African Americans in the Jim Crow South in that he not only owned his own land, but also employed black and white laborers to help work his farm that Selma and her sisters grew up on. I only met him once in my life and by that time he was in his nineties and ailing in health. But my Mom tells me that when he was younger, he was a real riot, always telling funny stories and playing practical jokes. He was a real family man, willing to do any and everything for his children. My great grandmother Lily was very quiet and reserved. She died before I was able to meet her, but my Mom said that she had an uncanny sixth sense about everything. If you were having a bad day, she’d call you and ask if everything was alright. My grandma definitely inherited that from her, she can take one look at me and know whether or not something’ wrong with me or not.

My grandmother attended Alcorn College, where she met my grandfather, Willie John Sanders. (Random fact: my grandfather attended Alcorn at the same time as Medgar Evers; he still has his yearbook and Medgar Ever’s picture is right there. How cool is that?) When they married they, like many Black people in the South at the time, migrated up north where there were more employment opportunities in the car assembly plants.

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After settling in Lansing, MI, my grandparents soon began having children of their own; three daughter to be exact. While my grandpa worked at the GM auto plant, my grandma worked at home as a homemaker and mother to their children. There, she consistently cooked and baked both simple and elaborate foods for her family, that they still rave about to this day.

My grandma’s cooking is the reason why  never had any problems with eating my vegetables growing up as a kid. My grandpa is 80 and she’s 79, and to this day they still keep a vegetable garden in their backyard that we all love to eat from. One of the only foods I could eat every single day for the rest of my life and never get tired of is a bowl of cabbage greens from the garden, with a hunk of her cornbread- literally one of the best things I’ve eaten in my life, hands down.

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My grandma knows how to make stuff that would make both inexperienced and experienced home cooks break out into a sweat. When I first began seriously cooking for myself, it was one of my greatest hopes that I would someday, somehow get proficient enough to be able to pull off her ‘signature dishes’; the foods that we as a family always attribute to Grandma and all look forward to eating whenever we see her. To date, my proudest moments in the kitchen have been when I’ve succeeded when trying out some of her recipes. She’s getting up there in age and there are times when she doesn’t feel as able to make some of the more complicated things that she used to when she was younger. I’m grateful that I’ve taken the initiative to learn how to do these things myself so that the tradition of her food can continue to be enjoyed by our family without exhausting herself. This Banana Pudding is one of her best ‘signature dishes’. I recently made it for the 4th of July and when I took it over to her house for dinner, I received her stamp of approval-which is how I know for sure that I did it right.

The custard is definitely the star of this banana pudding. It’s sweet, smooth and the ‘glue’ that makes the wafers and bananas mold together perfectly. Guys, this stuff is so good, you won’t even have words. You’ll just sit there, shaking your head back and forth as you keep spooning the pudding into your mouth. That’s what everyone at the table was doing when I last made this, and I’m pretty sure that it’s the same thing you’ll be doing too. Even people in my family who don’t really eat bananas love this pudding. I’m super psyched and proud to share this recipe, as well as the inspiration for my cooking at today’s Fiesta Friday- because it all really does start with my grandma.

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My Grandma’s Banana Pudding

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, plus 2 tbsp
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp banana extract
  • 5 large bananas, sliced
  • 22 oz. crushed vanilla wafers, (2 11 oz. boxes)

Directions

1. In a large saucepan, combine evaporated milk, cornstarch, brown sugar and salt over medium high heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Mixture will begin to thicken and form a thin foam across the top.

2. As mixture thickens, transition to mixing with a wooden spoon until it is smooth and thickened. Remove from heat and set aside for about 2 minutes.

3. Add 1/2 cup of milk mixture to the egg yolks and whisk together to temper. Pour egg yolk & milk mixture into the saucepan, then add the extracts.

4. Pour custard into a separate container and place in the freezer for about 20 minutes, or until moderately cooled down.

5. To assemble: using a glass trifle dish, punch bowl, or other large container, layer the pudding in this order: 1) crushed vanilla wafers 2) sliced bananas 3)custard. (See notes for layering tips)

6. Once you have finished layering the pudding, cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight until set. Serve with whipped cream.

*Use a spatula to spread the custard evenly

* Don’t worry about the bananas, wafers, or custard covering each other completely; they’ll mold together perfectly when setting up overnight.

 

Oreo Fudge Brownies

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Am I the only person that has weird food quirks? You know, the habitual things you find yourself doing with various foods that you may or may not be slightly embarrassed about? As a cooking addict and food enthusiast, I’ve definitely got my fair share. I’ll tell you guys mine, if you tell me yours, deal? Sweet….and guys? Please don’t judge me.

  • When I eat meat proteins, I always want some kind of sauce to dip it in on the side. Mostly, my favorite combination is barbecue sauce and honey mustard. Quite a lot of it.
  • Ruffles Potato chips dipped in ketchup is one of my oldest and favorite snacks. Don’t knock it til you try it, cause I’m telling you, it’s DELICIOUS!
  • I make it a special point to always eat the crust of my pizza first, then the rest of it.
  • Whenever I eat a burger and fries I take a bite of the burger, then a bite of fries so that I can ‘meld’ the taste of the two foods together in my mouth.

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  • When eating french fries, I sub-consciously pick them up in pairs that are relatively the same size. I don’t know why, or even how I do it, but I always just do.
  • Whenever I eat dessert, I use a small/dainty fork or spoon rather than a normal size.
  • I like my scrambled eggs cooked in sausage grease, to the point where they’re almost rubbery. I can’t STAND soft or runny scrambled eggs. I like mine firm and stained dirty with sausage grease.
  • When I eat bread on the side for dinner, I make sure that I eat it in equal, moderated proportion to the amount of meat and veggies on my plate so that I finish them all at about the same time.

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  •  I like potato salad, but other than application, I cannot eat anything else with mayo or miracle whip in it- not sandwiches, not cole slaw, NOTHING. Even if it’s been scraped off a burger if they get my order wrong in a restaurant or drive thru or something, I won’t eat it. Isn’t that weird?
  • Similarly, I love pizza, but I don’t eat cheese on my burgers, tacos, sandwiches, or much of anything else that features cheese as a chief ingredient- like mac and cheese or cheese sticks or grilled cheese sandwiches. Pizza is the only way I’ll really eat it.
  • When I was younger I used to make sandwiches out of two slices of bread and a stack of crunchy potato chips. That was it- just the bread and chips. And it was delicious. There was just something about the saltiness and crunch of the chips, contrasted with the familiar flavor and softness of bread that I just loved.
  • The smell, taste, and very idea of Ranch dressing makes me gag. I literally have no idea how people can eat that stuff.

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What do food quirks have to do with this post? Well, I’ve got a method for eating Oreos that some may call quirky. I call it brilliant, but that’s just me. I don’t just pick one up and take a bite. That would be doing it wrong. After years of practice, testing and thoughtful consideration that only a kid can dedicate to a chocolate cookie, I’ve reached the conclusion that there is but one correct way to eat an Oreo, and you guys are in luck because I’m willing to share with all of you:

Gently (ever so gently) pry the two cookie halves apart, being careful not to crack them in pieces. Take the ‘clean’ cookie side and eat it in two bites. Then, take the side of the cookie that still has the icing on it, and lick the icing, savoring the taste of it for as long as you can. Keep licking until there is a thin, but still sturdy layer of the icing left on the cookie half. Then, pop the whole thing in your mouth, letting the blend of the icing and cookie flavors meld in a final medley of deliciousness. And that my friends, is how eating an Oreo the right way is done.

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Or you could just eat it however the heck you want. Your choice.

But my way IS  better. Just sayin.

I recently had a weekend at my house where I made a bunch of brownies. Lots of them. Everyone wanted different kinds of brownies and rather than compromise, I just decided to make everyone the kind that they wanted. My twin, Jas asked me for Oreo brownies so I made a pan just for her. I gotta say, I love how they turned out. You would think that since both Oreos and brownies are primarily chocolate that the Oreos would be left tasting boring and one-note, but they’re really not. You can still undeniably pick their flavor out of the brownie, and it really just adds to the complexity of the chocolate-y goodness going on in the brownies, while the vanilla chips give it that complimentary sweetness without being too overpowering. Cookie and Cream lovers are gonna love these brownies, guaranteed.

So you guys…I wasn’t kidding. Tell me your food quirks so I don’t feel like a lame for spilling all my guts to you about mine. Don’t be shy. No shame in our game, right?

P.S., I’m looking to get involved in some additional recipe link up parties. Right now I’m only posting in Fiesta Friday (which is totally awesome in and of itself, I hope you all are participating….you’re crazy if you don’t), but I would like to branch out even further. So if any of you guys are currently participating in other recipe link ups on other days of the week, just let me know in the comment section so I can try to join in. Thanks guys 🙂

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Oreo Fudge Brownies

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups crushed Oreo cookies
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 2 inch overhang. Coat the foil with cooking spray.

2. Melt 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips and 1 stick butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring. Off the heat, whisk in 3/4 cup each light brown sugar and granulated sugar; cool slightly.

3. Whisk in 4 eggs, one at a time, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in 1 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

4. Fold in the crushed Oreo cookies and white chocolate chips. Spread in the pan. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted 3 inches from center comes out clean, checking frequently towards the end of baking.

Pizza Hut Original Pan Pizza {Copycat Recipe}

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For last week’s Fiesta Friday #24, I wrote a post with faux letter to the CEO of Pizza Hut, Scott Bergren to talk to him about breadsticks. For this week’s Fiesta Friday #25, hosted by  Hilda @Along The Grapevine and Julianna @Foodie On Board, I thought I’d write him another one to talk about…well, what else? Pizza. So, here goes:

Dear Scott,

I really enjoyed our one-sided chat about the awesomeness of Pizza Hut’s breadsticks last week. This week, I thought I’d shift gears and drop you a line (or several) about your favorite subject in the world: pizza. Because after all, pizza makes your world go round, right?

You know when it comes to pizza styles, I’m a pretty flexible girl. At the major chains there’s typically 3 different types: Hand-tossed, Thin n Crispy, and Pan/Deep Dish.

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Last week I admitted that when it came to breadsticks, Domino’s was able to give you guys a run for your money. Now when it comes to pizza, I really can’t say for sure, as I haven’t had Domino’s pizza since they changed (and supposedly) ‘improved’ their recipe. Therefore, I’ll give my opinion based on what I remember their pizza to be like the last time I had some.

I won’t lie, Scott. It’s good. Really, really good. Their dough, as I remember it, is crisp and browned on the outside, yet soft and pillowy on the inside. This is particularly exceptional in the case of Pan Pizza, as I find that sometimes Pan Pizza dough runs the risk of being too heavy and dense. Dominos has succeeded in making their dough thick and sturdy, but light enough so that you’re not chewing a mountain of dough. Dominos also has the option of asking for more or less cheese/sauce when ordering their pizza, which I really like, as not all pizza preferences are created equal. I said it before and I’ll say it again: they’re definitely the ones to be watching out for in this pizza rat race. But then again, my older sister tells me that ever since they ‘improved’ their recipe, the pizza hasn’t been as good as it used to be, so maybe you’ve got nothing to worry about.

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Now, as much ribbing and flack that Little Caesar’s gets for it’s $5 Hot-N-Ready pizza, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I actually really like their square deep-dish, pan pizza. Because those are typically made to order, they  haven’t been sitting around in a hotbox all day, and they taste far fresher than the Hot-N-Readys. Additionally, the square shape makes it so that nearly every piece has that brown, crispy edge on its crust that I think tastes just as good (if not better) than the rest of the pizza. The ratio of sauce to crust is also pretty good as well. Maybe their breadsticks are bit of a miss, but their deep dish pizza is a hit in my book.

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Don’t worry, Scott. Despite both Domino’s and Little Caesar’s pretty good understanding of proper Pan/Deep Dish style pizza, I have to say that Pizza Hut still manages to do it better. The crust is crisp and browned on the outside, without being as greasy as Dominos or Little Caesar’s. I’m a huge fan of your slightly sweeter pizza sauce, as well as the ratio of cheese that you apply. It’s a pizza where the crust is also just as good as the pizza itself, which is rare. That Pan Pizza is a real keeper, which is why I thought that I may give a whack at trying to recreate a version of it myself at home.

Like the breadsticks, this was a lot of fun to make. I decided to follow the recipe and used three of my 9-inch cake pans for my first time because I wanted it to be as aesthetically close to the original as possible. However, in the future I think I may try pressing all of the dough into one large sheet pan and see how that turns out, just to experiment with the recipe. Mine didn’t taste exactly as perfect as Pizza Hut’s, but my family did enjoy it very much. I was especially impressed with the crust- it was perfectly golden brown with a crunchy exterior and a soft inside. I’ve done some research and apparently, the dry milk, as well as the copious amount of oil coating the inside of the cake pans had a lot to do with that. Go figure.

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Before I end this letter, I still have to take you to task on one thing, Scott. It’s been a week one whole week since I last wrote you and expressed my one point of contention and disatisfaction with you guys over the Hut.

The Big New Yorker Pizza. It’s still not back on your menu. I don’t understand the meaning of this. I mean, I thought I made it pretty clear how important a matter this was (and still is) to me. I thought you understood. I thought you cared.

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See that crust? That’s a thing of beauty, there.

As delicious as your Pan Pizza is, New York Style Pizza still rules the roost, Scott. It’s just better. Honest. I said it before, and I said it again: the Big New Yorker was the best thing you had on your menu, and I can guarantee that it’s very sorely missed by not just me, but millions of other Pizza Hut Customers. Think of the all those people, Scott. Think of the children. Haven’t they suffered enough?

I really don’t want to have to start a campaign or petition for this or anything. I’m hoping you’ll be reasonable enough so that it doesn’t have to come to that. Just bring back the Big New Yorker Pizza to Pizza Hut- that’s all I ask. It’s such a small thing that will bring so much happiness – and that’s what it all boils down to at the end of the day, isn’t it Scott?

Jess

*Just to clarify, this IS just a copycat recipe. I don’t own the actual Pizza Hut logo or breadsticks recipe. So don’t sue me 😉

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Pizza Hut Original Pan Pizza

Recipe Courtesy of Food.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

For Sauce:

  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 whole ay leaf
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar

For Dough:

  • 1 1/3 cups warm water (105°)
  • 1/4 cup non-fat powdered milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp granulates sugar
  • 1 (1/4 oz) pkg dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (for dough)
  • 9 oz vegetable oil (3 oz per pan)
  • Butter-flavored cooking spray

Directions

For Sauce (Makes enough for 2 pizzas):

1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sauce starts to boil.

2. Lower heat and simmer covered for 30-45 minutes until sauce reaches desired thickness.

For Dough

1. Put yeast, sugar salt & dry milk in a large bowl.

2. Add water & stir to mix well. Let rest for 2 minutes. Add oil & stir again. Add flour & stir until dough forms & flour is absorbed.

3. Turn onto a flat floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed until elastic & no longer sticky.

4. Divide dough into 3 balls. Put 3 oz of oil in 3 9-inch cake pans, making sure it’s spread evenly.

5. Roll out each dough ball into  9 inch circles, place in cake pans.. Spray the outer edge of dough with Pam & cover with plates. Place in warm area and let rise for 1-1/2 hours.

6. Preheat oven to 475°. For each pizza, spoon 1/3 cup pizza sauce on dough & spread to within 1-inch of edge. Sprinkle with desired amount of mozzarella cheese, and add desired toppings.

7. Bake until cheese is bubbling & outer crust is brown, 12-15 minutes.

 

 

Pizza Hut Breadsticks

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Today’s Fiesta Friday post, hosted by  Indu @Indu’s International KitchenSelma @Selma’s Table, and Hilda @Along The Grapevine, will be dedicated to the CEO of Pizza Hut, Scott Bergren. (Yeah, I googled it. So what?)

Dear, Mr. Bergren: (or Scott, can I call you Scott?)

I don’t know anyone that likes to eat pizza just on it’s own. You’ve gotta have something on the side. What I choose to eat on the side depends on where I’m getting my pizza from. All bread sticks are not created equal; if I’m going to pay for them, then I want them to be the bomb.com. If they’re not, I’ll just order the pizza then call it a day. Capisce?

So with that in mind, I’m writing you today to talk about bread sticks. I’m sure you won’t mind the topic of conversation; pizza and bread sticks are your life (literally).

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I’m not gonna lie to you: Dominoes breadsticks are pretty solid. The outer seasoning is somewhat greasy, but it’s still got great flavor. The inside of the bread is soft and tender and the texture has a really nice chew. The marinara sauce is pretty good too. If there’s a special at Domino’s that includes pizza & breadsticks, I would definitely want to get the breadsticks. I’m sure you and all your research strategists sit around and plan how to one up Domino’s from year to year, and when it comes to their breadsticks I can’t say that I blame you.

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Little Caesars. Heh. Here’s the thing: with this place, I feel like you kinda get what you pay for. It’s rather cheap food, and oftentimes it kinda tastes that way too. Their Crazy Bread isn’t terribly bad, but it’s not terribly great either. Number one, the bread is EXTREMELY greasy. There’s not much browning or outer crust to speak of, which is a major  issue for me. The outer seasoning pretty much seems like liquid butter with clumps of dried parmesan cheese. The marinara sauce has decent flavor, but it is pretty thick, which creates a problem when the bread sticks themselves are very thick and chewy- I’m a sauce hog, so I always want more. I have been known to get Crazy bread on it’s own when I want a quick snack to hold me over for a few hours; it’s worth the $1.99 you pay for it, but not much else.

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Having said all that, I have to give you my own personal congratulations on your product: in my opinion, Pizza Hut has the best breadsticks out there, period. Whenever I’ve eaten out at Pizza Hut, I always get a side of breadsticks, whether there’s a special for it or not. The texture of the bread is spot on: soft and chewy on the inside, but it has a perfect browned outer crust that has a balanced crunch when you first bite into it. It’s not too thick and heavy The seasonings are also more complex than just butter and parmesan, although I can taste those too. The sauce is a close second to my love of the breadsticks; it’s not too thick so you don’t run out before you finish the breadsticks and it’s also slightly sweet, which I really like. You guys really nailed it with the breadsticks, Scott. So don’t change a thing.

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I loved your breadsticks so much that I decided to try and make them on my own at home. I was very pleasantly surprised with the result. I understand that because I don’t have the verbatim recipe that Pizza Hut, as well as a commercial pizza oven it won’t be a dead ringer for the original, but I think that what I had was a very very close second. The sauce was pretty close to yours too. In fact, I felt so inspired by the success of the breadsticks, that I thought I’d go one step further and try out an even more ambitious attempt – but that’s for another post.

Oh yeah, and one more thing, Scott. I do have one criticism of you guys over there at The Hut.

You discontinued the single best item you’ve ever had one your menu. One of the best things I’ve ever eaten, period.

The Big New Yorker Pizza.

Whoever it was at Pizza Hut Headquarters that came up with this recipe deserves a  fat promotion. Everything about it was absolutely perfect. It was my pick me once upon a time, Scott. That pizza literally cured one of the worst days I ever had once. I never, ever, ever, ever got tired of it.

Having said all that, I feel that whoever’s decision it was to discontinue The Big New Yorker deserves the sack. (…Unless that happened to be you. I hope that it wasn’t, so that we can still be friends.)

Please do me a solid and bring it back to Pizza Hut, Scott. Nice chat- we should try it again sometime.

Jessica

*Just to clarify, this IS just a copycat recipe. I don’t own the actual Pizza Hut logo or breadsticks recipe. So don’t sue me 😉

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Pizza Hut Breadsticks

Recipe Courtesy of Savoryreviews.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

For Dough:

  • 1 1/3 cups warm water (105°)
  • 1/4 cup non-fat powdered milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp granulates sugar
  • 1 (1/4 oz) pkg dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (for dough)
  • 9 oz vegetable oil (3 oz per pan)

For Breadstick Seasoning

  • 2 tbsp dry parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic salt
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1/2 tbsp dried basil

For Dipping Sauce

  • 1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • ½ tsp dry basil
  • ½ tsp dry marjoram
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp salt

 Directions

1. Add the dough hook to your stand mixer. Put yeast, sugar, salt, and dry milk in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add water and stir to mix well. Allow to sit for two minutes or until the mixture starts to bubble. Add oil and stir again.

2. Gently add the flour and stir until dough forms and flour is absorbed. Then knead the dough with the dough hook on speed 4, for 5 minutes.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide dough into two balls. You can refrigerate the second dough ball. Pour 4 tbsp of oil into a 9×13 cake pan making sure it is spread evenly

4. Roll out the dough into a 9×13 rectangle. Then place the dough into the 9×13 pan. Cover the pan with a sheet pan and let the dough rest and rise for at least 1½ hours.

5. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. After the dough has risen, cut the dough into 10 equal breadsticks. Lightly spray the top of the breadsticks with butter flavored PAM. Then lightly sprinkle the top of the breadsticks with the breadstick seasoning.

6. Place the breadsticks in the oven for 10-15 minutes. When the breadsticks brown and the edges get crispy, remove the pan from the oven.

7. Then using a spatula remove the breadsticks from the pan. Break the sticks apart at the scored lines and serve with the pizza sauce. While the dough is rising, mix the sauce ingredient together in a sauce pan. Heat with medium heat until the sauce starts to boil, then lower the heat to low. Let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes before using.

 

Rainier Cherry Hand Pies

Ranier Cherry Handpies1

It’s July, guys.

Which means that 2014 is halfway over already. How the heck did that even happen?

I swear it was just yesterday that it was February and I was complaining to you all about the ever-falling snow. Now it’s July and it’s…not snowing here in Michigan. Actually, the weather’s kinda hot. As we’re coming upon the Fouth of July (American Independence Day, for my international readers) I’ve been seeing a lot of recipes pop up around the blogs I follow on WordPress and Pinterest that are centered around some kind of grilling or cookout food. Y’know, lots of red, white and blue stuff.

Of course I think of more than just colors when I think of the Fourth of July. For instance….

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I remember all those ‘patriotic’ American anthems that we learned in elementary school and had to sing in choir recitals : The Star Spangled Banner, This Land is Your Land, O Beautiful For Spacious Skies, 50 Nifty United States (yes, I still remember the lyrics to them all.)

It’s been over 10 years since I last watched it, but July 4th always makes me think of the movie/musical “1776” starring William Daniels (or most people know him, Mr. Feeny from the show Boy Meets World).

You guys ever heard of Christmas in July? I Googled it, and apparently, ir comes from the fact that for countries in the southern hemisphere, winter falls in July. Therefore, in some of these places they’ll actually have Christmas-themed celebrations so that it feels more authentic. I can understand that logic, as I would hate to have to live in a place where it was 90 + degrees in the month of December. After December 25th, I want the cold snow to go away, but before that day comes, I need to at least ‘feel’ like it’s winter time . I think that they may be onto something with this whole Christmas in July thing too because for some reason whenever July comes around, I get my annual “Christmas Itch”, where I start to wish it was Christmas (or at least Thanksgiving) instead of the dead of summer.

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Anyway, back to the food. A little while ago I was contacted by a representative from the website Raise.com. It’s a forum where people are able to purchase giftcards at a discounted price, then sell them back for cash. They’re doing a recipe round up of blogs featuring recipes centered around the Fourth of July/American food, and when I was asked to participate, I agreed.

I decided on doing a dessert for my contribution to the round up, and when I went to the produce section of my grocery store, I saw that there was a sale on cherries. They had the regular red Bing variety, as well as Rainier cherries. I love cherries of all kinds, but Rainiers are my favorite because of the slightly sweeter flavor that they have- plus they’re just gorgeous to look at. When it comes to cherries, you don’t get much more American than cherry pie, right? Well I decided to take that American classic and give it my own twist with these Rainier Cherry hand pies. Hand pies make it easier to share at a barbecue or cookout, and they’re just cute and pretty. I also wanted to throw in another flavor profile, so I added a 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom to the filling to cut the sweetness a tad bit. I was very satisfied with how they turned out, and I’m proud to bring them to this week’s Fiesta Friday #23, (hosted by Margy @La Petite Casserole and Sylvia @Superfoodista) as well as share them with the folks at Raise.com for their July 4th Recipe Round-up (thanks again, Jessica :-))

Have a great holiday weekend, guys!

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Rainier Cherry Hand Pies

Recipe Adapted from Seriouseats.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 cups, stemmed and pitted Rainier cherries, roughly chopped (approximately 1 pound of cherries)
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons zest and 3 tablespoons juice from about 2 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • One half recipe of your favorite butter pie crust

 Directions

1. In a medium sauce pan combine cherries, 1/4 cup sugar, and lemon zest. In a small bowl whisk together lemon juice, corn starch, and vanilla. Pour mixture over cherries and stir to incorporate.

2. Heat cherries over medium high heat, stirring frequently until juices come together to form thick sauce. Remove from heat, cover and refrigerate until cool, at least 1 hour.

3. Meanwhile, cut out eight 6-inch squares of parchment paper. Divide pie dough into eight equal balls. On a well floured surface, roll out the dough balls into 5-inch rounds. Place each round on a piece of parchment paper, stacking them together so they don’t stick. Refrigerate pie rounds for 30 minutes to 1 hour to allow them to firm up.

4. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Place 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons cooled cherry filling in the center of each round, then fold in half to enclose and crimp the edges to seal. Brush the outside of the pies with egg and sprinkle with remaining 3 tablespoons sugar. Make 3 small cuts on the top of the pies to vent. Refrigerate prepared pies for 30 minutes

5. Set rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Bake pies until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.