Squash Casserole

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When I was putting this post together, I couldn’t stop thinking about this game that me and my twin sister Jas would play when we were little kids.

We grew up in the 90’s, where there were still such things as boom boxes, walkmans and cassette tapes around. I’m sure most of you still remember those, but for the ‘youngins’ that don’t, it’s cool- just google it. Anyway, my mom kept a large number of blank cassette tapes around that she used to make copies of music albums or church sermons. Eventually it got to the point where we had too many lying around that really weren’t serving any particular purpose.

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Jas and I has this weird quality of being able to make a game out of just about anything. Blank cassette tapes were no different, and one summer day we came up with the idea of using the cassette tapes, as well as two double deck boom boxes we had to record ourselves in a game. We would pretend that we were DJs on our very own imaginary radio station. I played the radio station’s primary ‘Host’, and Jas played the primary ‘Sponsor’- (why the sponsor would be on the actual broadcast of the radio show, I don’t know but we always just stuck with that title).

We even gave it a name and slogan: “WSFJ-Where Jesus Is the Way.” We gathered together all of our music cassette tapes and assembled a playlist of mixed Christian contemporary music that we recorded onto the tapes using the double deck. In the true style of actual radio stations, we had commercial breaks in between the songs where Jas as the ‘Sponsor’ would give product endorsements, ads and recommendations. We had a Book Club segment where we shared our favorite books and read off our favorite excerpts. Then there was even a Debate & Discussion segment where the two of us would discuss and debate various topics on the air, taking ‘questions’ from imaginary ‘callers’.

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 It may sound silly to you all now, but for us, it was a real blast. I think we accumulated over seven double sided cassette tapes from our imaginary little ‘radio station’.My mom insisted we keep them even after we grew up, saying that we would like listening to them later.  And it’s nothing if not entertaining  to listen a period in my life when I was young, silly and just having a lot of fun with something seemingly ordinary that me and Jas were able to turn into something we made a lot of fun.

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 What does that have to do with this post? Well, zucchini is one of those things that people tend to have a whole lot of around this time of year as they harvest their gardens, then try to find as many uses of it as possible just to not let it go to waste. When they run out of ideas, they usually start handing it out to other people to see if they can find something to do with it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a personal garden to grow my own zucchini, but fortunately I know a few people that do. And when they unload some of their surplus zucchini on me, I like finding other uses for it other than just zucchini bread (not that zucchini bread isn’t awesome enough on its own.)

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This recipe is one of the easiest, but tastiest ones I’ve ever tried when cooking with zucchini. Once you get our zucchini all chopped up, it all literally comes together in minutes and bakes in less than thirty. I serve it as a side dish, but it’s certainly good enough to eat all on it’s own. I used regular butter Ritz crackers to top it, but I can also see using some other flavored crackers to give it a twist, like ones flavored with garlic or herbs.

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Squash Casserole

Recipe Courtesy of Paula Deen

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 6 cups large diced yellow squash and zucchini
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon your favorite seasoning blend (like Mrs. Dash or Emeril’s Essence)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup crushed butter crackers (recommended: Ritz)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Saute the squash in a little vegetable oil over medium-low heat until it has completely broken down, about 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Line a colander with a clean tea towel. Place the cooked squash in the lined colander. Squeeze excess moisture from the squash. Set aside.

4. In a medium size skillet, saute the onion in butter for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and mix all ingredients together except cracker crumbs.

5. Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish and top with cracker crumbs. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve.

Triple Dipped Fried Chicken

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There are a select few places in my hometown to go if you want to get good fried chicken.

I hope I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes when I say this, but Kentucky Fried Chicken does not happen to be one of them. While I personally don’t think that their chicken is nasty per se, I don’t feel like it’s as good as it used to be in the early 90’s. Ever since KFC tried to ‘keep up’ with the other fast food chains and their ever evolving and growing menus and adding a bunch of other extraneous stuff, I feel like their chicken has suffered in quality. I understand that businesses want to keep up with the Joneses. However, when you’re good at one particular thing, sometimes you just need to stay in your lane, you know what I mean?

When I was a freshman in high school, my city got our first and only Popeyes Chicken- and you would have thought that the Pope had come to town. For two solid weeks, that place was absolutely packed to the max, with the line for the drive through going clear down the street. Not that it was unjustified- Popeyes chicken is  a major step up from KFC in terms of quality in general, and their biscuits are to die for. However, that furor died down and these days, while the chicken is still usually pretty good, there are some days that are largely hit and miss.

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There used to be two Ponderosas in my city as well, and while I’m not a huge fan of buffet food, I will say that their chicken wings/drumsticks were very delicious.However, they’ve both closed now so that point is kind of irrelevant at this point.

 We have a business down the street from my house that serves up chicken, gizzards and standard Southern sides. The food is pretty decent, however I was put off the last time that I went there this past winter and saw that the owner was so cheap that he didn’t turn the heat on and the employees were working in their coats just to stay warm. Not only does that strike me as unsanitary, but I was appalled at the idea of an owner that would force his employees to work in those conditions. Haven’t been back since, suffice to say.

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As decent as those other places are, everyone in my city knows that the best place to get fried chicken, is (rather ironically) a fish market. Inside, it’s a room of glass display cases filled with various fish to buy whole and fresh. In addition to the fish, they also for some reason have a whole array of Southern style food that they make to order in the back. The place is kinda small. And being a fish market, it stinks. However, it does serve the best chicken you’re going to get in the city. It’s so good, that nobody even calls it by it’s true name. It’s gained a catchy little nickname over the years instead: “Crack Chicken”.

Yep. I’m not kidding.

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Maybe I should have added a caveat to the beginning of this post: there a select few places to go in my city to get good  fried chicken if you’re going out to eat. If you want the best fried chicken period- well, not to blow my own horn or anything but…then you need to come to my house.

I make really, really REALLY good fried chicken, guys. It’s just the truth. I’m not a fan of how messy and greasy it can get sometimes, and it did take me a while to learn, but once I did, I really hit my stride.

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Good things come in 3’s, right? I don’t know anyone that would disagree with that when it comes to triple dipped fried chicken.The skin is the best part; the crispier the better. So with a triple dip, you better believe this chicken is the real deal when it comes to the crunch. I made this chicken for my family as part of an authentic Southern meal alongside these Hushpuppies. It was a hit. But c’mon: triple-dipped fried chicken? How can you go wrong there?

I’m taking these to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #30, party this week, co-hosted by Margy @La Petite Casserole . Hope to see you all there 😉

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Triple Dipped Fried Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Allrecipes.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups beer or water
  • 1 quart of vegetable oil, for frying
  • 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces

Directions

1. In one medium bowl, mix together 3 cups of flour, garlic salt, 1 tablespoon black pepper, smoked paprika and poultry seasoning.

2. In a separate bowl, stir together 1 1/3 cups flour, salt,1/4 teaspoon of pepper, egg yolks and beer. You may need to thin with additional beer if the batter is took thick.

3. Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 350°.Moisten each piece of chicken with a little water, then dip in the dry mix. Shake off excess and dip in the wet mix, then dip in the dry mix once more.

4. Carefully place chicken pieces in the hot oil. Fry for 15 t0 18 minutes, or until well browned. Smaller pieces will not take as long. Large pieces may take longer. Remove and drain on paper towels before serving.

 

Pizza-Style Meatballs

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Happy Fiesta Friday #27, (hosted by Saucy @Saucy Gander and Margot @Gather and Graze)! Thanks to all of you who stopped and commented and liked my post last week. Not only was it my first time hosting Fiesta Friday, I also shared a bit of my own family heritage in relation to my My Grandma’s Banana Pudding. To date, it’s the most popular post I’ve ever done on the blog- something I really wasn’t expecting, but am very grateful for. Thank all of you for making me and my lovely Grandma feel so appreciated and welcome. I really do appreciate that.

One of the earliest memories that I have of pizza will always be associated with John, the guy that always made our Sunday night pizza at the local Papa John’s Pizza.

Now, this wasn’t a Papa John’s of the huge franchise with the jerk CEO that  to this day I absolutely refuse to buy from. This was a small, independent chain that I don’t even think went outside of our city. There was no design on the pizza boxes- they were just plain old white cardboard, with a piece of scotch tape pasted on the edge to keep it closed. They were also dirt cheap, which was really the only way that we could afford to eat pizza back then. (These were the much ‘leaner years’, you understand.) Every Sunday night, my mom would pile me and my sisters into the back of our 1988 Delta and we would drive down to the Papa John’s for our large pepperoni and ham pizza, where John the Pizza Guy would always, without fail, be there to greet us with a smile.

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If I close my eyes, I can still see his face. He was tall and ginger haired, with freckles all over his face and arms. His voice was nasal, and to be honest it reminded me of the voice of Telly from Sesame Street. l really liked him.  He had an infectious smile and in all the many times I saw him, I never once saw him in anything but a bright and cheery mood- despite the fact that he always seemed to be working in the store alone while one other guy that we never saw much of strictly did the pizza deliveries. John had a wife and (if my memory serves me right) four small children at home. I remember hearing about them and thinking that someone as nice as he was must have been a really good daddy, even if he couldn’t be with them on Sunday night.

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It may have been cheap, but that pizza was so good. The crust was crisp and browned on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The cheese was perfectly browned and not laid on too heavy, while the sauce was sweet and slightly thick. John sure could make a good pie, and we faithfully went to get it every Sunday night, then went home to watch The New Adventures of Lois & Clark (remember that show?) over dinner.

Unfortunately, that Papa John’s closed a while ago and has since been replaced with several other businesses that never seem to hang around that long. Still to this day, every time I drive past it I remember John the pizza guy with his warm smile and Telly-voice that made such good pizza for me and my family. It’s always a really good memory.

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Apart from loving pizza itself, I like trying out other foods that try and duplicate the flavor of pizza. It’s a great way to try and get your pizza fix in without constantly eating it all the time (not that I EVER get tempted to do that or anything). One weekend, I decided to make two dishes that would achieve just that, and I think the results were great.

I got this idea from a recipe for meatloaf that I’ve been using and loving for a pretty long time. Instead of making it into one loaf, I thought that I could instead mold it into meatballs, bake them off, then simmer them in a delicious pizza sauce.

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I could see these making a great appetizer or game food, but we just ate them as a main course over rotini pasta.

So, what’s the general consensus here?

If you like meatballs, you will love these. If you like pizza, you will love these.

If you don’t like either meatballs or pizza…you will still love these. Yep, you will.

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Pizza-Style Meatballs

Recipe Adapted from Ragu®

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1 envelope Beefy Onion Soup Mix
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 cups garlic bread crumbs, plus about 3/4 cup extra
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Pizza or tomato sauce

Pizza Sauce*

Note: You may want to double the pizza sauce recipe, depending on how much sauce you like with your meatballs.

  • 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 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° Place a wire rack over a half sheet pan and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Combine first five ingredients in a bowl. (If mixture seems too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If too dry, add more pizza sauce.)

3. Shape meat into golf-ball sized meatballs and place onto wire rack. Bake in oven for about 15 minutes, then rotate meatballs and continue to bake for about 5-7 more minutes, or until crisp and browned on outside.

4. Meanwhile, make pizza sauce: combine all ingredients in a deep sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium heat until sauce begins to boil. Lower hear to a low simmer.

5. Remove meatballs from wire rack and GENTLY place into pot of pizza sauce. Cover, and allow to cook at a simmer, about 15-20 more minutes. Serve over rotini pasta or egg noodles.

 

 

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.

 

 

Rainier Cherry Hand Pies

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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.

 

Banana Yogurt Popsicles

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Whenever summer comes around, I get really nostalgic for my childhood. I know I’m probably not the only one to feel this way, but I feel like summer time was just so much more awesome when I was younger.

Of course, this may have something to do with the fact that it was at a time when I was still in elementary school (and thus on summer vacation), and also was too young to have a job (that has no summer vacation). Still, childhood summertime nostalgia is the best. Here are just a few memories that I have:

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Back when Will Smith was still rapping (and also The Fresh Prince of Bel Air), he came out with a song called “Summertime”. Yes, I still listen to it now every summer. It’s a classic. It never gets old.

Please tell me there’s someone out there that remembers when this commercial used to come on The Disney Channel. It was  back when The Disney Channel was actually good to watch.

I remember when Nick at Nite used to come on after Nickeldeon shows were over late at night. During the summer, there was this special marathon of shows that came on called the Nick at Nite Block Party Summer. Each night featured a different show; the Munsters were on Mondays, I Love Lucy was on Tuesdays, Bewitched was on Wednesdays, I Dream of Jeannie was on Thursdays (I didn’t watch Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie, but I still remember them), and Friday was for The Brady Bunch. It may have seemed weird for a 9 year old to like watching shows that old, but for some reason I was just addicted to the Nick at Nite Block Party Summer.

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Summertime meant that my grandpa would go and buy watermelons from the grocery store at least once a week that we could all eat. I can’t even think of how much watermelon I used to eat. It was a lot, suffice to say.

I remember playing outside when it was hot. Me and my sisters would turn our frisbees upside down and fill them up with grass, weeds, dandelions and other yard waste. We chopped them up together and pretended we were cooking some kind of food dish (no, we didn’t eat it). Then when the sun set and it became cool, we caught fireflies and ate popsicles.

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The popsicles I ate when I was younger were mostly the red, white, and blue Turbo Rocket ones that were mostly just made of sugar and water and turned your tongue and lips different colors. Now that I’m older, I find that my popsicle palate (if that’s even a real thing) has become somewhat more ‘refined’…or just pickier. I still get cravings for popsicles- I just want them to be a little more complex than the ones I was glad to settle for when I was younger.

I’d been meaning to buy popsicle molds for a while now, but they’re just one of those things that you continually walk past in the store telling yourself, “One of these days, I’ll getcha.”

And then you never do. Except this time, I did, if for nothing else, than to make me come up with recipes to use them for this summer. Today’s post is the first of what I hope will be a nice, delicious collection of popsicle recipes.

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This recipe was inspired by one of my favorite recipes: Southern Banana Pudding. I hope to God you guys have had at least one good Southern Banana Pudding in your life. If you haven’t, then you’re really missing out  and I really do feel sorry for you- cause it is that serious. Rest assured, I will be sharing my grandma’s banana pudding recipe on the blog, but for now let’s just stick with these popsicles.

I think that the one thing that turns me off about most standard issue popsicles today is just that they’re either really, really, really, sweet or just really, really, really watered down and bland. I wanted to alleviate both of these problems in my popsicles, especially given that they’re inspired by banana pudding, which shouldn’t be too sweet or watery in and of itself. The yogurt base really gives these a smooth, but robust and creamy taste that’s further enhanced by the mashed bananas. I added the vanilla wafers to the recipe to give them even more texture to compliment the smoothness of the yogurt base and to add to the banana pudding inspiration.

There is one way that this recipe differs from both regular popsicles and Southern Banana Pudding, and that’s that these popsicles are actually healthy so far as ingredients go. They make for a really light, cold and satisfying snack or dessert for the hot summer days that are upon most of us nowadays. They’e also my contribution to this week’s Fiesta Friday #22 hosted by  Prudy@Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs and Elaine@foodbod. Enjoy , guys 🙂

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Banana Yogurt Popsicles

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp banana extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup finely crushed vanilla wafers, plus 3 tbsp, divided

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients except for 3 tbsp of crushed vanilla wafers in a bowl.

2. Sprinkle 2 tsp of crushed wafers into the bottom of your popsicle molds.

3. Pour in yogurt and banana mix, leaving a little bit of space in the top of the molds. Sprinkle the remainder of the crushed wafers over the top of the molds. Insert popsicle sticks and cover each mold with aluminum foil.

4. Place in freezer until hardened, a few hours. Remove and enjoy!

(Tip to remove popsicles from plastic molds: run molds underneath hot water or place molds into a bowl of hot water for about a minute. Gently tug on popsicles sticks, the popsicles should come out.)

 

 

Triple Berry Slab Pie

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When was the last time that you did something that made you really, really, REALLY proud of yourself?

I remember the first time I tied my own shoes when I was a little girl; for a six year old, it was literally one of those moments when it seems like the clouds part and a ray of sunshine shines just on you. I was walking on air from that for days.

I played the lead in an 8th grade musical (“Once on This Island”, in case there are any theater nerds out there like me) and when the sound system suddenly and unexpectedly cut out, I sang my solo song completely accappella. And I nailed it. Got an ovation and everything. That made me feel pretty good.

I made Dean’s List for nearly every semester of my undergrad college years…all while holding down 2-3 jobs (I have no idea how I did this now that it’s over, by the way).

My mom has a specific, rare smile that when she gives me, makes me feel like I can do absolutely anything in the world.

There’s nothing wrong with having those moments of pride; most people spend too much time obsessed with the things that they haven’t done, or are doing wrong. I think we should think more about the things that we’re actually doing right. So why don’t we try to think of the last moment of extreme pride or satisfaction that we had because of something we did. Think of it, then give yourself a pat on the back. Do your own little personal victory dance. Go ahead- you deserve it.

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These days, most of my moments of pride or self-congratulations come from me doing something new and intimidating in the kitchen, so this exercise is pretty easy for me to do. I was proud the first time I cooked something that came out of a box. I was proud when I first made a yeast bread. I was proud when I first made my grandma’s caramel cake (just WAIT until I share that one with you all, you will die, go to Heaven, then come back to life just to eat it again. No, I’m serious.). Doing new things in the kitchen is such an easy stroke to my ego- there’s no shame in my game about that, either. It’s most likely the reason that I try to do it often.

This is one of those things that I’ve done that just made me feel friggin fantastic about myself, to the point where I felt like I had to share it with you. I’m still giving myself victory dances, high fives, pats on the back and major props for pulling this recipe off, guys. Not just because of how it tastes (which is enough on its own, believe me), it’s also because this is the very first time that I made my own from scratch pie-crust. A very big pie crust at that. As in a 15 x 10 inch double layer pie crust.

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Pie crust may seem like it’s not that big of a deal to pull off from scratch, but anyone who’s made one before will tell you that it’s actually more complicated than it sounds. Like biscuits, pie dough has to be handled with finesse and care, or there’s a huge potential to ruin it. Which is probably why I’ve avoided it so stubbornly for such a long time. Then I saw this article on Buzzfeed featuring something called ‘slab pie’ that basically changed everything for me.

I had never heard of baking a pie into a sheet pan before, but it seemed (and looked) like a fantastic idea. I mean, just say it out loud will you: Slaaaaaab… Piiiiiie. Doesn’t the sound of it just make you want a huge, thick slab of it all to yourself (pun intended)?

I certainly felt that way. Slab Pie was calling my name. I had to answer. The problem was, I would need a whole LOT of pie crust to pull it off- and I didn’t really feel like buying a whole bunch of store-bought pre-made pie crusts, then trying to roll them all together to make two 15 x 10 inch layers for both top and bottom of the pie. Not when I knew it would be cheaper and more efficient to just try to make them on my own.

I know that by now, you probably want some of this pie. You’re probably thinking about how much of the ingredients you already have at home. If you’ve never made pie crust before, you’re probably wondering if it’s really that difficult to pull off, or that easy to mess up. It’s okay guys. I’ve been in your shoes before. Let me walk you through this.

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If there’s anything I’ve learned from this experience, it’s that the single most important thing you can do in making  pie crust from scratch is this: freeze your butter.

Let me repeat: freeze… your…butter. Throw it in the freezer overnight. Leave it there until the very moment you’re ready to handle it. Don’t take it out an hour before you want to make the crust to ‘thaw’ or soften. It’s not necessary. All you’ll need to do with it, is use a box grater, then run the ice cold sticks of butter over the large grating grill so that it comes out the other side in solid, curly strands. These strands are going to become your best friends. Why? Because they’re what’s going to keep your pie crust nice and flakey to the point where it will melt in your mouth after it’s done baking, that’s why.. After the butter is grated, the pie crust is pretty simple to put together. If you’re not using a food processor, I would also recommend using a rubber spatula to work the dough together, as hands conduct unnecessary heat into the dough.

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Guys, this pie came out so good. Really, it did. The making of the pie crust was a little extra labor, but me and my entire family all agree: it was well worth the result. And even though the recipe yields a lot, I still wouldn’t be surprised if you still ran out of it. This is one of those foods that you don’t want to share. You just want to hog it all to yourself to make sure you get as much as possible. Could be why I’ve already made this twice: a triple berry version, as well as an all raspberry version. Both were delicious. Both are all long gone. Guess it’s gonna be time for me to make another one pretty soon, huh? I’m thinking caramel apple. Or maybe strawberry rhubarb. Or how about sour cherry?

I think my favorite part of slab pie is that the recipe makes so much- it’s perfect for a large crows for a barbecue, dinner party, or gathering. So, I’ve decided to bring this over to Fiesta Friday- hope you guys enjoy it. (I told you last week you’d need yoga pants, didn’t I? ;-))

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Triple Berry Slab Pie

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

For the Crust:

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups ice water

For the Filling

  • 6 cups of fresh or frozen berries (I used 2 cups each of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

1. Make crust: In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar until combined. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining.

2. With machine running, add 1 cup ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Do not overmix. Divide dough into 2 disks; wrap each tightly in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (or up to overnight) .

3. Preheat oven to 400°. Make filling: In a large bowl, toss together blueberries, cornstarch, sugar, and lemon zest and juice.

4. On a floured work surface, roll out 1 disk to a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Place in a 10-by-14-by-1-inch rimmed jelly-roll pan. Pour in berry filling, then lightly brush edges of crust with water.

5. On floured surface, roll out second disk to an 11-by-15-inch rectangle and lay over berry filling; press along moistened edges to seal. Fold overhang under, tucking it into pan, and crimp edges. With a paring knife, cut slits on top to vent

6. Place pie in oven, then reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake until crust is golden and juices are bubbling, 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature

 

 

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Dothraki Flat Bread

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Game of Thrones Series Week #6

Even though there was no new Game of Thrones shown last week, I still wanted to post a new recipe today for the series we’ve got going on for it now. I’m having that much fun with this whole making themed food thing. It kinda makes me sad that the season will be over soon…

When I first picked this recipe out, I was a little worried about writing the post because I wouldn’t have an episode to recap and review. I didn’t know what the heck I would be talking to you guys about if I couldn’t be talking about the previous week’s episode. I thought that I wouldn’t have something interesting to talk about.

And then, I made the flatbread. And guys, do I have a story for you.

The official, published title of this post is “Dothraki Flatbread”, but for the sake of the story that’s about to come, I’m gonna go ahead and add a little subtext to that:

“Dothraki Flatbread (And That One Time When Jess Set Her Oven on Fire)”

Yep, you read that right. While making this flatbread, my oven literally caught on fire. Twice.

Curious to hear what happened? Just keep reading.

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I decided to make flat bread for a couple of reasons: first of all, I friggin love the stuff. Chewier and fluffier than traditional pita bread, is flat bread is cooked over very high heat until it puffs up and browns on either side. Then it’s brushed with melted butter and herbs and served warm. I’ve wanted to make some of my own for a while (just to see if I could), and as I was pondering this, it occurred to me that it would be a recipe that I could work into my GoT series. Although Khal Drogo and the Dothraki are far behind Daenerys by now in the television series, I didn’t see any reason why I could include a recipe in my blog series that was dedicated to them. Flat bread’s (or by it’s traditional name, naan) origins are in Asian and Indian cuisines, and I can’t help but think that in George R. R. Martin’s imaginary world, the Dothraki are meant to represent an ‘Asian’/”Ethnic’ culture. I could get into another conversation about that, but instead. I’ll just stay on topic with the story of what happened with the flat bread.

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Okay, so when I was researching cooking techniques and methods of making flat bread, I saw that there were three ways of doing this: making it over a grill, frying it on a stove top, and baking it on a pizza stone in the oven. I’m a lousy griller, so the first option was automatically out. In order to choose between the final two options, I read through some past reviews of other cooks that had made it themselves at home to see what results it yielded for them. Here’s the thing, guys: almost every single review I read (seriously, just about every one) said that frying the flat bread over the stove would make your kitchen/house VERY smoky and set off all your smoke alarms and would take forever to clear out. (The skillet needs to be very VERY hot in order to cook the bread properly) On the other hand, everyone that baked their flat bread in the oven on a baking/pizza stone (again at a very high heat, like 500 degrees hot) said that it resulted in little to no smoke at all, and everything turned out easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

What would you all have done if you were in my situation and shoes?

Naturally, you would’ve chosen the baking stone option, right? I mean, what reason would you have to doubt that anything would happen to go wrong for you, when it had gone so well for everyone else? My thoughts exactly.

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In retrospect, there are a few things that I probably would’ve done differently. First, I should have put a sheet pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Second, I probably shouldn’t have brushed the melted butter over the bread while it was still in the oven on the pizza stone. I suspect that it could have avoided all the drama that ensued. Unfortunately, I didn’t do either of those things, so here’s what happened:

I’ve never turned my oven up that high before besides when using the broiler. I wasn’t prepared for how hot it got. It got really, really, REALLY hot. When I placed the naan on the pizza stone for it’s cooking on the first side, it began to smoke a little from how hot it was. That concerned me a little, but I still let it go on doing it’s thing. The real problems started when I brushed the butter on the bread and flipped it. The butter began sliding off the bread and onto the pizza stone…then off and onto the scalding hot bottom of the oven. Butter and intense heat makes grease spots. Really, really, really, REALLY hot grease spots make the “f word”.

You see where I’m going with this?

So yeah, I ignited a fire in my oven. Well, maybe not a fire. More like a big flame. A brief one. It flashed for like two seconds. I screamed. It disappeared. It flared again. I screamed again. Then when it went out, I immediately turned off the oven, removed the pizza stone and put it into the sink with the half-cooked naan still on it. Then I went and sat my shaking, sweaty, frustrated self in a chair for a while to try and calm down.

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Fast forward about 20 minutes later. Me and my older sister have opened up the sliding glass door by the kitchen all the way and have recruited every fan in the house in the effort of blowing out the smoke that has accumulated as a result of my flat bread fiasco. I’m in the middle of a mini-meltdown, ready to throw up my hands and write myself off as the worst cook ever, repeatedly and frantically apologizing and shaking my head (the way I always do when I mess something up in the kitchen). My older sister is patiently and confidently assuring me that it’s not that big a deal, I’m not a bad cook, and the smoke really is going to be all cleared out of the room in about an hour. She also suggests that I try just finishing the rest of the flat breads on a skillet over the stove.

Well, I did. And guess what? Little to no smoke at all. It took about ten minutes, flat. How bout them apples? Don’t ever let me find the people from the reviews who said that baking it on a pizza stone was easier. It will not end well for them.

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Like I said, the fire probably could have been prevented if I had taken the extra precautions with the sheet pan and holding off on brushing on the butter. All the same, I’m still going to be making my flat bread on a skillet on the stove from here on out. Fires are for losers, and the clean up in the aftermath is no fun.

I’m in no hurry to repeat the process of scrubbing out my oven with cleaner, rinsing it out with vinegar & lemon juice, THEN baking lemon and orange peels in it for over and hour just to get rid of the fumes.

So yeah: how was you guys weekend? Anything more eventful than a fire?

Game of Thrones Series

Week 1: Pigeon {Chicken} Pies

Week 2: Winterfell Brown Bread

Week 3: Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

Week 4: Baratheon Smothered Pork Chops & Apple Gravy

Week 5: Lemon Cakes

Week 6: Dothraki Flat Bread

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Dothraki Flatbread

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Recipe Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  •  1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ground basil
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

 Directions

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy.

2. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth.

3. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.

4. Punch down dough. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

5. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, minced garlic and basil. Set aside.

6. During the second rising, heat a cast iron skillet or regular, non stick pan over high heat. Make sure you have a lid large enough to fit the  skillet.

7. Dampen your hands in the bowl of water and pick up one of your flatbreads, flip-flopping it from one hand to the other to lightly dampen it. Gently lay it in the skillet and set your timer for 1 minute. The dough should start to bubble. Brush top of flatbread with melted butter.

8. After about 1 minute, flip the flatbread. It should be blistered and somewhat blackened. Brush cooked side with the butter, then cover the skillet with the lid and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute more.

9. Place the flatbread in a tea towel-lined dish. Repeat with the rest of the flatbreads.

 

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Maple Sausage Breakfast Sandwiches

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I don’t always get to eat it the way that I want it, but I gotta say that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. There’s so many great choices; pancakes (first and foremost in my heart), french toast, waffles, cinnamon rolls, omelettes, muffins, hashbrowns and of course, the breakfast sandwich.

I know. I’ve probably made you hungry just talking about it. That’s the point.

My earliest memory of the breakfast sandwich is when I was still in elementary school. My school used to have this annual ‘Sleepover’ on a Friday night, where we could all come and spend the evening playing games or watch movies that were still set up in different classrooms, then all come and sleep together in the gym with our sleeping bags. In the morning, they would always feeds us McDonald’s breakfast, where we had the option of either getting the hotcakes and sausage, or the McMuffin breakfast sandwich before our parents came to pick us up.

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Because pancakes hold the keys to my heart, I would always choose the hotcakes, but mostly everyone else did choose the McMuffin instead. It would be a few years later before I decided to finally try the Sausage McMuffin. The real reason for my hesitance was actually pretty dumb. I don’t like having cheese on my sandwiches. (Yes, I know. I’m weird.) and for some strange reason, I had no idea for a while that you could ask for the sandwich to not have cheese on it. It’s hard for me to explain now, but my innocent 6 year old self thought that if I went through a drive through and asked for my sandwich not to have cheese on it, I’d get yelled at or get told that they did NOT do things like that and I’d have to take it or leave it…or something like that.

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So imagine my delight when I was told by my mom one day that I COULD actually ask for them to just leave the cheese off of the Sausage and Egg McMuffin. So yeah, I did ask for one sans the cheese. And from that day, to this, I have always loved having sausage breakfast sandwiches smeared with fruit jelly or preserves. True story. Aren’t you glad that you found out that I wasn’t the sharpest crayon in the box at 6?

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If you’ve ever been to a grocery store or to the two ‘main’ burger joints in the US, you’ll find an assortment of breakfast sandwiches to choose from for the convenience of a quick breakfast. Sausage/Ham and Egg McMuffins. McGriddles. Croissanwiches. Special K  Flatbread Sandwiches. Jimmy Dean Delights. We’ve all heard of them. We’ve all probably had at least one before-and why not? They’re easy. They’re inexpensive. And they don’t taste that bad.

So what’s the point of making the individual ingredients at home when you can technically buy them at stores or restaurants?

Just because, really.

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You guys probably remember that I recently made Whole Wheat English Muffins from scratch. They were a huge hit all on their own, but I thought that I would try to elevate them a little bit and make them into an entire breakfast dish in and of itself, which resulted in these breakfast sandwiches. Like the English Muffins themselves, these sandwiches are quite healthy. With turkey sausage, egg whites and whole wheat bread, you really couldn’t ask for a more well-balanced breakfast. It also makes me feel a little bit better about the huge dollops of jam that I smear on both sides of the sandwich. Cause you know: it’s all about maintaining a balance right? 😉 I’ll be taking these to this week’s Fiesta Friday, hosted by  Mr Fitz@Cooking with Mr Fitz and Justine@Eclectic odds n sods. Sorry guys- I brought another “healthy” dish. Next week I’ll be back with something sweet. Wear your yoga pants- it’s gonna be “one of those” 😉

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Maple Sausage Breakfast Sandwiches

Recipe Adapted from Kelsey Nixon

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 8 Whole Wheat English Muffins, sliced in half
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tbsp  not melted
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 Egg whites
  • Salt and pepper

Maple Sausage:

  • 2 lbs of ground turkey sausage
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons granulated onion
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

Directions

  1. Brush the inside of each roll with the melted butter and toast in the oven until slightly crispy & golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  2. Mix together all the ingredients for the sausage in a bowl, & shape into 8 patties. Make sure you form the sausage patties in the same size & shape of the bread you are using, so that way every bite you take of the sandwich has every component it.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Brown the sausage patties for 3 to 4 minutes per side. Once they are browned & cooked through, remove patties to a paper towel-lined plate.
  4. In the sausage drippings, add the remaining tablespoon of butter and crack 4  egg whites into the skillet. Sprinkle the whites with salt and pepper and cook them to your desired doneness.
  5. To assemble a sandwich, place a sausage patty on the bottom half of the toasted roll and top with the egg whites. Have it plain or dressed with the condiments you prefer. I eat mine with fruit preserves, or with Frank’s Red Hot.

 

 

 

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Lemon Cakes

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Game of Thrones Series Week #5

Before I give my recap/thoughts of last week’s episode, let me just say for the record that I am thoroughly ticked off that there is not going to be a new episode of GoT tonight.

Ticked.Off.

It’s really not cool, and I can’t imagine why the Powers That Be at HBO would do that to us. What else could they possibly be showing? Explain it to me, I don’t get it. Actually never mind, I don’t care about the explanation. I just want there to be a new episode tonight, especially after last week’s episode. Grrrr. Moving along to the recap:

  • Daenerys and Daario Naharis FINALLY stopped with the flirting and banter and just did what we’ve known they were going to do since they first met each other. It was very true to Daenerys’ character to make sure that she was in control of the situation though, and I can appreciate that. I did feel a little bad for Ser Jorah- we all know he’s wanted to be in Daario’s position since Daenerys was still married to Khal Drogo. But it was definitely strategic on her part to change her mind about her original plan to execute the slave masters in Yunkai and go with Jorah’s suggestion instead. She’s obviously trying to keep Jorah from becoming embittered against her because of her new relations with Daario by making it clear to him that he still has influence over her decisions, while also letting Daario know that just because he’s slept with her doesn’t mean that she’s going to be biased or partial to his influence. She’s a smart girl, as that was a very tricky situation to navigate.

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  • The scene between Tyrion and Bronn was very well done. Their ‘friendship’ has always been based upon the mutual interests that they share with each other, and although I was slightly disappointed that Bronn chose not to be Tyrion’s champion and accept Cersei’s bride, my disappointment was tempered with his question to Tyrion of “When have you ever risked your life for me?” That shed light on the power dynamic that has always existed between them; they may be friends, but ultimately, Tyrion has always operated in that friendship in the area of privilege and power with Bronn as his hired muscle that gets things done for him for the right price. Tyrion may not have realized this, but this scene showed that Bronn has never forgotten it. He may feel bad for the situation that Tyrion’s in, but ultimately he’s not the ‘servant’ anymore, and he doesn’t feel the need to act like one out of pure sentiment for their past history.
  • And the eternal sufferings and trials of our favorite Damsel in Distress Sansa Stark continue in the Vale. I’ve been hearing a theory that Littlefinger’s come on (and thoroughly disgusting kiss)  was a calculated move on his part that he meant for Lysa to see so that he could ultimately dispose of her. I can buy this for sure: we’ve seen how intelligent and calculated Littlefinger is, and I can’t see him letting his obsession with Catelyn Stark and everything associated with her let him get sloppy and careless enough to make a move on her daughter when Lysa  is such an unstable, high risk liability. He’s too careful for that. He’s probably been waiting for the day that he could shove her through the Moon Door from the day that he told her to poison her husband. Such an evil jerk.

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  • Whoa, I did NOT see that scene between Oberyn and Tyrion coming! I can definitely understand his reasoning for wanting to take on the Mountain, but I’m curious to see how this battle goes down. That dude’s enormous. Bronn was an excellent swordsman, but even he was afraid to take the Mountain on himself. Oberyn is of course, driven by a lust for revenge, so he may be entering in the fight with more focus and determination. Was anyone else heartbroken at the look on Tyrion’s face when Oberyn told him about when he, Cersei and Jamie surrounded his crib and Cersei assaulted him? That was awful. It further goes to show that Tyrion has never known what it was for his family to show him any kind of love or affection. He was born being hated and rejected. That’s rough.
  • John Snow’s still being hazed by Ser Alliser Thorne, aka ‘Big Brother Almighty’ back at the Wall. What else is new?
  • I know Brienne didn’t care, but the food blogger in me was totally into the speech about getting a meat pie right. I’ll admit it.

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This recipe is another one that I knew I wanted to do for the GoT series its very beginning. I think just about every GoT fan knows about Sansa Stark and her love for lemon cakes. I wanted to do a rendition of them, I just didn’t know the approach I would take to them. Then I bought The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook, where (of course) there was a recipe for lemon cakes. I’ll be honest with you guys, I was skeptical of it. For one, the ‘cakes’ are actually yeast based. Then, rather than being baked like typical cake, they’re made on a griddle-top like pancakes.

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However, despite my misgivings, I decided to give the recipe a shot. I used round, metal biscuit cutters on my flat top griddle. I also decided to make them in different sizes, both for aesthetics and because it was more practical for expediency purposes. The yeast in the batter makes them puff up nice and fluffy while cooking on each side. I would describe the texture as a cross between a dinner roll and a flaky biscuit. These do not fit into the conventional mold/idea of ‘cake’, however I still like them very much. In all honesty, they’re probably closer to the authentic, medieval style of cake, anyway. These would be a great addition to a GoT themed party, or even for a regular tea party.

As usual, I’ll post the GoT series links below for all those who still need to catch up. See ya next week, guys!

Game of Thrones Series

Week 1: Pigeon {Chicken} Pies

Week 2: Winterfell Brown Bread

Week 3: Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

Week 4: Baratheon Smothered Pork Chops & Apple Gravy

Week 5: Lemon Cakes

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Lemon Cakes

Recipe Courtesy of The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook by Alan Kistler & Americanfood.about.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 pkg)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp lemon verbena extract or lemon oil
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp dried lemon verbena, crushed (or 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest)

Lemon Icing:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 small drop yellow food coloring

Directions

1. In a large bowl, mix milk, sugar and yeast. Set aside for about 10 minutes until foamy.

2. Mix in egg, lemon verbena (or lemon oil), 1 tablespoon of the butter, salt, flour and dried lemon verbena. Beat together 5 minutes until a smooth dough is formed.

3. Cover with plastic wrap and rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours (until doubled in volume).

4. Heat griddle over high heat. Test by sprinkling on a little water. If griddle sizzles and water evaporates, it’s ready.

5. Lower heat to medium-low. Melt remaining tablespoon of butter on the griddle. Place muffin rings on griddle and fill halfway with batter. Cover loosely with foil and cook until cakes are browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes.

6. Using spatula or tongs, flip over each small cake and ring. Cover and cook another 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks and allow to cool.

7. Mix together all remaining ingredients and spread on top of cakes. Allow to sit until icing is hardened, about thirty minutes.

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