Thai Marinated Chicken Skewers

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So I know I’ve mentioned before in my Shepherd’s Pie post that I would never, ever, ever EVER think about going to Culinary School or setting out to be some kind of professional chef in a restaurant. This is definitely still the case. I haven’t changed my mind. It’s not gonna happen.

Having said that, I am willing to say that I wouldn’t completely rule out having some kind of career role that has to do with food. In fact, I think I can visualize the perfect culinary career for me.

If there are any people reading this that work in the food industry and are looking to hire someone to do these duties, feel free to look over my conditions and shout me a holler if it sounds like a good fit.

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My ideal work space is a high rise studio loft in NYC with tall windows and high ceilings- this’ll give me plenty of ventilation and natural light.

I’m gonna need a Kenmore fully furnished kitchen with the latest appliances- and I mean the WORKS; two to three double wall ovens with advanced temperature control, one convection oven, both a flat top and standard grill, two French door refrigerators, a chest freezer, 3 Kenmore Elite dishwashers (because I hate washing dishes), 2 standing mixers, 2 food processors, a hand blender, 2 slow cookers, one deep fryer, and one panini press.

I need the pantry that comes on Master Chef or Iron Chef America- just to make sure I’ve got the ‘essentials’.

While they’re at it, Kenmore could also go ahead and furnish the cookware and dishes too- (just call it for promotional purposes).

And counter space. Lots and lots of counter space. If you could see what I’m working with in our apartment right now, you would definitely understand the desperation behind that request.

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I know, I know. All of that sounds really demanding. But it really wouldn’t go to waste, I swear. See, in my dream culinary job, I would go into work in this space every single day putting every single one of these tools to good use in simply recipe writing, testing and perfecting.

You’re scared of baking, and you need someone to bake a cake for your kid’s birthday? Tell me what they like, and I’ll make it for you.

You want someone to give a review of a cookbook? Send it over to me and I will make every single recipe and give my rating.

Are you a really bad cook and engaged to marry someone who’s used to good homemade eating? We’ll go over some of their favorite foods and I’ll teach you how to make them so that you guys don’t have to starve or order take out after you say ‘I do’.

I could also envision a community service aspect of that job where I would link up with the local homeless shelters or churches and organize a weekly night  where I can serve all the food I spent my ‘workday’ making to a number of people down on their luck who are in need of a good home cooked meal.

So yeah, that’s my dream job: a life where all I do is is cook simple, comfort food all day long, then give the food away to other people. And get paid to do it. That would be the life.

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Hey, it’s another chicken kabobs recipe. And I STILL chose not to make it on the grill like I was ‘supposed’ to. How about them apples.

As yummy as the Sambal Chicken Skewers I made a little while ago were, my family said that they thought these tasted even better. I think it’s the spices in the marinade that does it: I’m just a huge fan of curry powder and all of it’s subtle sweetness with just enough bite to pack a punch. In fact, I love it so much that I don’t even care that I have to scrub and scrub my counter tops super hard to get those dark yellow stains out when I accidentally spill some. And that’s saying something.

Don’t skip on making this peanut sauce. It’s just too good to miss out on. Plus, what else are you going to use to drizzle over the chicken and rice you’re going to eat this with? Nothing, that’s what. You can’t make Thai chicken without a peanut sauce. That’s just not the way the world works.

Whoa, I just remembered it was Fiesta Friday #41. Good thing I’ve got something to bring and share with all of you, huh? Thanks to Angie@TheNoviceGardener for hosting, and especially to Nancy @Feasting With Friends and  Loretta @Safari of the Mind for co-hosting. See you at the party!

 

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Thai Marinated Chicken Skewers


Recipe Adapted from Cooking Channel

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1- inch cubes
  • 24 wooden skewers, soaked overnight in water

For the Marinade

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Peanut Coconut Sauce

  • One 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste

Directions

1. Place the chicken in a medium bowl. Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a separate bowl.

2. Pour the marinade over the chicken and massage the meat with your hands for 1 minute to coat the cubes well.

3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper on 2 half sheet pans and place a baking rack on top of each. Spray racks with non-stick cooking spray.

5. Thread 4-5 pieces of chicken one each skewer, and arrange on top of baking racks. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, until chicken reaches inner temperature of  165 degrees.

6. While chicken is baking, prepare peanut sauce: Combine the coconut milk, peanut butter, brown sugar, soy sauce, and red curry paste in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

7. When chicken is done, brush finished sauce over chicken cubes, and serve.

Pan de Muerto- Day of the Dead Bread

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Last night was (as we all know) Halloween. However, it was also the start of the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. It was something that I hadn’t even heard of until I was in middle school, and a traveling performing arts troupe did a short dramatization for us. To this day, I still remember being intrigued by it, and that started what continues to be a mild fascination with the Day of the Dead.

For those that haven’t heard of it, don’t freak out. It’s not a morbid, gothic thing exactly. In fact, after studying the history behind the holiday itself, you find out that it’s actually a very meaningful part of ancient Hispanic culture.

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So let’s take it back. Way back. Back into time. When the Spaniards conquered the Aztecs around 1521, they tried to force Catholicism upon them in an attempt to try and eradicate their ancient religious rituals. In Catholicism, there are holidays called All Saints Day and All Souls Day that takes place November 1st and 2nd of every year. Although a large part of the Aztec culture was suppressed by the Spaniards, they still managed to preserve bits and pieces of their culture even in the midst of their oppression and cultural suppression. The Day of the Dead was one of those results.

Celebrated from October 31st to November 2nd, it’s a shortened version of the Aztec Mictecacihuatl festival that gives honor and memoriam to loved ones who have passed away. One of the most common practices for the Day of the Dead is to build beautiful altars with flowers, candles, pictures of dead loved ones, as well as various Mexican foods. One of the most important of these foods is the Pan de Muerto- or in English, the Bread of the Dead.

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I’ve been waiting for months now to make this bread, not just because I thought the ingredients sounded great, but also because I think it’s just really cool to look at. The bread’s shape is representative of the Day of the Dead itself, with the dough being shaped into bones that are topped with a skull.

I’ll be honest, this reminds me a lot of the Jewish egg-based Challah bread, with the very notable exception of the anise in the Pan de Muerto that gives it a slight licorice aftertaste, as well as the delicious cinnamon sugar that gets sprinkled on the top just before it goes into the oven. It’s very tender and soft on the inside, and would also be perfect for later use in bred puddings or french toast.

Plus like I said: isn’t it just SO cool to look at?

Oh yeah, and those people in the picture? My great-grandparents, Isaac and Lily-Mae Haynes. They’ve passed away, so in a way I guess this bread is for them. Happy Día de los Muertos!

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Pan de Muerto- Day of the Dead Bread

Recipe Courtesy of “Bake” by Edward Gee

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter, diced, plus extra for greasing
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Put the yeast into a large bowl with the water, stir to dissolve, and let stand for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put the milk into a saucepan set over medium heat, bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and add butter, 1/4 cup of the sugar and the salt. Stir until dissolved. Add the milk mixture to the yeast mixture.

2. Add one egg and the flour to the liquid ingredients, mix to combine, then knead until a smooth, silky dough forms. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into four pieces. Set one piece aside. Using the palms of your hands, shape each of the remaining pieces into three ropes of equal length.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease the paper. Weave the three dough ropes into a braid and join the ends to make a round loaf. Take the reserved piece of dough and shape it into 2 bones and a skull. Arrange these on top of the loaf and press lightly. Put on the prepared baking sheet and let rise for 45 minutes, to an hour.

5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350° F. Mix together the anise, cinnamon, and the remaining sugar in a small bowl. Beat the remaining egg and brush it onto the braided dough (do not brush the skull and bones), then sprinkle with the anise mixture.

6. Bake the bottom of the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden. If it’s browning too quickly, cover with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Remove from the oven and put on a wire rack to cool.

Sambal Chicken Skewers

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So, I have a confession to make.

I’m a really bad griller. It’s true. If you ask me to grill you something, I am probably, most likely, almost definitely going to mess it up.

I’m sure that the whole thing is probably easy enough to do if you’ve got a gas grill, but we only have a charcoal grill at my house and for the life of me, I cannot keep that thing hot enough to cook the food. Don’t get me started on using smokers and special types of wood and all those other fancy doohickies (did I spell that right? I don’t think I did.)

I remember one Memorial Day a couple of years back where I tried to help my Mom grill. When we couldn’t keep the coals hot enough, we finally got the idea in our heads that we needed something to feed the flames since the coals obviously weren’t cutting it.

Don’t ask why, but for some reason, we decided to go with old newspaper.

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Well, it got the coals hot enough, for sure. It all just started going south AFTER we put the meat on the grill…and the newspaper started flaking and flying up all over the place, sticking to the food.

Good times, Good times.

Long story short, we ended up rinsing off the meat and just finishing it all in the oven and slow cooker that day. But it still served to teach me a very valuable lesson: I’m NOT a griller. At least not now. Maybe one day I’ll just sit down and force myself to learn. I could also just find a guy to date who knows how to do it and just leave all that grilling business to him. Either one would work.

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I say all of this because it’s very frustrating for me when I see or find a recipe that I would reeeeeeeeeally like to try, but it’s supposed to be grilled. My culinary shoulders give a little slump every time I see that and I just think,

“What? It’s supposed to be grilled? But…but…I don’t know how to grill. I suck at grilling. How am I supposed to do make this if it’s supposed to be grilled? No fair!”

Most of the time, I just end up putting said recipes aside for the day that I do end up learning to grill. But not this time. This time, I just couldn’t put it aside. I wanted to make this recipe, darn it. And I didn’t want to let grilling get in the way of me and my food.

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Bon Appetit is such a dangerous website for me. I can browse it for 5 minutes, and suddenly I want to cook absolutely everything I see there. That’s what happened with this recipe. I saw it, and I just knew, people. I knew I had to make this, come hell or high water.

I may not know how to operate my charcoal grill…but my oven? She and I are on very good terms with each other.

I made this recipe work for me, people. And really, I’m so glad I did. Because grill or no grill, it’s really so friggin delicious. The marinade is what really makes the flavors pop. The rice wine vinegar gives a slight tang and acidity to the chicken that is somehow tempered by both the saltiness of the fish sauce and the sweetness of the ginger and brown sugar. The hot chili paste doesn’t bring as much heat as you would think it would- I would describe it more as more of a smoky flavor. The Sriracha is where the heat comes in, sneaking up on you in the back of your throat even after you’ve swallowed the chicken. I’ve eaten a lot of chicken breasts and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy to inject them with much flavor. But this really does do the job.

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I did make some modifications to this recipe for my own purposes: first, I obviously baked them in the oven rather than grilling them. But the original does call for them to be grilled, I can see how they would taste even better if they were. So if you’re good at grilling, then by all means, go for it. Second, rather than just putting the marinade on the meat the same day as cooking, I did let them it sit overnight in the fridge, just to make sure all the flavors would fully permeate. However, if you’re in a hurry this isn’t necessarily mandatory. Third, the original recipe called for you to take the used marinate, bring it to a boil over the stove, then brush it over the finished chicken.

Yeah…I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. I know that boiling the marinade is ‘supposed’ to take the bacteria out of it. But my paranoia and just the idea of eating something that raw, uncooked chicken sat in made me feel queasy. I just re-made the whole marinade and warmed it up over the stove. That way I don’t have to worry that I’ve poisoned myself and my family.

So, Grill. We managed to avoid each other once more. Perhaps we shall meet one day- but that day is not today.

Guys, I give you…Sambal Chicken.

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Sambal Chicken Skewers

Recipe Adapted from BonAppetit.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha
  • 2 teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch–2-inch pieces
  • Sesame seeds, optional
  • 8 bamboo skewers soaked in water at least 1 hour

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Whisk brown sugar, vinegar, chili paste, fish sauce, Sriracha, and ginger in a large bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. Thread 4 or 5 chicken pieces onto each skewer.

3. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and place a wire rack over it. Spray rack with non-stick cooking spray. Lay chicken skewers on rack and bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, until chicken reaches inner temperature of  165 degrees.

4. While chicken is baking,make a second batch of the marinade and warm in a saucepan over the stove.

5. Brush sauce over finished chicken and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

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.