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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Carnival Pizzas

This originally was a guest post a while back on Foody Schmoody I'm Just Cookin's website and she was kind enough to allow me to post it again from here. I so appreciate that.

Now that everyone has gone back to school you may long for those Summer Nights of you and the family going to local fairs and carnivals. It doesn't have to go away just because the owners packed up the rides and moved on or the food trucks have all disappeared. You can bring back the carnival feeling at home by recreating some of the foods that were served.
Carnivals and fairs are petty much standard summer and late summer entertainment here in Connecticut and in our neighboring state, Massachusetts. At these events you can ride the rides like the Ferris Wheel, the Scrambler or see a live horse or oxen pull. There's also music along with a variety of entry submitted prized garden vegetables and home baked goods all vying for a ribbon to take home. While it definitely has gone up in price over the years for entry fees and tickets for the rides, a lot of people set money aside for events like these - it's tradition. They remember going with their parents and siblings and now want to carry that tradition on for their own children.
One of the best parts of these carnivals and fairs is the food from the various food trucks that set up shop for the duration of the fair or carnival. And the one truck my family doesn't want to pass up ever is the one that serves Fried Dough Pizza.
So if for some reason you miss out on the carnival or the fair, you can make some of the food right in your own home - and that's what we are doing today. It is simple and easy especially if you buy store made pizza dough or buy some from your local pizzeria.

You can purchase a jar of your favorite marinara sauce or make my simple recipe that is here on the blog. Just click on the link. If you have spaghetti sauce made or jars of your favorite brand in your pantry by all means use it.
  • 1-2 bags pizza dough
  • drizzle olive oil
  • 10-12 inch skillet with 1 inch vegetable oil
  • marinara sauce (or spaghetti sauce)
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • flour
  1. Place the dough in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil rubbed over the dough. Cover in plastic wrap and keep in a warm place until it rises to about double the size.
  2. Punch the dough down and using a lightly floured surface cut the one pound dough balls into four equal pieces approximately four ounces each. Make them a round ball.
  3. Lay these on a sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise a second time for about an hour until they are about 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Our net for 2 balls of dough was 9 pizzas.
  4. When the dough has risen again, lightly flour a clean surface and roll or push the dough down with your fingers into circles or rectangles and keep covered with the clean towel.
  5. Make sure you have your marinara sauce made (or you could use spaghetti sauce as well)
  6. Once the sauce and dough are ready, heat the oil in your skillet over medium high heat to 350°.
  7. Place the dough in the hot oil and press down lightly with a pair of tongs. Cook for a minute or so until golden brown and flip over and do the same for the other side. Drain on paper towels.
  8. Do this in batches keeping the already fried dough warm under a heat lamp or in a very low oven.
  9. Assemble each pizza with sauce and grated Parmesan cheese for one variety.
  10. For the second variety, make up some cinnamon and white sugar mixture to sprinkle on the top.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Country Fried Steak with Mushroom Gravy

We are daring to take Chicken Fried Steak to another level. This particular dish dates back to the 1900's and is claimed by most southerners as a staple comfort food. Like it's counter part from Austria (wiener schnitzel) the choice for meat is the beef round, cube steak to be exact. While I prefer chuck cube steak it is not always available in the meat department. What is available is cube steak from the round.
The beef round is found at the back end of the cattle from the top of the hind quarter to the shank portion of the leg. The number of 3 ounce servings of beef is about 2 1/2 - 3 per pound. The price of the beef averages $4.99 per pound. Best thing to do is get this when it goes on sale or buy a family pack. You can freeze these but I do not recommend freezing past two weeks. My recipe is geared toward two people. You can double the ingredients for feeding more.

  • 2 - 3cube steaks
  • 1/2 box porcini mushrooms - sliced
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half or cream
  • 1/3 cup flour for dredging
  • 2 tbsp. flour for the roux
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tbsp.canola oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 - 3 good pinches cayenne pepper
  • freeze dried chives - optional
  1. Start out by putting together your dredging station: combine the flour and all of the spices in a dish. Mix well to combine.
  2. Whisk the milk and the egg together in another dish.
  3. Clean and slice your mushrooms.
  4. Lightly salt and pepper each side of the cube steak to taste.
  5. Heat a skillet (cast iron would work very well) over medium heat. Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter. When the pan is hot add the mushrooms, cooking and stirring until golden in color. Remove to a waiting bowl.
  6. Dredge the steak in the flour, then in the egg, back in the flour and place on a clean plate.
  7. Get the skillet hot over medium high heat and add the canola oil to the pan.
  8. When the pan is hot the heat should be turned down to about medium. Place the steaks in the pan and fry until golden brown on each side. Remove and place on a clean plate.
  9. Add extra oil or butter if necessary (you don't want to much though). Put the flour in the pan and keep whisking until the flour is cooked down and that you have scrapped up all of the good bits.. You are making a roux, so it will take time.
  10. Once the raw flour taste is cooked out, slowly whisk in the half and half or cream until you have everything well incorporated.
  11. Add the mushrooms back to the pan and cook on low for a couple of minutes to let the flavor from the mushrooms get absorbed into the sauce. 
  12. At this point and this is optional add in some freeze dried chives for flavor and color.
  13. Taste the gravy and adjust any seasoning. You can add the steaks back in the pan or pour the sauce over them.
As you can see I had some corn on the cob and I made a garlic rubbed toast from baguette bread.

NOTE: keep the steaks warm under a heat lamp or in a low, low oven - 200° F if you are doing these in batches. Also don't over crowd the pan otherwise the meat will not brown properly.

I loved the addition of the mushrooms and a little beef broth to ramp up the flavor of the gravy.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Chocolate Fudge Walnut Cookies

What a breeze these are to whip up and they make for great back to school snacks for lunches or for when the kids get home. This recipe is the reason why I love cake box cookies; anyone including myself (and I don't profess to be a baker) can make them.

If you happen upon a bargain for the walnuts these cookies lean toward inexpensive. Beside that they have that home made feel versus mass produced cookies which can be outrageous in price.

Whenever I see cake mixes on sale I usually grab anything that is chocolate flavored knowing that I can quell the chocoholic by making cupcakes, a cake or cookies.

I used my 1 1/2" scoop and got 20 cookies. Your yield will be greater if you use a smaller scoop. We like big cookies so this was perfect! Aside from baking these cookies took me so little time to make and place on cookie sheets. Total time for that was about 20 minutes.
  • 1 box Betty Crocker® Chocolate Fudge cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 stick butter - melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  1. Mix all ingredients until well incorporated.
  2. Add the nuts and fold them in.
  3. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 13-15 minutes.

Use a smaller scoop and you can probably get 36 cookies. My cost was around $5.60 as I did not get the nuts on sale. I urge you to get nuts on sale when you can and keep them in your freezer until you are ready to use them.