chicken fried steak fingers with country gravy

Did you ever eat something so bad that it was actually good? That would be the perfect way to describe the oddly named “steak fingers” we were served in my elementary school cafeteria. They were really nothing to write home about, and were surely mass-produced and most definitely frozen at some point in their lives. These steak fingers bore little resemblance to their homemade counterpart, real country-style chicken fried steak.

No matter how awful the cafeteria’s steak fingers were, I couldn’t help but adore them. Something about that tasty combination of steak, formerly-crunchy breading with lots of black pepper, served with a big pile of mashed potatoes and gravy was just magic to me.

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For this recipe, I decided to stay true to the cafeteria’s version in shape only, and go the traditional route for everything else. Real, down-home, crispy chicken fried steak with boatloads of creamy, peppery gravy and a heap of mashed potatoes. Can I get a hell yeah?

Hell yeah.

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tart cherry crisp with oaty crumble topping

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It’s now September, which means that most kids have already started school. That means new backpacks, dreaded homework assignments, and the school cafeteria!

Wait… do kids still eat lunch in the cafeteria? The last time I did was probably in 1998, so things may have changed a bit! In the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you some childhood nostalgia in the form of re-vamped — and dare I say delicious? — recipes from those days of eating from plastic lunch trays with your friends by your side.

There were a few dishes served in my school’s cafeteria that I actually didn’t despise. Of course desserts are always high on the list (they’re also kinda hard to mess up), so it’s no wonder that the cherry crisp served at my school was actually top notch.

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chocolate-buttermint ice cream sandwiches

You know what the best kind of sandwich is? An ice cream sandwich. It’s only fitting that I’d end my National Sandwich Month series with one!

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I’ve never met someone who would turn down an ice cream sandwich, even those little rectangular storebought ones with the chocolate cookies that stick to your fingers. I’d be really suspicious of a person who’d turn down one of these, made with soft, crumbly chocolate cookies and smushed with Jeni Britton Bauer’s outstanding Savannah Buttermint ice cream!

I don’t know how long I’d been dreaming of having the Jeni’s Ice Cream cookbook. On occasion, when my money was burning a hole in my pocket, I’d pick up a pint of Jeni’s at my local AJ’s store. $12 a pint is not exactly a cheap snack, but ohhh, it was so worth it. But! — Now that I have this book in my possession, I no longer have to shell out tons of money for probably the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my life. I can make it at home now! It’s the perfect ice cream for sandwich-making.

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monte cristo sandwiches with dijon mustard + strawberry jam

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Until now, I’d never made a Monte Cristo sandwich before (the horror!).

The idea behind this sandwich is a relatively simple yet decadent one – I’m all for sandwiches that basically use french toast for the bread! – but for some reason, I’d not yet tackled one. They’re perfect for breakfast, even though my breakfast preferences tend toward something a little less rich, like veggie scrambles or a quick bowl of cereal. Monte Cristos are a bit involved, but the payoff is so worth it! You can change it up however you see fit, using sliced turkey and ham (or just using your favorite of the two), different types of cheese (I went with the classic, swiss!), and swapping the strawberry jam for blackberry, raspberry or maybe even apple butter. The powdered sugar dusting is an absolute must in my book, though, so don’t skip it!

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brown sugar bacon BLTs with fresh herb mayo

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It’s not an easy task to get me to eat mayonnaise.

Oil? Fine. Eggs? Yeah, sure, why not? Blend them together, and I usually want nothing to do with the whole situation.

I did discover that if I dress up mayo with lots of fresh parsley and chives, it’s insanely good. What would this new fancy mayo be good on? Oh, how about some summertime BLTs with oven-cooked mustard and brown sugar bacon, butter lettuce leaves and some super awesome local sliced tomatoes?

I’m into it. You should be, too!

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little meatball sandwiches with sharp cheddar + crispy onions

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The second round in this National Sandwich Month series brings you a little somethin’ tiny. It’s little meatball sandwiches! Not in the mood for a full-sized sandwich? These little meatball sandwiches are a breeze to put together and super duper adorable. If you’re having a late-summer barbecue or party, or planning recipes for those impending football tailgating parties, this is the tiny, precious sandwich for you. A tender meatball covered in a tangy-smoky glaze, stacked atop some crunchy fried onions and topped with a melty slice of sharp cheddar cheese, all on a mini sized sesame seed bun is just what a fun summer (or fall!) day calls for.

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a serious sandwich

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First up in my National Sandwich Month series? How about some tender steak, peppery arugula, sharp red onion, spicy horseradish cream and a mellow, creamy roasted garlic-cheese spread piled high on toasted ciabatta? Let’s go big, or go home, people. This sandwich packs an awfully big punch of flavors, so you gotta be in it for the long haul cause this sandwich definitely isn’t messing around.

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pepperoni pizza eggrolls (my 100th post!)

Hooray! Today I bring to you my 100th blog post, all wrapped up in shiny paper and a pretty bow.

Oh, what? Sorry about those drips of marinara sauce… and the parmesan cheese. Wrapping pepperoni pizza eggrolls is a messy task!

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s’mores ice cream sandwiches (you’re killing me, smalls!)

What comes to mind when you think of your childhood summers? Maybe going swimming with your friends, staying up late (cause hey, school’s out!), barbecues, family trips to the beach? I grew up in rural southern Arizona so I didn’t have a lot of options as a kid when it came to fun summer activities. Most often, I think of summers depicted in movies, and no movie better captured that ideal childhood summer than The Sandlot.

How could you have a better summer than these kids? New friends, plenty of baseball, chasing your crush, fireworks on the 4th of July and neighborhood block parties with the smell of grilled hot dogs in the air — summertime perfection. The Sandlot was a favorite of mine as a kid, and I still love it 21 years after it came out. It’s a classic summertime movie!

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golden roasted cauliflower with tahini + fried onions

If you’re not from Arizona (or southern California, for that matter), then you probably haven’t been to a lovely little restaurant called Pita Jungle. For the uninitiated, Pita Jungle serves all manner of Mediterranean-inspired dishes from cilantro-jalapeno hummus to chicken shawarma sandwiches wrapped in lavosh bread. It’s a veggie-heavy menu, and they also have a lot of items that can be modified to vegan, which is great for people like my vegan sister. 2014-06-17 17.39.50
My favorite item on the menu happens to be vegan as well, even if I’m not. (Hell, I had a double-double from In N Out for dinner last night.) It’s the caramelized cauliflower with tahini sauce, and it’s wonderful. Since the first time I tried it, I’ve been scheming how to recreate it at home, and I’m proud to say I’ve finally done it.

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