cauliflower-tahini soup with paprika + lemon

You may remember my undying love for Pita Jungle‘s roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce dish? I pretty much order it every time I’m there, and I even made my own version at home so I can have it any time I want!

Recently on a day off, I was craving soup. I was also craving that roasted cauliflower, so I thought I could try my hand at combining the collective awesomeness of a good soup with that roasted cauliflower. Boom, this fantastic soup was born. I now win at life.

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sweet potato, sausage + apple pot pies

Holiday traditions are a huge deal for me. Growing up, Halloween always meant creating that perfect costume, trick-or-treating with my sisters and the neighbor kid across the street, and visiting the school’s Halloween carnival before going home and passing out in a sugar coma. In the days leading up to the holiday itself, it meant carving pumpkins and watching It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and the Garfield Halloween special (“I’ll have you know, Halloween is my middle name! Gar-Halloween-field….”) from the video tapes my mom had recorded many years before.

Every year when Halloween rolls around, I still look forward to watching those silly cartoon specials of my childhood, carving jack-o-lanterns and admiring their flickering candlelight in the dark outside my house, and my new tradition — making tasty things to eat. These adorable Fall flavor-packed pot pies are everything a Halloween meal should be, complete with festive orange sweet potato, autumn-appropriate sage and sausage, and the perfect jack-o-lantern face grinning up at you as you eat. Can your Halloween meal get any cuter? I submit that it cannot.

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county fair mini corn dogs

It’s that time of year again. Time to grab your friends, buy your tickets, take a ride on the ferris wheel, and scarf down some junk food. Yep, it’s time to go to the fair!

Though most other fairs happen in late summer and early fall, the county fair where I grew up always came through town in April. I still remember seeing the ferris wheel at night all lit up from a distance, and imagining the smell of cotton candy and funnel cakes galore. And what about those bricks of curly fries? So good.

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As a kid, every year when springtime would roll around, there weren’t many events more anticipated than the county fair. Fun nights spent with your friends, winning some stuffed animals at the midway, and gorging yourself on fried foods until you were sick — it was like a dream come true!

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old school rectangle pizza

Let me just preface this post by saying: high-end, quality pizza, this is not. This is your deliciously cheesy, tasty, greasy, eat-it-in-shame, so-bad-it’s-good sort of pizza. Don’t dive in expecting chewy, crispy, pillowy crust and high-quality toppings.

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Now that that’s out of the way, this pizza totally brought back the nostalgia in full force. Rectangle pizza was the highlight of my lunch week in elementary school! Everyone looked forward to Pizza Day, even if most of the kids would most certainly go on to enjoy much (MUCH) better pizza. I still look back on this pizza with a certain rose-colored fondness. I know it’s not good quality pizza, but it gets the job done and it brings back happy memories of careless youth. It’s the perfect final post in my back-to-school series, and if you ever had this pizza as a kid, I urge you to make it now. Relish the nostalgia and the grease.

You’re welcome.

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classic soft dinner rolls

I can say with extreme confidence that any kid in any school cafeteria in America ate these rolls growing up. At my school, they were ubiquitous with a tray full of mushy spaghetti that, no matter how gross, everyone still seemed to love.

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Here’s something strange that maybe you witnessed during lunch — kids would hollow out the dinner roll and shove the spaghetti inside it, then devour the whole thing. Somehow, this was a thing. Even kids who went to school in other states knew of this! How did this strange method of spaghetti-eating become widespread knowledge? The world may never know.

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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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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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