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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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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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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mexican pizza = 90s flashback!


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As a kid growing up in the 90s, there was no better night for TV-watching than Friday night. How could you beat ABC’s TGIF lineup of Family Matters, Boy Meets World, Step By Step and Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper?! Perfect Strangers was included in there somewhere. I always had a soft spot for poor clueless Balki.

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cobb salad sandwiches with chicken, bacon + hard-boiled egg

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This sandwich was never supposed to happen.

My initial goal for this recipe was to make Cobb salad stacks à la the wedge salad stacks in Deb’s Smitten Kitchen cookbook. It’s a wonderful, smart way to make a wedge salad, and I thought I could employ the same techniques when making a Cobb salad. I found out a fun fact along the way: Romaine lettuce doesn’t really like being sliced into rounds. Since the leaves aren’t as large as ones on a head of iceberg lettuce, the rounds just sort of fell apart. So, that idea was scrapped.

You know what I like better than salads, anyway? Sandwiches.

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mini bread bowl quiche

Sometimes you discover an idea that you wish you’d thought of first. Chocolate chip cookie shot glasses? Guacamole grilled cheese sandwiches? Cake pops? All brilliant, but they’re sadly the brainchild (brainchildren?) of other people.

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And how about little single-serving quiche made in bread bowls? Not my idea, but I love them just the same! I saw them on some random blog back in the day. I adore the idea of miniature food and single serving snacks (for years, I’ve loved the Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook by Martha Stewart, mostly for the pictures inside!). Instead of serving a whole gigantic quiche to your breakfast or brunch guests, why not create individual versions stuffed with all their favorite quiche fillings, adorably crammed into little bread bowls? Tell ’em the idea was yours alone. I won’t be bummed if you take the credit — they’re just too cute!

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tortas de carnitas with pineapple + pickled onions

Have you all heard of Serious Eats? Well, one of the guys who runs the site is like a mix of all the best parts of Alton Brown and America’s Test Kitchen rolled into one. His name is Kenji and he has a recurring column called The Food Lab. Kenji knows a LOT about food and is always sharing with the readers of SE, some in-depth recipe for the best version of ________. Whatever it may be, Kenji will come up with an amazing recipe for it. Like this crispy pork carnitas, for one!

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Typically, carnitas (pork shoulder slow-cooked in a big pot of lard) is something I only order when I’m out at a restaurant. I didn’t think I had it in me to make it at home, until Kenji’s recipe came along and gave me hope. He really simplified the process! The goal with carnitas is to slowly break down the connective tissue in the pork shoulder, and the result is some of the most tender, tasty pork you’ll ever want to eat. Usually, the big pot of lard will freak some people out, me included. I didn’t want to have to buy lard (cause who buys lard?), and a larger cut of meat like a pork shoulder was sort of intimidating to me. With Kenji’s carnitas recipe in all it’s simplified glory, I had all the confidence in the world, and soon, I’d have the best pork I’d ever cook in my life.

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mini taco salad cups!

I’m not usually much for sports.

I enjoy sports, but I don’t actively watch them on TV or in person. There is one exception, and that’s the Super Bowl! Sort of like those people who only go to church on holidays, the only time I watch football is the Super Bowl. And not even for the commercials which, I admit, can be pretty entertaining. I get genuinely excited about the game (even if I don’t understand all of it sometimes), and it’s a lot of fun! The thing I look forward to most about Super Bowl Sunday, though, is the food. Obviously!

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