Miss Ina’s Fudge Pie

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One of my favorite things in the world is baking pies, especially pies with a rich history behind them. Miss Ina’s Fudge Pie is a recipe shared with me years ago by a precious, sweet lady named Ina Doster. I attended church with Miss Ina for many years growing up and she was always happy to share the recipe with anyone who asked. As my pie baking skills have grown, I have still not found an easier, simpler, or more consistently delicious pie recipe in all my baking forays.

Miss Ina told us that the recipe was passed down from her grandmother, Lula Carrol, from the late 1800s. Originally, Miss Ina says, the flour was pure and you had to add baking soda to the recipe. Today, you don’t need the baking soda, which brings the ingredient total down to a mere 6 ingredients, not including the pie shell.

You truly can’t go wrong with this sweet delight. I wholeheartedly encourage any first-time pie baker to try it, as it’s the easiest pie I know how to make. At the same time, experienced bakers will love its simplicity and comfort. Miss Ina, thank you for all the beautiful things I have learned from you. And thank you, for your trademark fudge pie.

 

Ingredients
1 stick melted margarine
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
unbaked pie shell

Directions
1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Prick holes in the pie shell using a fork.
3. Pour mixture into pie shell.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until no longer jiggly in the middle.

Simply Sweet Homemade Doughnuts

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I’ve been craving doughnuts lately. Several local doughnut shops have fed my desire for sweet, fried dough, but I’ve been wanting to try to make our own doughnuts at home. The new CBS comedy “Superior Donuts,” a show about a longtime Chicago doughnut maker and his innovative new assistant, has further fueled my intense yearning to create our own baked treats at home. But I didn’t want to deal with a complicated or time-consuming recipe. After all, I’m not much of a baker. Molly fills that role in our house.

So I went online searching for doughnut recipes. Many use yeast, and I didn’t want to go that route. Others use shortening, and I’m not a fan of working with that ingredient. It’s more the consistency I have an issue with. (Though Molly’s biscuits are delicious!)

After some browsing, I finally found a recipe on cooks.com, a recipe search site, that seemed to meet my criteria of simple ingredients, easy process. We tried it out on a weeknight, and I’ll just say that we were extremely pleased with the results. You’ll have to read our comments below the recipe to get the full verdict!

Ingredients

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

2 ½ tbsp butter

3 eggs

5 cups all-purpose flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 ½ tsp salt

¼ tsp cinnamon

Cooking oil (your choice of kind)

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Steps

  1. In a medium or large mixing bowl combine sugar and butter. Blend in eggs. Add milk and mix all together.
  2. In another large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  3. Gradually add liquid mixture to flour mixture, beating vigorously. (It is possible to hand-mix/beat with a whisk or large spoon, but it is probably easiest to use a mechanical mixer.)
  4. Flour a work surface generously. Knead mixed dough on surface and add flour to all sides to keep from sticking.
  5. Roll out dough about ¼ inch thick.
  6. Use a solid-edge cup or other circular item (we used a solid plastic drinking cup) to cut out doughnuts. Be sure to flour the edge of the cutting surface to keep from sticking. Use a small utensil (we used an apple corer) to cut out holes in the middle of doughnut, if desired.
  7. Fry in deep, hot oil, beginning at a medium-high heat on stovetop. We used a large pot for frying. And we used a metal slotted spoon to slide doughnuts easily into the hot oil.
  8. When doughnuts rise to top, turn only once. We used kitchen tongs to turn and remove the doughnuts from the oil.
  9. Drain doughnuts on absorbent paper.
  10. You can top these doughnuts with powdered sugar, make a glaze, cover in a chocolate sauce or spread, or enjoy them plain.

Yield: We got 22 doughnuts out of this recipe, sized by the cup we used to cut out the dough.

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Molly’s Take: Warm, fluffy, soft doughnuts with a hint of sweetness and a hearty helping of old-fashioned flavor. Matthew has been dying to make doughnuts at home, and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to make this homemade recipe! It does take prep and time, but the end result is a truly delicious, homemade confection well worth the wait. I covered half my first doughnut with powdered sugar, and the other half with Nutella. I don’t need to tell you how amazing this combination was. Mm!

Matthew’s Take: These doughnuts only took about an hour total to make, from gathering the ingredients in our kitchen to mixing the dough to frying and cooling. In addition to the simplicity, the recipe creates a soft, slightly sweet doughnut that I would describe as a cross between a solid cake doughnut and an “old-fashioned” doughnut. The recipe doesn’t produce a light Krispy Kreme-type confection for all you KK-only fans out there, but it’s a delicious doughnut. I’d be curious to see how slightly modifying the recipe would impact the flavor and the consistency. But, honestly, for a first batch, these turned out amazing, and as Molly said, our house smelled like a doughnut factory!

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Homemade Snow Cream

My mom always made us snow cream. Living in the South, we didn’t get the right kind of snow often, so when we did, it was imperative that we break out the sweetened condensed milk (brand didn’t matter), regular milk, sugar and vanilla. I would help, and eventually, be the one to make it in our family. Really, all you needed to know was the ingredients. And of course, what exactly is the right type of snow.

You’ll need the soft, fluffy, clean kind. (No yellow or orange.) The kind that crunches softly beneath your feet as you pack it down when you walk. The best way to gather it is by taking a large bowl or two outside, along with a large spoon, and scooping it from a flat surface high off the ground. If it looks clean, the ground will do in a pinch. But you’ve probably got a car around, and the hood or top of a car is usually a clean enough place. You don’t want to scoop the bottom layer of the snow anyway. Scoop off the clean top layer. Bring it in the house, after you’re finished playing outside, and get out your ingredients. I’ll tell you how to make it, below. It’s very simple, but I never measure. Today, I did, just for our readers. It helps to measure when you’re starting out with something new. You can tweak from there. 😉

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Snow Cream Ingredients

Ingredients

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)

1 1/2 cups regular milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1-2 large bowls full of snow

Directions

  1. Fill a large bowl about 3/4 full with snow.
  2. Add the can of sweetened condensed milk and the regular milk. Stir.
  3. When the mixture becomes more runny, add more snow until the bowl is about 3/4 full again.
  4. Add sugar and vanilla.
  5. Add more snow as desired, if you want it less sweet, but you don’t have to.

Enjoy!!

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Fresh snow on Jan. 7, 2017

Gooey Chocolate Cobbler

As our family prepared to gather for a July Fourth cookout, my mom searched for a fruitless cobbler recipe that could accompany homemade vanilla ice cream. She discovered this recipe for Chocolate Cobbler on Pinterest, a haven for a never-ending supply of foodie ideas both sweet and savory. There were several versions, but this one was the simplest, she said. It also has a very unique preparation method.

Ingredients

1 cup self-rising flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine

 

Steps

1. Mix your ingredients and pour into a greased 9×9 or 8×8 glass baking dish.

2. Mix 3/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of cocoa and sprinkle over the batter in your dish.

3. Pour 1 3/4 cup of hot tap water over everything in your dish and DO NOT STIR.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

5. Serve immediately if you want a dish with more of a saucy consistency, or let the dish cool for a while to serve a dish more like a pudding with a cake-like top.

 

This paired perfectly with our homemade vanilla ice cream. It’s also a dish that you can add nuts, fruit, or chocolate or other sweet baking chips to for embellishment.

Molly’s Take: This dessert is a perfect accompaniment to ice cream and it can also stand alone. It has a great soft pudding consistency and is sweet without being too sweet. The use of cocoa rather than any type of melted chocolate is the secret behind that just-right sweetness, and it also gives it a great homemade taste. Give it a try! It’s super easy to make and would be a delicious warm treat in winter, as well as a delectable summer treat, like we had, with ice cream or whipped cream.

Matthew’s Take: I thought it was interesting to pour hot water over what was essentially a brownie-type batter to make this cobbler. My mom and I thought it would be more of a liquid consistency because of that, and it was when it first came out of the oven. But we let it cool for a while as we ate dinner, and by the time we were ready for dessert it was a tasty pudding-like cobbler accompaniment to our ice cream. If you want a cobbler with more of a crispy crust, this would not be the recipe for you. But it was a delicious dish with great flavor and a nice smooth texture, and I would absolutely recommend it. I give the Gooey Chocolate Cobbler an A for taste and an A for ease of baking.

Creamy Homemade Ice Cream

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My fondest childhood memories of ice cream fit vividly into two categories. There are the Sunday afternoon trips to Dairy Queen in Dallas, N.C. And there are the summer afternoons at home when mom and dad would churn homemade ice cream in our kitchen in a one-gallon Proctor-Silex machine.

It seems like the flavor in our house was always cherry. That’s Dad’s favorite, and one we all could enjoy, too. But the method of churning that my parents shared with me during a Fourth of July weekend cookout this year (and the one they’ve used for years) can be adapted for any flavor you like. They made cherry and vanilla batches this time, and a neighbor who heard about their ice cream making and decided to try his own made a flavorful batch of banana pineapple.

Your first question might be where you can obtain an ice cream churn. The simple answer, of course, is Amazon.com, where you can purchase a wide variety of models, beginning at about $25.

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Here’s what you do next for basic ice cream, and you have the choice of adding what you like to personalize each batch.

Ingredients

10 cups milk (This can be a combination of milk, cream or other similar liquids, but you should stick to 10 cups or fewer of liquid if your machine is a similar size to my parents’ to give yourself plenty of room in the canister for the mixture to expand as it churns and freezes into ice cream. You should also be careful to not use more than 2 total cups of fat, such as a whole milk or cream, so that the mixture doesn’t thicken and turn into more of a butter-like substance. Also be aware that any extra juices you add to make a specific flavor should be part of the 10 total cups of liquid and not in addition to it. For example, you can add cherry juice for a cherry flavor. That amount of juice should be part of your 10 cups of liquid ingredients.)

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla (if making basic vanilla)

Dash of kitchen salt

You will also need a 10-pound bag of ice and a container of ice cream salt for use in the ice cream-making process, NOT in your liquid mixture that will be part of what you will eat.

 

Steps

1. Mix your 10 cups of milk and cream ingredients and allow that combination to chill together in your fridge for just a bit.

2. Once you have chilled the mixture, pour it into your canister, which will go inside the ice cream tub. Then place the dasher in the canister and the lid on top. You can also go ahead and place the motor on top and secure it.

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3. Surround the tub with an ice and ice cream salt mixture. Use eight parts ice to one part ice cream salt. Alternate layers of adding them until the tub around the ice cream canister is almost full.

4. Plug in the machine to start the churning process.

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5. Be sure not to put too much ice cream salt into the tub so that it gets up into the ice cream canister and ruins your ice cream. You don’t want the ice cream salt in what you will actually eat. The ice cream salt is only used to help melt the ice and transfer the cold in the ice into the canister to your ice cream mixture. It’s a scientific principle of heat transfer that my chemistry and physics-minded dad can explain in further detail if you’d like. He helped explain it to me as we made our tasty summer dessert.

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6. There should be a spout on your ice cream machine. Be sure it is pointed into a sink if you’re making your cream in the kitchen, or have it in an acceptable place if you’ve connected your machine to a power outlet outside. Eventually, the spout will flow water and some ice from the tub out of the machine entirely. You can also expect to see your tub frosting a bit on the outside. It’s a great idea to keep a towel beside or on top of the machine (but not the motor as it gets at least a bit hot) to help wipe excess condensation.

7. You will need to continue to add ice to the tub as it melts throughout the churning process.

8. When the motor and machine slow down, you’re getting closer to having completed ice cream. Mom and dad’s older machine takes about 40-50 minutes to churn a canister full of delicious ice cream. If you stop the machine sooner, you’ll have something more akin to soft serve. If you churn longer, you’ll have a thicker ice cream.

9. Unplug your machine before checking out the ice cream and make sure the ice and salt have melted down far from the top to avoid getting those items in your food.

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10. Enjoy! You can store your ice cream in the freezer for a period of time (which varies by ingredients and mixing). Be sure you remove the dasher and clean it off before storing ice cream in an air-tight container. Be aware that homemade ice cream can get hard or icy and can lose some of its creaminess if you keep it too long.

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I have a big head, but the ice cream dasher (mixer) on mom and dad’s machine is bigger, especially when covered in fresh vanilla ice cream!

Delightfully Simple Amish Oatmeal Pie

Some recipes are complicated. Others can fit entirely in an iPhone screenshot. My new favorite pie in the world is of the latter variety. An old-fashioned recipe from the Amish, it features oatmeal (the inexpensive type you buy in a round tube at the store) as its star player. The pie itself is reminiscent of pecan, but less gooey and sticky, perhaps because of the milk it includes. This makes the base of the pie a delicious mix between pecan-pie-gooey-goodness and custardy-smooth delight.

Without further ado, the Amish Oatmeal.

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Ingredients: 

3 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp. butter, melted

2/3 cup oats

2/3 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

 

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a whisk until combined.
  2. Pour into an unbaked pie shell (be sure to prick holes in the shell with a fork for ventilation).
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until the pie is cooked through. (My oven usually requires 55 minutes. But surprisingly, it usually doesn’t over-brown the edges.)
  4. Enjoy thoroughly.

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Matthew’s take: My tastebuds recognize two kinds of pies: fruit pies and non-fruit pies. This pie is, hands down, my favorite non-fruit pie, even ahead of pecan pie, chocolate pies, pumpkin and sweet potato pies, and all other custard pies that I love. It has the sweet filling, and the crackle and texture on top, of a pecan pie…without the nuts! Buying pecans costs more, and it adds an element (the nuts) that some people don’t prefer or can’t ingest due to allergies. The other great thing about this pie: it’s sweet without being way too sweet, which caters to people (like my mom and dad) who don’t like their desserts to be too rich and indulgent. This pie’s wonder will surprise you, and as soon as the final slice is gone, you’ll want to bake another.

Molly’s take: This pie is my new absolute favorite to make. No fussy, annoying, sticky pecan pie mess. (I have a love-hate relationship with baking pecan pies. Sometimes they’re great; other times, they won’t set up for what seems like hours. Then, you get a crispy crust and too-hard pecans on the top. But enough complaining.) The Amish Oatmeal Pie is easy, darn easy, and it has a melt-in-your-mouth taste that will scrumptiously satisfy your sweet tooth. Everyone who tries it is bound to like it. If they don’t, there’s somethin’ wrong with ’em!

10-Minute Super-Sweet Bananas Foster Dessert

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Banana Pudding is a legendary dessert favorite in the South. But it’s not the only sweet way to serve up bananas. In fact, there’s an even better way to plate bananas for dessert, especially for those of you who aren’t big fans of fruit in your sweet dishes.

Bananas Foster truly takes about 10 minutes to make, and it offers you flexibility to make it your own way. Alcohol, for example, is a big part of Bananas Foster for many, but it was an unnecessary ingredient for our house.

Whether you add rum to yours or not, Bananas Foster, like other caramelized fruit dishes, provides a glimpse into the science of cooking. As you heat your sauce in the pan, you truly see the sugars coming out as the ingredients mix.

Here are the ingredients you will need to make your Bananas Foster for four people:

2 under-ripe bananas

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon or cinnamon sugar

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

pinch of salt

four scoops of vanilla ice cream

Directions

  1. Slice your bananas into thin pieces.
  2. Heat your burner on medium heat. In a pan on the heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Stir to mix your ingredients and thoroughly combine all of them. Turn your heat up to high and continue to stir. You will see the sugary mixture almost pulsing in the pan.
  3. When you mix your ingredients well, add your sliced bananas to the pan, and thoroughly coat the bananas in the sauce. Don’t stop stirring to make sure that your mixture does not have time to solidify, stick or burn in the pan.
  4. Scoop vanilla ice cream into four separate bowls. Use a spatula or spoon to scoop your bananas and sauce onto your ice cream. Serve quickly before the ice cream melts.

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Molly’s Take: I’m not a huge fruit dessert person, but this simple recipe blew me away. The sweet, caramel-coated bananas literally melted in my mouth and the vanilla bean ice cream proved a creamy, delightful companion to the occasional caramel crunch. I loved this and I’m the person who usually picks the bananas out of her banana pudding. It’s quite easy, quite simple and definitely something you can – and should – try. For me, a caramel or vanilla or simple sugar dessert is always my favorite. Add this to the list of favorites for the Tessnear household.

Matthew’s Take: If you’ve been reading the blog faithfully, you’ll know that I enjoy caramelizing fruit. This is a different way to do it because it includes more than the natural and juicy sugars in a peach or blueberry. You don’t get juices in a banana, so you make your own sweet sauce to complement the banana flavor. You get a very sweet banana dessert that outdistances banana pudding in decadence. You also get the best of both worlds: You feel like you’re eating healthy because you’re eating fruit, but you also feel like you’re getting something incredibly rich because of the sugary coating that tops your ice cream. This take on Bananas Foster gets an A+ for taste, an A+ for ease and an A for cost. If you already keep the pantry ingredients in your home, then all you need to do is pick up bananas and ice cream at the grocery store.

Simple Caramelized Peaches

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Fresh peaches are a sign of summer in the South, particularly in South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina.

Roadside stands are the resource of choice when possible, and those baskets of fruit can yield the most delicious cobblers, pies and baked goods you can imagine.

But you often get more peaches in a cheap bin than you can use in those oven-baked treats. So what do you do with the rest?

One of Matthew’s favorite things to do with fresh fruit that contains some natural juices is to caramelize it. The process draws out the natural sugars in the fruit and creates almost a sweet sauce that is delicious by itself, on top of another dessert element or with plain ole vanilla ice cream.

This recipe is a bit unconventional because there’s no need to really list ingredients or a process. Many recipes for caramelized fruits will suggest adding white or brown sugar to the pan. Some guides even suggest putting a little bit of olive oil in the pan to keep your fruit from sticking. Matthew doesn’t prefer the oil because it doesn’t benefit a sweet dish, and he doesn’t prefer adding sugar to the pan because it defeats the purpose of relying on and enjoying the natural sugars.

For fresh peaches that you have peeled yourself, it’s likely you have some juices in addition to the solid fruit, especially if your leftover fruit has had time to sit in the fridge for a few days.

How we made it:

Put your frying pan or skillet on your burner and give it medium-high to high heat.

Take a cup or two of fresh fruit, depending on how much you want to eat, and spread it out in your pan, being sure to include some of the juice. The key to having the juice is that it will help keep your fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Still, like many things you cook in a stovetop pan, you’re less likely to deal with sticking if you’re using a newer, non-stick pan.

You have to achieve the right balance of letting your peaches sit to heat and caramelize and moving them around so they don’t stick. That balance can only be determined by your pan and your burner, along with how much juice you add to the pan. I would suggest a quarter cup of juice per cup of fruit.

Your fruit will almost become a light jelly or sauce, with the chunks of peach or fruit of choice still visible in good supply. That’s when you will know that your caramelization process is done.

As we said above, you can do many things with caramelized peaches and other fruits.

Matthew chose to use the fruit he made to top a graham cracker square in a bowl. Then he added a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Molly’s Take: I love this recipe because it does encourage creativity. Caramelizing the fruit, then topping it with whatever you like (ice cream, whipped cream, cookies, etc.) can be completely different every time, for whatever your taste buds desire. And when you use fresh South Carolina peaches, the juice, the consistency and the taste is just delicious. Mouth-watering, even. I love fruit with ice cream, and caramelizing it with vanilla bean ice cream is a delightful pairing.

Matthew’s Take: I’ve caramelized fruit many times, but peaches may be my favorite. They retain so much of their juice after peeling that they are perfect for cooking in a pan on the stove. They pair perfectly with a slightly sweet cookie and/or vanilla ice cream. I give this one an A+ for taste, an A for presentation, depending on your topping, an A for cost if peaches are readily available, and a B for ease. It takes some creativity to caramelize fruit because you can’t just follow an exact recipe and expect the same results every time.

$5 S’mores Dip for the Family

What do you need to make this s’mores dip? Three ingredients and a cast iron pan. That’s it! This is by far one of the easiest desserts you can make. We found a similar dessert on Pinterest, but decided we wanted to make it even simpler by using regular marshmallows instead of cutting the giant marshmallows into smaller pieces. It just made sense! Here’s a look at your ingredients.

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OK, so s’mores are messy, right? And sometimes it’s hard to find a summer family dessert that everyone will like. But if everyone likes graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate? You’re set! Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients:

1 cup milk chocolate chips (about $2)

1/2 bag of marshmallows (97 cents at our local market)

1 box of graham crackers (about $1)

Instructions:

1. Take out your cast iron pan and pour the chocolate chips in the bottom as evenly as you can.

2. Cover the chocolate chips with about half a bag of marshmallows, or more if you want extra marshmallow on top. We found that leaving a little space between some of the marshmallows is fine, because they’ll expand and melt together.

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3. Cook in a preheated 450-degree oven for about 7 minutes. Don’t burn them! Just cook until the marshmallows are golden brown on top.

4. While that’s cooking, break your graham crackers into dippable pieces. (Usually into quarters.)

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5. Remove from oven, place the hot cast iron pan on a towel so it won’t burn the surface you put it on, and start dipping!

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Molly’s take: This dip is AMAZING. Five reasons you should try it: It’s easier than making actual s’mores, which take a lot of assembly. It’s less messy, because you’re not squishing out the chocolate and the marshmallow every time you take a bite. It’s super, dirt cheap – -all the ingredients can be purchased for just a few dollars! You don’t need to be a baker to do it–just pop in the oven for 7 minutes and you’re done. And, it’s an utter delight to your tastebuds. BONUS reason: It’s ultimately share-able and proven to bring a smile to people’s faces.

Matthew’s take: Anybody can make this dip. Bachelors. Families. Kids can even make it with adult supervision on the oven part, especially with how hot the cast iron pan gets. You could even make this dip by your fire while you’re out camping. As Molly said, this dip is better than the traditional s’mores because it’s less messy, easier to assemble and easier to eat. I give this dip a triple A+ for taste, presentation and cost. It simply doesn’t get much better than this.