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Froot-flavoured sugary air, and other guilty pleasures

Andrea Macko, Dishing It Out

As soon as I saw the marshmallow salad at a church supper this weekend, I knew it was over.

A few weeks ago, I met a reader at the Foodland. As usual, I asked if she had tried any of the recipes. She hadn’t as of yet, but concluded that I must eat really healthy judging by my selections (this may have been the week about spinach).

I do make an effort to eat well — in terms of taste and nutrition — but like anyone, I have my weaknesses, which are made less guilt-inducing by eating well most of the time. Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, so I should probably be talking about love-related food — cinnamon hearts for the young, oysters for the infatuated — but honestly, if this be the week we’re discussing love, I’m going with my guilty pleasures instead. Like the archetypical bad boy, they’re so bad they’re good.

This brings me to the marshmallow salad. Why would I have mixed greens when I could have sour cream-soaked froot-flavoured cubes of sugary air? I grew up in a staunchly white marshmallow house, and it always seemed like the cool moms used the coloured version for their bake sale treats — especially covetable if they were ensconced in gooey peanut butter. I have a similar attraction to Froot Loops and Lucky Charms cereal, so maybe I’m just attracted to pretty, puffy pastels… or have the esthetic sense of a six-year-old girl.

Still light as air, but less innocent, are Cheetos Crunchy Cheese Flavored Snacks (that moniker makes the health nut in me cringe!). These aren’t your regular cheese puff, but the crunchy ones that don’t immediately melt in your mouth. They don’t dissipate because — naturally — they’re deep fried to deliciousness and maintain their integrity to the last bite. The only similarity between what many call “crunchits” and cheese puffs is the telltale orange stain left on your fingertips.
Not for the weak of heart.

At the opposite end of the cheese spectrum, who other than the most lactose intolerant or vegan-minded person can resist melted cheese? I’m not talking exquisite artisanal varieties: give me a block of marble or “old fort”, and shred it thick over nacho chips, soup, chili or a baked potato.  Fat and salt are a lust-inducing mix for many of us: cheese soothes your soul while coating your arteries. Add smoke flavour and you have bacon, for which my love is well documented.
And if I can get my hands on the Cheese Shoppe’s Applewood smoked cheddar, well, I think you know I’m in for a good night.

Of course, one of the ultimate expressions of melted cheese is pizza — bread with cheese on it, plus some other toppings to legitimize it as a meal. It’s a crowd-pleaser across all demographics, thanks to its malleability. Here’s a simple recipe that produces a thinner crust than what your take-out joint may produce, which elevates this guilty pleasure to something more worthy of a special occasion. Try it out with the kids on Family Day next Monday, or make a grown-up version for your Valentine (after all, Italian is one of the languages of love!).

Really Simple Pizza Dough
(from Smittenkitchen.com)

Makes enough for one small, thin crust pizza. Double it if you like your pizza thick.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp. olive oil

Stir dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. Dump all onto a lightly floured surface and into a homogeneous ball. Knead it for just a minute or two.

Lightly oil the mixing bowl, return dough and roll in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size. Dump it back on the floured counter and gently press air out of the dough with palms.

Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.

Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat oven to its top temperature. Roll out the dough, add whatever topping and seasonings you like (use a light hand as the dough is delicate). Bake it for about 10 minutes until lightly blistered.

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