Thursday, July 27, 2017

Practically Perfect French Bread Pizza Sticks

     It's fairly obvious I like easy recipes. I have confessed before my distaste (ha!) for cooking. However, there are some things that are so simple, so easy, that they don't even seem to require any real work. This recipe is one of them.

    I've shared my "Practically Perfect Smoothies" and my "Practically Perfect Rice Krispy Treats". The reason I've christened these recipes "practically perfect" is because, though they are so simple even a kid can make them, I've honed the tricks, techniques and ingredients to make them better than average-practically perfect!

   My mom made French bread pizzas for my siblings and me when I was a child, and I have very fond memories of them. Now that I homeschool my own kids, we love to have "hot lunch", but after schooling all morning, my usual dislike of cooking is definitely greater than normal. But throwing easy, fast French bread pizza into the oven is pretty much just as easy as microwaving a frozen dinner! And my kids like this sooo much better?

   And who doesn't? The last time my husband heard I made these, he complained that he didn't get any. Cheesy, crispy, saucy... these definitely qualify as a "super simple supper"-and yet it is a dinner that gets no complaints! Since you don't have to have your oven on for long, I don't even mind making them during these blazing hot days of summer.

   I have a some little tips that make my French bread pizza a step above the rest. This time I also cut it into easy to handle and eat sticks, which makes it even more fun, and also would make it a yummy hot appetizer, too! Perfect for a Super Bowl party, or kids' birthday bash, or New Year's Eve. However, they are still my favorite for lunch!
 You only need a few ingredients for these. They are actually super frugal and a terrific way to use up "headed towards stale" French bread. I can pick up a loaf of day-old French bread at my local Walmart for $0.50. Add a dollar's worth of sauce and $2 worth of mozzerella, and lunch for under $4 for my whole family? Done deal!

You'll need:
-a loaf of French bread. When it is just the three of us, I only use half a loaf
-pizza or marinara sauce (Trader Joe's marinara is good, or I like Ragu's pizza sauce)
-2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
-Parmesan cheese
Optional: any pizza toppings you like. We always do pepperoni. My son loves mushrooms. I also do onion, bell pepper or black olives if I have them handy. But delicious even if you just top with cheese.
 1. Cut your French bread into roughly two-inch chunks. Slice each chunk in half down the middle. Place the cut sides of the bread face down onto a metal baking sheet. Pop into the oven at 450 degrees-there is no need to preheat your oven. You just want to crisp the bread up before you top it. I usually bake mine for 6-8 minutes, depending on how brown you want it. Don't overdo it, as you will put the bread back in the oven and you don't want to burn it!
 2. While your bread is toasting, heat up your sauce. I usually put mine in the microwave for two minutes, but you could do it on the stovetop. Once your bread is nice and toasty, flip all the pieces over, and apply a tablespoon or so of sauce to each slice.

3. Next, sprinkle all the slices with Parmesan cheese. This is one of those steps you don't want to skip! Applying the Parmesan cheese here is one of those little tricks that makes it so much better. You can add some to the top, too, if you like.

4. Sprinkle every slice with a little mozzarella. You will add some more later, so don't go overboard.

5. Add your toppings. I just added a couple of slices of pepperoni to each piece.

6. Top with more mozzarella.

7. Place in the oven, and turn it to broil. You simply need to melt the cheese at this point, and get your edges a little more brown. This step won't take more than a minute or two, so stay nearby and keep checking it!
   That's it! The whole process takes maybe 10 minutes from start to finish. Your work (or lack thereof) is rewarded with hot, cheesy, toasty goodness. Actually, you could just have your kids make it, and that would be even better. I decided I really love the sticks, because it gets the bread even more crisp, which I love.

   Sure, you can slap some cold sauce on some un-toasted bread, throw on some cheese and stick it under the broiler for a few minutes. That will definitely be edible. But by taking literally two minutes more you will have not just French Bread pizza, but Practically Perfect French Bread Pizza Sticks. Trust me, it's worth it! Easy lunch, quick and simple dinner, fun appetizer...just yum!

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