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Years before this New York Times article, those of us in Erie, PA and the small armpit section of the Great Lakes knew pepperoni balls as an after school snack, a treat at Evan’s Skateland and the primary fundraiser for sports and school.  Back in the mid 90s, my friend Kate Scheider and I sold pepperoni balls to support trips through our Millcreek public schools and to make money for our Lake Erie Soccer Club teams.  Pepperoni balls helped us buy new Adidas shorts and take lots of trips to the Pittsburgh Science Museum.

The dough bandit, Churro.

Fast forward 15 years and Kate and I are still friends; she living in Boulder, Colorado and a vegan, I, myself, a vegetarian and living in Denver, Colorado.  In light of all the hoopla our beloved Erie has received as of late, Kate and I had a real hankering to make these classic artery clogging pillows sent from God.  Besides sponge candy, Tom Ridge and Pat Monahan, it’s one of the things that Erieites can say is truly ours.  Since we no longer eat four-legged friends, we made a few adjustments and the results were just as good (if not better) !  We originally planned on making two trays, but during the day Kate’s adorable 40lb dog Churro ate 15 rolls of raw dough and subsequently threw them up in Kate’s bedroom.  Poor Churro : (

Vegetarian Pepperoni Balls :

1 Bag of Rhodes White Dinner Rolls

1 (or 2) packs of Vegetarian Pepperoni (Smart Deli makes a really good one)

Pepperjack Cheese cut into small chunks (definitely not necessary, but adds a nice spiciness)

Directions:

Such Unassuming Goodness Inside

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set out as many rolls and you’d like to defrost and cover with Saran wrap. (Kate did this at lunch time , so it takes several hours).

Hold dough in your hand and using your thumb, push several pieces of pepperoni (3-4 pieces or 2 pieces of pepperoni and one cheese chunk) into dough and pull the dough around to seal back in.  Continue to do this and then let dough rise for at least another hour.

These suckers cook fast so be on alert!!

There are several variations for cooking: You may put them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes, BUT to make them in the classic style, cook in 3″ of hot vegetable oil until golden brown.  Only cook 3 or so at a time as their bellies puff up so much it takes a little maneuvering to turn them.  They only take about 30 seconds each, so you must be fast.  (And YES they will be cooked through, we tested them).

Served with a Rolling Rock and a delicious farm share salad. We do live in Colorado, after all.

Serve with a classic PA beer like Railbender or Rolling Rock.  I searched Boulder high and low to try to find Yuengling, but alas, they don’t distribute out West.  Boo you, Pottsville.

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