By Andrea Chaffin McKinney
Feeding a family of six can be difficult when you have four picky kids.
As a lifetime lover of all food, I wasn’t one of them, obviously; but, I’m told other kids are picky.
So, it was nothing short of an absolute miracle when my stepmom, Andrea, discovered a recipe every member of our co-mingled family — ranging in age from 4 to 42 — enjoyed.
Yes, Andrea and I have the same name. We share a middle name, too, and growing up in Xenia, we also shared my dad’s last name.
Two Andrea Lynn Chaffins.
That was always my random fact when asked to share one on the first day of school. To answer your question, no it was not on purpose. I was 8 years old when they met and married. And yes, I technically could sign her checks and not really be lying about it.
Originally, there were four of us kids. Andrea had two children from her previous marriage: Alaina and Adam. So when blended with me and my sister, Amanda, we were the four As, and everyone thought the alliteration was absolutely adorable. Aww!
And bless her heart, the fifth A — “Big Andrea” as she became called — put in a lot of practice finding recipes we all enjoyed. She cooked every Friday night, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon during the “every other” weekends.
To be fair, it was probably just too expensive and tiresome to eat out with a family of six.
And we were probably annoying, too. Another A.
I’ve shared Andrea’s recipe for potato casserole in the pages of this magazine before. It’s still my all-time favorite thing to eat — comfort food or not. Potatoes, cheese, sour cream — what’s not to love? And she knows it, because she’s quick to text me a photo of the ingredients to tempt me to drive to Xenia for dinner.
It usually works. It usually ruins my diet. I usually don’t care.
So, when I moved this summer and she and my dad, Joe (the lone non-A, poor guy), offered to bring me some furniture, I wanted to repay the favor.
To repay the favor of their hour-long drive to my place.
The favor of finding me the couch.
And the favor of them cooking for us for 18 years.
For them raising our mixed family with all the struggles, challenges and stress it encompasses.
So, instead of running through a drive-thru or picking up a pizza in town, I thought I’d try out this new oven and make us lunch. It seemed like a good way to turn the tables on my folks, and say thank you.
I was feeling nostalgic.
As kids, Andrea’s go-to recipe was the taco roll. You’ve probably seen it on Pinterest, but back in my day there wasn’t even Myspace.
She used a Pampered Chef pizza stone, so any time it got heaved out of the cabinet I got excited.
Basically, you brown ground beef with taco seasoning, and arrange the meat at the center of the crescent roll dough. Fold it together, bake it, and top it with taco fixin’s like cheese, lettuce, black olives salsa and sour cream.
Andrea made it for us again a few weeks ago, and it’s now a favorite of our littlest sister, Aleea, who is 12. I’m sure our other brother, Alex, also wouldn’t turn it down. (They were added to the mix a few years later, making us a family of 8 — not counting spouses and now a couple grandkids.)
The taco roll made me nostalgic that day, too.
So for the recent lunch, I decided to do a twist on the beloved taco roll crescent ring, and make an Italian-sub version. If you’re a huge lover of Italian subs like I am, and you know that crescent rolls are buttery carbs sent from the heavens, this will be a sure-fire winner. Plus, it’s easy and ready in 30 minutes. Perfect for busy families.
You could use the same method to stuff the dough with ham and cheddar cheese, do it breakfast-style with bacon, egg and cheese, or pepperoni and mozzarella for a pizza roll. (I’d suggest dipping in pizza sauce instead of spooning it onto the roll to keep it from getting soggy.)
There’s no wrong way to do the crescent roll ring. Everyone’s will be a little different. You look for what you have in the pantry and fridge, and make it work. Just do the best you can with what you’ve got.
Kind of like raising a blended family.
Italian-Sub Crescent Ring
Adapted from mrshappyhomemaker.com.
Serves 4 to 6. Makes 16 rolls, but you can’t eat just one. Serve with salad, if the kids will eat it.
2 cans (8 oz. each) refrigerated crescent rolls
1 12-ounce jar roasted red bell peppers, well-drained
8 slices provolone cheese
1/3 pound sliced salami
1/4 pound sliced ham
1/4 pound deli sliced sandwich pepperoni
1/2 cup jarred banana pepper rings, well-drained
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Unroll both cans of crescent roll dough and separate into 8 rectangles. Lay them out on a baking sheet or pizza pan in a circular pattern, leaving the middle hollow and ends overlapping.
Spread roasted red bell peppers toward the center of the crescent ring. Top with half of the cheese. Layer salami, ham and pepperoni slices over cheese.
Arrange the banana pepper rings over top.
Top with the remaining half of cheese.
Cover each crescent dough rectangle hanging over side of the pan up over the sub filling, tucking the dough under the bottom layer of dough to secure it. Repeat around sandwich until the filling is enclosed. Some of the filling will show through, but that’s OK.
Sprinkle with oregano and, lightly, with garlic powder.
Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or until crescent ring is lightly browned.
ANDREA CHAFFIN McKINNEY
Andrea is the food editor of Salt magazine. An OSU graduate, she enjoys singing in the car, photography and spending time with her two fur kids. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @andeewrites.