The Mysterious Pull of a Gas Station Food Court

Welcome  Today is strictly a food post.  It’s coming from my view of the mysterious pull of what I call the “Gas Station Food Court.”  Please tell me it’s not just my husband that is obsessed with “dining out” at the local gas station convenience store!

Food For Thought  I have always been baffled by my husband’s love for convenience store food.  No matter what snacks I pack for a road trip, how close we may be to a real meal, or what packable breakfasts and lunches I have on hand at home, he seems to be drawn to buying convenience store foods.  He is especially fond of a regional station, that has grown quite large and have their own “kitchens.”  You can get custom drinks, custom pizzas, fresh made salads and sandwiches, and of course donuts and pastries.  They also have this carnival sideshow attraction called the Roller Grill.  You can walk up and serve yourself hot dogs, taquitos, corndogs, and other cylindrical food items, all piping hot, thanks to the glaring heat lamps.

You’ve probably inferred my opinion of these food traps by now.  In reality, they’re not expensive and I don’t mind him getting a “treat” every once in a while.  But a few months ago, we had to have a heart-to-heart about his convenience store food purchases.  After going through bank statements and budgets, I was noticing he was stopping two and three times a day!  In his defense, this is one of the locations he and his fellow crew mates can use the bathroom during the workday while out on job sites.  But I don’t think he needs to buy something every single time he goes in and I also know he wasn’t using the restroom every time he stopped for a snack.  We calmly discussed it (no, really we were both calm!) and he agreed that it was unnecessary since I always make sure he has items for breakfast, lunch, and snacks to pack in his cooler.  This is good, we’re getting somewhere.  But I really did think it was just him.

It’s not just him.  As I was talking with a friend the other day, she shared the excitement her husband and teenage son also have over this same gas station food court set-up, becoming downright giddy over coupons to the store.  After talking to some other women, it seems the male disposition is drawn to these establishments.  And for the life of me, I cannot figure out why!

I cook for my husband, pretty near every day.  While I try to keep it mostly healthy, I can admit that I fix some of our favorite foods and meals that weigh in less on the nutritional scale.  These are the foods my husband is drawn to.  He has admitted that he would probably never eat vegetables if he weren’t married and fruit would only be occasional.  Is it the nutritional void of gas station convenience store foods that pulls my husband to the counters?  Is it the smells wafting out to the gas pumps?  I doubt it, because who gets hungry smelling petroleum-infused baked goods?  I just don’t get it.

So, if anyone reading this can enlighten me on this mysterious pull of the gas station food court, I’d love to know your thoughts.

Today’s Recipes

We’re mixing things up this week, since my week has been pretty mixed up anyway. Instead of Two-for-Tuesday, we’re going to have Four For Friday!

My husband seems most drawn to breakfast items at the forementioned convenience store…breakfast pizza, breakfast burritos, and pancake-on-a-stick.  If a portable breakfast snack is what he wants, I got some options right here!

First up, I have two alternatives to the pancake-on-a-stick, a favorite of both my husband and daughter. Yes, I could easily make a home version of this sausage dipped in pancake batter, a la corndog, but that seems like a lot of work. I want some breakfast bites that are good to eat and easy to make. Here are two options: Buttermilk Pancake Sausage Muffins and Cinnamon-Apple-Sausage Rolls. Both are portable, storable, re-heatable, and deliciously consumable!

Buttermilk Pancake Sausage Muffins (makes 18)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. bulk pork breakfast sausage
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • syrup, for serving, if desired

Directions

Set oven to 400 degrees and spray a standard 12 cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. Brown sausage until cooked thouroughly.

In large mixing bowl, whisk dry ingredients together.

Add eggs, melted butter, buttermilk, and vanilla. Stir until combined. Batter will be thick.

Place about 1/8 cup of pancake batter in bottom of each muffin cup. Top with a tablespoon of cooked sausage. Add another 1/8 cup of pancake batter on top of the sausage.

Bake at 400 degrees for 14-15 minutes. Allow to cool five minutes before removing from pan and placing on wire rack. Repeat same procedure until all batter has been used. Note–I had some leftover cooked sausage from this recipe.

Serve with syrup for dipping, if desired.

Pigs in a Blanket for Breakfast? You bet, but even better! The combination of cinnamon and apple and sausage make an unbelievable flavor trio, even better when dipped in warm maple syrup.

Cinnamon Apple Sausage Rolls (makes 16 rolls)

Ingredients

  • 1 standard tube of refrigerated cinnamon rolls (about 12.4 ounces; save frosting for a later use)
  • 16 cocktail sausage franks
  • 16 thin slices of apple (about half of a medium apple)
  • maple syrup for dipping

Directions

Set oven to 400 degrees.

Unroll each cinnamon roll and cut in half so that you end up with 16 strips.

Place an apple slice and a cocktail sausage at one end of the strip. Roll up the cinnamon roll, like you would if making classic pigs in a blanket.

Place all of the rolls on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Serve with warm maple syrup for dipping, if desired.

Next up, I have a homemade alternative to the breakfast pizza he likes. Now I do have a breakfast pizza recipe you can find here, but I personally like this Breakfast Biscuit Casserole even better, combining both worlds of breakfast biscuit sandwiches and breakfast pizza. The one thing about this recipe… it’s best consumed at home from a plate or bowl, rather than on the go. It makes a great weekend breakfast or brunch dish.

Biscuit Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 16-oz can jumbo buttermilk biscuits
  • 1 16-oz pkg bulk breakfast sausage
  • 1 8-oz pkg shredded Colby-Jack cheese
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 TBS butter
  • 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Directions

Set oven to 350 degrees. Spray a deep 9×13 casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Brown sausage in skillet until cooked through; drain, reserving any drippings.

Cut each biscuit into sixths and place in bottom of prepared pan.

Top the biscuits with the sausage and top the sausage with the cheese.

In medium bowl, whisk eggs. Add salt and pepper. Pour over cheese and sausage layer, tilting pan to distribute eggs evenly.

In the same skillet that was used for sausage, add butter and melt over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Add milk, a half-cup at a time, whisking thouroughly. When gravy begins to thicken, add salt and pepper; stir well. Pour gravy over the top of the casserole.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove casserole to cooling rack and allow to set for 10 minutes before cutting.

Okay, our final recipe today is all for me. I have a confession. There IS something that I really like at this particular gas station food court…the APPLE FRITTERS! A tradition we started a while back was a pre-road trip breakfast at the gas station while we were filling up the car for the trip. Hubby and I get coffee and our daughter usually gets hot chocolate. He grabs one of his favorites, daughter gets donut holes, and I get an apple fritter.

As our vacations and road trips seem to becoming fewer and far between, I decided I didn’t want to wait for my apple fritters anymore. So, here is our fourth and final recipe for this fabulous Friday. I’m sharing my recipe for Giant Apple Fritters. My version is different from the local gas station or bakery. My giant apple fritters are more like the ones local Amish families made when I was growing up. It’s a cross between a fresh apple pancake, a funnel cake, and a donut. My family is really excited that I discovered how to make these tasty breakfast treats!

Giant Apple Fritters (makes 8 large fritters, perfect for splitting and sharing with a friend)

Ingredients

  • vegetable oil for frying (about 2 cups)
  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 TBS soft butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped apple (I didn’t peel my apples, but you can; I used Gala apples for this recipe)
  • powdered sugar, for sprinkling (about 1/3 cup for all 8)

Directions

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with paper towels and place a cooling rack on each baking sheet, upside down. This will be your draining and cooling area for the fritters.

In large bowl, whisk together flour and next 5 ingredients.

In small bowl, beat together eggs, milk, and vanilla. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and gently mix with wooden spoon or rubber spatula.

Add butter to batter and mix with spoon or spatula until all butter has been incorporated. Fold in apples.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. I like my cast iron skillet for this job. It’s large and deep enough that I can fry two fritters at a time.

Once oil is shimmery hot, drop fritter batter into skillet using a half-cup measure. If you drizzle the batter around in a spiral or circle, it will get more crispy bubbles throughout, like funnel cake. If you drop the batter in all at once, it will be more pancake-like in the middle. Either way is delicious.

Fry the fritters in hot oil for 4 to 6 minutes per side, depending on their thickness. Stay close and watch so they don’t burn. They are ready to turn when the bottom is golden brown and holds together without splitting.


Once fritters are golden brown on both sides, remove to wire cooling racks over paper towels to drain. While still hot, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Cool slightly before consuming, but they are best when still warm from the skillet. Place leftovers in zip-top bag for up to 2 days.

Today’s Scripture

I cannot post without sharing a verse with you today, even though this was a food-focused post. I care for you. We care for each other. But more importantly HE cares for you!