After reading a recent interview with Sandra Lee, the host of Semi-Homemade Cooking and Money Saving Meals, I pitched the following idea: To out-crap Lee by creating a recipe using only CVS products. But I’d also use educational cooking techniques like broiling and mediating heat with a makeshift double boiler to create a dessert in less than 30 minutes. That way, my pie would credit the use of her trademarked style’s accessible products, but uphold the critical recrimination that Lee condescends to her inept viewers.

The criticism of the Sandra Lee brand speaks to what cooking’s all about: quality of goods and skill of preparation. Lee says she questions if “some of the food purists are in touch with what really goes on in American households” (Mudslinging learned from her politician boyfriend, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo?). Food inaccessibility hits home. While just this week Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that five new farmers’ markets will open on the West Side as part of his food desert elimination program, neither Chicago nor the federal government has been able to eradicate hunger or extend fresh food access. Sometimes the food that’s available and affordable with subsistence aid programs is high in preservatives. Sandra Lee’s viewers may be short on food access, but with 30 minutes and the resources that are available, as an expert she should engage them with cooking less cosmetically. She ought to scrap her “tablescaping” segments.

I enjoy suburban s’more-like dishes as much as I desire gazpacho in January in Chicago: I don’t. So I changed up the classic graham-chocolate-mallow combination with a cinnamon kick. Then I topped the whole pie with salty, crunchy popcorn and finished it off with a garnish of colorful mini M&M’s. Sandra and her coddling ways, begone. I believe that even if we begin at a manufacturing plant’s conveyor belt instead of a farm, anyone’s gastronomic knowledge is limitless. I also believe I’m flushing any hope of ever working at the Food Network down the toilet with this one.

Level: Medium

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

1 ¼ cups crushed graham crackers (appr. 1 standard sleeve)
5 tablespoons of butter, melted
3 tablespoons of butter
¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
Generous pinch of salt
1/3 cup of marshmallow fluff
½ standard bag large marshmallows, halved
5 ¼ oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon milk
Prepackaged butter-flavored popcorn
Mini M&M’s

Photo by Aurelie Corinthios


1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

2. In a bowl, combine the crushed graham crackers, melted butter, cinnamon and salt. Press the mixture into a 9-inch tart pan, and bake for 4 minutes.

3. Using a fork, poke small holes into the crust. This allows the pockets of air created from applying high heat to the liquid butter to escape. The holes keep the crust from bubbling. Rotate the pan, and bake for 4 more minutes. Remove from the oven.

Photo by Aurelie Corinthios

2. Set the oven to broil or 450ºF, depending on your appliance.  Move the rack to the top. Spoon the marshmallow fluff into the crust. Arrange the large marshmallow halves into the dish over the fluff.

Photo by Aurelie Corinthios

3. Place the pie back into the oven and broil for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Photo by Aurelie Corinthios

4. Place the chocolate, three tablespoons of butter and milk into a small saucepan. Rest the pot in a skillet of water about 1 to 1 ½ inches high. Simmer on low heat and stir continuously to prevent the chocolate from burning.

Photo by Aurelie Corinthios

4. Pour the chocolate ganache over the pie.

Photo by Aurelie Corinthios

5. Garnish with extra crushed grahams on the edges if desired. Top generously with popcorn. Sprinkle with mini M&M’s.

6. Let rest until firm enough to slice. Then, serve warm or chilled.