Tempting Main Dishes

Cajun fried shrimp po’ boy sandwiches

Pickle juice. Who knew that was the secret ingredient to make a really great shrimp po’ boy sandwich?

To me a shrimp po’ boy needs three things:

Plenty of crispy shrimp
A crusty roll that’s soft on the inside
A rockin’ sweet and spicy mayo-based sauce

Looking through shrimp po’ boy recipes I decided to ditch the regular shrimp coating with cornmeal and go for panko instead (Japanese-style bread crumbs). That took care of #1.

As far as the bread, I went with a ciabatta roll so the bread would have enough heft to hold up to piles of crispified shrimp.

And the sauce. Thank you Annie’s Eats for the idea of mixing both Cajun spices and a hit of pickle juice in with the mayo. (I skipped the horseradish though.)

Is your mouth watering yet? It’s seafood time.

Recipe

Servings: 4 large sandwiches

Prep time: 20 minutes + frying


Ingredients

4 cups raw shrimp, thawed, tails removed

1 1/2 cups flour

3 eggs

3 cups panko

Tabasco (optional)

Vegetable oil

4 ciabatta rolls

Thin tomato slices

Shredded lettuce

Sauce ingredients

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1/2-1 Tbsp. pickle juice

1/4 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. Cajun spices

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Begin heating about 1 1/2″ vegetable oil in a wok to medium high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, pat the raw shrimp with a paper towel to make sure they’re dry.
  3. Create a dipping station with the flour in a shallow bowl, the eggs (whisked with a drop or two of Tabasco sauce) in another shallow bowl, and the panko in a third, shallow bowl.
  4. With the shrimp, dip them first into the flour, then the egg followed by the panko and place on a wire rack until you’re finished coating all of them.
  5. Add the shrimp in 3 batches to the hot oil. Fry for about 4 minutes, or until golden brown.
  6. Prepare the sauce by mixing all of the ingredients together and adjust the seasonings by adding more Tabasco or pickle juice.
  7. Slice the rolls 3/4 of the way through, slather with sauce on both sides then place several pieces of shrimp inside along with tomato slices and shredded lettuce.

Kids’ reactions: My teen declared the sandwich “so good” but was stuffed after about a half. My tween wanted hers sans sauce and finished the whole thing (she’s my shrimp girl). My youngest took one bite of the shrimp and reminded me, “I just don’t like shrimp, Mom,” and returned to her ham and cheese sandwich. Ah well, I’ll keep trying with her.

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Barbecue beef mac ‘n cheese

I know this looks tailor-made for Super Bowl Sunday, but we’ve been making this dish ever since sampling it as a small plate at a local restaurant One Red Door a couple years ago (I’m still trying to figure out how to make their chocolate mousse oatmeal cookie tower.)

So for a knock-out dish for the big game, or if you’re in need of amped up comfort food, here you go. Warning: after having mac ‘n cheese with barbecue sauce you’ll wonder why you haven’t been eating it that way for years.

Recipe:

Servings: 4-6


Ingredients

One creamy, homemade batch of mac ‘n cheese

1 1/2 pounds London broil or round steak roast, cut into 1″ chunks

2 cups prepared barbecue sauce

1/2 cup water or chicken broth

Flour

Oil

Directions

  1. Prepare your mac ‘n cheese and set aside. Don’t have a favorite recipe? Try this one from Zingerman’s Roadhouse.
  2. In a heavy bottomed saute pan, bring 1 tablespoon canola oil up to medium-high heat.
  3. Meanwhile, toss the beef pieces in flour to coat. You can do this easily by putting the chunks and about 1/2 cup flour in a heavy duty plastic bag and giving it a good shake.
  4. Add the flour-coated beef to the hot oil and cook until browned.
  5. Place the browned beef pieces, barbecue sauce, and chicken broth in a slow cooker set on LOW for 5-6 hours.
  6. Note: I also like to add a dash of Tabasco sauce or cayenne powder to the sauce to give it a kick.
  7. Serve each serving of mac ‘n cheese with a portion of barbecued beef.

Not a fan of beef? No problem. For a vegetarian version try roasting cauliflower or broccoli and then heat the barbecue sauce in a saucepan. Add the roasted vegetables to the mac ‘n cheese and grab a fork!

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Flank steak spinach salad

Lean, flat flank steak is a quick-cooking meat that’s perfect for weekday dinners or jazzed up with fixins’ for weekend meals.

This recipe takes a little planning ahead: you rub a flavorful paste into the meat the night before you plan on grilling. (I usually make two at the same time—one for dinner that night, one for leftovers for a meal the next). Don’t be put off by the rub’s main ingredient. The mustard base (note: DIJON, regular mustard won’t work) brings together several marinade musts, including vinegar and other acidic ingredients so you don’t have to hunt down each one. They’re in there. I add in a few of my favorite seasonings like garlic and paprika, but if you have a good smoky seasoning mix you like, toss some of that in too.

You’ll notice I upped the pepper in here. Most of the pepper’s spicy edge is burnt off during grilling, it’s the tanginess that’s left over. But, you’ll need to use freshly ground pepper versus the finely ground variety you’ll find in most shakers. Don’t have a pepper shaker? They aren’t much more expensive than the regular variety and it really does make a difference. Plus, unlike some spices, you’ll use pepper all the time.

As with most meats hot off the grill, this one is better if you wait about 5 minutes before cutting. A little patience gives the meat time to soak up all those marinade ingredients you worked to rub in. Flank steak works well with many meals, fajitas come to mind, but I like serving it with a simple spinach salad.

Recipe

Mmmmm...flank steak

Prep time: 15 minutes + marinating + grilling

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients

1 pound flank steak

Wet rub

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½-1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne powder

Soy sauce

Agave syrup or honey

Salad

1 bag baby spinach

1 tomato, sliced

Parmesan cheese

green onions

Balsamic vinegar

fresh basil (optional)

Directions

  1. Stir wet rub ingredients together to form a paste.
  2. Rub the paste into the flank steak using your fingers.
  3. Place in a large plastic bag overnight.
  4. Remove flank steak from the bag about 30 minutes to an hour before grilling.
  5. Bring grill to high heat and place the meat on the rack.
  6. Grill for 5-7 minutes on each side.
  7. Optional, but REALLY good—in the final 1-2 minutes cooking on each side brush generously with a combo of equal parts soy sauce and agave or honey (called a finishing sauce). If you don’t use the finishing sauce, make sure to sprinkle with salt at the end of cooking.
  8. Allow meat to cool for 5 minutes before cutting to retain juices.
  9. On each plate place a generous serving of spinach, followed by tomato slices. Place several pieces of steak on top followed by a drizzling of Balsamic vinegar then green onions, Parmesan cheese and bits of fresh basil.
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The BEST turkey bacon club

Sometimes it’s true, sandwiches are a thrown together meal. They’re something you make if you run out of time to make something good. But they don’t have to be. And it’s not much more work to make a restaurant-worthy dish. I’ve found that what separates your average, blah sandwich from a kid-wowing version is a matter of construction (and if you have those party toothpicks to put in them, that helps too).

Sandwich construction? I know–you probably haven’t spent much time thinking about this. My hubby, who happens to be the official “constructor” around our house, sets up a sandwich-making station. Sandwiches are serious business for him. He believes you have to put on the mayo just so and put the ingredients on in the right order for the sandwich to stay together. At first I teased him about this. But then, I had one of his sandwiches and I had to admit—he had a point. His sandwich, packed turkey and bacon, didn’t fall apart on the plate.

Now my kids look forward to sandwich night. Sometimes we mix turkey and bacon for a club. Other times we pair ham and sharp cheddar cheese. Of course you can come up with whatever meat, cheese and veggie combo that your family likes, but instead of throwing it together, put a little time into crafting a towering sandwich that your kids will love, and ask for again. Bonus for you–easy clean up!

Recipe

Prep time: 15 minutes

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients

1 loaf of sandwich bread (white or wheat or some of both)

1 pound deli-sliced turkey breast

1 pound bacon

Hot sauce (optional)

Mayo

Tomato

Lettuce

Directions

  1. Cook the bacon according to the package directions (alternatively, you can use deli ham or precooked bacon).
  2. Toast three slices of bread for each person.
  3. Cut the tomatoes into slices.
  4. Shred the lettuce into long strips.
  5. Put out a plate to construct each sandwich.
  6. Slather two pieces of bread with mayo (if you want, add a few drops of hot sauce). On the first piece place one slice of turkey.
  7. Put the second piece of bread with mayo on top of the meat. Add lettuce, then tomato, then a strip or two of bacon and another piece of turkey on this layer.
  8. Top with the third piece of bread (the one without mayo).
  9. Push the top piece of bread down with your hand and then cut the sandwich in two parts.
  10. If you have decorative toothpicks, insert now!
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Velveted sweet and sour pork

Have you tried velveting your chicken yet? Huh…somehow that sounds like you’re dressing up your poultry in an Elvis get-up. Not quite. Velveting is Chinese stir-fry technique where you marinate the meat in egg white and then let it simmer in water before adding it to your wok. The chicken/pork (I’ve yet to try it on beef or tofu but I’m planning on it) turn out tender and perfectly coated with sauce.

I don’t velvet (can that be a verb?) all the time, because it adds extra cooking steps and dishes. But I’m always glad when I do because the dish turns out restaurant quality. This time I used pork and again, the velveting didn’t disappoint.

Here you go. This recipe is based off one I found at BellaOnline. I found that I wanted to up the spice and take down the sweetness (I like more sour than sweet), but it’s easy to tweak the sauce as you put it together to suit your family’s tastes.

Recipe

Prep time: 40-60 minutes (including cooking)

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients

1 lb. pork

1 peppers (green, red, yellow)

1 bunch green onions

1/4 cup peanuts

(I also like to add bok choy)

1 tbsp. oil

Velvet marinade

¼ tsp salt

1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sherry (or chicken broth)
1 egg white
1 ½ tbsp cornstarch
½ tbsp peanut oil

Sauce

1/3 cup  vinegar (I like red wine)
3 tbsp white sugar (you may want to add more)
¼ tsp ginger
1 tsp soy sauce (I use dark here)
2 tbsp ketchup
2 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp. Asian red chili sauce (or 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper)

Directions

  1. Cut the pork into bite-size pieces. (In the BellaOnline version of this recipe there is a specific order for adding the marinade ingredients. I’ve tried it both ways–being meticulous and throwing it in. I haven’t found any real differences in the flavor or the texture. So I tend to toss them altogether:) Add the marinate ingredients and gently stir making sure each piece gets coated.
  2. Let the pork marinate for about 20 minutes.
  3. Chop the peppers into strips and the green onions into 1-inch pieces. (You can also use other vegetables too. Bok choy is my favorite stir-fry addition).
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients. Adjust the sourness/sweetness by adding more vinegar or sugar (or even more chili for heat). On the stovetop, heat the sauce until it starts to boil and then thicken (about 2-3 minutes), then remove from heat and set aside.
  5. In another pan on the stovetop, bring a large pot of water to a simmer (NOT a boil). Add the pork to the water and let it cook just until it turns white (around 1 minute). Remove immediately with a slotted spoon.
  6. Add 1 tbsp. oil to a wok (or large saute pan). Bring the oil to medium-high heat. Place the veggies into the oil and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Push the veggies to the sides of the pan and add the pork. Cook for about 2-3 minutes more.
  7. Pour the sauce ingredients into the center of the wok and stir until the meat and veggies are coated. Toss in the peanuts and remove from the heat.
  8. Serve over rice or noodles.
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Velveted Chinese Chicken Stir-fry

I’ve always wondered what makes the meat at Chinese restaurants taste so much better than when I do stir-fries at home. Do you know what I mean? The chicken is always soft all the way through without being overly chewy. And the sauce just seems to stick to it without becoming too heavy.

I’m about to let you in on the secret: velveting.

Haven’t heard of it? I hadn’t either until I was thumbing through a book a few years back at the library while I was waiting for one of my kids to finish up at story time. The book, Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks, talked about how you marinate and prep the meat before you stir-fry it by putting it into an egg white wash.

Huh? I wasn’t quite sure what to make of an egg white marinade but I was willing to give it a try. My stir-fries have been better ever since. Now, this definitely ups the time to make a stir-fry, which usually is a go-to dish when you’re in a hurry and you want something healthy for your crew. I won’t sugarcoat—it does take more planning (and a couple extra bowls to clean), but your stir-fry will taste so much better. The egg white marinade also includes a dose of cornstarch. So your chicken is already coated with cornstarch before you add the sauce to the dish. Meaning: the sauce sticks to the chicken. Yeah!

I don’t always have time to velvet the chicken/pork (haven’t tried beef yet but it’s on my list) in my stir-fries but when I do there’s a big difference in the flavor. And my kids notice too—I don’t think it’s just my imagination that they eat more (and reheat it on day #2) when I take the time for velveting.

This is just one idea about how to mix-up some of your regular dishes at home. I’ve been thinking about this as I thumbed through tips on Sunday Dinners Done Right. Of all the nights of the week, Sunday dinner is the one where we’re not rushed, we have time to enjoy the meal and talk to each other (and not just about scheduling for the next day). I especially like the idea of making conversation the main course. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team.

Recipe

Ingredients

Marinade:

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon white wine (or chicken broth)

1 egg white

1 pound chicken cut into small pieces

Sauce:

½ teaspoon cornstarch

¼ cup chicken broth

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

1 ½ Tablespoons white wine (or more broth)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

Other ingredients

2 Tablespoons oil

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 bell pepper (red or green)

1 bunch green onions

(I also use bok choy)

1 teaspoon grated ginger(or 1/2 teaspoon ground)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup peanuts


Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, add all of the marinade ingredients (except the chicken) and whisk until smooth. Add the chicken pieces and marinate for at least 10 minutes or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. (But you should bring the meat up to room temperature before cooking.)
  2. Prepare the sauce by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk.
  3. Prepare the chicken by filling a cooking pot with water and bringing it just to a simmer (not to a boil).
  4. Place the chicken into the simmering water. The egg whites will leave strands (that’s fine).
  5. As soon as the chicken turns white, around one minute, remove with a slotted spoon. I usually place my chicken in the water in two batches. (Note: the chicken is not yet cooked through.)
  6. For the stir-fry, place the oil into a wok or large skillet. Once it’s at a medium-high heat add the red pepper flakes, then the garlic.
  7. Cook for about 30 seconds then add the vegetables. Cook the veggies for about 2-3 minutes or until just barely soft.
  8. Add in the chicken. Cook for about 2-3 more minutes or until the chicken is heated through and no longer pink in the center.
  9. Pour the sauce into the center of the wok and cook for about a minute or until thickened. Turn off heat and toss in the peanuts.
  10. Serve over rice or Chinese noodles.

Now it’s your turn, do you have something that makes your Sunday night dinners just a little more special?

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Japanese Pork Tonkatsu

tonkatsu

Photo credit: taekwonweirdo

In every culture there seems to be some version of breaded, fried meat. In Italy, there’s veal parmigiana; in Mexico, steak doused with bread crumbs is called milanesa; in Germany, cooks use crumbs from dried Kaiser rolls to make wiener schnitzel; I suppose chicken-fried steak could count as America’s contribution to this category. In Japan, thin slices of pork are battered with panko crumbs then fried to create tonkatsu.

Last November, a friend invited me over to a pre-Thanksgiving meal where she was teaching how to cook a traditional roasted turkey, stuffing and, of course, pumpkin pie to friends of hers from Japan. Her friends knew as many English words as I knew Japanese, which amounted to two—‘thank you’ (arigato) and ‘hello’ (konnichiwa).  But once we started rolling out pie crusts, we found a common language, food. (It helped that my friend was fluent in both Japanese and English.)

As a thank-you for the afternoon of all things Thanksgiving, my friend and I were invited over for some Japanese instruction a month later. Of all the things we cooked and sampled that day (I don’t think I’ll ever have a taste for mochi balls, but the sweet bean paste was tasty), the pork tonkatsu became a favorite for our family.

You make tonkatsu as you might other breaded meats, with a few key differences. Thin slices of pork are dredged in flour, then whisked eggs, then panko bread crumbs. Using the right bread crumbs is key—panko crumbs are not only crustless, but they’re lighter than American bread crumbs, making for a crispier coating. You can find panko in the Asian food aisle of just about any area grocery store.

Serve the tonkatsu over steamed white rice and veggies. Traditionally, there’s also a ketchup-like sauce served alongside. While it’s known as ‘Tonkatsu sauce’ my Japanese foodie friends call it ‘Bull-dog’ because that’s one of the more popular brands in Japan. While some grocers carry Bull-dog, you might have to go to an Asian grocery store to track it down. It’s worth making the trip—the combination of the sweet/sour Bull-dog sauce, crisp-fried pork and rice makes for a meal my kids ask for again and again.

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes + 20-30 minutes cooking

Serving: 5 + leftovers

Ingredients

1.5-2 pound pork loin

3 eggs

½ Tablespoon soy sauce

1 cup flour

1 bag panko bread crumbs (usually around 7.4 ounces)

Oil for frying

Directions

  1. In three shallow dishes or plates, prepare the following (I find pie plates work nicely). One dish with 1 cup flour. Whisk the eggs with soy sauce and pour into a separate plate. On the final plate place half the bag of panko crumbs.
  2. On a cutting board, slice the pork loin into small pieces, about ¼” thick.
  3. On a clean cutting board lay a couple pieces of pork between two sheets of plastic wrap. Gently pound the meat until the slice becomes slightly thinner. Repeat with the remaining meat slices.
  4. Working with one pork slice at a time, dredge the piece in flour, then lightly tap off excess, then dip it into the egg mixture and finally the panko. Place the battered meat slice onto a baking sheet.
  5. Repeat with the remaining slices of pork.
  6. Pour oil up to ½ an inch in a cooking pan. Heat to medium-high heat (test using a crumb of panko—it should start to sizzle when place in the oil).
  7. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  8. Gently place 2 or 3 battered pork slices into the prepared oil, fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove the meat from the oil onto a cookie sheet fitted with a wire rack to drain off excess oil.
  9. Place in the warm oven while you fry the rest of the meat slices. Cut into long strips and serve over rice (this also makes for excellent leftovers—if you have any!).
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Halloween Meatball Mice

Warning: These little critters look like, well, real little critters.

I had a vague idea of creating meatballs that looked like mice as a Halloween gag for my kids. I mentioned the idea to my husband, stuck him with the ingredients and then headed out to pick up my oldest daughter at a trick-or-treat party. When I returned, my younger two children were just giggling and my husband had a mischievous smirk on his face.

“They look so gross,” he said.

Now, you should know that when left alone my husband can come up with some pretty inventive creations. A few years ago he disappeared into the garage after asking where I’d stashed some black fabric we had leftover from one of my daughter’s witch costumes. Jump to a couple hours later and he’d crafted a giant black widow spider using old wiring, a deflated basketball, the fabric and some red paint. Seriously, the spider was about 6 feet across! He positioned the spider just above our front door and of course added webs all around. The 5 year-old living two doors down refused to walk on our side of the street in the week leading up to Halloween and she didn’t even stop by our house for candy.

Back to the mice roasting in my oven—here’s what my husband did, enlisting my daughters as helpers. He molded the meatball mixture into mice bodies (think teardrop-shaped) then he cut tails using slivers of deli ham. Olive pieces make up the eyes and once the meatballs were done baking he coated each one with spaghetti sauce.

Ready for a yucky dinner? Hey, only in appearance, they tasted delicious.

Directions for Mice Meatballs

Prep time: 25 minutes + 25 minutes baking

Servings: Around 5-6

Ingredients:

Meatball or meatloaf fixings

Spaghetti sauce

Spaghetti

Deli ham slices

Black olives

Using your favorite meatball or meatloaf recipe, mix together the meat and spice combination. [In this recipe cut out the vinegar, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce and add a teaspoon of dried oregano or basil to the meat mixture.]

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly coat a baking pan with cooking spray.

Working with about 2 ½ to 3 tablespoons of meat, form the mixture into a teardrop shape.

Line up the meatballs in rows on the baking sheet.

Thinly slice the deli ham into “tails.” Press a “tail” into the back end of each meatball.

Add fingernail-sized piece of cut black olives next to the “nose” part of the meatball. Press into place. Repeat with all of the meatballs.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the meat is cooked through.

Make the spaghetti noodles according to the package directions.

Brush warmed spaghetti sauce over each “mouse.”

Serve 2 or 3 mice meatballs over the spaghetti noodles and top with additional sauce.

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Calzones done right

CalzonePizza gets old. Trust me, I’m a pizza fan, but sometimes I like to tweak the ingredients into something just a little bit different. Hey, I’m not the only one–calzones certainly seem like an excuse to reinvent pizza.

Calzones, with their pizza-like dough that’s folded over yummy ingredients like Italian sausage and mozzarella cheese, do seem an awful lot like a handheld pizza. But what I like about calzones is the excuse to dive into the fridge and uncover fun ingredients to toss in. Roasted veggies on hand? Make a roasted veggie and cheddar cheese calzone. Pesto and leftover chicken? Throw in some Parmesan and mozzarella, even a little baby spinach, and you have a tasty pesto calzone. (This time we made sausage and veggie calzones and the veggie variety were my husband’s favorite!)

You can cut down the prep time for calzones and buy pizza dough from the grocery store, but where’s the fun in that? Yes, calzones do take some time to make, but if you use your food processor, it goes pretty quick.

Hint #1 I always, always double the recipe and freeze some of the extra calzones to use for lunches or a quick dinner later. Making a big batch of dough also means that I have to get creative—who wants 12 calzones all with the same filling? I let my kids come up with whatever cheese and meat or cheese and veggie—or more likely cheese, meat and veggie–combo for their calzones.

Hint #2 Only put a couple tablespoons of sauce—tops—into the calzone! Putting in too much sauce makes for a soggy calzone. Serve heated up spaghetti sauce, alfredo or pesto sauce along with the calzones and let your kids dip instead of trying to tuck the sauce inside.

Hint #3 Let the calzones rest after they’ve baked for at least 15 minutes. These come out hot. Your kids will like them a lot better if the calzones have had time to cool down.

Hint #4 Calzones make for easy breakfasts. You can even eat them cold!

Recipe

Inspired by a recipe that first appeared in Cuisine at Home.

Prep Time: 30 minutes + rising time of 1 ½ hours

Servings: 4-6

1 cup warm water

1 yeast packet

¼ teaspoon sugar or honey

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups bread flour (optional, or just use more all-purpose flour)

1 Tablespoon sugar or honey

2 teaspoons salt

Filling ingredients (mix and match a meat and cheese—or 2!)

1 pound Cooked Italian sausage

1-2 cups Mozzarella cheese

½ cup Parmesan cheese

½ to 1 cup Ricotta Cheese

Dash of salt and pepper

Other possible ingredients

Diced ham

Roasted veggies

Prepared spaghetti sauce (for dipping and to include with the filling)

Directions

In a large measuring cup or small mixing bowl, put the first 3 ingredients into the bowl and whisk vigorously. Let this mixture sit for around 6 to 10 minutes or until you see bubbles forming (the bubbles show that the yeast is active and that your dough will rise, yeah!). After the mixture has stood and bubbled, go ahead and add in the oil.

In a food processor (you could do this with a standing mixer or a handheld mixer, but it’s easiest in the processor), pulse together your flours, 1 Tablespoon sugar and salt. Just a note on the flours, bread flour will make the dough stiffer and the finished calzone crispier. I’ve found that using all bread flour makes the dough too hard to roll out. The 50/50 combo works perfectly. Once these ingredients are blended, run the machine as you pour in the yeast mixture. The batter should come together to form a ball (this should only take a few seconds).

Spray a large mixing bowl with oil. What I do is let the dough rest in the food processor while I clean out the mixing bowl. I towel dry it and then spray it with oil. Not only does taking a minute to clean out the bowl make for less mess, but the bowl is also slightly warm when I put the dough in it, making it rise that much more.

Remove the dough ball from the food processor and onto a lightly floured cutting board. Gently knead the dough a few times until it’s no longer sticky and feels smooth.

Place the kneaded dough ball into the oiled mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap that you’ve also lightly sprayed with cooking oil.

Let rise for 1 hour.

After rising, punch down once and then place the dough ball onto a lightly floured cutting board. Divide the dough with a sharp knife or pastry cutter into 6 pieces. Form the 6 pieces into balls and then place them on a lightly oiled baking pan. Cover the pieces with a slightly damp cooking towel. Let them rise for 30 more minutes while you prep the filling ingredients.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (yup, that’s hot!).

Lightly spray a 9 x 13” baking pan with cooking oil and then sprinkle with cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking to the pan.

In a bowl, mix a combination of your selected ingredients. For example, 1 pound Italian sausage plus 1 to 2 cups mozzarella cheese, ½ cup Parmesan, ¼ pound diced ham or replace the sausage with diced, roasted veggies. I also like to add ½ to 1 cup ricotta cheese and 1 tablespoon of prepared spaghetti sauce. So get creative with the calzone fillings!

One at a time, take one of the dough pieces and using a rolling pin make a circle ¼” thick on a floured cutting board. Move the dough onto another floured cutting board for filling. Place about ½ to ¾ of a cup filling into the center of the dough circle. Pull one end of the dough over to meet the other side. With your finger, place a little bit of water onto the inside edge of the dough circle to seal.

Use the edge of a fork to make indents into the sealed end of the dough. (So now that your circle is a half circle, the curved side.) Place the filled calzone onto the prepared baking dish and prepare the rest of the dough pieces using the same process.

Lightly brush the calzones with olive oil before placing them in the oven.

Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the calzone are lightly browned at the edges. Let the calzones rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Heat spaghetti sauce to serve with the calzones.

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Easy roasted veggies–2 ways

Photo credit: greg.turner

We’ve been living on roasted veggies these days. Red potatoes, parsnips, sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, onions, even red peppers have been making it onto the baking pan and filling the house with yummy smells. (Forget turning on the heater–something cooking in the oven is my favorite way to heat up the house!)

Below, I’ve included the basic recipe for roasting veggies. I usually double this recipe and make enough to have leftovers for lunch and to include in other meals.

Lately, we’ve used roasted veggies in place of meat to make:

-Nachos

-Calzones

-Burritos

-Enchiladas

-Pita pizzas

They’re so easy the only hang-up is they take time to roast. But double the recipe (using two pans!) and you can have enough to last for two or three meals.

Recipe #1–Diced

Servings: 4-5

Prep time: 20 minutes + 40-50 minutes cooking time

Ingredients

2 pounds red potatoes (or your favorite although I’ve found red are best for roasting)

1 pound carrots

1 small onion

1 pound optional (sweet potatoes, parsnips, purple potatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes)

Cooking spray

Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Generously coat a large cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  3. Wash and dry your veggies. Dice the veggies into dime-sized pieces (I always leave the skin on the potatoes–makes it easier and better for you). Keep the onions separate.
  4. Place the veggies onto the sprayed cookie sheet (except the onions or peppers if you’re using them). Spray again and sprinkle with salt (if desired, they’re good without).
  5. Place in the heated oven for 10 minutes. Remove, add the onions, and return to the oven. (I find if I put in the onions from the start that they become too browned.)
  6. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes or until the potatoes are just browned. Let the veggies cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe #2–Whole

Lately, I’ve found small, whole potatoes (often called fingerling) at the grocers. With these potatoes the prep is even easier.

Ingredients:

2 pounds small potatoes

1 small onion, cut thick

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Generously coat a large cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  3. Wash and dry your veggies. Keep the onions separate.
  4. Place the whole veggies onto the sprayed cookie sheet (except the onions). Spray again and sprinkle with salt (if desired, they’re good without).
  5. Place in the heated oven for 10 minutes. Remove, add the onions, and return to the oven. (I find if I put in the onions from the start that they become too browned.)
  6. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes or until the potato skins begin to blister (you’ll even hear them popping). Let the veggies cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

*Note: these are also good sprinkled with dried rosemary.

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