Saturday, February 4, 2012

Almost Game Day- Mini Calzones Will Please the Crowd

24 hours left now... do you know what you're making for the super bowl tomorrow?  You can never go wrong with pizza.  But to really impress your friends and family, why not take it to the next level?  I absolutely LOVE pizza, but I feel even more special when I have my very own individual calzone all for me!  The recipe for these is going to be similar to a homemade pizza, but all folded up in a cute little cheesy, doughy pouch.

And yes, YOU CAN make your own dough from scratch. Do it!  You will love hearing your friends and family oooh and aaah over your amazing calzone making talents.  The dough will need to rise for at least and hour-  you can make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate overnight if that makes life easier.  This recipe makes enough dough for 2 pizza crusts (or 12 calzones), so I usually freeze half to use later- just wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze.  Take the frozen dough out the day before you want to use it and let defrost overnight in the refrigerator.  Let the dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before making your pizza. 

My dough recipe utilizes the added health benefits of whole wheat flour- more fiber and nutrients!!!  I also add dried herbs/spices for a little extra sumthin sumthin- feel free to substitute other herbs spices and find your own flavor!

The Delicious Dough
1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water (around 110 degrees F)
1 tsp salt
2 Tb olive oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tb dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/5 cups all purpose flour, plus more as needed.

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water.  Let sit for 10 minutes- there will be a foam on top as the yeast starts to produce carbon dioxide. 
Stir salt and olive oil into the yeast mixture.  Add 2 cups whole wheat flour, oregano and garlic powder and mix until well combined.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead in additional 1 1/5 cups all purpose flour.  Add more flour as needed, kneading dough until no longer sticky.  (Alternately, if you have a stand mixer, you can add the ingredients to the bowl of the stand mixer and use the dough hook to knead the dough). 
Place your dough ball in a large, well-oiled bowl and turn to coat with the oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area for at least an hour to rise.  The dough should double in size.

Punch the dough down- time to unload any aggression!  If pizza is your desire, divide into 2 even and smooth balls.  If calzones are on the menu, divide into 12 even and smooth balls.  Let the balls rest for 10 minutes before forming your delicious product!

The Cheesy Filling
Here's where you can get extra creative.  I am all about you changing any recipe to make it more your own- substitute any of the veggies and meats in my filling and put in whatever you find in your fridge.  Some yummy combos could be- peppers, onions and turkey sausage; pineapple and ham; broccoli and caramelized onions; spinach and artichokes; or any combination of veggies!

3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
3/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup roughly chopped fresh spinach (you can use frozen and defrosted- just make sure you drain the liquid well).
3/4 cup chopped, sauteed mushrooms
1/2 cup diced, sauteed canadian bacon
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Mix all ingredients until well combined.  This filling makes enough for 1/2 the dough recipe (or 6 calzones), so if you are cooking all the dough at once, double the recipe. 

The Crazy-Good Calzones
6 Mini homemade dough balls
The cheesy filling
1 egg
1 Tb water
A little bit more water
Medium grain corn meal

Preheat your oven to 475 degrees F.  Sprinkle some corn meal on a baking sheet or pizza stone.  Roll out each of your dough balls to about 1/8 inch thick.  Divide filling evenly among the dough.  With the additional water, moisten the edges of the dough.  Fold dough in half over the filling and use a fork to pinch edges together until well sealed.  Repeat with each of the remaining calzones.  
Mix the egg with 1 Tb water.  Using a marinade brush, brush the egg mixture on each of the calzones- these will make them turn nice and golden brown and B-E-A-Utiful in the oven.  Use a knife to cut 3 slits in the top of each calzone.
Bake on your prepared baking sheet or pizza stone for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve with some warm marinara sauce and a crisp salad on the side. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Super Easy Baked Buffalo Tenders

T-minus 48 hours until... the big game!!!  Whether you are hosting the most killer super bowl party, stopping by a friend's house, or hanging out in sweats on your couch- it is important to have a fabulous spread of delicious football-watching foods.  Impress your pals with this recipe for baked buffalo chicken tenders...

Buffalo Chicken Tenders
1lb chicken breasts (about 3), cut into 1 inch strips
1/2 cup plain, non-fat yogurt (I use greek)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup cayenne pepper sauce (Frank's, Crystals, Texas Pete, etc.- basically whatever sauce you like)
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tsp black pepper

Mix the yogurt, water and pepper sauce in a large bowl.  Toss the chicken in the yogurt sauce, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Lightly coat a baking sheet with non-stick spray.  Pour the two types of bread crumbs and black pepper in a large gallon bag.  Shake the excess yogurt sauce off the chicken and place about 4 strips of chicken in the bag with the bread crumbs.  Shake until chicken is well coated.  Place chicken strips on your prepared baking sheet.  Repeat until all strips are breaded, adding more bread crumbs to bag if needed.  Once all the chicken is on your baking sheet, evenly coat the chicken pieces with the non-stick spray so that the bread crumbs turn nice and brown. 
Cook the chicken until it is a beautiful golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. 

These little chickeny goodies are NOT overly spicy- in fact, I add extra hot sauce to mine!  But they do have a nice tangy buffalo flavor.  They are excellent served with a homemade blue cheese or zesty ranch sauce.  I served mine with blue cheese. 

When we had these the other night, I made some homemade baked beans.  They were tangy and sweet after slow cooking for about 2-3 hours.  I also roasted some brussels sprouts and served some fresh, crisp salads on the side... always got to pile on the veggies :)

As you can see, you can serve these tenders as part of a balanced meal, or as delish finger foods on Super Bowl Sunday!

Creamy Blue Cheese Sauce
1 cup non-fat plain greek yogurt
1/4 cup low-fat mayo
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
2 Tb white vinegar (alternately, you can use lemon juice)
1 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp black pepper

Mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to develop flavors. 

Zesty Ranch Sauce
1 cup non-fat plain greek yogurt
1/4 cup low-fat mayo
1/2 tsp dried chives
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to develop flavors. 

Slow-Cooked Baked Beans
2.5 cups cooked (or canned) white, cannelini or navy beans
4 slices canadian bacon, diced
1/2 onion, finely diced
1/2 cup ketchup (yes, I loaaaaathe ketchup- but it works well in this recipe :)
2 Tb molassas
2 Tb dijon mustard
1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
A couple dashes of hot sauce (or more if your like me and like it with a little more heat)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Lightly coat an 8x8 baking dish with non-stick spray. Spread beans in dish evenly. Layer canadian bacon and onions on top. 
Put all remaining ingredients in a sauce pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer about 5 minutes.
Stir about 1/4 cup water into sauce then pour over beans.  Cover with foil or a lid.  Bake in preheated oven for 2-3 hours.  Check beans about halfway trough cooking time and add more liquid if beans start to dry out.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Unseasonably Warm... So Let's Fire Up the Grill!

Yes, it's January, and winter weather is a time for soup, hot chocolate and crock-pot meals.  But the sun was shining this weekend and with temperatures in the 50's, Sonny was itching to throw dinner on the grill.  As you probably know by now, my hubby is quite the sportsman.  We have a large freezer in the basement that is packed full of sustainable meats and fish.  So for this lovely winter's day, he selected a nice venison ham.  As far as the nutritional value of venison, this meat is leaner (lower in calories and fat) than beef, bison, pork, veal and lamb- the amount of fat and calories is comparable to chicken breast (without skin).  Sonny mixed up a marinade- the recipe below is an estimate, so feel free to adjust portions of ingredients to suit your own taste. 

I also had some locally-produced purple potatoes from South Mountain Veggies that we just wrapped in foil (after poking holes with a fork) and threw on the grill.  Potatoes get a bad rep, but these starchy veggies are a good source of complex carbs, potassium, vitamin C, iron and folic acid.  Potatoes that are deeper in color (orange, red, purple) are also higher in antioxidants from the pigments that cause these vibrant colors.  These darker colored potatoes may not be available in your local Harris Teeter, but you can often find them at food co-ops or some farmers' markets. 

Sonny threw the stuffed peppers and potatoes on the grill first and in about 5 minutes, added the steaks. 

I made a simple salad out of other veggies from South Mountain Veggies- boston bibb lettuce, baby carrots, onions and celery.  Check out our spread... almost like a little taste of summer!

Stuffed Mini Peppers
10-15 mini sweet peppers
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
3/4 cup part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
1 Tb dried oregano
1 Tb dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Mix together all ingredients except the peppers.  Trim off the tops of the peppers and scoop out the seeds.  Stuff peppers with the filling.  Cover a grill tray with foil and spray lightly with non-stick spray.  Place peppers on the tinfoil covered tray and place on hot grill.  Cook 20 minutes, turning once.  Peppers will be slightly charred.  Alternately, you can cook these peppers in a 375 degree F oven for about 20 minutes, turning halfway through. 

Marinade for Venison Steaks
1/2 cup Olive oil
1/4 cup Worcestershire
1/4 cup Soy Sauce
1 tsp Dry Mustard
1 tsp Black pepper
3 Tb Lemon Juice
1 Tb Garlic, minced

1-1.5lb venison ham steaks (alternately, you can use beef steaks- sirloin, filet, etc)

Whisk together ingredients for the marinade.  Pour over steak and marinate, refrigerated for about 2 hours.  Let steak sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before grilling.  We used a charcoal grill- light charcoal and heat until coals are hot and grey.  Place steaks on grate over hot coals.  For a medium steak, cook about 8 minutes per side.