Pizza Pockets

FullSizeRenderCan’t beat the draw of fresh, savory bread, filled with hot pepperoni and gooey melted cheese. Since we’re not Italian, I feel we can’t call these calzones, so they’ve been dubbed “pizza pockets” in our house. And as the definition of a calzone is “an Italian oven-baked folded pizza,” our name works perfectly well. 

It all started with a magazine recipe clipping for “mini French loaves” that sounded more Italian than French in their ingredient listing, and a house full of teenage boys who were bottomless pits. I’d made this dough into buns for dinner, and the guys said, “Hey, this kind of tastes like pizza!” So I decided to make it more like pizza by stuffing it with pepperoni and a mix of cheeses, and then dipping the pizza pockets into purchased marinara sauce. A star was born. (Then I found out that Calzones were a “thing” and I wasn’t the genius I thought I was…oh well. Not the first time!)

I’d not made these for years, and then my son Justin was reminiscing about this dish to his lovely fiancé Ashley. So of course I had to make them for her… She loved them as much as the guys always have, which means she passed the test—welcome to the fam, Ash! 

Now, I have to mention, I’ve tried filling these with a variety of things over the years: sausage and mushroom, green peppers and Canadian bacon and pineapple, etc. But nothing seems to work out as well as the plain old pepperoni and cheese. When something works, sometimes you just have to leave it alone and enjoy the simplicity of it.

Makes 8 pizza pockets

1¼ cups warm water
2½ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (Kraft is fine, doesn’t need to be all fancy!)
3 to 3½ cups all-purpose flour

Package of pepperoni slices
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

For Dipping
Jar of purchased Marinara sauce (My pick is Trader Joe’s as it’s about $1.79 per jar and doesn’t use corn syrupn.)

Dissolve yeast in water in large mixing bowl, letting rise until yeast begins to foam on top. Fit mixer with dough hook. Add sugar, seasonings, 2 cups flour, and Parmesan cheese, and beat until all ingredients are combined. Add flour ½ cup at a time and mix on low setting to form a soft dough. Note that you may not need all of the remaining 1½ cups of flour. Only add flour until dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Grease a clean bowl with shortening, and place dough into bowl, turning once to grease top of dough. Cover with damp kitchen towel and let rise in warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

Grease a baking sheet with olive oil, and sprinkle pan with a light dusting of cornmeal. Punch dough down, and divide into 8 equal-sized pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Roll out into an oval disk using rolling pin. Place about 6 pieces of pepperoni on one half of the disk, in a pyramid of 3 pieces, 2 pieces, and 1 piece. Top with a handful of grated cheeses, then fold empty half of dough over the side filled with pepperoni and cheese. Use the tines of a fork to seal the edges of the dough. Move pizza pocket to greased pan. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.

Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Let dough rise in warm place for 30-45 minutes, or until almost doubled in size. (I like to fill my sink with hot water, then top the sink with an oven rack, and place pan on rack. This creates nice humid conditions for rising dough.) Once dough is risen, bake in preheated oven on center rack for 12-15 minutes, or until top of bread is light golden brown. Remove to cooling rack for about 10 minutes before serving. Heat marinara sauce in saucepan for a few minutes. Serve pizza pockets with a small ramekin of Marinara sauce for dipping as you eat.

Smoky Chipotle Corn Chowder

FullSizeRenderSince it’s soup season, you’ll want to tag this smoky potato and corn chowder for a quick, light meal. Aside from the chipotle chili peppers, most of the ingredients may be kitchen staples for you, as they were for me. My friend Terri shared this with me a couple years ago, and I just got around to trying it for the first time. As I’ve gotten a lot of my soup recipes from restaurants (when I wrote for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and was requesting recipes for readers), they tend to yield mammoth portions, and you gotta be committed to eating said soup for an eternity! This one is a smaller scale recipe, perfect for about 6 tasty bowls.

My only recipe suggestion would be to add more cheese, so I upped the amount to ½ cup below. And you would think the peppers in this would give it quite a burn, but even my mild-mannered palette was not offended by the heat. It was barely noticeable, in fact! I am curious to see if the heat cranks up a notch as the soup sits in the frig—sometimes that happens with chili peppers. I’ll be sure to let you know.

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons butter
1 bunch scallions (green onions), sliced
4 cups chopped red potatoes, with skin on
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups frozen corn (16 ounces) *
2 tablespoons dried cilantro (or use ¼ cup fresh, but then add with milk and cheese towards end of process)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
½-1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 cups milk
½ cup shredded sharp white cheddar (or Monterey Jack cheese)
1/3 cup diced cooked ham **

Fresh chopped cilantro
Chopped scallions

Melt butter in Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté scallions for 1-2 minutes, then add potatoes and cook for additional 5 minutes, or until green onions and potatoes begin to brown. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then add corn, cilantro, smoked paprika, salt, and chipotle peppers. Stir well, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Add the milk and cheese, and turn off heat. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Puree about 2 cups of the soup in a blender, and return to the pot. Heat to medium-low, and stir in ham. Serve with chopped fresh cilantro and green onions as garnishes, if desired.

*NOTE: I used a bag of frozen roasted corn from Trader Joe’s, and I would highly recommend it! I’ve seen the same thing at Cub foods, too, so look for the pre-roasted corn at your grocery store.

** Skip the ham for a vegetarian option. It really didn’t enhance the soup that much, so I don’t think it’s a completely necessary ingredient.

Super BLT with Pesto Aioli

FullSizeRender‘Tis tomato time, and if you’ve got them coming out of your ears like we do, this twist on the classic BLT sandwich will help you use up your ‘maters. The pesto aioli gives it extra zip, and adds another layer of flavor to the fresh tomato, smoky bacon, and crisp lettuce. So I used up my stash of tomatoes AND my fresh basil pesto that I just made again—a win-win. I also added sliced turkey, and white cheddar cheese to these sandwiches, because I feel like a sandwich with just bacon for meat isn’t really a sandwich. (My husband would disagree—he fried up half a pound of bacon for his two sandwiches the night we made these. When I questioned his quantity, he called me a Bacon Nazi. Ouch. First time I’ve heard those two words together in a sentence…how about you?)

I thought that this might be too simple of a “recipe” to post, but I actually get the most response from all of you when I post stuff I think is too easy to bother sharing (aka: “Judy easy,” in the scale used previously). I used pumpernickel bread for the sandwiches pictured here, but I also like Trader Joe’s 100% rye bread, which I’ve been told is gluten-free. Either of those options gives you more flavor in your bread than straight up white bread. Another bonus! 

Serves 2-3

For pesto aioli
¼ cup Hellmann’s real mayonnaise (or make your own, recipe below!)
1 tablespoon fresh basil pesto

For sandwiches
Deli turkey, sliced thin
White cheddar cheese, sliced
Romaine lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
Bacon strips, cooked (2 per sandwich, unless you’re Rich)
Sliced fresh tomatoes
Pumpernickel or rye bread, toasted

Slather toasted bread with generous amount of pesto aioli, then layer on turkey, cheese, lettuce, bacon, and tomatoes. Prepare to be amazed.

*NOTE: Aioli has come to be the name given to any flavored mayonnaise. Traditionally, it’s been an emulsified oil combined with fresh garlic. At least that’s the Spanish version. The French version of aioli has an egg added into the emulsifying process, which makes it more similar to mayonnaise than the Spanish recipe. Use the word “aioli” when you want to impress your dinner guests with your mad kitchen prowess.

To make your own mayonnaise (recipe courtesy of Whole30):
1¼ cups olive oil (not extra virgin), divided
1 egg
½ teaspoon dried mustard
½ teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon

In food processor or blender, combine ¼ cup olive oil, egg, dried mustard, and salt. Blend until combined. Very, very slowly, drizzle in the remaining 1 cup of olive oil with motor running, and process until oil is emulsified (thickened to mayo consistency). Add juice of lemon and pulse until combined. Refrigerate for up to one week, but no longer.

Cheesy Corn Chowder

FullSizeRenderMade from kitchen staples and some common vegetables, this soup goes together quick, and goes down the hatch even quicker. My son Mitchell says this is hands-down his favorite cold weather soup, and he’ll eat it for lunch every day until the whole batch is gone. Where did I find this winner of a recipe? I ripped a page out of a Woman’s Day magazine back in 1999 (hopefully it was my mag and not my dentist’s), and have been making it a dozen times a year ever since. It was listed as a budget-buster, and rang up at $1.08 per serving. Keep in mind, that was in ’99, but even with inflation or cost of living increase (or whatever means things costs more than they used to), you’ve still got a very affordable lunch or light supper. I like this recipe because it’s thick and creamy, and you get the results of a roux, without the trouble of making one. This is especially great paired with a toasted ham or turkey sandwich. OK, now I’m just making myself hungry…

3-4 strips bacon or 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 cups chicken broth (from can or make with 2 bouillon cubes), or fresh chicken stock*
3 cups cubed potatoes, leaving skin on
1 cup diced carrots, peeling carrots first
1-2 cans (15 ounces) corn, drained (we like it extra corn-y, so I make it with 2 cans)
1 box (10 ounces) frozen, or 2 cups fresh chopped kale, optional
4 cups milk
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour or Namaste gluten-free flour blend (found at Costco)*
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Optional Garnish

1/4 cup sliced scallions

Fry bacon in Dutch oven until crispy. Drain on paper towels, then crumble and reserve for topping soup later. Drain all but 2-3 teaspoons bacon fat from pot. (If not using bacon, melt butter in bottom of Dutch oven and continue following directions.) Add onions to pot and sauté until tender. Add the chicken broth or stock, and potatoes, carrots, and kale (if using). Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add corn to pot.

In medium bowl, whisk together milk, flour, and salt until blended and smooth. Add to pot and return mixture to a boil. Reduce to medium, and gently boil and stir until mixture is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Add shredded cheddar and turn to low. Stir until cheese is melted. Serve with crumbled bacon, and scallions, if desired.

*NOTE: The last time I made this, I used the gluten-free flour blend and it worked perfectly. So while it’s not dairy-free, it can be gluten-free! If you want to skip the bacon and use vegetable stock instead of chicken, you’ve got yourself a vegetarian soup, too. But who wants to skip the bacon, for Pete’s sake?