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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sweet Potato Sausage Calzone

Did you know that Trader Joe’s has raw pizza dough for only 99 cents? I discovered it a couple of years ago, and although it makes a thinner pizza crust than I like, it’s great for calzones. Last week I was trying to decide what to have for dinner, and Justin suggested, “How about a calzone? How about sweet potatoes?” And since we both love sweet potatoes, and calzones, it seemed like a great idea. By the way, did you know that calzones, plural, means knickers in Spanish? I’m not sure what it means in Italian. I paired the sweet potatoes with sweet Italian turkey sausage, spinach, garlic, and mozzarella, and the result? Incredible! We couldn’t believe how tasty it was, so I just had to share it with you. Hope you like it.


One package whole wheat raw pizza dough
1 cup diced sweet potatoes
3 links sweet Italian sustainable turkey sausage
4 cups loosely packed spinach
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


Dice sweet potato and combine with enough water to cover it in a pot; bring to a boil. Boil with loose lid on top until potatoes can be pierced easily with a fork. While the sweet potatoes are boiling, peel sausage out of casings. Heat olive oil in pan and add sausage. Crumble with spatula and brown. Rinse spinach, chop, and steam. Chop garlic and add to sausage when it’s almost done browning. Set aside. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a floured surface area, roll out pizza dough into 12 inch circle. Place on oiled baking sheet or hot pizza stone. In large bowl, combine sausage and garlic mixture, cooked sweet potatoes, steamed spinach, and mozzarella cheese. Place in one half of pizza dough. Fold over other half and press edges together. Bake for 6-8 minutes.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Brown Bread with Cinnamon Ginger Butter and Apricot Preserves

Recently I bought a Mennonite cookbook called "Simply in Season". It's great -- all of the recipes are grouped by seasons, which means that the seasonal fruits and veggies I buy will be cheaper, better-tasting, packed with more nutrients, and hopefully more sustainable for the environment by not being transported very far to get to me. In addition to the four season sections, there is also an "All Seasons" section that has recipes for beans, grains, and dried fruit.

I found an intriguing recipe in this section called "Everyday Oatmeal Bread". At first I thought it would just be good oat bread that could be used for sandwiches or toast or, you know, everyday bread. Then I realized as I was making it that it calls for molasses. I'm a fan, so I went ahead with it, knowing that I probably wouldn't want to use it for sandwich bread. I made one loaf in a pan (since I only had one loaf pan at the time) and one free form loaf. They both came out very brown and beautiful.

This is a good hearty bread that I like a lot. What makes the bread truly amazing, however, is when you toast it with some butter and jam. My favorite combination is with homemade cinnamon ginger butter and apricot preserves. Try to find an apricot preserve where the first ingredient is actually apricots. Some of them have sugar as the first ingredient, and then you can't taste the apricots as much. And be on the lookout for high fructose corn syrup. I used Safeway brand organic.

Here's how it goes:

Brown Bread
("Everyday Oatmeal Bread", from Simply in Season)

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup molasses
3 tablespoons butter or oil
2 teaspoons salt
Combine and let stand 30 minutes

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon (1 packet) active dry yeast
Mix in a large bowl until dissolved. Add oatmeal mixture.

5 cups bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
Work in flour to make a medium-soft dough, adding more bread flour as needed. Turn onto floured surface and knead 8-10 minutes until smooth. Place in greased bowl and turn to grease both sides. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down. Divde and shape into 2 loaves. Place in 2 greased 9 x 5-inch pans. Cover and let rise in warm place until double, about 45 minutes. Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 5 minutes, then lower heat to 350 degrees F and bake until loaves sound hollow when tapped, 35-40 minutes.

Cinnamon Ginger Butter
(For one to two slices of bread, depending on how much butter you like)

1/2 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon minced ginger
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Wholesome BLT

One Sunday morning a while back Justin and I decided to make brunch. We had a sun-dried tomato frittata, biscuits with jam, and, for some reason, I really wanted bacon too. Although I will eat real bacon if it's offered to me, I can't bring myself to buy it. There's not much nutritional value to make it worth it. So I got some turkey bacon. I know, I know, it's not the same, but I kind of like turkey bacon. It complimented the brunch quite nicely. After having it with our brunch, however, we had a lot leftover. I threw it in freezer and figured I would find a use for it eventually.

That use came when I got inspired to make whole wheat bread last week. I just recently got into bread-baking, and let me tell you, it is truly satisfying to take a couple of warm loaves out of the oven and enjoy the homemade bread smell permeating my apartment. But back to the BLT. I knew I wanted to use turkey bacon, whole wheat bread, spinach, and tomato for the sandwich, but then I added a few key ingredients. I had some leftover red onion in the refrigerator, so I sliced some of that and placed it on top of the bacon while it was cooking, and also included it in the sandwich too. I think it's really necessary to have mayonnaise with a BLT. Otherwise it's just too dry. But I don't like plain mayo, so I spiced it up a bit by adding chipotle seasoning and lime juice. The final result was a very tasty sandwich that didn't taste low-fat at all, but definitely made for a wholesome meal.

Ingredients for two BLT sandwiches:

4 slices whole wheat bread
4 slices turkey bacon
2 slices red onion
10 spinach leaves
1 large tomato slice, cut in half
Chipotle-lime mayonnaise

1. Cook turkey bacon, either in a pan or in a oven/toaster oven (I cooked it in a toaster oven for about 20 minutes at 400F. During the last 2 minutes, I set it to broil to make the bacon crispier).
2. When the bacon is halfway done, place the red onion slices on top of the bacon.
3. Meanwhile, slice the tomato, wash spinach and tear of stems, and make the chipotle-lime mayo.
4. When the bacon is done, keep it covered, and toast the bread.
5. Build your sandwich, and savor the wholesome goodness of it!

Chipotle-Lime Mayonnaise

1/8 cup low-fat mayo
3/4 teaspoon chipotle seasoning
3/4 teaspoon lime juice

Whole Wheat Bread

(Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens)

2 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 package active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups warm water
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter or (trans fat-free) margarine
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water, allow it to froth about 10 minutes.
2. Mix together flour, whole wheat flour, quick oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, and salt.
3. Add yeast mixture to dry mixture.
4. Stir, stir, stir until soft dough forms.
5. Add more flour as needed while kneading dough into uniform mixture.
6. Shape dough into a ball and place in lightly greased bowl, turning to coat.
7. Cover with a damp cloth and set in a warm place (I turn on the oven for a few minutes, then turn it off and set the dough inside).
8. Let rise until double in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
9. Punch dough down and knead a few times on lightly floured surface.
10. Divide in half, shape into long loaves, place in two 9 x 5 inch greased loaf pans, cover and let rise 30-45 minutes until nearly double in size.
11. Bake in preheated oven at 375F for 35-40 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped (you may need to cover loosely with foil during the last 10 minutes to prevent overbrowning).

Congratulations, you just made bread!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mediterranean Pizza

On Friday, Justin and I decided to make a Mediterranean pizza. I don't know how I came up with the idea, but it turned out amazingly well. Using a Trader Joe's herbed pizza crust as a base, we substituted homemade hummus for tomato sauce and had three different kinds of cheese: feta, mozzarella, and goat cheese (I don't think goat cheese is Mediterranean, but its creamy tangy-ness is incredible on a pizza). Unless you make your own pizza dough, I highly recommend Trader Joe's crust. It's nice and crispy, but chewy in the middle, which makes for a very satisfying texture combination. (Their bagels are the same way).

Anyways, on top of the hummus and cheeses, we sprinkled on a bunch of Mediterranean goodness. What an explosion of flavors! Sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, grilled chicken (it was unnecessary protein since we already had the hummus, but Justin loves chicken, so why not?), roasted red peppers, and anchovies (I used to scoff at these little fishies, but they are so flavorful and tasty! Plus they're packed with Omega-3 benefits). Although individually these ingredients can be rather pricey, we used so little of each that the unit cost of the pizza is pretty cheap. If you usually have these ingredients on hand, you've got to try this pizza! There's really no going back to greasy diner pizza after making your own gourmet version.

A tip about roasted red peppers: you can make your own. They can be pretty expensive to buy in the store, but when red peppers are in season (and therefore cheaper and better tasting), all you need to do us broil it until the skin starts to blacken, put it in a covered pot to steam, and peel off the skin when it is cool enough. Enjoy!

Along with the pizza we had Parmesan-crusted eggplant. The recipe is below. Eggplant is so versatile. It's spongy, though, and soaks up everything, so measure carefully how much oil you add to it.

Pizza Toppings:
1 cup of hummus (more or less depending on how thick you want it spread)
1/4 cup each of mozzarella, feta, and goat cheese
2-3 pitted kalamata olives, minced
2-3 anchovies, minced
2-3 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/8 cup of roasted red peppers,
Half of one grilled chicken breast, cut into strips (about 4 oz)

Preheat oven according to pizza crust instructions.
Lightly brush edges of pizza with extra virgin olive oil (I used the same oil that the sun-dried tomatoes come packed in). Spread hummus on pizza, leaving about a 1.5 inch crust margin. Sprinkle mozzarella, feta, and goat cheese. Sprinkle the rest of the toppings onto the pizza. Bake according to the pizza crust instructions.

Altogether, the pizza took about 20 minutes total to make.
Homemade Hummus
(This will make enough for the pizza plus a little left over)

1 12 oz. can chickpeas (liquid reserved)
1/4 cup tahini
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 tablespoon cumin
juice from 1/2 lemon
Salt & Pepper to taste
Blend all ingredients together using a blender, food processor, or hand-held mixer (just make sure to use pressed garlic instead of minced if using a hand-held mixer). Add reserved chickpea liquid as needed if mixture is too dry to blend properly.
Parmesan-Crusted Eggplant
(Adapted from http://healthyrecipes.oregonstate.edu/)

Peel the eggplant and cut into 1 1/2 inch slices (I left the skin on to make the photo prettier, but the skin is not nice to eat). Brush one side of each slice with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Place on an oiled sheet and broil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from oven and flip over, adding oil and seasonings to other side. Broil for 2-3 minutes longer. It's also good on sandwiches.