Calzones…aka Pizza Pops

When I was at my parents for Thanksgiving, I had a spur of the moment idea to make Calzones.  They’d be ideal to bring to work and school.  Portable, microwaveable, freezable and much healthier then storebought Pizza Pops, which is what they most closely resemble.  The recipe is supposed to make 10.  The first time we made them, I got 9.   Then my mom made some 2 days later and got 24 (!) out of the recipe.  This weekend I got 14, and that was a good number.  There are an infinite variet of fillings to use, you could go traditional pizza toppings or do broccoli and cheese or bbq chicken or anything you can imagine.  My mom made a beef taco filling, which was pretty tasty too.

Calzones

1 1/2 cups soymilk (or regular milk I guess)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp shortening (vegan margarine or butter works well)
3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp bread machine yeast

1. Measure ingredients into baking pan in the order
recommended by the manufacturer. Insert pan into the
oven chamber. Select Dough Cycle.
2. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and cover with a clean towel, let rest for 10-15 minutes.  Divide dough into 2.5 oz portions (should get 14) and roll into 6″ circles.

3. Prepare your fillings (which I would’ve done while the dough was mixing for 90 minutes) and place on one half of each circle.  Add cheese or sauce and fold in half, sealing the edge with a fork.  Cover and let rise in a warm place till doubled in size.

4. Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes or until calzones sound hollow when tapped.  Let cool on a wire rack and freeze.  Reheat in a microwave for about 90 seconds.  Be careful not to overfill them, as cheese and sauce WILL go all over your baking sheet.

Applesauce

Now I know what you’re all thinking.  Really?  Applesauce?  How boring!  How bland and uninteresting!  We want excitement!  Well…applesauce is about the most exciting thing I’ve done in awhile, besides the pumpkin puree, which I already talked about.  Applesauce can be exciting.  And easy.  Honest!

First, buy apples.  I used Royal Gala and Macintosh for mine, I prefer the batch that is royal gala only.  It’s sweeter.  I also used my slowcooker for this, because I’m lazy.

Applesauce

6lbs apples, cored and quartered (leave the peel on!)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 cup water

sugar to taste

1. Put cored and quartered apples into the slowcooker (better be a big one!).  Add the water and lemon juice.  Cover and cook on high 3-4 hours.  Once apples are soft and mushy, puree with an immersion blender.  You could use a regular blender or food processor as well if you like, but an immersion blender is more fun.  Add sugar to taste.

I was lazy this year and froze my applesauce instead of canning it.  You could process jars of applesauce in a hot water bath for 15 minutes before storing in a cool, dry place if you really wanted to, but I decided to freeze it in jars instead.  You could also freeze it in ziploc bags if you wanted.  Unsweetened applesauce is great for baking, you can replace up to 1/2 of the oil or margarine called for in a recipe with applesauce.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

This summer I set quite the goal for myself and I’ve followed through on pretty much everything I wanted to try and some stuff I didn’t know I wanted to try!  I do think I’m done canning and freezing stuff for this winter tho, mostly because I’m getting swamped with school work and trying to make sure I have “me” time.  I’ve got a lot of food put away and I honestly doubt I’ll eat it all before next summer, although I hope I get close so I can make some room for next years canning because otherwise I need to move to have more cupboard space.

The key to making good pumpkin puree is to buy Sugar or Pie Pumpkins.  They’re quite a bit smaller then jack-o-lantern pumpkins, usually about 3-5 lbs is a good size.  You want them this size for a few reasons, the first one is that fitting a 20-30lb pumpkin in your oven is going to be a challenge, and we don’t want a challenge.  Another important reason is because the bigger the pumpkin, the more stringy and tough the pumpkin flesh. 

I’ve realized while writing this, that this isn’t so much of a recipe as it is a process but I’m ok with that, it really is easy.  Preheat your oven to 350 C.  The most difficult part is the first bit.  You need to cut your pumpkin into halves or quarters and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits.  You can save the seeds for roasting, but I got frustrated with trying to separate them from the stringy stuff and gave up after about 20 minutes.  Patience I do not have. 

Once you have some nice cleaned pumpkin halves or quarters, place them cut side down in a roasting dish or 9×13″ pan and put about 1″ of water in the bottom.  Roast in the oven until the pumpkin is discoloured and you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork.  Let pumpkin cool till you can handle it, then scoop the pumpkin meat into a bowl.

Once you have all your pumpkin meat in a bowl, process it in your food processor (or high powered blender…or regular blender in very small batches) till smooth.  The smoother the better, it will end up looking a lot more like bought canned pumpkin if it’s smooth.  Your pumpkin will be a lot more yellow-orange then canned pumpkin, so don’t think it’s wrong if it looks different!  Once all your pumpkin is nice and smooth, you want to line a collander with cheesecloth and put all your puree in there.  Place the collander in a larger bown to catch the liquid and let it sit, in the fridge, for at least 24 hours. 

Keeping it in the fridge is VERY IMPORTANT so nasty bacterias don’t grow on your pumpkin!  Letting it sit is also rather important, especially if you want your pumpkin to act like canned pumpkin from the store later on.  Normally the pumpkin you buy in cans is “solid pack” pumpkin.  A lot of the moisture has been removed from it, making it more solid.  You’ll probably get quite a bit of pumpkin juice out of your pumpkin, but the overall volume doesn’t decrease that much. 

Once your pumpkin has drained, portion it into ziploc freezer bags, about 2 cups per bag is good and store in the freezer.  Letting them freeze flat works best for easy storage.  Pumpkin will keep about 6-8 months in the freezer, maybe up to a year.  I had 6 Pie pumpkins that I purchased from a local farmer.  I paid about $18 for them and got approximately 20 cups of pumpkin puree from them.  It’s much, much cheaper and most of the prep is waiting! 

I ❤ pumpkin.

Vegetable Lasagna

I had my first vegetarian lasagna ever while working in the kitchen of an assisted living home in Winnipeg.  It was one of the easiest suppers we served and quickly became my favorite meal to make.  We didn’t really follow a recipe and I still don’t follow a recipe for lasagna, something with amazes and confounds my mother.  I’ve become very comfortable cooking things without a recipe, especially easy things like lasagna, chicken parmesan, and stirfry.  Harder recipes are also sometimes made without an actual recipe, but normally tweaking is required like my granola bars.  Baking things, however, always requires a recipe.  Baking is closer to science then everyday cooking and requires much more precise measurements and such. 

Because I often share recipes with my mother, I do need to write things down and estimate measurements for her benefit.  She never, ever cooks without a recipe, so if I want her to try something new, I need to provide her with a recipe.  Having said that, here is my recipe for vegetable lasagna.

Vegetable Lasagna

1 box oven ready lasagna noodles (whole wheat if you can find them!)

1 can salt free tomato sauce

2 tsp italian seasoning

1 tsp sugar

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1tbsp olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic

2 carrots, diced

1 onion, diced

1 zucchini, diced

1 red or green pepper, diced

3 stalks of celery, chopped

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1/2 cup frozen sweet corn

Motzarella cheese

Fresh Spinach

1.  Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan or wok.  Add the onions, carrots and celery, sauteeing until soft.  Add the garlic and rest of the veggies (except spinach).  Sautee untill all the veggies are soft and have released their juices.  Drain and set aside. 

2. Mix the tomato sauce with the spices and sugar.  Lightly grease a 9×13″ pan with pam or olive oil.  Put a layer of tomato sauce down, then noodles, veggies, spinach,  tomato sauce, and motzarella (can user ricotta or cottage cheese).  Continue layering untill you reach the top of the pan with a layer of noodles.  Put some tomato sauce on top of the noodles to make sure the cook, top with a thick layer of motzarella cheese.  Bake @350 for about 30-45 minutes or until the noodles are cooked through.

Lasagnas can be covered in tin foil and saran wrap and frozen for up to 6 months.  Let them thaw in the fridge overnight before baking as above.  The veggies are very flexible, I used what I had on hand but you could throw in eggplant, cauliflower, sweet potato, squash, red potatoes sliced thin, asparagus, or use kale instead of spinach.  The possibilities really are endless with lasagna.

Thinking Ahead to Winter Pt2 – Canning

This is the 2nd part of what is going to end up being more than 2 parts all about preparing items for the winter ahead.  The key to all of this is to get as fresh and local as you can find or afford.  While traditionally Canning is thought of as a fall activity, there are many things in season now that can be prepared.  If you do things as the fruit or vegetable comes into season, you’ll be doing a bunch of little projects as you go instead of trying to attempt one big marathon session of canning, the thought of which makes my feet hurt already! 

Canning involves a lot more preparation then freezing does.  If you want to be able to keep the items you make, safely, in your cupboards or root cellar, they have to be processed in a water bath before putting them away.  The main items you’ll need to successfully can your own jam, pickles, spaghetti sauce, or whatever else you can think of are the following:

– Large, Heavy bottomed pot for cooking sauces or jams in. 

– Jars.  My favorite sizes are jam jars, pint jars (2 cups or 500ml), and quart jars (4 cups or 1000ml)  Jars can be bought at Canadian tire for a decent price or you can search kijiji or MCC/Value Village for cans.

-Lids.  Canning lids come in 2 parts.  There’s a metal ring that screws on and a metal snap lid with a rubber seal on the bottom.  If you buy your jars brand new, they will come with both parts.  Otherwise, both the metal rings and snap lids can be bought at Canadian tire, sometimes dollar stores.  It’s best to replace snap lids after one use, although if I’m just canning soup without processing it and am keeping it in the fridge I will re-use them.

– Tongs.  Metal tongs will help you lift the hot jars in and out of the water bath before and after processing.  It also helps you grab the lids and rings from the hot water before putting them on the jars.

– Funnel.  Really handy if you don’t want to make a huge mess when trying to ladle your hot jam/sauce into the jars!

– Cookie Sheet.  Makes moving the jars in and out of the oven that much easier…and we like easy.

– Canner.  A canner is a large pot used to process jars in.  It usually comes with a rack and is cheaper to buy then a stock pot.  Although I suppose Alton Brown would be upset with me for buying an item that isn’t very multipurpose.  Oh well.

The general steps to canning involve heating (read, sterilizing) your jars in a 200 degree oven, heating (sterilizing) your lids and rings in a small sauce pan of boiling water, cooking your jam/sauce as per the recipe, ladling it into the hot jars, wiping off the edges, placing the lids and rings on the jar and then processing it in a canner filled with boiling water for the recommended time.  The jars are usually left in the water for about 5-10 minutes after you’ve removed it from the heat and then removed to the side.  Let the jars sit on the counter for about 24 hours, check the seals to make sure it’s sealed properly and then store in a dark, cool place for about 1 year.  I find it very simple, the most tedious part of the entire thing is preparing your fruit or veggies for cooking. 

The first item I canned was a batch of cherry preserves.  I’ve never had cherry preserves or used cherry preserves but it sounded like a good idea at the time and bing cherries were on sale for under $2/lb.  I brought 4lbs home with me and proceeded to de-step and pit all 4 lbs of cherries.  It took me about an hour by myself.  Two days later and my fingers are still stained.  (!)  3lbs of cherries were turned into preserve and the other lb were frozen for use in the winter, probably for smoothies.  Since I had already removed the pits, I didn’t want to just eat them.  I ended up with about 3 pint jars of preserves.  I don’t think I let them cook down far enough, cause they seem fairly runny in the jars but I don’t have any fruit float and you can see cherries throughout the syrup.  Although since I’ve never HAD cherry preserves, I don’t know how thick it’s supposed to be!

Simple Cherry Preserves

3 lbs sweet or sour cherries, stems and pits removed

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup bottled lemon juice

1. Place the cherries in a medium, heavy-bottomed sauce pan.  Add a splash of water and bring to a boil.  Crush cherries to release the juice. 

2. Add sugar and mix to dissolve.  Then add lemon juice and stir.  Bring to a nice boil and let it go for about 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently, until desired gel is reached.  Turn off heat and let fruit sit for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to release any trapped air (helps prevent fruit from floating to the top of the jars).  Skim off any foam.

3.  Ladle into hot pint jars.  Wipe the edges clean and place a new seal lid on top.  Screw the ring down until just tight.  Process in water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove lid and remove pot from heat, let stand for 5 minutes.  Remove jars from pot, let sit on the counter for 24 hours. Check seals and store in dark cool place for about a year.

It really is that easy!

Thinking ahead to Winter Part 1 – Freezing

This is the first year ever where I’ve had my own apartment and really want to start canning and preserving things for winter.  The easy stuff is making sure I have fruit prepared and in the freezer for winter green smoothies and baking. I’m going to be doing a 2 part series on preparing foods for winter.  This is the first post and will be all about freezing food for later use.  I mostly freeze my own berries, I usually buy pre-frozen veggies.

I found a place just north of the city that has u-pick raspberries that will be ready in a few weeks.  These people purchased the land last fall and found out that there’s 5 acres of raspberry bushes!  They’re also selling plants, but I don’t have anywhere to grow a raspberry bush so unfortunately can’t take advantage of that, but at least I can go pick my own raspberries.  Raspberries don’t travel well and go bad very quickly after they’re picked so it’s impossible to buy a large quantity from the grocery store, especially if you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for them.  My plan for the raspberries is one ice cream pail frozen and a batch of raspberry jam.  I looooove raspberry jam, but store-bought is never sour enough for me.

The other frozen goods I’m planning on are strawberries, blueberries and I still have rhubarb from last year.  I’m now thinking that I should maybe go pick my own corn and freeze a bunch of that…that’d be good too, I love sweet corn and add it to pretty much everything!

Frozen stuff is easy to prepare.  First you wash everything and make sure you got rid of any bugs/dirt if you picked them or got them directly from a farmer.  If you’re doing strawberries, you then remove the green tops and cut them into halves or quarters, depending on the size of the berries.  Once they’re cut, and for every other berry, the next step is to line a large sheet pan with parchment paper or saran wrap and spread out the berries in one layer.  If you have more then one layer worth, make sure you put another layer of parchment paper or saran wrap in between the layers.  The point of freezing them in one layer is so that they don’t freeze into one huge chunk of berry, making it easier later on to take out the amount you need while cooking.  Place sheet pan in the freezer and let freeze till solid.  Once they’re frozen, store in ziploc bags or 4L Ice cream pails.  My preference is Ice Cream Pails.

I usually try to have at least one ice cream pail of raspberries, and two ice cream pails each of blueberries and strawberries.  Strawberries and blueberries are integral ingredients in my green monsters.  If I can find nice peaches I would probably do some of those as well, but they require blanching which I’m not terribly familiar with but can probably get my mom to help.