Chicken and spinach calzones.

We make and eat a lot of pizza around here – it’s my go-to meal when a bunch of people show up and are hungry. Last summer I discovered my new favourite easy crust, and there’s been no going back – I make it all the time. I change it from time to time – whole wheat flour, a little bit of buckwheat flour every so often, or spelt even. I let it rise a little for a thicker pizza, which is how I like it, or roll it out flat for a thinner crust. Or, sometimes, I add a little bit of semolina flour, give it 30 minutes in a warm kitchen, cut it into eight pieces, roll each piece out until it’s barely as thin as a pie crust, and stuff it with sauce and cheese.

Calzones are a treat, and they’re awesome for lunches at work or school – they’re pizza pops, but with none of that chemical stuff that’ll probably kill you. Cheese, a little sauce, some veggies and meat if you want – and you can stick them in the freezer and reheat them as you need them, in the microwave or toaster oven, whatever you’ve got. And if you’re using an easy crust, they’re the kind of thing you can serve on a weeknight, or even to company, with a little bit of salad and not much else.

If you use leftover chicken, even better! Less effort, so you have more time for drinking beer and inhaling the smell of baking pizza. Which is infinitely better than ordering delivery, even though delivery is easier. Some things are just worth a little bit more time, and people will like you more if you serve them calzones over take out schlock. Some of us need all the help we can get in that regard.

Chicken and spinach calzones

(Makes 8.)

Dough (inspired by a recipe from everybody likes sandwiches):

  • 1 package yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp.)
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour (if you don’t have this, it’s not crucial; just use regular flour, or sub whole-wheat, if you want)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt

Filling

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 cups packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

In a large bowl, combine yeast, honey, and water, and let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Add flour, semolina flour, oil, and salt and stir to combine. Turn out onto a floured surface, knead ten times, and then place in a greased bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes.

Use semolina if you can, because it’s extra nice in this kind of crust. It’s a coarser flour, and it produces an excellent crispiness that you’ll want in your calzones. Regular old all-purpose will work fine if that’s what you’ve got, but semolina is a nice touch. A little goes a long way too – spend the two dollars, and you’ll have a bag that will last you a long time, and you can add it to homemade pastas and breads and all kinds of things.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat onions in olive oil until shimmering. Add garlic, stir and saute for another minute, and then add crushed tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium, then add chicken, spinach, lemon zest, garlic, and basil. Taste, adjust salt as needed, and set aside.

Cut dough into four equal pieces, and then cut each piece in half. Roll each piece out until it is no more than 1/8-inch thick – it should be as round as possible, about the size of a small plate.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Spoon filling onto dough, dividing the amount as equally as possible between all eight rounds. Place the filling slightly above the centre of the dough, so that when you fold the short side of the dough over top of the filling, you still have an inch or so of dough on the other side. Place 1/4-cup of cheese on top of each scoop of filling, and fold dough over.

Press dough down gently to seal, and then fold the remaining dough over the crease to seal. You’ll end up with a sort of scalloped pattern, as you fold each bit of dough over the last. (See below.)

Place gently on a baking sheet lined with parchment or sprinkled with cornmeal. I bake these four to a sheet, with at least an inch between them, as they’ll puff up a bit and get bigger.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot.

If you’re not going to serve them all right away, you can cool the rest on a wire rack, and then wrap up and freeze. Reheat as needed.

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I am such a creepy, creepy weirdo.

As long as my real-life friends continue to not disown me/answer my calls and occasionally succumb to my edible whims, I’ll continue to think that I am a normal, healthy, well-functioning member of society. The Internet was made for harmless stalkery, and what better insight into the humans behind the blog posts than a glimpse into their fridges? A glance into mine reveals a sordid sort of laziness, pots with lids containing contents I was too distracted to scrape into containers, too many cartons of eggs, and condiments I like to pull out and admire more than I pull out to cook with. The idea comes from @kickpleat, via her post at ReadyMade, and it piqued a curiosity I hope you’ll indulge.

Fridge voyeurism. It’s getting to know you, in a peaking-through-your-underwear-drawer kind of way, but with food. Won’t you peak into my drawers doors?

A lot of children, none of whom are mine.
Those stupid bagels are always moldy. Even when the spot is occupied by brand-new bagels.
Fancy a bit of syrup? This is usually where we keep the wine, but we sort of ran out.
Nick organized the freezer, and I haven't had a chance to mess it all up.

Why don’t you share your fridgey little secret, and post it over at ReadyMade? I don’t think you’re allowed to self-edit, but isn’t that part of the fun? I think being honest about how many eggs and cheeses you eat or those food stains on the bottom shelf you were hoping someone else would deal with is kind of the point, right? Anyway. I’d love to snoop on you next.

Green soup.

I haven’t been around very much, and I haven’t been cooking. I’ve been busy, which after having been very not busy for over a month has proven exhausting, and even my weekends have been full of things. The past week has blown by and in its aftermath the weather? I am being pulled under it. By tonight I was an antisocial, horizontal mess and my main objective was to eat something restorative, something soothing that would put me back in my right place.

Soup.

Vegetables are greener and brighter these days, and green things are all kinds of restorative. For soothing, an avocado. And if you’re feeling flat and beige, like I am, this is the kind of thing you can make with whatever you’ve got in your fridge – if your green things are chard or kale or even lettuce, it will be more than okay. My favourite leaf is spinach, but you can use what you like. Watercress, arugula, and dandelion greens are in season at the moment. It’s vegan and easily adapted to include other ingredients – the components are only part of the experience and are easily modified, subbed out, or dropped all together.

And it’s smooth, so there’s none of that complicated chewing to be worked out. You can eat it as close to horizontal as is comfortable.

Green soup

(Serves four to six.)

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or water (plus one or two cups additional water, as needed)
  • Juice of one large lemon, about 2 tbsp.
  • 2 to 3 cups leafy greens, packed
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped basil or cilantro
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 or 2 large jalapeño peppers, diced (if you prefer less heat, remove seeds and membrane before dicing)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Sweat onions and the white and light green parts of the scallions in olive oil, then add garlic. Sauté for a minute or two, until you can smell the garlic, then add four cups of stock, water, or a combination. Bring to a boil.

Stir in green things, allowing them a minute or two to wilt. Add lemon juice, and blend until smooth with a blender (in batches) or a hand blender. At this point, add liquid to reach desired consistency.

Stir in oregano, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Taste, adjusting seasonings as needed – I used more water than stock, and found I needed about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.

Garnish with yogurt, if desired, and serve hot or chilled.

No wanting for waffles in Victoria.

This past week has been exceptionally busy – back to work, friends in town from all over, hockey games to be dragged out to the bar to endure watch, and a little day-trip to Vancouver Island to go see my friend Amber, who lives in Victoria which means that I don’t visit her enough, and who is an exceptional shopping buddy and shares my enthusiasm for eating. I didn’t cook or bake a thing last week, and yesterday set the crock pot too high and incinerated the ribs I’d left in it. Fortunately, Victoria was filling.

So instead of a recipe, today I am going to tell you about waffles, and a discovery I made that will enhance every trip anyone takes to Victoria ever. The place is called WannaWafel, and you smell it long before you get to Market Square and find it.

Unfortunately, I am still not a competent user of my shitty camera, and had it on the wrong setting, so the waffles don’t show up very nicely in my photos. I ordered the sugar waffle, a chewy, slightly sweet, somewhat salty round waffle, and asked for the fruit compote, which turned out to be a perfect combination of summer berries, cold and tart on top of my hot waffle. It was delicious.

I swear, I would move to Victoria IMMEDIATELY except that apparently it’s impossible to find jobs there and I should really be grateful that anyone was willing to hire me here. WannaWafel is very close to being enough to pull me back there forever. These are real Belgian waffles, and I’m certain once you try them you’ll never settle for an impostor waffle again.

We’ll be back to normal this week, so expect recipes and the usual blathering on and taking forever to get to the point. For now, though, think about waffles – my happy thought to you.

Peanut butter and white chocolate shortbread cookies.

It’s my birthday (tomorrow)! Exciting news, I know. I’m now 27, which is three years older than my mom is in that picture, which makes me feel fairly unproductive and much less like an adult.

Fortunately, those feelings are easily forgotten by eating cookies, so I made myself some special birthday cookies and then stuffed my face with them. Being a grown-up means that I can have all the cookies I want, which is the best but most often overlooked part of adulthood. And tomorrow we are celebrating my birthday by driving two hours to Hope for pie, and then to a dodgy casino across the border for $1.75 pints and $3.00 blackjack. Adulthood can be kind of awesome if you don’t take it very seriously.

Peanut butter and white chocolate shortbread cookies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, whatever you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted (if you don’t like white chocolate or simply prefer dark, use the same amount of semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

This is the kind of recipe for which you need to have some sort of electric mixer or food processor. You can do without, I suppose, but that would be an incredible pain in the ass. The thing about shortbread, especially shortbread made with granulated sugars (including brown sugar) is that you literally have to beat the hell out of it. And not for a minute or two either – I’m talking 25 to 30 minutes, so that the sugar rips tiny little tears into the butter before dissolving back into it.

Yes. Now. Cream together the butter, the peanut butter, and the brown sugar. Meanwhile, melt white chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stove. Once melted, pour into the butter-sugar mixture, and continue beating. Beat for 25 to 30 minutes, total.

After what will seem like forever, especially if your mixer needs to have its engine WD40d or something because it howls like it’s been stabbed, add the flour, a bit at a time, until a dough forms. Mix for another three to five minutes, until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl.

Divide into two balls. Roll out into two logs, about a foot long each, and an inch and a half in diameter. Cover tightly in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer to firm up, 30 to 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Slice each log into about 24 equal pieces, place on a baking sheet about an inch apart, and poke each piece with the prongs of a fork. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, but check occasionally during the last few minutes to ensure the cookies have only just begun to brown. You want them firm and crumbly, but pale.

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before eating, and then enjoy with chocolate milk (as much as you want).

Ten-minute sweet yellow curry.

It was supposed to be Rib Week, and indeed that’s how the week started off, but then I felt an obligation to perform and then some other stuff happened and I decided to hell with it, and stuck the rest of the ribs Nick bought into the freezer for another week. Today we had chicken in an easy ten-minute curry, because I am working on a few freelance writing projects before going back to work and have less time this week than I thought I would.

Don’t let the long list of ingredients put you off. It’s not that much, really, and it really does all come together by the time the rice is cooked. Which leaves you time for other important things, like drinking wine and watching What Would Brian Boitano Make?

Sweet yellow curry

  • 1 cup diced mango (about one mango)
  • 1 banana, sliced into rounds
  • 1 large shallot (or small onion), chopped
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Zest and juice of one lime
  • 2 tsp. sriracha (or the hot sauce of your choice)
  • 1 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 bunch green onions, light green and white part separated from darker greens
  • 1 398mL (14 oz.) can coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

In a food processor or blender, combine the mango, banana, shallot, ginger, garlic, lime juice and zest, fish sauce, sriracha, white & light green part of green onions, and coconut milk. Pulse or blend until smooth. Set aside.

Chop chicken thighs, and smash each piece with a meat mallet or rolling pin until flattened. Flattening the meat tenderizes it, and it cooks much faster because it’s not so thick.

In a large pan over medium-high heat, sauté chicken in canola and sesame oil. Add bell peppers. Let cook for a minute or two until the chicken browns, stirring frequently. Once chicken has browned, add cumin, turmeric, pepper, coriander, and nutmeg, stirring chicken and bell peppers to coat in spices.

Pour mango-coconut milk mixture into the pan, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to remove any browned bits, and stirring to incorporate all of the spices. The colour will be fantastic, possibly alarmingly bright. Reduce to medium heat, and bring to a gentle simmer to warm the sauce through.

Stir in the green part of the green onions (chopped) and the frozen peas. Simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Before serving taste to check your seasoning, adjust as needed, then add cilantro. Serve over jasmine rice.

Seriously – this whole thing takes, like, ten minutes. It’s got a delicate sweetness, but not cloyingly or oppressively so, and gently spicy. It’s fragrant, and all kinds of good for you. Anything that colour has to be good for you.

If, like me, you ate a kilo of Mini Eggs this weekend, a little bit of stewed rhubarb is probably exactly what you need.

You see that terrible disaster? It’s the first thing on my to-do list this week, and I’m a little overwhelmed. We’ve just had a three-day weekend of constant going and doing, and I don’t even recall cooking anything, and somehow, this is the aftermath. Even the cat is tired and doesn’t want to do anything.

This week and the early part of next week will be very busy, as I’ll be back to work next Thursday. Hooray! I have enjoyed unemployment (my four-week paid vacation), but it’s going to be great to be back. And back better than ever, as I’m moving on up to something a little different, a little more challenging, and likely with my own office to fill up with pictures of my cat. It’s very exciting. Nick is glad I will continue to earn an income, and I am glad that obligation will force me to brush my hair and shower, and to get out of bed before 10:00.

Best to ease into the day (and the week) slowly, I think. Stewed rhubarb with a little bit of local honey should do the trick – warm, tart, and like sweet porridge, it’s comfort in a bowl. This recipe makes about two cups’ worth, and is very good poured over oatmeal, if you prefer actual porridge, or over ice cream, which I don’t mind if you have for breakfast.

I prefer to stew greener rhubarb, as often it’s almost too sour to do anything else with. Red rhubarb has greater possibilities, which I am sure we’ll get into later. Stewed rhubarb is a very good start though, and you can make it all through rhubarb season using apples as I’ve done here for the early part of the season, or summer berries as the season continues. Strawberries are the obvious choice later in the season, but blueberries can be used as well, to great effect. This is also a recipe that Miss Rosa can adapt to the GI Diet, and the restrictions therein.

Stewed rhubarb

(Makes one to two servings, however the recipe is easily multiplied.)

  • 1 lb. rhubarb, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/2 lb. apples, finely chopped
  • Honey, to taste

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine rhubarb and apples with 1/4 cup of water. Stir occasionally to ensure fruit doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, until rhubarb and apple have disintegrated and the mixture resembles pink applesauce, 15 to 20 minutes. Sweeten with honey to taste, and serve warm.