Friday, June 26, 2009

Mexican Calzones

The other day I listened to a discussion of empanada on "Everyday Food," a program on the Martha Stewart channel on Sirus Radio. The conversation made me hungry. I kept thinking about the awesome empanadas that my friend introduced me to in her neighborhood -- Jackson Heights in Queens.

I briefly considered making empanadas that night for dinner, but decided against it. First off . . . I'm trying to be a little more health conscious these days (read: get back into shape after having a baby) so the I really didn't want to use an entire stick of butter in my dinner. Also, the baby was asleep in the back of the car, so I didn't want to stop at the grocery store to pick up the aforementioned butter.

Instead, thinking about what I had in the house, I decided to make calzones stuffed with a Mexican inspired chicken filling. To up the health quotient, I made a whole-wheat pizza crust. And, since the filling wasn't too saucy on it's own I concocted a guacamole-inspired salad, which further upped the healthy anti by adding plenty of fresh veggies.

Mexican Calzones
(Makes 4 large calzones)

Whole-wheat pizza dough

1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
3 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper

Cut chicken into one-inch pieces. In a large pan, sauté chicken in one tablespoon olive oil over high heat. When the chicken is opaque and slightly golden, remove chicken from the pan. Add diced onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic, jalapeño, and chili powder and cook for another few minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock and scrape all of the brown bits with a wooden spoon. When the most of the liquid has evaporated, pour in crushed tomatoes and crushed pepper flakes. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pan along with the goat cheese and Parmesan. Stir until the goat cheese has melted. Remove from the heat. Mix in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

Punch down dough and form into four balls. Roll dough into rounds. Place one cup of filling on half of each round. Fold the dough over, crimp the edges to seal, and cut two or three vents into the top. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Serve with guacamole salad.

Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough

This recipe makes two 12 x 18 square pizzas or four large calzones.

1 1/4 cups very hot tap water
2 envelops active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil tablespoons olive oil

Add yeast to tap water. Set aside for a few minutes to let the yeast proof. If a bit of foam appears on the top of the water, the yeast is okay to use. If no foam appears, throw out the yeast and use another package.

Place flour in a large bowl. Whisk in salt and sugar. Add water with yeast and 1/4 of olive oil. Mix until slightly sticky dough has formed. Add more flour, one tablespoon at a time, if necessary. Kneed the dough for two or three minutes in the bowl.

With the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, coat the sides of a large bowl. Put the pizza dough inside and cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free place and allow dough to rise for about one hour.

Guacamole Salad

Who doesn't love guacamole? Well, here's a way to have your guac and a salad too. By simply adding arugula, radishes, and carrots to a basic guacamole recipe this delicious condiment before a full-fledge side dish.

1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup chopped arugala
3 radishes, cut into thin match sticks
1 carrot, cut into thin match sticks
1 ripe avocado
1 tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons finely cilantro or parsley
1 lime
Salt and pepper

In a bowl, toss together onion, arugula, carrots, and radishes. Prepare the avocado by slicing it in half and removing the pit using the base of a sharp knife. Without removing the flesh from the skin, slice the avocado diagonally, then lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop the avocado flesh into the bowl. Mix avocado with the other veggies, mashing it as need to remove any large lumps of avocado. Add the tomato and cilantro or parsley. Squeeze the lime and mix in the juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Baby Food 101

Twice in the last five months I have been home by myself without the baby. So, what did I do with myself last week when I found myself home alone? Take a long bubble bath, cozy up with a novel? Paint my much neglected toes? Nope. I cooked.

Even though the baby seems to enjoy sitting in his bouncy chair in the kitchen while I chop, simmer, and sauté, I still relished being able to take my time and without having to do the silly songs and dances that keep him happy when the meal seems to be taking too long.

And what did I cook? Baby food.

As someone who cooks most of my meals from scratch, it just seemed natural to me that I would make food for my baby. Even though store-bough baby food doesn't contain lots of the added sugars and salts in processed foods for adults, I still wanted to try my hand at making my babies first meals.

The whole process was super easy. Here's my recipe for applesauce:

12 organic apples*
1/4 cup water

Peel and core apples. Cut into half-inch slices. Place in a pot with water. Cover and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook until apples are soft, which will take 25 to 30 minutes. Place apples in a blender and puree until perfectly smooth.** Pour the pureed apples into ice cube trays and freeze. When they are frozen, remove from trays and store in a freezer bag. Remove one or two cubes at a time to feed to the baby. Defrost before serving.

*Apples are one of the "dirty dozen," which is a list of the twelve foods that get treated with the most chemicals or are hardest to remove the pesticides. The other foods on this list are peaches, sweet peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, leafy greens, grapes, carrots, and pears.

** When placing hot food in a blender, remove the plastic form that goes in the center of the blender lid. This will allow the steam to escape.