Tex-Mex Calzones, and The Best Pizza Dough Ever

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Okay, so I didn’t exactly stick to my $5 grocery rule for this week.  This was due to an insane craving for some homemade calzones, fresh salad to offset a Hawaiian barbecue binge I had last Friday night with Jesse and Nate at Noho’s, and an impromptu decision to make some peanut ginger soba noodles with fried tofu, red bell peppers, and bok choy for dinner last night.  BUT, it’s all good, because next week/end is the Urban Craft Uprising summer show, and I guarantee you I will not be cooking next week.  It will instead be a week of calling in the saved-up Groupons, eating take-out, and most likely, the frozen-and-reheated remains of this here meal.  So basically what I’m saying is, by the time the UCU Summer Show is over, it will already be almost mid-July, I’ll have a freezer full of new leftover pizza and bagels from the staff room, and I’ll be back on track.

I haven’t been doing my weekly bread-baking thing lately.  In fact, ever since my cleanse this spring, I’ve been a little disenchanted with bread.  I definitely can’t say I’m “not doing gluten” or anything like that, but it’s been less of a major player in my life.  But, I do still crave foods that fill that bready role — something that I can use to wrap, support, or otherwise encase my food with.  Plus, sometimes I really just want pizza every day for a week, and this somehow feels like a healthier version of that.

And waaaaay easier.  I’ve never really been into homemade pizza — it seems like so much work for something that I ultimately consider to be a junk food that it always feels like a waste to me.  But calzones…calzones are as easy as–nay, easeir than–pie.

So, first let’s talk about the dough.  This meal was one of about six different things I had on my agenda for the evening, so I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time making a labor-intensive dough.  I turned to my online cooking bible, and lo and behold, she’s got a fantastic recipe for the best pizza dough ever.

I doubled her recipe, and then made a few little tweaks so that I ended up with the following ingredients sharing a mixing bowl:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
(After forming the dough, I then rolled it around in a handful of cornmeal, and the last of the rosemary I had lying around)

My favorite thing about this recipe is that it uses exactly the right amount of everything.  It’s not one of those dough recipes where you have to keep adding flour to dough it up…and the more water because it’s too dry…and them more flour because it’s too wet.  Nope, these ingredients are in this magical proportions so that, seriously, you just mix them all together with a fork, and then your hands, and you end up with a perfectly clean bowl, perfectly clean hands, and a perfect little ball of delicious dough, that you can wrap pretty much anything in and be stoked about it.  In fact, keep this on the DL, but I already have fantasies of pre-assembling dozens of breakfast calzones for festivals this summer, with eggs and sausage and veggies and cheese, to heat up on Jesse’s camp stove and eat with Kate’s infamous bloody marys in the morning.

So to make the calzone, I ripped off a little chunk of dough after letting it rise for about an hour, and rolled it out into a nice little round.

So then…the filling.

My original plan was actually to just do something super simple — a basic store-bought tomato sauce, some sauteed mushrooms and zucchini, fresh spinach, and mozarella.  Which I totally did.

But then I came home from the grocery to realize that I had already set a pot of pinto beans out soaking earlier, thinking I’d make some bean salad for lunches this week.

Knowing these couldn’t go to waste, I thought, there’s got to be some way to turn this into another awesome filling.  Enter the Tex-Mex Calzone.  I went ahead and cooked those beans, and then sauteed them in a hefty amount of olive oil and fresh chopped garlic.

Added some green bell peppers and diced up the last of a jalapeno I had in the fridge…

Added some V8 juice and taco seasoning and let this all reduce…

Stirred in some raw red onion, and decide with satisfaction that I had just created this delicious pinto-bean-veggie-enchilada stew.  Which is exactly what I spooned onto my little round of dough after letting it rise for an hour, tearing off a little chunk, and rolling it out as thin as I could with a rolling pin.

Full disclosure: those are not my hands.

(I like to stretch my calzone dough super thin.  I hate those calzones you get at restaurants that have like an inch-wide layer of dough, totally upstaging whatever it’s been filled with.  This gives it more of a thin, flaky crust, which perhaps would technically throw these more in the realm of the empanada, but I’m not going to get too technical here.)

But that’s not all.  Who knows why or how this occurred to me, but I remembered that I had a bag of Trader Joe’s tater tots in the freezer, and threw a couple of those on there as well.

Some shredded pepper jack cheese on top…

and then pinched all the edges of the dough together, sealing this puppy up, and put it in the oven on a baking sheet for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Oh.  My.  God.


This Week’s Groceries

Fred Meyer 6/27

  • Crimini mushrooms: $3.32
  • Head of lettuce: $1.00
  • Bok choy: $0.94
  • Zucchini: $0.78
  • Brick of tofu: $2.19
  • Pepper jack cheese: $3.00
  • Half and half: $1.59
  • Mozzarella cheese: $2.48
  • Fresh spinach: $0.99
  • Radishes: $.50
  • Pasta sauce: $1.37
  • Green bell pepper: $0.69
  • Red bell pepper: $1.50
  • Walla Walla onion: $0.58
  • Red onion: $1.02
  • Cucumber: $0.59
  • Cilantro: $0.49
  • Ginger root: $0.84
  • Garlic: $0.60

TOTAL: $24.37

REMAINING FOR THE MONTH: -$36.63 — to be remedied next month!!

Next week might be too crazy for cooking or blogging, so wish me luck at the show and I’ll see ya the following week!

Pork Chops in Garlic Red Wine Reduction, Roasted Broccoli, and Tzatziki Potato Salad

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All right, back in the swing of things.  After a fantastically fun housewarming party on one of the first super hot, sunny days of the summer, and then a relaxing evening of Papa Murphy’s and Redbox movies on Jesse’s couch, I finally had an old school, productive Monday/Tuesday “weekend,” where I knocked out a slew of errands like getting my car cleaned, oil changed (and Jesse even changed my brake pads for me over the weekend!  Little Ford Focus is getting in shape!), taking my work computer up to Jantzen Beach to have the hard drive replaced, going to the gym, getting ahead on my transcription for the week, picking up my new car title from the post office, making a yarn deal out in Lake Oswego, and compiling a comprehensive list of everything in my house I need to pack — either now or later — before the big move.

And then I cooked all my food for the week!

I’ve started a Pinterest account — not because I actually like Pinterest as an addition to the social media landscape, but because my old method of cataloguing recipes I want to try with Delicious was just too dang obsolete.  I’m totally ambivalent about whether people follow me on here or not, because the sole utility it poses to me is that while I’m perusing my food blogs (this is what I do whenever I’m eating alone), when I see something I want to make, I just click a little widget to pin it, and then trust that it’s being saved somewhere.

Then, on an afternoon like Monday, when I want to cook something but don’t know what, I can visit my board and see what I’ve been hanging on to, make whatever I choose, and then delete it when I’m done.  It’s kind of like a big visual to-do list, divorced from my actual to-do list that makes my world go round.

This week, I knew I had a little extra money to spend on some good meat, so I decided to try out The Pioneer Woman’s pork chops.  I’ve never made pork chops before, so this felt sort of exotic.  I also knew that, despite living in a basement, it was summer outside, so I also took a stab at Smitten Kitchen’s Taztziki Potato Salad.  And then some roasted broccoli, because I needed something green in there.  And I love broccoli.

I took Deb’s warning and got the potatoes boiling first, so that they’d have time to cool before going in the salad.

This is about 3.5 pounds of baby reds.

A little proud of myself for having purchased my first ever pair of pork chops, I seared them in some butter and olive oil (after salting and peppering both sides), while those potatoes boiled and cooled.

I was only making two chops instead of Rhee’s recommended six, so after browning both sides and removing the meat from the pan, I threw in six whole peeled cloves of garlic, as well as half a yellow onion, slivered, which was my own personal touch.  Once these had cooked for a few minutes I added about a cup of red wine and a bay leaf, letting this mixture reduce down.  Then, I added a little spoonful of Better Than Bullion’s beef paste and some water to turn it into broth, and added the chops back in.

Meanwhile, I was throwing together a quick base for the potato salad.  It all revolves around this.

I love Smitten’s idea of using yogurt as the base rather than mayonnaise, because even though I can totally get behind mayo on a sandwich or even in an aioli, I still have a hard time using it as a legit ingredient in dressing.  But yogurt?  Yogurt continues to amaze.  Like eggs, yogurt seems to be able to impress in a myriad of forms, meals, and context.  Salty, sweet, savory…whatever you’ve got going on.

In this case, it forms the creamy foundation for this summery salad dressing, starting with 2 full cups of thick Greek yogurt.  I don’t usually buy Greek yogurt, which seems to be a new craze as of the last year or two, but I can see why it’s perfect for this recipe: even after adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar, the dressing is still thick and rich, not runny.  After that, I stirred in half a bunch of chopped dill, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, the rest of my jar of capers, some garlic powder, and black pepper.

Then I took those potatoes from awhile back, cut them into nice little wedges, and let them cool some more while I tossed some big broccoli pieces in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, and curry powder, and then spread them on a baking sheet and roasted them at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Back to the pork chops.  Once they were fully cooked, I removed them from the pan and continued to reduce the sauce, adding 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and my remaining little square of butter, until it was a thick, rich sauce to spoon over the top of everything.

First foray into pork chops?  Success!

This Week’s Groceries

New Seasons 6/18

  • Plain organic yogurt: $2.99
  • Greek yogurt: $3.99
  • Cottage cheese: $2.19
  • Corn tortillas: $1.49
  • Pico de gallo: $3.69 — this is how I solve the tomatoes-are-prohibitively-expensive conundrum.
  • Dozen eggs: $2.89
  • Red potatoes: $4.87
  • Collard greens: $2.49
  • Fresh dill: $2.99
  • Yellow onions: $1.28
  • Bananas: $1.30
  • Roma tomatoes: $1.05
  • Pork chops: $5.03
  • Chorizo sausage: $5.09

TOTAL: $41.34

REMAINING FOR THE MONTH: -$12.26 — bummer 🙁  Went over for this month.  The good news is, I have tons of leftovers still in the fridge, so with another, say, $5 worth of veggies, I can definitely sustain for the rest of the month.

Chicken Peanut Bok Choy Stir Fry

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Last night felt like a huge welcome home — the first meal I’ve cooked in ten days!  Yes, between impromptu backyard barbecues, Jesse treating us to gigantic calzones on a Friday night when I had to stay home and catch up on work for the third evening in a row, and then a quick emergency trip up to B.C. to wire myself the remainder of my Canadian money that I’ve been saving since college, so that all my accounts are consolidated for my upcoming down payment on a house(!), I haven’t actually bought vegetables and done a full load of dishes and cranked out a good solid meal in over a week.  Even with my crazy insane-o-pants schedule, that doesn’t happen too often.

Earlier this week Jesse and I had been musing about what appliances and accoutrements we each have in our respective kitchens, realizing with satisfaction that when our kitchens eventually merge, there will be little to no redundancy, and between the two of us, we will suddenly own every appliance created (including a crock pot, pressure cooker, AND deep fryer).  Well, except for a KitchenAid, but I still maintain that that one’s unnecessary.

Now, I just recently acquired a super awesome heavy duty cast iron skillet, which I’ve been using to cook pretty much everything I consume, but during the mental tour of my kitchen, when I got to my well-seasoned wok, which sits in one of my big underneath cupboards, I realized that I’ve perhaps never cooked Jesse a wok meal before, and it gave me a serious hankering to do just that.

This is pretty much a re-run of my go-to Pad Kee Mao routine, but this time with chicken and some toasted peanuts for some extra protein, and to bulk it up.  I wanted leftovers, and Jesse is a serious eater.

First, I got these rice noodles soaking in some hot water, while we discussed whether or not a home warranty is necessary (I’m thinking no, when your boyfriend is a super smart contractor, right?  I’m all about taking the money that could be going to an insurance company and putting it into my own “emergency/repairs” fund).

I sauteed those up in some garlic and dark soy and sugar, and set them aside, then in the empty wok, browned some chicken and raw peanuts, with salt and chili flakes.

I sliced up some carrots and celery (on the diagonal, of course.  That’s what differentiates an Asian stir fry from an American saute!), and got these cooking with half a sliced onion and some minced ginger.  Then I whisked up a simple sauce of soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger powder, chili paste, fish sauce, and sesame oil, and added it to the veggies slowly, so that the liquid absorbed but didn’t overpower the stir fry.

Towards the end, I added a few handfuls of adorable little shitake mushrooms, and half a bunch of this awesome looking bok choy.

I spooned a little more sauce over the top, then added back in the chicken, peanuts and rice noodles, and mixed them all together until perfectly combined.

Served it up and garnished with fresh lime, sriracha, and extra sauce to taste.

And then, we drove up to Tonalli’s on Alberta and got ice cream cones.

This Week’s Groceries

New Seasons 6/14

  • Half gallon milk: $2.89
  • Shitake Mushrooms: $2.38 — would have been way more expensive but he charged me as a portobello.  Score!
  • Carrots: $1.06
  • Broccoli: $3.02
  • Bok choy: $1.76
  • Pascilla Peppers: $0.26
  • Garlic: $1.08

TOTAL: $12.40


Easy Summertime Grillin’

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I’m happy to report that the only meal I had the opportunity to take pictures of this week was entirely grilled.  And that’s because I got to spend my “weekend” (Monday/Tuesday) staying at a souped-up cabin near Mt. Hood, taking an Internet-free vacation while Jesse worked on refinishing the basement of said cabin.  And well, when you’re staying at a cabin and buying meal-to-meal groceries, and have this at your disposal, it just sort of makes sense.

It’s a pretty sweet deal, if you ask me.  Jesse’s been up there for three weeks himself, working 10 to 16 hour days, but then getting to enjoy the fact that he’s temporarily living here, all the while.

But truly, it’s an even sweeter deal for me.  Because I just get to hop in my car, cruise an hour and a half along the Columbia River, and arrive at his doorstep to visit and keep him company, armed with tote bags full of books, knitting, lounging clothes, and a bottle of wine.

He spent most of his waking hours down here…

And I spent mine here.

Or at my makeshift office.

Or catching up on phone calls while knitting on the deck (that Jesse built last fall when I got to come visit and do the exact same thing!).

Or zipping on the zip line.  For real, there is a zip line.

The color of that shed is, incidentally, the same color (and future trim) as my new house!

Or enjoying the view from the end of the driveway.

And in the evenings, Jesse washes all the drywall out of his hair, and we make dinner together.

On my way out of town, I stopped by New Seasons and picked up some of their pre-marinated kebabs, a big handful of green beans, some sliced almonds, a red onion, a bag of fingerling potatoes, and some young garlic spears, which I was soooo stoked to see!

Jesse took care of the grillin’.

Meanwhile, I slathered the potatoes in some oil, salt, pepper, and spices, and roasted them at 400 for about 45 minutes.

And then during the final ten minutes of roasting, I quickly sauteed up the green beans in a big pad of butter, with some nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper, blackening the sides.  I could have waited a little longer to throw in these thinly sliced almonds, but just between you and me, I kind of love the taste of burnt.

Everything about this meal makes me excited for his eventual living under the same roof of this house that I am buying.

This Week’s Groceries

QFC 6/1

  • Half gallon milk: $1.99
  • Whole bean coffee: $7.73

TOTAL: $9.72



Fred Meyer 6/2

  • Frozen has browns: $1.99 — My DIY ethos usually forbids me from buying these, but as you’ll see below, I was making 2 gigantic breakfast casseroles for “the morning after” Kate’s cocktail party and this was a necessity
  • Mushrooms: $1.89
  • Potato bread: $2.00
  • Shredded cheese: $4.00
  • Bell peppers: $4.08
  • Limes: $1.00
  • Breakfast sausage: $2.89
  • Yellow onion: $0.55
  • Cucumber: $1.38

TOTAL: $19.73



New Seasons 6/4

  • Sliced almonds: $0.70
  • Young garlic spears: $2.50
  • Fingerling potatoes: $3.99
  • Roma tomatoes: $1.00
  • Green beans: $2.30
  • Red onion: $1.32
  • Rosemary garlic beef kabob: $4.50
  • Spicy Thai pork kabob: $2.87
  • Teriyaki beef kabob: $2.45
  • Olives: $4.50

TOTAL: $26.13