Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What's for Dinner? Wednesday

Quickie Calzones

What you need:
1 package pizza dough mix, or use this recipe for no-rise dough here
1 package shredded mozzarella or Italian mix cheese
pizza toppings of your choice (we typically like mushrooms, pepperoni & ham)
pizza or spaghetti sauce for dipping

1) Mix dough with water according to package directions

2) divide dough into 3 or 4 pieces (maybe more if you used the recipe) - we typically do 2 large pieces for the adults and 2 smaller pieces for the kids

3) Using your hands, stretch (or smush, as my 4 yr old says) each dough ball out into a circle about the size of a salad plate.

4) Put your pizza toppings and cheese on one side of the circle.  Fold the other half of the circle over and push the edges together really well, sealing the calzone.

5) Repeat for other dough balls (we typically serve the kids as regular pizzas, as they prefer it that way)

6) Place calzones on a greased cookie sheet.  (We put calzones one sheet & pizzas on another & bake them both at the same time, pulling the pizzas out a few minutes earlier than the calzones)

7) Bake at 400 for about 12-15 minutes, checking after 12.  Calzones are ready when they are brown on the outside.

8) Serve pizza sauce on the side for dipping.

Quick & easy - ready in less than a half hour and minimal prep time.  This is a great quick meal on a work night or a day where things are crazy and you didn't think of dinner, etc.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What's for Dinner? Wednesday

I'm starting a new themed day, because I think we all can use some dinner ideas.  This is one of my husband's favorites, and when he took leftovers into work the next day they asked him what restaurant he went to for dinner the night before.  :)  I love that!  This is an adaptation from this recipe submitted by Star Pooley on one of my favorite recipe sites - Allrecipes.  I did some modification to the technique (quite a bit) and the ingredients.  It's extremely rare for me to make a recipe with zero modifications!
Swiss cheese is not pictured as I need to get more today!

Cajun Seafood Pasta 
If you don't care for seafood, you can easily make this with cut-up chicken breasts instead.  Also, you can use all scallops or all shrimp if you prefer.  I make it with all shrimp about 1/2 the time, as I can't always find scallops on sale.  If you use the large sea scallops, cut them  into quarters. It is also very good with crumbled bacon in it.

2 cups fat-free half & half (or milk)
1 tbsp chopped fresh dried basil (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tbsp chpped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
2 tsp salt (can use less)
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (can use more or less to taste)
1 tsp ground white pepper (sub more black if you don't have it)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c sliced mushrooms
1 c chopped green onions
1 c chopped fresh parsley (1 T dried or a bit more)
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/2 lb scallops
1/2 c shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese (fresh, not the bottled powdery stuff)
1 lb dry fettucine (or spaghetti or linguine) pasta

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente (see box for cooking time depending on pasta thickness)

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook shrimp & scallops in a tiny bit of olive oil and/or butter until shrimp is pink.  Add minced garlic, mushrooms and green onions.  Once mushrooms are soft, add half and half (or milk).  Add the thyme, basil & parsley.  Cook over medium heat 7-8 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened (it should coat the back of a spoon).  Stir in cheeses until well blended.

Serve over drained pasta.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Why you should visit your local farmer's market!

I love saving money as much as anyone, but there are some things I think are worth every extra penny.  One of those things is shopping at my local farmer's market.  I know I won't convert everyone, but I just thought I'd share a bit about why I love the farmer's market so much and why I think it's not as expensive as people think.

First, NOTHING compares to freshly picked fruits and vegetables.  No tomato in the grocery store (even when they are advertised as being "local" - which still may be 1 to 2 hours away) is going to come anywhere close to a tomato that completely vine-ripened and picked a day or two before you buy it.  Also, fresh sweet corn is beyond comparison also.

Second, you get personalized service.  The people at the farmer's market will give you tips on how to prepare your purchase, whether it can be frozen (I heard a tip 2 weeks ago about freezing corn still on the cob that I am dying to try this week), prepared ahead, etc, etc.  Become friends with the vendors at your farmer's market!  Today I got some great heirloom cherry tomatoes and some great tips on saving the seeds so I can grow my own next year.  I also will be getting some free zucchini seeds in a couple of months from another stall.  They had "Eight Ball" zucchini which are round, and I commented to Kate (my 4 1/2 year old) that they would be fun to grow next year, and asked if you could get the seeds in the area.  The owner of the booth said to stop back and ask at the end of the season and if I didn't need many seeds (I figure I can maybe grow 3 plants in the space I have by the house) he'd just give me some free.  His wife is there every week and knows me by sight because I came in the pouring rain one week to buy blueberries from her.
Some of the heirloom cherry tomatoes I got today at my farmer's market - I can save the seeds from these and grow my own plants next year, and they were $3.50 for this pint container.  I need to email the farm I bought them from and have them remind me of the variety.

Third, you know where your money is  going and what it is supporting.  Often, the people working the booth are the same people who are directly benefiting from your purchase.  By purchasing from your local farmer's market you are supporting small business, organic farming methods (typically, though many small farms don't spend the money to be certified) and sustainable agriculture.  Plus you can often get things like humanely raised meats and fresh eggs.

Fourth, you may be inspired to try growing your own produce, which is MUCH cheaper than buying it.  I love to garden, and I have a separate blog with gardening info here.  You do NOT need a lot of space to garden.  You can grow many, many, many things in pots.  Lettuce, for example, is GREAT for pots - it has shallow roots and is fairly compact.  In fact, unless you live in the extreme north, you can plant some lettuce in a pot right now, and get some fresh lettuce before your first frost.  And to extend the season, you can bring your pots inside or into the garage overnight for the first few frosts.  The only thing you really need to successfully grow your own produce about 6 hours of sun in a spot a day.  Though I know of someone who put their pots in a wagon and pulled them around to different sunny spots throughout the day.

So please consider visiting your local farmer's market.  When you see the prices, remember that you are paying not only for the actual produce, but the vendor's time and energy in raising that produce.  How much is your time worth per hour?  How much should their time be worth per hour?  That factors into the cost.

I will step down from my soapbox now. :)


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