Friday, February 14, 2014

Corazón Calzones

Ahhh, Valentine’s Day. You anxiety-inducing, confusing, sometimes sad, sometimes blissful, bipolar creature. My rebellious spirit wants to just say no to you. My internal emoticons, try as they might, just can’t hang with that rebel spirit. Oh, the juxtaposition that brings.

A long time ago, I received great advice from my Godmother, though it wasn't really advise at the time, just a sharing of a story. She told me that her and her husband just didn't really believe in Christmas. They are deep believers in the meaning of Christmas, but they don't lend much credence on what the holiday has become. Rather than focusing on the materialism of that holiday, they treat each other all the time, whenever they are moved by something they know one-another would enjoy. A trip, a corvette :), a walk, a meal, a this and that. I really think about them around holidays and the way I approach my relationship all the time. To celebrate love everyday, in some way, is a good way to enjoy a happy relationship. 

My Plus One and I have been together for 9 Valentine’s Days this year. Some years we celebrate, some years we completely ignore it. Weirdo’s, I know. Last year we actually decide to make a deal of it and send each other stuff, buy new lingerie, go out to a ridiculous steakhouse and have steak that we could have made better at home (we have a steak secret passed on by my family, and no steakhouse can ever seem to stack up). It seemed to throw the whole year off. I’m sure it’s just coincidence, right? Don't get me wrong. I love a ridiculous steakhouse any other night of the year. Then it has the opportunity to be a fabulous steakhouse, although I'd probably prefer a French or Seafood restaurant, personally. 

Though not at all superstitious (maybe a little), coming off of a tough 2103, I think we are both just ready to play it safe. What could be safer than a heart-shaped Calzone, anyways? So with that said, on to the Calzone:

Stuff You'll Need:

-Pillsbury Pizza Dough
-Marinara Ingredients (Recipe below)
-Mozzarella Cheese
-Cottage Cheese
-Parmesan Cheese
-Grated Romano (opt.)
-Filling Ingredients
-Food Processor or Blender
-Pot, I like a Dutch oven for sauces (haha)
-Spray Cooking Oil or a brush with Canola Oil

Calzone Marinara Filling

4 Tbsp Olive oil
5  Whole Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 whole small onion, chopped
2 Roma Tomatoes, diced small
1/2 cup White Wine
½ cup Chicken Broth
1 Can Crushed Tomatoes, 15-ounce
Salt and Red Pepper Flakes
Handful of Fresh Parsley Leaves, chopped
Half Small Container of Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped

Heat up a Dutch oven or similar sized pot. Add 4 Tbsp of olive oil to pot on medium heat. Let the oil warm up, then add the minced garlic and chopped onions and give them a stir. Let them cook ‘til translucent, maybe 5 minutes of medium heat couple of minutes. If your stove is hard to regulate, keep an eye, burnt garlic is a no-bueno-bitter-yuck.

Alright, time to add the white wine, give it all a stir to deglaze pot. Simmer down a few more minutes. Simmer down y’all, simmer dooowwnnn! Okay, picture painted; now add the chicken broth and an extra splash for good measure. Cook until the liquid reduces by half.

Add the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. While that cooks down some more, chop up the Roma tomatoes (vine ripe are interchangeable here). Small dice. Slice the tomato into thin slices before chopping to help get a small dice going.

*Kitchen Tip
: Okay, so truth is, I have no idea why, but whenever I make a tomato sauce, I can’t help but add fresh tomatoes to canned tomatoes. I really think it adds an element of ::something::. This leads me to the kitchen tip…Semi Homemade is OKAY! It’s more than okay, it’s often times unrecognizable. Meaning you can take shortcuts here and there and no one will know but you! Throw in a few fresh ingredients (some chopped onions, minced carrot and a little shredded spinach, for example) to spice up a canned sauce. Fresh spices are great for a casserole with a base of canned cream of anything. Add some fresh carrots and celery to a dry noodle soup packet for quick noodle soup. The list can go on and on.

Back to the sauce at hand; add salt and red pepper flakes to taste. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, which gives you time to prep your fillings. (See below)

Toward the end of the cooking process, chop up your fresh parsley/basil and add it to the sauce, stirring to combine. Turn the heat off at this point to let the sauce chill out before assembling the Calzones.

While the Marinara is simmering away…

Assemble Your Calzones:

Drain cottage cheese in a fine mesh colander. In a food processor, add 1 cup cottage cheese to smooth. 

Blend into a paste; 30 seconds approx. Add 8 oz shredded mozzarella to food processor and pump around a few times. The two turn into a thick paste but still have a grainy look, not too smooth. Check out photos of the process:

Final Product has a thick consistency

Now it is time to roll your Pillsbury Pizza Dough out. For this recipe, I used 2 cans of dough for 6 Calzones. 

Cut the loaf into thirds (makes a large calzone per person). 

Roll each dough into a ball. Then, use a rolling pin to roll out dough on a greased baking sheet. 

They don’t have to be perfect, just thin as you can get it without ripping and flat/large enough to fold over.

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now it’s just a matter of assembling. Spread a layer of the cottage cheese/mozzarella paste first, over the whole thing.

Next, add your toppings. We had a little build-your-own bar including mushrooms, diced bell pepper, pepperoni, cooked Italian Mild Sausage and black olives. It was fun for everyone to get their hands in there and assemble theirs the way they liked. My Calzone included all but olives in - it was a-MAY-Zing!

Once you’ve got the paste spread over the dough, and the toppings, sprinkle mozzarella, parmesan and Romano cheeses over the side that will stay put when you fold over.

On top of that same side, spoon your marinara sauce liberally over everything. 

Fold over and use a fork to press along the edges, to seal the calzone. I found that they naturally formed kind of half circles during this process.

Next, gently poke a handful of small holes with your fork into the top, to allow the steam to release during cooking. Spay the top with cooking spray and sprinkle a little Parmesan over the top. 

Bake for 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on it for the last few minutes, since the heat is high and the sizes can vary, some may cook faster than others.

Here is the break down of Cheeses, and how much you’ll need for about 6 Calzones (depending on how cheesy guests make theirs). I had extra Mozzarella on hand, just in case.

8 oz. (1 Cup) Cottage Cheese
16 oz. (2 Cups) Mozzarella Cheese (half of this goes into the cheese spread)
Grated Romano Cheese
Shredded Parmesan

Toppings Bar

Sliced Black Olives
Diced Green Bell Pepper
Sliced Mushrooms
Crumbles Mild Italian Sausage, cooked
Chopped Pepperoni

Until next time…Happy Cooking! Happy Valentine’s Day, too! I hope everyone has a day of love, whether it be family, friends, etc…and there’s always this Calzone if you are on your own tonight. A big glass of wine and a night of Calzone making to keep you company, never a bad night did make!


Friday, February 7, 2014

Skinny Sour Amaretto Cocktail

I was clued in to Amaretto Sours first by my sister and then by friends during girl’s night. It seemed like a fad, since I was hit with it all in a small span of time, but one that stuck. By and large, ladies are known for leaning towards fruity or sweet drinks, maybe that’s why Amaretto Sours are rampant at lady nights. Thus, they aren’t likely going anywhere and they are yummy.

I tasted one. I thought it was ::ssschwwEEE-eet::. Like really sweet, and obviously laden with sugar. After doing some research, (I broke it down below) I found out lots of information- for one, that it is hard to find any standard caloric information. The numbers are all over the place, and in every variation of measurement. Leads me to believe somewhere out there is an Amaretto committee scrambling and burying any standard caloric breakdown, making it difficult for the average consumer to find practical data. Makes sense, right?

Recipes, too, vary across the internet, but not enough one way or the other, calorically speaking, to make a huge difference. I figured I would work on my own Amaretto Sour, a light version, something that was enjoyable on my palate and that I could drink without worrying about all the sugar.

My taste buds lean towards citrus, sour, salty and less sweet. What I ended up with is a lot less sweet, a lot less calorie and sugar laden, and not really an Amaretto Sour, per say, for lack of, well...Amaretto. There's a third of the amount. I am naming it a "Skinny Sour Amaretto" where sour comes first. I can’t wholly leave off the Amaretto because it still resembles the flavors and scents of its Amaretto Sour mother drink. And thus it is recognizable to Amaretto Sour fans in many ways, but varied to come in at 169 Calories. BOOM! A very nice number ;)

The typical Amaretto Sour is:
-one or two parts Amaretto (aka 2 to 4 oz.)
-one part (1-2 oz.) Sweet & Sour mix (a.k.a. sour mix or bar mix, made with sugar syrup and lemon and/or lime juice)

By most reliable accounts, the amount of calories in Amaretto Liqueur is 194 calories for every 50 mL of Amaretto. 50 mL also equals about a 1.5 oz pour.

Standard Amaretto sour recipes range from a 1:1 ratio to a sweeter 2:1 ratio of Amaretto-to-sweet-&-sour.

I’ve seen recipes for a 6 oz cocktail, where you looking at 4 ounces (118 mL) of Amaretto to 2 ounces (59 mL) of sweet & sour mix. That is 602 calories for a 6 oz sweet Amaretto Sour.  YIKES!

Alternately, a smaller 3 oz drink served with lots of ice, because you likely ordered it on ladies night special, is 301 calories. In which case you probably order 2 or 3. Bringing you up to 903 calories and counting. That’s basically a McDonald’s meal…Yeah... When broken down like that, it’s a little scary.

So, keeping in mind the data breakdown here:
1 Oz Amaretto is 129 Calories
1 Oz Sweet & Sour is 43 calories

The following recipe is the….


.5 oz Amaretto Liquour (aka 1 Tbsp)
1.5 oz Vodka
¼ tsp almond extract
1 Frozen cube lemon juice
Sprinkle of Splenda
2-3 Ice Cubes
Wedge of lemon for garnish

Put Amaretto, Vodka, almond extract, frozen lemon juice ice cube, one regular ice cube and sprinkle of Splenda in a shaker. I used about ¼ a packet of Splenda, some may want more, I like it a little sour. Shake Shake Shake. Pour all into an old-fashioned glass, over the remaining regular ice cubes. Squeeze fresh lemon over top and the garnish with that lemon wedge.

In my pictures, I did a play on a “Dirty Martini” garnish, peeling lemon peel and folding into circles to look like “olives” the topped the cocktail stick with a smoky almond that I had “drilled” a little hole into with a metal skewer. You have to drill the almond gently, or it breaks into little pieces. I just liked the quirky cuteness of it!

AANNNDD the final calorie break down is as follows:

Vodka…………….96 Calories
Almond Extract…..5 Calories
Amaretto……….....64 Calories
Lemon…………….4 Calories

Total …… 169 Calories

Until next time…Happy Cooking and “Mixology-ing”