Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Frozen Pizza Pockets

My husband has a weakness for cheap frozen food.  He loves cheap frozen taquitos and burritos.  I have a problem buying them because I flip over and look at the ingredients- the salt is way too high and the serving size way too small.  There's no way he'd only eat five taquitos or one small burrito, he'd easily eat twice that.  What to do??  Well, I had some left over pizza dough so I decided to make pizza pockets.

There was a BOGO sale on pizza dough the other day. One was used immediately for a spinach, turkey sausage, onion, and pepper pizza on an olive oil base and the other sat waiting for inspiration.  My first thought was to do rolls stuffed with pepperoni and pepper jack cheese (a West Virginian specialty according to my freshman year roommate), but nixed it because I didn't have pepperoni or pepper jack.  Then I realized I could make pizza pockets using ingredients on hand from the pizza the night before and some frozen pizza sauce from a couple months ago.

ingredients set up
After defrosting the sauce, I set up my ingredients:

- Turkey sausage
- mozzarella (we buy balls, not shredded)
- pizza sauce (homemade and seasoned with oregano, garlic, and basil)

- parmesan (optional, but it was in the fridge!)
- red pepper flakes (optional)

Basically, any combination of ingredients you'd put on a pizza would work.  I gently rolled the dough into a log and divided it into roughly equal pieces.  Taking one piece at a time, I gently stretched it into a round(ish) shape like I would for a large pizza.  Take your time, dough is fragile.

I spread about a teaspoon of sauce over the entire dough ball and over half put 5-6 pieces of sausage, roughly the same amount of mozzarella, a tiny bit of parmesan, and a dash of red pepper flacks.  
pizza pocket assembled
Then I folded half the dough over to form a pocket.  Look, a tiny calzone!  I use a fork to seal the edges and tried my best to not seal them too flat because I didn't want them to burn when I eventually cook them.  I froze them individually on a baking sheet so they wouldn't stick together and put them in vacuum bags after they were frozen in portions of 2 (for one person) or 4 (if we're both snacky).
pizza pockets frozen
According to a recipe I read, bake them at 400 for about 30 minutes frozen or 20 minutes defrosted.  I haven't actually cooked these yet so I don't know if that cooking time is accurate and I'll have to keep my eye on it. I'm excited to eat these!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dry weather, dry house

[1/14/12: apparently I forgot to press "publish" yesterday... oops!]

The weather is not cooporating.  I have a couple of projects in the works, but I need it to not be freezing and/or raining so I can sand and spray paint outside.  For another project, I am in the processing of finding/ordering an essential component and I'm stuck until I get it.

With the exception of today, the weather has been dry and with the heater running, bone dry in the house.  My nose has been quite distressed by this and protested with some bloody outbursts.  Since we don't own a humidifier (yet), we've been exploring the DIY options.

Option 1: leaving bowls of water in rooms to evaporate
Verdict: doesn't appear to help much, but I've left them out. Best if you have a baseboard heater.

Option 2: using a crock pot as a makeshift humidifier
Verdict: helps a little, but we're no longer using it because there is no "on" light. Someone decided to see if it was on, stuck their hand in very hot water, and burned themselves. 

Option 3: hanging up wet laundry or damp towels around the house
Verdict: best solution yet. Since we already hang dry our clothes, we just moved a drying rack into the bedroom.  Our jeans and other laundry are nearly bone dry by morning.  If you've ever tried to air dry jeans before, you know that's unusual.  It typically takes a good two days to air dry.

Option 4: be the humidifier and go around spraying water from a spray bottle everywhere
Verdict: works instantly, but only as long as you spray frequently.  Not a good solution if you want uninterrupted sleep. 

Option 5: simmer water on the stove
Verdict: works great, but quite localized to the kitchen.  I highly suggest doing this if the oven is on because that can further dry out a home.  Bonus points because you can add citrus peels, essential oils, or other spices/herbs to the water to make it smell delicious.

Option 6: bring plants inside
Verdict: undetermined, but my rosemary is now living next to my bed for the rest of winter.  The act of watering the plants will humidify the hair and plants recycle water by transpiration: moisture is released from the roots to pores on the bottom side of the leaves. If you're buying a plant instead of a humidifier, look for bamboo palms, snake plants, areca palms, spider plants peace lilies, and gerbera daisies. 

Option 7: shower with the door open
Verdict: works, but a short term benefit. 

Option 8: make a humidifier from scratch
Verdict: haven't tried it.  We'll cave and buy one as soon as we find one in our price range that cleans easily.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Homemade Turkey Sausage

Remember that giant turkey we got on sale after Christmas? Well, one thing we've really enjoyed making from the ground turkey is turkey sausage.  For almost every package we open, part of it becomes sausage: on pizza, in pasta sauce, with eggs, etc. We have yet to find sausage casings to make proper tubular sausage (though we have a stuffer attachment for the Kitchenaid!), so most end up being patties or tiny meat balls.  Jamie and I have both been to Germany and realize there are a bajillion types of sausage depending on the meat, spices/herbs and prep method, but we've seasoned it simply: sage.  It is AMAZING how much that one little herb changes the somewhat bland flavor of plain turkey into sausage.

By the way, it is coincidental that "sage" is the final syllable of sausage.  Sausage is derived from "salsicus" (salt) in Latin.  

So how do we make turkey into sausage?  First, chop up some fresh sage and add it to a bowl of ground turkey. I estimate we use about a tablespoon or so per pound. Salt and pepper to taste.  Pinch off pieces to make little balls (hint: wet hands work best when working with raw meat).
forming the sausage
Next: saute over medium heat in olive oil.  Baking would probably work as well, but we've always been too impatient to get dinner on the table. 
sauteing the sausage
Then use in your favorite recipe.
Mushroom and turkey sausage pizza with asparagus
Easy peasy.   We love it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Energy Trail Mix

This happens to me often: I'm headed out the door and realize I need to eat something fast, otherwise I won't make it til my next regularly scheduled meal (which means getting fast food or convenience snacks to tide me over, which is both unhealthy and expensive).  Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of snacks that be carried out the door (yogurt can be messy).  So, I decided to mix up a high energy, good source of protein snack.  I could have just bought some trail mix from the store, but most of them had something in it I didn't want (i.e. brazil nuts, etc).  I feel like this was just as cheap and I could choose exactly what I wanted in it.

almonds, cashews, cranberries, golden raisins

1 lb almonds
1 lb cashews
2 c. cranberries (or to taste)
2 c. golden raisin (or to taste)

Mix together in large bowl.  Keep in airtight container.  Servings size: 1/4 c. (about a handful)

I already had the cranberries on hand in a Costco sized quantity and we had the golden raisins left over from my husband's Christmas pudding (which I totally meant to post a picture/recipe of, but forgot til it was nearly gone).  I don't use golden raisins much, so I figured this would be a good way to use them up before they got all dried out.  Yes, I realize raisins are dried out, but there is a difference between fresh, plump raisins and old, dried out raisins.

By the way, I ended up keeping the trail mix in an old tupperware 1qt pitcher with a push button lid, but this canning jar was waaay more photogenic.  A ziploc back would have worked well, but I've noticed that if a bag/container cannot be closed with one hand (because the other is full of snacks), it won't get closed in this house. Then I wander through the kitchen a few hours later wondering why the chip bag is open.  Or if the cereal has been opened all day or was an afternoon snack. We're probably going to be using that tupperware as a snack container more often.