Meat Free Mondays – Garlic Bread Vegetarian Calzones

I’ve been working to perfect my calzones recipe lately and after a few calzone disasters, I finally found one that I’m happy with.

First of all, for those unfamiliar with calzones, they are simply pizza that is folded up into itself, sealed and baked. The result is a mouth-watering pocket of gooey mozzarella, tasty tomato sauce and whatever toppings you prefer.

You can make calzones with any pizza dough recipe you would like, but I’ve been making this garlic bread pizza crust recipe that I found on the wonderful blog “Mom Makes” because it is really flavorful and especially delicious.

For the filliing, I wanted to use all vegetables, but I was concerned that they wouldn’t cook soft enough sealed inside the calzone, so I gave them a quick saute ahead of time. The pizza sauce was my super easy and dependable pizza sauce I always make, but since I’m avoiding white sugar, I replaced it with the same amount of honey.

Finally, I used cute little mozzarella ovalini, which are balls of fresh mozzarella that are about the size of a golf ball. I just cut them in half and put a few in each calzone.

But what really makes this recipe something special is making a garlic butter sauce then brushing the calzones with it just prior to baking. It really brought the flavor to an entirely new level and is something I probably will be doing all the time from now on.

Garlic Bread Vegetarian Calzones

For the crust

1 cup lukewarm water (baby bath temperature)

1 TBS active dry yeast (or one envelope)

1-1/2 TBS honey

1-1/2 TBS Extra virgin olive oil

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp granulated garlic

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

2 TBS unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, crushed

For the pizza sauce

8 oz can of tomato sauce

1 TBS Italian seasoning

1 tsp honey

For the pizza

8 oz Mozzarella ovalini, cut in half

1/2 yellow pepper, ribs and seeds removed, julienned

1/2 red onion, julienned

4 oz can of sliced mushrooms, drained

4 oz can of sliced black olives, drained

1. For the sauce, combine tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and honey in a small pot and heat until bubbly. Turn off and set aside. Meanwhile, saute the peppers and onions, add the mushrooms and olives for the final minute to heat through and set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan, add garlic and cook until the garlic just starts to brown. Turn off and set aside.

2. In Kitchen Aid bowl, combine water, yeast, 1-1/2 TBS of honey and EVOO. Let sit for about 10 minutes until it starts to foam, indicating the yeast has activated. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine flours, salt, garlic powder, basil and oregano and mix together with your hands.

3. Add nearly all of the flour mixture into the yeast liquid — reserving about 1/2 cup for kneading — and blend on medium using the dough hook attachment until a dough ball forms, about three minutes. Sprinkle some of the reserved flour mix onto a work surface then transfer the dough ball and knead adding additional flour mix as necessary until dough is springy and no longer sticky.

4. Grease a clean mixing bowl with about 1 tsp of EVOO and place dough ball into bowl, turning so that all sides are oiled. This prevents a crust from forming as the dough rises. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft free place until dough has doubled in size, about an hour. Punch down and let it rise again if you want, but it’s not essential.

5. Preheat oven to 500F. Knead dough for a few minutes and let rest for a few more. Then cut dough into four peices. Using your hands and a rolling pin, form each peice into a thin circle, about 8 inches in diameter. When all four circles are complete, add a small amount of tomato sauce into the center of each, then a small amount of the sauteed vegetables, then about 3 or 4 ovalini halves.

6. Fold each circle over so that it forms a half moon, then roll the edges in toward the center about 1/2 inch. Use your fingers to pinch closed all the way around. Transfer calzones to greased baking sheets and brush generously with garlic butter.

7. Bake for about 15 minutes or until brown and crusty.

What sort of pizza variations do you like to make? Share your ideas in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!




Buffalo Chicken Pizza

I can honestly say that this is one of the best tasting recipes I have ever made. I loved it.

Of course, Buffalo chicken wings and pizza are two of my favorite foods in the world, so why wouldn’t I love Buffalo chicken pizza?

I can remember a time when chicken wings were a garbage peice of the bird, something you either threw away or saved for chicken stock.

But in the 1970s, an enterprising cook named Teressa Bellisimo — who owned the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York — scrambled to feed a bunch of hungry college students her son Domonic brought home unexpectedly. Using whatever was at hand, she threw a bunch of wings in a deep fryer then tossed them in a mixture of cayenne pepper sauce and butter, then served them up with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks. The rest is history.

Today, Buffalo chicken wings, also known as hot wings, are a multi-million dollar industry and are sold in bars and restaurants from coast to coast. These inexpensive appetizers remain a crowd-pleasing favorite.

This recipe keeps the great flavor of Buffalo chicken but disposes of the dish’s worst elements — namley the fat and tendons of the chicken wings and the deep frying. I won’t claim that this pizza is any less fattening than a plate of wings, but it definitely is lower in cholesterol.

If you are fan of Buffalo wings and pizza, I guarantee you are going to love this as much as I do.

I’ve given the recipe for my pizza crust before, so I won’t repeat it here.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza


3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (About 1-1/2 lbs)

Salt and pepper

1/3 cup Franks Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce

1/2 cup reduced fat blue cheese dressing (or ranch)

1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles

8 oz shredded fresh mozzarella

1/3 cup scallions, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Put your cast iron pan on the fire. When hot, add EVOO. When smoking, season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then carefully place the chicken breasts skin side down in the pan. Cook until lightly browned. Use a tongs to flip over, then place the whole pan in the oven and cook until breasts are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Dice chicken into large chunks then place in bowl with the hot sauce. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. This can be done well ahead of time.

2. Roll out pizza dough crust to a circle slightly larger than your pizza pan, then transfer it to the pan using your rolling pin. Crimp the edges all the way around between your thumb and forefinger, like you would a pie. Use a fork to poke holes in the bottom of the crust. This is called “docking” the crust and prevents big air bubbles from forming while it cooks. Spray crust with pan spray then cook for 20 minutes, turning the pan once midway through to cook evenly.

3. Use a spatula to spread the blue cheese dressing evenly on the bottom of the crust. Distribute the chicken throughout the pie, then sprinkle with the blue cheese crumbles. Cover the pie with the mozzarella, then arrange the scallions over the top. Bake until the top just starts to get brown and bubbly, about 20 minutes, again turning the pan once midway through to cook evenly.

What recipes do you break out when you want to please a crowd? Share your ideas in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!

King Basil

Perhaps the plant we’ve had the most luck growing is basil.

Not only does it thrive despite too much or too little rain, not enough sunlight or too many insects, but it fills the garden with a lovely licorice aroma.

Given the best conditions, basil plants grow huge – up to six feet. Ours usually make it to about three. Throughout the summer, as you pick off the leaves to use in salads and sauces, they are replaced tenfold. It’s one of those plants where you definitely will have more than you could ever use or give away.

Right now, we have three basil plants growing. One huge plant in our main garden and
two smaller plants in the Accidental Herb Garden. Even though they weren’t planted until August, they are both doing well.

Basil will let you know if the soil is rich in nutrients or not. If it is, the leaves will be  robust green. If not, they will be a paler yellow green.

We’ve always grown them from baby plants, which are inexpensive in the spring at the
local gardening supply stores, but you also can grow the from seed. You can even start them indoors in the winter, if you make sure they have plenty of water and light.

Basil is an annual, which means it usually doesn’t come back the next year. It is
very sensitive to frost, so the autumn’s first freeze instantly will turn your plants black. Make sure to harvest as much as you can whenever there is a season’s first frost advisory.

Basil can be dried by laying the leaves out on sheet pans or screens in a dark,
well-ventilated place. They also can be frozen or stored in oil.

Perhaps basil is most known for its use in pesto sauce, the sweet and tangy Italian
sauce that can be used as a spread, as a pasta sauce, salad dressing, or anything you want to zing up with spicy flavor.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Pesto, Chicken and Zucchini

Whole Wheat Pasta with Pesto, Chicken and Zucchini

Making pesto is super easy, and it’s a great way to use up all the extra basil you’re going to have at toward the end of the summer.

Put it in jars or used salad dressing containers and it will keep in your refrigerator for weeks. Or homemade pesto made with basil you’ve grown yourself makes a heartfelt gift.

Basil also is a central ingredient in Insalata Caprese. I also like to use it on my
white pizza.

Pesto Sauce

Pesto Sauce

Pesto Sauce

2 cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed

4 cloves garlic, whole

1/3 cup EVOO

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp fresh ground black pepper

¼ cup grated parmesan

¼ cup pine nuts (optional)

Add all ingredients except the parmesan the food processor and pulse until completely mixed. Fold in parmesan. Note: Traditional pesto includes pine nuts, but they are really expensive. Because this is a budget cooking blog, I made them optional. In my opinion, they add more texture than flavor. Try substituting walnuts, which are way less expensive, or leaving them out altogether.

For an interesting variation, try using roasted garlic instead of raw. It makes a much sweeter pesto. Or fold 1 TBS fresh pesto into 1 cup of mayonnaise to make an outstanding basil aoli that will make your next sandwich truly special.

This delicious variation on traditional pizza uses fresh herbs to make an unbelievably flavorful pie that you will rave about.  

White Pizza

Whole wheat pizza dough, cooked


½ lb fresh mozzarella

7-10 basil leaves, sliced cross-section wise

1 TBS fresh oregano, chopped

1 TBS fresh opal basil, leaves separated but whole

1 cup pulled smoked chicken or pork

1 green pepper, sliced into thin horizontal rings

3-4 slices red onion, rings separated

1 tsp granulated garlic

1 tsp Italian seasoning

½ tsp red pepper flake

My white pizza is the same as my regular pizza, except I just brush the dough with EVOO rather than a red sauce. Assembly is the same. I pile on the fresh herbs and other toppings, covering with discs of fresh cut mozzarella, and seasoned with the dried seasonings before going into a 400F oven for 20 minutes. At the very end, I sprinkle the fresh spicy globe basil leaves. They have an interesting flavor and their micro basil leaves look adorable.

Do you have any recipes that include fresh basil or pesto sauce? Share them in the comments section below.

Budget Cooking — Oh, Pizza!

To me, pizza is the world’s most perfect food. All the essential food groups are combined into one delicious package — the crust is your starch, the cheese is your protein, and the toppings are your vitamin-rich veggies. You can eat it with your hands, so there’s little cleanup, and at least in my house there’s hardly ever any leftovers. What could be more

My family is fortunate enough to live in a city where there is an abundance of amazing pizza places nearby. Dial a number and some of the best pizza in the world can be at our door within the hour. But ordering a pizza can be a luxury if you are on a budget, unless you order from an inexpensive chain pizza store, where quality is often sacrificed at the expense of cost-savings and speed.

The good news is you can serve your family steaming, delicious pizza anytime you want for just a couple of bucks if you make it yourself. I’ve been making pizzas professionally and for my family for more than 20 years and it’s still one of my favorite dishes to make. It’s easy, fun, and can even provide priceless family time if you get the kids involved
kneading the dough or placing the toppings. The variations are endless and it’s also a great way to use up leftovers. Plus, pizza!

Today, I’m going to share with you my recipe for a mouth-watering cracker-crust whole wheat pizza. Although it takes a little time because I proof my own dough, it’s not complicated and all the ingredients are probably already in your cabinets.

This simple recipe makes enough dough for two 16” pizzas, or four mini (8”) pizzas. You can freeze whatever you don’t use. Pizza dough freezes great, and can last for months. When you’re ready to use it, just pull it out to defrost for a few hours, then roll it out. Nothing could be easier. Plus the cost is roughly $.50 per 16″ pizza crust.

The Dough

2 cups lukewarm water (105-115 degrees F)

1 teaspoon honey

1 envelope active dry yeast

4 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

1 TBS salt

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1.   Measure the lukewarm water into a large bowl. Don’t worry about using a thermometer to temp it, just make it the same temperature as baby bath water. Sprinkle the yeast into water then stir in the honey until dissolved. Wait about 10 minutes for the yeast to start eating the sugars in the honey, causing tiny bubbles to form. Meanwhile, combine the flours and salt in a mixing bowl.

2.   Once the yeast starts to bubble, stir in 3 TBS of EVOO. Save the remaining EVOO for later. Add about ¾ of the flour mixture into the liquid one cup at a time until it starts to form a loose dough. You can use a Kitchen Aid mixer on low with a dough hook if you have one, or just stir it with a wooden spoon.

3.   Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter, then use your hands to knead it for about 8 to 10 minutes, slowly adding the rest of the flour mixture. When the dough is smooth and no longer sticky, form it into a ball. You can tell it’s ready when the dough springs back when you press your thumb into it. Spread the remaining EVOO around all sides of a mixing bowl using a paper towel or napkin, then roll the dough around in the bowl so that its covered with the oil. This prevents a skin from forming while it rises. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for at least an hour. This is called “proofing” the dough.

4.   Once the dough has roughly doubled in size, punch it down to its original size, knead it for about 30 seconds more, then let it rest for a couple of minutes. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into at least two pieces. I usually put one half in a plastic zip-lock freezer bag and freeze it for another day.

5.   Use a rolling pin to shape the dough into a circle or rectangle, depending on your cooking sheet. The dough should be slightly larger than whatever pan you’re using. Transfer the dough to the cooking sheet, then use your thumbs to crimp the sides to make a nice crust. Spray or brush the crust with a little EVOO to make it crispy. Use a fork to poke holes throughout the dough. This is called “docking the dough” and it keeps air bubbles from forming in the dough while it cooks.

Pizza Dough Crimped and Docked

Pizza Dough Crimped and Docked

6.   Cook in a 400F oven for about 20 minutes or until dough just starts to brown, turning once or twice.

The Sauce

There is nothing complicated about my pizza sauce, but it is delicious and very inexpensive – depending on the tomato sauce you buy, it can cost anywhere from $.11 to $.34/pizza. It’s easy to make it while your crust is cooking, plus the hearthy smells of the cooking crust and the tangy tomato smell of the simmering sauce are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

8 oz can tomato sauce (any kind)

1 TBS Italian Seasoning (or dried oregano)

1 tsp granulated sugar

Combine ingredients in a small sauce pan. Heat until just bubbly, stirring once or twice, then simmer for a minute or two to get the tin can taste out. Turn it off and set it aside until the crust is ready.

There's nothing complicated about my pizza sauce

There's nothing complicated about my pizza sauce


Once the crust is ready, spread the sauce on the pizza using a spatula, then add whatever toppings you want.  I often use fresh sliced red onions and green pepper, canned or fresh sliced mushrooms, canned sliced black olives, partially cooked Italian sausage, or whatever I have at hand. Whatever you choose, it’s going to be delicious.

On this one, I put red pepper, red onions, black olives, sliced mushrooms and pulled smoked chicken

On this one, I put red pepper, red onions, black olives, sliced mushrooms and pulled smoked chicken

Cover your toppings with about 8 oz of low-moisture, part skim mozzarella, a package of which will cost anywhere from $1.49 to $3.00, depending on where you go and if it’s on sale. Or you can use fresh mozzarella if you want, but it’s going to be a little more expensive, usually about $2.98-$3.98 for a half pound. Before it goes in the oven, I usually sprinkle the pizza it with a little grated parm and Italian seasoning, some red pepper flake, and a little granulated garlic for some additional flavor oomph. Cook at 400F for about
20 more minutes, or until the cheese starts to just slightly brown.

Slice and serve with additional grated parmesan or Romano and crushed red pepper flake on the side. This recipe feeds about three hungry adults or a family of four. You’re a hero for under $4.00!

Oh, Pizza!

Oh, Pizza!