January 18, 2016

Playoff-Ready Mini-Calzones & The BEST Marinara Sauce

Ahhhh, my blog, how I've missed you, and any readers who are still out there!
My life has had some snags of late, but I am still here and want to write more and more. Hopefully this new year will allow me to do so!

Because it's football season, and a rainy/snowy cold day in New England (shocker!), what better way for me to pop up again, than with glorious football food? (you can even try my yummy chili in my other post Game Day Chili)
My beloved New England Patriots (haters gotta hate I'm sure, but you'll still like this recipes) are playing the Kansas City Chiefs today in the playoffs after earning a first round bye. Thank GOD for the bye because we are one banged up team!

Now, before I get to the yummy calzones, I have to admit that I am a Patriots addict, or really a Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski addict. But it is really #TB12 who makes my heart soar, and who my husband actually tolerates as my crush!
I even cut and pasted this picture of Sally Brown with Tom Brady, instead of Linus, and use this as my facebook profile picture. It's a joke, don't worry, I'm not a creepy stalker fan, just out to have some fun!

And ironically, what you'll now witness as my mental instability, all started AFTER we (okay, really the Patriots, but we're part of #PatsNation now) lost against the dreaded Kansas City Chiefs in 2014 with a score of 14-41. It was an awful, very bad, no good day.

After that game, I decided that I needed to "do my job" as Coach Belichick  says, and decided to wear #THEHAT to every game from then on. We did not lose a single game afterwards and went on to WIN the Super Bowl! Boom! 
I even got the "fam" in on the hats at the Super Bowl. Aren't my mum and my sister-in-law so fun?

Before and since the Superbowl, I wore that hat everywhere, even on the Intracoastal Waterway even if no one ever saw me. I had my "job" to do! 
And surprisingly, I came across fellow Pats fans in their own boats who LOVED my hat!
Because we had no signal on board the mighty SEYON to watch the playoffs last year, we pulled into the Barefoot Landing Marina in Myrtle Beach so we could find a bar to watch the game. It was a tough job, but I was up to the task!
But then I had to endure looking at these gorgeous Seahawks fans while we played them. But karma was on my side that day, because we won!
(apparently hat-wearing, even this madras plaid version, has always been my thing as I am here, instructing Joe on some ice sculpture plan that was clearly important in my position as the head of Dartmouth's Winter Carnival. Gotta love my ceramic code flag necklace - lol)

Fast forward to this year's football season, and after a perfect start and perfect record for most of the season, we started to get hurt, and hurt, and hurt. THE HAT didn't even work anymore! What was I to do? I switched out the next hat and it worked for a couple of games until it didn't?!

First, I went back to my original hat, even serving my son his birthday cake with it on. God forbid I didn't have it on while the team was playing! Happy Birthday Beckett and thanks for letting me still treat you like a little boy on your birthday!

I even tried my pink hat with my Gronk mask, and we sill had more and more injuries!
Desperate times being what they were, I called in some reinforcements, these creepy NFL versions of the Elf on a Shelf. But these "boys" are going to be my good luck charms, I just know it, from now and through the Super Bowl
And if not? Well, we had one heck of a ride after all of Roger Goodell's shenanigans! 
I am Patriots proud, no matter what!

So here goes with the recipes. They are both SUPER EASY, yet a little time-consuming, so make these when you've got some time to hang around while things simmer, thaw and rise. Sounds like a new exercise plan for 2016!

My groovy cousin, Liz Starr's, Marinara Sauce is like porn to the tomato sauce world. 
It is SOO good!
Here are the ingredients. Normally I use four cans of tomato sauce, but yesterday, my bag broke and a can rolled under my car without me knowing. Some lucky or confused person got a nice can of free sauce yesterday in the parking lot!

The recipe will be posted below, but here are the steps:
Cover the bottom of a sauce pan with approximately 1/2" of olive oil, or basically enough oil to mostly cover the vegetables that you will add

 Chop one onion into quarters or eighths
 Core and seed one green pepper and chop into quarters
 Peel 5-6 cloves of garlic and then, using the side of the knife and with your hand, smash them so they let all their flavor out without disintegrating
 Put everything into a pot, add heat and simmer until softened
 As it cooks, keep working with a masher to press all the flavor into the oil
 This is the secret of the marinara sauce, the infused oil - ooh baby!

 After things are soft and well mashed, strain the oil into a separate bowl and keep for the tomato sauce
You can just throw away the mashed up veggies since you won't need them
 In the same sauce pan, add the cans of tomato sauce

 Add one cup of good red wine, or heck, whatever kind of red wine you have laying around that your husband (in my case) hasn't yet drunk! And yes, my heart is ALWAYS in Nantucket :)
Add to taste, italian seasonings (or basil and oregano), salt and pepper
 This looks like a lot, but there's a lot of tomatoes, especially if you don't lose a can under your car!
 And because I go to Dunkin Donuts every morning, I happen to have a lot of these packets in my house that come in handy when I need a pinch or two of sugar
 Mix the ingredients together
 Add the diabolical oil
And let the whole mixture simmer for approximately 2 hours, stirring occasionally This makes a good amount of sauce so you'll have plenty to freeze!

Here's the recipe for Liz Starr's Sinful Marinara Sauce:
1/2 " olive oil in bottom of sauce pan
1 onion, quartered or cut in eighths
1 green pepper, cored, seeded and quartered
5-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
3-4 large cans of Hunt's Tomato Sauce
1 cup of red wine
To taste, italian seasonings, salt and pepper
1 pinch of sugar

Heat oil in sauce pan and add the onion, green pepper and garlic
Cook until mixture is softened, mashing periodically through the cooking phase
Mash all the vegetables again in the oil when really soft
Strain oil and then move on to sauce
Pour the tomato sauce into the sauce pan
Add seasonings and sugar
Return oil to pan and combine
Simmer for approximately two hours, stirring occasionally

You're welcome :)

As Coach Belichick is known for saying, "On to…(insert next opponent")
So, on to the mini-calzones, again the recipe will follow:
 Super easy, yet also a little time-consuming because the rolls have to thaw and rise
Buy frozen, unrisen bread rolls (you can also use bread dough, it's just that the little balls make everything so easy) and place on a non-stick surface on a baking tray
 Spray plastic wrap with cooking spray so the rolls won't stick when they rise
 Place the plastic wrap on top of the rolls and leave alone for a few hours
 While the rolls are doing their magic, dice an onion. The easiest way is to peel it, then make cross-grain slices one way...
 …then turn the onion and slice it the opposite way. Et voila, diced onions!
 Next up, sweet Italian sausage
 Before these can be cooked, their wrappers need to be removed. Don't think about what the wrappers are, just slice down the front and peel them off
 In a bigger frying/sauce pan, melt some butter
 Add the onion and cook until softened slightly
 Then add the sausage and using a spatula or a fork, crumble the sausage as it cooks, adding in the Italian seasoning
 Once the sausage is cooked and blended with the onion, let it rest while you work on the cheese blend
Mix one 15 oz. container of ricotta cheese with the 1 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
Add two eggs to the mixture and blend it together with a handful of chopped parsley
Because I know my mom likes cheese pizza, I figured I should make some cheese only calzones and left some of the cheese mixture aside for that
With the remaining cheese mixture, I blended the sausage mixture into it and my filling was complete
My bread rolls are done rising but they are still too big for the bite-sized calzones
 So using my kitchen scissors, I cut them in half to make smaller balls of dough
 Then, on a floured surface, I rolled my dough paper-thin
 This looks about right
And in the middle of the dough, I placed a couple of spoonfuls of filling on the circle, or amoeba-shaped dough, since I'm not the perfect roller :)
 Then using the tines of my fork, I went around the edges to seal the calzone
 If you want to add pepperoni or any other ingredient to the base, feel free. The pepperoni is great and adds just the perfect flavor!
 When all the calzones are assembled, I beat and egg in a bowl...
…because we're having a painting party! The "boys" are getting hungry now!
All ready to cook, they will be a nice golden brown when done
 To make it easy, I filled little ramekins with sauce so people could dip as they please or pour a little on a plate

Mini Calzones:
12 frozen, unrisen dinner rolls
1 tablespoon of butter
1 onion, diced
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
15 ounces of ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup of grated mozzarella cheese
2 eggs for cheese mixture
salt and pepper to taste
a handful of chopped parsley
1 beaten egg for brushing the calzones

Put frozen rolls on a baking sheet and leave for a few hours to thaw and rise
Spray cooking spray on plastic wrap before covering rolls and leaving to rise
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Melt butter in large pan and cook onion over medium heat until slightly softened
Add in sausage and work to crumble as it cooks
Add Italian seasoning while cooking, and once the sausage is cooked through put aside
Mix in a separate bowl the ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Add in the parsley, salt and pepper Stir in the sausage mixure
When the rolls are ready, cut in half for small calzones, or leave whole, for bigger ones
Roll the dough into paper-thing circles
Place filling in center and pull dough over and seal edges using the tines of a fork
Brush the tops of the calzones with the beaten egg mixture and cook at 400 degrees approximately 12-14 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with warmed marinara sauce and you'll be the hit of the party!
My balloons were ready, the calzones and sauce were done and it was on to game time! 
And by the end of the night, the "boys" had been named Otto and Harry, after the ducks my dad had in his Dartmouth dorm room, the Patriots BEAT KC, and we're on to another Brady/Manning matchup! Don't know if I can handle the stress, but I'll be there with my hats, food and LOTS o' booze!