Friday, October 12, 2012

Getting kids in the kitchen with Mini Calzone Bites

Several years ago when my daughter and son were much smaller, I started "Friday Family Movie Night."  It entailed renting a movie, buying or making pizza and eating it on a blanket in the living room while watching the movie.  It never mattered what the movie was, or what kind of pizza, my kids just liked the "treat" of eating on the floor in the living room, and watching a movie with mom and dad.  Over the last couple of years, my husband and I have decided we are slightly burnt out on pizza, so we switched things up a little.  Maybe burgers and chips; whatever is still acceptable blanket picnic food.  My daughter is now 11 and my son 9, but they still look forward to Friday nights, and because of that, it is a tradition we try not to skip very often.

Tonight, because I am a hunting widow, I decided to do a slightly modified take on the pizza, and get my kids to help out.  Not that my husband wouldn't have liked what we were making.  After 14 years of marriage, he'll eat almost anything without question.  But, when it's his hunting weekend, I kind of suspend the rules.  We may not eat until 7:30 or 8, which really isn't that much later than normal, and we may not start the movie until 8:30.  I virtually forget about bedtimes on Friday night.  What I'm trying to say is almost anything goes.

Before I committed to this meal, I asked the kids' opinion on supper, and their permission to be in the blog.  They willingly went along with both.  Now, that is a rare occurrence in my house, when they both agree on something, so it took me a little longer to get home.  I kept looking out the window for the bolt of lightning.

Anyway, here is tonight's featured recipe:  Mini Calzone Bites.  They are very simple, but somewhat time-consuming.  Although, with many hands helping, even if they are little hands, the work goes faster.

Here is your cast of characters:

Grands 8 pack of biscuits
Package of pepperoni
4 Sticks of string cheese
1 Small can of tomato sauce
Sicilian Seasoning (or Italian Seasoning)
1 Teaspoon sugar
Jalapeno slices
Sliced baby bella mushrooms
Yellow or orange bell pepper
Baby spinach
Plus, Parmesan cheese, which I forgot to grab for the photo.  It's Friday, what can I say?

Preheat oven to 325, and spray a large cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

Start by dicing the onion and bell pepper into small pieces.  If your kids are old enough to handle a knife, let them do this task.

Once, they are diced, saute in a tablespoon of butter or olive oil until slightly tender and onions are just barely translucent.

While the onions and peppers are cooking, cut each stick of string cheese into 8 pieces.  We used the twisted ones that are half mozzarella and half cheddar but you can use the regular ones, too.  Whichever you choose will be just fine.

Next, make the pizza sauce (you can buy sauce, but I prefer to make it).  In a microwavable bowl, mix together tomato sauce, sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons pepper and Sicilian Seasoning (I prefer this over Italian seasoning because it usually has fennel and red pepper, which lends a better flavor to pizza sauce.), and 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese.  Stir well, and set aside. 

Who needs to measure when you have the palm of your hand?  Right?  Right.  Glad we agree!

Next, and parents this is one step you want to do, pull the biscuits apart into 2 separate rounds.  You can kind of see where they would separate - just pull apart there.  Then have the kiddos work them around, like small batches of pizza dough, until they are stretched into a thin crust.  Be careful, you don't want them too thin, or they'll tear.  Nor do you want the edges too thick, or they won't cook all the way through.

After all the rounds are stretched out, and placed on the prepared pan, spread each with a teaspoon of sauce.  Try to leave a small ring around the outer edge to seal the dough.

Next is assembly.  We chose to to layer as follows:  one baby spinach leaf, 1 pepperoni, 1 mushroom, a teaspoon full of onions & peppers & 2 pieces of cheese.

Then we decided to spice things up a bit!  We layered a pepperoni, 2 jalapeno slices and 2 pieces of cheese on a few.  It's too bad my brother and sister-in-law weren't here.  They were the ones who got us to try jalapenos on our pepperoni pizza.

This next step needs to be done by an adult.  Fold in half, stretching the dough carefully - you don't want to rip it.  Then press the ends together until it forms a half moon.  Next you can have your helper use a fork to press the edges together in an even better seal.

Finally, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden brown & crunchy.  When the calzones are almost done, heat your remaining pizza sauce for 30-60 seconds in the microwave, until hot.  Serve as a dipping sauce on the side.

I realize our choice of toppings might not float everyone's boat, so pick the things you like.  Just don't get carried away with too many or you won't be able to close the calzones up.  Maybe your family would rather have a meat-lovers.  Fill it with pepperoni, Canadian bacon & some Italian sausage.  Not a meat fan, load it up veggie style.  No matter the filling, I guarantee you will love these because you've spent some quality time with your kids making them, and they taste great, too!  Enjoy!

Oh, and in case you are wondering what tonight's movie was, The Goonies.  My kids take after their father, and love that movie.  What can I say, I love my kids.