Saturday, February 12, 2011

Knock, knock. Who's there? My dog's butt

Just found a neat blog through a Tweet from an @momswhoblog link to Three Kid Circus.  The author seems lovely and as I posted in her comments, reading her New Year's post, I realized we have something totally random in common: problematic dog butts. She mentioned her dog chewing at its back/butt and needing to be shaved, in addition to doing a course of antibiotics and medicated shampoo.

My dog developed the same weird back itchiness and patchy hair loss around Christmas and we received the same instructions from the vet. We have not resorted to shaving her yet, but I thought for sure that I was the only mom in America spending New Year's weekend putting medicated shampoo on the dog's hind quarters and timing the administration of her antibiotic pills hidden (poorly) in cheese. Apparently (and happily for some reason) I was wrong.

I hope the meds and shampoo bring her coat back to it's seal-like glossiness. Seal as in the aquatic mammal, not the Heidi Klum better half. Although I'm sure he can be glossy given the right outfit.

Hubby's Super (Bowl) meat dip

Although the Super Bowl commercials didn't live up to the hype, the day was lovely. My folks came over to watch the game and nosh.
Note the delicious mound of seasoned ground turkey, onions, cheese, avocado, refried beans, tomatoes and salsa that J. prepared for us. We dug in using hint of lime-flavored tortilla chips. Surprisingly, we only lost one person to post-game, food-induced slumber.

Toddler playtime

Almost 14 month old Dylan at toddler playtime at a community center showing that he likes toys that move and that two popping toys are better than one.

In the homemade calzone zone

As a work outside the home mom, I am constantly on the move: heading home, to pickup the kids, to the office or to my volunteer duties, and always looking for easy ways to get some aspect of work or home life done more quickly or better.

At the same time, I crave time with my family. Correction: better quality time with them, because the time that we do have together is full of rush, rush, rush and not enough just being together to enjoy each other's company.

Earlier this week, I killed two birds with one stone by making up a shorthand version of a classic dish that 3 year old Ava was able to help with and that 13 month old Dylan, husband J. and hubby's 94 y.o. great aunt gave rave reviews.

First off, I am a recipe cooker. I'm no gourmet in kitchen, but I can follow directions. And I'm confident enough in my cooking skills and experience to know how to jazz up a recipe sometimes, which is really just a blueprint. The cook should always feel free to improvise and flesh out a dish according to family tastes.

I was in the mood for lasagna but didn't really want exactly that and didn't have time for my usual delicious but slightly time-consuming version. So I wondered if I could just use the lasagna filling in something else. Calzones came to mind and a quick search found oodles of recipes for easy calzones using pizza dough or canned biscuits with whatever fillings were available.

Unfortunately, although the local grocery store I went to carries what looked like every frozen pizza, burrito and fried protein concoction ever to come out of a multinational food manufacturing facility, I couldn't find fresh or frozen pizza dough.
(Sidebar: are there really that many people regularly eating frozen pizza and fried frozen fish sticks?! No wonder obesity in low-income communities (like the one this store is in) is on the rise. It's gotta be at least a decade since I've ingested anything in that category and the kids don't even know what a fish stick is, thank goodness. However the grandparents have unfortunately taken her to Mickey D's, so she has correctly identified chicken nuggets on a billboard. Grrr.)

A store employee finally pointed me to the biscuit section where I discovered that there is indeed pizza dough in a tube that pops open, like biscuits. I took it home and sauteed up my standard lasagna filling: seasoned ground turkey, onion, garlic, half the tomatoes (so it wouldn't be too wet), omitting the tomato paste and adding the frozen, chopped spinach to the meat, instead of the ricotta/egg mixture.

Note that I'm breaking in brand new Cuisinart cookware we bought a couple weeks ago after moving and purging all of our worn out, odds and end cookware collected over 18 years as a couple, first with our own homes, then a combined home. We got a 10 piece set and added the large skillet with helper handle shown, since we do lots of big dishes. 

After buying it, I caught J. using the one tiny pot we had to tide us over until we upgraded. When I asked why he wasn't using the new ones, he said, "They're too nice. I'm not ready to get them dirty yet." Nice, but I have no such compunction, as shown below.
Sauteed meat and veggies in SPANKIN' NEW, deep saute pan, mixed ricotta and egg mixture in bowl.

Next I stretched out the dough and considered using something round to make cute little pockets, but at the end of a long day and with hungry kids hovering, I went for speed over aesthetics and simply cut it into squares.

The 3 year old helped fill and close each little calzone with the meat mixture, ricotta and four-italian-cheese shreds and I crimped the edges with the tines of a fork.

Baked them on a exopat-covered cookie sheet for 15 minutes or so at 400 degrees until the little mounds were golden brown and bubbly.
These little calzones made great handheld dinners for all of us and were great on days two and three for lunch. I had filling left over, so I ended up getting more dough and making another batch the next night at J.'s request.
And as you can see above, 13 month old Dylan was heated when he finished his and I was too slow replacing it with another one hot out of the oven. All he needed was silverware in each fist to pound on his tray table for effect.

I've dubbed these little treats the "anti-hot pocket" because they are the antithesis of the supermarket version expanded on hilariously by comedian Jim Gaffigan below.