Back in the kitchen, empenadas

Finished empenadas are about 9 inches across which is a huge meal. Really makes 8 servings (1/2 pie each).

Eight weeks after my second hip replacement and I was ready this week to get back in the kitchen. Stoic the Vast does well at the stove (especially considering he started at Ground Zero), but he gets impatient, doesn’t like anything complicated. I live for complicated — as long as it’s healthy and fast. Not necessarily a contradiction in terms as you’ll soon see.

Part of the hip replacement was, sadly, packing back on 19 pounds since the beginning of September. I absolutely cannot weigh less than your average sleep sofa without being able to exercise. But I’m in physical therapy and even doing some work on my own — like going to water aerobics.

I was stronger after this second surgery, thanks to countless hours in the Y and losing weight. But now after lying on the couch through the holidays, I feel as though I’m starting over to have a fit, healthy 70-year-old bod.

I had weeks of Christmas cookies and desserts from those dear ones who brought us lavish suppers after my surgery. We bought ice cream several times, and I stopped being accountable to my on-line fitness support group. Everything, in other words, that I know is either forbidden or uber-necessary, like keeping a record of what I eat.

So Ash Wednesday. Time for me to shape up and give up sweets — again — for Lent. If I get busy immediately, this summer I can bounce in and out of the Harmony pool like a spring chicken. I got on the scales this morning (something else I quit doing) and measured myself. No good news, but at least I know I haven’t shrunk all my winter clothes. No, I’ve expanded me again.

Ash Wednesday and time to re-commit to real meals, not grazing like a beef cow trying to win a prize for weight gain. Commit to exercise, the old 8 to 10 glasses of water a day and 7 to 8 hours of nightly sleep. I will always be amazed by how quickly I can toss these lifeboat oars overboard in times of stress.

I’m not going to beat myself up. I’m going to get back to work, remembering that this time I know more than the last time I fell off the sugar wagon. Remembering that this is a never-ending process.

So now comes into my life Leanne Brown’s Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day, a new cookbook. For $10 I bought both my copy from a non-profit and one to be donated to someone on a limited income. The intent is to instruct the home cook who must eat on the miniscule amount provided by food stamps. You can also download free recipes online.

I started with the Spice Oil and gave it as an exotic, inexpensive birthday present. Next was the Peanut Chicken and Broccoli with Coconut Rice. And then I discovered I can make Pizza Dough (a later blog), and it makes a great wrapper for the book’s Broccoli Rabe and Mozzarella Calzones. We, of course, can’t find broccoli rabe here in the wilderness, but regular broccoli works just fine.

To begin, use purchased frozen dough that can be rolled out to make 4 individual crusts. Brown suggests using sausage if you have it, and I added 12 ounces of Trader Joe’s chicken-fontina-spinach sausage. So, more food like this and I’m set for Lent and lessening. I just have to freeze James Villas’ mother’s pound cake to make sure it’s here for Easter.

Broccoli and Mozzarella Calzones

All-purpose flour or cornmeal for shaping dough

1 tablespoon olive oil

12 ounces Italian sausage

1 large bunch broccoli rabe or broccoli, chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon red chile flakes

2 anchovy fillets, minced (I didn’t use with sausage)

Pizza Dough (see above)

2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 500° or as hot as your oven gets. Sprinkle a little flour or cornmealover a baking sheet and set it aside.

Put large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, take sausage casings off and brown meat. Add tough stem ends of broccoli and cook for 2 minutes. Next, add the rest of the broccoli, along with the garlic, chile flakes and anchovies, if using. Cook, stirring occasionally until the stems are tender, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper and set filling aside.

Sprinkle flour or cornmeal on clean countertop. Divide pizza dough into 4 equal pieces with a bench knife and place one piece on the countertop (covering the others with plastic wrap or a towel). Using rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is quite thin and circular.

Pile a quarter of the broccoli mixture and 1/2 cup mozzarella onto one side of the circle, leaving a lip around the edge.

Gather up the half of the dough not weighed down with filling and fold it over to create a half-moon shape. Pinch edges of dough together and go around the flat edge with the back of a fork. Place calzone carefully on the prepared baking sheet and make 3 more calzones.

Bake until the calzones are golden brown on the outside, 6 to 8 minutes. They will be very hot when they come out of the 500° oven! Mangia!

Happy Valentine's Day from Calliope, the radioactive cat.
Happy Valentine’s Day from Calliope, the radioactive cat.







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