Archive for May, 2010

My daughter had some friends over yesterday for an end of the year sleepover, and we had a family favorite that was a big hit with the girls.  It is a “make your own Calzones Party” and is easier than you think.  What you’ll need is a variety of pizza toppings/fillings and some easy to make homemade dough (recipe follows).  For fillings, I usually have shredded mozzarella, thinly sliced sweet peppers, mushrooms, sliced pepperoni, and my husband usually peels the casings off one or two hot italian sausages and fries the crumbles up for sausage.  I also put out a bowl of pizza sauce.  I buy a gigantic can of Ragu Pizza Sauce at Sam’s a few times a year and freeze the sauce in ziplock baggies, which I line up accordian style in a shallow plastic container.  So easy to pull one or two of them out.

First step is to prepare the pizza dough.  The recipe that follows makes 4 calzones.  Yesterday I doubled it to make 8.  I have a large Zojirushi Bread machine that I make my dough in using the quick dough cycle and I was happy to see it handle the double recipe easily.  While dough is rising, prepare all filling ingredients and set out on a large work surface such as a kitchen island, counter, or table.  Preheat oven to 425 F.  Have 1-2 cookie sheets ready.  I put a piece of parchment paper on mine to keep the sheets clean, make sure the calzones won’t stick, and to give me a place to label each person’s calzone by writing on the parchment with a sharpie:).

When dough is ready, working on a floured surface, divide dough into the number of calzones you are making.  Roll out to a circle about 6-8 inches in diameter.  Each person should then fill their calzone by putting toppings on one half, leaving about a 3/4 inch edge clean for sealing.  When calzones are filled, dampen the edge around filling with a finger dipped in water, then fold over the top half and seal by pressing all around edge with a fork.  Poke a few holes in the top with fork.  Carefully transfer each calzone to a cookie sheet and label the parchment so you know whose calzone is whose.  If you don’t use parchment, you can poke initials in the top with the fork or otherwise do something to mark each one.   I can usually fit 4 calzones on my largest cookie sheet, but it is close, you may want to use 2 cookie sheets for 4 calzones.   Bake at 425 for 18-20 minutes. (these work great in my convection oven at 400 F also).  Allow to cool for at least 5-10 minutes before attempting to eat – they are HOT inside!


Calzone Dough (makes 4 calzones)

1.5 t. yeast

1 c. warm water

2.5 c. flour

1/2 c. cornmeal

1 T. sugar

1 t. salt

2.5 T. olive oil

Use whatever method you would normal use to mix and knead ingredients for bread or pizza dough.  I use the quick dough cycle on my bread machine.





Read Full Post »

For those of us who cook most of our family meals at home, menu planning can help save money, time, and frustration, but sometimes it is hard to find the time or initiative to get a meal plan going.  In the past, I have used weekly or even monthly menu plans, but as our family gets busier, they have fallen by the wayside.  I have also noticed that it is not always easy to track if you are having variety in your menu (my family often accuses me of cooking nothing but chicken!) or to remember to make old family favorites.

I have spent the last two years teach Excel skills to college students in my job as a visiting faculty, and this summer decided to use a spreadsheet to track my menus.  It gives me a good way to see if we are getting variety, and also to remember old family favorites or to know when we actually cooked the leftovers languishing in the fridge.  Here is an example of my spreadsheet (you can click on it to see the full size version – use your back button to come back to this page when you are done):

The beauty of this list is that I can sort it in a variety of ways if I want.  For instance, sort by protein type to look for ideas for chicken.  Or if it is a special day for a certain family member, sort to find their favorites.  Another thing that sometimes happens at our house is that one family member may miss a dinner due to other plans and on that day, we try to cook something that person doesn’t like.  So we could sort by the “hated by” column to find dinners to make when someone is absent.  I often forget where I have the recipe saved for some of our infrequent dinners, so there is a column to help with that as well.

You could customize this however it works best for you.  You might want to add a column with costs, so that you can find cheap dinners when you need to.

As I always told my students, Excel is an amazing tool and you can do so much with it, both within your career and in your life.  Let me know if you find this idea helpful.



Read Full Post »

I was looking for an interesting cocktail yesterday as I am a bit tired of our old standbys.  I have a bottle of Galliano in the liquor cabinet and had the idea of a Galliano martini, thinking vodka and Galliano and maybe something else.  However, when I searched for Galliano martinis, I came upon a site that listed a bunch of cocktails using Galliano.  Most choices had to be passed by, since I always seemed to be missing a key ingredient.  Drives me nuts!

Anyhow, eventually I came upon a cocktail called “Laser Beam” that had a set of ingredients that just did not seem to go together.  But I thought, heck, I’ll make a small version and see what it tastes like.  Even as I was measuring, I really hesitated, do I really want to mix peppermint schnapps with Galliano and Amaretto??  But I did.  First taste, I thought, man, that’s really odd, I don’t think I’ll make this one again.  Second taste, hmmmmm……  Third taste, wow, this strangely works, have to make one for hubby and chill it in the freezer for when he gets home.  He tasted it without knowing the ingredients and thought it was very good, and was also surprised when I told him what was in it.

So here without further ado is my version of the Laser Beam cocktail.  Original called for 1 oz of each liquor, but I thought that was too much, so I cut the recipe in half.  I am lazy and build most cocktails in the glass, but you could probably do this one in a shaker also.  Original called for Jack Daniels, but all I had was Jim Beam Rye, so that’s what I used.  There are many other versions of the Laser Beam cocktail, many with far different ingredients.  By the way, this one has a beautiful color, sort of a light golden, brown.

Lynn’s Laser Beam Cocktail

1/2 oz. Galliano

1/2 oz. Amaretto

1/2 oz. Jim Beam Rye Whiskey

1/2 oz. Peppermint Schnapps

Put some ice in a martini glass and add all ingredients.  Stir and serve.



Read Full Post »

It’s difficult but the destashing/decluttering continues and progress is being made.  Yesterday, after waffling a bit about the handspun yarn I had, I emailed the middle school art teacher to find out if she wanted it.  She was thrilled to have it so I grabbed the box that was stacked behind my chair and went digging in the closet to find two more. Hey, what are all those notebooks in the closet?  Log books from my soap making days.  I kept the most recent one (probably the most refined recipes) and tossed the rest in the trash on my way out the door to take the yarn to school.  I was not going to allow any time for second guessing!  It felt really good.

Today I went through 3 boxes of of fiber and yarn and posted them for sale on a Yahoo group for buying and trading fiber related stuff.  I did have to stop and fondle a particularly soft batch of wool and silk mix, but then reminded myself that I really don’t enjoy spinning anymore.

The piles are getting shorter and I am happy.  Just packed up a book I sold online – out of print and the lady is thrilled to find it and I am thrilled to send it off where it can be loved:).

Time to go work on dinner.  I bought a pork loin on sale and need to go turn it into the correct shape for pork stir fry.



Read Full Post »

Yesterday I posted my grand plans for “a box a day….”  Seemed so simple, so straight-forward, and it is, but it does require a bit of an attitude adjustment.  Yesterday I tackled box #1, which held a bunch of framed pictures in 1980’s style frames, which seem a little garish now, along with things like patches from grade school summer camp, prints I had bought on vacation over the years intending to frame, and a big file with every piece of paper associated with my study abroad trip in college.

Pretty easy to go through really – study abroad papers trashed, pictures taken out of frames and frames designated for Goodwill.  I struggled a little with the prints, but realized that if they weren’t on my walls 20 years after purchase, they weren’t likely to go there anytime soon and don’t really fit my decorating style now anyway, so into Goodwill they go.  The patches were also a struggle, but I really have no use for them.  If I ever get around to scrapbooking my 1970’s era photos, they COULD go in the scrap book, but would make them lumpy so I am just going to let them go.

Today I moved on to the next box.  A box filled with handspun yarn from my days of spinning.  There are at least a half dozen boxes just like this one.  I really wasn’t an expert spinner and spun small varieties of stuff, so I really can’t sell it, but i am so through with fiber arts.  Now I am struggling where to donate it – I am not sure it is something that works for Goodwill.

I read an article recently describing several of the ways people think when they are trying to declutter.  One personality is the “perfectionist” – the person who has to find the optimum way to get rid of the thing, whether it’s to get the best price for it, give it to the right charity, or dispose of it in the most green way.  THAT IS SO ME!  It can be paralyzing.  I think I am going to email the middle school art teacher and ask if she has a use for the yarn.

Since I felt I hadn’t “dealt” with the yarn,  I went through a box of craft books and listed them for sale on a craft group.  If they don’t sell, off to the library, except the one that is out of print and likely to be worth a good $40-50.

So, I am making progress but it is a little hard going.  Let me know how you are doing.

Best regards,

Lynn Zentner

Read Full Post »

Regular readers will recall that last summer I did set out on several decluttering attempts.  Made some progress, but still have way too much junk.  Last week, despite fighting a rotten cold for almost 3 weeks, I set out to clear a bunch of boxes out of the garage that have been there since our basement remodel 2 years ago.  We had a big outdoor bash this past Saturday and we had some concern that it might rain, so I set out to clean the garage so that the party could move in there if necessary.  Naturally, my cleaning resulted in a beautiful sunny day on Saturday and no need for the garage, but I am still glad I got to it.

There wasn’t much time to sort through things, so for the most part, I moved all the boxes that I needed to sort into my (very small) office.  They are now a towering wall behind my desk chair.  One of my summer goals is to turn my office into a relaxing oasis and I can’t do it with the wall of boxes behind me.  So yesterday I told my husband that my goal over the next couple of weeks is to go through a box a day and trash, donate, or sell whatever is in that box.  I started yesterday by listing 13 pounds of plastic tri beads for sale on the Yahoo group, AbandonedCrafts.  I used to make girls beaded socks to sell at Craft shows, but haven’t been to a craft show in years and my major client, my daughter, lost interest in the beaded socks years ago!  Today, my goal is to go through a box of old “desk stuff” that seems to have followed me around in that box since college.  If it hasn’t been on a desk in over 20 years, I think it’s time to get rid of it!

I figure that in about 2 weeks, I should have conquered the wall behind my desk.  I was recently given a gift card to Target and my reward for a clean office will be to use that gift card to replace something in my office with an object that better fits my “Oasis” theme.

Wish me luck!  By the way, I will surely be Freecycling some of this stuff.  I highly recommend you check out your local freecycle group (mine is on YahooGroups) for getting rid of things that may be usable by someone else, but may be something you can’t sell or drop off at a donation center.  Last week I was able to give away a nice oak fireplace mantel and surround as well as a gigantic piece of shower board that my husband had used as a dry erase board.  The people who picked the items up had a use for them and I was glad not to send them to the landfill.

Please join me in dejunking – try a box a day or even a box a week, if you are busy with work.  Just think, you could be 52 boxes lighter by this time next year!

Best regards,


Read Full Post »

Well, it has been a very long time since my last post and I apologize.  My teaching contract ended at the University last week, so I will have some time on my hands this summer while I look for a new job and hope to post a little more  frequently.

I ran out of Milk Bones recently and since I have a little bit of time on my hands, I decided to spend some time this summer making homemade dog treats.  This recipe is adapted from one I found on the web.  I have cut the original recipe in half and also made a few modifications.    Here is a set of links I am putting together of dog treat recipe sites.  I can’t vouch for them all, but plan on working my way through them.


Peanut Butter Dog Cookies (makes about 18 small cookies)

1/4 c. Peanut Butter (I used Crunchy JIF, so it did have a little sugar in it)

1.5 c. Whole Wheat Flour

1/2 c. water

1 T. oil  (I used olive oil)

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Pinch off a bit of dough between the size of  a ping pong ball and a marble and roll into a ball and place on cookie sheet.  I used parchment paper on my cookie sheets, but I don’t think you’d have to grease a cookie sheet for these, they seem to have enough oil not to stick, but I can’t guarantee it:).  I got one sheet of 12 cookies and one sheet of 6.  Use a fork to squish the cookies flat, first one way, then perpendicular to that, just like on human Peanut Butter Cookies.  Bake for 20 minutes.  I used the convection setting on my oven and it worked great.

Both dogs and people seem to find these attractive, but they’re for the dogs, people!  My neighborhood dogs love me, since I have been sharing my baking results with various friends for their dogs.



Read Full Post »