Easy Calzones – Repurposed Cheese Finds Home

The other day, a kitchen quest to find missing plasticware led me to some leftovers hidden way back in the back of the fridge. With all the composting we’ve been doing lately we’ve rarely had to use our disposal and he was getting hungry. I fed him some sad leftovers and wept a solitary tear that I hadn’t been able to save the eggplant salad or the dill dip. Then I decided I should tackle all the shelves and drawers in the fridge, just for fun.

Lucky for Jordan, there wasn’t any rotting food, just 9 different containers storing bits of different cheeses. I really think cheese is the reason we could never go vegan.

I recently learned that Americans eat about 31 pounds of cheese per year; the majority is probably consumed on pizza and hamburgers while most of ours is lovingly sliced and eagerly consumed via cracker. I just hope our love of cheese doesn’t end up with our bodies looking like the ones on the PCRM billboards (see above link).

These are the cheeses we had in the fridge in varying amounts: Provolone, Mozzarella, Feta, Parmesan, Goat, Cheddar, Trader Joe’s Toscano, Pimento and of course, Cream Cheese. Lucky I had some of those cheeses around, because it’s exactly what I needed to make delicious calzones!

I used the first four cheeses from the list, shredded them, and mixed them up in a bowl. I can’t say it enough: everyone needs to learn how to make bread because bread baking is key to making dinner up on the fly. I used a calzone bread recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen, but you could use any pizza dough recipe. Once you mix together the bread ingredients (flour, water, yeast, sugar, and salt), beat it up a bit, and let it rise, you just roll out the dough into 5 or 6 circles, add some cheese and sliced garlic, fold, and crimp the edges with a fork. They baked at 450 for about 24 minutes. It’s really that easy, I promise.

I also happened across a small container of leftover marinara sauce from a previous spaghetti dinner and it served very well as a dipping sauce for the calzones. I can’t decide what made me happier: using up the leftovers and not wasting food or biting into the warm and cheesy calzone…yum.


Frugal Gardening Tips: Recycled Containers, Water Conservation, & Natural Insect Repellant

I’ve been doing a lot of aggressive reading lately. Reading becomes a sport when you check out too many books at once from the library. Trigger happy and manic, I reserved all these gardening books in about 2 minutes, not bothering to think, “Alex, is there really enough time to read all these books before they start costing you a precious $0.25/day/book?”

Now, faced with a looming deadline, I can’t afford to waste any time leisurely meandering my way through my stack of pretty books. If I put as much energy into exercising as I do into reading, I might be a really good athlete instead of someone who is overly educated on very specific topics like how to make your own worm poop. But believe you me, that information is going to come in handy soon and the ability to run for longer than a minute–well, that could be handy too… Moving on!

I did finish You Grow Girl and it’s as I feared: I love it. I love everything about it. If I were to write a book on gardening, it would be this book. If I could live inside a gardening book, I would nestle between the section on growing edible flowers and the entire chapter on how to combat evil, nasty bugs and diseases. And although it is clearly written for the female audience, I do believe men would find it helpful too. Jordan may want to skip the chapter on sewing a gardening tool belt, but otherwise it’s got amazing bits of information on every single page.

Here are some things I learned that I never knew before:

  • You can use pretty much anything as a container for seed starting and growing.
    When I first started this project, I thought I would need to buy lots and lots of expensive containers and gardening gear. That is not true! I have begun to collect pretty much anything that can have holes drilled into it. My seeds will be started in toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, yogurt cups, butter containers; tin cans, plastic buckets, trash cans, old tupperware–all kinds of junk will be repurposed into suitable housing for my veggies and herbs!
  • You don’t have to buy an expensive rain barrel to conserve and collect water.
    You can buy a rain barrel if you want to, or you can make your own. However, there are lots of ways to collect water throughout the day. We can save the water from our showers and sinks that runs while we wait for it to warm up, rain water can be collected in buckets placed on the porch, we can reuse our pasta, leftover tea, and laundry water. Who says our water bill has to be high this summer? I laugh in the face of the water company!
  • You can combat insects and woodland creatures naturally without expensive and/or environmentally harmful sprays.
    You can use companion planting, i.e. planting something that attracts good bugs that will eat bad bugs next to a plant that attracts bad bugs, to go on the offense for you; you can lay down copper pennies to keep slugs and snails at bay (I feel slightly bad about this one because the copper shocks the poor guys); and burning frankincense, yes the stuff that the wise men brought to baby Jesus, discourages birds, squirrels, and cats from taking up residence in the garden.

FYI, I am not looking forward to plotting ways to murder the bad insects that will inevitably invade my sweet garden. I already know that I will be a ruthless killer. And isn’t gardening supposed to be peaceful?

Recycled Root Beer Float Glasses

I love root beer floats. And Sprite floats (sounds weird, but it’s delicious.) Yesterday when I should have been learning about gardening, I got distracted by the sunshine and headed out in search of a small side table and a trunk/bench/chest. I went to one of my favorite consignment stores in Charlotte, Fifteen Ten Antiques on Central Avenue. I did look at a nice glass side table and a sturdy wooden chest but instead bought these spectacular emerald-green root beer float glasses.

They were inexpensive and in perfect shape, they found a new home that isn’t a landfill, and our purchase supported a locally owned and operated business. What’s not to love?

We aren’t perfect at following the three R’s when it comes to a lot of other things like new clothing and kitchen appliances (for somewhat obvious reasons.) However, if you need convincing to pry your hands off the Pottery Barn catalog, I’ve thought of some half-baked reasons to shop more often at consignment stores.

  1. It’s cheap! Usually.
  2. You find one-of-a-kind items that you didn’t know you wanted, like emerald-green root beer float glasses.
  3. Less landfill, less demand for new items to be produced, shipped and stored, less pollution.
  4. You can modify purchases to fit your decor by busting out a can of paint and channeling your inner Martha Stewart.
  5. You are giving items a new life in your home where they will be hopefully be used and thus, be happy. Do you remember the lyrics to “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast? Well I do. Lumiere, the candlestick, sings about how sad they’ve been and how they just want to work and entertain. You too can anthropomorphize your dinnerware and learn that it doesn’t like sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

We are so lucky that we have so many options to buy gently used, good quality housewares from antique and consignment stores in Charlotte. Here are my favorites that I think everyone and their mama needs to check out:

  1. Fifteen Ten Antiques, 1510 Central Avenue
  2. Sleepy Poet Antique Mall, 4450 South Boulevard
  3. Classic Attic, 4301-C Park Road
  4. Recycle Boutique, 4301-D Park Road
  5. The other five thrift stores right next door to Fifteen Ten on that stretch of Central Ave. Go on a Saturday and buy yourself something pretty.

Using Up Leftover Store Bought Parsley

Yesterday, I bought this beautiful bunch of parsley for the low low price of $1.79. The recipe I was making only called for a 1/4 of a cup of chopped parsley which can be gleaned from about 7 sprigs. Unfortunately, the grocery store only sells parsley in bundles of about 30 sprigs. And even though I am a neo-home economist and I will definitely find a way to use the parsley, I would venture to say that the majority of people would let the poor herb get brown and gooey and disgusting in the bottom of their crisper. Can I get an “Amen”?

I read a book last year called American Wasteland by Jonathan Bloom. He traces America’s food waste from the field where the produce is picked to the trip across the country where food spoils and get squished, to the grocery stores that throw away food before it even hits the shelves to our own refrigerators where we fail to consume all the food we purchase. How is it that we have the luxury of throwing away food when there are so many people starving in our own country?

Fortunately for my old-fashioned frame of mind, being clever with the way we repurpose an item, be it food or furniture, has circled back around and is now the trendy and praiseworthy thing to do. Who knew canning could be so cool? Maybe I’m just strange, but I can’t wait to preserve my leftover vegetables.

To the task at hand, what to do with the leftover parsley?

  1. Make Parsley Pesto, strange thought but people do it all the time
  2. Make Chimichurri, fun to say and fun to eat
  3. Use it as a medicinal herb to fix yo’ stinky breath
  4. Channel your Ancient Greek alter-ego, make a wreath out of the herb, and crown yourself champion of using up leftover parsley!

I also learned something else about the curly herb on the website Simply Recipes that’s sure to make Jordan wag his tail in delight. Parsley plants don’t attract bugs and slugs, perhaps because it’s considered a “bitter”? However, according to Wikipedia, it does sometimes attract butterflies and birds. What’s not to love?

I look forward to our life together Petroselinum crispum.