Chicken Marsala – for “one of those days”

Ah, nothing like sitting down in the morning with a cup of French Roast Peet’s coffee, ready to catch up on what your blogging friends are doing when you’re suddenly hit with the smell of burning plastic and smoke billowing out of your laundry room.  Yes, you know you’re going to have a day.  Maybe not the day you’d planned or hoped for, but certainly a day.

I should have known that something wasn’t right when I shifted the water lever on the wall over to turn the water on and it moved a little too easily.  Hmm, it normally gives a little resistance but who am I to complain when it slides over without any effort?  So, load up the washer with a batch of towels and push the start button.  I did wonder if the lever might not have turned the water on so I waited until I heard water going into the washer and went back to my coffee… until the smell hit me, and then the smoke, and a grinding kind of noise… time for action:

#1 – shut the water lever to the off position (notice the panel on the washer shows a code of ‘nF’ (huh?)
#2 – hit the off button on the washer (oh, so you don’t want to shut down?  Fine!)
#3 – pull the plug
#4 – open the window & doors
#5 – consider calling husband to say I just burnt up the washing machine
#6 – reconsider and using bad language, get the owner’s manual out

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to find out what the “secret code” is for this washer.  The display is 2 characters but I didn’t know that the first time I got a code of “DO”.  I stood there waiting for the rest of the secret code to scroll across the screen assuming that it was going to tell me exactly what to “DO”.  As it turned out, I was supposed to realize that it meant Door Open…okay, got it, the door wasn’t fully closed but it took me a while to figure that out.  So although I kind of remember long ago looking in the manual for what the codes meant, and discovering that in the 46 pages (ok only 13 pages in English), I still went back to it to see if the secret codes had magically appeared.

No, they had not.  However, I did find all sorts of extremely useful tips like:

- Install the washer on a floor that can support the weight – I guess you find that out when your new washer lands in the basement.
– Do not allow children to play around or IN (YES IN) the appliance  – kids don’t do well on the spin cycle
– Of course – Do NOT sit on the washer
– Here’s a good one for all of you cooks out there – Do not wash or dry items that are soiled with vegetable or cooking oil.  These items may contain some oil after laundering.  Due to the remaining oil, the fabric may smoke or catch fire by itself.  Don’t say I haven’t warned you if you spontaneously combust!
– My favorite though:  Do not add gasoline or explosive substances to the wash water.  I’d like a show of hands please…how many of you out there have added gasoline to your laundry?  If yes, please tell me why.

So forget about that secret code of “nF” – maybe non-functioning although the capital F makes me think of something else.  I ended up telling my husband what he had to come home to and of course got the standard “I’ll take a look at it when I get home” response.  That’s ok, I’m used to it.  He’ll take a look at it and decide that we need to call a plumber.  This is the situation as of now…

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That’s not a pretty picture and I think this one makes me feel much better:

chicken piccata2

When your day starts with almost burning the house down, it’s definitely a day that needs a quick and easy dinner.  There is nothing faster, easier, or more tasty than this Chicken Marsala recipe and a huge benefit is that you get to take the mallet and pound that chicken into giving you the ‘secret code’.  (My chicken however decided not to give it up).

CHICKEN MARSALA

4          Chicken boneless chicken breast, thin sliced or pounded
¼         Cup flour
½         teas Salt, pepper to salt
½         teas Oregano
4          Tbsp Oil
4          Tbsp Butter
½         Cup Marsala wine
Optional:  mushrooms and/or capers

Pound chicken breasts between sheets of Saran Wrap

  • On plate, combine flour, salt, pepper & oregano
  • Dredge chicken in flour, shake off excess
  • Heat oil & butter in large frying pan over medium heat
  • Saute chicken on medium high heat until lightly brown (just a few minutes each side)
  • Add mushrooms/capers around chicken & cook a few more minutes
  • Pour wine over chicken & cover, simmering for about 10 minutes or until chicken is not longer pink.
  • If more sauce is needed, additional sherry can be added or canned chicken broth.  Just before serving, baby spinach leaves may be added
  • Serve over buttered noodles

 

In My Kitchen: July 2014

 

I know I’ve missed a couple of IMK posts but I cannot believe that I just typed June only to remember that we’re in July already.  I guess time flies where you’ve been a slug.

Now technically not inside my kitchen, but outside my kitchen window is my hummingbird feeder which gets drained about every 2-3 days.  For some reason my feeder attracts just the males who fight all day because they don’t want to share – it’s like watching Star Wars fights with lasers.  A couple of them got into such a fight that one guy drilled himself into my screen door and I had to pop him out since he was quite stuck. Why these little sugerheads don’t have diabetes I don’t know – probably because those wings are beating so fast they must burn the calories right off.

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Now here’s a controversial item that I bought from the Pottery Barn catalog.  Barbara from Just a Smidgen was kind enough to tell me where she found hers after I saw it in one of her IMK posts. See all of the great ideas you get from snooping into other people’s kitchens?

I just love the galvanized metal and think it will be perfect for the barbeque that we’ll be having for my daughter’s engagement party in September.  I love it –  my husband hates it although he has no one to blame but himself.  I showed it to him in the catalog and said “isn’t this cool?” and he gave me the um huh so I ordered it.  When it came in, he decided that he hated it and wanted to know where I was going to put it…well, right here in my kitchen but out on the porch for barbeques of course.  He’s suspicion and claims that I never showed it to him which to be fair, is an old trick I’ve played a few times where I’ve bought things that I know he won’t like but then say “omg!  don’t you remember I showed this to you?  You liked it then – your memory’s really going.”

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I just love this colorful towel that my daughter found for me in San Francisco on one of her business trips.  Does anyone have any idea what it says?

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IMG_1550Life is just a bowl of cherries these days and they’re finally available in the stores.

IMG_1551Since we’re again having a glut of lobster in New England ($5.99/lb), I’ve got some Lobster Risotto cooking (recipe here).  At these prices, it’s cheaper than steak so I’m finding it very hard to let a week go by without some sort of lobster cooking.

And finally, in my kitchen are my “assistive devices” (don’t you love the tennis balls on the walker?)  which will be going to the senior center in town…I may keep the cane because you just never know when you’ll need a cane.  Since I spent about 3 hours on Monday with an ax, shovel, and saw digging out overgrown shrubs, I’d say that my hip is now in good working order.  The hip felt great – all the other muscles, well…let’s say I need to work on that a bit.

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Thanks for stopping by my kitchen this month and thanks again to Celia for hosting this monthly get-together.  Please stop by to say hi to her and see the others who are kind enough to allow us a peek in their kitchens – http://figjamandlimecordial.com/2014/07/01/in-my-kitchen-july-2014/

Cleecha – Syrian Bread Rolls

Great news from the surgeon – my x-rays show that the new hip is in perfect alignment and now it’s just a matter of physical therapy and getting the muscles in shape.  As far as he’s concerned I don’t have any restrictions on what I can do and although I didn’t bring up driving – since I’ve been doing that for 4 weeks now – I’m a free woman.

To celebrate the good news, my friend and former neighbor of over 20 years took me out for a fantastic brunch.  Judy now lives north of here in a seaside town called Newburyport which unfortunately is about an hour away but she was so kind to not only make the trip down, but true to form arrived bearing gifts…

peturnias from judy
A beautiful colorful pot of pansies which brightened my day and…
caleech
Homemade cleecha, a soft Syrian bread roll which is sooo good with morning coffee.  In the 20 years that I’ve known Judy, she’s never let me go hungry and whenever I’ve had a medical problem (or just because) she’s always the first at my door bearing homemade goodies.  Judy’s mother came to America as a young bride not knowing a word of English and raised her five kids with so much love and a wonderful appreciation of Syrian foods.  Recently Judy has documented these precious recipes and posted the videos on her blog:  The Key to my Art on WordPress.  Rather than have an amateur try to explain how to make these rolls, I’ll turn it over to the experts – Sito and Judy.  I hope you enjoy their kitchen artistry as much as I do.

http://thekeytomyart.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/sitos-kitchen-making-bread-with-mom/

Good as new – well, almost

It’s five weeks now with my new hip and time for me to catch up in the blog-o-sphere. Thank you all for your wonderful comments and well wishes prior to my surgery. The surgery was a complete success and the hospital stay, thanks to the private upgrade, was actually not bad at all. It was a long wait to get this particular surgeon but it was well worth it since he performs the most joint surgeries in Boston, operates out of the Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and performs the newer anterior hip replacement approach which is much less traumatic leading to faster recovery time and no restrictions on movement after – well other than the pain of having the top of your leg sawed off. But really, I’d rather wait for a surgeon who’s done hundreds of these and not just watched a Youtube video before cutting.

The Brigham’s is a world renowned hospital with people coming from all over the world. As I was leaving, someone from the Saudi royal family was coming in and had taken three suites in the private Pavilion – one for the patient, one for family, and a another for a contingent of security. The hospital really does try to make an unpleasant experience as comfortable as possible but I did have a rather disconcerting experience when they were wheeling me down to pre-op. In an effort to enhance the ambiance and relax patients, they have people from the Boston Conservatory of Music play soothing melodies. I’m really glad that I was PRE-op and not any medications when I was wheeled around the corner to see a lady on a stool playing a harp!

Denver Harp Player FAQ

Seriously, harps are very relaxing to listen to, but can you imagine coming OUT of surgery, all groggy and seeing a lady with a harp? I mean…come on folks, even if she didn’t have wings,  would it not cross your mind that something went wrong in surgery? I suppose it’s better than being wheeled through the boiler room though and wishing that you’d maybe made some different life choices.

devil : The Devil who is about to welcome someone Illustration

Unfortunately, yes unfortunately because I couldn’t eat the day after surgery and went home on the 3rd day, I wasn’t able to taste test many of the culinary options.  I know, I know, hospital food is yucky except by booking myself into The Pavilion which is privately run and has it’s own kitchen, I had food options that rivaled the best of Boston restaurants

You may not be able to read the entrée selections on the five page menu, but they included: filet mignon, oven roasted turkey, baked stuffed chicken, spinach stuffed salmon, baked stuffed shrimp as well as a page of make your own burgers, salads and a great desert selection!

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I started with a fabulous home made chicken soup, better than what I’ve ever made…

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Not being in the coronary unit, I was able to order lobster stuffed ravioli in a delicious cream sauce…

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with a beautiful caprese salad…

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Since I could order anything I wanted at any hour day or night, my daughter couldn’t understand why I didn’t just start at the top of the menu and work my way down.  I think the kitchen might have suspected that I was feeding my family though.  I was released late in the afternoon on Friday and the kitchen very nicely made me up a great chicken salad sandwich with cranberry sauce and stuffing to take home.  All in all, no complaints on the hospital stay other than, well it being a hospital stay and they do love waking you up every 2 hours to make sure you’re still alive.

It’s great being back home although I haven’t been doing much cooking to date.  Every now and then I get bursts of energy but they don’t last long before it’s nap time.  As my friend reminded me – “you were just in a knife fight at the wrong end of the knife”.  Hopefully I’ll have more to post as recovery takes place and I do want you all to know that I’m doing my best to keep up with your posts – I’ve loved reading them all even if I haven’t had the brain in gear to respond to all of them, please know that I’m loving hearing what you’re all up to and hope to be tip top soon.

Bacon Mac & Cheese and Diane’s New Parts

I know you wouldn’t think bacon mac & cheese has anything to do with new parts but I’m finally going in tomorrow for a total hip replacement and needed some comfort food. What better comfort food than Mac & Cheese and of course when you add bacon, well everything is just better with bacon.

I’ve been a little scattered with my blog posts because it’s been hard to sit for long…or walk…or drive. Although it’s been a long process, I’m looking forward to getting rid of these broken down old bones and getting a factory authorized (no used or after market parts for me thank you) titanium hip. I’m thinking I may very well do a food blog on the hospital food – what do you think? I know the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston is world renown for it’s surgeons and technology. I’m not so sure how their cafeteria is although I’ve upgraded to a special wing with a private room which offers high tea and catered meals any time of day. In any case I will be bringing my IPad along and look forward to keeping up with your posts. Just keep in mind that if I comment, please be understanding since I’m sure I’ll be on the Koo-Koo juice :)

Oh, and I’ve checked with my surgeon.  He guarantees that I will be able to do this after a brief recovery and some physical therapy.

(I have no idea why links aren’t enabled right now on my account, and you’ll probably get a message that you can’t view this except on youtube, so just click that second link to see what I’ll be working on.)

To calm my nerves and leave my husband with a good batch of leftovers I made up my version of Mac & Cheese that is extra gooey on the cheese and of course enhanced by bacon.

 BACON MAC & CHEESE

1/2 to 1 lb.   Cooked Bacon (I bake mine for about 20 minutes in the oven at 400°)
1 1/2 Cups  Shredded Parmesan cheese
8 oz.            Fresh Mozzarella, shredded (yes, it makes a terrible mess)
2                 Eggs
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 pkg          Mini pasta shells

Drain the cooked pasta shells then dump into a large bowl.
Mix in eggs, bacon, and cheeses, then sprinkle with pepper & salt to taste.

Put everything into a baking dish and cooking at 350° for about 1/2 hour until all the cheeses just ooze together into a delish concoction.

Another variation of this that I didn’t make this time (because frankly, I just forgot) is to sauté slices carrots in some white wine until just a little tender and add to the mixture.

2014 Boston Marathon – Boston Strong, Boston Stronger

One of many winners in the 2014 Boston Marathon – Niki with the 2 most important men in her life – her Dad and fiancé, Tim who never let her lose her way.

finish line with 2 important men

I don’t have any recipe today, just a heartfelt post of appreciation and love to my daughter, Niki for her amazing accomplishment of completing the 118th Boston Marathon April 21st.

For those of you not familiar with this historic race, it is a grueling 26.2 mile (42.2 kilometer) course that winds through 8 Massachusetts towns. Yes, people RUN this (heck, I can’t drive 26 miles without getting all kinked up).  The course is considered one of the most difficult due to a series of hills in Newton, most notably Heartbreak Hill which is between the 20 and 21 mile mark, just as most runners are hitting the wall and their muscle glycogen stores are depleted. As a running coach once said, “If a hill has a name, you know it’s going to be a tough one”.

Difficult as the course is, there is beauty in this race thanks to the overwhelming sense of community along the entire course with spectators high 5-ing and cheering on every participant – the elite runners,  the wheelchair racers, and many, like my daughter who run for charity.

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When my daughter was a young teenager, our lives went sideways when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  I know at that age, that it affected her deeply, especially the uncertainty of not knowing how the disease would progress.  I had to reassure her that we would get through it.  I was incredibly honored when she chose to run the marathon in my honor by raising almost $6,000 in donations for research for this serious and unpredictable disease.  We both thank all of the supportive and generous friends, family and strangers who donated to this cause so that better treatments and possible cures may save other families from the anguish brought on by this disease.

Most of you remember the horror of last year’s marathon when bombs went off at the finish line in Boston, killing 3 innocent bystanders and seriously injuring many others. I still feel the chill of that day knowing that my husband, niece, and sister-in-law were somewhere near the finish line but not being able to communicate with them to find out if they were safe.  Although everyone was nervous and concerned this year with everyone’s safety, it was reassuring to know that security was tight – snipers were stationed on the roofs of downtown buildings days before the race and police and National Guard were stationed along the route.  Last year’s tragedy did not stop more than 1 million spectators from cheering on the runners.  If anything, I think it brought more people out to show that 2 sick losers could not diminish this event.

Race day conditions were perfect for the early, elite runners but as the day wore on, you could tell that the heat was seriously affecting the runners with a later start.  I am amazed at the courage and stamina of EVERY runner, no matter their finish time. For those who trained in the area this year, it was an incredibly brutal winter to prepare for this event.  Most of our winter temperatures were below zero with frigid, gusting winds that made it hard to breath, never mind run and breath.

After my husband dropped Niki off in Hopkinton at the start line, we headed into Boston to station ourselves at strategic spots along the course.  I don’t think I’ve seen my husband so emotional – near tears as he said that he hoped she would be all right.  I know everyone was on edge and I was worried too since she’d had some knee problems in her training but there was never any doubt in my mind that this girl would finish what she started out to do.

From the age of 9 years old, Niki had trained as a competitive figure skater.  We would leave in early morning darkness to drive to the rink for practice.  After a full day of school, I would pick her up for 2-3 more hours of practice after school.  Many people don’t understand the athleticism, stamina, and strength required for a figure skater to rise to the senior levels because good skaters make it look effortless.  Most people don’t see the blistered and bleeding feet when they take their skates off or sit with them in the emergency room when they split their chin open when face meets ice (multiple times).  And many skaters don’t have the opportunity to work with a world renown Olympic level coach who does not allow you to give up.  If you fall, you get up and keep going because there are no do-overs in skating and the tears have to wait for the ride home.

So was I worried about her safety?  Yes.  Was I worried that she wouldn’t finish?  Never.  Sure enough, the knee that had been bothering her before the race went out before mile 5, yet when my husband and her fiancé saw her at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, she was still running and smiling and when I saw her at the top of Heartbreak Hill at mile 21, well that smile was still there.  But it was my turn to cry when she got to me, stopped for a hug and said “Mom this is for you”.

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I know that for Niki, this marathon was not about setting a speed record.  It was about love and caring and doing something to help others.  It was also one of very few times in any of her athletic endeavors that she actually had people cheering her on every step of the way.  Figure skating can be a very beautiful sport but the dark side of it is the fact that as you step on that ice, for every person cheering you, an equal number are waiting, hoping that you fall on your ass.  Although you may skate for a club, you are not on a team where everyone contributes, helping each other out.  When your music starts playing you are on your own and every mistake is owned only by you.  Yes, running a marathon is a solo endeavor and the elite runners are definitely in it to win and beat records but for most runners, it is a chance to go out and prove to yourself that you can finish the race.  In Niki’s case, she was running as part of the MS Team but her friend and training coach stayed with her every step of the way even though her knee slowed them down.  Neither of them had any problem stopping at the top of Heartbreak Hill for a photo op with me.

 

heartbreak hill done

Do these three look like they’ve just run 21 miles?

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And when she finished at mile 26.2, yes – the smile was even bigger if that was possible.  Alexa, her friend and training partner and John, owner of Beantown Bootcamp could not have been more of a motivating force every step of the way.

finish line with trainer

Niki, I love you <this> much – thank you for being you….love Mom

And for some smiles, this is a link to some of the many signs that people make for the runners.  Who says people from Bawston don’t have a sense of humor?

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mrloganrhoades/the-42-best-signs-from-the-boston-marathon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sausage & Cheese Calzones

I called the groomer Wednesday to make an appointment for Lola.  As the day wore on and I didn’t receive a callback, I thought to myself…”I wonder if I left that message with the groomer”.  The thing is, the message wasn’t like a business greeting – just “you have reached 508-xxx-xxxx” (beeeeep).  I thought that was a little strange, being a business and all but still, I left my name and number with the message to please call me back about ‘doing’ Lola, the Bernese Mountain Dog.  So, yesterday I called back and sure enough got a professional message “hello, you’ve reached FurrEssentials.  If we’re not answering, it’s because we’re with the dogs, please leave your name and number and we’ll get back to you”.

Oh boy…I’m sitting here wondering who has my name and number and is waiting for a crazy lady to show up on their doorstep with a Bernese Mountain dog.  In any case I guess they’re not interested since I haven’t heard back from them.  But I wonder, am I becoming that befuddled elderly lady who calls me at 7:30am asking for Helen?  And, every time that I tell her that she has the wrong number, she calls back and asked for Helen again.  Sometimes we go through that routine a few times with me asking her what Helen’s number is and explaining that she misdialed the area code until I guess she either gets through to Helen or forgets what it was she wanted to talk to Helen about in the first place.

I’m usually pretty good with the home phone and have gotten used to the violence of calling someone by  “punching” of numbers vs. the more genteel “dialing” although sometimes after punching in a bunch of numbers and sitting waiting for my call to go through I realize that I haven’t “hit” send.

How many of you remember rotary phones?  Now here’s where some of you will give your age away – how many of you remember party lines?  I think if I were to tell a young person that our first phone was a party line that they’d think my family was a fun but weird family.  It’s just recently that I’ve felt comfortable being able to have a long conversation with my daughter without having to worry about toll charges per minute or Mrs. Smith from next door click, clicking to let me know that she wanted to make a phone call herself.  And these long string of numbers to remember, except that you don’t have to remember them anymore because you can store them.  We did store them in the ‘olden days’ but it was in a little address/telephone book kept by the phone.  If you wanted to call someone in your town, you only needed to dial the last 4 digits; out of town you had to add the exchange.  So I guess it’s a good thing to be able to store phone numbers on your cell phone.  Except that you have to make sure that you’re communicating with the right person.

There are plenty of hilarious stories out there about auto correct which can be frustrating when you just have a simple question.  I was out shopping and saw the cutest baby socks.  I wanted to buy them for a couple about to have their first and texted my daughter asking her if it was a boy or girl…
Me:  “Nik, do you know what Matt & Colleen are having- boy or girl
Niki:  Boy
Me:  Ok, saw the cutest things & they’re Izods
Autocorrect:  Uzis
Me:  NO!  Izods
Autocorrect:  IPods
Me:  Damnit!  i-z-o-d-s!
Niki:  LOL.  it’s ok Mom I figured it out
Me:  Just didn’t want u to think I was buying weapons

And then there’s this problem with sending texts to the wrong people.  Usually I text my daughter and I guess I just assume that when I go into the list that hers will be the first one up or default.

Me to Niki:  What time are you coming by to pick up the air conditioner?
My friend Nancy:  ? Diane – thanks but I have central air

Me to Niki:  Are you at Wegman’s? If u r could you buy me those almond croissants? And what is the brand name of the mattress we bought you
Niki’s friend:   No response from her, but a text from her to my daughter:  why does your mom want to know if I’m at Wegmans & why is she asking about my mattress?  (This girl is such a sweetheart though that I’m sure if I really wanted those croissants that she’d go get some for me)

But my best was when my husband and I were out shopping and went separate ways in Macy’s…
Me:  Meet me in the sheets
My friend Richie:  ?Huh?

Now here’s a visual before I give you the recipe for these amazing calzones.  This is a normal brain:

This is my brain:

I need to explain all of that because if you read my last post, you may recall (I think I do) that I took a camera class.  In the class the instructor said to not delete photo’s individually from your camera – either delete all after downloading them from your computer or after downloading, reformatting  the memory stick.  If you delete individual photos, you end up with a badly fragmented memory stick. So thinking of all the practice photos in my class of fellow classmates, I reformatted my camera’s stick forgetting that I had a whole bunch of great shots of these calzones in various stages – beautifully colored mixture, dough rolled and lined up, heaped with filling, and even a shot of a freshly cut calzone which actually showed the steam drifting out.  They’re all gone and alas, but I had to show you something and all I can show you is this half calzone straight from the freezer and hard as a rock.  Trust me though, these calzones have a tasty meat mixture and ooze with melted cheese.

CALZONES WITH CHEESE, SAUSAGE, AND BELL PEPPER

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For the dough:
1 1/2 Cups warm water
1 Package dry yeast
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 Teaspoon salt
4 Cups all purpose flour

- Sprinkle yeast over the warm water in a large bowl & let sit for a few minutes. Stir to blend.
– Add olive oil & salt
– Add flour in 1/2 cups, blending after each addition up about 3 1/2 cups. Knead on floured surface adding last 1/2 cup only until dough isn’t sticky
– Smack ball of dough into an oiled bowl, turn & smack it to the other side to coat. Let dough rise until about doubled in size.

For the Mixture:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Small red bell pepper
1 Large sweet onion
4 Large sausage with casing removed – sweet or spicy to your liking
12 Oz About 3 cups coarsely grated mozzarella cheese
12 Oz 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
4 Teaspoons oregano

- Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and bell pepper until softened, set aside
– Cook sausage meat, adding a little oil if necessary, breaking meat up with a fork until cooked
– Mix mozzarella & ricotta cheeses in bowl with oregano

Preheat oven to 400 °.  Punch down dough, cut into 8 equal portions for a generously sized calzone.  Roll each out into a circle and drop equal amounts of meat filling, then cheese mixture into the center of each.  Fold each in half and pinch the edges firmly.  Sprinkle corn meal on 2 cookie sheets and divide calzones onto.  Pierce the tops with either a fork or knife to let steam escape.

Position 1 oven rack on top level and 1 rack on bottom.  Place one cookie sheet on each level for 15 minutes.  Reverse cookie sheets and cookie for another 15 minutes. until golden brown.