Hands down, I would have to say that some of my fondest memories of a fun time cooking in my kitchen are those that include my son, in his younger years, helping me out in some way. Whether I gave him the simple yet important task of simultaneously stirring and keeping an eye on the contents of a pot or pan while those ingredients caramelized or sauteed; whether I asked him to add a pinch or two of a few different seasonings or spices of his choosing to a simmering dish; or whether I asked him to add a spoonful of filling to something we would then “press-n-seal” together and bake off, those precious moments of working side by side together on a little meal are utterly priceless to me, and absolutely unforgettable. In my minds eye I can still see those little-kid fingers of his, slightly pudgy and delicate as they were, picking up a wooden spoon that seemed so big in his tiny hands and using it to stir, or curling around a spice bottle to shake in a few dashes of something he thought would pair well. I loved how much the process engaged him; and I also loved the fact that he enjoyed having some some say in and some ownership over the food he would be eating. There is so much perfect creativity to be found in the kitchen for a child, so much opportunity to respect and to learn about what goes into even a simple meal preparation, all under the guise of having fun in the kitchen being mom or dad’s little helper/assistant. Isn’t that what fond memories are made of, after all?
Finding simple snack preparations whose flavors are enticing to the youngsters in our lives is an engaging way to get them excited about participating in the kitchen, the heart of a home. Children, often times, are so very eager to help and add their “two cents” in when it comes to the food that they enjoy, so encouraging them to help out in various ways when a simple recipe allows for it is a wonderful way to make memories and learn new things. Pepperoni & 5 Cheese “Calzonies” are a delicious little after-school treat that can be prepared the day before and kept refrigerated until ready to bake and eat, making them a great choice for a snack that is both nutritious and a fun little activity to make together with mom or dad. It doesn’t get much funner than little dip-able finger food, does it? And seeing as these little bites taste like pizza, then that’s even better.
Involving our children in the activities of the kitchen when they are young is a great way to engage and refine their senses and their creativity. Finding simple snacks to prepare together using home-made ingredients is an exciting way to get them to start thinking about food and what goes into a delicious, from-scratch meal. It’s fun for kids to see food start out in one form and then slowly change during the cooking process into something that they can’t wait to taste and enjoy, and perhaps take some pride in knowing that they participated in helping to create that yummy end result. After-school snacks are a great starting place for little fingers to help mom or dad create in the kitchen; not only do they satisfy and soothe a hungry belly after a long day away from home, they become part of the fun memories of learning with mom or dad in a delicious, fulfilling and loving way.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Pepperoni & 5 Cheese “Calzonies” with Quick Basil Marinara Dipping Sauce
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(Makes approximately 32 “Calzonies”)
¾ cup shredded, Italian-style 4 Cheese blend
¼ cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan
1 ½ ounces pepperoni, chopped
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, plus extra to sprinkle
• Pinch salt
• Pinch black pepper
1 egg, beaten, divided use
1 lb store-bought pizza dough
• Quick Basil Marinara Dipping Sauce (recipe below)
-If preparing immediately, preheat oven to 450°, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper drizzled with a touch of olive oil; if preparing ahead, assemble as directed below, place onto the parchment-lined baking sheets, cover with plastic wrap and store in fridge until ready to bake.
-Prepare the filling by combining the shredded Italian-style 4-cheese blend, ricotta, grated parmesan, chopped pepperoni, Italian seasoning, a pinch of salt and pepper and half the beaten egg in a small bowl; set aside for a moment.
-Sprinkle a work surface lightly with flour, and roll out the pizza dough until quite thin; using 2 ½” cutters, cut rounds/circles out of the pizza dough; gather up any scraps of dough, roll out again, and cut out as many more rounds as you can.
-Using an “assembly line” method, fill each dough round with between a ½ teaspoon – 1 teaspoon of the filling; once all are filled, dab a little of the beaten egg along the edges of each round with your finger, and fold one side of the dough over to form a semi-circle, pinching the edges to seal; to finish, brush a little of the beaten egg over each “Calzonie”, and sprinkle a little Italian seasoning over top.
-Bake the “Calzonies” for about 11-12 minutes, or until a light, golden-brown; allow them to cool slightly, then serve with warm, Quick Basil Marinara Dipping Sauce on the side.
Quick Basil Marinara Dipping Sauce ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large clove garlic, pressed through garlic press
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 (15 oz) can organic tomato sauce
• Pinch salt
• Pinch black pepper
¼ cup grated parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh basil leaves
-Place a small pot over medium heat, and add in the olive oil; once the oil is hot, add in the garlic and the Italian seasoning, and saute just until aromatic; next, add in the tomato sauce the pinch of salt and pepper, and allow the sauce to simmer gently for 15 minutes.
-After 15 minutes, turn off heat and add in the grated parmesan and the chopped basil, and stir to blend; serve while warm, or cool and store covered in fridge until ready to use.