What I Ate: Baked Falafel

Falafel is one of those sneaky take out items that seems so healthy but…

they’re fried. Womp. Womp.

I make it at home somewhat regularly and bake them. It is so much easier, less messy, and healthier.
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I’ve made them from scratch and honestly don’t really think it is worth it. I use a mix, bake them on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 375 degree and flip once. Leave the frying to your fav Falafel King/Palace/House-Of…you won’t even miss the fried crunchy outside.

The mixes taste good and are simple. Simple as in just-add-water. In the time it takes to get these buggers toasty and cooked through your salad can be ready and waiting. Toss feta, cukes, tomatoes, and greens with some Italian/Caesar/Oil & Vinegar.
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I love this as a perfect meatless dinner or I’ve served it as an app with little pita pockets. It is an easy meal to bring somewhere since you’ll just need refrigeration and maybe the falafel can get nuked or popped in the toaster oven. This time I served it on wheat naan but tortilla wraps, pita pockets are great too.
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Try it and I won’t even have to say told-ya-so.

Eggplant Parmesan Pizza

My pizza today isn’t really Memorial Day themed, but it is a winner. New England’s weather hasn’t really been Memorial Day themed either. I’m not complaining though. I got the good weather when I needed it. My freezer was getting a bit out of control and I was wanting to use some ingredients. I dug around and found some frozen bredded eggplant, courtesy of Trader Joe’s. I thought I’d introduce Mr. J to it via pizza. It was delicious.
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This is so good. The eggplant is delightfully crispy while the ricotta is creamy and the mozzarella is stretchy. There are such good flavors and textures while being a Love.

Ingredients:

6 slices of bredded eggplant
pizza dough
1 1/2 cups marinara
2 tbs basil, chopped
8 oz shredded mozzarella
2 tbs Italian seasoning
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 tbs Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Bake eggplant slices for about 10 minutes, flipping once.
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Prebake pizza crust for 10 minutes until it starts to harden on the outside slightly.
Top with marinara and basil.
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Shake on some Italian Seasoning after topping with shredded mozzarella.
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Top with eggplant, and dollops of ricotta.
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Return to the oven and bake for 5-7 more minutes until all the cheese melts. Sprinkle with Parmesan before serving and let sit 3-5 minutes before slicing.
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I loved this one. Ricotta on pizza is to die for. It is perfectly melty and adds some soft texture. I thought it was a nice in-between of kind of a topping and kind of the base.

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Fontina Mac & Cheese with a Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

I know, I know. There are too many decadent not-springy dishes, but I’ve been a bit backlogged. This is worth it. Maybe we all will keep needing a little comfort here in Boston. The recent Boston Marathon events have shaken me. I work in large scale athletic fundraising events (not as large as the marathon) and it all hits close to home. I’m guiltily reminded that I said a few weeks ago that “this is almost the worst thing that could happen” when one of my sites bumped me for another event. No, that is not the worst thing that could ever happen. I’m mixed between whining that it isn’t fair, that this is a time honored tradition, it is inspiring/impressive/astounding and feeling so badly for people doing a really positive thing. The logistics in me feels for the BAA who will forever be changed.

Mr. J works just blocks away, on the same street, and I was just paralyzed by ‘what could be.’  I was so thankful to get home, together, and just process. It was scary to wonder if it was better to stay put or to go to a huge train station. Knowing the cell towers were off made it more nerve wracking. Social media luckily allowed me to see the runners I knew were safe and the event staff I know made it home ok.

Now onto the food. When everything else is uncertain dinner is exactly what I need. I planned to make some really good mac and cheese but I was thinking of topping it with Lay’s new Cheesy Garlic Bread flavored chips, but the grocery store was totally sold out for several weeks. (Yes, this crossed my mind a few times so I gave in trying to make it happen.) Unsurprisingly, there were plenty of chicken & waffle flavored chips? I thought those were too weird, even for me, so I ended up with some interesting looking Feta & Rosemary flavored Cape Cod chips instead.

While I was exploring the chip aisle, I knew something healthy but interesting should go with this. Like something green. Enter: brussels sprouts!
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Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

Ingredients:

3 cups raw brussels sprouts
2 tbs creamy stone ground mustard
1 tsp garlic, chopped
1 tbs red wine vinegar (or cidar vinegar)
2 tbs butter
Salt & pepper

Directions:

Trim brussels sprouts at end and tear of petals, discarding the very center
In a flat pan, over medium low heat, melt butter, mustard, garlic, and vinegar for 1-2 minutes.
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Bring pan to medium and add in the brussels sprout petals.
Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
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Sprinkle with salt and pepper before serving.
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The warm brussels sprout salad has some creaminess from the butter and some tang from the mustard. I think the flavors are light and delightful. This would go with anything. The centers of the brussels sprout is the bitter part so this dish comes out mild and fresh.

I think this sauce would be really good on roasted broccoli or carrots too.

Fontina Mac & Cheese topped with Potato Chips

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3/4 lbs pipette pasta
8 oz fontina, chopped/shredded
8 oz sharp cheddar, chopped/shredded
2 tbs Parmesan, grated
1 egg yolk
1 cup low fat milk
3/4 cup half and half
salt & pepper
1 cup crushed potato chips (or breadcrumbs)

Directions:

Over medium low heat, add butter and flour to a medium saucepan.
While butter and flour form a roux, let it turn from bright butter-yellow to summer-tan-sandish color to cook the flour taste out.
Boil water for the pasta.
Add milk and cream, stirring to smooth out.
Cook pasta to al dente being careful not to overcook.
Add cheeses, reserving 1/4 cup of each for later.
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Stir/whisk until creamy and smooth.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Add drained pasta to the cheese sauce saucepan stirring to incorporate.
Add egg yolk and remaining cheese (this is where you get some stringy/gooey parts).
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Pour into a greased baking dish.
Top with breadcrumbs or crushed chips on the top.
Bake for 20 minutes.
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The mac and cheese was so good. The egg yolk and dynamic cheeses make this creamy and decadent. Sometimes I add a squirt of dijon mustard but I didn’t want it to seem too matchy-matchy to my brussels sprout salad.

I love mixing cheeses. Fontina is mild and nutty. Parmesan adds a subtle saltiness but isn’t the best melting cheese. The chips had a great herby flavor without being quite as fake flavored as it could be.

Let’s just let it go that Lay’s decided to make Chicken and Waffle flavored chips. Some things will never be forgotten, but yeah, I think we should all forget that these chips happened. mmmk?

Spinach and Artichoke Pockets

I love creamed spinach as an ingredient. It has tons of flavor and is great for a sauce and for serious color. I used it in place of sauce in deep dish pizza. This time I thought it would help make spinach and artichoke dip. I baked it into puff pastry pockets to turn dip into dinner!

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Ingredients:

1 pkg creamed spinach
2 cups artichoke hearts
2 tbs garlic, chopped
1 tbs cream cheese
1 cup fresh spinach
4 slices fresh turkey/4 chicken tenders, pre-cooked
1 cup shredded mozzarella/shredded monterey jack
salt & pepper
1 sheet of puff pastry

Directions:

Sautee artichoke hearts in a large pan over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
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Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Add creamed spinach, garlic, cream cheese, and fresh spinach to the pan. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.
Chop and add pre-cooked turkey/chicken, cooking for another 3-5 minutes.
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Roll out puff pastry from ¼ inch thickness to ⅛ inch (sheet should almost double in size)
Cut puff pastry into squares. Lay out if forming into pockets. Or lay into ramekins/muffin tins.
Fill each with spinach/artichoke mixture.
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Add shredded cheese and fold/close.
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Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.
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This was such a fun and different kind of dinner. I made these pockets into ramekins so I didn’t have to worry if they exploded. Smaller ones would be fun for a party.
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The turkey I had wasn’t in tip-top shape (it lived in the freezer for a bit) so I figured it’s only use could be cooked into something. It added a bit of protein but wasn’t a crucial addition.

Any other apps turned dinner ideas out there?

Cookbook: Breakfast for Dinner

Do you make breakfast for dinner? I love to throw that into the mix and it is such a helpful theme for keeping dinner budget friendly and for keeping dinner varied. I was psyched to see Breakfast for Dinner by Lindsay landis and Taylor Hackbarth. Lindsay writes Love & Olive Oil and wrote Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook.
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Besides the beautiful photos, I love that these are different recipes. This is no ‘scrambled-eggs-for-dinner’. These are real dinners, inspired by breakfast. I thought maple glazed meatballs was genius. Habanero-cheddar bread pudding? Yes please! Cornmeal pancakes with beer-braised short ribs also sounded amazing. The sunny side up burgers are a great idea (with a touch of crispy potatoes!) and will definitely be part of my menu planning sometime.
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Italian-Style Stuffed French Toast

adapted from Breakfast For Dinner

Ingredients:

2 garlic cloves
½ cup whole-milk ricotta
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
3 tbs chopped basil
1 tsp dried oregano
salt & pepper
4 slices french bread
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp garlic powder
1 cup marinara sauce, warmed

Directions:

Mix ricotta, Parmesan, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper.
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Cut a pocket into the bread horizontally with a small sharp knife. Cut into the bottom of the bread, starting small and cutting deeper while leaving a ¼ inch intact around the other edges.
Gently stuff ricotta mixture into the bread.
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Whisk eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a shallow dish/bowl.
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Heat a large skillet or grill pan over medium heat and spray with nonstick spray.
Gently dunk and coat stuffed bread pieces into the egg mix.
Pan fry on each side for about 3 minutes.
Top with marinara to serve.
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I loved the flavors. I thought this savory stuffed french toast was great. The original recipe called for sauteed spinach mixed with the ricotta. That would be right up my ally, but I was out of spinach and lots of fresh basil. I left out the spinach, and upped the basil.

Occasionally I crave pancakes, but normally, I’m not seeking sweet for breakfast. This cookbook is perfect for lots of savory options.
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I truly love this book and thought it would be a great gift after being a house-guest. Cooking breakfast just seems so do-able and I think anyone would feel comfortable picking out something and whipping it up. Breakfast for dinner is also super fast…like fast enough to help allow you to watch the entire 3-hour Bachelor finale. 3 hours…that’s like a movie! Nope, don’t know who would need to fit those 3 hours into their week. Surely not me ;)

Full 3 Bite Rule Disclosure: My copy of Breakfast For Dinner was completely complimentary but my thoughts, opinions, and words are entirely my own.

French Bread Pizza

Hope you had a deliciously snowy weekend like I did! Just you wait. I cooked some fun stuff I can’t wait to share with you. Too bad I don’t have an recipe for snow, because we got walloped and there’s plenty to go around. I think our official count was 22 inches.

I’ve shared a great deal of pizzas but I hear all the time how annoying/tricky dough can be. I agree. It can be tough. I’ve had a few struggles myself (like here, or here), so I figured it was about time for a pizza without a doughy crust.

Enter: French bread pizza (forget that the bread packaging says Italian Bread)
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Ingredients:

3 tbs butter/margarine
1 tbs garlic, chopped
½ tsp garlic powder
4 tbs grated Parmesan/Romano cheese
sprinkle of salt, pepper, & Italian seasoning
1 cup tomato sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella
toppings of your choosing

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Melt butter, adding garlic, cheese, and seasonings.
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Half bread, lengthwise.
Spread butter, garlic, and seasonings onto each half and bake for 5 minutes.
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Remove from the oven and top with sauce and cheese
french_bread_pizza_tobake_590_390Add the toppings of your choice!
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Bake 15 more minutes or until melty and crisp.
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I loved how quick this pizza is. Everything is already cooked. It also cuts into a lot of pieces if you wanted to serve it at a party. 1 loaf ended up being 5 servings. I think it would be the fastest freezer meal to have on hand for when nobody feels like cooking.

The garlic base helps elevate it from a frozen pre-made pizza to an easy but delicious one. I took out half a few minutes earlier than the half we were eating that night. I hoped it’d help the lunch-reheating portion not to be overdone. That’s something you can’t do with a regular pizza!

Also, you remember my sous-chef? Here’s Windsor. He was sitting pretty but the delicious smells of pizza on the counter got the better of him. Don’t his white whiskers make him look distinguished?
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Allow me to introduce my new sous-chef. Bailee comes to us from Maine (much like Windsor) and has been a fixture in the C family for all 8 years of her life so far. She’s living with us now (and maybe for keeps). I’m also her favorite when I’m cooking. She’s a bit portly so Mr. J has a grand-slimdown-plan. So far it has only involved fewer snacks than she’s used to and a few extra trips up and down our stairs. The snow is taller than she is so she’s not overly impressed with the backyard right now.
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Sherry Tomato Soup

Nothing says “winter meal” more than soup. Creamy tomato soup…spiked with wine. The nice folks at Tuttorosso sent me some canned tomatoes to try (and I got a beautiful new le creuset from Mr. J for Christmas) to debut so soup was in order. Don’t breeze through this thinking “didn’t she just make tomato soup?” That was different. this is different.
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I made Ree Drummond’s Sherried Tomato Soup and loved it. It stands up to her thought that after tasting it, “solemnity and peace will be within reach”. True story.

It is totally flavorful and comforting. I served it with some grilled cheeses and was thoroughly impressed. I liked how heavy-handed she is with the sherry. She’s also heavy handed with the cream making this delightful and it off-sets the sherry a bit.

Sherried Tomato Soup

(adapted from Pioneer Woman)

Ingredients:

1 small onion, chopped (next time I’d reduce this to ¼ cup)
3 tbs butter
1 tbs garlic, chopped
28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 cups tomato juice
2 tbs sugar
½ cup chicken broth
1 cup cooking sherry
1 ½ cups heavy cream
chopped parsley, basil, ground pepper (optional)

Directions:

Heat a pot over medium heat and add onions and butter, cooking until translucent, adding garlic just for the last minute or two of cooking.
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Add canned tomatoes, tomato juice, sugar, and broth cooking for 5-10 minutes to heat through and release the flavors and sugars, not boiling.
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While first few soup ingredients are cooking, assemble grilled cheeses or prep garlic bread.
Reduce heat to medium-low, and add sherry.
Now is an opportune time to start grilled cheeses or garlic bread for dipping. Cook soup for another 5 minutes.
Turn heat off, and add cream & herbs.
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Serve & enjoy!

I loved the super strong tang of the sherry. Mr. J thought it was a bit too intense. You can reduce the amount or cook it a bit longer. I think soup gets a bad wrap and should be very flavorful. None of that Oliver Twist watery cabbage junk. This soup is like a warm itch-less-sweater wrapping like a hug around you.
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I liked this one reheated. If you’re feeling fancy, only add some of the cream to the part you’re eating right then. Reheating the soup, with the cream in it, isn’t for everyone. I like it though. A dollop of plain greek yogurt in each bowl, instead of the cream would be good. I got about 5 good-size servings out of this.

Talk about McSteamy! (Also, I know. I’m aware my placemats are still supporting the holidays. All they need is a flip to the reverse to become winter versus Christmas. I’m delaying the holidays-being-over thing.)
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Full 3 Bite Rule Disclosure: Tuttorosso sent me a set of samples of their canned tomato products to try out and taste. The product samples were completely complimentary but my experience, thoughts, opinions, and words are entirely my own. They are offering an apron giveaway for the first 4,000 people to “like” their page on facebook and who provide an original recipe. Also one lucky winner gets $500 to cooking.com. 

Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprouts Hash

Happy New Year! December included a vacation then the whirlwind of the holidays in MA & ME. It was an awesome few weeks but I feel like now it is is major detox time. Time to eat real food and get back to the routine. There were some amazing meals on vacay, Christmases with both families, holiday parties, a cookie swap, some festive beverages etc.
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I spotted this easy sweet potato and brussels sprouts hash on Culinary Colleen’s blog. It looked awesome for brunch. I thought it could be an easy and balanced dinner.

Ingredients:
2 small sweet potatoes quartered
2 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed
4 strips of bacon
1 tbs chopped garlic
2 eggs

Directions:
Partially boil the potatoes and cook until the potatoes are halfway cooked.
Steam the brussels sprouts while pan frying the bacon.
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Drain the bacon, leaving the pan coated with bacon grease.
Cook potatoes, brussels sprouts, and garlic in the bacon pan.
When potatoes and sprouts are getting gently browned and crisp turn to low and keep warm. Add bacon just before serving.
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Pan fry eggs over easy, or poach the eggs.
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Serve eggs over the potato and sprout hash.
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I liked this. It was super easy. I think I should have dripped in a little liquid smoke, but the bacon gave a great smokiness. I don’t think I’d crave this weekly, but it was a nice change up and was only 1 pot and 1 pan to make. Love that!

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Spoiler alert: the soup isn’t life changing. It is good enough. Maybe yours will be better. The flavors were great, it was perfect for a chilly day- I just wish I had a better blender. If you have a good blender, whip up this soup. (literally). I was itching for soup to complete my fall list. It is a good one to celebrate Boxing Day.
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Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower
2 tbs good olive oil
1 cup milk
½ cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1 tbs grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp chopped garlic
salt & pepper

Directions:

Cut the florets off the head of cauliflower and roast in a 400-degree oven coated liberally in olive oil, salt and pepper.
cauliflower_soup_raw_590_390Turn occasionally every 20 minutes. Cook for 40 minutes at 400-degrees.
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Add milk, sour cream, Parmesan, and garlic to a blender or food processor.
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Blend until smooth. (mine was less than silky textured)
Add salt and pepper to taste.
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My blending was kind of a catastrophe. I tried my food processor, my smoothie machine, and an immersion blender. My smoothie machine is a Magic Bullet and has been kicking since about 2004? It was my best option here. I just couldn’t do much at a time. It does not chop or dice like advertised. It can puree really well though!

My food processor and blender is one machine and has severely let me down. The blender part doesn’t work well. It whirls and doesn’t seem to do much. The food processor has been great (for the few months I’ve had it) but was dribbling and didn’t even make it smooth.

The immersion is just an attachment to my hand mixer so I don’t expect much…rightly so.

I make frozen fruit & yogurt smoothies verrrrry often to know the liquid ratio is often important, the fill level affects it, and manually scraping the sides or stirring it can help greatly. I was very frustrated and thought it would have looked lovely if it was smoother.

It tasted good. I drizzled a little truffle oil on top since that can make anything better. I served some crunchy toasts on the side for dipping. We liked it, but I wasn’t satisfied with the consistency.

I learned that my tools were inadequate in this circumstance but that Mr. J will make the best of any dinner, despite how frustrated or disappointed I get. It was also a great reminder that roasted cauliflower is reallllly good and I should just make that sometimes. Maybe I’ll redeem myself with another soup. I love pumpkin & black bean. Loaded baked potato could be fun with toppings. Corn chowder is fun. Hmmm. The wheels are churning.

Stuffed Crust Pizza

I don’t know why Pizza is associated with Friday. I think Monday deserves pizza just as much! I was racking my brain to figure out what kind of pizza I hadn’t ever tried. Ahh ha! Stuffed Crust!
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Ingredients:
Pizza dough
3-4 string cheese sticks (I used a provolone mozzarella mix)
1 cup marinara sauce (I use Pastene Kitchen Ready Tomatoes)
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning
8 oz shredded mozzarella

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees (if using a pizza stone, preheat it as well).
Spread pizza dough out onto the pan/stone. Make sure it is spread very thin, it will fold in and become an inch smaller.
Cut cheese sticks into small pieces and spread them around the edge.
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Fold the edge over, closing the cheese inside. Crimp with a fork. Be sure the cheese is fully surrounded by the dough. Roll cheese so it is surrounded 1.5-2 times. (unlike mine)
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Bake 10 minutes until doughy edges begin to crisp.
Spread sauce, spices, and shredded cheese on top.
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Return to the oven baking for another 10-20 minutes. Remove when cheese is melted and crust has crisped.
Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

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I had some oozing sections. I covered those spots with sauce and cheese. I think making sure the cheese stuffing is wrapped around more than once to ensure it won’t bust through the seams.