Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ham and cheese pockets

The baby's birthday came and went without much fanfare besides crankiness from him and nostalgia from me. But his real party is tomorrow, and that should be fun -- that is, if I can ever get the house clean and the food made in time! He is definitely seeming more toddler-ish and less babylike every day.

I went to a La Leche League meeting the other day, and it was amazing how tiny all the other babies looked, and how big mine looked in comparison! He was just walking around the circle poking all the other moms and babies and taking their toys. Luckily no one was mad! At the library, our other "social occasion," the older kids can get quite upset when Marko tries to play with their toys. Instead someone said he was a "very Montessori baby" (a phrase that made me quite unreasonably pleased, seeing as I don't know much about Montessori) and everyone kept assuring me that he wasn't a nuisance.

Anyway, this recipe here is something I devised last week in order to make John's lunches more easily. Some dinners make good leftovers for taking to work, and some don't. On the days that there are no good leftovers, I'm left floundering after the baby's gone to bed, having to make something from scratch in the dark (because if I turn on the light, it shines into the bedroom and wakes up the baby). I refuse to buy Hot Pockets anymore -- they are not economical and not very healthy, either. So this is my homemade edition. They could be made with any number of fillings -- next time I'll try meatballs and sauce.

Ham and Cheese Pockets

Pizza dough
Ham (cooked)
Cheddar cheese
Broccoli (frozen and thawed)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix up the pizza crust according to any good recipe. Leave it to rise for an hour. About ten minutes before the hour is up, start making the filling. For my batch of pizza dough (which I think would make two crusts), I used about 3/4 cup of ham, 1/2 cup of broccoli, 3/4 cup of cheese, and a very small amount of white sauce -- say a tablespoon of butter, a tablespoon of flour, and 1/4 cup of milk.

Make a white sauce (bechamel) by melting the butter and stirring in flour until it's completely combined. Pour in the cold milk and whisk together. Keep over medium heat, whisking often, until it's thick. Meanwhile, dice the ham and broccoli very small. Add them to the sauce. Grate the cheese and mix that in, and then turn the heat to low while you work on your dough. Leave the pot uncovered so it can continue to thicken.

Roll out the dough very thin. I had to divide mine into two batches and roll them out separately in order to have room on my counter. Your goal is to get the dough 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. Use a pizza cutter to cut it into large squares, say 5 by 5 inches.

Get your cookie sheets greased and ready. You'll probably need at least two. (If you don't have two, use my trick: lay out the second batch on parchment paper or a baking mat, and when the first batch comes out, scoop them off the baking sheet to cool and slide the parchment paper onto the baking sheet!) Take a large spoonful of the filling and put it in the center of one square. Fold the sides around the filling, as if you were rolling up a burrito. Then turn it over and fold the top and the bottom around the filling in the same way. (I didn't flip them over, and ended up with them paper-thin on the bottom and puffy on the top!) Make sure all the seams are pinched closed and there are no gaps anywhere. You're sure to discover new gaps when they bake, though! Put the hot pocket on the cookie sheet and do the rest the same way. Let rise for half an hour and bake according to the pizza crust instructions. I did mine at 375 for about 20 minutes.

They make a great travel food and store easily. I found them delicious! Sorry no pictures, but it's just as well -- mine turned out very ugly as I experimented with different folding techniques. The one I describe above was the one that worked best, though you can also do simple triangles or whatever if you prefer.

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