Saturday, December 29, 2012

Braided Calzones

I am a huge fan of Pinterest. If it were not for the fact that I have limited access to the internet at my apartment  then I could easily spend all my free time pinning and repinning. I especially love browsing through recipes and pinning yummy ideas away for a later day. A few months ago I found a recipe for braided calzones. The recipe used pre-made refrigerated dough, which made it super quick and easy to make. I pinned it away for later, but this week when I went to go revisit it I was disappointed to find that the page had been taken down. I wanted to make it for my family while visiting with them over Christmas break. Feeding a family of seven (plus the brother in law and nephew) can be a challenge for us at times, so we are always looking for yummy meals that are easy to make for a large family. And as Italian food lovers, calzones were sure to be a big hit with my whole family. So I decided to try my hand at making braided calzones myself. It was a raving success!


  • Refrigerated pizza dough
  • Your favorite jarred pizza sauce 
  • Favorite pizza toppings (we used pepperoni, hamburger and green olives but you can use anything you like)
  • Mozzarella chesse
  • 1 tbls melted butter
  • Garlic salt/garlic powder to taste
  • Parmesan cheese to taste


  • Pastry board
  • Rolling pin (or your hands)
  • Pizza cutter (you can use a knife, but it tends to stick to the dough too much)
  • Baking sheet covered in foil, lightly greased (I forgot to grease it... don't do that. Will make the dough stick )
  • A preheated oven (follow the preheating specifications on the packaging of your refrigerated pizza dough. Mine said 375 F.)
  • A pastry brush (I couldn't find mine, so I just used a spoon to spread the melted butter)
  • Flour your pastry board and your hands. The dough I bought was quite sticky.
  • Place the ball of dough on the pastry board and roll it out flat with the rolling pin. Your goal is to make it into a rough rectangular shape. I found that it was easiest to accomplish this by picking up the dough and stretching it into the desired shape and then placing it back on the board to smooth it back out. Be careful not to work the dough too thin. I made this mistake with my first calzone. It still turned out fine, but it stretched and tore a bit too easily for my liking. I think it's better to have it too thick than too thin.

  • Transfer the dough to the baking sheet.
  • Spoon the pizza sauce down the center of the dough, leaving about 1 inch without sauce on each end and three or four inches without sauce on both sides.
  • Add whatever pizza toppings you want on top of the line of sauce. My family has varied tastes. We made three calzones to be split between six people. One with pepperoni and green olives, one with hamburger, and one with hamburger and pepperoni (we added olives to half of that one). The possibilities are endless. Next time, I want to try adding ricotta cheese and spinach.
  • Cover your toppings with a generous amount of mozzarella cheese. In my family, the cheesier the better (come on, it's not like we eat calzones EVERY day).

  • Now for the fun part: braiding!
  • Using a pizza cutter, cut slits into the sides of the dough from the outside edge to about 1/4 inch from the sauce. Space the slits about one inch apart. Do not make these tabs of dough too thin. I made this mistake on the first calzone I made and it made the tabs hard to work with and easy to tear.
  • Starting at one end, take one of the tabs and lay it across the filling at a diagonal. Take the tab opposite of it and cross it over the first tab, at an angle. 
  • Continue in this manner, alternating side to side, until you reach the middle of the calzone. You want to be sure to cover up as much of the filling as you can as you cross the tabs over each other. Try not to leave many gaps. 
  • Switch to the opposite end of the calzone and cross the tabs over each other in the same manner.
  • When done it should look kind of like a loaf of french bread.
  • If the ends of the calzone are still open, pinch them shut so that the sauce does not run out when baking.
  • Brush the top of the calzone with melted butter.
  • Sprinkle garlic salt or garlic powder on top to taste (this made such an impact! I don't remember this step being in the original recipe I found, but I think it is what really makes the calzone).
  • Put the calzone in the oven to bake. We baked three at a time, which took about 25 minutes, if you are only cooking one then it should take less time. The top of the calzone should be lightly browned. If in doubt, following the recommendations on the packaging of your refrigerated pizza dough. 
  • About 5 minutes before the calzone is done baking, sprinkle parmesan cheese on top and return it to the oven. 
  • Once the calzones are golden brown on top, remove them from the oven. Let them cool just a few minutes. Cut them in half and serve. For our family, half a calzone was more than enough for one person. 

These calzones are beyond delicious and super easy. They were an instant hit with my family. My dad even ventured to say they were the best calzones he had ever had. Well, I'm not sure about that, but I gladly receive my family's compliments. Give these braided calzones a try and let me know how they go for you.

Miranda Joy

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Joy Panda's Heartbeat

The content of this blog will not be much different from the many marvelous blogs that are dancing around out there right now. I intend to write about the topics I love most: painting, crafting, cooking , homemaking and life-living. I am a perpetual learner and a natural teacher. I love to dabble and share my experiments. I gladly welcome feedback and actually welcome people telling me, "I know how to do that better." I enjoy the outdoors, I dream of having a family, and I am discovering my inner fashionista. These are the sorts of things I love and plan to write about on my blog. So if any of this resonates with you, I encourage you to stick around.

But before I get started writing about any of these things, I think it is important that I state the core values that drive this blog. Whether we realize it or not, everything we do, say or create comes out of our core values: the beliefs we carry and the lenses through which we view the world. Every person, family, business and organization operates out of a set of core values. Our core values are the heartbeats of our souls and the driving forces of our actions. I have personal core values that drive my daily actions, such as my core value for a good nights sleep (I always try to get at least 6 hours a night, preferably 8), my core value to never stress out about anything (especially money), and my core value to treat every person I meet with the same respect I expect to receive  Though some may call these "rules", I don't see them that way. Core values are guidelines by which I make my decisions, not regulations that tell me what I can't do. They are not limiting factors, but liberating standards that I have chosen to adopt to help get me where I want to be. So, in order for you to understand me and The Joy Panda, it may help to understand the core values that drive this blog.

1)  I will not violate my core values.  This may sound cyclical, but it is so important. If you don't first choose to follow the core values you set for yourself then you will never be successful because your actions will be going against what you believe to be right. Even if it is a seemingly small matter, it can lead to further violations that will sabotage your vision for a good future. Like I mentioned earlier, core values are not laws to be followed as much as they are statements of ones character and standards of behavior. I may act outside of my core values from time to time (such is in the rare occasion I only get 4 hours of sleep instead of 6) but I must realize this violates my character and that I must not let that become a habit that goes against what I believe to be right. But there are some core values that carry more weight and have greater consequences if I do not follow them, such as moral issues. But just because one core value may seem like less of a detriment if I do not follow it does not make it less important, because either way I would be violating my belief of what is right and would be sabotaging my own future. I carry no shame for past mistakes that have been made right (another personal core value of mine) but I also refuse to live a lifestyle of compromise. So how will this shape my blog and affect you as my readers? I will never write anything that goes against my stated core values, and if I ever do I give you permission to call me on it.

2) The world is a beautiful place full of beautiful people. This core value is a lens through which I choose to view the world. Call it my chronic optimism if you want. So much media out there chooses to focus on the ugly, I choose to focus on what is beautiful. It is through this filter that all my blog posts will be run.

3) Nothing is hopeless, I will not pretend like it is. This one is pretty self explanatory. I truly believe that their is hope in every circumstance, no mater how difficult that circumstance may be. There is always a solution, though I may have to go looking for it. I made a choice awhile back to never portray hopelessness in anything I create and to never talk in a hopeless manner, because even if I might feel hopeless for a time I don't actually believe in hopelessness. This will be the flavor of my blog: absurdly hopeful.

4) What I create has value. You will never see me put down my own ability or creativity, and I will never put anyone else's work down either. I will openly admit my need for improvement, but you will never hear me say, "I'm bad at this," or "This project is junk," or "I'll never be as good at this as that person." Any time I try something new or express my creativity in any way I am acting out of who I truly am inside. To call my creativity junk is to call myself junk, which is a flat out lie. If I did it, it has value, whether anyone ever pays for it or not. The same goes for you. This leads directly into my next core value for The Joy Panda.

5) The World is becoming a better place and what I do helps make it that way. This core value is at the very center of why I am writing this blog. Despite all the readily available news reports of violence, disease and economic troubles; I truly believe that the world we live in today is much MUCH better than the world our grandparents and great-grandparents lived in. You might disagree, but that's ok. It is not my goal to make you agree with me (a personal core value of mine is that I never base my relationships with anyone on whether I agree with them or not). I believe that our choices to do what is right and our actions to live out of our true characters are what are shaping the world around us. When you live life to the fullest as the person you were born to be you dramatically impact the future. But these dramatic impacts are composed of many many small life moments. The little things that make us come alive. I believe that looks like us taking the good that is inside us and sharing it with the world. In other words, I think changing the world looks like expressing our creativity in our everyday life. This may sound simple, and it is, but it is truth. No innovator ever changed the world without expressing their creativity. So THAT is what The Joy Panda is all about. Changing the World, One Creation at a Time.

I am sure my list of core values for this blog will grow with time. This post is a bit deep, I admit. Most of my blog posts will not be this way, though don't be surprised to find one like this from time to time. I love to think and express my ideas. Expect lots of fun filled projects, clever household remedies, inspirational art, yummy food and  trendy fashion; with only an occasional philosophical rambling like this one. Thank you for reading. I look forward to sharing my Joyful Journey with you.

Miranda Joy