Two amateur cooks explore the world of cooking for a Crohn's and Colitis diet

During our senior year at Brandeis University, Marnina and I made veggie calzones using Trader Joe’s herbed pizza dough.  We chose Trader Joe’s because the dough was kosher (a necessity!), cheap and delicious.  Trader Joe’s has three types of dough—whole wheat, plain (white) and herbed.  The calzones were melt-in-your-mouth good, and so we decided to recreate a similar dish using an online recipe.  Feel free to make your own dough or use your favorite kind of store-bought dough.  Calzones are especially friendly for IBD sufferers because most of the filling is usually cooked (to death!) on the skillet, and then the entire calzone is baked, meaning the entire dish is easier to digest.  Plus, veggies are full of antioxidants, and antioxidants improve circulation and digestion and also naturally reduce inflammation in the body.  We also try to vary the color of our veggies because different colors provide different types of antioxidants (broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms are a staple in our kitchen).

The recipe also calls for an ingredient that you don’t usually see in calzones—tofu.  Tofu is derived from a soybean, and it is an excellent source of protein for those who do not often cook with other protein sources, such as beans and meat.  Since Marnina cannot digest the high amount of fiber in beans (she has not had a bean [except green beans] since she was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease) and we only cook with meat once or twice a week, tofu is a very good option for us.

This recipe calls for spinach and onions as the two veggies, but you can also add almost any veggie you want.  We would recommend adding mushrooms, artichokes and broccoli.  Tomatoes can often be a trigger for IBD symptoms—many people with IBD cannot eat tomatoes or tomato sauce because of their acidity and the fact that the red color never fully digests (I’ll spare you from more details…). Since this dish is tomato free (unless you choose to dip the calzone in tomato sauce), it also makes it incredibly IBD friendly.

The easiest part of this dish: preparing the filling.  The hardest part: working with the dough.  It is crucial that you flatten out the dough into a round shape with ¼ – ½ dough thickness.  That way, the dough is not too thick once it is baked, and there will be a good dough-veggie ratio.  Once the dough is flattened out, be careful with the amount of filling that you add.  One rule of thumb: if you add filling and are unable to fold over the calzone without an avalanche of filling spilling over the sides…..you have added too much filling.  Unfortunately, I did not flatten out the dough enough AND I added too much filling.  Needless to say, the first batch of calzones came out looking like….well, not calzones.  Marnina came to the rescue, and using her stellar baking skills, she smoothed out the dough to its proper thickness, spooned the appropriate amount of filling, folded the calzone into a perfect half-moon shape (a math student with a protractor could not have been more precise), and then she used a fork to connect the edges to keep the filling enclosed.

After dinner, Marnina decided she had not baked enough for a Tuesday night, and so she decided to whip up some easy Peanut Butter Banana Scones.  If you do not know Marnina, she is in LOVE with using peanut butter and banana when she bakes.  There is a 9/10 chance that her baked goods include one of those ingredients.  Bananas are a staple in our kitchen because they tend to be a safe IBD food and they are a quick source for energy.  Marnina is very particular about her bananas: they must be a perfect shade of yellow, and if they have too many black spots (too ripe), they will stimulate her intestines because of all the sugar, and she will be in the bathroom soon thereafter.   For those interested in making these scones, the recipe is below the calzone recipe.

The pictures have only slightly improved since our first dish.  We are still working on our presentation and picture quality, so be forewarned!

The calzones and scones recipes can be found below, after the pictures:

The filling ingredients…and our best rendition of a Seder plate.

Sauteing the spinach and onions before they are added to the grated tofu, grated mozz. cheese, cottage cheese, and egg.

Hard to distinguish between the grated tofu (on the left) and grated mozzarella cheese (on the right).

Grated tofu, grated mozz. cheese, cottage cheese, egg, and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

The filling is all mixed together.

My (Seth) baked calzones.  Notice the filling spilling out from the sides.

And Marnina’s perfectly folded calzone.  Notice the lack of filling spilling out from the sides.

And also notice the perfect half moon shape.

Baked peanut butter banana scones.  There used to be eight….

Oh, here is the eighth one….about to be eaten.

We recommend topping the scone with jelly, or some type of peanut butter.  You can also re-warm the scones easily after they cool.

Healthy Spinach Calzones

INGREDIENTS

Dough

  • ¼ whole wheat pizza dough recipe (we used 1 package of regular flour herb dough from Trader Joe’s)

Spinach mixture

  • 325g spinach, chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 100g extra firm tofu, grated
  • 100g low fat mozzarella, grated
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 egg

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 500F
  2. In a non-stick skillet, cook onion, salt and pepper over medium heat until translucent. Lower heat, add spinach and stir until spinach is completely wilted, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, add cottage cheese, tofu, mozzarella, egg and nutmeg and mix until well combined.
  4. Remove excess liquid from spinach and fold into cheese mixture. Mix until well combined. Set aside.
  5. Divide dough ball in 2 equal pieces and roll or stretch each piece into a 6-8 inch disc. I like to use cornmeal when rolling and stretching my dough as it tends to get trapped into the dough and adds a nice little crunch.
  6. Mound half of the spinach mixture on the center of each of the discs. Flatten it just a bit with a spoon, bringing the mixture more towards one side of the disc.
  7. Fold the dough back onto itself and press lightly on the calzone to form a half moon.
  8. Fold the edges, twice if possible, to seal in the filling.
  9. Transfer to a pizza pan or cookie sheet and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the crust turns crispy, nice and golden brown.
  10. Serve however, wherever and whenever you prefer!

Adapted from: The Healthy Foodie Blog

Peanut Butter-Banana Scones

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 3/4 c. peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 c. evaporated milk, plus more for brushing the tops
  • 1 c. (about 2 ) chopped bananas

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 375.
    Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until thoroughly combined.
    In a large bowl, beat together peanut butter, eggs, vanilla, and evaporated milk until evenly blended.
  2. Add the flour mixture and stir just until combined.  Stir in the bananas.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it twice.  Pat it into a 1-inch thick disc.
  4. Using a 2 and 1/2 inch cutter, cut into rounds.  Pat scraps together and re-roll.  (Makes about 12.)  Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
  5. Brush the tops with evaporated milk.  Bake 20 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
  6. Serve with jelly, margarine, nutella, peanut butter or whatever your heart desires!

Adapted from: Bake at 350F

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