Your Freezer Aisle’s Best Secret Ingredient (OR How to Make Your Own "Hot Pocket" Sandwiches)

Your Freezer Aisle's Best Secret Ingredient (OR How To Make Your Own By Matthew Thompson, Associate Food Editor for EatingWell Magazine

For years, one of my favorite go-to quick-dinner tricks has been to grab a bag of pizza dough from the freezer aisle of my supermarket, a jar of marinara sauce, some cheese and a few veggies and whip up a delicious, homemade pizza.

But for all my years of using this easy freezer item (some supermarkets carry thawed dough with their specialty items instead), I was really surprised by all the other things you could make with whole-wheat pizza dough when the EatingWell Test Kitchen decided to devote a story to it in our September/October issue. It turns out that this item is surprisingly versatile--usable for everything from pies to sandwiches to "Hot Pocket"-style meals. It's truly the secret weapon of your freezer aisle. Check out these tasty meals you can make with it:

Salami & Spinach StromboliSalami & Spinach Stromboli--Traditional stromboli recipes are stuffed with tons of mozzarella cheese and Italian cured meats. In this healthy stromboli recipe we fill whole-wheat pizza dough with plenty of spinach and a judicious amount of salami: the results are still delicious. Serve with your favorite marinara sauce on the side for dipping.

Grilled Thai Chicken SandwichGrilled Thai Chicken Sandwich--Juicy grilled chicken, onions and peppers combine with a Thai-inspired sauce in this chicken sandwich recipe. We love how the flatbreads made from whole-wheat dough sop up the extra sauce. If you have one large (12-ounce) chicken breast instead of two smaller (6-ounce) ones, cut it in half horizontally before grilling so the chicken cooks in the time specified in this recipe.

White Pizza with ClamsWhite Pizza with Clams--Of course, I have to include one pizza recipe here. This is an easy homemade pizza recipe that is a take on white clam pizza, which was first made famous by Frank Pepe of Pepe's Pizzeria in New Haven, Connecticut (my hometown). Look for fresh clam strips in the seafood department. You can find them ready to use out of their shells at most large supermarkets. If you don't want to use fresh, we also like the briny flavor and convenience of canned chopped clams.

Corn & Broccoli CalzonesCorn & Broccoli Calzones--These calzones are stuffed with a delicious combination of corn and broccoli, but you can use whatever you have in your fridge. Part-skim ricotta and mozzarella make our pizza pockets lower in saturated fat. Plus a whole-wheat crust adds a nutty flavor and extra fiber. Serve with your favorite marinara sauce for dipping.

Pear & Blue Cheese FlatbreadPear & Blue Cheese Flatbread--The classic combination of pears, walnuts and blue cheese isn't just for salad. Toss the same ingredients onto purchased whole-wheat pizza dough and make your own gourmet flatbread at home. Any type of ripe, firm pear will work--red pears look great.

And here's the recipe for one of my personal favorite new creations you can make with whole-wheat pizza dough:

Jerk Chicken Pockets (pictured above)--These tasty sweet potato and jerk chicken "pockets" are spiced up with jerk seasoning, a Caribbean spice blend that typically contains allspice, thyme and hot pepper. The spice combo and heat level vary widely among brands. Experiment and find the one you prefer. Look for jerk seasoning in the spice section of most supermarkets.

Makes: 5 servings
Active time: 25 minutes | Total: 45 minutes
To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate the filling (Steps 2 & 4) for up to 1 day. Let stand at room temperature while you roll out the dough.
Cost per serving: under $1.50

1 medium sweet potato (about 12 ounces)
1 pound prepared pizza dough, preferably whole-wheat
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon jerk seasoning
8 ounces cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced (about 2 cups, see Tip)
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/4 cup raisins
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Prick sweet potato in several places with a fork. Wrap it in wax paper or parchment paper and microwave on High until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Cut in half. When it is just cool enough to handle, peel and dice.
3. Meanwhile, shape the dough on a lightly floured surface into a log about 10 inches long. Divide into 5 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 5-inch square with a rolling pin or press into a square with your hands.
4. Whisk mayonnaise, jalapeño, water and jerk seasoning in a medium bowl. Stir in chicken, scallions, raisins and the sweet potato.
5. Spread about 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture on half of each dough square, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Fold the dough over the filling and pat it to create a rectangle, then use a fork to crimp the edges closed. Transfer the chicken pockets to the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops with oil.
6. Bake the pockets until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Per serving: 358 calories; 11 g fat (1 g sat, 3 g mono); 42 mg cholesterol; 49 g carbohydrate; 2 g added sugars; 21 g protein; 3 g fiber; 547 mg sodium; 302 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (90% daily value), Vitamin C (15% dv).

Tip: If you don't have leftover chicken, you can quickly cook chicken by poaching it. Place boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a skillet or saucepan. Add lightly salted water to cover and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until no longer pink in the middle, 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size. (1 pound raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts = about 2 1/2 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken.)

Have you tried cooking something other than pizza with your pizza dough?

By Matthew Thompson

Matthew ThompsonMatthew Thompson is the associate food editor for EatingWell Magazine.

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