Fall Calzones with Butternut Squash

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[infobox bg="greenlight" color="black" opacity="on" subtitle="Squash, Apple Sausage, Mushrooms, and Spinach Calzones"]Make and Freeze Ahead[/infobox]

Pizza will forever sit at the top of my list of favorite foods, and who wouldn't agree with me?  It doesn't get better than salty dough cooked to a crisp topped with tomatoes, veggies, and bubbling hot cheese.  Like, come on.  I also appreciate any variation of the traditional pizza, and coming into fall a fabulous calzone is a quick and easy meal, especially when you make and freeze them ahead.

That's exactly what I did two weeks ago for my older sister and her hubby, who delivered their very first baby boy on September 11 (baby Dylan) .  As a proud auntie who never wants to leave the kitchen, I took the moment as the perfect opportunity to cook up a storm for the two new parents to make their first weeks at home just a teensy bit easier.

I figured I'd need to make dishes that would do well in the freezer and heat up again nicely so I chose turkey and pork meatballs, zucchini and bacon quiche, and these fabulous fall calzones with butternut squash I'll get into shortly.  Everything is comfort-food with a healthy twist, as new parents need all the fuel they can get to take care of a new baby.  If you're going to cook for a loved one, I'd suggest putting half of the food in the fridge, and freezing the rest so the meals span out over a course of 2 weeks.

These calzones take about an hour to make start to finish, and use a lot of ready make ingredients (like raw pizza dough and pizza sauce) to speed up the process.  Let's get to it!

[tabgroup layout="horizontal"] [tab title="Ingredients"]

1. 2 bags of dough from Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, or your local pizza join

2. 1 cup microwaved butternut squash, cubed

3. 2 chicken apple sausages

4. 1 cup white mushrooms, sliced

5. 1/2 bag of spinach

6. 16 oz. jar of pizza sauce (Trader Joe's makes a great one)

7. One clove garlic, chopped

8. Butter

9. Salt and Pepper to taste

10. Flour[/tab] [tab title="Steps"]

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. We'll be cooking hal of the calzones to enjoy right away, and freezing the other half to cook later on. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.

2. Put squash in a ziploc bag, leaving a small corner open and microwave for 4 minutes. I like to roast squash for optimal flavor, but because I didn't want to spend 45 minutes roasting them in the oven I simply nuked 'em for a couple minutes to make them tender.

3. In a frying pan brown your apple sausage. This should take about 5 minutes.

4. Remove the chicken sausage and set aside when done. In the same pan, quickly brown garlic in the fat leftover in the pan, then add mushrooms and brown them on high heat for about 5 minutes. Make sure to salt them thoroughly for taste.

5. Add the chicken sausage, butternut squash, pizza sauce, and spinach to the pan. Cook on low for 2-3 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Make sure to taste the mixture before adding to the calzones - if it isn't flavorful enough add a bit more salt.

6. Remove the dough from the bags and pull apart into 6 pieces. Each piece should be a small handful. Lightly flour each ball, and get to work creating the shape for your first calzone. Using your hands, squeeze the ball from the center out, creating a disk shape. Squeeze from the middle out to prevent air bubbles, then play with, holding the dough in one hand and letting gravity pull it apart it until the dough stretches out quite thin to form a large circular shape.

7. Placing the dough on a floured surface, take 3-4 spoonfuls of your saucy mix and place onto one half of the dough, leaving 1/2 an inch of dough on the outside to form a crust. Fold the other half of the dough over the mixture, and seal the edges together. Poke 2 holes on the top of the dough to allow air to release during cooking.

8. Repeat with the rest of the calzones. On a large baking sheet spray with a light layer of cooking spray and cover with loose flour. Place 3 of the calzones on the sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.

9. Freeze the other 3 calzones by wrapping each raw calzone tightly in plastic wrap individually. Make sure to remove as much air as possible. Toss them all into a ziploc and into the freezer. To re-heat, heat the oven to 450 and place the frozen, unwrapped calzones onto a cooking sheet. Cook them for 35-40 minutes until ready.

10. Eat them all! Yum, yum, yum. [/tab] [tab title="Notes"]

Serving Size: 6 calzones

Oven to 450 F

Freeze raw calzones wrapped tightly in seran wrap and placed in ziploc bags, reheat from frozen for 45 minutes[/tab] [/tabgroup]