Barbecue Pork Pizza

Everybody has that weird thing that they enjoy, even though most other people hate it or are indifferent to it. Maybe you get a high out of cleaning toilets, or a satisfaction from balancing your budget, or maybe you’re like my aesthetician friend who gets a perverse pleasure out of popping people’s zits. My own personal strange divertissement comes from……(drum roll)…….(don’t worry, it’s nothing super gross)…..(like wiping dog butts)…..(or chewing someone else’s gum)…….

meal planning!

Whew! See? Nothing too funky. Meal planning is an art I strive to perfect every week. I get a thrill from the challenge: Can I make use of the foods already occupying space in my pantry and fridge and not spend too much on special new ingredients? Can I achieve a balance of cooking trusted standards but also incorporating the new recipes I’m dying to try? Can I somehow make it all work together like a giant puzzle? Well, I try. To some people, that probably sounds miserable, but to me it’s the pleasure of bringing order out of chaos–delicious order, if at all possible. So you probably won’t be surprised when I tell you that the gold standard, the hit-the-jackpot of meal planning for me is that diamond-in-the-rough, one-two punch of…..

the Double Duty Dinner!!

The Double Duty Dinner is the kind that you prepare one night and are then able to use in a different way another night. This is not the same thing as leftovers. It’s a creative reinvention of one or more components of one dinner to create a second dinner. The best is when the second dinner bears little resemblance to the first. Then you really and truly don’t feel you’re having leftovers.

This fantastic Barbeque Pork Pizza is probably my favorite example of such a high-scoring Double Duty Dinner. Well, it’s the second half of it. The first half is another dinner: pork tenderloin slathered in barbeque sauce, slow-cooked in the Crock Pot. Barbeque pulled pork can of course be used in several ways for the first dinner: served on buns as a sandwich, served with corn on the cob and potato salad in summer, roasted sweet potatoes and onions in winter, or any combination of sides you can dream up. The key is to make extra and save it for later in the week, when you’ll make this pizza and kill another day’s meal plan bird with one stone. Because you do not want to miss out on this pizza. Tender barbeque pork, gooey mozzarella, crispy red onions, and some cilantro for a bite that rounds out the whole mix. If my digestive tract would let me, I could eat this entire pizza.

And seriously, I looooove meal planning. So if you’re ever interested, comment or shoot me an email and I’d be happy to send you some sample week meal plans. It would make my day!

Barbeque Pork Pizza

1 lb. store-bought refrigerated or homemade whole wheat pizza dough (such as Trader Joe’s)
3/4 c. barbeque sauce
1/2 lb. barbeque pulled pork (leftover from your first Double Duty Dinner)
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 of a small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c. loosely packed cilantro leaves


1. Remove pizza dough from refrigerator and follow package directions for rising. (Trader Joe’s dough rises for 20 minutes.) If using homemade pizza dough, follow recipe directions for rising.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

3. Grease a 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan. Spread pizza dough across pan, overlapping the edges slightly. (It will contract as it bakes.) Bake in preheated oven about 10 minutes.

4. Heat oven to 450 degrees.

5. Spread barbeque sauce over dough, followed by pulled pork. Top with mozzarella, red onion, and cilantro.

6. Bake an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and red onion begins to wrinkle and brown.

Serves 4.

Double Cheese and Salami Calzone

Fun food word fact of the day: did you know calzone means “stocking” or “trouser” in Italian? Maybe because in Italy Santa Claus comes and stuffs your stocking with cheese and salami? Or maybe he stuffs your trousers with them? (If he does, I don’t want to know…though I sense a good double entendre joke inherent in that idea.) Regardless, my impression of the calzone is more of a pocket than a stocking. In fact, a calzone is basically a classy version of a Hot Pocket (contradiction in terms?). Or, more likely, a Hot Pocket is the sleazy, microwave version of a calzone. After all, I’m pretty sure the calzone came first. If you’ve never had one, a calzone is essentially a pizza folded over on itself, making it less messy and more convenient to eat with your hands (speaking of class, right?). If you like pizza, you’re sure to like calzones.

Unlike yesterday’s apple barley salad recipe, nobody could mistake this double cheese and salami calzone for being healthy…though that didn’t stop me from making it twice this week–three times if you count the fact that I made two of them last night. Because OH. MAN. it was crazy good and my family practically inhaled it. Also, it’s ridiculously easy to make–even easier than pizza. I let my kids eat it in front of the TV during our family movie night of Disney’s Robin Hood and they didn’t even get any on the floor! See, I told you it was less messy than pizza! Pizza + less mess = ultimate kid food, though I would happily serve this to dinner guests, as the flavors of goat cheese, salami, and fresh thyme definitely cater to an adult palate. All in all an easy dinner for a weeknight, movie night, or for company!

Double Cheese and Salami Calzone
(Adapted from


1 lb. store-bought refrigerated or homemade whole wheat pizza dough (I always use Trader Joe’s)
8 oz. shredded mozzarella
3.5 oz. soft goat cheese, crumbled
2.5 oz. salami, sliced in half moons
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil


1. Remove pizza dough from refrigerator and follow package directions for rising. (Trader Joe’s dough rises for 20 minutes.) If using homemade pizza dough, follow recipe directions for rising.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

3. Toss mozzarella, goat cheese, salami, garlic, and fresh thyme in a large bowl.

4. Spread pizza dough in a large rectangle on a greased rimmed baking sheet. Mound filling crosswise on lower half of dough, leaving a 1-inch border on the sides. Fold the empty upper half of the dough over to cover filling. Crimp edges to seal.

5. Bake in preheated oven until puffed and brown, about 18 minutes. Brush with olive oil and cut into 4 pieces.

Serves 4.

Bacon-Berry Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

And now it’s time for a little Q & A with A Love Letter to Food.

Q: Dear Love Letter to Food, is it okay for a salad to taste like candy?



This salad is the proof. I’ve been making it for years and it’s probably my favorite way to eat greens. And even though it tastes like something that dropped out of a piñata, I’m pretty sure it’s actually fairly healthy. After all, you can’t argue with spinach, orange slices, almonds, and cranberries. (As for bacon and cheese, well, I guess you can argue about those…but only if you want a salad filibuster from yours truly.)

Q: What’s the best part of this salad?

A: Possibly the highlight of this colorful, mostly healthy melange is the zingy raspberry dressing. Salad dressing is one of those foods that, once you start making it yourself, I believe you’ll never go back to store-bought. (Others include taco seasoning, chicken broth, and pumpkin butter.) Whipping up a small batch for one-time use ensures a freshness you just don’t get from the bottle that’s been sitting in your fridge for two years. (I mean, doesn’t it seem kind of counterintuitive just how long certain “perishable” foods like salad dressing can theoretically be held in a refrigerator?) The muddled raspberries in this particular dressing give it a special sweet-tanginess that goes well with a host of other foods, including the cheesy bread we had as a side with this salad the other night. You could also try it on chicken breast or pork loin.

Q: Does that mean the chicken or pork loin would taste like candy?

A: Yes. No problem with that at all.

Bacon-Berry Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
(Dressing adapted from


For the salad:

6 c. fresh spinach
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. slivered or sliced almonds
1 large orange, peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 c. crumbled feta or goat cheese

For the dressing:

3 Tbsp. raspberries
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. white sugar
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp. oregano
1/8 tsp. black pepper


1. In a large bowl, toss spinach with cranberries, almonds, orange slices, bacon, and cheese.

2. To make dressing, mash raspberries, then add all other ingredients and whisk or shake well in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

3. Toss salad with dressing, or serve on the side.

Serves 4.

Cookie Cutter Ham and Cheese Pockets

At our play group Halloween party, these little gems got quite a bit of buzz. I had several people request the recipe, so I thought I would share it here! I’ve been making these for four years, since I first saw them in a Woman’s Day issue (back when I inexplicably received that magazine in the mail–it just began appearing one month, then disappeared a year or so later. Some anonymous benefactor must have thought I needed help being a woman?)

Anyway, for a four-ingredient recipe, these ham and cheese pockets really shine. The flaky-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside pie crust melts in your mouth with the gooey cheese and salty ham. Their greatest virtue is their versatility. You can use any cookie cutter you choose, as long as it’s big enough and not too weirdly shaped (reindeer shaped pockets for Christmas might pose a challenge). And of course the filling can be modified as well. If you’re a turkey and cheddar fan rather than ham and Swiss, knock yourself out. They store well in the fridge and can be reheated in the oven on warm if you’ve made them ahead of a party. I like to serve them with a side of honey mustard.

Cookie Cutter Ham and Cheese Pockets
(Adapted from Woman’s Day)


1 box (15oz.) refrigerated pie crusts
8 oz. thinly sliced deli ham
8 oz. sliced Swiss cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten


Heat oven to 400 degrees.

On a large surface, unroll pie crusts. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out to approximately 1.5 times its original diameter. Cut crusts into shapes using desired large cookie cutter (3 inch works great). Collect scraps and roll out again to get as many shapes as possible. You will need an even number.

To form pockets, place one slice Swiss cheese and one small portion ham on one cut-out shape. Place a second cut-out shape and on top and press edges together firmly. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat until all dough is used. Cut slits in top crust to allow steam to escape.

Brush tops of pockets with beaten egg. Bake 12-15 minutes.

Makes 9-11 pockets.

Mexican-Style Pan-Roasted Pork with Pineapple

If this dish were a person, it would be that eccentric, crazy-dressing English teacher who had a really good heart. The one who could make the most embittered 17-year-old dude love Shakespeare, even as she paired yellow leopard-print tights with purple snakeskin boots. You know what I mean? With pork, I would never think to pair the flavors of pineapple and onion, but that is exactly what this unusual main dish does, and to great success. Because the onions caramelize as you cook them in the pan, they attain a sweetness that melds beautifully with the tangy-tart pop of pineapple. A hint of cumin and oregano reminds the palate that this is indeed a savory dish (we’re talking pork chops, after all), rounding it out as one of those heavenly sweet-and-savory Gestalt combos.

I found this recipe while perusing a library book I recently checked out, Real Food for Healthy Kids. I’m always on the lookout for healthy dinners my kids won’t turn their noses up at. Frankly, I’m a little surprised the authors included this recipe, though, since the flavor is so unconventional. Maybe they figured the pork and pineapple theme would remind kids of Hawaiian pizza? Whatever their reasoning, I’m glad they left it in. Paired with rice and a vegetable, it makes a straightforward weeknight meal I will make again. Look for a review of this cookbook on the blog in the near future!

Mexican-Style Pan-Roasted Pork with Pineapple
Adapted from Real Food for Healthy Kids


2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. thin-sliced pork chops
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 20-oz. can pineapple chunks in juice, drained, juice reserved
1 c. chicken broth

Combine flour, cumin, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl. Dredge pork chops in mixture to coat and set aside on a plate.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork chops and cook until the underside turns golden brown, about 2-4 minutes. Turn and cook until the other side browns, 2-4 minutes more. Remove from pan and keep warm under foil on a plate.

Add the onion and oregano to the pan and cook until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the pineapple and cook and stir for 1 minute. Add the broth and 2 Tbsp. of reserved pineapple juice. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 3-4 minutes.

Serve pork on individual plates (with rice, if desired) and spoon pineapple-onion sauce over the top.