Super Fast Dye-Free Stromboli

I wanted to share my favorite “oops it’s 5:00, what am I going to make for dinner??” recipe. If you can manage 5 minutes of free time, you can make this meal. It’s dye-free and my kids LOVE it. For those who aren’t familiar with stromboli it’s basically a pizza roll with sauce on the side.
One of these babies feeds my family (me, hubs, 5 year old, and 3 year old) and usually leaves me some leftovers to enjoy for lunch the next day. It can easily be doubled or tripled or quadrupled if you are trying to feed a larger crowd.
Also, it’s fairly cheap. I’ll spare you the math breakdown, but the way I make it (with organic veggies, uncured meat, and cheese; aka “the expensive way”) it costs about $6. That’s $1.50 per person in our home. You can definitely make this much cheaper by using different ingredients or produce from your garden. Way less money (and healthier) than ordering a pizza when you’re in a pinch at dinner time. 🙂
Here we go:
First, get out all your ingredients.

Four basic ingredients: refrigerated french bread, cheese, meat, and marinara.

All you need to make a basic, bare bones stromboli are these four ingredients: Pillsbury Simply Rustic French Bread (you can usually find it near the cookie dough and crescent rolls at your grocery store), meat, cheese, and marinara sauce.
I love Hormel’s Natural Choice Uncured Hard Salami, because there are no nitrates. For information on why nitrates are bad for you read this: http://www.livestrong.com/article/283850-why-is-sodium-nitrate-bad-for-you.
I have also started only buying tomato products packaged in glass containers. This is a good article explaining why it’s best to avoid canned tomatoes: http://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/the-7-foods-experts-wont-eat-547963.html.
Finally, in order to keep this meal dye-free, make sure you only have white cheese. Mozzarella or an Italian blend works great. Any cheeses that are orange have been colored with annatto, which causes a lot of food allergies and has been linked to the same behavioral problems as other artificial colors. You need to keep a watchful eye for annatto, because technically it is a “natural” color since it is derived from plants. Things that claim to not have artificial colors or be all-natural may still contain annatto.
In addition to these basics you can add veggies and spices, really whatever you want. We’ve made a Hawaiian version with ham and pineapple – my husband’s favorite. You can even make it vegetarian if you take out the meat.
Alright, you get it, it’s a versatile recipe. Moving on.
Pop open your French bread and lay it on a greased cookie sheet.

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Lay out your refrigerated Pillsbury Rustic French Bread.

Put your fingers in the middle of the roll and gently pull it apart. You want to flatten it out. Keep working it until it covers most of the tray. Try not to pull to hard and make holes in the dough. Tip: The dough is easier to work with if you let it warm up on the counter for 20 minutes or so before you start.

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Pull the roll towards the sides of the cookie sheet to flatten it.

Now to start assembling. You can do this in any order you like. This is how I do it. Meats first.

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Put down some of Hormel’s Uncured Hard Salami.

Next some chopped veggies. I used bell peppers and cherry tomatoes this time.

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Add some chopped bell peppers and tomatoes.

Then the cheese. I only used about half the bag (roughly 1 cup).

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Sprinkle on some cheese. For dye-free don’t use any orange cheese with annatto.

Now the fancy part. Start rolling!

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Roll it up!

You want to roll long side to long side. Be gentle! You don’t want any holes in your dough. Keep rolling!

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Be careful not to make any holes the dough.

This can get tricky if you’ve overloaded your stromboli with toppings; just something to keep in mind.
Once you get it all rolled up, start pinching the edge to the rest of the roll to make a seam.

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Seal up the edge and lay it seam down.

When it’s all sealed off carefully lift the whole thing and place it seam side down on the cookie sheet.
Then pinch together the ends and tuck them under the roll.

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Fold under the ends.

Your stromboli should look like this.

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Pop your stromboli in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Throw it in your preheated oven at 350° for 20-25 minutes, until it is a light brown like this one.

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Ready to eat!

This one leaked a little bit, which is fine, it just means I didn’t get the seam sealed as tightly as I should have in that spot. It’ll taste the same, so don’t worry.
Now slice it up, and serve it with the marinara on the side for dipping.

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I try to add in a little more nutrition with some easy sides, like this cantaloupe I already had cut up and a handful of mixed nuts.
That’s it. A delicious 30 minute dye-free meal your kids (and you) will devour. And it only took you about 5 minutes to throw together. Win!

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Super Fast Dye-Free Stromboli

1 can refrigerated Pillsbury Simple Rustic French Bread

Marinara sauce

8 oz mozzarella or Italian blend cheese

Toppings (meat, veggies, etc.)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Spread out refrigerated bread dough on a greased cookie sheet.

3. Pile on cheese and toppings.

4. Roll up the dough from long side to long side, being careful not to rip holes in the dough.

5. Pinch the edge to form a seam.  Lay the stromboli seam side down on the sheet.

6. Tuck the ends under the roll to seal them.

7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until light brown.

8. Cut up.  Serve hot with marinara sauce on the side for dipping.

Easy Homemade Greek Yogurt

I love Greek yogurt. I mean, looooooove it, love it. The only thing I don’t love about it is shelling out a dollar or more for each delicious little container at the store.

I used to justify the cost because it’s a healthy snack. (But, let’s be real. It was mostly because it’s so creamy and delicious, and the closest thing to ice cream that you can have for breakfast in front of the kids.)
My husband isn’t as much of a yogurt fanatic and started hinting that maybe I should consider dropping, or greatly reducing, my semi-expensive yogurt habit. *sigh* What’s a girl to do? Turn to the internet for help, of course. 🙂
I found a bunch of different recipes and methods for making yogurt. Through trial and error I came up with one that is extremely easy with very little hands-on time (which is ideal for me, because with three littles running around I can’t be wasting a lot of time in the kitchen).
All you need is milk (I usually do a gallon at a time, but any amount will work), a pot, some mason jars with lids, a heating pad, and a towel. Optionally, you can use a funnel and strainer if you like your yogurt really smooth like I do. The first time you make it you will need to have a little bit of plain Greek yogurt as well. But after that just save a some of the yogurt from the previous batch to use in the next one.
The best part about this recipe is how much money you save. A gallon of whole milk costs around $4 and makes about 144 ounces of yogurt. Generally, an individual container of Greek yogurt is 6 ounces and costs at least $1 – you’d need to buy 24 of these to get up to 144 ounces. That’s at least $24. Which means: Buying your Greek yogurt at the store is at least 6 times as expensive as making your own!
I promise that making your own is painless! Give it a shot and put that $20 savings towards something better than yogurt, like a babysitter for date night.

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I’ve learned the key is using plain old pasteurized whole milk. The ultra pasteurized milk doesn’t work very well; mine always ended up being runny. If you want a thick Greek yogurt like you’d buy at the store, then make sure you don’t get ultra-pasteurized. And make sure it’s whole milk. So creamy!
I like to make a gallon at a time. It lasts up to several weeks in the fridge, and coincidentally that’s about how long it takes us to use it up too.
Whatever amount of milk you decide to use, the next step is pouring it into a pot.

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Now turn your burner to medium heat and walk away. Chase your kids around or, if you’re lucky, kick up your heels and relax for 20-25 minutes.
Check on your milk about 20 minutes later, it should be boiling. Ideally you want to get to it before it’s a roaring boil, but if you get busy and forget about it (guilty!) all is not lost. It just takes longer to cool down if you overdo it.

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Turn off the heat and take it off the burner.
I like to give it a good stir at this point, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot a little. There is usually a skin of burned milk on the bottom of the pot that you want to take out at some point. If I’m careful I can usually manage to get it all out in a few long pieces with my spatula.

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Fish out all the large pieces of milk skin and throw them away.

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Leave your milk to cool for about an hour. No need to check on it or stir it. You can if you want to, but it’s not necessary.
After an hour or so check the temperature.

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If you have a food thermometer you want the milk to be somewhere in the range of 110°-118°F. I shoot for close to 114°, because the next step is adding in yogurt. This will cool it down a little, and you don’t want it to go below 110° or the live cultures in your yogurt won’t multiply. You also don’t want the milk too hot or you’ll just be killing the cultures. If you don’t have a food thermometer, you can check with your finger. It should feel hot, but not hot enough to burn you…and hotter than just warm (technical, I know). Be careful not to burn yourself!
If your milk is too cool when you check it, just turn the burner back on low for a couple minutes, stirring to distribute the heat, until it’s where you want it. This is great if you forget about your yogurt project while you’re entertaining kiddos or cleaning the house (again, guilty!).

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**Important notes: 1. Make sure your starter yogurt says it has live cultures, or none of this will work. 2. To complete these next few steps you’ll need about 15 minutes of uninterrupted time. I try to make it so this step falls during nap time.
When your milk is at the right temperature, stir roughly a tablespoon of plain Greek yogurt into about a cup of the milk.

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I use a fork to whisk it, because it seems to dissolve better that way. You don’t want to over-whisk it and kill the cultures. Mix until it’s mostly dissolved.

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Pour your yogurt milk back into the large pot. Stir slowly with your spatula for a minute to distribute the yogurt cultures throughout the milk.

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If you haven’t already, get your jars and lids out.

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Set up your funnel and strainer on the jar, if you’re using them, and start scooping milk into your jars with a ladle or measuring cup. Things can get a little drippy, that’s why I put a towel over the crack between the oven and the counter – one of the most annoying places to have to clean.

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This is why I use a strainer. Catches any gunk you missed with your spatula before.

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I use the pint sized Mason jars for my yogurt. I fill them up to the neck and it makes about 9 jars worth.

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Put your jars on the heating pad. I put mine on the medium heat setting, but I’ve tried it on low and high as well. They all work. You just want to keep them nice and toasty without making them too hot – the cultures like to reproduce (which is what turns your milk into yogurt) around 110°F.

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Now put a big towel on top of your jars to help hold in the heat.
Congratulations! The “hard” part of yogurt making is done. Now leave your yogurt to cook on the heating pad anywhere from 7-11 hours. The longer you leave it the thicker it will be. It also gets a little tangier as time goes on, so decide how you like it and let it cook accordingly. I leave mine for about 9 hours. You may want to check your heating pad occasionally; most of them have automatic shut-offs. After a couple hours I turn mine back on. Once I left it to cook overnight and it still cooked up fine even though I didn’t restart the pad. The yogurt is forgiving, so there’s room to experiment. 🙂
When your yogurt is done cooking put it in the fridge.
That’s it! Yay!

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When it cools down, mix in some honey or jam or granola or fresh fruit – whatever your heart desires. Now go enjoy your delicious, inexpensive, protein packed, good-for-your-body Greek yogurt! You can even share with your family if you’re so inclined. 🙂

My favorite way to eat Greek yogurt - fresh fruit and a little honey. Mmmmm!

My favorite way to eat Greek yogurt – fresh fruit and a little honey. Mmmmm!

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Homemade Greek Yogurt

1 gal. whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)

1 Tbs plain Greek yogurt (with live cultures)

1. Heat gallon of milk in a large pot to around 180 degrees, or until just boiling (about 20-25 minutes).  Turn off burner and remove from heat.

2. Let milk cool to approximately 114 degrees.

3. Mix 1 Tbs of plain Greek yogurt with 1 c of the cooled milk.  Whisk gently with a fork until yogurt is mostly dissolved.

4. Pour yogurt milk back into the large pot and stir softly for a minute to distribute the live cultures.

5. Line up 9 pint sized Mason jars and lids.  Place a small funnel in the first jar with a strainer on top of the funnel.  Using a ladle or measuring cup, begin scooping milk from the pot into the jars.  Fill to the neck of the jar, then fasten the lid.

6.  Place the full jars on a heating pad set to medium heat.  Cover with a large towel to insulate.

7. Cook yogurt on the heating pad anywhere from 7-11 hours, depending on the consistency desired.

8. When the yogurt has cooked, place all the jars in the fridge.  Will keep for about 3 weeks.