Unlike the uber funny comedian, Jim Gaffigan, infamous Hot Pocket monologue (look for on YouTube as you truly are missing out if this is not currently in your repertoire of must-see comic pleasure), my post is not referring to the ready made hot pocket that you slip out of a box.
Allow me to first introduce you to the world of possible food pocket options:
- Phyllo dough...a Greek invention of tissue-thin unleavened pastry most often associated with classics such as spanakopita or baklava. Challenging to make from scratch, most of us will purchase a common brand such as Athens in the freezer section and thaw before using.
- Puff pastry...a French creation of layers upon layers of leavened dough and butter. You can make your own and even attempt to use whole wheat flour, but Pepperidge Farm would love for you to opt for their product in the freezer section located near phyllo dough.
- Pizza dough...an Italian staple that needs little explanation. Make your own with or without a breadmaker or purchase premade dough at your local grocery store in a refrigerated case near pizza accessories.
- Tortillas...corn or flour, wheat or white, if you have ever had the pleasure of eating this Mexican staple homemade hot off the griddle, it could help explain intoxication from calories and pleasure. You can find tortillas in a variety of sizes and places resting at room temperature, refrigerated or in the freezer. Maria and Ricardo's is only one of many options.
- Pita pockets...a Middle Eastern bread leavened with yeast that most of us, unless culturally familiar or interested, will be opting to buy freshly packaged before scooping ingredients into or onto.
Phyllo dough is, as noted, much thinner with 5 sheets (57 gram portion) containing 160 calories and 1 gram of fat. Do your best to work quickly and keep the thawed dough covered to prevent the sheets from drying out so they don't crumble. Once you have layed out the sheet, you bathe it with melted butter before adding a filling, yielding a flaky, buttery end product. Key point - phyllo isn't a butter rich dough until you add the butter.
Puff pastry is much thicker than phyllo with 1/6 of a sheet (41 gram portion) containing 160 calories and 10 grams of fat, half of which are saturated. When puff pastry is thawed optimally, you can unfold the intact square of dough quite easily. But if you find you can't easily unfold it, use a lightly floured rolling pin and roll out the dough on a lightly floured cutting board. Key point - puff pastry is a butter rich dough.
faux spanakopita: phyllo filled with a mixture of firm tofu, diced spinach and seasonings
This is a great delivery system for vegetables. Use your food processor to pulse vegetables into small pieces that can be added to tofu or mixed with cheese. As I was making these, they caught the eye of each of my family members who walked by wondering, "mmmm, what's in this?"
soon to be baked puff pastry rolled with pepper jack cheese, spinach and red pepper
Another great delivery system that can hold endless combinations of chopped veggies, lean meats and cheese. Because packaged puff pastry, as mentioned earlier, is not low in fat or saturated fat, this might be a great area of experimentation for any of you interested in this concept but desiring less fat and potentially more fiber via whole grain flour. And, if you figure out how to achieve that, please share your advice with The Food That Fits!
homemade pizza dough topped with sauce, Alfresco Chicken Meatballs and cheese
homemade pizza topped with ricotta, spinach, tomato & shrimp less 2 bites
The last two photos, while technically not pockets, could have been if I folded them over into a calzone so let's think of them as open-faced pockets! When you make your own you can decide if you want to enjoy them open or closed. Most of my experimentation was in the savory direction but you can certainly explore sweet options as well. My pockets were a success with my family and my New Year's Eve party guests.
Food pockets really are like pocket books...they are a great place for leftovers, a.k.a the spare change of your refrigerator. They are both timeless in that their contents may change but the basic concept never will. And, perhaps, most importantly, I find both of them utterly irresistible as one never satisfies me and I always seem to be in constant pursuit of another - now, I forget, are we talking about hot pockets or hot pocket books?
Here's to picking your pockets!