Easy Recipes with a Step Ahead

A few ready-made ingredients and a grownup twist on comforting grilled cheese make these sandwiches and lettuce wrap recipes weekend or weeknight winners
Italian Beef and Cheese Calzone

Photo: Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner

Cozy sandwiches or bread-free lettuce wraps make staying in to watch the Timberwolves play this weekend, rainy-day projects or binge-watching, or weeknights to come better when you have some easy recipes on hand to mix up your usual go-to bites. And who couldn’t use a little help in the kitchen? In these recipes, which appeared in Real Food, a warm calzone is made easier with the help of refrigerated pizza crust dough, and a vegetable and rice mix helps make easier work of the chicken lettuce wraps. And grilled cheese sandwiches are always easy, but this one offers a grownup twist with beer-enhanced bread to bring beer-and-cheese pairing to the next level. And if you’re hungry for cheesy dips and other appetizer ideas, scroll down to check out a roundup of recipes I have highlighted.

Italian Beef and Cheese Calzone

Makes 4 Servings | Recipe Courtesy Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner

Traditional Italian flavors add a kick to ground beef before it’s wrapped up in convenient refrigerated pizza dough. This is sure to please all ages.

1 pound ground beef (93% lean or leaner)
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with onions, drained
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 package (13.8 ounces) refrigerated pizza crust dough

  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add ground beef and bell pepper and cook 8 to 10 minutes, breaking into 3/4-inch crumbles and stirring occasionally. Pour off drippings. Stir in tomatoes and oregano and continue cooking 5 to 7 minutes or until liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Set aside.
  2. Sprinkle cornmeal evenly over rimmed baking sheet. Unroll pizza dough lengthwise on baking sheet, straightening edges of dough if necessary. Spoon beef filling over long half of dough, leaving a 1-inch border on 3 sides. Gently lift and pull top half of dough over filling to enclose and pinch dough edges to seal.
  3. Bake in 400°F oven 15 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool 5 minutes. Cut crosswise into 8 slices.

Cook’s Note: For easy cleanup, line baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle with cornmeal and proceed as directed above.

Parmesan Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Photo: Green Giant

Parmesan Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Makes 4 Servings | Recipe Courtesy Green Giant

An Italian spin on lettuce wraps will soon be a family favorite. Pile high with the toppings of your choice.

1 pound ground chicken or turkey
1 (10-ounce) package Green Giant Riced Veggies Cauliflower, thawed and drained
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash Original Blend
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 (5-ounce) package baby spinach
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Boston lettuce
Basil and pine nuts for topping (optional)

  1. Cook chicken, Green Giant Riced Veggies Cauliflower, onion, and Mrs. Dash Original Blend in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and 8 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.
  2. Stir in tomato and spinach and cook 2 minutes or until spinach is wilted.
  3. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Serve chicken mixture in lettuce leaves. Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil and pine nuts. Sprinkle with additional Mrs. Dash, if desired.

Photo: Adobe Stock

Beer-Soaked Grilled Cheese

Makes 4 | Recipe Courtesy The Brewers Association

Brooklyn Brew Shop has brought the never-fail concept of cheese and beer pairing to life with a brown ale-soaked grilled cheese sandwich.

For the Beer Batter
2 eggs
1 cup nutty brown ale
1/8 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon chili powder

For the Sandwiches
1 loaf sourdough bread, cut into 8 (½-inch) slices
1 block mild or sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
2 tablespoons butter, plus more if needed
Optional toppings: bacon, sliced ham, prosciutto, avocado

  1. In a large shallow bowl, whisk eggs, beer, flour, salt, and chili powder. Dunk 1 slice of bread into the batter on both sides, giving it a second to fully absorb the batter. Let the excess batter drain back into the bowl.
  2. Move to another plate and top with cheese and additional toppings, if desired.
  3. Repeat with another slice of bread to complete the sandwich.
  4. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Place the sandwich in the middle and let it cook on each side 3 to 4 minutes, until it reaches a crispy golden brown and a gooey cheese middle. Repeat for all sandwiches. Plate, and add garnishes, if desired.

Nutrition (per serving)
• Italian Beef and Cheese Calzone: Calories: 543, Fat: 18g (Sat: 8g), Cholesterol: 104mg, Sodium: 1064mg, Carb: 56g, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 10g, Protein: 41g
• Parmesan Chicken Lettuce Wraps: Calories: 170, Fat: 8g (Sat: 3.5g), Cholesterol: 65mg, Sodium: 210mg, Carb: 9g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 4g, Protein: 21g
• Beer-Soaked Grilled Cheese: Calories: 480, Fat: 28g (Sat: 15g), Cholesterol: 155mg, Sodium: 1010mg, Carb: 31g, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 4g, Protein: 22g

Hungry for More?

Check out these recipes for dips, snacks, and more:

Game-Day Recipes

From tiny taco bites or baked cheese dip to chipotle chili, Sloppy Joes five ways, and more, we’ve got you covered with delicious ideas for your party.

Slam-Dunk Cheesy Snacks

Upgrade your snacking to a new level with easy, cheesy recipes for any get-together.

Game-Day Bites

Get in the game with twists on cheesy favorites from easy make-your-own pizza, wings, and artichoke dip to a pumpkin baked brie, and more.

Cauliflower and Thyme Dip and Black Olive Tapenade Recipes

Turn a veggie into a fascinating, and somewhat addictive, spread and bring a healthier option to the table.

Bruschetta with Olive Tapenade Recipe

This quick-and-easy appetizer can also serve as heartier bites with optional meat or plant-based proteins for a little something for everyone.

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.