Monday, October 23, 2017

Low Carb Cheese Head Pizza w/ Pesto Crust

This evening I used my Cheese Head Pizza Crust recipe to make a delicious basil infused crust. It was so good! I omitted some of the spices in the regular crust and folded in Mezzetta's Homestyle Basil Pesto into the dough as well as brushed additional pesto on prior to baking the crust. It turned out absolutely delicious! This crust would make the perfect base for focaccia, too, if that's something you're longing for. I topped our pizza this evening with Muir Glen pizza sauce, Boars Head pepperoni, and Del Destino's grilled vegetables packed in oil that I find at Costco. I used what was left in a partially used jar in my fridge; grilled baby eggplant, piquillo peppers and a big artichoke. This mixture usually includes zucchini, but I had used all of that for something else. This is such a simple crust to make and it is super filling. I cut this pizza into 6 huge slices and could only eat one. I snapped a few photos and included the recipe below. Enjoy!

Crust ready to bake

Crust fresh out of the oven - can be transformed into focaccia, if desired

Topped w/ sauce, cheese, pepperoni, grilled artichokes, piquillo peppers and baby eggplant



8 ounces (2 cups) shredded mozzarella (whole milk or part skim)
3 ounces brick style cream cheese
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan (powdery style)
1/8 teaspoon salt, optional
3 tablespoons basil pesto, divided (I used Mezzetta Homestyle Basil Pesto)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon olive oil (to press out dough with hands or rubber spatula)
Desired toppings (pizza sauce, pepperoni, cooked peppers, onions, mushrooms, additional cheese, etc.)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet or pizza pan with parchment paper.

Place mozzarella and cream cheese in a medium bowl. Heat cheese in microwave on high for 45 seconds; stir and heat an additional 30 to 45 seconds or until a hot melty mass of cheese is formed. Fold 2 tablespoons pesto into hot melted cheese with a rubber spatula.

While cheese is melting in microwave, stir almond flour, Parmesan, and salt in a small bowl. Add flour mixture and egg to bowl of hot melted cheese. Working quickly, fold and stir mixture together with a rubber spatula until a ball of dough is formed (make sure cheese mixture is hot before adding flour and egg).   

Place ball of dough in center of parchment lined baking sheet or pizza pan. Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil on top of dough and press dough out with rubber spatula (or hands), into the desired shape (round, oval or rectangular) until about ¼-inch thick. Thinly brush or spread remaining 1 tablespoon pesto over top of crust. Prick holes all over crust surface with a fork to prevent crust from bubbling up. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly golden (be careful not to overbake so it doesn't burn when returning to oven to bake with toppings). Remove crust and top with pizza sauce, additional cheese, and any desired toppings. Reduce oven temp to 400 degrees F and bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes or until cheese is melted and heated through. 


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pumpkin Pecan Coffee Cake - A Fall Favorite

It's throwback Thursday and I'm re-sharing a recipe for Pumpkin Pecan Coffee Cake that I created 2 years ago. It's most definitely a fall favorite of mine. This coffee cake makes a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving breakfast menu. It’s rich, moist and oh so pumpkiny!  Your house will smell amazing while it’s baking, filling it with the aromas of pumpkin and spice that will waft through your kitchen as its baking. I love this time of year. It's delicious for either breakfast or for dessert. I like adding a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of vanilla ice cream when enjoying it for dessert. The pecan topping has a touch of molasses mixed into the sweetener to create a brown sugar substitute and is combined with butter and pecans to make a delicious streusel-like topping. It is absolutely amazing with a cup of coffee. If you love pumpkin and you love coffee cake...this recipe will satisfy both. Try it, you won't be disappointed. I've included some photos and the recipe below. Enjoy!

Ready to pop in the oven
Fresh out of the oven

Pumpkin Pecan Coffee Cake


For the pecan topping:
1/2 cup granular Swerve sweetener (or other granular sweetener)
1 teaspoon black strap molasses
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch sea salt
2 Tablespoons diced cold butter
1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted

For the batter:
1/4 cup coconut flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups Swerve granular sweetener (or other granular sweetener)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Dash ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin
6 Tablespoons melted butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" baking pan.

To make the pecan topping, combine sweetener, molasses, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl; add diced butter and cut in using a pastry cutter/dough blender until mixture is coarse and crumbly (or the mixture can be pulsed until combined and crumbly in a small food processor). Stir in toasted pecans and set aside.

To make the batter, whisk almond flour, ground flax, coconut flour, sweetener, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl until combined.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs, vanilla, buttermilk, pumpkin and melted butter together until smooth. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix together, beating with a rubber spatula or hand mixer until a thick batter is formed. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Top with pecan topping and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

*Note:  To toast pecans, spread in single layer on a baking sheet and bake in oven at 350 degree F for approximately 5 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently until lightly toasted.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Roasted Sheet Pan Sausage, Sprouts & Squash - The Perfect Weeknight Meal for Fall

Today was a quiet day here at my house for a change. I have felt a bit run down and tired all day and hope it's simply the weather (as in unseasonably hot and humid). The forecast for this week looks to be more "fall like" than it has been, so keeping my fingers crossed. I wanted to keep this evening's dinner quick and simple. This past week I picked up a couple of packages of Kiolbassa Smoked Beef Sausage from Publix. They had it on sale for buy one/get one free so I picked up a package of their jalapeno beef sausage that I prepared today as well as a package of their regular smoked beef sausage to try. I decided to make a simple sheet pan meal with diced butternut squash, halved brussels sprouts, sliced sausage and some green spring onions tossed in for a bit of flavor. I roasted the butternut squash and sprouts (after tossing in olive oil and seasoning with a pinch of salt for about 15 minutes, then added the green onions and sliced sausage and roasted it for another 10 to 15 minutes. Honestly, it was one of the best meals I've had in a while. Both hubby and I loved it and there is enough left for lunch tomorrow. It's the PERFECT weeknight meal for fall. The effort is small but the flavor is huge. The spicy sausage contrasted by the natural sweetness of the butternut squash and the roasty toasty flavor of the roasted sprouts and green onions were such a delicious combination. I snapped a few photos below and included the easy peasy recipe as well. Enjoy!

Sheet Pan Roasted Sausage, Sprouts & Butternut Squash


1 pound brussels sprouts, halved
1 pound diced butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
4 green spring onions, cut into 1-inch long pieces
4 smoked sausage links, sliced diagonally (approximately 3/4 to 1 pound)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine brussels sprouts, butternut squash, olive oil and salt and stir until evenly coated. Spread in single layer on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or foil. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and stir; add green onions and sliced sausage evenly in a single layer with brussels sprouts and squash. Roast an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned or to desired doneness.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Turkey Burger Parmesan & Roasted Sun Dried Tomato Brussels Sprouts

This evening I didn't have anything thawed to make for dinner. After a quick scan of my fridge and freezer, I came across a package of frozen Kirkland's Signature Turkey Burgers (from Costco). They come with 12 burgers (1/3 pound each) to a package, separated by wax paper. Each burger contains 35 grams of protein (they're made with turkey breast). You cook them while frozen and they take about 8 minutes per side to grill. I brushed them with a bit of olive oil mixed with some Mezzetta Basil Pesto while grilling them. I decided to make a quick and easy "Turkey Burger Parmesan" with the turkey burgers by roasting some multi-colored grape and cherry tomatoes (by Mucci Farms that I also find at Costco). After halving the tomatoes, I tossed them in a mixture of olive oil whisked with a couple tablespoons of Mezzetta's Basil Pesto and spread them out on a parchment lined baking sheet to roast for about 20 minutes, then sprinkled with shredded Parmigiano Reggiano and roasted an additional 5 minutes. I topped each grilled turkey burger with a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese right before pulling off the grill so it could soften and begin to melt and get gooey. I topped each burger with roasted tomatoes right before serving. You could substitute using chicken or beef burgers instead, if preferred.

To go with our Turkey Burger Parmesan, I decided to Italianize fresh brussels sprouts by halving them and tossing them with a mixture of olive oil and Mezzetta Sun Dried Tomato Pesto. I roasted them for about 20 minutes and then topped them with shredded Parmigiana Reggiano and popped them back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so. They turned out AMAZING and were the perfect accompaniment to the Turkey Burger Parmesan. I snapped a few photos below and included the easy peasy recipe for my Turkey Burger Parmesan. Enjoy!

I roasted the tomatoes tossed with basil pesto alongside the brussels sprouts tossed with sun dried tomato pesto (both were topped with shredded Parmesan near the end of cooking).

The melting mozzarella cheese has completely engulfed the turkey burger

Grilled Turkey Burger Parmesan


4 frozen turkey burgers (or use fresh and adjust cooking time)
8 ounce ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into 4 thick slices about 2-ounces each
Olive oil spray to spray burgers
2 cups halved assorted grape and cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 rounded tablespoons basil pesto (fresh or jarred)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese


Preheat grill. Spray both sides of turkey burgers with olive oil and grill for 8 minutes per side. While burgers are grilling, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine tomatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil and basil pesto in a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese; return to oven and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Top each burger with a slice of mozzarella cheese and spoon roasted tomatoes over top.

*Note: If desired, baste turkey burgers with any remaining olive oil and basil pesto mixture while cooking


Monday, October 9, 2017

Instant Pot Chili - No Seasoning Packets Required

This evening I'm posting the recipe for Instant Pot Chili that I made this weekend. I own the Instant Pot Duo80 8-Quart model that I bought so I could make larger batches of soup, chili, Greek yogurt, larger roasts, etc. I really love it. I admit that initially I felt a bit intimidated about using it, but after using it a time or two, I became much more comfortable and so far, everything I've made has turned out awesome! Shortly after I purchased it last year, I ordered a second stainless steel insert so I could simultaneously make something else while keeping the first item warm in the pot. I also ordered an extra sealing ring to have one for non-savory things like yogurt since the silicone tends to pick up the odors of things like chili. Yesterday while shopping on Amazon, I saw they had finally added the glass lid for the 8-quart model as well as a silicone lid to cover the insert tightly when storing it in the fridge. So, I went ahead and ordered both the glass lid and the silicone cover. 

This chili turned out so good and it tasted like it had been simmered all day long. Once I had the meat and veggies browned in the pot (I just LOVE the saute function), I simply added all the remaining ingredients and pressure cooked it for 34 minutes on the bean/chili setting. We ate it for a couple of days (including tonight) and I just froze a big container to pull out on a night when I don't know what to make. It was absolutely amazing. You'll notice that I like to use the fire roasted version of diced tomatoes and roasted cumin, etc. Using the roasted versions of these ingredients just adds to the smoky flavor. Of course you can use regular diced tomatoes or regular cumin too if that's what you have on hand. I snapped a photo for you to see below and included the super easy recipe. You could also brown everything and put it in a crock pot and cook it on low all day long if you don't own a pressure cooker. Or, there's also the old fashioned way of slowly simmering it on the stove top which has worked nicely for generations, too. Enjoy!

Instant Pot Chili


3 lbs ground beef (I used 88% lean)
2 tablespoons olive oil to brown beef
1 cup onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 Poblano pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
   2 tablespoons regular Chili Powder
   1 teaspoon "Chipotle Chili Powder" (or regular chili powder to reduce heat)
   1 teaspoon "Hot Mexican Style Chili Powder"
   1 teaspoon ground coriander
   1 teaspoon roasted ground cumin (or regular ground cumin)
   1 teaspoon oregano
   1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt
   1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 28-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes (including juice)
1 14.5-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes (including juice)
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 6-oz. tomato paste
2-1/2 to 3 cups water (more or less, depending on preferred thickness)
2 16-oz cans kidney beans, drained (optional)


Press "Saute" button on Instant Pot, add olive oil and when hot, add ground beef, onions, red bell peppers, Poblano peppers, jalapeno peppers and garlic and cook until beef is browned and vegetables are softened, stirring frequently.  Add all the spices, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water and optional beans; stir well.  Cover the Instant Pot and press the "Bean/Chili" button, then press the "plus sign" to increase the time to 34 minutes. If serving immediately, allow float valve to return to its recessed position (natural release). If desired, you can carefully use the quick release method according to the Instant Pot directions before opening lid.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Italian Style Herbed Beef & Zucchini Meatballs

This weekend we stayed busy running errands and I did a lot of cooking to get a head start on the week since another tropical storm is dumping rain on us for the next few days. I made a big pot of chili in my Instant Pot and will post the recipe for it tomorrow. I made enough for us to enjoy for a couple of meals now and plenty of extra left to freeze and pull out for a quick meal some evening that I don't have time to cook, or just don't feel like cooking. For our dinner this evening, I oven roasted a bunch of Italian Style Meatballs filled with herbs, mozzarella, parmesan, and shredded zucchini to keep moist. They turned out awesome! I made 26 golf ball sized meatballs so we'd have plenty of extra leftover to freeze in a Ziploc freezer bag to pull out and pop into sauce and simmer for quick spaghetti (zoodles) and meatballs any time. I snapped a few photos of tonight's delicious meatballs as well as a pic of the yummy oven roasted butternut squash and miniature patty pan and zucchini squash I roasted to go alongside our meatballs. I heated up some marinara to use as a dipping sauce for our meatballs, but both hubby and I enjoyed eating them "as is" without any sauce since they were so flavorful. We enjoyed the roasted squash medley alongside our roasted meatballs. The recipe for the meatballs is below. Enjoy!

I roasted these for about 30 minutes at 425 degrees (tossed w/ olive oil, salt and pepper)

A new case for my phone...a beautiful gift from my youngest son!

Italian Style Herbed Beef & Zucchini Meatballs


3 pounds ground beef (I used Costco's 88% lean ground beef)
1 medium zucchini, grated (press excess juices out between paper towels)
1 large egg
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Using a 3-tablespoon retractable scoop, divide meat and roll, using your hands, into approximately 24 to 30 golf-ball sized meatballs. Place in a large roasting pan, spaced about 1/2-inch apart. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until done.