Showing posts with label light lunch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label light lunch. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Writer's Lunch: Crustless Mini Pizzas and my Trigger Thumb by Cleo Coyle


Writing novels for a living appears to be a perfectly safe occupation. As my fellow authors know, however, the writing life comes with one major hazard. No, we don't dodge flying bullets or psychotic killers (though our characters may). What we combat every day is a more sinister villain: Excess Calorie Man. He lurks behind every extra handful of peanuts or just-one-more-silver of pie.

Even when our diet is relatively healthy, the hours of sitting in front of our computers take their toll as EC Man gets his jollies from as little as a sliced-up banana on a peanut butter sandwich or an extra hunk of cheese with your crackers.

As you can imagine, it’s even worse for a culinary mystery writer. Testing recipes, especially delicious ones like that Blackout Cake (Yes, I’m still working on it! :)), give Excess Calorie Man free reign. Well, today I’m going to show you one way this writer reigns him in...with a lunch of Crustless Mini Pizzas

And below today's recipe I'll explain what a "Trigger Thumb" is, not to be confused with a "trigger-happy thumb," which would put us behind bars. 

Cleo Coyle's
Mini Pizzas

Mark Bittman became famous with his 101 foodie idea articles. I swear my mother and aunt could have written one on 101 things to do with Italian squash. As a kid, I took all my pop's homegrown veggies for granted. As an adult, I miss them dearly. This recipe makes good use of zucchini. It's a fun, quickie, kid-friendly lunch my mother and aunt used to make for me as a little girl. Of course, they used homemade red sauce. Today, I took a shortcut with jarred pizza sauce. The brand I picked up was quite tasty, and I can recommend it as a time saver.

To download a copy of this recipe in a PDF form that you can print, save, or share, click here.


Small to medium zucchini (courgette)

Pizza sauce (jarred or homemade)

Mozzarella, shredded (whole milk or part-skim)

Toppings (see note*)

*Note: Use your favorite pizza toppings from veggies to meat--just be sure any meat is already cooked. Topping suggestions: sauteed, chopped mushrooms; sliced olives; chopped peppers; regular, turkey, or meatless pepperoni or cooked and crumbled sausage, etc.

Directions: (1) Cut the zucchini into slices of 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. You want the slices thin enough to cook fast under the broiler but thick enough to hold their shapes for handling after toppings are added. Place the slices on a sheet pan. Tip: for easy cleanup, line the pan with a sheet of aluminum foil and lightly coat with non-stick cooking spray. (2) Spoon pizza sauce onto each slice. To save time, use jarred. (If you need a recommendation, I like the Ragu Homemade Style Pizza Sauce, "100% Natural.") Sprinkle on your shredded mozzarella and toppings. As noted, because these pizzas are finished in a flash, make sure your meat toppings are already cooked. If using mushrooms or peppers, I would chop them finely and saute them in a bit of olive oil before adding. (3) Place the pan of mini pizzas under your broiler for 1 to 3 minutes--time will depend on the intensity of your oven's broiler. No matter what, keep a close eye on these because they cook very quickly and the cheese can burn fast. Remove with crustless joy!

F o o d i e 
P h o t o s

And now...

<< My trigger thumb, which is being sniffed by the curious Clover. 

The reason I'm mentioning it today is because it may help many of you in the future. For days, I wasn't sure what was wrong with my popping, snapping, painful thumb joint. At first, I feared arthritis was setting in. After a little research, however, I realized what I had was a form of tendonitis known as "trigger finger" or "trigger thumb." While researching this, I learned that this condition is common for musicians and lately for folks who do a lot of texting or thumb-typing on tablets. If you do the latter or known people who do, these links were a great help to me in treating a painful and perplexing condition, and they may be worth keeping in your own files...

* Link 1 from WebMd: click here
* Link 2 on non-surgical treatment: click here

I'm using the icing and splinting treatments now. From experience, I know that ice is very helpful for sports injuries, and it's helping with this, as well. Certainly, if you have any experience with this, feel free to share in the comments. In the meantime, may we all eat with joy--and good health!

A Brew to a Kill: A Coffeehouse Mystery
Now a national bestseller in hardcover

To see the recipes in my latest
culinary mystery, click here.

Yes, this is me - Cleo Coyle
Learn about my books here.

Friend me on Facebook here.
Follow me on Twitter here.
Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

To get more of my recipes, enter to win
free coffee, or learn about my books, including
my bestselling 
Haunted Bookshop series, visit
my online coffeehouse:

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 

The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Writer's Snack: Crust-Free Pizza from Cleo Coyle

Yes, you're right. I promised you crust free pizza, and I aim to deliver. 

I'm showing this little pizza first for those of you who really, really need that crust.

In that case, this baby should make you happy. The pizza pictured is actually a frozen, grocery store pizza "doctored" with fresh mushrooms and sausage.

To read my Frozen Pizza Doctor post, which gives you tips on an Rx for your favorite frozen pizzas, click here and have fun...

For those of you up for a
"crust-free" pizza, well, here's what
I'm talking about today...

Cleo Coyle, fan of faux pizza,
is author of The Coffeehouse
Cleo Coyle's
Crust-Free Pizza

What is pizza? At its most basic, the tastes in your mouth are bright tomato sauce topped by sweet cheese and lively herbs like oregano and basil, both of which are carried on a bed of bread--three ingredients that go so well together. But, when you write for a living, spending hours and hours in front of a computer screen, a steady diet of pizza would be deadly. And the spirit of "two out of three ain't bad," comes my crust-free solution.

This easy (and healthy) snack idea came to me when I was enjoying a delicious pizza bianca from a local pizzeria. The Italian cooks put fresh ricotta on the "white" pie, and I absolutely loved the combination of tangy tomato and sweet, fresh cheese.

First we'll need tomatoes. Yesterday was the first full day of Spring. Living in the Age of Irony (not to mention a town that never stops with the practical jokes), I actually watched snow fall on New York City. Oh, to see the sun again. :) Sadly, as winter lingers, so does the dearth of fine produce.

Tomatoes may be blah at this time of year, but even the blandest of tomatoes can be transformed into a truly delicious treat by the simple addition of caramelizing heat. That's why I make these babies year round, and that's the best thing of all about this healthy snack...

Cleo's Crust-Free
Pizza Bites

To get a free, illustrated PDF of this recipe that you can print, save or share, click here.

Makes 8 mini crust-free pizza bites


4 tomatoes
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (whole milk or part skim)
Dried oregano (sprinkling)
Sea salt, to taste
(optional additions) dried basil, dried rosemary, or an Italian Seasoning mix
Grated finishing cheese like Pecorino Romano or Parmesan

Step 1 - Slice and prep tomatoes: I like to use plum tomatoes because they slice into little oval boats that remind me of potato skins... (see picture below). Roasting these babies will create a bit of a mess. To make clean up easy, simply line the pan with aluminum foil and coat the foil with non-stick cooking spray. Place the tomatoes on the foil and coat the them with non-stick spray, as well. (You won't need to add extra oil if you do this.)

Step 2 - Sprinkle on spices and salt: I use sea salt and plenty of dried oregano. Certainly dried basil and rosemary would be delicious, too. Or try a pre-made "Italian Seasoning" mix from the spice aisle, whatever evokes the flavor of pizza sauce.

Step 3 - Roast the tomatoes: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and roast the tomatoes for at least an hour. Do not UNDER roast these babies. You are not simply baking them, you are roasting them to the point when they caramelize and become sweet. Trust me, I've done this many times. If you do not reach a point where the tomatoes' acidic nature transforms into something sweet (as you would taste in a well-cooked pizza sauce), the combo of ricotta and roasted tomato just won't taste as good.

Step 4 - Finish with ricotta: Remove the sizzling, caramelized tomato halves from the oven. Plate them and add a tablespoon of fresh ricotta on top of each half. Garnish with another sprinkling of oregano (or Italian Seasoning mix) and your favorite salty, finishing cheese like Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, and...

Eat with joy!
 ~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To get more of my recipes, win free coffee,
or find out more about my books, visit me
 at my *virtual* coffeehouse:

Click on the book covers above
to learn more about Cleo's culinary mysteries.


A final, quick note for our mystery reading fans.
The latest Mystery Readers Journal with the theme Hobbies, Crafts, and Special Interests is now available.

The issue, edited by Mystery Fanfare's Janet Rudolph, includes many mystery authors who have guest posted for us over the past year. You can check out the contents by clicking here, which will also give you info on how to purchase a copy (hard or electronic) for yourself.


Friday, July 9, 2010

5 Ways to Use Your Grilled Leftovers by Cleo Coyle

Burgers, steak, hot dogs, ribs, and chicken were probably the most commonly grilled meats in the USA last weekend.

I grilled pork chops, which I blogged about last Friday. To get my recipe for Pork Chops with Apple Juice and Sage marinade, click here.

Then New York was hit by record levels of heat (over 100 degrees). This kept me grilling, because our little, urban kitchen is not air conditioned and there was no way I'd crank up an oven or even a gas burner in airless heat that brutal.

When the unbearable temps finally came down to plain old uncomfortable, I took a look at our fridge full of grilled leftovers and thought—okay, now I know what I’m blogging about this week!

Before I get to my ideas, however, I have to ask about your own. Do you have favorite ways to use those day-old grilled meats (or veggies)? Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments below –- and if you blog, you are more than welcome to leave a link so everyone can check out your recipe posts, too.

Finally, here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, we are all still proudly celebrating this week's debut of two delightful new mystery series by two of our own mystery writing cooks. Congratulations again to...

Avery Aames on the release of
The Long Quiche Goodbye,
the first book in her Cheese Shop
and to...

Riley Adams' on the publicaiton
of Delicious and Suspicious,the first
book in her Memphis BBQ Mysteries!

Cheers to you both!

And, now, here are my...

Five Ways to Use
Your Grilled Leftovers

#1 Leftover Burgers – I confess: I will eat cold pizza out of the fridge. But I’ve never met anyone who enjoys an ice cold hamburger. Sure, you can feed it to Fluffy. But why turn deliciously grilled burger meat into cat food? Here’s what I like to do...

Slice the meat patties lengthwise into three or four thick strips, splash on some Worcestershire sauce and re-heat in the microwave. Warm a skillet on your stovetop and toss in soft, flour tortillas, one at a time, flipping to heat both sides. Plate the tortilla and create a Hamburger Wrap, using the re-heated burger strips and the same “fixin’s” you’d use on your burger: mustard, pickle, tomato, shredded lettuce, mayo, ketchup, crumbled bleu cheese, whatever you like!

#2 Leftover Steak – Simple. Place a bit of butter on each steak and re-heat in the microwave. Slice newly sizzling steaks into strips and serve over a salad tossed with your favorite dressing. We like either homemade Caesar or bleu cheese dressings. For the latter, I’ll mix crumbled bleu cheese into mayonnaise, stir in a little chopped garlic, squeeze in a bit of lemon, toss in some chopped scallions, and add a bit of anchovy paste. If you don’t like or have anchovy paste on hand, try a dash of Worcestershire. That deep, umami flavor of the anchovy or the Worcestershire perfectly balances the brighter, more astringent notes of the other ingredients in the dressing.

#3 Leftover Hot Dogs – Here in New York, our mayor is the billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg. During one of the many posh events that he attended a few years ago, the buffet was as lavish as one might expect at such a function, including jumbo shrimp bigger than a toddler’s fist. As this legendary story goes, the succulent shrimp didn’t interest the mayor. What Mr. Bloomberg kept reaching for were savory little wieners wrapped in pastry dough. Yes, that’s right, our billionaire mayor couldn’t stop eating good old Pigs in Blankets!

Pigs in Blankets - Billionaire Mayor Bait!

If you’ve never had Pigs in Blankets made with hot dogs and either pastry or biscuit dough, then you’re missing out. Take your leftover grilled hot dogs and cut them in two. Make a shallow incision lengthwise in each piece and place a sliver of your favorite cheese inside (cheddar, Monterey jack, queso blanco, mozzarella, Swiss).

Break open a tube of Pillsbury Cresents (or your favorite brand of refrigerated pastry dough). There are eight triangles per tube. Cut the triangles of dough in half (lengthwise or widthwise, your choice). You now have 16 pieces of dough. Roll the dough around your cheese-stuffed hot dog halves. Place on a baking sheet that’s been sprayed with a bit of non-stick cooking spray. Bake for about 10 to 14 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F. When dough is puffed and golden brown, remove from oven. Serve warm with a side of tiny pickles and a “dipping sauce” of ketchup and mustard mixed together at a 1:1 ratio. (It’s classic!)

(And if you have unused pieces of dough, then simply sprinkle them with cinammon sugar and roll into mini croissants. You can enjoy them with coffee after dinner or for breakfast in the morning.)

 #4 Leftover Ribs (or any other pork) – Last week, I grilled up pork chops and posted a recipe for an easy Apple Juice and Sage marinade. Click here if you missed it. This week, I’d suggest stripping any pork meat off the bone and creating a classic Soft Taco with fresh guacamole, slices of jalapeno, your favorite hot sauce, and a dollop of cooling sour cream. I’m fine with eating the grilled pork cold this way, but you can always re-heat it in a microwave or on your stovetop.

Cleo Coyle's Amazing Coffee Glazed BBQ Chicken...
This recipe will be in my next E-newsletter.
The newsletter is free. To sign up, just send an email
to that says "Sign me up."

#5 Leftover Chicken – I’ll never say no to a cold piece of chicken, whether grilled or breaded and fried. To me, it’s good old fashioned picnic basket comfort food. If you're not a fan of eating cold chicken off the bone, however, here is another grilling leftovers idea, one I made this week after grilling my very special “coffee” chicken (pictured).

To get my recipe for Coffee Glazed BBQ Chicken, sign up for my newsletter, which will be going out soon with that exclusive recipe included. (To find out how to sign up, read the photo caption.)

In the meantime, here’s my recipe for Grilled Chicken, Bacon, and Egg Salad – perfect for an easy, tasty lunch or a refreshingly chilled dinner on a butally hot day.

Cleo Coyle’s
Grilled Chicken,
Bacon, and Egg Salad

3-4 pieces of leftover grilled chicken.
3-4 strips of bacon, sliced into small pieces, cooked and drained
3 hardboiled eggs, chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley chopped (I use the flat-leaf “Italian” parsley)
5 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice (about 1/2 a fresh lemon)
Sea or Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper (white is prettier for presentation but I’ll use black when it’s all I have on hand)

Strip the chicken from the bone and cut the meat into bite-size pieces. You should have about 2 cups of chopped meat. If not, add meat from another piece of chicken. Mix in the cooked bacon piece, hardboiled eggs, and chopped parsley. Add mayonnaise and lemon juice and mix again. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Chill and enjoy on slices of a crusty baguette, your favorite crackers, or make a sandwich with your favorite toasted bread.

Eat with joy!

~Cleo Coyle
author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To get more recipes ideas or to find out about the books in my nationally bestselling Coffeehouse Mystery series, visit me at my official website:

On Sale
August 3, 2010
Roast Mortem
by Cleo Coyle

Comments for Cleo

What are you favorite ideas
for using grilled leftovers?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Quickies Challenge: MISSION...POSSIBLE!

Eyes Only

Take on the Quickies Morning, Noon and Night Cooking Challenge

Avocado and Feta Cheese must be used!

Open – add any ingredients to complete the dish


Chef and author Denise Fletcher of Quickies on the Dinner Table; Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks; and Natasha of Five Star Foodie Culinary Adventures.

Although one of the prizes for winning this challenge is Denise’s gorgeous cookbook, Quickies: Morning, Noon and Night, I must confess that I already purchased it, and I’m so very glad I did.

Quickies: Morning, Noon and Night
by Denise Fletcher
Denise's Quickies is not just a book of recipes. It's a joyous, vividly illustrated trek through breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, and desserts with a knowledgeable culinary professional by your side chatting wonderfully witty insights as you go. The recipes themselves are by turns eclectic, exciting, comforting, and inspiring. (I LOVE this book!)

In fact, inspired by the many useful tips she includes throughout (like how to pair wine and food or choose a tender cut of meat), I decided to make my own cheap, little visual aid to go with this recipe. Just click the arrow in the window below (and please hold your guffaws until you've finished reading the entire post…).

So what is my mission here? Amuse Denise, Lazaro, and Natasha with my own fumbling attempts at a recipe using any ingredients I wish as long as they include avocado and feta cheese.

Okay, here we go…

My first try working feta and avocado into the same recipe was this savory cheese tart. Pretty, isn’t she?

The filling for my tart (ricotta and feta) was delicious with the tomatoes and thyme. I planned on creating an avocado-cilantro coulis to drizzle over the slices, but ... I took a wrong turn with the crust. Instead of pastry dough, I wanted to try something very different. Too different as it turned out. You see, I’d just made a graham cracker crust for a frozen key lime pie (a Terry Odell special, stay tuned for that delicious recipe) by pulverizing sweet crackers and mixing in butter.

I decided to try the same kind of press-in crust method by swapping seasoned bread crumbs for the graham crackers and olive oil for the butter. Sounded logical. Tasted like shite.

Try, try again, right? But as I prepared to re-make the tart, another thought struck me. With the start of summer here in the USA, many households will be looking for meals to make on the grill or stovetop—anything to keep from using that oven.

I also thought about the ricotta, which is a very neutral carrier of flavor, just like...avocado. So, why not just mix the avocado pulp with the feta cheese? A generous squeeze of lime was a no-brainer for flavor and to keep the avocado pulp nice and green. (Note better living through food chemistry – an acid will prevent your avocado’s flesh from darkening right away.)

While you can certainly eat this yummy feta guacamole with tortilla chips, I had a much better idea for lunch. You see, I live in Queens, New York, a short hike from the neighborhood of Astoria, where Greek immigrants bake the most delicious pita bread in the US (IMO). So I decided to make the base a pita bread—Naan bread, flatbread, or a pre-baked round of pizza dough will work just as well.

Toppings? When nobody’s looking, I’ll be piling it on (red onions, roasted peppers, black olives, anchovies…) but since my Quickies pita pizza needs to be photographed, I decided to stick with sweet, brilliant and currently plentiful grape tomatoes. A little chopped cilantro adds aromatic floral fun for the olfactory senses as you bite and chew.

And that’s the ticket. Probably not a dish that will get me hired onto Wolfgang Puck’s gourmet pizza brigade, but a nice, light summer lunch just the same—easy, healthy, colorful, and best of all Quickies-inspired.

Quickies Challenge

A “Quickie”
Fresh Summer Pizza
with Feta Guacamole

Makes 1 serving


1 round of pita bread (or Naan or 8-inch round of flatbread or baked pizza dough)
1 tablespoon olive oil (approximately)
1 small ripe avocado (I use Hass)
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 ounces (about 50 grams) feta cheese
8 grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped


Step 1 - Toast the pita bread: For an outdoor grill: lightly coat the pita on both sides with olive oil. Place the round over the heat of your grill and turn several times until bread is toasted and crusty. For a stovetop: Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil. When the pan is good and hot, add the pita bread, turning several times. Bread should not be soft when you remove it. You are doing more here than simply heating the bread; you are making it firm and crunchy. Plate the bread.

Step 2 – Make the feta guacamole: Remove the flesh from the avocado and mash it with the prongs of a fork. Mix in the lime juice. Crumble the feta cheese and continue mixing with a fork or spoon until you’ve created a smooth paste.

Step 3 – Assemble, top, and serve: Spoon the feta guacamole onto the toasted pita and use the back of the spoon to work it into a smooth, even layer. Place the grape tomato halves on top of the pizza, sprinkle on the cilantro. Slice into quarters and serve.

Additional topping ideas: This pizza is also delicious with roasted red peppers, black olives, anchovies, and red onions. Instead of cilantro, you might try chopped parsley or thyme leaves. You might also try tossing the grape tomato halves with olive oil, cumin, oregano, and sea salt before placing on the pizza. Then...

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
13 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 


(with mini plot summaries)
clicking here.


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Haunted Bookshop

Free Title Checklist,
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The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.