Tuesday, June 19, 2012

No Crust Pizza Poppers, My Taste of Pizza Without the Carbs from Cleo Coyle

Today's recipe is my way of popping the taste of pizza in my mouth but with far less carbs and calories. Certainly, we've all heard of jalapeno poppers, but the inspiration for this idea came from another source. About ten years ago, an Italian company came up with the idea of on-the-go pizza served in a cone. 

To learn more about
The Coffeehouse Mysteries,
set in a landmark Greenwich
Village coffeehouse,
click here.
 Yes, a cone.

Truthfully, when my husband, Marc, and I first learned about this oddball concept, our jaws dropped in horror. Once we got over the shock, however, we began to have fun thinking up ways to write it into one of our Coffeehouse Mysteries
     In our 9th entry, Roast Mortem, we finally found a way. (Near the end of the book, one of our suspects is about to open a cone pizza franchise. Our amateur sleuth travels to Brooklyn to pay him a little visit, and what she discovers there upsets her far more than the atrocity of pizza served like an ice cream cone.) 
     Today's recipe is simply my way of doing cone pizza without the cone. There's not much flavor in a cone, anyway, and when it comes to toppings, I'm a sausage-and-peppers girl, and so...ta-da! Sweet pepper poppers stuffed with Italian sausage and mozzarella, and served with a little dish of warm marinara dipping sauce.  
                                              (For the full recipe, click here or scroll down.)

Or try this one...

Last year, I did a post on healthier snacking with a recipe for Crust-Free Pizza Bites (photo below). To download the recipe in a PDF that you can print, save, or share, just click here and...Eat with (low carb) joy! ~ Cleo

Crust-Free Pizza Bites 

For a PDF of this recipe that you
can print, save, or share, click here.

Cleo Coyle's
No Crust 
Pizza Poppers

How to pop the taste of pizza in your mouth
with far less carbs and calories... ~ Cleo

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


- Sweet Mini Peppers - I buy mine at Costco but lately I've noticed
           my local grocery's produce section is stocking them, as well.
- Shredded Cheese - I use mozzarella
- Raw Ground Meat, well-seasoned - I use Italian sweet sausage.
        It's already seasoned and I love the taste, but you can use
ground beef, chicken, pork, or turkey, just be sure to season
        it up or the results may be bland. See my seasoning suggestions
        at the end of the recipe.

Use this basic ratio:
 For every 5 peppers you’ll need about 3 ounces of meat and 1 ounce of cheese. 

Directions:  Cut the tops off your mini peppers and scrape out the seeds to create a clean, hollow interior. Fill with layers of sausage (or seasoned ground beef, turkey, pork, or chicken) and shredded cheese, finishing with the cheese. Bake them in a 350 degree F. oven. Here's how...

BEST CHOICE - MUFFIN PANS: Stack filled mini peppers in an upright position, inside foil-lined muffin cups. Bake for approximately 35 to 50 minutes. The time will depend on your oven and how cooked you’d like your peppers. 

When is it done cooking? The sausage should no longer be pink and an instant read thermometer should register a reading of at least 160° Fahrenheit when stuck deep into the sausage filling. (Ground chicken and turkey should be cooked to 165° Fahrenheit.)

WARNING: The melting cheese topping the peppers may spill a bit inside your oven, so place an old baking sheet on the rack below the muffin pan. (You can certainly put the flat pan directly under the muffin pan, but the heat will circulate much better if you put it on the rack directly below it.)

Another option - Sheet Pan: On a flat, foil-covered pan, cook for (40 minutes total) 20 minutes on one side, then turn and cook another 20. NOTE: On a flat sheet, you will have to use a spoon to scoop the cheese back into each pepper. When is it done cooking? The sausage should no longer be pink and an instant read thermometer should register a reading of at least 160° Fahrenheit when stuck deep into the sausage filling. (Ground chicken and turkey should be cooked to 165° Fahrenheit.)

SERVE: These poppers are great as is, but to complete the pizza taste, you can certainly serve with a dipping sauce of warm marinara or your favorite tomato sauce.

SEASONING YOUR MEAT: To cut the calories even more on this snack, you can use raw ground chicken or turkey instead of Italian sausage, just be sure to season up your meat or the final peppers may taste bland. Using clean hands, blend the raw ground meat in a bowl with a mix of Italian seasonings, including: oregano, basil, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stuff the peppers and bake as directed in the recipe.

F o o d i e 
 P h o t o s


Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of 
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: CoffeehouseMystery.com

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the ten 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.


  1. OMG, These are right up my alley and I can not wait to try them. Since starting WW, I am always looking for interesting new things to try AND these just may be low in points value that I can have a lot :D

    1. Shawn (BusyMom) - I was thinking of you when I put this post together! I remember your mentioning starting WW, and (because of my love of stuffing my face) I am continually up and down on the scale. This is the kind of recipe that I have fun making and feel less guilt eating. (My goal, always, is to eat everything with joy - healthy foods as well as decadent foods.) I hope you enjoy it, too!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. What an utterly brilliant idea. Seriously. I am in awe! Crust is, I now realize, what I don't like about pizza; I just can't be bothered to chew all that bread. But the Italian sausage, and the mozzarella, roasted inside a pepper (in a muffin tin--great idea!), with just a dunk of marinara sauce... pure Italian flavor, in one heady bursting bite. Perfect.

    As are your photos (as always)! I never know which I enjoy more, your recipes or your photos.


    1. Aw, thx for the nice words, Laine, you are always so kind to me, and it's always a pleasure to see you in our Kitchen. :)

      Probably more than any other element, the crust sets pizza lovers at odds with each other: deep-dish versus thin crust versus super-thin crust. In my view, a good, relatively thin New York-style crust is a thing of beauty, and we have an excellent pizzeria here in Queens that we frequent (run by Italian-born immigrants), who do it to perfection. On the other hand, I've eaten plenty of pizzas that were way too heavy on the bread, and I'm with you...in the end, the taste of pizza is in the toppings. Thx again for dropping by, Laine!

      Have a great week,
      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. What a fun idea, Cleo! This would be so popular with kids. Adults, too, of course. And so smart of you to line that muffin pan! What would be do without foil?

    ~ Krista

    1. Thank you kindly, Krista. LOL on the foil. I feel that way about parchment paper, too, but only because I lack enough silicon sheets.

      It would seem the Number One trick in all of cooking is getting things to stick to the ribs without sticking to the pan. :)

      Enjoy the (official) first week of summer and stay cool! We're heading toward the 100 degree mark here in NYC.

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. I am going to try this tonight! I've been recently diagnosed with Celiac disease and these are a perfect food to satisfy my pizza urges. Thank you Cleo!!

  5. Cleo, this is RIGHT up my alley. trying to cut down on carbs but HATE not being able to enjoy a bit of pizza. LOVE the mini peppers. thanks for keeping me sane by creating this recipe.