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 and...eat 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.

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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
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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

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


  1. We mved into a new hme in early may with big plans fr a large garden...then reality struck and we have had to rely on our variou wonderful local Farmer's Markets for fresh produce. I console myself with the fact it was a brutal summer weather wise and even the professional farmers had a hard time growing most things. However...zucchini was able t survive our desert like summer. Les brought home several from work yesterday hoping to see at least one or two zucchini breads. I'm so happy t see this recipe today! I found gorgeous plum tomatoes that will make a lovely fresh sauce, some sage, oregano, mushrooms and red onions. A friend made us a lovely fresh mozzarrella that will work beautifully on top of some of them. I'll do a few cheese free and dinner will be complete. Yes, there will also be zucchini bread for Les :-)

    Keep icing that thumb...I do have arthritis is both thumbs and always have a roller tube f Bi-Freeze close at hand. It works wonders, give it a try...though I hear kitty kisses work well, too. Just consider it a constant "thumbs up"!

    Thanks for a great dinner idea.


    1. Nanc - Thank you so much for dropping by our Kitchen. Sometimes the best recipes are the simplest. I love how cute the zukes look on that plate--not just a kid-pleaser but a nice appetizer for adults that can be served with wine.

      Zucchini bread is an annual thing in our house, too! I'll be baking up zucchini muffins soon so stay tuned...

      On the trigger thumb, I've used icy-hot in the past on sports injuries, but I've never tried Bio-Freeze - looks like a nice product, and I'll give a try, thank you!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. I'm so, so sorry to hear about your thumb! I had a roommate in college--an oboe player--who suffered from the same condition, and it was miserable. Good luck!

    Also, I can't wait to make these pizza snacks! Brilliant!

    1. Wendy - Oh, wow, I cannot imagine being a serious musician, trying to do your best with a trigger finger or thumb condition. Thx for the good luck, and I do feel lucky already because I type on a laptop and my left thumb (the one injured) is under no stress on that device, so my writing work continues apace. (My injury actually came from kitchen work, lol!)

      ...and speaking of kitchen work, I hope you enjoy the pizza snack. It's a nice little, guilt-free nosh. Thx for dropping by and have a great week.

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. Cleo, I adore pizza, but can't have it unless I have a gluten-free crust. But what I adore MORE is zucchini and these look fabulous.

    Now, I'm going to stop typing because I have trigger thumb, too. [Wearing a wrist brace today to limit movement] Commiserating!!!!


    Daryl aka Avery

    1. We're a pair, aren't we? Can you not see us trying to hitchhike with our bum thumbs?! Thx for dropping in today. Have a great week!

      ~ Cleo

  4. So sorry to hear about the trigger thumb, Cleo. I suspect that Nanc is right and that kitty kisses might be the best medicine.

    We had lovely zucchini all summer but they're already a distant memory. We're getting our first frost! I made something very similar to this but baked. So good! These look delish!

    ~ Krista

    1. Aw, yes! Kitty kisses are good medicine, lol.

      On the zukes - we've got some late-harvest zucchinis here in NYC, so zucchini bread and muffins are in the offing, then it's time for winter squash-in'! The pumpkins are piled high at our local grocery and I can almost smell the bread, muffins, and pie...fall is a happy time for baking.

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. Ah, yes, trigger finger, aka tendonitis! I know it well, as does my left thumb, left middle finger, and right middle finger. Icing (as in applying ice, not frosting ;-)), splinting, resting the finger (yeah, right, don't use your thumb! So not going to happen!) all can help in decreasing the discomfort in the affected finger. BUT, there are only 2 treatments that have completely relieved the symptoms. 1.) Steroid injection into the joint that is affected, generally at the base of the "catching" finger. This is done in the doctor's office 1-2-3 and done. All right, you guys, stop screaming at the site of the needle! It's not that big! This generally quickly decreases the "catching" and the finger is good as new in 24-48 hours. For me, about 2 years after the injection, the tendonitis returned and I opted for the permanent solution which is surgical release of the tendon sheath. Outpatient, back to work in 2 days, complete relief of the symptoms. Teensy weensy scars, can barely see them. Okay, everyone, breathe! It really wasn't bad, and I am really glad I did it. Trigger finger hurts! ~~Nurse JudyMac

    1. Nurse JudyMac - I am forever in your debt for the thorough reply. Thank you! I am crossing my (still good) fingers that surgery won't be necessary, but it's an immense relief to hear from someone who had the condition and found surgery helpful.

      I also hope your comment will help anyone else out there who may have this condition, too, which is a lot more common that I realized. I'm sure with smartphone texting and tablet keyboards becoming more common, this condition will become more common, as well.

      Again, I can't thank you enough! Cheers to my favorite coffee-lovin' nurse!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  6. My sister had trigger finger and swears she cured it with basket weaving classes. She heard about this from a friend.

    1. Basket weaving...interesting! I have no doubt your friend was helped by basket weaving, but she probably had a condition other than trigger finger. Her condition likely benefited from giving the fingers a chance to move and bend. Trigger finger requires rest of the injured finger/thumb. But I do appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment and let me know, and I'm pretty sure basket weaving *would* help my mental state, if not my thumb, lol!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  7. So sorry to hear this! I agree with Nurse JudyMac about giving it a rest and icing it. If it doesn't improve radically within a couple of weeks, though, you will want to seriously consider the steroid injection. The improvement was instantaneous when I had mine treated. And it wasn't any more painful than any other injection, despite all the horror stories I'd heard.

    Plus - ask your doctor about adding a B-complex with C vitamin to your daily regimen. I had carpal tunnel withd the trigger thumb, severe enough that they were ready to do surgery when a friend suggested the B vitamins, and my doctor agreed to let me try it. Within 3 months the carpal tunnel had dramatically improved to where it wasn't a problem unless I forgot and overdid things, and the trigger thumb never came back. (It's been 20 years, and I still occasionally go back on the B vitamin supplement for a couple of months when I've been overdoing it. That keeps it under control.)

    Best of luck with this ~