Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Pizza Bites for Election Night: 2 Healthy, No-Guilt Snacks from Cleo Coyle

What is pizza? At its most basic, the tastes in your mouth are bright tomato sauce topped by rich cheese and lively herbs, all of which are carried on a bed of bread crust. Unfortunately, the crust part of this equation brings carbs and calories that can weigh you down.

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This easy, lighter 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 fresh cheese.

First we'll need tomatoes. While good ones aren't always available, 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...


No-Guilt Pizza Bites

Snack #1: Pizza Tomato Skins

To download this recipe 
in a PDF document that you 
can print, save, or share...

Cleo's No-Guilt
Pizza Bites

To make 8...


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. 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 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!


No-Guilt Pizza Bites 

Snack #2: Mini Zuke 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 this recipe 
in a PDF document that you 
can print, save, or share...

To download my homemade, 
meatless Italian red sauce recipe, 
made from fresh tomatoes...

Cleo's Mini 
Zuke Pizzas


Small to medium zucchini 
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.


(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.") If you're feeling ambitious, try my homemade, meatless sauce recipe from fresh tomatoes by clicking here.

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 remember...

Today is election day in the USA. 

May you vote with pride, and...

☕  ☕  ☕

Eat with joy! 

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries 


(One of Cleo's many
rescued New York strays)
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  1. What a great idea!
    These will go well with the wine (and other adult beverages) that people have proposed for tonight's tv viewing.

    1. Absolutely on the adult beverages, Libby! (Perhaps "a nice Chianti," to quote Dr. Hannibal Lecter. :))

      Thanks for dropping by the Kitchen today. It's always a pleasure to read your comments.

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. Caramelized tomatoes sound wonderful (and I especially love Roma tomatoes) - YUM! Thanks for sharing this amazing dish with us

    1. Celia - You are very welcome. And I agree on the Roma tomatoes, the oval shape makes a nice little boat when sliced in half, just like potato skins. A fun way to encourage kids (and adults) to eat vegetables with joy.

      Thanks for dropping in today and taking the time to comment, I appreciate it!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. Scrumptious and easy to make.Wonder if a dash of olive oil on each tomatoe before roasting would enhance flavor or impede its drying ?

    1. A small amount of olive oil on the tomatoes will work wonderfully during the roasting process. A few calories added, but good-for-you calories that bring great flavor. Thanks for dropping by the Kitchen, Aline. Have a delicious week!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. These are brilliant ideas, Cleo! I love them and will be making them for sure. XO MJ