Category Archives: Italian Inspired Recipes

Meatless Pizza Monday

Photo: Zucchini, Eggplant, & Beets Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza? And what do we miss when trying to stay low carb? You betcha! Good news. We have pizza crust alternatives that work very well for making pizza. If you haven’t tried any of these, give them a shot. First, there’s the cauliflower crust, which you can make yourself or now buy at places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. For that matter, you can order them online from Amazon. However, check the carbs on these as some of them are higher than making them yourself.

You can also make a pizza crust using low carb flour. I use LC Foods Pizza and Calzone mix to make this delicious crust, but I have also used DCC All Purpose Flour to produce an equally good, but slightly sweeter crust. You can also use a large portobello mushroom as a pizza base. While white meat chicken makes a great pizza base, that doesn’t work so well on Meatless Monday. You can also use a low-carb tortilla to make a fairly crispy crust, but be careful not to overcook it.

For this recipe, I’ve provided the toppings only and the carb count is just for them, so add in the count for the pizza base. My pizza recipe makes two personal-size pizzas, but you can make a larger eight-inch pizza and cut it in half. I like to cook my pizza on a rack since that allows the underside to brown evenly as well as the top. I really like this combination of vegetables and seasoning, but you can adapt it to others if you like. When buying pasta sauce, check the carb count. I used one that comes in at 3.5 net carbs for 1/4 cup.

Zucchini, Eggplant, and Beets Pizza Toppings

2 small Pizza Crusts
1/2 cup Zucchini, 1/4″ slices
1/4 cup Golden Beets, diced
1/4 cup Japanese Eggplant, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Spinach, fresh
1/4 cup Pasta Sauce
1/3 cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb Seasoning

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F.)

Cook pizza crusts for 5 to 10 minutes if it isn’t already partially cooked.

Cook diced beets in a microwave for one minute. You can use the zucchini and eggplant raw or sauté them in a pan with a splash of Olive Oil for a couple of minutes to soften.

Spread 2 tablespoons of the Pizza Sauce on each pizza crust. Arrange the zucchini and eggplant slices on top of the sauce, then distribute the beets on top of them. Arrange enough spinach leaves over the tops to cover them. Sprinkle cheese over the top.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the crust is browned.

Serves two.

Photo: Nutrition Count for Pizza Toppings

Links to recipes for Low-Carb Flour Pizza Crust and Cauliflower Pizza Crust.

Creamy Tuscan Chicken for Two

Photo Creamy Tuscan Chicken

I make most of the meals at my house into small portions for two people. This is the case with this recipe for delicious creamy Tuscan-style chicken. If you want to make it for more people, it’s easy to double the amounts. If you have one very plump chicken breast, you can probably cut it across the middle as if you were butterflying it to make two chicken pieces. If the chicken is too thick, over 1/2″, then you should cut it to thinner slices, so it cooks thoroughly.

This recipe uses sun-dried tomatoes, but you can also use about six to eight cherry tomatoes cut in half.

Creamy Tuscan-Style Chicken

3/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 cup Chicken Broth
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup Spinach, chopped
1/4 cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Add olive oil to a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and cook the chicken pieces for 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until they are browned. Remove to a plate and set aside.

To the skillet, add heavy cream, chicken broth, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese. If you are using cherry tomatoes, add them in now also. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring briskly with a wooden spoon until the sauce begins to thicken. Add spinach and the sun-dried tomatoes and stir them in. Turn to a simmer and cook until spinach begins to wilt. Add the chicken and any juices on the plate back to the pan and cook another three or so minutes until the chicken is heated.

Makes two servings. Serve with riced cauliflower or zucchini noodles. I served mine with a delicious riced golden beets side dish. Recipe follows.

Image: Nutrition Info


Savory Riced Golden Beets

Photo: Riced Golden Beets

I’ve tried the frozen riced purple beets, and they are yummy with the earthy taste that the dark beets have and make a great side dish. However, I prefer golden beets with their lighter flavor. So, I riced up a beet and added a little chicken broth and seasoning. Voila! Delicious couscous-like pearls of delight. Along with the chicken, they really provided that extra touch of the Mediterranean flavor.

1 medium-sized Golden Beet, cleaned and peeled
1/4 cup Chicken Broth
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning (optional)
1 tablespoon Butter

Rice golden beet in a food processor, using the pulse until it is the size of rice kernels. You can also use a grater to grate the beet, but the food processor is much easier.

In a small skillet, melt butter then add riced beets. Add about 1/4 cup of water and cook over low heat until the water almost evaporates. Add the chicken broth, seasoning, and salt, reduce heat to simmer and continue to cook until the beets are done about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir often and add additional water if they get too dry.

Makes two servings.

Image: Nutrition Info

A quick bread recipe to end the month

Photo: {an of focaccia bread

Want a quick and easy bread to make? This is a focaccia-style flat bread that can be made into sandwiches, a soup or stew bread, or just toast and butter to serve with jam and tea. Unlike focaccia, this is a flat bread made without yeast. All the rise in it comes from the eggs and a little bit of baking powder.

I used CarbQuick, a low carb flower that behaves a little like Bisquick, but with lots fewer carbohydrates. You can also make it with almond flour or any other low carb flour. I also used a little coconut flour in it, but I wouldn’t recommend making the whole thing with coconut flour.

Focaccia-style Flat Bread

2 large Eggs
1/4 cup Egg whites
1/4 cup Canola Oil
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasonings, crushed
1 tablespoon Parmesan Cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 cup Carbquick
2 tablespoons Coconut Flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F.) Prepare a small baking pan (about 10×6-inches) by cutting a piece of parchment paper to fit. I used a toaster oven-sized pan.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and seasonings together. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, egg whites, and oil together. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until they are combined. Use your hands if needed. Add the Parmesan cheese and mix it into the dough.

Turn the dough into the baking pan and spread it evenly across the pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 6 slices of bread.

Image: Nutrition Facts


Creamy Italian-style Lemonade Ricotta Cheesecake

Photo: Ricotta Cheesecake

It’s Fall here in Reno, and it’s welcome as this is my favorite time of year. I love watching the trees turn, attempting to salvage any pears from my tree before the birds get them, and tasting all the wonderful flavors that come with the season. Pumpkin is back in all the restaurants, but there are other fantastic seasonal squashes coming up as well. I plan to be experimenting with more new recipes over the next few weeks, so look for that.

In the meantime, I spent most of September in Las Vegas house/dog sitting for my friends who jetted off to their home they are renovating in France. Sounds so posh, doesn’t it? The house in the country in France. I may even get over to see it when they are completely through with the massive renovation. Anyway, I didn’t do much creative cooking while I was there, keeping mostly to the basics and trying to get my body reset to a tight low carb diet.  However, I did experiment a little with this wonderful recipe for an Italian Ricotta Cream Cheesecake. It is adapted for a smaller cake and I use sugar-free lemonade mix in it to give it a very lemony flavor that is sensational. As a bonus, I created it in both a baked form, and as a quick microwave version that serves two. Both are delightful.

Italian-Style Lemonade Ricotta Cheesecake

Adjusted to low carb and adapted from the original recipe by Rene Averett. Find the original at All Recipes.

6 oz. Cream Cheese
1/3 cup Ricotta Cheese
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Sugar Substitute
2 Eggs
2 teaspoons Sugar-free Lemonade mix
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 tablespoons Low Carb Flour
3 tablespoons Butter, softened
1/2 cup Heavy Cream or Sour Cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F.) Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a 6″x6″ cake pan and spray with cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and ricotta cheese until well mixed. Add the sugar, eggs, lemon mix, vanilla, flour, and butter. Mix until smooth and creamy. Stir in the heavy cream or sour cream last.

Pour the mixture in the cake pan and smooth.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave for another 30 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool before serving.

Place a plate over the top and flip the cheesecake onto the plate. Cut into six slices. Tastes delicious with a tablespoon of sugar-free strawberry jam on top or top with whipped cream.

Makes six servings.

Nutrition information per serving:
Calories: 272.8 Fat: 26.8 g Net Carbs: 2.6 g Protein: 6.7 g

Photo: Microwave Ricotta Cheesecake

Microwave Lemonade Ricotta Cheesecake

2 oz. Cream Cheese
2 tablespoons Ricotta Cheese
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon Sugar Substitute
1 Egg
3/4 teaspoon Sugar-free Lemonade mix
1/8 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 tablespoon Low Carb Flour
1 tablespoon Butter, softened
2 tablespoon Heavy Cream or Sour Cream

In a small bowl, mix cream cheese and ricotta cheese together, blending as much as possible. Stir in the sugar, egg, lemonade mix, vanilla, and butter. Mix well, then add the flour and cream. Stir until mixed in.

Spoon 1/2 of the batter into a microwave safe 1/2 cup ramekin, then spoon the rest into another one. Put one ramekin in the microwave and cook for 30 seconds. Remove and stir the batter to smooth any lumps from it. Put back in the microwave and cook another 40 seconds. Check to make sure the cake is baked all the way through. If not cook, another 15 seconds.

Repeat baking with the second ramekin. Once cooked, cover both with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours. Serve in the ramekin.

Makes two servings:

Nutrition Information per serving:
Calories: 276.4 Fat: 26.4 g Net Carbs: 2.8 g Protein: 8.1 g

I hope you try this and love it as much as I did. I took the photos in Las Vegas and had to adjust to available cooking pans, but I  hope to make it again soon and will get better photos then.

Calzone-Style Sandwiches are Delish!

Calzone Pizza photo

In my mind, and in the ones bought locally, the calzone has always been like a pizza sandwich. Mind you, I’ve since heard that real calzone has ricotta and other cheeses in it and no sauce or gravy, as they say back east. Nonetheless,  I love the dough, which is like pizza dough, and the convenience of a pocket sandwich.

I’ve tried several low carb flour brands to create a passable pizza crust and the best one I’ve tried is from LC Foods, their Pizza, Calzone, and Bagel flour mix. I’ve also tried Dixie Carb Counters All Purpose Flour and it works, but the dough is sweeter than I like. Other flours may work, but nut flours don’t give as good a result. For one thing, the yeast doesn’t seem to work well on them.

Ready for the oven, calzone made with DCC All Purpose Flour.

Basic Calzone Recipe

Based on the LC Foods Recipe for pizza crust.

3/4 cup LC Pizza Flour
3/4 tsp Sugar Substitute
1/8 teaspoon Salt
3/4 teaspoon Rapid Rise Yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons Olive Oil
1/4 cup Water, warm

Mix sweetener, salt, and yeast into flour. Add water and oil and knead dough by hand until a gluten film forms and the dough doesn’t break. You can use a bread hook or a bread mixer if you wish, but it is just as easy to do it by hand.

Pull the dough together in a  ball, then place in an oiled bowl or on a bread board and cover then place in a warm place for the dough  to double in size, around 30 to 40 minutes.

Calzone dough flat
Dough rolled into a 5 to 6 inch circle.
BBQ Pork filling.
Calzone with pork filling ready to fold.





For  calzone, divide the dough in half, then roll or stretch each out on a lightly floured, using low carb flour, bread board into 5 to 6 inch thin rounds.  Place on baking screen or stone and fill one half with desired filling. Fold it over to make a half circle and pinch the edges closed. Small gaps for air vents are okay.

Bake at 415 degrees for 9 to 12 minutes until browned or crisped to desired level.

Nutrition Information per serving:
Calories: 147 Fat: 3 g Net Carbs: 3 g Protein: 16.5 g

BBQ Pork Calzone.

BBQ Pork Calzone-Style Sandwich

This is more a BBQ Pork sandwich in a calzone pocket than an actual calzone. It is delicious though and not too difficult to make. Works great with left over pork ribs.

1 Pizza Dough recipe made up and split into two balls
2 cooked boneless Pork Ribs (about 3 oz.), chopped or shredded
1/4 cup Sugar-free BBQ Sauce (I used Walden Farms, 0 calorie & 0 carbs)
1/4 cup Bell Pepper, chopped
1/4 cup Onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Garlic, minced
1/4 cup Cheddar Jack Cheese, shredded
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 415 degrees (F.).

In a small skillet, heat the Olive Oil, then add the onion, peppers, and garlic and cook until almost tender. Add the pork and the BBQ sauce, stir together, and cook a couple of minutes.

Roll out one ball of dough to make a 5 to 6 inch circle. It will be very thin so try not to break through the dough. Place the dough on top of a pizza screen or on a pizza stone. If you have to use a baking sheet, line it with parchment paper.

Put one half of the toppings on one side of the dough leaving a slight edge clear. Fold the dough over the filling and press the edges together to seal it into half-round pocket. Brush a little melted butter over the top. Make the other calzone in the same way.

Bake in the oven about 15 minutes until the calzone is golden brown. Let cool a couple of minutes then serve. You can add an additional small dish of BBQ Sauce for dipping if you wish.

Nutrition Information for filling only:
Calories:180.1 Fat: 12.0 Net Carbs: 2.9 g Protein: 14.5 g

Nutrition Information with calzone dough:
Calories: 327 Fat: 15 g Net Carbs: 5.9 g Protein: 31 g

Pizza calzone
Pizza-Style Calzone made with LC Foods Pizza, Calzone and Bagel flour.

Pizza Style Calzone Sandwich

This is a simple variation of the same recipe only using typical pizza ingredients for the filling. You can add in pepperoni or ground beef or any other meat of your choice without altering the carb count too much unless the meat has a lot of carbohydrates in it.  For reference, I used Bertolli Vodka Pasta Sauce for this recipe. A couple of other pasta sauces are lower in carbs.

1 Pizza Dough made up and split into two balls
3 oz. Italian Sausage
1/4 cup Pasta Sauce of Choice (Look for lowest carb)
1/4 cup Bell Pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped or slice Olives
2 tablespoon Mushroom slices, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Garlic, minced
1/4 cup Mozzarella or other white cheese, shredded
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 cup Greens of choice (optional)
1 teaspoon Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 415 degrees (F.)

In a small skillet, add cook the Italian sausage until lightly browned, remove and set aside. Add garlic and bell peppers to the pan and saute. When bells are getting soft, add the mushrooms and cook for about 30 seconds more. If you are using the green, stir them into the pan and cook until they start to wilt. Remove from heat. Add the sausage back to the pan and stir in the olives. Mix in the pasta sauce.

Roll the dough out for the calzones and place on pizza screen or on pizza pan. Spoon filling over one half of the calzone dough, sprinkle on cheese, and fold it over. Seal the edges, leaving a couple of open spots for venting. Sprinkle a little cheese over the top if you wish.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown.

Makes 2 servings.

Nutrition Information for filling only:
Calories: 188.4 Fat: 14.9 g Net Carbs: 3.0 g Protein: 10.9 g

Nutrition Information with calzone dough:
Calories: 368.5 Fat: 17.9 Net Carbs: 5.9 g Protein: 25.4 g

Tip: To get a golden brown and shiny bread, you can brush with  olive oil or spray with an olive oil or butter baking spray before  baking.