Beet & Walnut Pesto Pizza

Throughout college it seemed every event boasted free pizza, and by the time I graduated I was approximately 110% over it. To this day, I have pizza through work often enough that I rarely crave it on my own and when I do, I want it to be very non-traditional. We are fortunate enough to have a number of excellent pizza places offering some truly different varieties, and luckily one of those is a place that can seat 16 people for lunch with almost no notice.

Beet & Walnut Pesto Pizza {{Baking Bytes}}

My favorite pizza there, to date, is a lamb sausage and fig concoction that does my favorite sweet and savory situation without being overwhelming on either one. I’ve yet to recreate this largely because I want it to remain special enough to order out, and also because fig jam is not high on my list of things to try. Last summer they suddenly switched their menu, removing my go-to and forcing me into trying something new. (I know, woe is me.) Fortunately, however, one of their summer options inspired a new favorite combo.

Beet & Walnut Pesto Pizza {{Baking Bytes}}

Beet and walnut pesto lends a lovely color and a unique flavor in lieu of a traditional red sauce, and truly brings it up to the next level. I topped mine with additional beets (because why not), thinly sliced sausage, and toasted walnuts. Goat cheese and spinach make a perfect garnish to round out the flavors and add a pop of color to the finished meal.

Beet & Walnut Pesto {{Baking Bytes}}

Homemade pesto is shockingly easy and now that I have my own food processor (thanks, parents!) I will surely be making more of it this summer. This particular recipe is a wonderful fall or winter version, and a perfect accompaniment to unique sandwiches, quesadillas, and of course, pizzas. The beet flavor is not overly strong, with may appeal better to the more skeptical folks in the audience, but for the beet loves it means you get to top it with even more beets. Win-win for everyone.

Beet & Walnut Pesto Pizza {{Baking Bytes}}

I used a blood orange olive oil from Olivelle for my pesto, but you can substitute a standard one if needed. Considering adding just a smidge of extra lemon juice or orange extract to pump up the citrus level a little bit, but it’ll still be delicious (and pretty!)

Beet & Walnut Pesto {{Baking Bytes}}

I enjoyed the savory aspect of the sausage added here, but for a vegetarian option you could use salted nuts instead. Goat cheese adds a nice tang while the mozzarella offers the gooey cheesy experience we all know and love. Altogether, it’s a sweet and savory combination that is truly different than your average pizza.

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Beet & Walnut Pesto Pizza

Adapted from Honest Cooking
Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

beet walnut pesto
1 rounded cup cooked beets1
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 – 2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 oz Blood Orange Olive Oil (or regular)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp whole dried rosemary
1/4 tsp Vanilla Bean Sea Salt (or regular)

for the pizzas
4 personal-sized pizza crusts (or one regular)
1/2 cup beet walnut pesto
1 cup freshly grated mozzarella
1 medium beet, roasted and diced1
1-2 sausages, cooked and thinly sliced (optional)
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

1/2 cup baby spinach
4 oz goat cheese
fresh rosemary
freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat over to 450 degrees (or as directed for your dough.)
  2. Add all pesto ingredients to a food processor and blend until all ingredients are combined. Adjust consistency with additional oil if desired.
  3. For the pizzas, spread crust evenly with pesto and top with half the mozzarella.
  4. Arrange beets, sausage, and toasted walnuts on the pizza, then top with remaining mozzarella.
  5. Bake as directed, minus about five minutes, or until crust is beginning to crisp and the mozzarella is melty.
  6. Sprinkle pizzas with goat cheese and rosemary, and arrange a few leaves of spinach across the top.
  7. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until goat cheese is warmed through and spinach is lightly wilted.
  8. Serve hot with freshly ground pepper and a glass of wine.

Notes

If you’re short on time or hate dyeing everything pink, there is no shame in using the pre-cooked variety! Our Costco carries them in packages of ~5 which is just perfect for a batch of pesto and a couple of pizzas.

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Broccoli Fritters

Amongst the meat packages and frozen produce I also like to stock my freezers (yes, plural) with healthy items that work for a quick meal when I’m not as prepared as I’d like to be. The best ones can be made into an entree for any meal of the day with items I typically have around anyway. These broccoli fritters have turned out to be just exactly that.

Broccoli Fritters {{Baking Bytes}}

Made up of mostly broccoli and whatever cheese you like, these serve as a healthy and neutral base for nearly anything. Breakfast? Top with sautéed bell peppers and a couple of eggs. Lunch? Serve over a warm grain salad and your favorite salad dressing. Dinner? Prepare a broccoli slider with a large grilled (or baked) bell pepper, a couple slices of bacon, and a spicy aioli. Their individually small stature also makes them great for an appetizer or potluck. The world is your oyster (not mine, I don’t care for them) and these are great to keep in the freezer for the days you need a backup.

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Typically fritters are fried and honestly this probably doesn’t technically qualify as a fritter anyway but “broccoli patty” just doesn’t have quite the same enticing quality. In any case, given my preference for bulk preparation and my aversion to standing over a pan for seven years, I opted to try baking these instead. The result is nicely golden, less oily, and much easier for meal prepping or feeding a family.

Broccoli Fritters {{Baking Bytes}}

I wrapped trios of fritters in saran wrap for the freezer and they are still pretty great about four months later. My preference for reheating is in the oven, but pan frying works okay if you are careful (sometimes they stick) or microwaving if you are impatient. Whichever your method of operation, they are a delightful base for all your favorite toppings.

Broccoli Fritters {{Baking Bytes}}

If you’re in need of another freezer-friendly make-ahead meal-prep situation and are still holding strong with your resolution to eat healthier, I hope you give these fritters a try!

Broccoli Fritters

Makes 16+

Ingredients

1/2 onion, minced1
2-4 cloves garlic, minced1
2 Tbsp olive oil

3 cups broccoli rice1

2 eggs
3/4 cup almond flour
1 cup (packed) shredded cheese (I used parmesan)
1 tsp paprika, to taste
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a large frying pan or wok, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic until fragrant and onion is translucent.
  3. Add broccoli rice to pan and continue to heat until well combined and broccoli has softened.
  4. In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add flour, cheese, paprika, salt, and broccoli mixture. Gently fold together until completely combined.
  5. Using a 1/4 cup scoop to measure out fritters, scoop onto prepared pan and gently flatten and shape into a disc about 1/2″ in height. Fritters will not expand but leave about 1″ between them to allow for even cooking.
  6. Bake fritters for 20 minutes or until nicely browned on the bottom.
  7. Carefully flip each fritter and bake an additional 5-10 minutes until the other side is equally browned.
  8. Serve hot with your favorite toppings!

Notes

Use a food processor to finely chop broccoli into a rice-like size. If you are lacking in a food processor but have a lot of patience, you can also mince them by hand with a sharp knife. Can also use the food processor to get your onion and garlic to the same size, either before or after the sautéing step.

Pear & Pomegranate Winter Salad

Although the blogosphere doesn’t always advertise as such, winter is just as good for salads as the heat of summer. I do eat fewer entree salads in the winter (unless it’s a sautéed steak version) but we nearly always have a side salad with dinner. With different produce available it’s a great time to mix up the flavors a bit and give your standard toppings a break.

Pomegranate makes its debut in late fall, and is often used for everything from smoothies to desserts. With a tart flavor and saturated color, it’s also a perfect topping to brighten both the flavor and aesthetic of a winter salad. My favorite combination is with pears, but green apples, oranges or blood oranges, and Asian pears are all delightful pairings.

Pear & Pomegranate Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

For crunch and a dash of protein, sliced almonds or toasted pumpkin seeds are my favorite additions. They are both neutral enough to blend with nearly everything, and add just enough texture to each bite.

Goat cheese is my go-to for almost everything, but for a punchier flavor feta is a great choice. A crumbly cheese works best but the palate is very versatile if chevré isn’t your thing. For the dairy-free folks, this salad is also excellent sans cheese entirely.

Pear & Pomegranate Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Lastly, a good quality balsamic vinegar is key here. I personally rarely use legitimate salad dressings and just dress mine with one of my large collection of Olivelle balsamic vinegars. Crisp Anjou Pear Balsamic Vinegar is my favorite for this particular salad, but a plain barrel-aged balsamic, anything with rosemary, or your favorite more neutral vinaigrette would also do nicely. I do recommend using a more viscous vinegar or a reduction to allow for a better coating.

Pear & Pomegranate Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Brighten your dinner table with this healthy and delicious salad that’s easy enough for every day, and fancy enough for holiday parties.

Pear & Pomegranate Winter Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

5 oz baby spinach (or more, to taste)
1/4 cup Olivelle Crisp Anjou Pear Balsamic Vinegar1

1/2 medium pear, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds or sliced almonds
4oz goat cheese

Directions

  1. In a serving bowl, add spinach and vinegar and gently toss to coat.
  2. Reserving 1-2 tablespoons of each, add the pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds or almonds. Add half the goat cheese and gently toss to combine.
  3. Arrange the pear on top of the salad, then garnish with remaining pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds or almonds, and goat cheese. Drizzle with addition vinegar or a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper, if desired.
  4. Enjoy promptly.

Notes

If preferred, you can substitute any dark balsamic vinegar or reduction, or your favorite rosemary vinaigrette. Barrel-aged vinegars are my favorite here!

Protein Porridge

Happy 2019, folks. I hope everyone had a wonderful year, but if not, I hope this coming one is everything you hoped 2018 would be. I am not much of a resolution setter, but I am a huge fan of goals and personal challenges, and also a numbers person. Last year I tried 76 new recipes, shared 36 posts with you lovely readers, started an Instagram, tried and liked a lower carb lifestyle, discovered the magic that is a spiralizer, and went to several difference food-related classes and events, including learning how to make vodka infusions and homemade sausage. I am looking forward to putting those last two things to good use this year, and sharing them with all of you.

One of my December challenges was to keep a food log, in which I write down all the things I eat every day. It’s an analog version so obviously not a calorie tracker, but it makes me stop and think before eating and helps me to choose healthier options, especially during the food cluster that is the holiday season. I feel very successful this year, navigating lots of deliciousness in healthy ways without feeling like I deprived myself of seasonal treats.  Whether, like me, you are looking to maintain a good thing, or perhaps to start anew, this easy peasy breakfast is a great way to start the day.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

In August when I went lower carb, I basically stopped eating my go-to breakfast of banana peanut butter oatmeal. Since it would’ve been half my carbs for the day, I opted for yogurt parfait and chia pudding and probably unhealthy amounts of eggs. As the weather cooled, however, I found myself missing my warm bowl of morning oats even more. I am no longer tracking my macros, but I’m still opting to do lower carb and higher protein whenever possible, so I set out to find an appropriate winter option. Patterning off my summer recipes, I kept the chia and hemp I’ve become accustomed to and added a few oats for volume. Quick oats work best since the hemp and chia don’t need much time to cook, but lightly blended old-fashioned oats works great too. (I tried it once without grinding them and didn’t care for the textural juxtaposition, but you can nix the grinding process if you don’t mind it.) Warm, cozy, filling, and even faster at cooking, this is my new favorite way to start a chilly morning.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

Even without the boosts this recipe has about 12 grams of protein, but I nearly double that with peanut butter powder and/or protein powder. I personally like the peanut butter powder best since it doesn’t affect the texture and adds a nice peanuty flavor with less fat than regular peanut butter (of which there is already plenty from the hemp and chia). You can use up to 1/4 cup depending on your calorie needs, although I typically use two tablespoons. Alternatively, you can use your favorite protein powder. This is a great option if you’re allergic peanuts or using mix-ins that aren’t typically paired with peanut flavor. Don’t add more than two tablespoons though (about half a scoop), because the resulting texture will be noticeably grainy and a little strange.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

Shockingly (jokes), my go-to mix-ins are half a banana and cinnamon, which pairs nicely with my peanut butter powder. Most fruits are great for this, and it’s a good way to use frozen produce as well. Just heat the produce first and then mix in the rest of the ingredients. If you’re not a peanut butter person (weird), I’ve listed a few other varieties that are excellent with or without protein powder. I also typically stir in a little plain yogurt to add that creaminess, or just actual heavy cream when I’m feeling more decadent. You can 100% skip this if you are dairy-free, or use your favorite non-dairy substitute. Although I don’t usually add it, a teaspoon or two of maple syrup is a nice addition for the more tart berries or options like pumpkin that are not inherently sweet.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

You can easily mix together all the dry ingredients in individual portions, then just add your mix-ins and water and you’re ready to go. I like to prep mine in 8oz containers so I can use it to measure the appropriate amount of water if I’m not at home. Additionally, nix the fruit entirely (but maybe up the spices) for a camping-friendly instant porridge that just requires hot water.

Get your protein in a cozy porridge and start your morning warm and happy. Give it a try and share your favorite mix-ins in the comments!

Protein Porridge

makes one serving

Ingredients

basic porridge
1/4 cup quick oats1
2 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp hemp seeds
2-4 Tbsp peanut butter powder OR 1 Tbsp natural peanut butter (optional)
2 Tbsp protein powder (optional)
6-8 oz water

2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt OR 1/2 Tbsp heavy cream (optional)
1 tsp maple syrup (optional)

flavor ideas with peanut butter
1/2 banana, mashed + 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup blueberries, mashed + 1/8 tsp cardamom

flavor ideas without peanut butter
1/2 cup peaches, mashed + 1/4 tsp cinnamon + pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree + 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut + coconut cream instead of yogurt

Directions

  1. If using fruit, mash it into the bottle of a microwaveable bowl.
  2. Add oats, seeds, peanut butter, protein powder (if using), spices of choice, and water. Stir until well combined.
  3. Microwave on high for about 2-3 minutes (2:20 in my microwave is just how I like it) OR use boiling water and let sit, covered, until thickened.
  4. Stir in yogurt and/or maple syrup, if desired.
  5. Enjoy immediately.

Notes

You can also use 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats, lightly ground in a blender. I often do this method since we always have regular oatmeal on the counter for M. Also, if you are gluten-free, use certified oats to keep this recipe up to par.

Pulled Venison (or Elk)

(Fair warning, this is somewhat of a novel-length post.)

In case you are overwhelmed with posts for cookies, fudge, egg nog, hot chocolate, and gingerbread houses, here’s a nice healthy entrée to get you through the season. Better yet, it’s made in the slow cooker so you can continue your holiday baking extravaganzas knowing there’ll be a savory dinner at the end of the day.

With M’s prolific hunting seasons, our freezers (yes, plural) are not often empty. Even in light years he harvests an ample amount to last the next year, and more often than not we are eating meat from a couple of seasons prior. Last to go are always the roasts. Although I do enjoy pot roast, it is something I tire of relatively quickly and as a result, the occasions M makes it for dinner are plenty for me. As a result, we typically have more deer and elk roasts on hand than I really know what to do with.

Pulled Venison {{Baking Bytes}}

Pulled pork is possibly one of my favorite meals, and I’m thrilled every time it shows up at a barbecue or on a menu. However, as many of you can probably guess, I never make it myself because we really don’t buy meat beyond bacon and the occasional sausage (although with this year’s experiments and an extremely fun class from Chef Nic of Grotto Meats, sausage will likely become our own too.) As such, when a potluck this summer had pulled elk as an option, I made a point to seek out the cook for some tips and tricks. Even better, he was more than willing to share his methods with me.

Having previously tried pulled elk once or twice, it just never quite got to the “pulling” stage as well I’d have liked it. Given how much less fat is in an elk or venison roast, I was pretty sure there was something extra required to get it to work. Potluck guy shared that he slow cooks it in “a lot of lime juice, and some water, but really a lot of lime juice” and that acidic component helps to break down the meat. He then pours out that liquid, shreds the meat, and carries on with a sauce as normal. With my mind officially blown, I set off to try my own version.

pulled_deer1

I mixed “a lot of lime juice”, some apple cider vinegar, and water into the slow cooker and then added my roast. Slicing the roast into 2-3″ chunks gives it more surface area to cook, and I think results in a more even texture. After letting that go for eight or ten hours, I poured it out and added my own chipotle concoction. A short simmer later, and my Mexican-inspired pulled elk was delightful atop salad, tacos, or scrambled eggs.

While this method does require an extra step compared to your standard pork options, it is a wonderful way to use game meat and requires less than twenty minutes of active cooking time. Even better, you can easily double it and make more than one sauce (transfer one flavor to a saucepan to simmer together) giving you multiple options in the same amount of time.

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As a side note: I also discovered that, for me, slow cooking during the day is too long because I’m often gone for 12 hours on weekdays, especially in the summer. Instead, I do the first cook overnight, let the sauce simmer while I’m getting ready for the day, and then store it in the fridge. That way it just needs to be heated for dinner since it’s all cooked and ready to enjoy.

This method works equally well with either venison or elk roasts, and as mentioned it’s easy to increase the amounts for extras. Either make multiple flavors (as shown from my pictures) or just shred one of them and store it in the freezer. Then you can simply pop the shredded meat into some sauce and you’re ready to go once it’s warmed through.

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This would be a great holiday dinner, either for the big day or for one of the days after when the excitement wears off and the exhaustion sets in and everyone is like “holy crap where did 2018 go?” I don’t know where it went, but I do know I can enjoy some tasty dinners while I try to figure it out.

Pulled Venison/Elk

Makes one 3-4lb roast1

Ingredients

3-4 lbs venison or elk roast
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice (or lemon, but I prefer lime)
1 – 1 1/2 cups water

Chipotle sauce (great for tacos!)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2-4 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo
2 cloves garlic
2-3 tsp chili powder
1-2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Apple cider sauce (great for winter salads!)
1 bottle hard apple cider
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne (for a little kick)

Directions

  1. Turn slow cooker to low and mix together vinegar, lime juice, and 1 cup of water.
  2. Slice roast (the short way) into 2-3″ wide chunks, and gently place into the liquid mixture.
  3. If necessary, add additional water. The meat does not need to be completely submerged but it should be mostly covered.
  4. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until it shreds easily.
  5. Remove meat from crock, and pour out the liquid. Be sure the outside of the crock is wiped clean then return it to the heating element.
  6. Shred the meat and put it back in the crock.
  7. Mix the sauce ingredients (use a blender for the chipotle sauce) and then stir into the meat. (Or use 8-12oz of your favorite sauce.) If it’s too thick, stir in additional water; mixture should be loose but not super watery.
  8. Continue to cook (can bump it to high if you are in a hurry) until the sauce is heated through and most of the liquid is heated through, at least 30 minutes.
  9. Meat is great for sandwiches, tacos, salads, toast, scrambled eggs, or just straight out of the pot. Freeze or refrigerate leftovers.

Notes

You can easily double the recipe to feed a crowd or put some in the freezer for later. Start with one recipe of liquid and twice the meat first as you may not need fully double the amount of the initial cooking liquids.