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.

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.

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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.

Carrot Ginger Soup

At the end of fall many folks are left with an abundance of root vegetables and winter squash and no idea what to do with them. Although M and I don’t quite have the garden space to have a surplus of anything (except mint), we are sometimes fortunate enough to share in the bounty of our friends. If you are bored of eating carrots raw or roasted, this is the recipe for you.

Carrot Ginger Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

Cozy but light and with a little spice, this carrot ginger soup is perfect for those crisp fall days when you want to eat healthy but also want something cozy. It works great for both lunch and dinner, either as an entree or a side dish. I like to add lots of ginger and sometimes punch it up with the ground version, but you can keep it milder to fully appreciate the carrot flavor.

Carrot Ginger Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

The slight sweetness from the carrots and coconut milk complements the ginger and turmeric flavors beautifully, resulting in a warm dish both in temperature and flavor. You can peel the carrots or not, according to your preference, which means this soup has relatively minimal prep work involved as well. Conveniently, it is inherently vegan and gluten-free which makes it appropriate for almost any diet, and also reheats nicely for all my meal preppers out there.

For a different flavor you can incorporate other veggies too: grated zucchini lightens it even farther and I think a beet or two would be a lovely winter addition. Play around with the base to your heart’s content and be sure to report back on your favorite iterations.

Carrot Ginger Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I like to serve mine with toasted bread, either a baguette or slices of ginger cider bread (skip the rosemary and use your favorite ginger cider). It’s also excellent with some unsweetened shredded coconut (as shown in my pictures) sprinkled on top or an additional swirl of canned coconut milk. This is a super easy option to serve alongside although heavy Thanksgiving leftovers, so make sure you have an extra pound of carrots on hand.

Carrot Ginger Soup

Adapted from Everyday Easy Eats
Makes 4 (~1-cup) servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
8 carrots, chopped (peeled if you want)

2 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger, to taste
1 tsp ground turmeric, to taste (optional)

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk

Directions

  1. In a 4-quart pot heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and carrots and sauté until onions are translucent.
  3. Stir in broth and spices and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until carrots are tender.
  4. Use an immersion blender to completely puree the soup, then blend in coconut milk.
  5. Taste and adjust spices as necessary, or thin with additional broth or coconut milk. If you add more spices, simmer another 5-10 minutes to allow them to blend.
  6. Serve hot and refrigerate leftovers up to one week.

Mexican Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

As the weather starts to cool, the fall flavors are introduced with avengeance. Suddenly it’s pumpkin this and spiced that, baked goods everywhere and soups filling my Pinterest feed. As much as I love all of these things, this year I’m not quite ready to dive head first in to traditional autumn goods, and also my oven is broken so I couldn’t even if I wanted to. The mountain west poses an added challenge as September and October can intermittently still be quite warm. I’ve mentioned this before, but it usually inspires me to meal prep dishes that can be enjoyed either warm or chilled, such that I can tailor it according to the day’s weather.

Mexican Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

A couple of years ago I created an arugula sweet potato salad that I still love. It invites the coziness of cinnamon lightly sweetened with maple syrup to a healthier form, and is perfect for your Thanksgiving table. However, looking to spice things up a bit I decided to take that idea and give it a more south of the border twist.

Roasted sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and red onions are stirred in with a generous helping of black beans, corn, and quinoa. Vegan by nature, it can be dressed up with cheese or meat if you like. Goat cheese is my personal preference (shocking) since the creaminess blends so nicely with the smokey dressing.

Mexican Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

As always, this one is easy to tailor to your personal spice levels. Leave it as is for a relatively mild experience, or pile on the spices for some extra heat. The dressing is the easiest place to up the spices but if you know you’re a spice lover, add extra to the roasting process too.

This works great as an entree or a side dish, served atop fresh greens for some color and extra freshness. Add lots of greens for a more traditional salad, or use fewer for more of a Buddha bowl style meal. Either way, this is an easy recipe that’s great for meal prepping, serving a crowd, or taking to a potluck. Serve it chilled in the summer or warm in the winter and it’s sure to be a hit. For potluck option, I’d recommend tossing the quinoa mixture with the greens ahead of time since it will be easier for people to serve themselves.

Mexican Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Have more leftovers than you want? Top a generous scoop with a fried or poached egg and a drizzle of dressing for a fun and healthy breakfast! The filling also works nicely for stuffed peppers, lettuce wraps, or burritos if you’re looking for ways to switch it up a little.

Mexican Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato, scrubbed and diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced

1 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp ground chilis, divided (I used pasilla)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
3/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, to taste

1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
3 cups water (or broth)

1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed and drained
12 oz (or more) leafy greens

Spicy Smoked Balsamic Dressing (below)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sweet potato, bell pepper, onion, 1 Tbsp chili powder, 1 1/2 tsp cumin, salt, oregano, 1/2 tsp paprika, and red pepper flakes. Stir until veggies are well coated.
  3. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and roast in preheated oven until sweet potatoes are fork tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine quinoa, water, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, and 1/4 tsp paprika. Cook quinoa as directed on your package.
  5. When veggies and quinoa are both cooked, return to your large bowl and gently stir in black beans and corn until evenly distributed.
  6. Either serve atop fresh greens or stir them in too.
  7. Serve hot or chilled, drizzled with dressing and topped with cheese, if desired.

Smoked Balsamic Dressing {{Baking Bytes}}

Smokey and spicy and just a little sweet, this dressing is excellent by itself to use for almost any salad, bowl, or wrap that you can dream up. The smoked balsamic vinegar from Olivelle is one of my favorites; already reminiscent of barbecue sauce, adding the garlic oil and some extra spices gives it a little kick. If you are looking for a little sweeter variety, a bit of maple syrup blends in nicely.

Spicy Smoked Balsamic Dressing

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

3 oz Olivelle caramelized garlic olive oil1
1 1/2 oz Olivelle smoked balsamic vinegar1
1 – 2 tsp ground chilis
1/2 tsp paprika (smoked or regular)
1 – 2 tsp maple syrup (optional)

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small jar. Whisk or shake vigorously to combine.
  2. Taste and adjust spices or sweetness as necessary.

Notes

I highly recommend Olivelle products and they have an online store if you don’t have a sister store nearby. However, if you must you can substitute regular extra virgin olive oil and 1-2 minced garlic cloves or 1/2 – 1 teaspoons garlic powder, and/or regular barrel aged balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon or two of barbecue sauce.