Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

Summer is coming! I can feel it! And for me, summer means one thing: GRILLING!

There is no more classic grilled food, in my humble opinion, than the good old beef burger. This one will seriously tingle your taste buds, because it puts all the good stuff INSIDE the burger, instead of piled on top.

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

You’ll want to start by dicing 1/4 of a medium sweet onion (very small dice!) and cooking up 4 slices of bacon. Once the bacon is cooked and cooled, break it into small pieces.

Then, in a medium bowl, add a little over a pound of ground beef. (Generally, I see them in the store packed in 1.25-1.40 pound packages.) Personally, I like to use 93% lean beef. It’s a bit more expensive, but the burgers don’t shrink as much! If you use 85% or 73%, just bear in mind that there will be a fair bit of shrinkage to your patties once they start cooking!

To the ground beef, add your cooked bacon pieces, the diced onion, 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce, and hefty sprinklings of the following: salt, pepper, garlic powder, ground ginger, and if you’ve got it, your favorite dry steak seasoning. (I use Montreal Style Steak, which is made by McCormick.) If you’d like a little heat, sprinkle in either some chili powder or some cayenne.

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

Combine it all together with your hands. DON’T OVERWORK THE MEAT. Work it until everything is well distributed, and then stop! If you work it too much, the burgers will be tough – no bueno! Once it’s well combined, make it into four patties. They’ll be pretty big – that’s okay! Remember they will shrink!

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

To prep your grill, spray with with cooking spray and turn the heat to medium high. (Or equivalent process for a charcoal grill. Mine is gas – I know, I cheat!) Let it warm up for a few minutes, then put the burgers on! They should sizzle when they hit the grates. Cook to your desired level of done-ness, flipping halfway through. I like my burger pink inside because it’s super tender and juicy that way, so that should be about 5 minutes per side for burgers of this size. If desired, after you’ve flipped them and they are almost done, top with mozzarella cheese! Serve them on a toasted bun with whatever condiments you prefer. I LOVE barbecue sauce on my burgers. If you’ve never tried it, you should. It’s especially good with these!

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

I made a salad ahead of time to serve with the burgers – the freshness of the veggies in the salad is a great compliment to the savory burgers! (Plus it’s far better for you than a side of fries or chips!) Full Recipe:

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

Yield: 4 burgers

Ingredients:

4 pieces bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 sweet onion, small dice
1 & 1/3 (ish) pounds lean ground beef
1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
To taste: salt, pepper, garlic powder, ground ginger, steak seasoning, cayenne (optional)

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (if desired)

4 hamburger buns, plus condiments, for serving.

Process:

1) In medium bowl, combine ground beef with cooked bacon, diced onion, teriyaki sauce, and spices. Work with your hands until just combined. DO NOT OVERWORK MEAT.

2) Form into four equal size patties.

3) Spray grill with cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Place burgers directly on grates and let cook for 4-5 minutes per side (medium), or until desired temperature is reached.

4) When only a minute or so of cooking time remains, top with mozzarella cheese, allow to melt, and then serve burgers as desired. (Try them with barbecue sauce!)

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Pasta with Lemon Pepper Parmesan Cream Sauce

Holy wow you guys. I sort of… accidentally made this one day for lunch. (Yes, really, “accidentally.”) It turned out so awesome that I tweaked it a bit and adjusted the recipe to serve four people. This is a fabulous quick and easy dinner or lunch idea, and is definitely versatile!

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For a lighter dish, this would be good without any meat at all. However, to make it a little heartier, saute up your choice of protein to go into the pasta. I chose kielbasa, which everyone knows is my favorite, but any smoked sausage would do. You could also use chicken (2 large breasts cut into bite size pieces), or even ground turkey (about a pound). The main point is just that the meat is fully cooked before anything else goes into the pan.

In my case, since I used kielbasa, my meat was already cooked through. I just browned it in the pan with some olive oil for a few minutes, then added 1 diced sweet onion. (Sweet onions are pretty small, so using a whole one shouldn’t be overpowering.)

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Let those sweat on medium-high for about two minutes, then add in 3 cloves of minced garlic and let simmer for one more minute.

Then, keeping the heat fairly high, add in the juice and zest of a large lemon, 3/4 cup of half & half, and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese. Quickly stir this together so it combines and the cheese starts to melt, and then let it reduce for about two minutes.

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While it’s reducing, add in two teaspoons of fresh cracked pepper, and then salt and basil to taste. (I didn’t need as much salt since I used a cured meat – it’s to your taste!) Once the sauce has thickened, add 1 pint of halved cherry tomatoes. Stir these in and then remove the pan from the heat.

Add the sauce to cooked pasta of your choice, top with more shredded Parmesan, and serve! I used penne pasta for mine.

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I’m of the opinion that anything with a lemon-pepper flair is amazing, but I’m telling you, this pasta is shockingly good! And it’s totally fancy enough to entertain with. 🙂

Full Recipe:

Pasta with Lemon Pepper Parmesan Cream Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 package of kielbasa, cut into coins (or enough of your choice of meat to serve 4)
1 small sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup half & half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
Salt & Basil, to taste
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

Process:

1) Brown kielbasa with olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, tossing occasionally. Add sweet onion and saute for another two minutes. Finish off with garlic and let simmer for one final minute.

2) Keeping pan over medium-high heat, add juice and zest of the lemon, half & half, and Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine and let reduce for about 2 minutes.

3) While sauce is reducing, add pepper, salt, and basil, and stir in.

4) Once sauce has thickened, stir in cherry tomatoes and remove from the heat.

5) Toss a cooked pasta of your choice with the sauce, plate, and top with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Warm Greek Salad with Chicken

I’m pretty convinced that everything good in the world comes from the Mediterranean region. As my loyal readers know, Tuscany is probably my favorite place on the planet, as I illustrated in my most pinned and most popular blog post ever, Tuscan Pasta in Lemon Blush Sauce. (Guys, it’s been pinned 142 times as of today. That’s a LOT for a small town girl like me!)

But I digress.

A place I have yet to visit in the world (but is TOTALLY on my bucket list!) is Greece. Not only is that a country steeped to the bursting in history and rich culture, but their food is known for being natural and wholesome. The Greeks are not at all fans of processed food – most McDonald’s that have tried to open there have ended up closing. Because of this, it’s naturally the ideal kind of cuisine for someone like me.

So, I’m sure a lot of you frequently visit Panera or some other establishment that serves a “Greek Salad.” Usually, it’s mixed greens with some olives, peppers, and feta tossed on top. Now don’t get me wrong – I will tear up a Greek salad from Panera Bread if I’m waiting to meet a client there. But did you know, the classic “Greek” salad actually has no lettuce at all?

Yup, that’s right. It’s a tomato and cucumber based salad, tossed with red onion, green pepper, kalamata olives, and feta cheese, and dressed with an olive oil vinaigrette.

Mouth watering yet? Yeah, mine too.

Read on my for my take on the classic Greek salad – warmed up with sautéed chicken!

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Mise en place – French for “everything in its place,” or doing all of your prepwork before you start cooking – is so important for this dish! The only thing you have to cook is the chicken, and that goes so fast that you’ll need to have everything else ready beforehand!

So, get yourself your favorite large cutting board (my father made mine for me, crafty gentleman that he is) and prep the following:

One pint cherry tomatoes, halved.

One cucumber, large dice.

One green pepper, small dice.

Half a red onion, small dice.

About 40 (ish) kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped.

Three cloves garlic, minced.

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Kalamata olives typically come with the pits still in them. To get them out, crush the olive under the side of a chef’s knife (sort of like how you’d smash a clove of garlic to peel it) until it smashes down and the skin breaks, then pull the pit out with your fingers. It’s a little tedious, but once you get a rhythm, it’s not so bad.

Once this is all done, cube two large chicken breasts into bite sized pieces. Put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and once the pan is hot, add the chicken and season liberally with salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Toss to coat and let simmer for five minutes or so, tossing occasionally. When it’s just about done, add your minced garlic, toss to combine, and cook for one additional minute.

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While the chicken is cooking, make your dressing by whisking together the zest and juice of one lemon, 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (the really good stuff!), 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, and 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. I know it doesn’t look like a lot, but I promise, you only want a light coating of dressing!

Once the dressing is done, add your prepped veggies to a large bowl and pour the dressing overtop. As soon as the chicken/garlic is finished cooking, get it off the heat and immediately into the bowl. Toss it all together so the heat from the chicken warms up the vegetables a bit, and then dish it out and top with crumbled feta cheese!

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We eat with our eyes before we ever taste with our tongues, and I have to say, the colors in this dish make it look SO appetizing – and the flavors packed into it don’t disappoint!

Alternatively, you could of course make this into a vegetarian dish by removing the chicken. (Removing the chicken also turns it into a super awesome side dish, especially for summer!)

Full Recipe:

Warm Greek Salad with Chicken

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, large dice
1 green pepper, small dice
1/2 red onion, small dice
Approx 40 kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large chicken breasts, cubed into bite size pieces
Zest + juice of one lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus more for sautéing chicken)
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Salt, pepper, oregano, basil, to taste

Process:

1) Prep all vegetables first (tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, and olives), putting them into a large bowl as you finish each one.

2) In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Add to vegetables.

3) Cube chicken and add to a heated skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil. Season liberally with salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Toss occasionally and allow to cook for about five minutes, or until cooked through. Just before chicken is done, add minced garlic and toss to combine, allowing to cook for one additional minute.

4) Remove chicken from heat and immediately add to the vegetables. Stir to combine. Sprinkle with feta cheese after serving.

Grilled Cheese BLT with Warm Apple Salad

So the classic sandwich of winter is the Grilled Cheese, and the classic sandwich of summer is the BLT. It’s now March, and spring is at least trying to get here, so BAM, here’s a hybrid of the two that is a sandwich that is sure to impress!

I’ve also included a great side to go with it, and it is ALL done in ONE pan. (Always makes it better!)

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Of course, the best part is the bacon – at least for me – so start by cutting two pieces of bacon in half and frying them up until they’re crispy. Place them on a paper towel to drain while you cook the rest of the sandwich.

Now, sandwich making is an art. (Women-in-the-kitchen jokes aside.) There’s a certain way that is optimal for layering and ensuring every bite is the same, so pay close attention!

Slice two pieces of Italian bread and butter one side of each. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and thyme on both.

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I used fresh thyme because I happened to have some on hand, but dried would do fine as well!

Next, add a few slices of extra sharp cheddar cheese and then your reserved bacon slices.

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My favorite brand of cheddar is Cabot – it’s super sharp and tastes fabulous!!

Next comes the lettuce. Any kind will do, but I feel like this sandwich is classy enough for spring greens:

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Then comes tomato slices and julienned onion:

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And finally, top with some more cheese before capping the sandwich with the other piece of bread. Make sure the buttered side is INSIDE the sandwich on both slices!

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The cheese goes on the outside so that it melts and creates a “glue” that holds the sandwich together. The tomatoes and lettuce are in the middle to keep them farther from the heat, and the lettuce goes between the tomatoes and bacon to ensure the wetness of the tomatoes doesn’t make the bacon soggy!

Now here comes the awesome part… put the heat back on the pan that still has your bacon fat in it, on medium-low, and then carefully place your sandwich right into the bacon fat. Let it cook for just a minute or two, enough to crisp up the bread and melt the cheese, and then turn it over and do the same to the other side.

Remove it from the pan and plate it along with some more spring greens, then turn the heat in the pan up to medium-high and add 1/2 an apple (sliced) along with some julienned onion and pepper. Squeeze in some lemon juice, sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper, and toss to coat.

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The goal is to brown the apples, onions, and peppers quickly so that they still retain some of their crunch. Once they’ve cooked for a minute or two, plate them on top of the spring greens and enjoy your fabulous spring dish!

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I’m still a little kid inside and like to have my sandwiches cut in half… but it also does a great job of showing the layers inside and how delicious this thing really is!

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Full Recipe:

Grilled Cheese BLT

Yield: 1 sandwich

Ingredients:

2 slices Italian bread
Butter/salt/pepper/thyme (to taste)
4-6 slices sharp cheddar cheese
2 slices of bacon
3 slices of fresh tomato
1 thin slice of an onion, broken apart
A small handful of spring greens

Process:

1) Cut the two slices of bacon in half and cook them in a frying pan until crisp. Set aside on a paper towel to drain.

2) Butter one side of each of the 2 slices of Italian bread and add salt, pepper, and thyme to the buttered sides.

3) Place one slice of bread, buttered side up, on your work surface and then layer the ingredients as follows: half the cheese slices, the bacon pieces, the spring greens, the tomato, the onion, and finally the other half of the cheese slices, before capping with the other half of the bread (buttered side down).

4) Put a medium-low heat under the same pan that you cooked the bacon in and carefully place the sandwich directly in the bacon fat. Allow to cook for just a minute or two, until browned, and then flip and cook for an additional minute. Serve immediately.

Grilled Chicken Cilantro Lime Salad

This is a fabulous summery dish that you can have really any time of year if you want to remind yourself of the crisp and sweet tastes of the warmer months! (I really needed that reminder since Old Man Winter keeps dropping snow on us!)

It uses a great combination of different flavors to provide a really great flavor profile for a great dish that’s good for a hearty lunch or a light dinner!

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Start off by getting your spices together: in a small dish, combine the zest of 1 lime, and then 1/2 tsp each of salt, cilantro, and garlic powder, along with 1/4 tsp of black pepper and cayenne pepper.

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Coat a small frying pan in a couple teaspoons of olive oil and heat it over low heat. Take about 1/4 of your seasoning mix and rub it over one side of a chicken breast.

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Put this in your frying pan, seasoning side DOWN, and then add some more salt, pepper, and cilantro to the unseasoned side. Let this cook for about 5-8 minutes or until it’s started to brown, then turn the chicken over, cover, and cook for an additional 8 minutes or so, or until the chicken is cooked through.

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While the chicken is cooking you can prepare the salad. Roughly chop 1 romaine lettuce heart and add it to a medium-large bowl. Then, julienne 1 carrot, 1/2 an onion, and 1/2 an apple. (I used Gala to add some red color, but any crisp/tart variety would be fine!)

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Add these to your lettuce and toss them together. Then, to the dish of your remaining seasoning, add the juice of the lime you zested earlier, 2 tbsp of olive oil, and 1 tbsp of rice vinegar. Use a fork to whisk this together, then pour it over your salad and toss to combine. Dish the salad out into two bowls.

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Once your chicken is done and has cooled a bit, cut it into thin slices and then top each salad with equal amounts of chicken. Serve immediately!

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Full Recipe:

Grilled Chicken Cilantro Lime Salad

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

Zest & juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cilantro
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tsp olive oil
1 boneless skinless chicken breast

1 romaine lettuce heart, roughly chopped
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 onion, julienned
1/2 apple, julienned

Process:

1) In a small dish, combine lime zest, salt, cilantro, garlic powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.

2) Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a small skillet over low heat. Rub 1/4 of the seasoning mix onto one side of your chicken breast and place it seasoning side down into the skillet. Sprinkle unseasoned side with additional salt, pepper, and cilantro. Cook for 5-8 minutes, then turn and cover and cook for an additional 8 minutes or until cooked through. Set aside to cool.

3) Stir in 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, and juice of 1 lime to your seasoning mix.

4) Combine lettuce, carrots, onions, and apples in a large bowl and toss together. Add dressing and toss to combine.

5) Plate salad in two separate dishes. Cut your chicken into thin slices and divide evenly between the two salads. Serve immediately.

Chicken & Pepper Mexican Rice

The other day I had an intense craving for chicken fajitas. Over the last year I have developed a real love for Mexican food, and fajitas are probably my favorite Mexican creation to make at home. I tore through my kitchen for the necessary ingredients and was disappointed to find that I had everything I needed – EXCEPT tortillas. Which are sort of the most necessary part of a fajita. Otherwise it’s just a pile of delicious chicken and vegetables.

*Bing.* Light bulb. It’s just a pile of delicious chicken and vegetables … until you add ANOTHER starch to it. And thus, the idea for this dish was born. All the goodness of fajitas, but on top of a bed of cilantro lime wild rice instead! This recipe serves two.

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Wild rice takes a little longer to cook than regular white rice, so you’ll want to get the rice going first. In a small saucepan, add 1/2 cup wild rice and a 1 cup of water plus a couple more tablespoons. Put it over high heat and then add 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, the zest & juice of one lime, 1/2 tsp cilantro, and 1/2 tsp garlic powder. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover until all the water is absorbed. (Wild rice takes 20-25 minutes or so to cook.)

While you’re waiting for your rice to cook, dice 1/4 of an onion and 1/4 of a green pepper and set them aside. Then take one chicken breast and slice it into thin pieces.

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When your rice is nearly done, heat 1 tbsp of oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat and then add your chicken to it. Spice the chicken by adding 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tsp cilantro, 1/2 tsp cayenne, and 1/2 tsp garlic powder. Toss to coat, and continue to toss occasionally to ensure even cooking.

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It should only take a few minutes to cook the chicken. Once it’s cooked through, add your diced onion and pepper, reduce heat to low, and cover.

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Allow this to simmer for a few more minutes to soften the onion and pepper, then uncover and add 1/2 cup of your preferred salsa. Stir this in, and then serve by plating the rice first between 2 plates and then dividing the chicken evenly between them on top of the rice. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese and enjoy!

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Of course, you could always modify this by julienning the onions and peppers instead of dicing them and serving this all on nice flour tortillas with sour cream to make fajitas!

Full Recipe:

Chicken & Pepper Mexican Rice

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

Rice:
1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
1 cup plus 2 tbsp water
Zest & juice of 1 lime
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cilantro
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Chicken:
1 large chicken breast, cut into thin slices
1 tbsp oil
1/4 onion, diced
1/4 green pepper, diced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp cilantro
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish.

Process:

1) In a small sauce pan, combine all ingredients for rice over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 20-25 minutes or until water is cooked through.

2) In a medium frying pan over medium-high heat, add the oil and chicken. Season with spices listed and toss to coat, continuing to toss occasionally to ensure even cooking.

3) After about 3 minutes, once chicken is cooked through, add diced onion and pepper and cover. Let simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes.

4) Once onion and pepper have softened, uncover and stir in 1/2 cup salsa. Allow this to heat through for about a minute and then remove from heat. Plate the rice first and then add the chicken on top, and garnish with cheddar cheese. Serve immediately.

*Super Bowl Week* Puff Pastry Mini Pizzas

Okay, so far in Super Bowl week we’ve paid tribute to Mexico with the taco crescents and good ol’ America with the bacon cheeseburger sliders, so I think it’s time to tip the hat to the flavors of my favorite country, Italy!

The classic combinations of tomato, basil, and mozzarella in these little beauties are definitely reminiscent of Italy, but I did put my own spin on it by using puff pastry and Kielbasa sausage! If you wanted to be more true to Italy in your meat choice, salami is extremely popular there!

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Start off with two sheets of puff pastry (one package) and let them thaw out on the counter. (About 30-40 minutes.) Once they’re nearly thawed, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a frying pan over medium-low heat, saute 1 diced green pepper and 1/2 package of kielbasa cut into small pieces, tossing occasionally, for about 3 minutes or until the sausage has started to brown. Set aside.

Take the thawed pastry sheets and cut each one into 9 equal squares. (18 total.) Lay them out on your prepared baking sheets, and then score a crust around the edge of each square.

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Doing your best to stay inside the scored square, spread about 1 tsp or so of tomato sauce onto the dough and then sprinkle with salt, pepper, basil, and garlic powder. (If you like things on the spicy side, add a touch of cayenne, too!)

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On top of the sauce, add about 1 tsp each of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Carefully add your sausage and pepper on top of the cheese, evenly distributing to all 18 pizzas.

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Once they are all assembled, bake for 12-15 minutes or until the pastry has puffed up and is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a minute or two and then serve!

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These are absolutely delicious and packed with flavor, and the lightness of the puff pastry means they aren’t too heavy to go with anything else you might be serving!

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The best part is that these are super flexible – you can top them with whatever you like! No matter what your culinary taste is, I’m sure there’s a million different ways you could make these to suit you!

Full Recipe:

Puff Pastry Mini Pizzas

Yield: 18 pizzas

Ingredients:

2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
1/2 (14oz) package of kielbasa, cut into small pieces
1 green pepper, diced
1/3 cup tomato sauce
Salt, pepper, basil, garlic powder, cayenne – all to taste.
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

Process:

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

2) In a frying pan over medium-low heat, saute diced peppers and sausage for about 3 minutes or until sausage has begun to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

3) Cut each sheet of puff pastry into 9 equal squares (18 total) and lay them on the baking sheets. Score a crust along the edges of each square.

4) Staying within the scored square, spread 1 tsp of tomato sauce onto each square and then sprinkle seasonings on to taste.

5) On top of the sauce, add mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, about 1 tsp of each cheese per square.

6) Carefully add the sausage and peppers to the top of each pizza, distributing it evenly to all 18 pizzas.

7) Bake for 12-15 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 1-2 minutes, and then serve immediately.