Corn & Black Bean Salad with Grilled Pork

As we have already discussed, colorful food is pretty much always the best. Nutrition experts say that in order to ensure you’re getting the best range of nutrients, you should try to eat every color of the rainbow in your foods. We Americans really don’t have a lot of dishes we can take credit for that are incredibly colorful and good for you… we pretty much can boast hot dogs and fried chicken, neither of which are exceptionally high on the “eat this because it helps your health” meter. As I mentioned in my Greek Salad recipe, the Greeks are super well-known for being ultra health conscious in their food. However, today we are traveling to Mexico with a very classic Mexican dish known as corn salad. The cool thing about this is that it can be eaten hot, or cooked and then chilled and served cold, so it makes an awesome cookout side dish if you serve it without the meat.

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There are a lot of elements to this that actually work well on their own, so I’ll separate it out that way. Check the recipe at the bottom if you’re unsure about how to time it so it all comes out at the same time. For the pork, I used boneless pork chops. This is so easy guys, I mean really. All you do is rub both sides of the pork chops with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cilantro, and ground cayenne. (The cayenne is what adds the heat, so bear that in mind when seasoning. If you don’t really like your food spicy, leave it out altogether.) Then, just put them on a grill over medium heat and grill for about 6-7 minutes per side, or until the internal temp reaches 160 degrees. This recipe serves 4 people, so use 4 pork chops.

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To really make this fresh and delicious, I used fresh corn on the cob for the corn base for the salad. This recipe for grilled corn is so super good, so feel free to steal it from this recipe and just make this bangin’ corn on the cob for your next barbecue! The key is seasoning the corn and then grilling it, instead of just boiling it in a pot of water. The real magic is in a seasoned butter – soften about 3 tablespoons of butter and add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cilantro. (If you’re making the corn on the cob on its own, feel free to sub in whatever herbs you like!) Mix the seasonings into the butter and then slather it on 3 ears of corn. I have found that it’s easier to spread it on one side (as shown in the photo) and then use your hands to rub it around the whole ear.

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Once they are rubbed with the herb butter, wrap them tightly in aluminum foil and grill for about 15-20 minutes, over indirect heat, turning occasionally. Once it’s done, take it out of the foil and then cut it off the cob and set aside. The base of the salad gets made on the stove, not on the grill, so get a large skillet with about 2 tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat. To the heated pan, add a diced bell pepper and either one diced yellow onion or one diced red onion. (The red onion gives more powerful flavor and more color!) Once these have sweated (about 2 minutes), add in 3 cloves of minced garlic, a drained can of black beans, and 4 diced Roma tomatoes. (If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, use a can of diced tomatoes, drained.)

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Stir this together and add two teaspoons of salt and pepper, a teaspoon of dried cilantro, and a half teaspoon of cayenne. (Use more or less depending on your preferred heat level!) Let simmer for about two minutes and then add your reserved corn. Give it a final stir and then plate it, topping each plate with a sliced pork chop. Top with freshly chopped cilantro!

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This is a total crowd pleaser and a great way to shake up dinner in the middle of the week! The whole thing can also be made inside on a griddle or on the stove, so it works for all seasons, but it’s really a great summer dish!

Full Recipe:

Mexican Corn & Black Bean Salad with Grilled Pork

Yield: 4 servings (8 if you are making it as a side and not a main dish.)

Ingredients:

3 ears of fresh corn, husked
3 tablespoons softened butter
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cilantro (to taste)

4 boneless pork chops
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, cilantro, and cayenne (to taste)

2 tbsp canola oil
1 bell pepper, diced
1 yellow or red onion, diced
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 can black beans, drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt, pepper, cilantro, and cayenne (to taste)

Process:

1) Heat half of your grill to medium heat.

2) Combine softened butter and spices and spread over ears of corn. Wrap corn in aluminum foil and place over indirect heat on your grill. (Remember to turn every few minutes. Corn should be done after about 15-20 minutes.)

3) Rub pork chops with spices on both sides. Spray heated half of grill with cooking spray and then place pork chops on heated side. (Cook for approximately 6-7 minutes per side, or until internal temp reaches 160 degrees.)

4) In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil and add diced pepper and onion. Let sweat for two minutes, then add the garlic, beans, and tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, cilantro, and cayenne, to taste.

5) While salad is simmering, take corn off the grill and cut the corn off the cobs. Once it’s all cut, add into the salad, give it a final stir, and then turn off the heat.

6) Plate the corn salad and put a sliced pork chop on top of each plate. Serve immediately.

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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.

Slow Cooker Pork Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

I’m still in a Greek mood over here at SS&N (check out my last post, Warm Greek Salad with Chicken, if you missed it!) so I’m continuing the theme with another very much Greek-inspired dish!

Gyros are one of the most well-known parts of Greek cuisine. You’re probably familiar with them – a grilled pita filled with either chicken, pork, or veal, along with various condiments and veggies. Traditionally, the meat is roasted slowly on a spit over a constant heat. I’ve deviated a bit from tradition here, mainly due to my lack of a vertical turning spit for meat, and decided to do mine in the slow cooker. One of my most popular posts was my Apple Pulled Pork, and this definitely gives a nod to that method, but I’ve switched up the spices and cooking liquid a bit to make the dish definitely Greek.

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Start by dicing 1/2 a red onion and 2 stalks of celery and put them in the bottom of your slow cooker, to create a bed for the pork. Next comes the ever-important spice rub, which as always, starts with brown sugar. To the brown sugar, add 1 tbsp sat, 2 tsp of pepper, and about a teaspoon each of garlic powder, basil, oregano, celery seed, and dill weed. Rub this liberally all over your cut of pork. For mine, I used a 2 pound pork loin, and it turned out SO tender! If you’re needing to serve more than 4 people, you can use a pork butt (also called a pork shoulder) like I did in my original pulled pork recipe. If you get one that’s 4 pounds it should easily serve 8 people. (Obviously, double the quantities of everything listed if you go that route!)

Carefully place your pork on top of the bed of celery and onion.

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The last thing you’ll need before you set this thing a-cooking is your braising liquid. It’s so simple, you almost won’t believe it. Just combine the zest and juice of one lemon, 1 cup of dry white wine, and 1/2 a cup of balsamic vinegar. Pour that around your pork, put the lid on, and cook on high for 4 hours (or low for 7-8).

After the pork is cooked through, take it out of the slow cooker and use two forks to shred the meat, then return the shredded meat to the slow cooker and let simmer on low for another 15-30 minutes… essentially as long as it takes to do the rest of the prep for the meal!

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To make the tzatziki sauce, dice 1/2 a cucumber, salt liberally (perhaps 2 teaspoons or so), and then add them to a blender or food processor, along with 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt, the zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon, and a teaspoon each of pepper, dill weed, and mint. Blend until smooth and then dish out into a small bowl.

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Finally, no gyro is complete without vegetables! Julienne 1/2 a red onion and 1 green pepper and saute with olive oil over medium high heat for about 3-5 minutes, or until they become tender and pliable. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic, saute for one additional minute, and then remove from the heat.

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Once everything is done, use a slotted spoon to dish the pork out of the slow cooker, ensuring that you let most of the liquid drain off. Serve the pork, sauce, veggies, and some feta cheese in warmed pita bread. Pita bread comes with a handy little pocket for filling, but for the pictures, I just piled all my filling on top! 🙂

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Enjoy with a glass of dry white wine. Cheers!

Full Recipe:

Slow Cooker Pork Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

Yield: 4 hearty servings

Ingredients:

Pork:
1/2 red onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp each garlic powder, basil, oregano, celery seed, dill weed
2-pound pork loin
1 lemon (zest and juice)
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Tzatziki Sauce:
1/2 cucumber, diced
2 tsp salt
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 lemon (juice and zest)
1 tsp each pepper, dill weed, mint

Gyro Assembly:
4-6 pieces pita bread
1 tbsp olive oil
1 green pepper, julienned
1/2 red onion, julienned
2 cloves garlic, minced
Feta cheese, for topping

Process:

1) Make a spice rub for the pork. Combine brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, oregano, celery seed, and dill weed in a small dish. Rub liberally all over the sides of the pork.

2) Place diced onion and celery in bottom of slow cooker. Carefully lay rubbed pork on top.

3) Combine lemon zest and juice, white wine, and balsamic vinegar, and then pour around the pork. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8 hours.

4) Once pork is finished cooking, remove from slow-cooker and use two forks to shred the meat. Return the meat to the slow cooker and let simmer on low for another 15-30 minutes.

5) To make the tzatziki sauce, salt the cucumbers with the 2 tsp of salt and add to a blender or food processor. Also add the yogurt, lemon zest and juice, pepper, dill, and mint. Blend until smooth and pour into a small dish for serving.

6) Saute julienned green pepper and onions in olive oil over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes or until beginning to become soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute for one additional minute, then remove from heat.

7) Warm the pita bread and then cut open and fill with sauce, pork, and veggies. Top with feta cheese and enjoy!

Potato-Sausage Hash with Scrambled Eggs

Everyone always seems to have creative, interesting, different ideas for lunch and dinner and even dessert, but it seems like breakfast is often thought of with very little care, or just cast off and forgotten entirely. As evidenced by past posts like my Apple Cinnamon Pancakes and 4 Simple Breakfast Ideas, I’m determined to give breakfast the credit it’s due!

This dish is great for mornings when you’ve got some time for a hearty breakfast to share, but you’re tired of the sweetness of pancakes, waffles, or french toast. This one will keep you full for hours and is really easy to prepare!

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Start by dicing a large red potato and coating a medium skillet in olive oil over medium-low heat. Add your potatoes to the heated pan, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Keep tossing them every minute or so. Meanwhile you can dice up about 8 inches of a smoked sausage.

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Once your potatoes have started to brown, add your sausage and season with some additional salt and about 1/2 tsp of thyme and 1/4 tsp of garlic powder. Toss to combine and continue to let this simmer for another 3-5 minutes, tossing every minute or so. Meanwhile, dice up 1/4 of an onion and 1/4 of a green pepper.

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Once the sausage is beginning to brown, add your diced onion and pepper into the pan and season with 1/4 tsp of cumin and 1/4 tsp of cayenne. (If you don’t like your breakfast to have much spiciness, leave the cayenne out.) Toss to combine, cover, and let simmer for another 3-5 minutes.

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While this is simmering, prepare your eggs. There is a real art to getting scrambled eggs perfectly light and fluffy without being overdone, and I’m here to reveal that secret to you!

Start by cracking three eggs into a small bowl and adding only 3 tbsp of milk (or less!) along with a few dashes of salt and then whisking this together with a fork.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: You don’t need any more than 1 tbsp of milk per egg that you’re scrambling, and you don’t need to whisk them to death. Just get the eggs so the yolks are nice and broken up and it’s fairly well combined, but don’t try to beat out every last trace of the whites of the eggs.

Heat a small skillet over low heat and melt about 1/2 tbsp of butter in it. Then, add your eggs and LEAVE THEM ALONE!

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Let this cook nice and slowly (about 1-2 minutes) over that low heat until you see that the egg is starting to cook through (the clear portions will be turning white). The top layer will still be pretty much uncooked at this point.

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Once this happens, crank your heat up to high and quickly move the eggs around the pan with a spatula until they are almost all the way cooked. They should still be a little wet when you turn off the heat!

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Leaving the eggs just slightly wet when you remove them from the heat prevents them from getting overdone. The residual heat within the eggs themselves and the still-hot pan will finish the cooking process for you in the time it takes to get them from the pan to the plate!

By now, your hash should be perfectly done. Take the lid off the skillet and give it a final toss to get it ready for the eggs.

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Remove your eggs from the pan and then top the hash with the scrambled eggs. Of course, if you’re splitting this dish, you’ll want to plate this separately. 😉

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Full Recipe:

Potato-Sausage Breakfast Hash with Scrambled Eggs

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

1 large red potato, diced
8 inches (about) of smoked sausage, diced
1/4 green pepper, diced
1/4 onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil

Salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne

3 eggs
3 tbsp milk
1/2 tbsp butter

Process:

1) Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat, then add potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat and let simmer for about 5 minutes, tossing occasionally.

2) After 5 minutes once the potatoes have begun to brown, add diced sausage and then season with thyme and garlic powder. Toss to coat and let simmer for another 3-5 minutes, tossing occasionally.

3) After 3-5 minutes once the sausage has begun to brown, add diced onion and pepper and then season with cumin and cayenne. Toss to combine and then cover and let simmer for another 3-5 minutes.

4) While this is simmering, crack 3 eggs into a small bowl and beat together with 3 tbsp milk and a few dashes of salt. Melt butter in a small skillet over low heat, then add eggs and allow to slowly cook for about 1-2 minutes.

5) Once you see the eggs beginning to cook through, turn the heat up to high and move them quickly around the pan with a spatula until they are almost cooked through, but still a little wet.

6) Remove the lid from your hash and give a final toss before plating on two dishes. Divide the eggs between the two dishes and then 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.