3 Ways to Jazz Up Store Bought Pizza Crust

store bought pizza crust

For me, cooking is a joy and a stress reliever. I love the process – gathering, mixing, stirring, chopping, creating – but sometimes I don’t have time to immerse myself in that process. And there are some days when the process I enjoy so much just sounds burdensome. Enter one of my new, faux-process dinners: pizza using a store bought crust.

Pizza crust isn’t too difficult to whip up, but on those nights when I’m tired or low on time, store bought crust is a short cut that allows me to serve a home cooked meal with little effort.

Bread is my culinary best friend, so my tastes gravitate towards pudgy, thick pizza crust. However, my love handles don’t always appreciate my carb-laden chum, so Tim and I have been making our pizzas on whole wheat, thin crusts we found at Target. (This isn’t a sponsored post, just FYI.) It’s square, fairly low calorie, and thick enough to be chewy not crackery.

I’m always down for the standard cheese and pepperoni, but it makes me feel more grown up to be creative with our toppings. Plus, that helps me justify having pizza twice in a week (because you have to use both crusts, right…).

Here are 3 ways we’ve jazzed up our store bought pizza crust:

3 Ways to Jazz Up Pizza Crust

Fig Proscuitto Pizza – based on this from Pioneer Woman.

Sweet, salty, gooey with a fresh bite from the arugula. Eat it with a fork.

  • Crust
  • Fig Preserves – Bonne Maman is widely available and super tasty.
  • Proscuitto – crisped in skillet and crumbled.
  • Mozzarella
  • Bake at 400 until cheese is melted, 10 ish minutes.
  • Top with chopped arugula and shaved Parmesan.

Bacon and Egg Pizza – based on this in Food Network Magazine.

Breakfast for dinner is a favorite. Breakfast AND pizza? Yes, please.

  • Crust
  • Salsa
  • Red bell peppers, diced and sautéd until soft
  • Mozzarella
  • Bacon, cooked and chopped
  • Make wells in toppings and crack an egg into each well.
  • Bake at 400 until egg whites are opaque. Check after 20 minutes.

Peppered Ricotta and Roasted Veggie Pizza with Red Wine Reduction

Roast all your leftover vegetables and throw them on top of some creamy ricotta. A drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette would be a tasty substitution for the red wine reduction. 

  • Crust
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese mixed with freshly cracked pepper
  • Roasted veggies (we did 1 yellow onion, 1 red bell pepper, 1 small sweet potato)
  • Bake 400 until heated through, 15 minutes
  • Drizzle with red wine reduction sauce.

Is pizza in your meal rotation? Do you make your own crust? What are your favorite toppings?

When I have time to make homemade pizza crust, I’m going to follow these 9 tricks for making amazing pizza from Erika over at Let Why Lead!

Low-Fat Banana Bundt Cake

Low-Fat Banana Bundt Cake

People get really loyal about their banana bread recipes. I’m no exception. I use my Auntie Lo’s recipe almost exclusively. However, there are times when branching out is a good thing. This Banana Bundt Cake is no exception. (I realize this is technically a cake, but it’s banana and you could bake it in a loaf pan, so it qualifies as a banana bread in my mind.)

When you’re a sweet toothed, carb addict who is trying to make wise food choices, low-fat and cake in the same recipe is a beautiful partnership. My mom had already vetted a couple muffin recipes from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook I talked about in this month’s Twitterature post, so we were intrigued by the banana cake that fit that glorious description.

Many things can go wrong with low-fat baked goods. Some aren’t sweet enough (for me), others have a weird texture due to reduced amounts of butter and/or eggs. Some just have that “too-healthy” stank on them. But this dense, flavorful cake? None of the above.

Banana Bundt Cake Ingredients

Bananas and unsweetened applesauce add moistness to balance the reduced oil content. Brown sugar’s molasses undertones provide strong flavor and just enough sweetness to make this a viable dessert. The whipped egg white to egg yolk ration is perfect, cutting out some cholesterol while still maintaining a tight, rich crumb. I’m a sucker for anything with nutmeg (homey and festive, right?), and I loved how the unexpected spice in this cake made the banana flavor more complex.

Banana Bundt Cake Process

The recipe calls for baking in a Bundt pan (which is how I baked it), but my mom has made it twice in a 9-inch springform with great results. Slices of any shape are perfect for tucking into lunch boxes or nibbling on in the afternoon. I love mine with a plop of peanut butter and a cup of tea in the morning. But, it is a cake, so we’ve served it with a cloud of lightly sweetened whipped cream to rave reviews. I can also envision it with a dusting of powdered sugar and berries or a drizzle of homemade caramel sauce.

whipped cream

Whatever way you serve it, this Low-Fat Banana Bundt Cake is worth having in your banana repertoire. As with most banana baked goods, it tastes even better then next day.

Budget tips:

  • Unless your family eats a lot of unsweetened applesauce, buy a pack of the individual snack sized applesauces. You’ll have enough to make three cakes without worrying about the applesauce spoiling.
  • Buy overly ripe bananas instead of waiting for regular ones to get hinky. Grocery stores sell bags of brown bananas for cheap. You can even freeze mashed banana to use later (which is what you see in the photo of ingredients above).

Do you have a favorite banana baked good recipe?

Low-Fat Banana Bundt Cake

Banana Bundt Cake recipe

A dense and delicious banana cake for anytime of day! Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites: Flavorful Recipes For Healthful Meals

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly coat a 10-inch Bundt pan (or 9-inch springform) with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Mix well and set aside.

Combine the egg yolks, bananas, applesauce, oil, and vanilla. Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients and stir just until evenly blended.

Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold the egg whites into the banana batter with a spatula. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 60 minutes, until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on rack for 10 minutes and then invert onto a plate.

Store in an airtight container.

Serves 16

Per serving: 140 calories, 3.5 grams protein, 5.8 grams fat, 18.6 grams carbs


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Oatmeal Muffins

Oatmeal Muffins

Betty Crocker was a common fixture in our kitchen growing up. Her brownie recipe was perpetually open and had batter splotches instead of a bookmark. The other recipe I could flip to easily in that cookbook {because of the broken-in spine} was oatmeal muffins. Oatmeal Muffins showed up with many meals, but it was guaranteed to be on the table whenever mom made macaroni and cheese.

Everyone needs a tasty, basic muffin recipe in their baking arsenal. This was ours and this should be yours.

If the buttery outer crust and tender insides don’t win you over immediately, you won’t be able to resist the simple ingredients and throw together process of these Oatmeal Muffins.

Oatmeal MuffinI went through a phase in high school where I’d bake a batch of oatmeal muffins in jumbo muffin tins and have a briefly warmed muffin with a tall glass of milk for breakfast every day. Every forkful felt nourishing and rich without weighing me down with sweetness.

You can serve these craggy muffins with any meal and with virtually any condiment {jams, PB, honey, Nutella, cream cheese… you get the point}.

Oatmeal Muffin Upclose

Even though oatmeal muffins are simply perfect by themselves, they are also a great blank canvas for sweet and savory mix-ins. Can’t you just imagine mini chocolate chips and lightly toasted coconut  lending a touch of Mounds bar charm to these muffins? Or, a healthy mound of grated parmesan and cracked black pepper enhancing the earthy oat flavor?

Oatmeal Muffins 2

Despite the copious amounts of time I’ve made this recipe, I’m still shocked that the lumpy, slightly runny batter turns into these glorious muffins. Small chunks of shortening melt into the muffin, transforming humble oats into soft buttery bites.

Just like my mom’s best meal, whenever I make macaroni and cheese, oatmeal muffins are a non-negotiable part of dinner. You’ll also love these with soup in the winter and salads in the summer.

Oatmeal Muffins Split

Oatmeal Muffins  {adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook}

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup mix-ins (optional)
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Stir together oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and mix-ins in a bowl and set aside.

Beat Crisco, brown sugar, and egg together with an electric mixer. Add dry ingredients to shortening mixture, alternating with buttermilk, until just combined.

Fill lightly greased muffin tins with batter, 3/4 full. Bake 20-25 minutes until just golden brown. Remove from muffin tins immediately and cool on wire racks.

Store in airtight container.

Don’t miss the rest of the recipes from My Mom’s Best Meal!

Rosemary Currant Bread

Rosemary CurrantOne of the restaurants I miss the most in SoCal is a little French inspired cafe in San Marino.  Julienne has the best hot chocolate I’ve had in the States and is my favorite place to go out for breakfast.  My mom have been going there for 10 years.  We know the staff and the staff know us.  Herbert always remembers to fill my empty mug with coffee after I finish my hot chocolate.  He also knows we like an order of their rosemary toast to tide us over before our food comes.

I was so disappointed that their rosemary currant bread wasn’t in Julienne’s cookbook. (The Graham Chewy Bars are well worth the price of the cookbook).  I wanted to replicate those perfectly toasted pieces of chewy bread, speckled with sweet currants and rosemary.

When Farmgirl Fare (check out her beer bread recipe – amazing!) had a recipe for Rosemary Raisin Bread, I hoped that with a few tweaks, it would turn out like Julienne’s.

Rosemary Currant Bread I

It did! And, my mom happened to be visiting when I tried it.  She approves. As does my husband, who is also a huge Julienne fan.

Rosemary Currant Bread

I chose dried currants instead of raisins 1. because that’s what Julienne’s bread has, and 2. currants are smaller, less plump, and give an intense burst of flavor.

Call me a lazy baker, but I adapted the original recipe for my bread maker.  If you want to make it the old fashioned way, just use the ingredients listed in my recipe and follow the instructions given by Farmgirl (linked above).

Rosemary Currant Toast

Rosemary Currant Bread

1/2 cup warm milk

4 large eggs, beaten

4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 ¾ cups bread flour (1 lb, 2¾ oz – 533 g)

2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 Tablespoon dried rosemary

1½ teaspoons salt

1 cup dried currants

Add the ingredients, except dried currants, to your bread machine in the order listed: wet first, then dry.

Adjust bread machine setting for a “large light” loaf.  If the dough begins to knock hard against the pan, add a tablespoon more milk.

The large-light setting should give you time, about 20 minutes in, to add additional ingredients.  (Mine beeps when it’s time to add the mix-ins).  Add dried currants.

This is a LARGE loaf.  I was a bit concerned the first time I made it because the dough pressed against the top of the sneak-peek window of my machine while baking.  No need to worry; it bakes up perfectly.

I love this bread warm so I take it out of the pan immediately.  Slice and slather with butter. It’s also delicious toasted with jam or as the vehicle for any sandwich fixings.

Rosemary Currant


Huckleberry Zucchini Bread

Huckleberry Zucchini BreadDuring our first week in Idaho, Tim and I received a welcome card from a church family which included a coupon for “Purple Gold”.  A note on the back clued us in that Purple Gold was a code name for huckleberries.

Huckleberries are small berries with a beautiful, deep purple hue and just so happen to be the state fruit of Idaho.  They grow wild all around our new home. Animals and people alike enjoy them and the little berries are worth a pretty penny when sold at retail value, hence the nickname Purple Gold.

We received our Purple Gold last week.  On the list of ideas for ways to use them that was kindly included with our berries was adding a cup to zucchini bread. I adore zucchini bread, with its moist crumb and mild flavor, so I didn’t waste time putting a batch together.

The huckleberries were the perfect sweet-tart addition to the autumn flavors of cinnamon and brown sugar.  Green flecks from the zucchini and bursts of blue and purple from the berries make each slice a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors.

I adapted a zucchini bread recipe from the consistently delicious cookbook, Just A Matter of Thyme by Roxie Kelley, to make this rendition.

Huckleberry Zucchini Bread
Author: Emily C. Gardner
This bread is moist and makes great toast. It also freezes beautifully. If you don’t have access to huckleberries, substitute 1 cup of chopped, toasted nuts, or blueberries.
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini, unpeeled
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 cup huckleberries, tossed in flour to prevent sinking
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease two 9-inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs well. Add oil, sugar, and zucchini. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a separate bowl.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix well.
  5. Fold in huckleberries.
  6. Pour into prepared loaf pans . Bake for 1 hour. Remove from pans to cool.
Yield: 2 loaves