Quick and Easy Pizza Sauce

You know those recipes for pizza and pasta sauces? The ones with the 15 ingredients and the hours of simmering to get that authentic taste?

This isn’t one of them.

My cooking style is best described as no-nonsense.

We like to make flatbread pizzas, and we prefer a sweeter pizza sauce.

Store bought ones always taste a little flat, and even though they are often on sale, I can do better on my own.

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Pizza Sauce

Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 2 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 6 oz can Tomato Paste
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Dried Oregano
  • Red Pepper Flake
  • Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. In a small microwave safe container that has a lid, combine the contents of the can of tomato paste and a splash of olive oil. 

  2. Add spices to taste. And I mean really taste - add them in, mix it thoroughly and taste it. Add more of what is missing.

  3. If sauce is too thick, mix in a little water.

  4. Microwave with the lid covering the dish but not on tightly (let steam escape, but use the lid to protect the top of the microwave if it explodes). Heat in 20 second intervals stirring after each until sauce reaches desired temperature.

Recipe Notes

This creates a thick, sweet sauce which we like to use on flatbread pizza.

Because it is thick, it is also a good sauce for zoodles (those "noodles" made from spiralized zucchini) since those tend to be watery and will dilute the sauce to a better pasta sauce texture.

Leftovers can be refrigerated, or frozen.

This does not keep long in the refrigerator because it contains no preservatives, but does well in a freezer bag and reheats just fine.

Grilled Asparagus

A simple recipe that brings out the flavor

I do not really remember eating asparagus as a kid, and I only saw it a few times at holiday meals in my early adult life. All the recipes for it seemed ultra-tricky – I don’t own a stand up steamer and hollandaise sauce looks pretty finicky to make and not have separate.

A few years ago, when we tried grilling pretty much everything to see if we could, we tried asparagus and it was a nearly instant success. The only real trick is you need a grill pan of some sort to keep those stalks from rolling into the grates and being eaten by the fire.

Simple grilling brings out great flavor in asparagus | suzerspace.com

We add garlic cloves to the pan for an additional kick of carmelized flavor, but you can skip this step if you are not a fan.

 

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Grilled Asparagus

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 3

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • Splash Balsamic Vinegar
  • Splash Splash Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the grill with a grill pan on the grates. 

  2. Rinse and pat dry the asparagus. Cut off the tough bottom ends (quick tip – leave that bottom rubber band on and cut above it to make trimming easier).

  3. Peel the garlic. If a milder taste is desired, place the cloves in a microwave safe measuring cup with a cup of water and microwave for 1 minute.
  4. Combine asparagus and garlic in a bowl and add a splash of olive oil; mix well (I use my hands) to make sure everything has a light coating of oil to prevent sticking.
  5. When grill pan is hot, add vegetables and toss, being careful to avoid splatter from the oil.
  6. Monitor while grilling, stirring/flipping occasionally. 

  7. Remove from the grill using long-handled tongs and transfer to a serving plate.

  8. Splash with Balsamic Vinegar, and cover with foil to keep the heat in while you plate up your other grilled dinner items.

Recipe Notes

The 30 minutes of prep time includes bringing the grill up to cooking temperature; actual hands on prep time is less than 5 minutes.

For grilling vegetables, we use a cast iron grill pan, but I've had success with those thinner metal ones with the holes in them that you find in the grilling section of hardware and cooking gadget stores.

Stir occasionally while grilling - these are not fussy and do not need to be perfect; like the grilled mushrooms, the goal is get them good and charred but not burned.

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Smashed Beans

An ugly but tasty side dish that’s a step up from canned refried beans

I have several recipes that if I were going to categorize them beyond the meal courses they belong to, I would have to put them in an “ugly but really tasty” group.

Smashed Beans is one of them.

But don’t judge too harshly – if you normally use refried beans from a can, then you really can’t argue that they are much better in appearance.

Personally, I don’t really like the texture of refried beans, nor the way they look kinda of like dog food when you remove them from that can. (Side note – what is that extrication method called? The one where you try and unseat them from the bottom of the can with a knife and vigorous upside down shaking? I’m offering “Unsuck them from the can” but the ballot is open for entries).

Instead, I take a can of regular beans and mash them with spices and a little olive oil and onion to exactly the taste and consistency I want. This also lets me use Black Beans, which I like better in taste than red/pinto. I’ve also made these with beans from scratch, on those rare occasions that I’ve remembered to soak them overnight ahead of time.

 

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Smashed Beans

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 11 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 15 oz cab Black or Pinto Beans Rinsed and Drained
  • ½ teaspoon Paprika
  • ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • ½ teaspoon Onion Powder
  • ¼ teaspoon Cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon Diced Jalapeno
  • 1 Tablespoon Diced Onion
  • 1/4-1/2 Tablespoon of Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. In a microwave safe bowl, add a splash of olive oil to the contents of a can of rinsed and drained beans. Microwave on high for 30-45 seconds, until warmed through and soft (but not really hot).
  2. Add spices and jalapeno and onion. Use a large fork or a potato masher to mash/smash the beans to the desired consistency.
  3. If using as a side dish, heat an additional 30-45 seconds to completely cook through.

Recipe Notes

We enjoy these  as a side dish, a soft taco/burrito/wrap filling. They also make a great layer in 7-layer dip or Taco salad.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

An easy version of a classic restaurant appetizer

Do you subscribe to the New York Times Cooking newsletter? You might consider it (not an affiliate link). It’s free, and I really like how the editor works current affairs into the weekly pattern of recipes.

I especially liked a recent edition where the subject of Spinach Artichoke dip was reviewed – I had no idea that some foodies consider it a controversial subject.

I am not a foodie. I like tasty, easy to make food that’s easy on the budget and fits my health plan.

The recipe from the New York Times site didn’t actually fit those requirements, but I skimmed it for a basic jumping off point and then slimmed it down literally and figuratively.

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Spinach and Artichoke Dip


Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 oz Lowfat Cream Cheese at room temperature
  • 1 Tsp Mayonnaise
  • 1/8 cup Feta Cheese crumbled
  • 4 oz fresh baby spinach rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 stalk Green Onion
  • 2 cloves Garlic peeled
  • 1/2 jar Marinated Artichoke Hearts (Jar was 7.5 oz)

Instructions

  1. Finely chop the garlic, spinach and green onion.

  2. In a small saute pan, heat olive oil and once it begins to shimmer, add garlic, spinach and green onion. Saute until spinach is fully cooked and very wilty.

  3. While the garlic/onion/spinach mixture is cooking, combine the mayo, cream cheese and feta in a large, heat safe bowl.

  4. Roughly chop the marinated artichoke hearts and add to the mayo/cream cheese mixture.

  5. When the garlic/onion/spinach mixture is done, remove from heat add to  the mayo/cream cheese mixture.

  6. Stir thoroughly to combine. 

Recipe Notes

The heat of the cooked vegetables will melt the cream cheese/mayo mixture. At this point, the dip can be enjoyed warm.

Leftovers should be refrigerated.

The dip will solidify, and can either be enjoyed as a chilled spread, or reheated in the microwave if you wish for a hot dip.

Grilled Mushrooms

Kick up the flavor with high heat

We grill year round at SuzerSpace, but like most people I really enjoy the summer months the best.

It’s the vegetables – grilling them is a super easy way to boost the flavor and create a side dish that tastes restaurant quality.

There isn’t much of a recipe here – the main goal is to keep the veggies moving so they get roasted but not burned.

Grilled Mushrooms on the grill

 

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Grilled Mushrooms

Whole button mushrooms are transformed when they are cooked on high heat with just a bit of balsamic vinegar.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 8 oz Button Mushrooms Whole - not sliced
  • splash Olive Oil
  • splash Balsamic Vinegar

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat grill with a cast iron grill pan on grates.

  2. While the grill heats, clean mushrooms under running water to remove dirt. I like the stems, but if you don't, remove them.

  3. In a bowl, toss mushrooms in olive oil and balsamic vinegar - make sure they are evenly coated.

  4. Add mushrooms to grill pan (be careful to avoid oil splatters). Turn as needed to get them heavily charred but not burned.

  5. Remove from grill (I recommend using long handled tongs to keep from losing them into the grill grates) and serve as a side dish with dinner.

Recipe Notes

The prep time is deceptive - I've included the time needed to bring the grill and the pan up to roasting temperature. Actually hands on time is something under 3 minutes to wash and set the mushrooms into the marinade.

Creamy Coleslaw

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, and at SuzerSpace, that means it’s the beginning of creamy coleslaw season as well.

I used to buy this in the deli section of the grocery store, but those pre-made tubs are often loaded with preservatives, and they are usually pretty large (intended to feed a crowd) and we are a two-person household.

It’s not very difficult to make this, and I really like being able to control how much onion is in it, and the creamy-sauce-to-slaw ratio.

I watch the prices of the pre-shredded “slaw mix” at the store, and when the come down for summer, I use them as my base. If the price is too high, then I start by shredding red and green cabbage and carrots in my food processor. This recipe assumes you are starting with a standard 14 oz bag of pre-sliced mix.

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Creamy Coleslaw

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 5

Ingredients

  • 14 oz Bag Pre-shredded Slaw Mix
  • 2 Stalks Green Onion
  • 1/4 - 1/3 Cup Mayonnaise Regular or Light
  • 2 Tbsp Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 - 1/2 Tsp Celery Salt

Instructions

  1. Slice the ends off the green onion, and then slice thinly. I use the entire onion - white and green parts.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the slaw mix and the onion.

  3. Add the cider vinegar and 1/4 cup of Mayo. Sprinkle the Celery Salt on top of the mayo.

  4. Using a large fork, stir to combine. Mix thoroughly, and add additional mayo if a creamier sauce is desired.

  5. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving. 

Recipe Notes

  • I like the mild taste of green onions, but feel free to swap white, yellow or even red. You'll need to adjust the proportions for the heat of the onion.
  • Note: There is no "cooking" in this recipe - the 30 minutes included in the recipe list are for the time it needs to refrigerate before serving.

Quick Fix BBQ Turkey Wrap

Low-Carb, tasty and ready in mere minutes

This is a recipe that I can’t personally vouch for the taste, but based on how often he makes it (and the fact that there are zero leftovers), it’s a hit in Mr. SuzerSpace’s book.

There are plenty of recipes for using your slow-cooker to make barbecue meats for sandwiches. Pulled Pork, turkey breast, the list goes on.

But what if it’s 7:30 at night and you suddenly have a hankering for a BBQ-meat sandwich? And you are keeping to a low-carb diet so getting take out isn’t really an option?

Enter the quick fix BBQ Turkey Wrap.

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Quick Fix BBQ Turkey Wrap


Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 6 minutes
Servings 1

Ingredients

  • 1 Low-Carb Flatbread
  • 1 oz Sliced Turkey
  • 2 Tbsp Bottled BBQ sauce
  • 1/4 cup Black Beans Rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 Tsp Olive Oil
  • Shredded Cheese Optional
  • Arugula Optional

Instructions

  1. In a microwave-safe bowl (or Mr. SuzerSpace's favorite - a coffee cup) combine turkey, sauce and olive oil. Stir to combine.

  2. Cover bowl/cup with a spatter shield and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir, and then heat again for 20 seconds more.  The turkey is pre-cooked so you just want to heat it and the sauce to eating temperature.

  3. Sprinkle black beans on flatbread, top with cheese (if desired) and Turkey/sauce mixture. Top with arugula if desired

Teeny Tiny Tip: Better Buns

A quick trick that doesn’t require a 500-word essay

Low-carb life has it’s challenges.

Take hamburger buns. They aren’t very good for you – white flour is pretty much persona non grata in a Type-2 Diabetes household.

The special low-carb versions? Not very much taste, super expensive and when you read the label, not really impressively better for you.

We swapped to Whole Wheat English Muffins. Technically, because we like the Trader Joe’s brand (not a paid endorsement – just our favorite), they are called “British Muffins”.

The nutrition* is better where it counts.

Whole Wheat muffins have better nutrition than standard hamburger buns.
Nutrition info from Myfitnesspal.com

And they are more flexible – if you have a surplus of hamburger buns in the house, your choices are pretty much hamburgers. If you have a surplus of British Muffins, you can always use them for as a base for quick pizzas, sandwiches or, I suppose, breakfast.

 

*I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist. You should never take advice from a paper crafter without consulting an actual professional.

Super quick guacamole

Three ingredients, no chopping!

Guacamole is magic.

Simple ingredients, quick prep, and super versatile. Depending on where you put it, it’s a dip, a spread or main ingredient.

That doesn’t mean the recipe can’t be abused – I saw a celebrity chef on PBS once take 18 minutes to create “classic guacamole” and it involved five different roasted vegetables and sweet peas.

More importantly, though, the recipe can be super simplified.

I have a basic recipe (which requires six ingredients and takes 5 minutes) and this one, which requires three items and takes less than 60 seconds.

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Super Quick Guacamole

Also called "Cheater's Guac" at SuzerSpace

Prep Time 1 minute
Total Time 1 minute
Servings 2 people

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium to Large Avocado Ripe
  • 3 teaspoons Chunky Style Tomato Salsa
  • 1 splash Lime Juice

Instructions

  1. Remove the pit from the avocado, and scoop flesh from the peel. 

  2. In a bowl, add the salsa to the avocado. Use a fork to smash.

  3. When close to the desired consistency, add the splash of lime juice and stir to combine

Recipe Notes

Top guacamole tip: Only make what you can consume in one sitting. Sure, there are a million tricks for keeping it from turning brown, but it is really best served fresh.

The best (and safest) way to pit an avocado

I’m sorry I didn’t post this last week in time for Cinco de Mayo, but it was while I was looking up recipes for dinner that night that I realized, again, that sometimes the Internet lies.

Post after post, video after video, all explaining and showing what has come to be believed as the best way to pit an avocado.

I’ll link to this one for you, but you probably don’t have to see it. Using a very big knife, you are supposed to cut all around the avocado pit, creating a nearly cut in half item that needs to be twisted apart. Once the parts are separated, you are to smack the pit with the big knife to remove it.

I have several issues with this technique, but I’ll limit myself to two here:

  1. What is up with all the huge knives in the avocado videos? When ripe, you don’t need German or Japanese forged steel to force them open.
  2. I don’t know about you, but usually when I’m making guacamole, alcohol is involved. Smashing down toward my hand with a sharp knife doesn’t feel like a recipe for success (pun intended, sorry).
In my opinion, here is really the best way to pit an avocado.

Using a butter knife, cut into the avocado the normal way, cutting down until you hit the pit, and the running the knife all the way around until you come back to where you started.

Instead of twisting the pieces apart at this point, rotate the avocado and cut around the pit again, creating four quarters that are now held together by the bit.

Cutting an avocado into quarters is a safer way to remove the pit

With your hand, remove the quarter sections of the avocado, one by one.

cutting an avocado into quarters is a better way to remove the pit

The pit will stick to the last section, but enough of it will stick out that it will be easy to grip with your fingers and remove it.

Slice up the remaining quarters to use as needed, or smash them to make guacamole.