Meatless Monday – Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Pinto Beans, Corn and Zucchini

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Sometimes you just want to go South of the Border…  I’m talking about Mexican food – nachos, tacos and burritos – delicious but often calorie and carb laden.  To satisfy my craving but keep it healthy, I made these yummy, spicy Poblano peppers stuffed with summer favorites, corn and zucchini, along with creamy pinto beans and shredded cheddar, all grilled or roasted to cheesy deliciousness. Yum!  This is a great summertime Meatless Monday recipe.  It takes advantage of seasonable vegetables that are plentiful and cheap, and only takes about a half hour to assemble and cook.  On hot summer days you can grill them outside to avoid heating up your kitchen, or if you are not grill savvy, they can be roasted right in the oven.  Best of all, the peppers can be assembled ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for a day or so before cooking.  Easy!  Fast!  Done!

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I love the moderate spiciness of Poblano peppers which have more oomph than a bell pepper but are not quite as hot as a jalapeno.  They are also large enough, when stuffed, for one or two to serve as a main course.  That said, not everyone in my family likes spicy food so I stuffed several sweet bell peppers to satisfy those less daring diners. Bell peppers are also larger so good for a heartier appetite – colorful too!

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However, if you can tolerate spicy foods, the experts claim that spicy foods have many Health Benefits. Studies show that the main compound in chilies, called capsaicin, may cause the body to burn extra calories for 20 minutes after eating.  Chili peppers can also reduce the damaging effects of LDL (bad cholesterol) and capsaicin may fight inflammation, which has been flagged as a risk factor for heart issues. Vitamins A and C strengthen the heart muscle walls, and the heat of the pepper increases blood flow throughout your body. All of this equals a stronger cardiovascular system. (SELF)  So eat up and pour on the hot sauce.  You’re doing your body good!

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Enjoy them plain or fully dressed with a squeeze of lime.

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TIPS:  When removing the lid (stem end ), make sure you keep the lid with the matching pepper, otherwise it will be like solving a complicated puzzle to get them to fit later and you don’t want all the stuffing to fall out while they cook.  I also recommend cutting veggies into a fine dice to ensure that they are properly cooked.  Since these peppers don’t need to cook for very long, larger cut veggies may not have time to soften.  The flavors will also blend better if everything is cut a similar size.  Think chopped salad.

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Recipe Adapted From: Cooking Light, August 2015

POBLANO PEPPERS STUFFED WITH PINTO BEANS, CORN AND ZUCCHINI

(15-ounce) can unsalted pinto beans, rinsed and drained
8-10 medium poblano peppers (or Anaheims) or 6 bell peppers
2 ears fresh corn on the cob or 1 cup frozen corn kernels
1/2 red bell pepper
1 small zucchini
1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

TOPPINGS (Optional)
lime wedges
chopped fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley or basil)
crumbled queso

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  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees or grill to high heat. Cut  bell pepper and zucchini into a small dice and place in a medium bowl.

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  • With a sharp knife, cut kernels of corn from the cob and add to the other veggies.

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  • Add pinto beans, cheese, salt and pepper to the bowl and stir to combine. (for a less cheesy, lower calorie meal use 1 cup of cheese, or double the quantity for cheese lovers)

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  • Remove tops from poblanos and reserve tops. Scoop out seeds; discard.

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  • Place about 1/2 cup bean mixture in each pepper.

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  • Replace pepper tops and secure each with wooden skewers.  I broke 10 inch skewers in half and used 3 per pepper.

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  • Brush peppers evenly with oil. Place peppers on grill or oven rack; grill or broil 12 – 15 minutes or until lightly charred, turning once after 6 minutes. (Larger peppers may need to be cooked longer to properly heat the insides.)

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  • Place stuffed peppers on a platter; remove skewers. Serve stuffed peppers with lime wedges, crumbled queso and fresh herbs.

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Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Pinto Beans, Corn and Zucchini

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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(15-ounce) can unsalted pinto beans, rinsed and drained
8-10 medium poblano peppers (or Anaheims) or 6 bell peppers
2 ears fresh corn on the cob or 1 cup frozen corn kernels
1/2 red bell pepper
1 small zucchini
1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

TOPPINGS (Optional)
lime wedges
chopped fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley or basil)
crumbled queso

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees or grill to high heat.
  • Cut  bell pepper and zucchini into a small dice and place in a medium bowl.
  • With a sharp knife, cut kernels of corn from the cob and add to the other veggies.
  • Add pinto beans, cheese, salt and pepper to the bowl and stir to combine.
  • Remove tops from poblanos and reserve tops. Scoop out seeds; discard.
  • Place about 1/2 cup bean mixture in each pepper. Replace pepper tops and secure each with a 4-inch skewer.
  • Brush peppers evenly with oil. Place peppers on grill or oven rack; grill or broil 12 – 15 minutes or until lightly charred, turning once after 6 minutes. (Larger peppers may need to be cooked longer to properly heat the insides.)
  • Place stuffed peppers on a platter; remove skewers. Serve stuffed peppers with lime wedges, crumbled queso and fresh herbs.

Meatless Monday – Eggs Baked in Avocado Cups

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Ever feel like you’re running a Bed & Breakfast?  That was me this past weekend, which was a whirlwind of my adult kids and various friends visiting from Maine.  It was so much fun but that many people around means that the kitchen is always hoppin’.  Saturday night I came home to  this gorgeous bowl of eggs sitting by my front door. I have an arrangement with my next door neighbor, Sandy.  I give her all of my kitchen scraps for her chickens who magically turn them into eggs.  What a deal!  Happy chickens and happy neighbors! These colorful eggs also bring back memories.  My Mom raised chickens when I was a kid, so I grew up on multi-colored beautiful eggs like these from chickens who get to run around outside in the sunshine.  So now, even though I don’t have my own chickens, I do have a ‘chicken bucket’ for my scraps.  I’m sure this photo will make my Mom smile…

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Sunday morning rolled around and I decided to make Eggs Baked in Avocado ‘Cups’.  Fresh eggs from happy chickens + perfectly ripe avocado =heavenly.  As is my usual way, I looked around the kitchen to see how I could snazz them up and spied a yellow bell pepper and a zucchini, which I quickly chopped into small pieces to make what I always call vegetable ‘confetti’.  Throw on some fresh parmesan, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and a handful of freshly chopped parsley, yum!  I served this as a breakfast buffet for my guests who got up at various times but it would also make a great dinner served with a fresh green salad.  The beauty is that it doesn’t have to be served piping hot.  It is just as good warm or at room temperature.  You can also vary toppings based on personal tastes or what you have on hand.

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TIPS:  The larger the avocado, the better.  Or perhaps the reverse is true as well, the smaller the egg, the better.  Most eggs won’t fit inside a regular Hass avocado, so I scooped out a bit of the avocado to make a larger opening for the egg.  Then I used the avocado I scooped out to make Avocado Mango Smoothies for all of us to sip on while we waited for the eggs to bake.  I like these so much that I now stock frozen mango chunks.  You can substitute the yogurt for a banana for a non-dairy, vegan smoothie.    Recipe HERE for Avocado Mango Smoothie

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EGGS BAKED IN AVOCADO ‘CUPS’

4 fresh pasture raised eggs (if available)
2 ripe but firm avocados
1/2 yellow, red or green bell pepper (optional)
1/2 zucchini (optional
1/4 cup shaved or grated parmesan (optional)
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

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  • Halve each avocado and remove the pit. Scoop out some of the flesh to enlarge the hole to make room for the egg.

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  • Place avocados in a small baking dish cut side up. If they are wobbly, place them snuggly in a smaller pan to prop each other up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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  • Crack one egg at a time into the holes of each avocado.

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  • If you are using vegetable ‘confetti, finely dice pepper and zucchini (or any other veggie you prefer) and saute for a few minutes in butter or oil until slightly softened.

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  • Sprinkle confetti over eggs. Season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and top with parmesan, if using.

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  • Bake at 400°F for 15 to 25 minutes, or until your egg whites are set and the yolks are to your liking. (If you don’t like a runny yolk, you can slightly beat the egg before adding them to the avocado.)

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  • To serve, top with freshly chopped parsley and a side of Sriracha.

Eggs Baked in Avocado Cups

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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4 fresh pasture raised eggs (if available)
2 ripe but firm avocados
1/2 yellow, red or green bell pepper (optional)
1/2 zucchini (optional
1/4 cup shaved or grated parmesan (optional)
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

 

  • Halve each avocado and remove the pit. Scoop out some of the flesh to enlarge the hole to make room for the egg.
  • Place avocados in a small baking dish cut side up. They will stand up better if you place them snuggly in the pan to prop each other up.
  • Crack one egg at a time into the holes of each avocado.
  • If you are using vegetable ‘confetti, finely dice pepper and zucchini (or any other veggie you prefer) and saute for a few minutes in butter or oil until slightly softened.
  • Sprinkle confetti over eggs.
  • Season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and top with parmesan, if using.
  • Bake at 400°F for 15 to 25 minutes, or until your egg whites are set and the yolks are to your liking. (If you don’t like a runny yolk, you can slightly beat the egg before adding them to the avocado.)
  • To serve, top with freshly chopped parsley and a side of Sriracha.

Meatless Monday – Summer VegetableTart

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Are you a flexitarian?  I have heard the terms omnivore, herbivore, vegetarian, vegan and pescetarian.  What on earth is a flexitarian?  Well apparently it wasn’t even a word until 2012, when it was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Flexitarian = flexible + vegetarian:  a person whose diet is mostly vegetarian but sometimes includes meat, fish, or poultry.  My mom recently sent me an article from Mother Earth News,  Becoming a Flexitarian. which outlines the basic flexitarian approach – eat less meat and eating grass-fed when you do.  There are a lot of great reasons to eliminate or reduce meat in our diets, including health, the environment and humankindness.  Perhaps a Flexitarian approach is more doable for people than going vegetarian or vegan and can actually help promote local farming as a profitable business by only buying grass fed, humanely raised meat from responsible growers and not from the big factory farms.  I personally apply the same principles to purchasing eggs, milk and other animal products.

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The good news is that people who don’t eat meat, i.e. vegetarians and vegans, are becoming more main stream and there has been a shift in the public perception to consider where your meat has come from for  health, safety and animal rights reasons. Vegetarianism has come a long way from the hippie culture of the 70’s as evidenced by widespread programs like the Meatless Monday Campaign which has gone global.   It’s been over a year since I’ve eaten meat (although I do eat fish and the occasional chicken that has been locally farm raised) and I don’t miss it.  It was an easy adjustment for me since I never ate huge quantities of meat anyway, except maybe for bacon.  Anyway, I feel good about my choices and now I have another moniker, Flexitarian.  Thanks Mom!

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So how do you eat less meat and still have delicious, satisfying meals?  It’s pretty easy but takes a bit more thought than just throwing something on the grill, although you can do that too.  How about my Meatless Monday selection of the week, a Summer Vegetable Tart? I was inspired by an exquisite Zucchini and Aubergine Tart by Mimi Thorisson which is a complete work of art (photo above). You can click on her name to get the recipe if you are so inclined.  It’s almost too pretty to eat!  Not being a recipe follower, I didn’t actually make her recipe but just used the overall concept of making a tart in flower form. My tart is a bit more casual than Mimi’s and next time I will pack in even more veggies to make it more vertical (which my followers know I love vertical food).  My tart can be made with or without a crust and is easy to make vegan by leaving out the fresh mozzarella.  I absolutely loved this dish.  My guests loved it too, although I was surprised to see three 22 year olds going back for seconds on the vegetables rather than the meat.   I consider that quite an accomplishment.  The only problem is that there were no leftovers…

Summer Vegetable Tart

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 small eggplant
1-2 zucchini
1-2 yellow squash
3 tomatoes
3-4 Boccocinni fresh Mozzarella balls (optional)
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbsn fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsn olive oil
Salt and pepper

Crust (Optional):  There are some pretty decent store bought crusts or click Here for a very simple Whole Wheat Crust recipe from Whole Foods

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  • Thinly slice eggplant using a sharp knife or mandolin.  Spread the slices on a flat surface and sprinkle them with salt and let sweat for at least 10 minutes.

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  • Thinly slice zucchini, squash, tomato and mozzarella.
  • Pat eggplant dry and place in a large bowl.  Add zucchini and squash, garlic and oil.  Gently mix to evenly coat all veggies.

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  • If you are using a crust, spread it evenly in the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased pie or quiche pan.  If you’re not using a crust, spread a little oil in the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking.

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  • Arrange the veggie slices in a circular pattern starting at the outside making sure the veggies go up the sides of the crust.  I did a couple of rows of eggplant and squash before adding tomatoes and mozzarella since they are so soft.  For an even less fussy dish, just layer the vegetables and don’t worry about the pattern.  It will still be delicious.

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  • Keep arranging  toward the center, pushing the slices towards the outside and into a more vertical position as you go.  The more vertical you go, the more veggies you can use.
  • Save a few of your best thin slices of eggplant or zucchini and roll or fold this into flower like shapes to decorate the center.

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  • If you have any leftover slices, just slip them in anywhere.  Slide any remaining garlic and basil between the slices.
  • Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are done and the rust is golden brown.
  • Remove from heat and let cool a bit before serving. Also good at room temperature.

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Meatless Monday – Zucchini & Apple Spirals with Basil & Mint Salad

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I have always wondered how to make a ‘noodle’ several feet long, like the one in Lady and the Tramp.  Well now I know the secret.  My mother in law gifted us a vegetable spiraling machine for our anniversary (Well there is no special gift or gem for 28 years of marriage, go figure! So why not a vegetable spiraler…)   I couldn’t wait to try it out – and the result is awesome.  I experimented first with zucchini and got spirals over 6 feet long.  How cool is that?  Then I spiraled some apples and fell the rest of the way in love. It is easier than a mandolin, no peeling or coring and my fingertips and knuckles remained intact.  I decided to cut the zucchini spirals into shorter pieces to make it easier to serve, but it could be fun to make each 6-8 foot strand into it’s own serving.  Your surprised diners could have their own Lady and the Tramp moments…
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Photo Credit:  http://www.kitchenmemories.com
 
For this salad, I decided to add some spiraled apples to the zucchini to add a bit of sweetness and color.  I chose Fuji since they don’t turn brown as quickly as other varieties and I love their red skins.  I also really like the combination of fresh basil and mint in summer salads, especially with a honey, citrus vinaigrette.  To make this filling enough for a main course, I added avocado and pepitos which provide nutrients and good fats that help us feel satiated.  I also sliced up some sugar snap peas to add crunch.  This salad would be good topped with blue cheese, goat cheese or feta, if desired, for an additional protein boost.  
 
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Zucchini & Apple Spiral Salad with Basil and Mint

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 3 medium zucchini
salt
1 Fuji apple (or other firm apple)
1/4 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) or pine nuts, pistachios or hazelnuts
1/2 cup sugar snap peas
1 firm avocado
Salt
10 basil leaves
10 mint leaves
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup avocado oil (or other light oil)
1 scant teaspoon honey (or more if you like it sweet)
Freshly ground black pepper
 
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  •  Cut the ends off the  zucchini and spiral or shred into thin strips using a mandolin or grater.  The spiraler is definitely the easiest!   Cut spirals into desired lengths if needed (about the length of a strand of spaghetti).  Put the spirals in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and let sit for 10 or 20 minutes.  Taste.  If too salty, rinse, drain and pat dry.  No need to rinse if the taste is fine, just don’t add more salt later without tasting first.

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  • Dry toast pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) on medium heat in a small skillet for a few minutes, until golden.  Add to zucchini when cool.

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  • Cut basil and mint into ribbons.  An easy trick is to stack the leaves and slice thinly cross wise. Add to zucchini. (Leave a few for garnish)

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  • Remove strings from sugar snap peas and cut lengthwise into julienne strips and add to the zucchini.

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  • Whisk oil, lemon juice, honey and apple cider vinegar together and set aside.
  • Spiral apple (core first if using a mandolin) and add to the zucchini.  Gently toss with a bit of dressing to keep from turning brown.
  • Core and chop avocado and add to the zucchini mixture.  Add a bit more dressing and gently combine.
  • Taste for seasoning and add salt if desired.

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Wheatless Wednesday – Zucchini Crust Pizza with Grilled Eggplant & Roasted Red Pepper

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Are you ready for another wheat free pizza?  My sister, Sandy, knowing my quest for the world’s best (and healthy) pizza, sent me a recipe for pizza with zucchini crust she found from Seattle Local Food. I searched a few other recipes as well and  checked with my friend, Elizabeth, who has been making zucchini crust pizzas for her kids for years.  I came up with my own version ,which includes almond meal and herbs, but this was the inspiration.    I know we are just beginning to plant our zucchini seedlings now, but this could be the answer later this summer to the seemingly endless quantities of squash coming from the garden. It’s also a natural follow up to my Cauliflower Crust Pizza recipe.   So I decided to bite the bullet for all of us ahead of time (you’re welcome) and give it a try.  The results?  A resounding DELICIOUS!  The taste and texture of this pizza is fantastic, way better than I expected. It got a big thumbs up in my house!

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I topped my pizza with grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil on a light bed of tomato sauce and shredded cheeses. If you want to make your own Marinara Sauce, I have provided the recipe below.  Other topping suggestions include, pesto, white sauce or olive oil and garlic instead of tomato sauce, sauteed mushrooms, carmelized onions, tomatoes, pepperoncini, olives, marinated artichoke hearts,goat cheese the list goes on…   All raw vegetables need to be pre-cooked though so they don’t release more moisture into the pizza crust and make it soggy.  I don’t think you will have any leftover pizza, but it can be reheated in a heavy pan on low.

Pizza with Zucchini Crust

  • Servings: 1 pizza that serves 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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2 eggs
About 3 8′”zucchinis
1.5 cups grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup almond meal
salt
Fresh or dry oregano
Fresh basil leaves
1 Japanese  or small globe eggplant
1 roasted red pepper, sliced
1 ball fresh mozzarella
  •  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

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  •  Grate the zucchini.(food processor is easiest but any method works fine)  Put shreds into a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for about 10 minutes.   Don’t worry about too much salt as most of the salt goes out with the liquid (Do not skip this step!)

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  • Slice the eggplant vertically into thin slices.  Sprinkle with salt, again to bring out the liquid and let sit 10 minutes.
  • Toss eggplant with olive oil and grill on both sides.  Set aside

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  • Put a clean kitchen cloth over a clean bowl and pour zucchini shreds into the cloth.  Squeeze cloth to get rid of as much excess liquid as possible.

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  • In a mixing bowl, add zucchini, parmesan, almond meal, eggs and fresh or dry spices (except fresh basil).  Mix together until evenly combined.

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  • Place a piece of parchment paper over a pizza stone or a baking sheet.  Pour the zucchini mixture onto the middle and spread into a circle about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick.  Use your hands and fingers to even out the edges.

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  • Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown..

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  • Top with sauce, eggplant, shredded cheese, fresh mozareella, peppers and fresh oregano.  Bake 5 to 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  • Sprinkle with fresh basil.  Slice with a pizza wheel.  Serve immediately.

Marinara Sauce

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsn fresh basil, finely chopped
1 Tbsn fresh or 1 tsp dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsn olive oil
½ tsp salt
1 tsp balsamic vinegar <
  • Heat olive oil in a saucepan and saute garlic for a few minutes.  Add basil and crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.
  • Bring to a boil and add salt.  Simmer about 45 minutes.
  • Before serving add balsamic vinegar and stir to combine
 

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