PPPP’S – Protein Pizza Pepper Poppers!

 

A selection of Pizza Poppers with ragu and salsa sauces, various cheeses and toppings

 

I first came across these ‘snacks’, an appetiser idea (for party food) many years ago, but quickly realised they were perfect as a bite-sized main meal option for post-ops and so used them extensively after my own surgery. They, depending upon size of bell pepper used, are good for post-ops from about 4 months onwards. I started with small baby peppers, moving on to a little larger as my appetite and tolerance developed, and finally maturing to a regular sized one as a ‘bariatric veteran’. They certainly satisfied my yearning for a pizza fix!

 

Early options used reduced-fat cream or ricotta cheese as the main filling and later ones had pizza style meat sauce, salsa or a bolognese mix. Vegetarians can stick to their meat-free tomato ragu mixture too. The beauty is that these pepper pizzas can be personalised and customised according to your likes and dislikes, what you have available, and your stage after (or even before) surgery.

 

Pizza ‘Poppers’ with a Cheese Sauce and Ham Topping

 

THE BASICS

For a family style recipe to feed 4 people I would suggest 4 medium bell peppers with 1 cup sauce (mixed with 1-2 scoops unflavoured protein if liked), 1 cup cheese, 1 tbsp herbs and toppings to suit. Our main pic image shows from left to right,  green peppers/capsicums with a meat type sauce, topped with cheese slices, red and yellow cherry tomatoes and basil; the slightly smaller red peppers have a meat ragu filling and are topped with sliced mozzarella cheese, sliced red onion, chopped ham and dried herbs; the yellow peppers are simply filled with a tomato salsa and topped with grated cheese and sprinkled with fresh thyme; and finally, the thin pepper slices or ‘poppers’ ideal for those just starting out, are topped with a little sun dried tomato sauce, sliced chorizo, shaved Parmesan, sliced black olives and fresh basil leaves.

 

Pepper size chosen can reflect your appetite, your desire for a ‘thin and crispy’ type pizza slice or ‘slider’ (maybe at the start of your food eating journey), a deeper dish or more filling offering (further down the line) or something in-between. Cooking times will vary from about 12-20 minutes in a hot oven according to type chosen. Experiment to find your personal favourite.

 

PERSONALISING AND CUSTOMISING

  • You can choose any colour bell pepper or size of pepper you like, or cut it into small slices or ‘sliders’ (about 4 from the sides of a regular pepper)
  • You can choose to add protein powder or not to boost your intake if liked or omit (or add to some and not others)
  • These pizzas hold up well and stay relatively crispy so there is no sogginess and can be eaten with a knife and fork or your hands
  • They are low-carb – no doughy base is used so also ideal for those following a keto regime or tackling regain 
  • They use real and fresh ingredients and will fit in with what you have to hand and use up leftovers too
  • They are just as good cold as hot so make ideal lunchbox additions (or dare I say great next day for breakfast!)

 

SAUCES TO CONSIDER

Any number of sauces can be used on top of the pepper base – why not try:

  • a marinara sauce
  • a tomato salsa
  • a favourite pizza (even from a jar) sauce
  • a buffalo sauce
  • a basic ragu (see mine here)
  • a pesto sauce
  • a cream cheese or ricotta mixture (see below)

 

CHEESE TO CONSIDER

Most of the time I use just what I have to hand but these are good options:

  • low-fat cheese slices
  • sliced or grated low-fat mozzarella
  • grated or shaved Parmesan
  • sliced or grated asiago

 

TOPPINGS TO CONSIDER

Go free-rein here – the options are virtually limitless but here are some I have used with success:

  • sliced or cubed pepperoni
  • shredded chicken or turkey meat
  • chopped or sliced ham
  • crumbled cooked bacon
  • leftover taco meat
  • flaked tuna and salmon
  • cooked chopped spinach
  • whole or sliced green or black/ripe olives
  • chopped pineapple
  • sliced red or brown onions 
  • sliced mushrooms
  • halved cherry or sliced large tomatoes
  • griddled courgette/zucchini and aubergine/eggplant or other roasted vegetables
  • small eggs (very small hens or quail eggs) – crack into larger shells rather than onto ‘slider slices’ though
  • prawns and other seafood

 

TOPPINGS FOR EXTRA FLAVOUR

These can add a final flourish – I like to use:

  • herbs – dried and fresh – sprigs or chopped
  • capers
  • anchovies

 

‘Thin and Crispy’ First Stage Bariatric Pizza Poppers or Sliders

 

MEATY PROTEIN PIZZA PEPPER POPPERS

Ingredients

METRIC/US

4 regular-sized multi-coloured bell peppers/capsicums (or sizes according to your choice – see the intro)

1 cup meat ragu or bolognese sauce (about 175 g/6 oz)

1 scoop unflavoured protein powder (optional – about 25 g/1 oz)

100 g/1 cup reduced-fat grated hard cheese

toppings as chosen (see above for ideas)

 

Method

  1.  Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F/gas 6 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or greased foil.
  2.  Mix the ragu or bolognese style sauce with the protein powder if used.
  3.  Halve the peppers and remove the seeds or slice the sides from the peppers to make shallow ‘slider’ type pizza bases.
  4.  Arrange the peppers on the baking sheet and top with the meat sauce. Sprinkle over the cheese and add any chosen toppings.
  5.  Bake in the oven from 12-20 minutes (12 minutes for a ‘slider’, 15-20 minutes for a larger pepper,or a little longer depending upon topping chosen). They will be cooked when the cheese starts to bubble and brown and the pepper is tender/crisp.
  6.  Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly then garnish with any fresh herbs as liked. Serve hot, warm or cold.

SERVES 4

WLS PORTION: ½

 

CALORIES PER PORTION (using protein powder but not chosen toppings): 185

PROTEIN: 17.5 g

CARBOHYDRATE: 11.9 g (10.2 g sugars)

FAT: 7.7 g

 

CHEESY PROTEIN PIZZA PEPPER POPPERS

Ingredients

METRIC/US

4 regular-sized multi-coloured bell peppers/capsicums (or sizes according to your choice – see the intro)

225 g/8 oz low-fat cream cheese or ricotta

50 g/½ cup shredded reduced-fat Mozzarella

1 scoop unflavoured protein powder (optional – about 25 g/1 oz)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

toppings as chosen (see above for ideas)

 

Method

  1.  Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F/gas 6 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or greased foil.
  2.  Mix the cream cheese or ricotta with the protein powder if used and season to taste.
  3.  Halve the peppers and remove the seeds or slice the sides from the peppers to make shallow ‘slider’ type pizza bases.
  4.  Arrange the peppers on the baking sheet and top with the cheese sauce. Add any chosen toppings.
  5.  Bake in the oven from 12-20 minutes (12 minutes for a ‘slider’, 15-20 minutes for a larger pepper,or a little longer depending upon topping chosen). They will be cooked when the cheese starts to bubble and brown and the pepper is tender/crisp.
  6.  Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly then garnish with any fresh herbs as liked. Serve hot, warm or cold.

SERVES 4

WLS PORTION: ½

 

CALORIES PER PORTION (using low-fat cream cheese and protein powder but not chosen toppings): 145

PROTEIN: 16.3 g

CARBOHYDRATE: 11.8 g (11.2 g sugars)

FAT: 3.5 g

 

Images © copyright of Bariatric Cookery (UK) Ltd except Cheesy Toppers which is courtesy of http://www.southernliving.com 

 

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