Thursday, March 10, 2016

Low-Carb Pepperoni Pizza Chicken Bake

When you need some low-carb (and gluten-free) comfort food, try this Pepperoni Pizza Chicken Bake!

This new recipe for Low-Carb Pepperoni Pizza Chicken Bake is my gift to everyone who's been carefully watching what they eat during January and is now craving something that qualifies as comfort food.  And although nothing might be quite as comforting as real pepperoni pizza, this dish is completely delicious and definitely scratches that pizza itch with something that's also low in carbs.  (And if January is getting a little long, you can find more low-carb comfort food here.)

I made this a couple of times with my nephew Jake to get it just right.  The first time we didn't reduce the pizza sauce and the dish was too watery.  We also tried it first with turkey pepperoni, which was fine if that's what you prefer, but this recipe doesn't take a lot of pepperoni and the full-fat pepperoni definitely crisped up a lot better.  (It also adds more fat to the dish, but most of that fat is left in the bottom of the dish; if that's an issue for you I'd go with the turkey pepperoni.)

We did use part-skim Mozzarella, which was perfect. If you have family members who love pizza and others who need to limit carbs (whatever the reason), I promise this is going to be a hit!

You can make your own pizza sauce and omit the sugar if you want even less carbs, but I checked labels at the store carefully and found this sauce that only had 18 carbs for the whole jar, so I used that.  Don't skip the step of simmering the sauce on low until it's reduced to one cup.

Trim chicken well, cut each breast in half, and then pound until they're as thin as you can get with out the chicken shredding apart. (I use a meat mallet, but anything heavy will work.) Season chicken with oregano-garlic powder mix, and then quickly brown the chicken on both sides.  (It won't be cooked through.)

Layer the chicken pieces in a glass casserole dish that's barely big enough to fit the chicken.  Spread each piece with a generous amount of the reduced sauce.  Put a thin slice of Mozzarella and few slices of pepperoni on each chicken breast.  Bake at 400F/200C for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starting to slightly brown.

Serve hot. I promise this will be popular with all the pizza fans!

Low-Carb Pepperoni Pizza Chicken Bake
(Makes 6-8 servings, depending on what else you serve with it.  Recipe developed by Kalyn and Jake, with a few tries that weren't quite right but got eaten anyway!)

1 jar (14 oz) pizza sauce, reduced to 1 cup

4 large boneless-skinless chicken breasts (6-8 oz. each)
1 T olive oil
1 tsp. Greek oregano (sometimes just called oregano)
1 tsp. garlic powder
6 oz. piece of part-skim Mozzarella, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
2 oz. sliced pepperoni (regular or turkey pepperoni)

Preheat oven to 400F/200C.  Put the pizza sauce in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat until it's reduced to one cup, about 20 minutes.  Don't skip this step or the dish will be watery.

While the sauce reduces, trim the chicken breasts and cut each one crosswise to make two same-size pieces.  Put chicken pieces one at a time inside a heavy plastic bag and use a meat mallet (or something heavy) to pound the chicken until it's as thin as you can get it without it shredding apart.  (Don't worry if some pieces break apart a little.)  Mix the Greek oregano and garlic powder in a little bowl and then sprinkle both sides of each piece of chicken with the mixture.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in the largest non-stick frying pan you have (you may have to do this in 2 batches if your pan isn't big enough.) Add the chicken pieces and cook 1-2 minutes on each side, just long enough to brown the chicken but not long enough to cook it through.

Choose the smallest glass casserole dish you have that will fit all the browned chicken pieces, and lay the chicken in the dish in a single layer.  Cut the Mozzarella into slices and cut the slices as needed to make enough pieces to mostly cover the top of each piece of chicken.

By now the sauce should be nicely reduced, so spread sauce over the top of each chicken breast.  (Use it all.)  Top each piece with sliced Mozzarella and pepperoni slices, covering the top of each piece of chicken as much as you can.

Bake uncovered about 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown and the pepperoni is slightly crisped.  (Some pieces of pepperoni will slice off the chicken, try not to obsess about that like I did.)  Serve hot.

I'm having leftovers of this tonight for dinner so I'll report back on how it reheats after it's been in the fridge a few days, but you probably won't have any left!  (Edit 1-14-15  This was great reheated in the microwave for a few minutes.).

South Beach Diet / Low-Carb Diet Suggestions:
If you're careful to choose low-carb pizza sauce (or make your own) this is definitely a low-carb recipe.  If you use the full-fat pepperoni, this is probably a little high in fat to suit the South Beach Diet guidelines, but I might still eat it as a treat for Phase One.  (And we definitely liked it best with full-fat pepperoni, and quite a bit of the fat is left in the dish.)  Use turkey pepperoni if you prefer.  I did use part-skim (reduced-fat) Mozzarella, which was great in this recipe.


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