|If you're carving pizza, this|
Easy Low-Carb Pizza-Chicken Recipe
will really hit the spot!
Restricting carbs often requires you to give up many of your favorite foods, such as pizza. But, this easy Low-Carb Pizza-Chicken recipe makes it simple to enjoy the pizza toppings you love so much without having to overload on carbs.
Low-carb diets ask you to sacrifice a lot.
You have to ditch the carbs, change your eating style, adopt new food habits and social behaviors, but in the process of improving your health, you also have to let go of some of the most potent, savory flavor experiences on the planet.
Manufacturers already know this.
That's why you actually crave carby foods. It's not the carbohydrates in processed foods that bring on a longing for more. It's the finely tuned combination of:
- and salt
It's the sugar, fat, and salt in the pizza sauce, the pepperoni, olives, sausage, and other salty, sugary, high-fat toppings that taste so good.
This pleasurable experience is what the brain actually craves. The human brain is hard-wired to chase after pleasure and avoid anything that might be uncomfortable or unsavory, as in this case.
Some low carbers have figured this out. The thin-and-crispy or fluffy pizza crust is a "carrier." By itself, it's just salty bread dough, unless you crank up the seasonings. Nothing fancy. So, what makes pizza memorable and satisfying?
It's the sauce and toppings!
|Pepperoni is my favorite pizza topping!|
In fact, there are several, so in this post, I'm going to introduce you to how we used to make a pizza substitute, as well as how I created this Pizza-Chicken Bake.
And no --
I'm not talking about using almond flour or coconut flour as a substitute for wheat flour in a traditional pizza dough, although experimenting with low-carb flour alternatives is something on my to-do list for this year. That won't happen until after we move to Texas in a few weeks, and we get settled there.
I'm talking about doing something a bit different. Something similar to what we did in 1999, but quicker and easier.
Meatza Pizza was a 1999 Low-Carb Staple
Reliving my weight-loss journey opened up my eyes to a lot of changes within the low-carb community that I didn't realize before, so I've been revisiting some of the old recipes we used to use at the end of 1999 and beginning of 2000 to see what's different about them.
To make a Meatza Pizza, you simply combine a pound of extra-lean ground meat, usually beef, but turkey would also work, with an egg and some Atkins Bake Mix. You press it into your pan for a protein-packed pizza crust.
The meat needs to be extra-lean, so it's not swimming in grease while it bakes, or it will turn into a crusty mess.
I tried using cheaper meat, but it didn't work out well.
After baking the meat crust until just cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes, you top it with your pizza toppings and re-bake just long enough to melt the cheese and make everything nice and gooey. Don't over bake it, unless you want the crust to be super-crispy on the bottom.
Atkins Bake Mix was a combo of soy flour and soy protein isolate (protein powder) mixed with baking soda and a little salt. It was super low in carbs, but many found it tasted bitter. Today, the bake mix that Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. sells is something totally different.
If I were going to try doing this again today, I'd probably use a little bit of almond flour (for Phase 2) or crushed pork rinds (if you're on Induction) instead. They work reasonably well for meat balls and meat loaf, so I don't see why they wouldn't work for this.
Since almond flour was super hard to find before low-carb products became popular, and cost (back then) about eight dollars a pound if your local health-food store even carried it, some people went to all of the trouble of grinding up fresh chicken breast in a food processor. This resulted in a leaner, more pasty type of mixture.
Remember: the whole high-fat low-carb movement didn't exist until after Dr. Atkins died. There was no such thing when I first got involved in the low-carb online community in 1999.
Since I didn't have a food processor and chicken breast cost about four to five dollars a pound back then, I don't really know if it was superior to using extra-lean ground meat.
Ground chicken breast was also not a thing yet, and ground turkey is closer in fat to a medium-grade of ground beef because manufacturers grind up the turkey skin and mix it into the meat.
This chicken-breast crust was all the rave, so I'm guessing that it really did live up to its reputation.
But then, almost every single chicken recipe posted in 1999 was made with chicken breast. When I got brave enough to ask why, I was simply told they preferred to eat chicken breast over legs and thighs.
|Today, Walmart and competing grocery stores|
sell fresh, skinless, boneless chicken breasts
for reasonable prices.
We've been picking up a relatively lean ground beef from Costco, for $3.50 a pound.
If you go much leaner than 90 percent, you're more likely to get pink slime instead of healthy trimmings. This past year, however, the fat content in the ground beef increased from 92-percent lean to 88-percent. It's a bit cheaper, $2.99 a pound, but I'd rather have the leaner version because it's almost too fatty to hold up to hubby's gluten-free bread.
I still don't have a food processor yet, so despite fresh chicken breast being affordable now, I decided to do something much simpler instead.
But First, the Low-Carb Pizza Sauce
|If you make the sauce earlier in the day,|
you can simply spread it onto the chicken when time to bake.
The pizza sauce was the first thing I made, earlier in the day.
I decided to make the sauce myself because jarred sauces tend to be higher in sugar than plain tomato sauce, so they can have over four times the carbs.
For example, I've been experimenting with jarred spaghetti sauce, since kitchen space in Texas is going to be at a premium for awhile, but the original Ragu variety contains 7-1/2 carbs in a 1/4 cup serving. Kroger brand tomato sauce only has 2, so it's a better choice for someone who needs to eat fewer carbs.
I did look up Ragu pizza sauce online. The homemade version contains only 4 carbs per 1/2 cup serving, similar to tomato sauce, and tasted just as bland the one time we tried it. You'll need to treat it as if it were plain tomato sauce, and jazz it up with lots of extra herbs and spices or it won't taste like pizza when you get done.
Don't fall into the trap of scrutinizing every single carb, though. One or two carbs contains only 4 to 8 calories, and your liver is capable of holding 80 to 100 grams of glycogen (carbs). Your muscles can hold about 200 to 300 grams, so before any of those carbs are converted to body fat, all glycogen stores have to be FULL.
Carb tolerance will be an approximation and depend on how full your glycogen stores are at any given moment. Eating 22 carbs for a day instead of 20 won't make much difference in your ability to burn body fat, so don't get too picky about it. Low-carb is meant to be a lifestyle. Not a diet.
Plus, manufacturers use unrealistic serving sizes and legal rounding practices that can make the carb count easily off by a carb or two. Most recipes will be pretty standard. The difference will be in the amount of sugar added.
Keep in mind that sugar counts on the label will be misleading, as well. Tomatoes naturally have a certain amount of sugar, which is listed on the label under the sugar category. Look for added sugar in the list of ingredients. That will tell you if the manufacturer tossed additional sugars into the recipe.
Try to find a brand that doesn't contain added sugars. The Kroger tomato sauce I use doesn't have any.
Low-Carb Pizza Sauce Recipe
This recipe is specifically designed for the Easy Pizza-Chicken Recipe below, so it's going to be thicker than you might want for a different application. If you're going to use this over a low-carb pasta, for example, you can either not simmer the sauce as long as I did or double the amount of tomato sauce called for in the recipe.
Doubling the tomato sauce will raise the carbs, but it depends on how much you intend on using.
The carb count is based on the brands and ingredients that I use. I also use the Corinne T. Netzer Book of Food Counts for fresh foods like onions and pepper. These carb counts may or may not be accurate for you, depending on the brands you pick.
For example, hubby prefers sweet red onions, which are higher in carbs than what I listed below. Since most people prefer yellow onions and the Netzer book doesn't include sweet onions, I used the carb count for yellow ones. Green onions instead of yellow will cut the carb count in half.
I specifically used Kroger brand Italian sausage because I have to watch out for gluten. The Kroger sausage links are higher in carbs than some other brands, but I don't react to it, so it's simpler for me to stick with brands I know are safe. You'll have to readjust the carb count for the recipe if you use something that's lower in carbs.
You can also use ground beef or turkey to avoid those extra sausage carbs completely.
The recipe makes 8 servings, enough for two recipes, so you can cut it in half if you want to. I just find it easier to make large batches of things and then freeze them for later on.
- 2 Italian sausage links (10 carbs + 2 grams fiber)
- 1/4 cup minced onion (3.5 carbs + 0.75 grams fiber)
- 1/2 cup chopped sweet bell pepper (3 carbs + 1 gram fiber)
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic (1 carb)
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasonings (1/2 carb + 0.2 grams fiber)
- 1 teaspoon basil (1 carb + 0.2 grams fiber)
- 1/2 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Herb and Garlic Seasoning mix (?)
- 1/4 teaspoon season pepper (0.5 carbs)
- 1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt (0.5 carbs)
- 15-ounce can tomato sauce (14 carbs + 3.75 fiber)
How to Make:
Split the casing of the sausage links down one side and remove the skins. Fry the sausage up in a skillet along with the onion, bell pepper, and seasonings. When the meat is well done, and no longer pink, add the tomato sauce and still well. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is nice and thick.
You don't want to have a watery sauce or it will thin out in the oven too much when you try to bake the chicken. For this particular recipe, you need a very thick spaghetti sauce.
Divide the sauce in half and save half for something else.
- This recipe makes enough low-carb sauce for 8 servings.
- The total recipe is 34 total carbs and 8 grams of fiber.
- Each serving is 4-1/4 total carbs and 1 gram of fiber.
Let's Talk Pizza Toppings
|Use your favorite pizza toppings on your chicken|
or you might not quench your cravings for pizza!
I topped our chicken with two slices of what's called Canadian bacon here in the States. It's the type of ham that McDonalds puts on their Egg McMuffins. I also add some full-fat pepperoni, and usually, some sliced black olives. I didn't have any olives the time I took the above photo.
This is where it really gets impossible to give you a carb count.
Unless I tell you exactly what to put on top of your pizza chicken, your carb count is going to depend on the toppings you decide to use. If you're craving pizza and you use my toppings, the craving might not go away. You need to top your chicken with whatever pizza toppings you're craving the most.
If economical Canadian bacon isn't available in your area, for example, or you don't like it, you could use thinly sliced lunch-meat type ham, or skip it all together and just go with the pepperoni and olives. If pepperoni isn't available, or if you flat-out don't like pepperoni (yes, those people actually exist), you could use diced ham, bacon, mushrooms, jalapenos, green olives, or whatever you used to put on a pizza.
If you're on Atkins 40 or at the fruit rung of the Atkins diet, some ham and a few pineapple tidbits would be great with this.
I can't stress this enough.
Use whatever toppings you're craving and adjust the carb count to fit within your macros.
Low-Carb Pizza-Chicken Bake Recipe
Since old-school low carbers raved about pizza made with a ground-chicken crust, I decided to just skip the grinding and use whole fresh chicken breasts instead. Ordinarily, I use larger chicken breasts that I have cut in half horizontally, but on this particular occasion, I had a couple of smaller breasts, so I kept them whole.
- 4 small fresh chicken breasts (or 2 large, cut in half horizontally)
- 1/2 recipe of Low-Carb Pizza Sauce (above) (17 carbs + 4 fiber)
- 8 slices Canadian bacon
- 16 slices full-fat pepperoni
- 8 large black olives, sliced (2 carbs)
- 4 ounces grated mozzarella cheese (4 carbs)
How to Make:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line a large baking sheet with foil. Spray with non-stick spray if the foil is not non-stick. Lay out the chicken breasts, so there is a bit of room in between each one. You can slice off a bit of the hump to make them more flat if you'd rather.
Pre-bake the chicken for 20 to 30 minutes, until not quite done all the way through. The whole breasts will take a bit longer to cook than those you have sliced in half.
Divide the sauce between the 4 chicken breasts, and spread out to cover the breasts completely.
Top with cheese, bacon, pepperoni, or any toppings you like. I put a bit of cheese on the bottom, and most of it on top of the toppings because that's the way Pizza Hut in Southern California used to do it when one of my sons worked there. Putting the cheese on top of the toppings keeps the pepperoni from burning, but it also won't crisp up, so you can do it either way.
Pop the tray into the oven and bake about 15 to 20 minutes, until the chicken is completely cooked through and the toppings are just beginning to brown.
Serves 4: 5.75 total carbs and 1 gram of fiber each
Additional Tips and Suggestions
We don't use mozzarella cheese anymore, due to the amount of lactose it has in it, so if you'd rather use a different cheese than the mozzarella, go right ahead. I've done this with sharp cheddar, pepper-jack, and colby and it was always wonderful. I've also used freshly grated Parmesan on top.
Different cheeses will bring a different flavor to the end dish.
The toppings help to keep the chicken moist, so you can precook the chicken by browning it slightly in a skillet, when the weather is hot, rather than baking it in the oven before you add the toppings. That would slash the time your oven needs to be on.
This also reheats well.
Since I only cook for two, I tucked half of the breasts in the refrigerator for later in the week.
At that time, I transferred the chicken to a fresh pan, added a few drops of water to the bottom, and covered the pan with foil because I didn't want them to brown any more than they already were. I baked them at 350 for about 30 minutes, until they were nice and hot and heated through.
I have never tried doing this with boneless chicken thighs, but I'm sure it would work just as well. Turkey cutlets would also be another option.