08 March 2012

Veggie Patch Pita Pizzas

Much like their infamous Happy Hour, you're actually getting 2-for-1 with this Applebee's inspired restaurant recreation!  You'd think I did this kind of stuff on purpose ;)

applebees restaurant recreation veggie patch pizza
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Back when I was a ridiculously hyperactive kiddo, I took karate. [Hiiiiaaaayyyhhh!] After matches and belt ceremonies, everyone would meet up at Applebee's for dinner.  Our parents got a night off of cooking and we all relished the opportunity to order whatever we wanted.  Without fail, I always ordered the same thing: 
applebees veggie patch pizza recipe copycat
Creamy spinach works double duty as a topping and as the sauce itself while garlicky sauteed mushrooms, ripe juicy tomatoes, and ooey gooey cheeses melted together on top of a light and crunchy crust.  But, at the risk of sound like a snobby foodie, mine are better =) 

Veggie Patch Pita Pizzas
[Makes 4 mini veggie patch pizzas]
What's in it?
spinach* [see below]
4 mini pita pockets
8oz mushrooms, sliced
1-2 mozzarella string cheese, grated [or any mozz!]
3-4oz parmesan cheese, grated
1 ripe roma tomato
a teeny bit of oil or butter to saute the mushrooms in
garlic powder, salt, and pepper

Creamy spinach* makes the perfect base for these handheld pizzas.  Grab an 8-9oz container of frozen creamed spinach or some leftover spinach and artichoke dip!  You can also saute a bag of fresh spinach with garlic or make your own creamed spinach.  You've got so many options that there's no excuse not to make these =)

Only need 2?  Make enough veggies for 4 and store the leftover veg in the fridge for a speedy lunch or dinner later!  They'll stay fresh in your fridge for four days and will help you sneak in some extra veggies into your life without all that pesky effort =)  You can also grab 2 regular sized pitas if you'd like!  I keep the minis on hand for their glorious built-in portion control.

Get Cooking!
I've been using either leftover spin-art dip [when I have it] or Birds Eye frozen creamed spinach for the pizza base -- the photos feature the frozen spinach, which I simply put in the microwave for 3 minutes and slapped directly onto my pitas.  Beyond easy!

Pre-heat toaster oven [or your conventional oven!] to 350F. 
Heat up your spinach and saute the mushrooms.
Season both with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Paul's speedy sauteed mushrooms:  Heat up a splash of oil in your skillet on the lower end of medium-high, add mushrooms, and season with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. [add red pepper flakes if you want a kick!]  Stir frequently to mix the mushrooms with the oil and seasoning.  The salt will help the mushrooms to give up a bit of their liquid and, once they do, pop a pot lid on top of your skillet to steam them into tender deliciousness.  Make a batch ahead of time and toss them into meals all week long.

Spread your pitas with spinach mixture and mushrooms.  Top with grated mozzarella and bake [on the rack] for 10 minutes until cheese is perfectly melted.  Top with diced or sliced tomatoes, grated parmesan cheese, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.

veggie patch pita pizza spinach sauce cheese tomato

Quick - Easy - Healthy - and [duh] absolutely delicious!

And since I promised a mini pizza happy hour - Grab some hummus and get back in the kitchen!

veggie pita pizza feta tomato spinach red pepper hummus

Mini Mediterranean Pizzas

4 mini pitas
1 [8-9oz] pkg of frozen creamed spinach [or sauteed spinach or leftover spinach dip]
1 large, ripe roma tomato, sliced
4 heaping tablespoons of roasted red pepper hummus
salt, pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes
crumbled feta

Spread your pitas with hummus and top with creamy spinach seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Layer on a few slices of roma tomatoes and a generous sprinkle of feta and bake [on the rack] in your toaster oven for 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and try not to pout while waiting for the pizza to cool enough down enough for you to eat it.  I have zero composure and suffer through the burn =) 

vegetarian veggie pita pizza hummus spinach feta tomato

So... How were they?
ahhhhhh they are all I can think about lately!  I cooked a giant batch of sauteed seasoned mushrooms and keep them in the fridge for impromptu pizzas.  This way I can whip them up in the time it would take me to make a sandwich!  I've eaten them for lunch every day this week without tiring of them.  If I had to pick a favorite, I think it would be the Mediterranean pizza.  I add the mushrooms to it and it's everything I could ever want in a lunch.  Satisfying and flavorful.  I'm obsessed!

What's your all-time favorite pizza topping?

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  1. Ok, Miss Jenn... you are just too freaking amazing for words. I want this. Right now. 

    K Thanks ;)

  2. ummmm you're not too far - get your butt over here!!!!

  3. Those look really good.  I like the idea of using the pitas.

  4. Lisa@DailyRUNdownThursday, March 08, 2012

    I love pita pizzas! Thanks for the great ideas!

  5. Yum! I love veggie pizzas! My girls might actually try these! I make mini pizzas on whole wheat bagels for the girls all the time. Fresh mozzarella, fresh basil,  and fresh tomatoes are my absolutely favorite pizza toppings.

  6. These look delicious and I love the story behind them. It makes them that much more special :)

  7. nicoleandgwendolynFriday, March 09, 2012

    these look delicious!  i do a similar version, but using a huge portobello mushroom cap as the base. :)

  8. OMG! I remember the veggie patch pizzas! I loved the old menu at Applebees (that and I used to waitress there during high school). Great idea to recreate this. Your sounds way better than there's and I'm sure yours are also a million times healthier than anything Applebees could offer.

  9. These look fabulous. I was always the chicken fingers and fries girl at Applebee's. I have made mini pizzas on Naan but never pita breads.  Lovely!

  10. Ohmygosh girl I was too!!! The second I tried the veggie patch I never looked back! ;) Loooove naan pizza -- do you make your naan from scratch? I want to!

  11. I really like the idea of the pizza with creamed spinach ... I would just want to sub out the mushrooms for something else b/c I'm not a huge fan ... broccoli perhaps?? :)

    Now if I'm eating a normal pizza, I like pepperoni and banana peppers.  But I really think yours looks delicious!!!

  12. Such an awesome idea! I know what I want for dinner now. :) Enjoy your weekend Jenn! <3

  13. Yayyy hope you love it!!!! Happy Friday gorgeous! =)

  14. This looks amazing!! Great for my Lenten dinner tonight! 

  15. Yummy, looks like I will have to add this to my menu for vegetarian night!

  16. I love love love the idea of using creamed spinach on these pizzas! Forget Applebee's; I'm sure yours are way better! I need this for dinner tonight.

  17. I am intrigued by the spinach sauce... I'm not usually a fan of anything other than a tomato sauce on a pizza but this looks so good... probably because it's homemade and not frozen from a box in my freezer? Trying this!

  18. The mushroom pizza looks great! My absolute fave!

  19. OOOHHHHHH!!!! i am in an english muffin pizza rut for lunch, i am making the switch, these look amazing!!!

  20. Mediterranean is the one that jumps out to me too - love using hummus as the base of pizzas! That's actually one of my tricks for eating vegan pizza when I go out, look for something creamy (like hummus!) to replace the cheese with on a normal pizza. 

  21. Giiiirrrrllll, I miss you!!!!  How are ya?? Ok, these are da bomb!!  My FAV pizza topping is black olives, I could swim with my mouth open in a sea of black olives :)  


  22. I LOVE the idea of using pitas as the pizza crust!  So clever and quick and easy which is even better!

  23. Genius idea, Jen! I love the Mediterranean one - mmm. I have pita pizzas all the time, just LOVE them and how guiltless they are!

  24. Lacy @ NYCityEatsFriday, March 09, 2012

    Seriously love Applebees - even though I haven't been to one in years! I love the inspiration! This pizza with the red pepper hummus sounds pretty great!

  25. Thanks Lacy!!! I half-expected to dislike the hummus combo when I made the test batch but ohmygooooooosh its so good! A really great flavor combo with all the components! =) Hope you have a rockin' weekend girly!

  26. Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love.Friday, March 09, 2012

    I heart these little pizzas! I haven't been to Applebees in years, but I have had that pizza before and it was yummy!

  27. YUM!!!! Pizza everyday is fine by me! These both look delish!

  28. Awww, totally adorable! :) And I love all that spinach!

  29. Alnissa Ruiz-CraigFriday, March 09, 2012

    Looks delicious! Love your blog, I'm a big vegetable fan but my family, not so much so I like you veggie ideas.  :)

  30. Yum!  Perfect weekend recipe! :)  I love any/every kind of veggie on my pizza... pile them on!

  31. Wow...that is such a simple/awesome recipe (totally college dorm room friendly YAY for me!!)
    My favorite pizza toppings include roma tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and green onions!! YUMMY

  32. roma basil and mozz are a match made in heav-en! i'll have to try it with green onion too next time! Brilliant =)

    So happy the recipe is dorm friendly!!!!! I spent years living in dorms and tiny campus apartments =) What school do you go to?

  33.  I go to University of Michigan, and while I do have a meal plan, I rarely will use the dining hall because I'm so sick and tired of the food!!!  I can't wait to finally be out of the dorms and have a real kitchen!  Dorm food for two years is not very fun!

  34. You'll love your 1st kitchen so much more after living in the dorms -- I totally did! When I finally got a place I treated the kitchen like a freaking castle (even though it was the size of a closet! lol) -- Good luck finding a place super soon!!!! <3 You'll have to send me a photo when you do =)

    My biggest tip for meal plan food is to find some really cool sauces and salsas that taste nothing like you've ever had before and start dumping it on everything they serve up! Mrs. Renfros green salsa is really unique and delish and there's always a heavy splatter of Sriracha chili sauce or sweet chili sauce to make something taste totally different!

    Hope you're having a rockin' weekend Natasha!

  35. These look all kinds of delicious and adorable. 

  36. YUM!! These look super healthy and delicious!!

  37. OMG! That Veggie Patch Pizza was my absolute fave at Applebee's too. I haven't thought about that in years. Oh, I'm so happy to see this! Thank you!!!!

  38. eeee so glad you like it! Thanks for the super sweet comment!

  39. This is such a great idea! Love it!! And they look FANTASTIC!!!!