Saturday, August 24, 2013

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Confession: I had never eaten zucchini in my life until this year when I started growing them…yes, I decided to grow them and I didn’t even eat them – but I knew they were easy to grow. I picked some seeds from Park Seed this time: “Poquito,” which my six years of Spanish helped me know basically meant “small.” They’re so cute! Full size zucchinis are just three to four inches, and they look like mini watermelons. Another nice feature: they don’t grow all at once – I’ve been harvesting one or two each week since mid-July off of about a half-dozen plants.

Poquito :)

Since I now have zucchini, I’ve become a chocolate chip zucchini bread fan – thanks to this recipe from QVC foodie David Venable. I made a few changes – such as using a wooden spoon instead of the stand mixer (because I didn’t feel like dragging it out!), but I’m pretty sure the result is the same – delicious!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

1-3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2-1/4 cup grated zucchini
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 325-degrees F. Lightly grease an 8” x 4” loaf pan.

In a bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon; set aside. In another bowl, combine oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well-blended, then gradually add the dry ingredients until well-combined. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips, then pour batter into loaf pan.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. After removing from oven, allow to cool in the pan for approximately 20 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on rack.

Photos: Paula Thompson Freelance

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites

Like the Pizza Pull-Apart Rolls I featured a few weeks back, I found this recipe for chocolate chip cookie dough bites on Facebook. They’re really simple and the perfect way to get your cookie dough fix without the egg (we know it’s bad, but we still do it!).

copyright Paula Thompson Freelance

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons half-and-half

1 teaspoon vanilla

1-1/3 cup flour

2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Cream together butter and sugars, then add remaining ingredients, mixing well.

Roll dough into one-inch balls, then refrigerate until firm (approximate 30 to 60 minutes).

Eat them as is, or dip in chocolate (I chose as is!). Store in the refrigerator.

*Author’s note: The original recipe said to let them stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving – I personally preferred them straight out of the fridge.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Favorite restaurants: Santora’s Pizza Pub and Grill

Santora’s Pizza Pub and Grill has two locations in Amherst – 1402 Millersport Hwy. at Flint Rd. (near UB’s North Campus) and 7566 Transit Rd. (across from the Eastern Hills Mall). Both restaurants have dozens of beers on tap, daily Happy Hour from 4 to 7 p.m. and lots of televisions for the sports fans in the area. They also both have great food.
In two recent trips to Santora’s, the one constant was the fresh cut French fries – just like my mom makes! For a relatively small price, you get a big basket of fries – you can also get them with cheese or cheese, bacon and chives.
Out for apps one night with my cousin, we also got the Buffalo bread stix – 12” pizza dough topped with medium wing sauce, romano cheese and spices. It had just the right amount of sauce for some heat, and was a great alternative to their Cheesy bread stix and their Dough Knots – both of which are also very good.
Mom and I visited for a pizza one night (took some home for Dad as well) – a great thick, doughy crust with lots of cheese and perfect pepperoni (for me, that’s the kind that stays flat). I have also gotten the Chicken Parmigiana and Pizza subs in the past, as well as the baked penne – all three were great as well. The only thing I haven’t been overly pleased with were the boneless wings – the first time we ordered them, they came grilled (we didn’t order them that way) and the second time (not grilled) they were on the tough side.
For a full menu and other specials, visit their website,

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Favorite restaurants: Jim’s Steak Out

Confession time: even though I’ve lived in the area for my entire life, I had never been to a Jim’s Steak Out until a couple months ago (gasp!). I enjoy simple foods (some people will call it being picky), which is likely evident from the number of pizza-based restaurants I’ve talked about here – but I also enjoy chicken, and found a couple of things on Jim’s menu that appealed to me.

While I like my chicken, my mom, however, counts the steak hoagie – available on a Kaiser roll or as an 8” or 12” sub – as her favorite; she gets the combo with Kaiser roll, fries and a drink for a very affordable $6.99. There are eight combos, including a chicken finger sub (Dad’s favorite), a steak of beef taco, or – my favorite – the single chicken finger wrap (not a small finger, I might add!).

Chances are there’s a Jim’s near you – there are 11 locations in the Buffalo-Niagara area. Find them all at

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Brownie Bites – Forwards and Backwards!

The Smart Cookie Cook is a great source of information and recipes – after all, she highly recommended the Thomas’ Limited Edition Banana Bread English Muffins (which are da bomb!) and she made these lovely little bites featuring two of my favorite things – peanut butter and chocolate.
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
I halved the original recipe, as I was planning on keeping them all to myself like a good little PB/chocoholic, and I’m still happily eating them – they keep well in the fridge, and actually taste REALLY good cold. Something else I did that varied from the original – I rolled all my brownie balls first, which worked out better except for one thing…I didn’t have enough peanut butter “cookie dough” to wrap the last two brownie bites! So I improvised – I split the remaining PB in half and rolled that in the two remaining brownie pieces!

copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
And I must add, they’re equally good forward or backward! :)
Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Brownie Bites (adapted from the Smart Cookie Cook):
1/2 of a 13” x 9” pan of brownies (your favorite box or recipe)
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese at room temperature
1/2 stick of butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/8 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 cup water
Prepare brownies according to directions and cool completely. Cut off the edges of the brownies and crumble remaining interior section in a bowl. Add mascarpone and mix until combined – mixture should form a ball; if not, add more mascarpone.
In another bowl, combine butter, peanut butter, vanilla and sugars on medium speed with a hand mixer; add flour on a low speed until it starts to combine, then turn up to medium speed until it begins to clump. Add water and combine until it resembles cookie dough; if it’s too dry, add more water, approximately one tablespoon at a time.
Take teaspoon-sized pieces of brownie mixture and make balls, placing on a plate to work with later. When done, take a piece of peanut butter dough (approximately one tablespoon) and flatten out; place brownie ball in the center and wrap the peanut butter dough around the brownie and seal edges together. Roll into a ball and repeat with remaining dough; place in a refrigerator-safe air-tight container for storage. Makes around two dozen.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Favorite restaurants: Emily’s Family Diner

Is there anything better than a small family-owned diner for a Sunday breakfast? In my eyes, no – that’s why I love going to Emily’s Family Diner with my parents on Sunday mornings. Emily’s, located at 9105 Sheridan Dr. in Clarence, is named after the owners’ daughter – who is a doll! – and has become very popular on Sunday mornings, and throughout the week.
What’s so great about Emily’s? For one thing, the food – especially the portion sizes and the value!  My personal go-to breakfast is the breakfast sandwich with egg, cheese and bacon. My second-favorite - #2 (a true diner!!) with eggs, toast and hash browns (or home fries – also really good). A particularly popular and very Buffalo dish is the Kluski plate, a Polish noodle plate – I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks pretty good!
Emily’s is open until 2 p.m. most days, but on Fridays it’s open for dinner – GREAT fish fry! (That’s another Buffalo thing!) – until 8 p.m.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

For the love of King Arthur Flour: Cheese Biscuits

I love Wegmans Cheese Bread and Cheese Rolls – NOBODY else has anything like them! Full of cheese chunks inside, shiny brown outside and just plain delish! I may never find a recipe that matches Wegmans’ goodness, but I keep searching…
I also love King Arthur Flour’s website and recipes – these Cheddar Cheese Biscuits are super-easy and super-quick to make…no, they’re not Wegmans – they are definitely more flaky biscuit than substantial roll – but they are REALLY good warm :)
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance

Savory Cheddar Cheese Biscuits (from King Arthur Flour)
2 cups unbleached self-rising flour (or make your own:
2 cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder and
1 teaspoon salt)
4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
1 cup heavy cream
Pre-heat oven to 425-degrees F. Combine flour and cheese in a mixing bowl, then add cream, mixing until dough is formed. Transfer dough to a lightly-floured surface and pat into a disc approximately 3/4” to 1” thick. Use a 2” round cutter to cut dough; place biscuits on an ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Add additional cheddar cheese to top if desired (I did!). Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown; remove from oven and serve warm.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pizza Challenge: Pizza Casserole

It was time for something different in the Pizza Challenge, so I went casserole: this Pizza Casserole made with rice that was in the September 2011 edition of DASH magazine (in the local newspaper). By adding all the pizza fixings, it came out tasting like a pasta dish – and that’s not a bad thing! Two ooey gooey kinds of cheese make anything good, right?

copyright Paula Thompson Freelance

Pizza Casserole
2 cups cooked rice (I used white)
1-1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 cups tomato sauce
Pepperoni – diced or mini – as much as you desire
Pre-heat oven to 350-degrees F. Combine rice, 1 cup mozzarella, 1/4 cup parmesan, tomato sauce and pepperoni in a casserole dish. Top with remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheeses and bake for 20 minutes.

copyright Paula Thompson Freelance

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Favorite restaurants: Mattina’s Pizzeria

A big reason Mattina’s is one of my favorite restaurants is because it’s the closest pizzeria to my house! Located at 6040 Sheridan Dr. in Williamsville, Mattina’s is the typical pizza joint we find in the Buffalo area – pizza, wings and fingers, subs, salads and “munchies” (as in, appetizers or stuff that’s generally bad for you but tastes sooooooo good!).
Another reason I love Mattina’s? Square pizzas! You can get a half pizza (eight square), a whole pizza (16 squares) or a sheet pizza (30 squares) – and corner lovers like me get an “extra side” of crust! Really, it’s the little things that keep me happy…
In addition to the pizza – which also tastes good, I might add – Mattina’s has great chicken fingers: big, meaty fingers (they’re more like hand-sized!) with a crispy breading.
Mattina’s has some daily specials as well as two everyday pizza and wing specials – give them a call at 716-626-5550 and check them out.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Baking Adventures: Wilbur Chocolates in Lititz, Pennsylvania

I love to travel and I love chocolate, so what better combination for me than to visit a chocolate shop in Pennsylvania, right? The stop at Wilbur Chocolates on my recent trip to QVC Studio Park with D&F Travel was right up my alley, and was a welcome addition to a trip that I was already looking forward to (because I AM a QVC addict!).
Wilbur Chocolates, located at 48 N. Broad St. in Lititz, was founded in 1865 as a general confectionery; they narrowed their focus to chocolate in 1884 – and made an excellent choice. Located in Lititz since the 1930s, Wilbur Chocolates is known for their Wilbur Buds – a Kiss-like morsel that was introduced in 1894 as a new way to sell their chocolates.
Now THAT is heaven!
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
Wilbur Chocolates’ Lititz shop is also home to the Candy Americana Museum, which opened in 1972. Displays include over 1,000 varieties of molds, tins and boxes, early candy machinery and other kitchen supplies, plus over 150 hand-painted European and Oriental antique porcelain chocolate pots. The Museum is also home to the modern candy kitchen, where handmade chocolates are made for purchase.
Of course, I had to buy some chocolate (because it wouldn’t be right not to!), which I will be using for baking (the Buds) and molding (the wafers), and some cinnamon chips, which I’m sure I’ll find a recipe for (I’m thinking of my next Challenge – the Snickerdoodle Challenge!).
Wilbur Chocolates is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Sundays) – find out more about Wilbur Chocolates at and at
Portions of this piece originally appeared on

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Favorite restaurants: Ted’s Hot Dogs

Who doesn’t love a hot dog during the summer – even if they are immensely bad for you? I know I do! One of the best places in the Buffalo area to get a dog any time of the year is Ted’s Hot Dogs, with eight locations in the Buffalo area – and one in Tempe, Arizona (that’s where the president of Ted’s lives).
“Ted” was Greek immigrant Theodore Spiro Liaros, who came to America in 1913. His hot dog business originated as a horse-drawn cart, and in 1927, he spent $100 on an old tool shack at the foot of Massachusetts Ave. in Buffalo, opening the first Ted’s restaurant. Find out more about Ted’s history here.
 You won’t find anything exotic on Ted’s flame-broiled menu – just good old-fashioned hot dogs and burgers, plus chicken, fish and sausage sandwiches. Sides are simple too – onion rings, potato salad and some of the best darn French fries in Buffalo (I am a connoisseur of fries!). Wash it all down with a Coke product, or for the adventuresome – or nostalgic! – a Loganberry.
Next time you’re in the mood for a hot dog, head to Ted’s – find their complete menu, a list of locations and more information at their website.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pizza Challenge: Mini Pizza Muffins

Sorry for the delay in the latest Pizza Challenge recipe – I’ve been busy hangin’ out in my gardens every weekend, getting them in tip-top shape for the summer…I’ve even added a new feature: a raised bed for vegetables :)
My new veggie garden!
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
But back to the challenge…Here’s another Tasty Kitchen discovery from the kitchenfairy that puts all the yumminess of pizza into a little muffin. There are a couple things I’ll do differently next time I make these: 1) adding Italian seasoning or garlic powder to the batter (it was a bit bland for my tastes) and 2) putting the sauce-and-cheese mixture between two layers of batter instead of on top.
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
Here’s the recipe as I made it this time:
Mini Pizza Muffins (adapted from Tasty Kitchen):
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal (I used white)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1-1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup pizza sauce
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup diced or mini pepperoni
Pre-heat oven to 400-degrees F. Line 36 mini-muffin cups with paper liners.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl and set aside. In another bowl, combine the egg, milk and oil; add this mixture to the dry mixture and mix well, until batter is smooth.
In a small bowl, combine pizza sauce and cheese and set aside. Spoon batter into muffin cups, about 3/4 full, then spoon approximately 1/2 teaspoon of sauce and cheese mix on top of each, following that with the diced or mini pepperoni.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown; cool off in the pan, remove when touchable and serve warm.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Favorite restaurants: Keglers Sports Bar and Grill

Yep, with a name like “Keglers,” it is in a bowling alley, but don’t let that scare you – Keglers Sports Bar and Grill at Transit Lanes (7850 Transit Rd. in Williamsville) has some great food on the menu. We’re not just talking about traditional bowling alley food either – yes, there are pizza and chicken wings to be had, but there’s also a great selection of appetizers, sandwiches and hoagies, salads (yes, salads), sliders and much more.
Everyone has their favorites at great restaurants, and I happen to love the crispy chicken sliders (done mild – it’s a butter-based sauce that’s really tasty), the Pittsburgh salad with chicken (French fries and salad – what a combo!) and the chicken parm hoagie. Another great thing at Keglers – tater tots! How something so simple can make such a difference, but when most restaurants will only offer them as breakfast options, having them for dinner seems like a luxury!
If you’re into bowling, hit the lanes before or after your meal – if not, make sure you check out the menu at Keglers and make it a point to visit for a meal anyway!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pizza Challenge: Pizza Pull-Apart Rolls

Back in 2000, I was in the process of building my house and I had made out a “housewarming registry” at a local housewares store. On that registry were these cute little mini-Bundt pans (anyone wanting to have a “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” moment, please be my guest):

copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
Cute, huh? Practical? Well, for the first 12 years and change, no – I never used them…til I found a recipe on Facebook (yep, Facebook) for pepperoni/mozzarella pull-apart bread. The original recipe called for two packages of pizza dough – that equals “too much for one Paula to eat!” so in my never-ending quest to make as many pizza-type recipes as possible, I made the recipe MUCH smaller – like half a package of dough (I used the other half to make these). And guess what else I used? Yep – and they’re soooooo cute!

Copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
This recipe for pizza pull-apart rolls (because they’re no longer big enough to be considered bread) will make four mini-Bundt-sized rolls – each one will be big enough for sharing as an appetizer or a snack – and don’t forget the pizza sauce for dipping!
Pizza Pull-Apart Rolls
1 roll refrigerated pizza dough or the equivalent in homemade dough
Olive oil (I flavored mine with garlic)
Mini pepperoni
Shredded mozzarella
(I didn’t measure anything – just eyeballed what looked good!)

Pre-heat oven to 350-degrees F. Grease or spray mini-Bundt pans (four) and set aside.
Unroll pizza dough and cut into small pieces (approximately 1” to 1-1/2” square). Add olive oil to a bowl and toss dough pieces in oil until lightly coated.
Put one layer of dough pieces in bottom of mini-Bundt pan, then top with mini pepperoni and shredded mozzarella. Add second layer of dough pieces to cover fillings, then add additional mozzarella to top. Repeat with other three mini-Bundt pans.
Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. When finished baking, turn out onto a plate or cutting board to cool off cheese. Serve with pizza or marinara sauce for dipping.
Copyright Paula Thompson Freelance

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Favorite restaurants: Campobello’s Cucina Italiana

Campobello’s Cucina Italiana, located at 9334 Transit Rd. (at the corner of Casey Rd.) in East Amherst, is my favorite place to go during Local Restaurant Week, which happens twice a year in the Buffalo area. Why is it so great? In addition to being great food, you also get enough food for two more meals easily!
Restaurant Week at Campobello’s means you get an appetizer or dessert, soup or salad and a full entrée for (this year) $20.13 – that means my dad and I can splurge on Chicken Parmigiana, which includes a piece of chicken that is, in the words of David Venable, “big as ya head!” and (in my guess-timation) a pound of pasta (the Angel Hair portion looks like at least that much!). The options for Restaurant Week also included Veal Parmigiana, Lasagna, Manicotti and Fettuccini Alfredo, among others.
Can’t – or didn’t – make it to Restaurant Week? They offer the same deal every week, Monday through Thursday, for $25 – still an awesome value.
In addition to great pasta dishes (I also highly recommend the Pasta Parmigiana), Campobello’s also offers up the usual suspects at an Italian restaurant – pizzas, subs, chicken wings and fingers, calzones and Friday fish frys. The pizza is awesome, with homemade pizza dough and a sauce that I think is the best in town.
Check out Campobello’s menu at
**Want to make something from your Chicken Parm leftovers? Check out my Chicken Parm Rolls!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A new chocolate chip cookie recipe

I’m addicted to my mom’s chocolate chip cookies – they’re just plain awesome, but she has always had one complaint about them…they get flat. She’s tried different flour, different sugars, not mixing as much, adding more chocolate chips…nothing has worked.
So as reluctant as I was to try a chocolate chip recipe that wasn’t mom’s, I had to try this one – it had all the same ingredients as mom’s, but with one addition – vanilla pudding mix. Was that the answer to the question? Turns out, it just might be.
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
These cookies were a bit richer in taste than my mom’s (there’s vanilla on top of the vanilla pudding mix), but very close in taste…they also stayed “puffy” and really soft. While I don’t think my mom will be changing recipes (she makes a batch for my dad’s racing team each week, and she’s listed on the cars as the “Cookie Lady”), I have a recipe of my own now that makes a big batch of deliciousness (four dozen plus!).
Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Tasty Kitchen)
2 sticks butter
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 package (3-1/2 ounces) instant vanilla pudding
12 ounce package chocolate chips (I used about 11 ounces)
Pre-heat oven to 350-degrees F. In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and instant pudding. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, approximately one cup at a time, stirring until combined, then stir in chocolate chips.
Drop by spoonfuls on parchment-lined cookie sheets, spacing about two inches apart; bake for 10 to 12 minutes – cookies will be soft (check a few on the bottom to make sure they are golden brown).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pizza Challenge: Stuffed Pizza Rolls

How many different variations are there on pizza? From the looks of things, a lot! These little rolls are the next item in line for my Pizza Challenge, using store-bought pizza dough (or homemade, like this recipe here) and whatever your favorite toppings are (I like basic cheese and pepperoni). The original recipe is from Our Best Bites, one of my favorite recently-discovered sites.

copyright Paula Thompson Freelance

Stuffed Pizza Rolls (adapted from Our Best Bites):

1 roll refrigerated pizza dough or similar amount of homemade dough
Mozzarella cheese and other desired pizza toppings
1 tablespoon olive oil or melted butter
Parmesan cheese
Italian seasoning
Marinara or pizza sauce for dipping
Pre-heat oven to 400-degrees F, or whatever your dough calls for on its label or recipe. Unroll dough onto a floured surface and roll out a rectangle of dough approximately 12” by 8”; use a pizza cutter or knife to cut into 24 squares.

copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
Top each square with desired toppings, then bring the four corners of the piece of dough to the center and pinch together to seal; place in a baking dish seam-side down. Brush tops with oil or butter, then add parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning to top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown; serve with marinara sauce for dipping.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Favorite restaurants: Tully’s Good Times

Tully’s Good Times, with three locations in the Buffalo area (1459 Niagara Falls Blvd. in Amherst, 8070 Main St. in Clarence and 1449 French Rd. in Depew), has good food and a great atmosphere for sports fans – or anyone who enjoys good food! It’s a casual restaurant with 70-plus televisions with all the games, as well as a game room at each location for those who want some of their own competition.
Tully’s has 10 locations in New York, mostly in the Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse areas and is best-known for the Tully’s Tender, a batter-breaded chicken tender that for some reason tastes really good dipped in whatever Italian dressing they serve (I speak from experience here!). They’re available as an appetizer, as a meal, as an add-on to your meal, on salads…the possibilities seem endless!
Tully’s offers numerous specials throughout the day, including lunch and dinner specials, appetizer specials and drink specials. Get a look at their menu and check out their other locations at

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chicken Parm Rolls

I loooooove chicken parmesan – tender chicken, tasty breading, slathered with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce and served with a side of pasta and fresh bread…here in Buffalo, they even make chicken parm subs (the chicken, cheese and sauce on a sub roll, minus the pasta).
Now you can put it all together in one handy package as a chicken parm roll – it’s a take-off on this Pillsbury recipe for Garlic Bread Spaghetti Rolls…since I’m not a fan of the meatballs (actually, hamburger in general), substituting leftover chicken parm was a no-brainer, because Restaurant Week at Campobello’s in East Amherst ALWAYS means leftover chicken parm! (More on that later…)
The recipe makes four rolls, and they warm up really nicely in the microwave, so they’re great for brown-bagging it to work too!

copyright Paula Thompson Freelance

Chicken Parm Rolls (inspired by Pillsbury)
1 8-oz. can crescent rolls or a flaky dough sheet (like Pillsbury’s Recipe Creations)
Leftover chicken parm and pasta (approximately 1 cup)
Mozzarella cheese (for topping the rolls, or adding inside if desired)
Olive oil (flavored if desired)
Pre-heat oven to 375-degrees F. Separate crescent rolls into four sections and pinch together the seams OR cut the dough sheet into four squares. Fill the center of each square with pasta (don’t overfill) and a piece of chicken parm (mine was about 1” to 1-1/2” square), adding extra mozzarella if desired. Form each into a roll by folding each corner up diagonally to the center and pinching together.
Brush top with olive oil (I used garlic-infused) and top with mozzarella. Place the four rolls on a baking sheet and bake for 16 to 17 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
**To warm up leftover rolls – microwave for 45 to 60 seconds on medium-high (for my microwave, for example, 70 percent).

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Favorite restaurants: Clarence Pizza Company

Formerly known as Pizza Inn, Clarence Pizza Company is another local business with great pizza (is it any wonder that my first Food Challenge was pizza??), as well as other traditional Buffalo pizza-place food – chicken wings and fingers, subs, pasta, salads and more.
Located at 6235 Goodrich Rd. in Clarence Center, CPC offers a number of specialty “signature” pizzas, including Chicken Finger Pizza, the Ultimate White Pizza, and the Sinatra Pizza, featuring your choice of chicken or pepperoni with olive oil, crushed garlic, Romano and mozzarella cheeses and swirled red sauce on top.
CPC runs daily specials for pizza, subs, wings and dinners on various nights of the week, and also has an everyday special of two slices of pizza and a can of soda. They also offer combo packs of pizza and chicken wings or fingers.
Check out Clarence Pizza Company’s menu at

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pizza Challenge: Artisan Pizza in Five Minutes a Day

I love the Five-Minute Artisan books, of which I have both Artisan Bread and. It’s a great concept: make dough once and eat fresh bread or pizza for a couple of weeks. I really love the pizza recipe because I can make pizza shells to keep in the freezer if I won’t be able to use the dough during the time span. I’ve only made the original recipe so far, but I’m eager to explore some of the other recipes… someday…when I have time… (like in retirement!). This recipe makes dough for six to eight pizzas (about 12 inches in diameter each), and can easily be halved (which I do) or doubled.
copyright: Paula Thompson Freelance
Pizza Dough Master Recipe (from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day)
3-1/2 cups lukewarm water (approximately 100-degrees F)
1 tablespoon yeast
1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
7-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Add water to a large bowl (approximately five quarts with a non-airtight lid), then add yeast and salt. Add flour to the water and mix – kneading is not necessary for this recipe; mixing can be done with a wooden spoon, food processor with dough attachment or stand mixer with paddle. When thoroughly mixed, cover with the non-airtight lid and allow to rise for two hours – do not punch down the dough.
That’s it! You’ve made your dough, and now over the next two weeks you can have fresh pizza whenever you desire. To make the pizza, pre-heat your pizza stone at your oven’s highest temperature for 30 minutes. While pre-heating, remove a orange-sized piece of dough (approximately 1/2-pound) from your container and shape into a ball for 20 to 30 seconds (add flour to your hands, not the dough, to make the job easier). Roll out or stretch the dough into a 12-inch shell (mine usually end up square!), approximately 1/8-inch thick, and move to either a pizza peel or parchment paper. Add toppings and move to the pre-heated stone, baking for 8 to 10 minutes. If you want to make shells for later, bake for only 4 to 5 minutes and store in the freezer – when ready to use, thaw, add toppings, and bake for 6 to 8 minutes.
Get more detailed instructions and additional recipes in the book Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Favorite restaurants: Pizza Supreme

Pizza Supreme, located at 8550 Sheridan Dr. in Clarence (in the same plaza as Bender’s Christian Store), is another one of the Amherst/Clarence area’s great pizza and wing places. With a variety of pizzas, subs, appetizers, salads, wraps and wings, Pizza Supreme has something to please everyone– they also have a soup and salad bar that often features one of their specialties, Buffalo Chicken Wing Soup.
Pizza Supreme offers numerous daily specials, including wing specials on Tuesday, pizza on Wednesday and party pack specials everyday featuring pizza and chicken wings or fingers. They also have a banquet/party room and catering available.
One of the best things about Pizza Supreme, besides the food, is their Rewards Program. Sign up for a card and collect points toward $10 gift certificates. You’ll also get extra rewards throughout the year on your birthday and/or wedding anniversary, special double-points offerings and coupons.
Pizza Supreme is open Sundays 2 to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pizza Challenge: Crescent Pizza

Remember last week I mentioned that I used half of the can of crescent rolls from this recipe to make something else? This is it – Pizza in a Crescent from Pillsbury. It’s a great idea for a sturdier piece of pizza for those who enjoy hand-held foods, or treat it like a calzone or a pod (a Buffalo specialty) – cut it to eat with a fork and dunk it in some more pizza sauce. My suggestion would be to make this with the crescent roll sheets (Pillsbury’s are called Recipe Creations), and that way you’ll avoid having to pinch the seams together from the individual rolls. This recipe makes four pizzas.
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
Crescent Pizza (adapted from Pillsbury)
1 can (8 oz.) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls or refrigerated seamless dough sheet
1 package pepperoni slices (3-1/2 oz.)
4 tablespoons pizza sauce
Shredded mozzarella cheese (to your liking of cheesiness)
Pre-heat oven to 375-degrees F.  If using crescent rolls: Unroll dough; separate dough into 4 rectangles. Firmly press perforations to seal. Press or roll into four 7” x 5” rectangles. If using dough sheet: Unroll dough; cut into 4 rectangles. Press or roll into four 7” x 5” rectangles.
Arrange 7 to 9 pepperoni slices in center third of each rectangle, then top with 1 tablespoon pizza sauce and shredded mozzarella. Fold short sides of dough to almost meet in center and pinch edges together, leaving middle open; add more pepperoni tucked into the middle. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 13 to 16 minutes or until golden brown.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – peanut butter and chocolate are perfect together. When it comes to chocolate, my desert island candy is M&Ms – just the plain ones (but if someone wants to drop off some Peanut Butter M&Ms, I’ll suffer – haha! – through them too!). This recipe for Peanut Butter M&M Cookies, found on the blog How Crazy Cooks through Tasty Kitchen, combines two of my favorite things into a tasty little handheld treat. This is a great recipe it you need a lot of cookies for something – I cut this down to 1/3 of the recipe, and got 17 cookies, so you’re looking at about four dozen cookies from the following recipe.
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
Peanut Butter M&M Cookies (adapted from How Crazy Cooks)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup M&Ms, plain
Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
In a large bowl, combine the sugars, butter, shortening, peanut butter, eggs, and vanilla; using mixer (hand or stand), cream ingredients together on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Add flour, oats and baking soda, and mix on low speed until combined, and stir in M&Ms by hand.
Drop dough by tablespoons onto lined baking sheets, about two inches apart. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until bottoms are light golden brown, rotating pans halfway through baking.
Cool on baking sheet until cookies are firm enough to handle, then transfer to wire rack and finish cooling.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Favorite restaurants: Pautler’s Drive-In of Clarence

It’s spring, and that means it’s time for the return of Pautler’s Drive-In of Clarence, located at 6343 Transit Rd. in East Amherst. Established in 1958, Pautler’s is another family-owned and operated business that offers quick food that says summer, sun and fun.
There is a definite 1950s feel to Pautler’s, from the background music to the décor to the food: basics like hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers, beef on weck, curly q fries and fried bologna sandwiches. There’s also a lighter menu featuring chicken souvlaki and a selection of salads, plus a kids menu that offers a drink and fries with one of the following: hot dog, hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken fingers or the perennial kid-favorite, grilled cheese.
The best deals at Pautler’s are the combo meals, which start at less than $5 (hot dog). Each meal includes a medium drink, steak fries or curly q fries and your choice of hot dog, hamburger, cheeseburger, beef on weck or chicken fingers. These meals are made even better if you can find some of the coupons they offer in local coupon booklets – buy a combo meal, get a free custard!
Oh, yeah – in addition to great food, they serve awesome custard, ice cream (Perry’s!), frozen yogurt, milkshakes, floats and more. To add to the diner feel of Pautler’s, they host a popular Tuesday night Cruise Night from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.; the 2013 edition kicks off on May 14th and runs through September.
Pautler’s does close for the winter, so make sure you get there before the snow flies!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Small-Batch Cut-Out Cookies

Ever have the need for just a few cut-out cookies…you know, to take somewhere (or, OK, to eat yourself)? This recipe from Dessert for Two fits the bill to a ‘T’ – depending on the size of your cookie cutters, you’ll get 10 to 15 cookies from this recipe, and the cookies are crispy and delicious.
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
Small-Batch Cut-Out Cookies (adapted from Dessert for Two)
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Pre-heat oven to 350-degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Once light and fluffy, add the egg yolk and vanilla. When combined thoroughly, add half the flour mixture and beat gently until combined, then add the rest. Beat until combined, but be careful not to over-mix.
Dust a clean counter top with flour. Gather dough into a ball and press it into a round disk. Flour the top of the dough, then roll out to desired thickness. Cut cookies using cookie cutters, and place shapes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Gather the dough scraps and re-roll to cut out more shapes and place them on the cookie sheet; continue until dough is used up.
Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for 5 minutes, then bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges of the cookies just start to turn brown. Let them sit on the sheet a few minutes before moving them a wire rack to cool completely.
Decorate with your favorite icing and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nutter Butter Truffles

As I’ve mentioned before, I love the blog The Smart Cookie Cook, because she’s got plenty of what I like on there: cheese, chocolate, pasta, more cheese, peanut butter, pizza, more chocolate…These are also my favorite food groups! J
For the recent Easter holiday, she developed a decadent treat for the chocolate and peanut butter lovers among us, and I had to try it out (because I knew I’d have plenty of guinea pigs to try them!) – Nutter Butter Truffles.
copyright Paula Thompson Freelance
The original recipe made two dozen truffles, but I cut it in half (because I was experimenting with other recipes as well) and used those cute little Nutter Butter Bites instead of the full-size cookies.

Nutter Butter Truffles (adapted from The Smart Cookie Cook)
3/4 bag (8 oz.) Nutter Butter Bites
1/4 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
Milk chocolate candy wafers (or whatever flavor or color you’d like)
Place Nutter Butter Bites and peanut butter chips in a food processor and process until they start to come together (approximately 5 minutes), stopping periodically to scrape down the sides. Add the oil and process until smooth and creamy (approximately an additional 2 minutes). Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
Form Nutter Butter mixture into tablespoon-sized balls. Place on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper so it doesn’t stick. Continue with remaining mixture. Transfer truffles to the freezer until completely firm (one to two hours).
Melt chocolate by your desired method just before removing the truffles from the freezer. Dunk frozen truffles into the chocolate and coat completely using a fork or just your fingers. Flip to coat both sides and let excess drip off. Return to lined waxed paper lined baking sheet.
Stick coated truffles in fridge to set completely and enjoy. Store extras in an airtight container in the fridge. Let come to room temperature before eating. Makes one dozen.

Copyright Paula Thompson Freelance

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pizza Challenge: Pizza Bites

I’m working on a few “challenges” this year, starting with the Pizza Challenge. Pizza is now more than a round pie with tomato sauce, cheese and some other toppings – it’s a flavor, something that has moved into pasta, sandwiches, hand-held versions, knife-and-fork versions – the possibilities for pizza are endless! So I’m checking my recipe catalogs for new “pizza” recipes and I’ll be posting the “results” here.
copyright: Paula Thompson Freelance

First up: these Pizza Bites from the Dinner-Mom blog that I found on Tasty Kitchen. Stuffed with three cheeses and using crescent roll dough, there’s a lot of flavor in these easy-to-make little bites – dip them in red sauce for a complete pizza experience. The original recipe makes 24 bites (great for party appetizers), but it can easily be cut in half if you have something else to make using crescent rolls (which I did – that recipe comes next week).

Pizza Bites (adapted from Dinner-Mom)
1 8-oz. can crescent roll dough
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 cup shredded mozzarella
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
In a small bowl, mix olive oil, garlic and Italian seasoning and set aside. In another bowl, mix cheeses in and set aside.
Roll out crescent roll dough and press together seams. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut dough into 24 small squares. Brush olive oil mixture over the dough, then place 1 teaspoon of cheese mixture on each square. Pull up the sides of the dough over the cheese and roll into a ball. Repeat for all of the squares.
To cook the bites, use the cake pop maker of your choice and follow the instructions given. I used a cake pop pan, which had the suggested temperature and time of 350-degrees F and 25 minutes – this worked well for the bites.
Remove bites from cake pop maker and enjoy.