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 entrĂ©e 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 campobellos.com.
**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 www.tullysgoodtimes.com.