Tag Archives: butter

New England Clam Chowder – My Secret Ingredients!

New England Clam Chowder – My Secret Ingredients!

This Creamy New England Clam Chowder bursting with clam broth flavor, tender clams, melt in your mouth potatoes and a hint of smokey from the bacon I can make 12 months of the year! My secret ingredients in this homemade New England Clam Chowder push it right over the top! My mother was whipping up creamy New England clam chowder when I was little so making homemade soups just comes naturally to me. This clam chowder recipe kind of reminds me of my no-nonsense crab cake recipe, no extra fillers! Topped with a little dollop of butter, a few dashes of tabasco and some oyster crackers brings me to chowda heaven!

My first secret ingredient in this New England Clam Chowder is dry cream sherry. De-glazing and simmering with dry sherry brings it to a whole new level. It really gives the chowder that extra something special everyone will be trying to figure out! If you have the time you really ought to pick up the Spnanish dry sherry called Amontilado for only $11 a bottle. It will last a while in your cupboard and help you to create amazing dishes.  I would never not think of putting a big splash of dry sherry into my chowder! You will understand why once you try it this way …you’ll never go back to sherry-less chowder!

My second secret ingredient is Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour, it’s a godsend. You don’t have to bother with a roux and worrying about lumps in your soup, sauce or gravy ever. It will change the way you cook! You can add the Wondra at any time during the creation of your dish and it magically dissolves. Now granted, sometimes we need a roux, like for making a gumbo and you need to devlop a nutty flavor from the roux working it into deep, dark golden color but we don’t want that here in the New England Clam Chowder so why add the extra work!

Sure it’s nice if it’s the right time of the year and you’ve set aside time to find and buy fresh whole clams to cook up for your chowder but my recipe can be made at the snap of your fingers, 12 months of the year and taste like restaurant quality chowder! It’s easy to do. I always stock my cabinets with snows clams and broth for chowder or linguine and clam sauce!

This New England Clam Chowder is especially great for parties like Memorial Day, which is right around the corner! Another great party dish you may want to add is Buffalo Chicken DipBEST Guacamole Ever, Salsa 101, Homemade Sweet & Tangy BBQ Sauce, or a gorgeous and most delicious Pavlova for dessert!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients (NOTE- Quantities can easily be halfed OR quartered …it’s still delicious!):

  • 6 cans “Snows” clams – 5 “chopped” clams & 1 “minced”
  • 5 Bottles “Snows Clam Broth = 6 cups broth (5 cups bottle + 1 cup comes from the cans after you drain the clams)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 3/4 cup good dry cream sherry -(the pink one) Spanish Dry Sherry “Amontillado” is one of my favorites (1/4 cup to de-glaze onion/celery and 1/2 cup to simmer with broth base)
  • 2 slices minced bacon (smokey flavor ONLY not maple)
  • 2 extra lg potatoes or 4 small diced to 1/2″ size
  • 1 celery stalk grated or finely diced
  • 1 whole sweet onion grated or finely diced
  • 1 bunch rosemary tied with string … just a flavor bundle – to be removed
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp finely ground pepper
  • 3 sprinkles of “Wondra-Quick Dissolving Flour”

Directions:

  1. Slice lg onion in 1/2, peel outer layer and grate OR finely chop whole onion
  2. Grate OR finely chop or 2 celery stalks, if grating….just grate the underside of stalk ending with ourter stringy rib section to discard
  3. Slice 3 slice of smoked bacon, then dice that
  4. Add diced bacon to large pot and begin to sauté on low, just want the bacon to become slightly golden…not dark
  5. Add in grated onion and celery and saute until lightly golden
  6. De-glaze with 1/4 cup dry cream sherry
  7. In 1 minute add in diced Yukon potatoes and all the clam broth from cans and bottles and 2 bay leaves and 1 tsp salt
  8. Bring to a simmer and cook for 12-15 minutes until the potatoes are tender but FIRM because the potatoes will continue to cook even after you take them off the heat
  9. Tie off a bundle of fresh rosemary with cotton string
  10. At the 5 minute mark of simmering the potatoes ADD in the rosemary bundle and 1/2 cup of dry cream sherry and bring back to a low simmer
  11. At the last 2 minutes of simmering the potaotes ADD in 3 cups of heavy cream, 1/4 tsp finely ground blk pepper and possibly 1 tsp more of salt (you need to taste here to see if your chowder needs this addition of salt) and bring back to a low simmer
  12. Take the New England Clam Chowder base off the heat and gently stir in all the clams
  13. Remove the the rosemary bundle and the bay leaves and serve with Tabasco and oyster crackers
  14. If this is for the following day cool chowder completely at room temp allowing space with the cover for the soup to evaporate, place in frig
  15. When re-heat the soup watch carefully not to bring to a boil …just heat thru…mmm! Enjoy!

 

 

 

Girl Scouts Thin Mint Chocolate Mousse Pie

Girl Scouts Thin Mint Chocolate Mousse Pie

This Girl Scouts thin mint chocolate mousse pie is absolutely delicious!  The oh so chocolaty mousse is light and lucious and melts in your mouth. The texture’s of the pie are undenialbly one of my favorite aspects of the pie. It goes from the cool, silky mousse to the crunchy cookie crumble in the crust with subtle hints of mint.

Although you do bake the thin mint crust for a mere 8 minutes, this is a no-bake, no fuss, chocolate mousse filling. The crunchie crust is made with puréed Girl Scout Cookies, butter and sugar. In the same food processor that the thin mint cookies were just puréed, the chocolate mousse starts off with mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, vanilla, and a pinch of salt.  Then boiling heavy cream is streamed into the opening at the top to melt the chips as they spin into a smooth and creamy chocolate delight. This chocolate is cooled to room temperature and folded into whipped heavy cream for the finale. It’s one of those special dessert’s that’s so uncomplicated you’ll find yourself making it more than just once.

Having my daughter’s Girl Scout troop in my kitchen making this thin mint chocolate mousse pie was so much fun! We are very fortunate for our wonderful leader, Jen Swenson, who is generous with her efforts and time with the troop. It’s one of those precious things in life that the girls will treasure always.

Those of you who love the good ole mint-chocolate flavors will go crazy for this dessert. Those of you who aren’t partial to that flavor combo might be surprised how suble and sweet the thin mint crust is …tamed by the butter maybe! And like I told Maisy in the show, you can always just eat the chocolate mousse middle!

If you are looking for some appetizer’s to start off this Girl Scouts Thin Mint Chocolate Mousse Pie extravaganza you should try my Salsa 101 or Best Guacamole Ever!  Maybe you are more in the mood for Zucchini Torta or a main dish like one of my all time favorite’s Stuffed Peppers or Chicken Piccata…both dishes you’ll add to your week day meals once you have your first bite! Enjoy! 🙂

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Ingredients for Girl Scouts Thin Mint Crust Pre-Heat oven to 350º :

  • 28 Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies – 1 3/4 sleeve …(a few left over for nibbling on)
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 10″ pie plate, or 9″ spring form pan, OR 9″ pie plate & cups for the extra chocolate mousse you will have

Directions for the Girl Scouts Thin Mint Crust:

  1. Melt 5 tbsp butter, set aside
  2. Add 28 cookies to the food processor and pulse 3-4 times until they are a fine crumb
  3. Pour in melted butter and 2 tbsp sugar and pulse 10 seconds to combine
  4. Turn out crumb mixture into a 10″ pie plate, or 9″ spring form pan
  5. NOTE: If you only have a 9″ pie plate NO WORRIES just add the excess chocolate mousse to cups or glasses, topping with cookies crumble and set the same in the frig for 4-6 hours or even freeze for a later date!
  6. Press cookie crumb mixture all along the bottom and up the edges of the pie dish forming the crust
  7. Put the pie crust into a 350º oven for 8 minutes
  8. Take out and completely cool

Ingredients for Chocolate Mousse:

  • 3 cups heavy cream – 2 cups for whipping the heavy cream/ 1 cup for melting the chocolate chips in the food processor
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 bag mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions for the Chocolate Mousse:

  1. Wipe thin mint cookie crumbs out of food processor and add mini chocolate chips
  2. Add vanilla and pinch of salt
  3. Add 1 cup heavy cream to small sauce pan and bring to a boil
  4. Place cover on food processor, turn on and slowly add hot cream thru opening at top
  5. Keep it running for about 20-30 seconds until chips are melted and creamy
  6. Empty out into a bowl to cool, only cool to room temperature NOT COLD because the chocolate will solidify and it will be difficult to fold into the whipped cream
  7. When chocolate is close to room temp add 2 cups heavy cream to a large glass bowl with 1/4 cup sugar and begin to whisk with electric beater
  8. Whisk the cream until stiff peaks, 3-5 minutes
  9. Fold 1/2 cup at a time of the room temp chocolate into the whipped cream until there’s none left
  10. Pour out chocolate mousse into the COMPLETELY cooled baked pie crust and smooth out top with a offset spatula
  11. Sprinkle thin mint cookie crumble over the top and place into the frig for 4-6 hours
  12. Slice and serve with whipped cream…yum!

Saltine Christmas Bark

Saltine Christmas Bark

This Saltine Christmas Bark is the perfect holiday treat made in mere minutes. You get the best of both world’s, sweet and salty plus a crunch from the Saltine cracker base! It starts with crushed peppermint candy (my favorite), or pecans, then a layer of creamy chocolate leading into the slightly chewy toffee which all sets up on a crunchy saltine cracker! Oh my goodness, bring it on!

The fun part about making this Saltine Christmas Bark is breaking up this giant slab of goodness into randon size pieces. You kind of feel like an artist deciding how big and even the shape of the final outcome! Plate them up and voilà your masterpiece. These also make great holiday gift’s that you can fancy up in decorative celophane candy bags with ribbon.

Let your holiday Saltine Christmas Bark making be extra special with my Bolognese Sauce, a scrumptious recipe I developed thru inspiration from a favorite pasta dish where I went to college in Urbino, Italy. If you’re now thinking Italian you should try my chicken Piccata, a savory white wine, capers and mushroom sauce that’s delectable. Maybe Lobster Mac N’ Cheese is more your style! Or you could be looking for a “Steak-House” Creamed Spinach that pairs up nicely with steak or fish! Since we are so close to the holidays what better time to make the most amazing chocolate pecan pie ever!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 pkgs saltine
  • 1 cup butter – 2 sticks
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 cups “mini” semi-sweet chocolate chips (if you can’t get “mini” the regular size is fine)
  • 5 pepermint candies – finely crush peppermnt candy in a Ziplock with a rolling pin – My Favorite!
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans, walnuts, m&m’s, or …what ever you want to sprinkle onto the melted chocolate chips
  • Non-stick aluminum foil – regular foil works too!
  • 12 x 17 Cookie tray

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400º
  2. Cover cookie tray with aluminum foil
  3. Arrange 48 crackers on your cookie tray, you may have to break or cut some in 1/2 to get to the edges
  4. Chop up pecans, walnuts or macadamia nuts and set aside
  5. Put candy canes in a ZipLock baggie, cover with a dish towel and give a few hits from your rolling pin to crush the candy to small and powder-like pieces, set aside
  6. Over medium – Med/high heat add 1 cup light brown sugar and 1 cup butter to a deep sauce pan
  7. Stir in the beginning ONLY to combine then leave it alone
  8. Bring to a boil and TURN DOWN to medium and let boil 3 MINUTES
  9. Immediately pour over laid out saltine crackers and spread the toffee with an offset spatula so it covers every saltine
  10. Then pop into oven for 5 minutes
  11. Take out and the toffee will be bubbly, IMMEDIATELY pour “mini” semi-sweet chocolate chips all over the top (if you can’t get “mini” the regular works just as well)
  12. Let the chips sit for about 5 minutes to soften up
  13. Using your offset spatula spread the softened chocolate chips covering all the toffee
  14. Immeduiately after spreading chocolate take your crushed candy cane and nuts and begin to sprinkle over the wet chocolate
  15. NOTE: You want to sprinkle toppings BEFORE the chocolate sets so it STICKS to the top
  16. Pop the whole cookie tray into the fridge for 45 minutes – 1 hour to set OR freezer for 20-25 minutes if you are in a rush
  17. Take out of fridge, remove foil and begin to break up the saltine Christmas bark into what ever size you like…mangia mangia!

 

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

megordonMasterChef open casting calls and chewy chocolate chip cookies are the highlights of my blogging today. With exhausting life events that have taken place over the last three weeks I was some how able to produce my chewy chocolate chip cookie show for you and show up to my second pre-registered casting call for MasterChef.

Three weeks ago we received horrific news that my brother-in-law, George, passed away at the age of 57 from a heart attack. It was both devastating and unexpected. He was taken from us much too young and will be deeply missed by many. George lead an incredible life having the opportunities to accomplish many wonderful things that so many people wouldn’t have even had the chance to experience.

Bella and Reilly visiting with Brody

Bella and Reilly visiting with Brody

While dealing with the loss of Uncle George our King Charles, Brody, was hit by a car on Wednesday. I had just finished shooting my chewy chocolate chip cookie show when we got news of the accident. My kids and I were running between two vets for six hours for the later part of the day.

Brody didn’t have any broken bones, but a deep open gash on his upper right leg and bruising across his chest causing a profuse amount of swelling. They don’t stitch wounds like this so he got four staples and spent the next few nights at the vets for care and observation. Brody was heavily sedated on Thursday so I began to edit my chewy chocolate chip cookie show and was then able publish it to my YouTube Channel.

A second task now out of the way. My first task, was accomplished earlier in the week on Tuesday making a test run of my “Cold Cucumber-Fennel Soup” for the MasterChef three minute plating part of the casting call. I wanted to make sure the flavors were exactly how I wanted them with the new addition of the fennel to the soup. I was then off to pick up the King Crab legs from Altlantic Seafood in Old Saybrook. This crab will be set up on top of the cucumber-fennel soup in the center with a eatable garnish of fresh dill. The cold soup will also have a drizzle of Sicilian extra virgin olive oil, and fine dice, a brunoise, of avocado, tomato and cucumber scantly decorating the top of the soup around the king crab.

Friday morning was upon us and I was now making the a final batch of my Cold Cucumber-Fennel Soup for the MasterChef open call. Just as I was finishing, Brody’s vet called and wanted me to come for a visit with Brody. I put the soup into the refrigerator and headed right out. I felt that the hour I spent there with him helped so much I brought Reilly and Bella back at six o’clock that night right after picking up the rental car for New York City. I decided on driving this time to MasterChef because the five plus hours of train rides the last time was too draining.

The Veterinary hospital was forty-five minutes away so the kids and I were home by 8:45 Friday night after the visit with Brody. I then finished organizing the ice, the cooler, and chopped up the eatable garnish for the soup. Then I worked on finishing the eight page application to the MasterChef open casting call. Finally, I went to sleep at midnight and that 4:30 am alarm came way too fast.

MasterChef on Camera Shooting in Times Square

MasterChef on Camera Shooting in Times Square

On Saturday morning, the MasterChef crew wanted contestants there at 8:00 for morning filming, so that’s what I did. They filmed us in groups in Times Square chanting “MasterChef”. They then did individual on-camera pieces with every single contestant stating what we did for a living, where we were from and a finish on a “I’m your next MasterChef”, with much enthusiasm! Myself and a few others were then asked sign release forms.

After two hours at Times Square we all went back to the hotel to wait our turn to enter into the “plate-up” room. We met the tasting chefs and the first set of interviewers walking around with clip boards discussing your life and what kind of person you are. Well, I’m ecstatic to say the judges loved my Cold Cucumber-Fennel Soup! My number was announced first once again, as it was in the first open casting call that I attended back in October of 2015. Our group of 9 was on to the next interview part of the casting call and the remaining contestants from our group were dismissed.

At this point it was noon and my energy level was deteriorating fast even after having a coffee at 4:30 am, a mini can of coca cola at 8:00 am and a 1/2 of a coffee at 10:30. But once again, I am there ready to forge on. Worries of Brody are also going through my mind. The anticipation and excitement of picking him up after I leave NYC which also included dropping off Bella to her Tennis match, the rental car, picking up Reilly and then heading to Piper Veterinary to get our boy home!

Oh yes, we are back at the MasterChef interview room facing the last judge with his seductive English accent, a kind of 007 look to him, is now asking me to tell him about myself. What! Really? OK, everything I was hoping to express to him just went out the window and I’m thinking “just try and be your funny self Michel” and all will be okay, but that is not how it worked out. Although I was hopeful that I may still have a chance to get to thru this “personality” phase to my dismay I was not. I know more of me was expected in that last phase then I was capable of giving this time.

Well, I did make a kick ass dish once again and actually enjoyed this round of MasterChef open casting call much more then the first time. You can’t always plan your life events! Life happens as they say and you have to roll with the punches and enjoy every minute. Definite kudos go out to that MasterChef casting call team who were there working their tails off for a good twelve hours. There’s always another chance at the next casting call later this year when MasterChef comes back to NYC!

Hope you enjoy my chewy chocolate chip cookie show and the SECRET to their chewiness. Remember to grab a few for yourself because there are never any left over! If you are looking for some delicious appetizer’s you may want to try my baked sweet potato fries and green Goddess dipping sauce,  my crab cakes, or mediterranean layered dip. For a main course you could venture to my homemade bolognese sauce or even homemade pasta!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks room temperature butter- salted
  • 1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla pure extract
  • 2 lg eggs room temp
  • 2 cups – 1 bag of Ghiradelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Directions:

  1. Add room temp butter, light brown sugar and granulated sugar to mixing bowl with mixing paddle
  2. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy – a couple of minutes
  3. Add in one egg at a time, thoroughly mixing after each egg
  4. Whisk dry ingredients in a bowl and begin to add dry into creamed sugar and egg mixture
  5. Briefly mix until combined – you do not want to build gluten’s here
  6. Mix in chocolate chips by hand into cookie dough
  7. With a lg cookie scoop scoop cookie dough onto tray 2″ apart
  8. Bake 7- 12 minutes on 375º – I BAKE MY COOKIES FOR 7 MINUTES IN A CONVECTION OVEN
  9. Bake until they are golden around edges and still blonde-pale in the middle
  10. Take out and let sit on tray for at least 5 minute then move then to a cookie rack to finish cooling…enjoy!!

 

Lobster Mac & Cheese at David & Eileen’s

Lobster Mac & Cheese at David & Eileen’s

With this homemade gourmet lobster mac & cheese at David & Eileen’s you get the best of both worlds! Two of my very favorite things to eat all in the same dish! What more could you ask for? What, did someone say “smoked Gouda, please”? The Lobster goes with out saying and for those of you who appreciate that slightly salty, yet sweet and rich in every meaty bite know what I’m talking about. Then to add this succulent lobster to pasta that’s covered in a delicate, smokey, cheesy sauce put’s it right over the top!

When my dear friends David and Eileen suggested making lobster mac & cheese for my cooking show it was like bells went off. I thought it was a great idea. David had discussed the idea with our other foodie friend, Marco, who offered up his recipe to David. Marco and his wife, Sheryl, own an Inn near by called Lathrop Manor where Marco cooks up a five course gourmet breakfast if you’re a guest there.  Marco was also the chef in my “Salmon BLT Sliders at Marco’s Show” from this past summer. Needless to say, our group here loves to cook, eat and have fun. Even frequenting the Farm and Vine Dinner’s at The Ocean House together. 

Sharing family recipes, like Dave and Laurie did with their yummy “Caruso Salad” and the amazing lobster mac & cheese recipe between Marco and David is what brings friends together. Cooking, eating, laughing and enjoying each other’s company is the foundation of life in all cultures around the world . I am grateful to have such wonderful family and friends to do this with.

I hope you enjoy this homemade “Lobster Mac & Cheese at David & Eileen’s” show as much as we did making it! Have fun with this recipe. You may also want to check out my Caesar Salad for a side dish or some Arancini Reuben Balls, stuffed mushrooms ,or baked asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto for an appetizer. Although , we don’t have David’s incredible chocolate meringue pie recipe yet, you could check out a chocolate pecan pie recipe that’s to die for.

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Ingredients for Lobster Mac & Cheese at David and Eileen’s:

  • 2 Lobsters – meat from 2 – 1 1/2 lb. steamed lobsters
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 2 small onion finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp lobster base – OPTIONAL it gives a wonderful flavor to the dish… we did forget to add it in the show and the lobster mac & cheese was still delicioso!
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups smoked Gouda
  • 1 1/2 cups Cabot cheddar or similar
  • 1 lb. cellentani pasta or elbow
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 tsp garlic granules
  • 1/4 tsp onion granules
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • s&p
  • 2 tbsp rm temp butter for coating the baking dish

Topping Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Directions for Lobster Mac & Cheese at David and Eileen’s:

  1. Per-Heat oven to 400º
  2. Coat the baking dish with 2 tbsp rm temp butter and set aside
  3. Cook Pasta til firm in salted water- al dente (2 minutes less than directions call for)
  4. Drain and rinse to cool pasta and set aside
  5. Melt butter in sauté pan
  6. Sauté the chopped onion til soft and translucent
  7. Add a s&p
  8. Warm milk in a pan on low heat
  9. Add flour to onions to make a roux
  10. Continue on stove stirring mixture for 1 minute to cook out raw flour flavor
  11. Gradually add warmed milk to roux while continuing to whisk so as not to get lumps
  12. Add in bay leaves
  13. Cook over medium heat while stirring until sauce thickens
  14. Taste here to see if you need more salt and pepper
  15. Add in lobster base
  16. Simmer for a few minutes
  17. Turn heat to low and add in smoked Gouda and cheddar while whisking
  18. Sauce should have consistency of heavy cream
  19. Mix pasta, sauce and lobster meat
  20. Transfer to an oven safe baking dish
  21. Add in heavy cream and 1/4 cup Parmesan and mix gently
  22. Make the breadcrumbs by combining breadcrumbs, Parmesan, onion and garlic granules, s&p and 2 tbsp olive oil
  23. Mix with you hands or a spoon and sprinkle evenly over the lobster mac & cheese
  24. Bake in a 400º oven for 20-25 minutes until bubbly
  25. NOTE: The pasta will absorb a lot of liquid in the beginning when you first mix it, AND then when you bake it, AND as it sits, AND then as it cools, so it’s a good thing to have a little extra sauce in the beginning …it will keep absorbing -you don’t want a dry lobster mac and cheese sauce 🙂

 

 

Spanakopita at Dana’s

Spanakopita at Dana’s

When you bite into the buttery, flaky pastry layers with the creamy sheep’s milk feta and ricotta-spinach filling you’ll agree that Spanakopita, a classic Greek dish, is so worth the effort. We neatly fold this delicate pastry dough, with a tablespoon of this amazing spinach mixture, into triangles for the perfect little appetizer shape that just melts in your mouth. The #4 fillo pastry dough becomes this delicate shell making for an elegant nibble.

This recipe came from my good friend, Dana, who happens to be a wonderful chef. In fact, Dana and her husband are opening up a restaurant in early spring at The Goodwin Golf Course called Birdie Cafe. Dana is half Greek and half Italian so this was family tradition for her growing up making these with her mother. My great grandmother was born in Crete making me one eighth Greek. So with a hint of Greek lineage in my blood I’m thinking that’s what drives my palate towards these Mediterranean flavors that I adore so much.

Spending the day in Dana’s kitchen with our other college friend, Lynn, making these spanakopita was ideal considering we were having so much fun it didn’t seem like work at all. We didn’t even realize how much we were accomplishing. Lynn, who manage’s Sam The Clam Pub & Grub in Southington, CT introduced us to a Greek Mojito with Metaxa, a Greek liquer, that was very delicious.

The fact that you can easily make these spanakopita triangles ahead of time which freeze so nicely for future dates is ideal for parties. So start making this spanakopita now for your Super Bowl get together! Invite over a few friends to make the spanakopita and the task goes really quickly and it’s a lot of fun. Add in our Greek Metaxa Mojito’s and I think you have yourself a pre-party to the party just like the one at Dana’s.

To cut down on the time and effort and not forgo making this delectable dish you could make one big tray of the spanakopita. In a 9 x 13 x 3 (or similar size) baking dish lay down 9 full sheets of phyllo pastry dough brushing in between each layer with butter of course. Next, lay in the entire bowl of spinach filling, then 9 more buttered layers of phyllo with a finishing buttered coating right on the top. If you are baking this one tray be sure to refrigerate the the spanakopita for twenty minutes before baking it. This will firm up the pastry dough so you can run a knife through the top layers of dough cutting in only about 1/4″ to give you pre-cut lines in the serving sizes you’ll want. It makes cutting the spanakopita much easier after it comes out of the oven. Of course, a tray this size will need to bake for about 55-60 on 350º instead of the 20 minutes the triangles take. The phyllo pastry dough is very forgiving. If your sheets are larger then the pan giving you extra dough on the sides when lining the baking dish just fold them over. You won’t notice that the sides may be folded over after it’s baked because it will be all flaky and puffed anyways and still taste incredible.

You may want to serve up some other appetizers like Prosciutto wrapped asparagus, a caesar salad with the spanakopita, turkey stuffed peppers are one of my very favorite or maybe something light like an Asian noodle & shrimp salad only to end with Pavlova or chocolate avocado mousse! To make a similar dressing to the one Dana makes in the show check out my amazing TANGERINE DRESSING here!

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INGREDIENTS FOR Spanakopita – will make approx. 30 spankopita triangles :

  • 1 pkg. #4 Phyllo Pastry dough or Fillo pastry dough put into frig over night if frozen
  • 1 cup (1 pkg) thawed and fully drained (squeezed) frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1 cup sheep’s milk feta cheese
  • 1 lb. melted butter
  • 3 scallions finely chopped white and green parts OR 2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

DIRECTIONS FOR Spanakopita:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350º
  2. Take Phyllo dough out of the frig to bring to room temperature but still in the box
  3. Drain and squeeze ALL the water from chopped thawed spinach
  4. In a large bowl add 2 cup ricotta, 1 cup drained spinach, 1 cup sheep’s feta, scallions or shallots, parsley, dill, nutmeg and pepper – stir gently to mix and set aside
  5. Unroll Phyllo on counter top
  6. Cut the 15″ long pastry dough with a sharp knife into 3 3/4″ pieces getting 4 across
  7. Start to lay out the strips 4 across a work surface – always keep a layer of saran wrap and a damp dish towel on top of the layers you’re not using
  8. Brush thin coat of butter in between each layer til you have 3 layers down in each of the 4 rows
  9. Put 1 tbsp of ricotta-spinach mixture in the right bottom corner of the phyllo sheet – you can use a sm. cookie dough scoop to help keep the tbsp all the same size – this will help you to move along quicker
  10. Fold right corner over so the bottom edge lines up with the left side, like you are folding a flag
  11. Continue on up until you are at the top and used up all the pastry dough – brush a little butter on the last fold to seal it
  12. Put filled phyllo triangles onto a baking tray about 9 per tray
  13. Bake each tray of spanakopita triangles for 20 minutes on 350º until golden
  14. Be sure to let the spsankopita cool a little – the filling will be hot 🙂
  15. You may have 1/2-3/4 cup of filling leftovers so freeze it, roll up in pounded-out chicken breasts, stuff bone-in chicken breasts under the skin with the filling and bake or just buy extra phyllo…enjoy 🙂

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INGREDIENTS for the METAXA MOJITO’S:

  • 1 cup Metaxa Greek Liquer
  • 1 1/2 cups soda water
  • 1 fresh lime cut into wedges
  • 1 fresh lemon juiced = 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 4 mint leaves or basil leaves

DIRECTIONS for making the Metaxa Mojito’s:

  1. Mint leaves muddled with fresh lime wedges and light brown sugar in a glass cocktail mixer
  2. Add fresh lemon juice, Metaxa, soda water and ice, shake and serve with mint or basil garnish…enjoy 🙂

Amazing German Pancake!

Amazing German Pancake!

This amazing German pancake is an awesome dish to make for your holiday guests! It’s festive and quite spectacular when your guests see how your pancake has puffed to enormous heights when you take it out of the oven. Not only does it make for a wonderful presentation but it’s made with little effort and can be served for breakfast or as a dessert!

A German pancake is really a giant popover. “Dutch baby” is another name for this pancake and rumor has it that the reason behind this name came about when a chef’s young child couldn’t pronounce the German word for German, “Deutsche”. Supposedly, this mis-pronunciation lead German Pancakes to the alternative name “Dutch Babies”. A couple other names that this German pancake has been called are “Dutch puff” and “Bismark”.

My kids get very excited for that moment when this amazing German pancake comes out of the oven! It has a bit of a custard like texture inside yet very light. We love eating these pancakes and have come to the conclusion that they taste like something in between a pancake, french toast and a crêpe!

My Vermont friends turned me on to this recipe years ago and I have been making them ever since. It’s fun for me to play around with recipes and see what works best so to this recipe I have added another egg, some vanilla and a little cinnamon. You can add grated nutmeg instead if you prefer. Originally, these homemade pancakes were served with lemon and confectioners sugar. I like to served them with confectioners sugar, real maple syrup, fresh blue berries and a dollop of my favorite “Wild Blueberry Preserves” by Bonne Maman, a product of France (sold right in our local market at Stop and Shop). German pancakes are so easy to make, taking on the same amount of time as making ordinary pancakes. The wonderful thing here is you are not glued to the stove pouring batter every few minutes.

Using cast iron is the way to go here because it holds in the heat evenly distributing it throughout the pan but I have made them in other oven proof pans and it comes out great. Some recipes have you pre-heating the pan in the oven, pulling out the rack, pouring in the batter, then pushing the rack back into the oven and in my opinion, this is a disaster waiting to happen since the batter can easily swoosh over the sides causing the oven to smoke ! The easiest way to start these homemade German pancakes is on the stove top and then into the oven for the duration. The finished product will make you will feel like a french pastry chef all day. This could also make for a great dessert to an impressive dinner with entrees like turkey stuffed peppers, pulled beef tacos & mango salsa or yogurt-chicken kabobs & tzatziki. Enjoy!

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Ingredients for Traditional German Pancake:

  • 5 extra LG eggs (or 6 large)
  • 1 cup Milk – cold
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 Tsp. salt
  • 1/4 Tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tsp. vanilla
  • 4 Tbsp butter  -cut up into 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) COLD

Ingredients for savory German Pancake:

  • 5 extra LG eggs (or 6 large)
  • 1 cup Milk – cold
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 Tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup swiss cheese OR cheddar
  • 1/2 cup thin diced ham OR sauteed mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup green onion OR sauteed sweet onion
  • NOTE: If you are going the cheddar, sauteed mushroom & onion route add 1 cup fresh baby spinach too!
  • 4 Tbsp butter  -cut up into 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) COLD

Directions:  

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425º
  2. In a medium bowl whisk dry ingredients together
  3. Begin to whisk in milk, vanilla and eggs into dry ingredients just until combined …Note : it puffs more if your milk and eggs are cold!
  4. Put 10″-12″ cast iron pan on stove top on low heat for 1 minute –THIS WILL WORK IN ANY 10″-12″ OVEN PROOF PAN –
  5. Turn heat up to high on cast iron pan, wait 1 minute til pan is hot but not smoking, then add 4 Tbsp of cut up cold butter
  6. When the butter gets frothy add the batter, do not stir
  7. Immediately take off heat and put into oven for 22 minutes until golden and puffy
  8. NOTE: if you are doing “SAVORY German Pancake” …after you remove from heat top with your extra ingredients, do not stir, and place into oven for the 22 minutes
  9. When you take it out of the oven transfer to a plate with a spatula and sprinkle with confectioners sugar.
  10. Slice into wedges and serve with maple syrup, warm fresh strawberry jam/sauce (Recipe BELOW) and whipped cream! …mmm!

Ingrediesnts and Directions for EASY STRAWBERRY JAM/SAUCE:

  • 1 lb. hulled and chopped fresh stawberries
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh sqeezed lemon juice
  1. Finely dice strawberries and add to a wide 8″ sauce pan with 1 cup sugar and lemon juice
  2. Over med/high heat bring to a rolling simmer
  3. Keep an eye on the mixture, keep simmering for 15 min. – make sure it doesn’t boil over
  4. Skim off white foam that accumulates around the edges while simmering as this will make the jam cloudy (its just air bubbles that form in the jamming process)
  5. Remove from heat and serve warm with German pancake
  6. Jar the remaining strawberry sauce and refrigerate as it will thicken into a jam as it cools! It will stay good for 2 weeks in the frig.

 

Best Blueberry Pie!

Best Blueberry Pie!

There’s nothing like fresh blueberries simmering in a buttery, flaky pie crust with aromatic fruit juices getting bubbly and syrupy. It’s tough to let this mouth watering concoction cool for three hours when all you really want to do is scoop some vanilla ice cream over a slice letting the cream melt onto the crispy crust and gooey berries submerging oneself into pie heaven! This might just be the perfect dessert bite!

There are recipes out there that have you use flour as a thickener in some fruit pies but with this best blueberry pie recipe I think it’s important to use cornstarch. Blueberries release so much juice the best one for the job is cornstarch. You can add orange zest or lemon zest to brighten up the flavors and then there’s always cinnamon or nutmeg. Blueberries happen to be one of my favorite fruits and I feel that they are already flavorful enough so I only add one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to balance everything out. Blueberries are also considered to be one of the healthiest fruits out there offering up one of the highest levels of antioxidants of all fruits and vegetables so I think it’s a win-win here!

Cutting out decorative leaf shapes (or what ever shape you like) from the top sheet of pie crust is a no brainer for me because it’s so gosh darn easy to do, it looks like you spent all day on it and it’s very forgiving. When it bakes in the oven getting golden, crispy and slightly shiny from brushing on the egg wash it’s going to look and taste amazing no matter what!

This best blueberry pie recipe might just become your decadent dessert ritual for your holiday dinners! Making the “perfect pie crust in 5 minutes” a week or two ahead of time and popping it into the freezer until you need it is a great way to cut down on some of the work that’s involved in throwing a Thanksgiving dinner or any holiday feast for that matter. If you get ambitious you iphone pictures 2419can always add a chocolate pecan pie into the mix. To help save some time with the side dishes you might try these roasted brussel spouts. They are so delicious roasted like this you’ll never eat them any other way. Have fun and enjoy 🙂

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 1/2 cups blueberries (that’s after you have sorted thru bad berries…start with 5 cups to have enough)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 corn starch
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cut up cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream
  • “Perfect Pie Crust in 5 Minutes!” recipe
  • Parchment paper for rolling out pie dough
  • 1 1/2 ” – 2″ pie leaf cut outs or what ever shape cookie cutter you want to dress the top of the pie with instead of using a whole sheet of pie crust dough

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Trace the edge of the pie plate onto both pieces of parchment paper
  2. Roll out 1/2 of the pie crust at a time in between two pieces of parchment with circle drawing on the outside
  3. When the dough is rolled out to approx 1/8″ thick and the proper circle size flip pie dough over with parchment paper into pie plate
  4. Gently fit pie dough into dish without pushing down hard and place into the fridge
  5. Wash and dry blueberries, picking through them to remove any under and over ripe berries and stems
  6. Place berries in a large bowl and add 1/4 cup corn starch, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/8 tsp salt and juice from 1/2 lemon and toss until coated
  7. Put the bowl of blueberries into the fridge
  8. Roll out the other pie dough disc and cut out leaf shapes or what ever shape you want to be the top layer of the pie
  9. Lay down a piece of parchment on a cookie sheet with a sprinkle of flour and place leaf cut outs onto the cookie sheet
  10. Put leaf cut outs into the fridge
  11. Take out pie dish with pie dough from fridge and crimp edges
  12. Pour the blueberries into the pie dish and back into the fridge
  13. Whisk 1 egg with 1 tbsp of heavy cream
  14. Take the leaf cut-outs on the cookie sheet from the fridge and brush with the egg wash
  15. Take the blueberries in the pie dish out of the fridge and dot the pie with 1  1/2 tbsp of cut up cold butter
  16. Begin to place leaf cut-outs on top of the blueberries. Go along the edge of pie all around and then work your way in (you only need to gently push a couple of the edges of the leaf to crimped edges of the pie and to each leaf
  17. Put the pie back into the fridge for 15 minutes while you pre-heat oven to 400º
  18. Place blueberry pie on the cookie sheet that has a piece of parchment covering the bottom in case of spillage and pop into the oven for 30 minutes
  19. Turn the oven down to 350º and bake for another 40 minutes until a golden crust and juices are bubbly
  20. You must let cool 3 hours so the blueberry juicy can thicken properly
  21. Serve with your best vanilla ice cream and you will be one happy camper! 🙂

 

Perfect Pie Crust in 5 Minutes!

Perfect Pie Crust in 5 Minutes!

IMG_4416Who would ever think you could make this buttery, flaky, homemade pie crust in 5 minutes? After eating many of my Granda’s pies when I was little I was inspired to come up with a recipe that tasted just like hers. Unfortunately, I never got her recipe but have been making pie crust’s for over twenty years and I’m happy to say I came up with a pie crust recipe that is spot on to what my Grandma used to make . Granted, there are some pretty decent pie crusts available at the market and if you are making many pies it totally makes sense to go that route. If you are only making a couple of pies you really need to get busy and make this homemade pie crust!

Homemade pie crust in 5 minutes is just that but there two tricks to this amazing pie crust. First, all the ingredients must be very cold. Refrigerated butter cubes are already firm enough but to firm up the soft Crisco pieces it’s wise to put that into the freezer before adding it to the food processor. Second, you MUST NOT OVER WORK the dough! Over working the dough will build gluten’s like you are make a bread dough and we don’t want that for making this perfect pie crust in 5 minutes. We want our pie crust to be flaky in texture not tough and hard.

In my opinion, a couple of the best bakers in the world are the French and the Southerner’s. One loves butter and the other loves Crisco. So why not take the best of both worlds using both butter and Crisco to achieve these wonderful results. Not to mention, as I always do, I have tested many pie crusts recipes to come to this theory.

You need to try out this perfect pie crust in 5 minutes recipe just once to be convinced to start making your own. In fact, you will wonder why you haven’t been making your own homemade pie crust your whole life when it’s that easy to make and tastes like this! Enjoy the show and don’t forget to make this ahead of time popping it into your freezer until you are ready to roll it out for a pie or a quiche. I would transfer the dough from your freezer to your refrigerator couple of days before you are ready to use it in order for the dough to come to the proper workable temperature. Once you make your dough you really ought to try making an amazing Chocolate Pecan Pie  or Death by Chocolate Meringue Pie for your holiday. Don’t forget to watch Thanksgiving week when we roll out this dough and bake a pie together! For the Best Blueberry Pie ever recipe this is one that shouldn’t be missed. Enjoy 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 10 tbsp cold butter cut up each tablespoon into 4 pieces and into fridge until you are ready to add to flour
  • 1/2 cup cold Crisco cut into small pieces OR 1/2 cup REAL LARD from FIREFLY Farms OR 1/4 cup Crisco & 1/4 cup lard
  • 1/2 cup,  plus 2 tbsp cold water,  (keep in fridge until you are ready to add to flour)
  • 3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • NOTE: I even keep food processor container with medal blade in it in the fridge until you are ready to pulse ingredients
  • Chocolate Pecan Pie Recipe OR Best Blueberry Pie Recipe OR Death by Chocolate Meringue Pie Recipe

Directions:

  1. Be sure all items above are completely chilled
  2. It’s easiest to freeze first, especially for crisco or real lard, then take out of freezer and cut up or grate before adding to processor
  3. Add dry ingredients to the food processor and pulse twice to combine
  4. Drop the freezer cold, firm Crisco or lard pieces onto the flour
  5. Then add the butter pieces helping the pieces to separate with a butter knife as you drop them onto the flour
  6. Pulse 5-7 time until the Crisco and butter are pea size
  7. Now turn processor to “on” and slowly add water through opening – Note: this will take about 12-15 seconds for the dough to come together
  8. The moment you see the dough begin to come together, STOP, and PULSE 2-3 times to finish into a ball
  9. Take dough out onto floured counter surface – you will see little specs of butter and Crisco in the dough which will make for a buttery, flaky crust!
  10. Cut dough into two pieces, cover with Saran Wrap and into fridge for at least 30 minutes or freezer until you are ready ( If you freeze it allow 2 days back in fridge to come to proper workable temperature)

Best Buffalo Chicken Dip Ever!

Best Buffalo Chicken Dip Ever!

If ever a party had a guest who showed up taking center stage this delicious buffalo chicken dip would be it! This mouth watering party dip really perks up those taste buds so much you may find yourself not straying too far in fear that it will be gone if you turn your back for too long. The layers start with room temperature cream cheese spread in the bottom of the baking dish, then the chicken that was cooked in Franks Hot Sauce, a drizzling of homemade buffalo sauce, and finally a sprinkle of crumbled blue cheese, sharp cheddar and mozzarella. Then it’s off to the oven until bubbly and served with tortilla chips, and of course the traditional carrots and celery. Yum, all I can say is bring it on!

When ever you make buffalo chicken wings you have that extra step of making a blue cheese dressing and with this dip you don’t need to because there’s that crumbled blue in the top layer of the dip. That’s what’s so great about this buffalo chicken dip you get all the amazing flavors of that typical “buffalo wings and blue cheese” with out all the work! Heck, you could even use the meat from a store bought rotisserie chicken, toss with some of our homemade buffalo sauce and voilà continue on with all the layers of the dip!  I do happen to have the most incredible homemade blue cheese dressing recipe if you are so inclined.

This buffalo chicken dip recipe came from my friend Lisa who just recently made it for a party we were at and it didn’t last very long! I was sure to get the recipe because I thought it was such an ideal party appetizer with minimal prep and cook time! You just can’t go wrong not to mention totally awesome for football season. In mid-November I will be shooting at Lisa and Vin’s house for a special afternoon of homemade pasta. Lisa’s husband Vin is going to share his father’s homemade pasta recipe with us. So make sure to watch for that exciting show.

IMG_7406I think this buffalo chicken layered dip is a win win for you and your party. Everyone will be asking you for the recipe. I hope you enjoy this “BEST Buffalo Chicken Dip” recipe and the show too! Don’t miss the “Behind the scenes bloopers” included at the end of the show. And if you want to make an amazing desert that will get you lots of oohs and ahhs try the Pavlova or the “Death by Chocolate Meringue Pie”! Don’t forget a Homemade Caesar Salad and an entré of Lobster Mac n’ Cheese or Eggplant Balls with pasta or Zucchini Spaghetti!

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Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb chicken tenderloins
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Sprinkle of salt
  • 1 -8 oz pkg Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • Frank’s Hot Sauce
  • Buffalo sauce: 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter (Kerrygold or favorite) & 1/3 cup Franks Hot Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Blue cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup mozzarella
  • (1) 9″ – 12″ baking dish

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375º
  2. Melt 1/2 stick of butter, take off the heat and add 1/4-1/2 cup of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, whisk til combined – this is the “homemade buffalo sauce” – set aside
  3. Add 1 tbsp olive oil on medium heat
  4. Add in the chicken tenderloin pieces to a pan on med. high heat, sprinkle with a pinch of salt begin to sauté for 3 minutes
  5. Flip chicken pieces over and sauté another 3 minutes
  6. Once they start to golden slightly add 2 tbsp Franks hot sauce and let reduce on low 1-2 minutes
  7. Remove from heat and shred or cut up
  8. Smear 8 oz. of room temperature cream cheese in bottom of your bake dish
  9. Then add the shredded chicken for the layer next
  10. Drizzle homemade buffalo sauce over the chicken (save some to drizzle after the layer of cheeses)
  11. Sprinkle 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  12. Then Sprinkle 1/4-1/3 cup cheddar and mozzarella each – if using 9″ baking dish go with 1/4 cup, if using 12″ baking dish you could use 1/3 cup if you want a little extra
  13. OPTIONAL – Drizzle more buffalo sauce over the cheeses
  14. Bake for 20-25 minutes til bubbly and serve with tortilla ships, carrots and celery