Part 3: Buffalo Chicken Dip

It’s crunch time, y’all. There’s a only two days to decide what you are serving up for the Super Bowl. I hope you at least you know who you are rooting for. My heart is always with the Patriots, but for now… Go Panthers!

Do not cave in and order in a bunch of generic chicken wings! I’ve gone through two easy and delicious buffalo alternatives and here’s my third. If you follow my Instagram or Twitter (@thepickygourmet, wink wink) you may have seen this dish when I made it for the games a couple weeks ago. Drumroll, please.

Buffalo chicken dip! What’s a football game without some form of chips and dip? I put this out for the Pats vs Broncos and it was gone before halftime. And the best part is, this might be the easiest of all my wing-less ideas. Besides the base of the shredded buffalo chicken we’ve used in all these recipes, there are only three ingredients.

Refresher on the chicken one more time: three chicken breasts, a dry ranch seasoning packet, a sprinkle of garlic and buffalo sauce to coat the chicken completely. Into the slow cooker for 3-4 hours on high or 6-7 on low, until it can be shredded with a fork. I swear, I make a batch of this every couple weeks for one thing or another. If you want to make an extra large batch, do it. You can totally freeze this and have it on hand for a quick meal in the future. But for now, here’s what you need for dip:

8 oz cream cheese block
6 oz blue cheese crumbles
2 cups shredded buffalo chicken
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese

So yeah, consider this two birds with one stone. You’ll be satisfying the buffalo chicken lovers and the cheese lovers. You’ll probably won’t be impressing any vegan cross-fit enthusiasts though.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. I use a 9×9 aluminum pan because it’s easy clean up and if you are traveling to a party you don’t have to worry about getting your bakeware back at the end of the day. Take the cream cheese block and start thinly slicing it, about an 1/8 of an inch thick, like you would a stick of butter. Arrange the slices evenly over the bottom of the pan, leaving a little space between them. Sprinkle on the blue cheese crumbles, again as evenly as possible, filling in those gaps.

A lot of buffalo dip recipes call for blue cheese or ranch dressing. Forget that! It’s all about the fresh crumbles. The flavor is better and it makes for a thick, decadent dip.

Next add the buffalo chicken. I sound like a broken record, but keep it even and layer it thick. Top it all off with the shredded cheddar and bake for 20 minutes, or until the top starts to become bubbly and slightly browned. Let this cool for about 5 minutes before digging in and serve with tortilla chips and celery stalks. Better yet, get that friend who doesn’t like cooking to bring those to party.

So this concludes the very first Picky Gourmet theme week! Wings are one of my favorite things, but I encourage you to do something different from everyone else for the big game. I’ve shown you simple but crowd pleasing ways to use buffalo chicken: nachos, stuffed potatoes and ooey-gooey, cheesy dip. I hope you try one (or all!) of these out, and most importantly, have FUN!

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Part 1: Buffalo Chicken Nachos

It’s almost time for the Super Bowl! I’m still excited for game day, even though my beloved Patriots didn’t make it this year. (I live in CA, but grew up in MA.)

Super Bowl Sunday is the best excuse to pig out, and it’s never complete without buffalo chicken! I love all things buffalo. The standard game plan is to just order 100 chicken wings and call it a day, but over the next few days I’m going to share my favorite ways to serve buffalo chicken for a party.

All of these ideas start the same way, with the slow cooker. I use 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, a packet of dry ranch dressing, a little minced garlic and enough buffalo sauce to completely coat the chicken. I use store bought buffalo sauce most of the time, but if you want to make your own, it’s equal parts hot sauce and butter. Then it’s either 3-4 hours on high or 6-7 hours on low, until the chicken can be easily shredded with a fork.

You could actually double up on everything and save some of this shredded chicken in the freezer for a quick meal in the future. I love doing food prep days on weekend and freezing things to save time on weekday nights, but that’s a whole other post for another day!

Now we have our delicious shredded Buffalo chicken all set to go. First game day dish we are going to tackle: Nachos! Like wings, nachos has to be one of the most popular foods for football games, so it only makes sense to get these guys together. Here’s how I do it.

  • bag of tortilla chips
  • 2 cups shredded buffalo chicken
  • 8 oz shredded Italian or pizza cheese blend
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and diced (optional)
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and begin assembly. I like to use a 9×13 disposable aluminum pan to make clean up extra easy at the end of the day. Also when you are chopping the fresh toppings, they can all end up in one bowl like a salsa to make things easier. Just keep the green onions to the side.

The biggest thing about nachos is you have to layer them. Don’t just dump it all on top! Nothing is worse than having half of your chips be sad and naked at the bottom of the pan.

Start with half of the chips and top with 3 oz of the cheese and 1 cup of the buffalo chicken. Next add half of the chopped red onion, tomato and the optional jalapeño (if you want some extra heat), making sure everything is spread out evenly. Then pile on the rest of the chips, another 3 oz of cheese, and the last of the chicken, tomato, onion and jalapeño. Finally, the last 2 oz of the cheese goes on. Bake this for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese melts and the edges of the chips start to brown. Finish it off with some fresh green onion over the whole thing.

I like to serve these up with some blue cheese dressing and sour cream on the side for dipping. I personally think blue cheese is the superior choice for a buffalo chicken dipping sauce, but I know there are some ranch fans out there. Do what makes you happy!

If these nachos don’t do it for you, check back in this week for some more ideas for using that shredded buffalo chicken.

{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet}

Baked Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pears

This might be my new favorite breakfast. It’s easy, it’s fairly healthy and it’s so flippin’ delicious. While the pears were baking, I was having trouble walking away from the oven, because the smell was so lovely.

This dish has the same flavor profiles of a heavier breakfast like French toast, but without the guilt and without making you feel like you need a nap after. Not that I’m knocking French toast! (I had a recipe for that posted a couple weeks ago) French toast, a couple mimosas, that’s heaven. But this is just as heavenly.

Yields 2 servings.

  • 3 pears
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp honey, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 4 Tbsp granola
  • 1 Tbsp powdered sugar (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Peel the pears, cut them in half and remove the cores and seeds. Place them cut side down in a small baking dish or pan. Make sure there’s not a lot of extra negative space, you want them packed in so the sauce doesn’t spread out on the bottom of the pan. I actually fit my pears in a bread loaf pan.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, honey, cinnamon, brown sugar and vanilla. Stir over low heat until the butter is fully melted.
  4. Pour the sauce over the pears and bake for 30-35 minutes until the pears are soft and carmelized.
  5. In two bowls, put a cup of Greek yogurt topped with 2 Tbsp of granola and drizzle with a little honey. Serve with 3 baked pear halves in each bowl. If there’s excess sauce in the baking pan, drizzle it over the pears and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Play around with the yogurt toppings. We had cherry vanilla granola in the pantry and it was great. But any granola, dried fruits or nuts would work. What you are looking for is that crunch element, because the pears and yogurt are both so soft in texture.

I am obsessing over this because the textures are great, it looks great, it tastes great and (holy $#!+) it smells great. Four out of five senses, not bad. Maybe next time I’ll put on some smooth jazz or 90s R&B to really bring it home.

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Sweet Chili Shrimp & Warm Asian Slaw

This is something I would have never considered eating in my super picky days. I decided to make this because I had some zucchini that were too small, and when I put them through the spiralizer they came out basically julienned. They were too short to use as a pasta, so I came up with this.

Yields 4 servings

  • 3 small zucchini, julienned
  • 2 carrots, julienned (I used a peeler for these)
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut to thin 1″ pieces
  • 1 cup chopped red cabbage
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1lb jumbo shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 1-1.5 cups sweet chili sauce

There are great chili sauces you can buy at the store, but if you want to make your own, just stir these ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat until it thickens, about 2-3 minutes:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch (add this last, after other other ingredients have been thoroughly mixed)
    1. In a bowl or tupperware, coat the shrimp completely with the chili sauce and let it marinade, 1-2 hours.
    2. Combine zucchini, carrots, bell pepper, cabbage and green onions in a wok or large skillet. Pour the rice vinegar over the veggies and sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar.

  1. Turn the burner on medium low and continually stir the veggies until they become slightly tender, about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice, giving one final toss.
  2. Meanwhile, place the shrimp on skewers. Heat your grill or griddle to medium heat and cook 2-3 minutes on each side, basting with the reserved marinade. Don’t crowd the cooking surface, do this in batches if you have to. Shrimp will become pink and opaque when they are done. (If you don’t have access to a grill or griddle, you could always forget the skewers and cook these over the stove top in a skillet)

This is a really beautiful, colorful dish and fast to put together, once the vegetables are all cut. I had my shrimp marinating and my prep done and waiting for me in the fridge, so when my husband said he was on the way home, I started cooking. He walked in and dinner was ready to go!

Some people might prefer the slaw served raw and you can definitely do that. I’m a little picky (wink, wink) and I prefer the veggies to be a little more tender and warm, so consider it my spin on things.

Also these two components can obviously be paired with other things. The slaw could go with a sesame chicken or used on an Asian inspired sandwich, and the shrimp are great to bring to a BBQ or even just on top of some rice. Have fun with it and make it work for you!

{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet}

Bruschetta Chicken Pasta

I wasn’t planning on posting this recipe, because honestly I just threw it together. But it turned out so delicious, and it uses the leftovers from my last post. I HATE throwing out food so last night I made this dish from what I had in my fridge and pantry and it ended up being lovely.

Yields 4 servings

  • leftover bruschetta (see previous post)
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • approx. 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • approx. 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp basil
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsps olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • box of your favorite pasta
  • fresh parsley, grated Parmesan (optional)
  1. Strain the bruschetta and put the reserved liquid in a measuring cup. Set the tomatoes aside. Add equal parts (about 2 Tbsp each, but you have to eye it) of balsamic and red wine vinegar to the same measuring cup until you have a 1/2 cup of liquid combined. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper and rub evenly on both sides of the chicken breasts.
  3. Get your water boiling to start cooking your pasta at this point. Whenever the pasta is done, set it aside but make sure to reserve a 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
  4. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the chicken for about 1-2 minutes on each side, flipping once to get a light sear. Transfer chicken to a baking dish and in the oven for about 10 minutes, until cooked through.
  5. While the chicken is baking, use the same skillet with the reserved pan juices. Heat over medium-low heat and stir in the minced garlic for about 1 minute. Add the vinegar mixture and increase the heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the last minute of cooking, add the lemon juice and 1/4 cup pasta water.
  6. Serve chicken over the pasta. If you want to slice the chicken like I did, make sure it has a few minutes to rest so you don’t lose all the juices. Top the chicken with the leftover chopped tomatoes from the bruschetta and drizzle the sauce over everything. Add some parsley and Parmesan if you’d like.

If you don’t have leftover bruschetta, you could always grab a premade one from the store or, if you have the time, make a small batch. I like that the tomatoes marinated for a day before I prepped this dish, you if you can plan for it, try and give them some time to soak up that flavor. If you have leftover bruschetta but think it’s not enough, just chop up an extra tomato or two and stir it in before straining.

Since the sauce has oil and vinegar in it, there will be some separation if it sits untouched, so make sure to keep stirring, especially right before pouring it over the finished plate.

I used white fiber penne as my pasta, simply because it’s what I had on hand. Any pasta would be fine though. Linquine or fettuccine might have made it a little easier to twirl up and get all those tomato chunks, but both of our plates here were clean by the time we finished! My husband isn’t the biggest balsamic fan either, but he loved this dish. The flavors all combine really well, so it’s not being overwhelmed by one ingredient. Such a fun way to reuse my leftover party food!

{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet}


Bruschetta, My Go-To Appetizer

When I’m out to eat, if bruschetta is on the menu, I have to get it as an appetizer. It can be prepared in a number of ways but this is my recipe for a crowd. It’s always a hit when I bring it to a party because it’s so refreshing in a sea of heavy dips and store bought desserts. It’s also great because it’s a vegan/vegetarian option, and there’s always someone who appreciates that.

It’s super simple but can be a little time consuming if you hand cut everything. On the plus side, it can be prepped the night before so you don’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen the day of the event. (Or it makes time to prep a second dish)

  • 6 large (or 8 small) Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the crostini:

  • 1 baguette
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • italian seasoning
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil. At this point, you can put this in the fridge overnight. If there’s no lid for the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or place in Tupperware.
  2. Add the balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. If you want a stronger balsamic flavor, add more vinegar a tsp at a time. Add the olive oil and toss to coat. (It’s important to use the vinegar first so that it penetrates the tomatoes. The oil will repel the vinegar if it’s added first.) Cover and set aside in the fridge until time to serve
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the baguette into 1/2 inch slices and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle evenly with Italian seasoning. Bake for about 5 minutes, until bread is golden and crispy. Can be served warm or cooled, whatever your preference.

Again, so simple. The only thing that takes time is the chopping of the ingredients.

A lot of times the crostini will be gone before the bruschetta is. If that happens, it’s great on tortilla or pita chips. It can also be a great topping for tomorrow’s dinner protein. I love it on top of grilled chicken.

If you want to make it a more presentable appetizer and less of a party snack, cut the recipe in half and do the plating yourself. Like I said before, there’s hundreds of ways to change this up. If I’m serving this at a sit down dinner, sometimes I’ll place a slice of fresh mozzarella or a roasted red pepper on the bread before topping it with the marinated tomatoes. Arugula is a great peppery addition as well, or some might like a slice of prosciutto on top.

I made this today for a football party and it was a huge success with the crowd. I also made something a little heartier- buffalo chicken dip. But stay tuned for Super Bowl week. I’ll be sharing that recipe, plus two more of my favorite buffalo chicken dishes!

{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet} 

Lemon Garlic Shrimp & Zucchini Noodles

This dish is becoming almost a weekly occurrence at my house. It took some convincing to get my husband behind the idea of zucchini noodles instead of pasta, but there’s no denying this recipe is a flavor bomb. It tastes even better when you think about how light and low in calories it is.

Yields 2 servings

  • 1/2 lb (approx. 16) jumbo shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon pepper
  • 2 medium or large zucchini, cut in noodles
  • 1/3 cup white wine (I use Pinot Grigio)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • fresh parsley to garnish
  • salt & pepper on hand
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Stir and simmer for 1 minute.
  2. Add shrimp to the pan and sprinkle lemon pepper over them. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally until shrimp are pink and opaque. Remove shrimp and set aside, reserving the liquid in the pan.
  3. Add wine and lemon juice to the oil and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the zucchini, tossing to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes until tender.
  4. Toss shrimp with the zucchini noodles and serve with a garnish of fresh parsley.

This is a great weeknight dinner because there’s hardly any prep except for the zucchini and it can be executed in about 10 to 15 minutes. You might want to have some bread on the side to soak up all the sauce that will be at the bottom of your dish. And with a dinner this light, there’s no guilt about a few extra carbs!

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Honey Ginger French Toast

Everyone loves French toast, right? And there are a million ways to make it. After playing around, this is what I came up with.

  • 4 thick slices of bread (I used my homemade honey wheat)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • maple syrup
  • fresh fruit (optional)
  1. Combine eggs, milk, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and honey in a shallow vessel (I just used a large tupperware dish) and whisk until well combined.
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Dredge the bread in the egg mixture 2 slices at a time, letting them soak for 30 seconds on each side.
  4. Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side, flipping only once, until the bread is a golden brown. Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar, drizzled with maple syrup and with some fresh fruit of your choice.

This recipe is perfect for two people, maybe three people. It could be doubled for a family. I like to slice the French toast diagonally for presentation. So easy and so yummy.

{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet}

Coconut Curry Chicken

This is a simple and delicious approach to Indian food that’s not intimidating and doesn’t come with a long list of ingredients. This recipe can be on the spicy side, so feel free to omit the cayenne or cut back on curry for a milder dish. The sauce is prepared on the stovetop before being added to the slow cooker, so it’s easy to taste as you go and adjust it to your liking. My husband and I love spice and he was wild about this dish.

Yields about 6 servings.

  • 2 lbs (approx. 8 pieces) boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 13.5 oz coconut milk
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • salt
  • pepper
  • green onions or fresh parsley (optional)
  1. Cut the chicken thighs into chunks and place them in a slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Cook the onions and celery, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes until onions become translucent.
  3. Add garam masala, curry, cayenne and a dash of salt and pepper to the saucepan and stir for 1 minute until vegetables are well coated. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the coconut milk and tomato paste.
  4. Once sauce is well blended, pour over the chicken and stir to coat completely. Cook on low for 4 hours. Serve chicken and sauce over white or jasmine rice. Sprinkle with chopped green onions or chopped parsley if you want.

The chicken and sauce hold up very well for leftovers. I’d suggest making rice fresh per serving instead of combining and refrigerating all together.

Happy cooking!

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