Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Asian Coleslaw with a Peanut-Lime Dressing

Colorful and crunchy veggies with cilantro and peanuts, all tossed with a Thai-inspired peanut-lime dressing. Light, fresh, and perfect for entertaining! 

Asian Coleslaw

It's hard to believe we have been in this home for 4 years already. Prior to that we lived in our first home together for 9 years, and spent the second half of those years house-hunting looking for a home we could stay in forever.

When we first looked at our current home we liked the layout, the size, and the possibilities, but knew it would take some work. Ok, a lot of work. Then we stepped out onto the patio and were sold - a large, private, tree-lined back yard (gives us so much shade!!!) with an enormous flagstone patio (that needed a lot of work and we eventually replaced). But the best part of the entire yard is the garden wall that curves around the entire patio with a large garden behind it. We spent an hour sitting on that wall, looking at the trees, and talking about the house - and it was March in the Northeast so it was chilly. Immediately we made an offer.

Yes, we bought the house for the garden wall and trees.

Asian Coleslaw

One of my friends calls our backyard an oasis, and because of this we made plans to have dinner together on the patio. We were so determined to enjoy a night on the patio that we rescheduled twice due to weather! Then, last week, we had the most perfect Saturday. It was sunny with low humidity and a light breeze. We lit several torches around the garden bed and I made really easy centerpieces out of mason jars, groundcover and herbs, and floating candles to sit on our new table. An oasis it was!



My menu had to revolve around grilling and warm weather food, and since my friend loves Asian inspired food but never cooks it, I went in that direction.

We had edamame to start. Our main course was Jon's grilled beef negimaki. To go along with it I made noodles tossed in a sesame soy mixture with green onions and sesame seeds, and this amazing Asian Slaw.

This slaw is packed with so many crunchy veggies and just look at those colors! Just looking at this slaw makes me want it again ASAP! The dressing for this is awesome too - peanut butter, lime juice, and some heat from Sambal Oelek. It is thick enough to really coat all of the veggies but isn't too heavy at all. Surprisingly, even after being dressed, the leftovers held up fine in the fridge for 2 days! So feel free to make a lot of you want to have some leftover.

Thanks to our friends for sharing a great night of friendship and food with us!

Asian Coleslaw


Asian Coleslaw with a Peanut-Lime Dressing
Adapted From: Center Cut Cook

Ingredients

  • 1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, julienned and then copped into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 sm can water chestnuts, sliced
  • 1 cucumber, julienned and then chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 green onions, sliced into 2 inch strips
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1/3 c peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp natural, creamy peanut butter
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp Sambal Oelek
  • 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
Directions
  • Combine the cabbage, carrots, pepper, water chestnuts, cucumber, green onions and most of the cilantro. Chill in fridge for at least an hour.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, soy sauce, vegetable oil, Sambal, hoisin, lime juice, ginger and garlic. Tip: I used the whisk attachment on my handheld immersion blender. Store in the fridge until ready to serve. 
  • When ready to serve, quickly whisk the dressing before pouring it over the salad. Toss well, and then top with the remaining cilantro and peanuts. 



Asian Coleslaw



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Covered Praline Hazelnuts

This cake is a chocolate lover's dream - a rich, double-layer chocolate cake with a creamy, whipped ganache and a chocolate glaze. The cake is dressed with hazelnuts that have been toasted, candied, coated in tempered chocolate and rolled in Dutch process cocoa powder, and with fancy bittersweet chocolate swirls.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake



Our daughter turned 7 last week. 7!!! Being the daughter of foodies, why wouldn't she request a Belgian chocolate cake for her birthday? My husband heard the request and got to work! As he said, he couldn't let her down.

He chose a rich chocolate-hazelnut cake with so many elements he was in the kitchen for 4 hours on Saturday. But this cake - SO worth it.



Instead of making a single layer cake, he turned this recipe into two layers of rich chocolate cake. He layered the cakes with whipped, creamy chocolate ganache in between and on top. Next, he drizzled a chocolate glaze all of the cake.

He could have stopped there, but this cake is seriously over the top in so many ways - layers, taste, elements and beauty. In addition to the whipped chocolate ganache and the chocolate glaze, this cake has 2 more toppings - chocolate swirls and chocolate covered praline hazelnuts.



The swirls started with tempered chocolate that he chilled in a thin layer, and then scraped to make chocolate swirls.

The hazelnuts start by toasting hazelnuts that are then candied in a caramelized sugar. Once cool, they are coated in tempered bittersweet chocolate and chilled until hardened. The final step is rolling them in Dutch process cocoa powder.



Drooling yet?

Once we sang happy birthday and cut the cake, you didn't hear anything out of any of us for about 10 minutes, except "Mmmmm...." and "wow...." And our 7 year old was very, very happy :)



Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake
Adapted from: Martha Stewart

Tip: Read the entire recipe before starting since there are several elements that can be done together. Such as, the hazelnuts for the cake and the hazelnuts for the topping can be toasted together and then separated. The ganache and glaze can be prepared together and then separated to whip some and to keep some as the glaze.

The Cake Ingredients and Directions

  • 4 oz hazelnuts
  • 13 1/3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened (1 2/3 sticks)
  • 2/3 c Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 6 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 2/3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 2/3 c boiling water
  • 1 3/4 c packed, dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 c buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Equipment: 2 9-inch cake pans; food processor; hand or stand mixer. 
Directions
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and rub to loosen skins. Transfer them to a food processor and grind with the granulated sugar until fine, but not pasty. Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt.
  • Butter your cake pans and then dust with cocoa powder, shaking out any excess. 
  • In a heat-proof bowl, mix the cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth. Once smooth and cooled, stir in the buttermilk and vanilla. 
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar on high until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well blended. 
  • Switch mixer to low and add in half of the dry ingredients (the ground hazelnuts/sugar, flour mixture). Once blended, add in the cocoa mixture. Then add in the rest of the dry mixture, mixing until just incorporated. 
  • Scrape batter into your prepared pans so they are both even; smooth on top. Bake 50 min - 1 hr until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes; remove from a pan until completely cooled.
  • Directions for frosting and decorating the cakes can be found after the rest of the instructions below. 


The Chocolate Glaze and Whipped Ganache Ingredients and Directions

  • 1/1/2 lb bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
  • 3 3/4 cups heavy cream
Chop the chocolate with a serrated knife and place into a heat-proof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil over high heat. Pour over the chocolate and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to gently loosen the chocolate, and stir until smooth. Let sit at room temp for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

To make the whipped ganache: take 2/3 of the prepared glaze and transfer to a bowl. Place that bowl over a larger bowl of ice. Whip the chocolate with a balloon whisk until lighter in color and spreadable, removing bowl from the ice bath and returning it as needed. 



The Chocolate Swirl and Candied Hazelnuts Ingredients and Directions

  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 lb bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped
  • 1/4 c Dutch process cocoa
  • Equipment: baking sheet, heavy skillet, parchment paper, stainless bowl, saucepan, a bench scraper, a sifter
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and rub to loosen skins.
  • Place sugar and water in a medium heavy skillet. Stir with a fork over medium-high heat until dissolved. Let boil without stirring for 3 minutes. 
  • Add nuts to the pan. stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar mixture coats the nuts. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; let cool. 
  • Once the nuts are cool, place half of the chocolate in a stainless bowl, and place the bowl over a pan with 1 inch of simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted and hot. Add the rest of the chocolate, remove the pan from the water, and let stand 5 minutes and then stir until smooth.
  • Pour half of the chocolate onto an inverted baking sheet and spread with the scraper until smooth and about 1/8 inch thick. Let stand until tacky. Hold your scraper at a 45 degree angle and scrape chocolate off the surface to make the curls. Store curls at room temp in a parchment lined airtight container.
  • Add candied nuts to the remaining chocolate in the bowl, stirring until coated. Spread nuts on a parchment lined baking sheet and let stand until set. 
  • Sift cocoa powder over the chocolate nuts and toss to coat. Store in a resealable plastic bag in the fridge for up to 1 week.


Finishing the Cake

  • Place one layer of the cake on your serving plate. Spread some of the whipped ganache on top of the cake. Place the second layer of the cake on top of the ganache. Frost the entire cake with the remaining whipped ganache.
  • Pour the chocolate glaze onto the center of the cake, letting it drip over the edges. 
  • Let the cake stand at room temperature until the glaze is set. 
  • Decorate with the swirls and nuts. 
  • Store in fridge until 30 minutes before serving. 
Chocolate Hazelnut Cake



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Crispy Fish Sticks with Pineapple Salsa

Crispy and crunchy homemade fish sticks with a fresh pineapple salsa. A kids' style dinner good enough for adults!



I love to cook, but there are a few things I always have in for super quick dinners for my daughter, like on nights when my husband is traveling and we have 45 minutes between school and dance class. Frozen chicken nuggets, frozen fish sticks, baby carrots (to make "soft carrots," as she calls them), frozen broccoli, and a container of cooked spaghetti can almost always be found in my house.



However, homemade versions are always better. It's not like making homemade chicken nuggets or fish sticks is hard or takes a long time - it's probably faster to bread your own and fry them up. Actually, in the time it takes to preheat your oven and cook the frozen version, you could already have homemade ones on the table.

But I get it - convenience foods are a must! Some nights you just don't want the extra dishes, or you need to be focused on helping with homework instead of prepping and cooking dinner. When you have the time, it's always fun to cook from scratch!


Over the holiday weekend I made some homemade crispy fish sticks that were so incredibly easy and super yummy.


All you need is a fish that will hold up well and that doesn't have much fat. Cod, haddock and pollock are the most popular, but I prefer to use something a little better, like halibut, mahi, or even swordfish or catfish.


Cut your fish into "sticks" and then bread them - flour, egg, seasoned breadcrumbs/Panko. I fry them in just a small amount of oil - no need to deep fry - and in just 5-6 minutes they are done. Perfectly crispy and crunchy, yet light and flaky on the inside.


I love a light and fresh topping for fish, so I chopped up some pineapple to add to pico de gallo I had made for the weekend, and it was the perfect accompaniment. Bright, citrus flavors with some heat - so refreshing!




Crispy Fish Sticks 
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Ingredients

  • 6 oz fish cut into 6 sticks (double or triple to your liking!)
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 2 eggs beaten and mixed with 1 Tbsp whole milk
  • 1/2 c breadcrumbs and 1/2 c Panko breadcrumbs
  • Seasoning: approximately 1 tsp each salt, black pepper, onion powder and chili powder 
  • 3 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil (enough to generously coat the bottom of your pan)
Directions
  • Set up breading station: flour in 1st bowl, eggs in second, bread crumbs mixed with seasoning in third (tip - I love using a throw away paper plate for the flour and bread crumbs - makes cleanup so easy!)
  • Heat your oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat
  • Roll each piece of fish in flour. Shake off the excess and roll in the egg mixture followed by the breadcrumbs. Place on wire rack.
  • Add the breaded fish to the pan being careful to space them out (you may need to do this in 2 batches). Cook until one side is golden brown; repeat on all sides until crispy. Transfer to the wire rack on top of paper towels.
  • Serve immediately! 


Pineapple Salsa
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

You can make this in a small amount as noted below (serves 4), or you can make a large bowl of the pico (all of the ingredients below x 4, minus the pineapple) and remove some to mix with the pineapple for this recipe.


  • 4 Ripe tomatoes, seeds removed and diced 
  • 1/2 of a jalapeno, minced
  • 1/4 of a red onion, minced
  • Small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tsp Kosher or sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp pineapple, diced








Thursday, July 6, 2017

Please stand by while we make updates!

As many of you may have heard, Photobucket changed the terms of their agreement without any notice, and many of us bloggers who host photos on their site were left with that big messy black notice at the top of this page. I'm working to get it fixed as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding!!

 - Mary Ellen

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Western Deviled Eggs with Pickled Mustard Seeds

A fun twist on classic deviled eggs  -  Western style with diced ham, onion and green peppers and topped with sweet pickled mustard seeds. 



When I was a kid I couldn't get enough of deviled eggs. I loved making them as much as I loved eating them, so my mom bought me a deviled egg serving platter. It was a fancy white plate with grooves to hold about 16 deviled eggs. Every time we went to a party I'd have to make my eggs to bring. I was only 8 or 9 years old - how cute is that?



I don't know if I got burnt out on them, but I haven't had deviled eggs in years. But lately I've been making a lot of hard boiled eggs to have in for a quick breakfast on the go, so last weekend I decided to turn some of them into a fun appetizer for dinner with family.

Ham and eggs are such a classic combination, and add in peppers and onions and you have one of the most popular omelette recipes ever - the Western. No need to buy a whole ham, either. Just ask your deli counter for one sliced of cooked ham sliced approximately 1/4 inch thick.



The first step to getting a good deviled egg is to make the perfect hard boiled egg. There are so many tips and tricks out there - boiling, adding vinegar, baking, etc. I keep it simple and my eggs peel perfectly every time and the yolks are bright yellow - no green ring.

Place the eggs in a pot and cover with water until they are submerged. Bring the water to a boil for one minute, remove from the heat and cover. Set your timer for 13 minutes and as soon as the 13 minutes are up, run cold water into the pot. I do this for several minutes and even add ice. You really want to shock the eggs so they peel comes off clean. By using this method, that thin skin between the egg and the shell sticks to the shell, not the egg, and makes it super easy to peel the eggs.



These pickled mustard seeds were a find at a recent cooking demonstration. I had never had them before, but love the texture and the touch of sweetness they add. What a perfect topping for a deviled egg!



These were so yummy - sweet, creamy, and salty - that I have made them twice in the past 3 days!



Western Deviled Eggs with Pickled Mustard Seeds
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Ingredients

  • 8 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • 1/4 of a green pepper, diced (2 Tbsp)
  • 2 Tbsp minced white onion
  • 2 Tbsp diced ham (see my tip above about buying deli ham)
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp stone ground Dijon mustard
  • 3-4 Tbsp mayonnaise (I prefer Hellmann's)
  • Pickled mustard seeds to topping
Directions
  • Slice the eggs in half and gently remove the yolk (they should pop right out if cooked properly). 
  • In a bowl, mash the yolks using the back of a fork. Add the green pepper, onion, ham, salt, pepper, Dijon and mayo. Mix until creamy. Taste and adjust any seasoning. 
  • Spoon the mixture evenly between the 16 halves and top with the pickled mustard seeds. 
  • Chill until ready to serve. 





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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Weeknight Chicken Marsala


You can have rich, delicious, juicy Chicken Marsala on the table in 25 minutes! This is a great weeknight meal that will make your family think you cooked for an hour.



To save even more time, dice your onions, slice your mushrooms, and trim and pound your chicken ahead of time. I love having the prep done so when I get home I can just grab my ingredients and get cooking. Some mornings I'll even put my pots/pans on the stove and get out my tongs and cooking utensils. Every little bit helps.



I love the semi-sweet but earthy sauce that coats the chicken. Although this is a chicken dish, I prefer to use beef broth for a richer sauce.

Chicken Marsala doesn't have to be something you order in restaurants or something you spend an hour making. Try this weeknight Chicken Marsala the next time you need a quick and easy weeknight meal.



Weeknight Chicken Marsala
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Ingredients (to serve 3-4 people)

  • 3 chicken breasts, cut in half and pounded to 1/4-1/2 inch thin
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground sage
  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour in a Ziploc bag. 
  • 3 Tbsp butter, separated
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, separated
  • 1 c mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 sm white onion, diced
  • 1/4 Marsala wine or Marsala cooking wine
  • 3/4 c beef broth 
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Season your chicken with salt, pepper and sage. Add the chicken to the flour bag and shake until coated. 
  • Heat 1 Tbsp butter and half of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Shake the excess flour from the chicken and add it to the pan. 
  • Cook 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown. Transfer to an oven-safe dish and put in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees (probably 7-10 minutes depending on your thickness).
  • Add the remaining butter and oil to the pan the chicken cooked in. Add the onions and mushrooms and saute 6 minutes. 
  • Add the Marsala wine and stir; let simmer, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes to cook off some of the alcohol and reduce the wine. 
  • Add the beef broth and stir. Taste and adjust s&p. 
  • Return the cooked chicken to the pan and let simmer 1 minutes. 
  • Serve with pasta, noodles, mashed potatoes, rice, or roasted potatoes (or whatever you prefer!). 






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Monday, May 29, 2017

Banana-Oat Muffins with Walnuts

Healthy, whole wheat banana muffins with oats and walnuts, sweetened only with maple syrup. 





I can't believe I haven't shared this recipe yet!!! I first made and photographed these muffins a YEAR ago, and have made them so many times since, but somehow the post sat as a draft for a quite some time. So there's no time like now to finally share these muffins with you.

Over the past year I have made several types of muffins using whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour and pure maple syrup instead of white sugar - Healthy Apple-Walnut-Raisin MuffinsCarrot Muffins with Walnuts and RaisinsWhole Grain Blueberry Muffins, and some Banana Chocolate Muffins that I still need to photograph and blog! All of these muffins are so yummy and healthy (you won't miss the sugar!), and are a great choice for breakfast on the go or a mid-morning snack.





One of the best things about these muffins is that it uses up those over-ripe bananas you probably have sitting on your counter. And if you are like me, you also have a bag of over-ripe bananas in your freezer. My second favorite thing is that you don't need to use a mixer at all - just your hand, a whisk, and a spoon. Super simple!

Breakfast on the go or mid-morning snack


Finally, they freeze so well! I wrap each one individually in plastic wrap followed by foil, and then put them all in a freezer bag. I pull one out of the freezer at night and let it defrost in the fridge overnight, and by the time I'm going to work it is perfect to eat with my cup of tea.

Healthy, whole wheat banana muffins with oats and walnuts, sweetened only with maple syrup


Banana-Oat Muffins with Walnuts
Adapted from: Cookie and Kate

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup 
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and fill your muffin tins with cupcake liners (12)
  • In a large bowl, beat the oil and syrup together with a whisk. 
  • Add in the eggs and beat well. 
  • Stir in the mashed bananas, milk, baking soda, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.
  • Add the flour, most of the oats (save some for topping) and the walnuts; mix with a spoon until just combined. 
  • Divide the batter evenly between the muffin tins. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining oats and a pinch of sugar.
  • Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  • Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. Remove the muffins from the tin after 5 minutes and let them cool completely before storing. Muffins will store for 2 days at room temp or 4 days in the fridge. If you plan on freezing any, freeze them on the first day for best results. 

Healthy, whole wheat banana muffins with oats and walnuts, sweetened only with maple syrup



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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Grandmom's Macaroni Salad



Elbow macaroni salad

This is one of those dishes that takes me back to childhood, and now I make it often for my family. It is such a simple recipe with simple ingredients, but is one of my favorite sides for burgers, dogs, grilled chicken, or really any summer party or BBQ food. 
You know those mac salads that you sometimes get at a diner in a little cup and they are all wet with way too much mayo? And they are a bit too sweet? That's not this salad. 
I have a few tips to make this the best mac salad you will every try. First, you have to cook the pasta to al dente. You want it to still have a bite, so definitely rinse it with cold water as soon as you drain it. Overcooked, soft mac mixed with mayo is not what you are going for! 
I use only carrots, red onion and green pepper. It's important to dice them into the smallest dice you can get. You don't want them to stand out in the salad, but simply give flavor and some texture. 

I add my mayo in 2 steps and end up with a perfectly creamy mac salad. The first time I add it I mix it up and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour. When you take it out it will look almost dry. That's when I add the rest of the mayo and veggies. Oh - and it must be Hellman's Mayo!!!!
Finally, don't be scared to season it! Salt and pepper only, but be generous and keep tasting every time you mix. 
Timewise, this is a really quick salad to pull together. The water takes a few minutes to boil and then the pasta only takes 5 minutes to cook. During that time I chop my veggies, and then the mixing only takes a few minutes. I'll even pull this one together for a weeknight meal as long as I have an hour to let it chill in the fridge. 
So forget those sweet, wet mac salads that have given macaroni salad a bad name and give this one a try! I guarantee it will be the one everyone asks for! 
Grandmom's Macaroni Salad
Original family recipe

Ingredients 
  • 1 lb macaroni/elbow noodles
  • 6 Tbsp mayonnaise, separated (amount is approximate)
  • 1 carrot cut into a small dice
  • 1/4 red onion cut into a small dice
  • 1/2 green pepper cut into a small dice
  • Salt and pepper, approximately 1 Tbsp each
Directions
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt it generously and then add your noodles. Cook to al dente, approximately 5 minutes. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water and drain well. Transfer noodles to a large mixing bowl.
  • Add half of the mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Stir to combine, cover, and place in the fridge for one hour. 
  • Add the veggies, and slowly add more mayonnaise until you get the creaminess you want - remember, you don't want it to be too wet. Continue to season with salt and pepper, tasting as you go.
  • Chill until you are ready to serve, stirring before serving. 



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