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Buffalo wing flavor without the mess

With the warm weather hopefully now fast approaching after the glorious day we had Sunday, outdoor entertaining will be more prevalent; therefore, the need for easy to prepare hors d'oeuvre recipes that can be made ahead requiring very little time and no fussing.

Even though chicken wings have been around forever, it was only until about the last decade that 'buffalo chicken wings' became the 'in' food item as an appetizer on most restaurant menus, and very quickly carrying over to at-home preparation for party snack tables.

Everybody is always looking for a quick way to prepare chicken wings. I used to purchase the huge bags (that come in many flavors) at a local grocery outlet, but I didn't really like the texture - they were a little too fat and a little too mushy.

Consequently, I prefer making my own and have developed a relatively easy pattern. I purchase the fresh or frozen chicken wings at the grocery store. I simply roll them in flour mixed with salt, pepper, and paprika, and then fry them in olive oil in my electric skillet, turning them when they are a nice golden brown color. (The paprika helps accomplish this.)

Next, I place them on a large baking pan, gently douse them with some Frank's Red Hot sauce, and bake them in a 375 degree oven until they are completely cooked and tender (about 45 minutes).

They are delicious. The trick is not to add too much of the sauce, unless of course, you like your wings dripping with liquid.

Another even easier way to arrive at your buffalo chicken wing flavor without all the work and the mess, especially while eating, is to prepare Buffalo Chicken Dip. One of the recipes calls for canned chicken while the other utilizes skinless chicken breasts, but either would work. The one also calls for Ranch dressing and the second for Ranch or bleu cheese, depending upon your preference.

It's so easy, tangy and delicious and perfect served with chips, crackers or even vegetables, celery in particular.

In today's column, I'm offering two versions of the dip, one with celery right in it and the other without.

Serving the celery alongside is a little easier, but the end result is the same - both are equally as delicious, with each mouthful having you dipping for more.

You can either bake in a serving dish or place the ingredients in a crockpot so you don't have to worry about keeping the dip warm.

Either way, it doesn't matter, because the Buffalo Chicken Dip disappears quickly.

Until next time, from my kitchen to yours, happy cooking!

Buffalo Chicken Dip

2 (10 ounce) cans chunk chicken, drained

2 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 cup Ranch dressing

¾ cup pepper sauce (Frank's Red Hot

1 ½ cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Heat chicken and hot sauce in skillet or microwave until heated through. Stir in cream cheese and Ranch dressing. Cook, stirring until well blended and warm. Mix in half of the shredded cheese, and transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, cover, and cook on low setting until hot and bubbly. Serve with celery sticks, crackers, or chips.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

5 cups cooked chicken, shredded

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened

1 cup Ranch or Bleu Cheese dressing

1 ½ cup red hot sauce

2 cups diced celery

8 oz. Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese

Toss shredded chicken with red hot sauce. Add cream cheese in pieces. Add celery and Ranch or Bleu Cheese until melted. Pour into 9x13 pan. Top with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve with Fritos or tortilla chips.