April 3, 2011

... Cayenne-Rubbed Chicken with Avocado Salsa

The near 90 degree temps in Kansas City today really made me want to fire up the grill.  Then I remembered that the winds were near 90 mph.  This recipe was the perfect solution to that and the fresh avocado salsa (plus the fresh mango I added, thankyouverymuch) was great for a pre-summer summer-like day.

Cayenne-Rubbed Chicken with Avocado Salsa
serves 4

coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 8 ounces each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 Hass avocado, pitted and cut into chunks

In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cayenne; rub all over chicken.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium.  Add chicken, and cook until browned on the outside and opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine onion and lime juice; set aside.  Just before serving, fold avocado chunks into onion mixture; season with salt and pepper.  Serve chicken topped with salsa.

Taylor's Notes:

As I mentioned, I added mango to the mix and it was such a great partner to the creamy avocado and sharp onion.  The recipe was quick and easy to make... for one, or many!


... Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

Blueberries, oatmeal, and muffins.  Three foods I love separately, but even more together.  These were really easy to make and, although the recipe indicates they're for 12- to 18-month olds (something I'm still trying to figure out), I think they're perfect for breakfast or a snack... whatever your age!

As soon as I finished making the batter, I realized I only had snowman muffin liners.  Considering I'm so completely over winter, I couldn't bring myself to use them.  I've always seen muffins wrapped in pretty folded parchment paper, so after a quick Google search for 'parchment muffin cups', I found this tutorial and decided to give it a shot.

It really was pretty easy (considering I only had 16 to make) and I think the end result is much better than a snowman liner any old day, but especially in April.

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
makes 16 muffins

1 2/3 cups quick-cooking oats
3 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2/3 cup)
2.33 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 large eggs
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (only needed if using frozen blueberries; omit if using fresh)
cooking spray
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place oats in a food processor; pulse 5 to 6 times or until oats resemble coarse meal.  Place in a large bowl.

Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Add flours and next 5 ingredients (through salt) to oats; stir well.  Make a well in center of mixture.

Combine buttermilk and next 3 ingredients (through eggs).  Add to flour mixture; stir until just moist.

Toss berries with 2 tablespoons flour, and gently fold into batter.  Spoon batter into 16 muffin cups coated with cooking spray; sprinkle 2 tablespoons granulated sugar evenly over batter.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center.  Remove from pans immediately; place on a wire rack.

Taylor's Notes:

I know that with baking you're supposed to be very exact in your measurements, hence the actual weights of flour.  I haven't ever gotten into it that deeply, but I do make sure that my measurements are right on and I've never had any problems.  But, there they are just in case...

If you should choose to take on the parchment muffin liner challenge, here are a few tips I learned.  Spray the muffin tins lightly with non-stick spray.  Ironically, this will help the parchment stick.  It's not perfect, but it does help.  The downside is that the outside of your liners are then a little greasy when you take the baked muffins of the pan.  Be sure to make your folds flat so that the batter doesn't seep between the paper.  And finally, I used a scoop to put the batter into the cups.  Using one hand to hold the paper liner in place and the other to scoop the batter into the cup.  Two scoops per cup was the perfect amount.

These muffins came out very moist and the fresh blueberries are so delicious.  I think I'll attempt to freeze a few because, although they're not too bad for you, I don't think I should polish off 6 or 8 muffins before they go bad.  Swimsuit is just around the corner, you know.


... Toasted Bittersweet S'mores

Who do you think invented s'mores?  I'd like to meet them and give them a big gooey, marshmallow-covered  high five.  It's always the simple things that are the best... chocolate, graham crackers, marshmallows... that's the stuff.

What I also love are bloggers like the very cool Carrie & Morgan of Ampersand Design Studio who lead me to great recipes like this.  Who wouldn't want a version of a s'mores that you can eat at any given time of day?

Toasted Bittersweet S'mores
makes 18 bars

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
6 ounces chocolate (bittersweet or semisweet), chopped
18 large marshmallows, cut in half crosswise

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8-inch square baking dish with foil, leaving about 1 inch hanging over two edges.  Lightly coat the bottom and sides with cooking spray.  Make room in the fridge.

Put 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium, heatproof bowl and heat in a microwave or over simmering water until melted.  Add the cookie crumbs and stir until the crumbs are moist and well blended.  Dump the crumbs into the prepared pan and, using a flat-bottomed cup, firmly press the crumbs into an even layer on the bottom.  Bake until fragrant, about 12 minutes.  Set on a rack to cool.

Put the chocolate and the remaining 5 tablespoons butter in a medium heatproof bowl and heat in a microwave or over simmering water until melted.  Whisk until smooth and blended.  Pour into the baked crust (it's ok if the crust is still warm) and spread evenly.  Refrigerate until almost firm, about 30 minutes (for faster chilling, slide the pan into the freezer).  Arrange the marshmallow halves, cut side down, evenly over the chocolate, pressing lightly.  Cover and refrigerate until very firm, about 40 minutes or for up to 2 days.

Just before serving, adjust the oven rack to the top level and heat the broiler on high.  Using the excess foil as handles, lift the s'more square from the pan and set on a cookie sheet.  Pull the foil away from the sides and slide the cookie sheet under the broiler.  Broil until the marshmallows are browned, about 20 seconds.  Set on a rack and move the foil and s'more square to a cutting board.  Cut into 18 rectangles.  Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.  Serve slightly chilled.

Taylor's Notes:

I went the semisweet route, but definitely think the bittersweet has its merits.  I'll try that next time, along with these other tweaks...

I'll leave the graham / chocolate step in the refrigerator for a shorter amount of time... maybe only 15 minutes.  Long enough to get the chocolate to harden a bit, but still have it be soft enough that the marshmallows will settle into the chocolate rather than just sitting on top of it.  

I'll also try broiling the bars on low rather than high and maybe put the rack on the second-to-highest spot instead of the highest one.  I think this will allow the marshmallows to get a little gooey-er without getting too brown too quickly.  Another option, would be to skip the broiling all together and  use a kitchen torch to brown the marshmallows.  Of course, that would only work if I had a kitchen torch... 

Other than that, these are really easy, quick, and a good substitution for the real thing when you're craving the simple things.