Baked Chicken Wings

Simple things yield true pleasures, well, at least in the world of baked chicken wings that is. Our family members, and you probably know or have them in your family as well, love chicken wings. My wife is not a fan, and we never poke fun at her because of it, but my son and the guys in the extended family, love chicken wings.

Recipe for making baked chicken wings

I’ve grilled chicken wings low and slow, I’ve smoked them in my drum, and I’ve deep fried them, and I even make a killer blue cheese sauce for them, but there is something to be said about a really good baked wing. Sure the texture might not have that crunchy exterior from the deep fry, or the smoke from the smoker or grill, but let me tell you, if you bake a wing just right, well, let’s just say the rest of them just met their match.

As we were getting ready for a party last week, I decided to make some chicken wings. Heck, why not right?

Ingredients:

  • 4o chicken wing pieces (wings and drummies), cleaned and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 1 cup of light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 10 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper

You can tell by my picture that I like to leave the wing tip on. Some people chop that off, but me, I personally like that part, as do others.

Begin by mixing all ingredients, excluding the chicken, in a mixing bowl. Mix until your sugar gets as best dissolved as it can. Add the chicken into a large, sealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade into the bag, seal, and move that marinade throughout all of the chicken pieces. Place in the refrigerator for at least four hours, but preferably overnight.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Use two baking sheets if you have to. place the chicken onto the baking sheet, and place in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Turn once around 60 minutes. After 1 1/2 hours, turn off the oven, and let them sit in there for another 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and plate.

I plated these for the party, then went back to the kitchen to finish up some shrimp egg rolls. I returned minutes later to nothing but a bowl of bones!

These chicken wings do end up with a bit of a caramelized exterior which lends itself well to a nice crunch, but shortly after, they just fall off the bone. Sweet and garlicky with a candy like texture is how I can describe them, and when they disappear within minutes, well, you know they are good. Hope you enjoy.

Preserved Lemons

I have been on a real citrus kick lately. Maybe it is the season, but I have been going through a lot of lemons and limes. For the last couple of weeks I have been juicing close to nearly 40 limes, only to pour a bit of the juice into smoothies or weekend cocktails. The same goes with lemons. As I was juicing the lemons into a smaller sized mason jar, it occurred to me that instead of juicing them, I should create some preserved lemons!

You might have never seen preserved lemons, yet, as they are typically not used on a regular basis in American cooking. Or, maybe they are and many of us just never know. The preserved lemon is commonly used in Moroccan or African cuisine, and let’s face it, many of us are not eating that cuisine in the states on a regular basis.

Recipe for Preserved Lemons

The preserved lemon is a thing of beauty, and it can be used in a lot of different dishes, not just Moroccan or African. If preserved right, and long enough, the lemons have an intense citrus smell and and taste which enhances most any dishes that require a bit of lemon.

Ingredients:

  • 7 whole lemons, rinsed and patted dry
  • Kosher salt, approximately 1 tbsp per lemon
  • 1 tbsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp fennel seed
  • Additional lemon juice
  • Wide mouth, pint sized canning jars
  • Time

Begin by cleaning your lemon by washing it in water, then pat them dry. Take your knife and take off any of the knobby end parts. Run your knife, lengthwise down the middle of the lemon, leaving about 1/2 inch at the bottom. Turn 90 degrees, and do the same. You pretty much have a quartered lemon but not cut all of the way through. Repeat with the remaining lemons.

Mix your salt, fennel seeds, and peppercorns.

Ingredients for making Preserved Lemons

Add about a tablespoon, or so, of the salt mixture to the bottom of the canning jar. Take a lemon and open it up a bit, and begin rubbing a tablespoon or so of the salt mixture all over the inside of the lemon. Take it and smash it down into the mason jar. Repeat with the second lemon. Two lemons fit into my canning jar. Depending on the size of your lemons, you might have more or less. Once smashed, roll a lemon on the counter, and apply enough pressure to extract the juices. Cut the lemon in half, and use your hand juicer, or hands and squeeze as much juice out of the lemon into the canning jar to nearly fill the top. This takes about two lemons per jar.

Repeat with a second canning jar. Add any remaining salt mixture to the top of the open canning jars, seal, and give a shake. Let these sit on your counter at room temperature for about 2 days, shaking the mixture each day.

Place in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks before using.

When you are ready to use some of the lemons, open the can, remove the softened lemons, and rinse under cold water. You can use the pulp in sauces if you would like, or stuff it inside of a chicken before roasting, otherwise, remove the pulp and slice the lemon peel into thin slices to be used in sauces, salads, rice, or whatever you can think of that would use that wonderful lemon and salt flavor. Give it a try. It’s something new!

Taco Cups

While I was making blueberry muffins with my daughter last weekend, I began thinking of what I could make in the muffin tin. I think the only thing I have ever made with those muffin tins, are, well, muffins. Go figure. But as I look at them, and looked on top of my counter, I noticed some corn tortillas that I needed to use up, and just like that, an idea sparked.

In anticipation of Cinco de Mayo, I figured that I would use the muffin tin as a vessel to hold corn tortillas, and fill them with whatever I had in stock. In my case, I was going to make chicken taco cups, some filled with beans, and other just straight up chicken and cheese. After all, I have to please everyone when it comes to dinner, right?

Recipe for making Taco Cups

Let’s get started:

Dry Rub Ingredients for the chicken:

  • 4 large chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of light brown sugar

For the Taco Cups:

  • Corn tortillas, warmed, cut into smaller rounds
  • Cooking spray
  • Refried beans, cooked
  • Head lettuce, shredded
  • Avocado, cut into small cubes
  • Shredded Colby Jack cheese

Start by marinating your chicken. Mix the dry spices together and rub it all over the chicken breasts. Let these marinate for about 30 minutes.

Spray your muffin tin with cooking spray, and preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

While the chicken marinates, warm your tortillas in microwave, or  in a skillet on medium heat until they are nice an pliable. Keep them warm in a tortilla warmer, or in a towel until you are ready to cut and place inside of your muffin tin.

Now you need to figure out how to best cut your tortillas. You can use a large cup, place over the tortilla, and use a sharp knife to cut the rounds, or you can use one of the best things I probably ever purchased, and use the round cutters, and cut into perfect rounds. Place each round inside a muffin tin. Repeat until your muffin tin is full.

Ingredients for making Taco Cups

Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium high heat. Add the chicken breasts, and cook for about 6 minutes per side. Once the second side is cooked, add about 1/2 cup of water into the skillet, cover, and remove from the heat.

Place your muffin tin inside the preheated oven and cook the tortilla cups for about 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, remove from the oven and set aside.

Remove the chicken from the skillet, and cut it into small, bite-sized cubes. Your goal will be to have small enough chicken bites to fit inside a tortilla cup.

Ok, now we are ready to assemble.

Add about a tablespoon of cooked, refried beans to the bottom of each taco cup. Add chicken to to top of the beans, and top with the shredded cheese. Pack it in there, and press gently into each cup. Add more cheese if necessary.

Place the muffin tin back into the preheated oven and cook another 6 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted.

Remove the taco cups by running a knife around the tortilla cup, and place on your serving dish. Top with shredded lettuce, and avocado cubes.

Let me just say this. My wife made me make this twice last week they were that good, and I even served them for dinner for the kids (making some without the beans), and they loved them as well.

What was great about these taco cups, were that they were bite sized, did not fall apart, and were just the perfect bite. I think taco night now will get replaced with taco cup night, they were that amazing. Oh yeah, that extra cheese crisps up around the cup while cooking, and is just an added bonus. Hope you enjoy, and happy Cinco de Mayo!

Perfect Blueberry Muffins

Let me start by saying, I love cooking with my kids. However, with that said, there are not a whole lot of times during the weekday that I can present that opportunity due to busy schedules. Furthermore, I ‘think’ the last thing that is on their mind when they get home from school is a cooking session with Dad. Weekends present a different story though. Not too different, but the pace slows down a bit. There are opportunities, such as the one my wife presented to our oldest son, whereas he loved french toast so much that she showed him everything there was to know about french toast. Now, he is making french toast every morning, by himself, for breakfast. Keep in mind this is the kid who refuses anything that has eggs in it.

Perfect Blueberry Muffin Recipe

Weekend cooking sessions tend to be more geared towards baking though, and we all know that I do not bake that often. I have made enough creations that I can be pretty dangerous in the kitchen when it comes to baking though, so I am no stranger. Things like homemade focaccia bread, some beer and cheddar bread, and even some rosemary bread that used a great starter to name a few. But when it comes to baking, I know exactly what my kids are looking for. Desserts. And we all know that I do not have much of a sweet tooth!

With all of this said, my daughter was excited to spend the day with her grandma and grandpa this past weekend. As she questioned why the four of us were going to the baseball game without her, she suddenly tuned that out with that excitement of spending that quality time with the grandparents. And then the question came to me, “Dad, should we make some blueberry pie to take over to grandma’s?”. Time was of the essence here. It was nearing twelve o’clock and we needed to be by grandma’s by at least 3:30. So my response was “well dear, as I would love to make the pie, it will take some time to make the dough and cook everything in time. How about we make blueberry muffins?”. I couldn’t let that eagerness to cook and create something she was so excited about go , could I? So as I knew everything that we needed, I only needed to head to the store to purchase some extra blueberries, and off to the store we went.

I do love baking with my kids because the best thing about that is that they can measure everything themselves, and mix everything. Pretty simple when it comes to making things like these awesome muffins, or any type of cookie for that matter. So when we returned home, we quickly got started.

Ingredients: (Makes about 9-11 muffins)

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 whole egg, room temperature, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and patted dry
  • Muffin liners

For the Crumble Topping:

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

These blueberry muffins are not only really easy to make, but wow, are they packed with greatness.

Begin by heating the oven to 400 degrees.

Add the muffin liners to your muffin tin. This recipe will make about 9-11 muffins.  To a bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt, oil, and baking powder.  To a small bowl, add the milk and beaten egg and mix that together.  Add this to the flour mixture, and begin mixing with a wooden spoon until all lumps are out. Next, add in the blueberries, and gently fold into the mixture, being careful not to bust any of them open.

Blueberry Muffin Recipe

To another bowl, add in the crumble ingredients, and begin mixing and mashing up the butter just a bit.

Take this mixture, and begin filling the muffin liners. You will want to fill them almost to the top but not all of the way as they will rise up a bit. Divide the crumble topping onto each muffin, and feel free to be generous. Start by adding enough crumble to cover each muffin, then with any leftover, begin sprinkling over all of them.

Place these in the oven for about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven to let cool a bit.

The result. Well, nothing but a moist and perfect muffin. For someone who thinks he does not have a sweet tooth, well, I think I do. We immediately had to plate three of them for grandma’s house, and then we enjoyed one (I mean two) ourselves. As much as I got the pleasure from shopping with my daughter to mixing and baking the muffins, I think I got more pleasure out of watching her eat and talk about the muffins.