Southwestern Salad Bowls

With the lengthening days, blue skies and sunshine, thoughts turn to salads, barbecues and eating alfresco. That’s the fantasy anyway. My reality is as soon as the sun comes out and the trees have their beautiful blossom, my horrible hay fever with huge sneezes and itchy eyes kicks in!

Southwestern Salad1

This salad is particularly summery, full of flavour and good for you too. The chicken is coated in taco seasoning, so it’s a little spicy and the cool, creamy dressing is a perfect accompaniment.

I’ve made my own taco seasoning as it’s not so readily available in the UK, but I like to make my own spice blends anyway as they will always be fresher than anything you can buy in the shop and you can customise and add a little more chilli if you like it spicier. However, my taco seasoning isn’t too hot as I was making it for the family, but it does have a bit of a kick.

Taco seasoning also goes amazingly well on anything that is good grilled or roasted – prawns, fish, vegetables and steak kebabs!

Southwestern Salad5

You can serve the chicken on this salad warm or cold and I sometimes scatter hot crispy, smoked bacon over the top and a scattering of grated cheese for something extra!

I tried a few variations for the dressing and decided that I liked half greek yogurt and half sour cream, but it really could be all of either. I included a tiny squidge of honey too, just to balance out all the flavours.

This recipe is enough for 4 large chicken breasts, but can easily be halved to serve 2. I like to cook extra for leftovers, or to take to work for a packed lunch.

Taco seasoning :
4tbs chilli powder – I used hot chilli powder
2tbs cumin
1tbs paprika – I used smoked paprika
1tsp salt
2tsp dried onion flakes
1tsp garlic powder
1tsp dried oregano – you could use Italian seasoning if you don’t have any

Simply mix everything together and store in an air tight jar until you are ready to use.

Taco Seasoning

Dressing:
3tbs sour cream
3tbs Greek yogurt
1 medium sized bunch of coriander/cilantro including the stalks
Zest and juice of one small lime
Pinch of salt and pepper
1tsp (tiny squidge) of honey

Blend everything together until smooth, taste for the seasoning and refrigerate. I just used a hand blender as I didn’t want to get my main blender or food processor out!

Coriander dressing.jpg

Ingredients for the salad:
2tbs taco seasoning
Pinch of salt
1.5tbs olive oil
Juice and zest of one small lime
4 skinless chicken breasts
2 Romaine lettuces, roughly chopped or torn
2 avocados, skinned, sliced and tossed in lemon or lime juice
1 punnet of tomatoes – I used multi-coloured ones
1 can of sweetcorn, rinsed and drained
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
A few coriander leaves and lime wedges to garnish

Southwestern Salad2

Method:
Mix together the seasoning, salt, lime and oil together and thoroughly coat the chicken. You can do this in a plastic bag, or in a dish covered with cling film. Refrigerate and leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes, but overnight is even better.

Grill the chicken on a griddle pan or frying pan until cooked through – 4-6 minutes on each side depending on how big the pieces are. You might need to add a little more oil and then leave to rest if using it warm, or leave to go completely cold, before slicing and preparing the rest of the salad.

Southwestern Salad3

When ready to serve, place a bed of lettuce into each bowl, top with the sliced chicken and then arrange the tomatoes, avocado, beans and corn around the chicken. You can also toss everything together before placing the chicken on the top.

Garnish with a few coriander leaves, before pouring over a little of the dressing. Serve the salad with extra dressing and my husband likes the addition of crispy bacon and cheese too.

Southwestern Salad2

I always like to make enough so I can take a lunchbox to work the next day with the dressing in a little screw top pot. Just remember to toss the avocado in juice or it will discolour.

Southwestern Salad lunchbox

Easter Cupcakes

These cute little vanilla cupcakes are decorated using a 234 tip to pipe buttercream grass with Cadbury’s Mini Eggs.  They are a good alternative to the more traditional Easter chocolate nest cakes made with cornflakes or Rice Krispies.

Easter cupcakes

Ingredients:
180g Butter at room temperature
180g Self-raising flour
180g Caster sugar
1tsp Vanilla extract
3 Extra-large eggs

To decorate:
250g Butter at room temperature
500g Icing sugar – sieved
1tsp Vanilla extract
Green food colouring – enough to turn the buttercream grass green!
Cadbury’s Mini Eggs
Sugar flowers to decorate

Easter cupcakes3

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF and line a bun tray with 12 paper cases.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  I made mine in a stand mixer, but a wooden spoon will do just fine.

Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each one is fully mixed in before adding the next one. Then add the vanilla and stir in the flour until just combined.

Divide the mixture between the cases and bake for 12-15 minutes.  They will be a light golden colour and a toothpick should come out clean when they are baked.

Easter cupcakes1

Leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To decorate, whip the butter and icing sugar together until fluffy.  Add the vanilla and then the green food colouring.  I used a gel colour and quite a lot of it before it took on a grass colour!

Easter cupcakes2

Pile the frosting into a piping bag, fitted with a number 234 tip and pipe the grass onto each cake.  I’m not great at piping, but it doesn’t have to look like a manicured lawn, it’s just for fun and the frosting is really a vehicle for the mini eggs and sugar flowers.

Easter cupcake

They are so pretty when finished and look just like Spring – even if it’s grey, wet and cold outside!  Add a fluffy chick or two and they are just the thing for Easter.

Easter Chocolate Bark

Chocolate bark is always a hit in my house, so I had to do an Easter themed recipe.

Easter Bark4

I used my favourite bark silicone moulds to make mine, but it could easily be made in one go and cutting the bark into shards.

Easter Bark3

The base is a mixture of two thirds dark chocolate and one third of milk chocolate and then topped with a thin coating of white chocolate.  I always melt chocolate in the microwave nowadays, but some people think the traditional way in a bowl over simmering water is the only way of doing it!  Just take care not to overheat it as it can seize right up – especially the white chocolate.

Easter Bark

Ingredients:
200g good quality dark chocolate
100g good quality milk chocolate
200g good quality white chocolate
Cadbury’s Mini Eggs – broken into halves
Sprinkles – I used FunCakes Spring mix and Ducks

Method:
Break up the dark and milk chocolate into pieces and melt in the microwave.

Pour the chocolate into the moulds, dividing it equally.  Agitate the moulds to make sure the chocolate is nice and level and gets into all the corners.  This also helps eliminate air bubbles.

Leave to set, before melting the white chocolate.  Leave to cool a little before pouring over the dark and milk chocolate layer.

Divide the white chocolate between the moulds, covering the bottom layer.  Agitate the moulds again to level out the top layer.

Easter Bark2

While the white chocolate is still molten, stud with the mini eggs and scatter over the sprinkles.  I prefer to break up the mini eggs as they can be a choking hazard and my little girl is only two.

These are a perfect Easter chocolate treat.