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

Roasted Jalapeno and Lime Cream Cheese

We love bagels with plain cream cheese in my house, but I’m always looking for ways to be a little more creative and add other ingredients.

Roasted jalapeno cream cheese

You can buy flavoured cream cheese, but I am always a little disappointed by the flavour. Perhaps it’s because it has sat on the shelf of the supermarket for a while. Using fresh ingredients is always going to taste better and the options are endless.

This is a spicy recipe and so quick to make if you use a gas hob. I have been burning the skins off peppers over gas flames since I saw Jamie Oliver do it many, many years ago, but they can always be roasted under a hot grill or in the oven. So much quicker over the flame though!

Burnt chilli

I have used jalapeno peppers which aren’t super spicy, but it’s always best to taste the chilli to find out just how hot it is first. I used two for this recipe and they add a lovely spicy, smoky flavour that works well with the zesty, fresh lime. An additional 60 grams of cheddar cheese also works well in this too, but I would have cucumber or salad leaves rather than smoked salmon if I added extra cheese.

Ingredients:
1-2 fat fresh jalapeno chilli peppers – depending on how spicy you like it
1 lime
280g pack of good quality cream cheese – I used Philadelphia full fat
2tbs fresh dill – chopped
Freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt

Method:
Prick the chillies all over and using metal tongs, place directly onto a gas flame and burn the skin until it is black all over. If you don’t prick the skin, the chillies can explode!

When the chillies are completely black, place in a plastic bag or a bowl covered with plastic and leave to cool down and steam.

When they are cool enough to handle, rub off the skins, remove the seeds and finely chop.

Roasted jalapeno cream cheese1

Add the peppers and seasonings to the cream cheese. Stir in the zest of the lime and then add the juice of half of it. Stir to thoroughly combine and refrigerate until needed.

Roasted jalapeno cream cheese2

The perfect way to serve this is on a warm, fresh bagel, but equally delicious spread on savoury scones, crackers and oatcakes. It’s good with the traditional pairing of smoked salmon too!

Roasted jalapeno cream cheese3