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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Applesauce oatmeal mini muffins

I made an apple pie this past weekend to use up a ready-made pie crust. Since I only had one crust, I made a quick crumb topping for the top of the pie....which left me with about a cup of leftover crumb topping! Not wanting the crumb topping to go to waste, I whipped up the applesauce oatmeal mini muffins you see above (based on a recipe I found on SparkRecipes). They are low calorie (due to the oats) and low fat (only fat in them in is in the crumb topping). Super moist with a nice apple cinnamon flavor, they were a breeze to pull together. It's crazy how the oats virtually disappear into the muffin...the oats are there bringing all their oat goodness but you are not biting into pieces of rolled oats. Victor and I have been eating them as a little post breakfast treat all week!

Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins - adapted from SparkRecipes
Crumb topping
1 cup of flour
1 cup of brown sugar
3 generous tablespoons of butter, soften

Mix flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter to make crumbs. The mixture will be crumbly without being overly buttery....of course you can add a little more butter if you choose but this amount was fine with me.

Soak 1 cup of rolled oats in 1 cup of milk for 1 hour (I used non-fat organic milk)
1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sweetened applesauce with cinnamon (you could use regular applesauce, I just happen to always buy applesauce which already has cinnamon in it since I LOVE cinnamon)
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (you could use table salt but I used sea salt)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray 2 mini muffin pans with olive oil spray and set aside.
Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
Mix the applesauce and egg whites into the milk/oats and then add to the dry ingredients, mix by hand until just combined.
Spoon batter into mini-muffin pan, top generously with crumb topping.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
Cool on wire rack.

Yields about 30 or so mini muffins.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chico's Tacos: An El Paso institution

Chico's Tacos is a local El Paso fast-food style restaurant which has been around since July 4, 1953. While there are a few other items on the menu (hot dogs, french fries and I am pretty sure I saw beef stew listed), the most popular item by far is the tacos (rolled and beef only). They come in a single (3 tacos) or double order (6 tacos), covered a thin soup-like mild tomato sauce and about a 1/2 to a cup of shredded American cheese and spicy green salsa on the side (which still had some bubbles along the edges like it had been poured fresh out of the blender). The double order was like $1.33 or something crazy like that... But are they good? While I have had better quality tacos for sure, I like them for what they are. As you see in the picture above, the tacos come in a little red and white cardboard boat and are served with a pretty ineffectual plastic fork. Stab a taco in the middle with the fork as soon as you get your order and the fork will inevitably bend or break. I try to slide the fork in the side and lift the taco to get bite...the key with this approach is not to drop the taco and splash sauce everywhere (which I have done). I rarely can get enough cheese on my taco as I am eating, so I end up eating forkfuls of cheese at the end and promising myself that I will stop after one more bite. One guy on Yelp recommended picking up the boat and drinking the sauce at the end...while tempting, I can't bring myself to that though as you can see the residual grease in the sauce from the now consumed tacos. While I know the tacos are probably cooked by throwing them in the deep frier, they don't taste overly greasy....although the tomato sauce is probably masking that.

My impression from conversations with folks is that everyone in El Paso has had the tacos and likes them against their better judgement. When you say that you just went to Chico's, people give you this look like "Aww...I wish I just went as well but I am watching my weight/sodium intake/etc". The yelp reviews are split pretty dramatically: people love or hate them. Seems like the Yelp haters are primarily out-of-towners who heard the hype, had their expectations too high and were disappointed. Go in there thinking this is a comfort food treat and I think you will really enjoy the experience. should know: they may have some secret addictive ingredient in them because the day after I have the tacos, I am thinking about them again and craving more.