Poor Man’s Cupcake BBQ Chicken Thighs

I love to watch BBQ shows.  I watch them whenever I can.  Heck, I think I have 5 different BBQ shows set to record on my Tivo.  My wife doesn’t watch them with me but it’s cool, she isn’t a BBQ ninja like me.  One of the best things I love about BBQ shows are the different ways that competitors cook their BBQ.  I have to say the most intriguing to me, was watching Diva Q on BBQ Crawl.  She made these amazing shaped chicken thighs but the clip was so short, I couldn’t see how she did it.  Then she called it cupcake chicken so I had to do some research.  Let me tell you, that research paid off………….

This is one easy way to smoked chicken thighs that everyone will love.  If they don’t love them, then you have permission to unfriend them on facebook, divorce them if you are married, or fart in their face if they are anything else.  A sneaky ninja will give them a crop dust for not loving cupcake chicken.

Step 1.

Heat your smoker to 275 degrees.

Step 2.

Take an old cupcake pan and drill a single hole (about a quarter of inch) in the center of each cupcake mold.  I used an old one I had laying in the cabinet.  Doesn’t it look pretty?


Step 3.

Remove your chicken from the brine (you did brine your chicken right?)  If you need a brine, use mine!


Step 4.

I wasn’t able to take pictures of the next step due to my hands being messy and I am a one ninja team at the moment.  You want to use poultry shears or if you are cheap like me, I have a pair of tin snips that I use for chicken, and cut the knuckles off the thigh.  There will be one on each end of the bone.  Take your time and remove any bone fragments from the meat.  Then trim the excess fat off the skin and meat of each thigh until the pieces are 3 to 4 inches wide, leaving about 1/4 inch of excess skin at the edges of the meat.  I like to remove the skin completely and put rub on the top of the chicken thigh.  Then I put the skin back on and wrap it around the thigh.

Here is how they look all trimmed and wrapped up.


Step 5.

In the cupcake mold, place each thigh, skin side down, in an individual cup. Sit the mold in a baking pan, and pour the chicken broth into the pan, being careful not to pour it directly on top of the chicken. Top the thighs with a dab of butter.  Place the pan in the smoker and cook, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours.


Here they are on my smoker.  I also brined and smoked some chicken legs to take to work for lunch this week.


After the hour and a half, this is how they will look.


Step 6.

Remove the baking pan from the smoker. Gently flip the thighs onto the baking sheet. Season the tops of the thighs with BBQ rub. Return the thighs to the mold cups, skin side up, and put the baking pan back in the smoker. Cook for 45 minutes.  This is how they look after you flip them over.  They were about 140 degrees at this point.  Not much color yet.


Step 7.

Remove the pan from the smoker, and unmold the chicken thighs onto the baking sheet, skin side up. Brush the thighs lightly with your favorite BBQ sauce. Place the baking sheet in the smoker and cook for 30 minutes to allow the sauce to caramelize into the chicken skin.


After 30 minutes, they should look like this.


Serve immediately.   I won’t win a place on chopped for plating but this was my dinner.


Cupcake BBQ Chicken Thighs

What you need!!!!

Poultry shears
1 silicone cupcake mold, with holes punched through each cup (or an aluminum cupcake pan, also with holes punched through each cup)
1 13 x 9-inch aluminum baking pan
1 aluminum baking sheet

Chicken Thighs
Chicken Broth
BBQ Sauce


Chicken Brine

When you BBQ, you are always striving to get the most flavor that you can out of your meat.  One way to accomplish this is by using a brine.  Brine is a salt water solution that will add moisture to your meat.  No one likes a dry piece of chicken, and I mean no one likes a dry piece of chicken.  So say to yourself, I brine my meat!  I brine my meat!  I briiiiiiinnnnneeee my meeeeaaaattt!  Rawr!  Most brine recipes will use a gallon of water.  When I make my brine, I am usually forgetful and have to make it last minute which quite frankly, sucks balls.  So lets move to making the ultimate and easy chicken brine.

Take eight cups of water (half a gallon) and put it in your pot and get it to almost boil.  Add 1 cup of kosher salt, 1/2 half cup of sugar, and my secret all in one brine ingredient……..1/4 cup of Tony’s Cajun seasoning.  Yes, Cajun seasoning and guess what, this is all you ever need for chicken.  Right before the water starts to boil, all of these ingredients should have dissolved.  Take the pot off the stove and add eight cups (half a gallon) of cold water to your brine and then stir.  If you are in a hurry like I am most of the time, you can use 6 or 7 cups and fill the pot with ice so it quickly cools.

Once your brine is cold, you can add your chicken.  I wouldn’t brine more than 24 hours or it will be too salty.  The minimum I try to brine for is 2 hours but overnight is best.


That’s my brine right after I took it off the heat.  Bask in it’s chicken moisturizing glory!


Chicken Brine
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Tony’s Cajun Seasoning
1 gallon of water

Mix all together and bring almost to a boil and stir till it dissolves.  Let it cool and brine your chicken for at least 2 hours up to 24 hours.

Weekly Menu 7/13 – 7/19

This week is going to be a good week.  I will be using the grill on Sunday and Friday, then for next Sunday I was able to score a 8lb pork shoulder for .99 cents a pound.  We’ll be having pulled pork next Sunday and pork sloppy joes for Monday and who knows what else I can make from this one cut of meat.  Rawr.



Cupcake Chicken Thighs
Baked Potatoes
Green Beans


Tacos and Rice


Pasta Carbonara
Garlic Bread




Baked Pork Loin
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Brussel Sprouts


Grilled Chili Cheese Dogs
Baked Fries
Baked Green Bean Fries


Pizza on the Blackstone Pizza Oven

Weekly Menu 7/6 – 7/12

My daughter is visiting for the summer so I have been pretty busy.  Unfortunately, these keeps me away from all of my amazing cooking ideas to post.  Now you end up with these short posts.


Anyway here is the menu I used last week.



Mongolian Beef and Fried Rice




Garlic Bread


Sloppy Joes
Tater Tots


Leftover Night!


Sliced Turkey and Gravy served over rice


Bubba Burgers and Brats on the grill
Baked cajun fries

Poor Man’s Homemade Salsa

Now I just love salsa, and so does my wife.  I figured since we are having Mexican night on Monday, I would make some fresh salsa to go with it instead of buying some crappy store bought salsa poop.

The first thing that you need to do is to get all of  your ingredients together if you want to make salsa ninja style.


Next you want to quarter your onion.  Then slice your jalapeno in half and remove the seeds.


My secret part to this ninjastastic recipe is to broil the jalapeno and onion under the broiler for about 15 minutes.  You want to keep an eye on your vegetables to make sure they don’t get too dark.  Once you like the look, remove them from the oven.


Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor.  Pulse that thing till the salsa is fit for a ninja.  About 15 to 20 pulses should do the trick.


It should look like this when you are done.


Put it in the fridge and let it get ninja happy for a few hours before serving.


Poor Man’s Homemade Salsa

1 can (28 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes With Juice
2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel ( I used one hot and one mild)
1/2 Half Onion (cut into quarters and roasted)
1 clove Garlic, Minced
1 whole Jalapeno (Cut in half and seeded, then roasted)
1/4 teaspoon Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/2 cup Cilantro
1/2 whole Lime Juice

Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor.  Pulse about 15 to 20 times. Place in fridge for a few hours and then serve.


Weekly Menu 6/29 – 7/5

I’ve been super busy since my last blog post.  You know playing WoW, cooking, work, my lovely wife, deploying, and jeeping.  I’m going to try to make better updates on this site.  I promise.



Grilled Bubba Burgers and All beef hot dogs
Mac and Cheese
Baked Beans


Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas


Grilled Chicken Drumsticks
Loaded Baked Potato Salad


Grilled Steak
Leftover Baked Potato Salad
Grilled Broccoli


Leftover Night!


Smoked Pork Tenderloin
Deviled Eggs
Green Bean Casserole


Pizza on the Blackstone Pizza Oven
Smoked Chicken Wings

French Onion Soup

I think French onion soup is probably one of the greatest things the French have ever accomplished.  Napoleon should have invented this and used it as his legacy.  I made this last Sunday as I was still suffering a little dental anguish.  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did.


This calls for a lot of onions.  4 cups sliced to be exact.  I used a variety of yellow and white onions.


Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes


Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes.


Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn’t burn, and cook for 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste.


Add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.


I bought some French bread as I didn’t feel like baking last week.  I just toasted it in a frying pan.


Here are my oven proof bowls filled halfway with soup.


Place the toasted bread into the bowl and top with Gruyere cheese or Monetary Jack Cheese.  MJ cheese is the cheaper route.


Place under the broiler for about 5 minutes until cheese is melted and a little brown.  Serve and enjoy.

French Onion Soup

1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, about 1/2 bottle
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts beef broth
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 pound grated Gruyere

Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn’t burn, and cook for 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Now add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

When you’re ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the slices with the Gruyere and broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

Ladle the soup in bowls and float several of the Gruyere croutons on top.


Ninja Yeast Rolls

Everyone loves bread.  If you don’t love bread, then you ain’t no friend of mine.  I try to bake bread every Sunday in the marc is a ninja household.  Bread is key to being a ninja.  It brings back those memories of being a young mini ninja which you can use to focus your chi and take down all of your foes.  I highly recommend fresh bread to help you onto your path as a ninja.


The first step is to scald milk (bring just to a boil and remove from heat immediately). Stir in sugar, salt, and butter. Set aside and allow to cool to lukewarm.


I like to proof my yeast for about 10 minutes in the mixing bowl.  You don’t have to on instant yeast but for some reason I just love the smell of yeast in the morning.


After the yeast has proofed for 10 minutes, add  lukewarm milk mixture, beaten eggs, and half the flour. Beat until smooth.  It should look like the picture above.


Add your remaining flour gradually to your mixer on the lowest setting until the dough is elastic and slightly stiff but not dry.


Turn the dough out onto a board and knead a little more.  Some people go until it’s smooth and very elastic, I find that does not have to be the case.  I just work it into an ugly ball of dough.


This is a horrible picture but it is of the dough ball oiled and in my stainless steel mixing bowl.


After the dough has risen for an hour.


You will want to pinch off the dough and roll it into little balls and place in a baking pan.  Leave a little space between the rolls as we are going to let them rise again for an hour in the baking pan.  Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the dough.


After an hour of rising, it’s almost ninja roll time.


Baked at 375 for 20 minutes and some butter brushed on top.  This pan is usually all gone by the end of the night.


Ninja Yeast Rolls

1/2 cup  milk
1/2 cup  sugar
1 1/2 tsp  salt (can use less)
1/4 cup  butter, melted
1/2 cup  warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 pkg  fleischmann’s active dry yeast
2 large  eggs, beaten
4 1/2 c  all purpose flour, may need a bit more or less, see directions
additional butter for coating bowls used and brushing on tops of baked rolls

Scald milk (bring just to a boil and remove from heat immediately. Stir in sugar, salt, and butter. Set aside and allow to cool to lukewarm.

In a large bowl mix warm water and yeast. Stir until dissolved.  Let proof for about 10 minutes.

Stir in lukewarm milk mixture, beaten eggs, and half the flour. Beat until smooth.

Add remaining flour gradually, mixing as you go. You may need a bit more or less than the total 4 1/2 cups called for in the recipe.

In your mixer, knead until smooth and very elastic. This usually takes 8-10 minutes. If by hand, my god have mercy on you.

Butter the inside of a large mixing bowl. Put dough in bowl and turn dough over a couple of times to coat it all with the butter.

Cover bowl and place in a warm place so it can rise.  It will take about 1 hour to double in bulk. At that time punch dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured board to shape.

Pinch off about 2-3 tablespoons of dough and shape into a ball. Place each one in a buttered muffin tin or baking pan, barely touching each other, do not crowd rolls.

Cover prepared rolls and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, again about 1 hour. Rolls should now touch each other. (A little more rising will occur during baking.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees when rolls are about 10 minutes from being ready for baking.

When ready to bake place rolls in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Brush tops of rolls with melted butter immediately when removed from oven.

Allow rolls to set for at least 10-15 minutes before eating.


Weekly Menu 9/15 – 9/21

I’ve been pretty busy this week so I didn’t get to posting my weekly menu from last week.  I’ve been working, playing video games, and spending time with the family.  Today is my lazy day so I will try to post a little content later.


French Onion Soup


Hamburgers and Hot Dogs
Ranch Beans


Baked Chicken Drumsticks
Mac and Cheese


Garlic Bread


Velveeta Chicken and Broccoli


Leftover night!


New York Strip Steak
Twice Baked Potatoes


Buffalo Chicken Casserole

I have seen this recipe posted on Facebook and Pinterest several times over the past few months.  I decided to make it two months ago and it was a hit with Mrs. Ninja.  I even had to make some the following weekend for her to take to a work potluck.  I’ve gotten tired of soup all week so I decided to make this casserole but I would chop the chicken up really small to make it easier to chew.  This is an all in one meal or you could add a few sides like peas or green beans.  Fresh rolls really go quite well with this dish.



The first thing you want to do is chop up your chicken breasts in bite sized pieces and place them in a bowl with 1/3 cup of Frank’s Hot Sauce (I actually like 1/2 cup).  Mix it around well and let it marinate while you prep.

Set your oven to preheat at 350 degrees and spray a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray.


My twist to the recipe is to add onion.  I took a small onion and chopped it, then gave it a sauté for about 10 minutes.


Excuse the mess but a ninja shreds without finesse.  I took 3 medium sized potatoes and grated them with my cheese grater.  Most of the recipes online have you use frozen hash browns.  Those are expensive when compared to grating these fresh.  You want about 5 cups of grated potatoes.


Mix your onions up in the bowl with the chicken and then place in an even layer of your baking dish like above.


In the same bowl, mix up your potatoes, dressing, cheese and soup. Spread over  the chicken.


Sprinkle the top with panko bread crumbs.


You want to bake it covered with aluminum foil for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 25 minutes.  Then you are in for some Good Eats that even Alton Brown would be jealous of.

Buffalo Chicken Casserole

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1/3 cup Franks Hot Sauce
5 cups potatoes, grated w/ box grater
1 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Cut your chicken into bite sized pieces and mix in a bowl with Frank’s hot sauce and allow to marinate while you prep.

Chop up the onion and sauté for 10 minutes.  Mix with chicken and hot sauce.

Place in baking bowl in an even layer.

Grate 5 cups of potatoes and mix in bowl with ranch dressing, cheddar cheese, and cream of chicken soup.

Spread potato mixture evenly over chicken.  Top with panko bread crumbs.

Bake covered with aluminum foil for 30 minutes and then bake uncovered for 25 minutes.