Chicken Mushroom & Collard Green Stew

I needed some inspiration. I’d been craving some flavorful soup for weeks now. I was flipping through some of my old food magazines. I came across a recipe that looked fairly good. I read through it, went to the grocery store and worked out my gameplan.

I did use the skeleton of this recipe and made some changes as I do. I will include the original recipe from Cooking Light, if you’re interested. I will walk through my process below.

Ingredients:

4-5 slices, thick cut bacon

Olive oil

1-2 chicken breasts, chopped into 1″ chunks

Salt

Pepper

Garlic powder

Onion powder

4 cups sliced preferred mushrooms

1-2 medium carrots, sliced

1-2 stalks of celery, sliced

1 medium onion, diced

4-5 garlic cloves, chopped

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

4 tbsp unsalted butter

1/3 AP flour

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup 2% milk

2 cups low sodium chicken broth

1/2 tsp dry mustard

3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1-2 cups chiffonade collard greens

4 cups wild rice

Mise en place! Chop up everything now. Once the recipe gets going it will make things a lot easier for you. There will be some multi-tasking involved. The measurements above are fairly guesstimated but you can see the amounts.

Render the fat from the bacon (not pictured) and set the bacon to the side to be used later as garnish.

Depending on how much fat you rendered you  may need to add a glug of oil to the pot. Brown the chicken, SEASON THE CHICKEN, it is okay if it is not cooked through completely at this point. Set the chicken aside.

Add the mushrooms and stir. If your pot starts to dry out add another glug of oil.Cook the mushrooms down. Remove the mushrooms and set them aside.Add your mirepoix to the pot plus the garlic and bay leaves. Allow the vegetables to soften, not caramelize. Add vinegar and stir, allow to reduce. Return chicken and mushrooms back into the pot. Turn the heat to low.In a pot, melt butter over med-high heat. Add flour and whisk quickly. Carefully and slowly add the milk/cream/stock, whisking constantly. You want this to be smooth, no flour chunks. After you pour in about half of the liquid and you have a slight thick but smooth sauce, pour in the remaining liquid and stir. Bring to a boil then reduce to low. Season this simply with salt, pepper and dry mustard.

Add the chiffonade collards to the pot, the hot liquid will gently wilt the collards without over cooking them. They’ll keep that pretty green color. At this point you want to stir to combine and TASTE TASTE TASTE. Add what you feel you may need; I wound up adding more salt and pepper plus some garlic and onion powder.Add parsley and remove bay leaves. Make sure you get them all, bite into one and you’ll curse yourself out. I chopped the bacon and some parsley for garnish.

© 2020 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

The recipe from Cooking Light (it’s a good magazine, I recommend it)

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Spinach and Artichoke Chicken Manicotti

I intended on boiling the handy dandy boxed noodles but I felt compelled to make the noodles. The last time I did that I just made some simple pasta noodles. When I went to the Googles to find some inspo I saw a technique that I’d never heard of which meant that I obviously have to try it.

Additionally the supermarket only had an insanely large container of ricotta. The Googles said it was easy so I said ‘what the hell?”

And it was!

I’m not writing up a lengthy post. I think the pictures are largely self explanatory. I didn’t use any precise measurements aside from the manicotti and the ricotta, which I’ll link to if anyone feels adventurous.

Fresh ricotta

Fresh manicotti

I winged this meal. I didn’t know what was happening until I was basically ready to assemble.

The following are the components:

I cooked up ground chicken thighs. I seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika and a bit of chopped garlic and shallots.

Chopped spinach (frozen) and chopped artichoke hearts

I used a can of crushed tomatoes. I seasoned it up with the usual suspects and my personal tricks. Season your sauce as you like or use your usual.

Shredded mozzarella.

I mixed the ricotta with the spinach and artichokes. I seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, parmesan and crushed red pepper.The rest is just assembly. Make sure you place them seam side down. Bake at 350 until nice and bubbly then make sure your cheese gets nice and melty 😍

This was my first time using this crepe-pasta technique. I did an amazing job with the flavors. I think it’s more suitable for a light recipe. This is hearty. I think I would have preferred an ordinary noodle. Either way this was amazingly yummy!

Worth every step!

🐷.

 

 

 

© 2020 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

White Chocolate and Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

1c AP flour

1c oats

2/3c brown sugar, packed

1/2c each craisins and white chocolate

1 stick cool but softened butter uns.

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 baking soda

Preheat to 350

Combine dry ingredients

On low, cream butter and sugar

Add egg and vanilla

Add dry ingredients

Add craisins and white chocolate

Combine with wooden spoon or spatula

Crumple parchment*

Form balls

Pro tip: Crumpling parchment paper makes it easier to manipulate when using baking sheets and pans

Bake for 10-15 minutes

Start checking for doneness around 10m

Edges should turn golden brown

Cool on cookie sheets before transferring to a cooling rack

© 2019 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

Buttermilk Waffles for Two

My friend teases me because I’ll make a pancake or four cupcakes. Well, I’ll also make two waffles. Waste not want not. It’s just me and the kid. I have no use for a half dozen waffles.

This recipe is for two decently sized waffles. If you want to make more then allow me to direct you to my go-to recipe converter. Simply input the interval you want to increase the recipe by (3 for roughly six, four for roughly 8, etc.)

You can add fixins, below I added spices and chopped apples. You can also add toppings, pictured below with strawberry compote.

Ingredients

1c flour

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

(any dry add on)

3/4c warmed buttermilk

3tbsp melted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

Basic recipe:

Dry ingredients in one bowl.

Melt butter in another.

Add warmed buttermilk to the butter.

Add lightly whisked egg and vanilla.

Whisk wet into dry.

Portion into your waffle maker and cook following your machine’s operation.

© 2018 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

Orzo “Greek” Pasta Salad

I don’t eat many sides from the grocery store deli but I will always be up for the various Greek pasta salads.

I make this pretty often but my produce usually just reflects what I have on hand. It comes together fairly easily and quickly. It also tastes better the longer everything marries.

Ingredients

Half a box of orzo

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1/2 cucumber, finely chopped

1/4 tomato, finely chopped

1/3-1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp lemon zest (optional)

1/2 tbsp chopped parsley

1 tsp chopped cilantro (optional)

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried mint

Salt and pepper, to taste

Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)

Chop your veggies

Boil and drain your orzo, rinse under cold water.

Combine dressing ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Combine all ingredients plus dressing. Toss with a wooden spoon or a spatula.

© 2019 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

Mango con Chile y Limon Cake

This idea came to me randomly a few weeks ago. I grew up in NY and it was a regular occurrence to see the street vendors selling baggies of mango or mangoes on a stick topped with chili powder. It took me a couple of weeks to figure out exactly how I wanted to incorporate these flavors.

Related image

There was a lot of trial and error. As usual, the goal is to flavor and color using natural, preferably fresh, ingredients. There were A LOT of mangoes (I think I used 7 or 8–all scraps and leftovers went into the freezer for smoothies).

The sponge is a basic vanilla sponge infused with fresh mango puree, lime and lemon zest, fresh cayenne (no stems or seeds) and cayenne pepper (more control over the spice level).

The first layer is buttercream and macerated fresh mango slices. The top layer is a lime-mango curd. It’s mostly sweet and creamy but there’s a tartness to it due to  lime juice.

The outside buttercream is flavored with a little smoked paprika, chili powder and a little cayenne plus lime juice and zest.

I taught myself to make mango roses, which serve as the decoration along with some whipped cream.


Ingredients:

Sponge:

2 ½ C flour

1 ½ C sugar

2 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1/2 c milk

1/2 c butter, room temperature

4 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla extract

¾ C mango puree

Spices (to taste): cayenne pepper, 2-5 cayenne peppers seeded and deveined, lemon zest, lime zest

Mango-Lime Curd:

1 large ripe mango

½ cup fresh lime juice

Squeeze of lemon juice

½- 1 tbsp of lime zest

½ tsp kosher salt

¾ cup sugar, divided (1/2:1/4)

3 large egg yolks

1 large egg

1 stick of butter, cubed or thinly sliced

Lime Simple Syrup:

3/4  cup of water

¼ cup of lime juice

1 cup of sugar

Vanilla Buttercream:

2 sticks softened butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

Roughly 5 cups of powdered sugar

Spiced Buttercream (optional/to taste):

Vanilla Buttercream

Smoked paprika

Chili powder

Cayenne pepper

Lime zest

Reserve:

2 mango cheeks, thinly sliced


Curd:

  1. Slice fresh mango
    1. In a small bowl add sugar or simple syrup
    2. Toss to coat, let restUNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_17d
  2. In a food processor, puree mango and transfer to a sauce pan
  3. Add lime zest and juice, salt and ½ c sugar
  4. Simmer while stirring until sugar dissolves
  5. Option 1: in a bowl, whisk eggs and remaining sugar until the yellow lightens
  6. Carefully and slowly stream in about half of the hot mango mixture into the eggs
    1. This is called tempering, do not rush this or you will cook the eggsUNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_186
  7. Strain
  8. Pour the egg and mango mixture back into the sauce pan and whisk constantly until it thickens
    • Do not let this boil
  9. Option 2: Combine ingredients and whisk constantly over a double boiler until it thickensUNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_180UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_193
  10. Once thickened, remove from heat and add the butter a few pieces at a time and stir until fully incorporated before adding the next few
  11. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto the top of the curd so it doesn’t develop a weird skin
    1. Chill for 2-24 hours

Simple Syrup:

  1. In a sauce pan, combine the ingredients
  2. Simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved
  3. Refrigerate and store in a container

Sponge: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease and parchment 2 9”round cake pans or 3 8” round cake pans
  3. In the bowl of your mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and gelatin using the paddle attachment
  4. Add the softened butter
  5. Add the vanilla
  6. Add the milk
  7. Add the egg whites, beat to combine
  8. Scrape down bowl
  9. Add mango puree
  10. Slowly incorporate the spices and the zestPhoto taken with Focos
    • I recommend starting with a teaspoon of zest and working up
    • I recommend starting with a dash of cayenne
    • Optional: seed and devein cayenne peppers and finely dice, start with a small amount and work your way up
    • My proportions were zest > cayenne pepper>cayenne peppersDivide cake between cake pans
  11. Bake until they pass the toothpick test
  12. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the pansUNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_18c
  13. Carefully poke some holes into the cake (not all the way through)
  14. Carefully spoon some of the syrup over the sponges and allow to rest so they can fully sop up the goodness

Vanilla Buttercream:

  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium until the butter looks white and fluffy
  2. Add vanilla
  3. On low speed, slowly and carefully add the powdered sugar about a cup at a time
  4. Slowly increase the speed and whip until well incorporated
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until all of your sugar is used

Spiced Buttercream (Optional):

  1. Split ½-3/4 of the vanilla buttercream
  2. Starting with a small amount, slowly add the spices and TASTE adjusting for your preference
    1. My proportions were zest>chili powder> smoked paprika> cayenne
    2. This was a sweet and flavorful buttercream that left a curious and slightly spicy finish

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_198UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_184

Assembly:

Bottom layer: Sponge

Next layer: Buttercream and the macerated mangoes (shake off excess liquid)

Next layer: Sponge

Next layer: Buttercream perimeter filled with curd

Next layer: Sponge

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_197UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_195UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_187

Photo taken with FocosPhoto taken with FocosPhoto taken with FocosPhoto taken with FocosPhoto taken with FocosPhoto taken with FocosUNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_17eUNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_194Photo taken with FocosPhoto taken with FocosPhoto taken with FocosUNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_196Photo taken with FocosPhoto taken with FocosPhoto taken with Focos

© 2019 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

Brown Butter Glazed Banana Bread

I’ve made this recipe a fewtimes and shared it on my personal Instagram. I first tried with just four bananas but I’ve since discovered that 6 is the perfect amount for a truly moist and bananaful bread.

(This trial used 1 tsp baking soda)

My first trial was a plain banana bread with a mostly bread consistency. I like a more cake like texture. My second trial required two extra bananas and I added a cream cheese icing. This third time we added walnuts and topped with a brown butter glaze and it was divine!

It’s a very forgiving recipe! I love having chunks of bananas so I mash my bananas with a fork. If that’s not your ministry you can puree the bananas. I make this by hand using mixing bowls, a fork and a spatula.

Feel free to sub in your own add ins. This is an easily customizable recipe. It’s truly no fuss.

Ingredients:

6 ripe bananas (the blacker the peel the better)

1 stick melted unsalted butter

3/4 c white sugar

1/4 c brown sugar

2 c flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder (if you like a slightly breadier consistency use baking soda, the loaf may be darker but still yummy)

1/4 c milk

2 eggs

Brown butter glaze:

1/2 stick unsalted butter

Up to 2 tbsp Half and half

Up to 1 c powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Direction:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. In a large bowl, mash your bananas.
  3. Melt your butter
  4. In a small bowl, gently whisk your eggs
  5. Combine milk, egg, vanilla, banana and butter.
  6. In another bowl, stir to combine your sugars, salt, baking powder, and preferred spices (I did 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp Nutmeg)
  7. Using a spatula, combine the wet and dry ingredients.
  8. OPTIONAL: Fold in 1/2 c chopped walnuts
  9. Oil and flour a loaf pan.
  10. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Start the toothpick test around 50m.
  11. OPTIONAL:While the banana bread is baking start your brown butter. Over medium low heat, melt the butter constantly whisking.
  12. You’ll be doing this for at least 5 minutes, once brown bits start forming remove from heat.
  13. In a mixing bowl,combine the brown butter, vanilla extract and powdered sugar.
  14. Slowly add and incorporate the half and half about a 1/2 tsp at a time.
  15. This isn’t an exact science. If it’s too thick, add a little more half and half. If it’s too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.
  16. Remove the banana bread from the oven and allow it to cool before pouring out on the glaze.

© 2018 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

Curried Pumpkin Coconut and Shrimp Soup

There are so many layers of flavor here from the mirepoix, to the curry, to the coconut, to the potent shrimp stock and of course, the pumpkin. This is a hearty, homey soup perfect for Autumn!

pumpsoup19

There are quite a few steps but don’t let this intimidate you. Organize your ingredients, your tools and get to work! I always say, work smarter not harder. Tackle one thing at a time in the order that you will be working. If you are roasting your fresh pumpkin, get that out of the way first. While that’s happening, you can get your shrimp stock simmering. Once you have everything lines up, just bang it on out!

 

Ingredients:

8 cup fresh chopped, roasted pumpkin (3-4 C canned pumpkin)

1 large onion

3 celery stalks

2 large carrots, or 3-5 smaller carrots

4-6 garlic cloves

1-2 lbs shrimp, deveined (save shells)

1- 13.5 oz can of coconut milk

6 tbsp preferred curry powder

5 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp black pepper

Worcestershire sauce

kosher salt, to taste

 

  1. If you are using fresh pumpkin, roast this first. You can follow the steps here. pumpsoup7
  2. Peel your shrimp and place the shells in a pot, cover with waterpumpsouppumpsoup2
  3. Prepare your mirepoix
    1. Roughly chop celery, carrot, onionpumpsoup3
  4. Throw any peels, tops, etc. in the pot with the shrimp, stir.
    1. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, this will be your shrimp stock
      pumpsoup4

      Shrimp shells, onion peel, celery stumps, carrot peel and heads

  5. Over medium heat, soften the mirepoix. Season with salt and pepper.pumpsoup8
  6. Add the pumpkin, add your spices plus salt and pepperpumpsoup9pumpsoup10pumpsoup12
  7. Drain the shells and peels from the stockpumpsoup5pumpsoup6
  8. Add 3-4 cups of shrimp stock, stir
  9. Reduce to simmer for 10-15 minutespumpsoup13
  10. Using an immersion blender, food processor or regular blenderpumpsoup14pumpsoup15
  11. Return to your pot, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer
  12. Add the coconut milk and 1-2 splashes of Worcestershire saucepumpsoup16
  13. Taste, taste, taste! Adjust your spices as needed. My family likes bold spice and flavor, you may want a little less or a little more. This is where you taste and adjust.
  14. Add your shrimp, stir and close the lid. Your shrimp will gently poach in the soup liquid.soup102
  15. Allow to simmer for another 20-30 minutes

pumpsoup17pumpsoup18pumpsoup19pumpsoup20

Optional:

Top with pepitas, drizzle of coconut milk or chopped mint or cilantro!

 

 

 

© 2017 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved