Pumpkin Muffins Three Ways

Halloween and Autumn mean not only will a bunch of candy will be brought into the house but also pumpkins! I’ve found myself thinking of creative ways to eat the pumpkins as opposed to just trashing them. Last year, I tinkered around with Cranberry Pumpkin Scones. We’ve got a lot of pumpkins this year so this will be one part of a series of “what the hell can I do with this pumpkin?” recipes.

 

I’m indecisive. I was also hungry, so I found it difficult to decide which direction to go with the muffins. When all else fails, do it all and feel guilty about it later lol.

 

The base of the muffins remains the same across the board. I divided the batter and individualized three different batches. Cranberry Pumpkin, which is very tart and tangy. Orange Pumpkin, which is beautifully flavored and scented using fresh orange zest and a squeeze of juice. Spiced Pumpkin, which made me actually say “wow!” I topped the muffins with leftover streusel from my Cranberry Peach Muffins. The streusel seriously sets off the Orange and the Spiced. I eyeballed my fixins so really, just add your goodies to taste.

 

Obviously, this recipe called for fresh, roasted pumpkin but if you’re using canned that’s perfectly fine too.

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Basic Pumpkin Muffin Batter

Yields roughly 15
Ingredients:

1 ¾ cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ c vegetable oil

¾ c granulated sugar

½ cup lightly packed brown sugar

2 c pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

¼ c milk

 

Streusel

 

Optional add ins:

Fresh cranberries

Pumpkin spice or cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice (to taste)

Freshly grated orange zest, at least one orange and a squeeze of juice

 

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray
  3. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and in another bowl combine wet ingredients including puree20171104_11175120171104_112426
  4. Carefully fold wet into dry until just combined and you don’t see any splotches of flour
  5. At this point, I divided the batter into three bowls
  6. Gently fold in cranberries into one batch20171104_113037 copy
  7. Zest your orange, gently combine zest and squeeze of juice into one batch20171104_112835 copy
  8. Add your spices, adjust ratio to suit your tastes20171104_113025
  9. Bake at 425 for 5-6 minutes then reduce to 350 degrees, bake until they pass the toothpick test, about 15-20 minutes.
    • Do not forget to reduce from 425 to 35020171104_11415520171104_114558
  10. Allow them to cool in the tin before removing20171104_12181720171104_121820
  11. Store in an airtight container in the fridge

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© 2017 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

Weeknight Chicken and Dumplings

The weather has dropped suddenly in Washington, DC and it has been feeling like Autumn all week. I couldn’t wait to make a nice homey comfort dish. Chicken and dumplings is a favorite in my family.

cd16When I have the time and energy, I prefer to make a huge batch starting with homemade stock. But today is Wednesday. That is not a Wednesday meal for me. Tonight, I adapted it to suit a weeknight meal. Mostly homemade but the broth got a helping hand from some store-bought reduced sodium stock. We’ll punch it up, though, no worries.

I like to add garlic and herbs to my dumping dough for an added layer of flavor. Feel free to adapt and adjust to suit your preferences.

Autumn, here we come!

 

Ingredients:

4-6 boneless chicken thighs

Four stalks of celery

One med-large onion

3-4 carrots

4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 32 oz container of reduced sodium chicken stock

Fish sauce

Worcestershire sauce

All-purpose flour

Kosher salt

Black pepper

Crushed red pepper

Garlic powder

Rosemary

Bell’s poultry seasoning

 

 

 

  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. Brown chicken thighs, do not cook through, over med high heat.
    • I used four boneless, skinless chicken thighs. You can use whatever chicken you prefer, though. It’s also easy to scale the recipe up or down.
    • Be careful with breasts as they tend to dry out if not handled properly.cd2cd3
  1. Chop your vegetables
  2. Remove chicken thighs from heat
  3. Add veg and salt and pepperScreen Shot 2017-08-30 at 7.53.32 PMcd4
  4. Add a 1/2 container of reduced sodium chicken broth, stir and scrape up the bottom of the pancd5
  5. Add remaining 1/2 of the broth, fill container with water and add that to the pot as well
  6. Bring to a boil, add the chicken
  7. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer.
  8. While the chicken is simmering, in a large bowl add 2.5-3 cups of flour, add about 2 rounded tsp salt, plus black pepper, garlic powder and rosemary to taste (or any other herb that you prefer).cd8
  9. Add ice cold water a few tbsp at a time. Stirring in the center of the bowl. Slowly incorporating flour from the perimeter, almost like making pasta.
    • Do this just until the dough comes together. If it is too wet add more flour, too dry then add more water.
  1. Dump the dough onto a floured surface. Sprinkle with flour and gently knead to make sure it’s not sticking. Press, or roll, the dough to about a 1/4″ thickness. Cut into your desired shape.cd9cd10cd11cd12
  2. Your chicken should be ready and tender after 20-25 min. Remove from stock, shred using two forks. Add back to the pot.cd6
  3. Taste your broth, add salt and pepper as needed. I also add about 1/4-1/2 tsp of Bell’s poultry seasoning, two splashes of fish sauce and a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Taste and adjust.cd7
  4. Bring to a boil. Gently stir while you add your dumplings one by one. You don’t want to have big ol’ clumps of dough.
    • If you prefer a slightly thicker consistency, I create a slurry of corn starch, splash of Worcestershire and cold water.cd13cd14
  5. Once added and incorporated, allow to simmer for at least 10-15 min

 

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© 2017 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

Spicy Chicken & Sausage Soup

Autumn is my favorite season. Sweaters, boots, cider, stretch pants….. Okay, stretch pants are year-round over here, sue me. But still, autumn is easily the greatest season for food. It’s September but here in DC, it’s still brutally hot. We cranked up the air today and brought in the new season with a super hearty, flavorful and filling soup.

When it comes to my comfort foods measurements are never exact. You go with the flow, you taste and adjust. You wiggle when you get it perfect. Well, I wiggle. I don’t know what you do.

I love any excuse to pull out Big Red, my large Le Creuset dutch oven (thanks Trina!). You want to use a large, heavy bottomed pot for this dish because it is a one-pot wonder. Everything is happening in that pot. Everything.

Ingredients:

Two large chicken breasts

3 spicy Italian sausages

4 garlic cloves

2 large carrots

3 celery stalks

1 small onion, or ½ of a large onion

½ green bell pepper

1 can of black beans

1-16 oz can of crushed tomato

1 carton of low-sodium chicken broth (always, always low-sodium)

Few tbsp of your preferred cooking oil

1 tsp of fish oil (don’t ask, just do it. Trust me. MAJOR NOM FACTOR)

Spices & such:

Kosher salt, pepper.

Garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder, paprika, crushed red pepper, oregano, parsley- thyme would work really well, too.

This is an example of measurem-who!? I just eyeball, but you can start with about a tsp of the first three spices, ½ tsp for the remaining ingredients, and adjust as you taste. Always taste, taste, taste!

 

Prepping is the name of the game. Chop up your veg right away. Just get it over with, when it’s go-time you can just dump it right in the pot and keep on moving.

soup1

In your heavy-bottom pot over med heat, add about 2 tbsp of cooking oil. Add your sausage, I made little sausage balls. Allow the sausage to caramelize and brown, the bottom of the pan may start to change color. That is nothing but food’s way of saying, “hey, you. here’s some love”. Seriously, this is a good sign. You do not want the sausage to cook through. Transfer to a paper towel lined bowl.

If the pot is beginning to dry, add another tbsp of oil. Add your chopped chicken breast to the pan. Season with kosher salt and pepper. You want the chicken to brown up and add to the brown love marks on the pan. Once the chicken is mostly cooked, carefully transfer to a bowl.

In the very same pot, right on top of all of that #BrownLove, you’re going to add your holy trinity (onions, bell pepper and celery) and your carrot. Sprinkle a bit of kosher salt and stir. Allow the vegetables to sweat, they will become very aromatic. It’s intoxicating, really. When you smell the trinity you know major NOMS are about to occur.

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As the veg starts to sweat, you’ll notice the brown bits start to loosen up. Now, this is where magic happens.

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Once the vegetables start to soften,  you’re going to add your spices. Stir it up really well and just keep moving the veg around the pot. We don’t want to burn the spices, we just want to toast them a bit. Bring out some of that aroma and flavor.

 

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The veg will be releasing some moisture, which is why this doesn’t look dry. And, would you look at that!? The #BrownLove is mostly off of the pot and incorporated in the veg. FLAVOR! Now, you’re going to add a capful of red wine vinegar and a tsp of fish oil to this. You want to stir to incorporate. I will admit. This part is a bit funky, but it is adding some major nuance and umami.

(Umami. The sophisticated sister to Nom. You’re welcome for that useless and totally made up bit of information).

Now, you’re going to add your chicken broth and your crushed tomato. Stir well to incorporate. Bring the soup to a boil and then turn down low. Allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes, then you’re going to add your chicken and sausage back into the mix. The sausage and the chicken are going to finish cooking gently in the simmering soup. After about 5 minutes you can go on and add your beans. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.

 

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That line of soup residue? That means the soup has reduced. That means the flavors are more concentrated. That means….Yes, you guessed it: NOM. At this point, you really just want to taste and tinker. More salt? More garlic? (The answer to more garlic is always “yes” in this house.) This is your dish, adjust as your tastebuds demand. I wound up adding a smidge more fish sauce and another pinch of salt.

Mason demanded a taste and told me it was “deeeeelicious.”

So, clearly it’s amazing.

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(Notice the darker color. Reduced -> concentrated flavor -> NOM)

 

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At the last minute I decided to serve it with some cornbread so I whipped some of that up. I’ll do a post on that another day. But just know this is some sweet, salty and moist conrbread. It’ll make you wanna cuss.

 

Wait. This is my blog.

This cornbread is good as shit. So is the soup. Trust me.

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© 2016 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved