You Can Never Go Wrong with Nachos

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I am good for whipping up some incredible nachos on the fly. I usually follow my golden rule: use what you have! Sometimes I actually plan and grocery shop with the express intention of making some bomb ass nachos.

Rules of Thumb

  • Spread it wide and low! (No towers of chips over here)
  • Sheet pans, cookout disposable pan, oven safe pan, cast iron skillet, etc.
  • Generous layers
  • CHEESE
  • Condiments (pico, guac, sour cream, cilantro, etc.)

I usually opt for a full sheet pan if I’m sharing but if I’m making it just for me then I’d opt for a cast iron skillet or oven safe pan.

Place aluminum foil in the pain and spread out a good layer of chips.

I always prep everything at once because it makes assembling much easier.

There is no recipe here but I’m going to outline a couple of things.

 

Take Care of Your Bird

When I need some quick and tasty chicken to top nachos, or pizza or whatever, I tend to follow the same steps.

  • I slice my chicken breasts to be 1/2-1″ thick. Pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Heat your skillet to medium high. Your cast iron should be smoking (I recommend cast iron).
  • Season the chicken to your liking. For this purpose? I’d use kosher salt, coarse pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, a little sazon, cumin, smoked paprika and finish with lime juice. Use what you like. Gently pat the seasoning into the chicken.
  • Use your preferred oil (that can withstand the heat). Add a couple of teaspoons, not a lot of oil. You’re not frying this.
  • Add your chicken to the skillet. You should hear that musical SSSSSSSS immediately. LEAVE IT ALONE. Let it cook unbothered. Because you cut them so thin, you should be able to see the white begin to encroach upon the pink chicken facing you. Around 4-6 minutes. Peak under to check on that Maillard reaction. Your chicken should be pretty brown. If it isn’t, no worries. Flip the chicken and let the other side cook, unbothered. After a few minutes, if your chicken is brown enough for your liking then you can flip it around the pan for a couple of minutes. Don’t do this too long, you don’t want a dry bird. (I have never written out how I get such juicy, yummy chicken breasts using this method. If something doesn’t make sense when you try this, don’t hesitate to message me on IG or using the contact form on the site).
  • Let the chicken rest on your cutting board. Ain’t no cutting to check or to taste. If you wanted to taste you should have cooked a small piece before cooking the whole breasts! (Pro-tip, by the way).

 

While the chicken is resting, start chopping up and preparing the fixins. My personal go-to’s are a LOT of shredded cheese, fresh pico, guacamole, black beans, chopped jalapenos (fresh or pickled, or both!), cilantro, lime juice and zest, red onion, sometimes lime and cilantro rice, corn. What I use is generally determined by what I have, unless it’s a planned nacho night.

If I’m using pork, I use a very similar method. If I use steak, I sous vide first then season and sear. I use chicken 97% of the time, though.

Once everything is ready to go, slice your chicken. Chop, if desired.

Time to Stack

  • Chips
  • Cheese
  • Beans
  • Chicken
  • Corn
  • Jalapenos

Scoonch your chips around to get the cheese and fixins under the chip too. You don’t want everything just sitting on top and a bunch of naked ass chips on the bottom. Spread a bit of cheese on top the finish, if you want.

Bake on 450 until the cheese is all melty.

Top with pico, guac, sour cream, or anything that shouldn’t necessarily be ‘hot’.

I’ve included pictures of my various forays into nachos and tacos. I use the same methods and rules more or less.

 

Happy munching!

 

 

 

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

Jerk Chicken and Spicy Beef Patties

I did these at the same time. I’m just going to jot down what I recall doing. Follow the techniques, use what you got, use your own spice combos and TASTE TASTE TASTE.

Both dishes started with chopped garlic, red onion, jalapeno and scallions.

I seasoned my chicken breast with just a little salt, pepper, garlic and cumin. I wanted the chicken to taste good on its own. I didn’t want to rely on the sauce.

The ground beef was not seasoned until it was cooked through.

I seared one side of the chicken and then flipped it.

The chicken was then seasoned with some pepper and all spice. I added a tbsp of Grace jerk seasoning, scotch bonnet sauce and Worcestershire sauce. I allowed this to ‘braise’ until the sauce reduced some.

I chopped the chicken and added it back to the pan. I added a bit of water, some scallions and then stirred to combine.

Once the beef was cooked through it was mashed to break down the meat into smaller pieces.

I used spices like curry, cumin, ginger, all spice, garlic, onion and clove. I used a bit of Worcestershire and fish sauce.

I used water to temper the flavors and the moisture lever. Use salt last, you don’t want a salty dish.

Allow these filling to chill.

Preheat oven to 420

To assemble the patties:

Ensure that your filling is cool and not too watery

Take a disc and roll it out to create a larger patty discSpoon the filling onto the disc, do not over fill

Fold over and seal using your fingers and then a fork

(If you want to freeze these for later, this is when you want to do it.)

Bake until patties are crispy and golden brown.

Allow to cool before eating.

 

© 2019 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

Balsamic Gorgonzola String Beans

Hey y’all. This isn’t a precise recipe, but just a quick write up of this yummy side dish. Scale to suit your family’s needs.

 

1 bag of trimmed string beans

Chopped garlic

Butter

Olive oil

Cup of slice almonds

1/8-1/4 c balsamic vinegar

Sugar or honey (optional)

Gorgonzola cheese

 

(If you can multi-task, multi-task. Otherwise, do the reduction first)

In a sauce pan, bring the balsamic vinegar and like a little under a regular spoonful of sugar or honey) to a boil then reduce to a simmer.

Add chopped garlic.

Stirring frequently.

Keep an eye on this, you want it to coat the back of a spoon. If it goes too far it will taste pretty gross.

Remove from heat.

Melt a pad of butter into this and fin.

 

In a large tupperware, add the string beans and just a few spoonfuls of water. Microwave with the lid ajar for 3-4 minutes. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.

In a skillet over medium heat add olive oil and then melt butter.

Soften chopped garlic then remove.

Increase heat to medium high.

Add drained string beans ands season with salt and pepper.

Sautee until some start to brown up.

Remove from heat.

Add chopped garlic and some sliced almonds.

Drizzle with balsamic reduction.

Top with more sliced almonds and gorgonzola cheese.

 

© 2019 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

Jerk Chicken Plantain Patties

Ingredients:

 

Plantain Dough

Flour

 

2 chicken breasts

Seasoning (salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, coriander, smoked paprika)

 

½ head of a small green cabbage

1 small red onion

1 small sweet onion

1 serrano pepper

1 red jalapeno pepper

 

1-2 tbsp Grace Jerk Seasoning

Low-sodium Chicken Broth

2-3 tbsp brown sugar

Squeeze lime juice

1 tbsp butter

 

½ cup black beans

1 egg for egg wash

(Yields about 20 medium sized patties)

 

  1. Preheat oven to 420
  2. Butterfly and season chicken breasts (or boneless skinless thighs)
  3. Heat cast iron (or heavy bottom) skillet on medium-medium high, sear chicken on both sides, cook mostly through
  4. Remove from heat
  5. Deglaze pan with ½ cup chicken broth

plantain12

  1. Dice onions, slice cabbage, chop peppers, chop cilantro
  2. Set 2 tbsp of red onion to the side
  3. Sautee remaining peppers and onions until softened, season lightly with s&pplantain8
  4. Remove a tbsp of cooked onions and peppers and put in a small bowl
  5. Add cabbage to peppers and onions, add reserved red onion and toss together

 

  1. In the small bowl, mash beans together with the onion and pepper, season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lime juiceplantain11

 

  1. Set chicken to the side

 

  1. Bring the deglazed pan to a boil, add jerk seasoning, squeeze of lime juice, butter and brown sugar

 

  1. Stir and taste, adjust seasoning if necessary (I added additional clove to pump up the jerk)

 

  1. Chop chicken and add to the jerk sauce, sprinkle a little corn starch and stir, sauce should thicken

plantain13

  1. Toss with cabbage mixture and set aside to cool

 

plantain9plantain10plantain14plantain15plantain16plantain17plantain25

  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment
  2. Flour surface and roll out plantain dough to about 1/8-1/4”
  3. Using a round container (I used the small soup container from Chinese take out)
  4. Place discs on parchment
  5. Assemble:
    1. Flour surface
    1. Gently elongate disc using rolling pin/tool
    1. Black bean mixture, shredded cheese, chicken and cabbage
    1. Fold shut and press to secure
    1. Gently crimp using a fork
    1. Place complete patties on second lined baking sheetplantain21plantain23plantain24plantain26plantain27
  6. Brush finished patties with egg washplantain28plantain29plantain30plantain31
  7. You can freeze on baking sheet then store in a freezer bag
    • Bake from frozen at 400 on lined baking sheet
  8. If serving right away, bake at 420 until golden brown, edges will be crispy
  9. Store in the fridge in an airtight containerplantain32plantain33plantain34plantain35plantain36

 

 

 

 

© 2019 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

Cauliflower Chicken Alfredo with Penne

1lb Penne Rigate

1 chicken breast (your preferred cooking method or rotisserie)

2 cup fresh spinach

1 small shallot (of ½ small red onion) finely diced

1 zucchini

1 squash

1 head of garlic

4 tbsp unsalted butter

½ head of cauliflower (cut into florets)

Buttermilk

Heavy Cream*

½ – 1C parmesan

1-2 C shredded Italian cheese

 

Salt

Pepper

Paprika

Garlic powder

Onion powder

Nutmeg (small dash)

 

Olive oil

Worcestershire sauce

 

 

Prepare your chicken. I chose to sous vide mine and began working on the other components.

Cut your garlic head at the top 1/3. Place in foil and cover in olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Roast at 350 degrees for about a half hour. It will become very fragrant.

Steam your cauliflower, remove.

Boil and drain your pasta, set aside.

 

I used an immersion blender in a large mixing bowl. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use your food processor or quality blender. You want this as smooth as possible.

 

Add in the butter, the buttermilk (I used both heavy cream and buttermilk because I needed to use up the cream. Feel free to use which ever you like but no lower than whole milk).

Add in the Worcestershire sauce, the spices and roasted garlic.  Blend until very smooth.

Taste and adjust your seasonings as necessary.

In a sauce pan, add olive oil and soften your onion or shallots. Add the spinach, salt and pepper. Add the zucchini and the squash. Cook until fork tender. Remove and set aside.

 

(At this point I had to sear off my chicken for some good ol’ Maillard)

I removed the chicken, add the sauce to the pan and stirred up on the brown bits. I added the cheese at this point. I added the chicken juices to this too.

 

I added the vegetables and the sliced chicken back to the sauce. Heat through.

 

Toss with pasta.

 

Listen.

This is the truth.

 

 

© 2019 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

Secret Family Recipe: Chili

I apologize now. I do. Because of the length of this introduction. But listen….it’s necessary. When you taste your chili, you’ll understand why. If you scroll by my feelings will not be hurt LOL.)

Okay….Technically this isn’t a family recipe. This is a recipe you lie and claim to be a secret family recipe. Then you proceed to stunt and accept all of the praise.

I don’t know about y’all but I have two versions of most of my favorite recipes. I have my weeknight version where we show Sandra Lee how to cut corners on a recipe. (Bless that lady’s heart. Have y’all seen that Kwanzaa cake??) My weeknight versions are way less labor intensive than the original versions. My weeknight chili is light-years easier than this recipe. The thing is, though it’s still delicious, you’re sacrificing the layers of flavor that tell your taste buds that this was made with love and intention.

Some people like ground beef and others like whole chunks of beef. Do what you want. I prefer ground beef so I bought a whole chuck roast and pulled out my food grinder. It was cheaper than buying a huge thing of ground chuck. We are frugal around these parts.

Notice I have not mentioned anything about authenticity. My folk are from the south and I’m from Long Island, New York. So, yes, I put beans in my damn chili.

This recipe has so many different flavor profiles. Smokey, sweet, umami! Oh, the umami! I’m sure some ingredients might give you pause but listen, Linda.  There is such depth of flavor and color. It’s a beautiful dish in both preparation and presentation.

There are many steps to this recipe but once you get a groove going you’ll see it come together quite quickly. The key is to stay organized! It may look like a lot but trust me, you will taste every single step. It is worth it.

Believe me.


Ingredients:

Chile Paste:

4 dried New Mexico chiles

4 dried ancho chiles

3 chipotle chiles (in adobo)

2 anchovies (alternatively, you can use 1/2 tsp fish sauce per filet)

4 cups low sodium chicken broth,

2 tbsp of tomato paste

1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

1 1/2 tbsp light brown sugar

4+ garlic cloves (I used like 6. It’s garlic, bro.)

2 tbsp smoked paprika

4 tsp dried coriander*

4 tsp dried cumin*

2 tsp black pepper

2-3 fresh cayenne peppers, optional

(*I have yet to commit to using whole spices. If that’s your preference, the dried conversion comes to roughly 1 1/2 tbsp of whole spices, each.)

Chili:

2 to 3 lbs beef (ground or cubed)

1 large onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

3 clove garlic, minced or grated (did you buy a microplane yet?)

1-2 fresh jalepeno or serrano chiles

1 can of pinto (or whatever you like, rinsed and drained)

3 bay leaves

1 (14oz) can of fire roasted diced/chopped tomatoes

1 (14oz) can of diced/chopped tomatoes

1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4-1/3 chopped cilantro, optional (if you’re one of those soapy people)


Chile Paste:

(*signifies that it applies to the whole spices too, if used)

  1. Heat up a dry skillet
  2. Remove the core, seeds and stems of your dried peppers
  3. Cut or tear the chiles and toast them (and whole spices* if you’re using them) for about a minute or two in the hot skill
    • They will be warm and fragrant
    • Shake the pan or stir frequently, we don’t want to burn them.
    • Fill a bowl with hot water and add your toasted chiles
    • Allow them to steep for at least ten minutes in order to reconstitute them
    • 4a. Grind your whole spices at this point*
  4. Put the reconstituted chiles* in a blender or food processor
    • Add anchovies or fish sauce, tomato paste, cocoa powder, chipotles, garlic cloves, black pepper and brown sugar
    • Add your other spices*
    • Add 2-3 cups of chicken broth
    • Puree until smooth

Note: This can be made ahead of time. It can also be frozen and used at a later date.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. In a large heavy bottomed or Dutch Oven, brown your beef and season with s&p
  3. When the meat is almost cooked through, add your jalapeno or serrano chile, chopped garlic, bell pepper and onions, cook until softened.
  4. To this mixture, add your chile paste
    • Be sure to stir for a few minutes to help eliminate some of the raw tomato paste flavor and basically kick start the spices that we added!
  5. Using the remaining chicken stock and a spatula to clean out your food processor or blender. Waste not want not.
  6. Pour this into you pan or dutch oven
  7. Using your spoon or spatula stir while scraping the bottom of the pan
    • this step is called deglazing. This allows us to clean the bottom of the pan. All those brown bits are flavor and ain’t that what we here for?
  8. Add your two cans of tomato, beans and bay leaves
  9. Bring your pot to a boil, stir and then lower to a simmer
    • Do not worry if your chili seems too loose, it will reduce and thicken.
  10. Taste and gently season with salt if you need to.
    • Do not over do it, because the chili is going to reduce and the flavor will concentrate.
  11. Add bay leaves
  12. Cover and place in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours
  13. Stir Occasionally
    • Taste so that you can see how the flavors continue to develop!
  14. The chili will darken, thicken and reduce, which is indicated on the walls of my pot (as pictured)
  15. Add apple cider vinegar and stir in cilantro
    • I saw this on some random cooking show and tried it one night. Such a complex acidic flavor. Again, trust me. If you’re that afraid, try a generous splash.
  16. Taste and adjust as necessary
    • Personal note: This is where we clean it all up. At this point, I’m tasting and adjusting. I’m correcting my seasoning. I’m adding additional things that might help it along depending on what my palate is saying. I might need more sugar, more pepper, more garlic, more acid. This is where personal preference comes into play as well.
    • Greedy note: THIS IS AMAZING THE NEXT DAY OMGOMGOMGOINK

Serve this up with your favorite fix-ins. We rolled with sour cream and shredded sharp cheddar with a side of homemade cornbread. If you’re feeling yourself because you made some bomb ass chili? Next time, walk with me, try this…. Pumpkin. Cornbread. You’re welcome.

1543441632516.jpg15434221226951543441527854

 

© 2018 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

Roasted Garlic Parmesan Shrimp with a White Wine Butter Sauce

This is a rough recipe, as I’ve been tinkering with it but no one batch has been the same. This is the latest iteration to which I’ve added mushroom, spinach and loads of white wine. The other iterations are tacked on to the bottom. This came to life on Instagram and you can definitely check out our page @NibblesandNom.

Ingredients:

1 lb of angel hair pasta

7-9 mushrooms

Pint of cherry tomatoes

3-4 cups of fresh spinach (or 1 pack of frozen)

1 stick of butter

1 bulb of garlic, plus 4-5 cloves

1 shallot

Olive oil

Pinot Grigio (or any dry white)

2+ lbs of jumbo shrimp

Parmesan

Shredded mozzarella

Salt

Pepper

Crushed red pepper

Granulated garlic

Oregano

Parsley

Basil

  1. Preheat your oven to 350.
  2. Bring water to a boil
  3. Boil one lb angel hair pasta, reserve a cup of starchy pasta water
  4. Chop the end off of a bulb of garlic (yes, the whole bulb) and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper
  5. Wrap in foil, place on cookie sheet.
  6. Halve a pint of cherry tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper
  7. Spread tomatoes on the cherry sheet
  8. Roast for 30-45 minutes
    • The garlic will likely be done before the tomatoes
    • Remove the tomatoes when they begin to shrivel up and are very fragrant
  9. Peel and devein your shrimp
  10. Slice or finely chop your mushrooms
  11. Chop 4-5 cloves of garlic and one shallot
  12. In a pan, over medium heat melt one whole stick of butter (yum!)
  13. Sautee the shallot and garlic, then add the mushrooms and season
  14. Nestle in your shrimp in a single layer, do this in batches if you need to, season.
  15. Add in your spinach and toss until it begins to wilt
  16. Add in your white wine (I honestly used about 75% of the bottle. Sue me.)
  17. Toss to incorporate, season with salt and pepper, I added granulated garlic and crushed red peppers
  18. Add the roasted tomatoes
  19. Toss your drained pasta in with everything, add in a generous amount of parmesan, I added a handful of mozzarella too
  20. Drizzle in a couple of tbsp of olive oil
  21. If this mixture is getting to dry, add some of that reserved pasta water
  22. Taste and adjust your seasonings as necessary, add in your Italian herbs (think basil, oregano, parsley).

This is an easily adaptable recipe. I’ve made it several times with different variations. Like I always say, use what you’ve got!

(Spinach, shallot, bell pepper, roasted garlic, chopped garlic, squash, sun-dried tomato)

(Fresh basil, sliced mushroom, artichoke, slow roasted tomato, roasted garlic, chopped garlic)

 

© 2018 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved