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Shiitake Mushroom and Sausage Stuffed Shells in a Coconut Pumpkin Sauce

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Hello All!

It’s finally cold enough in California to bake. The winter and fall have definitely been  mild and hot. Today it was a crisp 67 degrees outside. That’s right, this is what I have to call “crisp” weather. In any case, I took full advantage and decided to use up the tons of canned pumpkin I recently purchased from Trader Joe’s. I’ve seen similar recipes around, using the pumpkin as a creamy alternative to many sauces. I’ll be making spaghetti and pumpkin soon!

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Stuffed Shells in Pumpkin Sauce

  • approx 14 jumbo shells, already cooked and cooled
  • 6 oz of shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, and caps chopped
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese  (full fat please)
  • 1 1/2 hot Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1 canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix!)
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups of Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups of monterey jack cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with parchment paper or foil and lightly, and I do mean lightly oil. Add the butter and some oil (so the butter doesn’t brown or burn) to a skillet. Once the oil is heated through, add the mushrooms and let them brown, turning over maybe 3 times, for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, add the pumpkin and coconut milk to a 3 quart pan and set on medium-low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer.

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Place the ricotta in a bowl, and add the mushrooms when they are ready. Do not set on a paper towel before adding, even if some butter gets in, that’s fine, this is cold weather, delicious, good, rib-sticking food we’re making. Take the sausage and with your fingers pull off small 1/4 inch pieces. Brown on medium heat for 6-7 minutes, turning once. If you like, you can de-glaze the pan once the meat has had a chance to brown with either Port, Vermouth, or Marsala wine.

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Add the sausage to the ricotta and season again with salt and pepper. Add in 1 cup of Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

Once the pumpkin-coconut milk sauce comes to a simmer add in some salt and pepper to taste, the cinnamon, paprika, garlic, and cornstarch. Add in the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Stir and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for 3 minutes.

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Add a ladle of the pumpkin sauce to the bottom of the baking dish. Take a shell in your hand and with the other use a soup spoon to fill it with the ricotta stuffing. Layer evening into the pan. Cover with remaining sauce (be careful not to completely drench the shells; I recommend using a ladle to pour it over the shells) and sprinkle on the monterey jack cheese. At this point you can also add some bacon/ panchetta to crisp up on top, or more Parmesan cheese. Whatever you like!

Bake in the over for 20-22 min.

Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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Mushroom Soup and a Long Week Behind Me

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This past week has been a little too crazy for my liking. I had to prepare my entire apartment for the bug people coming (I do not have bugs, however the new owners of the building insisted on putting everyone out, having them loose a day of work, and making everyone very angry on a weekday), and then put it all back together. On. A. Weekday.

Apparently, last time this happened it occurred Saturday morning and they had three guys for the whole building, not one. I survived the ordeal, and overall it was a little bit worth it. I was able to toss out a bunch of kitchen items that I didn’t need, and I was able to re organize my spices.

Not to mention, during the cleaning process I found a few sets of China I completely forgot I owned!

Prior to this nonsense, on Tuesday I had made the greatest mushroom soup. It’s my first, and only mushroom soup really, but the statement still stands.  I got the idea from this recipe, but when first reading over it it seemed a little too complex, what with the coring and peeling of an apple and the use of an immersion blender (I knew what was in store for me later that week so I was in no mood to do extra work, not even for food).

My version, if I do say so myself, it quite better!

Aside from the soup I was able to accomplish a bit of decorating for the holidays. Sadly, I couldn’t get a good image of my nutcracker, however, the rest of the rooms are coming along nicely. I’m not sure if’ll I be hosting any parties because of my busy and tiring schedule in December, but in any case there’s no harm in decorating just for oneself.

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Those pine cones there are the same ones I picked about a week ago with Boyfriend out in… NATURE! I baked them for about 23 minutes in 200 degree oven. The sap got a lovely sheen and gave the pine cones an almost lacquered effect.

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Lastly, my crochet project (Boyfriend’s mom’s Christmas present) is moving along nicely. I’m at a steady pace today, and I’m hoping (with determination), to get through half of it.

 

Now, without delay, the recipe for amazing soup. ENJOY

Mushroom and Garlic Soup

  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 2 heads of garlic mashed, chopped, or otherwise pulverized (to your liking)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb mushrooms (I used baby bellas, but button work, too), thinly sliced
  • 1 can of chicken stock (roughly 2 cups)
  • 1 can of coconut milk, shaken in can before opening (to get it all mixed well)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, fresh if possible
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp of ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp bourbon sea salt (I found this at Williams Sonoma- if you don’t have it, course sea salt is good as well)
  • 3 fresh sprigs of dill

In a large pot, heat the oil and butter. Add the onions and garlic. Salt a bit so the juices are released. Cover and let cook about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally on low heat; careful not to burn the onions or garlic.

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Add the mushrooms and saute for 3 minutes. Add more salt (not the flavored salt), pepper, spices, rosemary stock, chicken stock, and coconut milk. Stir, and raise the temperature to medium-high. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

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Make sure it’s not bubbling too much, and after 10 minutes uncover, and let cook on medium heat (bubbling away) for 20 minutes. Add the bourbon salt and half the dill (I didn’t chop it up, just ripped it up with my hands).  Take out the sprig of rosemary, and slowly stir for about 3 more minutes to thicken the soup a bit.

Add more dill when serving soup.

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Chocolate Bundt Cake for a Dear Friend

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My friend was coming over today to visit from Vegas. I haven’t seen her years, and while we used to converse daily (because worked together) and went out all the time to cheer each other up during those bad times in life, we’ve been bad keeping in touch. Family, work, school, life, tends to get in the way.
In any case she was able to stop by and we had a wonderful time, thanks, in part, to this lovely cake.
This recipe was adapted from Food Librarian
Chocolate Bundt Cake
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp (or 5 tbsp) cocoa
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup minus 1 tbsp taken out of vanilla flavored coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Bring to a boil in a pot: Water, oil, butter and cocoa

In a large bowl, combine together with a whisk: flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon


Add the chocolate mixture to the flour and mix until combined.

doesn’t look appetizing I know. But that’s what happens when you don’t stir and take the picture.

Add a tbsp of white vinegar in a 1/3 cup measure and fill to top with coconut milk (I used vanilla flavored) and pour into a small bowl. Add another 1/3 cup of coconut milk, and the 1/3 cup of heavy cream. (If you have a 2/3 measuring cup or some other way of measuring it, just add 1 tbsp of vinegar first to the bottom then fill up with coconut milk till you get 2/3 cup. Then add the heavy cream till you get a full 1 cup of liquid).

Add milk mixture to the batter with baking soda and mix together.

not too appetizing at the moment, but lovely when you mix it

In a small bowl, combine the eggs and vanilla. Add to the batter and combine.

Pour batter into greased 10 or 12-cup Bundt pan and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Mine took about 37 minutes, it was very liquidy, and although I added more liquid than the original recipe called for I think it added a lot of tenderness to the cake it wouldn’t have otherwise had to the extreme amount of cocoa powder necessary.   Don’t forget to cool in the in pan, about 13 minutes or so.

Top with a dusting of powdered sugar or a simple glaze of powdered sugar and milk or water (though I opted for the powdered sugar, not the glaze).

Lemon Pudding the Old-Fashioned Way

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I woke up today with the urge to do something really nice, and something that dealt with lemons. At first, and for a while, I’ve been tinkering with the idea of having my own recipe for Lemon Curd. I was gonna tweak and combine a few that I’ve tabbed over the days to make my own, perfect for tarts in the summer.

As I was relaying what I thought was good news to Boyfriend, he said he wanted Lemon Pudding. In fact, he was craving it and he’d get himself some of the Jell-O brand (probably tomorrow). Now, I’m not sure if he actually got any, as this took place yesterday, but I was a little insulted at the thought of him buying ready-made pudding.

I’ve been on this kick of “everything homemade” and it’s been great. It’s tasted a lot better and been a lot healthier, too. So as I was going over my Lemon Curd recipe I decided to flip the recipe and make Lemon Pudding instead.

I’ve adapted the recipe somewhat from one that I found on FoodGawker.

Lemon Pudding

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 cups vanilla flavored coconut milk
  • 3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • pinch of salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

Place sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Whisk to combine the two. Gradually add the milk, whisking until smooth. This will take a few minutes so be patient. Add egg yolks, lemon zest, and salt. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring constantly, till sauce thickens, about 6-7 minutes so be patient. You’ll know it’s done when it can coat a spoon.

Keep stirring to get the milk and cornstarch incorporated without lumps

7 Minutes Later

Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and butter. Whisk to make smooth, about 20 seconds. Place in jars (about 3-4 1 pint jars). Let cool completely, and then cover with plastic wrap or lid. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, or overnight, till set. Serve chilled.

Mango Shrimp Curry

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Curries are incredibly easy and healthy to make. Once you get a two recipes under your belt their completely in your control. With a few ingredients any dinner (and leftovers lunch for work, as in my case) is 20 minutes away. Roughly.

I got this recipe from Nigella, and I tweaked it to fit my own tastes and my own stocklist in the pantry. This dish is best served with rice.

  • 2 tsp chili oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped or minced
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 bottle of Patak’s Yellow Mango Curry
  • 1 medium sweet potato (or squash)
  •  13-15 pieces of shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lime

In a large skillet heat the oils and heat the shallot until nice and warm. Keep an eye out to make sure not to burn it. And it does burn quick. Stir, and add in the mango curry and coconut milk. Stir and bring to a boil.

the Mango sauce prior to the coconut milk addition. I love the color.

Lower the heat to keep a constant simmer and add in the sweet potatoes. Cook until tender about 15 minutes or so. Add in the shrimp and cook for 7 minutes longer, till all the shrimp are pink and cooked through.  Add the lime juice and cook for just a minute longer.

Serve over rice.