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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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Apple Picking in Yuciapa

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This Sunday I went apple picking. It was the first time I ventured out past San Bernardino on my own (well, Boyfriend was with me) and it was the first time I’ve ever been that close to orchards. I’ve driven past them on my way to lovely San Fran on the Golden State Fwy (I-5) however this was a completely different experience.

First, we went to Snow-Line where Boyfriend and I stood in line for a good 18 minutes to get the most amazing (and fresh) apple cider cinnamon donuts on the planet! I don’t think the actual flavor is what mattered most here, but the freshness. Being made, right there, in front of our very  (greedy) eyes!

After we had our fill of donuts, although for the rest of the day I wanted more, we wandered around the charming store. It was a mix of orchard store, vintage shop, and mom and pop garage sale. I couldn’t have been happier.

I wanted these most of all!

 

Next, we drove about a mile and a half to Riley’s Apple Farm. That was a completely different experience entirely. They had a small orchard for families and children that couldn’t handle their bigger, hillier, orchards as well as a lovely and secluded picnic area.

 

 

 

Dogs and cats a like roamed and welcomed visitors!

 

As we proceeded further into the orchard however I found this (good luck) sign that the apples are delicious. Clearly, someone wanted this apple so much that they forgot to pick it and went right for the flavor!

 

After a good 30 minutes of walking around looking for Rome Beauties and Braeburn apples we located their top-of-the-hill pumpkin patch and corn! Although it was very small indeed, a bit slimy, thanks to the dewy morning, I had fun attempting to pick one out that was just right.

Sadly my expectations are too high and no pumpkins made the cut.

 

On our way back we were able to say “hi” to this guy again.

By the way, his name is Tom. Apparently, every farm has an orange tom tabby cat that anyone can come up to and love. That was a great part of the weekend for me personally.

Aside from the lovely cats roaming around me, I went home with fresh apple cider, something called Christmas Jam, and a heaping 6 lbs of apples I picked myself. My hands picked those beauties sitting on my kitchen floor. I feel (a little too) proud.