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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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Asparagus and Potato Tart with Honey

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Who would have thought that honey would work so well with roasted asparagus, laying lusciously  on a bed of mashed buttermilk potatoes? I did not, but then inspiration struck, and boy am I glad that it did!

I’ve been looking through my french cookbooks, and sadly, while this is something that would come from a french cookbook it was inspired by Jamie Oliver. I believe the book I was looking at was At Home with Jamie, and I saw a photo (that’s all it took), with some white asparagus laying on a very velvety mound of mashed potatoes, encompassed in some puff pastry. I thought to myself, hell, I can do that, and so I did.

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Asparagus Tart with Potatoes and Honey

  • about 16 asparagus soldiers, trimmed of the tough stems
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes ( I added buttermilk when making mine, to make sure it was extra creamy)
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • salt and pepper, to taste (If mashed potatoes are not seasoned)
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • parmesan cheese, approx 1/4 cup
  • clover honey, how much you use is to your taste, or omit

Season mashed potatoes with salt and pepper, or wait to season (if not already seasoned) till it’s laid out on the pastry sheet.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and grease. Lay out the puff pastry sheet (store bought is perfectly fine). Score the sheet so you get a 1/2 inch border. Make sure you use a sharp knife but don’t cut all the way through the pastry sheet. you can also use a fork to prick the sheet in the  middle to ensure it doesn’t get puffy with the ingredients on it.

Dollop the mashed potatoes on the sheet, making sure not to go over the border line. Smooth it out to an even layer of potatoes all around the pastry sheet.

Add the asparagus, laying them gently and closely together to make a line across the potatoes. You can add these in any lines you like: vertical, horizontal, or even diagonally. I did mine horizontally, but I rotated from left to right so it so that every other spear touched the left or the right side of the border (to get asparagus in every bite, essentially).

Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Bake for 15-17 minutes. Make sure the pastry boarder is puffing but isn’t get golden. Turn up the temperature up to 400 degrees F and bake for another 5 minutes or so. Checking to make sure the edges don’t burn.

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Take out and let rest two minutes. Drizzle with honey (I used organic clover honey, but any honey flavor will work here. I expect avocado honey will be especially amazing here), then let sit for another 4-5 minutes to allow honey to get slightly absorbed. Cut into squares and serve.

Don't mind that shiny thing in the corner, that's my knife. I couldn't resist a bite!

Don’t mind that shiny thing in the corner, that’s my knife. I couldn’t resist a bite!

Rabbit Organs in Garlic Cream with Sauteed Root Veggies and Pancetta

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As Rabbits come with organs, usually, at least they have them, as most living beings, you have to figure out how to cook them. Of course, you could throw them out, but honestly, rabbit liver is the best I’ve ever had. In any case, if you’re feeling adventurous, go ahead and give this recipe a try if you’ve got some rabbit organs, and don’t know what to do with them. Use it up quickly, do not refreeze them!

This recipe is for one.

This will use up 1 liver, 2 kidneys, and 1 heart that comes with the rabbit. Although, I found a lung with my rabbit, I discarded that because I remember my grandmother telling me that (for some reason) lungs are not clean to eat.

I have to say, although I’m not a 100% liver fan, but I enjoy the occasional chicken liver pate, this liver was amazing. It’s not the same taste and about the same texture. Only silkier, smoother, much milder. Perfect over pasta, although I opted for veggies and potatoes. In total, this was enough to feed only 1 person, if you want to feed two I recommend you cut the liver in half and add it to pasta, with pancetta, or another salty meat, and carrots, peas, or lima beans to be more filling.

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Rabbit Organs in Garlic Cream with Sauteed Veggies 

  • 1 rabbit heart, 1 rabbit liver, and 2 rabbit kidneys (fresh, make sure they are no more than 3 days old out of packaging)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 baby potatoes quartered
  • 4 baby carrots, cut into thirds
  • 1/2 a celery stalk, cut in half, and into thirds
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 oz chopped pancetta (my butcher had pancetta so I was lucky enough to ask for 1/4 inch thick slice- if you’re this lucky I used half of a slice, cubbed)
  • Parsley, for garnish

Add oil to pan and heat. Add potatoes, carrots, and celery, season with salt and pepper and any other seasonings you would like. Cayanne works really well with Rabbit liver. Add in pancetta and brown, about 6 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of water to hot pan and cover. This will steam the veggies and ensure they cook faster.

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I added some cayanne, although that wasn’t part of the original plan when I first started cooking, and the spice paired nicely with the cream sauce, and the silky liver.

To another pan, add garlic and melt on medium-low heat. Add in the organs and season with salt and pepper. Brown for 3 minutes a side. Add garlic to the oil and allow to golden, swish the oil around the pan to make sure the garlic pieces and the,now, garlic infused oils are coating the meat.

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Lower heat and cook for 2 more minutes. When potatoes are done (check with a fork or knife to your liking), place on plate and add the meat. Put meat pan back on heat, and turn it up to high. Add in the heavy cream with a pinch of salt. Allow to simmer for 30 seconds, just enough time to pick up some garlic, meat bits, and thicken. Pour over meat.

you can add a splosh of red wine right before you simmer the meat for 2 minutes (as shown here) for added flavor.

you can add a splosh of red wine right before you simmer the meat for 2 minutes (as shown here) for added flavor.

Rip bits of parsley over the dish as garnish.

This is a very filling but light dish. There is maybe 3 oz or so of meat, so you’re eating basically veggies with butter and cream fat. Especially when eating celery and carrots, it’s important to add fat to your diet, to ensure that the nutrients are properly absorbed. I read that in women’s health- and it’s always stuck with me. I think it’s because it justifies me dipping my baby carrots into ranch whenever I “feel like being healthy”. Don’t judge.

This dish came to a total of about 327 calories, perfect for dinner for one. Enjoy!

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Chicken and Dumplings for a Not-So-Rainy Day

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Today was one of those days were the weather started out being sort of dreadful and cold, and got lovely and sunny. However, my internal mood was one that related only to the morning weather.  Basically, I was in a funk.

So I did what any adult would do. I ignored that feeling and worked on homework and work notes all day. Then, went to the mall and got myself a new bra.Finally, I went home and worked out.

After a nice (and for some reason, short) shower I decided I had to do something before I started up on my homework again. This whole weekend is basically going to be me cooking and indulging Boyfriend and mine’s tastebuds. I’ll attempt to post of these recipes within hours of making them, but since it’ll be this weekend, you’ll have to save the love for next Valentine’s Day. Or a Birthday, or whatever weekend/day. Doesn’t matter.

I’m rambling.

My point is that I was in the cooking mood, and I figured that I could use a warm up recipe, like running a few miles before a marathon the next day (not that I know specifically how that would work, I’ve never run more than a mile, and a low one at that).

This recipe came into mind simply because the weather felt cold, for me, and I wanted something comfortable, yet delicious. I’ve been eating and working out regularly, and eating everything I want, in moderation, and I’ve been pretty successful. I think I’ve lost 3 lbs since my last weigh in, and why not give myself a lovely lunch tomorrow?

This was my first time making chicken and dumplings, and my FIRST TIME TRYING THEM! And after this recipe, I’m a fan. I’m sure it’s not the best, but it’s pretty awesome in my opinion. My dumplings ended up being a bit “Freeform” in size, but that made me love them even more.

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Recipe adapted from here (I cut my recipe in half)

2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp herbes de provance
1 tsp dried basil
2 tsp black pepper (or more to taste)
1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast- roughly one
1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots (I used mixed veggies)

Dumplings:
1 cup flour
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp butter (softened)
1 cup milk

In heavy bottomed Dutch oven or large wide pot, over medium heat, add chicken broth, water, butter and all seasonings. Cover and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, cut chicken breast into bite sized pieces. Add to soup mixture, (at this point, I also added some lemon juice for a bit of zing, if you’re not a fan of zing, by all means omit it). Stir to combine and cover.

In a sealable container combine flour and milk. Seal tightly and shake vigorously to combine well. You will create a smooth flour mixture for thickening your sauce called a slurry. Slowly pour the slurry into broth, stirring constantly. Add frozen vegetables. Cover.

Combine dumpling ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix well with a fork. Remove cover from stew and stir well. Drop dumplings into stew one tablespoon at a time, use a 1 tablespoon scoop to make it even easier.

Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes

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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Chinese Blackened Chicken

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I knew today would be busy as soon as I woke up. I had laundry to do. Paintings to receive in the mail (and UPS was not making it easy for me), not to mention preparing for a ton of homework and memorization for the following weeks. Making flashcards, cooking dinner, vacuuming, and even doing my nails all had to be done today.

There was a bright side to all of this however, a new and delicious chicken recipe.

As this is a work day I decided to be a bit loose on the directions, and although I posted the original recipe below (also found here by The Gourmet Kitchen), I eyeballed the measurements and did it to taste and preference. The only thing that I can stress here is the chicken you’ll be using. You really do need to get skin on and bone in. Chicken breasts that are skinless and boneless, and all lean and healthy will not work here. I’m all for healthy and lean, but this chicken is not it. It’s great for lunch, if you only eat one piece at a time you’ll hardly notice the calories, which some steamed rice, you’re all set!

 

Chicken Blackened Chicken

  • 4 chicken wings, a few drumsticks and a few thighs – all skin on and bone in
  • 150mls dark soy – the best you can get will be from an oriental supermarket, it’s really really thick and a little sweet
  • 100mls light soy
  • 150mls shaoxing rice wine (I used unfiltered sake)
  • A few pinches Chinese five spice powder (I omited this, but used a lot of cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, and cumin)
  • A large thumb sized piece of ginger, minced
  • A tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • Strands of ginger, red chilli and sliced spring onions to serve

Place the soy, minced ginger and garlic and shaoxing rice wine into a box with a lid and place into the fridge. Marinate for at least 24 hours, turning the box over occasionally so the wings are totally coated in the marinade.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.

Decant the chicken drumsticks and thighs (liquid and all) but not the wings into a roasting dish and place into the oven. After 15 minutes add in the wings and cook the whole lot for another 30 minutes in total, turning the pieces over every 10 minutes. Make sure the last 10 minutes is done with as much of the skin facing up as possible and give the skin a pinch of Chinese five spice just before it goes back into the oven.

Remove from the oven, give a drizzle of sesame oil, scatter with the ginger and spring onions and eat – we especially like it with egg fried rice.

Amaretti Cookies: Italian, Soft, Almond Gems

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The first time that I heard about these cookies was when I was 15 years old and I saw Nigella Lawson use them on Nigella Bites for some sort of syllabub recipe. Since then I’ve been looking for these cookies to make the recipe, and tons more like it from the numerous Nigella cookbooks. In any case, last week I went to the grocery store, and behold my luck! I found the cookies! I haven’t been able to make the recipe I want with them yet, but the prepackaged ones in the stores don’t expire, so there’s not rush.

Two days ago I found the recipe for the cookies to make myself. It’s been a very lucky month for me, this June. In any case, to test which ones will be better, store-bought or homemade (in terms of flavor, consistency, and air whipped goodness).

Even better, my friend which suffers from Celiac disease gets to test them out as well. She hasn’t been feeling well lately, and I figured there’s nothing better than giving her some cookies full of almond sugar goodness.

bagged and ready to go

This recipe comes from Grace’s Sweet Life. I believe she also has a cookbook out recently, which features all the lovely Italian desserts that she prepares. Check it out, I know I will!

  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 1/3 cup caster (superfine granules) sugar
  • 1.1 pounds, about 2 1/7 cups almond flour, whole blanched, very finely ground (I used organic courser ground from Trader Joe’s)
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for rolling

In a large bowl, using a large balloon whisk beat the egg yolks.  Gradually add sugar, whisking until well combined.

Add the almond flour; whisk to just combine (do not over mix).

In a separate bowl, using a large balloon whisk (clean and dry) beatthe egg whites to barely a soft peak (do not over beat).

Using a large flexible spatula, fold one-third of the egg whites into the almond mixture (this will loosen the almond mixture).  Fold in remaining egg whites just to combine (do not over mix). Don’t worry, the mixture will be very sticky, this is how it’s supposed to be.

Cover and refrigerate amaretti cookie batter for at least one hour (I had in the fridge for about 2.5 hours).

Preheat oven to 325° F.  Line baking sheets with non-stick baking paper or silicone baking mats, set-aside.

Roll amaretti dough into roughly 1 tsp sized balls, coat in confectioners’ sugar.  (Do not flatten cookies).  Roll 20 amaretti cookies per baking sheet.  Chill dough in between baking times.

Bake until lightly golden, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Makes about 6 dozen amaretti cookies (I got 45 cookies).