Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Lemongrass Ginger Cooler

One of the BEST drinks for Summer, this Lemongrass and Ginger Cooler is refreshing, easy to make and always delicious! 



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Summer calls for cooling drinks and lemongrass is one of the BEST ingredients to add to drinks. It is refreshing and delicious. 

For the longest time I have had a lemongrass plant in my back yard. A large chunk of the produce goes into making Chai but I use it in many other recipes too. 

Asian broths, drinks, some curries and desserts. This cooler is made mainly from lemongrass and ginger with some saffron for flavor and color! 

What is Lemongrass?


A tropical grass popular in many parts of Asia, lemongrass finds application in essential oils, cooking, baking and medicines. The grass has a fragrance similar to lemons (hence the name)! 

Known to boost immunity (read more here) this grass has two parts; the thicker base and thin leaves. 

In India we generally use the leaves as an addition to Chai. The thicker stem has a LOT of flavor and is used in soups, curries and desserts. 

What all goes into this cooler?


This recipe uses lemongrass and ginger as the main ingredients. However, neither of these have any color and the drink tends to look quite boring.

To impart a natural flavor and color to the drink, I added some saffron. The signature yellow tinge from the saffron is amazing and it also adds a hint of flavor. 

Sugar is used as a sweetener here, but honey or jagger can be used too. 

I topped the syrup with water. Using carbonated water would work well too. 



How to use saffron in the recipe?


As mentioned, saffron is used to get some color to the drink. So you would want to extract maximum color from the strands. 

For a very long time I used to steep them in hot water or milk to get the color. Only recently did I learn that ice extracts the color really well compared to hot liquids. 

So to do so, crush the saffron strands in a mortar and add some ice cubes. Leave it to melt and the resulting water will have LOTS of flavor and color. I use this method in all my saffron based recipes now.


How to serve the drink?


The main ingredients here are lemongrass and ginger, and the BEST way to enjoy it is using a lemongrass stalk itself. 

The stalk will be hollow from the inside and by pulling out a couple of leaves from the inside will give it enough diameter to use as a straw! 

I generally serve my drink with a sprig of mint or basil. 

Steps to make Lemongrass Ginger Cooler


In a pan add chopped lemongrass, grated ginger and sugar. 

Add 1 cup water and boil till you see bubbles in the water. Turn down flame and let it cool to room temperature. 


In a mortar pestle add a few saffron strands and crush them with a pestle. Add 2 cubes of ice and let them stand for a while. 

As they melt, they will extract the color and flavor from the saffron. 


Transfer the golden saffron infused water to a jar.

Once the lemongrass mixture is cool, strain it into the jar with saffron and mix. This syrup can be refrigerated for a week. 


In two glass add ice cubes. Pour 2-3 tbsp of the prepared syrup in each glass and top with water. Serve with a sprig of mint and a stalk of lemongrass. 


Ingredients

Sugar 1/4 cup
Saffron a few strands
Ice and water as required


Method


Add 1 cup water and boil till you see bubbles in the water. Turn down flame and let it cool to room temperature. 

In a mortar add a few saffron strands and crush them with a pestle. Add 2 cubes of ice and let them stand for a while. 

As they melt, they will extract the color and flavor from the saffron. 

Transfer the golden saffron infused water to a jar.

Once the lemongrass mixture is cool, strain it into the jar with saffron and mix. This syrup can be refrigerated for a week. 

In two glasses add ice cubes. Pour 2-3 tbsp of the prepared syrup in each glass and top with water. Serve with a sprig of mint and a stalk of lemongrass. 



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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Instant Pot Stuffed Shells

Classic stuffed shells get and easy makeover. No more pre cooking the shells in this dump and go version!  


Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no extra cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 


Pasta is one of our favorite meals.Whether it is stovetop, baked or instant pot; we love it all.

Lately, I have switched over to making a LOT of pasta dishes using the Instant Pot. Not only is it easy and quick, it is uses just one pot meaning lesser clean up.

Large shell pasta is definitely one of our favorites. Super versatile in a way that they can be filled with various fillings, topped with different sauces and make perfect sharing and freezing recipe.


Why use the Instant Pot to make this recipe?


The traditional method to make them is to boil the pasta, stuff them and bake them in sauce and cheese. 

This recipe eliminates the boiling part and the shells can be filled uncooked. They are then cooked in the Instant Pot with the sauce. 

This way the recipe can be made using just two pots; one for the filling and one is the Instant Pot

I have used a simple filling made from corn, spinach and cheese. This can be swapped by SO many combinations. 

Have you tried the Mealthy Multipot? Read my review for that here. Buy your own Multipot here. Remember you can get $10 off on any product from Mealthy (above $59.95) using the code HERBIVORECUCINA. Or get yours from Amazon.



Why use mushrooms in the recipe?


This is a vegetarian version of stuffed shells. It uses mushrooms for two reasons. 

First, the meaty texture of sautéed mushroom replicates meat in most dishes. 

Plus, a layer of mushrooms creates a gap between the base of the pot and the shells. This way the shells will not stick to the base.

Not a fan of mushrooms? Swap it with onions and pepper slices like fajita. They will be great in the recipe and help create the gap we desire. 


Why is this recipe so good?


This is by far the easiest way to make stuffed shells. An elegant dinner recipe that is great for parties, weeknight dinner or family brunch; this recipe is super versatile.

Believe in meal prep? Make the filling before hand and use it to make the recipe in a jiffy on busy weeknights. 

A semi-homemade recipe, this can be converted to a completely homemade recipe by making the marinara sauce from scratch. 

The cooked shells can be refrigerated for 1-2 days and frozen in batches for much longer. These can then be heated in the microwave and served. 



Variations


As I mentioned above, this recipe can be made without mushrooms too. Swap it for fajita to get the same results. 

I used large shells but the same can be done using Manicotti or other large fillable pasta shapes too. 

The marinara sauce in the recipe can be swapped for pesto, butternut squash sauce or even Alfredo sauce. They will all work really well in the recipe. 

The filling uses spinach, corn and cheese. Add in ricotta cheese if you like or even eliminate the cheese completely for a Vegan version.

Swap the filling with vegetables of your choice. Adding paneer, tofu or black beans is a great way to make the dish differently.


Love pasta? Try one of these then:



Step by step recipe


In a pan melt 1 tbsp unsalted butter. 

Once it starts to melt, add garlic. Mix and let the raw flavor vanish.


Add in chopped spinach, oregano, chili flakes, salt and pepper.Mix well.

Cook it down till the spinach wilts and almost dries up. Turn down the flame and let it cool. 


Once cool, add the shredded cheese and corn. Mix well. 



Using a spoon or piping bag fill the uncooked shells with the spinach corn mixture. 



Set the Instant Pot mode to Sauté. Add the remaining butter and let it heat up. Add the mushroom slices and sauté till they release all the moisture.

Press cancel and add 1 cup water (for 3 quart instant pot) or 2 cups water (for 6 or 8 quart instant pot) and deglaze.



Arrange the stuffed shells on the mushroom layer such that they remain upright. If they need to be stacked, carefully place them on top of the bottom layer. 

Add the marinara sauce and top with Italian Seasoning and shredded cheese. Do NOT stir.


Close the lid of the Instant Pot and set the mode to pressure cook on high pressure. Adjust time to 6 minutes and close the vent. 

Once the cooking is done, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes and release the remaining pressure manually.

Carefully open the instant pot and remove the shells. Serve them topped with the sauce and mushrooms. 


Ingredients


Jumbo Shell Pasta 8 oz, uncooked

Spinach 4 cups, packed
Corn Kernels 1/2 cup
Mushrooms 8-10 pieces, sliced
Garlic 2-3 fat cloves, grated
Mozzarella Cheese 1/2 cup, shredded
Sharp Cheddar Cheese 1/2 cup, shredded
Salt 3/4 tsp



Method


In a pan melt 1 tbsp unsalted butter. 


Once it starts to melt, add garlic. Mix and let the raw flavor vanish.



Add in chopped spinach, oregano, chili flakes, salt and pepper.Mix well.


Cook it down till the spinach wilts and almost dries up. Turn down the flame and let it cool. 

Once cool, add the shredded cheese and corn. Mix well. 

Using a spoon or piping bag fill the uncooked shells with the spinach corn mixture. 

Set the Instant Pot mode to Sauté. Add the remaining butter and let it heat up. Add the mushroom slices and sauté till they release all the moisture.

Press cancel and add 1 cup water (for 3 quart instant pot) or 2 cups water (for 6 or 8 quart instant pot) and deglaze.

Arrange the stuffed shells on the mushroom layer such that they remain upright. If they need to be stacked, carefully place them on top of the bottom layer. 

Add the marinara sauce and top with Italian Seasoning and shredded cheese. Do NOT stir.

Close the lid of the Instant Pot and set the mode to pressure cook on high pressure. Adjust time to 6 minutes and close the vent. 

Once the cooking is done, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes and release the remaining pressure manually.

Carefully open the instant pot and remove the shells. Serve them topped with the sauce and mushrooms. I like mine with some garlic bread.



DISCLOSURE: WE ARE A PARTICIPANT IN THE AMAZON SERVICES LLC ASSOCIATES PROGRAM, AN AFFILIATE ADVERTISING PROGRAM DESIGNED TO PROVIDE A MEANS FOR US TO EARN FEES BY LINKING TO AMAZON.COM AND AFFILIATED SITES.