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May 2nd, 2019 | Category: Cooking

by Melissa Stewart

Let’s start with dessert. I know, I know, it’s usually dinner before dessert, but this coconut cream pie is so good you may consider serving this pie for every meal, or before and also after. It’s that good. And when May brings the beauty of warmer days and nights, and more time spent outside, these recipes are even more rewarding served outside on the picnic table, porch, or park.

At first glance, the coconut cream pie recipe seems long with a lot of steps, but it only takes about an hour. That hour creates the creamiest, most delicious dessert. The true flavor of coconut comes from using unsweetened coconut flakes (frozen or in bulk) and coconut milk or coconut cream (then blended with half and half). The mix of cornstarch and flour thickens the filling for a creamy texture; using only cornstarch or flour doesn’t quite make it creamy enough, so opt for both here.

You'll love homemade focaccia bread with rosemary!

You’ll love homemade focaccia bread with rosemary!

I like to use a deep dish pie pan for this recipe because it makes a good amount of filling. You can use a regular 9-inch pan as well, just be prepared for some extra filling. Go ahead and fill a few small bowls or cravats with just the extra filling; you’ll be happy to open the fridge the next day and see these. Trust me, this pie will be gone in no time.

When you make this pie from scratch it’s worth it to make a homemade crust and whipped topping, too. It is that delicious. But, if you need to save time, use store bought crust and whipped topping. It will still be heaven to the taste buds.

This recipe can also be used as a base for banana cream or chocolate cream, swapping out the coconut flavor.

Now that we thoroughly covered dessert, let’s look at a couple side and meal ideas this month.

The focaccia bread can be made in one hour and highlights the olive oil taste (use extra virgin) with some delicious herbs. Top it with some mozzarella or parmesan. For a fun take on garlic bread, slice the cooled focaccia bread in half, then place mozzarella down the middle with some butter. Let it bake for a little longer to melt the cheese, and serve.

The creamy garlic butter shrimp is a masterpiece of flavors in under 20 minutes. Serve this over pasta, rice, steamed vegetables, and more. The sun dried tomato adds a special flavor; use regular tomatoes if you must. Use the focaccia bread to soak up the creamy sauce, and have a side of the spinach. You can use shrimp (or prawns) with tails on or off. Fresh is best for flavor, though frozen will work if needed.

The spinach with pine nuts and garlic is a terrific side for both the creamy garlic tuscan shrimp and making sandwiches on focaccia bread. Plus, use the avocado spread on the bread or as a dollop on the spinach. We enjoy making chicken cutlet strips (use panko for crunch and frying in olive oil) that are smothered with onions, peppers, and cheese on sliced focaccia bread. This is also great for seafood or vegetable sandwiches, or as cut bread served at the dinner table with pasta, rice, and other dishes. Enjoy!

Melissa Stewart enjoys cooking with her family and loves living in the Northwest.

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Focaccia bread


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 cup warm water

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 1 packet)

1/4 teaspoon honey

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt



Over low heat, combine olive oil, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and pepper in a pan. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until aromatic (but before the garlic browns). Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and honey. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of flour and a 1/4 cup of the olive oil mixture to the bowl with yeast and honey. Stir until moistened, and let sit another 5 minutes.

Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour and salt. When the dough comes together, transfer to a floured board and knead until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Do not over knead. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, cover with a warm, damp towel and let rise for 1 hour in a warm area of the kitchen.

After 1 hour, heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Use two tablespoons of the remaining olive oil mixture to oil a 9×13-inch rimmed baking sheet (or use a baking dish with taller sides).

Put the dough in the pan and press down. Dimple the dough with your fingers then drizzle the top with the remaining oil mixture. Let the dough rise another 20 minutes until puffed slightly.

Bake until golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.


Spinach with pine nuts and garlic


2 cups fresh spinach, washed

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons pine nuts

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped




Place the spinach in a large pan. Pour over a little boiling water, cover tightly and cook for 2-3 minutes, until wilted.

Drain well and extract water from leaves. Heat the oil over low-medium heat, add the pine nuts and cook until golden. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then stir in the spinach. Heat through. Top with parmesan.



Creamy avocado spread


1 avocado

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1/4 cup sour cream or greek yogurt

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt



Cut avocado in half and remove the pit/skin. Place avocado in the food processor.

Add all other ingredients to food processor, and process until smooth and fully combined.

Scoop into a bowl and enjoy.



Creamy garlic butter shrimp


2 tablespoons butter

6 cloves garlic, diced

1 pound shrimp (or prawns)

1 yellow onion, diced

5 ounces jarred sun dried tomato strips (in oil, drained, reserve 1 teaspoon of the jarred oil for cooking)

1 ¾ cups half and half or 2% milk, or substitute

Salt and pepper to taste

3 cups spinach leaves

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)

½ cup white wine or chicken stock



Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter, add in the garlic and cook about one minute until fragrant. Add in the shrimp and cook two minutes on each side, until just cooked through and pink. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Cook the onion in the butter remaining in the skillet. Pour in the white wine or chicken stock, and allow to reduce to half, while scraping the bottom of the pan for exra bits. Add the sun dried tomatoes and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low-medium, add the half and half and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to your preferred taste.

Add in the spinach leaves and allow to wilt in the sauce, then add in the parmesan cheese. Allow sauce to simmer for a further minute. Add the shrimp back into the pan; sprinkle with the herbs and parsley, and stir through.

Serve over pasta, rice or steamed vegetables, or all on its own.



Deep dish old fashioned coconut cream



1 1/4 cups unsweetened coconut flakes

1 1/2 cups coconut milk or cream

1 1/2 cups half-and-half

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Graham cracker crust (or use store bought pie crust)

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

1/3  cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons butter (melted)


Whipped topping (or use store bought)

1 cup whipping or heavy cream

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Start the crust first (or use a store-bought pie crust and move on to the filling.) Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a small bowl. Pour crumb mixture into a 9” deep dish pie pan and press it firmly in the bottom of the pan and a little bit up the sides of the pan. (If you don’t have a deep dish, use a regular pie pan. When it comes time to add the filling, you will have some extra so use it to make a few smaller servings if wanted.)

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

For the filling, in a medium saucepan, combine the half-and-half, coconut milk, eggs, sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt, and mix well. Over low heat, stirring constantly (and we mean constantly, about 20-22 minutes), bringing to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes more until thick. Remove the pan from the heat.

(Note: If you prefer to make the custard in the microwave, set and mix all into a bowl, then microwave for 5 minutes, pulling out the bow each minute to give a good whisk.) Stir in 1 cup of the coconut and the vanilla extract. Pour the filling into the graham cracker bottom shell and chill until firm, at least 4 hours.

Once set, finish the pie with whipped topping and 1/4 cup coconut flakes. For the whipped topping, use an ice-cold large bowl. Whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form, then beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form.

For the flakes, spread 1/4 cup coconut on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown. Top the pie, and enjoy!


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