You’ll love this easy and delicious not-quite-custard, not-quite-pie crustless dessert recipe. I like to use frozen flaked coconut for a fresh flavor.

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups milk
4 eggs
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a deep 9-inch wide pie pan.

Melt the butter. Place the flour, sugar, milk, eggs, melted butter, vanilla and salt into a blender and process for 10 – 12 seconds. Alternately, you can use a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse 12 – 15 times. By hand, stir the coconut into the mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie pan.

Bake the pie for 40 – 50 minutes; watch carefully after the first half hour. The pie will puff up a bit and then fall slightly. It is finished baking when set and may be lightly browned.

Remove the pie from the oven to cool. Place in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly.

Yield: 8 servings.

*Magic: this recipe is exclusive to I Love You Recipes. It is from my personal, unpublished collection.

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My adaptation of classic Asian Mu Shu Pork is healthy, budget friendly and delicious. I like to double the recipe, cooking in a few small batches to use for super fast-fix dinners and lunches throughout the week. Mu Shu Pork is traditionally served over rice, and recipes call for wood ear mushrooms, Napa cabbage and pork. Served over lettuce, my Magic* version is a one-bowl meal created with the least expensive chicken, cabbage and mushrooms you can find.

8 ounces mushrooms
1 pound cabbage
1 bunch green onions
2 (4 ounce each) cans bamboo shoots
6 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken
1/3 – 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sherry
1 – 2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup roasted sesame seeds

1 large head lettuce
1 jar hoisin sauce (in the Asian section)

This meal usually takes about 30 minutes to prepare. The recipe looks longer and possibly complicated because of prep and presentation options. It’s truly a simple fast-fix recipe.

Prepare the lettuce:
Decide how you want to eat the Mu Shu. Roll-ups are fun for younger ones and those of us who enjoy “hands-on” fare. A more refined and great brown bag approach is salad-style. Please prepare your favorite lettuce for roll-ups or salad-style eating according to instructions at the bottom of this recipe.

If you’re having roll-ups, transfer the hoisin sauce to a bowl and add a small spatula, spreader or teaspoon. Salad-style instructions are at the bottom of this recipe.

Prepare the vegetables:
Clean and trim the mushrooms, cabbage and onions. Drain the bamboo shoots. Slice the mushrooms and cut them into matchstick-sized pieces. Thinly slice the cabbage and green onions. If the bamboo shoots aren’t matchstick sliced, give them a quick rough chop. Set the vegetables aside in a large bowl.

Prepare the eggs:
Crack the eggs into a medium-sized bowl and scramble with the salt. Heat a large skillet (such as a deep-sided chicken fryer) or wok with a bit of the oil and scramble the eggs over medium heat. You want the eggs set but not dry. Transfer the eggs to a bowl and set aside.

Prepare the chicken:
Trim and thinly slice the chicken. Alternately, you can use leftover chicken that has been boned, skinned and thinly sliced. The difference in using cooked or uncooked chicken is when it is added to the recipe during the cooking process.

Please read the Magic** Cooking Tip at the bottom of this recipe before proceeding.

Place your skillet or wok over high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When it is very hot, on the verge of smoking, add the uncooked chicken and stir-fry until it’s no longer pink.

Adding about 1/3 of the vegetables to the skillet at a time, quickly toss and stir to keep the food from sticking, adding a few drops of oil as needed. The total cooking time for the vegetables is only a couple of minutes. You’re keeping the pan hot, not attempting to thoroughly cook each batch before adding the next. Keep the pan hot and fairly dry while you work.

When the vegetables are lightly golden and tender-crisp, sprinkle with the soy sauce, sherry and sesame oil. Add the eggs and break them up a bit as you toss and stir for about a minute to reheat.

For a family roll-up feast, serve the mu shu in a large warmed bowl garnished with a generous sprinkle of the sesame seeds and a platter of lettuce leaves. Grab a lettuce leaf; smear a scant teaspoon of the hoisin sauce across the leaf. Pile some of the hot mu shu chicken into the leaf. Fold the sides over and roll the bottom up a bit.

For salad-style mu shu chicken, follow the directions below to prepare a bed of lettuce in a large serving bowl or individual serving bowls. Pile the hot mu shu chicken on top of the lettuce bed and garnish with a generous helping of sesame seeds.

Serves: 6 – 8

Roll-ups with leaf lettuce:
To make roll-ups with leaf lettuce, remove the leaves from the core and trim discoloration. Rinse the leaves with cool water and gently shake away excess. Place on clean toweling and place in the refrigerator, if you like.

Roll ups with head lettuce:
Head lettuce needs to be cored and outer discolored leaves removed. Simply run a knife around the core at the bottom of the head. Hold the hollow under cool running water for a few seconds and then invert the head to drain the water. Cut through the center of the hollow to cut the head in half. Place the halves down on clean toweling to drain; place in the refrigerator, if you like.

Salad-style mu shu:
Wash and trim your favorite lettuce according to instructions for leaf or head lettuce above.

To prepare lettuce for a salad-style meal, spread a scant teaspoon of the hoisin sauce on one side of each lettuce leaf and stack the leaves. For leaf lettuce, turning the last leaf of hoisin sauce-side down is a little less messy. Using a sharp knife, gently hold the lettuce stack with one hand and slice the lettuce as for salad.

*Magic: this recipe is exclusive to I Love You Recipes. It is from my personal, unpublished collection.

**Magic Cooking Tip:
The point of cooking smaller batches of food is to keep the skillet (or wok) smoking hot. By keeping the pan smoking hot, the natural sugars of the food are quickly cooked on the surface. This concentrates the flavor and preserves contrasting textures. If the pan is allowed to cool, juices are drawn out to pool in the pan. The result is boiled vegetables, which are soft with no distinctive flavor. Meanwhile, the protein/meat becomes rubbery.

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Rum, onions and soy sauce come together to make a tasty meal of inexpensive chicken. Leftovers are a great brown bag option for the office, too.

5 pounds chicken thighs and/or legs
1 cup rum (Captain Morgan!)
2 large sweet onions
4 – 6 chive stalks or 1 tablespoon dried flakes
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper, freshly cracked and finely ground
1 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 can Chinese ginger pickles

You can use legs or thighs. I often purchase the 5-pound bag of legs for less than a dollar a pound and cut them up myself. You can chop between the pieces at the joint with a meat cleaver. I prefer to dislocate the joint by bending the leg and thigh backward and then cutting between with a chef’s knife to separate the pieces. This leaves rounded ends, as opposed to the sometimes sharp ends created when my aim with the cleaver isn’t so good.

Rinse the chicken and place in a large bowl or sealable plastic bag and pour rum over to marinate. Place the chicken in the refrigerator to chill for six hours or overnight, turning a couple of times to redistribute the rum.

An hour before serving time, peel, clean and roughly chop the onions. Peel and trim the hard tip from the garlic and crush. Rinse and thinly slice the ginger. Rinse and chop the chives.

I like to prep and bake in my chicken fryer with its ovenproof handle when possible. If you don’t have a chicken fryer or large deep skillet, you’ll want a pan or casserole large enough to accommodate the chicken.

Preheat oven to 350°. Place the cornstarch in a medium-sized bowl and blend in the soy sauce; set aside.

Place the peanut oil in a large skillet or your chicken fryer over medium heat. Remove the chicken from the rum, reserving the rum. Brown the chicken in the hot oil. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside or place in an oven proof pan or casserole. Add the onions and garlic to the hot skillet and sauté for 2 – 3 minutes until they begin to brown. Add the ginger, salt, pepper and chives.

Transfer the onion mixture to the cornstarch and soy sauce blend and place the chicken back into the skillet. Stir the rum into the soy and onion mixture. Pour the mixture over the chicken.

Place the chicken in the preheated oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, turning several times to coat. Five minutes before the chicken is finished baking, add the ginger pickles. Turn the oven off and allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes.

Serve over hot rice.

Yield: 6 servings

*Magic: this recipe is exclusive to I Love You Recipes. It is from my personal, unpublished collection.

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Creamed spinach is especially satisfying on a cold winter evening. I sometimes use Romano cheese instead of the Parmesan, and suspect almost any aged hard cheese would be an excellent substitute.

2 10-ounce packages frozen spinach
1 onion
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
White pepper, freshly cracked and finely ground

Cook the spinach according to package directions. Drain well and set aside in the pan. Peel, clean and mince the onion.

Place the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat; when melted add the onion. Sauté briefly and add the flour, stirring until the flour and butter are thoroughly incorporated. Slowly whisk the milk into the sautéed onion, keeping the mixture smooth. Continue whisking over medium heat until the sauce is thickened. Whisk in the nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir to blend.

Remove the cheese mixture from the burner and replace with the spinach. Carefully stir the cheese mixture into the spinach and cook until hot, 3 – 5 minutes. Stir gently and watch closely to avoid scorching or burning the sauce.

Yield: 6 – 8 servings

*Magic: this recipe is exclusive to I Love You Recipes. It is from my personal, unpublished collection.

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Cabbage is a budget friendly vegetable with a good storage life. From a delicious quick side dish to a significant player in the main course, cooks appreciate the versatility of this humble vegetable.

1-1/2 pounds red cabbage
2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar
6 slices bacon
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vinegar cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 small onion

Cook the bacon in a large skillet. Remove the bacon to drain and cool. Drain excess fat from the pan, reserving 1 tablespoon in the pan to prepare the sauce.

Remove tough, discolored or damaged outer leaves from the cabbage head and shred into thin pieces with a sharp knife, mandolin or food processor.

Place the shredded cabbage into a Dutch oven with 1/2-inch of boiling water, to which you’ve added 2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar. Cover and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Clean and cut the onion into thin slices. Dice the cooked bacon.

Place the skillet over medium to medium-high heat and stir the flour and brown sugar into the fat until well combined. Stirring constantly, add the water, vinegar, salt, pepper and onion. Stirring frequently, cook for about 5 minutes until the sauce thickens.

Stir the sauce into the cabbage in the Dutch oven. Add most of the bacon and stir until nicely blended and heated through.

Transfer the cabbage to a heated serving bowl and garnish with reserved bacon.

Yield: 6 servings

*Magic: this recipe is exclusive to I Love You Recipes. It is from my personal, unpublished collection.

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