Bologna to Bolognese: Adventures With Food

Food is necessary. Food is fun. Food is an adventure!

My name is Shannon and this is my adventure, my love affair with food.

I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Scrumptious Summer Squash Soup

With the bounty of the summer garden continuing to ripen on the vine you are bound, at some point, to find yourself overwhelmed with too much of something. With this in mind I was at a loss when looking at the last of the summer squash hanging out in my fridge. I'd already fried some, used some with pasta and still had two lovely squash left. But what to do with them. (This is the point where things sometimes go terribly wrong.)

I've seen a number of recipes over the years for squash soup, pumpkin soup carrot soup, they all SOUND great. Unfortunately, I've had a few bad experiences and as a result am a bit gun shy. There was this terribly greasy pumpkin soup, a gazpacho that not even a starving rabbit would eat and other watery concoctions that don't bear mentioning.

So what makes a good soup. You have to start with good ingredients and plenty of flavor. Oh and a little bit o fat. I know it's such a dirty word, but fat adds flavor and improves texture. You don't have to have tons though as this soup will prove.

Scrumptious Summer Squash Soup


2-3 summer squash cubed
1/2 cup diced bell peppers (any color)
2 lg shallots or very small onions sliced
4 cloves garlic crushed and sliced
16 oz Chicken or Vegetable stock
Olive oil (for drizzling, about 2-3 tbsp )
salt and pepper to taste
ground ginger
ground allspice
ground nutmeg
ground clove


Prepare the squash, peppers, onion and garlic and arrange on a baking sheet. drizzle with olive oil. Season with ginger, allspice, nutmeg, salt and pepper. place sheet in a preheated 350 degree F oven and roast for about 20 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. Carefully transfer roasted vegetables to a blender or food processor. (Be careful when blending hot liquids because they will explode if you seal them in tightly. I open the top of the blender or leave the insert out of the top of the food processor so steam can escape.) Blend vegetables while slowly adding your chosen broth until it reaches the right consistency. Some like it chunky some like it smooth, it's up to you!

Once blended pour into serving dishes and garnish with a slight dusting of ground cloves. Sour cream is a tasty addition and if you'd like more texture you could put some diced peppers on top as well but truly, with no alterations this summer soup stands on it's own.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Back to Basics Chocolate Cake

What to do? You’re dying for a piece of chocolate cake but haven’t got a box mix to hand and the local bakery is closed. Don’t despair Better Homes and Gardens has got you covered.

One of my favorite cookbooks is the “Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book” I received it as a wedding gift and it has been invaluable since. If you knew nothing about home cookery you could pick up this book today and be whipping up marvelous mains, scrumptious sides, and delicious deserts by tomorrow. This book has it all. You are guided through everything from setting a table, selecting quality ingredients and kitchen tools and making everything from home baked breads to more sophisticated meals. Better yet it accomplishes all of this without alienating the reader so even an inexperienced cook can feel comfortable making a foray into the wonderful world of food.

So, back to the topic at hand, simple, from scratch, chocolate cake.

This recipe is Better Homes and Gardens One Bowl Chocolate Cake


1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk
1/3 cup cooking oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg


1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Grease and lightly flour a 9x1-1/2-inch round or 8x8x2-inch baking pan.

2. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed just until combined. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add egg and beat 2 minutes more. Pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan. Cool thoroughly on a wire rack. To serve, top with Chocolate glaze or sprinkle with powdered sugar (or both if you’re feeling naughty) and transfer to a serving plate. Makes 8 servings.

Chocolate Glaze

4 oz coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate (or ss chocolate chips)
3 tbsp butter
1 ½ cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp hot water

Melt chocolate and butter together (you could do this on the stove over low heat…or you could give in to the temptation of the microwave like me. If you do use the microwave, melt them in short bursts and stir often say… 30 seconds then stir, rinse repeat till done) then stir in the powdered sugar and water and mix till smooth. (You can adjust the powdered sugar and water to get the right consistency which should be loose enough to drizzle but not runny. I only used 1 cup of powdered sugar and found it was plenty for me.) Now drizzle the icing over your cooled cake and dig in.

Cakes baked from scratch have a different texture and flavor than box mixes and if you start with this simple recipe I’m sure it won’t be long before you’re back in the kitchen looking to stretch you wings.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The "Ultimate" Burger

When I first met my husband he wasn't much bothered with fancy foods or complicated recipes. Over the years, for better or worse, I seem to have rubbed off on him and now he is building his own repertoire of delicious recipes including this one for "The Ultimate Burger" which I think he got from a co-worker while we lived overseas.

The Ultimate Burger Patties


2 lbs ground beef
2 lg eggs
¾ cup Brown Sugar
2 Jalapeno peppers diced
3 Green Onions finely diced
6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tbsp A-1 sauce
salt & pepper to taste
3-5 strips cooked crumbled bacon
1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp honey
½ tsp each of the following
garlic powder
onion powder
black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and form into patties (4 large, 6 average or 8 small)

When making patties I like to flatten with a small plate to keep the burger from bulging in the middle or you can form them so the middle has a slight depression to compensate. Grill burgers on medium high heat until cooked to preferred doneness. On the side of the grill over a low heat place buns sliced and spread with butter or olive oil. The buns should brown nicely in 1-3 minutes. Just before burgers are done top with a slice of pepper jack cheese.

I think you'll find the added ingredients make these burgers so good you'll have trouble NOT going back for seconds. We usually serve this with a side of onion rings and grilled corn on the cob. Somehow leftovers never seem to be a problem.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Heavenly Hummus and Perfect Pitas

The first time I ate Hummus...I HATED it...I was in New York City and wanted to try something different. So, near the U.N. building, I stopped at a street vendor and bought a Hummus Pita Wrap thinking that since I liked pitas and I loved Baba Ganoush (roasted pureed eggplant) I would like the hummus. In retrospect maybe I should have asked more questions because what I had expected was a sandwich with something like Falafel and some hummus as a condiment, instead I got a grilled pita full of a course and smoky warm hummus and nothing else. I really think it was the discrepancy between what I expected and what I got that made it so bad but it was years before I gave Hummus another try. When I finally did...It was like finding nirvana!


1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans (save some of the packing liquid)
1 1/2 tbsp Tahini (sesame paste)
4 tbsp lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
2 tbsp garlic
2 tbsp Olive Oil

Combine first 5 ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. adjust the thickness by adding packing liquid from the beans a tbsp at a time. I find about 2-4 tbsp is about right. Serve in a dish with pita bread for dipping. If you'd like you can drizzle some olive oil on top and add fresh herbs of your choice.

Now that you know the basics just go crazy with it. Hummus is, in my humble opinion, the middle east's answer to sour cream. Americans use sour cream to make every conceivable type of snack dip and hummus can be used the same way. It's a great protein filled base for just about any flavor you can imagine. Caramelized onion hummus, roasted garlic hummus, olive hummus, roasted red pepper hummus, sun dried tomato hummus, basil hummus, hummus with pine nuts or just a dash of smoked paprika. Almost anything you can think of will be a good match. It also goes great on sandwiches, is delightful paired with roasted vegetables and couscous and is terrific for holding tabbouleh in a pita. Speaking of pitas, my favorite way to eat Hummus is as a dip and nothing beats pita bread for dipping.

A few months back I decided to try baking my own bread. I'd gotten an old Southern Living annual cookbook and it had a whole section on bread. I tried a couple loaves and did alight but it wasn't until I found The Fresh Loaf website,, that I really got going. This forum has tutorials and a warm, welcoming community that will critique your work, offer suggestions and answer any question no matter how silly you may think it is. It was there, that I found the initial recipe for this pita bread. I have adjusted it by adding spices but the basics remain the same.


3 cups flour
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp honey or sugar
2 tbsp olive oil, butter, or shortening
1 tsp each paprika, onion powder, dried basil (optional)
2 tsp yeast (or 1 packet)

Start by dissolving the honey in a half a cup of hot tap water then add the yeast and allow to proof for 5-10 minutes or until foamy. (You don't HAVE to add the honey here but the sugar in the honey helps the yeast to develop and I think it makes it easier to combine with the dry ingredients if the honey is dissolved) In a large bowl combine the flour, salt and spices. make a well in the center add the yeast water mixture. Add the rest of the water and the oil. Mix well until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a board and knead for about 10 minutes. (You can use a mixer to make this I just choose to make it by hand because I do not have a heavy duty mixer and I like to gauge the dough's readiness by the feel of it. If using a mixer, combine the ingredients in a mixer and once combined you can turn it out and still knead by hand or you can let the mixer do it for you which would be medium speed for about 10 minutes) Place in an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 90 minutes or until doubled in size. Punch down the dough then separate it into 8 pieces. roll each piece into a ball and allow to rise for another 20 minutes. Prepare your oven by moving the rack to the lowest shelf and place your baking stone or cookie sheet on it. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Roll each ball of dough flat on a lightly floured surface. (You can let the rounds sit for another 15 minutes or so before placing in the oven but you don't have to.) When the oven is ready rub a bit of oil on your hands and pat each pita round a couple of times as you place them in the oven. Depending on the size of your baking surface you should be able to bake 2-4 at a time. Place the pitas on the hot surface and quickly close the oven door. bake for 2-3 minutes on each side. (I usually watch through the window and after the pita has puffed and gained some color I flip them with a pair of tongs.) Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

**Note** In the past I have let the pitas cool completely before cutting them and later have had difficulty getting the pocket open. When I cut them while the pitas were still hot all the pockets remained open so it might be a good idea to halve them while they are still hot.