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.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Gratifying Guinness Stew

As the leaves change and autumn approaches I find myself craving warm hearty comfort foods. Nothing fits the bill better than a hearty stew full of delicious root vegetables and tender meat. So when I recently hosted a dinner night for friends my choice for the main dish was this gratifying Guinness Stew. 

Guinness stout forms the base for your flavor pallet in this stew and it's rich deep roasted barley flavor is perfect for a comfort food dish. Add to that a rich beef broth and sweet carrots and parsnips and you are well on your way. You do need to be careful though because Guinness has a touch of bitterness that balances it's hearty richness and with cooking this can dominate so a touch of extra sweetness is necessary. You can adjust the spices to your taste but I have found the recipe below, my own compilation, to produce consistently delicious results!


Gratifying Guinness Stew

(Makes approximately 12qts)

1 bottle of Guinness stout (1pint 6 oz)
3 lbs beef cubed (chuck roast or similar cut appropriate for stewing)
3 parsnips (about 2 lbs) chopped
4 medium carrots chopped
2 large yellow onions diced
4 ribs celery diced
2 cans of beef broth (14.5oz ea)
1 can diced tomato (14.5oz)
4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp bay leaf crushed
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4-1/3 cup flour (for thickening)


Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Toss the cubed beef with some flour and add to the pan browning slightly on all sides. Remove meat from heat and deg-laze the pan with some of the beef broth or a small amount of the beer. Prepare all the vegetables and add to your slow cooker. Add the meat, seasonings and liquid but not the flour. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. In the last hour taste for seasoning and adjust as needed also add the flour slowly by sifting small amounts into the pot and stirring until you reach the desired consistency. ( I found just under a 1/4 cup of flour was enough and you do have to let it cook a bit before you can tell if it needs more so add with a light touch and be careful not to over do it.)

This dish is fantastic served with mashed potatoes, col cannon, yorkshire pudding soda bread or any other delightful starchy goodness you have on hand. Sometimes I put potatoes in it but I like having them mashed on the side a bit better because then you still have the chunky root veg in the stew but you can pour it over a nice bowl of buttery mashed potatoes for extra richness.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Spice Up Your Weeknight

This week most of the kids in my neighborhood started back to school and I thought what better blog topic than a healthy, easy and delicious weeknight dinner. For inspiration I turned to a relative newcomer on the foodie scene Aarti Sequeira, the winner of Food Network Star season 6. She not only has a delightfully bubbly personality but the girl is not shy with her spices! Aarti takes every opportunity to bring here Indian roots into easy dishes anyone can tackle and this one makes plain old ground beef really come to life. 

This week I made Kheema, which is Indian Ground Beef with Peas. You can find Aarti Sequeira's original recipe here:
I highly suggest following her exact recipe. However I am an opportunist and sometimes that means I have to adjust recipes to reflect what I have on hand. So, below you'll find that I did make a few changes. For one I like the flavor of onions sauteed in butter so I switched that out, then I didn't have fresh ginger on hand and I had to rely on tinned tomatoes. I must say I actually prefer the tinned tomatoes since they come packed in juice that lends itself toward a great sauce. Additionally I didn't have fresh Cilantro as mine has gone to seed. I substituted Parsley but the Cilantro would have been much better. It has a particularly beautiful flavor that goes so well with these spices. Finally I didn't have any pita bread on hand so I served this over pasta but I also thought macaroni would be a great way to get kids to try something new!

So here is a slightly altered version of Aarti Sequeira's Kheema recipe. Please enjoy and of course take time to try the original as well!


Kheema: Indian Ground Beef with Peas 



1 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, diced
3 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon store-bought or homemade garam masala, (a recipe can be found by following the link to Aarti's original recipe)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, (Aarti lists this as optional, I used the 1/2 tsp and would suggest less to anyone who doesn't tolerate spice well)
1 pound ground beef
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen peas
2 teaspoons of your favorite vinegar (I used Basil)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, plus a few extra leaves for garnish
1/2 package macaroni


In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add the beef, and saute until the meat is no longer pink. Stir in the coriander, paprika, garam masala, cumin, cayenne and tomatoes, including the juice. Stir well making sure the spices are well incorporated.Add the peas and simmer until softened but still bright in color, 5-10 minutes approximately. Stir in the vinegar and chopped parsley. Garnish with more parsley leaves and serve over plain macaroni.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Simple Sugar Cake


As I said in last weeks blog I had a plan for my beautiful bounty of berries and here is part two, a delicious and simple cake from the Finnish coffee table. Let me explain a bit before I go forward. In Finland taking coffee with a friend is nothing like stopping by your local coffee joint and grabbing a cup of joe to go. It's much more personal. When someone comes for coffee you lay the table with good cups and saucers, prettily folded napkins, plates, spoons and platters of goodies. Even at it's least formal "coffee" is a sit down affair. I remember my host mother's friend coming to coffee many times and she never arrived empty handed. She always brought a little something for her hostess and my host mother always had a table laid out with cookies or pulla or some other treat to enjoy with their coffee and conversation. Beatrice Ojakangas explains it beautifully in her book "The Finnish Cookbook" and it is from that same book that today's recipe harkens.

The first time I had this mildly sweet baked good I wasn't sure what to make of it. It looked more like blondies than cake to me and it wasn't nearly as sweet. However I was won over after the first bite. The simple "Sokerikakku" or "Sugar Cake" batter can be paired with any fruit making it the star and providing a delicious and unobtrusive backdrop. Since I have an abundance of blackberries I altered Ojakangas's recipe for Apple Sugar Cake or Omena Sokerikakku (found on p. 55 of "The Finnish Cookbook") to fit my needs. So here you have it Berry Sugar Cake or Marja Sokerikakku!

Berry Sugar Cake - Marja Sokerikakku


1/4 c butter (at room temperature)
1 c sugar
2 eggs
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
dash salt
3/4 cup light cream (milk will do if you don't have cream on hand)
1 tbsp vanilla
2 c fresh berries of your choice


Cream together butter and sugar. Add the eggs and combine well. Sift the dry ingredients and add alternately with the cream. Add the vanilla. Mix well until the batter is smooth. Pour into a well greased 9x13 pan and top with the fruit spreading it as evenly as possible over the batter. Bake in a 350 degree (F) oven for 50 minutes or until top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Make sure to not stick it in an area with lots of berries.) Allow to cool before serving.

This is wonderful served with vanilla cream which is not easily found in the states to my knowledge. Basically it is heavy cream infused with vanilla and sweetened. I have not, but I imagine you could make this by warming some heavy cream on the stove with part of a vanilla pod or just some good vanilla in it and some sugar. Heat the cream until the sugar dissolves and remove it from the heat. Then serve chilled over the cake. You could also make whipped cream and of course that would be fantastic as well.