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, October 28, 2012

Luscious Lemon Coconut Trifle

Sometimes a special occasion calls for something fancy and complicated. Other times it calls for something simple and delicious that just looks complicated.  If the later is your kind of dish then Trifle is the dessert for you. There are so many versions of Trifle but the basics are the same. you need some sort of cake, some sort of liquid and something squishy. Now typically you'll see recipes call for pound cake or lady fingers but I've made trifle with gingersnaps too. 

This particular concoction was for a Scentsy party where we all brought food inspired by the different wax scents. I'm a sucker for coconut and citrus so when that combo came my way I knew I had the perfect dessert. So here you have it, Lemon Coconut Trifle.

Lemon Coconut Trifle


3 Lemons
1 c sugar
12 oz whipped cream
5-8 oz lemon curd
1 cup of toasted coconut

1 recipe of Simple Sugar cake  made without the fruit but with the inclusion of 1 1/4 tsp coconut extract and 1/2 cup shredded coconut.


Start by making your cake. While it is baking spread your shredded coconut on a baking tray and just before the cake is done put the coconut in the oven to toast. Watch that it doesn't burn.

Juice the three lemons until you have 1 cup of lemon juice. Pour the lemon juice and zest of two lemons in a small pot on medium heat with one cup of sugar. stir until sugar dissolves. allow mixture to come to a boil and reduce the heat allowing it to simmer until thickened to the desired consistency. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Make your whipped cream and lemon curd ahead of time or purchase your preferred store bought variety. Before assembling the trifle gently fold the lemon curd into the whipped cream being careful not to over mix.

Now for the assembly. Tear the cake into slightly larger than bite sized pieces. In a trifle dish or glass bowl of your choice begin with a layer of cake. Pour some of the lemon syrup over top (about a tablespoon or two) sprinkle some toasted coconut next and then top with a layer of the whipped cream lemon curd mixture. Continue to layer until your Trifle dish is full ending with a layer of the whipped cream and curd mixture. Garnish with toasted coconut and lemon zest. This desert is best served after being allowed to sit but the last whipped cream layer should not be added until just before serving.

I prefer to make all of my components from scratch as I think it yields a better taste. However with that said I promised easy and fuss free so you can make this with entirely store bought components with little effort. A regular pound cake or one made from a box mix would do for your base, you can buy lemon syrup in many liquor stores or where bar supplies are sold, whipped cream is readily available and lemon curd should be easy to find in your local grocery either with the jams and jellies or in the international food aisle (think England).

Once assembled it will hold for about a week in the fridge, but that's only if it lasts that long! Of course don't forget that this is just one of many versions. If lemon and coconut don't appeal to you change it up and try a chocolate orange trifle or make up your own combination of your favorite flavors. Whatever you do have fun and make it your own!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Handy Beef Hand Pies

While casseroles are a wonderful go to vessel for an easy evening meal, sometimes you just want a quick bite. Instead of choosing store bought microwavable pastries consider making your own easy tasty Hand Pies. Hand pies, pasties, samosas, pocket pies, whatever you call them these lovelies have been providing a quick, easy hearty lunch for ages. They are so simple to make once you've made a few you may find the more processed ones aren't so appealing anymore.

This recipe is ground beef and vegetables, very similar to what you would put in a cottage pie. In fact the main difference is that with the cottage pie you want a nice gravy where here you just want well spiced meat without the added moisture.

Handy Beef Hand Pies


1 lb ground beef
1 onion
1 14 oz bag of frozen vegetables
3 medium potatoes boiled and diced
1 tsp crushed bay leaves
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Pie dough for a two crust pie (you can make your own or buy pre made crust)


In a pan brown the ground beef draining off any excess fat. Add in diced onion and seasoning and saute gently until the onion is translucent. Remove from the heat, mix in the diced potatoes and mixed vegetables. Allow the mixture to cool.

Roll out your pie crust and cut into 8 equal portions. Fill each of the 8 pastry sections with a couple of tablespoons of the filling and seal each crimping the edges with a fork. Place the pies on a foil lined sheet and bake for 230 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until crust is flaky and golden brown. Remove the pies from the oven and allow to cool completely. Seal in freezer bags separated by a piece of wax paper to avoid sticking. When you are ready to reheat you can always pop them in the oven for a flakier crust or just pop them in the microwave for about 2 minutes or until heated through.

These little darlings could easily be made with whatever filling you prefer and are a great way to use up leftovers. How about that Thanksgiving turkey, dice up your leftovers and voila turkey stuffing pockets, turkey cranberry and brie pockets or get some ham and make turkey ham and cheese pockets. The options are limitless so experiment and enjoy!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Carefree Chicken Pot Pie

There is something about fall that makes me long for comfort foods. As the chill begins to set in anything warm and familiar holds a particular charm for me. So as I began to plan some freezer meals for after our little one arrives one of my first thoughts was Chicken Pot Pie. What could be more comforting than tender chicken and vegetables in gravy tucked away in a lovely flaky crust. What's more it only takes minutes to throw together and it is so much healthier than the store bought variety.

Chicken Pot Pie


2-3 chicken breasts
1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables or 1lb of your favorite veggies diced small
1 onion diced
1/4 c flour
8 oz chicken stock
2 tbsp garlic minced
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp rosemary
Salt and Pepper to taste
Crust for 2 crust pie


Cook the chicken breasts as desired. I poach mine but you could also roast them or dice and saute them in a pan. If you poach them place them in pan and just cover them with water then bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes then remove from the heat and cover. Allow chicken to rest for 15-20 minutes or until completely cooked through. Drain the chicken, allow it too cool and dice into bite sized pieces.

Prepare your pie crust. You can buy a crust ready made, use a box mix, or make your own. I will not lie I buy a ready made crust. In a bowl, combine your chicken and vegetables. (If you decide to use fresh vegetables hold off on this step.) Pour this mixture into your pie crust.

In a deep skillet saute your onion in a bit of butter. Just before the onion is translucent add the flour a bit at a time until you have enough to make a good rue. Add the chicken broth whisking constantly to avoid clumping. Once you have a consistently smooth gravy going add your seasonings and bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer until it reaches the desired consistency. Remove from the heat and pour over the chicken and vegetables. Top with your second pie crust and crimp edges. Allow to cool completely before freezing.

To prepare your pot pie from the freezer, shield pie crust edges with foil then place on a baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remember every oven is different so check your pie often after the first 45 minutes (through the window, don't open that door!) and don't forget to take the foil off the edges in the last 15 minutes. It could take a bit longer or be spot on. Either way allow the pie to rest for 15 minutes before cutting and serving. Then just sit back and enjoy!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Terrific Thai Chicken and Rice Casserole

The next few weeks you will see a number of easy to prepare and freeze foods on the blog because my husband and I are expecting a very special delivery. Our first child is due this month so as the date gets closer I have been preparing some freezer meals to make dinner time easy once baby arrives. These meals aren't just great for soon to be parents though. These time savers can make sure your family, regardless it's size, has great homemade food any night of the week no matter how busy your schedules may get. So roll up those sleeves and get ready to cook. One day in the kitchen can mean a freezer full of easy to prepare treats!

My first freezer meal is an exotic twist on an old favorite. Look in any casserole book and you will find a chicken and rice bake. These are great and always good but I didn't want a freezer full of foods that all taste the same (think chicken pot pie, roast chicken, chicken noodle soup...). So when I got to this I decided some Asian flair was just the thing. So here is my recipe for  a chicken and rice casserole Thai style.

Terrific Thai Chicken and Rice Casserole


2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts poached and diced
1 large onion diced
1 red bell pepper
2 tbsp garlic minced
3 cups cooked rice
1 package of frozen vegetables (stir fry style)
1 can coconut milk
1 tsp lemongrass powder
1 tsp ginger
1 tbsp parsley
1-2 tsp corriander
1 tsp garam massala
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne
8-24 oz chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste


Poach the chicken breasts by placing them in pan and just covering them with water then bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes then remove from the heat and cover. Allow chicken to rest for 15-20 minutes or until completely cooked through. Drain the chicken, allow it too cool and dice into bite sized pieces. Set aside.

Prepare your rice according to package directions removing it from the heat just a few minutes before it is completely done.

Dice your onion and add it to a pan with some butter. Saute over medium low heat until softened, add the red pepper, continue to saute until onions are clear and pepper is tender but not mushy. Add your spices and minced garlic. Next add in your coconut milk and chicken stock. I used a coconut paste when making this dish so you may need less stock to get a good gravy. Taste as you go and adjust as necessary. You will want the sauce to be creamy and fragrant but not too thick and remember that the rice will soak it up so don't skimp on the liquid unless it affects the taste too much.  Bring the mixture to a boil and, stirring regularly, allow to reduce until it reaches your desired consistency (about 3-5 minutes).

In the pan you will be freezing this dish in combine the rice and frozen mixed vegetables, mix well. When sauce is complete remove from the heat and pour over rice and vegetable mixture. Mix thoroughly and smooth out in pan. Now you are ready to freeze or bake as you choose.If you are preparing this from frozen place, covered, in a 400 degree oven for 45-60 minutes or until heated through.  If baking it fresh you should be able to cut the temperature to 350 for 30-45 minutes but keep a cover on it or your rice will get crunchy. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tasty Tomato Jam

This summer I had my first truly successful garden and surprisingly, since we recently moved to the Pacific northwest, my tomatoes were my best crop. So as the summer came to an end I found myself with a large crop of ripe tomatoes. Large enough that I couldn't quite eat all of them by myself. Luckily I was pointed to this recipe for Tomato Jam by a group page I follow on Facebook called "Canning Granny". The initial recipe came from the blog  "Food in Jars" and you can find it here:

As I have said many times I rarely follow a recipe exactly. So I did make a few adjustments though mostly only to accommodate what supplies I had on hand. I will say at first I was a bit skeptical of this jam and couldn't imagine what it might taste like but the end result is delightful and I keep thinking of new ways I would like to try it. Give it a shot and see for yourself what delicious concoctions might be in store!

Tomato Jam 


2 1/2 pounds tomatoes, finely chopped (skins and seeds included)
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon red chili flakes


Combine all ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for ten minutes before reducing the heat to a simmer. Simmer for an additional 45 minutes to an hour stirring regularly. The mixture will reduce and begin to thicken. Remove from the heat when jam reaches desired consistency.  (It should "sheet" off the spoon in one big drop instead of many little ones)

While your jam is cooking you should have the jars sterilizing in your processing pot. After removing the jam from the heat fill jars to within 1/4 inch of the top and seal with lids. Process in boiling for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes remove the jars from the water bath and allow to cool. Label and store in a cool dark place.

There are a couple things I will likely change next time. I would like to have gotten more of the spices particularly the red pepper flakes so I think I will double that (I like some bite!) or maybe add some cayenne. Additionally I think using fresh ginger, as recommended in the initial recipe, would have made a world of difference so I intend to make sure I have that on hand next time.

This jam is unusual but fantastic. Just think a little outside the box and you will find all sorts of places to use it. I like it with some sharp cheddar cheese, on a BLT or a turkey and bacon sandwich. The only limit is your imagination so cook it up and have fun with it!