Loaves & Dishes
By Jennie Geisler Erie Times-News staff blogger
Follow Jennie Geisler's kitchen adventures on her Loaves & Dishes blog.   Read more about this blog.
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Archive for September, 2010
Posted: September 29th, 2010

Mary, I’m thankful to know that I’m not the only frustrated Crock Pot user. Some stuff, such as meat on the bone, is generally OK, but a lot of prechopped meats, such as boneless chicken breast chunks, are sometimes reduced to sawdust in the slow cooker. That’s hard to prove, since I’ve never eaten sawdust, but it would at least be cheaper.

I’ll figure it out, though, since my husband has requested that this be the “winter of the Crock Pot.” I think he’s just sick of having to wait for me to make dinner after work. He often just makes himself a salad and otherwise starves until 8 or even 9 before I can get it done.

He’s more than capable of making his own dinner, and frequently does so. But sometimes we both get tired of leftovers and lunch meat. Turkey sausage, whole wheat pasta with Prego and taco kits only go so far.

Marnie Oberle recently wrote about a good Crock Pot recipe for Slow Cooker Beef Stew with Red Wine from coworker Lisa Shade. I’ll be looking for that kind of recipe all winter long. Please don’t be shy about sharing.

Here’s where you can find Marnie’s newsletter.

Sometimes, when I’m frustrated with the quality of the recipes on web sites for the masses, such as allrecipes.com, I turn to a more hoity-toity site, called Epicurious, which runs recipes that have run in high-end cooking magazines. They have a rating system (so does allrecipes), and a few of the slow cooker recipes they have come highly recommended. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m interested in their Black Bean Soup, from Bon Appétit, March 2004.

I just hope it’s not another mirage in the Crock Pot desert.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: September 28th, 2010

Sorry for the extended nonposting. I had a cold and I (should have) spent a lot of time on the couch. Unfortunately, my 5-year-old wouldn’t have that, so I was constantly thinking of ways to entertain him as it was rain/misting most of the weekend. Yesterday, I couldn’t fake it anymore, and I collapsed on the couch and slept

I did manage to make two dishes in my Crock Pot: Chicken Tortilla Soup, which sounded good,  but really wasn’t, and an excellent rerun of the Pulled Pork that I wrote about last summer.

John, who like the chicken soup, said he’d like to make this the “winter of the Crock Pot,”which sounds like a really good idea, but the Crock Pot recipes I’ve found are hit and miss. I’ve made so many lousy ones, I’m afraid to try new ones.

If anyone has a good Crock Pot recipe, please share. You can post it here, e-mail it to jennie.geisler@timesnews.com, or send it in snail mail to Jennie Geisler, 205 W. 12th St., Erie, PA 16534

While eating the soup reluctantly (the recipe made tons), it occurred to me that because I’m always writing about new recipes, that I never go back and make the best ones I’ve already tried. I mentioned this to my husband, who rolled his eyes and gave me that look that means we’ve already had this conversation. He said, again, for the benefit of my addled brain, “Yes. I don’t know why you don’t.”

So here you go. It’s a rerun, but in my opinion, it’s a classic.

3-pound pork shoulder
2 cups chopped onions
3 green peppers, chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
11/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.
2. Cover and cook on high 8 hours.
3. The meat should fall off the bone. Shred meat with 2 forks. It should not be difficult. Remove bone and mix meat with sauce and heat through.
4. Serve on hamburger buns, topped with shredded cheese and coleslaw, if desired.
Makes 20 cups, meat, beans and seasonings only, not including toppings
-Per cup: 201 calories, 8.1 grams fat, 2.9 grams fiber, 15.5 grams protein, 16.1 grams carbohydrate, 403 milligrams sodium, 37 milligrams cholesterol

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: September 24th, 2010

Huge Cortland apple tree in our lot. Huge. Probably taller than the house.

I pull wheelbarrows of the apples up to the back porch every year. I never use them all — and I really try. They aren’t the prettiest Cortlands you’ve ever seen, but they have a lot of usable flesh.

Speaking of apples, I recently got my hands on about 20 Honeycrisp apples, which have been causing a stir for a few years now. They’ve developed something of a cult following. They’re huge, have red and green variegated skin, and taste sweet and a little tart, with crisp, white flesh.

Find more information about the background of the apple sensation.

I have trouble eating raw apples for some reason. They get stuck in my throat. However,m I can eat them cooked. So I used them as an excuse to bake.

I made an Apple Crisp and Apple Hermits (cookies). You can find the recipes and other great stuff about the queens of the autumn harvest in the Sunday Living section on Oct. 3.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: September 24th, 2010

Last week, I complained that I didn’t know how to make a Pop-Tart cake, assuming none existed. A friend of mine, who works for allrecipes.com, sent me a recipe for a Pop-Tart based treat. You put brown sugar Pop-Tarts on a sheet of foil, drizzle with caramel ice cream topping, sprinkle chocolate chips and I added mini marshmallows instead of coconut, basically because I hate coconut and don’t stock it.

The treats turned out a little like s’mores. The kids loved them. For the sake of tradition, I put a number 5 candle on the bundt cake and he blew that out (three times) before we got to the end of the birthday song. He got a lot of wishes out of that candle.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: September 21st, 2010

For the birthday party last weekend, I made my first attempt at Rosa Marina, and was pleased. It’s basically little bits of pasta (I used orzo), minced pineapple and mandarin oranges, a custard and a bunch of Cool Whip, a little like ambrosia but no marshmallows. I thought it would be easier than it actually was. Turns out it’s one of those sit-over-night things. And you have to make the custard. But it all worked out. People ate it.

I combined aspects of two recipes that I found for it on Cooks.com.

Rosa Marina

1 pound box Rosa Marina (or orzo pasta), cooked and cooled under cold water

2 cups fresh pineapple chopped fine, mashed into a strainer to extract the juice

2 (11-ounce) cans mandarin oranges, drained, juice reserved, chopped

2 eggs

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 (12-ounce) tub Cool Whip

1. Refrigerate pasta overnight.

2. Mix juice with eggs, flour and salt and cook 15 minutes, or until thick. Refrigerate overnight.

3. Combine fruit and refrigerate overnight.

4. The next day, combine fruit, custard and pasta and fold in the Cool Whip. Serve cold.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: September 20th, 2010

Every time I think I’m getting good at this kitchen stuff, I try to make frosting/icing/whateveryoucallit. First it’s too stiff, then too runny, then too runny and then too stiff or too stiff and then too runny.

I made that brown sugar cake I talked about last week, and then  I made the frosting. The cake was fine, but the frosting hardened in the bowl, so I added a tablespoon of water, and mixed it up. The texture looked great, but it ran straight down the sides of the cake, onto the cake plate and finally in drips and drabs, onto the table cloth.

I cleaned it all up and served the darned thing. I went on to wash the dishes that night, and of course, my too-runny frosting/icing/whateveryoucallit had hardened on the cake plate and I needed a plastic spatula to scrape it off. What. Ever.

Anyone have a jennie-proof frosting/icing/whateveryoucallit?

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: September 16th, 2010

My soon-to-be 5-year-old, is my soon-to-be 5-year-old. By that I mean that part of me is so proud of him, in awe of how much I can love one person, mystified by how he went from 7 pounds to 41.2. The other part of me endures a dull throb in my throat every time he smiles — knowing that bitter sweetness will never go away.

Beyond the intricate emotional maze of parenthood, however, I have more practical issues: The kid needs a birthday cake.

I asked him what he wants and he said a “brownie cake.” At first, I figured he meant a pan of brownies. This gave me the willies because I’ve never made a decent pan of brownies in my life.

That issue became moot, however, when I remembered that he calls Brown Sugar Pop Tarts “brownies.” But that doesn’t help much, because I don’t know how to make a cake out of Pop Tarts, either.

So I looked around for a cake recipe that calls for brown sugar. I found a coffeecake recipe that might work. And here’s one for brown sugar frosting.

If you have a good one, feel free to share. Just e-mail it to jennie.geisler@timesnews.com.

I’m hoping all that sugar will ease that throb in my throat, at least for a few minutes.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: September 15th, 2010

I think my pressure canning problem is worked out, now. I’m going to go home and try it, finally, for an inaugural run.

Before I knew it would be such a hassle to use my canner, I tried a recipe for vegetable soup from my stained and water damaged Ball Blue Book of Preserving. The soup has languished as I’ve been working this problem out.

The soup is terrific, and I didn’t want to lose it, so I finally just packed it up in some fancy Ball brand plastic containers and put it into the freezer. I don’t know how it will hold up, because it has potatoes in it. But everything’s an experiment at my house these days.

You can do the same, if you don’t want to can it. Just leave out the potatoes until you go to serve it.

I also changed the recipe a bit, because it was hopelessly bland. I added at least 2 tablespoons each parsley, basil and oregano, about 20 turns of the black pepper grinder and some salt.

Here is a reasonable facsimile of the original Ball recipe. It makes a lot:

Vegetable Soup

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: September 14th, 2010

For my normal readers, hang with me for a second while I appeal to my fellow food geeks:

My new pressure cooker drama continues. If you know how to use a weighted pressure cooker/canner, you might be able to help me. I have the lid on right, and I’m venting for 10 minutes, and then I put the weighted stopper on. As I understand it, the weighted stopper thinger is supposed to increase the pressure inside the cooker and then start to rock or jiggle or whatever. Instead, mine just spurts steam out from under the knob. No rocking, no jiggling. It seems like it’s on right. I just can’t figure out why it won’t rock. This is making me unhappy.

As for my readers who just want a regular recipe idea, look no further. Well, maybe a little further, after I’m done telling you that this was intended as a standalone salad as written at Allrecipes.com. I think it’s better as a condiment for the carne asada (CARnay AhSAHD ah), a meat recipe that will run Wednesday, Sept. 22. That heavily seasoned skirt steak won my heart.

Here’s the salad/condiment/whatever. It’s basically a simple salsa.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: September 13th, 2010

Have you ever read a book so good you can’t stop reading? You resent interruptions from stuff like work, or, for that matter, a shower?

That’s how I am in the kitchen these days. When I’m not in the kitchen, I’m wishing I were in the kitchen. Like right now. There’s stuff I need to be doing there. This whole job thing is getting in the way of my job.

For example, right now I should be at home, loading about 6 quarts of vegetable soup into my new pressure canner. But instead I’m working, planning recipes and shopping lists and strategies, and, well, yeah, OK. Those are part of my job, too.

I do realize, in an abstract sense, that my readers don’t all want to know about my immersion in food preservation and all of my time consuming recipes. You’re looking for fast, yummy and nutrition-packed foods. Well, how about 2 minutes to breakfast? I’m going to need this too, since I’m too busy cooking to eat.

Coffee Cup Scramble

Coat a coffee mug with cooking spray.

Pour in 2 tablespoons milk and 2 eggs. Whisk until combined.

Nuke on high 45 seconds and stir. Nuke for 30 to 45 seconds longer to set the eggs.

Top with cheese and salt and pepper. Eat with a spoon or fork and you’re out the door with lean protein in your tummy.

P.S. I don’t think anyone would be irreparably harmed if you made this for lunch or dinner, too — just not all in one day.

– www.incredibleegg.org

Posted in: Uncategorized

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