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 February, 2011
Posted: February 25th, 2011

Oscar looks thin. He should eat something.

Oscar looks thin. He should eat something.

Who cares about who gets the Oscars? The best part for me is making fun of those ridiculous dresses. I think of it this way: They already determined who had the best performance when they do the nominations. The rest is anti-climactic. Once you’ve determined the best five (or 10), every nominee has pretty much the same chance as winning as any other. The difference among the quality of their performances is minute compared to the distance between the nominees and the rest of the nonnominated world.
But the dresses, oh, the dresses. The what-on-God’s-green-Earth-were-they-thinking dresses. That’s the fun part. Oh, also the party food. If you’re going to an Oscar party this year, and even if you’re not, the party food is worth the price of admission. (haha)
All the food websites I follow have Oscar-worthy recipes.
I was tempted by Chocolate Guinness Goodness and Spicy Cowboy Beans.
Here’s a recipe for corned beef that I think looks good. It works as a celebration of the Irish-American theme of “The Fighter” and as a great dinner for St. Patty’s Day.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: February 23rd, 2011

A few tips for great chocolate chip cookies

A few tips for great chocolate chip cookies

On Valentine’s Day, my son and I made chocolate chip cookies. They were awesome. I’ve been honing my cookie-making process since before I could cook anything else, based on a few tips from the mom of a high school boyfriend. Thought I’d share.
As for the recipe, I use the one for Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies on the back of the Nestle Semi-sweet morsels bag.. But that doesn’t tell you what you really need to know:

* I use butter-flavored Crisco instead of butter because I can better predict how the cookies spread out. When I’ve used butter in the past, they came out too thin and crispy.
* Cream the Crisco or butter for a minute, alone in the bowl, under a mixer on high for 30 seconds to a minute until it turns pale. This helps it mix with the other ingredients more smoothly.
* Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until it’s fluffy and add the eggs one at a time.
* When adding the flour to the butter mixture, do it on the lowest speed. Turn it off the second it looks like all the ingredients are moistened. This prevents the batter from getting too dense, which will lead to overly dense cookies.
* Put the dough in small mounds. I used to make bigger cookies, but they didn’t bake evenly.
* Put the dough on a COLD cookie sheet for baking. When you remove one batch from that baking sheet, run it under COLD water before you load it up again. If you put cookie dough on a hot cookie sheet, the bottoms of the cookies will burn before the tops are cooked.
* I also use insulated baking sheets. They’re more expensive than regular jelly roll pans, but they really help the cookies bake more evenly.
* I used to look at the cookies after 10 minutes and leave them in longer because they didn’t look baked. That made for a lot of over-browned, crunchy cookies. Now I have to force myself to trust the oven and take them out after 10 minutes, regardless of how they look. They cook up more on the hot sheet even out of the oven.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: February 22nd, 2011

Raw meat is never pretty, but this picture tells you what cube steak looks like, so lay off.

Raw meat is never pretty, but this picture tells you what cube steak looks like, so lay off.

A while back, we split a side of beef with my husband’s family. I quickly used everything but two packages of “cube steak.”
I’d try to use it before, not quite understanding what it really was. It’s not steak in cubes. It’s a cut of beef that has little cuts all over it to help keep it tender when you cook it.
For a while, now, I’ve been shoving the cube steaks around, looking for something else.
Saturday, I figured it was time to use it or lose it, so I thawed out one of the packages. I pan fried one of them and made a delicious sauce to go with it. The meat did come out a little tough, but I think I cooked it too long. The mustard sauce more than made up for that.
My boss said he loves cube steak and he takes a mallet to it before he cooks it. That sounds reasonable. I also got an e-mail from a reader who suggests only cooking it one minute per side.
I highly recommend Cube Steak Dijon.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: February 17th, 2011

Pasta can cook in the sauce, too, you know.

Pasta can cook in the sauce, too, you know.

Question: Are you a mix-the-pasta-into-the-sauce-and-serve family? Or are you a serve-the-pasta-separately-and-top-it-with-sauce family?
I don’t really care, but for some reason, my husband likes them separate. My mom and dad did, too. Strangely, Mom has started mixing it in. I’m not sure what’s up with that, but I suspect it has something to do with her grandchildren.
I’d just as soon let the pasta get good and coated with sauce before it hits my plate, but I don’t feel strongly enough about it to make a stink — or to do mine separately from everyone else’s.
I might try this because it saves a pot when it comes to washing,. I’ll see how if flies. If it doesn’t, at least I saved one pot.
I don’t think I’ll use spaghetti, though. I think bite-sized penne or rotini might be easier than dealing with those longer noodles that you’ll surely have to break to get them into the sauce.

All In One Spaghetti
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
3 cups tomato juice
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Dash of pepper
1 (7-ounce) package spaghetti, uncooked
Grated Parmesan cheese
Garnish: fresh Italian parsley sprigs
1. Cook first 3 ingredients in a Dutch oven, stirring until beef crumbles
and is no longer pink; drain well. Return beef mixture to pan. Stir in
tomato sauce and next 8 ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce
heat, and simmer, stirring often, 30 minutes.
2. Add pasta; cover and simmer, stirring often, 20 minutes or until pasta
is tender.
Serve with cheese, and garnish, if desired.
Makes 6 servings
– recipes du jour

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: February 16th, 2011

My husband, John, likes carrots with his sister's Dill Dip

My husband, John, likes carrots with his sister's Dill Dip

My husband, John, is quite the culinary adventurer. He’ll take anything and combine it with anything. He likes Montreal Steak seasoning on his popcorn. He dips radishes into nothing but salt. He puts Tabasco Chipotle on his tossed salad. Last night he slathered my cheesy horseradish dip on his Italian sausage sandwich. He’ll put anything on a flour tortilla, roll it up and eat it with taco sauce. The other day he was poking around my rack of herb bottles. He wanted something to put on his spaghetti sauce. I asked him if he’d tried the sauce first, if it needed something in particular. “No,” he said. “I just like to put stuff on stuff.”
That pretty much sums him up.
His sister has a dip that he practically eats with a spoon. I thought you might like to see it. You can make it really healthy if you want, or not. It’s great with fresh vegetables. John will eat it with, you guessed it, anything. But potato chips and baby-cut carrots probably go the fastest.
Here’s the recipe:
Sarah’s Dill Dip
2/3 c mayo
2/3 c sour cream
1 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp dill weed
1 tsp parsley flakes
1 tsp Accent
1 Tbsp dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: February 15th, 2011

Sweet Potato Fries from the Food Network

Sweet Potato Fries from the Food Network

You know you have a great friend when you borrow her potato slicer, break it, and she stays your friend.
That’s what I did to my friend Kara (now) Murphy right after she moved in with her husband and made sweet potato fries and raved about them and told me I could use her potato slicer to make them.
And I broke it.
I did buy her a new one. But I don’t know if it lives to make sweet potato fries anymore.
Anyway, you can find my sweet-potato-fry loving great friend, Kara Rhodes Murphy online now, blogging about being Mommy to Zoe, who’s 1. She’s really funny and has a nose for deals, so a click or two in her direction will probably pay off pretty quickly. She doesn’t gas on like I do, and the pictures she takes of Zoe are reason enough to take a peek at this address

Here's a recipe Kara would like. She could dip the fries in Tabasco Chipotle. Well, she could, but she’s probably out of it. She practically drinks the stuff.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: February 14th, 2011

roasted chicken

This is not the chicken you can get from Wegmans, but it looks better than their pic.


Money was tight this past weekend and I hadn’t shopped in a while. I discovered something: If I just don’t cook, people eat what there is. As in my husband. I did “make” my son lunch. I won’t tell you what. (He ate it with a spoon, out of a plastic cup. It usually goes with jelly. Don’t laugh. He likes it like that.)
Anyway. Things are (a little) looser today, so here’s what I’m going to make for dinner: rotisserie chicken.
OK, Wegmans is going to make it, but here’s what I’m going to make tomorrow: Chicken salad.
Here’s how I like to do that:
2 cups roast chicken chunks (I like them small.)
2 ribs celery, diced small
2 tablespoons minced onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 shakes from the celery salt shaker
2 shakes from the dill shaker
7-8 turns freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Miracle Whip light
I like it on Arnold’s Whole Wheat Thins, with Swiss if I’m feeling indulgent.
My husband likes huge slices of full-calorie 12-grain bread. Must be nice to be a runner.
Maybe I’ll make some bread in the bread machine. That’ll save some bread.

If chicken salad doesn’t do it for you, here are some other recipes you can make with leftover rotisserie chicken.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: February 11th, 2011

Raspberry Squares from WW

Raspberry Squares from WW

If you’re looking for a good excuse to bake this weekend (and I’m always looking for a good excuse to bake on the weekend), don’t knock Raspberry Squares till you try them. No, they’re not chocolate. Yes, they’re WW. But that just means you can eat more, if you’re not in the mood to behave.

Raspberry Squares
1 1/3 cup(s) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup(s) powdered sugar
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup(s) preserves, red raspberry
1 cup(s) unsweetened frozen raspberries
1 Tbsp powdered sugar, for garnishing
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Place flour, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, butter and almond extract in a food processor; pulse to combine and break up butter into pea-size pieces.
Pour flour mixture into an 11 1/2- X 7 1/2-inch ungreased baking dish; smooth top into an even layer and tap with the back of a spatula to form a crust. Bake until crust just starts to turn golden, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine preserves and frozen raspberries; cook, stirring occasionally, until preserves turn to liquid and frozen raspberries are thawed, about 3 to 5 minutes.
When crust is ready, pour raspberry mixture over top of hot crust and smooth into an even layer; bake until set, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan until just warm. Cut into 24 squares, remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack. When raspberry bars are completely cool, dust with remaining tablespoon powdered sugar. Yields 1 square per serving.

Points Plus: 3
WW is still getting me the complete nutritional information. You’ll have it when I have it.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: February 10th, 2011

This winter is killing me. My mom tells me this is how it used to be: snow on the ground from November until March. In my adult life, I can only remember winters with at least two or three complete thaws. I don’t remember snow upon snow upon snow like we have this year, with no sign of grass or even mud. If it’s not snowing, it’s 10 degrees. If it’s not snowing or 10 degrees, weather people are screaming about Armageddon is coming with the next “winter weather event.”
One small comfort: A basement full of home grown vegetables. Shelves of tomatoes and salsa. A freezer full of beans and my mother-in-law’s corn.
I’ve been craving sunlight in any form, even if it’s from a jar. It’s time for some vegetable soup. Next week, my Loaves & Dishes column will focus on homemade vegetable stock and subsequent Garden Vegetable Soup. I love both recipes, but this one popped up in the in-box today and it sounds promising as well. If you can’t wait until next week (I couldn’t.) Give this one a try.

This is the vegetable soup that will run in Loaves & Dishes next week.

This is the vegetable soup that will run in Loaves & Dishes next week.

Winter Vegetable Soup
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cubed peeled butternut squash
2 cups diced peeled red potato
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
4 cups chopped kale
1 (15.5-ounce) can navy beans or other small white beans, rinsed and
drained

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté 3
minutes. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add squash and next 6
ingredients (squash through thyme), stirring to combine; cook 4 minutes,
stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes; cook 2 minutes.

Stir in broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes. Add kale;
simmer 5 minutes. Add beans; simmer 4 minutes or until potato and kale
are tender. Makes 4 servings.

CALORIES 349 (27% from fat); FAT 10.4g (sat 3.3g,mono 4.6g,poly 1.4g);
IRON 4.2mg; CHOLESTEROL 10mg; CALCIUM 213mg; CARBOHYDRATE 55g; SODIUM
1076mg; PROTEIN 14.4g; FIBER 10.5g

– Recipes Du Jour

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: February 8th, 2011

Alton Brown's vegetable soup

Alton Brown's vegetable soup

This morning was supposed to be a glorious empty-house cooking morning, including a wonderful-looking recipe for roasted vegetable stock. But it turned into a nightmare after my elderly dog refused to stand, and my husband got stuck in the driveway in six different places. I’ll cook tonight instead, since I had to spend the morning at the vet. The vegetables are already roasted.
I’m looking for a good recipe for vegetable soup, with some specific parameters. I want it to have a velvety rich dark-orange broth. I have a popular one from the Food Network website, but I don’t know if that’s going to be what I have in mind. I might just play around and figure it out myself. Wish me luck. The Super Bowl wings were kind of a mixed bag. Two of the three weren’t bad. One batch I burned so badly we had to take the batteries out of two smoke detectors. John was encouraging. I think mostly because he’s afraid I won’t make them again. And he really likes wings. We’ll see.

Posted in: Uncategorized