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 March, 2011
Posted: March 17th, 2011

The chicken pieces are a little big, but it looks good.

The chicken pieces are a little big, but it looks good.

Mediterranean dishes always sound good. But I’ve made so many that just didn’t live up to the hype, that I tend to shy away from them. This one has lured me in yet again. It’s called Chicken Souvlaki, a Greek sandwich/wrap/thing that seems pretty similar to a gyro. I love gyros, especially the huge, drippy, messy ones you find at carnivals. (As an aside, I just did some quick Googling and found that gyro meat is made from ground lamb. Always wondered about that.)
Anyway, this looks like it would be just about that good. And I want to try it. Now. Unfortunately, there’s no stove in my cubicle. Will have to wait until I get home. Oh, wait, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. Is it OK to make Souvlaki on St. Patrick’s Day? Probably not. But it goes in the “very interested” pile. I’ll cut and paste it here because the site where you find the recipe is kind of hard to read. It’s from Recipe Du Jour.

Chicken Souvlaki

4 small whole-wheat pitas
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 small cucumber, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
Heat oven to 200F. Wrap the bread in foil and place in oven.
In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, Feta, and olives.
In a large bowl, combine the oregano, thyme, pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons of
the vinegar, and the lemon juice. Slowly add 4 tablespoons of the oil in
a steady stream, whisking constantly until incorporated. Pour 2 1/2
tablespoons of the vinaigrette over the tomato mixture, toss, and set
aside. Add the chicken to the remaining vinaigrette, toss, and set
aside.
Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Transfer the chicken but not the liquid to the skillet and heat, turning
occasionally, until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the yogurt, cucumber, dill, and the
remaining vinegar. Spread the bread with some of the yogurt sauce and
top with the chicken. Add the tomato salad and fold. Serves 4.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 16th, 2011

Shake your shamrock with shortbread

Shake your shamrock with shortbread

With St. Patrick’s Day in the middle of the week, it’s hard to get worked up over it. And by worked up I mean cooking.
It’s not like I can make a 3-hour stew on a Thursday night. Colcannon’s too heavy if I plan to function after I eat it. Corned beef is practically lethal. Cabbage doesn’t agree with my tank. Irish soda bread? Been there and done that.
But I can get worked up over cookies pretty much anytime. Especially cookies with five ingredients. Especially cookies that I love, but I’ve never tried to make.
I’m hoping to make Shortbread Cookies tonight with my son, and bring into my co-workers. The kid likes measuring flour and turning on the mixer. I like eating cookies, so it all works out.
I chose this recipe because it calls for rice flour, which I have left over from making fish and chips for last week’s fish dinner story. But there are thousands of other takes on it, if you want to go a more traditional route.
By the way, I made All Recipes’ Short Ribs with Stout for my Loaves column running next Wednesday, so if you have leftover Guinness burning a hole in your pocket, hold onto it. Take home message: Chocolate stout is the result of thousands of years of research, trial and error. It was worth it.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 14th, 2011

This is not what my donuts looked like. But I wish they did.

This is not what my donuts looked like. But I wish they did.

This weekend, I took my second and final foray into the world of deep-fried foods. I had my brother’s fryer from the fish story that ran Friday, and I wanted to try making donuts before returning it.
In retrospect, this was not my best idea, and on some level, I knew this. But sometimes I get something in my head and no amount of rational thought can dissuade me. The fact that my 5-year-old kept asking me to make donuts didn’t help either. When he looks at me with those big, brown eyes and asks for something I want to do anyway, it gets really hard to say no.
But the idea posed a few problems. The first is that once you make donuts, that means you have donuts. To eat. In the house.
The second problem was that I’m not sure what possessed me to make 2 dozen, other than the fact that that’s how many the recipe made. But there are three people in my house, and my husband does not have a sweet tooth. He was good for about two donuts, and I think he forced them down.
My son’s appetite is predictably similar, so I could have gotten away with making six. But that hardly seemed worth the effort, and it did take effort. So, tonight, I’ll probably eat a few more and throw the rest away.
They were OK. Tasty, but they didn’t rise very much. I think my yeast has given up the ghost. This makes a small part of me want to get new yeast and try again.
But I will resist the urge by looking myself in my own brown eyes.
And return the (darned) fryer.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 10th, 2011

Greens, egg and ham

Greens, egg and ham

If you’re not into kegs and eggs, and bar crawls are a memory of your misspent youth, if green isn’t your color and corned beef and cabbage just don’t sit well, there’s still another way to celebrate the green on St. Patty’s Day — and all year long. for that matter.
We’re coming up on salad greens season. Now don’t turn up your nose. Greens can add a lot of flavor to a dish without adding a lot of calories. They come well-equipped with nutrition and nothing is easier to use. They’re pretty cheap, too, so if you try one and don’t like it, you’re not out a bunch of, er, green.
For a comprehensive look at greens, check out www.leafy-greens.org,
Here are some commonly available greens:
Arugula (delicate nutty, peppery)
Spinach (delicate, green)
Escarole (nutty, slightly bitter)
Mustard (tangy, peppery)
Collard (peppery)
Savoy (sweet, spicy)
Chard (delicate, sweet)
Kale (earthy, slightly bitter)

To try them start simply with Greens, Egg and Ham, like in the photo.

Or go whole hog:with this delicious way to start St. Patty’s Day:
WILTED GREENS & EGGS
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small bunch greens, cleaned and sliced, such as chard, kale, spinach, escarole, mustard, collard or savoy
2 eggs
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Dash nutmeg,
Dash sea salt
Dash freshly ground black pepper
1. Saute garlic in oil, 2 minutes. Add greens and cook until wilted.
2. Remove from heat and divide the greens. Wipe pan clean and cook eggs over-easy or scrambled. Add vinegar and simmer on low for 2 minutes.
Serve eggs on greens and drizzle with balsamic or honey vinegar. Sprinkle with cheese, optional.
Serves 2

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 8th, 2011

Guy Fieri will be in Cleveland May 22. Tix on sale Friday.

Guy Fieri is coming to Cleveland. Tix on sale Friday.

Minute to Win It host and Food Network star Guy Fieri will bring his Food Tour to the Cleveland’s Palace Theater May 22. It’s billed as mixing “food, fun & rock ‘n’ roll.”
Two quick things: “Food Tour” is a stupid name and if you have to add “fun” to the description, maybe you have a creativity issue.
That said, I’m sure it’ll be a crazy show, and probably sold out. I’m sure I’d like it. You can get tickets starting Friday.
Here are the detes.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 8th, 2011

This how I like my beef stew to look.

This how I like my beef stew to look.

I was off to an optimistic start on spring when I made Salmon with Grapefruit and Quinoa salad a couple of weeks ago. But the weekend snow kind of broke my spirit, and I reverted to cocooning with beef stew. I’ve had some rocky times making long-stewed meals like that, so I proceeded with a modicum of caution. The “Joy of Cooking” recipe guided my hand, and it turned out beautifully.
It helped that I didn’t skimp on the meat, buying 2 pounds of sirloin tips rather than bottom round or other cuts Joy suggested. I figured if I was going to spend three hours on this thing, I wanted it to be worth my while.
I don’t like my stew made like a soup. The liquid should be more like a sauce covering the beef and vegetables. That said, I was a little afraid this didn’t have enough liquid. But I resisted the urge to add some and was rewarded for my trust in my venerable kitchen guide.
Here’s my new favorite recipe for Beef Stew
2 pounds sirloin tips
2 teaspoons dried herbs such as thyme, marjoram, savory, oregano and/or basil , see note
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped, divided
1 small rib celery, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
3 cups liquid, see note 2
4 waxy potatoes, such as red-skinned or Yukon Gold potatoes, in 1-inch chunks
2 turnips, in 1-inch chunks
2 parsnips, in 1-inch chunks

1. Season sirloin tips in 1 teaspoon herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Dredge tips in flour.
2. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add meat in batches and brown on all sides, being careful not to crow the pot or scorch the meat. (This is harder than it sounds. I had the heat too high and got some black bits on the bottom of the pan. It didn’t hurt the flavor in the end, but I’ll be more careful next time.) Remove the meat from the pot, and leave behind drippings. If that’s not enough fat, add a tablespoon more of oil.
3. Add onion, one carrot, celery and garlic and saute 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add bay leaves, remainder of the herbs, salt and pepper. Cover the meat at least half way with liquid. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, 90 minute to 2 hours, until the beef is tender.
4. Add the remaining vegetables and cook until they’re tender, up to 40 minutes.
– adapted from “Joy of Cooking”
Note: I used thyme, marjoram, oregano and basil. I think the smoky taste of marjoram was a real asset here. You’ll use one teaspoon at the beginning and the second teaspoon later.
Note 2: For the liquid, you can use any combination of beef or chicken stock or broth, dry red or white wine, or beer. I used a cup of chicken broth, a cup of dry red whine and a cup of water mixed with 1 tablespoon beef bouillon granules.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 7th, 2011

This looks fun, for the advanced tomato gardener

This looks fun, for the advanced tomato gardener

It’s time to clear off my desk again. If you want one of these books, send me an e-mail at jennie.geisler@timesnews.com. Include your name, address and the name of the book you want:

“Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants Directory in USA”
“Green Market Baking Book: 100 delicious recipes for naturally sweet & savory treats,” by Laura C. Martin
“Tomatoes Garlic Basil: The simple pleasures of growing and cooking your garden’s most versatile veggies,” by Doug Oster
“The Good Neighbor Cookbook,” by Sara Quessenberry and Suzanne Schlosberg
“Best of Food Blogs Cookbook,” edited by a slew of people
“The Carb Lovers Diet,” from the editors of Health magazine (2 copies)

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 4th, 2011

Making Martha Stewart's Chocolate Pretzels is my idea of a good time.

Making Martha Stewart's Chocolate Pretzels is my idea of a good time.

Sometimes a recipe just grabs me. It might be off the wall, look delicious, or just plain intriguing. They make me wish I could go into the kitchen and try them that very second. Unfortunately, this usually happens when I’m at work, and can only print it out, stick it in my purse paper-holding pocket, and wait until I get home.
Even I can’t figure out what makes these recipes so inspiring. They’re all over the map, baked goods, soups, chicken, ethnic, spicy. They just come out of the woodwork and hit my sweet spot, like the baseball players say.
You might think this one is crazy. It seems like a lot of work. But nevertheless, I want to clear the decks and try it: Chocolate Pretzels.
It combines two of my favorite foods in an off-beat way. They’re not chocolate-covered pretzels, though I love those too. They’re pieces of chocolate icebox cookie dough rolled into small ropes and twisted into a pretzel shape. When I saw them, I laughed with delight. I’m trying to figure out when I’ll have time to make them. For now, the recipe is tucked safely into my purse paper-holder pocket. It might stay there forever. But if opportunity and gumption collide, it’ll be fun.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 3rd, 2011

This will taste much better than a glued together roller coaster.

This will taste much better than a glued together roller coaster.

Because what this world needs is a roller coaster made out of pretzels.
Wait. Let me back up. I really do love pretzels. My ideal vegging-out afternoon activity (as if) is a bag of Dan-Dee Midget Pretzels and a 12-pack of cold Diet Coke. I can ignore a bowl of potato chips all night long. Don’t come at me with a Frito. I’m not sure what Pringles are, but I don’t think I like it. However, a little piece of crunchy, dark-brown, salty dough is in grave danger within my close proximity.
This said, the otherwise venerable pretzel maker Snyders of Hanover, has gone off the deep end with its latest promotion.
They’re challenging “pretzel lovers, roller coaster enthusiasts and crafters” to make roller coasters out of pretzels and glue.
What a thing to do to an innocent little unsuspecting snack.
I guess it’s the third year of the competition. You have to build it, take a picture of it and send it to www.snydersofhanover.com. You have to do it by June 3.
Judges will pick four semi-finalists. Website fans will choose the fifth. Those will get a trip with all the trimmings to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., for the final round July 14.
Finalists will race to create a replica of one of the Busch Gardens coasters. The winner will get four passes to BG good for two years.
It’s just not fair.
For a much better use of pretzels, try this snack mix.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 1st, 2011

Tuna and Tortellini Salad from Birds Eye

Tuna and Tortellini Salad from Birds Eye


Happy March! The beginning of the end of this long, cruel winter; the harbinger of spring 2011, if in name only. No one can say when the snow will end, but the arrival of March puts a faint, warm light at the end of the tunnel. This is the month when it’s as likely to be 60 degrees as it is 20. As likely to be sunny as icy. Every day is a crap shoot, so you might as well get out of bed and see which it is.
March is also, drum roll please, National Frozen Food Month.
The National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association has backed this promotion for 25 years. They don’t say why they do it in March, but I can think of one good reason: Because in March fresh, unfrozen produce is the crap without the shoot. While we’re looking at $3.99 a pound for tennis ball tomatoes, frozen fruits and vegetables are picked and processed just at the right time, and no one has been able to prove they have any less nutrition than what you find in the produce section.
One plus is that you don’t have to prep frozen foods. You just open the bag, heat and eat. Or, in this case, toss into TUNA AND TORTELLINI VEGETABLE SALAD.
This looks like an easy one, and would work for Fridays in Lent for those who fast from meat.

Posted in: Uncategorized

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