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 June, 2011
Posted: June 30th, 2011

Taco seasoning wears a lot of hats in my house.

Last week I went desperately searching for a recipe for taco dip to bring to a family reunion. My MIL requested one, and, strangely, I didn’t have a go-to answer. This is strange because my husband sprinkles taco seasoning on his breakfast cereal. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but his fondness for Mexican, Tex-Mex and Americanized Mexican cuisine is legendary. I swear if I put cumin in pancakes, he’d eat them. With Tabasco.
Anyway, I found one. You might have noticed that he posted a comment here two days ago, requesting a reprisal. I did it last night, just because. He practically melted.
Here is the recipe I settled on. I got the basics from an Allrecipes.com submission, but changed it up to fit my druthers.
I’m thinking of adding avocado next time, but this gets pretty deep as it is. Drain the salsa to keep the liquid from making everything soggy.
SEVEN-LAYER TACO DIP
1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning mix
1 (16-ounce) can vegetarian refried beans
1 (8 ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (16-ounce) container reduced-fat sour cream
1 (16-ounce) jar salsa, drained of excess juice
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 bunch chopped green onions
1 (15-ounce) can sliced black olives, drained
2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese

1. In a medium bowl, blend the taco seasoning mix and refried beans.
2. Spread the cream cheese evenly over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish
3. Top the cream cheese with refried beans mixture.
4. Top the beans with sour cream.
5. Top the sour cream with salsa.
6. Top the salsa with diced green pepper, green onions and black olives.
7. Top it all with the cheese.
8. Chill and serve with Fritos or Tostitos Scoops.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 29th, 2011

Don't judge a fruit by its moniker: Sour cherries make the best pies.

The cherries are coming. And we have to act fast if we want the best and brightest. In about three to four weeks, we’ll be left with the trucked-in sweet red Bings, and sour cherries could disappear altogether.
To the uninitiated (which included me until recently) sour cherries (also called “tart cherries”) sound almost inedible. Little did I know that I’ve probably had them, loved them and didn’t know it.
From what I can tell, sour cherries’ main job is to fill pies. Raw, they’ll pucker you up, but after cooking and adding sugar, they’re mellow and piquant. Sweet cherries don’t hold as much flavor when baked, but that doesn’t mean Bings are bad. They’ll work in pies as well. Just not as well as tart ones.
Local cherries are just coming into season. The dark purple ones you’ll see are Bing cherries, for eating out of hand, in salads and anywhere else you can use them raw. The darker they are, the better they’ll taste, usually.
Sour cherries are candy apple red and a little harder to find. But if you like cherry pie, keep looking.
Here’s a fresh cherry pie recipe from “Joy of Cooking.” If you have advice for dealing with cherries, feel free to drop a line.
FRESH CHERRY PIE
Pie crust for a double crust pie
5 cups (2 to 2 1/2 pounds) pitted cherries, sour or Bing
1 1/4 cups sugar for sour cherries, 3/4 cup for Bing cherries
3 to 3 1/2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca or cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1. Line a 9-inch pie pan with one crust. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat to 425 degrees.
2. Combine in a bowl and let stand for 15 minutes: cherries, sugar, tapioca or cornstarch, water, lemon juice and almond extract, if using.
3. Pour the mixture into the bottom crust and dot with butter pieces.
4. Cover the filling with the top crust and cut several vent holes.
5. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes. Slide a baking sheet under the pie and bake at 350 25 to 30 minutes, or until crust is golden and the filling is bubbling.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 28th, 2011

Sun-dried tomatoes can add lots of flavor -- and they're healthy when not packed in oil. But they can also swim in a rich creamy sauce when you're feeling decadent.

Got home last night and found a lonely pint container of heavy whipping cream in the fridge. I used a cup for something last week and the other cup needed to get used up or thrown out.
So, instead of the oil-based sun-dried-tomato-based recipe I wrote about yesterday, I found another recipe (from Allrecipes.com) for a cream sauce, intended for pasta, but I poured it over parm-coated baked chicken.
Yes, it’s out of this world — and horrible for you, but once wasn’t going to kill us.
To coat the baked chicken, I usually mix bread crumbs and Parmesan (with a pinch of smoked paprika). I had some coating leftover, so I used that in the sauce. The bread crumbs thickened it, in a good way. I did splash the whole thing with some milk because the sauce would be sitting for a while waiting on my husband to have his. Worked well.
Here’s the sauce:
CREAMY SUN-DRIED TOMATO SAUCE
1 cup heavy whipping cream (could use fat-free half and half or milk)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (dry) sliced

1. Heat cream and butter until melted and bubbles start to form on the sides of the pan. Add Parm and bread crumbs and stir until smooth.
2. Toss in sun-dried tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and heat through. Serve over pasta or baked chicken.
Makes 2 cups for 4 1/2 cup servings
▀  Per serving: 344 calories, 32 grams fat, 1 gram fiber, 7.9 grams protein, 8.3 grams carbohydrate, 568 milligrams sodium, 107 milligrams cholesterol
Values are approximate.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 27th, 2011

Big bag of sun-dried tomatoes under my desk. Can't wait to get home to my stove ...

Now that I have your attention, allow me to celebrate: Co-worker Sherry Rieder went to Erie County Farms over the weekend and snagged me a bag of sun-dried tomatoes — not packed in oil.
I love sun-dried tomato anything, but when they’re packed in oil, they’re also packed in guilt. So I look and look for sun-dried tomatoes that are actually dry, and rarely find them. But Sherry tells me ECF sells them by the bin-full. So I gratefully handed her $4 this morning and took possession of at least 15 minutes’ worth. I hit the Internet looking for a simple white sauce that called for the bright red rubies of lusciousness. I’ll tinker with it and serve it over baked chicken breasts tonight.
The recipe calls for the tomatoes to be packed in oil, but I’ll just soak them in hot water for a little while to soften them, and add a tablespoon of oil to the pan, if that seems necessary.
Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Basil Sauce

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 24th, 2011

Holly uses Hormel's 98 percent fat free Turkey Chili with Beans in her super-easy Frito dip.

My MIL, giver of all recipes delicious, called me this morning to ask me for taco dip for the family reunion this weekend. Also, pie. This might sound weird, but the pie will be as easy as, well ,…
Anyway, the problem is I’ve never made taco dip. Sounds easy, I guess. Just some layers of yummy stuff, chill and dip. But I’m scurrying trying to find out what would be good and how much.
On this note, my coworker, Holly Waychoff brought in the simplest, yummiest dip today that will form the base of whatever it is I try to do.
Here it is, in all its glory. And I do mean glory. I could have eaten the whole pan myself. She made it in a 9-by-9-inch pan that would be easy to double into a 9X13.
For hers, she used
1 8-ounce block reduced-fat cream cheese
1 (15-ounce) can Hormel Reduced-Fat Turkey Chili
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Layer cream cheese, chili, cheese. She mircowaved it here, but she bakes it at home. Just until the cheese melts.
Serve with Fritos.
That’s it. If you’re in a hurry to a last-minute picnic dish this weekend, this will more than suffice.
Happy Friday.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 23rd, 2011

Go to marthastewart.com. Lookup Honeydew Aqua Fresca. Make it. Drink.

I just finished a marathon picnic-fare cooking and photo session, (for the Weekend story next Friday, July 1). As much as I love shopping and cooking, it’ll be a day or two before I suit up again, so I found a couple of recipes for dishes that I WOULD make, and MIGHT make, but it won’t be today. Or tomorrow. Well, maybe tomorrow we’ll try the Cheese-Stuffed Burgers from www.marthastweart.com.
And wash it all down with Honeydew Aqua Fresca
Blue cheese cooked into burgers is an idea I stumble over every year during grilling season. I’ve never done it, but it’s high time.
And I’m seriously intrigued by the concept of a sweetened honeydew juice beverage, perhaps when local melons are soft and sweet. Can anyone tell me how to tell if a honeydew melon is soft and sweet inside?
I do know that cantaloupe is good if the skin is all one color, with no dark green. But honeydews have me stumped. I like nothing better than a soft sweet honeydew, but its hard, tasteless cousin is pretty much useless. Unless, of course, you’re going to mash it and combine it with superfine sugar and drink it ..
Maybe tonight.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 22nd, 2011

Yes, you've seen it, but do you -- honestly -- measure up?

Everyone has seen the new USDA My Plate icon, but have you looked honestly at your diet to see how it compares? I did. At www.mypyramidtracker.gov you can enter everything you ate in the past 24 hours and it’ll tell you how you measured up against the plate, as well as against all the nutrients the USDA tracks per food, which is many.
I got good news and bad news. Compared to the MyPlate recommendations, I got smiley faces on grains and meat and beans, a straight face on vegetables, but a frownie face on fruits and milk. Guess they didn’t count the blueberry pie as a fruit serving.
As far as the complete nutrient intake, I was OK for calories, but over for fat, over for carbohydrate, low for fiber. I was OK on sodium and OK on cholesterol and over for protein.
Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, it’s an inexact science. You have to estimate in some cases how much you ate of something (celery and Miracle Whip in my chicken salad, for example) and remember everything you ate (which is my problem).
But it was a fun exercise. Well, not like exercise exercise. (Incidentally, the program will also help you track your exercise.)
You can also use the website to track how you do over time, and break it down by your height and weight and gender and age, and whether you want to achieve a healthy weight, if you’re not already there; or just find out how to maintain your current weight.
I know I won’t use it every day, but we all have the option, and it’s free, sort of — unless you count tax dollars. But that money was spent a long time ago, so we might as well get our money’s worth.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 21st, 2011

I recently visited Akron, Ohio, specifically to check out the West Point Market, an extreme-foodie haven I’d only rushed through one other time.
I went to report a story that will run Sunday as part of my Culinary Destination series.
Without giving too much away, I can say that if you want to put your hands on a box of real Walkers shortbread, a package of prime beef, fresh figs, or a hunk of cheese from their 350 choices, it’s worth your while.
The market is kind of like a Wegmans on steroids, minus the humdrum grocery stuff like Cheerios and Prego.
The owner was kind enough to give me a copy of the West Point Market cookbook, and their signature Killer Brownies recipe will run with the story Sunday.
Here’s another one that might make a great addition to a summer picnic. (A story on picnics is coming July 1.)
BOW TIE SALAD WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATOES
Salad:
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 pound bow tie (farfalle) pasta
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 1/2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips
1 bunch fresh spinach, trimmed and shredded
1/4 pound prosciutto or ham, sliced into thin strips
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
Dressing:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Parmesan) cheese, for garnish

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir in the salt and pasta. Boil until al dente. Drain.
2. Put the pasta into a large salad bowl. Add scallions, tomato, spinach, prosciutto, pine nuts and oregano. Toss.
3. Whisk the oil, pepper flakes, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour dressing over the pasta. Toss well and garnish with cheese.Serves 8
– “West Point Market Cookbook,” by Russ Vernon

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 17th, 2011

E-mail me. Win this.

I have a jillion (well, just 3) things to tell you that have been collecting on my desk.

First, you need to go to the Erie Times-News recipe library and enter your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to Bello’s Market, which has, I’m told, a great in-house butcher. When you get to the page above, scroll all the way down to the bottom to find the database. You have to register with your name and e-mail only, and then you can add as many recipes as you want, as well as find others from readers, Rhonda Schember’s column, my column and Marnie Mead Oberle’s e-mail newsletter.

Second, I’m looking for ideas of recipes for dishes that are good to take on a picnic: Popular, travel well, don’t need too much special handling, etc. Also good ideas on what else to take to a picnic, and hints and tricks you’ve found that help ease the way for your traveling feast. E-mail me jennie.geisler@timesnews.com, or respond here. Or give me a call at 870-1885.

Third, drum roll please, I have more free books!!
To enter the drawing for any of these, e-mail me jennie.geisler@timesnews.com with your name, address and the name of the book you want. If you want more than one, please list them all in the same e-mail.
Here goes:

“The Perfect Drink of Every Occasion: 151 cocktails that will freshen your breath, impress a hot date, cure a hangover, and more,” by Duane Swierczynski

“Vegan Family Meals: Real Food for Everyone,” by Ann Gentry, author of “The Real Food Daily Cookbook”

“250 Essential Diabetes Recipes,” by Sharon Zeiler

Can’t wait to hear from you!

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 15th, 2011

Simplify ribs: Slather with BBQ sauce, turn on Crock Pot.

Whenever the MIL comes to the house, she kindly brings us some random piece of meat she found on sale somewhere and wants to share, such as fish, pork chops or breakfast sausage. On her most recent visit, she brought a rack of baby back ribs.
I panicked. I don’t know how to cook ribs and everyone I’ve ever talked to about them has a list of chores 2 days long they complete before they bring them to the table. I put them in the refrigerator and pondered how and when I could use them.
Yesterday, I decided I had nothing to lose by keeping it simple. I slathered them in Sweet Baby Rays Original BBQ sauce (my store-bought favorite) and put them in my big slow cooker. Left it on low and left for work. 10 hours later, I opened the door on a familiar sweet, smoky smell.
Some of the sauce was burnt. (The crock is soaking in the sink.) They probably were done after 8 hours, but they were still tender enough to enjoy I brushed on some more barbecue sauce and they were great.
The only real problem was that I didn’t have two racks.
If you want to go an extra mile, cook them in a dry rub and put the sauce on before you eat.

Posted in: Uncategorized

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