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.
 Phone: 814-870-1885
Archive for March, 2013
Posted: March 29th, 2013

fresh italian cookingThanks to everyone who entered the drawing for “Meals in a Jar: Quick and Easy, Just-Add-Water, Homemade Recipes,” by Julie Languille. The winner is Audrey Porter. I’ll pop it in the mail today.

If you are not Audrey Porter, you are welcome to enter the drawing for “Fresh Italian Cooking,” from publishing house Academia Barilla. The recipes provide light, tangy, simple subtle flavors, rather than the heavy cooked-all-day fare we’re all used to.
It would be a great book to have around fresh tomato time, but I think canned tomatoes are just as good, and certainly more reliable than the imposters that hang out in the produce department year-round.
One great thing about these recipes is that most of them can be made quickly on a busy weeknight. This isn’t to say that the dishes are boring. Far from it. They should all wake up your tastebuds from their winter doldrums.

To enter the drawing, please drop a line to me at jennie.geisler@timesnews.com. Please include your NAME, MAILING ADDRESS and NAME OF THE BOOK you want.

Here’s a sample:

PENNE ALL’ARRABBIATA
2 cloves garlic peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Hot red pepper, to taste
21 ounces crushed tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes
Salt to taste
1 (12-ounce) box penne pasta

1. Saute the garlic with the olive oil and hot red pepper to taste, but don’t let it brown too muchy. If you’re using fresh hot pepper it should be sliced, but if you’re using dried hot pepper, wear disposable gloves and crush it by hand.
2. Once the garlic and hot pepper are slightly browned, add the crushed tomatoes (or whole peeled tomatoes, chopped). Season with salt to taste and cook on high heat 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Meanwhile, boil the penne in salted water. When it’s al dente, drain and combine with the sauce.
– “Fresh Italian Cooking”

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 25th, 2013

I love asparagus. No matter you pronounce it. Image from wikimedia.

I love asparagus. No matter you pronounce it. Image from wikimedia.


The first time I ever had asparagus was at a friend’s house when I was in middle school. Not sure why we never had it at home. Dad must hate it or something.
Anyway, I remember liking it then, if only because my friend and her brother kept calling it “ass-pah-grass.” We got the giggles and no amount of scolding could suppress them. I think my friends’ parents were afraid I was going to go home and tell my parents that they taught me a bad word at dinner.
It was more likely that my folks would be annoyed by the fact that I now wanted to eat asparagus.
It wasn’t till a couple of decades later that I tried it again, and I’ve loved it ever since.
Here’s a elegant, albeit time-consuming, spring dish, which I’ll never be able to stop calling ass-pa-grass.

MARINATED ASPARAGUS BUNDLES
2 1/2 pounds asparagus
10 green onions
2 red bell peppers, cut into 20 strips
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Snap off tough ends of asparagus. Cover and cook in a small amount of boiling water 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse under cold running water; drain well.
2
. Trim white portion from green onions, and reserve for another use. Place green onion tops in a bowl; add boiling water to cover. Drain immediately, and rinse under cold running water.
3. Gather asparagus into 10 bundles, and add 2 bell pepper strips to each bundle. Tie each bundle with a green onion strip. Place bundles in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
4. Combine chopped onion and next 9 ingredients (onion through pepper) in a bowl; stir well. Pour over asparagus bundles. Cover and chill 2 to 8 hours.
5. To serve, remove asparagus bundles from marinade, and discard marinade. Arrange asparagus bundles on a serving platter. Makes 10 servings.
Per serving: 28 calories, 0.3 gram fat, 2 grams protein, 5.6 grams carbohydrate, 1.4 grams fiber, 0 cholesterol, 51 milligrams sodium and 28 milligrams calcium.
– Rich’s Recipe du Jour

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 22nd, 2013
Make Easter morning special -- and simple --with a Crab Strata.

Make Easter morning special — and simple –with a Crab Strata.

I know I’m a week early on Easter Sunday brunch ideas, but Crab and Spinach Strata is a lovely twist on a timeless classic. Hold onto it for next weekend or, better yet, give it a trial run.
I like my holiday mornings to start with something luscious, but it can’t take a huge amount of effort. I want to sit around in my pajamas with my coffee, too.
This is why I love stratas. Those are baked egg and bread casseroles that call for cheese, lots of cheese, vegetables and little chunks of salty meat, including and especially ham.
Stratas are fun-savers because you put them together the night before and let the bread soak up the milk and egg mixture overnight before baking. Then, while you’re holiday-ing, the strata is in the oven and comes out just in time for kids’ baskets to be opened and Easter eggs located.
This strata takes the time-honored dish “to the next level,” as my sports-TV-loving son likes to say. Classic ham and cheddar stratas are lovely, but this one features crab (if only imitation) and shredded Swiss. If you want, you can go with Gruyere and real crab, but the basic brands are sufficient for drawing your famliy’s appreciation.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 21st, 2013

meals in a jar
Thanks to everyone who entered the drawing for “Passover Made Easy,” by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek. The winner is Pat Melpolder. I’ll pop it in the mail today.

If you are not Pat Melpolder, you are eligible to enter the drawing for “Meals in a Jar: Quick and Easy, Just-Add-Water, Homemade Recipes” The recipes in this book go way beyond the jars of dried pasta, lentils and bouillon we’ve been giving each other for generations.
Many of them — but not all — contain fresh ingredients that you heat and preserve/can in boiling water bath before giving them away.
Most of the recipes make six, eight, even 12 or 16 containers, so they’re big several-hour projects. After you’re done, though, you can stock your shelves with last-minute holiday or recuperation gifts, meals for shut-ins, care packages for college students, or your own use.

To enter the drawing, send an e-mail to jennie.geisler@timesnews.com. Please include your NAME, MAILING ADDRESS, and NAME OF THE BOOK YOU WANT. I do not share or store this information.

Here’s a promising recipe, which makes 6 batches, 18 to 24 muffins each. It contains all dried ingredients which will save my typing muscles. Many of the book’s fresh-food recipes refer to general mixes explained at the front of the book.

CRANBERRY WALNUT MUFFINS
15 cups flour
3 cups sugar
2 cups dry milk
3/4 cup powdered eggs
6 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons baking soda
3 teaspoons powdered vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 cups dried sweetened cranberries
4 1/2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
3 cups butter-flavored shortenting or ghee

1. For muffin mix, in each of 6 vacuum bags or jars, add and then seal: 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup dry milk, 2 tablespoons powdered eggs, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon powdered vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon salt
2. For fruit and nut mix: In each of 6 vacuum bags, add and then seal: 1 cup cranberries, 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans.
3. For shortening or ghee: In each of 6 vacuum bags, add and then seal 1/2 cup shortening or 4 ounces ghee.
4. In each of 6 Mylar bags, tote bags or vacuum bags, store 1 jar or pouch muffin mix, packet fruit and nuts and 1 packet shortening or ghee.

Label each bag:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin tin, or line with paper baking cups. In a large bowl, whisk muffing mix and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of water. Stir until just combined (overstirring makes muffins tough) and add fruit and nut mixture. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full. Bake 25 minutes, until lightly golden
Makes 18 to 24.
– “Meals in a Jar,” by Julie Languille

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 19th, 2013
It's a bad time of year for tomatoes, but grape ones are still pretty good. They'll give you a hint of that summer sweetness and break you out of the bland winter food rut. Photo and recipe from www.realsimple.com

It’s a bad time of year for tomatoes, but grape ones are still pretty good. They’ll give you a hint of that summer sweetness and break you out of the bland winter food rut. Photo and recipe from www.realsimple.com

For years, out of pure squeamishness, I bought chicken breast meat and dumped it from the package into the pan to cook. I had no desire to touch it, cut it, pound it or even trim it if that meant touching the meat with my bare hands.
Well, as you might imagine, this treatment of chicken breast meat created a few problems. It frequently came out overdone, or raw in the middle. Or raw in the middle first and overdone five minutes later.
I’m finally almost past this aversion. I’ve figured out that if you’re going to cook, you’re eventually going to have to touch raw chicken.
So I finally learned to pound it, trim it, cube it and slice it, all while running the hot water tank dry trying to keep my hands clean.
I’m still not a huge fan of BSCB, especially the way it’s sold, sometimes 3 inches thick on one side, and 6 to 8 ounces total — utterly impossible to cook as is.
Well, last week I finally got smart. It only took me 20 years to figure out that I can slice a chicken breast horizontally into a “cutlet” and my chicken troubles are over. It cooks more evenly, more quickly, and brings a single portion of meat into a manageable 3- to 4-ounce serving.
Yes, you can buy chicken cutlets at the store, which would require a lot less exposure to raw chicken, and now I know why.
Soon I’ll be using them to make Chicken Cutlets With Tomato Sauté.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 15th, 2013
Irish Boxty is a much better name that Potato Cakes. www.justapinch.com

Irish Boxty is a much better name than “Potato Cakes.” www.justapinch.com

Irish Boxty is more commonly known around these parts as “potato cakes” How many people knew that? I am not on that list.
Well, I think it’s a charming name for something so simple and beloved. The best part of Boxty is that it rescuses leftover mashed potatoes.
A lot of people might find this sacriligious, but I find leftover mashed potatoes a wee bit depressing. It seems like the texture gets all messed up from their being in the refrigerator or something.
Incorporating them into something else, such as palm-sized fried cakes, souped up with fresh seasonings saves the day, especially when the coating provides crispiness on the outside and tenderness on the inside.
Kind of like me before my morning coffee.
Speaking of coffee, and by association, breakfast, reminds me that Boxty works equally well in the morning as it does lunch and dinner and even as a plain-old snack.
Talk about lucky.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 14th, 2013

passoverThanks to everyone who entered the drawing for “The Ultimate Guide To Making Chili,” by Kate and Jim Rowinski. The winner is Janis Millu. I’ll pop it in the mail today.

If you are not Janis Millu, you are eligible the enter the drawing for “Passover Made Easy: Favorite Triple-Tested Recipes,” by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek.
The recipes are all good for Passover, as you might expect. But even as a gentile I’m enamored of the simple recipes for tasty dishes, such as Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup, Spaghetti Squash Kugel, and Yellow Squash Quiche (called Kusa Jiben by Syrian Jews). There’s nothing hoity toity about the book, but it’s fresh, clean contemporary design and photography, as well as short narratives and Tidbits, drew me into every page.

To enter the the drawing, drop a line to jennie.geisler@timesnews.com. Please include your NAME, MAILING ADDRESS, and NAME OF THE BOOK you want. I don’t share or store this information. I’ll pick from the list of entrants next Thursday morning.

For those of you just here for the food, check this out:

YELLOW SQUASH QUICHE (Kusa Jiben)
3 tablespoons oil
1 large sweet onion
6 yellow squash
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups shredded mozzarella or muenster cheese
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and fry, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and just beginning to turn golden, about 7 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cut squash into large chunks. In the bowl of a food processor, shred or grate squash until coarse. Add squash to skillet and stir to combine. Lower heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is completely wilted, liquid is bubbling at the sides, and mixture is mushy, about 20 minutes.
4. Drain squash mixture in a colander to remove liquid; discard liquid.
5. In a large mixing bowl, combine squash mixture and salt. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add eggs and cheese; stir to combine. Pour mixture into prepared baking pan. Bake 45 minutes.
6. Turn oven to broil. Broil 2 to 3 minutes, until brown caramelized spots form on the top. Top each serving with a tablespoon of sour cream.
– “Passover Made Easy”

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 12th, 2013

Corned Beef wraps make a festive, quick St. Patrick's Day dinner/breakfast/lunch, thanks to www.spoonful.com.

Corned Beef wraps make a festive, quick St. Patrick’s Day dinner/breakfast/lunch, thanks to www.spoonful.com.


It’s hard to escape St. Patrick’s Day, which at some point seems to have morphed into St. Patrick’s Week. People were out wearing their greens last weekend, if my photo-happy Facebook friends are any indication.
So it’s without delay that I include this Corned Beef, Swiss and Bacon Breakfast Wraps recipe inspired by the traditional Irish dinner of corned beef. Whatever day (or days) you choose to celebrate, you can line your stomach first with some hearty but simply constructed fare.
If you don’t have access, or don’t want to bother with, cooking corned beef, pay a visit to your favorite deli. If you go that route, be aware that the recipe says 4 ounces of meat is half a pound. It’s not. A pound is 16 ounces, meaning 8 ounces is half a pound. But who’s counting?
You can also add some cool (or cooked) shredded cabbage to up the Irish factor.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 8th, 2013

First, I did the book drawing yesterday, but it was later in the day, and I’m wondering if anyone saw it. Scroll down a smidge to read about “The Ultimate Guide to Making Chili.”

Also:

crab with spoon
Cioppino from the Chicago Tribune jumped out of the water and into my boat today. I sent it straight to the printer and into my purse for weekend perusal.
I love Cioppino, a true San Francisco treat, but I’ve never attempted it because it’s a huge and expensive hassle. If I could visit a big street market with fishmongers willing to sell me only what I need, and had an afternoon to play around in the kitchen, a couple of friends coming over, making Cioppino would constitute a day well spent …
Excuse me for drifting off there.
My point is, this recipe is built for speed, and cuts the shopping list in half and the preparation down to a more manageable half an hour.
I might not be as great as the one from my sunny California Saturday fantasy, but it’s going to be good enough for a chilly Erie Friday.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 7th, 2013

chili bookThanks to everyone who entered the drawing for “The Newlywed Cookbook.” The winner is Sandy Rosenthal. I’ll pop it in the mail today.

If you are not Sandy Rosenthal, you are eligible for the next drawing for “The Ultimate Guide To Making Chili” by Kate and Jim Rowinski.

It’s not your run-of-the-mill chili cookbook. This one takes advantage of all the new spices available these days, such as chili powder blends that offer exceptional flavor and fewer preservatives than the traditional American supermarket variety. You can also find more powders made from grinding single types of peppers, such as chipotle, made with smoked jalapenos.

The authors suggest sources for finding the more exotic chile — and chili — powders out there, above all touting Gebhardt’s Chili Powder. I found that on www.amazon.com, $7.99 for a 3-ounce bottle.
The recipes in this book are for hard-core chili lovers interested in experimentation. This recipe doesn’t call for anything too fancy, but to me looks like it has endless possibilities:

BARTENDER’S CHILI
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
8 ounces tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 (12-ounce) bottle Guinness or other stout
1/2 cup dark rum, optional
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
Green onions, chopped
Cheddar cheese, grated for serving

1. Brown ground beef with oil in Dutch oven. Add onion, bell peppers, jalapeno and garlic and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.
2. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, cayenne, sugar, salt, beer and rum, if using. Simmer 2 hours. Drain black beans and rinse to remove excess starch. Add to the pot and continue to cook 20 minutes to heat beans thoroughly.
3. Adjust seasonings as needed. Garnish with cheese and chopped green onions.
– “The Ultimate Guide to Making Chili,” by Kate and Jim Rowinski

Posted in: Uncategorized

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