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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Posted: July 2nd, 2014

Betty Crocker has officially sucked me in. I want to make this. It will probably be a disaster.

Betty Crocker has officially sucked me in. I want to make this. It will probably be a disaster.

I’m not going to lie to you. This flag-inspired layer cakelooks like a beast to make. Not easy, not fast, not lazy kitchen friendly. It looks like a intense adventure, lined with F-bombs and serious blasphemy.
But it looks so cool.
I have no evidence to support my theory that I can pull this off. My success with layer cakes has been spotty at best. I’m heading into this project armed with nothing but a misguided determination to try anyway.
Part of the problem here is that I’ve seen 100 similar ideas running through my inbox for weeks. There’s a limit to how many times I can look at something like this before I get sucked in.
I don’t even know if I have time to make this. But I will.
It’s bound to look a little more like the flag is, say, waving, than standing at perfect right angles.
But I’m going to try.
Then again, it’s possible that this is the coffee talking. We’ll see how I feel about it later.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 23rd, 2014

This Food Network recipe goes straight to my pile of faves .

This Food Network recipe goes straight to my pile of faves .

I’ve been gone awhile. Preparations for vacation, vacation itself and recovery from vacation took me offline for about two weeks that seem like years. We had a great time, but I didn’t have a chance to do much cooking, and really missed it. One meal stands out, though.
Creamy Lemon-Pepper Orzo with Grilled Chicken was irresistible, especially the orzo, which has become my newest favorite comfort food. I could have eaten the whole dish myself, but John insisted on getting his share. Next time, I plan to hide it — in the refrigerator, behind something. He’ll never find it.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 10th, 2014
I can't wait to try this.

I can’t wait to try this.

I hate cauliflower. Really hate it. Like spit-it-out hate it. When it’s raw.
Cook it soft, though, with a sprinkle of salt and a little butter or cheese, I’m the biggest fan the little white trees ever had.
My husband, on the other hand, can eat cauliflower by the head if you give him a little onion or dill dip. He actually gets excited when I bring some home, and I have to physically fend him off until I finish cooking what I need of it.
I saw this Loaded Cauliflower recipe on Facebook last night, and read it to him. Boy did that get his attention.
I listed off the ingredients and I thought he was going to drool all over the couch. I took that as a mandate, and I’ll be happy to oblige him as soon as is physically possible.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 6th, 2014
I really screwed this up good -- meaning it came out OK, in spite of me.

I really screwed this up good. Meaning it came out OK, in spite of me.

Ever make a mistake and cringe, waiting for the blowback, and nothing happens?
Once in a while, yes, we catch a break.
I was following this recipe for Blueberry-Lemon Bread the other day, and got confused. Instead of reserving sugar for the glaze, I put it all in the batter. And of course I had doubled everything to make two loaves. When I realized my mistake, I scraped the batter out of the pans and threw in an extra cup of flour and another teaspoon of baking powder and prayed.
I figured I’d be tossing the results, but I’ll be (darned) if they didn’t turn out, well, pretty (darned) good. Maybe a a little too sweet, but moist and soft and tender and blueberry-y. Here’s a cautionary tale for my fellow imperfect readers: Don’t give up until you try it.
As a bonus, I’ll also share Strawberry Bread, which found its way into my co-workers’ tummies pretty quickly.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 2nd, 2014
Red Hot hot sauce helped me replace wings with chicken tenders in a hurry.

Red Hot hot sauce helped me replace wings with chicken tenders in a hurry.

Friday night was a whirlwind. We weren’t all home, finally until 7. We usually eat by 6:30 at the latest, but it just hadn’t happened. Nothing was ready and things were a little tense. There was some grouchiness.
We usually get takeout wings on Friday, but no one wanted to leave the house, so I improvised on the fly.
I had a package of chicken tenders, half a bottle of Red Hot and a few tablespoons butter.
A box of panko breadcrumbs raised its hand as I stared into the pantry. OK, ready set go.
I preheated the oven to 400 degrees, combined about 1/3 cup Red Hot with a roughly 3-tablespoon hunk of butter, microwaved it until butter had melted. Mixed about a cup of panko with some salt and pepper and spread it on a plate.
Tenders went into the Red Hot mixture, into the panko mixture and on to a baking sheet lined with foil.
When the oven was hot, I put the tenders in for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, we ate halved strawberries tossed with a little sugar, just to get something in our bellies while the chicken cooked.
The tenders came out great: spicy and just a little crispy.
They needed dipping sauce, and we were out of ranch, so I combined about half a cup of reduced-fat sour cream with some dry ranch dressing mix, salt and a little milk to thin it. Good enough.
Everyone left the table in a much better mood.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 30th, 2014

charcuteriaThanks to everyone who entered the drawing for “The Mediterranean Diet.” The winner is Lisa Kerner. I’ll pop it in the mail today.
If you are not Lisa Kerner, you are eligible to enter the drawing for “Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain,” by Jefferey Weiss.
Folks, this is a special book. The hefty tome reminds me of my calculus text in high school, but way more fun. It attempts to wrap arms around hundreds of years of Spanish culture through an exhaustive account of traditionally cured meat.
It’s hard for me to wrap my arms around the concept, actually, other than to say the recipes are almost beside the point, which is technique and culture. Once you have that under your belt, you can dive into dishes such as Bacalao En Salsa Vizcaina or Lomo Adobado. You get the picture.
The book would make a wonderful Father’s Day gift for meat lovers, meat grillers and meat smokers.
To enter the drawing, please 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 store or share this information.
If you follow Spanish cuisine even casually, you’ve heard of adobo, a spicy seasoning blend often used to store smoked chili peppers. You could use this blend to marinate pork, fish, game meats.
Here is a recipe designed to season 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of meat:


Meal type Condiment
Misc Gourmet, Pre-preparable
Region Spanish
From book "Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain"


  • 5 cloves garlic (peeled, destemmed, and crushed)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons pimenton dulce
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water


"Oil-soaked pimenton is quite the potent, permanent stainmaker, so consider wearing gloves and anything other than the color white." -- Jeffrey Weiss


Step 1
Combine and rub over 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of meat.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 27th, 2014

Loaded Baked Salad from www.browneyedbaker.com has me searching for an excuse to make it.

Loaded Baked Salad from www.browneyedbaker.com has me searching for an excuse to make it.

Made last week’s marinated peppers and mushroom sandwiches and macaroni and cheese Saturday night for the family. Good reviews all around. More telling, however, is that there were no leftovers. The kids ignored the veggies, of course, and ate hot dogs with their mac and cheese instead. Good enough for me.
On his night to cook, my brother made big, fat burgers and bacon (veggie/salmon burgers for my vegetarian mom).
The star of that show, besides the juicy serving of red meat, was the potato salad. He bought a tub of it prepared at Costco, a version of Sam’s Club in Northeastern Ohio, and I must find a way to make it.
It contained everything you might put on a baked potato — sour cream, shredded cheese, scallions and bacon — no doubt a diet bomb leaving a bigger crater than the burger itself, but I could barely contain the temptation to eat the lot of it.
I found this recipe, Loaded Baked Potato Salad, that looks like it might get close.
I know Memorial Day is over, but parties go on all summer, right? I have to find one worthy of this recipe, even if it’s just some random Wednesday in the back yard …

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 22nd, 2014

mediterraneanOur culture is full of diets. I can’t keep track of them all. Paleo, South Beach, Weight Watchers, organic, whole foods, Mediterranean, vegan, gluten-free, raw: Many of them even conflict with each other.
Frankly, while they work for some people (usually in the short term, but anyway) I think healthy eating really all comes down to portion sizes. We’re not fat on pasta. We’re fat on too much pasta. It’s not butter, it’s globs of butter. It’s not steak, it’s Porterhouse.
Trying to make everyone happy simply isn’t possible. In any crowd, there’s bound to be someone who doesn’t eat something. I’ve thought this through a million times, and every time, my head spins.
I’ve decided to try to keep my dishes under 400 calories, and go by what sounds tasty and interesting to me.
It is with this in mind that I recommend this new book, “The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook,” by Denise Hazime.
Frankly, every Mediterranean recipe I usually read is just some other dry combination of olives, couscous, tomatoes, cucumbers, oregano and/or (yuk!) bulgur. There’s often lamb, too. Not really my cup of tea, if you will.
This book, though, providing a great introduction to the diet and its elements, has lots of good-looking recipes, including Mediterranean Potato Salad. Could make a nice change from regular American potato salad this weekend. But I won’t make you feel guilty. It’s not the potato salad that’s making us fat, after all. It’s eating half the bowl in the course of an afternoon.
Anyway, to enter the drawing for “The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook,” send an e-mail to jennie.geisler@timesnews.com. Please include your name, mailing address and name of the book you want. I don’t store or use this information in any other way.


Serves 4
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Meal type Side Dish
Misc Pre-preparable
Occasion Barbecue


  • 2lb small red-skinned potatoes (washed and quartered)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup kalamata olives (pitted)
  • 1/4 cup capers (drained)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme (choppped)
  • 2 green onions (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Step 1
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Step 2
Place potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss to coat evenly.
Step 3
Bake potatoes for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.
Step 4
In a large bowl, add potatoes, olives, capers, thyme, green onions and flat-leaf parsley.
Step 5
In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest, coriander, vinegar, lemon juice, remaining olive oil and remaining salt and black pepper.
Step 6
Pour dressing over potatoes and toss to coat.
Step 7
Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate to enjoy up to 3 days.
Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 21st, 2014

nachosMy last-minute pivot from chicken enchiladas to chicken nachos.[/caption]I went home last night with a spring in my step. I had everything I needed to make chicken enchiladas for dinner, and — more importantly — actual time to make them during J.R.’s baseball practice.
When I got home the clock started ticking. First I couldn’t find the recipe. Had to get on the computer. Recipe in hand, I collected ingredients. Except for the tortillas.
Wait. Where were the tortillas?
I dug into the bread box. I came up with exactly 2 tortillas. I had way more than that. What the heck? No time for launching an investigation. I had to punt.
I looked around the kitchen for inspiration. My eyes rested on a fresh bag of tortilla chips. Hmmm. I rifled through the pantry. Velveeta, green chilies, black beans, Rotel tomatoes, refried beans. And tortilla chips. Hmmmm.
What about chicken nachos? Why not? Easy, tasty, popular with my audience. I had a rotisserie chicken in the fridge, so no cooking required.
I spread the refried beans on a serving platter, put a layer of chips on top. Melted the Velveeta with Rotel in the microwave, stirred in the green chilies. I poured half the cheese sauce over the tortillas and sprinkled it with half the black beans. I put down another layer of chips, the rest of the cheese sauce and a few more black beans.
John’s eyes about bugged out when he saw it.
“Wow. Do you think we have enough?” he asked, tongue planted in his cheek — which was making him drool.
He did some serious damage to that plate. I have more fresh chips for scooping up the leftovers tonight.
Unless, of course, they’ve walked away like my tortillas did.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 20th, 2014
Marinated. roasted mushrooms and peppers make for zingy, tangy sandwiches.

Marinated, roasted mushrooms and peppers make for zingy, tangy sandwiches.

Marinated Portobello Mushroom and Red Pepper Sandwiches make my top 10 Loaves & Dishes recipes of all time. I go back to it again and again and every time I’m amazed by the punch it packs. It’s vegan, but that was an afterthought when I decided what to make this weekend at my family retreat. To prepare for the trip, I was sifting through my file (a canvas bin) of tattered keeper recipes, and it turned up, making the pile of possibles. It survived every elimination round based on ease, taste, mom’s diet, and sure-thingness: It has never failed to impress. Everyone older than 15 loves it.
The dressing has what can only be described as wall of zingy tangy flavor. The first bite gets your attention, and after that, you just want more.
I’m planning to make a double batch, so there’s enough for everyone else.

Marinated Portobello Mushroom and Red Pepper Sandwiches

Allergy Wheat
Dietary Diabetic, Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish
Misc Pre-preparable, Serve Hot


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 2 large portobello mushrooms
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • Whole-grain bread or baguettes
  • lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts (for serving)


Extra marinade makes a wonderful salad dressing.
The oil will solidify in the fridge, but it's still safe to eat. Leave it out on the counter for a bit to let it liquify.


Step 1
Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl or large measuring cup.
Step 2
Wash the mushrooms and peppers, slice and place in a large bowl.
Step 3
Pour the marinade over the vegetables and cover bowl with lid or plastic wrap. Set aside for 8 to 48 hours.
Step 4
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spoon the vegetables onto a baking tray with sides to catch the extra juices, leaving extra marinade in the bowl.
Step 5
Roast for about 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender.
Step 6
Assemble sandwiches
Posted in: Uncategorized

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