Thursday, August 26, 2010

Winning zucchini casserole and seasonal bruschetta too!

8/25/10 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Jennifer Pooler’s winning casserole and seasonal bruschetta too!

Everyone loves to be a winner and last month, Cottage Grove resident Jennifer Long-Pooler was the winner of a $250 shopping spree. Her recipe for a “Layered Vegetable Casserole” was featured in Safeway’s July edition of “Fresh Ideas” magazine, available monthly in the produce section.

Jennifer, the mother of two children, submitted her hand written recipe to Tony Tantillo, Safeway’s “fresh grocer,” via snail mail. The recipe was the result of an experiment when her mother Sandi Long and her aunt tried to use all the vegetables from their garden.

“I just put my own creative spin on it,” Pooler said, “and mailed it in, thinking my chances weren’t especially that great because I’m not on-line.” But (thinking like a winner) she added, “You can’t win if you don’t try. A few weeks later I got the phone call that I was the winner of a $250 gift card. I was so excited and surprised!”

Then, she received a congratulatory letter from Tony Tantillo along with a copy of the “Fresh Ideas” magazine that had published her recipe. He ended with a reminder to “Eat fresh and stay healthy.”

I had never heard of Tony Tantillo or his magazine so I checked out his website at He publishes ‘Fresh Ideas’ for Safeway, Vons, Genuardis, Dominicks, Randalls and Tom Thumb (only two of whom I’m familiar with). This glossy full color pamphlet has interesting facts about seasonal produce and how to use them. And if you’re looking to save money (and who isn’t?), it also has coupons.

One of the recipes in the July pamphlet is for an interesting fruit bruschetta. Normally, a bruschetta is a traditional Italian garlic bread. Grilled slices of bread are brushed with extra-virgin olive oil and fresh garlic and served before a meal. I often serve them as appetizers with a dollop of salsa, maybe an artichoke dip or some kind of cheese.

I hope you’ll try Jennifer’s casserole and maybe serve some bruschetta while you’re waiting for it to cook. With tomatoes, summer fruits and cucumbers just coming into season you might like to try one of the following ideas for something just a little different. For the plums, Tantillo suggests Dinosaur Egg Pluots. We might have trouble finding them here in C.G. so I’m sure other plum varieties will be equally good. Enjoy!

Jennifer Long-Pooler

3-4 cups cooked rice, white or brown
1 large onion, sliced thin
2 large tomatoes
1-2 bell peppers
2-4 zucchini (depending on size)
Salt and pepper to taste
Asiago or Parmesan cheese, grated to taste
1 pound browned sweet or hot Italian sausage (optional)

Cook rice per package directions; set aside
Clean and slice vegetables into 1/4-inch rounds.
Slice onion thinner than other vegetables.
Grease a 9X13-inch casserole dish and layer with half of rice, onion, tomatoes, bell pepper and zucchini; repeat. Use salt and pepper to taste as you go. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Bake 60 min. in 350° F. oven.
Note: If using Italian sausage, incorporate on top of the rice layers.

Adapted from “Fresh Ideas”

1 sourdough baguette (24-inch)
4 ounces fat free cream cheese, whipped
6 cups plums, sliced
1 cup fresh basil

Slice a baguette into 24 one-inch thick pieces. Toast in a 350° F. oven until golden brown. Spread each slice of bread with fat-free cream cheese. Slice plums into thin slices. Place several slices of plum on each bruschetta. Garnish each with a fresh basil leaf.


1-8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 (.7 ounce pkg.) dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 French baguette cut into 1/-inch thick circles
1 cucumber, sliced
2 teaspoons dried dill weed

Mix together cream cheese, dressing mix and mayonnaise in a medium bowl. Taste and add more dressing if needed.

Spread a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture on a slice of bread and top with a slice of cucumber. Sprinkle with dill. Repeat until cream cheese mixture is all gone.
Note: Use fresh bread, as these are not toasted.
Warning: If you eat these as you go, the recipe may not serve very many people!


6 or 7 plum tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
6-8 basil leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1 baguette French bread , sliced 1/2-inch slices on the diagonal
1/4 cup olive oil to brush on bread

Bring a pot of water to boil. Dip the tomatoes for one minute in the water and drain. Remove the skins of the tomatoes, cut out and discard the stem and core. Finely chop the tomatoes and add the garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, vinegar and basil. Season, put in a serving bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450° F. and put the top rack in place.

Using a brush, coat one side of the bread in olive oil and place it on a cooking sheet, oil side down. Toast 5-6 min. or until the bread just begins to turn golden. Put the bread on a serving platter, oil side up.
Top each slice with a dollop of tomato or allow guests to serve themselves.
Note: An alternative is to briefly toast the oil side of the bread also.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes 
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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