Author Archives for geekycooker

About geekycooker

Hi, I'm geekycooker but also known as Bev Davis. I have long been Interested in cooking. I started cooking as a teenager and really haven't stopped since. I'm originally from the South but with many stops along the way now live in Michigan. I am a history major and still have a love for history, so you may find bits of historical information about food in my posts. And remember to always cook with love. Thanks for taking a look at my blog.

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Strawberry season has finally arrived in West Michigan.  Here is a post on Facebook from a local farm:   “Our fields are loaded with strawberries.  We hope to see you out here.”  Now that is good news.  Now, if only our local strawberry season wasn’t so short.

However, we are fortunate that strawberries are available year round here in the USA, thanks to California.  And for the last few years, we have been getting strawberries from Florida in January.  But still, it is a special time when local berries are available.

Not only is it strawberry season but earlier in the month there was the Strawberry Moon.  I was fortunate to get a picture of the moon a couple of days before it was at its fullest.

If you like the fresh strawberry pie from Shoney’s or Big Boy restuarants, you will like this recipe.  It is especially good made with local strawberries.  Yes, this recipe includes  Jell-O which I’m not too fond of cooking with either.  But, Kraft has recently come out with a new brand of Simply Good Jell-O Gelatin and Pudding Mixes that are  all natural with no artificial flavors, dyes and contain real fruit juice.

I have found this gelatin mix at one of my local grocery stores and Walmart has it also.  If you can find this new line, I can recommend it for this pie.

We have an area known as the Ridge which is only a few miles north of downtown Grand Rapids.  This is an area that has many farms and orchards thanks to the fertile soil.  It is beautiful there with its gently rolling slopes.  One of my favorite farms to visit is Ed Dunneback & Girls Farm.  They grow many fruits and vegetables and offer U-Pick.  I bought four quarts of strawberries from them.  This was toward the end of the growing season but they were still beautiful.  Every time I have been to the farm, there has been a vintage pink Chevrolet truck parked out front.

Fresh Strawberry Pie

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 frozen deep dish pie crust

1 cup sugar
3  tablespoons corn starch
1 cup water
3 tablespoons Jell-O Strawberry Gelatin Dessert Mix
1 quart of fresh strawberries, gently washed, hulled and dried (see Note 1)

Whipped Cream

Prepare the pie crust as directed on package for one-crust baked shell.  Set aside until completely cooled.

Combine sugar, corn starch, and water in a medium sized saucepan.  Cook and stir until thickened and clear.  Remove from heat.  Add Jell-O Gelatin and stir until it is dissolved.  Cool to room temperature.

Slice the strawberries in half and arrange them on the cooled pie crust.  Pour the cooled strawberry gelatin mixture over the strawberries.  You may not need all of the glaze mixture.  Save it and serve with the pie if desired.  Chill the pie in the refrigerator for several hours or until set.  Serve with whipped cream.  The pie is best eaten the day it is made.  

Beautiful strawberries before the glaze:

And after, with the glaze:

Notes:
1.  The strawberries I bought were in a quart sized container.  I weighed them in the container and there was about a pound of berries.  This amount when sliced fit perfectly in the deep dish pie crust.  Michigan strawberries are typically smaller than California strawberries.
2.  The Jell-O Strawberry Gelatin Dessert Mix has almost 6 tablespoons in the package.  So plan another use for the leftover mix.
3.  Adapted from Kraft recipes.  Original recipe can be found here.

 

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Creole Rice With Shrimp

Father’s Day is fast approaching.  If you can, be sure to give your dad a hug, visit, or phone call.

I have a lot of fond memories of my dad, many of them food related.  Not only was he an accomplished cook, he was also quite the fisherman.  Northwest Florida (also known as The Florida Panhandle and The Emerald Coast), with its bayous, Choctawhatchee Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico, provided plenty of places to fish.  I remember catches of mullet, flounder, crabs, and shrimp.  He loved fishing so much that after retiring from his job, he got a commercial fishing license that allowed him to sell fish and shrimp on a small scale basis.

He would often make a traditional jambalaya that would include freshly caught shrimp and smoked sausage.  Jambalaya is a dish that probably originated in Louisiana.  Along with smoked sausage and seafood, it includes the trinity of onions, bell peppers, and celery.  There are two versions of the dish, Creole and Cajun.  Creole includes tomatoes and Cajun style does not.

If possible, buy USA wild caught shrimp rather than farm raised shrimp from foreign countries.  I have found wild caught Gulf of Mexico shrimp (frozen of course) at my local grocery store.  In my opinion, they have a better flavor than farm raised.

Buying wild caught Gulf shrimp also helps support the shrimp industry in the Gulf Coast states.

My recipe for Creole Rice With Shrimp is a take on a traditional jambalaya and brings back memories of my dad and his Southern cooking.  It is a tasty and very easy recipe to make.  The rice is so good with its spicy tomato flavor that I often serve it as a side dish with whatever entree I’m cooking.

Creole Rice With Shrimp

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1hr
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup chopped red pepper
1/2 garlic clove, minced
1 (14.5 ounces) can diced tomatoes (fire roasted if available)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
2 cups water

1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons olive oil
McCormick Cajun Seasoning (or any brand)

For the Rice

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the onion, green and red peppers and sauté until the onions are translucent.  Add the garlic and continue cooking for about one minute longer.  Turn off the heat.  Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper, thyme, cayenne, rice, and water.  Stir to combine and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Reduce heat.  Cover and simmer until rice is tender about 25 minutes.  When the rice has almost finished cooking, prepare the shrimp.  Garnish with chopped green onion, if desired.

For the Shrimp

Sprinkle the shrimp lightly with Cajun seasoning.  In a large skillet, add 1/4 cup of olive oil and heat until hot.  Add the shrimp and sauté 4-5 minutes or until pink and opaque.  Serve along side the Creole Rice.  

 

 

 

Notes:
1.  If desired, add 1/4 cup chopped celery to the onion and pepper mixture.
2.  I’m not promoting Florida tourism, but here is an interesting article about Northwest Florida:  7 Interesting Things to Know About Northwest Florida.
3.  Below is a photo of beautiful Blue Mountain Beach located between Destin and Panama City Beach.  Photo is courtesy of a family member.

What favorite food memories do you have of your dad?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Southern Style Green Beans

May 14th is Mother’s Day here in the USA.  For all the mothers out there,  Happy Mother’s Day.  Hopefully, good food will be part of your day.

Mother’s Day is celebrated all around the world in different ways and different times.  Here in the USA, we celebrate the day by giving mothers gifts and flowers and a day off from cooking and other household chores.  My favorite way to spend Mother’s Day is with a family dinner of grilled burgers.

This recipe for green beans is in honor of my own mom.  It is not her recipe because she did not like to cook. Early on in my childhood she became the designated sweet tea maker while my dad did all the cooking.

She may not have cared for cooking, but she was one heck of a gardener. She grew the best green beans as well as many other vegetables. She also had a beautiful flower garden. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of any of her flowers or vegetables.  I wish I did.  I remember that she always grew Kentucky Wonder green beans.  Here is a picture of some Kentucky Wonder green beans courtesy of edenbrothers.com.

I am sure that my love of gardening came from my mom.  I don’t have room to grow vegetables but I do have a lot of summer flowers that I grow and enjoy.  I believe she would love all of them.  Here are a couple of pictures from last summer.

 

I love green beans cooked any way but I especially love them cooked the Southern way, which essentially means cooked to death.  These green beans will not have the bright green color that you get when cooking until just crisp-tender, but the flavor will make up for it.  This is a very easy recipe to make but it does take some time for the cooking process.  The aroma of these green beans while cooking takes me back to my Southern upbringing.

Southern Style Green Beans

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 1hr 30mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 pound of fresh green beans or 16 ounce size frozen green beans
1 1/2 slices of bacon, finely diced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1-2 cups water
salt and pepper, to taste

If using fresh green beans, wash the beans and snap the ends off.  Leave whole.

In a medium Dutch oven or large saucepan, fry the bacon until most of the fat has been rendered.  Add the onion and sauté about two minutes or until onion is translucent.  Add the green beans, stirring until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add one cup of water.  Cover the pan and simmer on low heat until the green beans are very tender, approximately one hour.   Check the green beans on occasion, and add more water as needed.  Before serving, drain if desired.  

Notes:
1.  When simmering the green beans, you will want a very low simmer and not a rolling boil.
2.  I like to snap the ends off the fresh green beans and cook them whole.  If using frozen, I buy the whole green beans.

 

Marbled Cupcakes

Soon we will be celebrating Easter which is a very important religious holiday on the Christian calendar and is celebrated worldwide.  Some of the folklore associated with Easter includes colored eggs and the easter bunny.  This may not be the Easter bunny, but here is a picture of a cute bunny rabbit that was recently in my yard.

Here in the US we have an Easter candy called Peeps.  It is a marshmallow type of candy and has been around for more than 60 years. Before automation, it took 27 hours to produce one marshmallow chick by hand with a pastry tube.  Now it takes only six minutes to create one Peep.  Whether you love or hate the Peeps, they do seem to symbolize the arrival of Spring to many people.  See just born.com for more fun facts about this colorful candy.  I always buy a few of the Peeps each Easter.

A lot of us will celebrate Easter with family gatherings and good food.  We nearly always have a ham dinner with a lot of side dishes and desserts.  This year I’m making colorful marbled cupcakes for one of our desserts.  Marbled cupcakes are typically ones that blend chocolate and white cake batters, but these cupcakes get a marbled effect from layering different colors of batter.

There are several recipes out there for this kind of cupcake.  I was inspired by the one made by two sisters crafting.  They used four different colors for their cupcakes.  I found that it was easier to only use three different colors of batter.  Check out their beautiful cupcakes and other recipes here.

I love the different colors in the cupcakes and the bright pink and blue frosting.  They are a perfect dessert for Easter or any family celebration.  I’m not good at cake decorating but I think the beauty of these cupcakes is in the colorful batter and frosting.

Marbled Cupcakes

  • Servings: 12-14
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Marbled Cupcakes:

1 box white cake mix (15.25 ounce )
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1cup  milk
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Buttercream Frosting:

3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Preheat the  oven to 350°F.  Place a paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups and set aside.

For the Cake:

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blend on low speed of mixer for one minute.  Scrape down sides of the bowl with a spatula.  Increase mixer speed to medium and beat an additional two minutes.

Divide the batter in 3 equal portions in separate bowls,  and tint as desired.  I used Wilton Color Rite Food Coloring and colored each bowl of batter as follows:  pink, yellow, and blue.

Use a small spoon to alternate small drops of colored cake batter into the individual cupcake liner.  Repeat until all cupcake liners are filled, filling each 2/3 to 3/4 full.  

Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting:

In a large bowl, with electric mixer at low speed, combine sugar, butter, cream and lemon. Beat at medium speed 1 to 2 minutes, until creamy. Add more milk until frosting is of a spreading or piping consistency.  Tint as desired.  I used pink and blue colors. Use a Wilton 2D frosting tip to frost the cupcakes or apply frosting with a knife.

 

Notes:  Here are a few photos from the baking process:

 

 

Colcannon

You can celebrate the luck of the Irish on St Patrick’s Day by making Colcannon which is a traditional Irish recipe of mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale. It can be flavored with green onions, cream and butter.  Colcannon translates to white-headed cabbage.

Here in the US we celebrate St Patrick’s Day with parades, eating, drinking, and with really prominent displays of green. Chicago does it in a big way by dyeing the Chicago River green. Photo credit WGN-TV.

In Grand Rapids, we don’t dye the Grand River green but there is an annual St Patrick’s Day Parade with our own version of St Patrick.  Quite a handsome fellow.  Photo credit Lauren Petracca.

I remember as a kid hearing a story about my great grandmother dancing an Irish jig at some kind of town celebration.  I wish I could have seen that, and it makes me happy to know I may have an Irish connection.  On St Patrick’s Day, I think it is a day that we all wish to be Irish.

If you want to enhance your Irish experience this St Patrick’s Day, watch the movie Brooklyn.  It is a delightful movie about a young female Irish immigrant in 1950s Brooklyn.  It takes place in both Ireland and Brooklyn.  Or perhaps you prefer to have a glass of Guinness Extra Stout.

I make Colcannon quiet often because it is a hearty and simple comfort food.  But if you plan to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a special Irish dinner, I can definitely recommend it as a side dish.

Colcannon

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 1/2 pounds yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup warm heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cabbage, thinly sliced and chopped (about 3 cups)
3 tablespoons  butter (with extra butter for serving)
1/4 cup water
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Cook the potatoes in boiling water in a large saucepan until tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, saute the cabbage in 3 tablespoons of butter for about 1-2 minutes.  Add the water and cook until until cabbage is tender and water is cooked off, stirring occasionally.  Add the green onions and cook 1 minute more.  Set aside.

Drain the potatoes in a collander; return to the pan.  Add butter.  Mash potatoes until creamy, gradually adding milk.  Add the cabbage mixture; mix well.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot with a tablespoon of butter in the center.  

 

Notes:
1.  Leftover Colcannon warms up very nicely in the microwave.
2.  I used Kerrygold butter which is made in Ireland.  If you can find it at your local grocers, give it a try.

 

 

 

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

One of our Federal holidays  here in the USA is Presidents’ Day.  It is a celebration of two of our great presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Washington’s birthday was originally celebrated on February 22nd but was changed to the third Monday in February to include Lincoln.  This also allowed a three day weekend for Federal workers.  Presidents’ Day is also a time to remember all of our former presidents.

As a child, I always loved to read about George Washington and how he chopped down his father’s cherry tree.

Although he did not chop down that cherry tree, Washington was indeed fond of cherries.  The story about chopping down the cherry tree and not telling a lie about it was from one of his biographers, Parson Mason Weems (1759–1825). Mr. Weems  made up the story hoping to demonstrate Washington’s honesty.

If you want to learn more about George Washington, visit mtvernon.org.  This site is a great source about George Washington, Martha and the estate itself.  It also provides a look at the unfortunate slave population that was at Mount Vernon.  There are a few recipes such as the one for hoecakes.  Hoecakes were a favorite breakfast food of Washington.  He liked them covered with butter and honey.

I have been fortunate to visit most of our national parks.  One that really stands out in my memory is the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. It has the faces of four Presidents carved in the granite of Mount Rushmore. They are Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln.  If you get a chance, be sure to visit this wonderful park.

Each of the four presidents were chosen because they represent some of the most important events in the history of the USA.  Washington’s face is the most prominent and represents the birth of the United States.  I visited long before the digital age of photography so here is a picture of Mount Rushmore courtesy of  NPS.gov.

Mount Rushmore

These Mini Cherry Cheesecakes are very easy to make and take very little time to prepare.  They are tasty and look pretty with the cherry topping.  Also, they are a perfect serving size for rich cheesecake.  If you want to celebrate Washington’s birthday with a dessert made with cherries, try this one.

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

12 vanilla wafers

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
½ cup sugar
2 egges, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract

cherry pie filling

Preheat the over to 325 degrees.

Line muffin tin with foil liners. Place one vanilla wafer in each liner.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until creamy and smooth, about 1-2 minutes.

Add in the sour cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Mix until well combined, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl and the paddle.

Spoon the cream cheese mixture over the vanilla wafers to 3/4 full.  Bake 18-20 minutes at 325 degrees.

Remove from the pan when cool. Chill. Top with about a tablespoon of the cherry pie filling on each cheesecake.

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

Mini Cherry Cheesecake

Notes:
1.  It will only take about a cup of cherry pie filling for the mini cheesecakes so plan a use for the excess pie filling  (if purchasing the 21 ounce size).
2.  The mini cheesecakes are made in a regular sized muffin tin.
3.  Recipe adapted from Kraft Recipes Cupid’s Cherry Cheesecakes and can be found here.

Coeur a la Creme

Valentine’s Day is next week and I am already looking forward to one of the heart shaped boxes of candy that is often received on Valentine’s Day.  Mine from last year.

Valentine's Day Candy

We can thank Richard Cadbury for these ubiquitous boxes of candy that appear on store shelves in early January.  Mr. Cadbury was part of a chocolate manufacturing family in the UK.  It is believed that he produced the first such box in 1868. These were pretty boxes and once empty could be used to store various trinkets from locks of hair to love letters.  history.com

Below is a photo of one of the Victorian heart shaped boxes by Richard Cadbury . Photo credit candyfavorities.com.

Victorian Heart Shaped Candy Box

While the Coeur a la Creme is not chocolate, I guarantee it will satisfy any sweet craving you may have.  It is a delicious and beautiful dessert made with cream cheese and whipped cream.  It is then served with a raspberry sauce.  For a French dessert, it is remarkably easy to make.

The name translates to “heart of the cream“.  It is traditionally served in a heart shape and usually prepared in a porcelain Coeur a la Creme mold.  I think I purchased my 7-inch mold from Amazon for about $13.00.  I recently bought a set of four  4-inch molds.  If you do not have the mold, simply line a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth and set over a bowl so it can drain.

I find that this recipe makes more cheese mixture than will fit into the 7-inch mold.  I have used the fine mesh sieve to mold the excess cream mixture but for this post I used my recently purchased smaller molds for the excess.  The last picture of the Creme is one prepared in the smaller mold.

The recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s cookbook, Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home. It is one of my favorite cookbooks. One can sense her love of Paris and all things French. The book also has a lot of beautiful photographs and is a pleasure to read.

I have made this elegant dessert several times.  It is really easy to make and requires no baking.  With its heart shape and red raspberry sauce, I think It is a perfect dessert to serve for Valentine’s Day.

Coeur a la Creme

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Coeur a la Creme

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean

Raspberry Sauce

1 -10-ounce bag frozen raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 tablespoon Raspberry di Amore liqueur

For the Coeur a la Creme

Prepare a 7 inch Coeur a la Creme mold by lining it with a few sheets of cheesecloth so the ends drape over the sides. Place in a pan large enough to hold it.  Make sure that there is space between the bottom of the mold and the bottom of the pan for the liquid to drain. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.  On slow speed, add in the sifted powdered sugar until combined.  Then beat on hight speed for 2 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl and beater.  Change the beater for the whisk attachment.  With the mixer on low speed, add the heavy cream, vanilla, and vanilla bean seeds.  Beat on high speed until the mixture is very thick and has a consistency like whipped cream.

Pour the cream mixture into the prepared mold and fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the top. Refrigerate overnight to allow the mixture to drain.

For the Raspberry Sauce

Place raspberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam, and liqueur into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until smooth.  Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve, so that there won’t be any of the raspberry seeds in the sauce. Chill until ready to serve with the cream.

To Serve the Coeur a la Creme

Discard the liquid in the bottom of the pan.
Unfold the cheesecloth on top of the mold.
Place a serving plate on top of the mold and invert the mold.
Carefully remove the remaining cheesecloth.
Drizzle Raspberry Sauce around the base.
Serve with extra sauce.    

Notes:
1.  Original recipe calls for 1 half pint of fresh raspberries for the sauce.
2. Garnish with fresh raspberries, if desired.
3.  If you would like to omit the liqueur, replace with water or raspberry extract.
4.  I don’t care for raspberry seeds so I strain the raspberry sauce at least 3 times.

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