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.

Caprese Pasta Salad

Labor Day weekend has come and gone.  Labor Day symbolizes the end of summer here in the USA, and sure enough, our weather is a little cooler today with a temperature of 54°F.

I usually would have grilled steaks or burgers for a Labor Day dinner.  But since there was no family gathering due to the pandemic, I made this Caprese Pasta Salad for a simple and easy dinner.

This Caprese Pasta Salad combines the flavors of a classic Caprese salad with the addition of pasta.  The Caprese salad is a simple Italian salad of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil seasoned with salt and olive oil.

This salad is a nice change from all of the pasta salads that have mayonnaise in the dressing.  It has plenty of freshness in it with the  fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and a delicious balsamic vinegar dressing.  It is also quick and easy to make.

I was gifted a bottle of olive oil (Tuscan Herb Oil flavor) from The Olive Mill in Saugatuck, Mi.  The Tuscan Herb Oil flavor is a wonderful mix of  olive oil, oregano, garlic. and basil.  I used some of that olive oil in the vinaigrette dressing for one of the salads I made.

The dressing can be easily doubled if you prefer more dressing for the pasta.

Caprese Pasta Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1- 12 ounce box tri-color Rotini pasta

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon seasoned black pepper
1/4 teaspoon seasoned garlic powder

1 pint (about 1 cup) multicolored cherry tomatoes), halved
1 cup of fresh mozzarella cheese pearls (drained if packed in water)

1/8 cup chopped fresh basil

Cook Rotini pasta according to the package directions.  Drain pasta in a collander and rinse with cold water.  Transfer to a large serving bowl.  Set aside while making the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to combine.

Add the  cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese pearls, and basil to the Rotini.  Pour the dressing over pasta and toss to combine.  Serve immediately.  Store leftovers in a covered container in refrigerator.  

Notes:
1.  You can substitute the mozzarella cheese pearls  with bocconcini or fresh mozzarella cheese cut into small cubes.
2.  I used white balsamic vinegar instead of the regular dark balsamic vinegar.  Here is an interesting article from Old Town Olive about the difference between white and dark balsamic vinegar.

Below are some early morning visitors that came by this morning as I was working on this blog post: a mama deer and her two young ones.  Be safe everyone.

Lemon Blueberry Bread

Are you looking for a quick and easy bread to make with local fresh blueberries?  I can recommend this Lemon Blueberry Bread.  The taste of this quick bread is light and moist with a slight lemon flavor from the lemon juice and zest.  Some recipes for this bread include chopped nuts but I didn’t use any for this recipe.

We are fortunate here in Michigan to have a lot of blueberry farms.  The blueberries I used in this recipe came from Bowerman Blueberries Farm Market in Holland, Michigan.  They were very nice looking and tasty berries.

Lemon Blueberry Bread

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 cup fresh blueberries
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lemon, zested and juiced (about 3 tablespoons of each)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

Glaze
1 lemon, juiced (about 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Spray an 8×4 loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside..

Toss the blueberries in 1 tablespoon of the flour in a medium bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, lemon juice and zest in the bowl of an electric mixer.

Combine together the 1 /1/2 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Add the flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture in alternating batches, beginning and ending with the flour.  Fold in the blueberries.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 30 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.  Place a sheet of aluminum foil beneath the wire rack to catch any glaze drippings.

Combine the glaze ingredients and then drizzle over the warm bread.  Cool completely before slicing.  Store slices in an air tight container.  

Notes:
1.  Frozen blueberries can be used in place of the fresh ones.
2.  Adapted from a Taste of Home recipe.

Stay safe everyone and try to enjoy the beauty around us.

Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad

This Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad is a take on the classic Caprese salad.  The Caprese salad is a simple Italian salad of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil seasoned with salt and olive oil.   In Italy it is known as Insalata Caprese and has it origins from the island of Capri, south of the coast of Naples.

If you can find farm fresh cherry tomatoes that will be even better for this salad.  Or perhaps you have your own vegetable garden that includes tomatoes.  I have a deck tomato planter that is producing a lot of cherry tomatoes.  Below is a picture of a few of the tomatoes from the plant and which I used in the salad.

Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned black pepper
1/4 teaspoon seasoned garlic powder

1 pint (about 2 cups) multicolored cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup of fresh mozzarella Pearl cheese

few fresh basil leaves

In a small bowl,  whisk the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to combine.  Set aside.  Place the halved cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese on a serving platter.  Drizzle the dressing over the tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.  Top with the basil leaves.  Serve immediately.  

 

Notes:
1.  You can substitute the mozzarella pearl cheese with bocconcini or fresh mozzarella cheese cut into small cubes.
2.  I used white balsamic vinegar instead of the regular balsamic vinegar.

Be safe everyone.  Enjoy the summer as much as one can under the circumstances.  Below is a picture of the Bee Balm in my backyard.  Flowers do help to brighten one’s day.

Sweet Potato Pie

I thought nothing could be worse than all of the lives lost to the covid-19 pandemic and the way it has changed the way we live.  But it could and did get worse.

Even as some of the lockdown restrictions were being lifted, we had the tragic death of George Floyd.  This has caused more grief and sadness for African Americans.  Looking at the news, it appears his tragic death has affected the whole world.

Hopefully, we as Americans can come together and provide a better and safer community for African Americans.

Food52 has compiled a list of cookbooks authored by African-American and I am including it here.  Seems I’m alway buying cookbooks so it is a good list to have on hand.  I bought Carly Hall’s Soul Food.

Bookbub.com has provided a list of Black-Owned bookstores that we can support right now.

Sweet Potato Pie is a traditional dessert that originated in the Southern United States.  Very often it is served for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  The sweet potato pie was very likely developed by African Americans.  Sweet potato pie is similar in color and flavor to pumpkin pie.

For this recipe, I peeled the potatoes, cut into chunks, and then boiled them until tender.  Other recipes have you bake the potatoes in their skins and then remove the pulp, which is probably the easiest process.

Sweet Potato Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie shell

2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1 cup half and half

Egg Wash

1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, blend together the mashed sweet potato, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and salt.   Beat in the eggs.  Gradually mix in the half and half.  Pour filling into prepared pie crust.

Brush the edges of the crust with the egg wash.  Bake 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  If crust is browning too quickly, cover edges with 2 inch strip of aluminum foil.

Cool completely.  Serve with whipped cream, if desired.  Store leftovers in the fridge.  

Let us strive for a kinder America.  A photo from my archives: Cosmos and a butterfly.

 

Lemon Tart

Mother’s Day this year was very different, no big family gathering with lots of good food.  I am not going to complain because we are all healthy and safe.  How was your Mother’s Day?

I have long been a fan of lemons and always have them in the fridge.  I like a twist of lemon in a gin martini.  Thanks to California, lemons are readily available year round here in the USA.

Lemon pie in any form is my favorite dessert.  I wanted an easy pie to make the day special.  This lemon tart is easy and quick to put together.  It is more similar to a Key Lime Pie than a classic Lemon Tart with a curd filling.

if you are a lemon lover, i think you will love this pie.

Lemon Tart

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Crust
1 1⁄4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1⁄3 cup melted butter

Filling
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon Juice
5 large egg yolks
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust:
Combine crumbs and sugar in medium sized bowl. Stir in the melted butter until thoroughly blended. Pack mixture firmly into a 9 inch tart  (or pie) pan and press firmly to bottom and sides, bringing crumbs evenly up to the rim. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 6-8 minutes, or until light brown. Cool on a wire rack.

For the filling:
Mix lemon zest, lemon juice, and egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Add in condensed milk and whisk until smooth and thick. Pour mixture into the prepared crust and bake until the center is set but still quivers when the pan is nudged, 15-17 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before slicing.  Store leftovers in a tightly covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days.   Serve with whipped cream and garnish with lemon zest (optional).  

Notes:
1. Because of the small amount of filling this recipe makes, it is perfect for a tart pan, but I have used a regular pie pan in the past.
2.  Egg whites from the eggs can be reserved for another use (or even frozen).

I will leave you with a photo of a gorgeous Hydrangea planter gifted to me for Mother’s Day.  Be safe everyone.

Easy Belgian Waffles

I hope everyone is still doing good under the circumstances.  Some states have begun to reopen but we are still on lockdown until May 28th.  A few restrictions have been lifted.  Lansdcapers can resume work so at least my lawn will get taken care of.

Once all the states reopen, does that mean no more shortages of paper products, flour, and yeast (to name just a few items)?  I did recently find all-purpose flour at a smaller local grocery store.

While searching for flour, I came across a familiar waffle mix that I have used in the past, Krusteaz Belgian Waffle Mix.  I have always been pleased with the waffles made from this mix.  Saving my flour for other baking projects, I made a batch of the waffles for this post and below is the recipe.

These waffles are wonderful served up simply with butter and warm maple syrup.

Easy Belgian Waffles

3 cups of Krusteaz Belgian Waffle Mix
1 1/3 cups water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Heat and lightly spray waffle iron with cooking spray.

Measure the mix by lightly spooning it into a measuring cup and leveling it off.  Whisk the mix, water, eggs, and oil until smooth.  Let batter stand 2 minutes.  Pour about 2/3 cup batter onto waffle iron.  Cook waffles until steaming stops or until golden brown.  Serve with your favorite toppings.  Makes approximately 4-5 seven inch waffles.

To add a bit of color, below is a picture of one of the buds from my rhododendron bush.

Banana Nut Bread

I hope everyone is well and safe during this scary time.  I haven’t been too motivated for baking or cooking but I did bake up some banana bread.

I have to admit that I had never made banana bread before.  I’m not sure why because I do like bananas and homemade breads.

Banana bread belongs to the category of pastry as quick breads, more like a cake or muffin.  There is no yeast required because the rise comes from the addition of baking soda and/or baking powder into the batter.

Mary Ellis Ames, a well known home economist in the 1930s-’50s, is credited with developing the first-ever published recipe for banana bread.  The recipe was included in the 1933 edition of Pillsbury’s Balanced Recipes cookbook.  Source for info on banana bread is from Wikpedia.

I’m glad I finally decided to bake banana bread.  This is a delicious bread with a lot of banana flavor.  I like a slice of it with lots of butter and a cold glass of milk.

Adapted from a James Beard recipe.  

Banana Nut Bread

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas (2-3 large bananas)
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour a 9×5 inch metal loaf pan.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

Cream the butter and gradually add the sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the mashed bananas, milk  and vanilla extract and mix well.

Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just incorporated.  Do not over mix.  Fold in the chopped walnuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick or tester inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Cut into slices and serve.  Makes 1 loaf.

I don’t live in the country but I do see deer quite often.  A couple of weeks ago there were 4 or 5 in my backyard.  Here is a picture of two of them that I managed to get a picture of before running off.

Be safe everyone.

Easter Marshmallow Bark

These are such unsettling and uncertain times that it has been hard to even think about posting a recipe.  I hope everyone is safe and doing good under the circumstances.

I had planned to make this Easter Marshmallow Bark for our family Easter Dinner but guess we won’t be having a family gathering this year.

If you are looking for a new Spring or Easter treat, this is an especially easy one to make.  Plus, it only has two ingredients: chocolate chips and marshmallows.

Easter Marshmallow Bark

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 bag of white chocolate chips (11 or 12 ounce size)
3 cups mini rainbow marshmallows

Line an 8×11 inch baking  dish or a half-sized cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil (for easy cleanup).

Measure out 3 cups of the marshmallows and set aside.

Pour the chocolate chips into a large glass bowl and microwave for about 1 minute 30 seconds or until the chocolate is melted when you stir it.

After chocolate is melted, add marshmallows and stir to coat.  Transfer the chocolate marshmallow mixture to the prepared pan.  Press down slightly to make an even layer.  Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until chocolate is set.  Remove from the pan and cut into bars.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.  

Notes:
1.  I used Ghirardelli brand white chocolate chips which are 11 ounce size.  Other major brands are 12 ounce size.
2.  Metal Easter shaped cookie cutters can be used instead of cutting into bars.

Be safe everyone.

 

 

Buttermilk Pie

Buttermilk Pie is a vintage Southern dessert.  The pie is similar to a custard pie or even the chess pie.  It has a filling that is smooth and sweet.  The basic filling consists of a mixture of sugar, melted butter, eggs, buttermilk, and a small amount of flour.  Some versions include lemon, lemon zest, and nutmeg.

This is a really easy one-bowl pie to make and comes together in just minutes.  Mix the ingredients together and pour into your prepared pie shell.  Make this pie the next time you are looking for a quick, easy,  and delicious dessert.

Buttermilk Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 prepared (9 inch) deep dish pie crust, unbaked

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

whipped cream (optional)
blueberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, and salt.  Add the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla.  Whisk until well combined.

Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie crust.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the pie is set and golden brown.  Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool before slicing.  Serve with whipped creamed and  blueberries (if desired).  Store leftover pie in a covered container in the refrigerator.  

Buttermilk is an essential ingredient in this recipe, and I don’t recommend using a buttermilk substitute.  Buttermilk is widely available in USA grocery stores.  It is in the refrigerated dairy case close to the regular milk.  If you would like to know more about buttermilk, here is a very informative article from thespruceEats.

Note:
I used a small Wilton star tip to pipe homemade whipped cream around the cooled pie.

Although it is not officially Spring, our weather has warmed up and all of the snow has melted.  Makes one happy.  Here is a photo of a pretty red Cardinal I recently took in my backyard.  It helped to brighten up a dreary day.

 

 

 

 

Strawberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Valentine’s Day is almost here.  Are you perhaps looking forward to one of the heart shaped boxes of candy?  I am.

If you are looking for a sweet treat to make for someone special on Valentine’s Day, I can recommend these cookies.  These Strawberry Cookies with White Chocolate Chips are a one bowl, no beaters required cookie.  The bright pink color, white chocolate chips, and strawberry flavor are a perfect combination.

Using a boxed cake mix, these Strawberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies are easy to make.  They just may become your favorite treat.

Strawberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 (15.25 ounce) box strawberry cake mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract (optional)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

In a large bowl, add the cake mix, vegetable oil, eggs, and strawberry extract.  Stir with a spoon until a dough forms and mixture is thoroughly combined.  Fold in the white chocolate chips.

Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.  This will make the dough easier to shape into balls.

While the dough is chilling, line two large baking pans with parchment paper (or lightly spray with cookng spray).  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a medium (1 1/2 tablespoon) ice cream scoop, drop rounded balls of the dough on the prepared baking sheets.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set.  Once the cookies are done, remove the tray from the oven and let cool on the tray for 10 minutes.  Transfer the cookies to baking racks to cool completely.  Makes approximately 26 cookies.

I don’t live in the country but there are a lot of deer about.  They can actually be very destructive to your plants and flowers.  Here is one that showed up a couple of weeks ago in my backyard.  He didn’t seem to want to leave.

Wishing Everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day.

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