So, I kind of Geek Out over cooking too. Maybe not kind of…I love cooking and baking. There’s something about feeding people who is incredibly beautiful and satisfying. I try to feed my friends and family on a regular basis, and no time more than during the holidays. This year I’ve gotten several requests for recipes, so I thought I’d share them here in a series of posts. (Don’t worry, if you’re not into cooking, the regular geeky stuff will be coming back very soon!)
My love of cooking started early. I am surrounded by great cooks. My mother is a fantastic cook, and my Dad used to enter barbecue competitions with his friends and makes the best breakfast I’ve ever had! Don’t even get me started on Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles. For me, cooking is kind of therapeutic. As a sales person, some days my work is filled with a lot of activity and hard work, but nothing comes of it. It can get a bit frustrating. There is always something (hopefully delicious) to show for your work in the kitchen.
In my kitchen, cooking is kind of fast and loose, and I don’t really follow recipes (there is a lot of “until it looks right” in my family’s cooking). I’m going to do my best for you though. In fact there’s a story that gets regularly circulated about my Aunt or Mom or Grandma Joye (see how closely I listen sometimes?) following my Great-Grandma Kanelakos around with measuring cups and spoons to make her dump the handfuls, pinches, and all into the measuring cups/spoons so they could get a reasonably accurate measurement. Future generations needed to know how to make her delicious food. (“half an eggshell” of something isn’t…exact). My family didn’t raise any bad cooks, so I’ve had plenty of opportunity to observe some experts. I’ve definitely enjoyed the results!
To kick off the cooking series, I’m going to hand you the keys to one of the most versatile dessert recipes I’ve ever found. This is my secret weapon for pot lucks, parties, and…well, anytime you need a fast easy dessert. However, I like you. I’ll share my secret this time. I use this filling to make Cherry Cheesecake Pie, Snicker Salad, and Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries. I wish I had pictures to share because the results are gorgeous, but…well, we ate them before I remembered pictures. (Sorry…for the not photographing, not for the eating. Who can be sorry about eating? It was all so good!) To give you an idea, in the last two months I’ve made four (4) Cherry Cheesecake Pies, one (1) Snicker Salad, and two (2) pints of Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries (drizzled with chocolate, of course!)…and it was all so very tasty. Thank goodness for the holiday season, because there were a lot of people around to eat all of this.
- 8oz cream cheese
- 8oz of cool whip
- ¼ to ½ Cup of granulated sugar (you have to taste test. Aw, shucks!)
- Mix softened cream cheese with the sugar until creamy. Fold in the Cool Whip.
Cherry Cheesecake Pie
- 2 graham cracker pie crusts
- 2 cans of Duncan Hines Wilderness or Country Cherries
The filling recipe makes two regular sized pies. Spread 1/2 of the filling in the pie crust (make sure there is enough room at the top for cherries) and top with the cherries.
This is definitely a family favorite, two get made for Thanksgiving each year, and there are rarely leftovers. When I asked my Dad what Christmas treat he would like the last two years. He wanted this Cherry Cheesecake Pie. However, there are only six of us…we don’t need two pies. Now, I make one and give one away. They look like they’ve taken a really long time. The bright ruby cherries on top of the creamy filling looks elegant, and if you use a store-bought pie crust, it comes with its own lid. Just flip the plastic cover of the pie crust upside down. Voila! Instant portability, and no need to have pie pans returned. This pie has made an excellent surprise gift for friends, and it is so pretty that even if it gets tipped sideways in the bag that you’re carting the food around in, it can be…fixed to still be decent looking. (That happens to everyone, right?)
- Filling (see recipe above)
- 8-12 Snickers bars diced (You can substitute just about any candy bar for Snickers. We had to think of ideas for a peanut allergic co-worker. Well, peanut butter filled might not be good, but a Milky Way or even Heath bar could be really good.)
- 3-4 green apples diced
Fold the Snickers and apples into the filling.
I have no idea where my mom found the idea for this lovely “salad”, but I think my cousin’s wife would disown me if I didn’t bring it to Thanksgiving dinner! You can also make the recipe and take half the filling and turn it into a pie and the other half becomes Snicker Salad. Just add Snickers and apples until it looks “right”.
Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries
- Filling (see recipe above)
- Fresh strawberries
- Milk Chocolate Chips (optional)
- Graham Crackers (optional)
Core the strawberries (I use a paring knife to make sure there is plenty of room for filling). Use a frosting bag with a large tip or a frosting gun to fill the strawberries. I received this Easy Accent Decorator from Pampered Chef last year as a gift, and it works amazing for this.
If you like chocolate, and who doesn’t, you can melt the milk chocolate chips with a little butter in the microwave to drizzle over the berries. After the strawberries have been filled, put the berries on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the chocolate chips 30 seconds, remove from the microwave and stir well. Continue microwaving in 30 second intervals, stirring between, until all the chips are melted. Drizzle the chocolate over the strawberries, and place them in the refrigerator to set the chocolate.
If you’re not a big chocolate fan (Personally, I don’t get it, but I’ve heard there are a few out there) You can crush some graham crackers and dip the filled end of the strawberry in the crushed graham crackers for that crust-like feeling.
I’d seen the Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries on Pinterest, and thought that was an amazing idea. However, I didn’t make them myself until a friend hosted a Pampered Chef party. They had used ready-made cheesecake in their berries, and I kept thinking that this filling would be so great for this! (It is.) They made theirs dipped in graham cracker crumbs and I thought, man a chocolate covered strawberry filled with this would be awesome. (They are.)I made the chocolate drizzled version for a co-worker’s going away party and they were a huge hit. I only had to taste test six of them before I deemed them ready for my colleagues. (What a tough job!)
‘Til next time,