Who is this “venturesome” food column writer? And what did she do with “middle of the road cook” Olivia.

Well, I get tired of me sometimes, too. I didn’t even like some of today’s ingredients, I thought. And the combination of onions and pears in vinegar? Good grief! Fellow cooks, I’ve eaten most of three bowls of salad, most of one of the little “pizzas” and one piece of the pie. I first used plain, chopped pecans instead of walnuts and they’re delicious, too, but go for the walnuts. Take five minutes and toast them. It’s worth it.

I’d never heard of cheesecake instant pudding. Be sure to buy cream of coconut, not coconut milk. It’s in a can, usually in the mixed drink ingredients aisle.

Make your own graham cracker crusts if you have the time. Just put all the crackers in the blender, turn it on and run til it’s fine crumbs. Freeze any leftovers for another crust another day. It’ll be a lot more crumbly and harder to get the servings out of the pan, but the taste is so worth it.

Graham cracker pie crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 stick butter, melted

Mix thoroughly and press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-10 inch pie pan. Bake until golden in a 350 degree oven. Cool completely before filling.

Coconut cheesecake pie

Graham cracker crust

8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

1 can cream of coconut

1 (3.4-ounce) package Jell-o instant cheesecake pudding mix

7 ounces of coconut

1 (8-ounce carton) extra creamy Cool Whip

Beat cream cheese and cream of coconut until smooth and creamy. Add pudding mix and beat until smooth. Stir in coconut until well blended. Fold in Cool whip. Spoon into prepared pie shell.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill two hours. To serve, top with whipped cream or drizzle lightly with chocolate sauce.

Pear ‘n’ Apple Salad

1 large head romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped

1 sweet-tart apple, diced (I used Gala)

2 ripe pears, diced

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup chopped craisins

1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

2 grilled or roasted chicken breast halves, optional

Toss together apple and pears. Pour desired amount of dressing over. Add remaining ingredients. Toss to coat. Top each serving with thinly sliced chicken if desired.

Cook’s note: The dressing helps to prevent the pears and apples from turning dark.

For the dressing:

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

3/4 cup raspberry vinegar (May use red wine vinegar if desired)

2 tablespoons prepared mustard

1/2 cup finely minced onion

Salt to taste

1 1/2 cups canola oil

Mix in a blender until smooth. Use desired amount. Refrigerate leftovers.

MISS OLIVIASipe is the owner of Miss Olivia’s Table in Maryville.

Melanie joined The Daily Times in the early 90s and has served as the Life section editor since 1993. A William Blount and UT alum, Melanie is generally the early arriver who turns on the lights in the newsroom.

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