This week's food column was written with the help of columnist Judi Leaming's cousin, Joan Reid, who offered up some of her recipes just in time for Valentine's Day and President's Day.

It surely was fortuitous that my cousin Joan Reid sent me the photos and recipes from a Red Hat luncheon that she recently hosted just as I needed ideas for this column. Joan is a much more adventurous cook than I am and you'll see that as you read the recipes. Tomorrow happens to be Valentine's Day so you just may want to prepare the cherry red velvet cake that she served for dessert. And, if that's too short notice, remember that President's Day is coming up on Feb. 18.

This recipe comes from the Duncan Hines website and Joan told me that she didn't have any 8-inch cake pans so she fixed two recipes of just the cake batter and divided it between three 9-inch pans. Joan reported that the finished cake was 8 inches high and very impressive.

I'll confess that the other two recipes left me shaking my head in wonder but Joan promises that indeed the idea of a tasty tuna pie baked in a graham cracker crust was not something that I would readily try but my dear cousin assures me that she has made and served this for years with positive comments. How brave are you feeling this week?

Lastly Joan included the recipe for cranberry cornmeal quick bread which she served at her Red Hatter's luncheon and then again when she entertained her daughter Angela and Angela's family when they gathered for a good-bye meal for Ashleigh Sheets, a 2012 West Point graduate and the daughter of Ken and Angela Sheets, who left this week for a deployment to Afghanistan. This recipe is attributed to Martha Stewart.

To contact Judi Leaming, email

Cherry Red Velvet Cake

1 box Duncan Hines Red Velvet Cake Mix (see note in paragraph above)

1/2 cup cultured buttermilk

1 (21-ounce) can cherry pie filling

1/2 cup butter, melted

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

9-ounces white baking chocolate

12 ounces (1 1/2 bricks) cream cheese at room temperature

6 tablespoons butter at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

7-ounces flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3 round 8-inch cake pans. Separate the cherries from the syrup in the pie filling by placing them in a kitchen strainer over a bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the syrup. In a large mixing bowl, add dry cake mix, buttermilk, 1/2 cup cherry syrup, melted butter, eggs and vanilla. Blend with an electric mixer until the batter is combined. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake the cake layers until they spring back when lightly pressed with your fingers – about 28 to 30 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes then remove the cakes from the pans and cool completely for 30 minutes. To Make Frosting: Break chocolate into small pieces and place in a small glass bowl and microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. Remove from microwave and stir until smooth. Place the room temperature cream cheese and 6 tablespoons of butter in a mixing bowl. Beat until well combined. Add the melted white chocolate, vanilla extract and 2 1/2 cups of the confectioners' sugar. Blend on LOW speed until sugar is incorporated. Add the additional sugar and blend until the frosting is fluffy. To Frost: Place one (1) cake layer on a serving platter and spread with some of the frosting. Top with the drained cherries. Place the second cake layer on top of the cherries and top with some more frosting. Place the 3rd cake layer on top and frost top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. Sprinkle and gently press coconut over the entire cake. Refrigerate until serving. Serves 8 to 12 – or more!

Joan's Tasty Tuna Pie

1 large size pre-made graham cracker crust

1 can water-pack tuna, drained

8-ounces Swiss cheese, grated

1/2 medium onion, finely minced

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons milk

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine tuna, cheese and onion in a large bowl and toss with two forks to blend well. Place mixture in pre-made crust. Mix together eggs, milk and mayonnaise in the same bowl until blended. Stir in seasonings. Spoon egg mixture over tuna. (Joan says that she gently cuts this through the tuna mixture with a knife.) Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes until golden and puffy and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. (Another note says that this will also fill 12 mini-pre-made graham cracker crusts. Just distribute tuna mixture evenly and top each crust with 1/8 cup of the egg batter. Bake for 20 minutes and check for "doneness" in the same way.)

Cranberry Cornmeal Quick Bread

8-ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups (4 1/2-ounces) fresh cranberries

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup fine yellow cornmeal, preferably stone ground

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger (important flavor ingredient!)

Lightly grease a 9-x5-inch loaf pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Add cranberries and stir to coat. Cook until cranberries begin to pop – about 1 minute. Pour into the prepared loaf pan, distributing cranberries evenly over the bottom of the pan. Set aside and allow to cool. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat remaining 1 1/2 cups butter and 1/2 cup sugar with mixer on MEDIUM until light and fluffy – about 3 minutes. While mixer is still running, add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce mixer speed to LOW and slowly add flour mixture until well blended. Fold in ginger. Spoon into prepared pan over cranberries and smooth across top to make the batter even. Place pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes. Invert pan onto serving plate and let cool completely, cranberry side up.