Come along with me as I journal about my latest cooking and gardening adventures. Discover what grows in my zone five garden, and see what new recipes I try from my cookbook collection each week.

As I share recipes and information from my kitchen, I invite readers to comment and share ideas along with me in this blog. I am looking to increase followers to my blog, so that I may learn more about cooking and gardening.

Since moving to Midland, Michigan, I have been reading and researching many cooking journals, cookbooks and collected recipes from the past thirty years. Organizing pictures of gardens I enjoy has also been a joy for me, as I continue to learn about garden design and horticulture.

angel food cakes

angel food cakes
this kitchen is seasoned with love

Monday, May 31, 2010

frothy milk and creme

i realize how important it is to drink milk, but i have never been a very big fan. often, i use 1/2 cup on my morning cheerios or granola, but to just pour a glass for drinking is more difficult for me.

since i have studied the benefits of the dash diet, i know the importance of having milk in my daily routine. so, i needed to find a way to work skim milk into my healthy eating regime.

this keurig milk or creme frother is just wonderful. i can use 1/2 cup of milk, and within minutes i have a foamy froth for cafe latte or just to eat with a spoon. somehow the dense full liquid taste of milk transforms into a froth of light and delicious foam. this has changed my idea of milk drinking and shall quickly become a routine for my improved health. just wonderful!

garden blooms

with great anticipation, every gardener waits for their flowering plants to bloom. there is something magical about having a green plant turn into a colorful bouquet overnight.

it often seems that in a matter of hours my plants go from boring to stunning. and, over the past few days, more of my garden is blooming.

today, i have pink yarrow, goat's beard, phlox, globemaster allium, chives, thyme, and even my lamb's ears have sported their latest growth spurt.

it is just wonderful.

french potato salad

as a side dish for my memorial day barbecue cookout, i decided to try martha's everyday food french potato salad recipe.
i cooked the fingerling potatoes earlier in the morning and chilled them in the fridge. fresh thyme and italian parsley from my garden was snipped and prepped for the mixture.
after slicing the potatoes, green onion, and celery, i used my mesaluna to chop the herbs. the dressing is the key to this recipe, and i did adapt it to fit the ingredients in my pantry.
a bit less than 1/4 cup of olive oil, 3 tbsp of grey poupon dijon mustard, 2 tbsp of red wine, chopped parsley and thyme. martha says to use sherry vinegar and shallots instead of the wine and green onion.
the salad dressing is amazing and is a wonderful change from the mayonnaise based dressings. it provides a nice taste and a light coating to the potatoes. this recipe will be added to my favorite sides and salads notebook.
too bad our outdoor dinner was rained out. it is storming.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

orange raisin bread and a cafe latte

everyone loves a fruit bread. this recipe for orange raisin bread is easy and delicious. if fresh oranges are not in your fruit bowl, just substitute orange juice in the recipe. this recipe is easily adapted to omit the raisins and instead add chopped nuts. it also can be made with both ingredients. instead of making one large loaf, the recipe can be divided into two smaller loaf pans with an adjustment to the baking time. the large loaf bakes for 60 minutes.

taken from edible offerings, traverse city michigan.

1-3 oranges, 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 cup raisins, 2 tbsp shortening/butter, 1 egg, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup nuts.

squeeze juice from oranges to make one cup. grind orange rind and mix with raisins, or substitute dried orange peel. mix sugar, shortening, and the rest of the ingredients. i top my fruit breads with demeura sugar to add an interesting crunch to sweet breads.

bake 350 degrees for one hour/large loaf or 45 minutes for smaller loaves. cool, slice, and enjoy with a cafe latte.

wicker deck flower baskets

a couple of weeks ago i planted my three wicker deck baskets. they are located on the south side of the house, and receive morning and early afternoon sunshine. i choose full sun plants for these baskets and have enjoyed a different combination of flowers for the past two years.

this year, i chose white euphorbia to fill the planters, along with calibrachoa in coral pink to wave through the baskets. to trail from the baskets, i planted licorice plant and purple queen setcreasea. i chose this plant for it's color and leaf shape to add a bit of contrast to the baskets.

so far this year, the plants are thriving and require a nice watering every morning. the euphorbia has grown tremendously and gives a light feel to the baskets.

to fertilize the plants, i placed osmocote pot shots, two per basket, just under the surface of the soil.

english tea biscuits

today i felt like baking a classic british breakfast bread, english tea biscuits. actually, these are often served for afternoon tea and can be flavored with a variety of fruits.
sometimes these biscuits are called cream biscuits, since they are made with whipping cream. the recipe calls for rich milk, so to save a few calories, half and half could be also used.

the dough is very sturdy and comes together nicely in the bowl, and rolls out very easily. i use a bit of extra flour on some waxed paper to roll out the biscuits. this recipe makes around 15 depending on the size of the biscuit cutter. today, i chose an oval round. i also used dried orange peel, since i didn't have a fresh orange to grate for the recipe.

recipe for cream biscuits:
2 cups flour, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 5 tbsp butter, 1/2 cup rich milk, 1 rounded tsp. grated orange peel (could use lemon peel, lime or grapefruit peel), 4 tbsp. orange juice, and 1 beaten egg yolk for the glaze.

Measure flour, and add baking powder and salt. Cut butter into flour mixture. Stir in the rest of the ingredients to make a soft dough. Knead on floured surface, and roll into a 1/2 inch thickness. Brush top of biscuits with egg yolk to glaze. Bake in 450 degree oven for 12 minutes. Check and bake up to 15 minutes to brown biscuits.

These can be served with fruit or egg dishes for breakfast. Offer guests a variety of jams, jellies or lemon curd.

summer cookbooks

i have a collection of summer cookbooks, since summer cooking incorporates the freshness of foods and herbs from the garden. here are two of my favorite summer books, one by susan branch and the other from the vineyard. each year i try to make something different from these books, and this year i was looking at several recipes that sounded amazing. i am going to try the grilled chicken on rosemary skewers along with the stir fry sugar snap peas from the vineyard book soon. also, the sweet corn pepper salsa looks like a great side for broiled fish, so i plan to purchase the ingredients for this recipe this week. it is not difficult to find a dessert recipe that sounds tasty, and the black dog ginger cookies are a bit different that my favorite recipe for the same cookie. so...i will experiment with those as well.

from susan branch's book, i plan to make the lemon linguini this week along with the parsley salad. i also have my eye on the sunshine salad made with walnuts, carrots and raisins. i have made the profiteroles in the past and they are delicious, so i will put them on the list to serve next weekend with ice cream. check back to see these recipes and my taste test commentary.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

shrimp and chicken wraps

are you looking for a meal in minutes? these low carb wraps are easy to make and can be ready to serve very quickly. i purchase whole wheat low carb low fat wraps and brown them lightly in a skillet on the stove. usually this can be done with a light spray of pam olive oil on the wrap.

in a separate skillet, i grill sliced onions, peppers, and mushrooms. to this mixture i add, shrimp and cook thoroughly. then, i add chopped pre roasted white meat chicken breast. i usually roast the chicken breasts on the bone earlier in the day and cool them in the refrigerator. just before dinner time, i remove the meat from the bone and chop. this step saves a great deal of time.

when the skillet mixture is ready, i serve on the shell, and add freshly cut toppings. today, i used cucumber, grape tomatoes, dry cole slaw mix and sliced romaine lettuce.

to finish off the wrap, i drizzle marzetti poppy seed dressing. this wrap is very tasty and could be made with a variety of toppings based on personal preferences.

my potting shed

here is the entrance to my potting shed, which happens to be the side door to our second garage. i have two wonderful workbenches for all of my tools, seeds, plant labels, pots, garden stakes and a wonderful space for a small fridge where i store bulbs prior to planting.

i have a large bulletin board and old childhood chalkboard i use to post notes and reminders of chores i need to complete in the garden throughout the seasons. i have a bookshelf where i store garden catalogs which i often take into the fenced garden area to read when i have some extra time to enjoy my garden.

Monday, May 24, 2010

angel food cakes

naming my blog was an easy task since my favorite cake is angel food. the light airy texture and lightly sweet taste is always appropriate for any celebration. i have several angel food cake pans and last week, i made a heart cake and used martha stewart's seven minute frosting to ice the top in a shell design. angel food cake doesn't require icing, and often i just sprinkle with powdered sugar to make the top look white.
the traditional cake pans with feet work best, as i have smaller bundt pans that can be used, but often present a challenge when removing the cakes.
angel food can be flavored with almond, lemon, orange, or even strawberry extracts. using the flavors gives the angel food another dimension that i enjoy even more.

basil in a pot

i decided to grow basil in a pot this summer on my deck. in this pot i have planted three plants which are growing in a spot that is filled with sun.

i have been using the basil for the past two weeks, and it seems to be so much better tasting growing in a pot rather than in the ground. i like being able to snip the leaves and use them in my dishes, and not have them covered in splashed soil from the garden.

other herbs that i have tried in pots include: rosemary, dill, chives and parsley. along with this pot of basil, i am growing some italian parsley this year in a deck pot.

one of the best ways to chop basil is to roll the leaves and thinly slice the basil into long strips. i like to use basil as a garnish over chicken or fish. in pasta dishes, i add basil to the freshly chopped tomato sauces, or directly on the cooked pasta along with other sauteed vegetables. the basil's spicy taste adds a great flavor and freshness to the dishes.

i have also used sliced basil over toasted slices of bread, with a tomato topping and melted cheese. this is one of my favorite easy appetizers to serve with a variety of dinner entrees.

sunday is for grilling out

one of the best things about the weekend is grilling out fresh vegetables to serve as a side dish along with chicken or fish. one of my favorite mixtures is always, sliced onions, yellow bell peppers, asparagus and zucchini slices. these sliced vegetables with a drizzle of olive oil and a few fresh herbs take only minutes to soften and cook on the grill.

the herbs from the garden that added to the taste of the vegetables were basil and parsley. i also seasoned them with ground black pepper, a twist of salt over the top, and my favorite all around seasoning from Mary's Kitchen Port in Traverse City. Her seasoning blend is a great mix of flavors that I often use for chicken, fish, and vegetables.

Along with these vegetables, I served grilled chicken with the same seasonings to match the taste. We also had some breadsticks with chive butter. This was another simple grilled meal for a summer evening to enjoy on the deck.

brown sugar walnut coffee cake

a great breakfast choice is always a coffee cake. this brown sugar walnut cake is quite easy to make and so delicious. it starts with a crumb crust and an easy filling and finishes off with a crumb topping and nuts. i chose walnuts for this version, but it could be made with almonds, pecans, or hazelnuts.

the crumb crust is made with flour, brown sugar and butter. the filling is made with sour cream, egg, baking soda, sugar, and cinnamon.

with a baking time of only 25 minutes, it is ready to go in less than a half hour and it is oh so tasty. enjoy.

Monday, May 17, 2010

almond chicken

here is a wonderful recipe for almond chicken, very similar to a dish served in many chinese restaurants. my version does not have deep fried chicken and uses only white chicken breast slices, with a light panko bread topping.

the dark brown almond sauce is one of the keys to this recipe, along with serving the chicken over a small bed of rice with freshly chopped romaine lettuce. i also serve a few crispy rice noodles as topping to the meal.

almond brown sauce
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock, 4 tbsp rice wine or dry sherry, 3 tbsp cornstarch, and 1 tbsp light sodium soy sauce. Boil these ingredients.

To assemble the dish: plate up a small scoop of white or brown rice, top with shredded lettuce and chopped green onions, place a couple of chicken pieces on top, and drizzle with brown sauce. garnish with green onions and almonds to taste. crispy rice noodles can also be used as a topping as desired.

grilling out

sunday was a beautiful day in midland, and we spent the day in the yard. brian was cleaning and mulching the flower beds, while i planted my wicker deck boxes. though it was a bit chilly by dinner time, it was perfect for a grilled meal. i had planned to make grilled pizzas with grilled vegetables.

earlier in the morning, i used ina garten's california pizza dough recipe and substituted one-half of the white flour with whole wheat flower. this dough is a sturdy dough that holds up well on the grill. the ingredients are simple: flour, salt, olive oil, and water. i use my kitchen aid mixer and the dough hook to knead the dough for 10 minutes until it is pliable. i use my oven light to help the dough rise for several hours. after the dough has risen, the dough is divided into several smaller size pizzas, rolled onto a sheet pan covered with corn meal. this also helps the dough from adhering to the grill.

i prepped the ingredients for the pizza toppings: mozzarella cheese, red pepper, red onions, pepperoni slices, tomato slices and tomato pieces, along with pizza herbs.

after the pizza dough grills on each side for one minute, we add the toppings and grill with the cover closed for about six to seven minutes. i usually finish up the pizzas in the oven indoors to make certain the chesse is melted and the toppings are crispy.

along with the pizzas, i served grilled vegetables: zucchini, red and green bell peppers, and large onion slices. i usually season these vegetables with garlic and herb seasoning, along with cracked black pepper.

this menu can be adapted from the pantry. pizzas or the grilled vegetables can be made with mushrooms, black and green olives, or a variety of cheeses. i have made this meal for years and each time is a new experience.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

pasta, peas and prosciutto

for an evening where pasta favorites are becoming boring, try this recipe for an interesting change. i use thawed frozen cheese tortellini for the pasta noodle.
first, i saute thin slices of prosciutto in a large pan, then add some sliced onion and continue to stir fry. while this is cooking, i quickly boil the water to cook the tortellini for just a few minutes as directed on the package.
when the tortellini is ready to add to the pot, drain the water and add, along with the peas and a can of diced tomatoes. if i have green onions on hand, i add those as well.
this is served up on the plate with freshly grated parmesan on top. sides to this entree include a spinach or romaine salad along with a crusty bread or breadsticks.

asian chicken lettuce wraps

this recipe for lettuce wraps is very similar to those served at p.f.changs restaurant. even though they take a bit of prep time, the result is very tasty. the easiest way to make this recipe efficiently is to assemble all of the ingredients first. then, grill the chicken breasts, and chop the vegetables. (mushrooms, green onions, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and fresh ginger)
make the cooking sauce with 1 tbsp of hoisin sauce, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp dry sherry, 2 tbsp oyster sauce, 2 tbsp water, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp sugar, and 2 tsp cornstarch. keep in a cup.

then combine, 1 tsp cornstarch, 2 tsp sherry, 2 tsp water and coat chicken pieces. heat wok, and add chicken to stir fry.
add 1 tsp fresh minced ginger, dried or fresh garlic to taste, green onions, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and mushrooms. then, when all is well cooked, add cooking sauce to finsh the recipe.

serve with lettuce cups, rice, additional green onions or shredded lettuce as a garnish. this recipe could be modified to shrimp lettuce wraps or beef lettuce wraps. serves 4.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

shrimp salad

are you tired of chicken salad or tuna salad? if so, here is a great recipe for shrimp salad that is wonderful for quick summer dinners. i use pre-cleaned and cooked shrimp and cut each one into thirds. use only enough shrimp that will be consumed at the meal.

then, i add a variety of vegetables based on what i have on hand. choices include, celery, cucumber without the seeds, tomatoes without the seeds, green or black olive slices, green onions or sliced red onion and either green or red peppers. then, add your choice of a mayo dressing with herbs or a mayo dressing thinned with some lemon juice.

add dressing to the mixture as desired. serve either in a lettuce cup, on a roll or a croissant. for those who don't like mayo based dressings, an italian dressing could be substituted.

this salad is made with all fresh ingredients.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

lemon tarts

one of the most delicious lemon tarts can be made overnight. first, slice two large lemons and mix them with two cups of sugar in a non-reactive bowl. cover with plastic wrap and allow to stay on the counter over night. the next day, lightly whip four eggs and combine with the liquid from the lemon mixture. prepare your favorite pie crust recipe. with the lemons in a separate bowl, strain the lemon and egg mixture and place in a 9-inch tart tin or several smaller tart tins with removable pan bottoms. use the lemons to decorate each tart. place on a cookie sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 15 minutes or until the tart is set and slightly turning brown. remove from the oven and cool. when cooled, the tarts are delicious served with a dusting of powdered sugar and a bit of whipped cream.

peanut butter cups

today i made peanut butter cups. this easy recipe can be completed in less than thirty minutes and produces 24 mini cups. 12 oz of bittersweet chocolate is melted in a glass bowl in the microwave. 4 oz of white chocolate is mixed with 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter in another glass bowl and melted in the microwave. mini cupcake papers are used in a muffin pan and the dark chocolate is placed on the bottom of each of the cups. then the peanut butter white chocolate filling is placed into the cups in the second layer, and finally the cups are topped off with the remaining bittersweet chocolate. i used about 1/2 cup of chopped peanuts and placed them on top of the cups. then, the muffin pan is placed in the freezer for several hours. when ready to serve the cups, they must be brought to room temperature. this recipe could be adapted with other combinations of chocolate or nuts. quick, easy and so tasty!

herbal cheese spread

for a gardening meeting this week, i prepared this herbal cream cheese spread for crackers. it was made with donna frawley's herbal mix which i used with low fat cream cheese. ingredients in the herbal mix include chives, dillweed, lemon pepper, garlic with other herbs and spices. i topped the spread with chives and served with a cracker assortment. this was an easy cracker spread that guests enjoyed and complimented. donna makes entertaining easy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

fancy baked potatoes

this is my favorite way to serve baked potatoes. i simply scrub the potatoes and slice part way down the potato in thin slices, not all the way through. then, i top the potatoes with a spray of olive oil and a dusting of herbs. this shortens the baking time to about 45 minutes. after removing from the oven, i slightly fan the potatoes, if they have not already opened on their own. either offer an herbed butter at the table or gently top with a small spoonful with the serving. guests will enjoy a nicely baked potato with a bit of flair.

spicy peppers bruschetta

one of the most delicious appetizers is a spicy peppers sauce that can be added to lightly grilled toast, topped with swiss cheese and a bit of sliced spinach. first, choose a nice loaf of bread, like a ciabatta, slice into smaller segments, and top with a drizzle of olive oil and a bit of parsley. grill over a hot grill pan on the stove top or on the outdoor grill. next, place the slices on a sheet pan and cover with thin slices of swiss cheese. bake in the oven for about five minutes. remove and then top with thinly sliced fresh spinach.

for the spicy peppers topping, i use stonewall kitchen's salsa recipe and adapt it for this dish. i purchase roasted peppers in the jar to save the step of baking in the oven, and add canned tomatoes, scallions, jalapeno, and herbs to round out the taste. any salsa recipe will work with this appetizer.

this is a quick and easy dish to serve with crackers or toasted bread.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

birthday cake

for more than thirty years, i have always purchased a birthday cake for my husband brian. this year, i decided to make him a cake from martha's stewart's cooking school book. i made her white cake with easy chocolate buttercream. instead of making two layers, i divided the batter into four smaller layers, baking them for only 17 minutes each. the buttercream frosting was made with frango mint chocolate baking cocoa, so it has a distinct minty taste. the coconut decoration was my personal addition, since brian likes coconut. this frosting is not a glossy ganache, but a richer and sweeter buttercream. i believe it is labeled easy, since cocoa is used instead of melted chocolate, which would need to be incorporated into the mixture. the layers added height, and i had just enough icing, about five cups to decorate the cake. by using only two layers, i would have had additional icing to pipe decorations onto the cake. since this cake was well received, i am going to continue my baking attempts for future family celebrations.

Friday, May 7, 2010

kitchen garden

in 2008, i turned part of my back yard into a small kitchen garden. when we moved into this home in the fall of 2007, the space was being used as a playground. all winter i dreamed of a garden, and spent hours looking for design ideas and ways to make this garden special. after much thought, i decided on a colonial garden, very similar to those found in williamsburg, virginia. gardens in the eighteenth century were purposeful gardens, which included herbs for cooking, often vegetables, and flowers for decoration, fragrance and wreaths. for my kitchen garden, i decided to concentrate on herbs and flowers. we had a picket fence built, and we painted it to match the trim on our home. brian constructed the mulched pathways, and raised beds with brick trim. the garden gate swings open to a wonderful space for me to experiment with plants and flowers. the garden is small enough for my care, and the perennials and bulbs that surround the garden compliment the changing seasons. each year, my garden is maturing and i enjoy adding new plants---almost like redecorating--only with flowers.

spinach lasagna

the last time i made lasagna was in 2006, but this week seemed like a good week to try out the recipe again. this recipe was given to me by a college roommate and i have adapted it over the years to using only vegetables. this week, i used spinach instead of beef. i also used canned tomato pieces instead of a tomato sauce. my favorite brand of diced or chopped tomatoes is dei fratelli. this recipe can be made with eggplant, zucchini or other vegetables. served with a salad, this is truly a comfort meal.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

cookbook i am reading

One of the cookbooks I am reading right now is The Comfort Table by Katie Lee. Katie grew up in West Virginia and was married at one time to Billy Joel. I really enjoy her recipes, since they seem to be simple enough to make, but at the same time have a nice presentation. This book is divided into menus for entertaining. Since tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo..I was considering her menu for the day. I may adjust her red snapper veracruzana and use another fish, and also make the side dish cilantro lime rice to go along with the meal.
Since Mother's Day is coming up this weekend, I also looked at her breakfast menu. I am considering the asparagus and spinach frittata, along with the blueberry sour cream coffee cake with lemon glaze.
Katie has menu ideas for year round celebrations, and I have had great success cooking from her first book. Off i go to buy my ingredients.

Monday, May 3, 2010

vegetable side dish

as a side dish for grilled chicked, i mixed zucchini slices, grape tomatoes, some pineapple slices, red pepper and one sliced onion together and grilled on the stove top yesterday. i added some basil, parsley, salt and pepper and this side dish was quite tasty. for the chicken, i used thyme from my garden. this meal was ready in less than an hour and was delicious served with cibatta bread, heated with a dash of olive oil and herbs on the top... quick, easy, and oh sooo good.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

apple tart

some of the best recipes are those that are quite simple and use fresh ingredients. a very easy dessert to make when unexpected guests arrive would be a french apple tart. it is always wise to keep some puff pastry sheets on hand in the freezer, and as the guests come through the door, take one of the sheets out to thaw. after the pastry thaws, open up the pastry onto a baking sheet. peel and slice three apples and toss with a bit of sugar and cinnamon. place on the puff pastry and bake according to the box instructions. as the tart cools a bit, shake to cover with powdered sugar.