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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

bake by nick malgieri

this is a new cookbook given to me for my birthday this year.  i can't wait to start baking from the selection in the table of contents.  the author covers everything from cookie dough and tarts to pound cakes, coffee cakes, biscuits and scones to brownies and sandwich cookies.  the photographs and step by step instructions are numbered and clearly presented.  variations to the recipes are offered at the bottom of each page. preparation photos are included in the process section.  the chapter on one step breads and rolls looks amazing.  i have been enjoying reading the recipes and will begin baking soon. check it out at the local bookstore.  i don't think you will be disappointed.

vegetable broth for soups or roasts

this is my favorite brand of vegetable bouillon to use for roasting chicken or turkey. it is made by Rapunzel and is flavored with sea salt and herbs. i typically prepare four cups of broth with the cubes and place at the bottom of the roasting pan to increase humidity to the chicken or turkey during baking. 

this brand offers great flavor and can be used for soups or bread stuffing too. i used this brand for my bread dressing this Thanksgiving.  the flavor was balanced and offered a great rich taste which was neither salty nor bland.


crusty popovers are a delicious treat to offer friends and family for any meal of the day.  for breakfast, popovers are served with jam or fruit butters to accompany any breakfast entree.

for lunch time meals, popovers can be served with a quiche, chicken salad or a summer fruit salad.  for dinner, popovers are traditionally served with a roast, but compliment any supper entree.  during thanksgiving week, i baked smaller popovers instead of the traditional larger size often noted in most recipes.  i own two sizes of popover pans, and it must be noted to choose the proper recipe for the size of the pan.  the larger popover recipes will often state the quantity as six popovers.  for the smaller variety, the pan offers 12 spaces.

here is my favorite recipe for popovers from the herbal breads cookbook by Donna Frawley:

2 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 cup all purpose flour, 1/4 tsp salt.  preheat the oven and the popover pan at 425 degrees.  beat eggs and add milk.  add flour and salt.  beat for 2 minutes with electric hand mixer.  remove pan from oven and spray with non stick spray.  pour batter evenly into pan filling only 2/3 full.  bake for 25 minutes and check if using a smaller 12 popover pan.  if using a larger pan for 6 popovers, check at 30 minutes.  maximum cooking time for the larger popovers would be 40 minutes.

serve warm for the best result. these popovers can be varied with cheese, dill, almond and poppy seeds, or even herbs.  experiment by adding a 1 tsp of your favorite flavors.

warmed breakfast fruit

my family enjoys warmed fruit for breakfast on special occasions.  usually, i combine both lite syrup canned fruits with fresh fruit.  for thanksgiving this year, i used canned peaches and pink grapefruit mixed with fresh pears, blackberries and raspberries.

any combination of fruit can be used.  i have selected blueberries, apricots, canned pears, fresh peaches, apples, and pineapple over the years.  i simply place the fruit selection into a ceramic casserole dish, add some orange juice and a bit of brown sugar on the top and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

the fruit accompanies waffles, pancakes, crepes, quiche or eggs very nicely.

brussels sprouts

one of the best tasting fall vegetables would be Brussels sprouts. this mini cabbage is very easy to make and can adjust to a variety of flavors or seasonings.  i often parboil the sprouts first for approximately ten to fifteen minutes and then drain the water, and saute with a dash of olive oil. 

the sprouts cook well after the outer layer of greens are removed and they are sliced into halves.  the quick preparation makes these a wonderful addition to any weeknight meal.  to flavor the sprouts, i used small slices of pancetta, but bacon or prosciutto could be used for variety. the sprouts taste well seasoned with salt, pepper, flavored salts or other seasonings based on your family's preferences. here are some ideas for flavoring. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

chocolate mocha cookies

nigella lawson has a great recipe for chocolate cookies.  i modified her chocolate mint cookies by using another flavored cocoa this time.  i chose to use a ghiradelli chocolate mocha flavored cocoa and these cookies were quite tasty.
preheat the oven to 350 degrees
cream 3/4 cup of light brown sugar with 1/2 cup of soft butter.  add one egg and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  then mix the dry ingredients together.  ( 1/3 cup baking cocoa, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1 cup flour)  slowly add these to the mixer to incorporate.  then stir in 1 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips.

these cookies can be glazed, but i chose to serve them without the glaze this week. bake for 12 minutes and allow to cool.

roasted cornish hens

when the weather is cold outside, it is so nice to be able to serve roasted Cornish hens.  these hens have tender meat and are much smaller than a standard whole chicken.  two small hens will serve 3-4 people easily with other side dishes for a dinner meal.

i simply place the hens in a roasting dish on a small rack and use about 1 cup of chicken broth added to the base of the dish.  either spray the hens with olive oil or use a small amount of olive oil to coat the skins of the hens.  then, my favorite seasoning for the hens would be herbs for poultry by dean and deluca.  this well rounded seasoning adds a great flavor to the birds. i secure the legs with string and position the wings so the hens rest flat on the rack.

i bake them in the oven on 400 degrees for one hour and then check to make certain the inner temperature is 180 degrees.  these hens are very tasty and will warm up anyone on a fall day.

Friday, November 12, 2010

basic parsley buttered carrots

the addition of mini peeled carrots to the marketplace produce aisle is a true time savor.  there is no longer any excuse for not serving this vegetable each week. carrots are  a wonderful colorful vegetable that offer a host of nutrients for the body and must be selected for family meals.

i simply boil the carrots until tender and drain. then, i use a bit of margarine and parsley before serving them for dinner.  another great carrot recipe is to drain the carrots and add a couple of tablespoons of margarine and one tablespoon of brown sugar while still in the saucepan to create a wonderful glaze to the serving.

i find that mixing the margarine in while the carrots are still hot in the pan offers far less use of margarine at the table.

smashed petite red potatoes

these smashed red potatoes are delicious compared to other types of small potatoes.  i like the texture of these potatoes and the recipe can be changed to include the addition of sour cream or herbs. 

these are simply petite red potatoes that are cleaned and boiled with their skins intact. when placed in a saucepan, i boil them for about 25 minutes until tender.  then, using a potato masher, i smash the potatoes in the pot, and often add some margarine or sour cream to smooth them into a creamy consistency.

herbs or spices can be added as desired.  i often add a pinch of salt, some black pepper or parsley.  other options would be dill or any favorite seasoning.  these potatoes will become a great winter favorite and much better than anything from the box or frozen aisle in the market.

primula tea

i have used this tea pot for several years now when i have additional time to really spend drinking and enjoying flowering tea.  these tea buds are very unusual looking but open nicely in a clear pot to form beautiful flowers through the glass kettle.

this product does seem to be a bit pricey, but both their earl grey blends and green tea blends are tasty flavorful tea products.  the glass carafe is quite hot and requires much care compared to one of my standard ceramic pots.  the glass is quite fragile and thin, but allows for the beauty of the tea bud to be admired.

birthday cake for karen

for my birthday this year, i decided to bake myself a cake.  usually i select a birthday cake from a pastry shop which specializes in french bakery items.  and, i certainly love the buttercream frosting for my special day.

but this year was different, and i decided to make a single layer cake and decorate the cake with a chocolate ganache that i make frequently for a variety of desserts.  and then, decorate the cake with a vanilla buttercream icing.

since i am not really a baker or cake decorator, i decided to use a very simple initial design.  i am quite proud of how the initial looks on the cake and i think for future events, i will expand on this idea and continue to use monograms of different styles.  i may have to investigate how to form monograms, so this information will certainly be coming to the blog soon.

the ganache recipe is quite simple:  6-8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, a very good brand, melted over a stainless double boiler.  when the chocolate is melted completely, i simply add 1/2 cup of whipping cream slowly stirring to incorporate.  this ganache icing comes together very quickly and looks glossy and delicious from the start. 1 tablespoon of flavor is then added for taste.  sometimes i use orange or lemon, and today i used almond. then, i simply pour the ganache over the top of the cake and spread to the edges and sides with a flat thin spatula.  the icing will harden in a matter of an hour or so, with about 4-5 tablespoons left over for a one layer cake.  this recipe might be enough for a two layer cake.  it certainly would be enough if extra buttercream icing was going to be used for the base of the cake and additional decorating to possibly hide thinner ganache at the edges.

the buttercream recipe has been posted on the blog under maple icing, however for this cake, i used Watkins vanilla for the flavoring. this is my standard icing recipe and the flavors change based on what is desired for the cake. this makes life simple.  : )  Watkins vanilla is so tasty and i have tried several different brands over the years.  another great brand is Nielsen-Massey vanillas.  i have also used their vanilla beans, sliced them and scraped them into the icing for a great result as well.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

thanksgiving reading

before preparing my menus for the holidays, i look to my resources for ideas, instead of falling back on the same old dishes.  this week i plan on spending some time reading cookbooks and coming up with some new recipes for thanksgiving week.

these two cookbooks are a great start for ideas.  one year i tried a classic peanut soup from williamsburg, and this year seems to be on the rotation for soup again.

classic egg foo young

my recipe collection spans thirty years of clipped magazine recipes, found recipes from newspapers and from a whole host of stores and restaurants.   i have saved this recipe from Joyce Chen, a television food host long before there was even a food network.  i remember watching her on PBS when i was in my twenties.  i have saved this recipe, and we enjoy eating this classic Asian dish with white rice. some might call this a vegetarian omelet, but the sauce makes it egg foo young.  for this evening, i made vegetarian egg foo young.  however, i have added shrimp or chicken to the dish quite successfully.

here is the recipe:
5 eggs mixed with a fork in a bowl, 1 cup fresh bean sprouts or shredded lettuce, 1/2 cup celery, 1/4 cup sliced onion, 4 oz canned sliced mushrooms drained, 1/2 cup of shrimp or chicken if desired, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 tsp sherry.  mix all ingredients.  drop by large tablespoonfuls onto a skillet sprayed with canola oil.  brown both sides.  it is easy to tell when the dish is ready as the egg takes only a few minutes to cook through.  keep the egg foo young warm in the oven while preparing the sauce.

sauce recipe:  2 cups chicken broth, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tablespoon light soy sauce, 1 tsp catsup, 3 1/2 tablespoons of flour dissolved in 1/4 cup water.  mix all ingredients except flour/water mixture in a saucepan over a low heat.  slowly add the flour/water mixture to thicken the sauce as it comes to a boil.  it is important to stir constantly as the flour/water mixture is being added, or the sauce will form lumps.
serve this entree with white rice. 

breakfast crumpets

every saturday morning i try a new breakfast recipe.  this recipe comes from a cookbook i have used for years called tea time at the inn.  this book features recipes from many bed and breakfast inns from around the county.  most of the recipes within the cookbook are basic recipes that seem to be time tested over the years.  this crumpet recipe is very similar to an english muffin recipe i have also used successfully. however, these directions are even more simplified and require less ingredients.  by using english muffin or crumpet rings on the griddle, these morning biscuits are very easy to prepare, shape, cook and serve.   after cooking, the crumpets cool on a wire rack for a bit, or can be served warm right off the griddle. i enjoy them sliced in half and toasted with jam or marmalade.  we used stonewall kitchen's lemon pear marmalade for this meal.  here is the recipe:  1 package of dry yeast, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1 3/4 cups of warm water, 2 cups flour, 1 tbsp. baking soda, 3/4 tsp salt. dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water.  whisk well.  heat griddle to 400 degrees.  grease crumpet rings and place on griddle.  pour batter into rings until half full.  cook until bubble form.  flip with ring to brown other side of crumpet.  serve and enjoy.  this is one half of the printed recipe and makes about nine crumpets. they are light, airy and oh so delicious!

roasted pumpkin seeds

every year after halloween, i roast pumpkin seeds from our halloween pumpkins.  yesterday, i cleaned the pumpkin seeds thoroughly, and placed them on a sheet pan sprayed with olive oil.

next, i drizzle them lightly with olive oil and season with a slight amount of fine ground sea salt.  mixing with my hands to distribute the seeds evenly on the pan, the tray is ready for the oven.

bake at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes and then continue to flip with a spatula until the seeds look dry and toasty.  this process could take about 20 minutes or so, depending on the amount of seeds and how evenly they are spaced on the sheet pan.  i baked these around 25 minutes yesterday.  the seeds could also be seasoned with pepper, cinnamon or any other sweet or savory spice from the pantry.

these are a delicious fall treat to enjoy every year.

asian chicken salad

over the years, i have tried several different recipes for an Asian style chicken salad that can be used for a meal or served for a luncheon.  this recipe comes from a hometown cookbook from traverse city michigan.

first, a selection of lettuce, spinach, or sliced cabbage is used based on preference.  then, sliced green onions are added to the salad. grill the chicken in small slices and add to the salad.

 next, the crunchy Asian noodle topping is stir fried.

i used 2-3 packages of broken ramen noodles, the seasoning from the chicken noodles, one stick of margarine, and 3-4 ounces of slivered almonds.  i stir fry these ingredients in a wok. the crunchy topping is allowed to cool before using over the lettuce greens.

next, i prepare the dressing.  using 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, and 1/2 cup of canola oil, i mix these ingredients in a cup until the sugar is dissolved.  some recipes suggest heating this mixture, but slowly stirring works well.

then, assemble the salad.  add the crunchy topping, drizzle the dressing and enjoy.  this is a great year-round salad selection and can be served with a popover or breadstick.  the dressing seems to be the key to the salad.

old fashioned ginger cookies

one of my very favorite cookie recipes comes from my friend cindy.  she shared this recipe with me about one year ago.  every time i bake these cookies, i think of her as the wonderful ginger smell fills my kitchen.

these cookies are very similar to a ginger snap and are very tasty.  i bake them more during the holidays and especially recommend them for fall meals.  they are great served with ice cream, or even with a cup of tea on a cool afternoon.  here is the recipe:

2 cups flour,1 Tbsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp baking soda, ½ tsp salt, ¾ cup unsalted butter (or shortening), 1 cup sugar, 1 egg , and ¼ cup molasses

Mix dry ingredients (flour, ginger, cinnamon, soda and salt) together in a bowl.
Cream butter, sugar, egg and molasses in mixer.
Add dry ingredients to the mixer and blend well.

If shortening is used, chill mixture first, and then roll into small balls. Coat with additional sugar. If butter is at room temp, must chill cookies as well.

I use unsalted butter and do not chill. Use a small cookie scoop to form the cookies, and flatten with the bottom of a glass or spoon dipped in sugar.

Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. These cookies are flat and crispy; similar to a ginger snap. I have also tried demerara sugar for the rolling stage for an added crunch.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

halloween meringue cookie bones

for a special treat this year, i decided to try another one of Martha Stewart's recipes for an unusual cookie.  her meringue bones are light, fluffy and a fun treat for people of all ages.

they were surprisingly easy to prepare.  they are made with egg whites and ultra fine professional grade pure cane sugar.  with only those two ingredients, the mixture is whipped over boiling water for five minutes.  after the mixture is heated and the sugar is melted, the bowl is transferred to a stand mixture and whipped for another eight minutes on high.

then, the mixture is placed into a pastry bag with a plain round tip, and piped onto sheet pans which are lined with silpat mats.  the pans are placed into a preheated 200 degree oven and baked for one hour.  since this recipe makes three sheet pans of cookies, i had to bake two of the pans first, and then the last sheet pan separately.

the bones are easy to form with the pastry bag.  i simply made two dots, then added the straight line, and finished the bone design with two more large dots at the opposite end.
i chose to serve the cookies on a shiny platter.