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

Friday, December 17, 2010

homemade granola

over the years i have tried many different granola recipes, and have finally decided on this one as my favorite.  it comes from the recipe book titled the ski house cookbook.  this recipe can be varied based on personal taste and what ingredients are available in the pantry.

ingredients:  3 1/2 cups of whole grain old fashioned oats, 1/3 cup coconut, 1/3 cup nuts (sliced almonds, chopped walnuts or pecans), 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  mix these ingredients in a bowl.  next, in a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter. melt and pour over the dry ingredients.  spread the mixture on a sheet pan sprayed with canola oil.  bake for about 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.  when the granola looks slightly brown, remove from the oven and cool. then, add 2/3 cup of either raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried blueberries, or other dried fruit. store in a covered jar and enjoy for breakfast.  the granola can also be prepared without the nuts or dried fruit and served with them as toppings at the table, so each guest can personalize their granola for breakfast.

christmas meal planning

i have been working on holiday menus for the past week. over the years i have collected many christmas books, and these are three of my favorites.  country living's country christmas contains a variety of recipes as well as decorating ideas for the holiday.  martha stewart's books always include wonderful ideas for wreaths, table arrangements, as well as menu ideas and desserts.

i have been reading susan branch's book for wonderful poems, phrases, and delightful drawings about winter and the christmas season. her hand painted drawings are colorful and charming. i have found several ideas for this year's celebration.

tea and christmas peppermint spoons

since i am an avid tea drinker i often sample a variety of teas each week.  although my preference is for green tea, and choose that over many others, i do enjoy all teas made by tea forte. these teas are prepared in silken infusers and allow the tea leaves to gently infuse into the hot water. i believe this accounts for their superior taste.

for the holidays, i purchased their collection which contains crimson nectar, apple pomegranate, and sweet orange spice.  i have been waiting to sample them, and just admiring them in my spode christmas bowl in the dining room.  these teas are more costly than standard tea bags and average two dollars per serving.

also for the holidays, i purchased peppermint tea spoons that can be used in tea, coffee or hot cocoa. i believe i will use them in hot cocoa on a snowy evening by the fireside.  a warm drink, a cozy fireplace, and someone to love makes the season wonderful.

bread dressing with leeks

before preparing the bread dressing, it is very important to clean the bunch of leeks.  i slice them in half, separate the leaves and allow them to soak in cold water while thoroughly cleaning them before cutting into pieces for the dish.

other ingredients for the dressing include:  celery, yellow onions, salt, pepper, and bacon.  after chopping the celery, onion and slicing the bacon, i prepare the casserole dish.  it must be sprayed with canola or olive oil prior to cooking the dressing.  next, i make the broth.  using bouillon cubes, i make several cups of chicken, turkey or vegetable broth.  this year, i used vegetable broth for the dressing.

toast your crusty croutons or pre purchase croutons in the deli.  i find that these are much better quality than the bagged croutons, providing a better dressing. mix the croutons and other ingredients together after they have been sauteed in a large skillet with a bit of olive oil.  after the ingredients are mixed, add enough broth to moisten but not allow the croutons to become too soft.  place the dressing in the casserole dish and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 35 to 45 minutes.
 here are photos of the bread dressing before and after baking.  if you prepare the bread dressing earlier than needed, be certain to place in the refrigerator to keep cold before baking. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

mache lettuce salad with walnuts and parmesan wafers

by using mache lettuce greens, walnuts and a parmesan wafer, this simple salad resembles any gourmet salad served in a restaurant. to make the parmesan wafer, finely shread parmesan cheese into a bowl.  prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper, so the cheese will not stick or burn to the sheet while baking.

next, place small rounds of the cheese on the paper and decorate the wafers with parsley, dill, or any other fresh herb of choice.  dried herbs work well also, but if fresh herbs are available, choose those first.  then, bake the wafers in the oven on 350 degrees for just a few minutes.  perhaps only two to three depending on your oven.  watch these carefully, as the wafers will burn quickly.  it is acceptable to have browned edges, and that effect will add to the crispiness of the wafer.  allow them to dry on the sheet pan and save until ready to assemble the salads. these wafers were made with parsley. i often serve this salad with peppercorn dressing.

chicken fajitas

almost everyone i know makes fajitas, and here is my recipe for an easy weeknight meal.  first, select a whole wheat, low fat, low carb fajita shell.  there are several brands available at the supermarket.  i spray them lightly with canola or olive oil and place on a sheet pan.  when ready to serve, i gently warm them in a 350 degree oven for approximately four or five minutes.  i watch them through the oven door, so they do not become crispy.

i prepare my toppings in advance.  i use shredded cheddar cheese, but a mix of cheeses can also be selected.  chopped black olives, chopped green onions, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes or a salsa, sour cream, and the chicken are prepared.  i usually grill my chicken breasts in advance and slice into thin strips. 

i serve the fajitas with my homemade tomato or Spanish rice and a few tostito chips to accent the place presentation.  when it is serving time, warm the shells with the cheese on top.  remove them from the oven add the toppings, fold and serve.  sometimes, i grill green peppers and the onions on the stove top and add them after i remove the cheese topped shells from the oven.  then, i complete the fajitas with the toppings. 

the homemade Spanish rice complements the meal and some guests will choose to eat the rice with their blue tostito chips.

ice cream or sorbet extracts

when searching for flavorings for making homemade ice cream or sorbets, i highly recommend this brand. made by lorann gourmet. they are often found in gourmet cooking stores or candy making shops. the taste of these extracts are clean without any aftertaste, and provide a rich and flavorful natural taste to the products.

they are available in many flavors and every one i have tried offers a full body flavor and authentic taste. some extracts are clear and others have color, so keep in mind that they may change the color of the ice cream or sorbet.  most recipes suggest using one teaspoon of flavor and that will be sufficient when using this brand.

caramel pecan topping for ice cream

sometimes i need a quick dessert and surrender to a topping by the silver palate.  this caramel pecan topping is one of the best choices served over vanilla ice cream.  i remove the topping from the jar and gently microwave the sauce until just warm and smooth.  pour over vanilla ice cream in an attractive glass dish and your guests will truly enjoy this treat. be certain to take enough time to scoop the ice cream into attractive balls or use an ice cream form which adds to the presentation of the dessert.  no additional nuts are needed since the silver palate provides plenty of large size nuts that are crunchy and especially tasty when warmed. this jar will serve six people.

sometimes desserts can be easy!

spinach and red pepper quiche

one of the ways i incorporated my leftover turkey white meat this year was in this spinach and red pepper quiche.  the crust is made from crunchy bread crumbs and then is layered with mozzarella and Swiss cheese.  i used one ten ounce box of frozen spinach thawed and drained thoroughly on top of the cheese.

then, i added chopped red pepper, the turkey white meat and some chopped onion.  for the quiche filling, i use eggs, half and half and season to taste.  i pour the filling over the mixture and bake at 350 degrees for at least 25 minutes until quiche filling is set.  for this quiche dish, the cooking time is less, since the circumference is wider than the traditional 8 or 10 inch casserole.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

flavored pancakes with syrup

although making pancakes from traditional ingredients is somewhat easy, i have found these stonewall kitchen mixes to be both simple to prepare and very tasty.  i highly recommend both of these flavors--toasted coconut or cinnamon apple.

these mixes produce fluffy pancakes that are full of flavor and taste. the cinnamon apple syrup is a wonderful choice for the apple pancakes and improves the taste over a customary maple syrup.  i highly recommend stonewall kitchen pancake mixes for a homemade taste with a great flavor for your next breakfast meal.

vanilla carrots

these thanksgiving dinner carrots were boiled with a vanilla bean.  i simply added the vanilla bean to the water as i cooked the carrots.  after the water was almost evaporated, i added one to two tablespoons of margarine with a couple of tablespoons of light brown sugar.

these carrots have a unique taste that is not top heavy on vanilla flavor, but the bean adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the carrots that complements the sugar.

french toast

i use several french toast recipes for various occasions, but this classic recipe is quick and easy to prepare.  typically for four servings, i mix three to five eggs with a flavor of choice.  i have used vanilla or almond extract, orange or lemon extract or even rum extract.  other choices would be coconut or maple. 

once the eggs and flavor are mixed, use thickly sliced firm bread.  i use a ciabatta or a round bread.  i like the longer slices of bread for the toast presentation. the success of french toast depends on the bread selection.  make certain the bread is firm and not soft.

using a griddle, spray with canola oil and heat the griddle to 350 degrees.  dip the bread in the egg coating and place on the griddle.  flip the bread when the egg coating is cooked on the bottom.  this process takes about 4-6 minutes.

keep the toast warm in the oven on a sheet pan while the rest of the toast is cooking.  i serve the toast with fresh maple syrup, powdered sugar and sometimes flavored syrup. warm the syrup before serving.  serve with a breakfast meat and fruit.

baked french onion soup

i have been using this recipe for french onion soup for years.  it came from a magazine and seems to have such a great flavor, taking less time than others i have tried from time to time.

using 10-12 medium sized yellow onions or a mixture of white and yellow onions, saute them in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large soup pot.  as the onions brown, they create a wonderful taste.  this process may take 10-15 minutes depending on the temperature of the stove burner.

after the onions brown, add the wine.  the recipe suggests adding Merlot, but i often add Cabernet to deepen the flavor of the soup.  add about 3 to 4 ounces. then, add the beef broth.  i usually make my own broth from bouillon cubes and have the broth warm to add to the onions.  this saves cooking time.  i typically add 4-6 cups of broth and continue to cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

add black pepper to taste and cook for another minute or so.  if you decide to use low sodium broth, you must add salt to this soup or the taste will be bland.

prepare crusty toasty croutons or bread slices for the top of the crocks.  using ceramic soup bowls, float the croutons over the soup and top with a combination of Swiss and Gruyere cheese.  bake for 10 minutes or place under the broiler for 3 to 4 minutes. 

this soup tastes like it has been cooked all day and will be a delight to your family.