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

Thursday, January 27, 2011

cooking with the barefoot contessa

my all time favorite cookbook author is ina garten, the barefoot contessa.  she has impacted my way of cooking over the past years, with her easy approach to roasting vegetables and meat, making soups and stews, and preparing easy appetizers for any occasion.

these cookbooks are filled with simple ideas for meals, picnics, barbecues, formal or casual dinners and lunches.  every recipe that i have tried has been a success.

 ina owned her own store on long island for years before her talents as a cookbook author evolved.  her knowledge for food preparation continues into table decoration, flower arrangements, baking, and even mixed drinks. many of her recipes talk about transporting food to other's homes or packing them for a picnic.

cookbook reading on a snowy day in michigan

sara foster has been one of my favorite cookbook authors for several years now. i own three of her cookbooks and have made many recipes from the foster market cookbook.  these two books of hers are filled with wonderful recipes that are quick and easy to prepare and have a basic essence of good old fashioned home cooking.  the ingredients are easy to find, and are most often in the pantry already. i highly recommend any of her books.  she was originally a caterer who worked with Martha Stewart and then moved to north carolina and began her own business more than 25 years ago.

since i have a collection of le creuset bakeware, i purchased this cookbook as a way to expand my basic recipes into a more diverse collection of soups, stews and other hearty main dishes. reading this cookbook on a snowy afternoon in the winter challenges me to prepare a warm and comforting dinner for my hubby tonight.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

dried shiitake mushrooms

these dried shiitake mushrooms are an amazing product.  i find them just over the produce in the refrigerated speciality item section of the market.  i have purchased several different packages of mushrooms, and when i need to have fresh mushrooms for a recipe, i turn to these in my pantry.  when they are reconstituted with boiling water, they are very close to a fresh mushroom product.  i have used these in soups, stews, bread dressings, and even mixed with fresh green beans for a side dish.

better than canned mushrooms, without sodium added, this is a product i recommend to have in the pantry for those last minute needs for fresh mushrooms in dinner recipes.

chocolate candy dots

 i tried martha's recipe this week for chocolate candy dots and it worked nicely.  i melted 8 ounces of ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate over boiling water in a double boiler, and then added 1 teaspoon of vegetable shortening to allow the chocolate to glisten.  at this point, the chocolate could be flavored with any flavoring oil of choice.  i decided not to flavor the chocolate.
next, i used a very small appetizer spoon to make small spoonfuls of chocolate on the sheet pans, which were covered with waxed paper.  this process took awhile, with the recipe making enough candies for two sheet pans.  after the chocolate cools for about 20 minutes, it is time to sprinkle the candy with the white candy dots.  if the dots are applied while the chocolate is still very warm, they will sink into the candy and not be on the top as shown.

  the candies are traditionally called sno caps in the stores, and have always been one of my favorites for years.  this recipe is so easy and by choosing high quality chocolate, flavoring the chocolate and using different colored dots, the recipes are limit less for an all time favorite.

 just think, i could have coconut white chocolate sno caps.... yummy

meyer lemon sorbet

this simple recipe only requires the best lemons around which are often difficult to find. most often they are only in the stores from November through May.  i happened to see these at my local Kroger a couple of weeks ago and couldn't believe it.  these lemons are remarkably beautiful and juicy.  they would also be wonderful for any lemon tart.

to make the sorbet, i used this whole bag of lemons, which was six, sliced them and hand juiced them with a glass lemon juicer.  i strained them for seeds.  meanwhile, i heated 2 cups of water in a small saucepan and added 1 1/2 cups of sugar to melt.  i then added lemon zest from the rinds of the lemons and cooled the mixture in the refrigerator until chilled.

then, i added the chilled Meyer lemon juice to the mixture and placed in my Cuisinart ice cream maker and processed for 25 minutes.  this makes an amazing sorbet that would be wonderful for a hot summer evening.

spatchcocked roasted chicken

for Christmas eve this year, i made a spatchcocked roasted chicken with vegetables.  this is a term used by the butcher when the chicken is split down the back, backbone is removed and the chicken is flattened. i placed the chicken over a roasting rack on a sheet pan.  below the rack are vegetables which were seasoned.  i chose red potatoes, celery, white onion, and carrots.  i seasoned with salt, pepper, and parsley.

i used poultry seasoning on the chicken and baked at 425 degrees for 45 minutes, then reduced the temperature to 375 for 25 minutes.  i checked the chicken temperature at serving time with a thermometer and it was 165 degrees and delicious!  this was a moist 3 1/2 pound chicken and there seemed to be less waste then when roasting the whole chicken.

buffet service

here is a wonderful presentation for buffet service at your next dinner party.  i simply wrapped the tableware in crisp white napkins and tied with ribbon so they would not fall when carried. it was much easier for the guests instead of balancing them, and the ribbon coordinated with the party's theme.

this buffet was offered on my kitchen peninsula, and the guests moved to the deck for eating. this was a memorable luncheon during the warmer summer months.

Maine puffy pancake

over the Christmas holiday, i served one of Martha's tasty breakfast recipes.  the Maine puffy pancakes are one of my family's favorites.  the pancakes are mixed and baked in the oven, then cut into segments to serve.

preheat the oven to 425 degrees. use 2 large eggs, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup milk, a pinch of salt and a pinch of cinnamon.  whisk until combined in a bowl.  batter may be lumpy.

for each pancake, melt 1 tbsp. of butter in a pan in the oven prior to pouring the pancake.  bake in the oven about 10 minutes.

serve with syrup, powdered sugar or fruit. hint:  this pancake will flatten, so serve immediately while still warm from the oven. this recipe made one very large pancake as shown, which we divided and shared.

vegetable steamer

vegetables are so tasty when steamed. i have been using this vegetable steamer to prepare vegetables in recent weeks and have noted the increased taste, better texture and enhanced flavor of them.

the best vegetables to steam include: brocolli, green beans, carrots, and asparagus.  the steamer is placed over boiling water in a saucepot and then covered.  when cooking is completed, the steamer opens to serve the vegetables.  i purchased this steamer at williams sonoma.

steamers have been in use for years, however; i have just found mine again and am rekindling my love of all things natural.

breakfast honey

 recently, i have been experimenting with honey. these products have been exceptional for different uses.  the stonewall kitchen Maine blueberry honey is wonderful on biscuits, toast or pancakes.

the honeycomb was especially tasty on scones during the holidays, and the honey beads are just wonderful with a cup of tea. they dissolve and provide a wonderful sweetness to the warmed tea.

each of these products has a very different texture, but provide just the right amount of sweetness needed.

in an attempt to eat more natural unprocessed foods, the honeycomb would have to be my favorite.

cranberry crumble

this is a great holiday fruit dessert.  mix together 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 4 cups of fresh cranberries.  toss well and put into well greased baking dish.  then, blend 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 cup oats, and 1 stick margarine and top the fruit with this mixture.

bake at 375 until the fruit bubbles and the top browns, about 35 minutes.  serve with whipped cream or ice cream.  this is so tasty when served warm just out of the oven. i photographed the dish before baking!

this recipe came from an herbal newsletter from Michigan.  enjoy!

new year's midnight snack

for new year's eve, this simple snack makes a fun celebration.  assembled here is a wedge of white cheddar cheese, bremner wafers, petite sweet pickles, flat bread wafers, walnuts, celery sticks, and a few strawberries.
paired with a favorite beverage, this midnight treat just hit the spot for a special celebration.