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, March 28, 2011

herbed sliced baked potatoes

for a beautiful special presentation for dinners or holiday meals, prepare baked potatoes this way.  slice the potatoes about 2/3 down after scrubbing well.

place the potatoes in a baking dish, and melt 1/4 stick of margarine.  pour margarine over the potatoes and season with your favorite herbs.  i use a mixture of parsley, chives, dill, and ground pepper.

bake at 350 degrees for at least one hour, and the potatoes will gradually begin to fan open.  test for doneness depending on the size of the potato. to serve, gently fan the potato and top with a pat of margarine, butter or sour cream.  the entire potato easily opens and presents beautifully on the dinner plate.

roasted spaghetti squash

a tasty side dish for any chicken or fish entree is spaghetti squash.  one squash will give at least four servings as a side for the meal.  and, this vegetable is so easy to prepare. 

first, slice the squash lengthwise and place in a large ceramic baking dish cut side down.  place enough tap water around the squash to cover about 1/4 of the squash.  bake at 350 to 375 for about 30 minutes. 

the time estimate depends on what other dishes are being prepared in the oven.  if the oven has several other casseroles cooking, the time may take longer on the squash.  when this first cooking is complete, turn the squash over and continue to bake with the cut side open for at least another 30-45 minutes.  test for doneness by using a fork to scrape the side of the squash.  if it form spaghetti-like strings as in the photograph, the squash is completely cooked. spaghetti squash will vary in size at the market, adjust your cooking time depending on the size of the squash selected.

there are two ways to finish the squash for the table.  a little bit of olive oil and Parmesan cheese can be added and baked in for about 5 minutes, or margarine and brown sugar can be added and baked as well.

either choice, sweet or savory, will complete the dish and complement a variety of main entrees.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

easy peanut butter cups

another Martha Stewart recipe that works every time.  this is a quick and easy treat for Easter. this recipe can be made in less than 30 minutes.  chill time is 20 to 30 minutes.

select a 24 mini muffin cup pan and line with mini muffin cups.  in a glass microwave bowl, add 1/2 cup or 4 ounces of white chocolate (or chips) to 1/2 cup SMOOTH peanut butter.  this recipe must be made with smooth peanut butter only.  melt for 1 minute in the microwave and stir to smooth.  DO NOT OVERHEAT or the chocolate will burn. 

in a second glass bowl, melt 12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate for 2 minutes in the microwave.

use a thin spoon (i use an iced tea spoon) to layer the dark chocolate first, then the peanut butter, and then finish with the dark chocolate on top of the cups.  sprinkle the cups with chopped peanuts or a nut topping.

place the muffin pan in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes to chill.  remove the cups from the freezer and serve.  or store the cups in the freezer covered with plastic in a freezer safe container.  bring the cups to room temperature or slightly cool to serve.  the flavor is maximized closer to room temperature.

cool pasta salad

for a summer picnic or for a spring luncheon, serve this tricolor pasta salad.  i use 2 cups of tricolor spiral pasta and boil as directed on the package.  rinse and cool the noodles before adding the rest of the ingredients.

i add 3/4 can of sliced black olives, 1/2 jar of green pimento stuffed and sliced olives, 2 ribs of celery sliced, about 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, 1 cup of deli turkey sliced in smaller pieces, and 1 small cucumber seeded and diced.

any salad dressing could be added before serving.  i have used a peppercorn dressing or a classic Italian vinaigrette.  mix the ingredients well, add the dressing if serving within an hour or so.  serve with crusty bread for a lunch, or with a main entree for dinner.  for presentation, i use larger romaine salad leaves on the plate and add the salad to the center.  Parmesan cheese can be added to the top for serving.

cherry muffins

 for your next special breakfast, try these cherry muffins.  they are made with dried Michigan cherries.

to make these quick muffins, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  then mix 2 cups flour, with 3 tsp of baking powder, 6 tablespoons of white sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt.  next add 1 egg, 1 cup milk and 3 tablespoons of melted margarine.

mix all to incorporate, and then add 1/2 cup of dried cherries which have been sliced in half or smaller.

fill muffin pan about 2/3 batter per cup.  bake 25 to 30 minutes.  cool and remove from pan to serve with tea, coffee or breakfast.  these are wonderful warm from the oven and can be served with any egg dish. the muffins rise beautifully in the tin and make a nice presentation.

stuffed mushrooms

select large white and portabella mushrooms for this appetizer or side dish.  prepare by lightly washing the mushrooms, removing grit, and centers.  place cap side down on a 1/2 sheet pan that has been lightly sprayed with olive oil.

next chop several stalks of celery and a small to medium white onion.  add panko bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons of melted butter, Parmesan cheese, parsley, sea salt, and ground pepper.  mix the ingredients in a bowl and stuff the mushrooms.  i usually have extra stuffing that i place around the mushrooms and bake along with them.

bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until browned.  these mushrooms can be served alongside a variety of main dishes as a side vegetable.  they can even be used as a breakfast side on a buffet, or as an appetizer.

pasta, asparagus, and pancetta

springtime asparagus is a wonderful vegetable and can be incorporated into a variety of main dishes.  for my pasta asparagus with pancetta recipe, i used one large group of fresh asparagus fresh from the market.

the asparagus is cooked rapidly in boiling water for only 2 minutes, and then removed to an ice water bath to cool and stop the cooking time.  after the asparagus is cooling for a couple of minutes, i cut the asparagus into smaller pieces for the dish.

while the asparagus is cooking, i prepare thin spaghetti, enough for four servings, in boiling water. 
when these two ingredients are ready, the pasta dish can be assembled.

in a large saucepan, i brown one package of pancetta, which has been sliced in small pieces.  then, i add the prepared asparagus, and toss to coat and rewarm.  then, the cooked pasta is added with 1/4 stick of margarine to incorporate with all ingredients.  season with salt and pepper to taste.

here is a photo of the asparagus in the ice water bath, using a 1/2 sheet pan, cold water and ice.
serve with garlic bread, side salad and Parmesan cheese on top.

blueberry coffeecake

for any breakfast or brunch, this blueberry coffeecake is a great addition to the table.  in fact, the recipe is so versatile that any fruit could be substituted for the blueberries.  to make the coffeecake: preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  prepare a 9 inch springform pan with baking spray.  mix 4 tablespoons of butter with 1/2 cup of sugar, then add one egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

mix 1 cup of flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon of baking powder in a cup.  add these ingredients to the wet ingredients.  add 1/3 cup of milk and beat well to incorporate.

spread the batter in the pan and add 1 1/2 cups of fresh or frozen/thawed blueberries to the top of the mixture.  (any berry could be used here)  then, make the topping for the coffeecake.  mix 1/3 cup flour, with 4 tablespoons cold butter, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon together until the mixture is crumbly.  place on top of the blueberries.
bake the cake for 55 to 60 minutes.  cool slightly to remove from the pan. 

the coffeecake is not too sweet and can be served on any pedestal dish. dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar when serving if desired.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

spring garden

a quick stroll through the garden today allowed me to come across lots of green growth hidden beneath the leaves.  i found yarrow, thyme, lamb's ears, crocus, hyacinth bulbs, daffodils, and even rhubarb.

the sun was shining and many of my garden plants were waiting to have wet leaves removed from their crowns. 

although the temperature today in michigan was only in the mid 40's, the sun warmed the ground and seemed to bathe the plants in much needed light for their growth.

spring is here and is welcomed.

orange zest whale sugar cookies

these sugar cookies can be cut into any shape for any occasion.  the dough is a sturdy consistency and must be chilled for one hour before rolling and cutting into shapes.

preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  mix 1/2 cup unsalted butter with 1/4 cup Crisco, and then add 1 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  mix very well.  blend in 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt. next, add  2 1/2 tablespoons of orange zest and mix well.  incorporate the dough into a flat rectangle and place covered on a 1/2 sheet pan. 

chill for one hour.  remove and place on a flour covered surface.  roll out cookies and cut into shapes.  place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until light brown.  this recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies, depending on size of cutters used.  after baking, i added the candy eyes.

option:  use lemon zest instead of orange zest.

cherry and cinnamon scones

enjoy these simple scones for a wonderful breakfast treat any weekend morning.  first, heat the oven to 400 degrees.  in a large bowl, mix 1 3/4 cup flour, with 1/3 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  then add, 1/3 cup of unsalted butter cut into the mixture until crumbly.

the add, 1/3 cup of milk or half and half.  and, 1 egg, beaten.  when mixed, add 1/2 cup of dried cherries.  mix together well and then place dough on a slight floured board.  pat into a circle about 8 inches wide.  place the round onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  sprinkle the top with sugar.  lightly score the circle into segments, but do not cut apart.  bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.

this is delicious warm from the oven, served with fruit, tea or coffee.

green eggs and ham

to celebrate st. Patrick's day this year, i made green eggs and ham omelettes for my family.  here is the omelette during cooking.  i used a mixture of egg beaters and eggs, and whisk them well, pouring into the heated omelette pan.  i usually use a slice of margarine mixed with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil pre-heated in the pan prior to pouring the eggs into the pan.

i added spinach, salt, and pepper.  when the eggs were fully cooked, i added in the deli slice of ham, and folded the omelette over into the traditional shape.  these omelettes will stay warm in the oven while the rest of the omelettes are cooked for the remaining members of the family.

if desired, spinach can be added to the pan first, before the eggs are added.  the omelettes will have more green on the exterior instead of just inside of the dish. 

pacific pineapple and pork stir fry

for a tropical evening dinner, try this easy stir fry recipe.  first, brown a sliced white onion in one tablespoon of olive oil.  next, add sliced green and red peppers, along with sliced carrots on the diagonal.  if desired, shredded carrots may be used for this dish.

then, add grilled pork slices and pineapple chunks that have been drained.  reserve the pineapple juice from the can.  allow all of these flavors to combine in the skillet for at least 10 minutes.  season with salt, pepper, sliced green onions on the diagonal, and toasted sesame seeds. as the dish continues to cook for not more than 30 minutes, additional moisture can be added with the reserved pineapple juice.  this will allow the vegetables to steam and heat through for proper serving temperature.

serve with white rice that has been fluffed with a fork.

irish soda bread

Irish soda bread is a standard for st. Patrick's day.  we enjoyed the traditional recipe for dinner, along with green eggs and ham, and cabbage and leek gratin. this recipe is very similar to a scone recipe and takes about one hour to bake in the oven.  golden raisins could be substituted if desired.

here is the recipe for the bread:  preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix 3 1/4 cups flour with 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1 tsp baking soda.  Add 1 tsp salt in the large bowl.  Next, cut in 1/2 cup or 1 stick of unsalted butter into the mixture until fine and crumbly.  Add 1 1/3 cups of buttermilk and 1/2 cup of raisins.

Place dough on a flat surface, lightly flour and knead until smooth. Shape into a round loaf, no more than 2 inches in thickness.  Place on a greased baking sheet.
Mark and "X" on the top of the loaf with a knife.  Sprinkle with more sugar.

Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown.  Cool slightly and serve. This is a wonderful easy non-yeast bread that can be made in just over one hour.  Very tasty too!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

asian chicken fried rice

this rice dish can be used for a side to any asian meal.  it can be made with grilled chicken or grilled pork.  to prepare the dish, cook 2 cups of white rice earlier in the day and chill. also, prepare the grilled chicken.  then, when ready to make, use 1/3 cup of egg beaters and scramble in skillet.  then add, 1/2 cup green peas, 1/2 cup of chopped or shredded carrots, and sliced grilled chicken. stir fry to warm.  then, add rice and 1/2 cup of green onions sliced on the diagonal. 

to finish off the recipe, add a simple sauce.  mix 1-2 tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce with 1/2 teaspoon of minced fresh ginger, 1/4 tsp of deli mustard, and 1 tablespoon of molasses.  add to rice and continue to heat to warm.  serve with won ton soup or egg rolls. any asian chili sauce could be used as well for variation.

focaccia tiles

this is a great go-to recipe for a party bread, or a side to soup or salad for everyday meals. any of the tiles can be made with a variety of toppings.  today i used black olives, sunflower seeds, green olives, roasted red peppers and canned sliced mushrooms.  other toppings could be herbs or chopped bacon or specialty sausages.

to make the bread dough:  combine 1 package of yeast in 2/3 cup of warm water and proof for 10 minutes.  then add, 3 cups flour, 1 tbsp olive oil, dash of salt, and 1 cup of warm water.  mix gently and slightly knead and place in bowl prepared with olive oil.  cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm spot for 5 hours or more. 

then, later in the day, prepare a sheet pan with olive oil, easily stretch the dough with well oiled hands, to make a flat dough presentation, and then allow the dough to rest again for 1 hour.

when ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  score the dough into tiles, and place the toppings as desired.  lightly spray with olive oil and dust with herbs of choice.  i used parsley and basil.  a nice herbs for pizza mixture would work well also.  bake for 25 to 30 minutes until edges are brown.  serve warm.

tuscan tomato soup

this Tuscan soup is delicious.  it works with a variety of fresh or canned tomatoes.  i have used roasted cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, or even just canned diced tomatoes.  each of these variations is wonderful and easy to prepare for your family.  ingredients include:  4 cups of tomatoes, chopped, diced or crushed, 3 cups of tomato juice or V8 juice or a mixture of juice and vegetable stock, 1/2 cup minced onions, 1 1/4 cups heavy cream or half and half, salt, pepper, and basil.

in a large soup pot, saute onions in a dash of olive oil.  add tomatoes, the juice and/or juice and broth (2-1), and seasonings.  heat and serve.  i usually allow the soup to simmer, not boil, for at least 20 minutes. just prior to serving, add the cream to lighten and slightly thicken the soup.  options for this recipe include:  add celery with the onion or add fresh parsley from the garden.

to serve, use a hearty Tuscan round bread found in the deli of your favorite store and tear small pieces to serve with the soup at the table.  i use a basket and the bread adds a great texture to the soup.  people from Italy call this soup pappa al pomodoro.