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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

roasted boneless pork loin glaze

to keep a boneless pork roast moist and flavorful, here is a great glaze recipe:

1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
orange liqueur or madria sangria

heat all ingredients in a saucepan, reserving the sangria until the last.  the last 45 minutes of roasting time, apply the glaze to the pork loin.  more warm glaze can added when serving.

shredded potatoes au gratin

another wonderful side dish for a holiday breakfast meal is hash brown potatoes.  i really like barefoot contessa's recipe for potatoes, and have made them on several occasions.  however, sometimes i don't have enough time for her preparation, and have opted to use pre-shredded potatoes.  i totally recommend this recipe for those occasions. the potatoes are served individually which makes a nice presentation.

preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  lightly spray 6 ramekins with nonstick cooking spray.  combine about 1/2 bag of refrigerated shredded or thawed frozen hash brown potatoes with some half and half  to moisten, add about 1 1/4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup sliced green onions, sea salt and black pepper.

place the mixture into the ramekins.  of course, the whole bag of potatoes could be prepared if your guest list is larger and enough ramekins are available.  sprinkle the tops with additional cheese.

bake on a 1/2 sheet pan until bubbly and golden brown and the potatoes are fully cooked.  this may take at least 45 minutes.

easy pineapple upside down cake

i have owned this pineapple upside down pan for about thirty years.  it is a wonderful pan for this cake, as it has impressions into the pan to allow for space for the pineapple.  this makes the pineapple topping rise a bit above the surface of the cake, allowing for an attractive presentation.  i would recommend finding one if you don't like the appearance of your traditional pineapple cake.

this recipe is very easy, since it uses a standard box white or yellow cake mix. the topping is quite standard as well, but can be changed to your family's taste.

here is the recipe:
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar (option to use 1/2 cup light brown, and 1/2 cup dark brown)
1 20 ounce can pineapple slices, drained well and patted dry
1 jar maraschino cherries without stems, drained and patted dry
1 box yellow or white cake mix (mix as directed)

heat oven to 350 degrees.  melt margarine and place in bottom of pan.  add brown sugar and then place pineapple slices on top. decorate with cherries inside of the pineapple and all open spaces around the pineapple.  press into the sugar. i have also substituted dried cranberries and they have also been tasty.

prepare the cake mix as directed and place over the other ingredients.  as an option, reserve the drained pineapple juice in a measuring cup and add water to equal the amount on the cake mix package.  so, the pineapple juice is replacing a portion of the water in the mix.

bake this cake at least 40 to 45 minutes or until completely done.  when out of the oven, run a knife around the edges of the pan and invert onto a cake stand.  allow the pan to stay over the cake for just about 3 minutes to allow all the brown sugar to drizzle over the cake.  remove the pan.  this cake can be served warm or cooled and should be stored in the refrigerator. 

serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

roasted tomatoes and shrimp with feta cheese

roasted vegetables consistently have more flavor, texture and a better taste.  for this recipe, i begin with 2 pints of grape tomatoes, and drizzle them with a high quality olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper in a large ceramic casserole dish.  next, they are placed in a preheated oven at 450 degrees and roasted for 15 to 20 minutes.

during that time period, i chop a full jar of roasted red peppers, after rinsing them well. i also prepare my shrimp.  i like to see the large size shrimp in this dish, so i use a whole bag of 26-30 count raw shrimp which have been cleaned with tail on.  i thaw the shrimp just before using and remove the tails.

after the tomatoes have roasted, i add the shrimp and peppers and cook until the shrimp are pink.  this is about 10 to 15 more minutes.  this step helps to continue to roast the tomatoes. 

when ready to serve, toss with 1/2 cup of parsley flakes or fresh chopped parsely, and one 4 ounce package of feta cheese that has been cut into large cubes.  a fresh squeeze of lemon juice is optional, and i did not add to the dish this past week. this is a very tasty dish and a nice break from standard shrimp stir frys.

i served this over rice with a crusty sliced bread.  a small side salad also complements the meal.

roasted granny smith apple and pears

one of my favorite treats is warmed breakfast fruit.  i usually like to serve warm fruit for holiday meals, and this year was no exception. for Easter, i prepared this recipe of roasted granny smith apples and pears.

here are the directions:
core, peel and slice 2-3 granny smith apples
core, peel and slice 2 large green pears
1/4 cup raisins or cranberries
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons honey (i used orange flavored honey this year)
2 teaspoons fresh orange peel or grated rind

preheat oven to 350 degrees.  combine apples, pears and raisins in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish.  toss well.
combine water, honey and orange peel in a bowl.  pour over the apples.

cover and bake for at least 45 minutes.  serve warm.  this recipe will easily serve 8 people for breakfast.
this dish is a nice complement to eggs or french toast.

this dish will stay warm in the oven covered with foil or in a chafing dish. it will reheat the next day in the microwave and still keep texture and taste.

ham and cheese breakfast casserole

one of my better recipes for the breakfast crowd is this ham and cheese casserole.  like many others, it can be prepared a day ahead and just baked in the morning.

this recipe is easily adapted to include either bacon, ham or a breakfast sausage, if desired.  select a large deep casserole dish and prepare the following:

several slices of a crusty round bread
cooked ham, bacon or sausage
1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
8 eggs (i use 4 eggs and the rest egg beaters)
1 1/2 cups of half and half
1 teaspoon salt

arrange the bread at the base of a casserole.  layer with the meat selection.  then, place cheese on top for the next layer.  pour egg mixture over the top.  chill overnight.  bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.

serve this with a fruit salad and a wonderful muffin or scone. this recipe will serve at least 8 guests.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

sweet and salty chocolate chip cookies

for a change from the old standard chocolate chip cookie recipe, here is one that offers something different.  the salty taste and the option of adding peanuts or another nut, adds a very different flavor to the cookie.

preheat oven to 350 degrees.  mix dry ingredients.  1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.  next, mix wet ingredients into the mixer bowl.  mix 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 large egg.  mix well and add dry ingredients.

for the last addition, measure and chop 1/3 cup peanuts or other nut, and 1/3 cup chocolate chips.  i used peanuts for this batch and milk chocolate chips.  and finally, add 1/2 teaspoon of course sea salt.  this is what gives the cookie the salty taste.

i used a cookie scoop and placed them on baking sheets coated with canola cooking spray.  this recipe makes 32 to 36 cookies.  bake for about 10 minutes and allow to cool. 

these cookies are just delicious.

shrimp chinese

here is another alternative for a shrimp main dish or stir fry presentation.  i use jumbo shrimp, clean them and remove the tails.  grill shrimp in a skillet and season with salt, pepper or your favorite shrimp seasoning. 

next, add a selection of vegetables to taste.  i have added fresh broccoli, shredded carrots, canned or fresh mushrooms, water chestnuts or even bamboo shoots.  heat these before preparing the sauce.

i use 1/2 cup of orange marmalade and mix in 1/2 cup of hoisin sauce, heating in a saucepan prior to adding to the dish.  once the sauce is heated through, the dish is done and ready to serve.

this dish can be served with white or brown rice, and even with crispy rice noodles.  this is a great addition to an Asian buffet dinner or for an Asian themed meal. other meal options could include substituting out the shrimp and prepare with pork or chicken.  the sauce is very tasty and versatile.


recently, i have been experimenting with a variety of onion products.  these shallots are very mild and i have been cutting them quite fine, almost to a mincing texture, and substituting them for several standard recipes.  for lunch salads, such as tuna fish or chicken salad, shallots substitute nicely and give a much milder flavor and are easily chopped finely to incorporate into the salad.

i have also used them in stir fry's, and with a green bean side dish in the past week. for each of these recipes, the shallots have provided a wonderful flavor and less powerful onion taste for my guests. i am certainly going to continue to use them instead of a yellow or white onion in certain recipes.

easy chocolate cake

for an easy weekday dessert, here is a superb chocolate cake that is rich and dark, very similar to a brownie texture.  it is baked in a loaf pan and cut into slices, and is easily served with whipped cream, a drizzle of chocolate sauce, topped with nuts or even just plain.

preheat the oven to 325.  grease and lightly flour a 9 by 5 by 3 inch loaf pan.  mix dry ingredients in a small bowl to add later to the wet ingredients. mix 1 1/2 cup flour, 3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa ( i used trader joe's), 1 tsp baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. 

in a mixer bowl, cream 1 stick softened unsalted butter, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 large egg, 1 cup buttermilk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (i used almond today).  Then, add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and combine.

pour the batter into the loaf pan.  place on a sheet pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes until done.  allow to cool before serving.

Monday, April 4, 2011

almond chocolate chip ice cream

another one of my favorite ice cream flavors made in the Cuisinart ice cream maker is almond chocolate chip.  i use the basic recipe for ice cream in the maker, which is:  2 cups of whipping cream, 1 cup of half and half, 3/4 cup of sugar, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon of extract.  in this case, i used almond.  i then place in the chilled maker and process for 25 minutes.  when the mixture has thickened, i add the chocolate chips and incorporate.  to finish, i place in a stainless steel dish and freeze for 6 or more hours before serving.  this ice cream is very tasty and is wonderful served with cookies, cake, or just alone.

broccoli swiss quiche

here is a basic recipe for a Swiss quiche that can be altered with a variety of vegetables.  for this broccoli quiche, either frozen broccoli or fresh heads can be used.  today, i used fresh and trimmed all the stems completely off and just used several heads for the top of the quiche.

to begin, select a frozen pie crust to shorten the preparation time.  chop 1/2 white onion, 1/4 green pepper, several green onions, and broccoli as prepared above.

bacon or cooked and crumbled sausage can be added first to the pie shell.  next, add 6 ounces of Swiss cheese.  then add the vegetables, and about 3 more ounces of cheese, which can be a mix of Monterrey jack and cheddar.  add 2 eggs mixed with 1/2 cup of egg beaters and about 1/2 cup of half and half.  gently pepper the wet ingredients.  pour over the vegetables in the quiche dish.  allow to distribute throughout the quiche.

bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes, check and rotate the dish.  bake for another 15 minutes until completely set in the middle of the dish.  i baked the dish for 55 minutes, but oven temperatures do vary and the amount of vegetables and liquid can adjust the cooking time.

serve this quiche with a side salad or soup, roll or popover, and cup of tea.  this makes a wonderful brunch or lunch dish.

baked macaroni and cheese

baked macaroni and cheese is a classic comfort food dish that warms everyone up on a chilly wet day.  for this traditional recipe, i use 2 cups of elbow macaroni noodles.  boil these for 8 minutes, even though the box may recommend longer.  8 minutes will soften the noodles that will continue to bake in the oven with the rest of the ingredients.

for the white cheese sauce, start with 2 tbsp of margarine melted in a saucepan.  add 2 tbsp of flour and stir to mix and heat. add 1 teaspoon of salt.  gradually whisk in 2 1/2 cups of milk, while stirring to incorporate the flour mixture.  this is an important step that must be done carefully to incorporate the ingredients into a perfect white sauce.  by gradually adding the milk, and whisking with a wire whisk, and going slowly, this step can be done successfully.

after these ingredients have been incorporated and heated to coat the back of a wooden spoon, add 2 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese.  then, drain the macaroni noodles, then add to this mixture. 

pour into a greased casserole dish. add another 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese to the top before baking.  bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, and then allow to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.  baked macaroni and cheese is a wonderful classic dish to have in any recipe box for a go-to comfort food meal.  serve this dish with a green vegetable, herb roll or salad.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

cake decorating

it was a cold and snowy day in midland today, so i decided to bake and decorate a cake.  i often bake two 8-inch round layers of cake, but only decorate one.  then, i save the second in the freezer for another day and time.

today, i selected my traditional icing recipe (maple cupcake icing) and a number 21 star decorating tip and icing bag.  i piped stars on the top of the cake and finished the cake with chopped walnuts.

this is a very easy technique and makes the cake appear quite professionally decorated.

bread maker

i purchased a new breadmaker this week after reading the consumer reviews and commentary on many websites. i have to agree with the other consumers, and say that this is the best breadmaker around.  the recipe booklet that came with the bread baker is filled with so many delicious sounding breads that i am so excited to try in the coming weeks.

i have made one type of bread so far, the herbed crusted dill bread, and the loaf was not only tasty but baked to perfection.  although i do alot of bread baking in the oven, i felt that this tool would allow me to make bread at times i was not able to stay at home and watch the loaf in the oven.

i feel that the various twelve settings will give me a wide variety of bread selection and flavors.  i am so happy to have a new machine.  my older model bread maker was more than 15 years old and had seen better days.

more green tomatoes

this week i found fresh green tomatoes from Canada at my local grocery store.  these were amazing tomatoes, large and firm, and tasted wonderful baked in the oven.

i have shared my green tomato recipe before, but wanted to share this week that these tomatoes were available the last week of march.  i baked these tomatoes for at least 30 minutes after slicing them and preparing them on the sheet pan.

green tomatoes are a great side dish for any chicken or fish entree.  the soft texture after baking gives the tomatoes a superb flavor and taste.  green tomatoes are one of my all time favorite dishes, and baking them has to be my favorite technique.

homemade applesauce

this week i tried a very simple recipe and made homemade applesauce.   since i only had these three large apples, i wasn't able to make a large serving, but just enough to share for one meal.

i simply peeled the apples, and chopped them into small cubes.  i placed them on the stove for about 30 minutes, stirring once and awhile, to soften the apples into sauce.  then, i added 1 tablespoon of vanilla and some sugar to taste.  i found the recipe in this wonderful book from my midland county public library.  i have to say that the vanilla gave the sour apples a bright taste and delicious flavor.

here is a photo of the homemade applesauce that i served for dinner this week.  it was truly yummy and nothing like applesauce from the market.