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, May 17, 2011

broccoli almond salad

a couple of weeks ago, we had some warm temperatures in midland, and i decided to take out my summer salad recipes and prepare one for dinner.  this is one of my favorites and very easy to make.

in a mixing bowl, combine these ingredients:  6 cups of fresh broccoli florets, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup raisins, 10 slices of baked bacon that has been cooled and crumbled, and 3 sliced green onions.

next, mix 2/3 cup light or fat free mayonnaise, 1/4 cup heated honey, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. pour over salad and toss to coat the ingredients.  stir in about 4 ounces of almonds just before serving.

baked red onion

this oven baked method produces a very tasty appetizer onion.  start with a very large red onion.  preheat the oven to 375 degrees and light spray a sheet pan with olive oil spray.

peel the skin from the onion and trim the bottom so that the onion will sit flat on the pan.  using a knife from the top down, cut 3/4 down into the onion forming a flower shape.  this may take 20 or more vertical slices.  transfer the onion to the baking sheet.

next, combine 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs, mixed with any seasoning of your choice.  examples would be garlic powder, paprika, any seasoned salt, or a favorite herb mixture.  in another small bowl, mix 2 large egg whites or use egg white product found in the dairy aisle of the market.  pour the egg whites over the onion after slightly opening up the onion to form the flower shape.  then, sprinkle with the bread crumbs mixture. 

spray the onion with olive oil and bake for at least 40 to 60 minutes until browned.  serve with a dipping sauce. this onion is very tasty and will be enjoyed by your guests at any game day party.

vegetable spring rolls

as a healthy alternative to the fried Asian egg roll, this spring roll recipe is light, crunchy and very tasty.  although i chose to make the recipe with just vegetables, this dish could be made with cook shrimp or chicken. this recipe can be made in advance and is certainly going to be a hit at your party.

mix 1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts, 1/2 cup shredded carrots, 1/4 cup water chestnuts, 3 chopped green onions and grated celery in a large mixing bowl.  this filing is very flexible and other vegetables can be used.  other options would be to add chopped mushrooms, shredded napa cabbage, chopped basil or other herbs to taste.

using packaged rice paper spring roll wrappers, dip them one by one in very warm water for about 10 seconds.  working one at a time, add the filling to the center of the wrapper and fold up into a log and then using extra water on the fingers, shape the edges into a spring roll shape. 

after 10 to 12 of these are prepared, i place them on a 1/2 sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate before cutting in half for serving.  for a party, serve on a bed of large leaf lettuce on a chilled platter.  any favorite Asian dipping sauce can be used as a garnish.  for an orange sauce, heat orange marmalade in a saucepan until the consistency is thin enough for dipping.  

roasted red potatoes

as an alternative to boiled or baked potatoes, these roasted red potatoes are a great side dish for any casual meal.  served with burgers or fish, they are tasty, crunchy and have excellent flavor.  i choose red potatoes over other varieties, based on their texture and cooking time.  i try to slice the potatoes into similar size and shape to keep the cooking time even.

prepare a baking sheet with a light coating of olive oil and slice the potatoes in lengthwise fashion.  mix with the olive oil on the sheet and season with a flavorful mixture.  i really like Mary's gourmet seasoning purchased in traverse city Michigan.  i also use a sprinkle of parsley and crushed black pepper.  the potatoes are roasted in a 375 to 400 degree oven for at least 20 minutes, then turned and roasted on the opposite side for another 15 to 30 minutes.  the cooking time needs to be monitored based on the choice of potatoes, the darkness of the baking sheet, and the thickness of the sliced potato.

serve with barbecue sauce, ketchup, a peppercorn dressing or just as cooked.  these potatoes are very crispy without frying and very flavorful.

Monday, May 16, 2011

ice cream flavors

recently i ordered these baking extract flavors from King Arthur flour's mail order catalog.  their taste is quite flavorful.  certainly, i have used a variety of flavorings in my recipes recently, but i find these to be quite superb. i would say they are high quality and have made my ice cream flavors unparalleled to store bought samples.

the pralines and cream was added to my basic vanilla recipe and then at the end of the processing, i added chopped pecans.  i used the amaretto flavor recently in my basic frosting recipe.  it was also unmatched to other extracts used in the past.

King Arthur has a variety of flavors and baking needs, and i would highly recommend their catalog or online service to any foodie.

june bug drinks

for a refreshing special drink to serve at breakfast for for a spring party, try this recipe for June bugs.  this recipe can be easily doubled in a large pitcher.  3 cups of ginger ale, 4 tablespoons grenadine, 4 tablespoons orange juice, 3 scoops orange sherbet.  blend together the ingredients and pour into ice filled glasses.  for the alcoholic version, add 1/2 cup white rum to the mixture.

pecan praline nuts

here is a recipe that can be used throughout the year when a fancy nut is desired.  these nuts can be served in a pedestal dish along with cocktails or as a dessert topping for ice cream. they are addictive, so be certain to make them when a crowd is coming to avoid eating too many.

i used a lightly sprayed silpat mat on a baking sheet.  first, stir together 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup milk, 2 tablespoons corn syrup in a 3 quart heavy saucepan.  boil over medium heat and stir constantly until a candy thermometer registers 234 degrees.  this takes about eight minutes.

remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pecans.  spread the mixture onto the silpat mat into an even layer.  allow to cool at least one hour before breaking the pecans into pieces.  store in an airtight container for one week.  these nuts can be frozen if desired in a zip top plastic bag for several weeks.

party grilled cheese

when entertaining for the Kentucky derby this year, i tried a few new recipes that have already become favorites of my guests.  instead of serving a traditional open faced sandwich, upgrade to something special that will wow your party friends.

here i used bakery ciabatta bread sliced into smaller squares, and topped them with a variety of choices on a baking sheet.  the sandwiches were baked in a 350 degree oven until the cheese layer melted.  i watched the sandwiches and rotated the pan half way through the cooking time.  the sandwiches baked around 15 minutes.

the sandwiches were first topped with a layer of cheese.  for these i used emmentaler Swiss and Gruyere as the base.  then, some of the toppings were:  tomatoes and bacon, bacon, red onion and chives from the garden, bacon and dill pickle slices, cheese and green pear slices.

spring bleeding hearts

splendid in both my colonial garden and my backyard shade garden, bleeding hearts fill the early season spaces with beautiful sturdy pink and white hearts.  both species of bleeding hearts are fascinating to see emerge quickly over a week when warmer temperatures heat up the soil.

although these plants will die back after the spring season, the area can be filled with goat's beard, astilbe, or even ferns in a shade garden.  i have surrounded my plants with these and they seem to compliment the space well creating another season of blooms.

parsley buttered noodles

many types of noodles are available at the market, however; i prefer no yolk noodles for the lower carbohydrate offering.  served as a side dish to fish or chicken, these noodles are boiled for only 7 minutes and tossed with margarine and parsley.

fresh parsley from the garden would be recommended, but if fresh is not available, i substitute a good quality parsley flake and generously add to the noodles.

crispy panko fish

although baked or broiled fish is my go-to favorite, sometimes i enjoy making cod with a crispy panko batter.

to prepare this tasty fish recipe, begin by cutting the fish into smaller segments and allow to coat in egg beaters in a shallow bowl.

once the fish is coated, dip the pieces into panko bread crumbs and lightly brown in a small amount of canola oil in an electric skillet.  once browned on the surface, the fish cooks on a baking sheet in the oven, which has been set at 350 degrees.  cover the fish with foil and allow to cook until tender, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.  served with parsley buttered noodles and asparagus.

homemade tartar sauce

as a condiment to baked, broiled, or pan fried cod, this tartar sauce compliments the fish nicely.  much better than store bought sauce, this easy recipe will become one of your favorites over the years.

to prepare, mix a fat free or low fat mayonnaise with finely chopped sweet pickles or a store bought pickle relish.  mix to taste and serve chilled in small stainless condiment dishes for each dinner guest.

asparagus steamer

everyone should purchase an asparagus steamer for asparagus preparation.  this tall steamer makes tasty asparagus when steamed for only a few minutes. the texture of the asparagus stays intact as well as the bright green color of the vegetable.

without overcooking asparagus, this steamer provides just enough heat to tenderize the vegetable without causing it to lose flavor.  serving the asparagus as a side to fish or chicken compliments the shape of the presentation.

grandma's garden

everyone has a favorite flower or one that reminds them of days gone by.  for me, the old fashioned forget me nots are one of my classic favorite flowers.  forget me nots are an earlier spring bloomer that seem to cover the ground and multiply easily every year.  the small blue flowers grow low to the ground and almost form a carpet of blue as they spread between other perennials. the flowers complement my grape hyacinths, yellow daffodils and blue flowering myrtle.

these plants were a gift from a gardening friend and will continue to remind me of her lovely garden for years to come.

eton mess

after the royal wedding, i was influenced to try one of the recipes served at the after party for Will and Kate.  Eton mess was a dessert served to them while they were college students and became one of Will's favorites.  there are several varieties of the recipe posted online, however; this one seems to be a great recipe that i tried the evening of the wedding.

crumble Madeline fingers in the bottom of a large clear glass goblet.  other options would be to use crispy meringues.  whip a large bowl of whipping cream until stiff and stir in chopped fresh strawberries.  this mixture is then placed on top of the crispy cookies.  if desired, the cookies can be layered. 

this recipe is light and delicious and can easily be prepared in stages.  crumble the cookies and have on hand.  whip the cream, chop the strawberries and then layer the dessert at the time of serving.

derby day focaccia bread

derby day seems like a perfect day for this recipe.  since i have already posted the bread dough recipe on this blog under foccacia tiles, i wanted to share a few different toppings that were wonderful for derby day.

this time, the roasted yellow and red peppers topped with garden herbs worked well, along with sliced tomatoes and chives, and red onion and tomatoes.

sanders hot fudge cream puffs

growing up in the Detroit suburbs, i was very familiar with the old time sanders ice cream shops.  these ice cream stores often had an old fashioned counter where ice cream sundaes could be ordered.  although these stores are no longer in business, the company still sells their famous sanders hot fudge.

one of their most favorite recipes was that of a hot fudge cream puff, with millions sold over the years to customers.  recently, i was given a gift of sanders fudge and a sack of their homemade cream puffs, so i served these at home to my family.

the fudge heats nicely in the microwave and pours over ice cream with the top layer of the puff capping off the dessert.  traditionally, i make my own cream puffs and have served them with both ice cream and just homemade whipped cream.

 here is my recipe for cream puffs which is spectacular:
preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  prepare a baking sheet by using a spray butter coating.  bring 3/4 stick of unsalted butter, cut into pieces, 3/4 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a small saucepan.  when combined, decrease the heat to medium and add 3/4 cup of flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball and pulls away from the saucepan.  this will take about 30 seconds.

transfer the mixture to another bowl and allow to cool for about 3 minutes.  then add 3 large eggs, one at a time, beating with an electric mixer.  then, transfer the mixture to a pastry bag and pipe about 12 mounds one inch or more apart on a baking sheet.  pointy peaks tend to burn so tap them down with a wet finger before baking the puffs.

bake the cream puffs until puffed about 20 to 25 minutes.  then, prick with a skewer and return to the oven, leaving the oven door open for another 3 minutes.  cool on the same baking sheet.

as an alternate to the sanders hot fudge, my ganache recipe works very well over ice cream.

spring daffodils and tulips

when the weather finally warms up in Michigan, i am energized to walk in my garden and begin the spring clean-up.  first, clearing the garden beds of mulched leaves that were placed in the fall for winter plant protection.  next, i use a heart hoe to gently stir the soil from being compacted with many inches of snow for months.

soon, my bulbs begin to emerge from the soil, and with a little bit of rain and the warm sun, they begin to become a welcome sight.  these yellow daffodils were purchased from my garden club last year and were given a little splash of bulb food as they began to develop their leaves.

these pink tulips and purple grape hyacinths are within my garden fence and bloomed a couple of weeks later adding color and contrast to the many green perennials that are growing for this summer season.

i like to mix bulbs within my perennial garden, my shade garden, and my borders.  throughout the spring, i enjoy seeing a solid splash of color to brighten the yard.

each spring i add about 1/2 inch of composted manure to top dress the garden and the beds.  i have found that this little bit of compost adds a wonderful burst of nourishment to my plants.