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, July 20, 2011

rosa rugosa

on a trip this past weekend to Mackinac island, Michigan, i found this magnificent hedge of Rosa rugosa.  growing near the lake, this hedge lined a white picket fence that reminded me of new england.  Rosa rugosa grows almost wild on the island of Nantucket in the Atlantic ocean.  the climate for this shrub seems to be near the water, which allows this plant to just flourish and grow like nowhere else i have ever seen.

the bushes often form a hedge and flower, then leaving rose hips, which can be gathered to make potpourri or even perfumed oil.  i remember when i first saw Rosa rugosa on a trip to Nantucket in the early 90's and was captured by the size and beauty of this shrub rose.  i photographed my daughter Amy near the beautiful hedge.

here in very cold northern Michigan by the lake, spectacular Rosa rugosa grows.  i am so lucky to be living two hours from the beautiful lakes in Michigan.  the moderate temperatures, cool breezes and beautiful views cannot be matched by many other locations.  the climate is very similar to that of new england and the amount of shore line is vastly greater, offering more opportunity to find a perfect spot to live on the water. that is my dream.

vegetables on the grill

it is the season for grilled vegetables, and cooking them outside adds flavor and excitement to any meal.  this is a simple mixture of zucchini, white onion, and yellow pepper.  seasoned with any one of many grill seasonings, these vegetables come alive with flavor. 

i like to leave the vegetables on the grill until some are slightly charred for a bit of extra flavor and texture.  they cook very quickly over hot coals and hold their firmness when cooked if moved throughout the process of grilling.  i never leave these alone, but monitor them very closely.

served with a grilled chicken breast for dinner, no one can complain.  this is a delicious meal bursting with healthy ingredients and flavor.

grape tomato pasta sauce

one day last week i looked at a box of grape tomatoes i had on my refrigerator shelf and decided to try another fresh approach to a pasta topping.  i used the entire box of fresh grape tomatoes, mixed freshly cut parsley, basil and oregano from my garden, with a chopped white onion.  with a splash of olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper, i began to cook the tomatoes.  within minutes they softened and opened, allowing the juices to meld together with the other ingredients in the pot

i realized that one basket of grape tomatoes would not be enough to serve three adults, so i added some boxed tomatoes with gave me the correct consistency for my pasta sauce.
this sauce was perfect, tasty and fresh.  i particularly like this brand of boxed chopped tomatoes.  although they are not the same as fresh tomatoes, they are a wonderful staple to have in the pantry when fresh are not available.  they complimented the taste and flavor i had created and boosted the amount of sauce as it had cooked down to a smaller amount.  when judging how much sauce would be needed for a meal, i would double the amount of fresh product in your mind, as fresh vegetables do cook down and reduce in size, but increase and enhance the flavor of the dish.  their concentrated taste and texture cannot be matched with a processed product.

mixed greens from my garden

another first for me this year is growing my own mixed greens in my garden.  these greens were grown in a large pot on my deck from seed planted after memorial day.  these are mixed tender greens, and the aroma from this lettuce is unmatched to anything i have ever purchased in the grocery store or even a farmer's market.

i am guessing that cutting these greens fresh from the garden, bringing them into the kitchen to lightly wash, and serving within an hour, has to be the freshest vegetable that i have ever tasted.  they were both tender and light, with a nutty and peppery taste. i can't believe that lettuce has so much flavor  these greens barely needed any type of dressing.  they were perfect with sunflower seeds and dried cherries on a clear glass salad plate that made them glisten.

i planted the seeds in a pot to protect them from my garden bunnies and it worked.  my deck is very sunny and i was able to move the pot day to day to adjust the amount of sun the greens needed for optimal growth.  if you have space to grow greens, and at least five hours of sunlight per day, i would certainly attempt mixed greens.  i look forward to more this year from my deck pot.

grilled shrimp and vegetables with rice

for a quick summertime meal, i often mix different combinations of fresh vegetables and add a protein, such as grilled shrimp or grilled chicken.  for this dish, i used white onion, red and yellow peppers, and green onions from my garden. i simply heated the vegetables in a splash of olive oil, and lightly seasoned with sea salt and pepper.  next, i grilled the shrimp on the stove top and mixed the two together.
i served the mixture over rice, although i could have added tomatoes and made this a delightful pasta topping.  when serving, i use much more of the shrimp and vegetables, compared to the amount of rice served per person.  the dish is so delicious that even eating without a starch would be perfectly acceptable.

served with a fresh mixed green salad, this summertime quick meal is both healthy and tasty.

rhubarb berry crumble

one of my gardening friends shared some rhubarb plants with me last year, as i had told her i wanted to attempt to grow this very large vegetable in my garden.  she brought me a couple of rhubarb plants from her mother's garden, and this year, i have been able to harvest rhubarb for the first time in my garden.

first of all, i need to comment at how much i really like the large poisonous leaves of this plant.  they are beautiful in my garden and add both drama and texture to the herbs that are planted next to them.  i have been watching the rhubarb grow and trying to decide when exactly to cut the red stalks.  this past weekend, i decided it was time to harvest half of the plant and so i did.

i searched for a recipe, since i wasn't sure if i even liked rhubarb.  i have never tasted it before, so i looked to Martha's collection of recipes and found one that was simply fantastic.

although i adapted her recipe to use mostly frozen raspberries along with the cut rhubarb stalks, it was perfect.  the frozen berries are mixed with the rhubarb, sugar, and flour, with an oatmeal topping added to the top of the crumble before baking.  the crumble is processed in the Cuisinart to mix the unsalted butter, oatmeal, and cinnamon.  the crumble bakes for nearly one hour until it is bubbling and hot from the oven.  i served the crumble with homemade coconut ice cream.  it was spectacular, and for someone who wasn't quite sure she would like the taste of this large unusual plant, it was outstanding.

coconut birthday cake

 for my mother's 89th birthday this year, she asked for a coconut birthday layer cake.  one of the best decisions i made for this cake was to purchase this brand of unsweetened flaked coconut.  the large shaved coconut was perfect for the cake and added excellent flavor to the frosting. 

by having flat shaved pieces of coconut, compared to the fine wisps of coconut that i typically purchase at the market in the baking aisle, we experienced a much better tasting icing for the cake.  for this two layer cake, i used almost the entire bag of coconut.

in order to make this cake, i did not make the cake from a recipe, but used a white cake mix, and then my own icing recipe that i have published on the blog under maple icing  for this cake, however; i used vanilla flavor rather than the maple flavor on that posting.  once i frosted the first layer, i added coconut flakes to the center of the cake, and then continued with the frosting decoration.  after the cake was frosted, i added the coconut to the top and exterior of the cake, being very generous in the application.

strawberry coffee cake

in march of this year, i baked a blueberry coffeecake and posted the recipe on this blog.  a couple of weeks ago, i tried the same recipe with strawberries, and it was equally delicious.  the texture of this coffeecake is just perfect, not too dense and not too rich.

this recipe would work well for a morning breakfast, an afternoon tea or even for a lunchbox treat.  this recipe is not sticky nor dry.  since i traditionally do not bake coffeecakes very often, i have been very impressed at the quality of the cake's outcome. i choose to sprinkle the top with powdered sugar, but even that step could be omitted if desired. 

for your next morning or mid-day event, consider the recipe as posted earlier this year.

floral arrangements from the garden

one of the most rewarding aspects of gardening has to be cutting flowers for indoor table arrangements.  this year, i have had several weeks of pink and white lilies for my kitchen table meals.  these spectacular flowers are both large and dramatic.  the varieties of strawberry and cream lilies that are growing in my garden have emerged over a period of four weeks contributing to a magnificent display for my table.

i can't help but compare my flowers to those that Martha sells on flowers.com for more than fifty dollars an arrangement.  since the bunnies were kept away this year from the delicious tasting leaves and plants, i have had an amazing season of growth.

during the cold winter months each year in midland, i have looked out at my white snow covered garden and imagined what will come forth the next springtime.  i could have never imagined how beautiful these blooms have been this year, and i am truly amazed at their beauty as they emerge from the ground.

yellow hollyhocks

for the first year, i have large blooming hollyhocks in my garden.  although these magnificent flowers have been part of my gardening planting for three years, this is the first year for successful large blooms.  i planted these flowers by seed and have patiently waited each year for blooms.

as the plant first develops, the large leaves seem to attract every neighbor bunny, so much so, that for the past three years, the leaves have been eaten to the ground at various stages.  this year was different.  the hollyhocks were protected by thick green wired cages as they first emerged from the soil.  i have been amazed as they had more than three barriers in my yard this year from the bunnies, and have grown into splendid tall stalks of yellow blooms. they have certainly been worth the wait.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

lavender hill farms

we visited the lavender hill farms in northern Michigan this past weekend.  the lavender was growing in fields. many labeled varieties are grown in rows over rolling hills on a beautiful farm.

the lavender is made into a variety of products, soaps, sachets, shortbread, oils and more.  this farm was so beautiful that i could hardly believe it was in northern Michigan.  here is their website:

 here are some more photos from the farm.  the property has several fields, small gardens and a gift shop

berries and cream

this is my favorite dish for serving berries and cream.  this time, i combined raspberries and blueberries in the presentation with brown sugar and cream.  i purchased this old fashioned dish at Cutler's in Petoskey, Michigan.  i have had it for several years now, and it always makes a beautiful presentation for serving fresh fruit.

this is a terrific dessert by itself, or served over sliced pound cake for the 4th of July, Memorial Day, or even Flag Day. The cream drizzles over the berries and provides just the correct amount of moisture for the cake.

window boxes

 we spent the day up north yesterday visiting several cities, and i wanted to share some of the most beautiful window boxes that line the streets.  the majority of shops along the main street in Charlevoix, Michigan seem to have the most beautiful arrangements of flowers and plants.

here are some of my favorites.  the one to the right has a sign that says, "spit pits here."  this window box is outside of the cherry republic gourmet food shop, where they sell many cherry products.

some of the window boxes have mostly plants, while others feature beautiful blooming flowers.

lemon orange pepper

for a dinner last week, i used this lemon orange pepper to season zucchini on the grill.  this sonoma pepper was not only delicious, but gave a great body of flavor to the grilled vegetables.  i have used this pepper blend on roasted red potatoes and other vegetables in the past.  try it and you will see what a great flavor enhancer is it for many vegetable side dishes.

sauteed mushrooms

sauteed mushrooms are very easy to make and can be used for a variety of recipes.  i simply slice the white mushrooms and saute in a pan with a dash of olive oil and seasonings.  for this day, i used parsley, pepper, and some herbs.

these mushrooms can be served over pasta or added to the top of grilled chicken.  they can be used for burger toppings or made in advance and used for a couple of recipes during the week. 

growing green onions

this is my first year to grow green onions in my small vegetable patch near the garage door.  i have wanted to grow vegetables for years, but have never had the appropriate space for them.  this year i have tried several different vegetables, but i have to say that the green onions have been doing the best in my garden.

today i picked my first grouping of green onions and used them for a red potato salad recipe.  they are delicious and so fresh.  i have many more plants to use in the coming weeks, as they are growing nicely.  i will be certain to grow green onions again next year.


during the month of July, my daisies bloom.  here is a collection that are blooming in front of my picket fenced garden.  around the outside of the garden, i have planted red, white, and blue flowers.  here, the white daisies give a fresh feeling to the month of July.  they accompany the white obedient plant in the garden border.

since they require lots of sun, they are positioned where the majority of sunshine will shine on them throughout the day.  daisies are terrific plants for floral vases and arrangements.


some of the best shade plants in my garden have to be ferns.  i have several types of ferns that provide a splendid backdrop to flowering plants which are placed at the front of my garden.  since the ferns grow tall and wide, i have positioned them at the back of my shade garden.  my favorite ferns are the cinnamon fern and the ostrich fern.

at different times of the day, these ferns have dappled sunlight through them, which gives the garden great color.  the ferns provide nice movement when there is a summer breeze and even during rainfall.

martha's firecracker cookies

just before the fourth of July this year, i made Martha's firecracker cookies which were featured on her July magazine cover.  the recipe was for her traditional sugar cookie, however; she suggested decorations similar to those she features at Halloween for her spider cookies.

these cookies took four hours to make.  since the cookies need to be chilled before baking on the baking sheets, it took two hours to scoop, chill and bake the cookie dough.  next, the cookies needed to cool before decorating.  and finally, the decorations were able to be completed.

the cookies are delicious and i would certainly make them again.

strawberry and cream lilies

since late June this year, my lily collection has been blooming.  Asiatic and oriental lilies grace my garden.  i have had several years of no lilies, since the bunnies in and near my garden love to munch the stems before the flowers ever form.  so, i have tried various techniques since 2009 to stop the little rabbits from ruining these beautiful flowers.

i have moved the lilies twice, and finally they are surrounded by my wooden garden fence, along with wire frames to protect them as they grow in the springtime.  they have been wonderful for several weeks now and i am so glad that i have worked to support their growth and beauty.

mixed iris

purple, yellow and cranberry rust iris grew and multiplied this year in the garden.  these bearded iris are always welcome in my garden every spring.  they are sturdy and bright with spectacular green leaves that provide a wonderful backdrop to summer flowers.


i planned to surround my garden picket fence last year with red, white and blue perennial flowers.  this walker's low catmint has been a wonderful selection, as it blooms throughout the season and provides a wealth of beautiful blue flowers.  it complements other blue flowers in the garden, such as the blue allium and blue flax.

since the catmint grows so well, i have divided the bushes a couple of times, and have been able to enjoy bursts of color in several areas along the fence line.  the catmint has required staking in order to keep it within the edged border.  i simply used garden twine and tied it to the fence.

forget me nots

this spring my garden borders were filled with forget me nots.  a gardening friend shared many plants with me last year, and i have been thrilled to enjoy these flowers in particular.  some gardeners may find them too difficult to manage, but i have large border areas that needed to be filled with flowers, such as these low growing and long lasting forget me nots. they have lovely blue flowers and are a wonderful border ground cover.

i enjoyed them tremendously, and have encouraged them to spread into thicker flower borders. So, i almost can't wait until next year to see how they have grown.  in one year, they did so very well in my zone 5 garden.


i almost can't wait each spring until my lilac bushes bloom  here are some of the blooms from them that were beautiful and fragrant.  the purple bushes burst with flowers toward the end of the spring season, and they are spectacular when in bloom  my miss Kim lilacs flowered as well this year for the first time, and their fragrance is also very inviting. i planted the miss Kim lilacs in 2008, and have been very pleased with their growth.

since they bloomed this year, i can expect many more blooms in the years to come.

giant purple allium

i have been so busy in my garden that i have not had time to share photos of my flowers with my blog followers.  in the next few posts, i plan to show some of my spring flowers that were so beautiful this year after such a cold winter season.

i especially enjoy these allium, as they are so large and bright purple to welcome spring with a big splash of color.  i had more allium this year than years past.  i would have to say they are some of my favorite flowers of the year.