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, August 17, 2011

spaghetti with asparagus and prosciutto

this recipe is from one of Giada de laurentis' early cookbooks and i have had great success with this over the years.  the amounts can be increased or decreased depending on the number of guests that will be at the table for the evening meal.

i begin with one large bunch of asparagus, which i have cleaned and trimmed.  using a very large heavy saucepan, boil the asparagus for exactly 2 minutes.  remove from the boiling water and immediately cool on a small sheet pan within an ice bath.  i simply place about 12 ice cubes on the half sheet pan and line the asparagus between the melting ice.

next, using the same boiling water, and boil four servings of thin spaghetti.  when boiling has completed the cooking, pour the water and spaghetti into a colander to drain in the sink.  using the same hot pan, return the pan to the cook top and add 6 ounces of thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into thin strips.  brown the meat.

while the meat is cooking, slice the asparagus on the tray into bite-sized portions.  next, add the asparagus to the meat to heat.  when these two ingredients are hot, add the pasta back into the pan, with 1/2 stick of softened margarine and toss. heat completely.

add about 6 ounces of shredded mozzarella cheese, with salt and pepper to taste.  serve with garlic toast and a side salad.  when the cheese is added to the hot pasta, it melts and provides a creamy texture to the pasta.  make certain to remove from the heat or the cheese will melt to the pan.

i truly love the taste of the pasta with the meat, cheese, and vegetable.  this recipe does not require a heavy sauce and will be a refreshing change from other pasta meals. this recipe will make at least four servings.

cranberry conserve

i was already looking through some recipes today for the holidays, which will be here before many days.  this recipe is one of the easier ones to make for a festive Christmas celebration. a conserve is a thicker jam product with lots of texture.

easy cranberry conserve is made with either 3 cups fresh cranberries which are from the produce section of the market, or frozen fresh cranberries.  this is usually one 12 ounce bag of cranberries.

combine the cranberries with 1 cup of orange juice and 1 cup of sugar in a heavy saucepan.  cook over medium heat, while stirring until the cranberries begin to pop open.  this will take about five minutes.  remove the conserve from the heat, add chopped walnuts if desired, let cool in jars and then refrigerate.

the conserve is best used within a couple of weeks stored in the refrigerator.  this recipe does not require using canning techniques, as the product is always kept refrigerated.  this recipe will make four small jars.

i serve the conserve with turkey for christmas or thanksgiving, as well as with turkey sandwiches as left overs.  this conserve has just the correct amount of sweet versus tart flavor.  in addition, the orange juice adds a wonderful taste to the product.

cranberry conserve is easy, quick and very flavorful as an addition to holiday cooking !

easy chocolate dessert roll

here is a quick recipe for a tasty dessert roll made in minutes and frozen until ready to serve to guests.  the famous chocolate wafers are an old standby cookie for chocolate crumb crusts and also this dessert roll.  they can be found in most markets, but i have found them difficult to locate in the larger chain stores. they are usually located with the speciality cookies.  this box will make two chocolate rolls, so i only use half of the box and store the rest for another day.

the most important step in this recipe is locating a long thin pan that can be used in the freezer.  i use Mario Batali's cast iron side dish which weighs five pounds, but is the perfect size and shape for this recipe.

to begin, prepare the whipped cream or use frozen whipped topping for the recipe.  then, add 1 teaspoon all natural flavor. i use almond, lemon or orange flavor. i have also used cherry and hazelnut.  any of these flavors works well.  when the whipped cream is ready to use, assemble the cookies one after the other with whipped cream in between.  align in the dish in a roll, which has been lined with foil wrap,and gently push together.  cover the top of the chocolate roll with the rest of the whipped cream and decorate with sprinkles. cover the roll with the foil wrap and place in the freezer for at least 4 hours prior to serving.

when ready to serve, remove from the freezer about 20 minutes before serving. 
slice between the cookies and serve with coffee or tea. 
easy, quick and oh so good !

rosemary shortbread

as a very new member of the Michigan herb associates, i have been thrilled to receive their quarterly herb journal.  this journal is filled with wonderful information about growing herbs in Michigan,  herbal events that are happening around the state, and recipes from other members.

in the spring and summer issue this year, i found a recipe for rosemary shortbread.  when my rosemary bush had just enough sprigs, i couldn't resist snapping them off and bringing them into my kitchen.

here is the recipe which was simply wonderful.
1 cup butter
3 cups flour
4 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
Cream butter and sugar and then add the 2 cups of flour.  Mix and knead in the other cup of flour. Then add the rosemary.  Roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick.  I rolled into a rectangle and cut into squares.
It is important to score the squares, as after baking the squares will crumble, instead of giving nice lines.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes at 275 degrees.  This is a much cooler oven than usually used.
Bake at this lower temperature for this longer length of time.
Break apart the squares and enjoy. 
This is a wonderful recipe, and I highly recommend this treat for something really different.

pepperoni rolls

after living in Charleston, west virginia for more than 25 years, i came to know many recipes for pepperoni rolls.  being from Michigan, i had never even heard of this lunch or dinner entree.  but, as i came to learn, just about every one of my friends had a pepperoni roll recipe.  the roll is similar to a pizza roll, however; it does not have tomato sauce.it is similar to a cheese biscuit, but is made with bread roll dough.

when my daughter Amy was in junior high home economics class learning about food, she came home with a recipe for pepperoni rolls.  this is the recipe i have used for years for our family when we were off to a game or event without much time for a full meal.  i often serve this during the warmer months with a side pasta or potato salad.

i start with frozen bread dough.  early in the morning, i place one frozen bread loaf in a large glass bowl that has been prepared with spray olive oil.  i cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to thaw and  rise.  this process will take most of the day, at least 6 hours. 

when returning to the dough, i unwrap and divide the dough into 6 even balls.  prepare a sheet pan with olive oil, and then add the ingredients to the dough balls.  i use 4-5 slices of pepperoni and cubes of mozzarella cheese sliced from a block.  this is what the home economics teacher recommended, most likely because block cheese is lower in cost.  when block cheese is not in the refrigerator, shredded mozzarella works just as well.

place the rolls with the seams down on the sheet pan.  i spray the tops with more olive oil and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.  i allow the dough balls to rise again for at least 45 minutes before baking.

bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.  watch to see that the rolls do not touch each other on the sheet pan.  these rolls can be saved in the refrigerator in a plastic Ziploc bag and reheated gently for another day.


i only use mustard for cooking in recipes, as i don't really like the taste directly on sandwiches or most foods.  however; i do use many of the inglehoffer brand mustard flavors in my dishes.  the finish these mustards give to any recipe is wonderful.  this brand has won the gold medal in the napa valley world mustard championships, and for that reason alone; everyone should try one of their many flavors.

our gourmet specialty food and wine shop in midland stocks this brand and i have come to use many of their flavors when a recipe calls for mustard. the inglehoffer brand offers their mustards in small glass jars or larger squeeze plastic bottles.  these smaller size jars allow just enough for use in a dish without waste.

look for their honey maple, sweet hot, and creamy dill flavors for a great taste sensation.

very easy lemon tarts

for a very easy and quick way to prepare small lemon tarts, begin with clearbrook farms mini bite-size sweet tart shells.  i purchase these at our local gourmet cooking shop in midland.  the pre-baked tart shells are made from shortbread and are perfect for filling with lemon curd.

the lemon curd can also be purchased or home made.  i have used both successfully.  to decorate the lemon tarts, use blueberries, raspberries, a sliced strawberry, or even just whipped cream.

these very easy lemon tarts will soon become a favorite of your family.  clearbrook farms also produces a variety of fruit fillings which are equally tasty.  for more information, go to their website at: http://clearbrookfarms.com/

garlic toast

here is a very quick and easy way to make garlic toast when needed to accompany pasta, salads, soups or even just to have with tomatoes as an appetizer.
i simply slice a ciabatta loaf of bread and brush with melted butter with crushed garlic to taste.  sprinkle the toast with parsley flakes or garlic and herb seasoning and bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

the toast is tasty, crispy and has a wonderful flavor.  any of these ingredients can be adjusted to taste.  olive oil or margarine could be substituted for the butter.  a variety of seasonings could be used as toppings, and the garlic can be increased or decreased based on family preference.

if using a traditional Italian loaf of bread, the toast may not take as long to bake.

party punch

summer is a perfect time to serve a fruity punch.  this recipe can be used with alcohol or without.  i have used this recipe for garden club meetings, school home room meetings, and even just for friends in my home.

pre-chill and mix the following ingredients:
1 large can of pineapple juice
1 large can of Hawaiian punch
1 2 liter bottle of sprite or 7 up

this recipe makes 30 servings and can be easily doubled or tripled for a crowd.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


the mixture of coneflowers in my garden this summer have been spectacular.  they have multiplied and extended far beyond the space i created for them.  so, this fall i will divide and share them with other sun filled areas of my yard.

coneflowers typically have a cone center and are considered an herbaceous perennial.  their green leaves begin early in the season, with the flower petals developing later in the summer. some species are known to attract disease, but my flowers this year have grown wonderfully disease free.  early in the season, i spray the first leaves near the soil with a fungicide and this has seemed to prevent the disease from even beginning to form on the plants.

i have enjoyed mapping out my garden bloom schedule this year, and have had at least one type of flower in bloom since late April this year.  these coneflowers are a wonderful addition to my august garden of blooms; where garlic chives, mums, baby's breath, roses, bee balm, and sweet peas are blooming.


blooming in my garden this month are black eyed susans.  these flowers grow on very tall stems in full sun and have multiplied for me very nicely over the past three years.  given to me by a gardening friend, these flowers have a wonderful golden yellow color opening the way to the fall season.

i chose to use a flower frog on the top of this vase to spread the stems to give the table arrangement a bit of a wispy air and light appearance for my breakfast table.  the plants are growing very upright with strong stems and can be easily divided or transplanted in the fall.  i plan to divide my groupings which have already grown to four bunches from one smaller plant.

these are cheerful flowers for gloomy days and they have brightened my kitchen with warmth and sunshine.
i look forward to having these flowers growing in my backyard for years to come.

fresh from the garden salsa

august is harvest month for my vegetables from the garden.  this past week, i have found tomatoes, salsa peppers and lots of large green onions ready to use in my cooking.  i am thrilled with my harvest this year and am already planning my vegetables for next year.  this is my first year with vegetable gardening, and i have found that i love watching the plants grow and love to incorporate the food into my dishes.

for this garden salsa, i simply chopped these peppers, tomatoes, and green onion, and did not add a thing.
the mixture is delicious as is, served on crackers or toast.  it could be used as a thick dip for blue corn tortilla chips, or as a topping over crusty baked bread with cheese.  this is a very versatile recipe and so easy to make with garden produce.
served in this bright red emile henry bowl, the fresh flavor was bursting from the salsa and sparking a wonderful taste on the palate.

tea from india

my friend who lives in India with her husband on assignment, sent me these teas grown there.  she knows that i simply love to drink tea, and find it as an escape from whatever is going on in my world that day.  Indian tea is said to be grown in the land of sunshine and ice where people practice yoga, meditation and love their land and nature.

i truly understand the idea of mediation and tea drinking, as i love to savor the flavor of the tea and focus on the warmth and pleasing aroma from the tea cup. with the many cold months ahead in Michigan, i have already begun to stock up on my tea packages. reading the information on this package enlightened me to the world of growing tea leaves.

in India, some of the best tea grows in elephant country, which provides the very fertile soil for the tea leaf growth.  master tea tasters select the leaves for their flavor and brightness. the Assam area lies in the north east district of India.

i am thrilled to be drinking such an elite package of tea and thoroughly appreciate her gift to me.

sauteed squash

for a delicious summer side dish, consider sauteed squash.  i use a combination of yellow and green squash and saute either over the outdoor barbecue grill or indoors in a grill pan.  by using a light coating of olive oil and seasoning with either fresh or dried dill, this recipe comes together in just minutes.

the squash cooks quickly over a medium heat, softens and becomes tender to taste.  this is one recipe that is simple, so should be the last item to prepare on the dinner menu.  when your entree and other sides are near completion, heat the squash and serve hot from the pan.

i have found that zucchini can be flavored easily to match the main dish with a variety of spices to taste.  i prefer dill with chicken and fish, and red or black pepper with parsley for pasta entrees.  experiment with your spice cabinet and see how easy it is to create a great tasting side dish with the summer harvest of squash.

herb focaccia

here is a wonderful recipe for herb focaccia.  i prepare this dough with my Cuisinart automatic bread maker, and then bake in the oven to finish.  i have made this recipe with a dried herbal mix from Donna Frawley's herbs for bread line or used fresh herbs straight from my garden.  either way, i highly recommend this recipe.
using the dough program on the machine, i add these ingredients in the order listed:

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water at room temperature
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 1/4 teaspoons herbs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups, plus 3 tablespoons of bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

the dough program mixes, kneads and rises this dough.  when the cycle is complete, i transfer to a floured surface and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
prepare a smaller 12 x 8 sheet pan with olive oil and sprinkle with corn meal.
after the dough has rested, place on this prepared pan.  cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest again for 40 to 50 minutes.

preheat the oven to 425 or 400 if your oven runs hot.  with oiled fingers, i press indentations into the dough.  i then drizzle with a light olive oil and sprinkle with a mixture of 3/4 tablespoons kosher salt, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, and 1/4 cup fresh or dried herbs. (parsley, basil, oregano, thyme and / or marjoram)

bake until puffy about 20 to 25 minutes. cut into small squares or fingers to serve with pasta, salad or even just to dip in oil for an appetizer.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

flag cupcakes

i was looking at photos this week of some of the different desserts i prepared this summer, and found these flag cupcakes.  for the fourth of July, i used the decorating techniques from Martha's blog and created a few cupcakes for our family. 

these traditional flag cupcakes can be adapted for any of the flag holidays, including labor day, flag day, memorial day, or even the presidential holidays in February.  by using red licorice and blue candy dots, the decorating technique only takes minutes.

this design could be adapted for football season as well using team colors in dots or using the colored flavored licorice for the team letters. i am already planning some Michigan cupcakes with maize and blue candy decorations.

pizza garden

 i was reading an article the other day about growing a pizza garden.  i thought that was a really clever way to get more people interested in growing vegetables. although i truly love to grow perennials and especially old fashioned flowers and herbs, i have been tending to a small vegetable patch this year in one of my garden beds.

for the pizza garden, the author recommends growing tomatoes, basil, oregano, peppers and onions.  coincidentally, those plants are growing in my garden this year.  i have been harvesting tomatoes, green onions, and the herbs for several weeks now and enjoying them in a variety of dishes.  the salsa peppers are still maturing on the plants.

since i am a novice at growing vegetables, i have learned that keeping the green onions growing allows them to get larger by the week, and although the flavor is the same, the stalks of the onion have been growing thicker and truly impressive in size.  my four tomato plants will produce more than thirty-five tomatoes for a cost of only $1.79 when purchased this past may.

my herb garden includes both perennial herbs and annual herbs such as basil and parsley.  it has certainly been fun to make meals with fresh additions from my garden this year.  my success has inspired me to move some of my perennials this fall and expand my vegetable beds.

bee balm and obedient plant

 frequently referred to as monarda or bergamot, bee balm is a herbaceous plant that is in full bloom in my garden today.  over the past few years, i have planted several colors of monarda, including pink, light purple and dark purple.

i have an area in my side yard where i have begun to establish a naturalized garden space, where a large part of the day is sunny and warm.  this year, the bee balm has grown and spread very nicely in this garden, while attracting many bees, butterflies, and even a hummingbird one day.  i was thrilled to see the hummer going from blossom to blossom as i was enjoying my flowers as well.

also blooming now is my obedient plant, often referred to as false dragonhead.  this tall white plant is growing in partial sun outside of my garden fence.  the clusters of white flowers are very attractive and unusual.  since this is a newer plant to my garden, i was very happy to see it blooming for the first time this year. 

the vineyards of northern michigan

i was up north this past weekend and visited several vineyards to see how their grapes were growing this year.  the last few visits to the vineyards have been early or late season, so i was pleased to see the beautiful grape arbors filled with clusters of grapes. 

chateau grand traverse on the old mission peninsula features Riesling grapes that grow well in our northern Michigan climate.  the brys estate vineyard is eighty acres with forty acres of arbors, which harvest a variety of grapes.  we saw chardonnay and pinot noir clusters growing on Saturday.
i learned that the wineries on the peninsula are situated at the earth's 45th parallel, which is the ideal climate for growing these wine grapes.  seven wineries are located along some of the most relaxing country roads.
also contributing to the ideal climate of the peninsula, is the grand traverse bay; which i believe moderates the temperatures for these fruits.  for more information about either of these two estates, look at http://www.brysestate.com or http://www.cgtwines.com