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.