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

Friday, November 4, 2011

cinnamon almond ice cream

for the fall, i wanted to try a new flavor of homemade ice cream.  i found a recipe in Susan branch's autumn cookbook for cinnamon ice cream.  since i have been reading many articles about the benefits of cinnamon, i decided to adapt her more complicated recipe to my standard recipe with a few changes.

following my standard ice cream recipe on the blog, add a heaping teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the mixture and substitute almond extract for the vanilla extract.  i also added some chopped sliced almonds at the end of the processing cycle in the ice cream machine.

i feel like i have discovered a really new and delicious flavor of ice cream.  once again, homemade ice cream is so creamy and delicious, much better than any store bought brand.

beautiful fall color in the garden

my autumn joy sedum have been beautiful since august when they began to bloom and have continued to stay dependable through November.  although they are a bit toppled from the rain and leaves, the plants' color is strong and vibrant adding a beautiful drift to the border of my driveway.  these plants have grown and multiplied well over the past four years and have been a wonderful selection for my yard.

here is one of four burning bushes on my property that are again spectacular this fall.  the brilliant red is a beautiful eye catching display for my mailbox garden that welcomes guests up the driveway to our home.  the leaves complement my fall perennial mums that grow around the mailbox.  also at the street level, perennial lavender adds a contrast in texture and color to the bed.  checking the mail at the box every day is a treat, with the heavenly scent of the lavender and beautiful fall colors to greet me.

the backyard garden has been put to bed, and only the patches of herbs are still growing within my picketed fenced area.  the fall leaves are beautiful and adorn my garden shed and extra garage space.  fall in the garden has been a treat for me this year, with the appreciation of the season change.

sage, ginger and parsley

even in November, my herb garden is filled with wonderful herbs.  my sage plants this year have been producing wonderful quantities for my use all summer.  i am planning on using this fresh sage for thanksgiving as well.
the heart shaped leaves from this asarum or wild ginger plant are just beautiful surrounded by the falling leaves.  the ginger has been growing nicely as a ground cover throughout my shaded garden bed.  the plant is said to have a rhizome that smells and tastes similar to the ginger root, but i have not tried it.

my annual parsley plant is still growing well into November as well, producing large stalks of parsley that i should be able to use right until thanksgiving. fresh parsley and sage for a side of dressing sounds wonderful to me.

cauliflower gratin

for dinner last night i tried a new recipe from Ina garten's barefoot in Paris cookbook.  i adjusted the quantities for just the two of us, since the recipe is based on a whole head of cauliflower.  this recipe was excellent and i highly recommend it for a change of pace.  typically, i simply steam cauliflower in my stovetop steamer, but this recipe adds alot of flavor and would be nice to serve to guests.

here is my adaptation of her recipe:
1/2 head of fresh cauliflower florets cut from the stem
1 cup of grated white cheddar cheese
1 cup of skim milk
3 tablespoons margarine
1 1/4 tablespoons flour
Parmesan cheese
panko bread crumbs
salt, pepper to taste

remove the cauliflower from the stem.  grate the white cheddar cheese or substitute Gruyere as Ina suggests. place the cauliflower in boiling water and boil for about 3-4 minutes.  drain.  in a saucepot, melt the margarine, while stirring, add the flour and cook to thicken a minute or so.  slowly, while stirring, add the milk, to make the white sauce.  this is an important step.  stir constantly to make certain the sauce is creamy without lumps. cook until it begins to thicken and just before boiling, turn off the heat.  add about 1/2 the cheese to make the gratin sauce.  add salt and pepper to taste.

prepare a casserole dish with spray oil.  spoon a couple of large spoonfuls of the white sauce into the dish.  

add the cauliflower florets to the dish.  pour the white sauce over the cauliflower.  top with the remaining grated cheese and add grated Parmesan to taste, topping with a few panko breadcrumbs.  i also sprayed the top of the dish with some spray margarine to encourage browning.  Ina suggested added 1/2 stick of melted butter, but i substituted here to reduce the calories. bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for at least 30 minutes or until brown on the top.

this is a very tasty recipe and would encourage anyone to taste cauliflower.

halloween decorating

every year i try to use dried materials from my garden to decorate for Halloween.  this year i had a large number of dried Chinese lanterns from the garden, as well as dried ornamental grasses for one arrangement. 

for my pumpkin arrangement, i used dried walker's low catmint which grows in abundance in the garden.  these materials dry very quickly hanging upside down on a rack in my garage.  the catmint has a great aroma when dried and seems to attract the neighborhood cats.

for indoor decorating, i use dried ornamental corn and have used the same popcorn kernels for years.  this arrangement has been done in tall cylinders, short fat glass containers and this year in a round pedestal glass dish.  

another table arrangement i tried this year used black licorice strings, which are not very easy to find.  i finally located them in a small neighborhood candy store about 25 minutes away.  these strings look creepy when covered in a glass dome and have been fun to look at during the season.

finally, every Halloween table must have spiders of some sort, so this year i found these black metal spiders at crate and barrel. they are quite realistic when placed on the table runner.

halloween sugar cookies with sprinkles

another Halloween has come and gone, but this sugar cookie recipe will be a keeper.  Martha Stewart comes through again with her classic sugar cookie recipe.  this recipe can be adapted to any holiday or occasion.  the design and decorations are limitless. i first made these cookies for valentine's day in 2000 and had noted that this was a great recipe.  this recipe makes a larger batch of cookies, approximately 40 three-inch rounds.

these cookies not only taste great, but the dough is sturdy for shaping with cookie cutters and rolls very well.  some cookie doughs are more difficult to work with, but i would highly recommend this recipe for the best result in shaping and baking.

her icing recipe for this cookie works well and hardens nicely to allow for cookie stacking, packaging and placing on a tray for serving to guests.

sugar cookies:
4 1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  spray baking sheets with oil.  mix dry ingredients in bowl. set aside.
cream butter, sugar, and eggs.  mix milk and vanilla in a cup. set aside.
add dry ingredients about 1 cup at a time and alternate with the milk and vanilla, beating well in the stand mixer.

wrap and chill the dough for 1 1/2 hours.

divide the dough into sections and roll one section at a time on a floured board or waxed paper.

cut with large cookie cutters. i selected a round cutter.

bake on cookie sheets for 10 to 14 minutes.  cool before serving and decorating with icing.  i often bake and store the cookies overnight and decorate the next day. these cookies are soft and not a crunchy sugar cookie.  if desired, cookies could be baked even longer for a more firm texture.

simple cookie icing:
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 large egg whites lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

in a medium bowl, combine sugar, egg whites and lemon juice.  blend until smooth.  icing can be colored with ateco or wilton dyes.  apply to cookies immediately.  make in small amounts if desired.

this is a classic cookie icing recipe that will work every single time, hardening to the cookie tops.  enjoy !