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

Saturday, December 10, 2011

winter greens from the garden

for my front porch this year, i was able to use a variety of collected evergreen branches along with red berries and red twig dogwood for my large decorative pot.

in addition, a smaller basket was placed in front of the pot with an additional collection of greens and holly.

by using a variety of greens, the varying texture of the needles provides interest and shape to the arrangement.  other ideas for arrangements include using large branches from a tree secured in the pot, with evergreen boughs placed at the base of the pot along with pine cones.

by using natural materials from the garden, decorating the porch for the holidays is both easy and beautiful.

grapeseed oil

although i most often use olive oil for sauteing or stir-frying, i have found a product that offers another nice result for these situations.  grapeseed oil has a higher smoke point, and therefore allows for great flavor while doing high heat cooking on the stove top.

grapeseed oil has a clean light taste and is and excellent source of vitamin E.  it is a terrific alternative for use in salad dressings or any herb infused oil for dipping with bread.

grapeseed oil is very low in saturated fat and is an excellent choice for health conscious cooking.

cocoa cake topping

as an alternative to decorating a small cake or cupcake with icing, Martha Stewart provides stencil forms in a variety of patterns which can be used with cocoa or powdered sugar.  this week, i experimented with cocoa powder which was sweetened, instead of cocoa powder for baking.  the taste was wonderful and provided just the adequate amount of sweetness, but much less calories than frosting.
by using a high quality cocoa, the taste was spectacular and the appearance of the cocoa was rich.  it is important to make certain that the cake stencil is firmly placed on the cake, while sifting the cocoa through a sieve to remove any large particles of cocoa.

i used the snowflake pattern for the one layer vanilla cake, and then sprinkled with powdered sugar to accent the snowflakes.

gingerbread houses

last year i made a gingerbread house from a kit purchased online.  the sides of the gingerbread house were prebaked and i supplied the decorations and icing.  this was a nice way to spend about three hours creating a special decoration for the kitchen cupboard.

i purchased a wide variety of red, green and white candies in various sizes for decorating the house. i also experimented with a variety of royal icing recipes for use as the "glue" in constructing the house.  some of the icing recipes fail to harden quickly, which is necessary for attaching the decorations.  if the icing is too soft and doesn't harden effectively, the decorations will slide down the sides of the house. 

each side of the house must be attached slowly and held before continuing the process, to allow for the icing to harden and secure the gingerbread in place.
once the sides and the roof of the house are securely attached, the decorating begins.  this is the best part of the whole process, but will take some time and planning.  i have been making gingerbread houses for years, but have tried different styles and designs, and have made my own gingerbread walls and roof in the past.  i think eliminating the steps of baking and cutting the gingerbread is well advised, especially for the novice baker.  those steps would require two additional days of preparation.  this kit worked very well.

for more information about pre baked gingerbread houses, please follow this link:

spinach and tomatoes appetizer

holidays are here and everyone seems to be searching for red and green appetizer ideas.  here is one that is quick and easy and can be adjusted to individual taste preferences for your family.  begin by chopping some small red tomatoes, season with a selection of favorite herbs.  choices would include parsley, thyme, dill with seasonings to taste including salt and pepper.  drizzle the tomatoes with a light application of olive oil.

next, thaw a small quantity of chopped frozen spinach and mix with a selection of cheese.  cheese selections would include fontina, mozzarella, Parmesan, feta or Gruyere.  place spinach and cheese in a ceramic baking dish and heat in oven for approximately 15 minutes at 350 degrees or until cheese is melted and spinach is warmed. mix to evenly incorporate the cheese and spinach. adjust desired amount of spinach and cheese to your family's taste preferences.  i prefer more spinach to cheese, as can been seen in the photo.

serve with tomatoes and crusty bread.  this is a delicious healthy appetizer which is wonderful for the holiday themed table.