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

Thursday, February 23, 2012

crustless quiche

here is a great recipe for crustless vegetable quiche which was spectacular and delicious.

eliminating the crust on this recipe allows the quiche to be baked for a much shorter time.  after i tried this recipe, i think i am going to switch to this style of individual quiche, which could be used for a breakfast, brunch or even a light dinner.  actually, the options are endless depending on the vegetables used along with the cheese selection.

for this recipe, which i adapted from another one found in Martha's magazine, i used 2 baking dishes with an 8 ounce/1 cup capacity.  most of my ramekins are much smaller, so i opted to use these baking dishes.  they worked perfectly. 

preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  spray the baking dishes with canola oil.  choose the vegetables for the quiche.  i had a small amount of frozen broccoli heads and some asparagus tips that i used this week for these quiches.  i microwaved them for 2 minutes to heat and soften.  to the vegetables, i added 3 eggs, 1/4 cup half and half, and seasoned with salt and pepper.  next, i stirred in 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese and combined.

place the baking dishes on a small baking sheet and ladle the broccoli mixture into the dishes.  place in the oven for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the top crust is golden brown.

serve the quiche with fresh fruit or along side a garden salad.  this is a wonderful recipe that can be adapted in many ways.

incorporated into the mixture could be bacon, sausage, ham, green or red pepper, sauteed mushrooms, or onion.

a variety or cheese could be used as well, such as Swiss, Gruyere, fontina, or even pepper jack cheese.  this is a very durable recipe that is going to become one of my new "go-to" offerings.  Martha's recipe was for four servings, so i altered the ingredients to make two quiche.  so, if you need more for a party, double the ingredients.

here are the quiche ready to go into the oven.  the amount of ingredients was just perfect for these dishes.

lemon shrimp scampi with angel hair pasta

from coastal living magazine comes this easy pasta dish to make with shrimp and lemon. i adapted this recipe a bit right from the start, since it suggested serving the shrimp on linguine.  the angel hair pasta was very light and made for an easy fast quick meal.  angel hair pasta takes 3 minutes maximum to prepare.

to start the dish, cook the pasta according to package directions.

at the same time, heat one tablespoon oil in nonstick skillet on medium high heat.  add 1 chopped white onion and minced garlic to taste, about 1 teaspoon.  cook to soften the onion and then add 1/2 bag of 26-30 count cleaned shrimp to cook.  season with dried crushed red pepper to taste and chopped parsley.  as the shrimp is cooked, add the cooked pasta and stir.  add in 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon zest and 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice.  salt to taste.  toss to incorporate ingredients.  serve immediately.

this shrimp dish was tasty and bright from the fresh lemon.  i used some tomato angel hair pasta along with the traditional and the flavor was amazing. the crushed red pepper is essential and just a light sprinkle is all that is needed to really give the dish a nice sparkle.

rustic bread

over the years, i have clipped and saved hundreds of recipes from magazines and other books. i have a file of these recipes that i enjoy looking through and often selecting one or many for menu planning for the week.

here is a recipe that i had saved from country living magazine from last year, and decided to try it out a couple of weeks ago.  it is a rustic bread, meaning that is doesn't have a neat shape, and is baked on a sheet pan.  it is almost like a focaccia bread used for dipping in extra virgin olive oil.  it is chewy and dense and quite tasty.  this bread must be used within a couple of days or it will become hard.  it can be used for croutons after serving once or twice.

to make the bread, heat 1 cup of water, 2/3 cup of whole milk, and 1 tablespoon of superfine sugar over medium heat until 90 degrees.  i used a thermometer.  remove from the heat and stir in 1 ounce of fresh active yeast until dissolved.

next, in a large bowl, combine 5 cups bread flour with 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt.  pour into the bowl, the warm yeast mixture, and mix together using your hands.  it will become a soft sticky dough.  add more flour to form into a nice ball that can be kneaded for 5 minutes.  place dough in a lightly floured bowl and cover with a towel, allowing to rise for about 1 hour. 

after rising, punch dough down and form into a 10 by 7 rectangle about 2 inches thick.  place on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with the towel again, and allow to rise for 1 hour more.

preheat the oven to 400 degrees, press fingerprints into the top of the dough, and add fresh or dried rosemary to the top of the loaf.  sprinkle with more coarse sea salt.  bake until golden and hollow for about 30 minutes. 

this is a fun easy bread to make and can be enjoyed as an appetizer or along with soup and salad.

stuffed zucchini

i am always searching for new ways to offer zucchini as a side dish.  here is a great recipe for stuffed zucchini which takes less than one hour to prepare and bake.

preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  using a spoon or melon scoop, remove the center of the zucchini to form a canoe.  i used two zucchini for our family, but this recipe may be increased to feed a larger group.

par boil the zucchini for about 5-8 minutes depending on the size and thickness of your vegetables.

remove from the pot and place in a ceramic baking dish.  meanwhile, in a skillet, heat one chopped white onion and some chopped mushrooms with a small amount of olive oil.  cook until softened. 

mix these ingredients with a shredded cheese of your choice such as: mozzarella, Gruyere, or Swiss. mix along with shredded Parmesan and a small amount of panko breadcrumbs.

stuff the zucchini and bake until the top is lightly browned and cheese is melted.  this will take approximately 20 minutes.

stuffed zucchini are a wonderful side dish served with grilled chicken, fish, or even pasta dishes.  other options for this dish would include adding chopped grape or cherry tomatoes or diced red, yellow or green peppers. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

pork quesadillas

another recipe i tried recently was called south meets west quesadillas.  possibly because it used shredded barbecued pork for the protein within the quesadillas.  i changed the recipe a bit, and simple browned the small pork strips from two boneless pork chops with a chopped white onion.

i prepared my quesadillas as i have in the past, using the pork instead of chicken.  these quesadillas were delicious served with the suggested sauce. i always top my quesadillas with chopped tomatoes, black olives, shredded lettuce and chopped green onions.

mix 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce with 1/2 cup of light sour cream for a dipping sauce.  enjoy !

hoisin chicken stir fry

this chicken stir fry recipe come from an older issue of fine cooking.  it uses store bought hoisin sauce which makes the recipe quick and easy.

substitutes for the vegetables include:  mushroom, carrots, or broccoli.  when served on a small amount of rice, the recipe duplicates an entree from any Asian restaurant.

use 2 tablespoons of canola oil and add 1 chopped white onion, cooking for 2-3 minutes.

add one small chopped red bell pepper, which has been seeded, cored and chopped.  saute for 4-6 minutes more.  then add one boneless chicken breast which has been cubed.  sprinkle the chicken with salt and a few red pepper flakes to taste.  stir in prepared fresh snow peas, which have been trimmed. 

reduce the heat and stir in 1/2 cup hoisin sauce to glaze the finished dish.  heat about 1 more minute and serve on rice.  to finish the dish, sprinkle with chopped cashews or peanuts to taste for crunch.

this recipe, with one chicken breast, will serve two people.  the amounts can be increased to serve for guests.

coq au vin

barefoot contessa offers so many great recipes in her back to the basics cookbook.  i decided to try coq au vin for our valentine's day dinner this year.  we stayed home and had a delicious meal prepared in a small amount of time.

this classic french stew made with red wine is a very satisfying winter dinner.  most recipes call for an all day process, but ina suggested a great recipe that was not only delicious, but very romantic. i made a couple of changes to the recipe, but basically followed her directions.

here is my version, which was super.

preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large dutch oven and add 4 slices of bacon.  brown the bacon and remove from the pot.  remove excess bacon fat. sprinkle 6 small chicken thighs with salt and pepper.  add chicken to the pot and brown about 5 minutes on each side.  remove the chicken from the pot and place alongside bacon.

add 1 white chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped carrots, 1 teaspoon thyme and about 2 teaspoons minced garlic.  cook to soften about 5 minutes.  add 1 tablespoon tomato paste and cook another minute.  stir in 12 ounces of Cabernet sauvignon and bring mixture to a boil.

cook about 10 minutes or until the mixture reduces, stirring from time to time.  return chicken to the pot and add 2 cups of fat free, lower sodium chicken broth and bring again to a simmer.

cover the pot and place in the oven for about 40 to 45 minutes.  remove from the oven and add 2 tablespoons of margarine, with about 4 ounces of frozen pearl onions.  stir and add 8 ounces of button mushrooms which have been sauteed in a small amount of margarine, while the chicken was baking in the oven. add crumbled prepared bacon.

bring to a simmer for about 10 more minutes.  serve in large bowls as is, or with a small amount of egg noodles.  served with fresh cooked asparagus and crusty bread, this was a meal to remember.

tropical fruit platter

as i have noted several times on my blog, i enjoy serving fruit with meals.  last week, i found an idea of a cute fruit platter that i had to replicate.

here is a tropical tree made with bananas, kiwi and smaller mandarin oranges. the photo i saw had several trees on the platter.  for one dinner this past week i constructed this tree for the meal, and we enjoyed the presentation.

black and white heart cookies

one of my favorite desserts has always been a simple cookie.  over the years i have made many different sugar or shortbread cookies, and mostly prefer any of Martha's or Ina's recipes.  it is important to choose a sturdy cookie recipe so that the chocolate does not weaken the cookie texture.

this year, i used Martha's sugar cookie cutout recipe from her cookies book, and then applied the melted chocolate after the cookies had cooled.

sweets for my sweetie....and another happy valentine's day.

cherry nut clusters

well, valentine's week is over now and i am still feeling the love. 
here is a great recipe that can be adapted to a variety of occasions depending on the choices made for the clusters.  for valentines day, i chose dried cherries and nuts.

melt approximately 12 ounces of ghirardelli chococlate in a double boiler.  stir in your choice of nuts and dried fruit.  i used about 1 cup of peanuts and 1 cup of chopped pecans with 1/2 cup of dried cherries.

scoop out the clusters with a cookie scoop and allow to harden on waxed paper.  remove and place in decorative paper cups.  store in a covered container in a cool dry place.

Friday, February 10, 2012

herb of the year 2012

the international herb association yearly publishes a book to celebrate one herb.  this year, the rose has been chosen for its' antiquity and ability to soothe and heal.  i have been reading this book for a couple of weeks now and have been enjoying the articles written by more than 25 contributors.

one of my friends, Donna Frawley, is a regular contributor to the publications.  Donna, who owns frawley's fine herbary in midland speaks on a variety of herb topics.  i have attended several of her cooking classes which are delightful, informative, and very tasty.

in this book, Donna has a recipe for rose butter cookies with a rose glaze.  she uses rose water in the recipe, and i am looking forward to making these cookies for valentines' day. 

watch for their appearance on the blog.. coming soon !

for more information on Donna frawley, follow this link:  http://www.frawleysfineherbary.com

baking tip: parchment rounds

one of the best baking tips that i have used over the years has to be placing a parchment round at the base of any cake.  these rounds are produced in a variety of sizes, and i often purchase them when i visit a sur la table store.

once i prepare the baking pan with baking spray, i apply a round to the base of the pan and coat it again with baking spray.  this technique allows the cake to come out of the pan in all one piece, never leaving any part of the base attached to the baking pan.

sweetheart cinnamon tea

i have been enjoying this tea all week in anticipation of valentine's day.  bigelow introduced this herb tea that is "kissed with sweet apple" just for the holiday.  this no caffeine blend is so tasty and reminds me of cinnamon hearts without the sugar ! 

this all natural tea has been warming me during this colder month of February, and has to be one of the best seasonal teas offered by bigelow.  i was able to find this tea in our local grocery store, but if you are having difficulty, follow the link: 

spicy sweet chicken wings

every football party needs to have a special chicken wing recipe.  and this one seems to be better than most.  with just a few ingredients, the wing sauce brings the dish up to an amazing level.  from Martha's recipe book, she doesn't disappoint this time at all.

to prepare the sauce for the wings:
2/3 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons fresh orange zest or bottled orange peel if not available
1/2 cup sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

combine the ingredients and whisk thoroughly.  reserve 1/2 cup of the marinade.

prepare the wings and divide into 3 segments if desired. allow the wings to marinate in the refrigerator in the sauce for at least 2 hours prior to baking.

when ready to bake, place the wings on a sheet pan covered with foil. the foil will allow for an easy clean up after baking. bake the wings in a 375 degree preheated oven, using the reserved sauce to baste while turning the wings.    total cooking time is 45 minutes.

serve on a platter of shredded lettuce.  this recipe will become one of your favorite wing recipes very quickly.  it is sweet with a hint of spice and could also be served with additional hot sauce for those who might like a very spicy wing. 

super bowl taco dip

last weekend was the super bowl and i was excited to try a couple of new recipes, which were both lower in fat and calories.  my version of the traditional taco dip was super tasty and super easy.

as with many of the spreads, the ingredients were simple and easy to prepare. here is what i used to change up the recipe:

1 8 oz Kraft Philadelphia neufchatel cheese ( 1/3 less fat than cream cheese)
1 cup fat free sour cream
taco seasoning to taste
1 small can of rotel diced tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes can be used)
shredded lettuce
shredded green onion
shredded light cheddar cheese (1/3 of the 8 oz bag)

to prepare the spread, allow the neufchatel cheese to come to room temperature.  mix this cheese with the sour cream and taco seasoning to taste.  spread on the bottom of the flat dish.  sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top. next, add the drained can of rotel diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, green onion and black olives if desired.

chill the plate and serve with a spreader, along with lower salt and low fat crackers.  or, with the traditional tostito chips alongside.  excellent spread that your guests will think is the traditional taco dip.

Friday, February 3, 2012

super bowl cupcakes

this week, i was given this adorable super bowl cupcake decorating set, which i had to put to good use immediately.  i almost couldn't wait to open the package to see how cute the decorations would look on my famous cupcake creations.

using baking cooking spray for the cupcake pans, i flour and grease them, so the cupcakes remove easily.  i never bake my cupcakes in the paper liners, but use them to serve and decorate the cupcakes.  on a recent post in this blog, my icing recipe was featured under maple icing.  i used this same recipe, but flavored the icing with Washington cherry extract, for a cheery cherry flavor.

all ready for the super bowl, we have been enjoying these cupcakes this week while watching the pre game feature shows.  thanks Karin....and good luck to Tom Brady, a real Michigan man.  go blue!

snowflake cookies

with not very much snow outside, i decided to create my own snowflakes this week and made old fashioned pizzelle cookies.  i often call these snowflake cookies, since they remind me of snowflakes covered in powdered sugar.

i have a Cuisinart pizzelle maker which works very nicely to create these cookies in a matter of minutes.  i was able to make 24 cookies in less then one hour with the non stick maker.  these classic Italian cookies can be flavored with lemon zest, anise, or just vanilla.  here is a lovely selection of vanillas that was given to me by a friend which offers a delicious variety of tastes for these cookies.

the maker resembles a waffle iron with the snowflake stamp being pressed into both sides of the cookie at the same time. along with the pizzelle maker comes a wooden dowel so that the cookies can be shaped, while still warm, into cones for ice cream or other cream filled desserts. a recipe booklet is included with the pizzelle maker, and many recipes can also be found online for these classic cookies.

once the cookies are pressed, i cool them on waxed paper sheets and dust them with powdered sugar on both sides.  next, the cookies can be trimmed with a sharp knife to even up the edges.

these cookies are wonderful for tea as they crisp up when cooled to create a delicate crunch when eating.  the cookies can be stored with waxed paper between the layers in a sealed container for several days.

for more information on the Cuisinart pizzelle maker, follow this link:  http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-WM-PZ2-Pizzelle-Press/dp/B00006F2ME

valentine's day cooking

today i was browsing through my cookbook collection and found one of my favorite cookbooks for valentine's day menus.  this cookbook features recipes from the northwest's favorite romantic inns, wineries, and restaurants.

included are a variety of offerings for breakfast, brunch, appetizers, salads, main dishes and desserts.  the cookbook also offers suggestions for flowers, perfect pairs of wine and cheese, romantic picnic basket ideas, music selections for both dancing and dining, and selections for romantic movie classics.

an entire chapter is devoted to detailed descriptions of the locations featured in the recipe section.  romantic lodgings, restaurants, inns, and bed and breakfasts are described with suggestions for visiting in the near future.

i think i might just try the champagne waffles, made with champagne to create a bubbly batter !  sounds amazing for breakfast... and maybe the chocolate dip for two for a post dinner treat.

for more information on this cute cookbook, please link to :  http://www.amazon.com/Best-Places-Kiss-Cookbook-Restaurants/dp/1570615632

serving dishes

for over thirty years i have collected a variety of serving dishes, platters, and tableware.  i often think that these collections are an obsession, since i enjoy searching for more each year.   i was looking through my holiday photographs and realized just how many different types of presentations are possible with these unique dishes.

i have several different sizes of olive plates, all different lengths and widths.  these plates can be used for a variety of relish options, including tomatoes, carrots, mini corn, and even pickles.  i often use them for cracker plates alongside dips and spreads.

the long narrow characteristic of these dishes makes them very attractive on the table and can be used as a focal point to attract attention to the colorful appetizers. i enjoy experimenting with different table presentations for each holiday.

winter oatmeal

during the colder winter months, i enjoy eating oatmeal daily.  both of these brands are my favorites, and i usually cook enough portions of oatmeal to last the week.

measuring the proper amount based on the package directions, i cook the oatmeal on the stovetop.  often, these brands take about 20 minutes to cook until perfection.  then, i save the oatmeal in the refrigerator and simply warm every morning in a matter of minutes.

oatmeal can be served with a variety of toppings, such as dried fruit, milk or half and half, nuts, fresh berries, maple syrup, brown sugar and even bananas.  i try to top my oatmeal with something different each morning and truly enjoy starting the day with this wonderful taste.  just delicious !