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

Monday, May 28, 2012

bacon, tomato and noodles

when dinner time is a bit rushed but there is still a need for something tasty and delicious, try this recipe for bacon, tomato and noodles.  i use yolk free egg noodles and make just enough for two people.  cut about 4 slices of bacon into a large sauce pot and brown.  drain and add one chopped small white onion, and 1 can of crushed tomatoes or fresh chopped tomatoes.  add 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped and salt and pepper to taste.  cook to thicken and then add cooked noodles and stir.
this is a tasty dish adapted from Rachel Ray and can be served with bread sticks and a green salad or green vegetable.  this is one of those go to dishes for a quick and easy dinner that everyone will enjoy.

the yard and garden

one of the greatest pleasures has to be having a garden of your own.  each day that i am able to walk around my yard and garden, i feel a sense of well being and relaxation. the mulch pathways in the fenced garden provide additional space for potted lettuces, Swiss chard, and tomatoes this year.  growing vegetables in containers allows me the opportunity to move them as the sun moves throughout the day.

the herbs and perennials in this garden provide for a three season garden of interest, with something in bloom spring, summer and fall.
the front yard garden has come together with the spring blush of windflowers and grape hyacinths, followed by forget me nots, and then English bluebells.  as the hosta fill in around the lily of the valley, the garden takes shape for the summer months of shade under large established trees.  a border of lirope surrounds the bed, with small English boxwood for a contrast in leaf textures and shape.

hot milk sponge cake

Brian's birthday was earlier this month and i tried another new cake recipe from BAKE by Nick Malgieri.  this was one of the easiest and best tasting sponge layer cakes that can ever be made.  it can be served as a tea cake, and often would be in London, England.  any preserves can be used between the layers, which are light and elegant.  although this cake is not as light as a genoise layer cake, this cake recipe can be substituted whenever a white or yellow cake layer would be needed.  simply delicious.

use two 9 inch round layer pans, each about 1 1 /2 inches tall.  place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

combine 4 tablespoons unsalted butter with 1/2 cup whole milk or cream in a small saucepan and cook over very low heat until the butter is completely melted.  set aside.

stir 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour with 2 teaspoons baking powder.  in a bowl with an electric mixer, whisk 3 large eggs with 1/4 teaspoon salt.  then add in 1 cup sugar in a stream and then add 1 teaspoon vanilla.  using the whisk attachment, whip on medium high until very light, another 3 minutes.

then, gently whisk in the warm milk mixture and then fold into the flour mixture slowly to prevent lumps.

divide the batter and smooth the tops.  bake the layers until well risen and golden about 20 minutes.  loosen from the sides of the pan and place the cakes on a wire rack to cool, with the parchment paper on the bottom of the cake.  cook completely.  this recipe looks just like the photo in my cookbook.

assemble with one jar of raspberry preserves or another favorite flavor.  dust the top with powdered sugar and serve on a glass pedestal dish.  lovely.

grilled planked whitefish

after a recent trip up north this week, i decided to prepare grilled planked whitefish at home last night for a memorial day barbecue dinner.  the cedar planks can be purchased at any cooking shop, and are very inexpensive, since they can only be used once and must be discarded.

first, soak the planks in a sink of water, for at least four hours.  i used a cast iron pot lid to weigh the planks down in the sink.
the planks absorb the water and this prevents them from burning on the grill, and also allows them to steam cook the fish.  next, prepare the whitefish.  i used lemon pepper and herb seasoning, and a bit of parsley after spraying them with canola oil.

place the planks on the warm grill, close the cover and allow to begin to smoke.  then, turn the planks over and brush with grape seed or olive oil.  place the fish, skin side down first, and close the grill cover, cooking for about 12 minutes.  then, open the grill, turn the fish over on the planks and continue to grill until done.  total cooking time should be about 25 minutes.  we moved the planks off of the direct heat to the sides of the coals after the first 1/2 of the cooking process.  the fish will be flaky and white throughout the body, and begin to separate from the skin when done.
this whole fish provides for four generous servings.  served with a salsa, such as grilled green and red peppers with onions, or grilled chopped pineapple with white onions, and a side of greens makes a tasty dinner.  also, good with corn on the cob or grilled small red potatoes.

vegetarian spinach tart

if you are looking for a great brunch dish, here is an easy spinach tart that is vegetarian and delicious.  if served with a side salad , this recipe should serve about eight slices.

the recipe comes from music legend Paul McCartney, which was adapted from the Meat Free Monday Cookbook.

preheat the oven to 400 degrees. use a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom, and line with your favorite tart crust.  i simply used a refrigerated crust.  bake the crust on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes until browning.

prepare fresh or frozen spinach, either 9 ounces fresh cooked or one box of frozen warmed until wilted on the stove top with 4 tablespoons margarine.  add one finely chopped white onion and cook until soft.

spread spinach and onion over the bottom of the pie crust. 

beat in a bowl 2 whole eggs plus 2 yolks.  i use egg beaters and real yolks. add 2/3 cup of heavy cream, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. add two cups of grated cheddar cheese to mix.  pour over the spinach and onion and then bake in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes.  i then usually turn off the oven and allow to heat for another 5 minutes to help set the custard.  this recipe is much thinner and lighter than a quiche, which has more body and depth.

serve and enjoy.  this is a very tasty tart that i can imagine being served in London, England with a cup of tea and a bowl of fresh fruit.

coconut lemon bars

earlier this month i tried this recipe which was written for key limes, but changed it to use lemons instead of the limes.  this was an excellent cookie bar recipe.  the lemon bars were cool and refreshing and very easy to prepare.

for the graham cracker crust, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and place the oven rack in the middle position.  butter or spray the sides and bottom or a 9 inch square baking pan.  toast a 1/2 cup of shredded coconut on a parchment lined baking sheet.  brown for about 7 minutes and remove from the oven.

place one cup of graham cracker crumbs in a large bowl, add the toasted coconut and 1 tablespoon brown sugar.  mix to combine.  add 1/4 cup unsalted butter melted to combine.  press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of the baking pan.  use a measuring cup to create a perfect flat crust.

bake the crust for 10 minutes or until golden brown.  remove and allow to stand until filling is prepared.
increase the oven temperature to 325 degrees F .

for the filling, mix 2 ounces cream cheese, zest of one lemon, and a pinch of salt.  add 1 can sweetened condensed milk, one egg yolk and 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice.  i used Meyer lemons and a hand held mixer.

pour the filling over the baked crust and bake in the oven until the filling is set and the edges are browned.  they will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan after the bars have cooled.  this will take about 20 to 22 minutes.  allow to cool completely about 2 hours, then cover the bars and refrigerate until totally chilled, another 2 hours.  sprinkle with additional shredded toasted coconut if desired.

top with fresh whipped cream to serve.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

mini muffuletta sandwiches

prepare these sandwiches the day before the game, picnic, or the derby.  they are quite versatile and will store well in plastic zipper bags, covered tightly in plastic in the refrigerator.  they can be served with a side of coleslaw for a nice lunch.

search for the best whole wheat small dinner rolls available in the market, or slice larger ones in half.  purchase one jar of mixed pickled vegetables and if the vegetables are too large for the sandwiches, pulse them in the food processor until they are finely chopped.  this will prevent them from falling out of the mini rolls.  spread the vegetables and low fat mayo if desired on the rolls and then top with traditional muffuletta meat and cheese.

i used provolone, thin deli turkey and think deli Genoa salami.  other choices could include thin deli ham, thin deli Swiss, thin deli pepperoni, or other favorite combinations.  additional pimiento stuffed Spanish chopped olives could be added for flavor if desired. the recipe also suggests using olive oil and vinegar dressing for enhanced taste.

serve immediately, or store and chill until ready to serve. mini muffulettas will become your new family favorite, since they transport easy and are a great sports event food.

stacked tomato salad

since we tried the salad on a stick recipe earlier last week, i thought i would also try a stacked tomato salad as well.  this stacked salad is made with kumato tomatoes which i found in the gourmet tomato section of my market in midland.  the Kumato is a trade name given to the variety of tomato developed in Spain called "Olmeca".  it is grown in Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Turkey, Australia and Greece by specially selected growers. the Kumato is a standard size variety of tomato weighing between 80 and 120 grams and has a color of reddish brown. they are sweeter than typical tomatoes due to a higher fructose content.

Kumatoes have a longer shelf life than typical tomatoes, and are considered gourmet tomatoes.

to make the stacked tomato salad, slice the tomatoes and stack with fresh mozzarella cheese, drizzle with olive oil, basil, salt and pepper to taste.  even the kumato tomato package displays the stacked salad.  these tomatoes were delicious and have received many taste awards.

bistro pasta salad

yesterday was derby day, and i served this main dish bistro pasta salad with grilled chicken.  grilling the chicken and adding is an option that could be omitted if a vegetarian salad is the goal.

to make this pasta salad, prepare penne pasta, drain and rinse in cold water.  i used a mixture of red pepper flavored pasta and whole wheat pasta noodles. i used two cups which fills a dish for presentation. 

add crumbled feta cheese, chopped red onion, chopped fresh basil and sun dried tomatoes which were not oil packed.  i find them in the produce section of the market, not in jars.  these tomatoes can be sliced and added to many dishes and will last in the refrigerator longer than standard tomatoes.  they are very flavorful and tasty.  i really love them in this salad. 

season the salad to taste with salt and pepper, chill and serve with or without the grilled chicken. 

Dijon red potato salad

don't think about running to the deli when you need a small side dish for your backyard barbecue.  try this Dijon potato salad.  it is quick and easy and comes together in minutes.

early in the day, cook about six small red potatoes.  allow them to chill in the refrigerator until ready to put together the salad.  dice the potatoes.  next, mix 2 tablespoons of good quality mustard, with 1/4 cup low calorie coleslaw dressing and 2 tablespoons of dill pickle relish or chopped pickles.  season the salad to taste with salt and freshly cracked pepper.

other options would be to add chopped watercress or parsley, bread and butter pickles instead of dill, or a different type of mustard.

any variation will be tasty and quick !

Lemon Basil chicken

in an effort to use some more Meyer lemons this week, i decided to try a lemon and basil chicken recipe. Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and an orange.  so the flavor is not as sour as lemons would be in this dish.

i simply used two chicken breasts in a ceramic baking dish.  i heated about 1/4 cup of olive oil with some minced garlic.  since i am not a big fan of a lot of garlic, i reduced the amount to taste.  once the garlic and oil were infused and warm, i removed the small pan from the stove top and added freshly squeezed lemon juice from three small Meyer lemons and some dried basil.  also, i added the zest from the lemons.

next, pour the mixture over the whole chicken breasts.  i placed the lemons in the dish for extra flavor while baking.  baked at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, and then slice to serve with rice or pasta.

this recipe could be adjusted for more servings, and could include more garlic and lemon to taste.

this dish was tasty and provided some nice leftovers for the next day.

Baking tip: Martha Wrap

Martha Stewart has a new product on the market that can be called genius!  It is a combination of foil plus parchment paper. 

Created and developed by Martha Stewart, Martha Wrap™ is parchment-lined aluminum foil that combines the heat-retaining and freezer-burn-preventing properties of foil with the nonstick protection of parchment paper. Oven safe up to 420° F. It is also freezer compatible.

This product is perfect for roasting, baking and steaming foods in the oven.  It could also be used to wrap and re-heat leftovers.  I just purchased this product and am looking forward to putting it to use.

Thanks to Martha Wrap, life in the kitchen just got a whole lot better.  It is a good thing Martha.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

another chicken salad

are you tired of mayonnaise based chicken salad?  actually, i have strayed away from those salads for years now, and actually search for variations of chicken salad that can be served for lunch or appetizers.

this is another recipe i found on the key ingredient website, which seems to have a variety of simple recipes that have been tried out by others around the country.

see if you like this one, which can be served in wonton cups or on a bed of lettuce.

use about 2 cups of roasted and cooled white-meat chicken, probably leftover from another meal.  add 1/2 cup sliced green onions, 1/3 cup shredded carrots, 1/3 cup finely chopped celery, and 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley.  use less parsley if selecting dried.

mix these ingredients in a bowl and then mix the dressing in a small cup.  use about 3 1/2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil or canola oil.  (not olive oil, as the taste would not complement the salad) and to the oil, add about 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme. (or less, if dried)

drizzle dressing over the chicken salad and incorporate.  this is a personal decision on how much dressing to add to the chicken.  some like more and some like less.  i added sliced almonds at the end for another bit of crunch.  options for this salad would include:  chopped pecans, sliced grapes, or sunflower nuts added at the end of the mixing process.  of course, the amounts could be increased for entertaining.

serve the salad an interesting way in wonton cups.  simply heat the oven to 350 degrees, and then spray each side of the wonton wrapper with spray oil.  press the wonton wrappers into standard size muffin cups.

bake the wontons for 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown.  cool and serve.  i think adding some flavor to the wontons would also work prior to baking, such as dried dill or dried thyme.  my suggestion would be to only use the standard size cups, as the wonton wrappers are just too large for the mini muffin cups and they will not crisp properly.

salad on a skewer

here is a quick recipe that i found online within the key ingredient web application.  it seems that people from around the country submit their favorites, and this one looked good enough to try.

these skewers could be used for appetizers, game time snacks, outdoor entertaining, or even just as a quick salad option when only two of you are dining.  they are very much like my Greek salad recipe, without the greens. also, served over a small bed of mache, one of these skewers drizzled with dressing would look very chic.

to make the skewers:
select the very best grape tomatoes, 3 ounces of reduced fat feta cheese, kalamata olives which have been pitted, red onion, fresh oregano, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, kosher salt, ground lemon pepper, and short 6 inch bamboo wood skewers.

place the feta in the freezer for 30 minutes to chill firm.  this tip will help you skewer the feta without it crumbling.  cut feta into cubes for the recipe.  next slice red onion, and then begin to assemble the skewers.

in this order, use tomato, feta, olive, onion, and then another tomato if desired.

in a small bowl, mix 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons chopped oregano, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. add lemon pepper and kosher salt to taste. drizzle dressing over the skewers.  serve and enjoy !

fresh corn salsa

as the supermarket produce aisle fills with spring and even some early summer vegetable choices, i just had to try the first corn of the season..  although corn seems to improve as the season continues, i purchased four ears of corn and prepared them last week. 

Brian and i had two of the cobs for a dinner, but i saved the remainder to make this salsa recipe the next day.

i love this salsa with the multi grain Breton crackers, made by dare foods, which originated in Canada.  they now have plants in the united states in spartenburg, SC and in Denver, CO.  the 12 grains and seeds in the crackers taste excellent with this salsa.  i first found dare foods, when i discovered Bremner wafers many years ago, and have found their cracker products to be my favorites.  they are most often found in the deli section of the market.

to make the salsa:
prepare and cook 2 or more ears of fresh yellow corn.  chill in the refrigerator prior to preparing the salsa.
remove the kernels from the cobs and place in a mixing bowl.

next, chop 1-2 Campari or Roma tomatoes, 1 white onion, and add 1-2 tablespoons of fresh or dried parsley. salt to taste.

Campari tomatoes have low acidity, a nice texture that is not mealy, a higher sweetness, and are very juicy.  they are a perfect choice for a salsa tomato.

in a mixing cup, use 3 parts olive oil to 1 or less part of red wine vinegar.  for example:  3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of red wine vinegar.  more vinegar can always be added for the zesty zing on the salsa, but it can't be removed once added.  so, use the vinegar sparingly to your taste.

this salsa can be used with traditional tortilla chips, or even would be very tasty on baked fish or chicken.  chill the salsa for the best taste and flavor.  sounds like this might be a choice for an upcoming cinco de mayo party !  ole !