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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

harbor springs summer

recently we spent several days up north at harbor springs enjoying the food, shopping and the water.  the town fills with locals from nearby cities to enjoy the wonderful farmer's market each week.   the shops are filled with nautical items, while the restaurants serve fresh grilled whitefish.

it still amazes me that such great resort towns are only two hours away. and, the atmosphere is nothing less than any town on the cape or along the Maine coast.  well..there is no salt in the air, but there is certainly the relaxation that sailboats and other water sports bring to the area.  paddle boards are popular, but the beautiful waxed wooden boats still give the classic appeal.  as vintage autos are repurposed by many residents, it is not uncommon to see woodies on the road. everything that should be a summer memory can be created in northern Michigan. 

one morning, we spent some time talking with tom stewart, owner of the old sport gallery.  he is a PGA life member, and was a friend of Alden Dow.

there is something special about these northern Michigan towns.  and, i am so glad that a smaller percentage of people choose to visit there, as i feel this is a secret that shouldn't be shared.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

fruit tarts

every summer, my daughter asks me to make this fruit tart.  it has been one of her favorites over the years.  it is a very quick dessert, and can be made with a traditional pie crust, a graham cracker crust or with a chocolate cookie crumb crust that i used for the chocolate raspberry tart posted earlier on this blog.

any type of fruit can be used.  i have used raspberries and blackberries in this version.  in the past, i have used raspberries, strawberries, blueberries or kiwi.

after the crust is prepared, make the delicious filling.  start with an 8 ounce package of cream cheese that has been softened.  i use low fat cream cheese.  add 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon of frozen orange juice concentrate.  mix with a hand mixer until very smooth.  add 1/2 cup of whipping cream and incorporate into the cheese mixture. 

fold the filling in the crust.  chill the tart and serve.  if desired, a fruit glaze can be used over the added fruit.

to make the glaze:  use 2 tablespoons honey and 1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate.  mix and brush lightly over the fruit.

eight layer salad

last week, we had salads week here at 6110.  when the summer heat doesn't fade, the best type of dinner is a fresh cool salad. for years, people have made the famous seven layer salad, but this one has an extra layer of flavor.  the recipe comes from a 2000 southern living magazine, so i have made this salad many times over the years.

one of the key tips to preparing this recipe is the clear tall sided glass bowl.  try to find a clear bowl or pedestal bowl to present the eight layer salad.

to make the salad, layer these ingredients.  begin with torn iceberg lettuce, add chopped green onions, chopped green bell pepper, chopped celery, chopped red bell pepper, frozen peas that have been thawed, dry roasted peanuts, and then top with shredded Monterrey or Swiss cheese.

using a low calorie mayonnaise or canola mayonnaise, thin with milk and then cover the salad.  sprinkle sugar over the mayonnaise, and the top the salad with cooked and crumbled bacon.  of course, the bacon can be omitted. 

chill this salad for at least 4 hours prior to serving.  this eight layer salad can even be chilled 8 hours prior to serving.  when ready to serve, stir and mix the ingredients.

this is a perfect luncheon or dinner main entree salad.  adjust the amount of ingredients to serve your guests.  this large salad will serve 6-to 8 main dish servings.

neiman marcus chicken salad

a couple of years ago, Neiman Marcus published their recipe for their well known cafe chicken salad.  this has been a favorite of many lunchtime visitors over the years.  Sauveur magazine was the lucky recipient of the first publishing of their mixture.  the secret ingredient is whipping cream.  other than that, the ingredients are similar to other chicken salad recipes out in cookbooks today.

to make the chicken salad: grill 1-2 chicken breasts ahead of time and allow to cool.  if i am serving this for a dinner entree, i grill the chicken early in the day and then slice into small cubes in the afternoon.  this makes the salad assembly go very quickly.  toss the cooled and refrigerated chicken with about 1/2 cup of low fat or canola mayonnaise.  then add 1/2 to 1 cup chopped celery, 1/2 to cup halved seedless red grapes, 1/2 cup of sliced almonds, 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley chopped, salt and pepper to taste.  then, thin the entire mixture with whipping cream or whipped cream.  either way, the taste of the chicken salad improves with the addition of the cream.  and, the texture is far more creamy than most chicken salads made with mayonnaise.

serve over bibb or Boston lettuce leaves.  i use those grown hydroponically, as the taste is very fresh and crisp.  adjust the ingredients to the number of people served.  one chicken breast with 1/2 cup of each ingredients makes about 3 generous servings.
this is a perfect entree salad for a lunch or dinner.  served with muffin and a side of fresh fruit, it would be a lovely offering for a lunch with the ladies.

chocolate raspberry tart

this simple tart will impress your guests every time.  from the chefs at everyday food, one of Martha's magazines, the chocolate raspberry tart can be adapted to many changes.  it could be served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, or even prepared with a graham cracker crust if desired.  this tart will keep overnight in the refrigerator.  any fruit could be used as a topping, but add the fruit just before serving.  the filling is very firm, so the raspberries will not sink into the filling after it is chilled.

to make the tart crust, which can be used for any type of tart:  preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  in a processor, combine 8 ounces of chocolate wafer cookies or use precrushed Oreo crumbs.  add 2 tablespoons of sugar and a few sprinkles of coarse salt.  then melt 3/4 stick or 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter.  add and stir.  fill a 9 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and place on a baking sheet.  bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, and then allow time to cool.

next, make the filling.  in a bowl, add 12 ounces of semisweet chocolate and a pinch of salt. a combination of chocolate could also be used. then, in a small saucepan, bring 1 and 1/4 cups of heavy cream to a slight simmer.  pour the warm cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 1 minute.  stir until the chocolate melts and mixes with the cream evenly.  this make take a few minutes.
place melted chocolate into the cooled tart crust and place in the refrigerator at least for 30 or more minutes prior to serving. decorate with fruit.  select from strawberries, raspberries, peaches, or kiwi.

this is a delicious tart and will be enjoyed by your guests for any summer event.

easy ice cream sandwiches

for the fourth of July this year, i needed an easy festive dessert.  i have made ice cream sandwiches for many years now. however, this year, i tried using waffle cookies.  i purchased these at trader joe's, but they are available in many markets. these cookies are thin.  they do break easily, so caution is given when smoothing the ice cream between the layers.  the ice cream needs to be soft enough not to break the cookie, but firm enough to stay within the cookies to allow for the sprinkles to be added.

i simply used my homemade strawberry ice cream and then added red, white and blue sprinkles to the sides. 

freeze these wrapped in waxed paper or foil.  freeze until firm and then enjoy !

strawberry smoothie

one of the very best things about the summer months is enjoying smoothies.  recently, celebrities have been even discussing what they put into their own smoothie recipes.  smoothies have been around for years, formerly called shakes.  i think since many fast food restaurants serve shakes, the foodies of the world gave their recipe a new name.  however, the ingredients are often surprisingly similar.

for my summer fruit smoothies, i use about 1/2 cup of fruit or one cup of mixed fruit.  for example, i use 1/2 cup of strawberries, or 1/2 cup of strawberries with 1/2 cup of banana.

to the fruit choices, i add 1/2 to 2/3 cup of frozen vanilla yogurt or ice cream, and 1/2 cup of milk or fat free half and half.

using my blender, i mix the ingredients well and serve with whipped cream.
for chocolate smoothies, i use frozen yogurt, half and half and then 2 tablespoons of nestle nesquick.  a 99 cent package will last the whole summer.
other options for smoothies include using frozen fruit, such as peaches, raspberries, and blueberries.  caution is always required when using frozen fruit, as blender strengths vary. flavorings can also be added to taste.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

swiss chard

straight from my garden, i harvested baby young and tender Swiss chard this week.  Swiss chard is one of the healthiest vegetables for any diet.  this variety is called bright lights and grew very nicely in my garden.  i decided to harvest this bunch that grew from seed, before my little baby garden bunny decided she needed another meal.

to prepare the Swiss chard:  chop the larger leaves, and remove the toughest part of the stalk or stem of the chard.  using about one tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet, add the chard and season with minced garlic to taste with a bit of red pepper.  heat for about 5 minutes, and then add some water by tablespoons if needed.  cook for another five minutes, and then add salt to taste.  just prior to serving, finish with a tablespoon of margarine.

the freshest leaves are very high in vitamins A, K and C.  this side dish complements every summer meal.

salad spinner

recently i purchased a new oxo salad spinner.  i am completely thrilled with this product and can't say enough about the performance and features of this spinner.  it efficiently dries my fresh salad greens, with an in the lid pump.  it features a basket style spinner, but has an added brake in the lid which performs beautifully.

it has a non slip grip and stays on the counter top perfectly when in use.  as most home chefs know, it is very important to have dry greens to encourage fresh salad dressings to adhere to the leaves.  especially with baby lettuces from the garden, during the washing process, the leaves seem to almost never dry on the counter.

by using this salad spinner, i have become a true fan of this product and wanted to share this information with my blog followers.

baked spinach pasta

a few weeks ago, i tried this baked pasta dish which i modified from Martha's everyday food magazine.  many of the recipes make larger quantities than i need for Brian and me on a weeknight.

so, i decreased the amounts and prepared a vary tasty dish which i will certainly try again in the cooler months.  this is how i prepared the dish. 

i used a square ceramic baking dish and sprayed the interior with canola spray.  i boiled about 2 cups of whole wheat penne pasta noodles until al dente. i cooked 4 strips of bacon, but could have also used prosciutto.  i preheated the oven to 400 degrees.  when the pasta was cooked and drained, i added the pasta to 1 package of spinach that was thawed, drained and separated.  i added in one cup of half and half, but milk could be also used.  next, i added one cup of ricotta cheese and one teaspoon of minced garlic.

when the mixture is together, place in the baking dish and top with the bacon and Parmesan or Romano cheese.  bake for 30 to 40 minutes until done.  the bacon can be omitted if desired.  this recipe will serve four, or two with enough for leftovers for the freezer.

this baked dish can be served with a side salad or crusty bread. 


throughout my yard, over the past four years, i have planted many different types of daylilies.  daylilies are available in a variety of colors and types of flower petals.  the centers of the flowers are also varied and many are quite attractive. 

i have purchased my daylilies from catalogs, and also from several growers in Michigan.  the name of the plant is quite descriptive, as the flowers last no more than one day.  therefore, these plants are not grown for cut flower bouquets, but rather for splashes of color in the summer garden.

i have used the daylilies in a variety of areas in my yard.  the first photo shows the daylilies on one side of my mailbox garden.  the second photo, shows a clump of daylilies at the start of my island bed near the driveway mixed with varieties of hosta.
this next photo, shows another clump of daylilies that are mixed with bee balm in a naturalized garden of mints and iris that bloom on the far side of my home.

i also use daylilies as a border plant near the woodsy side yard of my home. here i have three different types of daylily borders that bloom and change over a period of weeks.

most daylilies bloom for one to three weeks, with a daily change of blooms in the clumps.  some species are re-bloomers which will bloom after deadheading takes place.  daylilies in general are very hardy, especially in Michigan, and seem to grow into very large clumps within three years.  the standard seems to recommend dividing the clumps every three years, to improve bloom performance and allow for spacing of the plantings.

by purchasing just a few daylilies, in a matter of a short time, many areas of the yard can become beautiful drifts of color.

daylilies thrive in bright sunshine, but will also bloom in part shade.  they are drought resistant and although i do feed them with a granular fertilizer, i am certain they would perform quite nicely without that added step. 

divide the plants in very late summer near fall, by simply digging up the clumps and separating them, trimming the long leaves and replanting in a desirable location.

cream cheese frosting

earlier this year, i posted a recipe for cream cheese icing, and since then i have tried another recipe which i may prefer even more than the first one posted.  this one was written by Ina garten, the barefoot contessa. 

the frosting is very creamy and delicious and by making 1/2 of her printed recipe, i had just enough for my one layer cake.  i used pecans to decorate the top of the cake, similar to her design suggested in her cookbook, "how easy is that?"

to make this icing recipe:  mix 3 ounces of cream cheese at room temperature, with 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter at room temperature, with 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  i used a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  the recipe suggests not to whip the icing, but to mix.  then, add slowly 1 1/4 cups of powdered sugar until the frosting comes together and is smooth.

this is the 1/2 recipe.  Ina lists all of these ingredients in double the quantity.

this recipe can be used for banana cake, carrot cake or as a glaze for muffins.

herbed pasta salad

there is nothing more satisfying than using herbs straight from the garden for a summer pasta salad.  this salad can be adapted to the herbs available that day from the garden or the market.

 i used parsley, basil, dill and chives from the garden.  i also supplemented with additional dried dill from the market.

any type of pasta will work, fusilli, shells or penne that i used this past week.  i also added chopped red onion to the mixture.

to make the salad, mix together about 2/3 cup light sour cream or plain yogurt with about 2/3 cup of light or canola mayonnaise.  i usually thin this mixture with a bit of milk and if desired a splash of white wine vinegar.  next, mix in the chopped herbs. 

in a pot of water, cook the pasta shells until al dente.  drain and rinse in cold water very well.  any chopped herbs not added to the dressing may be added directly to the pasta mixture, along with the chopped red onions.  add the dressing and cover the salad.  chill until ready to serve to guests.  if the pasta seems to absorb the dressing while in the refrigerator, a great trick is to add a couple of tablespoons of warm water to the mixture and then serve. 

this is a wonderful pasta salad that will compliment chicken, fish or any summer meat entree.


one of my very favorite summer annual plants has to be borage.  the beautiful blue flowers combined with the fuzzy white buds, which seem to attract buzzing bees, compliments my red, white and blue garden border.

i planted a whole garden pot of seeds this year, and seem to have more luck with the germination in a pot.  now is the time for me to transplant these into my garden border.  one of the great benefits of borage has to be that it self seeds. so, next year my garden border should contain a drift of blue borage.

borage is an easy plant to grow and provides a lovely addition to any herb garden.

honey mustard salad dressing

salads are perfect for summer dinners.  they are light and often use fresh vegetables straight from the backyard garden.  one night this week, i tried one of Martha's salad dressings to make this honey mustard chicken salad.  it was superb.

i simply used fresh greens, added some shredded cabbage and shredded carrots to the plate, and then used grilled chicken on the top.  drizzled with this honey mustard dressing, the summer salad was tops !

to make the salad dressing:
in a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon yellow mustard, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon honey, with salt and pepper to taste.  chill before serving over the salad.