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

Sunday, September 30, 2012

turkey sausage bites appetizer

when a meaty appetizer is needed, here is one that will please your guests.  it is bite-sized and very tasty.  by using a low fat turkey sausage, this offering has fewer calories than the beefy choice.

each of the bites can be dipped in the tasty sauce that is also quite easy and quick to prepare.  this appetizer can be prepared ahead and then just baked prior to the party.  this recipe also makes this snack a great choice to accompany other football party foods.

to make the sausage bites, first gather the ingredients.  1-2 links of pre-cooked turkey sausage, bacon, and party toothpicks.  slice the bacon and the turkey sausage.  attach a small piece of bacon around the sausage slice and attach with a wooden pick.
bake the sausage bites on a lightly greased pan at 400 degrees and bake for 15 minutes.  then, remove from the oven, rotate the bites, and drain the excess grease.  return to the oven and bake another 8-15 minutes depending on the size of the bites.  bake until the bacon is browned and crisp.

to make the marmalade dipping sauce:  use 1/2 cup of orange marmalade, 1 tablespoon of lime juice, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, and if desired some hot pepper sauce to taste. microwave these ingredients in a microwave safe bowl for one minute on high and then serve this sauce with the sausage bites.

enjoy this as another option for a party appetizer.  trust me, it will be a favorite.

dipping sauce for crunchy mozzarella sticks

sometimes an old appetizer recipe can be updated with a new dipping sauce.  earlier this year, i posted a recipe for crunchy mozzarella sticks, which has been one of my most searched for recipes on the blog.  if you haven't tried them yet, they deserve a try.  these mozzarella sticks are crispy, and never soggy.  they only take a few minutes to prepare and i promise they will be a favorite go-to recipe for you in years to come.

check out my blog post for Tuesday, January 31 to see the complete recipe for the mozzarella sticks and then try this recipe as a new dipping sauce for the sticks.

to make the cranberry dipping sauce, add these ingredients to a saucepan:  one 16 ounce can whole cranberry sauce, 1/3 cup light brown sugar, 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar, 1/4 cup soy sauce, and 1 1/2 tablespoons grated ginger.  i use this refrigerated ginger product very successfully in this recipe and many others when fresh ginger is required.
boil on the stove top for 2 to 3 minutes or until the sugar is melted and the ingredients are incorporated.  remove from the heat and cool prior to serving with the cheese sticks.  this is a delicious sauce that i have also used for easy egg rolls.

enjoy !

the classic Ro-Tel queso dip

there is nothing like an old standard recipe.  for years, Ro-Tel has featured their famous queso dip as a football party classic, that is loved by all fans.  this hearty dip stands up to tortilla chips, as well as vegetables.

in less than ten minutes, this dip comes together.  although at www.ro-tel.com/recipes, the recipe only has two ingredients, i have changed the recipe to improve the taste and consistency.

for my version, i use 8 ounces of Velveeta prepared cheese, cut into cubes, and one small can of Ro-Tel mild diced tomatoes and green chilies, not drained.  I mix these ingredients into a larger sized bowl, to accommodate the bubbling that occurs in the microwave oven.

next, i mix them and microwave for 3 minutes.  i remove the bowl from the microwave (be careful, it will be HOT), and add in a small amount of low fat cream cheese, less than 3 ounces, and some shredded cheddar cheese.  these additional cheeses give the dip a fuller flavor and a smoother consistency for dipping. cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes in the microwave and place in a serving bowl.  add tortilla chips and cut vegetables for the crowd and watch them enjoy this classic recipe.

tailgating cookbook

while shopping on amazon.com books, i found this great cookbook for fall football weekend parties.  two award winning southern brands joined together to produce this great recipe collection. the southeastern football conference and southern living magazine have put together custom recipes for tailgates and home parties like none seen before this publishing.
even though my favorite college team is not in this conference, the recipes include everything from breakfast and brunch ideas to soups, chilis, stews, sandwiches, and plenty of side dishes.

the cookbook includes drinks and recipes specially named for the SEC teams which will be a delight for all their southern fans.

i have already selected a couple of new recipes to try, and will shop for the ingredients this week for next week's college football Saturday.  keep watching this blog for their debut...  great food and cherished college traditions marry for a spectacular event.

my new breville soft top kettle

tomorrow is October 1 and i can't deny that fall has arrived in mid-Michigan.  the leaves are just about at peak color, and my yard is full of reds and yellows.  i must admit that the color is spectacular this year, which makes turning on the heat in the house a bit easier. 

i splurged a week ago and decided to purchase a soft top breville kettle, mainly just to see what the excitement is about these new electric hot pots.  well..i do understand why the buzz has been in the media lately about using them for everything from hot tea to anytime boiling water is needing for cooking.  i love this kettle.  it seems that i no more than turn it on, and the water is ready...and it holds seven cups at a time. wow!

no more waiting for the old fashioned stove top kettle to whistle, and no more worry about the boiling water splashing out of the le creuset pot onto the counter when i pour my tea.  this kettle can be poured while it is boiling and no splashing !  i love that !

the 1500 rapid watt element boils so quickly and efficiently, and even shuts off just after boiling to prevent overheating and accidents from leaving the pot on long term.

i recommend this product for everything from making a cup of tea to boiling water for stock and other general cooking uses.  i have been enjoying my breville kettle since the temperatures have dropped. it has helped me to transition into fall, and the soon to be  winter cold and snow falls.  i know my new kettle will keep me warm and cozy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

turkey pepperoni sandwich snacks

September is filled with days that are perfect for everything except cooking in the kitchen. so, here is another easy recipe that can be used for a September picnic, a football game, or even served along with other menu items as an appetizer.

these turkey pepperoni sandwiches can be cut to any size for any of these informal events.  and, by using Rhodes frozen bread dough, the process is made quite simple.

simply thaw one or more rolls of bread dough, depending on the number of people to be served.  one roll of dough will make 8-10 slices of these sandwich snacks.  one of these is very filling when served with a salad.  if the slices are smaller, they could be used as an appetizer for game day.

to make the sandwiches:
roll out the dough to an 11 by 11 square.  brush or spray with olive oil.  cover the dough with turkey pepperoni.  sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and then Parmesan cheese.  season with Italian herbs, pizza seasoning, or garlic powder.  add additional toppings as desired.  i used chopped white onions.  roll the dough and place on a baking sheet seam side down.  spray the top with olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  the sandwich roll should be slightly browned and make a hard tapping sound as it is fully cooked.  cool a bit before slicing, to allow the cheese to be firm.  these sandwich snacks are terrific when served warm, but can easily be saved and reheated another day.

garden tomatoes

last spring, i made a decision to plant determinate tomatoes to try some new types, and now i understand why most people plant indeterminate varieties.  all of my tomatoes are ripening at once and i seem to have an abundance right now of various shapes and sizes of tomatoes.  i am certainly not complaining, as this gift has given me the opportunity to try some new recipes.

one of my most favorite ways to prepare tomatoes it to simply roast them on a sheet pan.  i slice the tomatoes and season many ways.  sometimes, i use dried dill, and other times i use salt and pepper or a dried herb blend. 

next, i spray the tomatoes with a bit of olive oil and bake them in the oven on 350 for about 20-30 minutes.  check the tomatoes and continue to cook until the desired texture is achieved.  i prefer the tomatoes to have a slightly charred look for the maximum flavor.

now, these tomatoes can be used for pizza, pasta sauce, mixed with other ingredients for an appetizer, or in your favorite pressed sandwich.  i usually store these in the refrigerator in a glass bowl or jar and try to use them within a few days.  otherwise, they would need to be frozen.

feta tomato and basil spread

this spread is a "use what you have" type of recipe.  it is great on warmed crusty toast or can be used on a sandwich.  i have even used this spread with firm crackers.

i simply gathered some yellow cherry tomatoes from the garden and happened to also have one small red tomato. i chopped these ingredients along with fresh basil and added to crumbled feta cheese. i also drizzled just a taste of olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. mix well and serve as an appetizer.  this is easy and very tasty.

crock pot baked potato soup

here is another football Saturday meal choice that is made in advance in the crock pot and served when guests are hungry.  since this is a crock pot meal, there is no need to be watching and stirring a pot of potato soup.  somehow this magically comes together and is quite a comfort food.

early in the day, gather at least 7 medium to large russet potatoes.  scrub the skins, and peel if desired.  i did not peel my potatoes.  next, cube the potatoes and add to the pot, with one large diced onion. salt and pepper the potatoes in the pot. i made 4 cups of chicken broth from cubes and added the broth to the crock pot.  at this point, judge the amount of potatoes to broth being used.  the potatoes need to be just covered, and not swimming in the broth.  if a thick creamy baked potato soup is desired, make certain to use enough potatoes. next, add 1/4 cup of stick margarine.

cover the crock pot and cook on high for at least 4 hours or on low for at least 8 hours.  open the crock pot and mash the potatoes with a hand masher.  add 1 cup of 1/2 and 1/2 or cream if desired, along with 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
continue to cook until the ingredients are incorporated.

serve with garnishes as desired.  i used chopped bacon, low fat sour cream and chopped chives from the garden.  additional toppings could be served, such as chopped black olives or additional shredded cheese.  this is a classic soup entree for fall football weather.  for hungry guests, serve with crusty bread, a side green salad, or even a half sandwich.

Lettuce Bacon and Tomato Wraps

college football season has begun and oh what a great weekend of football games.  in anticipation of great television, i searched for some easy and tasty recipes to serve along with old favorites.  this recipe will keep the cook out of the kitchen and back with the exciting game plays.

to make these wraps:
gather the ingredients and prepare the tomatoes.  i used dried tomatoes from the produce section, chopped and mixed them with light mayonnaise.  this step can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator until wrap assembly.

when wrap time is evident, spread the tomato spread evenly over one side of each tortilla.  i use low carbohydrate whole wheat tortillas.  then layer - shredded lettuce, onions if desired, (i left those out), and crispy bacon.  season with salt and ground pepper. roll in wraps and slice in half to serve.  if serving on a platter, use toothpicks to secure the wraps.

i baked the bacon in advance, drained and wrapped in a paper towel and tin foil, storing in the refrigerator until ready to use.  i actually think the chilled bacon is very tasty in this wrap.
the wraps were served with a side of fresh coleslaw made with Marie's all natural yogurt coleslaw dressing, which claims to have half the fat and 1/3 fewer calories and no preservatives.

i add dried dill to the coleslaw for a very tasty side dish. this was a perfect game day meal that i will certainly serve again.

Provencal Tomatoes

straight from my garden and into the oven captures the ease of preparation for stuffed Provencal tomatoes.  Ina garten's recipe which she claims is adapted from Julia child's french recipe is delicious.  by using the freshest and firmest garden tomatoes, the presentation is perfect. i would guess that if the tomatoes were not firm, they would collapse with baking and the look on the plate would be less than ideal.

to make this recipe:
preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  cut the top from the tomatoes and core.  remove the seeds and juice.  place the tomato portions in a baking dish. i used five tomatoes.

next, in a bowl, mix about 1 1/4 cups of panko bread crumbs, chopped scallions, minced fresh parsley, basil, thyme, a small garlic clove, and sea salt.  sprinkle the tomatoes with a splash of salt and ground pepper.

with a small spoon, fill the tomatoes very full with the ingredients.  bake for 15 minutes.
remove from the oven and top with grated Gruyere cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.  bake for another five minutes to brown and melt the cheese.

these tomatoes need to be served hot from the oven.  the tomatoes can be prepared in advance, stored in the refrigerator, and baked along with the main course to serve.

 i served the tomatoes with baked cod for a bright color accent on the plate.  the tomatoes were delicious and a nice change from a standard green vegetable.