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, November 29, 2012

great lakes tea and spice

great lakes tea and spice company offers an incredible variety of artisan tea and herbal tisane blends ranging from black, oolong, green, and white.  a majority of them are certified organic, single estate teas, while others have been carefully blended with spices, herbs, and inspired flavor combinations.  all of the tea blends are of premium to superior quality from hand-selected growers throughout the world.

these teas are sold in many locations up North in Michigan.  i have found several favorites at the store in glen arbor, which i truly enjoy.  roasted almond delight, orange cream smoother, and organic toasted coffee almond are among the best flavors of tea around.

loose teas used in a tea ball impart the freshest flavor and taste.  since i sample many different teas throughout the year, i am certain to recommend several different tastes.  however, tea from great lakes tea and spice never disappoints me.  i look forward to a moment with the tea to just savor the flavor and relax.

for more information, follow this link:

buttermilk chicken fingers

tender and juicy is the best way to describe these chicken fingers.  from an old recipe published by Martha Stewart, these flavorful chicken fingers are exceptional.  this technique makes certain that the chicken is soft and tender, and not hard or crispy.

served with a flavorful sauce, these chicken fingers will become your family favorite.  i promise.

to make the chicken:  purchase white meat chicken breast tenderloins which are
pre-trimmed and cut in strips.  soak the tenderloins in 3/4 to one cup of fat free buttermilk in the refrigerator for at least one hour prior to cooking. i place the tenderloins in a glass bowl, and then cover them with buttermilk.  it is important to make sure that the buttermilk covers the tenderloins in the bowl.  do not substitute whole milk or any other type of milk.  the buttermilk is the key to this recipe.

allow the chicken to marinate in the milk.  i usually poke the chicken with a fork to make sure the tenderloins are infused with the milk.

when ready to cook, dip the chicken tenders, one at a time, in a plate of about one cup of heart smart Bisquick that has been flavored with salt and black pepper.  i usually allow the excess buttermilk to drain off in the bowl, and then dip the chicken.    once all of the chicken is dipped, begin to brown in an electric skillet on 350 degrees.  i use the smallest amount of canola oil possible to brown the chicken.  i simply brown the chicken during this step, but do not fully cook the chicken.  the browned strips are placed on a baking sheet and baked in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes.  if worried about the chicken sticking to the pan, spray the pan with canola oil.  also additional seasoning can be added to the chicken after the browning step.

once baked, remove and serve with barbecue sauce, chili sauce, ketchup, horseradish sauce, mustard, or any other favorite dipping sauce. tender, tasty, delicious, and flavorful describe these chicken tenders.

almond bundt cake

anything almond has to be one of my most favorite flavors.  i love the nuts, almond flavoring for cookies and cakes, and the almond taste of this cake.  the recipe comes from a very cute bundt cake book given to me by a friend this year, along with a bundt pan.

this bundt pan comes highly recommended, since the shape of the pan allows for very easy slicing and small size cake servings.  i truly like this pan, and the ease in which the bundt cake removes from it.  i had no trouble placing the bundt on my thanksgiving serving pedestal dish.

to make this almond cake, which is perfect for a bundt pan:  take 2/3 cup of sliced almonds and grind them in a mini processor with 2 tablespoons of white sugar.

next, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  add 2 cups flour and 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder to a mixing bowl.  add 1/2 teaspoon salt and set aside.

then, in an electric mixer, cream 3/4 cup unsalted butter and 1 3/4 cup sugar together.. add 3 eggs, one at a time to the bowl.  beat well.  then add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract to the mixture. 

add alternately to the bowl, 1 1/4 cups whole milk and the flour mixture to form a cake batter. add the nuts. transfer the batter to the bundt pan that has been coated with cooking spray and flour, filling every line and crack. 

bake for at least 40 minutes up to 55 minutes until done.  at the end of the cooking time, as the cake browns on the top, cover loosely with foil, but continue to bake until done with a cake tester.  cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, and then plate on the serving platter to cool the remainder of time.

to glaze with a vanilla glaze:  in a small mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of powdered sugar with 3/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time until the glaze forms and the mixture is thin enough to drizzle on a cake.

baked kale chips

kale comes from the cabbage family, and is sometimes referred to as wild cabbage.  the stalks do not form a head, and kale is purchased in bunches.  i paid less than fifty cents for a large bunch of kale at the market two weeks ago.

kale has a high nutritional value in vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, and lutein.  kale also contains a chemical that boosts DNA repair and blocks the formation of cancer cells.  it is one of the best dark green leafy vegetables for nutritional consumption.

when baked, kale takes on the consistency of a potato chip.  my daughter Amy has been baking kale for more than two years now.  i have only recently become a fan.

to bake the kale into chips:  prepare a sheet pan with a spray of olive oil.  cut the kale from the stalks with a kitchen scissor used only for kitchen use.  spread the kale on the sheet pan and season as desired.  i used a seasoning blend and some black pepper.

bake at 350 degrees for about four minutes and toss and stir on the pan.  return to the oven and bake for another four minutes, checking to make certain the kale does not over cook.  based on the amount of kale on the sheet, the cooking time varies.  but, most often, no more than ten minutes will be required for a full sheet pan of kale.

do not walk away from the kale while it is baking.  it only takes a few minutes to become crisp and tasty.  i serve this as a side vegetable along with any entree.

homemade onion gravy

sometimes called cognac gravy, this recipe comes from Ina garten, the barefoot contessa.  gravy is another one of those recipes that is handed down in families or if you are like me, i try different techniques until i feel mastery of one.

this gravy recipe is excellent.  it does not have lumps and the technique used by Ina makes certain that it does not.  it can be adapted to taste, and varied according to preferences.  i made this recipe for our thanksgiving turkey this year.  if you don't like onions, you won't like this gravy.  if you don't like onion pieces in your gravy, you won't like this gravy.  it has a very flavorful onion taste and bits of chopped cooked onions that give the flavor an excellent depth and character.

to make the gravy:  in a large saute pan, cook 1/4 cup of unsalted butter with two large sliced white onions.  i cooked them slow at medium low for about 15 minutes, browning lightly and stirring. Ina suggests not to rush this step, because as the onions cook slowly, the flavor increases.  next, sprinkle 1/8 cup of flour into the pan and add a teaspoon of salt and and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.  whisk the flour and ingredients for about 2 minutes to make certain the flour is incorporated and cooked.

next, add 1-2 cups of hot chicken stock, which i made from bouillon cubes.  add the amount you desire to make the amount of gravy you desire. additionally, add 1 tablespoon of cognac, brandy or red wine.  i used wine. i cooked the stock for about 5 minutes, bringing the mixture up to a boil, allowing it to thicken a bit.

to even improve the quality of the gravy more, add one tablespoon of heavy cream.  this step is optional, but i added the cream. it was an excellent addition.

the gravy can be made in advance, even the day before thanksgiving and heated slowly adding the cream just before serving if desired.  this gravy will keep in the refrigerator for several days.  it will not separate or change consistency.

this basic onion gravy can be used for chicken, beef, turkey or only served with leftovers the next day. it is wonderful on mashed potatoes and hot sandwiches.

herb roasted turkey

along with everyone else, i decide each thanksgiving how to flavor my roasted turkey.  over the years, i have tried many different recipes.  i have come back to the standard herb roasting techniques many times, as i enjoy the fresh flavors from my own garden.

this thanksgiving, i went out to my herb garden and chose some fresh rosemary, thyme and sage, using the stems for both the platter garnish and to flavor my turkey.

for the herb roasted turkey, i begin with a fresh bird.  all of the fresh turkeys are dated at the market, and by not purchasing a frozen bird, i save the step of thawing.  i also look for a young turkey and one that has more of an abundance of white meat.  the younger turkeys are smaller and the honeysuckle white brand stands behind their tender turkeys.  i have never been disappointed.

next, i clean and wash the turkey in cold water, and add broth to the bottom of the roaster pan. i usually use about 2-3 cups of chicken broth made from bouillon cubes.

next, i slice the lemon, and add the herbs to the inner cavity of the turkey. i used one lemon for an 11 pound turkey and about 10 stalks of fresh cut thyme.  i sprayed the turkey with olive oil and seasoned with organic turkey herbs thanksgiving blend, purchased from williams sonoma. i placed three large rosemary stalks and one large sage bundle next to the turkey in the roaster.  as the turkey steams and roasts in the oven, these herbs lend aroma and flavor to the bird.  i save the remaining herb stems for the garnish on the plate for presentation.

secure the wings and legs and turn the turkey over to roast upside down for the first hour to 1 1/2 hours.  this technique keeps the white meat very moist and flavorful.  i have covered the turkey for the first hour, and this works as well.  cooking uncovered and in the presentation position for the remainder of the cooking process; the turkey will cook for about four hours total.  i always use a meat thermometer and test the inner white meat to a temperature of 180 degrees.  some books will say 165 degrees is adequate, and other say 185 degrees.  so, i choose 180 and it has seemed to be safe.  i watch the turkey the last hour and test about every 15 to 20 minutes.  when done, remove from the oven, and slice for the platter. 

i use a heavy metal armetale turkey platter, and return the cut turkey to the oven to keep warm, covered in foil.  this gives me time to prepare and serve the rest of the meal.  i reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

thanksgiving turkey this year was flavorful and delicious.

sugar snap peas, leeks and prosciutto

crisp and fresh are these sugar snap peas when combined with tasty leeks and sliced prosciutto.  stir fried quickly in a saute pan, this side dish comes together easily and fast for any weekday dinner.

the sugar snap peas are not only crisp, but bright green when fully cooked in a matter of minutes.  i really don't like limp vegetables, so have always looked for great side dish recipes that keep the greens bright and flavorful.

to make this recipe:  snip off the ends of the peas with kitchen shears made specially for vegetables. clean and rinse the peas.  brown the sliced prosciutto, amount decided by preference, in a saute pan with a drop of olive oil.  stir and cook for less than five minutes until done.  add one large sliced and fully cleaned leek and stir fry adding seasonings to taste.  i used kosher salt and red pepper flakes.  next, add the peas and toss them thoroughly until heated and warmed to serve.

enjoy this exceptional side dish with your next dinner guests.

Friday, November 23, 2012

sweet potato puree

from Ina's most recent cookbook comes this recipe for sweet potato puree.  i decided to try these potatoes for thanksgiving this year, and the recipe was delicious.  i use a vegetable steamer for most vegetables, but had not tried this technique for potatoes.  i must say that the sweet potatoes cooked perfectly without becoming mushy in boiling water.

to make the puree: cook the potatoes over simmering water for at least 25 minutes, stirring them to change their level in the steamer.  i used two large sweet potatoes for four to six servings of puree. be certain to cover the steamer and frequently check the pot for a boil over under the steamer.

when done, transfer to a bowl and mix with an electric mixer.  slowly add about one teaspoon of orange zest, either grated or dried, 1/2 cup or more of orange juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  i used blood orange juice.

next, add margarine and half and half, a tablespoon or two at a time to make a creamy puree of the sweet potatoes.  at first, the potatoes will be stringy and of a thicker consistency.  keep adding ingredients to suit your taste and desire for appearance. serve hot and enjoy.

cornbread madeleines

for thanksgiving, i always make sure to have an offering that includes corn, as a tribute to the pilgrims.  this year, i made cornbread madeleines.  this was a twist on the traditional sponge cakes that are light and airy and not too sweet.

the best madeleine pans are shiny and made from heavy gauge tin.  i would not use some of the newer nonstick darker colored pans, as they will brown your madeleines too quickly in the oven.

to make the cornbread:  preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  use a cornbread mix or make your own cornbread from your favorite recipe.  lightly grease the madeleine pans and fill with batter about three-fourths full.  bake for about 15 minutes, checking to make certain the muffins do not overcook.  remove from the pans and cook on a wire rack.  cornbread can be frozen very nicely for up to one month.  leftovers can be frozen to use for a cornbread dressing at a later date.

serve the madeleines with bee butter, sometimes called honey butter.  mix 1/2 stick of margarine or butter with 2 tablespoons honey.  blend well and serve in a small dish with the madeleines. to the left in the above photo is pictured herb butter, which i also prepared to serve with four seed rolls at the meal.  find the recipe for four seed rolls also on this blog.

green bean bundles with bacon and brown sugar

this year, williams sonoma featured this recipe in their thanksgiving brochure. i served the green beans alongside of Ina's sweet potato puree, which was also delicious as a thanksgiving vegetable.  i would recommend these green beans to those members of your family who don't like green beans.  they are sweet and delicious.

to make the bundles:  preheat the oven to 350 degrees and cook the bacon half way for about 7 minutes. drain and blot on paper towels, chill in the refrigerator until ready to prepare the green beans for the meal.  next, clean and trim the green beans.  mix about 3-4 tablespoons of margarine with salt and pepper to taste.

about 30 minutes before mealtime, arrange about 5 to 6 beans in equal portions on a parchment lined baking sheet.  wrap each bundle with the bacon sliced to fit the bundle as needed.  drizzle the butter and using about 1/4 cup of brown sugar, sprinkle the sugar on top of each bundle.

roast the bundles until the bacon is cooked through and brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.  serve as a side vegetable with beef, poultry or pork.  these green beans were excellent and looked very attractive on the plate.  this recipe was easy, delicious and very attractive on the plate.


instead of cranberry relish this year, i served a bowl of pomegranate arils.  their ruby red appearance is perfect for a holiday garnish, and the sweet tart taste is outstanding.  pomegranate is packed with polyphenols, one of nature's most potent antioxidants.

pomegranates are grown in california and once opened will stay delicious in the refrigerator covered for 10 days.  normally, i eat pomegranate on oatmeal or in a fruit salad.

to open a pomegranate:  cut one inch off the top and bottom of the fruit.  score each section similar to what is done for an orange.  next, in a bowl of water, separate the sections to loosen the arils in the water.  scoop out the floating white membrane and strain.

serve chilled and enjoy as a relish, garnish, or melt for a glaze to use on poultry.  to learn more about pomegranate, view a video at http://www.pomwonderful.com/fresh .  enjoy !

praline pecan french toast

for thanksgiving breakfast this year, i tried a new twist on baked french toast.  this was a recipe that was made ahead, the day before, and then refrigerated overnight.  the baking time the next morning was only 35 minutes, which allowed for preparation of the other breakfast items.  this was a very tasty french toast recipe that i would highly recommend for your next morning meal.

i used a softer crust french bread which made the toast just perfect after baking.  a hard crust bread would not soften enough during the baking process.

to make the french toast:  cut ten to twelve one-inch slices of french bread, and save the remaining loaf for another purpose.  stir together 1 cup brown sugar with 1/3 cup melted margarine and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup.

lightly grease a 13 by 9 ceramic dish and pour the brown sugar mixture in the dish.  add 3/4 cup chopped pecans.  next, whisk together 4 eggs with 1 cup milk, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  arrange the bread in the dish, and pour the egg mixture over the bread.  cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight or at least 8 hours.  preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.  when serving, invert the bread on the plate for the praline pecan topping to serve as the syrup for the toast.  sprinkle with powdered sugar.

reece's candy cookies

one of my family's all-time favorite cookie recipes has to be the classic m and m's cookie recipe. in fact, i think the recipe is in the great american home baking cookie collection.

i have changed the recipe a bit over the years, and this year made the fall cookies with reece's candy pieces.  the colors of the candy are perfect for fall and i love the peanut butter flavor added to the great cookie taste.  this recipe can be adapted to include many different ingredients based on your family's taste.

to make the cookies:  preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  in a medium bowl, mix 2 1/4 cups flour, with 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt.  set this mixture aside.

next, in a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream 2 sticks of softened margarine, 1 cup brown sugar, with 1/2 cup granulated sugar. with the mixer on low, beat in one egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  add the flour mixture, a small amount at a time until the dough forms.

then add, 1/2 cup peanuts and 1/2 cup reece's candy pieces.  here is where the choices can be made to taste.  instead of the candies or unsalted peanuts, add dried fruit, such as cherries, or cranberries.  or, instead of peanuts, add hazelnuts, yogurt covered raisins or m and m's.

using a small cookie scoop, scoop out dough and place on ungreased baking sheets about 2 inches apart.  sprinkle the tops with additional candy pieces.  bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes and cool before eating.

michigan maple cream

especially this time of year, i look to american spoon foods for a variety of terrific products to use in recipes for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  this delicious maple cream from Michigan's upper peninsula is the product of a special cooling and churning technique that gives pure maple syrup a creamy, spreadable consistency. no cream or butter is added to the product.

last week, i used this maple cream on steel cut oats for oatmeal, as well as sweet potatoes.  it can be spread easily on toast or english muffins and is terrific on fresh cut carrots.

maple cream could be also used on pancakes, waffles or used in place of honey or brown sugar for fresh baked granola.  i really can't say enough about this product, as it is unique and very tasty.  it just reminds me of the best of autumn and the fall holidays.

if you haven't heard of american spoon foods, check out their website at:   http://www.spoon.com/home  they have stores in petoskey, harbor springs, charlevoix, traverse city and saugatuck michigan. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

naan pizza

are you still looking for a great appetizer for your next football, basketball or any sports television party?  here is one that is easy, quick and very tasty.  naan bread is easily found in the market, in fact, i found a great packaged naan at our new target grocery.

this small pizza can be cut into sections or strips very easily and served as a perfect snack. the recipe comes from another one of my favorite chefs, nigella lawson.  her cookbook, titled nigella express, is filled with fast and delicious recipes for parties and events year-round.

to make the naan pizza:  preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  use a baking sheet lined with a silpat mat or parchment paper.  place the naan bread on the sheet pan and cover with shredded fontina cheese.  add tomato sauce or tomato paste. i used the tube tomato paste for just the right amount of tomato flavor.  next, top with other favorite ingredients, onion, pepperoni, bacon, peppers, or any other topping.  i season with pizza seasoning from williams sonoma.  fresh thyme or other fresh herbs would be wonderful. i added a few small slices of fresh mozzarella on top for presentation.

bake in the oven for about 10 minutes total, since the naan bread is already baked.  watch and rotate as needed in your oven.  the cheese should be bubbling and melted. i baked for 5 minutes and then rotated the pizzas. 

slice into small pieces with a pizza wheel, as the bread will slice evenly and easily.  this is an excellent recipe and will be enjoyed as an appetizer by your guests. you may never go back to making your own pizza crust, as this recipe is that good.

dollar size pancakes

for a weekend breakfast or an easy weeknight dinner, try small dollar size pancakes.  the speciality pans are readily available, and i have used mine for many different types of recipes.

these little pancakes cook very quickly right on the stove top and are just two to three bites.  simply enough for a taste of pancakes without the heavy feeling of eating a whole plate of flap jacks.

i often use a stonewall kitchen pancake mix and use buttermilk instead of the recommended milk as an ingredient.  the pancakes are light, fluffy and especially tasty.

served with fresh maple syrup, powdered sugar, and a few berries, this is a delicious presentation for your guests as well.

mocha ice cream

right from the start, i need to explain that is this best coffee ice cream i have ever tasted.  and, since i am not really a big fan of coffee ice cream, i think that is a huge testimonial.  this recipe comes from one of the nicest online kitchen and cooking supply shops that i recommend.  king arthur flour not only has wonderful baking ingredients, but also offers wonderful recipes within their catalogs and on their website.  i even subscribe to their newsletter which is mailed six times per year, and is filled with great photographs and suggested recipes, often using their baking ingredients.

locate them at www.kingarthurflour.com and sign up for their mail order catalogs.  i promise you will not be disappointed.

the ice cream in this recipe has a delicious chocolate flavor, and is ultra creamy.  one of the reasons that i prefer to make my own ice cream is my choice of ingredients.  this chocolate mocha flavor does not have any eggs, which many ice cream recipes require.  and, the flavor is spectacular.

to make the mocha ice cream:  whisk 1 cup of cold half and half, with 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons espresso powder and 2 tablespoons of all purpose baking cocoa.

i purchased the espresso powder at williams sonoma, but it is also available at king arthur flour.  once these ingredients are well mixed, add 2 cups of cold whipping cream and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  blend well.

then, add the ingredients to the ice cream maker and process for 23 minutes, then, add, 8 chopped famous Nabisco chocolate wafers or oreos.  i used the famous chocolate cookies.

i add them slowly to the ice cream while it continues to blend for another couple of minutes.  remove the ice cream from the machine and store in a stainless steel tin, allowing to firm up in the freezer for a couple of hours prior to serving.

this ice cream is perfect served alone or alongside any fall cake or even angel food cake.

this recipe is a real keeper !