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, January 8, 2012

snowflake cookies

this recipe for snowflake cookies is one that i have saved for years, and was removed from a magazine.  this recipe makes perfect cut-out cookies with a delicious glaze.  these cookies will bake just as photographed every time.  depending on the size of the cookie cutter, this recipe makes around three dozen.

preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  in a large bowl, cream 3/4 cup shortening with 1 cup of sugar.  next, add 2 eggs, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. mix and incorporate.

in another bowl, stir together 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the mixer.  form dough into a flat shape, about 1/2 inch thick and place on a small sheet pan.  i refrigerate the dough, covered with plastic wrap for at least one hour.

then, on a floured surface, roll dough and cut out the cookies.  this is a wonderful dough that does not stick and cuts with the cookie cutters perfectly.

place the cookies on cookie sheets.  the recipe says ungreased, but i always give a quick spray with canola oil just to be certain.  bake the cookies for about 8 minutes or until lightly brown around the edges.  the cookies must cool slighty before glazing.

Almond Sugar Glaze recipe
in a large bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, with 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.  beat all with an electric hand mixer until smooth.  the glaze could be tinted with food color if desired.

using a flat icing spatula, paint the cookies with the glaze while still a bit warm.  if desired, lemon, orange or cherry extract could be used in place of the almond extract.  the cookies could be made for valentine's day with a heart shaped cutter, along with cherry extract and a red tinted glaze.

new year's eve table decorations

some of my favorite table or buffet decorations are very simple.  i use silver bells in clear glass jars for both christmas and new year's eve decorations.  the silver bells make a wonderful sound that reminds me of "ringing in the new year"

i have purchased several different sizes of bells and use them on the table or around the center piece. 

this year, i used a large jar filled with silver balls and silver tinsel, and then rimmed the heavy silver tray with silver bells.  i added a silver clock to highlight the new year's midnight ball drop, and the table was complete. a white table runner with white candles keeps the design simple.

taco salad party

another fun choice for entertaining has to be taco salads made to order.  each guest is able to make their own with ingredients provided for them buffet style.  for parties where some prefer beef, others prefer grilled chicken, and still others may be vegetarian; everyone can choose their own protein or simply the vegetables and condiments.

some individuals may choose to season their chicken or meat, and i have found this seasoning to be quite tasty.  seasoned meat is not required for this salad, just an option. if used, add to the meat while cooking or grilling on the stove top.

for these salads, i used round tortilla shells, chopped lettuce, ground beef, cooked corn, chopped red tomatoes, chopped black olives, chopped green onion, shredded cheddar cheese, or a selection of shredded cheeses, salsa, sour cream, and a red based salad dressing.  store bought honey french dressing or Catalina dressing is very tasty on this salad.
using similar serving bowls adds to the festive nature of the presentation.  these star bowls were purchased online at crate and barrel several years ago and are not available there today. 


my frequent blog readers know that i prefer homemade ice cream to anything store bought.  and, i am routinely making my own ice cream desserts.  however, i have found one brand of gelato, which seems to be quite delicious and actually is so smooth and creamy.

talenti gelato is my favorite brand.  this belgian milk chocolate flavor is one of the best and can be served for an easy holiday dessert.  add a drizzle of chocolate topping and a few chopped nuts with whipped cream, and your guests will really appreciate this light ending to the meal.

for more information on talenti gelato, follow this link: 


shrimp cocktail appetizer

on christmas day, it is especially nice to serve a special holiday appetizer.  for this year's meal, i served shrimp cocktail.  the shrimp are pre-cooked with tails on and served chilled in a pedestal glass on a bed of shredded dark green romaine. 

a selection of shrimp toppings are served on the plate.  this year, i used minced red onions, horseradish sauce and olde cape cod seafood cocktail sauce.  served with a small shrimp fork, this appetizer is a lovely presentation.

roasted cauliflower, brussels sprouts and carrots

here is another winning combination for roasted winter vegetables.  mix small sections of cauliflower, halved Brussels sprouts, and small carrots together on a sheet pan with a splash of olive oil.  roast them in the oven for at least 20 minutes until the cauliflower looks slightly browned.  these vegetables can be seasoned to taste with salt, pepper, or any other favorite seasoning combination.

i served these vegetables with my holiday ham for Christmas.

holiday ham

spiral ham is a very easy main entree to prepare.  it is also a very healthy choice, as the meat has minimal fat, but great flavor.  ham can be served for christmas, easter, or for any party.  i use a citrus glaze on the ham during the last 1/2 hour of heating.

most often, i choose a fully cooked spiral sliced ham which weighs less than ten pounds.  i bake the ham in a roasting dish with rack, face down, for 20 minutes per pound at 350 degrees.  during the last 1/2 hour of cooking, i stand the ham up, just as in the photo, and apply the citrus glaze.

for the glaze, i mix orange marmalade and light brown sugar, and thin with orange juice to a glaze texture.  one of my recipes also suggests adding dijon mustard.   heat these ingredients to allow the glaze to flow nicely over the ham. 

spiral ham can be served with wild rice, roasted vegetables, baked apples or sweet potatoes.

red and green relish tray

sometimes the most simple foods can be used in a beautiful presentation.  for christmas, i look for red and green foods that can be used as accents or accompaniments to the main entree.  for a relish tray this year, i used grape tomatoes and small sweet pickles.  they were beautiful in my pineapple pewter dish.

served with a holiday ham, this simple relish tray was terrific.

waffle bar breakfast

for your next holiday breakfast, try a waffle bar.  waffles can be made in advance and kept at proper temperature in a warming oven on a sheet pan.  the waffle bar can be set up and be ready for breakfast guests to choose their own toppings when everyone is ready to eat.

suggestions for the waffle bar include:  fresh strawberries, raspberries or blueberries, sliced almonds or chopped pecans, powdered sugar, cinnamon and sugar, a choice of syrups, margarine or butter, and whipped cream.
everyone selects their waffle and choose their toppings.  this is always a favorite at my home for the holidays.

breakfast egg in a hole

one of the very best easy southern breakfasts is fried eggs.  here is a quick way to make several for a breakfast party.  these will stay warm on a sheet pan in a warming oven until ready to serve.

i spray my nice sturdy bread with a light spray of canola oil along with a light spread of margarine.  simply use a cookie cutter, any shape, to remove a hole in the center of the bread, and then brown the bread on a griddle.  next, crack an egg in each hole, and turn to cook both sides.  i sprinkle with a dash of pepper before serving.

the egg in a hole can be served with Canadian bacon, fresh fruit and muffins.

candied orange and grapefruit peels

this christmas, i made candied orange and grapefruit peels, from a colonial williamsburg recipe.  these candied peels are delicious and so very easy to make.  they look lovely in a glass compote or on a cookie tray.

to begin, decide which citrus fruit to use for your candy.  lemon, orange and grapefruit peels work nicely.  thoroughly wash the fruit and quarter them lengthwise.  remove the white pulp from the peel.  cut the peel into 1/4 inch wide strips, about 3 inches long.

mix 1 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup of water.  bring to a boil, and then add the peels.  cool them very slowly until the peels almost look clear in color.  i used a candy thermometer, and brought the boil to 230 degrees.  the trick to this recipe is not to boil too quickly, or the sugar darkens and caramelizes.
when the boil reached 230 degrees, i took the peels out with a fork and placed them flat to dry.  when the peels are dry, roll in extra sugar and store them in a sealed container.  this recipe makes 1/4 pound.

i used 1 grapefruit and 2 large oranges and boiled them until almost all the liquid was absorbed at temperature.  these were delicious and better than expected.  this has become one of my very favorite recipes.