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

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.