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.