A garden walk on Old Mission Penninsula







Last week we had a wonderful day touring gardens along the Old Mission Peninsula in northern Michigan.  The annual garden walk was organized by the Friendly Garden Club of Traverse City, which is a member of Michigan Garden Clubs, Inc. The garden club has many community service projects which are funded by this activity, which has taken place for 33 years.  Some of their projects  include the Grand Traverse Children’s Garden, Open Space Logo planting, and Senior Center planting.

Six Old Mission Peninsula gardens were featured this year, which included informal semi-shaded gardens, terraced sunny gardens, woodland gardens, a three-story barn with a rock garden, vegetable gardens, cottage gardens, a raised potager bed, a fenced Williamsburg garden, a chicken coop, and formal gardens of roses and perennials.  Many of the homes had beautiful water views and stunning entertaining spaces.  The tour was spectacular.  The day was beautiful and sunny, with lovely breezes from the water. Many of these homeowners tend their own gardens, with some of them also belonging to the garden club.

Here are some photos from the day:




a visit to cranbrook gardens

Summer is a time for spontaneous day trips.  Last week Monday we decided to take a drive to Cranbrook Gardens in Bloomfield Hills Michigan, for a tour of the property and gardens.  Cranbrook House and gardens was established in the 1900’s for the daughter of the founder of The Detroit News, Ellen Scripps. By the end of the 1920’s, the house was recognized nationally for its beauty.  The Cranbrook foundation uses the home and gardens today for tours, parties, receptions and other programs.

We walked the gardens surrounding the home which are maintained by their non-profit volunteer association. The house is surrounded by 40 acres of property and gardens, which includes an herbal garden and several fountains, pools and statuary.

This year more than 10,000 begonias were used to plant the sunken garden near the front of the home. The self-guided tour took us just over one hour, with the chance to talk with many of the volunteers tending to the beds.  The flowers are lovely.





shrimp pasta salad

Here is a perfect summer lunch recipe.  Actually, this recipe can be made one day in advance and used for a lunch, tea party sandwiches, summer snacks, or a light summer dinner.  Choose an attractive lettuce leaf to serve with the salad, such as bibb, Boston, mache or a red romaine.  The recipe was adapted from a Taste of Home magazine.

Here is the recipe:  Use an 8 ounce bag of cooked salad shrimp. (100-200 size)

Mix together 1/2 cup light sour cream, 1/2 cup light mayonnaise, 1-2 celery stalks minced, 3 minced shallots, 1 Tablespoon ketchup, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon horseradish, salt and pepper to taste.

When this sauce is mixed together, add 2 cups of cooked and chilled macaroni noodles.  Chill completely for at least 3 hours and serve.

summer garden fun

Living in Midland Michigan gives me the opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful gardens in the State on a weekly basis.  Summer in these gardens is filled with concerts and other activities for people of all ages.  The beautiful flowers and green background of old trees and landscape designs is such a treat for anyone who visits.  And, I have not even mentioned the lovely streams, mulched pathways, or the specialty gardens of roses, herbs, annuals, perennials and vegetables.  The gardens feature the Dow ‘red’ on attractive bridges as well as sculpture and other art from past festivals.

This summer, the gardens are displaying  Ribbit the Exhibit.  This exhibit is more than cute.  It is beyond words, as the frogs and their expressions are so adorable.  About 20 frogs, which range from five to seven feet tall are located throughout the gardens. The frogs are sculpted from copper and have been made by J. A. Cobb.  The exhibit has been traveling from city to city, as the frogs ride a special bus to their destination.  Children and adults have fun locating them in different areas of the garden.  Some are my favorites are the frog on a swing, the frog meditating, and the frog mowing the lawn.

Come visit them this summer in Michigan.  The gardens and the sculptures are wonderful.

vegetable lasagna (mushroom and spinach)

Summer pasta dishes are often lighter when served during the summer months.  We prefer to eat less pasta during the summer overall, but sometimes the selection of summer vegetables encourages me to add them to even more main dishes than in the winter.  This recipe is one of my favorites when summer vegetables are ready for being the main attraction.

Here is how I made this dish:

In a large skillet, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add these ingredients:  one medium chopped white onion, about 3-4 large carrots cleaned and chopped into smaller size pieces, and 3-4 stalks of celery diced.  After cooking down for a few minutes, add 1 tablespoon minced garlic and 2 tablespoon tomato paste.  Cook together.

Next add about 15 chopped white mushrooms, which have been cleaned well.  Add salt and pepper to the mixture, while cooking at least 5 more minutes until the mushrooms cook down.  Next, add one 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes.  Heat until all ingredients are well blended and warm.

While these ingredients are cooking, make the cheese layer for the lasagna.  I used 5 ounces of shredded Parmesan cheese, mixed with 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella cheese, 8 ounces of ricotta cheese, one egg, and one drained and squeezed box of frozen spinach.  All of these ingredients will mix well into a bowl and be ready for the layering process.

In a large 13 by 9 by 2 inch baking dish, use some of the tomato mixture to line the bottom of the pan. Next add 3-4 no-cook dry lasagna noodles.  For the next layer, add tablespoons of the cheese mixture over the noodles and spread to form a layer.  Next add another layer of tomato sauce, and noodles, and cheese.  Layer until the ingredients are used fully. Make sure the top layer of the lasagna is the tomato sauce. For the final topping to the lasagna, I added more shredded mozzarella, fontina, and Parmesan cheese.

Baking directions:   For the first half of the baking time, cover the dish with tin foil completely.  For the second half of the baking time, remove the foil.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 50 minutes.

Summer variations:  Use fresh chopped tomatoes, Use fresh spinach which has been sautéed down in a skillet prior to adding to this dish, Use fresh onions of all types, Use fresh chopped zucchini.  Many fresh herbs can be used. Some of my favorites are fresh oregano, parsley, thyme, chives and sage. A variety of mushrooms can also be used.

Cheese variations:  Fontina cheese is delicious in this recipe.  Fresh mozzarella can also be used.



salted caramel chocolate chip cookies

Salted caramel “anything” seems to be super popular these past couple of years.  I have seen everything from candy and drinks to cake with this flavor profile.  I recently found a recipe online at the smitten kitchen for these cookies and just had to sample them.  I had a good occasion to try them this week, as a good friend was visiting from out-of-town.  She seemed to like them, and so did my husband.

I made them smaller than the recipe suggested, as I used my smallest cookie scoop.  They could easily be baked in a larger size for any occasion.  I even scooped more smaller sized cookies and froze them on a 1/8 size cookie sheet for over one hour. Then, I took them out of the freezer, placed them in a freezer bag, labeled them and will use them in a week or so, out of the freezer to bake.  This cookie works very nicely for this purpose.  I would recommend baking a couple of more minutes when taking them from frozen.  I like being able to bake only the amount that can be served in a few days.

Make these cookies by first gathering these ingredients:

1/2 cup softened butter, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, 3/4 cup mixture of light and dark brown sugar, and 1 large egg.

Combine these ingredients in a stand mixer.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon baking soda. Mix very well.

Then add 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour.  Incorporate gradually into the cookie batter.  Finally, add 8 ounces of dark chocolate chips.

I used a small cookie scoop and placed the cookie balls on prepared cookie sheets. I used silpat mats. Add a small sprinkle of flaked sea salt to the top of each cookie.  Place into a preheated 360 degree oven.  I baked my cookies on a convection oven setting, and they were perfect.  I did not have to rotate.  Completed cooking time was 12 minutes.  After baking and removing from the oven, I used a flat-bottomed drinking glass to flatten the cookie for a nice presentation. Allow to cool on cookie sheets before removing.


Suggestion:  The cookie dough is crumbly, so I found that flattening the cookies prior to baking was not very practical.  However, they easily flattened after the short baking time.

Enjoy with lemonade for a summer treat!



New kitchen tool: touch free soap dispenser

Food preparation requires attention to a few principles which decrease or eliminate bacterial transfer from hands to food. Most people know the importance of not cross contaminating raw meats or seafood on cutting boards.  And, understand the importance of cleaning knives and counter-tops.  But, reaching for a contaminated hand soap dispenser can also be a culprit of bacteria in a home kitchen.  So, when I was given the opportunity to test and review this product for my blog, I was very pleased.

This new touch free soap dispenser perfectly reduces contamination after touching meats or even messy foods. There is no need to touch the tool while preparing or cooking foods.  The soap dispenses in a perfect quantity simply into the palm of the hand.  A blue light signal shows that the dispenser is working.  There are no drips.

The clean white design is both stylish and practical.  The dispenser works with four AAA batteries, which are easily installed.  The large soap tank is easily filled or re-filled with either soap or hand sanitizer.

This is a perfect gift for someone with a new kitchen, or for anyone who loves to cook.



For more information, please follow this link to find this product by Simple One: