Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"Bacon" and "Steak" - Great Taste, Surprising Ingredients!

Dear Folks,

I've been playing with my food again!

A recipe for "eggplant bacon" caught my eye a couple of weeks ago and low and behold my beautiful eggplants are finally producing.  My favorite "Casper" the white eggplant and another heirloom which is new-to-me "Listada de Grandia" (from Spain).  Just gorgeous - don't you agree?

Both of these lovely fruit are less seedy and sweeter than the big Italian variety.  I've grown the Casper for years and I am now adding the Listada as a regular member of my garden.

One of the many great things about eggplant is its "meat" like taste, so the "bacon" concept seemly like a great recipe to try.

I looked at quite a few recipes, many or most of them were Vegan, and called for good, but not necessarily easily found ingredients.  So I adapted the idea to the ingredients I used for overall convenience.

Almost all of the recipes called for the eggplants to be sliced length-wise and I chose to do rounds.  I will go with the long slices next time for sure.

Marinating longer will give greater flavor and any unused marinade can be stored in the refrigerator as you would a salad dressing.  I've got more eggplants ready so I will be making up another batch in the next couple of days.

These are addictive!!!  The taste and texture are meaty like bacon with many of the flavors you expect from a maple/smoked bacon.  A real winner and a "keeper" as Deane and I like to say.

My Eggplant "Bacon"

Marinade: (makes a 1/2 cup)
1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) soy
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Pinch (1/16 teaspoon) liquid Hickory Smoke

Eggplants, cap trimmed off and sliced about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.  A mandolin will make the slices even.

A ziplock bag works well for this.  The 2 eggplant made about a cup and half of slices, the marinade would easily cover 4 cups.  Fully zip the bag and lay on its side to marinate, turning once or twice.

Pre-heat oven to 325**

Slice eggplant and marinate for at least 20 minutes or longer.  Reserve left over marinade for another time.

Drain (reserve marinade) spread out on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil (or parchment paper).

Bake for approximately 25-35 minutes, flipping the slices about half way through.  You are looking for crispy but not burnt.

**  I made this batch at 375 and baked for about 22 minutes but the center pieces wanted to burn, so I am recommending lower temperature for longer baking. (Low and Slow).

As I said - addictive!!

Next Up "Venison Ground Steak"

Several Years ago I wrote about "Emergency Steak" a recipe out of World War II during the rationing days, when the cooking shows on the radio (yes there were cooking shows then), talked about trying to give your family a "steak" without that specific meat available.

Most folks probably know this as "Hamburger Steak" or "Chopped Steak".  Unlike a hamburger or a meatloaf the aim was to have a "not ground" solid steak-like texture, so the idea was to create a large flat 'patty', which was not "over-worked" or over-cooked.

Deane was gifted with some venison from a friend the other day and some of it was already thawing when he got home so I had to put my "cooking" hat on quickly.

Venison, if you are not used to cooking with it, is extremely lean and needs "help" so it does not overcook and turn into shoe-leather.

At the same time for safety concerns I do not go 'rare' when cooking Venison as we might when doing hamburgers or steak with grass-fed beef.

So I opted for a Venison Ground Steak.

I frequently use a grated potato in my burgers etc. to compensate for low fat - the potato helps keep the meat moist while baking or grilling.

"Venison Ground Steak"

1 pound of ground venison
onion, celery leaf, rosemary, garlic, ground black pepper (portioned to the amount of meat, so you can adjust up or down)
Potato, small to medium size
1/3 cup of finely grated Parmesan Cheese

We grilled this, but it can be done in the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes.

Arrange grill for direct heat.

Take a piece of aluminum foil and punch 6 or more holes in it.

Scrub potato, leave peel on,  and grate.  It is best to use a smaller grate than appears in the picture [the fork is to show size]  (I was multitasking that day and already stuck the smaller grate in the soapy water and was running out of time :-)

Sprinkle the meat with the seasonings, then the cheese and then the potato and gently work in by folding several times.

Lay out on the aluminum foil in a flat patty about 3/4 - 1 inch thick.

Place foil/meat on the grill, cover and check at 10 minutes.  If cooked through it is done.  Don't over cook.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

You can find my books at my publishers site. 

Or, on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Seasonal Favorites: Corn and Tomato Soup

Dear Folks,

I developed this recipe after watching a cooking show some years ago about adding tomatoes to soup, but keeping them intact - not breaking them up.  I loved the combination of flavors of the corn kernels, tomato chunks and rosemary.  The recipe is from my cookbook "101+ Recipes From The Herb Lady"

Corn Tomato Rosemary Soup

    The key to this soup is to keep the tomatoes from breaking up. It should be a soup with tomatoes in it, not a tomato soup. A light soup that celebrates fresh corn and tomatoes.

2    ripe tomatoes*, seeded and chopped
3    cups chicken or light vegetable broth
1    tablespoon of fresh lime or lemon juice
2    ears fresh corn kernels (or 1-11/2 cups of kernels — can use frozen)
1/2    teaspoon of dried rosemary, crushed (about a teaspoon of minced fresh)

    Cut corn from cob. Core, seed and chop tomato into 1/4 inch chunks. Bring broth to a boil with half of rosemary, add corn and tomato and reduce to simmer until corn is tender (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat, add lime juice and rest of rosemary. Serve and enjoy.
        *Meaty tomatoes like Roma work best.
. . .

I posted on my blog several years ago some great ideas for corn, both planting and using.  Make sure to read the tip on using corn silk!

This is planting time for fall corn.  Remember:  Plant only one variety of corn per season so you can keep the variety pure for saving seed for re-planting.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

You can find my cookbook at my publisher's site

And Amazon

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Eat Well - and Cheap!

Dear Folks,

Leanne Brown has released a 2nd edition of her awesome book "Good and Cheap." She has added 20 more recipes.

I cannot say enough good things about this book and her work.  If you want to maximize your food dollar - this is THE book for you.

The other part of her books project is the charitable part - she donates a book to a person in need for every book sold.  How cool is that!

You can get the PDF of the 1st Edition free at her website (I encourage you to give the $5 donation if you can).

I blogged about her book and ideas last year when she began a Kickstarter campaign - I got the PDF version of the book (and donated $5).  Her mission is to educate people on how to eat healthfully on the equivalent of SNAP (food stamps) budget.

In my posts I give some of my recipes which are similar or along the same economy line.


Face of Hunger

And, if you like my recipes, you might enjoy my recipe book too:

Question:  Do you have a healthy and inexpensive recipe that is your go-to when you either can't think of something for a meal or you have to economize?

Share in the comments section and I will make sure they get posted, and give you create if you like.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Friday, July 03, 2015

Around The Garden, July 3, 2015

Dear Folks,

A nice over-cast morning.  We finally got a tiny bit of rain after days of dust and wind - a whopping .1 inches :-)

I have 3 Roselle plants going in the garden, finally found some happy spots for them (I tried a purchased plant 2 years ago and it was not happy where I put it.  I started these new plants from seeds I got last year from the Arizona Herb Association at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum Herb Festival.

I started by soaking the seed for 3 days (March 24-27), then started them in Jiffy pellets and transplanted out April 8, 2015.  They require warm soil to do well.

I was not sure about sun needs, so I opted to put the one in the picture in an almost full sun area and
the other 2 in a spot where they are shaded.  The shaded ones are a 1/3 of the size of the full sun one.

This is the kind of experimenting I do to determine an edible's happy spot.  I may move the other 2, if rain / overcast timing works out.

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) called Sorrel in the Caribbean and in Latin America and Flor de Jamaica in Mexico, is a tropical native of West Africa.

This lovely member of the hibiscus / Malva (Hollyhock and Mallow) family is most known for the red colored, cranberry-like flavored beverage made from the calyx fruit (base of the flower).

The calyx are picked fresh and dried.  Many Middle Eastern and Spanish grocery stores carry the dried flowers.  The flowers have both vitamins and minerals.  You can read up on Roselle at wikipedia

Next are some of my "Glass Gem" corn.  I planted these primarily to refresh the seed inventory.  This is a Flint (field, ground meal, popcorn) variety that has a lovely range of colors from pastel to purple, tan and brown.

The "empty" spots on the cobs are where the pollination is incomplete, so the kernels did not develop.

There is a wonderful history behind the "Glass Gem" variety - you can read up on it and also, if in stock, purchase seed from Native Seeds/Search.

Edible Flowers

For shear "wafting" appeal few flowers rival the true Jasmine in fragrance.

Jasminum Simbac also known as Arabian Jasmine, is a shrub and not to be confused with other plants called Jasmine, which are primarily vines.

Arabian Jasmine
is the only Jasmine flower which is edible.  If you have had Jasmine Tea you have enjoyed the fragrance of this beautiful flower.

Once settled down in our desert garden this shrub will grow for years. During the winter it may suffer cold damaged, but springs right back as the soil and air temps warm up.  Stems may root to the ground at the leaf nodes. Prune after all danger of frost is over.

We get flowers 2-3 times a year in waves and there is an indescribable pleasure in walking past the shrub and being enveloped in the lovely scent and site of this plant.

Have a wonderful and safe Holiday!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

For planting and cooking help, check out my calendar and books for sale at my publisher's site

Monday, June 29, 2015

I was Interviewed back in 2013 - More tips and history from The Herb Lady

Dear Folks,

Back in March 2013 I was interviewed for an Oral History project by Scottsdale Public Library.

I thought folks who are just learning about my work gardening and cooking with the garden bounty in the desert, might like some of my history and tips.

If you have attended one of my lectures, or perhaps if you wanted to and could not make it, I touch on some of the high points to gardening successfully in the desert, along with some of the whys and hows of how I became so passionate about growing some of our own food.  And, why I think this is my mission:  to encourage folks to grow some or more of their own food.

The interview is about 55 minutes long. Wonderful Anna Quan Leon was the gracious and patient interviewer - get me started on my favorite subjects and I just prattle on, and on!

FYI - after the interview was over, another point was brought up so Anna did a post-interview, but for technical reasons, it had to be added as an addendum at the "beginning" of the tape - so the introduction comes after that short series of comments.

I hope you enjoy this if you decide to listen.  Maybe friends or family in desert areas may enjoy it also.

The picture (that is me in my "Minnie Pearl" hat) and the audio are the property of Scottsdale Library and all rights belong to them.

MP3 Audio

Main page at Scottsdale Library on my interview - click on the link next to my picture to get more detail.

In the interview I mention several recipes (one found in my book is my "Vegetarian Pot Pie" made with tofu -- turned out great), and a cracker recipe made with seeds, nuts and cheese.

Here is the link on the blog for one version of the cracker recipe.  The beauty of the recipe is you can change out all the ingredients for different flavors.

I hope you enjoy the interview.

Always happy to answer questions.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books


amazon - print

Barnes & Noble - print and Nook ebook




Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Watermelon and Free Seed Share reminder

Dear Folks,

This year I actually got various transplants in the ground - on time!  On February 15th I transplanted some tomatoes (we have been harvesting them for about 3-4 weeks now) cantaloupe and Blacktail Mountain Watermelon.

I forgot to take a picture of the cantaloupe - which we ate and I saved seeds from.

And the Blacktail Mountain Watermelon.

Because of the placement of the vines (I was trying something new - limited foot space but growing up a string/pipe trellis, the various shading from the surrounding trees did limit sunlight so while the vines were (and still are) nice and healthy we only got 2 useable fruit off the cantaloupe (sweet and delicious) and 1 nice one off the watermelon.  Who knows if the vines live through the summer I may get more fruit later on. :-)

It is as described over at Baker Creek - sweet and delicious!

"70 days. One of the earliest watermelons we know of, superb for the north, but it also grows well in heat and drought. The flesh is red and deliciously sweet. Fruit have a dark rind and weigh 8-12 lbs. each. This excellent variety was developed by our friend Glenn Drowns, owner of the Sand Hill Preservation Center in Iowa. A favorite of many gardeners across the USA. One of the best we have ever tried!" --

I am also saving seeds from this melon.

Free Seed Share

And about saving seeds, some of the seeds in my seed bank I bring to the upcoming Seed Share at Mesa Community Farmers Market are from my gardens.

If you are not aware of (just 1 of the reasons for savings seed from something you have grown) a process usually called "regional adaptation" - meaning re-sowing seed grown in an area, your garden, becomes better adapted and productive with each successive generation.

This Friday, June 26th,
9 a.m. - Noon
Mesa Community Farmers Market
Center Street, South of University

I host this event 3 times a year to coincide with the next sowing season.  Fall sowing begins the middle to July.

You do not have to bring seed to pick up some.  If you bring seed, please bring only organic or naturally grown non-gmo either from your garden or purchased.  I suggest focusing on edible varieties.

I hope to see you Friday!  Have a great week.

 -- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books and planting calendar are available in print or as PDFs

My Publisher

You can also find the books at these other options on the internet


amazon - print

Barnes & Noble - print and Nook ebook


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Free Seed Share Coming Up - Friday, June 26th

Dear Folks,

My next 3-times a year FREE Seed Share is coming up.

Mesa Community Farmers Market
Center Street south of University, Mesa
June 26, 2015
9 a.m. - Noon

It may sound counter-intuitive to have a seed share in June, in the heat, however if you want winter squash including pumpkins you have to count backwards 90-120 days from Halloween or Thanksgiving.  Also, getting call veggie and herbs seeds in the ground allows for them to germinate as soil cools

How It Works:
Choose:    Any seeds we have – small envelopes will be available with pens to select and mark what you want to take home.

Bring:     Any seeds you harvested.  Share any organic or heirloom seeds you purchased.  Focus on edible seed varieties.

What:    No -  GMOs - if you are unsure if the seeds you have are GMO, please just bring yourself to choose seeds available.

Why:    Grow some of your own food, help “your economy,” and share with friends and family.

Where:    Mesa Community Farmers Market, Center Street, South of University on the East Side.

You Do Not Need To Bring Seeds to participate.

You can have my month-to-month planting information at your fingertips in the PDF version of my calendar.  Purchase once ($6) and download into all devices you have which read PDF.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady