Garden, Plant, Cook!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Last Minute Dessert, Candy or Gift Ideas!


Dear Folks,

Here are some last minute ideas to whip up in less than 30 minutes, maybe even 15 for some of them. (See near the bottom also for a fun site to visit before January 1st).

What takes less than 2 or 3 ingredients, only about 20 minutes and is really tasty?

Right down to the last minute of holiday dinners, entertaining or even gifts I have some easy candy ideas using either ‘melting chocolate' or semi-sweet chocolate chips. Maybe some of you have created similar treats but some ideas might be new to you. Chocolate dipped pretzels are a surprising treat because of the combination of the saltiness with the chocolate flavor.

First some do's and don'ts.

Do use a good quality chip if you can (I know the economy is taking its toll on many, but it produces a better tasting treat).

Do use it all up! — one or more of the ideas below are for using up the last bits of the melted chocolate.

Do use only oil based flavorings or coloring agents--and only food grade of course.

Don't get water in the chocolate - you will ruin it.

Don't use water or alcohol based flavoring or coloring agents - the chocolate will ‘seize' and be unworkable.

Don't dip the entire fruit or pretzel or candy cane in the chocolate - they are more attractive (and it is easier to keep ‘you' clean while dipping) if you just dip about 1/3 to half of the food in the chocolate.

"Colored" melts or ‘colored candy molding chocolates' are not real chocolate and get their texture from a combination of oils and fats. These are fun to use on a limited basis only because they are not as ‘workable' as real chocolate (some very inexpensive ‘melts' contain no chocolate at all even if chocolate colored or flavored and have the same problem.)

I prefer to use Wilton Dark Cocoa melts or Ghiradelli 60% cocoa chocolate chips for these candies. Nestles or Hershey's chips are a good quality, just that the Ghiradelli is a superior, minimal ingredient chocolate. Wilton offers a variety of colors and white — as noted they are fun for some use but they are not as loose flowing for dipping etc. as the dark chocolate.

Flavors can be added to any of these chocolates but you must use oil based flavors which were designed to be used with chocolate. Your regular food coloring will ruin the chocolate.

Premise: If it is large it can be dipped; if it is small you can create ‘stacks' or clusters from a combination of tasty things you may have handy in the cupboard or pantry.

The basic idea for cluster-type was presented in a blog I posted (on Thanksgiving 2009) to create a healthier candy treat for the holidays. I used Jean Carper's (Stop Aging Now) basic recipe to illustrate with my own take on it.
Ideas: http://edibleherbsandflowers.blogspot.com/2009/11/220-years-ago-today-first-official.html

How to melt the chocolate:

Lots of options:

Do not overheat the chocolate or it will ‘burn' or ‘seize' up on you and will not be useable. You want the chocolate to be almost thin syrup in consistency - less loose than water, but not as thick as honey.

Microwave: In a heat proof glass jar or Pyrex measuring cup - microwave in 20 second bursts stirring between each. Begin with only a half filled jar or cup, add more chips once the first portion is melted to the amount you will need - but I don't like to have a jar or cup more than 3/4's filled when melted.

Stove top - single pot - measure the water height in the pot so it is no higher than 3/4 of the way up the sides of the container (glass jar like mason jar or Pyrex measuring cup). Place an old but clean dishcloth, or wash cloth in the bottom and heat the water to just steaming, turn the heat down to a very low simmer - there should be no bubbles in the water or very few - place the half filled jar in the water and it will start to soften, stir occasionally until the thin consistency is achieved and all the chips have melted.

Stove top - a double boiler was designed for this kind of project, keep the water in the lower pot a the same light simmer.

You are now ready to make candy!

Dipping:

Pretzels
Candy Canes
Dried Fruit — any kind -- we love apricots are wonderful
Fresh fruit — orange or tangerine sections - peel and section the fruit carefully and be careful that you do not ‘break' the section so juice comes out - it will ruin the chocolate (chocolate dipped tangerine or orange sections are a gourmet delight)

Lay on a cookie sheet or tray and place in the freezer for about 10 minutes or the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes

Clusters/ Bark:

Raisins
Dried cranberries, blueberries or cherries
Nuts
Coffee Beans
Pop corn (no butter or salt on it for this)

Mix your preferred ingredients into enough chocolate to liberally coat everything thickly. Either drop by spoonfuls on a cookie sheet or aluminum foil cover tray, or spread in a thick slab on the tray. Freeze for 15 minutes and remove to covered containers. The ‘slab' can be broken into small or large pieces like ‘bark'.


Hay Stacks:

When you are down to the last bit of chocolate or you want to make these anyway, mixing double the amount of chocolate to a combination of unsweetened coconut and chopped walnuts will give you clusters as above for the clusters. Traditionally called haystacks because the coconut looks like straw sticking out of the chocolate. I made some with less chocolate and wound up with small pieces we call ‘crumbs' - good for grabbing just a few small pieces (in the picture above, that is the funny - but really tasty pile, to the side of the candy cane and pretzel).

One last fun thing to dip is a plastic spoon! If you have coffee or hot chocolate loving friends and family, dipping the "bowl" of a plastic spoon in the melted chocolate is another gourmet delight. Stirred into the hot beverage it imparts a very distinctive chocolate flavor. Some of the fancy plastic spoons like silver or gold are particularly attractive - wrap each chocolate cover spoon in a piece of colored plastic wrap and tie with a bit of ribbon.

Everything except the fresh dipped fruit can be stored at room temperature for a couple of weeks. The fresh fruit dipped ones should be refrigerated and eaten within one week.

Have Fun!

Have a Merry Christmas and a safe and wonderful Holiday,

And for all those of you who enjoy (or have enjoyed) owning goats -- this site puts up a goats singing animation (Carol of The Goat Bells) every holiday season. I believe it stays up until about January 1 each year www.goatbiology.com


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Friday, December 18, 2009

Greening - Arizona State Parks Face Closure..

...due to budget cuts

Dear Folks,

We all have our pet or favored public services. One of the top reasons for living in Arizona are the state parks - it wouldn't be as lovely a place to get out of the house or take the family to see nature in some of its best areas without our state park system.

The current budget crisis in Arizona may disproportionately cut the state parks budget to non-existence. This is not - they-won't-be-open-for-a-year type of cut, but one which would necessitate the selling off of state park land to the highest bidder

Can you just imagine a McDonald's corner eatery in a residential development in place of Boyce Thompson Arboretum? Or, the formerly-public-state-park Kartchner Caverns State as the centerpiece to a gated community? Or a Wal-Mart and strip center in your most favored camping area?

Go to the advocacy page of the Arizona State Parks Foundation page for information.

The http://arizonastateparksfoundation.org/index.html is a charitable group supporting the Arizona State Parks system.

Do what you can to keep the legislature from cutting the Arizona State Parks out of the picture, now and forever.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Greening: Your 32 Cents Worth of Choices!

Dear Folks,

You can't talk to a friend or family member, read the newspaper, or watch nightly news without sad economic facts: lost jobs, people losing homes, cuts in government budgets, which affect everything from library hours and locations to food programs, to police, fire and child care services to name just a few examples.

Human nature being what it is we want to blame someone for the mess, but who? Well we all have some responsibility in it by how and where we choose to spend our money.

"We have met the enemy and he is us". Pogo (comic strip) author, Walt Kelly, first used the quote on a poster for Earth Day in 1970.

32 Cents is the difference between how much of your hard earned dollar goes into the local economy versus "somewhere else." The national average (according to the bean counters) shows that for every dollar spent at a big chain store, 13 cents stays in the local economy funding public programs (via taxes) and paying your neighbor's grocery bill (via jobs) (and the other 32 cents goes "somewhere else"), while 45 cents stays in your local economy when you shop at locally owned and locally sourced stores.

When interviewed recently many shoppers had similar thoughts..."it's a nice idea but not practical"..."I need the convenience and better prices."

Keep that in mind when discussing who is no longer employed, when so and so can't find a job, and why there are now 10% less police or fire personnel around. Keep that in mind when the government is thinking about raising taxes to compensate for the reduced taxes into the government coffers.

Do you know where a large portion of the ‘somewhere else' that your shopping dollars goes when sent through the big chain stream? How about Asia, and overseas in general.

Take a few minutes on your computer and really do some price comparisons. You will find that your local farmers market food supplier or your neighborhood dress shop have comparable prices and great customer service.

If we are part of the problem than we cannot point fingers at ‘someone else' when we have some control over choices.

Recently Mayor Gordon of Phoenix had a request of the citizens. Pledge to try to do one-third of your shopping at locally owned and locally sourced stores. Can you do that? Can you make a difference in your community? 32 cents worth? Yes you can!

The money adds up — even if you are on a really tight budget and you spend $20 dollars at locally owned and sourced stores - do some math 20 x .32 = $6.40. How many people in your city here in the valley? Phoenix? Mesa?

Some recent (2007 or 2008) real estate estimates put the population of Phoenix at around 1,429,637 with approximately 481,000 households. Mesa at around 478,014 population and 170,023 households.

Some more math:

$6.40 x Mesa households 170,023 = $1,088,147 = if that household spent that same amount of money each month the figure would be $13,057,766 per year.

How about Phoenix with 481,000 households x $6.40 = $3,078,400 - and if that amount is spent locally each month the figure for one year would be $36,940,800.

That is a lot of jobs and employment whether working for a company or self-employed (like a store owner), or the services of police, fire and library, or education and child care. It is the difference between something as simple as a city parade or Christmas lights or something more serious and needed like support for child care and domestic violence centers, or whether your neighborhood park can be kept up, and jobs!

All from spending 32 cents differently!

First google Locavore for your community, then also search for "local first" for your community.

According to Kimber Laning, founder of www.localfirstaz.com you can also look up two other organizations nationwide for locally owned businesses in your area.

Business Alliance of Local Living Economies (BALLE) www.livingeconomies.org
American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) www.amiba.net

Find and support local farmers, restaurants, service suppliers, and stores.

If you are an independent store or service owner find your local business support group and join them -- today!

If we and our shopping choices are part of the problem, we can also be part of the solution. How can you make your 32 cents work better for your community, neighborhood and ultimately, you and your family?! Isn't making more local purchases a 'stimulus plan' with immediate impact?

While going through your holiday and New Year's preparations, don't forget to donate to some of the local charities - any amount is always welcome and helps your neighbors, friends, family and ultimately your community. I also have a list of some of my favorite national charities in the side bar here on the blog.

I will be blogging more but for the best wishes of the season, I like KEZ 99.9's humorous holiday greeting airing on the radio now during their Christmas music programming:

"Have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, a Krazy Kwanzaa, a Tip Top Tet, and a solemn, dignified Ramadan"

And a very Healthy and Happy New Year to you all!


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

P.S. Last Year I did the 12 days of Christmas which actually begins with Christmas Day, and this year it was my intention to re-post links to them leading up to Christmas, but I ran out of time! You can find them by going to the search bar on the blog here - Enjoy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

New Year's Day - Plant Potatoes!

Dear Folks,

My New Year's Day tradition is to plant potatoes, below is a collage of how we set this up in a raised bed.


This is the easiest way to plant potatoes for easy harvesting. Some folks have also used chicken wire tubes or old tires. Any of these concepts work okay.

You can try your hand at potato growing with store bought potatoes which are trying to sprout or have 'eyes' projecting out. Cut the potato into sections with 2-3 eyes per section, let dry on the counter for a couple of days and plant on January 1st. (In the picture you are seeing the 'seed potatoes' I save in my crisper drawer from the prior season growing.)

The most important thing to understand is that the growing potatoes must be covered at all times. Solanine is a toxic chemical reaction to sun light turning the skin of potatoes green and it CANNOT be cooked out.

Continue covering the potatoes as they grow to the depth of the raised container. Plan on harvesting in late Spring.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Achieve greater success with edible landscaping in the desert with my reminder subscription service - just $21/year gives you very detailed planting, harvesting and using tips several times a month, including more information about planting potatoes as above and other edibles.



Friday, November 27, 2009

Correction to Yesterday's Recipe

Hi Folks,

I did not catch that the 1/2 cup symbol came through as a ? mark. Sorry about that - I sure hope it didn't frustrate anyone.

Here are the corrected recipes.

Jean Carper's GOOD-for You Candy
Chocolate Cherry Clusters

2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups cheerios cereal
1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup walnut pieces

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or microwave. Quickly stir in the cereal, cherries and nuts until well coated. Use tablespoon to drop clusters on baking sheet. Freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for 2 hours until no longer sticky. Makes about 24 clusters 137 calories, 2 grams Protein and 2 grams of fiber.

Catherine's Version of Chocolate Cheerio Candy
(The 60% cocoa is a better option for maximum dark chocolate health benefit - any dried red or blue fruit will work for the antioxidant helper.)
3 cups Ghiradelli 60% cocoa chips
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup of walnut pieces
1 1/2 cups of Cheerios

Still a fun recipe for any holiday or anytime you want to treat yourself to something tasty and has some good things in it too!

Have a safe Black Friday and weekend,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Thursday, November 26, 2009

220 Years ago Today, the First Official Thanksgiving...

. . . was celebrated as a national public day of prayer and thanks by a grateful nation.

Dear Folks,

First a recipe for that last minute take-with for today's meal or to quickly make a dessert that is a nice healthy option.

Jean Carper of "Stop Aging Now" published this recipe several years ago in the Sunday magazine section of the newspaper. I am printing it here now and also with my version of it.

Jean Carper's GOOD-for You Candy
Chocolate Cherry Clusters

2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
1 ½ cups cheerios cereal
1 cup dried cherries
½ cup walnut pieces

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or microwave. Quickly stir in the cereal, cherries and nuts until well coated. Use tablespoon to drop clusters on baking sheet. Freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for 2 hours until no longer sticky. Makes about 24 clusters 137 calories, 2 grams Protein and 2 grams of fiber.

Catherine's Version of Chocolate Cheerio Candy
(The 60% cocoa is a better option for maximum dark chocolate health benefit - any dried red or blue fruit will work for the antioxidant helper.)
3 cups Ghiradelli 60% cocoa chips
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup of walnut pieces
1 ½ cups of Cheerios

On October 3, 1789 President George Washington proclaimed that November 26, 1789 would be a public day of prayer and thanksgiving by a grateful nation for what they accomplished and what they stood for.

I am thankful for all my family and friends and for the many people who share my passion for gardening and cooking well.

Happy Thanksgiving,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

. . .

First Official Thanksgiving

October 3, 1789

President George Washington proclaimed the 1st national Thanksgiving Day to be Nov 26

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to

"recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

In 1863 President Lincoln designated the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner on The Table, Old Shows On the Computer

Dear folks,

I hope you will be having a great, peaceful and comforting Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. If you have a computer, instead of the TV or video games, go to the Old Time Radio site and listen (free) to a fun selection of Thanksgiving related shows from the likes of Jack Benny, George and Gracie Allen and others. You can download the shows too.

Otrcat.com

Jon Hall over at OTR cat has an incredible collection of shows from the golden days of radio, every genre, thousands of programs, and historically interesting as many of the commercials are still in the programs.

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Monday, November 09, 2009

Got a pumpkin? I have a neat recipe

Hi Folks,

The holidays are always both a time to enjoy traditional family recipes and to also try some new ones. I have a fun one for a pumpkin.

First though, in case you were having problems with the sidebar link here to my podcast show - they figured out the problem. One hand did not tell the other hand they changed the way they shake hands! Sigh. Oh well that's the way the internet works.

Now for the recipe -- you need a whole pumpkin in good condition which will fit in your oven. An option is you have a really large one is the cut it two equal halves.

First the photo showing the general principle and then instructions. This can be a vegetarian/vegan feast or an excellent side dish for the traditional Thanksgiving table.



This original recipe first appeared in my cookbook "101+ Recipes from The Herb Lady." You can purchase the book through the link(s) on the side bar or through your favorite book seller for more recipes featuring real food flavored with herbs and spices.

I vary the ingredients slightly for the particular meal I'm preparing. Essentially you can use your favorite stuffing recipe (some folks call it 'dressing') which you would use on Thanksgiving.

I wanted something with a lot of the flavors of Thanksgiving -- bread, celery, onion, cranberries, apples, and poultry seasoning. (If celery and onions sauteing in butter and seasoning was a room freshener mist I might buy it!)

Here is my basic ingredient list, and directions.

1 small pumpkin about 6 + pounds (wide rather than tall).
2 cups each diced celery and onion
3 cups dried bread, cubed
2 tablespoons each olive oil and butter, unsalted (can use all olive oil)
2 tablespoons mixed herbs, minced finely (Ex: sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley), or 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (I frequently double or triple the herbs, but that is my preference.)
1/2 - 1 cup warm water (use broth for more flavor, if you like)
1/2 cup fresh cranberries cut in half
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 small apple diced (I put cut apple pieces in lemon water to prevent discoloration)
Salt to taste (but taste first)

Optional for Vegetarian Thanksgiving:
1 cup frozen green soybeans "Edamame" (shucked), thawed to room temperature

Optional for meat eaters, 1 cup of crumbled sausage pre-cooked.

Directions:

Cut pumpkin top off at angle (so it won't slip in while baking), remove all seeds and strings. (Don't forget to save some of the seeds for replanting and roast the rest for a snack.)

Pre-bake pumpkin for 30-40 minutes at 350 -it should still be firm, but a knife will pierce easily. Keep hot.

While pumpkin is baking heat oil, butter and add herbs or poultry seasoning, add celery and onion, cover and simmer for approximately 25 minutes until onion and celery is cooked, stirring occasionally.

Mix fresh and dried cranberries, apple, soybeans and bread into celery mixture. Add enough warm water to moisten, it should not be soggy.

Remove pumpkin from oven, carefully pack with stuffing, replace top of pumpkin. Raise oven temperature to 375 and bake for additional 30-40 minutes. Pumpkin will be soft, but should not collapse. Remove carefully.

Serve making sure to cut some pumpkin into stuffing mixture.

Additional options: The nice thing about this dish is you can add or subtract an ingredient to your taste.

For some more fun ideas for a Vegan Thanksgiving, Geraldine at The Questing Feast has a nice page on the subject, along with many ideas for a more traditional Thanksgiving. click here

For a gift idea for your favorite gardener, don't forget my email subscription reminder service. Click here or on the sidebar for information.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Ginger Project

Dear Folks,

I love using ginger and several times I've tried to grow it, and failed - another of my trowel and error experiments from which I hope to benefit and pass the lessons learned on to you.

Exactly one month ago I planted ginger in 3 places in the garden. Pictured here is one of the plants coming up -- I took the picture this morning.

As a tropical herb, ginger root is actually the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale. (The botanical plate here is from Kohler's Medicinal Plants, published in 1887 by Franz Eugen Köhler. (Tumeric and cardamon and galangal are also members of the zingiberaceae family.)

I have tried several times to grow ginger and I did not pay enough attention to what it needed to germinate from the rhizome "roots" - they need warm soil to germinate. Next year I'm going to get the ginger pieces in the ground in August, to ensure enough warm soil growth because I am not sure at this point that the current plants will have enough root growth on them to get them through the winter cooler soil and air temps -- but we will see.

As with my garlic experiment I would like to have my own local supply of ginger rather than purchasing the chain-store Asian imported varieties. According to the general growing information on ginger it requires an even longer growing season than garlic - about 10 months, so I figure that my best possible harvesting time will be in June or July.

Ginger is an amazing food plant with many health benefits on top of the great taste. Growing up my mother "dosed" us with ginger ale or mint tea any time we had tummy aches. True ginger ale sold commercially (many are artificially flavored) still is good for tummy problems for most people. Ginger tea or ginger added to chicken broth is also good for sore throats and respiratory-related ills like colds and allergies. And some folks like candied ginger for headaches.

I adapted a recipe from Ming Tsai for making my own candied ginger and resulting ginger syrup to make home made ginger ale.

You need equal parts of peeled and sliced ginger, granulated sugar and water - example 1 cup of peeled and sliced ginger - make slices the same size 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick - choose firm unblemished ginger, 1 cup each sugar and water. In a pot heat to dissolve sugar in water (I like to use an organic granulated sugar*) add ginger and simmer until the syrup is reduced by about 1/3 to 1/2 - thicker syrup is much stronger.

Have a plate on which you have sprinkled more sugar. Using tongs, take the ginger pieces out, drain over the pot and lay on the sugar, single layer. Turn the syrup off. Turn the ginger slices to coat the other side. Ready a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and preheat oven to 225. Dry candied ginger in the oven for 2-3 hours until they are leathery, but not brittle.

Shake off excess sugar into the syrup pot, and store candied ginger in glass jar - does not have to be refrigerated. Add a bit more water to the syrup pot and bring back to a boil (I like to capture every drop of the ginger/sugar). Remove from heat and pour into a sterile bottle. Cap and refrigerate - will last about a month.

To make ginger ale, mix 1/4 cup of syrup with 3/4 cup of cold sparkling water of choice (seltzer, club soda, Perrier etc.) Optional slice of lemon and/or a sprig of mint completes a very refreshing drink which just happens to be good for you too.

* If you want to try making the candied ginger with honey or agave nectar reduce the proportion from 1 cup of sugar to 3/4 cup of honey or agave nectar.

. . .

I added a gift subscription option to the reminder gardening service. Click here for information.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Greening - Some Fun If You Are Having One of "Those" Days.

Dear folks,

Have you seen the t-shirts, mugs and signs for sale with the notation:

"I'll have a Caffe Mocha Vodka Valium Latte, to go please!" — and you know exactly the feeling behind it!

Deane once gave one of his daughter's ten feet of bubble wrap for her birthday - a family tradition is no bubble wrap goes un-popped. When I can, if he has one of "those" days I lay the bubble wrap out on the entry floor area so when he comes home he can stamp to his heart's content.

Well in the interest of a cleaner environment but with the continuing need to strangle someone, ah, ‘er — let go of some of that frustration life seems to hand out on a more or less regular basis, some very creative people have crafted a wonderful site.

The website you need — Virtual Bubble Wrap!

Tech stuff - the site uses shockwave flashplayer - if your system does not have it (most do) it is a free download.

Go there and have a popping blast.

Take two pages and have a nice restful night and you won't need to call anyone in the morning!

Have a nice Sunday!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Greening - Locavore Sightings for October

Dear Folks,

Can you fall in love with a winery? Well if it is Kief-Joshua Vineyards in Elgin/Sonita area (520.455.5582) - it is perfectly possible. First, it is not enough to have the gorgeous ambiance of the hills of Elgin/Sonita and a building borrowed from Tuscany or Provence, or that the grapes are raised in a holistic manner and tended by hand, or that heritage sheep are used for weed control, nor that natural controls via hawks and owls are used -- the wine has to be outstanding — and it is.

In any wine tasting I've been to - and no, I do not get to many - but I am a huge fan of good wine - there are at least one or two wines which do not ‘grab me.' Not so with the current offerings at Kief-Joshua Vineyards -- each was great in its own way.

Chenin Blanc (good with spicy food, grilled fish or light dessert).
Vognier "vee-on-yea" (fresh fruit, pork, chicken, light salad or Thanksgiving Turkey).
Cabernet Franc (fish, chicken, beef or pork or Thanksgiving Turkey).
Syrah (beef, game, grilled meat or barbecue).
Nebbiolo (red meats, tomato based sauces or heavier chicken dishes)
Cabernet Sauvignon (red meats, tomato based sauces or sharp cheeses)

The Thanksgiving Turkey note above for the Vognier and Cabernet Franc are my own - either of these, a white or a light red, would perfectly compliment the turkey whether roasted, grilled or deep fried. If you are serving tamales - try the Vognier.

I was on a tour with some folks, and had no prior knowledge of Kief-Joshua except that they practiced holistic viticulture (the science and tradition of growing grapes for wine) and used a heritage sheep known as Baby Doll (not to be confused with the dahl sheep variety) as some of the weed control in the vineyard. Well as a current "natural" gardener/farmer and a former owner of miniature goats, I was looking forward to seeing and experiencing the winery/vineyard. (FYI if you are not familiar with the distinction - a winery is where the wines are produced from the grapes and bottled and a vineyard is where they are grown — both are not necessarily at the same location. In the case of Kief-Joshua Vineyard they are both.)

So when we arrived at the beautiful building and vineyard, and the very nice young man who looked to be about 19 and half to these older eyes, proceeded to politely and knowledgeable disburse the samples of the wine, I was surprised and impressed to learn we were speaking to Kief-Joshua. He then gave us the highlights of the wine making area.

I highly recommend a trip to the Kief-Joshua Vineyard, but if you can't make it down just yet, their wines are available at retail locations around the state click here for their website/retail page.

They also have a Sunday Omelet Brunch, and are going to be exhibiting at the Tempe Art and Wine Festival December 4-6, 2009. Open seven days a week from 11 am to 5 p.m. (520.455.5582) Website
. . .

FRESH the movie October 8th at Madcap Theaters in Tempe - $7 presented by Edible Phoenix Magazine -- Celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system.

. . .

Boyce Thompson Arboretum events:

October 9th -- Opening day of the Annual Fall Plant Sale, you find me giving a lecture and Thrillin Grillin food demo from 11 am to about 1:30 p.m. This is a members only sale (for the discounts) — and by the way membership is reasonable and the park is dog-friendly — the lecture and food demo are open to all visitors with admission to the park. The plant sale is open to the public from October 10th through the 25th.

Also at the BTA on October 16th Cedar Flute Musician Joseph Leal provides entertainment for an outdoor evening of enjoyment (4 p.m. to 6 p.m. - bring a picnic or grab some friends and make your own pot-luck).

If you enjoy music at the BTA make sure you check the same link for the upcoming Folk Festival November 14th, which has always been a real treat to listen to a variety of entertainers in different areas of the arboretum.

. . .

Desert Botanical Garden events:

Fall Plant Sale - October 16-18th - To shop the plant sale you do not need to pay to get into the Garden (Friday Oct 16 is members only, though), but you may want to shop then go into the garden for the annual Monarch Butterfly exhibit (an extra fee to the admission price to see the butterflies - well worth it).

. . .

Schnepf Farms annual October Chili - Pumpkin festival 480-987-3100.

. . .

Coming up in November - something to check out and mark your calendars.

Short subject presentations in a new type of forum TEDxPhoenix November 6th at the Mesa Arts Center, $5 tickets. (TED stands for Technolgy, Entertainment, Design) this program is a series of short (18 minutes) presentations by a variety of speakers. Similar to ignite-phoenix , this event includes Greg Peterson, green lifestyle expert from the Urban Farm. with others offering mini lectures on a variety of interesting and/or timely subjects -- it is a way to engage you, the audience, in sharing of ideas and networking. Greg is a regular contributor to Edible Phoenix Magazine.

The magazine is available with a subscription or at one of the sponsoring farmers markets check out http://www.foodconnect.org/ where you can find Arizona farmers markets.

For farmers markets in other areas click here and to find an "Edible" magazine for your community click here .

Support your local businesses!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Greening - Save some green - stay home and listen to the radio

Dear Folks,

I've blogged about otrcat.com before, and now with the holidays coming up and the cooler weather coming in when families are (hopefully) gathering for more quality time together, listening to old time radio is a great addition. Some of the grandparents will vividly remember the shows, and tell you what they were doing when they heard them.

I consider John Dunning to be the radio version of Turner Classic Movies. It is not just about selling radio programs, it is about preservation of an almost lost entertainment media that kept audiences enthralled.

Long before the TV series, radio had people 'hooked' on waiting for the next installment. From comedy, to romance and drama, westerns and holiday music shows, radio had everything TV and "live" performances had, with one exception - you had to use your imagination to visualize what was happening. Before movie and TV producers created thrills and laughter with visual effects, radio had to produce the effects audible -- and they did a great job of it too! Many of the original commercials are left in.

I'm hooked on the Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and Nero Wolfe, also Texas Rangers, Fibber McGee and Molly, Jack Benny, and on and on. I load my purchased CD discs into computer and arrange for my entertainment for the morning while I work. The shows can also be loaded into the ubiquitous iPod, played on a DVD player (which has mp3 capabilities). If I'm cleaning the office I can put the shows on and it takes some of the boredom out of the work. (P.S. I really miss the most recent attempt at a Nero Wolfe series when it was taken off the TV - Sydney Greenstreet's Wolfe is spot on.)

Recently, John sent some ways people use the shows:

1. AT HOME: around the house, kitchen, or in the garden; old time radio fans enjoy a good radio yarn!

2. WORKING: writers, painters, photographers, teachers, and office workers all report enjoying old time radio shows during the day to boost productivity! Police officers have written to say they enjoy a good Dragnet episode while on the job and Yours Truly Johnny Dollar is the favorite show of an OTRCAT.com customer and real-life private detective!

3. EXERCISING: enjoy classic radio while on a walk or exercising--staying fit has never been so much fun.

4. TRAVELLING: commuting, riding the bus, train, RV'ing, or long-distance drives--nothing is better than old time radio!

5. BOATING: sailing and listen to old time radio shows on the open water!

6. CAMPING: share a spooky tale around the campfire with friends and family!

7. FALLING ASLEEP: insomnia be gone! Late at night, listening to the gentle humor of classic radio or your favorite radio show is the perfect way to rest!

8. CLASSROOM: educators worldwide (homeschoolers, K-12 school teachers, & college professors) use old time radio shows in their curriculum to enhance learning, illustrate American values and culture, and make history fun. (Catherine's note: Some of the information during the war years is eerily timely now.)

9. DOCTOR'S OFFICE: nothing distracts you from the dentists drill or waiting room boredom like a good radio show! Share old time radio shows with a recovering friend or family member if they're in the hospital! (Catherine's Note: One of our friends loads the mini iPod up with things so the patient can listen at will and without disturbing other patients. - how about comedy - they say laughter cures.)

10. WITH YOUR FAMILY: introduce classic radio show to a new generation and share old time radio shows with your family, loved ones, and friends.

11. My addition - THE GARDEN - if you are using your mini iPod while working in the garden, why not include some old time radio.

On the sidebar of this blog is a link to the free daily show posting by John at otrcat.

Visit the site and scroll the thousands of shows. There is a show or series which will appeal to everyone in the family or office. For starters check out the link to the holiday show pages here.

John gives you excellent and friendly customer service.

Hope you find the shows as entertaining as I do, don't forget to check out the free daily show.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Monday, September 28, 2009

Huevos Mercado Granjero aka Farmers Market Eggs

Dear Folks,

My simple recipe for a wholesome and satisfying meal is based on the traditional Huevos Rancheros (Ranch Eggs) a classic Mexican breakfast. Usually served on tortillas, I wanted something a little lighter, but still satisfying. I also wanted to obtain everything from local suppliers. I like this dish for any meal.

Shopping at the Mesa Friday Farmers Market on Center, I easily came up with the tasty fixins'.

The Ingredients:

Salsa = Lil‘ Sassy Salsa, http://www.lilsassysalsa.com/

Eggs = Double Blessings Goats Milk Lotions and Soaps (and free-range eggs!), http://www.dbgoatsmilk.com/

Lettuce Mix = One Windmill Farm, http://onewindmillfarm.com/

Bread = Classico Italiano, (480-244-9405, Marcello Greco)

Basil = from my gardens.

Add some fresh fruit from One Windmill or Big Happy's Farm (480-529-3321 - Kathy Porter)

RECIPE:

HUEVOS MERCADO GRANJERO

half cup of salsa per person (choice of how much heat you would like)
2 eggs per person
2 slices of bread per person (I chose kalmata olive ciabatta)
1 cup+ of lettuce spring or baby green mix per person (I like a mound to almost fill the plate).
Fresh Basil finely shredded as garnish and added flavor

In a frying pan large enough to hold 2 - 6 eggs, bring salsa to a high simmer. Crack eggs into the salsa, cover and reduce to low simmer. Cook approximately 5 minutes until whites are fully cooked and the yolk is still soft (poached).

Place lettuce mix on plate, top with 2 eggs, and some of the salsa, and shredded basil, Serve with bread.

Add some fresh fruit for a fully satisfying meal.

Find an Arizona market near you at:

http://www.arizonafarmersmarkets.com
OR
http://www.foodconnect.org/

OR Nationally at:

http://apps.ams.usda.gov/FarmersMarkets/

What can you put together from your farmers markets' delicious offerings? Many options, all tasty, wholesome and locally produced!


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chocolate Flower Question - Edible?

Dear Folks,

Anonymous sent a question about my blog of last February on the whether the Chocolate Scented Daisy (Berlandiera lyrata) flower is edible. Yes it is. And I want to thank anonymous for the question - it allows me to explain some things about not only the plant but also the way I evaluate ‘edible' foods. This plant is also called chocolate daisy, green eyes, lyre-leaf green eyes (sometimes one word = greeneyes), and brooch flower.

The Chocolate Scented Daisy flower is Edible - specifically the flower head - usual references to the dried flower head but also just the stamens, indicate the unsweetened cocoa powder flavor, like dark chocolate.

And it is also true that most chocolate scented flowers are NOT edible - some other exceptions are chocolate mint or chocolate mint scented geranium - however neither of those has the incredible fragrance of the Berlandiera.

I did just find a reference to an Echinacea purpurea 'Green Eyes' PPAF PVR "Conehead." You may know the Echinacea for its medicinal help for blood and bladder infections. The flower head is medicinal but not ‘edible.' Which means always check the Latin/botanical name references to plants when looking for edible whatevers.

ALSO understand that because a plant, leave or flower may be medicinal does not make it safe to eat - one of the best known examples is foxglove, the source of digitalis -- it is SERIOUSLY not edible even though heart medication was made from it - modern digitalis is highly refined in the laboratory. Only certified herbalists, naturopaths, and alternative and traditional medical practitioners are qualified to evaluate and use medicinal plant parts.

Folks, here is how I go about determining whether a new-to-me or not as well known edible flower is indeed edible. I look for 3 independent authoritative sources - preferable either a study by an ethnobotanist and/or a university. Because of anonymous' question I did some more checking on the Internet. One plant seller lists the Berlandiera as not edible - I forwarded the references to them for consideration to their listing.

REFERENCES:

Flowers mixed with sausage as seasoning. — Swank, George R. 1932 The Ethnobotany of the Acoma and Laguna Indians. University of New Mexico, M.A. Thesis (p. 33)
AND Castetter, Edward F. 1935 Ethnobiological Studies in the American Southwest I. Uncultivated Native Plants Used as Sources of Food. University of New Mexico Bulletin 4(1):1-44 (p. 19)
AND quoted by the http://herb.umd.umich.edu/

From Jean Groen, "Native American Ethnobotany" noted the flower heads being used as seasoning in sausage. (Jean is a friend and an expert on native food and useful plants of the Sonoran Desert). Visit Jean and co-author Don Well's site here.

Some additional uses of the plant by Native Peoples were: Dried roots burned, ground & tossed on hot coals or smoke inhaled to give courage, or for nervousness. — http://herb.umd.umich.edu/

If you can't find seeds or plants locally - try Mountain Valley Growers (that's a picture from their site I'm using) Great customer service and selection of organic plants http://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com/berlyrata.htm

Here is the link for my original post on the Chocolate flower.

ABOUT EDIBLE FLOWERS in general:

Some edible flowers have no taste or are even bitter. Some taste floral, fruity or herby. The simple question can be - why bother?

Although I have been fascinated by the very idea of edible flowers for a very long time, I was moved to do even more research and experimentation after seeing soooooo mmmanny food styling photos and displays using toxic flowers to garnish everything from vegetable trays to wedding cakes. At a minimum edible means non-toxic garnish.

Allergies - it is important to note that if you or your family have allergies to flowers the pollen and nectar can be a problem - it is your responsibility to understand what allergic issues you have. Many edible flower recipes call for the petals, which eliminates some but not all of the issue of allergies - also the base of some flower petals are bitter - like rose petals.

GARDENING with edible flowers.

If you want beautiful landscape in your home garden, not just in the desert southwest, but anywhere, why not get both beauty and minimize the toxicity potential for family, pets, and you. If should go without saying, but I always need to mention - no chemicals in an edible garden.

Put a little petal-power in your life - enjoy the edible flowers for their beauty and the knowledge that they can grace not only your table, but your food as well.

I DO appreciate questions and comments - keeps the information flowing well.

. . .
Edible flower planting and harvesting is part of my reminder service. Check out how it may help you here.

Have a great day in the garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Grab the meter to check soil moisture

Dear folks,

Worth repeating tip.

It is that time of year as we transition into cooler air and soil temperatures that the moisture content of the garden can fluctuate widely.

The same conditions occur in the reverse in Spring when we transition into hot times in the valley.

Today, for instance, we are having high "Albuquerque" style winds and this will desicate the most hardy plant surfaces and top soil. Interim watering may be needed if you are on a set schedule.

At other times you may find the cool nights and milder days have not caused as much evaporation, so you need to make sure you are not keeping the soil soggy, which contributes to root rot and mineral leach.

Moisture meter to the rescue! This really is one of THE most important tools in a gardener's kit - and instantly helpful as it gives you an immediate reading of the soil moisture, whether ground or container.

Generally, 2-3 on the dry side is time to water most edibles. Some exceptions are mint and new seedlings or transplants, which may need a bit more constant moisture (that does not mean soggy, folks).

Meters come in plain/simple - just the moisture content; and more bells - moisture, light and pH. Most edibles here in the valley are not that sensitive to pH levels, but the light component of these types of meters are helpful for those of you trying to find the best placement for container gardens. Remember all the edibles need 4-6 hours of direct sun a day.

Pictured here is the simple kind. This link takes you to a purchasing/detail page on Amazon. I'm happy to report, though, that most of the garden nurseries in the valley carry at least the simple version of this meter.

. . .

Reminder service to better gardening success in the Valley. Folks there is only about a week left to get the reminder service permanently at the reduced rate of $15/year. Click here for information and to sign up. That page also directs you to other locations which may benefit out of state family members with similar growing conditions. You can give the reminder service as a gift - just specify that in notes when payment is made.

Have a great time in the fall garden,


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rosemary-Scented Stew

Dear Folks,

I've wanted to do something with barley for a while and I was inspired to try using a bit of Worschestshire sauce while watching a cooking show by Ming Tsai the other day. I prefer using chicken and sausage without any additives. There are several grocers or local suppliers who make sausage without junk. See below for ways to find local suppliers in Arizona and around the country.

1 cup of barley
3 cups of water
pinch of salt

1 1/2 pounds of boneless chicken - cut into 3 inch chunks
1 1/2 pounds of mild Italian sausage
1 white or yellow onion, chopped or sliced in coarse pieces
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, rinsed
1 small handful of fresh thyme, rinsed (These herbs will be removed after cooking so, tie with string or in a cheese cloth bag for easy removal)
1/4 cup of Worschestshire sauce
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 quart of chicken stock
1 cup more or less of water
2 potatoes
2 sweet potatoes (can substitute carrots for some of the potatoes - you want about 3-4 cups of these vegetables)
Olive oil
2 grinds of black pepper
1/4 cup of flour or corn starch

1. Cook barley by bringing water and salt to boil, add barley, stir, cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 50 minutes. Set aside after cooking.

2: Make the stew

In a large stock pot heat oil and add onion, stirring over medium high heat for 1 minute. Add rosemary and thyme, continue stirring for 2 minutes. Add Worschestshire sauce and lemon juice. Stir for 2 more minutes, add pepper, and a bit of chicken stock stir. Begin nesting in chicken and sausage adding broth to keep it covered. Add potatoes last, on top of meat. Add enough broth and water if needed to cover everything. Bring to boil, cover, reduce to gentle simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.

Remove meat and vegetables to a bowl, discard herb bundle. Cool a bit of stock and stir flour into it, then while stirring, add back into stock to thicken. Cook for 3-4 minutes until thick. Cut meat and vegetables into large bit-size pieces. Add reserved barley to stock and bring back to a boil. Add meat and vegetables back in and heat for 2 minutes. Serve and enjoy. This hearty stew usually needs no additional salt.

ABOUT barley.

My mother cooked with barley frequently to extend the nutrition of soups. An old grain, barley is more nutrient dense than brown rice (higher fiber of the good kind). While it takes a little longer to cook, it is worth while to cook up several cups at a time and freeze in 1-2 cup packages for easy additions to soups and stews or to make a variation on fried rice. One nice thing about cooked barley is that it does not have the extra-gelatinous starch rice does.

. . .

GARDENING: My e-reminder service is applicable to areas other than the Phoenix Metro valley, including some other states. Click here to find cities whose gardeners can use the same planting and growing help.

. . .
Locavore - Local Suppliers of foods:

In Arizona go to http://www.localfirstaz.com/index.php to find local producers and sellers of not only food but everything your need .

All over the country, you can also find local farmers and producers of all types of foods at localharvest.org

And in Arizona you can find farmers markets at foodconnect.org - foodconnect.org also helps the community with the guiding principle of their mission statement "...to grow strong communities, healthy food, healthy families and healthy farms."


Have a great day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Monday, September 14, 2009

Oatmeal Stuffing - Oatmeal, Not Just For Breakfast

Dear folks,

I'm been wanting savory oatmeal again! And stuffing, so of course I married the two and came up with a recipe that is good for you and simple to make.

Oatmeal "Stuffing"

Oatmeal is not just for breakfast!

I love stuffing! Some folks call the poultry seasoning, onion, bread mix, dressing. Whatever you call it, it tastes good and the sage and other herbs in the typical seasoning are digestive aids.

When I made some stuffing and roasted chicken the other day I decided to make another version of my Savory Oatmeal.

(See my blog for Pumpkin Oatmeal - it is at the end of the nutrient-density post there)

My mother before me, and my sister and I, like simple stuffing most of the time. Chopped onions and celery in butter and poultry seasoning, add dried bread cubes and chicken broth and we are good to go. Occasionally I will add some sausage to it.

*For you vegetarians, see notes for options - just as good tasting and good for you.

This came out so close to the regular stuffing taste, I'm going to make it often.

1/2 cup of sauteed celery and onion** see recipe for stuffing and chicken below
1 cup of oatmeal - not quick cook
1 3/4 cups of chicken broth* (substitute vegetable broth)
1/4 teaspoon of poultry seasoning
Optional: pinch of salt
*Vegetarians, you may wish to add about 1 cup of hot, precooked edamame to this oatmeal to make it a complete lunch or dinner item. Fold in after oatmeal is cooked and serve.

In a sauce pan stir poultry seasoning and salt into broth and start on flame. Stir in celery onion mixture and oats, bring to boil, reduce heat to gently bubbling, cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve as a side dish to any lunch or dinner.

The leftovers, if any, make great patties for breakfast the next morning. (I like to use my tupperware hamburger press for these, spray lightly with oil, press in about a 1/2 cup more or less of savory oatmeal, refrigerate overnight - use up within 3-4 days.) When ready to eat, heat pan with a bit of spray or oil, and cook patties on medium heat flipping gently so each side gets 2 times on the pan - you are just heating through and gently crisping the outsides. Most of the time I try to serve 2 fruit and vegetables with each meal - that is sliced plum and cherry tomatoes with the English bacon and the oatmeal-stuffing patty.

**Stuffing is the one time I always throw fat concerns out the window, but you can make this with a 50/50 blend of butter and olive oil - just as tasty.
1 stick of unsalted butter (bread and broth usually provide all the salt you need, plus celery has properties which make food taste saltier)
2 cups of finely chopped celery
2 cups of finely chopped white or yellow onion
1- 2 tablespoons of poultry seasoning
8 cups of bread, cubed and dried (I will sometimes do this the night before and lay them out on a cookie sheet in the cold oven to dry)
2 more tablespoons of poultry season.
Chicken or turkey stock - or Vegetable Broth*

Melt the butter, add the seasoning, stir to mix add celery and onion and cook until translucent and soft, about 20 minutes. Hold out the 1/2 cup of celery and onion for the oatmeal. In a large enough bowl to allow mixing, pour celery onion mixture over bread cubes, add about 1 cup of broth, all of the 2 tablespoons of poultry seasoning and toss, adding more broth to completely moisten the bread. It should be well moistened, but not necessarily soggy unless your prefer and more pudding like stuffing.

A simple way to do a fast dinner of stuffing and chicken is to take a casserole dish, butter or spray the dish, layer in half of the stuffing, top with chicken pieces, with or without bone and skin, sprinkle chicken lightly with a bit more poultry seasoning and top with remaining stuffing - cook for about 1 hour at 325 to 350 degrees. Covering the chicken with the stuffing keeps it moist.

*A really great vegetarian stuffing is made with edamame as the protein addition and if you like a sweet stuffing, add the cranberries.

My Pumpkin Stuffing Recipe
(form "101+ Recipes from The Herb Lady")

To the basic stuffing recipe above, add
1 cup frozen green soybeans (shucked), thawed to room temperature
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, cut in half
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 small apple diced (acidify diced apple in week lemon water for a few minutes to keep from browning before cooking.

You can either do this entire stuffing in a sprayed casserole dish or as a stuffing in a pumpkin or other squash. By itself, cook for 30 minutes at 350, or until the top is crusty brown, or stuff a squash or pumpkin and cook until the squash can be easily pierced with a knife.

A final thought about Savory Oatmeal - be creative - anything you can do with rice you can do with oatmeal or barley - both sooooo good for you. And the oatmeal old fashioned oats cook up quickly.


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Garlic -- Time to Plant

Dear Folks,

Some of my garlic harvest from last spring is shown in the picture here. I was as excited as a kid in a candy store with the bounty! A pungent candy store to be sure, but the results were amazing. I did blog about it before, but I'm doing so again, because now is the time to prepare to plant garlic. Optimal time is October 1st through November 1st to ensure a sufficient cold potential through the winter here in the desert. While the 6 or so months of growing time seems like a lot of time to spend growing something large and consumed quickly, the efficient use of space makes it worthwhile. Garlic cloves can be planted as close together as 4 inches. In an approximate 17 x 3 foot section of the garden I harvested 124 heads of superior Purple Haze garlic. This year I'm trying out a Russian Porcelain Giant in addition to the Purple Haze - I hope to double my harvest next spring between these two varieties.
The picture to the right shows some of the garlic rinsed off and braided. Next spring I will go over the harvesting steps. (I used that picture before to show how lovely the garlic looks.)
STEPS to Success with Garlic:
1) The spot you choose must have 4-6 hours of direct sunlight a day, or more.
2) The soil must be organic rich and well draining.
3) Separate a head of garlic into cloves, do not remove paper, discard any that are rotted.
4) Plant pointy end up with 1 inch cover soil (basically 2 inches deep.
5) Water well and as needed - as with other herbs and edibles do not let the soil dry out completely between watering.
6) Keep the garlic bed weed free.

That's it! Plant, water, weed and wait. Now, where to get your planting garlic. You can start with a head of garlic from your local farmers market or grocer. Or you can purchase from my supplier ronnigers.com. Click here to go to their website.

Folks, I may be duplicating this info in several places, but that is because I want you to know how easy it is to grow garlic in your own backyard garden.

. . .

LOCAL FOCUS

Are you sore from gardening, work or just the stress of life? Rolfing may be the answer. Rihab Yaqub, whom I've known for as long as I have been going to the Mesa Farmers Market, is a Certified Rolfer and a great lady. Her focus on life has been self-awareness and living in harmony and it is just a simple pleasure talking with her. Click here for her website and learn more about Rihab and rolfing (And no, as I once read, it is not a mugging you pay for!)

. . .

Don't forget to sign up for the discount ($15/year) on my reminder service to greater success in the desert garden -- the discount ends September 30th - still a good deal after that ($21/year), but why not take advantage of an extra good deal. Click here for the payment window. Information on the service here.

Have a great day in the garden,



-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 - 8 Years Later - Remembering What Hate Does

Dear Folks,

It has been 8 years since that terrible day.

One of our family, Deane's brother Doug, said "I worry about what someone will do in my name." Barely out of his mouth, on September 15th, a crazy man, chose to kill the gentle owner of one of our neighborhood gas stations while he was out checking his landscaping.

Backlash against anyone different, and vows by everyone that understanding and tolerance would be more forthcoming all followed that terrible day, where do we stand now?

8 years later there is still hate seething in society, born of fear, or anger over real or perceived injustices, I think sometimes there is less tolerance than before 9/11.

We can stop the hate and also remember that terrible day with good actions.

1) FIRST RESPONDERS
I come from a family of many firefighters and Deane is a retired EMT, so they have always held a special place in my heart, even more so after 9/11 -- and what the rescue workers and police had to do.
Find the fire station and police station in your neighborhood and mail or drop off a thank you card. They put their boots on every morning never knowing what the day will bring, that is a hero in my book.

2) PLANT ROSEMARY for remembrance, if you have flag pole in the ground, consider putting the shrub there.

3) IF YOUR CHILD's school does not have an anti-bullying program, insist they start one. Check out this site for information

4) CHECK OUT organizations that promote Stop The Hate programs

5) If you are in the area of the gas station owned by the family of Balbir Singh Sodhi, consider placing flowers on the memorial. That is part of my neighborhood. I along with hundreds of others after his murder added to a spontaneous memorial on the corner 80th Street & University in East Mesa. It grew so large I was worried that 'officials' might step in and try to restrain the outpouring -- to my relief they merely placed protective cones and limited traffic through the corner. Mr. Sodhi was known in the neighborhood for his kindness and generosity. A memorial page was dedicated to him on Sikh cultural site, click here to see the page - it has not been updated for a while but gives the story of the murder and the community support.

There were other attacks attributed to the murderer of Mr. Sodhi, who was ultimately sentenced to life, if those people are known to you, reach out to them, too. Also attacks in other areas of the country directly resulting from hate after 9/11, can be remembered in similar ways.

And, finally, I think we can all learn about what true charity and acceptance means when we consider the reaction of the Amish Community after another crazy man killed 5 children. Wikipedia has information here

Please pass this post on - we can learn and grow and be a better society,

In Sad Memory,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Weekend Fun East Side / West Side Local Businesses

Dear Folks,

This weekend I "have to" dedicate a lot of my time to the garden. However I have two local businesses to suggest to you for a Saturday visit.

WEST SIDE

In the Glendale Downtown Historic District you will find many shops and restaurants.

Kimberly Ann's Tea Room (Don't get too excited guys, it is also a great lunch place) is owned by a grandmother (Mae) and her granddaughter Kimberly. Begun as a life-long dream of Mae's, the tea and lunch restaurant is housed in an older home (not antique but homey), with separate rooms with different themes. The food is great and home-cooked, with a nice selection of light to hearty and satisfying.

No website, but give a call:
Kimberly Ann's Tea Room
7153 North 59th Avenue (59th & Myrtle)
Glendale, Arizona
623 934-1106
Hours Mon-Sat 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

EAST SIDE

The Red Mountain Multi-Generation Center is the scene of a Market Boutique this Saturday.
7550 East Adobe
Mesa, Arizona
480-209-5360 (info)
9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Get a jump start on holiday shopping (they expect 50-75 vendors).

I am going to the fair to see the offerings and particularly as my friend Alice Nelson, an earring artist, will be there.
Alice specializes in a type of earring called an "Earwrap" and they are just gorgeous. Visit her site to see these lovely pieces of ear "art." Click here.

Have a great weekend and don't forget to work on your fall garden preparation and planting!

P.S. Speaking of gardening don't forget - my reminder service - just $15 a year if you sign up before October 1st. Click here for the payment window. (Just $21 if you sign up after September 30th, still a bargain, but why wait!)


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fall Planting Preparation

Dear Folks,

It is that time of year when we dream of spring -- excuse me, fall!

Most long-time desert valley gardeners know the fall to be our primary planting time for perennials, fruit trees and winter annuals. We look with anticipation to the temperatures dropping back down below 200 degrees (really below 100 consistently by mid-September) and getting our hands dirty once more.

Here are some helpers:

First, consider signing up for my inexpensive reminder email service to give you the detailed "plant this, do this" info several times a month. Payment link is here. Just $15/year if you sign up before October 1st.

Second, look to your local nurseries for seeds and plants. One great plant nursery is Harper's

Harper's Nurseries, a third-generation family and locally owned garden nursery, began with a WWII Victory Garden.

There is no better time than now to return to that same practical economy of growing some or all of your own vegetables, fruits and herbs.

With our valley prime planting season for perennials, trees and winter annuals beginning October 1st, it is time to get ready to dig, plant, sow and then reap your own "victory garden" with the help of Harper's friendly staff.

And they have a special "Garden Club" for customers with monthly meetings, email newsletters, and rewards for purchases. Ask about it when you call or visit or check it out on their website.

Two locations, one in Mesa and one in Scottsdale.
Website: http://www.harpersnursery.com/
Mesa Phone: 480 964-4909
Scottsdale Phone: 480 946-3481

Third, listen to my latest podcast show on "nurse" plants and plantings. This concept is so useful right now and then again in the real spring planting time, when temperatures gallop into the fry range again. Click here, or look to the sidebar for show/episode lists.

One last personal note, Deane came through his surgery just fine and is in the recovery/bored to tears/cabin fever stage, but he is doing great. My sister also went through some back surgery, one of the most amazing newest technologies, an instance fix for a crack vertebrae, nothing short of miracle type-stuff.

Take care folks, and have a great time getting your fall garden ready,


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Our Weekend - A Tale of Three Vehicles And a Trailer Park

Dear Folks,

As mentioned in yesterday's post - we had such a weekend I just had to write it as a short story - hope you enjoy it!

A Tale of Three Vehicles And a Trailer Park
A short, but true, story by Catherine Crowley

It will probably be about 103+ degrees today and the humidity is up, so at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning in August we are getting ready to take our hike in Usery Mountains in the far East Valley.

My name is Catherine, my hiking partner is my long-time friend and companion Deane and the third person you will meet today is friend Jodi.

The telephone rings. Now everyone know that someone calling at 5 a.m. on any morning let alone a weekend is not someone bearing good news.

It's Jodi, thinking she is just going to leave a message but I scoop up the phone, and she explains the RV resort where she has her mobile home is dark and completely without power. This is one of those great resorts, like a small-city, where some folks live year-round but many come for the winter to enjoy all the outdoorsy stuff and the country-club like amenities.

Since it is early we all agree to check with her when Deane and I get back from our hike.

We climb into Deane's Toyota truck and go off to our hike, it goes nicely, and come back.

I go to my office to do some work and Deane calls Jodi to check in with her. The news is not good - the power is still out and since it is going to be roasting outside and inside her home in short order, Deane gets back into the Toyota and picks up Jodi with things she needs for the day, brings her back, and settles her in for a nap - it was a really long night for her as the power outage began in one part of the park the prior evening and continued to blink out the rest of the homes in the park a little at a time.

Deane tries to get some more sleep but can't so we chat a bit and I decide to go do some errands and shopping I had planned for the day - it is about 9 a.m. at this point.

Because my Dodge van has been leaking a bit of radiator fluid I decided to check to see if I need to top it off. Deane is chatting with me as I check the fluid level and not only is the radiator dry, but there is a dime-size hole in the lower hose. Well darn, and darn!

Now in the ordinary coarse of life replacing a radiator hose is a messy job, but not hard. And Deane will replace the hose, but we need to get the several pieces to do that.

It is still relatively cool outside, the van is in the shade - this is a big deal here in the summer - but Jodi is sleeping and we don't want to wake her to tell her we are going to get parts, so I decide to get the food items we planned for dinner. Deane wants to do one of his favorite meals "Crab Louis" and we need some additional ingredients. So I decide to take the Toyota - the one we used for hiking earlier and go to the store, which I do.

I head out to Fry's ‘cause its close and I know where everything on my list is so I can keep it to a short trip. Get to the store, shop and exit in record time, put the things in the cab of the truck (pickup) put the cart in the cart coral, get in the truck and it won't start! Well triple darn!

Deane had been having trouble intermittently with the Toyota not starting, but since it appeared to be one of those ‘get the key just so' things I waited, tried again, waited, tried again, etc. for about 4 or 5 times and decided if it was something like the starter or solenoid it was not going to help. So I climb out of the Toyota and call Deane on the pay phone.

He gets it on the second ring and I tell him what's going on - and of course I have fresh food in the truck and it is probably now about 95 degrees outside. Deane says he will take the Jeep over and give me a jump-start, if it will start - he has not driven it regularly (1951 Willys - Deane's main ‘squeeze-love'), so he may have to put it on the battery charger to get it going.

So I wait - I'm dripping sweat, and yes I could go in the store, but I can at least sit in the truck, I'm parked facing away from the sun, and I cover the food to keep it from warming too fast. I decide to count my blessings, ‘cause the day is not going well. We have friends and neighbors who can help us out, I have Deane in my life, it is only about 3-4 miles to the house, so I can walk home if I need too, and it ISN'T 115 degrees! - which is was two weeks ago.

Deane shows up in the Jeep about 20 or so minutes after my call and says on starting the Jeep it gave this funny kind of hiss he had noticed when backing it in the last time he ran it - he could not find anything upon lifting the hood that time, but he did this time - the carburetor base was cracked and one bolt was only holding the broken flange - not good! (Understatement here).

He tried his key in the Toyota and the silly thing started right up! We made sure he could get the Jeep started too and we both made it home and the food was okay.

Now we have 3 vehicles and a RV trailer park with mechanical / electrical problems and I contemplate calling my cousin Gayle to find out if Mercury is retro-grade for mechanical issues!

Jodi is up by now so we plot our next course of action. The Jeep is dangerous to drive with the carburetor sucking air and likely to spout gas. The Dodge is down until the radiator hose is replaced and the Toyota does not reliably start with the key, and it is a Saturday.

The Toyota is, luckily, a manual trans, it is about 11:30, so we decide to take the Toyota to run for parts for the Dodge, and plan on ALWAYS parking it on an incline in case we have to push start it, and we take off.

Two hours later we have hit the four major auto parts suppliers and a dealership parts department (which we missed by 10 minutes their having just closed as we pulled in) and we have a hose, reducer coupling for the narrow end of the radiator, clamps, and we have not had to push start the Toyota once!

Now, I enjoy a glass of wine or bottle of beer sometimes and I have been very good for a couple of months now because I want to 1) not drink as much so I've had maybe a glass of wine or beer, maybe two, about every two weeks, and 2) I am trying to loose the rest of the weight I want to take off. Deane is not a drinker with the very, very rare exception of a glass of plum wine or very sweet red port. I suggest one last stop for some cheese and to see if they have a bottle of wine for me and some plum wine for Deane - we are beginning to think a liquid dinner is due.

So we stop at Fresh & Easy because I know they have the cheese I like and they may likely have the plum wine. We get the shopping done, joking about explaining to Jodi that Deane and I are having a liquid dinner and she can have all the food - it is that kind of day, and at this point you can only laugh and joke about things.

It is about 2:30, we are about 2 miles away from the house, we are getting ready to exit the parking lot and an ambulance goes by in the direction we are going to go. Deane jokes that we can exit easier because everyone else has to pull over and we are going in the ambulance's wake. We exit, get up to the next traffic light, which is now red, where we will be turning right - luckily, and we hear the sound of another ambulance coming up from behind us, but far enough away that we have time to turn as the light turns green. The clutch slips, the engine stalls and dies and won't re-start!

The guy in the back of us is blowing his horn, the ambulance is coming up fast, and we hop out and start to push the Toyota around the corner and we are on an uphill sloop. The guy behind us finally sees what is going on and gets out to push from behind, we get it rolling and Deane hops in while I'm still pushing and pops the clutch and the engine roars alive! Deane has to pull me in ‘cause my bad hips and knees won't let me jump — the ambulance clears around us and the corner just as the clutch popped the engine started and we are out of its way.

At this point I'm laughing so hard I'm still trying to catch my breath - the only thing you can do on a day like this is laugh.

We get home, unload the parts and food and it is close to 3 o'clock..

It is too hot for Deane to work on the Dodge, so he picks up his guitar and does some practice, we get our meal put together and eat about 3:30 or 4. Deane goes to work on the Dodge about 6 p.m. with what little help I can offer and the Dodge is fixed by 7:30 - the power is still not on at Jodi's home and park so she spends the night.

It's Sunday, Jodi went back to a functioning home about 4 p.m. The Dodge runs fine, the Toyota will probably need a starter but we can deal with that later, and Deane's going to order the Jeep carburetor on Monday or Tuesday. Deane is practicing on his guitar and I am reading "The World in Six Glasses." Think I will have another glass or two of the wine we bought yesterday.



DEANE'S CRAB LOUIS SALAD

Lettuce mix
Imitation Crab (can be eaten by folks allergic to shell fish and it is cheaper)
1 hard boiled egg for each person, shelled and sliced
for each person half tomato, sliced and quartered
lemons, 1 quarter for each person
bacon pieces (I bought a nice ‘natural' no nitrates and we cooked it up fresh)
ranch-style dressing.

I like to squeeze some of the lemon over the crab pieces while preparing the rest of the fixins' - I also like to add some chopped fresh herbs to any lettuce mix I use for salads.

Assemble: place a small pile of lettuce on each plate, spread chopped tomato on lettuce, top with crab pieces, place sliced egg over all like petals, and sprinkle with bacon pieces.

Serve with lemon wedge and dressing on the side.


Have a great day, folks,


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hot August in the Garden and Kitchen




Dear Folks,

Temperatures up and down, humidity up and down - typical summer in the southwest desert. Last Thursday it started out with overcast skies, the pumpkin seedlings coming up (see note below about the picture of the seedlings) and the Arabian Jasmin in full and fragrant bloom and my experiment with growing sweet potatoes producing good vines anyway.



Pumpkin seedlings: You can see the small tube of chicken wire I've placed there. The first sowing of the pumpkins seeds a couple of weeks earlier were dug up by the birds, bless their feathery-hides, so I went back to a tried and true method to keep new sowings safe. Plant the seeds, cover lightly with soil, crush some dried leaves over to keep moisture in, water lightly (don't do too much right now or you could wash the seeds out) and place a tube of chicken wire around them. I keep the tube in place until the seedlings have a good head start then remove and allow the plant to continue unlimited growth. We use these kinds of tubes or even large square 'hats' for protection from the birds and bunnies until new growth is galloping along.

My cucumber is not only hanging in there (literally and figuratively) but is thriving with huge yellow flowers beloved by the bees - when getting this picture, Deane had a picture of a honeybee in one flower and a carpenter bee in another flower, when he tried to get a closer look as the carpenter bee moved to the same flower as the honey bee the carpenter bee kicked the honeybee off the flower - talk about territorial disputes.


Bullies in the garden are not limited to critters - some plants can be bullies too. The garlic chives can become so dense nothing else will grow easily amongst them, so it is a good idea to clear out clumps from time to time.

The garlic chives are starting to put out flower buds (everything on the chive is edible from the bulb, leaves (most often used) the flowers and the seeds). The cucumber plant decided to rejuvenate after Deane did a clearing of excess material. The horseradish plant I left in the ground is dying back, but there are younger plants that seems to be taking off. Some of the scented geraniums died back and I'm trying to figure out if there was a specific cause for it.

The desert summer garden is like that: you win a lot and lose some, even with 'expert' experience.

As we move towards the end of the monsoon season make good use of your water/moisture meter to make sure you are not over/under watering. After going through some of the most intense summer weather this is the time when some gardeners lose plants, because the transitional times of the year can be the most problematic — attention to a schedule as opposed to what is happening in the garden can mean the cause of some plants dying off before their time.

RECIPES:

Tarragon, both French and Mexican/Spanish are doing well in the garden, so here is another use for tarragon. Make the meal lighter with the side salad dressed with lemon juice and black pepper.

IMITATION CRAB WITH TARRAGON BUTTER
1 package (8 oz) imitation crab
1-2 lemons squeezed to give you 1/4 c juice
3 tablespoons of salted butter melted
1 tablespoons of fresh tarragon finely chopped
1 teaspoon of fresh chives or onion tops finely chopped
pepper to taste.

Mix lemon juice, melted butter, tarragon, chives and pepper to taste. Adjust for salt if needed.
Dip crab pieces and enjoy!
A green salad on the side, with a light vinaigrette dressing and you have a great lunch or light dinner.

WRAP SANDWICHES
Wraps are great for hot weather and families on the go. Use tortillas or soft flat breads, large lettuce leaves or both for the wrappers. Perfect for a buffet, let folks make their own from platters of ingredients.
PROTEIN: Sliced or slivered meat, cheese, tofu, whole shrimp, or a mix of precooked beans and cheese
HERBS: leaves of these herbs work well in wraps: Basil, mint, lemon balm and Epazote (great with beans or tofu) -- these herbs are in season right now, you can also add cilantro and parsley
VEGGIES: bean sprouts, slivered cucumber, squash, radish, Jicama
SAUCE: Mayo, yogurt, seafood cocktail sauce (particular good because of the horseradish) barbeque sauce, plain horseradish, salsa, or favorite salad dressing.
On the open tortilla, layer herbs first, then protein, veggies and then a line of the sauce over all, fold up and dip into extra sauce of your choice.
NOTE: if you grow mammoth basil, the leaves make great wrappers for mini wrap sandwiches, put only enough ingredients to allow you to wrap the basil leaf around all.

For more detailed how-to gardening and harvesting information - subscribe to my new e- newsletter - just $15 a year if you sign up before October - link in top side bar or click here to go to payment window

Tomorrow I'm posting a short story - we had the most incredible weekend, I thought I would write about it.



Have a great day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady