Garden, Plant, Cook!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cyber Shopping - How About The Local Kind?

Dear Folks,

I am going to share some of my friends locally produced products and services. Keep them in mind and other locally owned businesses when you shop not only for the holidays but year-round.

Jean Groen with her partner Don Wells is an expert in the edible and medicinal plants of the Sonoran Desert. Together they have written 6 books:  "Foods of the Superstitions Old and new","Plants of the Sonoran Desert and Their Many Uses", 2 children's books-"The Adventures of Flat Cactus Jack" and "The Second Adventure of Flat Cactus Jack...the Mystery Mound", Cat's Claw to Cow's Tongue and Other Lesser Known Plants of the Sonoran Desert", "Grazing the Sonoran Sonoran Desert" (a loose leaf recipe book).

Jean is also a dedicated foodie and loves making jellies from all the wonderful variety of desert edibles - last count about 20 flavors.  She also produces pickles and BBQ sauces.  Jean conducts tours at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  The books can be found at Superstition Mt. Historical Museum, Tonto Visitor's Center, Tonto Monument, Casa Grande Ruins, Besh Ba Gowah, Book Bank in Miami, AZ,  or you can contact them at

Kathy Marshall has her own dairy goat herd -- along with the 'cute' portion of the farm, Kathy gets to create her wonderful lotions and soaps using goats milk.  Goats milk is good for you both inside and outside.  Kathy's lotion customers have reported relief from dry skin, eczema, psoriasis and even diaper rash.  Double Blessings started in 2003 when Kathy wanted a soap that would not dry out her skin and a lotion that actually worked.  Find her on the web, at farmers markets around the valley and check the website for stores carrying her lotions and soaps.

Alice Nelson harvests dried flowers and leaves creating some of the prettiest bookmarks and pendants with them.  Every flower, leaf and petal is handpicked, trimmed and pressed by her.Each are unique and no two are ever the same.

But her main creative talent is her unique earwrap earrings suitable for those with and without pieced ears.  You can purchase through Alice's website, or find her at Fairs in the valley.  The wrap base is hypoallergenic 302 grade stainless steel, adjustable to fit any ear.

Coming up Alice will be at a fair at Greenway High School December 10th and 11th.

Jim Pipkin is a songwriter, story teller, and musician.  It literally runs in his veins -- Jim Pipkin carries on a family tradition of music and storytelling dating back to before the American Revolution.  Jim is a direct descendant of Revolutionary War Patriot Jesse Pipkin, and the grandson of Clifton White Pipkin, a Carolina roadhouse musician during the Great Depression. The Pipkin family has been writing and singing folk and gospel music in America since arriving at Jamestown in the late 1600’s.  Jim has 6 albums out and is working on his 7th.  You can purchase and download individual songs or whole albums.  OR, catch one of his shows around the valley and purchase the CDs.  Got to his website, or if you are on facebook his music shop.
Jim's show schedule is here.

Susan Decker is "Always A Little Behind Crafts" and I can totally understand that Susan could be always a little behind.  It is almost impossible to describe Susan's creative offerings in one little news piece here.  If there is something which can be hand made, Susan has probably created it!  From hand-made greeting cards, to aprons, toys (cloth to wood), home decorations, lunch box options, and purse accessories, you will find Susan's creative touch for every part of your life.  She is frequently at some valley farmers markets but you can easily order from her website  At my request, Susan came up with a 'toy' for my Homemade Kids Meals challenge (a homemade option to fast food meals).  Be sure to check out her crafts for all the gifts you need this holiday season.

To say that the holiday season can be stressful is to woefully understate the experience!  Give a gift to family or friends or yourself of a session with Rolfing Resources and regain your literally and figurative balance.  Rihab Yaqub is a certified Rolfer, Rolf Movement practitioner and Somatic Experiencing practitioner.  I know Rihab as a friend who just radiates positive energy.  Rihab's new studio in Scottsdale is hosting an open house.  This Sunday, November 20th  2-5 p.m. -- Historic Cattletrack Studio Compound -- 6207 N. Cattletrack Rd. #8, Scottsdale, AZ 85250 -- (480) 735-8875  -- stop by for conversation, refreshments and an opportunity to win a free session.  Visit her website for more information about Rolfing.  Gift Certificates are now available.

Patricia is "Feather Wolf" another creative friend who designs websites, beautiful precious stone jewelry and these unique fragrances shown here.  Find her at Mesa and Ahwatukee farmers markets in the valley or go to her website.  News fragrances just added are:  Lavender and Sunshine, Key Lime Pie, Eastern Treasure, Evening Rose,  Flower Mountain, and The Carpenter - I really liked the Lavender and Sunshine!  Click here for a description of each.

Last of my friends - but certainly not least - is Sue Harris a gifted musician but also a handmade soap specialist with a knack for thinking 'outside the bar' for scent inspirations.  I confess to giving Sue some ideas for soaps honoring the upcoming Arizona Centennial but she is the crafting wizard to actually figure out how to make them into cool soaps! My soaps are made in small batches, overflowing with such wonderful oils as olive, shea butter, almond, avocado, cocoa butter, and many others. I specialize in products reflecting the beautiful southwest desert where I live.  Find Sue at local farmers markets or visit her website to order direct.

Find more locally owned businesses and support your neighbors at

Find Farmers Markets around Arizona here 

Put together an ultimate gift basket with soaps, lotions, books, bookmarks, music, fragrances and lunch box accessories all local, all Arizona, all Great! 

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady
My Books

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fun Food Ideas for family and entertaining

Dear Folks,

I have some fun ideas for quick or interesting serving suggestions using foods you can find at your local farmers market.


Pictured is "My Toothpick Caprese Salad"

This is a great farmers market source and east to put together.  I am serving them on orange leaves for easy pickup and to 'catch' any juice from the tomatoes.  (Citrus tree leaves are edible - a little crunchy :-) but perfect for decorating and displaying foods.)

The cheese is Arizona Cheese Co's cheddar curds, wrapped in a fresh basil leaf and cuddled with fresh grape or cherry tomatoes - oh yum!

Need a fast and tasty meal?  Eggs poached in salsa arranged over a bed of fresh market greens, and served with crusty bread.  I enjoy any of the market vendors fresh eggs and Shirley's "Lil Sassy Salsa" for these - Whimpy :-) to beam me up Scott hot.

To wow your guests and grill Dry Bay Fish Company's Sockeye Salmon with fresh herbs and little white wine.  Use aluminum foil to great a package.  Herbs under and over the salmon - single layer - a little white wine for steaming. 20 minutes on indirect grill heat and amazing flavor.

Dr. Humus' tabouleh salad is a great base for dressed pasta, grain (rice, barley, quinoa etc.) or potatoes.  (Cold grain salads are a great side dish - or can be used to 'stuff' cherry tomatoes or mushrooms.)  Make a super nice dip with a quarter to half cup of the tabouleh to 2 cups of Greek style (or drained) plain yogurt - add a couple of chopped scallions and dash of salt and you have a healthy dip alternative.

Or use Dr. Humus' tasty pesto in the same way to make a different flavored dip.  Watching calories - use slices of cucumber in place of crackers.

Pita Bread or chips available from Dr. Humus - their chips go with any of their dips, but use the pita bread to make a super fresh pizza - separate the bread into two, top each with pesto or tabouleh, fresh tomatoes, cheese and bake in toaster oven on "toast" for 10 minutes or a conventional oven at 400 for 10 minutes.

Need some fast hamburgers?  Grab a package of Red Mountain Cattle's ground meat, a potato from One Windmill Farm, and some fresh herbs.  Pick up tomatoes, lettuce and onions for the burgers.  Shred a half of medium washed but not peeled potato for each pound of hamburger,  finely mince herbs.  Toss the herbs with the potato and mix the potato/herb blend with the meat - do not over work the burger meat.  Form into patties and grill as usual.  The potato keeps the grass-fed beef moist.

Bruschetta anyone?   Grab a crusty bread from the market, some of the amazing tomatoes and Dr. Humus' pesto or humus (many taste varieties - all great) - slice bread on diagonal, toast, spread with pesto or humus and top with slice tomato - so good!

Be sure and check out the other wonderful food and craft vendors at the markets and buy great products while supporting YOUR local community.

Have a great day!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Salmon Cakes, and other recipe tips

Dear Folks,

I have been trying to come up with a take on 'crab cakes' using salmon.  Deane loves salmon - I like it best when I make my signature salmon steamed in herbs, but occasionally Deane enjoys the canned, and because I'm not that crazy about it I wanted to come up with something he would really love and I could 'enjoy' with him.

So, I had some left over cooked sweet potatoes, I got some pecans (one of my first thoughts to go with the canned salmon), and we still have fresh basil in the garden.

HARVEST TIP:  This time of year, make sure you harvest your basil AFTER it has been in the sun for a couple of hours, otherwise the flavor and scent will not be as nice -- cold damp air and soil makes the essential oils retreat.


Deane said this one is a keeper!

1 6oz can of boneless, skinless salmon (I used Alaskan pink)
1/2 cup cooked mashed sweet potatoes
10 basil leaves
1 slice of bread
a scant 1/2 cup of pecans
salt and pepper
Lemon wedges.

Process the bread into crumbs.  Grind the pecans into crumbs, don't let it become 'butter' - mix pecans and bread crumbs together - set aside.

Preheat over to 400 degrees.

Drain salmon and flake into small pieces.  Sliver the basil leaves and sprinkle over the salmon,  Sprinkle with salt and pepper (I used coarse salt and fresh ground pepper).  Spread the mashed sweet potato over the salmon.  Add a handful of the bread/pecan mix and thoroughly mix the salmon mixture together.

Take a small handful of the salmon mixture and press together to form a ball or patty, gentle place in bread crumbs and pat more crumbs on top.  Place patty on baking sheet and press down to flatten slightly.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with lemon wedges.

Last week when the temperatures dipped down, I was cold so I immediately think of soups and stews.  While I don't mind spending a couple of hours preparing meals, a lot of the time I want something fast.

For fast soups - ready in 15-20 minutes, but with all the home cooked taste and flavor, I rely on pre-cooked meats and my broths.  Here are easy proportion soups to make whenever.   By giving you some ratios you can easily double, triple or multiply to fit your family and company needs.  An old cooking wisdom is with unexpected company a soup or stew is easily and healthfully expanded with the addition of meat, pasta, potatoes or beans and some extra liquid.

1 cup of broth
1/4 cup of bite-size meat and/or cooked beans
1-2 tablespoons of uncooked pasta (I like Barilla-plus for its high protein / fiber ratio)
half a small new potato or 1/4 of a small baking potato, cooked and diced
half a stalk of celery, sliced or diced small
half a carrot sliced or diced small
1-2 tablespoons of diced onion
Salt and pepper to taste
handful of Fresh greens/herbs, coarse chopped (lettuces, basil, mint, kales, arugula etc.)
slurry 1 tablespoon of corn starch to 2 tablespoons of broth or water
Optional:  a teaspoon of olive oil, butter or bacon fat

Optional saute if you have time - saute the onion celery and carrot in the fat for five minutes.  Add broth and proceed.

Bring broth to a boil and add onion, celery and carrot.  If the past takes 10 minutes to cook add it now.  Set time for 10 minutes.  If the past takes 6 minutes add it at the 4 minute mark.

Meanwhile place a handful of the fresh greens in each soup bowl.  When the timer goes off add potatoes, meat and/or beans and cook 1-2 minutes to heat through.  If you want a thick soup, add the slurry before or after the meat etc. and cook 1-2 minutes.  Ladle into bowls over fresh greens.  Serve with a nice crusty bread or crackers.

In the next blog I'm going to give you some FAST AND FUN FOOD IDEAS for your family and holiday entertaining, using farmers market products and recipes to make quickly at home.

SHOP LOCAL FOR THE HOLIDAYS:  In a special newsletter next week I am going to highlight some of my friends and farmers market vendors who have great options of gift giving or something for yourself -- watch for it :-)

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady