Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Free Seed Share and a Class coming up.

Dear Folks,

A couple of events coming up please share this with friends and family.

The "why garden" article referenced below is applicable anywhere, not just the desert.

Friday September 27th, from 9 a.m. to Noon
Mesa Community Farmers Market

Center Street, South of University on the East-side grass area

I have been host this event FREE 3 times a year to coincide with best planting time.  You do not need seed to participate, but if you want to bring some, make sure it is either seed you harvested from your own garden or is non-GMO.

If it is squash or pumpkin type seeds, bring a couple of table spoons for sharing and roast the rest for your family to snack on :-)

Tuesday, October 1st, 10:30 a.m. to Noon
Smiling Dog Landscaping

From Ground to Table – How to Have a Bountiful Garden with Catherine Crowley  Tuesday October 1st from 10:30 a.m. to Noon.
Seasonal transition tips, the basics of soil, sun and water, and why you CAN grow  just about everything edible in our desert, year round, if you understand our climate. Cost is $15 and minimum 10 participants for this class to be a go!  Register at or call 480 288 8749.

Why Garden?

Read my contribution to the brand new newsletter by Urban Farm here.

 I hope to see you at one of these events.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Parents - Have you really looked at what is in Chicken Nuggets? And recipes.

Dear Folks,

We have been having a family discussion today about chicken nuggets whether spelled with a "Mc" or not - fast food or frozen food section of the grocery.

The ingredient lists remind me of the old 'parts-is-parts' commercials of some years ago.  In short - chicken nuggets and similar prepared foods are an amalgam of 'parts' and other things.  While some of the fast food places insist their version is mostly chicken breast meat, for instance, they can say that --  if it is 50.1 %.

Every time someone says to a parent - you can make that at home - I know many of them respond with:  1) why, and 2) WHEN!

The fact that homemade conjures up hours over a stove, like the old movies, is as out of touch as most of the modern idea of what food is and where it comes from.

Real, wholesome food is about something that looks like what it is, not canned, pre-made, or packaged.

Okay enough of the 'lecture' -- if you want to read up a little on what a nugget contains you can read here:
. . .

Homemade ground meat with a food processor.
I just did this last week and it only takes a few minutes after freezing.  It took me maybe 2 minutes to cut the meat up to prepare.
Start with any good quality meat:  beef, boneless chicken, boneless pork, or turkey breasts.
Cut into small cubes between 1/2 - 1 inch in size, place on a cookie sheet - not touching - and put in freezer for about 15-20 minutes.  They should feel 'firm' on the outside but not frozen.
The purpose is to keep texture like ground meat and not have it coming out like puree.
Depending on your size food processor, put in enough cubes to just cover the blades.  Pulse until you get a good ground chop - about 7-10 pulses.
The cold meat comes out of the processor without sticking to the blades.  Continue in batches until you have ground all of your meat.
It is ready to use or freeze in packages to use later.  A few extra minutes and you can make up large batches for freezing.
Chicken/Sweet Potato Burgers
Last week I wanted to make up some chicken burgers using some left over sweet potatoes.  I went to the store thinking I would pick up a package of ground chicken.  I was turned off by the label "natural flavoring" added - you need to add flavor to chicken!!!!????
Natural Flavor in case you are not familiar with this term of art is industrial food speak for 'made in a lab' from something probably unrelated to the food item in question.  ICK.

So I chose some organic chicken tenders which happened to be on sale (was way cheaper than the ground chicken package) and followed the general make-your-own-ground-meat tip above.

I had a pound of ground chicken now
shredded up 1 sweet potato
mixed in with a bit of salt and pepper and some of my own dried celery leaf and garlic chives
used my wonderful old TupperWare burger maker and voila - chicken burgers.

I cooked them up in a pan with a knife tip of my fat blend* and Deane declared them wonderful and that he did not think a chicken burger could be as satisfying as a hamburger (my meat and potatoes guy is a good sport but has very particular preferences when it comes to what is satisfying).  I won this one :-)

Here is a link for a recipe for homemade chicken nuggets which I think you and your family could thoroughly enjoy.

I think you could skip the ground meat and use cubes as an option.

The nice thing is you can pre-make them up to ready to put on the tray for baking point and freeze, ready to make whenever.
You can certainly swap out the herbs for others - maybe even try a little mild chili powder for a southwest version.

*for flavor and to reduce the need for too much fat while sauteeing or searing foods, I make a bland of 3 fats in equal portions, gently melted together, poured into a mason jar, capped after completely cooling and I have it ready for use whenever.  A knife tip is literally about a 1/4 to a 1/2 teaspoon.

1/3 each organic butter, organic olive oil, and uncured rendered bacon fat (saved from cooking up the bacon).

For the dipping sauce I recommend my version of dill/onion dip:

1 cup of plain yogurt
1 heaping teaspoon of dried dill weed
1 tablespoon of dried minced onion
a couple of shakes of the salt shaker

Mix all together and let sit in the frig for about an hour to let the flavors blend.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady