Garden, Plant, Cook!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

In The Garden and In The Kitchen

Dear Folks,

I thought I would share with you some of the things going on in the garden and my kitchen.

First up - I saw a very intriguing recipe for roasting a whole head of cauliflower instead of breaking it up into pieces (done that and they are good), and I found a beautiful organic cauliflower so I dove into the recipe.

I have modified it slightly.  The link to the original recipe will be below my version.  We thought this turned out very well.  I do have to find a very mild version of chili powder as this was just a wee bit too bity for Deane.  The original recipe called for twice as much chile powder and curry powder. I halved the chile and used ground ginger instead of the curry and it was really tasty.  It was even good cold the next day.

Roasted Cauliflower Head

Oil spray or a bit of oil
1 head cauliflower
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 tablespoons chile powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400̊ and lightly grease a small baking sheet with vegetable oil. Set aside.

Trim the base of the cauliflower to remove any green leaves and the woody stem.

In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt with the lime zest and juice, chile powder, cumin, garlic powder, curry powder, salt and pepper.

Dunk the cauliflower into the bowl and use a brush or your hands to smear the marinade evenly over its surface. (Excess marinade can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to three days and used with meat, fish or other veggies.)

Place the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheet and roast until the surface is dry and lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes. The marinade will make a crust on the surface of the cauliflower.

Let the cauliflower cool for 10 minutes before cutting it into wedges.

Original Recipe Here

Next I made another version of my seed crackers.  These are great and have a lot of flexibility in your choice of ingredients.  Basically you want 1 cup of ground seeds or nuts or a combination.  I like to add a couple of tablespoons of flax seed.  You had shredded cheese, herbs and spices, a bit of salt and water or liquid to moisten.  You need a cookie, sheet, parchment paper or aluminum foil AND wax paper and a rolling pin.  I use a bullet grinder for grinding the seeds/nuts.

The nice thing about these crackers is they can be baked in the sun too!  In the summer time I just arrange them to dry in the sun like my other sun dried fruits and herbs.  Works great!  You need a 90 degree plus day and exposure to full sun for 6-8 hours.  You may want to flip them over after 4 hours.   If they do not dry completely at the end of the first day, bring them inside overnight to avoid re-moisturizing, then put them out the next day.  At 95-100 degrees they usually dry in about 4 hours!

These can be addicting, but not to worry, they are high in protein and fiber and you can choose any combination of seed, nut, cheese and herb.

My original recipe had a more robust flavor and I was looking for milder here.  And I wanted the lemon flavor to "pop".

Lemon/Rosemary Seed Crackers

1 cup sunflower seeds, ground
2 tablespoons golden flax seeds, ground*
2 tablespoons seasame seeds, leave whole
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup finely shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1 tablespoon crushed dried rosemary (if using fresh use 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped)
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup of juice from the lemon (but you may not need all of it).

*Gold flax seeds are milder in flavor than the regular

Heat oven to 350.

I have a bullet grinder but you can use any kind of grinder you need to grind the seeds if not already ground.

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir, add cheese, stir again, then add lemon juice a little at a time until you have a moist but not soggy "mash" and mix well so everything is moistened.

Spread on aluminum foil, silpat or parchment paper. Cover with a piece of wax paper and roll out to even depth - about 1/8 - 1/4 inch, and even up the sides a bit by squaring off. Use a long straight blade to score - you don't have to cut all the way through - it just makes it easier to break up after they cool.

Bake 15-18 minutes and watch carefully - if they start to brown too much remove.  Let cool completely and break apart. Store in air tight container unrefrigerated.

Better Butter do you know this old favorite introduced by Adele Davis?  If not you should consider making it for your family.  Every dairy company has come up with their version of spreadable "butters".  The problem is they contain a lot of unnecessary ingredients.  Davis' Better Butter was simply a mix of real butter and an oil.

Over the years I have used mostly olive oil, which does give it a distinctive taste, which I liked but Deane, not so much.  I 'discovered' avocado oil a couple of years ago, thanks to one of our great vendors at the Mesa Farmers Market and I use it a lot because of its mild non-distinctive taste.  Plus like olive oil - it is good for you.

The avocado oil lets the sweet taste of the organic butter really shine through.  Why salted butter?  You need a bit of salt to make this taste better than the store bought spreads.

Pictured if My Better Butter and My Triple Fat version for saute, or frying anything.  The round container holds the Triple Fat, the other the Better Butter.

About the triple fat:  I wanted a bit of the taste of bacon, so I routinely save uncured, no nitrates added, bacon fat/drippings*.  I wanted the oil and butter combination too, so I dreamed up this perfect blend of fats.  A tiny amount, maybe a teaspoon, is all you need to add the flavor and slip for cooking.  I have also used on Chicken or Turkey roasts to create, along with a nice selection of herbs, a coating which keeps the poultry moist and flavored at the same time.

Catherine's Better Butter

1/2 cup (1 stick) of room temperature organic butter
1/2 cup of avocado oil

In a high-speed blender (I have used my waring, but I mostly use my Bullet for this job), pour in the oil and cut the butter into 4 or 5 pieces.  Blend until completely emulsified - usually about 15 seconds.  Pour into a container, cap and refrigerate.  This keeps very, very well.

Catherine's Triple Cooking Fat

1/3 cup uncured bacon fat
1/3 cup avocado or olive oil
1/3 cup organic butter

In a small sauce pan, over low heat melt the bacon fat and butter, add oil and stir to combine well. Pour immediately into a jar, cap and refrigerate.  This also keeps very, very well.

*Uncured bacon, for those who understand about the naturally occurring nitrates, these uncured bacon are actually dosed in celery juice or powder, which have naturally occurring nitrates as the "cure".  I'm fine with that since they don't add any more industrial strength nitrates.

In The Garden 

I harvested a bunch of green tomatoes (the plants took a major hit with these freezes) to ripen in the house and hung one of the dead plants with fruit in the trees to continue to ripen.  These can taste pretty good ripened like this, not as great as sun ripened, but usable.


After being out of the loop for almost a year of getting anything meaningful done in the garden I am trying to be better prepared for spring.  I began the day after Christmas starting seeds for transplanting in my garden and also for sale at the Mesa Farmers Market.  With the cold an issue, I pre-soaked each batch of seeds and then popped them into Jiffy Pellets.  To maximize sun, I got a plastic tub to act as my green house and place the tub in the sun during the day, then cover and put in our laundry shed which has the hot water heater in it, to keep them cozy at night.

So far a couple of the basils are up, as is one of the tomatoes, an eggplant and one of the sweet peppers is sprouting.

In a week or two I will start sunflowers, cantaloupe and watermelon (I have an heirloom variety coming that I think will be fun to try).

I expect to have my "Starts" (as I call the Jiffys) ready for sale the first week in February.  These starts are easier for folks as you just pop them in the ground, minimizing transplant shock.

Do you know "Wonderberry" (Solanum burbankii)?  This fun member of the ground cherry family has been happily reseeding in my garden for quite a few years now.  A sturdy relative of the tomato and tomatillo, these tiny berries are sweet with just a hint of 'tomato' flavor in the background.  They pretty much grow year round, finishing fruiting, dried fruits drop on the ground and re-seed to come up again in a couple of months.  They seem to not mind the freeze/frost unlike the tomatoes which took a big hit with the freeze.

I will see if I can have seed for either this Free Seed Share coming up or the next one.  The berries are completely black and shiny when ripe.  You can see a mix of ripe and unripe in the photo.

You can also find the seed for sale at Baker Creek.

I hope you are enjoying your garden and making good things in the kitchen!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

February Gardening Tips

Dear Folks,

A few tips for this coming month.  February is the last month to plant cool weather annuals like cilantro and dill and is the start of the planting time for Tender Perennials like tomatoes, basil, eggplant, peppers etc.

GARDEN TIPS for February

FROST:  The last frost date averages around February 15th, although we have had frost as late as March 1st or 2nd (usually the result of a late winter storm with hail).

Frost in the Valley at the 1100 or lower elevations is usually limited to ‘soft frost' where simple sheets or paper placed over sensitive plants (or moving potted plants beneath patios or trees) is sufficient to protect them.

For every 1000 feet over 1100 in elevation the last frost day is moved back 10 days and the possibility of hard (killing) frosts starts to occur. At 2000 feet or lower, this is still a rare occurrence.

Getting your edible seedlings in the ground as early as possible provides longer-produce seasons - especially with plants like tomatoes.

Use homemade 'cloche' covers to protect seedlings -- cut the bottom of gallon milk containers or 2 liter soda bottles - clean very well to avoid mold -- place over plants each night until frost danger is past, remove during the day, or if you need to be gone for several days remove the cap to allow excess heat and humidity to escape.

How do you know if we are finished with frost? There are some examples in nature, but you still need to be prepared to cover sensitive plants through the 2nd week in March.

Ant activity in the garden indicates the soil has warmed up sufficiently for them to start gathering food again.

If the mesquite trees have started to bud out, it is unlikely to frost after that.

Be aware that a warm storm can contain some hail through March.

February is the last optimal month for early (before heat) perennial planting.

Fertilize fruit trees now -- Use Valentine's day as the target -- (and again in late May and early September).

Have a great day!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My Wall Calendar 

My books


amazon - print

Barnes & Noble - print and Nook ebook