Garden, Plant, Cook!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Cranberry/Pistachio Biscotti - Gluten Free and Delicious

Dear Folks,

Probably every family has at least one family member with some food allergies.  One of them may be gluten.  The challenge is to make something they can eat and the rest of us can enjoy too.

While researching recipes a number of years ago on gluten issues, I was turned off by some of the replacement ingredients like xanthan gum and hard to find flours.  So as I usually do, I decided to step back and look at flours more readily available which had no gluten and while doing so I reached into my "memory bank" of how can I make this more nutritious.  And Beans and Grains popped up!  Specifically soy beans and rice and corn.  So I cobbled this recipe together and it was such a winner, I almost was not allowed to mail them to the intended family member :-)

I thought the cranberries and pistachios gave a lovely Christmasy look to the cookies and who does not like chocolate!

So without further ado here is my gluten free and delicious biscotti recipe. 

If you are not familiar with this cookie it is a traditional Italian cookie which means twice-baked. You will see how below.


1/2 cup dried cranberries (you can use dried cherries instead)
1/2 cup boiling water

1 cup each: white cornmeal, brown rice flour and soy flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 jumbo eggs (in place 1 egg try 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree for a little extra flavor if you like)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, halved or rough chopped (leave in large pieces)
1 package dark chocolate chips (12 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Place cranberries in boiling water and let stand until cranberries are plump about 15 minutes, drain and set aside.

Sift flours, baking powder and salt together.

Place chocolate chips in top of double boiler or on very low setting on stovetop to melt - you want them melted when the cookies are ready for dipping.

Prepare two large cookie sheets - one sprayed with vegetable spray for baking (or use parchment paper) and one lined with aluminum foil or syran wrap for chilling the dipped cookies. Set aside.

In an electric mixer beat butter and sugar together very well. Add eggs and mix in very well, add vanilla, mix well. Begin adding dry ingredients a little at a time until all are incorporated together. Stir in nuts and cranberries. This dough will be more like a very thick batter.

On the sprayed cookie sheet, spread the batter into two long rows about 2 inches wide, pat or tap into place so they are evenly thick all over - use flowered hands.

Bake for 18-20 minutes but watch carefully so they do not burn.

Remove from oven and let cool until you can hold them for cutting. When cool enough slice each loaf into 3/4 to 1 inch wide pieces and arrange back on the cookie sheet cut side down. Return to over for about 8 minutes - watch carefully. The cookies should just brown lightly on the exposed edges.

Remove from oven and get the foil prepared cookie sheet. When the cookies are cool enough to handle, dip the bottom of each in the melted chocolate and place on cookie sheet, and put in the freezer for 15 minutes or the refrigerator for 1 hour to firm up the chocolate.

*I chose the flours for maximum protein.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady If you enjoyed this post, subscribe below by entering your email, to get all my posts!
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

My New Calendar, Planting Information For Each Month - Desert Southwest and USDA Zone 9b+

Dear Folks,

Here it is.

My new calendar, designed for you to use each month, year after year.  Add your own notes from your garden observations.

I've added in some recipes, herb and food pairings suggestions, and added more maintenance information where appropriate.

The monthly planting/sowing information is developed from recommendations and my own gardening "trowel & error" over more than 3 decades, as my gardens taught me what worked and when.  All the pictures are from my gardens and kitchen.

All the monthly recommendations are based on 'best success' for our desert year-round gardening opportunity.  I highly encourage every gardener to experiment.  If you want to push the envelope on when to plant, go for it.

I have enjoyed making a new calendar each year, with new pictures from garden, and it has been kind of exciting to make a new one each year.

However, I realized there was not a lot of space for YOU to make your own notes as your garden taught you its characteristics.

Outside of the occasional new-to-me plant the information does not change year over year, so I decided a "permanent" calendar with the ability to add your own notes would be a good gardening thing.

You will see the links displaying a side wards picture, as the calendar is an 11 x 8.5 opening to a 11 x 17 size which can be used at your desk or hole punched for hanging on the wall.  [Technically, for design purposes the "calendar" format would not work to give the additional space for the information I wanted to include, so the marketing picture is side wards.]

Under each link picture is a "preview" which will show you some pages of the calendar.

The Print Edition purchase link is here.

The PDF Edition is identical to the print edition, but can be read on any device you have which reads PDF files.  And, of course, you can print out pages if you wish to keep a journal with your own notes.

The PDF Edition purchase link is here.

The Print Edition will be available on other sites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble later - usually within 30 days.

I hope you find this calendar a great gardening tool.

Have a best day in the garden, and kitchen,


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Plant Potatoes! And other January Planting Tips

Dear Folks,

My annual tradition is to plant my potatoes (the Irish kind - sweet potatoes are planted in May-July) on January 1st to celebrate the new year.  I also like to suggest you try a new edible to honor your new year.

Planting Potatoes.  I plant two "sizes".  I save the smallest ones from last harvest to replant.  And, if I have some organic ones left over from the holidays I cut into sections with an "eye" or two on each section and let air dry at least a day.

In the collage to the side here you, see the cut ones ready to plant.  I loosen the soil in the bed I will be using and lay the potatoes on top of the soil, then cover with leaf mulch.  I will continue to cover the plants as they grow with mulch to ensure the growing potatoes never see the light of day to stop "greening" which is a toxic condition* that cannot be cooked out.  A little bit of green on your potatoes won't hurt you but a lot will.   *Solanine is a glyco-alkaloid found in plants of the nightshade family, usually in the leaves and certain fruits.  Tomatoes for instance are safe to eat - the leaves are not.

From Internet-UnivOf-Calif
This year I am waiting for the arrival of some Purple Tree Collards, my "new" plant to try, and will be seeing how they grow in the gardens this year.  I have been wanting to try these in my gardens for a couple of years and kept missing best-shipping-time (fall/early winter) for ordering.

Brassica oleracea var. acephala is a variety of collard,  perennial in USDA Zones 8-10 and can grow 6-10 feet tall.  They can only be reproduced from cuttings.

I am hoping for more diverse greens year round with these plants.


SEED Selection:  Where possible choose short maturity (75 days or less) for maximum production.  Plant short rows in succession of veggies like carrots ( 2 feet at a time) to provide continuous harvest potential (can you really use 12 feet of carrots all at once?).  Also, start seeds like tomato, basil, eggplant and peppers  indoors under lights or in a greenhouse to set out February 1st (with frost protection)

Bok Choy
Fennel, Leaf
Fruit, Bare Root
Fruit Trees
Garlic, Green (planting cloves for use as scallions through spring - they will NOT produce heads)
Greens (lettuce, kale, arugula, spinach etc.) 
Onions, Green
Oregano, Greek
Ornamental Cabbage/Kale (Brassica Oleracea)
Peppers (seed)
Shungiku Chrysanthemum


Carnation (Dianthus)
English Daisy
Jasmine Sambac (Arabian)
Scented Geraniums (with protection)
Stocks (Matthiola)
Sweet William (Dianthus)
Sweet Alyssum

GARDEN TIPS for January
    As we are nearing the end of the primary perennial planting season, I like to celebrate the start of the new year by planting at least one new plant on January 1st.  This year I am going try Purple Collard Trees (see above).
    Celebrate New Year’s Day by planting potatoes. (I like the purple ones because they are unusual and have more anti-oxidants.)
    November through January can be a ‘rainy’ season for the desert. You can usually hold off on regular watering (keep trees on your normal schedule) if you have received a half inch or more of rain within 2 days of normal watering days.  Make good use of your water meter to determine soil moisture.
    If rains are heavy this month, in addition to foregoing some water days, you may need to put down Ironite or green sand to compensate for mineral bonding (which makes iron unavailable to the plants) due to both the excess water and the cold soil.
    Prune citrus and deciduous fruit trees no later than early January before flowering starts.  Shrub trees such as pineapple guava which bloom in late spring, need to be pruned later -- in April approximately.

WHY Edible Flowers? To attract pollinators to your fruit, herbs and veggies year round and to use as safe garnishes and additions to your dining table.

FROST damage:  Do not prune until danger of frost is over - the damaged plant protects the lower growth.

FROST/FREEZE NOTE: Have protective covers ready anytime the overnight forecast is 40 or lower.


One of the delights of spring is the peach and apricot bloom time - clouds of light to dark pink flowers cover the ends of the tree branches with the bees busily doing their work.

Just as the tree's flower buds are starting open you can select a few branches to 'force' into bloom inside for a lovely arrangement.  I emphasize 'a few' because you will loose that potential fruit.

Select a branch and clip off 12-18 inches - arrange in a vase of room temperature water or slightly warmer, after re-cutting the branches under water.  You will be treated to a spring display as one after another of the flower buds are 'forced' to open in the warmth of your home.  Change or freshen the water each day - if you need to, re-cut the branch, under water, every several days to keep the moisture flowing up to the buds.

At the end of the display, add to the compost pile, or dry and use as kindling for the grill or firepit.

Coming Soon!

My New Perpetual Month-By-Month Calendar!

I am waiting for the proof copy.  This new calendar will be available in print and PDF form.

If you have family in USDA Zone 9b and above, the planting information would be helpful for them too.

I really have enjoyed creating a new yearly calendar for the last several years, bringing you new photos from the garden and adding new edibles I have grown.

I just think it is time to give you a calendar you can make your own notes on with what you "learn" from your garden!

There will be space in each month to jot seasonal information unique to your garden with extra space in the middle of the calendar for additional notes.  I am including a few recipes too!

With the PDF you can print out the pages as you need to make notes, or simply refer to the calendar as needed on any of your devices which can read a PDF.

Watch for my release posts.  The calendars will be available first through my publisher and then through sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

If you missed my post on the 25 Days of Herbs Celebrations plus, here is the link.

Have a safe and wonderful month in the garden and kitchen!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Make Yule Log with Wood, Herbs and Citrus From The Garden.

Yule Log
Dear Folks,

Check out my "16th Day of Herbs & Celebrations" craft project, using fun plants from your garden.

25 Days of Herbs and Celebrations Day 16.

The Yule Log is an old tradition used by both pagans and Christians for different celebrations. 

It is a fun project for the family to create for use in your fireplace, firepit or chiminea (do check on burn restrictions because of air quality).  Parts of the prior years log were saved as kindling for the current year.

Pictured.  I used Rosemary, Myrtle, an Orange citrus rind to hold some dried Roselle, and  few pieces of paper ribbon, glued to a cut branch of one of our peach trees.

If you make this week, it will dry in time to light December 24th or 25th (the wood needs to be already very dry).

Look for my post in a couple of days for January Planting Tips.

Have a Best Day in your Garden and Kitchen!


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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