Garden, Plant, Cook!

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Update on My Canned Jam Bread/Fruit Cake

Dear Folks,

Well I forgot!

A reader just reminded me I was going to post on whether canning my Jam Bread aka Fruit Cake would work for preserving.  Thank you Terry for the reminder.

It worked great!!

I posted on November 17th about baking my recipe in 8 oz mason canning jars and immediately capping when I pulled them from the oven.

The idea is to cause the heat to vacuum seal the jars and it worked perfectly.  Considering that the jars are coming out of the oven at a toasty 350 degrees, it should always work.  However there is always the possibility of a poor seal.  Also because of the way some of them wound up with less in the jars than others, I wondered about the "air space".  It did not make a difference.

The cakes are still enjoyable having sat in my pantry all this time (did not open one until Christmas Day), and because we wound up with a lot of candy and cookies for the holidays it will be a while before I get to the rest of the canned cakes.  Perfect!!!

So there you have it, a way preserve your favorite cakes without refrigeration and without losing flavor or texture.

Thank you again, Terry for the reminder :-)

Have a best day!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Friday, January 05, 2018

My First Bean Burger/Sausage Recipe

Dear Folks,

Well I have been talking to myself and my guy for several years about finding / trying a recipe to add a bean burger to our regular menu.

I think I nailed it here - Deane says it is a keeper and don't change it, at least for this version.

I've read so many recipes over those years with many comments about "too crumbly", "too dry", "no flavor" etc. 

I NEED to add more beans to my meal planning for 3 reasons:

1) Deane has never met a bean he does not like,
2) I have not been crazy about beans in general, having grown up with overly sweet bean bakes, and
3) Beans are really healthy and need to be part of our regular diet.

So my challenge as always has been to find recipes using beans that I will want to eat.  I can rely on Deane eating any bean dish I make :-)

He would eat a pot of beans, unflavored with just salt and I would be like the kid in that old commercial trying to eat without tasting or swallowing.  You get the picture, I need beans to have flavors I like and generally not taste 'beany".

I have made winning recipes in the past.  And I love a good bean and cheese burrito or a really good bean dip made with cheese and salsa.

Probably my most favorite bean which I could eat all the time is edamame.  I added it to my bean chili recipe below.  The chili recipe came about because I wanted a traditional mid-Mexico version of chili which does NOT use tomatoes in any form, relying on the chili spices.

(I love tomatoes, tomato sauce etc. but I do not like that tomato sauce etc. is the go-to flavoring for people who do not experiment with the wonderful flavors of herbs and spices.)

My Black Bean Humus

Another Humus Recipe - Garbanzo Beans and Artichoke Hearts
Catherine's Potato, Pasta, Bean & Chicken Soup
My Bean Chili

But I really wanted to find a "bean burger" recipe which I could put together easily, did not crumble and had really good flavor for me, i.e., did not taste 'beany."

So to my recipe for burger/sausage.

I was thinking more sausage for this first attempt which means a light "meat" taste so I combined Cannellini Beans with poultry seasoning as the base.  Why?  Because this seasoning blend usually has some great herbs and spices in it, just perfect for pairing with mild beans.

Many of you may remember I developed my own line of salt-free herb/spice blends some years ago (not available now).  One of them was my Poultry Seasoning which contained Rosemary, Thyme, Greek Oregano, Marjoram, Rubbed Sage, Pepper & Ginger.

I went light with the garlic and onion just for a bit of extra flavor without overpowering the other flavors.

I have already started planning my next Bean Burger and I will go towards a robust burger flavor probably with black beans and rosemary as the base.  When I get around to trying it out I will post on the results.

My Bean Burger/Sausage Recipe

1  15 oz. can of Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed well
1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons of oat flour (old fashioned oats whirled in blender)
2 drops of liquid smoke
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
Oil for frying - I used avocado oil

Pre-heat pan on stove.

In a food processor pulse beans to course texture with some smooth.  You want some beans left broken up not all pureed.  Transfer to a bowl.

In a separate bowl mix oat flour and seasonings. Sprinkle over beans, add egg and mix well.

Add oil to hot pan wait for it to heat up.

With your hands form patties.  Keep them about even in size.  Drop in hot pan and press lightly to reduce height to about 1/2 inch thickness.

Cook for about 3-4 minutes then flip and cook for another 3/4 minutes or until done to your liking.  

Notes:  Deane loved them!  My first bite I was not too sure, then added a bit more salt and then we proceeded to eat two each!

Using the oat flour and egg made for an excellent bind.  I knew the beans would mash nicely but needed binding and choosing oats was because I want to add more oats to our meals when possible.  I have recipes for "savory oatmeal" as a side dish in place of rice or pasta (search the blog here for savory oatmeal and see all the ideas from breakfast, to lunch to dinner).

I also went with only dry ingredients except the egg to keep the burger from being too wet to cook properly.  While I love my fresh herbs from the garden, they would not work as well in this form.  Better to pile on after cooking.

Because I was thinking sausage, we tried a couple of taste additions -  how would this be with eggs in the morning?

A tiny bit of maple syrup (nope), he tried a bit of Molasses (nope).  We both settled on a dab of Grey Poupon mustard (me more than he on that).  AND I would not let him put ketchup on them :-)

We did eat these with some avocado slices and cherry tomatoes on the side, a nice compliment.

So, one option the next time is a slice of nice tomato on a plate topped with this "bean sausage" patty and topped with a fried egg.  I also want to try it as a sandwich spread with mustard and a pile of greens and herbs from the garden.

I hope you find this recipe interesting enough to try.

Have a best day in the garden and kitchen,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Thursday, January 04, 2018

My Next Free Lecture - January 20th, Mark Your Calendars!

Dear Folks,

My next free lecture is coming up at Mesa Urban Garden, January 20th, at 1:30 p.m.

Come and bring your questions.

I will be talking about using or not using compost, mulch or rock (gravel) in your garden.  Got rock? Make Gabion!  The one benefit of soil sterilized by rock.  Patience Mulch.

I will also be answering your gardening questions and what to plant now.

SPECIAL EVENT addition to Lecture - a Book Swap!!

Have books on gardening or cooking you are finished with?  Bring them to swap for a new-to-you book(s).  All remaining books after the swap will be used in the MUG's "Little Library".  Bring ONLY books about gardening or cooking.

I am also bringing my seed bank for those looking for some seeds to get growing.  You do not need to bring seeds.

Mesa Urban Garden
Saturday, January 20, 2018
1:30 p.m.

212 E 1st Ave (Northeast Corner of Hibbert and 1st Avenue)
Mesa, AZ 85210
(602) 370-4459


 -- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Potatoes Out - Potatoes In - Tomatoes!

Dear Folks,

On my annual potato planting day (January 1st) I also harvested some Sweet Potatoes (Molokai).

They are now in our outdoor shed near the water heater to "cure."

>>MY CALENDAR << in the top sidebar contains all my recommended planting/sowing dates plus monthly maintenance tips and some recipes.

I could have been harvesting sweet potatoes since Halloween, but with other foods harvestable AND the tomato vine sharing the same bed as the Sweets, I just left them in their own natural storage locker, i.e., the ground :-)

I have 3 types of Sweet Potatoes I planted last summer but the Molokai are the ones I could reach as I still don't want to disturb the tomato - I mean why should I interrupt this regular harvest of nice cherry tomatoes, right?

I saved some organic Idaho Potatoes from Christmas dinner to cut and plant for harvesting late spring.  My method for potatoes has always been to:  loosen the soil, set the potato piece on the soil, maybe nestle a bit, then cover with leaf mulch and continue to add leaf mulch as the plants grow up.  This keeps the sun off the growing tubers AND makes it easier to harvest later.  In the picture you can see I've already covered half of this bed of potatoes with the leaf mulch.

For those of you new to growing Idaho-type potatoes in the valley, you won't get the huge thick-skined ones you purchase in the store.  Because of our summer heat, the potatoes won't go past the "new potato" stage and are delicious and productive in the right conditions.

I may actually have some potato plants coming up in the Sweet Potato/Tomato bed as I had teeny/tiny potatoes at the end of the harvest last spring and I just tossed them back in that bed.

I NEED to figure out a different arrangement this year though as the plants are so happy I can't control them properly.  We will see what I come up with :-)

I had suggested a while back that you'all try growing something new each year, and I said I want to try something new, also.  I have two purple tree collards rooting (hopefully) in pots right now and they are hanging in there.  Always hard to tell when rooting in pots with a new-to-the-garden plant because you don't want to start "tugging" too soon.  I am really hopeful on this unique type of green as I would love to have another green to add to my dinner table mix all year.

I leave you with a nice positive message for this new year.  And Don't Forget To Garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

You can find me on Facebook and easily send me your questions via the private message option.

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Monday, January 01, 2018

In the Garden Turmeric plus, and some Recipe ideas - Happy New Year!

Fresh Turmeric Root
Dear Folks,

Happy New Year!

May your new year be filled with abundance of garden rewards, peaceful days and loving ways.

A friend shared this wonderful picture made by a friend of hers on facebook and it so captured my hope for a positive way of viewing the new year, that I have to share it with you. 

So back to the Tuermeric.

On July 6, 2016 I planted a turmeric root I got from Whole Foods - it popped up August 5, 2016, and I have been letting it grow for the last year and a half, waiting for the leaves to start dying back.

The weather this fall and now early winter has been weird to say the least.  The lingering warm fall has left many of the plants confused.  Just in this last week - literally - everything that was still lush, green and looking like it was not winter - decided it WAS and so the turmeric died back, the fig tree finally shed most of its leaves, the asparagus finally turned umber (ready for cutting to the ground), the citrus ripened early and on and on . . .

The point about growing tropical roots like turmeric and its relative ginger (I've grown ginger for many years) is they can take several years to develop a root system big enough to harvest for use AND have some for replanting.

So yesterday I dug up the turmeric.  The collage shows the plant withered, the whole root mass, the fresh pieces I am keeping for use and the bed replanted and covered with leaf mulch.  I put the biggest of the original root back in and also popped about 4 or 5 other (forgot how many :-)  back in for a new crop.  The pieces I saved measure about 1 to 1 and a half inches.  Good for a start.  OH, and the darkish pieces on the left in the picture is actually part of the old root, so I tossed that back into bed as well.

I mentioned the weird warm fall.  I have been watching the last of my roselle seed pods waiting for them to finish drying and splitting.  Seriously they just kept looking nice and plump and shiny with no drying and then boom - just in the last week, they went from shiny to dry.  Now to harvest for my seed bank. 

Today I will be following my annual tradition of planting potatoes on New Year's day.  I will update on that in another post, as well as more garden happenings.

IN THE Kitchen.

These are more useful tips than using fresh from the garden.

My wonderful guy had some oral surgery, which created a challenge for him to eat anything really solid and for me to find ways of getting nutritious food into him.  Oh sure there are a lot of liquid and smoothie options but that is neither satisfying for him or really enough to keep his spirits up.

Soooo, I went back to a neat grind-your-own-meat tip I discovered and used a couple of years ago.

This idea was from many folks who would like to choose the quality of their ground meat, not just rely on the butcher's choices.  Essentially you can grind any meat into a good "ground consistency" using your freezer and a food processor.  Keep in mind your are looking for something that looks like ground meat but not pate.

My poor guy struggled through our Christmas Roast Beef dinner (we had a couple of family over too) with the roasted meat.

I decided the next day this would not do.  So using the same principle (explained below) I cut up some of the roasted beef into small chunks.

Grinding Your Own Meat

Get a tray or large dish.
Get your food processor out and whatever container you will store the meat in.
Cut the meat up into small cubes - 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch and place, separated, in a single layer, on the tray, put the food processor blade on the tray as well.  Put the tray in the freezer and start your timer. 

It should take between 10-20 minutes depending on the size of the chunks.  At 10 minutes feel a cube of meat.  It should feel firm but not frozen - no "give".

When firm enough, put the blade in the processor, work quickly using a spatula (so you don't warm up the mat) to move the meat to the processor and begin pulsing.  DO NOT over process or you will get pate instead of ground.

In the picture you will see the meat looks like tiny chopped pieces - this is because the meat was already cooked.  Your raw meat will look like, should look like, what you buy in the store.  P.S.  We like our roasts medium rare.

So what did I make with this ground roasted beef?

I used it with left over mashed potatoes and beef gravy, to make a nice comfort meal - mashed potatoes, ground roasted beef, covered with gravy.

Next day, I ground up barley to make a "flour/meal" then made a batter dumpling mix (eggs, barley flour, & salt), brought some beef broth to a rolling boil, dropped spoonfuls of the barley batter into the broth, waited until they rose to the surface then added the ground roasted beef.  A nice hardy meal of beef and barley dumpling soup.

Both my guy could eat and enjoy

Poor Man's Lobster

While watching a youtube cooking video last week, one of the suggested videos on the side bar was for "Poor Man's Lobster."  Well that caught my eye.  Here is the original video.   The gentleman has a nice way about showing a recipe (I subscribed and also saved his "Poor Man's Sausage" for a later meal.)

As I do when I find a recipe I want to try, I look for other ideas of the same type and in doing so I found several variations on the amount of sugar, salt (salt or no salt), and choice of fish.

I chose to change out the proportions of my version.  I will give you some of our after taste thoughts.  Basically we were VERY pleased with the result.  And this was a treat both my guy with his healing mouth, and I could enjoy for New Year's Eve.

My Version of Poor Man's Lobster
Fresh Wild Caught Cod (choose how much you want to make - recipes range from 1/2 a pound all the way up to 2+ pounds. (I used 1 1/3 pounds)
1/2 cup organic sugar
2 tablespoons of kosher salt
Lemon, quartered
Melted butter
Seafood cocktail sauce

You will need a LARGE pot.  There is a chance while cooking that it may want to boil over and you have to keep the heat adjusted to keep it boiling but to keep from boiling over.  This is truly a watched pot recipe - do not leave the stove while you are cooking this.

You will need a tray or plate.  I covered with paper towel to absorb any excess water.  You will need a slotted spoon or spider to life the fish when done.

IMPORTANT tip. after you add the fish DO NOT STIR.  The sugar, salt and lemon create a chemical reaction firming the fish up so if you stir you will break the pieces up.

Fill the pot to 1/2 to 3/4 full
Bring to a full rolling boil and add salt and sugar, stir to make sure it is dissolved.
Add half of the lemon (2 quarters).

Cut fish into 1 inch or so cubes.  Begin dropping in the fish a little at a time so you don't drop the temperature too much.  Once all the fish is in watch but DO NOT STIR.  All of the pieces will drop to the bottom of the pot.

You can skim foam, just do not stir.  After a few minutes you will see the fish pieces bobbing to the surface.  You can start to remove them a few at a time, still not stirring, just skim them up and drop on your prepared tray.  Once a few start to rise the rest follow quickly.

Use the other half of the lemon to squeeze a bit of juice over all the fish.  Then serve with melted butter, cocktail sauce, and/or other seasonings (dill, parsley, paprika etc.)


We first tasted the fish with just the lemon.  Very nice taste.  Then we tried both butter and cocktail sauce alternating.  We actually wound up eating half of the pan!!  (Since it was just us we just took the pan to the table with our respective drinks and dug in.)

1)  I waited a bit too long to start taking the fish out, so it was a bit more flaky than intended.  Next time I will make sure to remove as soon as they start floating to the surface.
2) The salt and sugar provide multiple levels of flavor and this first try we agreed I could have used more of each.  I went for the lessor proportions of both (the video gentleman did not mention salt - other recipes did) figuring I should try less this first time.  Next time I will use about a heaping quarter cup of salt and about 3/4 cup of sugar.
3) This is a keeper of a dish.  We have some left over and I am thinking of making a "lobster roll' type sandwich.  OR we can just use the cocktail sauce and finish them up as a light lunch :-)
Happy New Year.  I leave you with another fun graphic.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Check out the two versions of my new perpetual gardening calendar.

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