Garden, Plant, Cook!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Broccoli Soup on the light Side, From the Gardens & Sugarpea Support

Dear Folks,

Our neighbor got her garden up and running this past fall and it sure produced.  Deane helped her build a large raised bed and after a couple of false starts it took off.

I need to do a post on the building of this bed for her.

She gifted us with some broccoli and I've been trying to think of something special to do with it and was checking recipe ideas for roasting when I came across a delicious sounding, no milk or cream, roasted broccoli soup.

Roasting always gives vegetables a great taste because it will lightly caramelize the sugars, and in the case of broccoli, tame some of the "mustard" notes.

I give you the original recipe below.

Broccoli was the only ingredient in the original recipe I had!  Ha!  I substituted type of potato, onion, cheese and acid, and added my own garnish.

So I improvised as I frequently do.  We were really pleased with the way it turned out.  Lighter because of no milk or cream, but the taste was rich, full and great.  And I added a garnish of some of our sugar peas and sugar pea flower and also some Stock flowers.  The Stock flower is an edible member of the broccoli family so I thought that was appropriate.
Sugar Peas with Flower

Roasted Broccoli, Potato, Cheese Soup
Makes about 3-4 cups

Inspired by:

2 tablespoons of avocado oil
1 medium size head of Broccoli
1 potato
4 ounces white American cheese
handful of I'iotoi Onion tops
2 cups of water
salt and cracked black pepper

sugar peas and sugar pea flower and stock flower for garnish

An immersion blender works best for this, or you can use a counter blender working in batches and return to the pot to continue cooking.

Stock Flowers
Heat oven to 450, prepare a pan.

Cut broccoli up including stalks.
Clean and cut potato into about 1 inch chunks - I leave peels on
Snip onion tops
Shred or cube cheese and set aside
Cut up sugar pea for garnish into 1/2 inch pieces, set aside

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium size pot.

Spread broccoli in pan, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of oil over, season with some salt and cracked black pepper, stir and roast for  5 minutes.

While the broccoli is roasting add onion to hot oil in pot, stir and reduce heat and cook for about 5 minutes more, stirring as needed.

Add water and potatoes to pot bring to a boil, add a bit of salt, cover and cook at a low boil.

Stir broccoli and roast for 5 minutes more.  When the broccoli is finished add to pot, keep at a low boil, cover and cook until all are tender - about 7 minutes.

Using the immersion blender puree.  I like to leave some chunks in the soup.

Add cheese to melt, stirring into the soup to combine.

Serve with garnish of sugar peas and flowers.  Squeeze a bit of lime juice over each bowl. 

By the way, after trying several different methods of staking our sugarpeas we came up with a zig-zag bending of hogwire set up using a couple of bamboo poles for stability.  We put the fence in AFTER the vines were already growing and it is working but it will work better next year when I put the fence up FIRST then sow.  Also I did a denser sowing of the peas and the production shows the good result of this decision.  I just sowed a few more to get me through spring.  You can see the pretty pink/rose colored flowers of the sugarpea variety "Pea Magnolia Blossom Tendril". Love the color and the peas.

Our asparagus will be coming up in a few weeks and I think an asparagus, potato, cheese soup will be on the menu later on. 

* If you have not taken my survey in the upper side bar, I sure would appreciate your input. Votes are anonymous and your preferences are important to me.  Thank you. *


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Another Bean Dish and Around the Garden!

Purple Tree Collard - New Shoots at Root
Dear Folks,

I put together another bean dish, but first news around the garden.

* Note: Please take a minute and take my survey in the upper side bar here on the blog. Thank you. *

Purple Tree Collard Cuttings are taking!!!!

Super excited about this.  I ordered two cuttings of this, hopefully, perennial green to be able to harvest leaves year round.  Each cutting was about 8 inches tall. I received them on December 13th, stuck them in water for 2 days and potted them up on December 15th.

According to the instructions I kept the two pots in a mostly shaded area (about 2 hours of sun a day) when I noticed both were 'drying' from the top. Not a good sign, but the bases were still green.  I took the more challenged one and put it in the greenhouse with the rest of my seedlings starts.

The picture above is the base of the one in the greenhouse. yay!

Next is the picture of the one in the shade.

The stalk has stayed more green and while no growth is showing at the base there are buds coming from the side of the stalk.  This third picture shows the buds just peaking from the side of the shade growing plant.

I will keep you posted on how these do.  So, what is a Purple Tree Collard if you are not familiar with them?

Brassica oleracea var is a type of collard, perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10.  Unlike their cousins standard collards, these plants can be a "tree" 5-10 feet tall, and can be harvested year round.

The challenge in growing them is they can not be grown from seed but must be grown from a cutting.  Also here in the valley, the summer may be a real challenge.  Because of that I plan on growing one in mostly full sun and one in a partially shaded area where I have a happy Arabian Jasmine and a Gardenia doing well.  It will be interesting to see how both fair in two pretty extreme sun conditions. [This is my typical method of determining where an edible is happiest - trying in 2 or 3 different sun access spots in the garden.]

For more information, a google search will get you a lot of results including many youtube videos of this nutrient powerhouse:  calcium, fiber, anti-oxidants, and vitamins A, C, and K and probably anthoxanthins because of the purple.  FYI I ordered from a seller on eBay.  I was happy with the fast service and the cuttings arrived fine.  More FYI - if you even think you want to try these, order ASAP so the cuttings do not sit in shipper heat as we go forward into spring.

I have been harvesting tasty veggies from the garden.  Those are a sweet pepper ("Lipstick") variety. The plant is about 3 years old now and happy in its spot.  The sugar peas have really been pumping out these great snacks.

Our Moro Blood Orange is ripe early this year.  Like the navels we have been harvesting since mid-December (again early), I think they both benefited from our long warm fall into winter weather.  The Moro fruit continues to get deeper and deeper red in color the longer we leave the fruit on the tree.  Besides fresh eating like these slices. the juice is not only gorgeous but delicious.


I make a "left over" soup that everyone loves.  So, I had homemade broth, leftover frozen turkey, left over potatoes and carrots from holiday cooking.  Lots of protein, taste, different textures and if I remember (I did not this time) I garnish with a fist full of shredded greens from the garden.

Left Over Turkey / Bean /Potato Soup

Ratio of ingredients is whatever you have on hand, I try to equal the components more or less.

Homemade Turkey Broth from holiday cooking
Turkey Meat cooked (I froze then thawed for soup) diced
1 good size potato, diced, peel left on
1 can of Cannellini Beans, drained but not rinsed
4 carrots (I had some left over from holiday cooking), shredded
4 bay leaves and a teaspoon of dried thyme - both from my garden
Optional:  Pasta of choice.  I did not add pasta this time, but usually use an Orzo or Pastini

Bring broth to boil and cook potatoes for 10 minutes covered.  Add carrots and herbs and cook 2 more minutes.  Add turkey and bring to boil and cook for 4-5 more minutes.  Add beans, bring back to a boil and it is ready to serve.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

And now for my new bean recipe *drum roll please*

My Aztec Chili (Chili of the Americas)

My very first more authentic chili recipe I developed more than 10 years ago around the chili powder spice sauce served to me with homemade enchiladas, more like a maize thick pancake, and the sauce was from heaven.  Click here for that recipe

In recreating the sauce, I decided that NO tomatoes would be used and it was a winner (and there were no tomatoes in the amazing sauce years ago).

With this recipe I delved into the true
indigenous food of the Americas, what the Aztec and Mayan peoples would have eaten.

Everything in this recipe except the ground black pepper is a food of the Americas.

I think it turned out great.  The only challenge I had was the chili powder proved too hot for my sweet guy, but the flavor was outstanding.  Looking for very mild chili powder now.

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
1 15 oz can vegetarian refried beans
1 15 oz can black beans with liquid
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons of oil (I used avocado oil)
1 tablespoon minced dried onion
1/2 teaspoon granular garlic (I used my dried garlic)
1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
about 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
1 sprig of epazote or 1 tablespoon of dried
Optional:  Add 1 more can of drained whole beans of your choice.  Adjust salt to taste.

Optional:  Add 1 pound plus or minus of cooked meat, ground or shredded

Heat oil in heavy pot and stir in onion and garlic.  Stir 1 minute.  Add 1/2 cup of water and all of the spices except for the epazote and stir 1 minute.  Add pumpkin, stir to combine.  Add refried beans, stir to combine.  Add black beans and liquid and 1/2 cup of water.  Heat to simmer. Add epazote and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove epazote sprig if you like.

Serve with bread or crackers or over wild rice or a baked potato (wild rice and potatoes are also foods of the Americas).

Like my first Chili recipe this one, these are Pantry Meals, meaning you can make something really delicious and nutritious from shelf-stable foods.  I am going to be working more on that concept.  Fresh is always wonderful and optimal, however having some shelf-stable options is also a good thing.

I hope you took a minute to take my survey in the upper side bar here. Thank you.

Have a best day in the garden and kitchen!

Oh and watch for my next event at Mesa Urban Garden.  TBA when we have all the details worked out.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Help Me By Taking My Survey.

Dear Folks,

Take my poll here on the blog in the upper side bar.  You can choose multiple answers.

The sale of the eBundle of Sustainable topics I promoted just finished.

This library of books and more in PDF form included one of my books plus books from 52 other authors on subjects ranging from cooking to homesteading to sustainable practices, raising livestock, preserving food and more.

The value of this type of offering is a big savings over the value of the individual books.  If you individually purchased just 2 of the books it would have been equal to the deeply discounted value of the entire collection of 53 authors.

I want to know YOUR thoughts on the idea of PDF bundle of books, and PDFs in general (do you like them or prefer hard copies of material) and whether you would want to see future offers.

I have opportunities to participate in various platforms in the future to get informative material to you to help you garden, cook, preserve and generally help you make your life more sustainable and green.

One of the options is short videos by me.  I currently have some on my youtube channel.  I would like to know if you want me to do more on a regular basis?

I would like to know where your preferences are.  The poll will be open for two weeks.

Take my poll here on the blog in the upper side bar.  You can choose multiple answers.
THANK you for taking the poll.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Special Bonus Recipe Collection - With eBundle Purchase.

Dear Folks,

The Back 2 Basics 2018 eBundle sale is ending January 23, at 11:59 p.m.

Why should you consider this eBundle?    Always a good question on any purchase.  Every time we have a disaster of some sort, or even crazy politics impacting everyday life for many, I can't help but think Food, Shelter, Water and Income, not necessarily in that order.  What is the common denominator of those 4 essentials of life?  Who has the most control over them?  You/your family, or "others"?  If you have the most control of the where, when and how, you are better able to provide for yourself and your family. 

Just something to think about.


If you purchase the bundle, I will send you my Basil Recipe Collection PDF.  FREE!

I put together 12 recipes featuring basil as the prime herb.  Some unique, if I do say so myself.  From dips and soups to meals to cocktails, these recipes run through some fun ways to use this wonderful herb, fresh or dried.

To get the PDF you will need to send me your order number and email address.

catherine at herb2u dot net

This link takes you to my blog post page with all the contents in the ebundle and links to read more and purchase.

Whether you choose to purchase the Back 2 Basics 2018 eBundle or not, I thank you for taking a look.

Have a best day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

February Planting / Sowing Tips

Dear Folks,

I am duplicating my planting tips from last February with a few additional notes.

So far this winter is shaping up to be another "warm" one which means we have to be extra diligent in our pest control when the temperatures start rising.  The pests like aphids and leaf-foot predators like the warming days and cool nights.

Also, I will be eager later on this spring to see if we wound up getting ENOUGH chill hours to get a garlic harvest.  Last year's warm weather did not "force" the formation of garlic heads.  With that in mind you may wish to consider harvesting young garlic for use as a "scallion" in your cooking, as they may die back without forming a head and then you lose all that nice green and mild bulb.

If we DO receive more frost/freeze in the coming weeks, and they are at good near 32 or a bit above/below, the garlic should form.

[Pictured: Poor Man's Cloche]


Artichoke; Asparagus; Basil; Bay; Bean, Lima; Beets; Bok Choy; Cantaloupe; Carrots; Chard; Citrus Scented Marigold (Tagetes Nelsonii); Collards; Corn; Cucumbers; Epazote; Fruit Trees; Jerusalem Artichoke; Lavender; Lettuce & Greens; Marigold; Marjoram; Melon, Musk Melon; Melon, Winter; Mint; Mustard; Onion, Sets; Onions, Green; Oregano; Peas; Peppers; Potatoes; Purslane; Radishes; Sage; Savory; Spinach; Squash, Summer; Strawberry; Thyme; Tomatoes; Turnips; Watermelon


Bee Balm (Monarda Didyma); English Daisy ; Hollyhock; Jasmine Sambac (Arabian); Pansies; Primrose; Purslane; Safflower; Scented Geraniums; Snapdragons; Sunflower; Sweet Alyssum; Tangerine Scented Marigold (Tagetes Lemonii)

Frost/Freeze:  Average last frost day is approximately February 15th, however frost and hail has been seen as late as the second week in March.  It is best to have your frost covers handy.

GARDEN TIPS for February

February is the transition time for the garden from Winter to Spring sowing, transplanting and harvesting.

There is still time to get a last batch of carrots, sugarpeas, lettuces and similar in the ground. Choosing short maturity varieties, particularly of the root veggies, will give you more harvesting success as the weather jumps to heat in a couple of months.

February is also the time to start your warm season plants like tomatoes, basil and peppers, to name a few.  But they may need some initial frost protection.  Keep in mind that they may actually stop growing if there is a cold day or several, which chills the soil.  Then they resume when the soil heats back up (an interesting phenomenon I finally caught on to several years ago).

The weird weather of the last couple of years in February/March with high temps followed by overnight chill/freeze (Global Weirding as Karis over at the Valley Permaculture Alliance put it so well), makes for some required diligence in the garden in February and March.  It pays to remain more mindful of what the weather will be rather than just sow and try to grow.

February is the end of the primary perennial best planting time in the valley (October - February).  What this means is that to ensure the best success for your perennials like rosemary, oregano and fruit trees, it is best to have them in the ground before the end of February and the beginning of our temperature increases.

New to-the-valley residents can be surprised by the common spring joke of "when is spring here?" and the answer is "do you remember that period in early March when it was about 78-83 or so degrees for about 2 weeks? - that was it!"

This of course is due to the sudden rise of temperatures from balmy mid 70s in late February / early March to the 90s by April 1st (or higher - we have had the rare 100+ degree days in late March or early April).

The plants just can't take the stress of dealing with putting down roots while the temperatures soar into the 90+ range in just a few short weeks.

Fertilize fruit trees now -- Use Valentine's day as the target -- (and again in late May (Memorial Day) and early September (Labor Day).
    Pecan trees need zinc sulfate, applied at the rate of 1 pound per trunk inch width.

    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. Hard/Killing frosts are rare particularly in February/March.
    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.
        a. Ant activity in the garden indicates the soil has warmed up sufficiently for them to start gathering food again.
        b. If the mesquite trees have started to bud out, it is unlikely to frost after that
        c. Be aware that a warm storm can contain some hail through March.

    Here in the Valley we can have Hail on an expected basis in Spring, early Summer and Fall.
    The perfect conditions for Hail are warm OR WARMING soil, cool air mass coming in AND wind.

    February and March have the perfect combination of warming soil and a cool system moving in.  If you add wind you will generally get hail.
    So, while actual frost may not happen keep your frost protection covers and jugs handy in the event of hail to safeguard your new seedlings and transplants.

To have all of my monthly planting / sowing recommendations right at your finger tips, consider purchasing my perpetual calendar.  It has room for your own garden notes and I included some recipes.

You can purchase the print copy at Amazon.

 Or at my Publisher's site where you have the option of a print copy or PDF.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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