Garden, Plant, Cook!

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Happy New Year! Around the Garden & Kitchen.

Dear Folks,

Let me say I'm starting off this post by saying my life has been challenged for the last several months.

BUT, I harvested peanuts!!! earlier in December -- then let them dry in the shade.  More on the peanuts later in the blog and more about me -- but let me share this positive cartoon from last year - it fits this year too!

No matter what is going on in my life, when I can turn to sowing or planting something, harvesting even a few things from the garden, and creating something new and fun in the kitchen, I feel better. I will bet you do to if you can grow and nurture something.

So - SOW!

I have had close loved ones challenged with injuries the last 3-4 months and I help out - I have been able to act as a caregiver to family off and on for many years.  I am reminded of one of the songs from the Muppet Christmas Carol - "with a grateful heart" and I thought of that the other day, while realizing I am stressed!!, But I am one of the most healthy ones of my aging family and have a grateful heart that I can help, but it can be a challenge.

Then, right before Christmas I came down with a cold and them my dear guy did too and he tends to be sicker - so we have been muddling through two colds and a dear one dealing with restricted arm movement.

So my general healthy-foods focus goes out the window when I am stressed.  I decided to remedy it with a good-for-us-breakfast "cookie" -- flourless, high fiber, high protein and quick to make.  You can make this as sweet as you like and there are so many ways to make this you can choose the easiest one for you.

Basic two ingredients are equal amounts of fruit puree/mash and oatmeal - I prefer old fashioned oats.

Then make a decision on whether you would like a lot of texture by leaving ALL of the oats whole, or a mix of ground and whole (some internet recipes grind ALL of the oats -- we like some texture) - the ground helps bind the cookies together better.  You may recognize this basic idea from "banana - oatmeal" recipes found on the internet and in fact I was musing about how to make something better for us (without a lot of time and effort) when I remember my cousin telling me about the banana/oat cookie a year or two ago.

So follow my logic here.  ANY fruit puree will work.  How sweet the fruit is or is not, means you may want to add more sweetener of choice - or not.  It also means you could use a pureed whole fruit jam or preserve, which will UP the sugar content.  It is a choice.

Then to make it high protein and more high fiber, ground nuts or seeds which combine with the grain (oats) to form a complete protein.

More fiber comes from an optional addition of ground flax seed.

And more good-for-you antioxidants come from dried cranberries or cherries or dried fruit of choice.  (My next batch I will chop the dried fruit a bit to bring the size down closer to the rest of the ingredients.)

My Fruit/Oatmeal Flourless Breakfast/Snack Cookies

Can be doubled - the basic mix of fruit and oatmeal should be equal, but all other ingredients are flexible in quantity.

1 cup mashed fruit
1 cup oats
dash of salt
1/2 cup nuts or seeds ground
1 heaping tablespoon flax seed (I prefer Golden as it has less bitter qualities)
1/4-1/2 cup of dried fruit like cranberries or cherries
Optional - 1 tablespoon+ of complimentary jam

Grind flax seed with about 2 - 3 tablespoons of oats -leave rest of oats whole (you can grind up to half of oats and still have both binding and texture)
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil sprayed with baking spray
Heat oven to 350.

Mash fruit along with optional jam.  Add dash of salt and stir.  Add oats and mix well, then add nuts and dried fruit, fold in well.  Let the mixture sit for 5-15 minutes while the oven heats to allow the oats to absorb the moisture.

Drop with scoop or tablespoon on parchment lined tray and flatten slightly.
Bake for 9-12 minutes.


I decided last April to try growing peanuts.  I purchased an Heirloom "Tennessee Red" from Baker Creek - they reminded me of the peanuts we used to get when I was a kid. Now a days you can find many different varieties to grow.

They LOVE the heat.

I sowed 12 shelled peanuts on April 24th and by May 9th, the seedlings looked like this.  Peanuts have a unique growing habit.  The plant grows up and then when it flowers the flower head dips down and buries itself into the soil and this is the future source of the "ground nuts" which grow at the roots much like sunchokes. 
Flowers were showing up by the end of May.

On December 11th,  almost 8 months after sowing I harvested the peanuts.  I had been waiting for the plants to die back.  I then fixed up a chicken wire basket in the shade of one of my citrus trees to aid in the shells completely drying to the stage shown in my opening picture.  I did not count the number of whole shells I harvested but I think the ratio is probably close to 1 seed = 3 whole shells.  Not bad for a trial run.  I am saving all but 1 for re-sowing next April and probably in a larger area.  This was a fun trial and observation of a unique plant.

I have been drying my herbs for years and decided it was time to have a stock pile of dried flower petals to adorn whatever trips my fancy.  Working at the moment with pink rose petals from my native wild rose and nasturtium flowers.  As my garden grows through the seasons here in Arizona I will continue to harvest and add to my supply.
For baking or any dessert or creative recipes, flower petal garnish is something easy to create - it just takes a bit of planning, catching the edible flowers in your garden at the right time for harvesting and drying in the refrigerator to maintain color.

I lay out on paper towels on stacked trays on the sde shelf in the refrigerator. - Takes from 3-7 days depending on how big the petals are. 

Another plant is potatoes.  My New Year's Day tradition is to plant potatoes.  I am working on re-arranging my large cinder block bed and large pots and decided to clear the cinder block bed of the enormous sweet potato patch I let take over - and believe you me - they take over.  Mostly to the good as I get to harvest their leaves for 3/4 of a year for salads etc. and then get the roots in the fall and winter, but I needed to re-think what and where.  So I relegated sweet potatoes to 2 large pots and just planted the Irish potatoes in the pot I had the peanuts in.

I may start another pot of 'taters, but I still have to transplant my wild Apple Tree and Volunteer apple seedlings, e.g., trying to rethink location, location.

Because I am using only a large pot I decided on a different strategy this time.  I buried the outer ring of spuds 4 inches deep, and the inner ring I left on the surface, as I traditionally do, and covered over with 3 inches of leaves.  I will add to the leaf mulch as the plants grow up and the mulch compresses to always ensure the growing potatoes are not exposed to sunlight (toxic element found in the green areas of the skin and flesh and CANNOT be cooked out).

Challenges aside, I LOVE living in Arizona.  I love the heat and do not "do" cold well, but this is offset by the gorgeous facts of living here in the Valley of the Sun.

Our stunning sunrise on December 21, 2018 the shortest day of the year.  Now we can "spring forward" into longer days, planning on getting the heat-loving plants ready for transplanting and continuing to, still, sow sugar peas, left lettuces and radishes.

Make the New Year, your Year - plant something new to you or a method, location you have not tried.  I know I talk about "best" time and variety to grow, however you may find "pushing the envelope" leads you to new found plant, location or method success - just for you!

Have a great day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady If you enjoyed this post, please share and subscribe below by entering your email, to get all my posts!
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