Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Jam Bread - or what to do when you Can too much fruit!

Dear Folks,

I had a challenge - I stopped "putting up" our fruit because I was over-loaded with canned fruit from several years ago and no place to put more.

And then we had a beautiful crop of pineapple guava and citrus this year and after a while you can only eat or give away so much.

Two pieces of information coalesced into my creating a jam bread recipe - and finding a marmalade recipe I could really enjoy.

The marmalade post is here.

Quick Breads or Cake Breads are well loved additions to the table - frequently made at holidays (like fruit cake) in a loaf pan in the form of a batter made with fruit, nuts, sugar etc.

With all my preserves available I decided there had to be a way to use jam/preserves in a quick bread.

It took me a while to find several types of recipes I could cobble together to make one that sounded like it would work - and it did :-)

Let me make this important note.  I use the WHOLE fruit, I use organic sugar (but not as much as most recipes call for) and lemon juice when I can my fruit.  With my jams you get mostly fruit when you enjoy it.

So I feel real good about sharing my jams with others and knowing it is wholesome in all that the word means.

Cathreine's Jam Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I have not found more was needed, but adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 1/2 cups jam/preserves
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (or any nut you enjoy) 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray loaf pan - set aside
  2. In one bowl sift flour salt and baking powder
  3. In another bowl whip eggs to frothy, add sugar and oil and mix very well. Add jam and mix well.
  4. Mix in flour until batter is well mixed, stir in nuts.
  5. Pour into prepared pan and bake 45-50 minutes.
  6. Cool on rack, slice and enjoy!
The jar pictured was from my first marmalade making back in February.  I froze the exact amount needed for the bread and thawed it yesterday to make the bread.  I love the color!

A note on this and my soda bread recipes - I refrigerate or freeze these as there are no preservatives to keep them at room temperature.  They freeze and thaw really well and refrigerate well for a week or two (if they last that long).

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Marmalade and Red Celery

Dear Folks,

I discovered an outstanding recipe for making marmalade from our citrus.  I first made some several weeks ago.  I did not can it because I wanted to see how very small batches (1-2 fruit) turned out.  The verdict was "great".

So the other day I made three versions and canned them.  The hardest part of this recipe is deciding how big you want the pieces of fruit.

Historically I was not fond of marmalade - to me they were overly sweet jellies with a few pieces of fruit in them.  I am a jam/preserve kind of gal, not a jelly person.  If it is a fruit something I want either the whole fruit or 100% juice.

A recipe in the Edible Phoenix Spring 2015 issue by Molly Beverly, got me re-thinking because she used the WHOLE FRUIT, minus the seeds.  Okay now we were talking my idea of a 'jam'.

As good as Ms. Beverly's recipe sounded (check out her other recipes on the link for using an abundance of lemons), I wanted something with less sugar.

I found a blog (Living On A Dime) post which was more to my liking - I still tweaked the amount of sugar, but the surprisingly small amount of water was just perfect.

If the recipe seems too easy,  1 fruit, etc. the wonderful thing is you can double, triple etc. You can, easily in the time it takes to cut the fruit and cook for 15 minutes, make a small batch that morning, enough for breakfast or using later in the day!

Our Community Table as the Farmers Market had end of the season Meyer Lemons.  I picked our navels and Moro Blood Orange, making 3 different batches that day.  Each batch consisted of 5 fruit, so I ended up with 3-4 half-pints of each flavor.   I think they look like sunshine in a jar!

Catherine's Marmalade

1 citrus
1 tablespoon water
1/4 to 1/3 cup of sugar per fruit (I use organic cane sugar) - 1/2+ cup for lemons or grapefruit to taste

Wash the fruit well if there is any dust or debris (I find bits of leaves etc. sometimes that have dropped and embedded in our navels and blood oranges).

Cut the ends off, slice in half lengthwise and remove any seeds.

Very thinly slice the fruit, catch all juice.  You can quarter and quarter again lengthwise if you want smaller pieces.  This is the most labor intensive part.  Living on a Dime suggested a blender.  I tried a mandoline and finally gave up and just sliced with a knife.

In a sauce pan combine the water sugar and any juice.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Add fruit and simmer for 15 minutes.

Pour into mason jars and cap.

If you want to can, I chose to hot pack (immediately after cooking the marmalade) in a waterbath for 15 minutes for half-pints.  (Follow normal canning procedures to sterilize the jars and heat the lids.)

The other great thing about desert gardens is the ability to do small batch canning throughout the year - unlike 4 season climates where you are sort of locked into doing gallons and gallons at the end of summer before winter sets in.

If you do not can, refrigerate after it cools down.  Use up within 3-4 weeks.

Beside using as a spread on toast, glaze seafood, chicken or pork with marmalade.  I also make a "Jam Bread" - essentially a quick bread/cake with my preserves and marmalade will work also - going to make one next week and I will post picture and recipe.

Celery in The Desert Garden

I started growing RedVenture celery in the garden several years ago and it now re-seeds freely here and there.  The red means it has some lycopene in the stalks.  The flavor is a bit more strong and 'salty' than typical garden celery.  Besides the idea of having it growing conveniently in your garden, I only need to cut the number of stalks I need for a recipe.  I also sun dry or refrigerator dry leaves for later use.

Kitchen Recycle Celery

Some purchased vegetables can be "recycled" into the garden to regenerate more harvest.  Examples are onion or scallions - cut the bottom 1 inch with root and plant level after soaking for a couple of hours or overnight.  You will have green tops to cut in a few weeks.

One of my favorites it the bottoms or organic celery bunches.  When I do not have enough growing, I buy an organic celery bunch, cut the 1 and a half or 2 inch bottom off, soak overnight and then plant level.  The picture shows one planted January 4th and harvestable tops the end of March.

Waste not - want not :-)

Have a great day in the garden and kitchen.

 -- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My calendar, books etc.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Calvary Arriving to Handle Aphids

Dear Folks,

Several days ago I posted about that the aphids have arrived and using safe soap spray.

I am very careful in using the spray to make sure the good bugs are not among the aphids - and I should have noted that in my post.

Sooooo, the reason to be careful using the spray is also about not spraying willy-nilly.

One of my mantras has been the good bugs (predators of pests) don't show up until you ring the dinner bell, i.e., there has to be some aphid activity to draw the bugs in white hats in.

So here are some good guys who I saw this morning.  The ladybug, of course, but lesser known is the assassin bug. The larvae, young and adult are all good aphid hunters.

It is also important to note that many of these good bugs can bite, they are, after all predators.  Let them do their job and they will reward you by multiplying.

On that same note, many of the larvae, juveniles and some adults need nectar so having something flowering in the garden at all times is good for you and the beneficial insects.

So to the beneficial insects - be a good-bug host, and they will go forth and multiply.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Calendar (PDF and Print) and Books

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Aphids Are Here! The Aphids Are Here!

Dear Folks,

The one down side to getting into our lovely weather in the spring is the aphids like the cool night temperatures also.

The reliable safe soap spray is a way to deal with these soft-bodied pests.  Hard bodied insects like the leaf-footed/squash bug require different measures, such as keeping debris picked up and away from the base of plants and Hard Hosing as soon as you see them.  You can also use neem oil sprays on those pests.

Sunflowers (I learned recently) draw aphids, which is a good thing, but then you need to deal with them.

Here is a composite picture I took of one of my sunflowers Saturday and this Morning (Monday), which shows the before and after of the 1st cycle spraying (more on that below).

I know it is difficult to fully see what is happening but there are many dead or dying aphids in the right half of the picture

SAFE SOAP SPRAY and how to use it most effectively.

1 quart of water
1 teaspoon Dawn dish soap (I recommend the original)*
1 teaspoon of vegetable cooking oil (I keep old no-longer-useable-oils for this purpose).

Mix in spray bottle.

How to use:
1) if the bugs are really bad, hard hose off as best as you can.
2) shake (shaking is important, the ingredients do not stay mixed) the spray bottle as you spray, top and bottom of leaves and down growing center (this is particularly important with the broccoli family)
3) REPEAT!  5 days later and 5 days after that.

If you do not repeat the spraying 5 days apart you will lose the advantage.

What is happening is the 1st spray kills most of the adults and just hatched young.**
The 2nd spray kills those which hatch after 1st spray (the soap/oil does not, unfortunately damage the eggs).
The 3rd spray kills any stragglers.

Watch for new activity and deal with it the same way.  You may have to do this 2 or 3 times before our temperatures rise into the 100 range, when the aphid activity will decline substantially.

They will come back in the fall when the temperatures drop back down into the below 100 range, so keep this spray recipe handy.

*Original Dawn is still used to help sea birds damaged and endangered by oil spills.  I consider it the safest option for this spray and the little that goes into the soil will do no damage.

** Live-bearing aphids, a real problem for the broccoli family, do not lay eggs and are more difficult to control if you do not follow the spraying regime properly.

WHITE FLIES are a form of aphid and can be treated the same way.  The challenge with these type of aphids is that is is almost impossible to control completely, their numbers are in the 10s of thousands, but you can minimize the damage by following the spraying regime, beginning with hard hosing off first.

My Calendar shows the soap spray on March.   While both the print and PDF versions are dated 2015, the information is applicable year to year.

The PDF version is $6 and can be downloaded into all of your devices that have Adobe or other compatible reader, with a single purchase price.

You can find the print version of the calendar and my other publications here.

Do not let the bugs get you down, you can deal with them AND enjoy your garden at this lovely time of year.

Have a best day!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Friday, March 27, 2015

Homemade Sodas

Dear Folks,

I have a "thing" about the amount of garbage sodas for sale - mostly aimed at children.

So here are some great homemade sodas to help you and the family kick the junk habit. (the pictures is from Ms. Dudash's article in The Arizona Republic, March 13, 2015) All have some nutrients, and yes they are sweetened, but you can choose one of the real Stevia products (like Sweetleaf) to substitute for lower calorie (I say lower because many are made with some fruit juice so there is natural sweetness - but you also get Vitamin C along with other small levels of vitamins and in some minerals).

What child does not enjoy options?  You can have the base ready for action whenever there is a group or party.

Your base is a sweet condensed mix, either a 100% frozen juice concentrate (no sugar added), thawed or a flavored (you choose) syrup.  Example:  Many children enjoy orange soda.  All you need is thawed 100% orange juice concentrate to make a glass of orange soda.  There is a 100% frozen juice pineapple orange that is a nice version.

1/4 cup base to 3/4 cup chilled sparkling water, ice if you like and there you have a cold, refreshing glass of wholesome beverage.

The sparkling water can be any you like.  FYI Club soda has sodium in it, seltzer does not.  Many artisanal waters have micro nutrients.

First up is a neat recipe from Michell Dudash who did an article for the Arizona Republic.

This is a base for a Cola, which makes up to 14 glasses.  You store the base until you want a glass.  This is probably the most ingredient in these recipes, but since you are making a base for 14 glasses it is worth the extra time.


Ms. Dudash also shared some homemade versions of fast food favorites like Chicken Nuggets to get your children enjoying homemade fast food.


Bon Appetit Magazine posted a slide show of 12 homemade sodas.


TIP:  When making the ginger ale - don't throw away the ginger after making the base.  Save the slices, roll them in organic sugar, let air dry and you have candied ginger for nibbling or baking.

TIP:   If you make the lemongrass lime leaf soda and do not have Kaffir lime leaves you can use lemon or lime tree leaves from your own trees, just add 50% more leaves.  All citrus leaves are edible and have the scent and flavor of the fruit.

If you just wish to have some flavor, like the flavored seltzers available, muddle some fruit in the bottom of a glass, maybe add a piece of mint, top with chilled seltzer and ice and you have a refreshing drink.

Now that we are getting into the warm times, you should have some wholesome beverage options available to make refreshing and healthy drinks.

Have a best day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My publisher's site

For you gardeners - my "perpetual" calendar will give you the information for best gardening success in the desert - when to plant, tip and garden maintenance information.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Harvest Show & Tell at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum - Plant Sale Coming To End

Dear Folks,

Last Sunday I presented a lecture on the Key to Successful edible gardening in the desert - planting and sowing at the optimal time for the variety.

I brought along a sample of what I harvested from the garden that morning.

Rose, red lettuce, red celery, Syrian Oregano, Conehead Thyme, Spanish Thyme, Bay, Mexican Oregano, White Flowering Rosemary, Lavender, Red Onion (large scallion), White Alpine Strawberry, Limequat, Banana Leaf, Nasturitum Leaves (large and variegated) Edible Flowers: Nasturtium, Johnny Jump-Ups, Blue Sage, Purple Stock, Arugula, Arabian Jasmine, Calendula.

In all of my lectures I like to use my "show and smell" harvests to illustrate not only the wonderful range of scents but the beauty in an edible garden.

The picture also illustrates the timing of growing in the desert.  ALL of these plants have been growing in my gardens through the winter to enable me to harvest on a bright March morning.

My special thanks to Paul Wolterbeek for taking the picture.

My books (beginners guide to edible landscaping and a recipe book using herbs as the base flavor) are available at the gift shop at Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  Check them out the next time you visit the wonderful BTA.

Their spring plant sale is still going on through this coming weekend - March 28 - 29th.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My Publisher's Site

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Dear Folks,

My beef has been corning for 2 weeks, I bought the veggies to go into the crock pot today with the beef and I decided to do a little research on Irish Soda Bread.

As an American of Irish descent (and Polish and English) our family has always fully embraced being Irish and enjoying the holiday for all the hearty food traditions.

Several years ago I started corning my own beef to control the ingredients (I do not use pink salt/aka nitrates) and I wanted to choose different cuts of beef.  Click here for my post on the corning and then cooking recipes.

But I have never made the traditional Irish Soda Bread.  My sister was able to visit Ireland twice, and has made the bread in the past, and raved about the bread severed at the B&B's she stayed at - rustic, brown and hearty.

So to my research - the first recipes which turned up included raisins, sugar, butter, eggs and buttermilk.  Well that sounded like the breads I've bought in the past.  And then I happened on an article about what real Irish bread was.

In a nutshell the traditional Irish bread is one of their staffs of life, along with potatoes, meant to sustain the hard working Irish, and not a dainty served with dinner.

Flour, salt, baking soda (the leavening agent) and sour milk.

The sour milk is an important point.  Anyone who has done research on traditional milk learns that unpasteurized milk goes sour (clabber) - pasteurized milk goes bad.  It is about the natural bacteria present in wholesome fresh from the animal milk vs. processed.

Back in the 1980s a gentleman named Malachi McCormick wrote a book "Irish Country Cooking"and was interviewed around St. Patrick's Day about "Irish Soda Bread" and the buttermilk controversy.

Historically, buttermilk was not widely available in Irish households, he said. To get buttermilk, you had to have a churn, and not all homes did. But sour milk, milk that has curdled, "was a daily act of God" found in even the poorest households. Rather than toss this "spoiled" milk out, Irish cooks used it to make bread.  http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1995-03-19/features/1995078208_1_irish-soda-bread-baking-soda-bread-makers

In talking to my sister she remembered the same article (or similar) and the REAL Irish Soda Bread - which by-the-way, was simply called "Brown Bread".

Today's buttermilk is actually not REAL either, which was the milk, whey and bits left over from churning.  Today's buttermilk is a cultured milk (certainly okay and good) but not the real deal.

So armed, with a reliable recipe from Epicurious  I tweaked the recipe to revert back to the basic Irish concept (whole wheat flour - but I used a white 100% whole wheat flour - not as dark as traditional 100% whole wheat), not caraway seeds (usually another American version), and then I wanted to come up with something to replace the sour milk, and I did not want to do the lemon juice/vinegar in milk routine.

I always have organic yogurt on hand, so I decided to stir in 1/2 cup of organic Greek style yogurt into 1 cup of whole milk.

BINGO!!  I got the most wonderful bread, real bread texture, solid crust and delicious too, spread with organic butter.

This may be our regular bread from now on.  For a number of years I have been working with variations of bread I do not have knead (my hands are simply not up to it).  The texture on this bread is more bread like than the recipes I've created before.

Catherine O'Crowley's Irish Bread

3 1/2 cups unbleached white whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur's)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup organic Greek Style Yogurt
1 cup whole milk
Flour for dusting

Preheat oven to 425.  Lightly flour your baking sheet.

Sift flour, salt and baking soda into a bowl.  Stir yogurt and milk to combine.
Create a well in the center of the flour mix and start adding the yogurt / milk mix stirring with a wooden spoon.  Continue adding all the liquid and combine until the dough holds together.  You may need to use your hands to get the last bit of dry melded into the dough.

Shape the dough into a 6-8 inch circle, place on baking sheet and flatten to about 2 inches high.  Use a knife to score a deep X almost all the way to the sides.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

Cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve with good butter, honey, molasses or jam.

Note:  the extra flour on the pan toasted and I reserved in a jar in the freezer for making gravies later on.

I know I can easily add herbs or cheese even raisins to loaves in the future!

I hope you have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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