Friday, December 11, 2009


I don't love cauliflower but my friend, Jennifer, does. So when I saw this recipe in Gourmet Magazine I emailed it to her. Then I found myself with a lot of Kalamata olives and a head of cauliflower so I decided to make this. I loved it! Roasting cauliflower brings out a nuttiness flavor. It is delicious and so easy. Enjoy!
  • 1 (2 1/2-to 3-pounds) head cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in lower third.

Cut cauliflower lengthwise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Put in a large 4-sided sheet pan and toss with 2 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Roast, turning once or twice, until golden and just tender, about 25 minutes.

While cauliflower roasts, mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt, then whisk together with lemon juice, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, olives, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Serve cauliflower drizzled with Kalamata vinaigrette.


Sunday, November 22, 2009


It's that time of year! This year with the help from family and friends we planted tulips, sweet peas, irises, freesias and ranunculus. We soaked the sweet peas over night. The moisture from soaking helps the sweet peas germinate more rapidly and loosens the skin or shell, which covers the seed. Sometime this spring we should have a beautiful garden.

We planted nearly 100 bulbs. You have to prepare the ground before planting. Good soil makes for lovely flowers. Over the years we've been adding soil amendments to our flower bed. This year we added 11 bags of manure and our own homemade compost. The results have been terrific. The soil has never looked and felt better.

These are the tools we used. These tools work like a charm. The one on the left is called "hand bulb planter" and the one on right is called " bulb dibber". I've used both and they are equally good.

Do these hands look great or what! The soil was perfect for planting. A little dirt never hurt anyone.
Happy Gardening!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Normally I don't love pureed soups but I really liked this version. This is the quintessential Fall soup! Butternut squash and apples, plus a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg--mmmm, good.

And this soup is good for you with all those good veggies and there is just one tablespoon of butter and no cream.

I roasted the squash for 30 minutes (splitting it in two and placing it in a 350 degree toaster oven). Roasting brings out the flavor of the squash even more than cooking it directly in the soup. But either way would work.

This soup comes from Simply Recipes, a favorite cooking blog.

Butternut Squash Apple Soup


1 yellow onion, chopped

1 rib of celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 Tbsp butter

1 Butternut Squash, peeled, seeds removed, chopped

1 tart green apple, peeled, cored, chopped

3 cups chicken broth

Pinches of nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper

Saute onion, celery, and carrot in butter. Cook for 5 minutes. Add squash, apple, and broth. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until squash is soft. Puree. Add spices to taste

Serves 4


Thursday, November 5, 2009

November Groundwork

Mild November days remind us to slow down and relish in the fact that we have survived the summer once again. Here in the low desert of Phoenix we have two growing seasons.This cool season weather is the perfect time to sow peas, root crops, leafy greens and a long list of cabbage family crops. Plant cool-season herbs and edible flowers, experiment with new tastes and textures in your Autumn dishes. One of my favorite herbs is dill. I love the delicate, feathery-like leaves or fronds. It reminds me of a fairy land, especially when the flower heads form into little yellow umbrellas and turn into seeds! Dill is easy to grow from seeds. Sow them in full sun and well-drained soil. Plant in the back of the garden bed. They can grow up to 3 feet tall. Cut fresh as needed. Fronds, flower heads and seeds are all edible. After you have had your fill, dry for later use. Spread fronds out on a paper towel and air dry, or microwave for 3 minutes. Remove thick stems and crumble. Store in an airtight container. When seedheads form, let them dry and remove seeds. Add to fish dishes, dips, soups and salads. Leave a few seedheads to dry in your garden for self-seeding.

November Checklist ~
  • Adjust watering schedule as weather cools. Water deeply so moisture will reach the root system, but less frequently as the season changes.

  • Inspect vegetables closely for insects, pests and diseases.Keep an eye out for little green caterpillars or Cabbage Loopers. This is also the time of year for aphids. Rub out or pinch out at first sign of the ash colored cluster. Also try using a soapy spray by mixing 1 tbsp. each of Dawn dish soap and vegetable oil with 1 gallon water. Spray in early morning or evening. Make sure you spray the underside of leaves. With early detection, you're more likely to manage or prevent any major damage to plants.

  • Dead-head spent blooms and harvest veggies to stimulate continued growth.

  • Continue to sow cool-weather annuals and biennials every 2 to 4 weeks through the fall for a continuous crop of vegetables through next spring.

  • Thin seedlings as they grow to prevent crowding, this gives your young plants plenty of room to grow. Use scissors to cut seedlings at ground level. Wash and toss these sprouts into your salad.

  • Be prepared for early winter frost. Average first frost date takes place around the end of November to the first week of December. We usually have 7 to 10 nights of below freezing temperatures a year. Check out the National Weather Service for more up to date information. Cover frost sensitive plants with a sheet, light blanket or frost cloth (not plastic) all the way to the ground. Frost-tender veggies include; Tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplants. Paper bags or boxes are great for low lying plants. Floating row covers are another option. If a hard freeze is forcast, try using outdoor Christmas lights under cover for extra warmth. Coldest temperatures are just before sunrise.

  • Fall brings cool weather and an abundance of free organic matter. As trees begin to drop leaves, bag and save for compost pile, mulching or adding to layered garden beds. Mow over leaves a couple of times for a ready-to-use mulch. You can never have too many bags of leaves!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I love adding red bell peppers to most any savory dish I make. Roasting them just makes them more heavenly. This recipe is easy and always a hit--I've even sent this home with friends and they tell me they've eaten it for breakfast! Enjoy.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

1 ½ cups roasted red peppers
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded white Vermont Cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups mayonnaise
1 teaspoon hot sauce
½ cup minced leeks or green onions, white part and a bit of green
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
Crushed oregano

To roast red peppers--roast them over a flame or under the broiler until charred black. Then put peppers into a brown paper bag, close the top, and leave them alone until completely cooled. Then remove the peppers and peel off the charred skin and you are left with gorgeous roasted peppers.

Chop roasted red peppers and place in a mixing bowl with any leftover juices. Add Cheddar and Vermont Cheddar cheeses, mayonnaise, hot sauce, leeks or green onions, pepper and paprika. Season with oregano, basil, and thyme. Cover and refrigerate up to 3 days.

Serve with toasted pita bread triangles or plain water crackers. Also good in sandwiches.

From Capital Celebrations – Junior League of Washington

Photo courtesy of Jill Green


Friday, October 9, 2009

Planting time for Blackberries is coming soon!

Did you even realize that blackeberries grow here in Maricopa County? They grow prolifically! The varieties that grow best here are: Rosborough, Womack and Brison. Rosborough are the heaviest producer according to the County Extension Service. Baker's Nursery in Phoenix even has thorneless berries.

They need to be planted in well drained soil and the planting times are beginning in January through March. You can get them in bare-root in January while they last. Water them well when first planted, every 3-6 days the first 2 months. Once established they can be watered every 1-2 weeks depending on the temperature.

Fertilize about 1 month after planting then again in June/July. In succeeding years apply it in March and then in late July. Use a 13-13-13 or 10-10-10, within 2-3 foot circle around the base of the cane. They need to be pruned regularly since the canes that give fruit on year die off but by then new canes have spread so you will have a constant harvest after the first year.

Birds are really the only pest you have to deal with and netting takes care of them during the fruiting season.

For more information on blackberries check with the Maricopa County Cooperative Extension Service. You can down load instructions from your computer.

I have one bush on a trellis and one growing over an arch in the garden. I get many berries for about 1 1/2 months starting in late April and into May. I love to make jam or just freeze them on a cookie sheet then bag them up to use in desserts or frozen fruit smoothies.

Blackberries are a fun new crop to consider growing in your gardens.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

October Groundwork

October finally brings the subtle change in weather we have been waiting for. For gardeners in the low desert this is our "second spring". Our warm days accelerate the sprouting of our newly sown seeds, and the cool night air gives seeds and gardener a pleasant break. This is the prime season to plant a long list of cool-weather vegetables, flowers and herbs. We have seven whole months of mostly mild weather. This gives root systems plenty of time to become established before our summer heat returns.

October to-do list
  • Continue to sow cool weather vegetables every 2 to 4 weeks for a continuous supply of vegetables through next spring.

  • Sow cool-season herbs and edible flowers. The list includes: chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, parsley, anise, chamomile and lemon balm. Flowers include: nasturtium, pansies, calendula, marigolds, johnny jump-ups, scented geranium, snapdragon, stock and hollyhock.

  • Prepare bulb garden beds, sow seeds of sweet peas, and broadcast wild flower seeds.

  • Plant now or design and plan your backyard garden for a future location that might include: asparagus, raspberry, blackberry, grape and strawberries. Trellised vines can be trained over a fence, arbor or wall to create "green rooms" in your garden.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Solarizing your Garden

Here in Arizona we have a great tool in keeping our garden soil healthy and that is the sun. Did you know that in the hottest parts of the summer (July and August), you can take a break from gardening and it will help your fall garden grow better. It is through Soil Solarization. The benefits to your garden are that soil-borne pathogens and diseases are put under control, plant diseases, plant parasites and weeds are killed in the solarization process. It doesn’t hurt the worms; they just dig down deeper where it is cool.
Here are the steps to solarize your garden:

You need to get some CLEAR polyethylene plastic (I use 6 mil that I get in the painting department of the home stores). The longer you can leave the plastic the better but in the heat it will start to break down so I recommend 6-8 weeks.

Step 1:
Till your garden soil to 1 foot depth. Smooth and level out the soil and rid it of any leftover roots, weeds and dirt clods.

Step 2:
With a sprinkler or any other water source, saturate the garden to a depth of 3 feet or more. This could take hours but it is important for successful solarization. Then dig a 6-8 inch trench around the outside of your garden plot. Wet the soil again. Lay the plastic over the garden and trench, sealing the edges of the plastic in the trench with soil, rocks or anything that will make it virtually airtight. Let it bake for 6-8 weeks but make sure no holes get in the plastic to break the seal. You will see it “steaming” up and that is how you know it is working.

Step 3:

After 6-8 weeks remove the plastic. This is when I add 2-3 inches of manure and work it into the soil. Now I am ready to plant.

This really cuts down on the weeds you have during the winter. I haven’t needed to do any additional fertilization in the garden since I have started doing this each year.

The U of A Extension Service has an information sheet on their web-site on this process that you can download and print.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

July Groundwork

July is typically one the hottest months of the year with average temperatures hovering around 105 .9 degrees in the beautiful Phoenix area. Here's a gardening check list.

  • Check plants for water stress, increase the frequency of water, and make sure you water slowly and deeply to flush the salts below the root system.
  • Harvest herbs during cooler morning hours and deadhead flowers to keep herbs from becoming stringy or woody. Dry some of your herbs for use later in the year.
  • Protect tomatoes and peppers with shade cloth and place extra layers of mulch, compost or straw around the plants to conserve moisture and lower soil temperatures.
  • Support plants and place straw under developing melons, tomatoes and strawberries.
  • Pick any citrus that might remain on trees, and paint trunks of young trees to prevent sun burn and cracking.
  • With our high temperatures and drying winds, make sure to keep your compost piles moist so microorganisms will continue to decompose the materials. If open, you might cover with plastic or a tarp until monsoons arrive.
  • Vegetables that thrive in our desert heat are eggplant, basil, sweet potatoes, armenian cucumbers and okra. You can plant seeds of pinto beans, snap beans, corn, cantaloupe, muskmelon, pumpkins, winter squash and armenian cucumber. Keep a close eye on all new seedlings, they must be kept moist until established.
For added interest and beauty, you can still sew seeds for cosmos, four o' clocks and sunflowers.
Sunflowers are not only great for color and beauty, the seeds are highly nutritious and are rich in oils and minerals. You can easily grow enough sunflowers in your garden to produce snack seeds for your family. One variety used for producing hundreds of seeds is the Russian Giant or the Mammoth. Once the flower has died back and the seed head begins to droop, cut the stem leaving a few inches to tie it up. Hang it in a dry place, not in direct sunlight and tie a paper bag around the seed head to catch the seeds as they dry. Poke a few wholes in the bag to allow air circulation. When you have collected enough seeds, spread them on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and a little oil. Bake in a warm oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Let them cool and store in an airtight container. Relax under a tree in the late afternoon and watch the sun go down.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I recreated this recipe from my memory of eating Calabacitas years ago in a little Mexican restaurant in downtown Phoenix.

Olive oil

Onion - chopped

Zucchini - chopped

Crookneck squash - chopped


Shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

Heat oil in a skillet (I used garlic-infused olive oil). Sautee onions for a 5 minutes, then add squash and salt and pepper, and cook until fairly tender. Add corn. Heat through. Sprinkle on cheese. Serve hot. This is a great way to use up all that zucchini that seems to appear overnight in the garden.


Saturday, May 23, 2009


Lots of yummy cucumbers ripening right now. Add a shallot, red hot pepper, and some rice wine vinegar and you have a Thai cucumber salad. Chill for an hour and you will have a lovely little treat.

6 to 7 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix the above and pour over:

1 cucumber, seeded and sliced
1 shallot, chopped
1 red spur chili (or any red pepper), chopped

Chill for at least one hour. I have also substituted a red onion for the shallot and have used crushed red pepper when I didn't have a red chili on hand. It all works.


Friday, May 8, 2009


Swiss Chard? Sadly, another vegetable I'm not familiar with. So, seeing a gorgeous bunch at the farmer's market the other day I bought some.

I found a good Alice Water's recipe on The Wednesday Chef blogsite.

A few things: This recipe calls for 1 cup of breadcrumbs and I think that is too much. I actually liked it better without the crumb topping. Since I had some shallots I needed to use up I substituted the shallots for a 1/2 chopped onion.

Remember, greens tend to really cook down so I put everything in a small baking dish.

I really liked this dish--it was very flavorful. My sister did not care for it but she doesn't like any cooked lettuce-type vegetable.

You could also change few things with this dish--such as I did by adding the shallots. Sprinkling a bit of freshly grated parmesan on top would be great.

Swiss Chard Gratin
4 servings

1 1/2 bunches of chard
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons melted butter
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
2 teaspoons flour
1/2 cup milk
A few strokes of freshly grated nutmeg

1. Wash and stem the chard. Save half the stems and slice them thin. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil and cooked the sliced stems for 2 minutes. Add the chard leaves and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and cool. Gently squeeze out the excess liquid from the stems and leaves and coarsely chop them.

2. Toss together the breadcrumbs and the melted butter. Toast on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven, stirring now and then, until lightly brown, about 10 minutes.

3. Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the diced onion. Cook over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chard and season with salt. Cook for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour and stir well. Then add the milk and nutmeg and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more milk if the mixture gets too thick. The chard should be moist but not floating in liquid. Taste and add salt if needed.

4. Butter a small baking dish. Spread the chard mixture evenly in the dish and dot with the remaining butter, cut into bits. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top. Bake in a 350-degree oven until the gratin is golden and bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A safe way to deal with birds!

I really don't like birds. They make a mess in the garden, but they especially like to steal newly planted seeds and new seedlings as they are coming out of the ground. There are several products that you can buy to keep birds out, but this is the least expensive one and it works perfectly.
The aluminum ones work the best because they reflect more, but the birds just don't bother the garden when I have these place in various locations in the garden.
If you can't find any in the store, just "google" the word and plenty of places pop up where you can order some. They work great and they are pretty on windy days.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Composting: "Black Gold" for Free!

During the tight times we are having now, I was interested to read that home vegetable gardens were growing in numbers. Plant nurseries were doing a booming business selling seeds and bedding plants for the home gardener. One important element of a successful home garden is making sure you have a healthy soil and that involves composting.
Compost is an important soil amendment that you need to grow successful vegetables. You can either buy a compost mix at the home/garden centers or, better yet, you can make your own for FREE!
Basically, here is what you need, a pitch fork, plant waste, sun, air, and water.
That is it. Now you can get fancy and build or buy a composter, we call this “gourmet” composting, or you can have a “casual” composting pile. A casual pile may take longer but it will still work. Composting bins help heat up the pile faster than just a casual pile, so that will speed up how soon your compost is ready. You need the temperature to be about 140 degrees for a speedy compost (2-3 months). What is necessary is that you have the right recipe for the compost mix to work. Let me explain.
You need a layer of “green”, like grass clippings or other yard/kitchen waste. When I say kitchen waste I am talking about anything plant based. NO MEAT IS ALLOWED in a compost pile. The only exception is egg shells. These decompose great! All of these products are high in nitrogen. Next, you need a layer of “brown”, like dirt or dried leaves and twigs, which are high in carbon. If you have built a composting cage, or have bought a composter, just make a few layers of these and then get it wet.
The moisture level is very important. If your compost is too wet, it will decay and smell awful! If it is too dry, it will not decompose. You need the same amount of moisture as if you have a sponge that is wrung out.
Once you have your layers and watered it, then you need to mix it really well. Then every few days, you will need to turn it with the pitch fork to keep it “aired”. The only thing to remember is that if is starts to STINK, you have it too wet and need to dry it out some. It should have a fresh smell like good soil smells.
In Arizona, because of the heat, you can have finished compost within 6-8 weeks. You can also add worms to speed it up but here is Arizona, I have never had to do that. Also, if you call Mesa City, they will deliver old black garbage bins to Mesa residents, for a small price that you can use as composting bins. You just need to drill holes in the sides for some air flow to happen inside. Check with other cities to see if they also have this service. Composting is really one of the easiest things in gardening to do and you can save a lot of money by making your own compost.
Have fun getting your hands dirty!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How to Grow Better Tomatoes

After weeks of planting countless tomatoes for myself, friends and clients I feel confident in saying that I have placed the last tomato in the ground for the season. Although I have not been able to implement all of the valuable advice that I gathered from Love Apple Farm, I thought some of you might be able to take advantage of Cynthia Sandburg’s remarkable, garden knowledge. Cynthia manages the kitchen gardens for Manresa Restaurant near San Jose, California. This woman is serious about her tomatoes! She starts with a two foot hole, adds a raw fish head, a couple of crushed egg shells for calcium, bone meal for a phosphorus source, and an aspirin to increase disease resistance. She then adds worm castings, an organic fertilizer and a root booster! Take a look at Love Apple Farm’s website to find more interesting details.

Friday, March 20, 2009


This is the most delicious salad dressing and you will love it over all of your fresh garden greens. I tend to like sweet over savory so this really hits the mark.

Raspberry Salad Dressing
1/2 c sugar
1 c salad oil
1/3 c red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
8 raspberries or 4-6 strawberries mashed (the more berries you add the thicker the dressing)


Friday, February 20, 2009

Get Ready to Grow!

It's time to get your garden beds ready for Spring planting NOW. Add a four to six inch layer of organic matter or a combination of mulch and well-aged manure to the soil. You can also add organic fertilizers, which might include, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, bone meal and rock phosphate. Till or turn into soil to a depth of 12-14 inches deep. I usually wait a couple of weeks before planting to allow the organisms in the soil to break down and then release the nutrients back into the soil. You can transplant tomatoes and peppers between mid-February and mid-March. Be prepared to cover new transplants until night time temperatures warm up!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Annual Rose Auction

The Mesa East Valley Rose Society's
Annual Rose Auction
Saturday February 21st
Mesa Community College
(Navajo Room in the Kirk Student Center)
Preview at 12:00
Auction 1:30
Watch for the 'Mystery Rose'!

Check out our website for more information on which roses grow best in Arizona, a list of consulting Rosearians and links to other great rose websites. Please come and browse the Rose Garden at Mesa Community College anytime, it's there for public pleasure!
Submitted by, Jo Ann

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

To Fertilize or Not to Fertilize...That is the Question!

As an Arizona gardener, and having a year round growing season it's hard to know when your plants are supposed to be fed. However, I learned an easy way to remember when to fertilize ANY fruit tree here!

At a Citrus Clinic offered at one of our local Nurseries, we attended a class on fruit trees, both citrus and deciduous. The Extension Agent that taught the class said to just remember three holidays and fertilize on them. The three holiday's are, Valentines, Memorial, and Labor Day's. Now, how easy is that to remember?!?

So we will never have an excuse to not know when to feed those YUMMY fruit trees that give us so many treats!!!
Now, I just need an easy way to remember when to fertilize, the grass, garden, shrubs, palms, flowers... and so on and so on!
Happy gardening-Valentines Day is this Saturday!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Don't trash it, stash it, in a compost bin! My name is Jack Notebaert and few neighbors and I from the 50th place and Osborn neighborhood, have all chipped in for a leaf and branch shredder/chipper. The idea is for everyone to share the machine, since it something you'd only use 4 or 5 times a year. Why throw all the good, natural, organic fertilizer on your property away when you can put it right back in your garden. It's $75.00 to buy in! For more information contact jack at 602-751-6319 or email


For a great finish to all those yummy salads you are putting together from your garden try this salad dressing. This recipe is from Gourmet magazine and is my new favorite. I don't know about the calories but since it has so much flavor and is very thin you really don't need much to dress your salad.


1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons chopped chives

Whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, shallots, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until sugar has dissolved. Add in chives. Done!


Thursday, January 29, 2009

February Groundwork

The primary planting season for gardeners in the Southwest desert is October through February. This means that February is the last optimal month for planting our cool season vegetables. The vegetables listed are the varieties that are suited for our cool winter climate. If you love fresh lettuce, spinach and bok choy, they should be planted now to ensure their full life cycle. That is, before the warmer and longer days of spring arrive and trigger the flowering and end of the plants production.
In the Phoenix area the last frost date averages around the 15th of February. Although there have been freezes as late as early March. This is the time of year that a new season of planting begins and a new variety of vegetables can be planted. The warm weather vegtables will be listed in addition to flowers and herbs, these can be planted as early as the 15th of February.