Picking Arugula

Today I picked the last of the Arugula growing in my garden. Not sure if you even like Arugula? Or like my brother-in-law said when I showed him my arugula, "I thought that was weeds!!" Ha!

Here's a great recipe I've adapted and made on several occasions with farro (which is a wonderful grain). You can also use brown rice or orzo.

farro arugula salad

I rinsed and then toasted my farro in a little sautéed garlic and shallots and used chicken broth instead of water for cooking the farro. If vegan - use vegetable broth.

I added English cucumber, crumbled feta and made a dressing using the juice of a couple of oranges, fresh squeezed lemon juice and olive oil. If you like your dressing a little sweet add a little honey or agave. I also toasted pine nuts to sprinkle on top.

Here's the basic recipe from the Proud Italian Cook blog:

Farro & Arugula Salad Recipe

Fresh from the Gardens Green Beans

Growing and eating fresh green beans is something that was second nature to my family growing up.  In fact, my dad’s garden is currently full of fresh green beans, and as you can see in my pictures, I am carrying on that same tradition in my own garden. I have great memories of sitting on my great-grandmother’s porch shelling bushels of peas. We always had a deep freezer, so anything that was not cooked, eaten or canned, was frozen and put away for the winter. When gardening season is over, I still purchase fresh green beans. My favorite green beans are the French Haricot Vert green beans.  My clients love these too, and one of my favorite ways to prepare them is to just blanch them briefly for about 3-4 minutes and shock them in an ice bath.  I then sauté them with a small amount of fresh garlic and toss them in a grainy mustard or Dijon mustard/shallot/red wine vinaigrette. Talk about good!  Any fresh green beans can be prepared this way.

green beans - 1

This year I ordered green bean seeds from Pinetree Garden Seeds http://www.superseeds.com.  It’s become one of my favorite spots to find good organic seeds. I planted Black Valentine Green Bush beans and Bush Blue Lake Green beans. I prefer to plant bush green beans rather than pole green beans because I find them easier to maintain as they grow low to the ground in a small bush. Pole beans require a little more effort as you have to find something from them to climb onto. 

green beans - 3

Green beans are planted about an inch deep and are ready to harvest anywhere from about 49 to 55 days, depending on the variety of the bean. I planted the majority of my beans a week or two before April 1st and am picking some of them now. I planted more a few weeks later and they are blooming now. I plan to plant one more bunch of beans so that I will continue to have beans throughout the summer. 

So what am I going to do with all of these wonderful “fresh” green beans?

  • I will pressure can some of them and store them away for later in the season (can keep canned vegetables a year or more) 
  • I will make Spicy Dilly Beans (which taste like a crunchy pickle) – an excellent snack
  • I will just cook them fresh and eat them!

Canning fresh green beans is easy. However, it’s very important that you use safe canning methods and understand the correct canning process for fresh vegetables. The National Center for Food Preservation is a good resource for canning safety.  http://nchfp.uga.edu.  Another good resource is the Ball Canning Guide.

If you want to learn more about canning and preserving in a fun learning environment, contact Fresh From the Gardens to schedule an in-home canning party. Class details are noted in the following link:


If you have a venue in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area that can accommodate your group, Chef Sandra is happy to come to your location.

Other Canning Offerings

Private one-on-one Private canning lessons. Get assistance with canning your own supply of fruit or vegetables from your garden or from a local farmer.

Fruit Trees – A Family Tradition

Spring is absolutely one of my favorite times of year.  I look forward to planting my Spring vegetable garden and I thoroughly enjoy the beauty of seeing everything in full bloom this time of year.

When I was growing up it was very common to see fruit trees all over our neighborhood.   Some of my fondest memories were plum, pear, and peach trees growing in our yard and also in my great-grandmotherdear’s yard, just one block up the street from our home. I will always remember the muscadine grape vines growing in her backyard. Talk about the best grape jelly!

fruit treets (1)

Carrying on this family tradition, I planted three fruit trees a few years ago, (plum, peach and nectarine) and to my surprise, in the first year my plum tree produced a couple of plums--yes two plums--and my peach tree also produced two peaches, as you can see in the pics.  They were all delicious and gave me hope for this year. I am hoping for a huge yield. My sister Agnes also planted fruit trees and her little peach tree was loaded with peaches last summer.

Fast forward to this Spring.  All of my fruit trees are currently in full bloom.  The pink blooms are from the nectarine and peach trees and the white blooms are from the plum tree. 

plumsI can’t wait to infuse some of my homemade jams and jellies into some amazing spring and summer dishes.

Will keep you posted! 

Roasting Fresh Vegetables

Oven roasting vegetables is by far my favorite way to prepare and eat fresh vegetables. I absolutely love the sweet natural flavor that comes from roasting vegetables. During the winter months there are so many good root vegetables available for roasting, and during this time of year I roast a ton of fresh veggies. Some of my favorite vegetables to roast are multi-colored fingerling potatoes, fennel, carrots, red onions, snap peas, peppers, turnips, and small pieces of corn on the cob.  Amazingly, even the normally bitter tasting turnip become sweet when roasted. That’s because something sort of magic happens during the roasting process. The high heat transforms the vegetables by causing them to caramelize, leaving a natural sweet flavor.

Keep in mind that different vegetables require different roasting times. That’s because softer vegetables and those that hold moisture like peppers, leeks, zucchini, asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms and green beans take less time than hard root vegetables like potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips. Try to combine vegetables with similar roasting times together to ensure even cooking.

When using a conventional oven, I usually roast my vegetables at about 425 degrees, but you can roast vegetables between 375 and 475 degrees. At 425 degrees my vegetables are usually ready in about 20 minutes. The higher the temperature, the shorter the cooking time. The vegetables are done when the centers are soft and creamy and the outer edges are golden and crispy. Be sure and watch them carefully if roasting at higher temperatures.


What you’ll need

  • A cookie sheet (a flat pan works best. A roasting pan with the higher sides can cause your vegetables to steam rather than roast)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Parchment Paper (or spray your cookie sheet to prevent sticking)
  • Salt and Pepper

Step 1

Preheat oven to 425

At this high temperature, most vegetables will roast in about 15- to 20 minutes.

Step 2

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Helps to keep the vegetables from sticking and makes for easier cleanup. If you don’t have parchment paper, spray your cookie sheet with cooking spray.

Step 3

Cut vegetables evenly. Cut your vegetables in similar sizes, to help them roast and brown close to the same time. Throw vegetables in a large bowl and sprinkle with extra virgin oil and toss. Use your hands if needed to make sure covered on all sides. A couple of tablespoons per pan should be sufficient. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Step 4

Spread vegetables evenly on a baking sheet with low sides. Metal is best for roasting.

If your pan is too crowded, your vegetables will steam rather than roast. If you have too many vegetables to fit onto one pan, use two. Also position them near the edges of the pan which makes them brown better.

Step 5

Be sure to stir vegetables a few times while cooking so they will brown evenly on all sides.

Step 6 – ENJOY!

Once you’ve gotten comfortable with roasting, try experimenting. Here are some ideas:

  • Try different oils like coconut oil, peanut oil or safflower oil. Just make sure your oil is very fresh.
  • Add some aromatics like onions, garlic, ginger, shallots, leeks
  • Add herbs like thyme, sage, rosemary, bay leaf
  • Spice it up with chili power or curry
  • Finish with something spicy or crunchy like nuts
  • Roast vegetables and fruit together like butternut squash with apples.

Roasting Guides



Source: http://www.healwithfood.org/chart/vegetable-oven-roasting-times.php#ixzz3yB8rV3vc