Fava bean plant

In the winter time, a couple of my garden beds get less sun and stay more soggy so it’s difficult to grow a food crop. I usually let the soil rest at this time, but by that I don’t mean I leave the garden beds bare.

Even if you only garden three seasons out of the year, you should never leave the soil exposed and empty. Winter rains could lead to soil compaction, especially in hard clay soils. The ground could become eroded and the nutrients washed away when there are no plants and roots to reign them in. Some people simply throw a layer of mulch on the ground and call it good. I like to grow a cover crop — and I especially like to grow fava beans as a dual-purpose cover crop.


October 15 2013      29 comments     Linda Ly
Jardín   Leguminosas

Zucchini noodles with roasted tomatoes, pesto, and pine nuts

My mother-in-law grew a massive zucchini this summer. Or rather, she couldn’t keep up with her zucchini (as is always the case with those prolific plants) and before she knew it, she found this behemoth hiding in the vines.

Monster zucchini

This baby measured 20 inches in length and weighed in at almost 5 pounds! When zucchini gets to this size, I typically reserve it for soup (like my favorite, Curried Zucchini Soup). But this time… Why not make something a little different that will also put my bumper crop of tomatoes to use? I think this recipe is the perfect send-off for summer, utilizing the last bits of our warm-weather crops before the cool-weather greens start to roll in.

I turned this monster into a mountain of zucchini “noodles,” long ribbons of zucchini that give you a rich and satisfying pasta-like feel without the resultant food coma. You can easily make zucchini noodles with a julienne peeler, the julienne blade of a mandoline, or this nifty contraption: the spiral vegetable slicer.

Spiral vegetable slicer

A friend gave me a spiral slicer several months ago as he thought it would be fun for my Garden Betty recipes. Though it’s insanely handy for breaking down large amounts of vegetables into less intimidating strips and slices, it’s not something I used often because a peeler or mandoline fits most of my (two-person household) cooking needs. But for zucchini noodles, the spiral slicer is amazing — though I’ll also show you how to use a good ol’ fashioned peeler if you don’t need to make a mound of them.

Add slow-roasted tomatoes to this dish and it becomes a really lovely lunch. If your end-of-season tomatoes aren’t quite ripe yet, or a little bland on the tastebuds as the plants start to wither, roasting them is a wonderful way to concentrate the flavor and bring out their natural sweetness (as well as the sweetness of the garlic). You can use larger varieties of tomatoes if those are all you have, but you’ll need to roast them for a little longer.

Store-bought pesto works just as well as homemade, but if you still have some basil hanging in there, throw those into a blender and make your own for a truly end-of-summer meal.

Lastly, don’t worry about trying to grow your own 5-pound zucchini; I scaled down this recipe so it’ll make a manageable amount of food (and not one that’ll feed the Duggar family!).


October 14 2013      21 comments     Linda Ly
En La Cocina   Verduras

Hackberry General Store

Back in its heyday in the late 1800s, Hackberry was a thriving ranching and mining town in the northwest Arizona desert, producing over $3 million in gold and silver before the Hackberry Silver Mine shut down in 1919. It’s believed the town was named for the large hackberry tree that grew near the mine.

When US Route 66 was established a decade later, it followed the railroad tracks through Hackberry and the town became a major service stop for travelers on the old highway.

After Route 66 was decommissioned in favor of the new Interstate 40, Hackberry was left abandoned 15 miles from the new highway with no exit ramp for its local thoroughfare, Hackberry Road. The last remaining services, Northside Grocery and Conoco Station, finally closed their doors in 1978 due to lack of traffic.

Arizona State Route 66

These days, the tiny community (don’t blink or you’ll drive right past it) has been resurrected from ghost town status. It now sits on Arizona State Route 66, a scenic road that meanders through the Hualapai Reservation. The Hackberry Post Office serves 68 residential mailboxes. And the town has its own attraction for Historic Route 66 aficionados: Hackberry General Store.


October 11 2013      11 comments     Linda Ly

Feijoa salsa

I have a beautiful feijoa tree in my backyard that’s likely 30 (or more) years old, and every spring it blossoms with clusters of small (and amazingly sweet) pink and white edible flowers. In the summer these flowers turn into dull green, egg-shaped and egg-sized fruits called feijoas (Acca sellowiana).

Mature feijoa tree

Feijoa, also known as pineapple-guava or guavasteen

They’re native to Brazil and were named after a Portuguese (but Brazilian-born) botanist, João da Silva Feijó. (And apparently, I’ve been saying the name wrong these last couple of years. The Brazilian name, feijoa, is pronounced fay-ZHOE-uh, where the “zh” sounds like the “s” in pleasure.)

I don’t see very many feijoa trees (or fruits, for that matter) in California, though it’s a popular and prolific garden plant in New Zealand where the fruit is widely available. It’s also known as pineapple-guava or guavasteen, and a bite into the flesh reminds me of pineapple, guava, and a bit of pear, because the flesh near the skin is slightly gritty.


October 10 2013      27 comments     Linda Ly
En La Cocina   Frutas

Sympathy card from Gisele's vet

It’s been three weeks since the passing of our Easter Egger hen, Gisele, and while I’ve finally accepted her death, her memory is still a little sad to process. I think the situation struck me especially hard because she was the first pet I ever lost and I know she won’t be my last; the unfamiliar experience of caring for (and eventually euthanizing) a terminally ill pet was scary, to say the least. And afterward I cried for Gisele, cried for her sisters, and cried for my pugs (who will soon be 11 and 12 years old) over the inevitable and uncontrollable. I know this is all part of the circle of life, and I think (hope) I’ve become stronger as a result of all this… one of our many lessons in life.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, truly and deeply, for all the beautiful, thoughtful, heartfelt, compassionate, and uplifting emails and comments I’ve received since my original post. I read every single note. So many of you shared your own stories about losing furry or feathery children and offered the most amazing support I could ever hope for. Your emails gave me strength and in some ways, even made me smile. I know it’s often difficult to find the right words to comfort someone, especially a virtual stranger, but please know that even a small sentiment means a lot. I am so grateful to those of you who reached out this past month.


October 8 2013      27 comments     Linda Ly

Baked banana donuts with chocolate hazelnut glaze

With a title such as this, I probably don’t need to extol the virtues of why baked banana donuts with chocolate hazelnut glaze should top your list for breakfast this week. Or every week, as I might find happening in my kitchen… but only because my banana trees (or, more accurately, banana plants) have been bursting with more bananas than I can count!

Homegrown bananas

Tree-ripened bananas

It seems like every week, there’s a new bunch that will emerge from the jungle known as my garden, and once 2 or 3 bananas start ripening on a bunch, all 20 or 30 (or 40 or 50!) of them will turn yellow by the time I blink.


October 7 2013      27 comments     Linda Ly
En La Cocina   Frutas

The five little things that made my week… (at our Dream Boat in Baja!)

Las olas

1. Perfect waves, one after another. (That’s me paddling out!)


October 4 2013      14 comments     Linda Ly