Real Food

Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

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My four-year-old has a sticker chart to incentivize learning her memory verses. For every 25 stickers on the chart, she gets to pick a special treat to make with mommy.

Usually I hand her a stack of colorful cookbooks, and she flips through the pictures till something special catches her eye. Sometimes she just comes up with her own idea, and we blaze our own trail.

When she asked to make pistachio cookies last week, I was inexplicably set on using a recipe, but my books were no help. Thus, I sort of adapted (read pretty much ripped off) April Bloomfield’s Pistachio Shortbread recipe, as seen here.

Now these cookies—the version you’ll see below, that is--are not at all what I’d call shortbread. Their texture is a more like a gingersnap: a little chewy, a little crisp.

I add a touch of almond extract, a bit more vanilla, and a pinch of cardamom for a little interest. Also, I roll the edges of the cookies in sugar before baking to perk up the visuals. Conventional wisdom suggests fashioning the dough into a log, rolling the log in sugar, then slicing and baking to achieve this result. I opt to scoop balls, flatten them, and then roll the edges in sugar because it is tough to roll this coarse dough into a tight log without sizeable air pockets.

My family agreed that these cookies deserve a spot in the standard cookie rotation around here. I hope your family will love them as well!

Sugared Pistachio Cookies Recipe


• 1 cup shelled, roasted, salted pistachios
• 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
• ¾ cups sugar
• 1 tsp coarse kosher salt (like Morton)
• 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
• ½ cup (I stick) chilled butter, cut into 12 pieces
• 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
• ¼ tsp almond extract
• 1-2 tbsp ice water, as needed
• 2-3 tbsp granulated sugar, for rolling


1. Place the pistachios in the food processor and process 45 seconds or just till finely ground—do not let turn to pistachio butter. Add the flour, sugar, salt, and cardamom and process for about five seconds to combine. Scrape down the sides and around the bottom of the processor, add the butter and extracts and process about 10 seconds to distribute the butter throughout the mixture. With the processor on, drizzle in just enough ice water to bring the dough together.

2. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper, pat it into a disk, wrap it up in the parchment, and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

3. Position your oven racks in the centermost spots, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Place the sugar in a shallow bowl or dish.

4. Using a small cookie scoop if desired, make two-teaspoon-sized balls of dough and flatten with your palm or a flat-bottomed drinking glass (the cookies should be about two inches in diameter). Roll each disk through the sugar as if you were turning a wheel until the edges are well-coated, and space evenly between the two baking sheets.

5. Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or till just beginning to darken around the edges. Allow to cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days.

Morgan Crumm is a mother, blogger, recipe-developer, and real-food advocate based in Dallas, Texas. More of her work can be found at Being The Secret Ingredient, a blog about food, life, and love.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Making corn relish and canning it in a water bath canner is an easy and delicious way to preserve end-of-the-season corn. Open these colorful jars for a taste of summer in the middle of winter.

Getting Started

This recipe comes from Better Homes and Gardens’ America’s All-Time Favorite Canning & Preserving Recipes. I like to use half-pint jars to arrange in holiday gift baskets with homemade pickle relish, mustard and ketchup. I also have had fine results making a half-recipe, adjusting all the quantities by half. (But most experts shudder at modifying canning recipes. Follow recipes in trusted canning guides to ensure safety.)

Yield about 5 pints.


• 12-16 ears of corn
• 2 cups water (for boiling corn)
• 3 cups celery, chopped
• 3 cups chopped red sweet pepper (or mixed red and green sweet peppers)
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 2-1/2 cups vinegar
• 1-3/4 cups sugar
• 4 tsp dry mustard
• 2 tsp pickling salt
• 2 tsp celery seed
• 1 tsp ground turmeric
• 3 tbsp cornstarch
• 2 tbsp water

Prepping the Jars

As always, wash the jars, lids and bands in hot soapy water. Or wash jars and bands in the dishwasher and lids by hand so the rubber seal doesn’t overheat. Fill your water-bath canner with water and bring to boil. You want the water to cover the filled jars by at least two inches.

When the water comes to a boil, lower the clean empty jars into the canner to sterilize while you mix up the corn relish. Pour boiling water over lids and bands in a heatproof dish.

Making the Relish

1. Cut corn off the cobs to measure 8 cups.

2. Combine corn and water in a Dutch oven, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, about five minutes or until corn is nearly tender. Drain. End-of-season corn is just as sweet as early summer’s, but can be a little tougher so making relish is a great way to use it.

3. Return the corn to the pot; add celery, pepper and onion.

4. Stir in vinegar, sugar, mustard, pickling salt, celery seed and turmeric. Bring to boiling. Boil uncovered for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. In a separate cup, mix the cornstarch and water, then add to corn relish.

6. Continue to cook mixture until slightly thick and bubbly and time for one additional minute.

7. Remove sterilized jars from the canner and place on a towel by the pot of relish.

8. Ladle relish into the canning jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Use a sterilized stainless knife to coax out any air bubbles, wipe jar rims and adjust lids and bands.

9. Process in your water-bath canner for 15 minutes in boiling water, adding minutes depending on your particular altitude. You can find accurate timing information online or in most canning books. After processing, lift jars unto a clean towel and wait for the faithful “ping” of each seal.

You can read more at Dede's website, or in her blog post archive on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


It’s Hatch Pepper Festival time! The peppers are being harvested in Hatch, New Mexico, now. They have a huge festival there in Hatch, but we don’t have to travel any farther than our local supermarket. The upscale market in Dallas has a lot going on with big mesh roasters going outside. Inside, their chefs think outside the salsa and have put some Hatch into everything from hamburgers and buns to brownies and ice cream. It’s mostly pretty delicious.

If you are lucky enough to come across some Hatch chili peppers and favorite variety of basil, here is a pesto recipe with a friendly amount of spice. Try it atop a Southwest chicken salad and transport yourself to New Mexico. (If you can’t make the festival, you can still make the pesto.)

Southwest Hatch Pesto Recipe

Make your most delicious Chicken-Pesto Pasta with this one. Add this kicky pesto to chicken enchiladas or tacos, stir it into the dressing for a Southwest Chicken Salad (see recipe below), or add it to a fajita platter. It’s absolutely yummy.


• 2 medium cloves garlic, mashed or twice as much roasted garlic
• 1 large Hatch chili pepper - mild or hot, you choose - seeded and cut up
• 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
• 2 cups basil leaves, packed
• 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil


Wash the basil and drain well. If you have a salad spinner, use that or just shake it. Start with the garlic, pepper, and cheese.  Process a minute until well mixed and the pepper is chopped, then start putting in handfuls of the basil. When the basil is incorporated, add the olive oil slowly until you have a lovely grainy texture. If you’re not eating this immediately, put it into a bowl, smooth the surface and coat it with a film of olive oil to prevent darkening.

Freeze in tubs, coated with olive oil.

Southwest Chicken Caesar Salad with Hatch Pesto Dressing Recipe

Try this salad either as individual dinner salads or one huge one to pass around.

Hatch Pesto Dressing Ingredients:

• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
• 1/4 cup Hatch pesto (or more to taste)
• pinch sea salt

Pesto Dressing Directions: Stir up a bowl of dressing, multiplying to allow about ½ cup per serving. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Salad Ingredients:

• Romaine lettuce, half to a whole head per serving, depending on head size
• Cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, nicely sliced or bite-size dice

Additional Salad Topping Suggestions:

• Diced cucumbers
• Tomato wedges
• Sliced marinated dried tomatoes
• Cherry tomatoes
• Avocado slices
• Artichoke hearts
• Radishes
• Barely blanched corn kernels
• Cooked black beans
• Grated Jack cheese
• Peppers, crisp sautéed and cooled
• Black olives

Salad Directions: Season the chicken nicely with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Either sauté, deep fry or bake until cooked through. Chill.

Fill a generous bowl with torn romaine leaves and then top with as many of the above-mentioned suggested toppings as you want. I like to place the chicken in the center and then arrange the others in a pretty pattern around, like a Nicoise salad.

Drizzle on a little of the dressing, then serve the rest on the side, as pictured.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Elderberry, Sambucus, is a seasonal berry that fruits in time for the prevention of cold and flu season. A member of the Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae), elderberries are perennial shrubs with pithy stems that are typically found in valley bottoms or along streams.

Leaves are oppositely arranged on the stems with 5 to 9 strongly pointed and sharply toothed leaflets that are 2-5 inches long.

Flowers are white with many tiny flowers in clusters.

Fruit is in the form of pea-sized berries that ripen from green to dark blue or black with a waxy coating.

Health Benefits of Elderberries

North American, European, Western Asian and North African cultures have known the medicinal properties of the elderberry plant for thousands of years. The health benefits of the plant are widespread:

• Antioxidant
• Lowers Cholesterol
• Improves Vision
• Boots Immune System
• Improves Heart Health
• Fights Bacterial and Viral Infections

Most notably, the fruit ripens in time to make an elixir to prevent and treat the common cold and flu.

Elderberry Tonic Recipe

(adapted from

Tip: Freeze freshly picked elderberries in clusters after harvesting to simplify the de-stemming process.



• 2/3 cup Elderberries (fresh or frozen)
• 3-1/2 cups of water
• 2 tbsp fresh or dried ginger root (or powder)
• 1 tsp cinnamon powder
• 1/2 tsp cloves or clove powder
• 1 cup raw honey


1. Pour water into a medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.

2. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until the liquid reduces to almost half (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).

3. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.

4. Discard the elderberries (feed to chickens or compost) and let the liquid cool to lukewarm.

5. Add 1 cup of honey and stir well. (Note: honey is added after the mixture has cooled to keep raw enzymes intact).

6. Pour mixture into glass jars to be stored in the fridge for up to three months.

Recommended doses

Prevention (can be taken daily)

1. Kids (13 months-12 years old): 1/2 to 1 teaspoon

2. Adults: 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon


Take the normal dose every 2-3 hours until symptoms disappear.

Don’t get caught off guard by cold and flu season this year. Prepare this easy elderberry elixir for a natural alternative for flu prevention and recovery.

Special Notes:

1. NEVER give Elderberry Tonic to infants 12 months/under.

2. Elderberries can be used as any other berry for pies, jams, breads, stuffing, etc.

3. Consuming raw elderberries causes extreme GI distress in many people. Try a few berries raw before overindulging.


1. Benoliel, Doug. Norwest Foraging. 2011. Skipstone.

2. Elderberry Benefits and Information

3. Elderberry as a Medicinal Plant

4. How to Make Elderberry Syrup for Flu Prevention

Author Bio

Lyndsay Mynatt, a dedicated forager and outdoor enthusiast, is a blogger for Mother Earth News. Published articles include: Build a DIY Cider Press in the 2015 September/October issue of GRIT and a forthcoming article on 5-Minute Mayonnaise in the 2015 Best of Mother Earth News. Lyndsay and her husband, Jordan, are launching on a year of international rock climbing and trekking starting in October 2015. Follow their adventures at A Faithful Journey.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 


Canning salsa can seem daunting when you read about how low-acidic foods pose all these food safety dangers. Sure, tomatoes are relatively safe to can, but what happens if you add peppers, hot chiles, onions and garlic to make salsa? If you follow the basic guidelines from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, you know you have a safe product.

The key, I've found, is to use a scale to weigh all your ingredients. This ensures that you have the right, safe ratio of acid and low-acid vegetables. There's actually flexibility in these ingredients if you follow one simple rule - Don't Change the Ratios! The ratio of acid vegetables to non-acid vegetables must remain the same. Also, the 5 percent acidity vinegar is required. You may change vinegar, but do not substitute lemon or lime juice. OK, that was two rules.

What you CAN do is change out the tomatoes for any kind of tomatoes or tomatillos (although paste-type tomatoes will give you the thickest salsa.) Peppers and chiles can be of any kind or flavor. You can use lots of garlic and a little onion, or lots of cilantro or none. This salsa could even be all yellow with yellow heirloom tomatoes, sweet peppers and yellow hot Hungarian chiles. Or make chile verde green salsa with green tomatoes or tomatillos and Hatch green chiles. My favorite is the all-black salsa with black krim tomatoes, black sweet peppers and black jalepenos. Cool!

Follow these rules and you'll get a great tasting, safe canned salsa. Since this is a basic recipe, I'm making prep as simple as possible. You may peel the tomatoes if you wish, but here I am just coring them.  Get as fancy with prep as you like. Follow the usual precautions of properly hot water bath processing and checking your lids for a proper seal, and you'll be just fine.

Basic Canned Salsa Recipe


• 5 pounds fresh tomatoes
• 2 pounds fresh sweet pepper, hot chile combination
• 1 pound onions, garlic, cilantro combination
• 1 cup apple cider vinegar
• 1 tbsp salt
• 1 tsp ancho chile powder (optional)


1. Core and seed the sweet peppers. Core hot peppers, but only seed them if you want to reduce the heat. If you like mild salsa, use jalapeños. If you like hot salsa, trade out as many hot chiles for sweet peppers as you like. Put them in a food processor and chop them fine. Check the total weight of the chopped pepper/chile combo to be sure you at 2 lbs or a bit less.

2. Peel and roughly chop the onion, as many garlic cloves as you'd like, and a handful of cilantro. Check the total weight to be sure it's one pound.

3. Core the tomatoes and quarter them. Drop them in a food processor and chop to desired level of chunky or smoothness. Check that the final weight is 5 pounds.

4. Combine all the vegetables with the vinegar, salt and chile powder in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes once it starts boiling.

5. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a canner pot with rack large enough to hold 8 pint jars. Wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water, rinse and set aside on a dishtowel or rack.

6. When the water is boiling and the salsa has simmered for 10 minutes, fill the pint jars with salsa, leaving 1/2" head space at the top. Clean the rims with a towel dipped in hot water, then top with the canning lids until finger tight. Lower the jars into the canner until it's full. Bring the water to a boil and process the salsa for 15 minutes (I go 5 minutes longer than recommended.) Remove to a rack to cool completely.

7. Once cool, remove the rings from all the jars and check your seals. If a jar did not seal properly, reprocess it for 15 minutes or store it in the refrigerator.

8. Store jars in a cool, dark place without the rings, in a single layer. Do not stack jars on top of each other as this may hide defective jar lid seals. Use within one year.

Tammy Kimbler is the blogger of One tomato, two tomato. A cultivator at heart, Tammy’s passions lie with food, preservation, gardening and connecting to her local community through blogging and urban agriculture. She eats well and love to feed others as often as possible. She currently resides with her family in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



I’m not crazy about pickles in general, but love pickled Brussels sprouts. Unlike pickled asparagus or pickled green beans, pickled Brussels sprouts can be difficult to find on the grocery shelf, so every year I make my own. Pickling Brussels sprouts is an easy canning project, very cost effective, and sinus clearing too!

As a child, I used to help my grandmother and her sisters with the canning. I can remember the pungent smell of vinegar filling the house as they all made enough pickles to feed a small army. This recipe is no different. My husband said he could smell the vinegar mixture in the back yard.

Home Canning Safety Guidelines

Before starting any canning project, it’s always a good idea to brush up on home canning safety tips. Lessons learned at Grandma’s knee might no longer be considered safe. Mother Earth News has published many canning articles that help keep us up-to-date, including the very helpful Home Canning Guide.

Pickled Brussels Sprouts Recipe

This recipe is adapted from one found in The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest by Carol W. Costenbader.


• 2 lbs (about 6 cups) fresh Brussels sprouts
• 4 garlic cloves
• 2-1/2 cups water
• 2-1/2 cups cider vinegar (5 percent acidity)
• 3 tbsp canning salt
• 1 tsp cayenne pepper
• 4 tsp dill seed


1. Trim Brussels sprouts of old foliage and check to make sure that there aren’t any insect holes. Cut large sprouts in half.

2. Steam the Brussels sprouts in the microwave or on the stove-top until tender, but still bright green. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Pack into four, pint-sized canning jars. Peel 4 garlic cloves and place one in each jar with the sprouts.

3. In a saucepan, combine the water, cider vinegar, canning salt, cayenne pepper, and dill seed.  This is the sinus clearing part – bring to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes. Don’t stand over the pot and inhale the aroma!

4. Ladle the vinegar mixture over the Brussels sprouts leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Cap, using the two-piece canning lids and process in a boiling water bath canner or 15 minutes.

You can find my step-by-step Water Bath Tutorial on my website.

You will probably be tempted to try them today, but pickled vegetables should sit at least 3 weeks before opening for full flavor development. Serve these on an appetizer tray or along with a casserole for dinner. Pickled Brussels sprouts are also the perfect late afternoon snack; substantial enough to fill you up, but tart enough that you can’t eat too many.

If you are not partial to Brussels sprouts, you can use this same recipe to make pickled asparagus, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, etc.

Renee Pottle is an author, Family and Consumer Scientist, and Master Food Preserver. She writes about canning, baking, and urban homesteading at Seed to Pantry.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Moving forward from my last post about the Six Simple Steps, which are:

1. Buy It!

2. Prepare It!

3. Dehydrate It!

4. Condition It!

5. Vacuum-Seal It!

6. Store It!

I pretty much covered the buying aspect in step one in the last post, so we'll tackle the prep part as promised next.

Spraying with Ascorbic Acid (or Lemon Juice)

Some fruits listed in the bullet points below need to be sprayed with ascorbic acid. Commercial dehydrating plants use it to prevent oxidation (browning) while they are drying. If you don't have ascorbic acid on hand, you can use fresh lemon juice — or grab a bottle of RealLemon™ juice which works great when fitted with a spray nozzle. That's what I'm using in the first photo.

1. Fruits to spray (out of my top 14 on my site) are apples, bananas, peaches, and pears.

2. Vegetables to spray (out of my top 16 on my site) are carrots.

The lemon-juice spraying helps the carrots keep their vibrant color. (You can also steam carrots for the same reason, see the steaming section below.)

Blanching Aids in the Dehydrating Process

What is blanching and why do it? Blanching is a process of dipping small amounts of fresh foods in small amounts of boiling water for a few minutes. The reason I say "small" is because it takes too long to bring water back up to a boil when you use too much food and too much water. The blanching helps break the tough skin's surface, creating tiny cracks, so the dehydrator's warm air can penetrate.

This air-penetration is very important. Why? In order for foods to dehydrate to their cores, we have to make sure that "case hardening" doesn't occur. As you might suspect, case hardening can be described as the food getting a tough outer skin, thereby blocking attempts to allow air to pass through to their centers. If foods are stored with moist centers, it leads to bacterial growth which is something to avoid at all costs!

1. Fruits to blanch (out of my top 14) are berries and cranberries.

2. Vegetables to blanch (out of my top 16) are broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans.

Steaming Aids in Color Preservation

All you need for steaming is a pan of boiling water, and a suitable submersible basket. I'm lucky enough to have a set of pans made for this purpose. The bottom pan holds the water (obviously!) and the top pan nests inside. The top pan has holes in it that allow the steam to enter. While steaming, I do move the food around in the top pan for even steaming! And like the blanching time — a few minutes is good. In future posts, I promise to share with you the specifics of "how long to steam or blanch" relative to certain fruits and vegetables mentioned in this post.

1. Fruits to steam (out of my top 14) is rhubarb.

2. Vegetables to steam (out of my top 16) are butternut squash, fresh corn, peas, and zucchini.


Surprise Food Prep Step!

Yes, I have a surprise food prep step which is: dehydrate frozen fruits and vegetables! When you dehydrate frozen fruit and veggies, the manufacturers' have already completed one of the three prep steps necessary for us — it's a great time saver too. Frozen peas, corn, and hash-browns are among my favorites to dehydrate. Tip: Wear latex gloves when handling frozen items so the foods don't stick to your hands as you smooth them out of the dehydrator trays :-)

In the next post I'll go over Simple Step 3's dehydrating process for fruits, veggies and cooked meats!

To read all of Susan's posts, please visit this page on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Since December of 2010, Susan Gast has operated Easy Food Dehydrating, a website dedicated to dehydrating fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooked meats. Susan teaches you how to safely store your goodies toofor long-term food storage. Keep your food pantry fullwhatever the reason or season!

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

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