Real Food

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sourdough crackersI always feel guilty of throwing out any sourdough starter. But not always in the mood to put in the effort to make amazing bread. So here is a great recipe for crackers. I don’t know about you but I am a snacker. I am more about it being easy, rather than what is good for me. Sorry, but that is the honest truth. I think there are a lot of people out there like myself. So these crackers are perfect for me.

Sourdough Crackers Recipe

1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup flour
¼ cup melted butter
Olive oil

Combine flour, starter, and melted butter. Add enough flour to form a stiff ball. Cover and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Roll dough out very thin. Baste with olive oil, sprinkle with salt (and other ingredients that will be mentioned below) to you taste bud liking. Cut dough into squares or whatever shape you like. A pizza cutter works great for this. Transfer to a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. After this time keep checking on the crackers because they tend to cook quickly. Light brown and crisp is the goal. When you remove them from the oven let them cool completely before storing.

This is such an easy recipe. The variations are endless with this sourdough cracker recipe. Sourdoughs International has a great whole wheat starter called the South African that makes amazing crackers. You can put different cheeses on these crackers, fresh herbs, cinnamon and sugar, the list can go on and on. What is also wonderful is that these are so easy they are great to do with kids. They can cut them into different shapes and top with what they like. Easy and fast and taste great too. Can’t beat that. A fun treat for everyone.


Summer is winding down, particularly in the garden. The tomatoes are done, eggplants are still working on a few more, well, eggplants, but the cucumbers? We’re overrun! And there’s more coming, too. I’ve been trying to find ways to put them in and on everything. My friend Irene has suggested cold cucumber soup, which is about the only thing I haven’t done. One of my favourite ways with cucumbers is cucumber salad, a Scandinavian dish that is simple to make, and uses cucumbers, at least 2 at a time. My favourite cucumber recipe is cucumber sandwiches, but alas, doesn’t use a lot. Suffice it to say, cucumbers are on the menu everyday here, and will be for a while. I just brought another five in today. If I looked really hard, there’s probably more out there, which is a scary thought.  

On to the salad. In true Scandinavian fashion, fresh dill here is the best for flavor.

Scandinavian Cucumber Salad Recipe
cucunber salad

2 cucumbers, scrubbed, ends removed
1 tsp table salt
½ cup sour cream, more if desired
1 tbsp fresh minced dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Additional dill for garnish

If you like the peel of the cucumber, by all means leave it on, otherwise, you can peel the cucumber. I prefer the peel on, as it gives crunch and colour. Slice your cucumbers very thinly, and place in a large bowl. Add the teaspoon of salt to the bowl and cover with cool water. Let sit for about an hour.

After the hour is up, drain the cucumbers and rinse to get the salt out. Squeeze them out gently to get rid of any excess water; otherwise they may become too watery. Mix in the sour cream, fresh dill, and salt & pepper, if using. Once well combined, refrigerate until serving time, at least an hour or two. If desired, you can sprinkle more fresh dill over the top, or place some decorative sprigs, if you like.


chicken brothAs the weather begins to cool ever so slightly and the kids go back to school, I’m reminded that cold season is right around the corner. My number one preventative and cure is good old fashioned chicken soup. My family drinks a mug of warm, nourishing chicken broth just about every morning to start the day but that’s just one of the many ways we enjoy this delicious stuff; you can make it and freeze it for use weeks or even months later, use it as the base for delicious soups, put a little in a pan to reheat everything from brisket to pasta, cook rice in it- the list just goes on and on!

The feet in this recipe are optional but if you have access to them, use them. They will release tons of gelatin making your stock beautifully silky and flavorful. Gelatin is also very healing to the gut so there’s nothing better for a touchy stomach.  Adding feet can be the difference between a great broth and an exceptional one.

Homemade Chicken Broth

You’ll need:

1 large stock pot or slow cooker
1-2 chicken carcasses
2-4 chicken feet (optional but strongly recommended)
2 TBS apple cider vinegar- I like to use raw
1 tsp sea salt

1. Roast bones in oven at 375 for about 10 minutes on each side or until golden brown.If you’re using the bones of a roasted chicken there’s no need to roast the bones again, just toss them in the pot.

2. Put bones in a slow cooker or pot, cover with cool water, add apple cider vinegar and let sit for one hour

3. Add sea salt, bring to a boil, skim off any foam from top, reduce to barely a simmer, cover and let cook for 12-24 hours adding more water if necessary.

4. Take off of heat, cool, strain and store in refrigerator or freezer


You can use this recipe with beef, lamb, fish turkey or any other kind of bones you may have.
For an especially flavorful and even more nutritious broth save carrot peelings and the end pieces of onions, garlic and celery. Add these to the stock about four hours before the stock is finished. I have a ziplock bag in my freezer that I store these things in until I’m ready to use them.
Add fresh herbs like oregano, parsley, rosemary or thyme for the last 15 minutes or so for extra flavor and health benefits.
Chicken bones cooked for 24 hours will be soft and are a wonderful treat for your cat or dog.

One of my favorite things to do with this broth is to make a stock based veggie soup. It’s wonderfully simple and fantastic for any day of the week. Both of my sometimes picky kids love it and it’s the perfect thing to freeze and reheat. It’s also ideal to drop off for a sick or homebound friend.

Chicken and Vegetable Soup Recipe

Use two cups of water for every cup of broth (the above recipe will make a much more concentrated broth than what can you buy in the store). Fill a pot about halfway up. Add:

1 chopped onion
3 sliced celery stalks and leaves
3-4 sliced carrots
1-2 handfuls lentils (rinsed)
⅓ cup brown rice (rinsed)
6 cloves of minced garlic
any bits of roasted chicken you picked from the bones and saved (optional)

Bring to a boil, skim, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1-2 hours depending on personal preference.


Add any other veggies that you have on hand. Things like corn, peas, green beans, potatoes, squash and zucchini are all wonderful. It’s hard to mess this one up!

Save the rind of Parmesan and add to soup for extra flavor. Discard it when the soup is finished.


How to Prevent Alzheimers with Diet

Did you know that Alzheimer’s disease begins in the brain up to 20 to 30 years before the first inkling of memory loss? Were you aware that Alzheimer’s is mostly caused by poor diet and lifestyle habits? According to Alzheimer’s specialists, this means there is plenty of time for people to make brain-healthy lifestyle and dietary choices to potentially delay the onset of this dreaded and devastating disease.[1] If you’ve been wondering how to prevent Alzheimer’s, you need to know about the latest research showing how your daily food choices affect your risk.

How to Prevent Alzheimer’s Using Mediterranean-Style Diets

This year, two separate teams of researchers from prominent medical institutions concluded that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. [1,2] The Mediterranean diet generally emphasizes vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, monounsaturated fats (olive oil), fish, and mild-to-moderate alcohol intake. It limits meat, dairy, saturated fat, and high amounts of alcohol.

After reviewing dozens of studies, researchers from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College found that not only does the Mediterranean diet has the strongest evidence for decreasing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but it also improves cognitive function in those who already have the disease. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic also found that if you already have mild cognitive impairment, eating Mediterranean style reduces your risk of transitioning to Alzheimer’s disease.[3]

Eating More of This and Less of That Reduces Risk by 90%

Another important recent study examining how to prevent Alzheimer’s with diet is the first in the world to investigate how diet in midlife affects the risk of developing dementia much later in life.[4,5] Researchers from Finland rated the diets of 2,000 random Finnish participants and found that those who ate the healthiest diets at the average age of 50 had an almost 90% lower risk for dementia over the next 14 years compared with those whose diets were least healthy.

The most important dietary changes to make to prevent dementia, concluded the researchers, are:

  • Eat more vegetables, fruits, and berries.

  • Eat more fish.

  • Choose unsaturated fats over saturated fats (for example, choose vegetable oil instead of butter and low-fat dairy products over high-fat dairy.)

  • Reduce consumption of sausage and other high-fat meat products.

  • Reduce salt consumption.

  • Reduce sugar consumption.

The Best Diet for reventing Alzheimer’s

These are just a few of the recently published, groundbreaking studies showinghow to prevent Alzheimer’s and improve brain function in later life by eating a healthy diet now. Other studies also support the Mediterranean diet as well as other dietary patterns that promote increasing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes, while decreasing sweets, salt, and saturated fats.[6-9] Based on the best evidence so far, eating this way is your best bet for reducing your Alzheimer’s risk as you age.

Find more ways to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease here.


  1. Medscape Med News. 2014 Jun4.

  2. 66th Ann Meet Am Acad Neur. 2014 Apr26-May3; Abs P5.224.

  3. J Alzheimers Dis. Jan 1, 2014; 39(2): 271–282.

  4. Medscape Neur Min. 2014 May14.

  5. Univ Eastern Finland. Dissertations Health Sciences, no. 220.

  6. PLoS One. 2014; 9(4): e94042.

  7. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Nov;98(5):1263-71.

  8. Eur J Nutr. 2014 Jul 18. [Epub ahead of print]

  9. Mol Psychiatry. 2014 Jul 29. [Epub ahead of print]


pestoPesto! It's the herbal culinary equivalent of yelling 'VOILA' and ripping the table cloth off of a set table. Nothing screams 'You'll make it to another spring' like the taste of summer on dreary February nights.  In my humble gustatory opinion, pesto is the savory emotional  equal of home canned peaches. Both taste of sunshine and long days. Cooking with pesto is as gourmet as I get, the fresh complex flavor makes me feel very Williams Sonoma.

Cooking With Pesto

Here are a few ways I utilize pesto, always to rave reviews.

Pesto on homemade chewy skillet pizzas, amazing with just mozzarella, or throw on pine nuts & fungi. Pesto to season minestrone.  Some of those late season frozen tomatoes, skinned, kidney beans and whatever veggies you have buried in the deep freeze. Tossed with spaghetti, add broccoli if you're feeling unlazy, maybe a sprinkle of parm and nuts. Spread on sourdough and grilled with mozzarella, toss on some sun dried tomatoes for your all time fave grilled cheese. Mixed with any tomato product for instant Italian flavor and fresh seasoning.

Since pesto has oil and cheese, no canning allowed. I have committed, due to ease and great results, to freezing mine in ice cube trays and storing in freezer containers or bags. I can thaw a couple of cubes for Friday night pizzas in 30 seconds or so by nuking it.  This is gourmet, sun-shiney, healthy convenience food! So here's my recipe, tweak to your tastes, enjoy!

Homemade Pesto Recipe


2 cups washed basil, packed (this is a loose pile is my big colander, a gently packed full size food processor bowl, or about 3 plants average serial harvesting.)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pinenuts
3 minced garlic cloves
a generous grind of pepper and sprinkle of good salt

I layer the ingredients in no particular order in my food processor, grind coarsely, scrape the sides and grind again.  I like a coarse toothsome texture-make it your own! Spoon whatever you don't consume fresh into ice trays and freeze overnight.  Pop the cubes into bags for the freezer, use a fork to pop them out if they are stubborn.  Mine lasts a year without losing flavor.



Sometimes food heritage is sitting right under our noses, in an old family photograph that “has always been there.” Like this one of a large group standing in front of a farmhouse, circa 1915. The sepia picture hung for decades in that same farmhouse on Jonestown Road in Wallace, North Carolina.

Jones family

This image would not have been remarkable back in the day. According to Ag in the Classroom, in 1910 the farm population comprised one third of all Americans.


Note the mule in the picture, ( we think!) on the far right, an important part of this farm family, or maybe simply a favorite of the bearded man holding the reins, Henry Jones.  Born in 1890, Jones built the house he stands in front of, and established his farm on 80 acres of land. Like so many smallholdings, the farm raised a variety of crops, including corn, tobacco and assorted vegetables, as well as chickens, hogs and some cows. The family owned a horse, as well as the mule pictured. 

Henry’s wife, Annie Walker, is to his right, dressed in dark colors, while her siblings may include the three young women dressed in white. At the far left is likely one of Henry’s sons. Look carefully and you can see that the boy has his arms around a heifer. Hard to see, but the boy next to him appears to be clutching a piglet or some such close to his chest. From his other hand hangs a brass cowbell.

Since photography of this kind cost money, and since those posing were expected to remain motionless for some time, it’s especially pleasing to see that animals clearly prized by those involved were considered important enough to be pictured.


The Jones name is as common in Wales as is Smith in England. Welsh settlers came first to Pennsylvania and Delaware in the 1680s and it may have been their Welsh-American descendants who established farms near the North Carolina coast beginning about 1730. (Some were given land in exchange for providing the British Navy with “stores,” materials for ship building and repair derived from pine trees abundant in the area.)

It took many hands to run a farm, of course, and Henry and his wife, Annie had nine children. The last, Amada, born in 1925, was the mother of the woman who recently took another careful look at this photograph. 

Amada and her husband, Jack, restored and preserved the Jones farmhouse for years, spending summers there while based outside of Washington, DC. By the 1960’s, while still actively farmed, its acreage was down to 3 1/2, as Henry and Annie had deeded small parcels of the land to their assorted offspring long since.

Today the little farm has passed out of the family, along with the large kitchen table Henry built for the place. But this photograph remains, to remind us of what a typical American farm family once looked like.

For more on food history and food heritage, visit The Food Museum.



Hawthorn's bright red fruits caught my eye this past weekend when I was leading a foraging tour. Sometimes snubbed because of its mealy texture, hawthorn fruit makes spectacular liqueurs, jellies, fruit sauce, and chutney.While you're enjoying the rosy color and gentle sweetness of this late summer and early fall fruit, you may also be getting some health benefits: hawthorn has a long history of use as an herbal medicine for the heart, especially for arrhythmia. It is useful for both high and low blood pressure, acting as a balancing tonic.

Recognizing Hawthorn

Hawthorns are small trees with leaves that are 1-2 inches long and usually lobed. The leaves can have different shapes from one tree to the next, but are always alternate with toothed margins.The lovely white to pale pink flowers look like clusters of apple or cherry blossoms and bloom in mid-spring.

Hawthorn fruits look like little apples, usually red but sometimes closer to purple. You might think you've found an apple or a crabapple tree...until you notice the wickedly long, stout, and sharp thorns. Those thorns are your ID clincher. Also, apples always have 5 seeds per fruit in a pentacle pattern, whereas the number of seeds in hawthorn fruit can vary from 1 to 5.

Collecting Hawthorn Fruit

Look for hawthorn on open hillsides, near pastures and stream banks. It is also widely planted as an ornamental in city parks.

Poking around around hawthorn's spiky branches is no fun, and the fruit that has already fallen to the ground quickly becomes bug-infested. Instead, wait until the fruit has started falling from the tree. Lay down a drop cloth and carefully (watch out for those thorns) shake the reachable branches. The ripe fruit will fall onto your drop cloth.

Eating Hawthorn

Go for recipes that skip the tedious work of removing hawthorn's seeds, while making the most of the lovely color the fruit's skin imparts. Hawthorn-infused vodka or brandy, hawthorn jelly, hawthorn get the idea. You can also run the fruit, unpeeled, through a food mill to remove the stems and then use the pulp to make hawthorn sauce (similar to apple sauce).

When guests ask what's in their blush-colored digestif, I joke with them that it's strictly for medicinal purposes. But the truth is that although my heart may benefit from hawthorn's tonic properties, I simply enjoy the taste.

How to Make Hawthorn Liqueur

Wash ripe hawthorn fruits. Lightly smash each fruit with the bottom of a mason jar or a potato masher. Put the smashed fruit into a clean glass jar and cover it with brandy or vodka. Put the lid on the jar and let the hawthorn steep for one month. Strain out the fruit and add honey to taste (I like just a teaspoon per cup of hawthorn extract, but you may want it sweeter).

Leda Meredith is the author of Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. You can watch her foraging and food preservation videos, and find her food preservation recipes and tips. Her latest book is Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke...and More.

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