Real Food

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


pizzaRight after I was hired at Sourdoughs International, a TV show called Taste This TV came to our facility to tape a segment. What they had decided they wanted to make were pizzas. I love pizza! This was terrific news to me and how exciting to watch it being made it for the TV show. What I learned that day was that it was easy to bake pizzas and bread sticks. I know what happens to me when I first look at a recipe, I get overwhelmed. I prefer the kid’s recipe books that have simple step-by-step instructions and pictures to go along with them. So to watch pizzas and bread sticks being made in front of me was perfect. I thought, I have to run home and make these while I still remember what he did.

So my 13 year old daughter and I set out to make pizzas that very night. I wasn’t about to push my luck and try pizzas and bread sticks. We went to the store and picked out our favorite toppings and headed home to start our adventure. Now, I do have to say that we the smoke alarm goes off in our house, that means that dinner is done. It is a talent to burn that much food and still live but we have managed so far. I am thinking that pizza is ok with a little burn on the crust so it will work well with my cooking style. I pulled out my cookbook and went to the pizza recipe.

Sourdough-Crust Pizza Recipe

This recipe is from Classic Sourdoughs, revised: A Home Bake’s Handbook by Ed and Jean Wood.

Pizza has been made in Italy for thousands of years. Ancient pizza napoletanna was leavened by crisceto (sourdough); a by-product of beer fermentation was used until just before World War II. That has since been replaced with various forms of commercial yeast. But there are ways to use natural leavening properly, as in the old days. This recipe made with sourdough culture has the original natural sourdough crust, but the toppings can be as American-style as you like. If you have Italian type 00 flour, use it; otherwise all-purpose flour does very well. You may freeze the dough balls after the second proof; thaw it at room temperature before shaping. Traditional Italian toppings include tomato, mozzarella, and olive oil or tomato, oregano, anchovies, and olive oil. Makes about six 10-inch (25 cm) pizzas.

1 ½ cups (360 ml) sourdough culture
7 cups (980 g) unbleached all-purpose or pastry flour
2 ½ cups (600 ml) water
1 ½ teaspoons salt

Mix together the culture, flour, water, and salt in a large mixing bowl and knead for at least 30 minutes to develop the gluten. Place the dough in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, and proof for 4 hours at 77° to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees to 28 degrees Celsius) in a proofing box. Punch down and divide into 6 balls about 8 ounces (250 g) each. Place the balls on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and proof for an additional 4 hours at room temperature, about 70 degrees (21 Celsius).

To form the pizzas, flatten each round by pressing on the center with the heel of your hand until a ridge begins to form at the periphery. Lift the dough by holding onto the ridge with both hands and let the weight of the dough stretch the developing circle. Turn the dough to maintain the circle, while alternately pulling on the ridge and pressing on the center until a 10-inch (25 cm) circle is formed with a ¼-inch (6 mm) ridge.

Transfer the pizzas to a lightly floured baking sheet or peel and proof for ½ to 1 hour at room temperature. Sprinkle on the toppings of your choice. Bake in a pre-heated 500° F (260248 C0 oven, on a pre-heated stone if you have one, for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown.

We were so excited when we put on our own toppings and put them in the oven. Much to my surprise, they didn’t even burn on the bottom, sides or anywhere for that matter. The taste was out of this world. They were so easy to make. This was the best part for me. I was also told that I could freeze the dough. My pizzas don’t look pretty like the ones I have seen my boss and his family make. But I have learned over the years (because I am not a great cook), that it doesn’t matter what it looks like, it only matters what it tastes like. These tasted great!

Hope you have as much fun making these pizzas and we do. I do have to warn you though, this sourdough crust has turned my daughter into a sourdough pizza snob and now she only wants our sourdough pizzas.  



What’s not to love about a creamy-dreamy caramel sauce with the subtle essences of vanilla and cinnamon and the distinctive tang of goat’s milk?

My husband had been carrying sweet memories of cajeta with him since he spent a semester in Mexico as an undergrad. Every time we’d simmer down milk or sweetened condensed milk to make banoffee pie or caramel filling for cupcakes, he’d reminisce about the caramel of his college days and urge me to swap in goat’s milk next time.

When I learned that goat’s milk was gentler on my lactose-hating gut, I knew I had to give the man’s request a shot.

Called dulce de leche (and generally made from cow’s milk) in other parts of Latin America, Mexico’s milk-caramel is often a bit more on the runny side (think sauce or dip rather than pie filling) and is typically made from all or at least some goat’s milk (though an all-cow’s milk approach is acceptable as well).

While it takes a while to cook down, the process is incredibly simple (no candy thermometers or soft-ball-stage tests required).

For best results, use a heavy-bottomed vessel that will conduct and distribute heat relatively evenly. A ceramic-coated cast-iron Dutch oven is perfect for the task. The mixture does not require constant attention, but you will need to check on it semi-frequently to make sure it is simmering and not scorching.

As the cajeta darkens and reduces, it will require incrementally less heat and more stirring.

Cajeta Recipe

spider use

1 cup brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 cinnamon stick (about 3 inches long)
1 quart whole goat’s milk
1 vanilla bean

Place the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon stick, and goat’s milk in a 4-quart Dutch oven. Use a paring knife to split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and use the dull edge of the knife to scrape out the tiny seeds. Add the seeds and the pod to the other ingredients and stir gently to combine.

Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a rapid boil (about 25 minutes on an electric-coil range). Reduce the heat slightly, and continue cooking at a gentle boil or peppy simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 50 minutes. Use a spider or heatproof slotted spoon to remove and discard the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod.


Reduce heat to med-low and continue to stir occasionally for 75 to 90 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer, and stirring a bit more frequently to prevent scorching as the mixture reduces and deepens in color. When done, the cajeta should be deep golden in color and thick enough to heavily coat the back of a spoon or spatula, but still quite pourable.

Use the cajeta immediately if desired, or pour into a sealable container and let cool, uncovered, before sealing and storing in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Serve as a topping for ice-cream, a dip for shortbread cookies or churros, a sweetener for hot chocolate, or even as an ingredient in cakes or cheesecakes.

Making Tahini Paste

Tahini paste is one of those pantry basics that I’m always out of when I need it, like when I want to whip up hummus or eggplant dip or Chinese sesame noodles.  Tahini is just ground sesame seeds and salt, right?  How hard could making sesame paste be?  It was time to make this condiment for myself.

My homemade tahini is rich and nutty with a slight bitter undertone. The course texture from the sesame hulls gives the tahini paste a rustic flare. Best of all, it only takes about 15 minutes to make. And it’s dynamite spread on toast with a bit of sea salt and honey.

How to Make Homemade Tahini

Tahini Paste Recipe By Tammy Kimbler


1/2 lb organic sesame seeds
1/2 tsp course salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup sesame oil
1 tbs toasted sesame oil (optional)


Organic sesame seeds

This recipe is very free-form and can be adjusted to taste as you go. Start by gently toasting your sesame seeds in a dry pan.  They burn easily so when you smell them, they’re done.  Also, if you over toast them, they will start popping like crazy! Pour the seeds in a food processor along with the salt to start.  I like the mineral qualities of course grey sea salt, but kosher salt works fine, too. Turn the processor on high, then slowly add the sesame oil.  I added about 1/3rd of a cup for a very thick tahini paste.  If you like it thinner, more like a tahini sauce, add more oil.  Process the paste for a good 10 minutes.  Check the seasoning.  At the end add 1 tbs toasted sesame oil for a toasty flavor.  Store tahini in the refrigerator.


Sourdough BiscuitsEven we sourdough bakers like to have a fairly quick recipe in our repertoire. Sourdough biscuits is one of those perfect recipes that uses up plenty of ripe starter, but doesn’t take all day to rise. These particular biscuits were inspired by a recipe in World Sourdoughs From Antiquity by Ed Wood. I wasn’t disappointed and you won’t be either. The sourdough starter gave these biscuits more of a “bread-like” texture than a traditional baking powder biscuit, but they weren’t as bread-like as a traditional yeast roll. Either way, biscuit or roll, they were the crowning touch to a light dinner – I served them with a green salad and a bottle of wine for my best meal this week!

It really isn’t difficult to make your own sourdough starter. You can use the method I prefer, found on my website Make Your Own Sourdough Starter. Or follow the methods found in earlier Mother Earth News articles, including Creating Homemade Sourdough Bread From a Starter Mix, and a previous blog post, A Beginner’s Guide to Sourdough.

Sourdough Biscuits Recipe

2 cups sourdough starter
1– 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp melted butter

Start with an active, bubbly sourdough starter. In a large bowl combine all ingredients, stirring until a soft dough forms. I had to use 1 1/2 cups of flour to get the dough to hold together, but that is because my sourdough starter was almost runny. If your starter is more dough-like, you will probably only need about a cup of flour.

Knead the dough briefly on a floured surface. Pat dough into a square, about 1/2 inch thick, and cut biscuits with a biscuit cutter – I made 10 large biscuits. Put biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet or in a greased cake pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place for at least 1 hour.

Baking The Biscuits

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the biscuits are well browned. Remove from oven. Brush tops with additional melted butter if desired and let cool before serving.

Making Specialty Sourdough Biscuits

This recipe lends itself to some quick, but tasty changes:

Substitute whole-grain Kamut flour for some or all of the all-purpose flour.

Add ½ Tbsp onion powder and 1 Tbsp chopped chives to the ingredients for onion flavored biscuits.

Add 1 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs; rosemary, thyme, chives, and marjoram, to biscuit ingredients.

Add 1 cup crumbled blue cheese and ¼ cup chopped green onions to biscuit ingredients.

Use a specialty sourdough starter to give the biscuits added tang. See how to make an easy specialty starter using my process, How to Make Rye and Other Specialty Sourdough Starters.

 Experiment with your own flavors!


garlic mustardGarlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) has been hanging out all winter, even when its leaves were buried under snow. The plants will start putting out lush and perky new growth now that the days are noticeably longer and temperatures at least slightly milder.

Garlic mustard tastes like a lightly bitter leafy green with flavors of…you guessed it, garlic and mustard.

This plant offers several different ways to spice up your cooking. It is a biennial, which means that it starts growing in the late summer and fall of one year, overwinters, and then goes to seed and completes its life cycle the following year. During its first year, it hangs out as a rosette of heart-shaped leaves with scalloped margins and a net-like pattern of veins.

In late winter and early spring, I like to use foraged garlic mustard combined with milder greens and field garlic in pestos and braised greens. Now is also a good time to dig up some of the roots. These can be used just like horseradish. They're stringier though, so best minced very finely.

Further into spring, Alliaria shoots up flower stalks that can get to be 2 1/2 feet tall. The flowers start out looking like miniature broccoli heads, then open into small, 4-petaled white flowers. The leaves on the flower stalks have a more pointed, triangular shape than the rosette leaves.

When the new flower stalks are still tender (around 8 inches tall), and bearing the green, unopened (or just starting to open) flower heads, treat them like broccoli rabe. At this stage they are one of my absolute favorite wild vegetables. Stir-fry the greens in a little extra-virgin olive oil, a few red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt – delicious as is or added to pasta and served with grated cheese.

In summer, the flowers turn into slender, dry capsules 1 to 2 1/2 inches long. Before the seed capsules are fully dry, when they are still green and easy to pinch in half, they are a good, mildly-spicy raw snack. Once ripe, each capsule contains a row of black seeds. Not everybody loves the taste of these seeds, but I find them very good lightly crushed and added to curries. You can also sprout them.

Garlic mustard is an invasive european species that has naturalized on four continents. You can harvest it freely without worrying about sustainability issues. You won’t make a dent in this plant’s population by eating it all year.

Look for garlic mustard in places that will be only partially sunny or in light shade once nearby deciduous trees have leafed out in the spring.

Wild Greens Pesto with Garlic Mustard Recipe

1/4 cup walnuts or pine nuts
1 cup garlic mustard leaves
1 cup chickweed (Stellaria media) or fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon cleaned field garlic bulbs OR 1 clove garlic, peeled
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese (or a pinch of nutritional yeast if you’re keeping it vegan)
Salt to taste

Put the nuts and garlic into a food processor or blender. Blend until the garlic is minced and the nuts are finely chopped.

Add the garlic mustard leaves and the chickweed or parsley. Pulse a few times to coarsely chop the leaves.

With the processor or blender running, add the olive oil in a steady pour, stopping 2 or 3 times to scrape down any leaves that are clinging to the sides of your machine.

Add the cheese, if using, and blend for a few seconds longer. Add a little more oil if it seems too thick, more nuts or cheese if it’s more liquid than you’d like. Add salt to taste.

Toss with pasta, add a spoonful to winter root vegetable stews, or use as a dipping sauce for a good, crusty bread.

Always be 100% certain of your plant identification before eating any wild plant.

Leda Meredith teaches foraging and food preservation skills internationally. You can watch her foraging and food preservation videos, and find her food preservation recipes and tips. Her latest book is Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries.


As the weather transitions from winter to spring, you might find yourself needing an immune booster to keep your body strong. As we shed our winter coats a little too soon, and spring allergies begin to lower our immunity, we need an immune booster to keep the common cold at bay.

What’s your natural wellness aid? At the first sign of a cold, a sore throat, fatigue that hints of fighting illness, a pain in my ear ... I take some raw garlic. I would say I “eat” raw garlic, but I am hardly eating it. It is more like taking important medicine.


A Dose of Garlic

Select the best garlic you can find. Hard-neck garlic is stronger than soft-neck, so maybe it is more vibrant in its medicinal strength as well. I do not know if regular grocery store garlic is irradiated and weakened or killed off. It would be a good test.

Peel a garlic clove. Using a non-serrated knife, slice the garlic clove as thin as you can (or as thin as you need for swallowing). Slice into slivers, like almond slivers.

Swallow the pieces like a pill, wash down with water. I put the pieces on a spoon with some honey. This makes it really easy to swallow, coats the throat with honey and protects it from garlic juice, and adds some benefits for allergies or sore throats.

A Dose of Advice

Start with just a half clove and work up. If you take too much garlic too fast, it can cause nausea.

When I’m really fighting off a big cold, I can take as many as six cloves throughout a day.

Remember, a clove is one little sectional off a garlic bulb. I am talking about taking just a clove, not a whole bulb!

Do not crush the garlic! The juices of the garlic will sting all the way down your throat. You want smooth slivers, which is why I recommend a smooth knife instead of a serrated knife. The juices of garlic are supposed to be very good for you and all that, but I get lots of benefits from taking garlic in this way without that torture.

Will you smell like garlic? I believe that the body sweats out only excess. When fighting illness, your body needs all the garlic and you won’t even notice it on your breath or skin. My husband and I have been amazed at times when we needed six or seven cloves in a day, our bodies just seemed to absorb it. When you are well and eat too much garlic, your body might send out the excess.

A great book about the amazing properties of garlic as a natural antiobiotic: Herbal Antibiotics by Stephen Buhner. The benefits of garlic go well beyond the common cold. Garlic is serious antibiotic power. Buhner says, “No other herb comes close to the multiple system actions of garlic, its antibiotic activity, and its immune-potentiating power.”

Echinacea and Astragulus are two more great immune boosters. Echinacea, like garlic, is best at first symptoms of illness. Echinacea and Astragulus work great for a sore throat, which is often the first sign of a cold. If you take Echinacea for two weeks, you need to stop for a couple weeks. Best to only take it when you are fighting symptoms. 

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 Mother Earth News Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at Mother Earth News and, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to


wheyThirteen years ago, unbeknownst to me, I made my first batch of Greek yogurt. The recipe came from an Indian cook book, which called it yogurt cheese. I used it as a substitute for cream cheese.

A few years ago, I began seeing Greek yogurt in every store. Now, it may be more popular than ordinary yogurt. It is important to read the ingredients on store bought varieties. I was horrified to discover that some companies simply thicken ordinary yogurt with corn starch or gelatin and pass it off as Greek yogurt. Real Greek yogurt should contain only milk and cultures.

It is very easy to make homemade yogurt from scratch for a fraction of the cost of commercial varieties. Greek yogurt is simply strained yogurt.  There are many tutorials on the web about making yogurt. I have tried many of them below is the one that I have found the most simple and effective.

I always make yogurt in one gallon batches because I have a large family. When it is strained it is reduced to between 2 and 3 quarts of Greek yogurt. If you are unable to consume that much in less than 2 weeks the yogurt can be frozen or feel free to cut the recipe in half.

First pour 1 gallon milk of milk into a large crock pot, fresh from the cow (or goat) is best, Otherwise use minimally pasteurized non-homogenized milk. Most methods recommend pre-scalding (re-pasteurizing) the milk, but I have found this unnecessary.

Turn the crock pot on low and check the temperature of the milk every 30 minutes until it reaches the target temperature of 110 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. When it reaches the target temperature add ½ cup plain yogurt. Maintain the target temperature for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. I unplug the crockpot, wrap the whole thing in a towel, and put it by a heater vent or the warmest spot in the house.

To make Greek yogurt; line a large colander with cheese cloth, place the colander over a large bowl, and pour your homemade yogurt or commercial plain yogurt into the colander. The whey will drip through the colander and the yogurt will thicken. Leave the yogurt for at least 4 to 8 hours (the longer it strains the thicker it will become). The finished yogurt can be stored in a mason jar for up to 2 weeks.

Be sure to use the whey for another purpose. See my post for sandwich bread made with whey.

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