Real Food

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Radish Dill Cream Cheese

The summer solstice is right around the corner. It's time for backyard parties, beach bbqs and picnics by the lake. Now is the perfect time for quick cured meats, cheeses and pickles. These foods travel well, can be eaten cold and go great with bread and crackers. Think you don't have time to make these foods yourself? There is a whole world of quick charcuterie, fresh cheeses and refrigerator pickles just waiting to be made! Here are my top ten:

Gravadlax with Sweet Mustard Dill Mayonnaise
Leites Culinaria
A great way to cure salmon, it only takes 24 hours to cure in the fridge and no cooking is required. Also a classic dish for the solstice.

Fresh Radish Dill Cream Cheese
One tomato, two tomato
This fresh cream cheese is a snap. It sits on the counter top for a day, is drained, then is combined with fresh radish and dill.

Quick Bread & Butter Pickles
Andrew Zimmern
A classic pickle recipe, these pickles go right into refrigerator where they last for weeks.

Irish Farmer's Cheese
This quick and lovely cheese is made on the stove top, strained and pressed. Viola! Serve with salt and olive oil.

Spicy Quick Pickled Radishes
Cookie + Kate
Be still my heart! Pickled radishes are the best for summer. Crisp, sharp, spicy, sweet - they go with sandwiches beautifully. I like buttered rye bread layered with these babies.

Sichuan Canadian Bacon
One tomato, two tomato
The pork cures a few days in the fridge and then can be smoked or baked. Eat it chilled and sliced thin, perfect with Asian noodles or on a Vietnamese sandwich.

Spicy Pickled Rainbow Swiss Chard Stems
Amanda Paa
Yes, you heard it correctly. Pickled rainbow chard stems are quick and delicious. Imagine the colors on the plate at your next BBQ!

Paté Campagne
Mrs. Wheelbarrow
Paté is the quintessential summer charcuterie. While prep on this may take a bit longer than the other projects, the result is chilled and ready to travel. Serve with mustard and crusty bread. Now I'm hungry.

Asian-Flavored Pickled Duck Eggs
Tammy Kimbler on Mother Earth News
Eggs are fantastic pickled! They can be eaten plain, chopped into salads or made into divine deviled eggs. And they get better the longer they sit in the refridgerator.

David Lebovitz
Nothing could be simpler than Labneh, a cheese made by straining yogurt overnight in the fridge. You don't even have to make the yogurt if you don't want to. Strain yogurt, add whatever seasonings, herbs and veggies you like and you eat it. Done. Delicious.

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


We. Love. Coffee.yellowing

Every morning we make a pot and drink it up; some mornings making a little more, just for the two of us.   We weaned ourselves off grocery store coffee years ago and began grinding roasted beans from the local health food store‘s organic and non-organic offerings. That lasted several years and the coffee was good, but not great.

Traveling to British Columbia one summer we stayed at a B&B on Thetis Island, home of a small local coffee roaster. Their coffee was featured at the B&B and that began our odyssey to home roast. Such an epiphany! It was the best coffee we ever drank.

How serendipitous to find that it is easy to roast your own coffee beans! Mother Earth News just posted a coffee-roasting blog in April but I want to share my own experiences. When I roast coffee, I want to roast more than ½ or 1 lb. I want to roast at least 3 lbs at a time. Thankfully, it does not take much longer to roast a larger batch than a smaller one and the results do last a bit longer.

How to Roast Coffee At Homegreen coffee

What you will need:

Green coffee beans
Stainless steel roasting pan (minimum 11” x 13,” mine is 12” x 16”)
Large wooden spoon (will not conduct heat)
Oven for preheating the beans
Gas grill for finishing the beans
Heat gun or blow dryer
Metal colander

75 minutes roasting time- start to finish, more or less.

I order green coffee beans from Sweet Maria’s; just one of several sources you can find on the web and we have been hooked on their Guatemalan varieties the past year or so. We buy the coffee in a 20 lb bag and pour the beans into gallon jars for storage. 3 lbs of beans is a little more than ½ gallon.

in the oven 

Preheat the oven to 350F. Pour beans into the pan and place in oven when temperature is reached.

Stirring every 5-10 minutes, warm up the beans. This step takes 30 minutes. Nearing the end of the 30 minutes, preheat your grill on high.

After 30 minutes in the oven, the beans will begin “yellowing” and you will be able to smell them cooking. Transfer the pan from oven to grill. Turn gas heat down to medium/medium-high. Close the lid and allow the beans to reheat.

 on the grill

Stir beans every 5 minutes, sooner if they seem to be cooking fast. Watch the beans in the corners as they can toast quickly! You may also decide to lower the heat a smidge. You want this cooking stage to take at least 30 minutes to allow full-flavor development.

starting to brown 

Once the beans have been cracking their way through “first crack stage” you will see that there are papery husks. Coffee beans expand during roasting and the papery husk is the outer layer of the bean. Using the heat gun or a blow dryer, blow the chaff off the beans while you stir.


Stir beans, close lid, open lid and stir. Repeat with blower as needed. It is because of the smoke and chaff produced during roasting that we do not complete the entire process in the oven.


When the beans are nearing your desired stage of roast (click this link for a picture of various stages of roast), turn off the grill and pour your beans into a large metal colander to cool. They are hot and will continue to cook. We like a City+/Full City+ roast where the beans are a rich brown, with a thin white line remaining. You do not want your beans to be black and oily-looking, like what you might see in the grocery store. This is NOT desired with home roasting; charcoal beans… Blech!


You may choose to put the colander near a fan to hasten the cooling process, especially if you think your beans are exactly at the desired roast and you want roasting to stop as soon as possible. We just put the colander in our workshop where it is cool and stir a couple more times. This is called “coasting.”


Allow beans to sit in the colander for 24 hrs. Carbon dioxide will continue to escape from the roasted beans during this time (outgassing).


a cuppaThe next day, swirl the beans around the colander to remove any remaining chaff, which will fall through the holes.  You will be amazed at the amount of chaff that is left (I set the colander on a couple pieces of lumber to allow better air circulation).  Transfer the beans to a gallon jar with lid. Allow the beans to rest for another 2-3 days in the sealed jar before grinding. This allows flavors to develop.

Ready to grind, prepare and enjoy the bestest cuppa coffee you have had? It is just that easy!

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


banana bread

I ought to have baking down by now. I have been cooking and baking for most of my life, and I left culinary school with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. I have churned out flawless soufflés and stunning French fruit tarts . . . and yet . . . sometimes I struggle with the simplest of baked goods.

Both because I find it completely irresistible on my plate and because I can never seem to get it right in the kitchen, banana bread has always been my kryptonite.

Whether developing my own recipes or attempting to follow a cookbook to the letter, something always went wrong in the execution. Too wet, too dry, too bland, too funky—you name it.

Recently, with a bunch of bananas steadily blackening on my counter, I decided to give it another go. And this time something magical happened: banana bread success!

Many banana bread recipes request buttermilk for its signature tang and acid content, but this go around I opted for something a little different. Pineapple juice stands in to lend sweetness, gentle acidity, and a fruity boost to the banana flavor in this delicious quick-bread.

Dark chocolate chips provide depth and contrast, but you could omit them or swap them out for ½ cup coarsely chopped nuts if desired.

I find that the batter cooks more evenly in a bundt pan versus a loaf pan or cake pan. Be sure to grease (I use butter) and flour the pan for best results.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Recipe

banana bread2

2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup dark chocolate chips
3 ripe (very spotty) bananas
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup pineapple juice (unsweetened)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease and flour a standard-sized bundt pan, making sure to get into all the little nooks and crannies. Place the bundt pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir in the chocolate chips, and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, use a fork to mash up the bananas with the brown sugar. Use a sturdy whisk to thoroughly incorporate the oil, pineapple juice, and vanilla into the banana mixture.  Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.

Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the banana mixture into the well, and stir until there are no visible pockets of dry ingredients. Avoid mixing too aggressively, which would deliver a tougher texture.

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes or until the cake is golden-brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it.

Place the bundt pan on a cooling rack and allow the cake to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes, or until it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, before inverting onto the cooling rack to cool completely.

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


Wild edibles are a joy to find, when identified correctly. The feeling of euphoria can easily misguide the senses into confusing false varieties for the real thing. Morels and Fiddleheads are two species that contain edible and inedible counterparts that is distinguishable with a little know-how.

Basket of Verpa bohemicas

Morel mania. Swept away by the giddiness of finding the elusive species, I rapidly fill my basket until it is overflowing with hundreds of morels - a record find! The mushroom fairies must be smiling on my efforts of locating the hidden gems, camouflaged by pine needles, cones, and new growth.  I guard my basket with Gollum-like tendencies.  No one must see my precious. Then at the flip of a page of the mushroom guidebook, my precious turns to precarious. My basket is not full of morels, but of disappointments.  Verpa bohemica, false morel. The current debate of Verpas is too inconclusive to add it as a regularly consumed item on my foraging list. Although I have eaten it (mistakenly) and I would probably eat it again, consuming carcinogens is something I try to avoid. 

Misidentification of Morel Mushrooms

Ready to kick the smiling ferries, I wonder how I confused the two species. Research reveals a simple mistake. Although Verpa bohemica and Morchella elata look identical from the outside, the stem and cap attachment defines the truth. Real morels are hollow from stem to cap, while false morels are attached like a thimble. The stem of false morels has cotton candy like fluff on the inside.  It’s that simple unless the mushroom haze clouds your brain.

Morel Mushroom Harvest and Preparation

Harvest the correctly identified Morchella by cutting the stem just above the ground. Be mindful to leave a good amount behind so spores can multiply in the following years. Clean the mushroom by lightly rinsing and brushing; don’t let too much water be absorbed into the flesh.

The entire mushroom is edible; so do not hesitate to cook up the whole thing.  Large enough caps can be stuffed with meat, cheese, and seasonings, while smaller ones can be sliced in delicate rings and marinated with oil, lemon, and spices. Recipes are endless, just be creative and cook thoroughly!

Fiddlehead Ferns


Verdant tightly coiled fiddlehead is a crunchy delight that is disappearing quickly with the onset of summer.Fiddlehead is the furled frond of a young fern, specifically edible in the Ostrich and Lady Fern varieties. If you live in the Northern climates, there may still be a few tightly coiled stems waiting to be enjoyed.  Find them now, lest you wait another ten months to enjoy their toothsome crunch.

Fiddlehead Fern Identification and Harvest

The plant is easy to identify, with the coils resembling the curled scroll of a violin covered in orangutan-colored papery leaves. The edible varieties can be distinguished from their carcinogen containing cousins, the Braken Fern, by examining the stems. The tips of the Bracken Fern have eagle-like talons, while edible varieties are rigidly coiled in one singular stem. Although deemed toxic by scientific sources, there is ongoing debate on the edibility of Bracken Fern.

Harvest only small, firm, and tightly coiled specimens by snipping the stem about an inch under the coil. The University of Maine’s Extension Agriculture program offers a video on sustainable harvesting guidelines.

Fiddlehead Fern Preparation

Place the cut pieces in cold water and rub off the papery exterior, revealing the bright green under layer.  Once cleaned, fiddleheads should be cooked immediately or stored in the fridge for no longer than 1 day. As with most wild edibles, never consume them raw. The snappy vegetable can be steamed, boiled, sautéed, battered and fried, or grilled. Whichever way you cook fiddlehead, you will be delighted with its clean nutty asparagus flavor. Devoted to the love of this particular species, contains a plethora of links to recipes.

The best ways to avoid misidentification is to learn from experts.  Join a foraging society, or reference selected guidebooks. Mistakes offer good lessons too, unless the result is death (that is an Into the Wild reference, not sheer morbidity). Forage far, and forage wide. May your harvests be plenty.         



Summer is here!  That time of year where BBQs are going every weekend.  Birthday parties seem to happen every few days.  The best time of the year for pot lucks!  We are all so busy and it seems like summer compounds it.  So here is a very easy sourdough recipe.  What is great about sourdough is that it is so much fun to work with.  Be creative!  The cost of making sourdough is so minimal which makes it a perfect item to take to all those parties and pot lucks. Yield about 5 cups of batter.

Basic Sourdough Bread Recipe

2 cups sourdough culture
3-plus cups white flour
½ cup cold water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup milk

Mix the liquid culture with 2 cups of the flour and the water. Proof 12 hours at room temperature (68 degrees to 72 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees to 22 degrees Celsius). Add the salt, sugar, and butter to the milk and mix. Add to the dough and mix well. Add the remaining 1 cup flour and mix vigorously. The yield is approximately 3 ½ cups of basic sourdough batter. If you wish to bake a white batter bread, proceed through steps 3 to 6 below.Grease a 4 ½ x 8 1/2 inch loaf pan if not nonstick. Spoon batter into the prepared pan. Proof covered at 85 degrees for 1 to 2 hours, or until dough rises ½ inch above the edge of the pan. Start in a cold oven set at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 29 degrees Celsius. Bake 70 minutes.Remove loaf from pan and cool on a wire rack.

With your kids being home for summer break, or better yet, the grandkids visiting this is a fun creature to make with them.  A fun way to share a few minutes with the ones that you love.  Get creative, make a dragon or a leaf or whatever happens to be the best idea at the time.  Who says loaves of bread have to be boring!  Plus the bonus is that whoever get to eat this wonderful bread will be a fan of yours!


deviled eggs

Summertime cooking is generally a lighter, easier to prepare, style of food preparation. Barbecue usually is the star of the show. Other highlights include strawberry shortcake and salads of all kinds. Most notably is the beautiful array of produce coming to market, such as fresh berries, real tomatoes, asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, and sweet corn, all in their successive turns.

Garden-to-Table Seasonal Food

Summer gardening is at its best now, with tomato plants growing, and I have cucumbers grudgingly trying to become cucumbers, eggplant, and peppers. The tomatoes and peppers already have flowers on them, eggplants aren’t quite there yet. There’s also a planter filled with herbs, like basil, stevia, sage, dill, garlic, rosemary, and Italian parsley. The various mints ran rampant long ago. This is the time of year where you can expect much tastier versions of veggies from your own garden, rather than the pale simulacrums you see in most supermarkets. It’s not the markets fault, the stark reality is, it’s the only thing available in winter. Here in Canada for example, the pickings would be pretty slim if we only relied on what was in cold storage, but that’s another whole story. In short, summer is all about the beauty and fresh taste of what our food is all about. Think eye candy and flavor explosions.

Picnics, ball games, and family get-togethers become weekend events, and one of those essential finger foods at times like this are deviled eggs, sometimes known as stuffed eggs. These can be dressed up or down, depending on your mood and the occasion. Around here, they can disappear in great quantities. The deviled egg may be an old-fashioned menu item, but they endure, sort of like lemon bars and s’mores (I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of s’mores. More of an ice cream fan.). We all love these foods, and keep on eating them. Sort of like an enduring fad.

You can decorate the eggs any way you like, with a sprinkling of paprika or dill, or both. Tiny dill sprigs look feathery and festive. Lily gilding can certainly play a part too. Small rosettes of smoked salmon, with a single caper perched inside the salmon looks very beautiful on the platter, and they will go in a flash. I’m speaking from experience here, after a Slow Food gathering I went to a couple of years ago. So, now that you’re armed with some ideas for the perfect egg, how about the basic egg? Here’s the recipe:

Deviled Eggs Recipe

6 eggs
1/3 cup mayonnaise, more or less according to the consistency you like
1 tbsp green sweet relish
1 tsp very finely minced onion, or about the same of dried onion, optional
1 tsp dry mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Toppings, such as paprika, finely chopped ham, dill, smoked salmon, capers; you can also omit the onion in the filling and put very finely minced red onion on top.

Hard boil the eggs, rinse, cool and peel. I’ve been known to use one of those little egg cookers. The advantage here is that the yolk with then stay in the middle of the egg when cooked. They’re also easier to peel. Mine is by Cuisinart, but there are others out there. One of those frivolous little appliances, that after you start using it, you find out it is worth cabinet space. Once the eggs are cooled and peeled, slice in half longitudinally, or lengthwise. Keep in mind, no matter how hard you try, one or two will tear. Keep calm and carry on. Also, rolling gently on the counter helps in peeling as well. Anyway, hold the half in one hand, bending the half ever so slightly. With the tip of a knife, pop the yolk out into a small bowl. Do this with all the eggs.

The next step is to mash the yolks well using a fork, add the mayonnaise, seasoning, relish, mustard and onion, if you wish. Mix until completely smooth (except for little chunks of relish and onion). Fill each half until well mounded with filling. You can use a spoon or small rubber spatula, which works well, or if you’re so equipped, a pastry bag and star tip if you really want to impress. Decorate in whatever manner suits your fancy. Voila!

You can also follow Sue Van Slooten at for courses, blogs, photos and the occasional recipe.



Here in coastal Virginia, strawberry season is wrapping up. Between dehydrating, freezing, eating fresh, and making jam, I picked over a hundred pounds of them this year. I am blessed to have several Pick-Your-Own Farms in the area, so I’ve sworn off grocery store strawberries. As many of you know, once you’ve tasted fresh picked, local berries, it’s difficult to justify paying for the tasteless, colorless grocery offerings. There are, however, several tips to ensure a successful trip to the strawberry fields. For those of you in New England and the Midwest, where strawberries are just coming into season, I offer this advice:

Best Gardening Advice for Picking Strawberries

Talk to the farmer and ask what varieties of berries they have. Then, before you start picking, taste each kind. Just like a 'Golden Delicious' apple tastes very different from a 'Honey Crisp,' strawberries, too, will have their own texture and sweetness. Most people I’ve spoken to don’t realize this, and they blindly pick whatever berries are ripe. In our area, farmers tend to grow 'Sweet Charlies,' 'Chandlers,' 'Camarosas,' 'Albions,' and 'Festivals.' Some are firm, some are super sweet, some aren’t as sweet but still taste great … you can decide, based on taste and how you plan to use them, which you like best. And here’s the kicker:The same variety of berry grown on one farm will taste different than those grown on another farm.

I love the 'Sweet Charlies' grown at one local farm, but not at another, where they had no taste at all (which is okay, because I love THAT farm’s 'Camarosas' best of all!) Don’t assume the busiest farm has the best berries. I was shocked to find that the ‘most popular’ field here was not only more expensive than all the rest, but their berries hardly had any taste whatsoever! If you’re lucky enough to have a choice, visit each farm and taste before you pick at each of them.

Berries ripened in sun will be sweeter, and those picked after a rain will taste washed out and won’t last as long once you get them home. To ensure the best berries, plan your picking based on the weather.

In most cases, the best picking will be at the far end of each row. Most people start at the nearest point and finish before they get to the end. However, if the farm you are picking at employs their own pickers, they may start at the far end and work towards the middle. In that case, I always plunk myself in the middle of the rows and usually find it’s easy picking! Also, regardless of the weather, I always try to wear boots when picking. This is because most fields here are clay and irrigation drainage is an issue. Obviously, the general population will avoid muddy rows, but not me. That’s where the best picking is because no one else has been there!

Don’t plan to pick your berries in buckets. To avoid smashed berries, use wide, shallow containers no more than 4 or 5 inches deep.Many farms will close early if they’ve been picked out or if weather is a concern.  Call before you go, or check the farm’s Facebook page if they have one.

Eating the Strawberry Harvest


My kids knew when I’d gone picking while they were in school, because dessert that evening would be fresh berries with a special topping. Freshly made whipped cream is delicious, but I don’t usually have cream in the fridge and don’t believe in making ‘special trips’ to the store. Instead, I made do with what we had on hand and discovered that sour cream, and even Greek Yogurt, make a great topping for fresh berries. I mixed in a little vanilla and a small bit of brown sugar, and everyone raved.  Adding some shredded coconut and slivered almonds knocked it out of the park.  If the only strawberries you’ve eaten come in a plastic carton, do yourself a favor and seek out a field where you can pick your own. You’ll be glad you did!

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