Real Food

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tortilla soup

On a cold winter's night, few things warm the soul like a hot bowl of comforting soup. Spicy and savory, this recipe is one that I craft at least every other week. Packed with good-for-you fare like garden tomatoes, peppers, onions, beans, etc., it's nature's medicine in a bowl. With all the nutrition found in this dish, it has probably kept more than a few colds at bay in my household! I use a lot of preserved veggies in this recipe, so it is a great dish for tapping into your wares. Additionally, I use cheese from Braums, a regional dairy outfit found only in Oklahoma and about 100 miles from its borders. Braums is known for taking excellent care of its herd, as its cattle have ample acreage to graze. Organic tortilla chips round out this dish, ensuring harmful pesticides make it nowhere near your soup bowl. I usually add a pound of ground deer meat for my husband, but this can be vegetarian-friendly if the meat is substituted for extra beans. Give it a try, and be sure to let me know what you think.

Tortilla Soup Recipe


• 1 quart stewed tomatoes with juice
• 2 cups cooked chili beans (like Eden Organic)
• 2 cups cooked kidney beans (like Eden Organic)
• 1 cup diced bell peppers
• 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
• 1 pound browned ground venison/beef -or- 2 cups cooked black beans
• Chicken broth, as needed
• 1 tbsp chili powder
• 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
• 2 tsp cumin
• 2 tsp garlic
• 2 tsp salt
• 1 tsp black pepper
• 1 tsp red pepper flakes
• 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• 2 tsp canola oil
• Shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, for serving
• Tortilla chips, for serving


In a pot, sauté onions and peppers in canola oil over low heat for about five minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Add chicken broth as needed until soup is desired consistency. 

Serve with crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheese. Enjoy!

For another great hot dish that uses ground venison, check out my Hearty Venison Chili recipe.

Monica Sharrock is a second grade teacher and country wife who enjoys creating recipes composed of organic fare. She also likes finding new ways to use deer meat from her husband's hunts.

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.


During the summer months I freeze most of my raspberry crop to eat during the winter. As the days darken, raspberries liven up my dishes. One of my favorite things to make with raspberries is a shrub, which is particularly festive for the holidays because of it’s bright red color. Known as “drinking vinegar,” a shrub is a vinegar syrup made by infusing fruit, herbs and spices. Mixed with sparkling water, champagne, or spirits, a shrub makes a refreshing cocktail. Common in colonial times, but dating back much farther in history, the vinegar preserves the ingredients and is shelf stable. Best of all, shrubs are a breeze to make.

Raspberry Shrub with Champagne

Raspberry Shrub Recipe


• 3 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen
• 3 cups red wine vinegar
• 1 cup sugar


1. Sterilize a quart jar in boiling water for 10 minutes. In a sauce pan heat the vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves.

2. Cool. When room temp, add the raspberries to the jar and pour the vinegar sugar liquid over top. Top with a lid and let sit for a week or two to infuse.

3. When ready, strain out the raspberries and return to the jar or bottle and give as gifts.

4. To serve, pour 1 shot of shrub in a champagne glass and top with chilled champagne, sparkling water or ginger ale. Happy Holidays!

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.



This will probably be one of the most unusual blogs I’ve done, but hey, it’s Christmas. Somehow the topic, or idea of Goldschlager came into my head this summer, and I was curious to see if it was still available. I had a different name for it, but once we were on the same page, the lady at our local LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) knew exactly what I was looking for.

What is Goldschlager? It’s a fascinating Swiss/Italian liquor, or schnapps, to be more precise, with a spicy cinnamon flavor. What makes it so fascinating are the small flakes of pure gold that float in the bottle. Quite pretty actually. Just for the record, gold is completely edible, so there’s nothing toxic about consuming it. In fact, some believe ingesting gold can be good for your health, but who knows. In upscale baking and chocolates, you find gold leaf all the time, and yes, those products decorated with it look absolutely, no questions asked, gorgeous.

How Much Gold is in Gold Goldschlager?

The value of the gold in each bottle is negligible, but according to Wikipedia, it was worth €0.56 EUR in November, 2012. That was about $1.23 US or $1.44 CAN at that time, so it gives you an idea that it isn’t a lot of gold. In a 1-litre bottle, that comes to about 13 grams. Metal markets fluctuate widely, so who knows now. It’s more the novelty of actual flakes of gold floating around that seems to fascinate people.

This particular liquor was originally Swiss, but with being bought out by a succession producers, it has vacillated between Switzerland and Italy. The bottle I bought is produced in Italy. I was also surprised that this was not an exorbitant liquor to buy (because of the gold, I thought it would be unaffordable), but as proven above, the amount of gold is quite small. The 750 ml. bottle came to about $30 CAN.

This all being said, what does it actually taste like? Not being a schnapps drinker, I had no idea. Schnapps to me always seemed like something my German ancestors would drink, not me. Very old-fashioned in other words.

Taste Test

So what’s the verdict? (Do keep in mind, my tasting panel was small, three in total, and opinions expressed were strictly their own.) As seen in the photo, the liquor is clear.

Taster No. 1: Cinnamon-y smell with vodka. Rich taste, exactly and overwhelmingly like Fireball, but cleaner, less sweet and sticky. Like a high quality Fireball.

Taster No. 2: Cinnamon-y smell again, with a rich, smooth taste. Slightly syrupy. Quite nice actually. You can smell and taste the alcohol and cinnamon of course, but seems well balanced.  

Taster No. 3: Nose of vanilla. “Oh, that’s good!” Sweet, but then like candy. Definitely cinnamon, like red hots.

So there you have it, the low down on a semi-mythical liquor that most people hear about but usually don’t try. And those gold flakes? I want to filter them out, then take them to a jeweler to see if you can put them in a little glass bottle to wear as a pendant. Sort of like what tourists do when they pan for gold in Alaska these days.


Wikipedia; LCBO

You can contact Sue Van Slooten at:

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.


Gift Bag

If you are like Steve and me, you have several parties and dinners coming up. This is the time of year when home canning over the summer is a real delight – for you and for the hosts that receive your special gift. A jar of homemade jelly or preserves pared with fresh home-baked gingerbread cookies is a welcome treat.

Dandelion Jelly 

This year I also found some really fun gift bags that highlight the canning theme. That was my only expense ($4 each). Everything else I had on hand. If you are cleverer than I am and think ahead, you could stamp or paint customized images on a plain bag. Here’s what you need to make one gift bag.

Materials needed:

• 1 gift bag
• 1 gift tag
• 1 jar jam, jelly, preserves
• 6 gingerbread cookies
• 1 12-inch square of cellophane
• 1 12-inch square of tissue paper (red, white or green)
• 1 plastic sandwich bag
• Twister tie
• Ribbon or yarn


1. Place canned item in the bottom of the bag.

2. Put cookies in a sandwich bag and seal securely. Place the cellophane on the table first, then the tissue, then but the bag of cookies in the middle, pulling up the four corners and making a pouf at the top. Secure with a twister tie. Then tie a ribbon or yarn around the tie to hide it and make the package more festive.

3. Place the wrapped cookies on top of the jar in your gift bag and add a tag. Simple, fun and inexpensive!

Gingerbread cookies out of the oven 

Check out Dede Ryan's Blog to see more of her writing.

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. 


 Tea Mug

A bombilla is a Latin American tea straw used to drink yerba mate. Why not use it to enjoy all kinds of loose herbal teas?

I learned about yerba mate from Denise. Denise volunteers on our farm. She drives an hour from the city to spend the day on the farm, a connection to nature for her and a reminder of her mother land of Brazil. One cold day she came to the farm with a canteen of hot water and a traditional drinking gourd filled with tea leaves. She told me they were yerba mate leaves, and she described the traditional ceremony of adding water and passing a drinking gourd around a circle of friends. She showed me the beautiful stainless steel drinking straw, a bombilla, which strained the loose tea from the bottom of the straw. She pours the water at drinking temperature, not piping hot, so she can sip it through the straw.

I was intrigued. I bought yerba mate and a bombilla tea straw at my local food co-op. Yerba mate is a strong caffeinated tea, without the caffeine effects of coffee and with a reputation for significant health benefits. I am not used to caffeine and it still gave me a shaky reaction. But really, it wasn’t the mate I was after. It was the tea straw. I love drinking from stainless steel straws. I love the aesthetic of a collection of tea straws in a mug, ready for friends and tea. I broadened my tea collection to include quality loose teas from Mountain Rose Herbs. I will never go back to Celestial Seasonings. No more “natural flavors” flavoring my tea. I can use the straw to strain a mug of dried herbs from my herb garden, like my own chamomile flowers. Perhaps I will begin to mix my own tea combinations, another branch of the DIY passion. I can personalize the herbs in my mixes. But even without getting into mixing my own teas, drinking loose tea has improved the quality of tea in my life.

I was excited to see Denise the next week. I showed her my mug of herb tea and my tea straw. She looked at my tea and then she looked at me. She smiled and shook her head with an expression that said “Silly American…” She clucked her tongue and said, “Wait ‘til I tell my friends back in Brazil.” 

What?! Here I am, taking in the cultural tools, but I am still breaking the social rules? I know that I am not drinking from a gourd or passing the cup around the circle in traditional manner. But apparently, it is enough of a social faux pas to drink anything but mate from the bombilla. I chuckled. I’m always breaking the rules. I asked Denise, “How do you drink a cup of chamomile tea?” She described the familiar process of putting loose herbs in a tea ball strainer. But, of course.

Wikipedia’s definition confirms Denise’s apprehension of using tea straws for general tea use: “A bombilla (Spanish), bomba (Portuguese) or masassa (Arabic) is a type of drinking straw, used to drink mate.” Not with tea, but specifically with mate.

I will, yet again, break the social rules. Always picking the traditions I follow and those I revise, I will morph my newly adopted Brazilian tradition too. Tea straws will be for any herbal tea I wish. They are fun to use and more convenient than tea ball strainers. They don’t snap open accidentally. And they open my world to more creative, more pleasing and more quality tea drinking. I will enjoy tea from a straw.

I haven’t made my own tea mix, but my friend Sarah Frost gave me a gift of some of her blend. It is naturally sweet and full of healthy herbs. She calls it Relax Tea, a blend she created from Mountain Rose herbs, adding a little of this and that until she liked the balance of herbs. I include it here with her permission, to share her gift with you.

Tea Straws

Herbal Tea Blend Links and a Recipe

I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs for quality loose teas. You can buy the ingredients there to make your own blends as well. Also check your local food co-op for a bulk tea section.  See if you can bring your own mason jar to fill with tea right at the store. Buy in small quantities so it won’t sit in your tea drawer for years.

Go to my Pinterest board for lovely images of traditional drinking gourds and bombillas, as well as links to DIY tea blends.

Sarah’s Relax Tea Recipe - by Sarah Frost

• 8 parts catnip
• 6 parts lemon balm
• 6 parts Holy Basil
• 5 parts skull cap
• 5 parts rose hips
• 5 parts elderberry
• 5 parts hawthorne berry
• 3 parts lavender
• 2 parts chamomile
• 2 parts rose petals
• 2 parts elderflower

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 House In The Woods, easy to follow from our Facebook Page.

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.



People have always made their own cereals and breakfast grain dishes (oatmeal, wheat cereal, muesli). Then big companies came 'round and said, "oh, let us do that for you!" Lots of innovations and time saving convenience foods came about, to help women (mostly) in the kitchen find more time to do more things. Unfortunately, as we know, faster and easier is not always better. Not better for you, nutritionally or spiritually. (And yes, I find a lot of spirituality in the kitchen. There's something primarily satisfying and just plain right about nurturing your children and your spouse. And your friends. Feeding the hungry is a big deal for me). I am so pleased about the slow food movement taking place in this country. Slowing down, cooking at home, breaking bread together. It's good stuff, on such a deep level.

It's easy to grab a fast food breakfast sandwich or a bowl of over sugared chemicalized cereal. But you don't have to. I have a recipe here for a healthy hearty nutritious granola that makes a gallon at a time. I would roughly estimate the cost of it at around five dollars. Yep, you heard right. $5 for a gallon. I didn't think that was so hot, until I went into the cereal aisle at the grocery store. Do you know what they charge for a small box of cereal? I nearly fainted. And that's not for healthy, organic good-for-you food either.

I started making granola back in the early '70s. I have an old yellowed barely legible recipe card in my box from my first attempts at making it, and it was very primitive and simple. I've gussied it up a lot since then. You can make it as fancy or as plain as you like. Naturally, everyone thought I was crazy making my own cereal (not much has changed). I do it today for some of the same reasons I did it back then. And for a few other reasons as well. The bottom line, as it always is with me, is that I want to know what is in the food I eat. If I make it myself, then there's no mystery. No ingredients I can't pronounce. No chemicals I don't want to ingest. Nothing I can't afford. And gosh darn it! It tastes good!

So, I make this granola all the time. Here we go:


• 8 cups organic rolled oats
• 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
• 1 cup coconut oil (or any vegetable oil will do)
• 3/4 cup to 1 cup Honey
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1 tbsp cinnamon
• 1 tbsp vanilla
• 1 cup nuts of your choice (sometimes I use a combination)
• 1 cup flaked or chips coconut
• 1 cup dried fruit of your choice (raisins, dried apples, dried cherries, dried cranberries, whatever)
• Your choice of sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds or roasted pumpkin seeds.

Like most of my recipes, there is a level of ambiguity here. I don't measure lots of things, for instance I'll sprinkle sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flax seeds into the bowl. I use whatever dried fruit I have a lot of, so there's often dried peaches, apples or cherries (from our trees). And sometimes, I only use raisins. The recipes that I post are pretty flexible.


1. Sometimes I toast the oats in a dry pan in the oven at about 350 degrees. Only takes about 15 minutes, stirring often so it doesn't scorch. It gives the cereal a depth of flavor that you won't have if you skip this. That said, I often skip this step since the finished product gets toasted anyway.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the oil, honey, brown sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, put the oats, coconut, all the nuts and seeds. Do not add the dried fruits at this time.

4. After the liquid mixture has simmered a bit, pour over the dry ingredients and mix well. You want all the stuff coated as well as you possible can.

5. When it's well coated, put it into a high sided baking dish and put into a 250 to 300 degree oven. You'll want to toast this about an hour and a half, stopping and stirring it well about every 15-20 minutes.

6. After it's all toasted as much as you like, remove from the oven and let cool. Stirring every now and again is a good idea, as it will get crispier as it cools and stick to the pan. Now is the time to add whatever dried fruit you decided on. Mix it in well. Once the entire batch is cooled, pour it into an airtight gallon sized container.

7. Eat as is, with either a milk of your choice or yogurt. We don't do much dairy here, so it's usually Rice Dream or Almond Milk. You can even make it a hot cereal for cold winter mornings by either heating the milk or sticking the bowl of granola, milk and all into your microwave (if you have one)for under a minute. It makes a great snack, right out of the jar. This is economical, healthy and good. Even my hardworking Irishman can only eat about a cup of it for breakfast, with rice milk. That is too much for me. It's a good combination of grains, proteins, fruits and fats.

I share this mix with friends and family at holiday times...a pint or a quart jar, tied up with pretty ribbon, with the recipe on a card taped to the front of the jar. Home made goodness is one of the gifts I love receiving and most of my friends feel the same. And you know that old proverb "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, but TEACH a man to fish and he'll never go hungry." I try to share my recipes and my love of good healthy food wherever I can. Gatherings and parties at my house always revolve around the dinner table and food. Our families gather at major holidays and share meals, lives, love and laughter. I think it's really important that we never lose this.

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.


Oregon Honeycomb from Beekeeping

Did you know that by definition approximately 75 percent of store-bought commercial honey is not honey at all? As defined by the FDA, all authentic honey contains pollen. To most of us that would seem pretty normal, I think; however, most of the commercially available honey contains very little or no pollen at all.

Traditionally, honey is heated and filtered so it will remain liquid longer. In an effort to keep honey’s natural crystallization from occurring, most commercial honey is heated and pasteurized, eliminating its fragrance and changing the chemical composition of the honey itself. At these high temperatures, the honey is then ultra-filtered. Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure whereby honey is heated, sometimes watered down with corn syrup or other sweet, non-honey products and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have dumped tons of their honey on the U.S. market for years. The pollen is removed to prevent tracing where the honey came from.

It’s during the process of pasteurization that much of the nutritional content of raw honey is destroyed. Powerful antioxidants, enzymes, and vitamins are destroyed when heat is applied to raw honey. Raw honey is anti-viral, anti-fungal and antibacterial in nature, but the same cannot be said about most commercial honey because of the heating process that is applied. Frankly, it's probably akin to sitting down and eating from a bag of refined sugar if you’re using store-bought commercial honey.

Backyard Beekeeping in Oregon

‘My Honey Has Crystallized. Has it Gone Bad?’

No, honey virtually never spoils. Archaeologists have found honey in ancient Egyptian tombs that was still edible. Bacteria cannot grow in real honey. It's high acidity and tiny amounts of naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide prevent bacteria from growing. Therefore raw honey never spoils. Don’t put your honey in the refrigerator if you don't want it to crystallize. Cold temperatures speed the crystallization of honey; however, you can gently heat it in a sauce pan of water to liquefy it and still maintain its healthful qualities. Most honey will crystallize eventually and many people prefer it that way. Spoon it into tea where it melts quickly or spread it on toast.

Raw honey contains all of the nutrients needed for good health, including vitamins A, C, D, E, certain amino acids and high concentrations of B-complex vitamins. It also contains beneficial enzymes and one of these enzymes is amylase which aids in digestion of breads and other starchy foods. Raw honey’s antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties can also help improve the digestive system, yet these are the very things the high heat and filtering of process destroy.

Beware of Toxic Chemicals in Honey

And finally, you should be aware that purchasing raw honey does not mean it is free of chemicals. The title "Raw" can be misleading. Though I am sure there are rare exceptions, commercial honey and even some you are told is locally raised, comes from hives treated with insecticides to fight the Varroa mite. These insecticides, called “miticides,” leave behind residues in both the wax and in the honey. Though deemed safe, do you really want an insecticide in your honey, or for that matter corn syrup? The honey I strive to produce comes from hives that are never treated with commercial miticides. I lose a few more hives to mites this way, but I prefer that over the production of honey containing miticides. Our raw honey is never heated or filtered. It is pure and raw, direct from the hive and contains all the natural nutrients, antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids and pollen of real, unadulterated honey.

When looking for a source of raw honey you should search out a local bee keeper and inquire about his or her practices. Find out if they use commercial miticides or if their honey is heated and filtered. Producing natural, raw honey takes more time and manpower. It’s made by hand. You can buy cheaper honey, but it is often honey in name only.

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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