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

Corn Dodgers

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Corn Dodgers.

Photo by Renee Benoit

One of my favorite movies is “True Grit”. I love both the John Wayne version and the Jeff Bridges version. I first heard about Corn Dodgers in the John Wayne version. Rooster Cogburn loved them and Chen Lee, his cook and housemate, made them for him. Corn Dodgers aren’t anything new. Chen Lee didn’t invent them. They have been around since pioneer days and maybe even before. Pioneers made do with what they had, and Corn Dodgers are easy to make and include all the staples that were found in the wagon – cornmeal, bacon fat and water. They were cooked in a skillet, a Dutch oven, or maybe even on the flat end of a shovel after it was cleaned thoroughly!

If the pioneer family had a milk cow in tow they would have milk to mix in the batter instead of water. Eggs were something of a luxury, but were included if they were available, along with some butter or buttermilk.

Rooster’s Corn Dodgers

I made my dodgers with all the special ingredients. I fantasize that I’m from a rich pioneer family!

Yield 16 to 20 corn dodgers

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Rooster chows down!


  • 2 cups buttermilk, milk or water; divided into 1 cup measures
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat
  • 2 cups cornmeal (white or yellow)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or brown sugar (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Lard, Crisco or bacon grease for frying; about 2-3 cups depending on the size of your pan. We want it to be at least 2” deep.


We’re going to be making a very stiff mush that can be formed by hand.

1. In a saucepan combine 1 cup of buttermilk, milk or water and bacon grease and set over low heat to melt the grease.

2. Combine cornmeal, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and mix to a smooth paste with the other cup of buttermilk. Don’t add the baking powder at this time. It will be added in a bit.

3. Slowly add the mixture to the milk and bacon grease stirring constantly. A wire whip will help keep it from getting lumpy. It will stiffen quickly. Add a little water if it’s too stiff for you and turn the heat to low to avoid burning. Allow to cook for 20 minutes, tasting from time to time to see if it’s cooked. It will soften and lose its grainy texture when cooked.

4. Beat the egg with the melted butter, baking powder, flour and sour cream. Add that to the warm cornmeal mush and mix thoroughly.

5. Remove from heat and transfer the mush to a bowl to cool a little before forming and cooking.

Frying Method

1. Form patties with your hands much as you would if you were making homemade tortillas. Making the patties about a ¼ to ½ thick and about 2 inches round. Oiling your hands will help with keeping the patties from sticking to your hands.

2. Lay them carefully in about 3 inches of fat that is heated to 360 degrees F. and cook until golden brown. Carefully remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels or absorbent cloth to remove grease.

3. Keep the cooked dodgers in a warming oven until you are finished frying all of them.

4. Serve with honey and cinnamon, or butter and jam or maple syrup. If you make them without sugar, you can serve them with beans or stew. You can also eat them like a snack the way Rooster did.

Alternate Oven method (for a healthier version)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a cookie sheet or cast-iron cornbread molds, with shortening. You can also line the sheet with parchment paper.

Hand mold the batter into any shape you desire (corncob shapes, patties or whatever) Or alternatively fill the molds with mush. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Renée Benoit is a writer, artist, ranch caretaker and dedicated do-it-yourselfer who currently lives in a 26-foot travel trailer with her husband, a cat, and two dogs while they travel the Western United States in search of beautiful, peaceful vistas and hijinks and shenanigans. Connect with Renée at RL Benoit, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts

This is for Mustard Lovers!


Mustard ingredients.

Photo by Sue Van Slooten

If you really want to wow the mustard lover in your life, or yourself, this Christmas, make some homemade mustard. With some simple ingredients, you can make homemade  mustard in minutes, and there can be many variations, depending on what you are willing to put in it. Around here, horseradish is a staple, but there has been honey, fine herb, and the most recent invention: Extra Hot Red Pepper (be sure to have a fire extinguisher nearby). This latest is for one person on my Christmas list where there is no such thing as too hot. The first one wasn’t hot enough (not enough red pepper flakes). Little did I know who I was dealing with. Even goes on his toast.

The Base Recipe:

  • 1 cup dry mustard powder
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 2/3 cup cold water

For the variations:

  • red pepper flakes
  • honey
  • horseradish
  • herbs of your choice


1. Put the mustard powder, sugar and salt in a small saucepan. Add the water, oil, and cider vinegar, whisking as you go. It should be smooth.

2. Heat to boiling, then turn o heat.

3. Cool slightly.

4. If you are going to do three separate flavors out of the same batch, now is the time to put those ingredients in 3 separate 1/2 cup jars. Glass please.  

Honey, horseradish and red pepper mustards.

Photo by Sue Van Slooten

For the variations:

  • Hot red pepper: For the one I made for the hot-stu lover, I put 1 tsp. hot pepper flakes in the jar.  You can adjust if you don’t want to be that bold.
  • Honey: Put 1 Tbl. honey in the bottom of the jar.
  • Horseradish: Use 1 Tbl. creamed horseradish in the jar.
  • Fine herb: You can really use what herbs you like here, but just tarragon would work or. a combo of basil, thyme oregano, marjoram. About 1 tsp. of tarragon or 1/2 tsp. of each in a combo.
  • Fresh herbs would be great, but dried is very acceptable. You can put in the quantities you like, but for this one, you seem to need more herbs than you would expect. 

5. Put your slightly cooled mustard into the jars, and if adding to the variations, stir well.

6. Let cool completely and refrigerate.

Labeled mustard jars. Photo by Sue Van Slooten

You can always thin it out with a little water to get the desired consistency. Mustard will keep indefinitely.


The original idea for this recipe came from the following, but as my readers know, no recipe stays the same with me for long. Better Homes and Gardens. Christmas on Its Way. Better Homes and Gardens Books, Des Moines, Iowa. 1994.

You  can follow  the  further adventures of Sue or sign up for a class at  her  websiteor email her

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Stocking the Gluten-Free Pantry

Stocking a gluten-free pantry for one

Stocking a gluten-free pantry for one.

Photo by Wendy Gregory

As the days become shorter and the nights become colder, my thoughts turn to the pantry. Is the pantry stocked for snowy, icy days when driving is not safe or when the power is out? Are there gluten-free ingredients in the pantry for a warming soup and some gluten-free muffins or bread? If the power is out or the grocery store has a run on gluten-free items, will there be some extra in the pantry to tide us over? After the spring of 2020 when gluten-free items were hard to find in grocery stores, the pantry is always stocked with basics for an emergency or to save trips to the store in bad weather.

 Stocking a gluten-free pantry for a large family

Stocking a gluten-free pantry for a large family.

Photo by Wendy Gregory

After living with celiac disease for over a decade, having a stocked pantry is always the safest and most economical way to eat gluten free and my health is not at the mercy of an unknown chef behind a closed door of a restaurant kitchen. Stocking the pantry is the healthiest, safest choice no matter the season or the headlines and condition of the world. Each trip to the store is an opportunity to slowly add to the pantry and keep us from overbuying in times of crisis or ‘being caught with our pantry down.’ It is also a great gift idea. If you have a family member or a gluten-free adult child like I do, a pantry gift basket is always a great holiday gift and arrives just in time for winter weather.

 Stocking a gluten-free pantry for two

Stocking a gluten-free pantry for two.

Photo by Wendy Gregory

The best rule of thumb for gluten-free living is to focus on naturally gluten-free, nutrition-packed whole foods and supplement with gluten-free products. That is the healthiest and most economical way to eat gluten free. Stocking up on the more expensive items for celebrations, to change up the menu and keep things interesting, or for emergencies has been our family’s approach.  The photos are a few peeks into three gluten-free pantries of a single person, a couple, and a large family that includes gluten-free eaters. All use fresh produce and naturally gluten-free foods as the core of their diets and keep tases pantry items on hand.


  • Look at sell by dates and mark all items with a clear date to encourage and aid rotation
  • Use the freezer for grains, flours, nuts, and breads
  • Use your stock and rotate
  • Buy brands and foods you like and will eat
  • Use your pantry for quick meals and to avoid dining out
  • Stock up on sale items and items that seem to be out of stock often
  • Print favorite recipes that use your pantry ingredients and have them ready
  • Always read labels


  • Rice white, brown, wild, maybe some precooked shelf stable packets too
  • Polenta
  • Grits
  • Quinoa
  • Rice noodles
  • gf pasta, especially lasagna that is not always in stock
  • gf panko or breadcrumbs
  • Popcorn
  • Gluten-free Oats-read article about gluten-free oats

Fruits and Vegetables

  • canned potatoes, greens, baked beans, fruit
  • instant mashed potatoes, dehydrated hash browns
  • Canned pumpkin
  • Canned tomatoes and jarred marinara and pizza sauce, tomato paste, sauce


  • Gluten-free soy sauce, coconut aminos or Bragg’s Liquid aminos
  • GF Asian Sauces
  • Red curry paste
  • Broth or bouillon cubes—make sure gf
  • Ketchup, mustard, barbeque sauce, Buffalo sauce
  • Salsa
  • Jams and jellies
  • Vinegars, apple cider, balsamic, etc.
  • Nut butters, tahini
  • Pickles
  • Salad dressings

Fats and Oils

  • Olive oil both mild for sautéing and baking and EVOO for salads
  • Avocado oil
  • ghee
  • coconut oil
  • butter to freeze

Protein and Meals

  • GF soups
  • GF Mac and Cheese
  • Shelf Stable Meals, Indian like Tasty Bite, Thai, The Jackfruit Company Vegetarian Meals, Asian Noodle Bowls like Thai Kitchen, 
  • Shelf stable tofu
  • Canned tuna, salmon and chicken and other canned meats that are labeled gluten free
  • Canned and dried beans


  • Dried fruit and nuts-read labels and avoid may contain wheat or processed with wheat
  • Chia, flax, or hemp seeds
  • Energy bars
  • Crackers, pretzels, and rice cakes
  • Cereal
  • Cookies and snacks
  • Gummy fruit snacks or fruit leather
  • Jerky
  • Applesauce, pudding, or fruit cups

Baking Supplies

  • Gluten-free flours
  • Almond flour
  • Coconut flour
  • Tapioca flour
  • Potato starch
  • Arrow root starch and corn starch
  • Xanthan gum
  • Brown and white rice flour
  • Or all-purpose gluten-free flour blends and mixes for brownies, cake, pancakes, cornbread, muffins
  • Baking soda and baking powder
  • Yeast
  • Salt
  • Meringue powder for royal icing
  • Cocoa powder
  • Chocolate chips
  • Vanilla
  • Honey, maple syrup, agave
  • Sugar, brown, powdered
  • Frosting


  • Granulated garlic
  • Onion powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Curry powder
  • Cumin
  • Red chili powder
  • Italian blend
  • Gluten-free Taco mix


  • Shelf stable gf bread, pizza crusts and rolls
  • Taco shells, corn tortillas, gluten-free tortillas


  • Almond milk or other shelf stable milk, evaporated and condensed
  • Coconut milk, condensed and coconut cream
  • Juices
  • Bottled Water for power outages
  • Coffee and tea
  • Hot chocolate

Medication or Supplements

  • prescriptions
  • Gluten-free medications for common ailments
  • Gluten-free vitamins and supplements
  • I keep an extra probiotic and Vitamin D drops
  • Allergy medication and Benadryl

Your choices will be dependent on the ages and preferences of your family and other food sensitivities or allergies. The categories and items should give you a good idea of what should be in the pantry or prompt ideas for other items specific to your family. With the extremes in weather and earthquake rumblings on top of the challenges in grocery stores over the last year, a well-stocked pantry and a good gluten-free 72-hour kit will give peace of mind and comforting, safe meals for your family.

Wendy Gregory spent her career working with children as a culinary and gardening teacher in an arts-based summer camp for at-risk children in Nelsonville, Ohio, and as the director of a children’s museum in Lancaster, Ohio. Wendy was a gluten-free blogger for four years as she raised a gluten-free family. She is a freelance writer exploring the ways seniors can contribute, grow, and reinvent themselves in a new chapter of life. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Gluten-Free Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Gluten-Free Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Gluten-Free Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Photo by Wendy Gregory

Living without gluten can be hardest at the holidays or when celebrating. Feeling left out of the festivities is no fun, especially for the young and sociable. Johnna Wright-Perry , gluten-free blogger at In Johnna's Kitchen has created a gluten-free cut-out sugar cookie that will bring the fun back to seasonal celebrations. She has graciously shared the recipe from her new cookbook. See my review of her cookbook in a previous post. I tried Johnna’s recipe using Earth Balance spread to make the cookies dairy free. As I was preparing to bake, I realized the recipe called for guar gum and I had none. A quick online search suggested xanthan gum as a substitute. I knew it worked in Johnna’s gluten-free Raspberry Shortbread Bars and I liked the texture of that, so I used ½ teaspoon of xanthan gum just as that recipe did. I found the texture and ease of rolling out and cutting the dough was very satisfying and not unlike gluten recipes. I asked Johnna why she used guar gum and she says some people can taste an ‘off’ after taste with xanthan gum in some recipes. I couldn’t taste anything, but your taste buds may vary.

Gluten-Free Cut-Out Sugar Cookies 

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Sugar Cookie

Photo by Wendy Gregory

This was one of the first recipes Johnna adapted to be gluten free and she even won a baking contest with it. After receiving the award, she found out that the judges didn’t know the recipe was gluten-free. I can vouch for that. We ran out of the gluteny pumpkins and I had extra gluten- free cookies, so I gave those out. I got rave reviews for those cookies from gluten eaters. 

 Fall Leaf Cut-Out Sugar Cookie Gluten-Free Recipe

Fall Leaf Cut-Out Sugar Cookie

Photo by Wendy Gregory

We chose to decorate the cookies with royal icing and spreadable icing with sprinkles for a fall/early Halloween gathering. The cookies were sturdy and held up to icing by eager young people and were still delicious the next day. No soggy or crumbly cookies from this recipe.

Decorated Gluten-Free Sugar Cookie 

 Decorated pumpkin sugar cookie.

Photo by Wendy Gregory

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Prep Time: 1 hour, plus 30 minutes to chill

Bake Time: 10 minutes, plus at least 5 minutes to cool

Makes about 24 cookies (depending on shape)

Dairy-Free option, nut-free


  • 3 cups (456 grams) Johnna’s Favorite Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend
  • 1 ½ teaspoons guar gum (I substituted with ½ teaspoon xanthan gum)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (220 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks:224 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used Earth Balance dairy-free spread)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract


1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour blend, guar gum, baking powder, and salt to combine.

2. In a small mixing bowl, using a handheld electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the sugar and butter until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla bean paste and mix until combined. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and stir to form a smooth dough.

3. Split the dough into two equal parts. Place each on a piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

5. To roll out dough, unwrap the plastic from one dough disk and lay plastic wrap on a flat surface.

6. Place the dough on top of the plastic wrap and cover with another piece of plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a sheet 1/3 inch thick.

7. Using cookie cutters, cut the dough into any shapes you like. Transfer the cut cookies onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart.

8. Bake for 8-1o minutes, or until lightly browned on the edges.

9. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before serving. If decorating transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

What you need to know

Decorate these cookies with sprinkles or colored sugars right after they come out of the oven-no icing necessary.

Press the decoration gently into the warm cookies to ensure it sticks.

Make It Dairy-Free: Substitute an equal amount of dairy-free butter(such as Earth Balance).

Wendy Gregory spent her career working with children as a culinary and gardening teacher in an arts-based summer camp for at-risk children in Nelsonville, Ohio, and as the director of a children’s museum in Lancaster, Ohio. She is a freelance writer exploring the ways seniors can contribute, grow, and reinvent themselves in a new chapter of life. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

A Chile Pepper Primer: Part Two

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Jalapeno peppers.

Photo from Wikimedia

Let’s begin where we left off in Part One. There we talked about the “cool” end of the chile pepper spectrum. Now we boldly go where sensible people fear to tread. We’re entering into the world of…. extremely hot chile peppers!

Our first chile is one of the most common and I bet there’s something about it you didn’t know: it’s two chiles in one.

Jalapeño (fresh)/Chipotle (dried and smoked) - Scoville Heat Units*: 2,500-5,000

Jalapeños (ha-la-peen-yos) are good in just about everything when you go easy and chop them tiny. They’re common in nachos, guacamole, and salsas. Pickle them or slice them fresh for your Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. When dried by smoking, they’re called a Chipotle (chuh-pote-lay) pepper. That’s what I bet you didn’t know!

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Fresno peppers.

Photo from Wikimedia

Fresno - Scoville Heat Units: 2,500 – 10,000

Fresno chili peppers were first cultivated in 1952 near Fresno, California. Red Fresno peppers look like jalapeno peppers. However, the Fresno pepper has a fruitier, smokier taste and they are a bit spicier.

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Serrano peppers.

Photo from Wikimedia

Serrano - Scoville Heat Units: 6,000-23,000

These peppers originated in the higher regions of Mexico. If you can’t find a jalapeno you can use a serrano but only if you’re ok with more heat. Again, go easy and chop tiny.

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Cayenne pepper.

Photo from Wikimedia

Cayenne - Scoville Heat Units: 30,000 – 50,000

The cayenne pepper is a long, thin chile pepper, green to red in color, about 2 to 5 inches long. This pepper is used dried and ground to a powder most of the time. The word cayenne comes from the city of Cayenne in French Guiana. Cayenne is great in soups and sauces, on pizzas, as well as over meats and seafoods. Keep it on the table in a shaker as an alternative to salt or pepper. Using it this way helps you dole out how much heat you want to take.

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Tabasco peppers.

Photo from Wikimedia

Tabasco – Scoville Heat Units: 30,000 – 50,000 (the famous sauce from Avery Island, Louisiana is far less hot at 2,500 – 5,000 SHU)

The Tabasco chile pepper that is used to make the famous sauce is named for Tabasco, Mexico, but Americans are the ones who made it first on Avery Island in Louisiana. It is arguably the only American hot sauce with a truly iconic status. First made in the 19th century, Tabasco sauce was the spiciest condiment available at the time. A little drop or two will do ya.

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 Thai peppers.

Photo from Wikimedia

Thai - Scoville Heat Units: 50,000-250,000

The intensity of this chile will make you fan your mouth and look for something cool to drink. Thai chiles are good in curries, stir-fries, sauces, and salads. In Thailand, they’re known as phrik kee noo. I always pick them out of my dish when they’re in my food at a restaurant. They’re too much for me!

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Habanero pepper.

Photo from Wikimedia

Habanero- Scoville Heat Units: 100,000-350,000

It is said that the very intense Habanero came by way of Cuba to the Yucatan of Mexico and from there made its way into the Americas and Asia. It is used in small amounts in salsas, sauces, and any dish requiring lots of heat!

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Reaper peppers.

Photo from Wikimedia

Carolina Reaper - Scoville Heat Units: 1,500,000-2,200,000

This is the world’s hottest pepper. Look at that Scoville scale! Off the charts! It’s scarlet red, with a wrinkled, curved tail. I’d like to meet someone who’s eaten one. Maybe the cook just passes the chile over the ingredients because a quick pass is all you need! They’re used to make hot sauce, pepper jellies and dry rubs for BBQ. Used this way you can control how hot your dish will be.

That’s it for the common mild and hot chile peppers. Now you can judge for yourself what to use, and when and how to control the spice when you do!

*The Scoville scale is a measurement of the "heat" of chile peppers, as recorded in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), based on the concentration of capsaicinoids, among which capsaicin is the predominant component. The scale is named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville.

Renée Benoit is a writer, artist, ranch caretaker and dedicated do-it-yourselfer who currently lives in a 26-foot travel trailer with her husband, a cat, and two dogs while they travel the Western United States in search of beautiful, peaceful vistas and hijinks and shenanigans. Connect with Renée at RL Benoit, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

A Chile Pepper Primer: Mild to Medium Chiles

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Rocotillo pepper.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

I live in Arizona very near to the border of both Old Mexico and New Mexico. Chile peppers are a way of life here but figuring out what’s what can be a bit confusing. Some look the same but have different names. Some don’t look at all the same and have the same name. The dried version can have different name than the fresh. I’m going to attempt to clear up some of this confusion. It’s such a big subject I have to do it in two parts. I’m going to confine this discovery to chiles that we can easily get and grow here in North America. In Part One I’m going to talk about common mild chiles and Part Two I'll talk about hot chiles. I won’t be able to discuss every last chile in the world. This would take a book and there are good ones!

A (Very) Brief History of Chiles

Chiles have been domesticated since pre-Columbian times. The word “pepper” comes from the Sanskrit pippali. Pepper, as we all know, is the, well, peppery dried berry from the Malabar coast of India. Later on in the 16th century, people added the term pepper to the unrelated New World chile and this combination has been confusing us ever since. The name “chile” comes from the Nahuatl word “chilli." The Nahuatl peoples were native to southern Mexico and Central America. This group includes the Aztecs.

Mild Chile Peppers

Let’s start with a few common mild chile peppers that fall on the least heat end of the Scoville heat index*.

Bell Peppers

Scoville Heat Units: 0

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Bell peppers.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

A bell pepper does not contain any capsaicin. Capsaicin is the component in chiles that give them their spicey qualities. So, bell peppers have no heat. They are bell shaped, and come in a variety of colors; most commonly green, yellow, and red. They are used about any way you can think of.


Scoville Heat Units: 100-500

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Pepperonicinis peppers.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Pepperoncinis are sweet, mild chile peppers, usually sold pickled. They originated in Italy and Greece but are grown the world over including the Americas. You’ve most likely encountered a pepperoncini on an antipasto platter, Italian salad, or served up on a pizza or sub sandwich.


Scoville Heat Units: 100-500 

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The name pimento pepper is redundant. Pimento means pepper in Spanish.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Pimentos (pih-men toe) are also referred to as pimiento (pih-mee-en-toe), which is Spanish for pepper. You may not realize how often you eat products that contain pimento peppers due to its sweetness and low heat.

Anaheim/New Mexico/Long Green and Red Chile

Scoville Heat Units: 500-2,500

This is where the chile pepper world gets complicated. The original Anaheim was developed in Anaheim, California by a rancher who had traveled to New Mexico and brought seeds back. In New Mexico they were developing chiles, too. From this came, for example, the Hatch chile from Hatch Valley, New Mexico and the Chimayo from Chimayo which is near Taos, New Mexico. They are all mild to medium hot with loads of flavor. They can be used fresh, charred over an open flame, or roasted. They’re perfect for classic chile rellenos. From the green New Mexican type you make chile verde. From the red you make chile colorado.

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Anaheim chile peppers originated in Anaheim, California
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

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Chimayo chiles are hung to dry on “ristras”. They are grown only in Chimayo, New Mexico.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

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Hatch chiles are grown in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Poblano (fresh)/Ancho (dried)

Scoville Heat Units: 1,000-2,000

Here’s a story of how chiles can really get you confused: I wanted to make Culichi chicken tacos. The recipe called for poblano peppers which are a large, mild pepper. In the produce aisle I spied what looked like poblanos but the label said “pasillas”! I bought them anyway, suspecting a mistake, and the meal was delicious. Dried poblanos are called ancho chiles. Don’t ask me why. These chiles are used to make a delicious enchilada sauce, for example.

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This is a fresh Poblano.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

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This is a dried Poblano. It's called an Ancho chile.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Chile Chilaca (fresh)/ Pasilla (dried)

Scoville Heat Units: 1,000-2,500

Here’s another one where the fresh has one name and the dried another. Fresh chile chilaca are long, thin and very dark green, almost black in color. They are used mostly in the dried form and then are called Pasilla (puh-see-ya). They add a distinctive, slightly astringent flavor to dishes, making them well suited to balancing out heavy stews and rich sauces. They are also used in Oaxacan-style moles (mo-lays) to create a perfect blend of color, sweetness, and a little spice.


The fresh Chile Chilaca.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

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The dried Chile Chilaca is called a Pasilla.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons


 Scoville heat units: 1,500 – 2,500

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Rocotillo chile.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The rocotillo (ro-ko-tee-yo) is just a wee bit hotter than the poblano and a little sweeter. It’s almost, but not quite, a hot chile. Identifying this pepper can be difficult because two different varieties share the same name. There’s the Capsicum baccatum that originates in Peru and the Capsicum chinense which is of unknown origin. Also, the two different varieties look nearly identical and are very similar in overall heat! But it doesn’t end there. Local variations of the names of rocotillos are different in different parts of the world. Lastly, the term rocotillo has been used to describe peppers that aren’t rocotillos. Rocotillos are very popular in Caribbean jerk meat dishes. You can find them in Miami, Florida grocery stores.

Stay tuned for Part Two: Hot Chile Peppers!

*The Scoville scale is a measurement of the "heat" of chile peppers, as recorded in Scoville Heat Units, based on the concentration of capsaicinoids, among which capsaicin is the predominant component. The scale is named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville.

Renée Benoit lives in southeastern Arizona. She can see Mexico from her living room! She and her partner Marty are in the process of transforming their property into a sustainable homestead. Right now they have 2 dogs, 2 horses and 1 cat to keep them company. She also enjoys traveling to new places to discover native foods as well as wildlife. She writes creative non-fiction and gardens, hikes, reads, sews, cans, ferments, bakes, cooks and needle felts in her spare time.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Book Review with Recipe: Gluten-Free Baking for Beginners by Johnna Wright-Perry

 Gluten-Free Baking for Beginners

Gluten-Free Baking for Beginners. Photo by Wendy Gregory

“For all those who said goodbye to gluten and were told you would never break bread across the table again, I’ll meet you at the table.”

Gluten-free blogger, advocate, and activist for the gluten-free community, baking teacher and grocery store guide, and now cookbook author Johnna Wright-Perry has been active in the online gluten-free community for over a decade. Her upbeat can-do approach to living and cooking gluten-free has been an inspiration to those just starting down the gluten-free path throughout those years. All her experience, knowledge, and cheerleading encouragement are now packed into her new cookbook, Gluten-Free Cookbook for Beginners.

Her first chapter guides beginners through the basics of gluten-free baking and the science of gluten and gluten substitutes that mimic the structure and support that gluten gives to baked goods. Her goal is to give bakers a manageable and affordable list of ingredients that can produce satisfying results. I remember our pantry stuffed full of exotic and expensive ingredients I combined in what felt like failed science experiments as I tried to reproduce family favorites after the celiac diagnoses came in. Johnna’s years of baking and experiment can save this generation the frustration and expense that those of us in the early years of growing celiac disease and gluten issue awareness faced when few mixes or prepared foods were available, or they were just plain awful, and we looked to create our own baked goods. Her flour blend recipes take away the science of combining just the right blends and balance of flours and starches to give successful results.

A decade ago, we were all just waking up to the realization that gluten wasn’t the only issue facing our community. Online or in local support groups gluten sensitivities and celiac were also traveling with dairy issues, egg allergies and nut allergies. Finding ways to get the bite, the tooth, and the tastes we craved as we had to omit crucial ingredients led to more failed science projects. Johnna has also lived through those years and found ways to substitute and still get results. She lives a mostly plant-based life and has vegan tips as well. Throughout her cookbook you will find substitutions that take the overwhelm and anxiety out of baking.

The handholding, cheerleading, and gentle friendly guidance that has been the trademark of Johnna’s online presence doesn’t end in the introductory chapter but is written into every recipe with helpful tips and things to watch out for as you gather and combine ingredients. This isn’t just a collection of delicious gluten-free baked goodies, it is a tutorial and a friendly chat with an experienced and caring friend who wants you to succeed and find the memories and ways to celebrate in life with lovingly prepared good food—even without gluten.

 using kitchen scale for gluten-free baking

Using a kitchen scale for gluten-free baking. Photo by Wendy Gregory

My last baking ‘without a mix’ experience was a batch of lemon bars using a store-bought gluten-free flour blend. The lemon bars turned out heavy and gummy and sad. I was entering this baking with dread and hesitation since my last gluten-free baking was such a fail. I ordered the flours and xanthan gum from Vitacost where the prices were lower overall and new customers get an extra discount to make Johnna’s all purpose flour blend. I also hesitated on that initial expense. (note: As a returning customer, if I left my items in the cart overnight, Vitacost sends an email with an additional 10% to finish the order.) I did use my scale to make a half batch of the flour just in case it all went wrong again.  All that worry and hesitation was for nothing. These bars turned out light and delicate and very close to the shortbread of my gluten days. They are not super sweet and perfect for with afternoon cup of tea. I like that I can change up the fillings with different flavored jam and that they go together quickly for an easy dessert.

Johanna has graciously shared her recipe for Raspberry Shortbread Bars using her all-purpose flour blend. I made these dairy free by using Earth Balance as a substitute for butter.

 Gluten-Free Raspberry Shortbread Bars

Gluten-Free Raspberry Shortbread Bars Photo courtesy of Johnna Wright-Perry

Raspberry Shortbread Bars

Prep Time:10 minutes; Bake time: 33 minutes; Plus 20 minutes to cool

Makes 9-12 bars

Dairy-Free Option-substitute an equal amount of dairy-free butter (such as Earth Balance) 


  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick: 112 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (55 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ Johnna’s Favorite Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend
  • ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ½ cup (160 grams) raspberry jam
  • 2 tablespoons (15 grams) powdered sugar (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with the cooking spray.

2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla bean paste until creamy.

3. Add the flour blend and the xanthan gum and mix until crumbly.

4. Firmly press half the mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking pan, forming a crust.

5. Carefully spread the jam over the crust. Crumble the remaining half of the crust mixture over the jam.

6. Bake for 31 to 33 minutes, or until the top starts to lightly brown. Cool completely on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before cutting into 9 or 12 squares.

7. Sprinkle with powdered sugar (if using) before serving.

8. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.

These bars are delicious with other flavors of jam. Try strawberry, apricot, or blackberry.

The cost of creating Johnna’s gluten-free flour blends may be daunting up front. But when you calculate how much a loaf of gluten-free bread or desserts cost and you add in the satisfaction of baking your own, the cost comes out to less than purchasing. Using a kitchen scale helps to half the recipe and the flours can also be frozen. Having some frozen gluten-free treats ready in the freezer also adds to the savings.

I also tried Johnna’s gluten-free challah and cut out cookie recipes. Posts will follow about these gluten-free holiday and special occasion treats.

Note: I do not have an affiliate relationship with Vitacost. It was just cheaper to use them than other online sources. I purchased Johnna’s cookbook for my own personal use.

Wendy Gregory spent her career working with children as a culinary and gardening teacher in an arts-based summer camp for at-risk children in Nelsonville, Ohio, and as the director of a children’s museum in Lancaster, Ohio. She is a freelance writer exploring the ways seniors can contribute, grow, and reinvent themselves in a new chapter of life. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

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