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Understanding Clean Wine Designations


For those of us who go to great lengthsto  make sure our food is safe, why not do the same for wine? There are hundreds of wineries in the US ditching chemicals in favor of sustainable and eco-friendly practices. Consumers can easily buy organic, biodynamic, and SIP Certified wines in most bottle shops, but seldom know what these certifications really mean. Clear and concise explanations of these clean-wines are hard to come by. I wanted to know what “clean” wine was all about.

I recently traveled to California’s Central Coast and visited the Santa Barbara and Santa Maria wine regions. With Down To Earth Month just around the corner, my timing was right. This eighth offering created by Wine Institute has sustainably-focused wine events throughout April. The launch of Wine Country Table, a book highlighting sustainable California’s wineries and farmers shows encouraging results of treating the land and workers well.

I stopped at several wineries to get to the core of what it means to be sustainable and produce eco-safe wines. I wanted to hear from producers of eco-friendly wines why they bother with non-mainstream wine practices. What follows are three classifications of clean wine I was interested in understanding better.

SIP (Sustainability In Practice) Certified

Sustainable has a new and better designation. SIP certification strives to cover social responsibility, water conservation, clean water, safe pest management, energy efficiency, habitat/wildlife, and fair business practices. All wineries in this program elect to join and be audited. What started in 2008 in Central California is spreading throughout California and now Wisconsin. SIP strives to improve wine growing/production by concentrating on the 3 P’s (people, planet, and prosperity).

Starting out in Santa Barbara where almost 30 wine tasting rooms are scattered throughout the downtown area, I found Riverbench's tasting room. Riverbench has 135 planted-to-vine SIP Certified wines. SIP is a relatively new certification brought about when many wineries were claiming they were using sustainable practices. A clear understanding of what sustainable meant to any given winery was lacking. When SIP was formed, consumers now had a gold standard that is third-party verified. In 2008, a pilot program launched SIP certification for vineyards, and in 2016 SIP for wineries was started.

With older vines planted in 1973, Riverbench has been around longer than most Santa Maria wineries. Their vines draw character from the ancient riverbed they’re planted on. With a portfolio of excellent oaked and un-oaked chardonnay, intense pinot noir, and vibrant sparkling wine, Riverbench won me over.

I asked Laura Borass of Riverbench why being SIP certified was important and got this reply:

We chose the SIP program because as a family business, we want to leave the land here in the best shape possible for future generations. SIP has the added component of extending resources to support the community and the people who work here, so that was important as well. The families who own Riverbench have been here for generations and support the community in so many ways, so this was a key element for them. So not only are we able to conserve natural resources, impact the land the least amount possible, and minimize harmful pesticides and herbicides, but we are able to extend important support to our people as well.

At Presqu’ile Winery in the Santa Maria region, I toured the gravity-fed winemaking facility and heard their story. Presqu’ile is SIP Certified and posts this on their website:

In keeping with the Murphy family’s belief in stewardship and conservation, the Presqu’ile Vineyard is Sustainability in Practice (SIP) certified. Rigorous, non-negotiable and measured by an independent third-party auditor, SIP is widely considered the gold standard for sustainability certification. Unlike organic certification, which looks exclusively at chemical usage, SIP also audits social responsibility, water conservation, energy efficiency, clean water and much more.

I highly recommend visiting Presqu’ile for excellent wines and an incredible tasting room experience. To dig deeper into what it means to be SIP certified, visit for more detailed information.


From I share this explanation on organic winegrowing practices.

Wines made with organically grown grapes come from vineyards that follow the guidelines set by the National Organic Program (NOP).

1. no synthetic pesticides or nonorganic chemicals

2. only NOP-approved materials (some synthetic materials are allowed)

Additionally, wines labeled organic cannot have added sulfites to prolong shelf life; they must be certified to contain no more than 10 parts per million.

Organically grown and produced wines are easier to understand than SIP certified. It’s pretty much using organic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Some synthetic products are allowed, but not many. I stopped in Arroyo Grande to meet with Verdad’s owner Louisa Sawyer Lindquist and taste Verdad’s wines.

Although Verdad’s 14 acres of grapes are not certified organic, they are grown in the organic style. I run across this type of situation often where a grower of grapes or vegetables uses organic practices, but they don’t bother getting certified. It’s a royal pain in the rear to obtain organic certification and owning a winery isn’t usually a lucrative business.


Biodynamic farming treats the vineyard as a closed loop, employing organic practices and natural alternatives for eliminating waste and promoting a healthy ecosystem.

1. no synthetic pesticides or nonorganic chemicals

2. compost teas and natural preparations to enrich soil and promote microorganisms

3. insectaries to control pests

4. planting and pruning determined by the phases of the moon

Both my brother and I were impressed enough to buy a few bottles for the wine stash at home. Verdad’s albariño and the garnacha were two of the best wines we tasted during our trip.

Ampelos Winery is one of the first vineyards in the US to be certified organic, biodynamic, and SIP certified also. I met with Rebecca Work at her home overlooking their vineyard. During my interview with her, she said “We have a saying that we believe in – “you did not inherit the land from your parents it is on loan to you from your kids”.   We live in the middle of the vineyard and did not want to have the chemicals sprayed right where we live, our dogs run through the vines, and our horses and chickens eat the grass.”

I totally agree with her, especially the part about dogs and horses who don’t get to pick the land they live on. Increasingly, wine drinkers are searching for clean wines, and Ampelos is about as clean as possible. After Rebecca shared with me a French study showing pesticides were getting into wine, I appreciated her wine even more.

With a little research, I found a link to a NY Times article about pesticides in wine from 2014. After reading the article, you’ll probably want to buy clean and green wines if you aren’t already. As if that weren’t enough I found this link to an article on stating humans can taste pesticides in wine. In the article, it tells of 195 blind taste tests indicating participants could taste the chemicals.

No doubt there are studies to prove or disprove chemicals in wine, but why take a chance with pesticides and herbicides in your wine? You do have a choice to buy clean wine. Will you take a step forward for the environment and your health? The price point of clean wines is not that much more than the wine you are drinking now. Ask your local bottle shop their recommendations and make the switch.

Thanks to Wine Institute and for permission to use definitions on Sustainable, Organic, and Biodynamic wine.

Kurt Jacobson writes about travel, food, wine, organic gardening, and most anything else from his varied professional life. His articles appear in Alaska Magazine, Fish Alaska Magazine, Metropolis Japan Magazine, Edible Delmarva Magazine, North West Travel and Life Magazine, and Mother Earth News. Kurt lives in the Baltimore, MD area with his wife, dog and cats. Kurt’s articles also appear on several websites like:GoNomad.comTrip101.comMotherEarthNews.comAdventuresstraveler.comand several others. Kurt is a regular contributor to writing about Alaska, Colorado, New Zealand, Japan, and the Mid-Atlantic areas.

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.

Winter Squash: Instant Pot or CrockPot

Squash Instant Pot vs CrockPot 

My gardening brings me great joy and Mother Nature can gift me with a plethora of good food for my efforts. Last season produced many pounds of squash for my husband to endure—and for me to play with. While my favorite variety to grow happens to be zucchini rampicante, the following ideas can be easily carried out using butternut or other winter squashes.

The main reason I love rampicante is that it’s great when used green in the summertime as you would a zucchini (though I prefer it to this cousin for density and buttery flavor). Let it mature and cure and it transforms into something closer to another cousin—the butternut (though with an often curled shape and sometimes a lot more meat).

Luckily, these vitamin holders store well because, as I said, they were prolific last year. I garnered over a hundred pounds of this veggie (see samples of my harvest below). I gifted many to friends and neighbors while still storing more than enough for my husband and myself in our basement.

Squash Harvests

The following is more of a guideline—or basketful of ideas—than a normal recipe because it’s meant to show some of the versatility of this wonderful vegetable. I am also a great believer in catering to personal tastes and going with the flow while staying with my style of cooking. I like to refer to this style as garden-pantry fusion—cooking in the moment with what’s on hand.

The Instant Pot is a wonderful tool for shortening the amount of time for cooking if you find yourself at the end of a harried day and simply want to get food onto a plate and into waiting tummies. Cooking squash in it takes just 4 minutes on high. Depending on how much you cook and what you pair it with, you’ll have a side dish or a main course in about 30 minutes.

On the other hand, if you have time to prepare, you can achieve the same yummy food with 6 hours in the slow cooker. I like my slow cooker so that’s what I use. However, you could simply use your Instant Pot on the slow cooker setting. The choice is yours. I suggest experimenting with both methods and a variety of ingredients (why not get the family involved?). Squash is a relatively inexpensive commodity so it lends itself to explorative play.

The last photo, just before the recipe, shows a curried version of this recipe topped with avocado and toasted almonds over a bed of wild and brown rices alongside another option with herbs de Provence (one of my current favorite rediscoveries). The curried version was cooked in the slow cooker, the other in the Instant Pot. You can see the texture is quite similar in both versions. I can attest to the moisture and tastes being equally sumptuous as well.

The prep work for both methods is the same. Wash, peel, and chop the vegetables. Sauté the onion and garlic (if you’re using them), then either add them along with rest of the ingredients to the crockpot or keep them in the Instant Pot and add the rest of the goodies. Not to worry, I’ll get a little more specific shortly.

Another fantastic thing about this way of cooking is the ability to cater to personal tastes of the moment and to flexibly alter it throughout the seasons with seasoning. If you have a hankering for something ethnic, add the usual seasonings from the part of the world you’re yearning for along with a couple of extras and you might hit the spot. If it’s a little off with this batch, simply alter the recipe a little and try again later.

Squash for Dinner

Yummy Squash Recipe

Both versions easily serve 2-4 (depending on whether for a main or side dish):


4-6 cups peeled and cubed squash
1 cup peeled and sliced carrot
garlic with a little oil for cooking (to taste)
onion (to taste)
1 cup of liquid (water or broth work well; I’ve even used 1/2 water, half mead)


Up to 1 whole apple, cored, peeled, and chopped
1-2 chopped celery stalks
1/4 cup of raisins
Up to 1 Tablespoon of seasoning (this can be a combination, depending on tastes)

Toppings (toasted almonds add a fun crunch and flavor)

For the Slow Cooker:

1. Sauté the onion, garlic, and (if desired) celery. Add to the slow cooker along with the rest of the ingredients (except toppings).

2. Stir briefly, cover, and turn on low. Cook for 6 hours if you want it mashable as is shown.

3. Cook for a shorter time (test at 4 hours) if you prefer your squash more intact and less squashed.

4.When cooked, mash as desired and add toppings. Serve over rice or noodles as a main dish or plate as a side to pork or poultry.

For the Instant Pot:

1. Turn the Pot to sauté and cook the garlic, onion, and celery in the olive oil for a couple of minutes. Turn off.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients (except toppings) and stir.

3. Close the Pot and seal. Process on high pressure for 4 minutes (3 for less mashable) and quick release the steam when complete. Mash and serve as desired.

Curry recommendations include adding the apple and raisins mentioned above along with at least 1 teaspoon of curry powder and 1/4 teaspoon of powdered ginger. I planned ahead once and created a sourdough boule with the inclusion of turmeric, ginger, raisins, and almond to accompany the meal.

I know topping with avocado isn’t a normal addition but I had a ripe one that needed to be used and didn’t want to make a salad. That’s what garden-pantry fusion is all about! It’s seat-of-your-pants, anything plus the kitchen sink, go-with-the-flow in the moment living. Try it, you just might like the freedom!

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her 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. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Use This Scalable List to Build an Emergency Food Supply

Home preserved foods 

Home preserved foods can be part of your emergency food supply. Photo by Carole Cancler

There are several ways to build an emergency food supply to stock a survival kit and a “bug out bag”. While you can purchase specialized food products or a self-contained emergency preparedness kit, these can be costly and wasteful.

Instead, you can simply assemble shelf-stable foods that you already buy or preserve at home. Many canned, dried, and pickled foods are quite suitable for use in an emergency kit.

Types of Emergency Kits

The contents of home emergency kits and bug out bags are adjusted for different situations, as well as different groups of people. There is no “one-size-fits-all” emergency kit.

For example, different emergency supplies are needed for urban families who might need to shelter in place during a snow storm versus a family planning a day-trip into a wilderness area. Likewise, different supplies and amounts are needed for single people, couples, and families with children of varying ages.

A bug out bag or "go" bag is often used in the event of evacuation. It is a compact supply kit containing essential emergency supplies. A bug out bag typically includes food, appropriate clothing, first-aid, and other supplies. Go-bags can be prepared for any number of people or days. When an emergency strikes, just grab the bag and go!

It is recommended to prepare go kits for the car and office, in case you are stranded away from home where your household emergency preparedness kit is kept.

Here are some places to get ideas for emergency preparedness kits and go-bags:

Visit: and search for “emergency kjt” and “go-bag”.

Check out the original “Ten Essentials” list from The Mountaineers, a non-profit community of outdoor enthusiasts in the Pacific Northwest.

Search online for scouting organizations and local hiking groups to find lists of recommended supplies for various emergency situations.

Your local government likely has information about disaster preparedness specific to your region. For example, you may need to prepare an earthquake kit or hurricane kit.

Types of Emergency Foods

Food is of course an essential part of any emergency kit. Major retailers offer many emergency food options, including ready-to-eat meals (known as MRE’s), emergency preparedness kits, and freeze-dried foods often sold for hiking and camping. While MRE meals, kits, and special foods are a convenient solution, they also tend to be expensive.

MRE's and emergency kits can be wasteful, especially if the product is discarded and replaced every few years as recommended by the manufacturer. So, it might make more sense to create an emergency food supply from items you already preserve at home or buy at the grocery store.

Instead of MRE meals or freeze-dried foods, simply stock an extra supply of pantry foods you already use and consume. Recommended foods include canned meat, fish, and beans, dried meat and fish jerky, canned and dried soups, dry cereal and crackers, protein or cereal bars, shelf-stable milk (canned, powdered, or boxed), bottled or boxed fruit juices, dried fruits, canned nuts, and peanut butter.

Other considerations for your emergency food supply are comfort foods to alleviate stress (for children as well as adults). Comfort foods might be anything from Cheerios cereal or a favorite flavor of instant oatmeal to garlic dill pickles, bagged popcorn, and dark chocolate. Finally, don’t forget any special needs such as infant formula or pet food. For more ideas and recommendations for emergency foods, visit:

Shelf stable foods

Types of emergency foods include dried, pickled, and canned foods. Don't forget a few comfort foods and snacks.

Scalable Emergency Supply List

The following list of pantry foods will supply about 1,800 calories—enough for an “average” person for one day in an emergency. The list relies on ready-to-eat foods that require no cooking or simple reheating using a portable or camp stove (no microwave or oven, which may not be available during a natural disaster or extended power outage).

In a mixed family of men, women, teenagers, and children, simply multiply this list by the number of people for which you are storing an emergency food supply.

If you have more male teenagers or adults than women or children, you may want to increase your count by one for every two or three male teenagers or adults.

Likewise, if your household is mostly women and children, you can scale down the amounts slightly. But since they’re foods you already have on hand, the amount you store for emergency can be very flexible.

Proteins: meat, fish, or beans (choose two per person per day)

½ can (12 ounces) corned beef or SPAM
1 can (15 ounces) baked beans
1 small (4-6 ounces) or ½ large (12 ounces) can chicken, tuna or salmon
1 can (~4 ounces) sardines or mackerel
½ can (18-19 ounces) ready-to-serve hearty soup, such as chili or clam chowder

Vegetables and vegetable soups (choose two per person per day)

1 can (10-11 ounces) condensed vegetable soup, such as tomato, potato, minestrone, etc.
1 can (18-19 ounces) ready-to-serve canned vegetable soup
1 serving (3-4 ounces) dried vegetable soups (with or without beans or pasta)
1 can (14-15 ounces) vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, peas, corn, or mixed
As needed: shelf-stable milk for drinking, dry cereal, and creamed soups

Fruits and juice (choose two per person per day)

½ can (15 ounces) fruit, such as fruit cocktail, pears, pineapple, mandarin oranges, etc.
1 bottle (10 ounces) 100% juice
2 each (6 ounces) canned or boxed 100% juice
2 ounces dried fruit, such as apricots, plums/prunes, mango, etc.

Cereal and crackers (choose two per person per day)

1 ounce dry cereal, such as Wheaties, Corn Flakes, Cheerios, etc.
1 ounce crackers or crisp bread, such as Triscuit or Rye Krisp
As needed: shelf-stable milk for drinking, dry cereal, and creamed soups 

Snacks (choose two per person per day)

1 cereal or energy bar (~1½ ounces) providing less than 20 grams protein
1 protein bar (~1½ ounces) providing 20 or more grams protein
1 ounce beef, turkey, or salmon jerky
1 ounce Trail mix, mixed nuts, almonds
1 ounce (2 Tablespoons) Peanut, almond, or another nut butter

Comfort foods or special needs (choose as desired or needed)

Cookies, popcorn, or chips
Chocolate bars or candy
Hot beverages (hot cocoa mix, instant coffee, tea bags)
Dried macaroni & cheese or canned pasta dinner such as Spaghetti-O’s
Condiments (packets or small jars of mayo, mustard, ketchup, ranch dressing, etc.)
Pickled vegetables such as beets, green beans, carrots, mushrooms, or mixed (giardiniera or chow chow), etc.
Special needs for member s of your family, such as infant formula or pet food

Some final thoughts: it is important that the foods in your emergency supply are familiar to you and your family. When dealing with an emergency, eating unfamiliar foods places more stress on everyone, particularly young children.

So, be sure to consume foods from your emergency supply on a regular basis. Mix them into your monthly menu. You might even schedule an occasional “emergency night dinner” and serve a meal composed of your emergency food supply, along with a home movie or board game night.

Familiarity and a little practice will help everyone feel more secure in the event of an actual emergency.

Hearty vegetable soup

Hearty vegetable soup makes a good emergency food. It's easy to prepare, nourishing, and comforting. Photo byTimolina -

Carole Cancler is the author of The Home Preserving Bible. She has traveled to more than 20 countries on four continents to attend cooking schools and explore food markets. She studies the anthropology of food with a focus on how indigenous foods have traveled and been integrated into world cuisine. Read all of Carole'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. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Rich and Creamy Almond Milk

Easy Almond Milk

I love dairy. But there are simply seasons when I like to limit or eliminate inflammatory foods out of my diet. Spring is my favorite season to implement a cleanse, after eating heavier comfort foods throughout the colder months. If you are a dairy lover like me, you should try this recipe for almond milk. It is thick, creamy and deeply satisfying.


1 cup raw almonds, soaked overnight
4 cups filtered water
optional sweeteners: 1 tbsp agave, 1 tbsp maple syrup or 2 pitted dates


Rubber band
Wide Mouth Quart Mason Jar


1. Soak the 1-cup of raw almonds overnight in 2 cups of cold water. If you have less time, you can substitute hot water and soak 4-6 hours. If you have more time, you can soak the almonds up to 48 hours for a creamier milk. 

2. Drain and rinse the almonds.

3. Place the almonds and 4 cups of filtered water in a Vitamix or similar blender with any optional add-in sweeteners (1-TBS agave, 1-TBS maple syrup, or 2 pitted dates). 

4. Blend on high for 2 minutes. 

5. Loosely attach cheesecloth to the opening of the Mason Jar with a rubber band. 

6. Strain the almond milk through the cheesecloth and use a spoon to dip out the pulp. 

7. Save pulp in a separate container for later use. Please see below for ideas.

8. Seal and refrigerate the almond milk. Consume within 3 days or freeze.* 

Note: the shelf life on homemade almond milk is considered to be 3 days because there is no pasteurization process. Alternatively, you can freeze the milk for later use.

Tips & Tricks: How to Use Leftover Almond Pulp

After straining the milk you will notice there is a large amount of leftover pulp. Raw almonds are expensive and I couldn’t bring myself to throw out this potentially valuable by-product. I was just a little stumped with how to use it. Thanks to Trading Waste for Abundance I discovered you can actually make your own almond meal for a zero-waste product! 

With a little creativity, the possibilities are endless. Enjoy this easy and waste free recipe. 

Lyndsay Dawson Mynatt is a dedicated forager, outdoor enthusiast, and blogger for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Her published articles include: Build a DIY Cider Press in the 2015 September/October issue of GRIT and 5-Minute, 5-Ingredient Mayonnaise in the 2015 Best of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Follow her adventures at A Faithful Journey, and read all of Lyndsay'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. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding

It's easy to make pudding from scratch. 

Without a catchy intro, I’ll get straight to the point: Those four-pack puddings smell and taste nasty, like rancid milk with a sickly, tangy aftertaste. You know the ones I’m talking about, those pudding packs meant for snacking (wink, wink). Now, I don’t think I’m necessarily a food snob, and these pudding packs are deemed perfectly safe to eat, but prepared foods like this make me grumpy.

It’s the quality of the prepackaged foods that is so frustrating. It’s like those fancy food companies just keep adding more and more sugar and salt to carrageenan, hydrogenated oil, and wood pulp and wrap it up in a brightly colored bag or box, and we’re just supposed to eat it. And if they slap the words “natural” or “farm fresh” on it, then kudos to them because it means more consumers think that these items are healthy or were actually harvested yesterday or some such nonsense.

Sigh… The sad fact is, many of us do eat these items. And like so many of my peers and those in the younger generations, we have no idea what the original versions of these heavily marketed convenience foods taste like. It’s kinda soul-crushing when I think of my kids’ friends (and probably their parents) and the likelihood that they’ve never eaten anything truly homemade. And no, making a mix from a box doesn’t count.

Now, I know you’re thinking: “Jeez, calm down, lady. It’s just pudding.” You are right. It is just pudding. And I can’t understand why more people can’t take 15 minutes to make something as simple as pudding (and not that instant powdered junk from a box). Then again, we’re now living in a society in which marketers are telling us we’re too busy to do our own meal planning and grocery shopping or to go to a restaurant, and we need these home-delivery services. So, of course, not too many of us cook from scratch anymore.

What I’ve found is that taste has been the biggest factor for my family to make better food choices. Because I cook most meals from scratch, when my son and daughter do have the occasion to eat those convenience food items, they recognize that the flavor is of no comparison. My kids do not like boxed macaroni and cheese because they say it tastes like cardboard. My son, Fletcher, refuses to eat bottled ranch dressing. And he will likely scrape off the mound of vegetable shortening and heavily dyed icing off of a cheap birthday cupcake because it tastes so bad.

So, if I can commit to a little extra effort and time to making something from real ingredients, we can forgo the prepackaged slop and indulge on all of the wonderful quick dessert recipes without having to sacrifice flavor, and so can you. In fact, you probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry already. Don’t have hazelnut flavoring? Simply swap it with vanilla, coffee, or peppermint extract for another great flavor option.

(psst: This recipe is perfect for making frozen pudding pops, too. So, dust off the ol’ popsicle molds and give this a try.)  

Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding


¾ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
ā…“ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon hazelnut extract


1. In a medium bowl, separate egg yolks and slightly beat with a fork. Set aside.

2. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and milk. Cook and stir constantly until the cocoa dissolves and steam begins to rise from the mixture.

3. Remove pan from heat and temper yolks by slowly pouring about a cup of the hot milk mixture to the yolks, constantly stirring.

4. Put the pan back on the stove and return to constantly stirring as you pour the tempered yolks mixture back into the pan.

5. Once combined, cook and stir the mixture until it thickens to a pudding consistency. Once it starts to bubble, the yolks should be hot enough to be “cooked,” and can be removed from the heat. Do not boil this mixture.

6. With a fine mesh sieve over a clean medium bowl, pour the pudding mixture through the sieve to catch egg solids that may have formed during tempering.

7. Add the butter and extract, and stir. Cover the pudding with plastic wrap to prevent the “skin” from forming on the top, or you can simply scrape it off before serving.

Serve immediately for a warm pudding dessert, or allow to cool slightly before storing in the fridge. If your family doesn’t immediately eat all the pudding, including licking the spoon and bowl clean, then it should keep in the fridge for up to three days.

Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page.

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.

Re-hydrated Pasta

pasta twirled around fork 

Lori wrote in to say she was wondering if food prep might be faster if she dehydrated her cooked pasta, and then packaged it for long term storage? She added that instant rice came to mind.

Faster Pasta Prep and Energy/Water Savings

She said it took about three hours to dehydrate her cooked pasta (not surprising, considering the amount of water it absorbs while cooking!) She even tried dehydrating the pasta at different temperatures: 150F and the usual 135F. "Both turned out about the same," Lori noted.

Less Water Is Needed to Rehydrate

Unperturbed, Lori asked around the backpacking circle online and they mentioned that less water is needed to rehydrate it. But, they added, if too little water is used, the noodles get too starchy and they start to stick together.

My thought? Ugh, we can get those kind of results out of a can of spaghetti in tomato sauce!

Lori's Rehydrating Pasta Conclusion

From Lori: "Maybe the real benefit and savings to re-hydrating pasta is with water usage and not fuel consumption. In a particular scenario, like people hiking or camping, and to all those people out east after the hurricane and now have no electricity and their drinking water may be questionable and difficult to acquire, potable water resources could be an issue."

She continues, "I'm guessing that the investment in dehydrating cooked pasta will have value for the weekend warrior or casualties of mother nature - people whose need is outside the box of the typical money-saving homemaker."

To Lori, Her Pasta Trial Was a Success!

She told us, "I only needed to boil one cup of water for my (one) cup of small macaroni pasta - and had a small amount of water leftover! Additionally, the hikers used ziplock-style freezer bags to reconstitute their dehydrated food. This means no pots and pans! After adding water to their ziplock bag, they put the sealed bag into a 'cozy' (used for keeping teapots warm) and this kept the food warm enough until ready to eat."

Let Spaghetti Bolognese 'Stand' Overnight

Nick wrote in from Wales and said, "Cooked up my own spaghetti bolognese and left it to stand overnight to allow the pasta to absorb the sauce before dehydrating. Once dry and brittle, I added boiling water to a vacuum flask and screwed on the lid. Hey presto! I found it to be a successful way to take a nutritious packed lunch to work!"

Since December of 2010, Susan Gast has operated Easy Food Dehydrating, a website dedicated to dehydrating fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooked meats. Susan teaches you how to safely store your goodies too - for long-term food storage. Keep your pantry full - whatever the reason or season! To read all of Susan's posts, please visit this page on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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.

Why I Ditched a Food Processor for a Mortar and Pestle, with Recipe for Garlicky Seed and Spice Paste

mortar small

Most avid home cooks have their favorite time-saving gadgets and more often than not, one of them is a food processor. Somehow, I got my first food processor only a few years ago - after an entire adult lifetime of cooking. I was envious of how fast a friend of mine could whip up perfect pesto in such large quantities for freezing (in ice cube trays!). My gadget of choice had been an immersion blender (great for pureed soups) but it had broken for the third time and I was sick of replacing it. My new kitchen workhorse lasted only two years. Then the plastic container cracked and liquids leaked out when I used it.

I was one of the millions of victims of planned obsolescence and was just too mad to shell out the ridiculous amount of money to replace it. It’s in the basement now and I imagine it’ll be there forevermore. Now what?

For years, my husband would brag that his pestos were superior to mine (they were) because he made his the slow “stone-age way”  — with a huge mortar and pestle. We would just have to sit there with our naked pasta until he was quite done with all of that smashing. Now, this massive stone basin was going to be my new food processor and I had to get behind it both figuratively and literally. Actually, this switch fit neatly with a plan to wean our family off of the fossil-fuel-hungry tools of modern life and I have come to understand how every small thing we do makes us braver and more excited for the bigger shifts.

But, there is more than the practical to consider when using a mortar and pestle. So much more.

Pounding garlic and salt, herbs and spices, seeds, nuts, and oils is a full sensory experience — not something a food processor can ever boast with its whiny whir. As the pestle mashes, aromas are released and flavors are compounded to the sound of stone on stone. And, as much as my finger got a workout pressing the button on my old machine, the connection I feel to the food I am making when engaging my arms and hands (and nose), is actually pretty moving.

I might be considered a romantic — I know I am — but when I am making pastes and sauces in my large mortar and pestle, I do feel more connected to the art of cooking and to the many people who have preceded me in the kitchens of the world. And, unlike a food processor, when using a mortar and pestle, that is all you are doing. Your attention is only engaged in doing that one thing - and that one thing is multifaceted. The physical meets creativity as you smell and taste your way through creating something delicious that can elevate even the most simple food.

The following recipe is delicious and versatile. Like the majority of things I make in my pound-o-matic (™), I start this one with garlic and salt. The salt acts as a grit for breaking down the garlic, and from that base, the sky's the limit with nuts, seeds, spices, and herbs. This particular recipe includes our cider syrup - a sweet and tangy pantry staple in this house. Play around with different herbs and spices, replace the cider syrup with lemon juice, or use your favorite nuts or seeds. The process is generally the same but the results will really guide what you are having for dinner tonight!

Garlicky Seed and Spice Paste Recipe


• 2 cloves garlic, peeled
• ¾ teaspoons of sea or kosher salt - any salt, but fine iodized salt should be reduced to a ½ teaspoon
• ½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds (hull-less)
• ½ teaspoon smoked paprika (or favorite dried pepper flake)
• 1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
• 2 Tablespoons of cider syrup*
• 3 Tablespoons of olive oil (or your favorite healthy oil, such as avocado or sunflower)
• 3-5 Tablespoons of  water


Wear an apron. Pound garlic and salt into a paste. Meanwhile, toast the seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they begin to pop and get a little toasty looking. Give them a shake every 30 seconds or so to avoid scorching.

Add cooled seeds, paprika, cilantro, and cider syrup to the garlic and salt paste.  Pound and grind until the consistency is a thick paste. Add the oil and 3 tablespoons of water and gently pound/mix to incorporate and emulsify. Start slowly so as not to splatter the contents all over you and the work surface and grind and stir more vigorously as it comes together.

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This gorgeous and rich pesto/paste can be used all week long to make meals more interesting and delicious. These particular flavors really lend themselves to Mexican cooking, so make a quick meal by spreading some on a warm or fried tortilla with cheese and a cabbage slaw! You can mix a spoonful into mayonnaise for a sandwich spread that’ll make you cry, or use that same mixture as a dip for steamed artichokes or roasted potatoes. Add a little more water to make a garnish for vegetable soups or chili, or even stir it into pasta with a handful of shredded cheese. You’ll see what I mean.

Spoon the mixture into a jar and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. It’ll keep at least a week.


*Cider syrup (aka boiled cider) is easy to make at home simply by boiling sweet cider until it is reduced into a thick syrup. Of course, we walk you through it in our Ciderhouse Cookbook: 127 Recipes That Celebrate the Sweet, Tart, Tangy Flavors of Apple Cider. You can also buy our cider syrup at Carr’s Ciderhouse.

Jonathan Carr and Nicole Blum co-own Carr’s Ciderhouse, where they produce natural hard cider from sustainably-grown apples and other delicious, traditional cider products. Their goods have been featured by the likes of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Yankee Magazine, Real Simple, Food and Wine, Town and Country, and Cidercraft. They are the authors of Ciderhouse Cookbook (Storey Publishing, 2018). Connect with Jonathan and Nicole on Instagram and Facebook. Read all of their MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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