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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.

Three Great Recipes for Summer Squash

summer squash

Lemon Squash and Italian Zucchini, Photo by Sheryl Campbell

Summer is in full swing and your summer squash plants are producing prolifically.  What you need are some quick and simple recipes that use lots of squash, yet tempt the taste buds of the pickiest eater.  You need Crunchy Baked Lemon Squash, Green and Yellow, Coconut Zucchini Bread, and Stuffed Vegetable Tortillas.

Let’s start with the squash.  Not all zucchini or yellow squash are equal. The only two summer squash I grow are Zucchino Rampicante (Italian Zucchini) and Lemon Squash. Both are available from Baker Creek Seeds.  I chose these two for their mild flavor, tenderness, and sweetness. Both are resistant to squash bug infestation, and both grow well without much attention.

I grow the zucchini next to a garden fence and let its strong vines support the light green fruit in the air. This gives me straighter fruit which is easier to slice for cooking. The lemon squash I plant several times in two-plant sets so that I have a continuous supply but can rip out older, leggy plants.

crunchy baked lemon squash

Crunchy Baked Lemon Squash, Photo by Sheryl Campbell

Crunchy Baked Lemon Squash

This recipe came out of desperation one summer when I had squash overflowing the counter and the refrigerator. The round shape of the Lemon Squash gives perfect slices ready to coat with savory dressing and crunchy topping.


  • 4 Lemon Squash, cut into ¼ inch rounds
  • 4 T. creamy Italian dressing (we use Olive Garden original)
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 6 T. seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • Spicy dipping sauce (I recommend Marie’s Chipotle Ranch Dressing or Hickory Farms Sweet Hot Mustard)


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place squash in a zipped plastic bag. Add salad dressing, seal, and shake well. Open the bag and add the cheese and panko. Seal, and toss lightly to coat.
  3. Arrange coated squash slices in a single layer on the papered pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Serve with dipping sauce.

green beans

Green Beans, Photo by Vu Doan on Pixabay

Green and Yellow

This recipe self-describes as it includes many things both green and yellow. It’s a great way to bring together the flavors of your vegetables and herbs from the summer garden.


  • 4 Lemon Squash, sliced thinly
  • 1 quart fresh green beans
  • Juice of one lemon
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. celery seed
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary


  1. Heat the lemon juice, parsley, celery seed, and rosemary in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced summer squash and stir fry gently.
  2. Meanwhile, cook green beans in salted, boiling water for 6 minutes. Drain and add to skillet. Stir fry for another 3 minutes.
  3. Serve hot or warm.

 coconut zucchini bread

Best Zucchini Bread, Photo by Sheryl Campbell

Coconut Zucchini Bread

This is a variation on my Great-aunt Anna’s famous zucchini bread. Famous because at our annual family dinner and auction her loaves often create bidding wars and may go for as high as $40 a loaf. That’s a tough act to follow, but I think I went one better by replacing the vegetable oil with cold-pressed coconut oil. By using Zucchino Rampicante I get a much sweeter flavor from the vegetable than a standard zucchini would give. And the Italian squash simply melts away as it bakes making for a very smooth loaf.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup melted coconut oil (cold pressed, first pressing, which tastes like coconut)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups grated Zucchino Rampicante (leave the skins on)


  1. In a large bowl, stir together the first four ingredients.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugars.
  3. Gradually add the dry ingredients to mixing bowl, beating well after each addition.
  4. Stir in grated zucchini.
  5. Grease 2 loaf pans with bakers spray. Divide batter into the 2 pans.
  6. Bake at 325 degrees for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the loaves.

Stuffed Vegetable Tortillas

When the corn, zucchini, herbs, tomatoes, and peppers are all coming in strong, this recipe is an incredible way to preserve the harvest for use in the depths of winter. It makes a delectable meal all summer as well.

Ingredients and Directions

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 sweet pepper, chopped
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil

Put the oil in a large skillet and sauté the garlic for one minute; add the onion and pepper, sauté until crisp.

  • 2 cups sweet corn kernels
  • 1 medium Zucchino Rampicante, sliced thinly
  • 1 ½ T. ground cumin

Add to the skillet and sauté until all vegetables are tender.

  • 2 cups cooked black beans, drained
  • 1 cup chicken broth (vegetable broth if you prefer)
  • 6 T. tomato salsa

Add to skillet and cook until the moisture evaporates. Remove from heat.

  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 T. chopped fresh chives
  • 2 T. chopped fresh cilantro.

Stir in well to mix thoroughly. At this point, you can either use this filling and continue with the recipe, or freeze it in an airtight container for use later. I freeze much of this every summer.

  • 8-inch flour tortillas
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Vegetable oil for the frying pan
  • 9-inch frying pan with sloping sides
  • Preheat fry pan over medium heat with a little oil. Place one tortilla in the pan and sprinkle it with cheddar cheese. Put 1/3 cup of the filling on half the tortilla. Fry a couple of minutes until crisp, fold, and serve. Repeat until you’ve made as many tortillas as you wish.

Time to start cooking!

Give these recipes a try and see if you aren’t surprised by how many “I-don’t-like-squash” people came back to you for more!

Sheryl Campbell is an heirloom gardener, shepherd, and edible flower educator who owns Bouquet Banquet in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Read Sheryl’s previous blogging with Mother Earth Gardener and Grit 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.

Enjoy the Wonders of Fall-Harvested Eggplant, with Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

Small purple eggplant. Photo by Diane Helentjaris on Unsplash

There is something magical about the season of fall. That wonderful time of year when the crisp, cool weather is ushered in. It seems to coax summer to release its intense grip, giving way to one of the most beautiful and welcoming of all the seasons.

As we pull out our sweaters and jackets, it is also a good time to pull out our hearty, traditional favorites — recipes, that is. Those satisfying homemade recipes, like a signature lasagna or chicken parmesan. But with eggplants being a popular fall harvest, why not kick off the season with a perennial favorite: eggplant parmesan.

Eggplant Versatility in Recipes

Aside from eggplants being both nutritious and delicious, they are easy to customize and can be adapted to a variety of palates. Eggplants have a delightfully absorbent quality, allowing them to soak up and hang on to flavors and seasonings really well. This makes them ideal to cook with and a pleasure to serve in many types of dishes. Eggplants are practically fail-proof in casseroles, stews, parmesans or in stir-frys. Eggplant's versatility lends itself well in both light and fresh, garden-style recipes, as well as in the more hearty and robust recipe profiles.

There are good eggplant parmesan recipes and then there are exceptional eggplant parmesan recipes. Without compromising flavor, I prefer a good, workable mix, varying only in the complexity of preparation steps. Because let's face it, there are times when one prefers convenience and simplicity over a full-scale, more involved production. Below, I have provided a quick recipe version that is just as tasty as a complex one.

Interesting Eggplant Facts

Recipes notwithstanding, there are as many positive features about eggplants as there are of the festive fall season in which they are typically harvested in. Eggplants come from the solanaceae nightshade family and are of the species called Solanum melongena. Also known as aubergines, eggplants are technically a fruit. They are grown and used in many cuisines worldwide.

The fruit has a spongy and absorbent inner flesh and typically has a dark, purple outer skin. Normally treated as a vegetable in recipes, but is actually considered a berry by its botanical definition.

Without refrigeration, an eggplant stored in a cool, dry place will keep one or two days. Refrigerated, an eggplant can be extended to last up to five to seven days. An eggplant has a very nutrient-rich skin, which may absolutely be left on in most prepared recipes. Although personal preference will dictate if the skin is to be removed.

Eggplant Gardening Tips

Plant seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep in a moist, compost-rich soil. From transplant, an eggplant will be ready to harvest from 80 to 90 days after planting. Ideally, the soil should range between 5.5 - 7.5 pH. Water thoroughly, so that the soil becomes saturated about 12 inches in depth. Water deeply again whenever the top 2 inches of soil becomes dry to the touch. Apply a good vegetable fertilizer at planting and monthly thereafter or according to the plant's specific needs.

At harvest, remove the fruit with a sharp knife, leaving at least 1 inch of stem attached to the eggplant. Interestingly enough, you can grow eggplant indoors if you live in an area where the outdoor temperatures are less than the ideal warm and sunny growing conditions required.

Eggplant Health Facts

As reported in Healthline and elsewhere, eggplants can promote weight loss due to their being high in fiber, water and low in calories. Eggplant’s versatility allow them to be prepared as a parmesan, baba ghanoush, which is a hummus-like dip or rolled into a rollatini, similar to a manicotti.

Eggplant prevents osteoporosis and protects bone health by increasing bone density due to its rich calcium and iron mineral content. High in vitamin C and water, eggplants are good for overall skin, hair and general body health. The vitamin C prevents oxidative cell damage which aids in preventing fine lines, wrinkles and age spots. The dark, purple skin contains beneficial anthocyanins, which are a chemical that lowers blood pressure.

Eggplants have the ability to balance blood sugar levels by keeping blood glucose levels from becoming either too high or too low. Eggplants contain vitamin A and C which provides cells protective antioxidants and significant levels of polyphenols. Polyphenols are chemicals which may assist our bodies' cells to process sugar.

The skin of an eggplant contains nasunin, a very beneficial antioxidant. Nasunin protects the cell membranes of the brain, transports vital nutrients throughout the body, while removing waste that may cause harmful toxins from the body. Nasunin also aids in preventing neuroinflammation and helps increase vital blood flow, which could help memory.

Savory eggplant Parmesan
Photo Credit: Pexels - Melanie Dompierre

Monica’s Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

1. Slice one medium sized eggplant into 1/2" round slices.

2. Coat the slices in fresh extra virgin olive oil. 3. Add salt and pepper to each side of the eggplant slices.

4. In a skillet or grill pan on medium-high, brown or lightly char the slices. Approximately 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until the slices have softened. 5. Remove pan from heat and set the eggplant slices aside.

6. In a medium-sized baking dish, lightly oil the bottom of baking dish with olive oil.

7. Layer three times, the following ingredients in the order listed: marinara sauce, eggplant slices, grated parmesan, Romano and Pecorino cheeses. If you don't have Pecorino cheese, you may substitute it with a firm goat cheese. Layer the top and final layer with grated mozzarella cheese.

8. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, coat 2 cups of toasted and crushed bread crumbs in 1/4 cup of each: olive oil, fresh chopped garlic and basil. Mix well. Spoon the bread crumb mixture generously over the entire dish.

9. Bake in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven for 45 to 50 minutes.

10. Let stand 15 minutes prior to serving.

Eggplant Nutrition Profile

 (For an average size eggplant)

  • Calories: 35
  • Total carbohydrates: 8.64g
  • Dietary fiber: 2.5g
  • Copper: 1mg
  • Vitamin B1: 1mg
  • Vitamin B3: .6mg
  • Vitamin B6: 85mcg
  • Vitamin K:  2.9mcg
  • Manganese: .1mg
  • Folate: 14mcg

Leaf raking aside, there is plenty to celebrate during the season of fall. As we reap the rewards from our fall harvests, be sure to incorporate eggplant in plenty of warm and savory dishes this season, reaping its many flavors and benefits that this wonderful plant has to offer.

Monica White is a freelance writer, member of the Georgia Air National Guard, and an avid runner and cyclist who loves the great outdoors and all things DIY. She divides her time between Tampa and her central Florida property, where she's growing a self-sufficient homestead. Connect with Monica on her outdoor lifestyle blog, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 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.

Four Ways to Preserve Tomatoes for Wintertime Meals

heirloom tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes, photo by Sheryl Campbell

The amazing variety of tomato varieties fill our summer meals with complex tastes from smoky to fruity, tart to sweet, citrusy to mild. But what a shame if it ended in the fall. There are so many ways to preserve tomatoes that you can enjoy their delicious flavors all year ‘round.

Let’s look at each of the ways that I preserve tomatoes and some of the ways I use them throughout the year, especially winter and spring when I crave fresh tomato taste. Tomatoes preserve well in jam (really!), dehydrated, roasted and frozen, and canned (alone or with other vegetables).

Tomato Jam

In Cooking with Heirloom Tomatoes I showed you how to make Tomato Jam and use it on pizza. It also brings a deep flavor to appetizers when spread on goat cheese over cracked pepper crackers. Try it on grilled cheese sandwiches for a surprising taste twist!

 dehydrated tomatoes

Cooking with dehydrated tomatoes, photo by Sheryl Campbell

Dehydrated Tomatoes

For years I took hours and hours cooking tomato sauce and paste to can for the winter. No longer since I discovered how easy it is to use dehydrated tomatoes.

Simply cut sheets of parchment paper to fit your dehydrator (it works best in temperature controlled square or rectangular dehydrators). Cut ¼ inch slices of tomato, put them on the trays, and run the dehydrator at a medium temperature until the tomatoes are dried but still slightly pliable. Store in freezer bags and just pull out what you want as needed. I break them up a little bit before storing them so they don’t take up as much room.

Wintertime Spaghetti Sauce

  • 2 cups dehydrated tomatoes, crumbled slightly
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 sweet pepper, chopped
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • Several shakes hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. country sausage, browned in olive oil

Put tomatoes in a covered bowl, pour boiling water into bowl and cover securely for 2 hours. Add rest of ingredients (except for sausage) and run in food processor until pureed and smooth. Pour over browned sausage and stir to mix well. Serve.

Wintertime Tomato Sauce

  • 2 cups dehydrated tomatoes, crumbled slightly
  • For Sauce: 2 cups boiling water

Pour boiling water over tomatoes and let rest in covered bowl for 2 hours.  Blend in food processor.

Wintertime Tomato Paste

  • 2 cups dehydrated tomatoes, crumbled slightly
  • ¾ cups boiling water

This time, place the tomatoes in the food processor and pulse to reduce them to powder. Place the powder in a bowl, pour in boiling water, and let sit (covered tightly) for an hour.

Roasted and Frozen Tomatoes

 roasted tomatoes

Roasted cherry tomatoes, photo by Sheryl Campbell

Wintertime Cherry Tomatoes for Tarts, Pizzas, and Pasta Dishes

  • Lots of mixed cherry tomatoes
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. Kosher salt

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Halve cherry tomatoes and place, cut side up, on the paper. Sprinkle with olive oil and kosher salt. Bake in preheated 200 degree oven for 2-3 hours until tomatoes have shrunken but are still slightly moist. Store in airtight freezer containers for use in recipes throughout the year.  Toss into pasta dishes, or top pizzas and tarts for an amazing burst of tomato flavor in the dead of winter!

Wintertime Roasted Opalka Tomatoes

  • 5 Opalka tomatoes (these are huge!), halved length-wise
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. course ground black pepper

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place halved tomatoes cut side up on sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil and salt. Roast at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. Cool slightly, and scoop meat out of the skins to use in recipes calling for tomato paste. Put in ice cube trays to freeze in 1-2 tablespoon servings.

 savory tomatoes

Summer Salsa and Canned Tomatoes, photo by Sheryl Campbell

Canned Tomatoes

There are so many ways to can tomatoes for off season use. For simple whole, halved, or diced tomatoes canned for use in winter, read How to Can Tomatoes at Home Safely. Or go to Canning Tomato and Hot Pepper Salsa for the more adventurous.  Every year we can:

  • Tomato Basil Soup
  • Tomato/Peach/Pear Salsa
  • Bruschetta (see my last blog post for this recipe)
  • Tomato Jam
  • And loads of diced tomatoes

Tomato Basil Soup

  • 8 medium onions, cut in chunks
  • 1 ½ bunches celery, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ½ cup water

Cook together until vegetables are tender. Run through a food mill (I use a Roma mill). Pour into a really large stainless steel kettle.

  • ½ bushel (25-30 pounds) tomatoes, cut in chunks

Run through Roma mill, twice, and pour into the same kettle. Add:

  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 4 T. canning salt
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 T. butter
  • 1 heaping T. dried basil

Stir into tomato/vegetable juice mix until dissolve.

  • 1 cup Clearjel (regular)
  • 1 cup water

Dissolve Clearjel in water and stir into the kettle. Cook over medium heat stirring until thickened slightly.

Put ½ tsp. citric acid in 14 quart canning jars. Fill quart jars with soup, leaving 1 inch headspace. Tighten lids and process in boiling water bath for 45 minutes. Store for up to one year in dark, cool area.

Ready, Set, Go!

Summer’s tomato season is in full swing. While you are enjoying them fresh out of the garden, don’t forget to preserve some to delight your palate this winter.

Sheryl Campbell is an heirloom gardener, shepherd, and edible flower educator who owns Bouquet Banquet in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Read Sheryl’s previous blogging with Mother Earth Gardener and Grit 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.

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