Yes, we are here!

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we have been educating folks about the benefits of self-reliance for 50 years. That includes researching and sourcing the best books and products to help individuals master the skills they need in times like these and beyond. Our online store is open and we are here to answer any questions you might have. Our customer service staff is available Monday through Friday from 8a.m.-5p.m. CDT. We can be reached at 1-800-234-3368 or by email. Stay safe!

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

Cooking From the Pantry: 25 Delicious Ways to Use Rice

Chicken Soup with Rice
Chicken soup with rice, comfort food at its finest

If you are spending most of your time at home, as so many folks are right now, then you are probably relying more on cooking from the pantry than going out to eat or even using as many fresh ingredients as usual. Rice is an amazing staple food that stores well and can be used for so many different dishes, and I always keep a decent amount on hand for “just in case” situations, such as we are seeing today.

Stocking up on rice is a great way to add food security to your household, but you may get sick of making plain old rice after a while. Here are 25 delicious and creative ways to use this awesome pantry staple, so you can eat well and have some variety while your food choices may be more limited than normal.

Before you dive into making a big batch of rice to use in the recipes below, a word on properly preparing rice. If you are familiar with concepts like sprouting or souring, such as in sourdough bread, you may already know about why preparing grains through one of these methods is important. If not, I will give you a very brief introduction.

Seed foods — including grains, nuts, seeds, and beans — are the storage form of the seeds for each given plant. Because of this, these foods contain compounds known collectively as anti-nutrients, which are naturally-occurring chemicals used by these plants to keep their seeds dormant during storage. While this is important for the seeds to prevent germination while being stored, these anti-nutrients can bind the minerals such as zinc and magnesium in the seeds (1). This makes nutrients unavailable to us when we eat them, but this nutrient availability can be improved by soaking, souring, or sprouting before cooking.

By adding water, acidity, probiotic bacteria, and/or heat, these compounds, such as phytates and lectins, are deactivated, making the minerals in these foods available to our bodies. These processes also increase the digestibility of their grains and, potentially, their impact on blood sugar (2). Processing grains, such as rice, before cooking them is important but is also extremely easy. Follow the recipe below for soaking rice before cooking, making it more nutritious and digestible, then use it to prepare any of the recipes that follow.

Easy Soaked Rice

Makes 4 cups

For soaking:

  • 1 cup rice, white or brown
  • Warm water for soaking
  • 2 tbs plain yogurt or kefir
  • Pinch of salt

For cooking:

  • Soaked rice, from above,
  • 2 cups water
  • Pinch of salt


1. Soak the rice: 6 to 12 hours before you plan to cook your rice, place the dry, uncooked rice in a bowl. Add warm water to cover the rice completely, then stir in a pinch of salt and your kefir or yogurt. Cover with a cloth or lid and let sit at room temperature until ready to cook.

2. Cook the rice: Strain and rinse your soaked rice. Place in a sauce pan that has a tight-fitting lid. Add the two cups of water and pinch of salt.

3. Leave rice uncovered and bring it to a boil. Cover with lid and reduce to lowest heat setting. Let simmer, without uncovering or stirring. White rice will need to simmer for 15 minutes, while brown rice will need 45 minutes. Just trust the timer on this one and don’t “check” your rice during the cooking period.

4. After the set amount of time, turn off the heat and let the rice sit for 5 more minutes, keeping it covered, to absorb any extra moisture. Then, you can uncover and fluff the rice before serving as-is or using in one of the recipes that follows.

5. Now that you have your perfectly cooked rice, you can use it in a variety of ways! Here are 25 ideas from around the world (we all have rice in common, it seems) for using this amazing pantry staple; click on the hyperlinks to take you to all of the delicious rice recipes.

Laab with Rice
Laab served with rice

25 Delicious Recipes Featuring Rice

  1. Fried rice: Fried rice is one of the best ways I can think of to use leftover rice, as it is made even better when the rice has been cooked and cooled. You could add in kim chi for a Korean-style fried rice or shrimp and fish sauce for a Thai-style fried rice. This is also a great way to toss in any leftover veggies you have hanging out in the crisper drawer!
  2. Rice with sautéed greens and fried eggs: Rice is even great for breakfast, especially if you have leftover rice from last night’s dinner. No recipe needed here: simply heat up your leftover rice and, while it is cooking, steam or sauté some greens, such as kale. Fry up a few eggs over-easy and serve it all in a bowl for a nutritious and easy breakfast.
  3. Rice pudding: Leftover rice is not only great is savory dishes, but also sweet. Kheer, which is an Indian rice pudding, is sweet and creamy, and has fragrant spices that elevate this dish while filling your kitchen with comforting aromas.
  4. Spanish rice: Sometimes also referred to as “Mexican rice,” this method of cooking rice with broth, tomato, and spices is delicious served with roasted chicken, beans, and vegetables, or alongside dishes like enchiladas. This is restaurant-style rice that will scratch that itch while you are limited to cooking at home.
  5. Savory rice fritters: You can add scrambled eggs to just about anything, including rice, then fry it in some fat to crisp it up, giving you a super easy fritter. Think latkes, but with rice! Throw in any spices or veggies you like, and go crazy with the condiments, too.
  6. Laab: Laab is a Thai dish consisting of ground meat, such as pork, mixed with vegetables and served in lettuce cups. I serve rice alongside the laab or even put it in the lettuce cups with the meat-and-veggie mix, and it is one of our family’s favorite weeknight meals. Feel free to make it with or without organ meats.
  7. Congee: There is nothing more comforting than porridge, and who couldn’t use a little comfort right now. Congee is a savory rice-based porridge from China, which is made with nutrient-dense broth and is as perfect for breakfast as it is for dinner. Throw in extra meat or veggies to make it a full meal.
  8. Chicken and rice soup: More comfort food recommendations here, with a chicken and rice soup full of bone broth, slow-cooked chicken, rice and veggies. You can use any type of rice you like with this, including wild rice. The best part is letting the slow cooker do the work for you, which feels great right about now.
  9. Stuffed winter squash: Make a savory stuffing with rice, fill up a halved winter squash and roast it to perfection…and now you have the perfect side dish for dinner. You can use this concept with any vegetable that is “stuffable” (think eggplant or zucchini) so don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to winter squash if you have other veggies on hand.
  10. Biryani: A one-pot dish is always welcome in my house, which is why I love an Indian biryani. Cook your rice with meat and herbs in one big pot and a fragrant, wholesome dinner is ready to go.
  11. Homemade sushi rolls: You may have more time on your hands than usual, and a cooking project like homemade sushi if the perfect way to get the family to hang out together. You don’t have to get fancy if you don’t want to; simply fill sheets of nori with rice and any fish or veggies you have around, and have fun, most importantly.
  12. Rice pilaf: This side dish, which is actually of Middle Eastern origin, can be served with lamb, chicken, fish, or any other protein main dish and is full of herbs and other ingredients that will change up your dinner game.
  13. Dolmas: Stuffed grape leaves, also known as dolmas or dolmades, are another great kitchen project that will take up plenty of time and give you a delicious meal to share with the family. You can use only grapes and spices for a meat-free version, but I love to throw ground beef or lamb into mine to make them a main dish.
  14. Kitchari: A simple staple in Indian cooking, kitchari combines rice and dal into one pot for easy preparation. This nourishing dish can be served alone or alongside meat and vegetables as a side dish.
  15. Stuffed peppers: This is a nice weeknight meal that is easy to make but is beloved by all. This is an Italian-inspired version, but you could also make a version like your mom used to, for nostalgia’s sake.
  16. Coconut rice: Creamy and rich, coconut rice is a nice side dish for a Thai-style curry to tie your meal together. Cooking rice in coconut milk is not only delicious, but adds healthy fats from the coconut as well. Get fancy and top it with toasted coconut, or keep it simple and serve as-is.
  17. Risotto, but easy: If you are wanting the texture and flavor of risotto but don’t want everything to be a cooking endeavor, then Ina Garten’s “easy” risotto may be the ticket. Everything is made better with parmesan, including rice.
  18. Paella: Another great one-pot meal, Spanish paella will take more time to prepare but is so worth it in the end. This recipe uses three kinds of meat, seafood, chicken, and chorizo, but this would be a great time to use up whatever protein you have in your freezer. If you don’t have saffron, don’t let that keep you from making this, as it can still be very delicious without it.
  19. Sweet fried rice balls: You can basically turn leftover rice into little doughnuts by mixing it with flour and sugar then deep-frying it. Try to use a good oil for frying, such as lard, instead of processed canola or vegetable oil. You can make the creole version, known as calas, or an Italian version, called frittelle di riso, or try both. Treat yourself!
  20. Oxtails and rice: Maybe you got oxtails from your farmer or butcher and you don’t know what to do with them. They shall hang out in your freezer no more…turn them instead into this savory and nourishing Jamaican dish, stewed oxtails with rice. Make it as spicy or mild as you like.
  21. Cheesy broccoli and rice casserole: Maybe my Midwest is showing, but I had to put a good, old fashioned casserole on this list. This will remind you of family meals growing up, but will be even better because it is made from scratch. If you want, use fancy cheese in this to make it even more grown-up, and substitute spinach if you don’t have broccoli.
  22. Baked rice pudding: Rice pudding is not just reserved for the stove top. You make this version of rice pudding by baking it in the oven, giving it almost a bread pudding-like feel. I’m all about adding in extra raisins and nuts, then serve with topped with a splash of cream or pat of butter. Breakfast or dessert? You decide.
  23. Red beans and rice: So many cultures have their own version of beans and rice, as it is made up of some of least expensive, most shelf-stable ingredients around. You just make it more delicious with the spices you add in and it doesn’t have to seem like “cheap” food anymore. I like red beans and rice, Louisiana-style, you could make a Cuban-inspired version using black beans instead.
  24. Jambalaya: Another Creole dish, as that culinary tradition uses a lot of rice, jambalaya is a great one-pot dish that can feed a crowd. Think of it as the Louisiana version of paella, and, again, add in whichever types of meat or seafood you have access to right now.
  25. Dirty rice with chicken livers: I could not put 25 recipes ideas up without having at least one featuring liver. Liver is the most nutrient-dense food on the planet (3), and this spicy dirty rice is a great way to “disguise” its flavor for the liver-haters out there.


1 Sandberg, Ann-Sofie. “The Effect of Food Processing on Phytate Hydrolysis and Availability of Iron and Zinc.” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology Nutritional and Toxicological Consequences of Food Processing, 1991, pp. 499–508., doi:10.1007/978-1-4899-2626-5_33.

2 Benincasa, Paolo, et al. “Sprouted Grains: A Comprehensive Review.” Nutrients, vol. 11, no. 2, 2019, p. 421., doi:10.3390/nu11020421.

3 Razaitis, L. 2005, July 29. The Liver Files.

Laura Poe is a Registered Dietitian and traditional foods instructor. She homesteads in Wisconsin where she regular contributes to Edible Madison. Connect with Laura at Laura Poe, RD, for private practice appointments (distance consults available), upcoming classes, newsletter subscriptions, and more. Her nutrient-dense recipes can be found on Laura’s blog, Brine & Broth, and you can see what she has been cooking and creating on her Instagram @brineandbroth. Read all of Laura’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 Trio of Pantry Rice Recipes


Today our state declared a shelter-in-place order for the next 2 weeks. This adds to the current two-week social distancing and will take us past Easter. School is still closed, and we are expecting to go to online education or be told the year is over within the next week. But, in the meantime we are stocked up on all the essentials, with more deliveries coming each week of the most-used items. When this is all over, I’m going to have to do something super nice for our delivery people and mail carriers, as should we all.

So, with a cold, dark, rainy day as the morning’s forecast, we’ve been forced to stay indoors for the day. I’m using the time (when I’m not writing) to reorganize my kitchen and clean out my refrigerator. I have some fresh items that are going to go south on me if I don’t use them in the next day or two, so I need to come up with some solutions and quickly!

After making the morning coffee and working on my journal, I jumped into deciding on dinner for the evening. Knowing I had some produce about to go south, I decided to use up what I had the most of in the pantry - rice!

We eat rice with almost every meal. Brown, white, green, forbidden…it’s all good and always the easiest thing to store in a pantry. I keep our rice in locking containers that keep the grains from ending up all over the floor and also keep them nice and dry. Rice is one of those ingredients that everyone takes for granted and generally see as “boring” or a “side”. But rice can be the superstar of a dish, the main attraction.

Tonight, I’m making barbeque chicken in the oven with rice and steamed carrots. This is one of our go-to meals during the summer, and after a dark, dreary day of non-stop rain, I need a reminder of sunshine and lazy afternoons spent on the patio.

The recipes below feature rice in very different, but equally front-row ways. The first is a tabbouleh made from jade rice, there is an easy fried rice and a rice pudding that is always a staple in our refrigerator.

Tabbouleh with Jade Rice

This tabbouleh is a nice, refreshing dish to make with any greens and veggies that need to be used up. I have used carrots in place of the cucumber, and canned diced tomatoes when I was out of fresh. The flavors will be a bit different, but in a good way. Jade rice is also sold as bamboo rice and can be found in most large grocery stores.


  • 1.5 cups of jade rice, cooked and cooled
  • 1 cup chopped parsley (can use any green you have on hand)
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint (can used dried - just allow to chill longer)
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced cucumber
  • 1 tbsp finely - minced garlic (can use garlic powder - reduce to 1/2 tbsp)
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon (can use bottled)
  • 1- 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


In a large non-reactive bowl, add all the ingredients. Stir. Refrigerate for an hour or more (overnight allows the flavors to meld and develop). Serve chilled.

Fried Rice

This fried rice is super simple and uses ingredients from the pantry and freezer. You can add a protein of your choice or add some vegetables you need to use up from the refrigerator instead.


  • 2 cups cooked rice (any rice will work)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (or any vegetables you have on hand), cooked and drained
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic (can use garlic powder)
  • 1 tbsp light oil
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp of fish sauce (optional)
  • Cooked protein of your choice (optional)
  • Pepper to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a large sauce pot or wok on medium-high heat. You want the pan really hot, but don’t let the oil smoke.
  2. Add onion and garlic, fry quickly, stirring constantly, until onion is softened slightly.
  3. Add in vegetables slowly, stirring to keep the veggies from burning. Make sure your veggies are as free of liquid as possible to avoid the oil splattering.
  4. Lower heat to medium. Add in rice, soy sauce, fish sauce (if using) and pepper. Stir to keep everything from burning. Taste the rice at this point. You can add more soy sauce to taste.
  5. If adding protein, add cooked protein to pan.
  6. Push contents of pan to edges, in center, pour egg and stir constantly, making scrambled eggs in the center of the pan. Once the egg is cooked solid, stir the rest of the mixture together.
  7. Serve in bowls or heap it on a platter and allow everyone to serve themselves.

Rice Pudding

If you’ve never tried it, or aren’t a fan of the variety found in the grocery store, give this one a try. I use coconut milk and nutmeg, but you can use whatever spices you like and have on hand. This recipe is gluten free and absolutely delicious for breakfast, garnished with some fresh fruit or jam. It can be made vegan by substituting maple syrup for the honey.


  • 1.5 cups cooked white rice (unsalted)
  • 2 tbsp of honey
  • 1 can coconut milk (can use full fat or light)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon


  1. In a large saucepot on medium-low heat, bring milk and honey to a simmer.
  2. Reduce heat to low. Add nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir.
  3. Add vanilla extract and stir.
  4. Add in rice and stir to combine.
  5. Cook on low for 7-10 minutes until pudding becomes nice and creamy.
  6. Cover and cool in refrigerator. Pudding with thicken as it cools.
  7. Serve with fruit, jam or whatever you’d like.

Dana Gnad is a freelance writer and photographer with over 20 years of experience in technology. She has spent most of her life living on various homesteads — off-grid, urban, and everywhere in between. Currently camped out on 30 acres in the suburbs, affectionately known as The Lazy Dog Farm, she is working on her first book and dreaming of a life on the sea. Connect with Dana on Facebook and Instagram, 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.

Home Syruping: Finding Solace in Traditional Skills During a Time of Social Distancing


While we are besieged by a health epidemic, the likes of which we, in this country, and around the world, hoped to never experience, I am learning new skills.

I live on the rocky coast of Maine, a state famous for its independent spirit, rugged individualism, and never-give-up attitude. When the going gets tough, Mainers find a way through. Mainers are used to fending for themselves, helping each other out, and sticking together when the going gets tough. This is tough.

As a state, so far, we are not besieged by what’s happening in other places like New York, California, Italy, Spain, and Korea. (At least not as of this writing.) We are lucky, and we know it. As a transplant, I can say I see resilience in the people here unlike I’ve known. That resilience has rubbed off on me over the 11 years I’ve been calling Maine home.

Tapping Maple Trees On a Maine Property

This year, with more time being spent here on the farm, and here on the coast enjoying an easy end of winter, I decided it was time to try my hand at tapping into resources right here: my maple trees. Last week, I went to the local hardware store and came home with two metal taps, the kind you use to draw sap from trees to make syrup.

Every year in Maine, one whole weekend is dedicated to educating folks about making maple syrup. This coming weekend would normally be it, but due to social distancing, it is on hold, for now. Maple trees respond to the weather, not the calendar, so in spite of viruses and distancing, the sap is flowing. It takes warm days and cool nights to trigger the sap moving. Right now, that’s what we’re getting.

So, I took my newly sourced taps, a drill and a hammer and headed to the woods. My farm is a 20-acre spread, partly used for pasturing sheep, littered with native high bush blueberries, apple trees, blackberries and a mix of hard and soft wood trees.

Off the edge of the pasture is an old dug-out area. Maine is famous for its granite and stone. An indentation, just a few yards away from the chicken coop is evidence of “stone harvesting”. A path stretching along the edge of that old pit is one of my favorite spots. I decided on two maples I could easily access along that path.

Setting the taps was surprisingly easy and I was simply delighted when I drilled the second hole to insert the tap and sap literally came running out, spilling down the bark of the tree. Every morning for a week walks with my pup included emptying repurposed milk totes to collect the sap. At the end of the week, I had enough — a little over 2 gallons — to start cooking it down for syrup. Today was the day.

Home Syruping:  ‘It’s All About Connection’

I am by trade a cheesemaker. I love what I do because it keeps me grounded. Still, after 11 years of making cheese, I am in awe of the process. Mostly it’s about working with a living substance but it’s also about the connection. The process of hand-milking an animal is about intimacy. It’s about developing a sense of trust. Taking the results of that process and transforming it into food that nourishes us takes things to a whole other level.

I say over and over again, working with milk is amazing because milk is alive! I can take the same amount of milk, process it the same way and get a different result. Why? Because it’s alive. As a living substance, it knows better than me, how to make itself into something delicious.

Tapping trees, boiling sap, I am finding the same experience. After a week of collecting sap, it was time to see what this new process was all about. I can only say after hours of sitting by a kettle of what started out as clear, tasteless liquid, I feel like I’ve had a spiritual experience. Seriously! After a week of being glued to the TV, watching and wondering what will happen to all of us, it is all reduced down to a one pint jar of liquid gold.

I literally cried when it was done. I felt like, no matter what was going on in the world, wonderful things were still possible. And I felt empowered to know, I could be a part of a process that is as old as man in its simplicity and creativeness

There is hope in knowing we are connected, not just to one another but to something much bigger than that. As we tap into that connection, boil it down to what’s really important and share the result, we will get to the other side of this challenge. We’ve met challenges before. We know how to do it. It might get a little sticky and messy along the way, but, in that messiness, new things are discovered. Look for the good, dig deep and reach out. We’ve got this!

Dyan Redick is an artisan cheesemaker, writer, and fiber artist is coastal Maine where she operates Bittersweet Heritage Farm, a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farmstand full of wool from a Romney cross flock, goat’s milk soap, lavender, woolens, and whatever else strikes her fancy. Follow Dyan on Instagram, 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.

Render Animal Fat for Healthful Homemade Lard or Tallow

Rendered Tallow Spoon And Jar
People are finally coming around to the idea that fat is a necessary and healthful part of the diet, and it is high time. These “healthy fats” are not just the plant-based oils so often touted, such as olive oil — traditional animal fats are also healthy fats.

Benefits of Animal Fats in the Human Diet

Before food became industrialized and processed, cultures all over the world used rendered animal fats in much of their cooking. Fat is essential for many processes in the body, including digestion, hormone balance, satiety, blood sugar regulation, and nutrient absorption. Animal fats are superior to many plant oils, because of their specific fatty acid profiles and the minimal processing required to make them.

These benefits can be obtained by eating meat with fat still attached, or when the fat is rendered into a solid, pure fat for cooking. Either source provides a variety of fatty acids needed by the body, including saturated, monounsaturated, and well as polyunsaturated fatty acids, in the form of omega-3 fats, conjugated linoleic acid and arachidonic acid. Animal foods, especially the fat, also offer cholesterol, which is the backbone of the reproductive hormones and, along with saturated fats, also support brain health and fertility.

Saturated fat and cholesterol, vilified for the past several decades, are once again part of the healthy fat conversation as the science has caught up with what traditional people always knew: Animal fats are a prized food. To get the most nutrient-dense and ethical sources of your fat, and all animal foods, choose those soured from animals raised outside and fed a natural diet. Exclusively grain-fed animals do not offer the same nutrient density or ratio of healthy fats as those raised in a natural, rather than industrial, way.

Home Rendering Support Local Economies

Besides its healthfulness, animal fat is so important, because it can be obtained and made locally, rather than relying on transportation from far away. Other healthy fats, such as coconut oil, require many more food miles to reach your kitchen than tallow made at home from cows raised on a local farm.

I say we start to treat our fats and oils like our meat and produce, giving them the locavore treatment that they deserve. Finding local, pastured beef or pork fat may take some searching, but is very possible. Start by asking meat producers at the farmer’s market or search online for local farms that do direct sales, and you will likely find either lard or tallow that has already been rendered, or trimmed fat you can render at home yourself.

Storing. Once you follow the recipe below, you have created a very stable fat for storage, that is quite resistant to spoilage or rancidity. This is due to its fatty acid profile, allowing it to be kept at room temperature for months; you can also keep it in the fridge or freezer for even longer-term storage.

Cooking. The high ratio of saturated fat in lard and tallow also make them great for higher-heat cooking, as they are less prone to oxidation during cooking and have a higher smoke point than many other oils. You can use rendered fat anywhere you would use other oils or fats, such as butter, in your cooking.

Tallow vs. lard. Tallow does have a stronger, more savory flavor than lard, making it better suited to cooking potatoes, vegetables, eggs, or meat with it. Lard, having a milder, more neutral flavor, works great in pie crusts and desserts, homemade tortillas and even popcorn. Both are great for deep-frying, when you want to make the occasional homemade, healthier versions of favorites like fries or fried chicken.

Outside of the kitchen, tallow is wonderful when used topically, and is known for its healing properties for the skin. Any way you use them, these traditional animal fats are ideal for their low food miles and are wonderful for both the inside and outside of our bodies — what’s not to love?

Rendered Animal Fat In Spoon

Recipe for Homemade Rendered Animal Fat

For making lard or tallow. Yields 1 ½ to 2 ½ quarts


• 3 to 6 pounds beef or pork fat, trimmed of skin, either cubed or ground

• ½ cup-1 cup purified water


1. Place the prepared fat and water in a large stock pot. Turn heat to low and stir frequently to prevent sticking or burning, especially at the start of cooking.

2. After about half an hour, the fat will have softened and begin to melt. It should then start to simmer. Keep stirring regularly throughout the process. Some bits of “crackling,” or pieces of meat and skin left on the fat, will begin to emerge as well. Continue to cook it down for another half an hour or so until the cloudiness of the fat is gone, and it has cooked down significantly. You will know it is rendered and ready to strain when it appears clarified. Another sign will be when the simmer slows down, as the water will be completely cooked out. Most of the crackling will have sunk to the bottom as well; some larger pieces of skin may still float on the surface, but the brown, crispy bits will sink.

3. After the fat is done rendering, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool slightly. Very carefully, pour the liquid lard or tallow through a fine mesh strainer into glass jars or heat-safe storage containers. I highly encourage you to save the strained crackling bits, as they are delicious when crisped either on the stovetop or in the oven, and are little flavor nuggets not to be wasted.

4. Cover the jars and let the tallow or lard come to room temperature. Once cooled, it will turn solid and opaque. Lard should turn white once solidified, while tallow will be more cream-colored. If the cooled fat doesn’t become solid in both texture and color, it may need to be rendered further. You can then return it to the stockpot and cook it for another 15 to 30 minutes, then strain and cool again.

5. Once cooled completely and firm, you can transfer the tallow or lard to the fridge or freezer for long-term storage if desired.

Animal Fat Rendering In Pot


1. Price, Weston A. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Price-Pottenger Foundation, 1939 (2008 edition).

2. J Adv Res. 2018 May; 11: 33–41. Published online 2017 Nov 24. Arachidonic acid: Physiological roles and potential health benefits – A review. Hatem Tallimaa,b and Rashika El Ridia

3. Biochemistry, 5th ed. Section 26.4. Important Derivatives of Cholesterol Include Bile Salts and Steroid Hormones

Photo by Laura Poe

Laura Poe is a Registered Dietitian and traditional foods instructor. She homesteads in Wisconsin where she regular contributes to Edible Madison. Connect with Laura at Laura Poe, RD, for private practice appointments (distance consults available), upcoming classes, newsletter subscriptions, and more. Her nutrient-dense recipes can be found on Laura’s blog, Brine & Broth, and you can see what she has been cooking and creating on her Instagram @brineandbroth. Read all of Laura’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.

Pantry Preparedness Recipes Featuring Beans

tomatoes and greens

Hello friends! Here hoping you’re thriving, not just surviving the Covid-19 shutdown. I know things look bleak, and information is sporadic and often confusing, but here at the farm, we’re weathering the storm — albeit with viral symptoms these days. After consulting with our doctors, we have been advised to stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for any fevers and aches, and monitor ourselves for worsening of symptoms, and go to the ER if symptoms become severe,just like with any other virus.

The chances of us actually having Covid-19 are low, but we are still in flu and respiratory virus season in the Northeast. We have gone full quarantine and will remain so for an additional 14 days. This, of course, doesn’t constitute medical advice in any way, shape, or form! I just thought I’d let people know what the current medical advice in our area (with confirmed cases) is as of right now. 

With that in mind, it’s going to be a looooong two weeks with so many people sick. Good thing the pantry is stocked, the board games and Netflix stand at the ready, and we’re making the best of a bad situation. We’ve decided to see this as our time out - a way to reset, refocus on what’s important, and care for each other to the best of our ability. We’re trying to thrive and not just survive.

Today’s pantry cooking will take us to the magical shelf of beans in my pantry. In the interest of full disclosure, my family literally lives on beans - we have them with just about every meal. My youngest goes through a case of black beans every two weeks on her own - it’s a quick and nutritious snack she can pair with tortillas or rice or whatever when she’s running between activities. I don’t usually buy dried, only because we tend to be on the go most days and canned is just easier. I do have dried, just in case. 

All of the recipes will assume cooked beans, so prepare your dried beans however you would normally. This article will show you how to cook dried beans if you’ve never done so.

Ok. Let’s dive into the world of “the magical fruit."

Beans are another workhorse of the pantry and can stand in for meat, flour and a whole host of other applications. I am going to focus on three staple recipes here in our house that are ridiculously easy to prepare and serve. They require a minimum of ingredients, prep time is 30 minutes or less, and all can be made in the crockpot. The first is a chili my kiddos have called “eeeny beany chili” as it doesn’t use kidney beans. The second is a hummus that you just dump everything into a food processor or blender and can eat immediately. The last is a pantry minestrone that is big on flavor and uses frozen veggies (or whatever you have in the fridge) to make a pot of deliciousness that freezes well.

Eeeny-Beany Chili


  • 3 cans of beans of any variety, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can crushed tomato (can use any canned tomato here, even tomato soup)
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder (can use fresh if want - 1/2 onion, diced)
  • 1 teaspoons dried adobo chiles (can use any pepper here, including fresh bell)
  • 1 teaspoons garlic
  • 1 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder (can adjust for spiciness)
  • 1 cup frozen corn (can use canned or fresh)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1. In a large pot over medium heat, add tomatoes and spices. Stir to combine.

2. Add beans and corn.

3. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

4. Serve with cheese, chopped onion, or whatever you like in or under your chili (I’m looking at you, Cinci).

NOTES: You can add fried ground beef or chicken or whatever protein you like if you want a meatier chili. I was just going for a dry pantry-only recipe here.

The Easiest Hummus You Will Ever Make


  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil (may need more based on how you like your texture)
  • 1 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 to 4 cloves of finely chopped garlic (I like mine super garlicky, so I’ll use 4 or more)*
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1/2 fresh lemon)


1. Toss everything into blender or food processor

2. Blend away, adding olive oil as desired for consistency (you can also use water)

3. Serve with pita, crackers, veggies. Thin with water and use as a salad dressing or pizza drizzle.


* You can use garlic powder as well. I’d use 1 tsp per clove and taste as you go. If you are using a food processor, no need to chop garlic, just toss it in first and pulse to chop.    

Easy Minestrone - serves 4


  • 2 cups cooked pasta (whatever you have on hand - shapes work best here)*
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can beans (any variety), drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups  broth or prepared bouillon (veggie, chicken, whatever you have on hand)*
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoons parsley
  • 1 teaspoons rosemary (or thyme)
  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (can use can each of corn, peas and green beans)*
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1. In a large pot on medium-high heat, place broth, beans, tomatoes, spices and veggies.

2. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes on medium-low heat

3. Add pasta and reduce heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes or until pasta is heated through.

4. Serve with Parmesan, crackers, bread or whatever you have around.

This recipe freezes well as long as you don’t use gluten free noodles. 


* If using gluten-free noodles, cook while cooking soup and add directly to bowls. Freeze soup without noodles (just cook new noodles or use rice when reheating).

*You can use water, just add 1 tbsp soy sauce as well

* If you have some veggies about to go bad, chop them up and toss them in the soup instead - we often call this “fridge clean-out soup”.

And there you have it: three recipes that take 30 minutes or less and use items from your pantry and freezer. The hummus can be used as a cheese substitute in a pinch — drizzle over pizza fresh out of the over, as a spread for sandwiches or as a salad dressing that adds a ton of flavor to simple greens. Tomorrow I’ll be back with another list of recipes featuring another pantry staple.

Dana Gnad is a freelance writer and photographer with over 20 years of experience in technology. She has spent most of her life living on various homesteads — off-grid, urban, and everywhere in between. Currently camped out on 30 acres in the suburbs, affectionately known as The Lazy Dog Farm, she is working on her first book and dreaming of a life on the sea. Connect with Dana on Facebook and Instagram, 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.

Easy No-Bake Energy Ball Recipe

finished energy balls 

Everybody wants to have a quick snack on hand. Even better is a snack that’s also healthy and will also give you that much-needed burst of energy mid-morning or afternoon. I've come up with a yummy recipe that's a big hit in this household. It's a bit of a mash-up of two recipes I found online: Roots and Rosemary and California Walnuts.

The hardest thing about making these energy balls is getting the ingredients out of your pantry. (Or maybe it’s having to wait 30 minutes to sample your first one.) Not only that, but it’s very forgiving and easily adaptable. Make it once and you’ll want to double your next recipe. As written, this recipe makes about twenty balls.

energy ball ingredients

A few energy ball ingredients.

I’ve made it with raisins, cherries, and bananas. All dried, of course, and all were equally delicious. Blueberries would be a great choice, too. Or how about apricot?

As I mentioned, the recipe is forgiving. A little more or less of any ingredient won’t make a big difference. Substitutions? No problem. Any seed or nut butter will do, for instance. Don’t like chocolate? (What?!) Leave it out. And if you prefer a vegan option, you can eliminate honey and double the maple syrup.


  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit of your choice, preferably unsweetened (for larger fruit, chop into raisin-size bits)
  • 2-4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (100% cacao)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. 

energy ball mixture

Just dump and mix.

Chill, covered, in the fridge for at least half an hour. (This will make the next step much easier.) After the mixture has chilled, use your hands to roll it into balls, each approximately an inch in diameter. If the mixture seems too dry or crumbly, add a few drops of water or a tad more peanut butter or syrup. 

finished energy balls

Luckily, these don't stick to each other in the fridge or freezer.

These balls will keep for a long time in the refrigerator—if given the chance. I store mine in a covered glass bowl in the freezer for strategic reasons: these tasty little bites last longer when they are not in plain site. It takes only a minute for a frozen ball to soften enough to be chewy.

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, and modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here. You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonal where she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.

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.

3 Lentil Recipes for Pantry Preparedness


Stocked pantry? Check. Stocked fridge and freezer? Check. Now what?

Most people have stockpiled enough food necessary to make it through the 14 day shutdowns ordered in many areas. Cooking at first will be easy - you’ll make relatively the same things you do on a “normal” day. But what about day 10 and beyond?

That’s when creativity and a bit of knowledge come into play. I cannot stress this enough…if you know how food ‘works’ you can make anything. If you understand how aromas and flavors and textures come together you can create a crowd-pleasing meal out of very little.

Let me explain.

Take plain white rice, for example. Plain rice is well…plain. Flavorless. Boring. But add some salt and umami in the form of Furikake…and POW! Deliciousness. Something as simple as shaking some seaweed flakes and toasted sesame seeds takes boring to wow in no time at all.

Is everything in cooking that simple? No. But, it can be.

The flavor profiles you enjoy in restaurants - BBQ, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, whatever…they all come down to spices and cooking techniques. Think about it: Almost every cuisine uses meats, rice, beans and veggies in some combination.

BBQ: mustards, sugars, cumin, peppers, salts, time and heat.

Mexican: cumin, cilantro, peppers, salt, garlic, onion, grilling and roasting

Italian: onion, garlic, basil, oregano, rosemary, olive oils, slow and low heat

Japanese: miso, shoyu (soy sauce), seaweeds, vinegars, salts, grilling, simmering and flash cooking

Middle Eastern: za'atar, cumin, garlic, olive oil, parsley, cinnamon, grilling, slow roasting

Obviously, these are not an exhaustive list of the myriad of spices used or techniques of the above cuisines. It’s just as example of how spices and techniques are shared across cultures but result in vastly different foods. I highly recommend Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat as the primer on how food ‘works’ (she also has a Netflix series by the same name). Needless to say, if you have eaten food, you’ve seen these ideas in action.

The point is you can pick a random pantry ingredient - say, lentils - and with a few added ingredients have a delicious, nutritious and easy meal. Lentils are the workhorse of the pantry. Anything you make with ground beef you can make with lentils. If you have an InstaPot, you can have cooked lentils in about 9 minutes or so - that is magic. Otherwise, after rinsing (which you need to do no matter which method you choose), simply add lentils to a pot, add water in a 1:2 ratio (2 c water for every 1c lentils), any seasonings you wish to use (NO SALT) bring to a rapid simmer, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered 20-30 minutes until lentils are slightly tender. Strain. Salt and serve or use in a recipe. This works for all types of lentils. Lentils can be frozen or kept in the refrigerator for 4 days which makes them ideal for meal prep or just having on hand for lazy days.

If you Google “lentil recipes," you will be faced with 52,100,000 results! As I said, lentils are the workhorse of the pantry. We eat them a few ways around here, but our favorites are Mujadara (a Lebanese rice and lentil dish), lentil tacos, and for St. Paddy’s Day - lentil shepherd’s pie. All of the recipes I will cook this week use basic pantry staples and (if available) a few fresh or frozen ingredients. I will note how to work around a lack of fresh ingredients where possible.

Let’s get cooking!

Mujadara Recipe (Lebanese Lentils and Rice)


  • 1c. Stock or water (I make my own veggie stock from scraps I freeze, boxed or prepared bouillon is just fine)
  • 1c. Cooked lentils
  • 1c. Cooked rice
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion (I use 1tsp. Onion powder as my crowd isn’t into the texture of onions)
  • 1 teaspoon za’atar* (see note on faking your own)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Garlic powder (can omit - we just love garlic and use it in everything)
  • Lemon (can use bottled lemon juice or just omit - adds brightness to dish)


  • 1. Heat large pan with 1/2 Tablespoon of the olive oil on medium - high heat.
  • 2. Add onion and cook until soft and slightly brown (skip steps 1& 2 if using onion powder)
  • 3. In a small bowl, toss lentils, za’atar (or fake), onion powder (if using), garlic and rest of olive oil until lentils are coated.
  • 4. Add lentils, cooked rice and stock to pan with onion (if using) and cook until liquid evaporates.
  • 5. Remove from pan, drizzle with lemon juice (if using) and serve.

*NOTE: Fake za’atar (real za’atar uses sumac, sesame seeds, thyme and salt)


  • 1/2 tsp. Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. Sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. Thyme
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Lentil Tacos Recipe


  • 2c. Cooked lentils
  • 1 Tablespoon Light oil (I use safflower, anything is fine here)
  • 1tsp cumin*
  • 1tsp chili powder*
  • 1tsp garlic powder*
  • 1tsp onion powder*
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 1. In a medium bowl, mix spices, salt and pepper.
  • 2. Add lentils and oil to spice mixture. Stir to coat lentils.
  • 3. In a sauce pan, add lentil mixture and cook on medium-low until warm.
  • 4. Serve on preferred tortillas with normal taco fixins, beans and rice

*NOTE: adjust spices to taste.

Lentil shepherd's Pie Recipe

This one goes out to all you crockpot fans out there.


  • 2 cups Cooked lentils
  • 1cup Broth (I make my own veggie stock from scraps I freeze, boxed or prepared bouillon is just fine)
  • 2 tsp. Garlic powder
  • 2tsp. Thyme
  • 2 cups Frozen mixed vegetables *(SEE NOTE BELOW)
  • 2 cups Mashed potatoes (more if you love potatoes) (you can also use canned potatoes to make mashed)
  • 1 cup Shredded cheddar (can omit or use 1T. nutritional yeast)


For crockpot:

1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except mashed potatoes and cheese together until combined.

2. To crockpot, add mixture.

3. Dollop mashed potatoes on top of mixture to cover.

4. Cook on high for 30 minutes.

5. Reduce heat to low.

6. Add shredded cheese and cook on low for 15 min or until cheese is melted.

For oven:

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Grease casserole dish.

3. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except mashed potatoes and cheese together until combined.

4. Place mixture in baking dish.

5. Dollop mashed potatoes on top of mixture to cover.

6. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes or until mashed potatoes start to get golden crust.

7. Add cheese and bake for 10 -15 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

*NOTE: can use fresh carrots, peas, green beans, etc if you need to use them up - just cook them until slightly soft before adding to mixture)

So there you have it: three distinct cuisines using the same ingredient. I will be posting one of these recipe blasts a day using a new pantry staple each day—stay tuned!

Dana Gnad is a freelance writer and photographer with over 20 years of experience in technology. She has spent most of her life living on various homesteads — off-grid, urban, and everywhere in between. Currently camped out on 30 acres in the suburbs, affectionately known as The Lazy Dog Farm, she is working on her first book and dreaming of a life on the sea. Connect with Dana on Facebook and Instagram, 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.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me