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

Feeding Ourselves and Others Sustainably

Food from the garden

Whether you have a large and sprawling garden or a small selection of potted vegetables on your porch, you may end up with extra produce to share. Even if you make money selling your extra veggies, please consider sharing quality food with your local food bank.

The photo below shows a classic assortment from one western-central Ohio pantry. This particular grouping was for a family of four (one adult and three teens) for a one-month period. Think about that. Look at the photo closely and consider how far you could make this food stretch.

I want to be clear here that I am not being critical of food banks. They are essential programs that have definite monetary constraints. It’s important that we give them more so that they can give out more.

Food pantry assortment

Granted, most families might have access to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) food stamps for additional sustenance—though for how long with the current administration cutting right and left we can’t tell. The lucky ones might have access to transportation and may be able to access a second food pantry or other charitable source. However, there are a growing number of families finding themselves food insecure.

Many communities have instituted free lunches once a week or more for children in need but what about the adults? It’s my opinion that there is much more that we could collectively do. I personally began doing more this past winter when I started baking extra sourdough boules for our local food pantry. I hate throwing anything away (including sourdough starter), so I decided to check with our coordinator to see if they would accept home-baked bread. She was thrilled with the offer.

At the same time I was baking bread, I was also planning my garden. I decided that though I’d been sharing my pole bean overflow in the past with neighbors, I could easily plant extra for sharing with the pantry. So far, I’ve delivered 7 bags this season along with my usual array of sourdough. I’ve also shared some of this year’s crop of tomatoes—had I been enjoying the bounty of last year’s tomato crop this season, I would also be taking bowls full. Maybe next year.

You might want to stick with normal vegetables unless you are willing to stay and explain what your donation is and how to cook it. I’ve taken ground hot peppers—grown and ground by me—that didn’t go until I told recipients that it was just like the paprika or chili pepper they buy in a grocery store but fresher and organically grown. I took in some freshly ground blue corn flour that sat there for three weeks. I brought it back home and made it into corn bread then it flew out the door. I took a large Rampicante zucchini that had cured—it sat there for weeks. Once I explained that it was like a butternut squash it became more acceptable.

Food pantry donation

Vital things to keep in mind:

Check your local rules regarding donations
Give your highest quality
Consider shelf life
If you don’t spray your crops, don’t give possibly wormy fruits and veggies
Omit items that need immediate refrigeration unless the pantry is set up for such things
Give what you would like to receive

Most pantries are first-come, first-served for the fresh food or extras so plan accordingly. I bake two large boules of sourdough bread and vary the flavor. I’ve taken plain, cranberry pecan, raisin walnut, garlic scape, and pesto loaves to share. At first I was baking mini boules but was happier with halving the larger loaves. Thankfully, our local coordinator is fine with what I bring as are the recipients. Larger locales might be more finicky. If I had to, I’d switch to using loaf pans in order to fit guidelines.

I solicited a donation of plastic vegetable bags from our local Kroger store to pack my bread and veggies in. I would have been thrilled with the end rolls that I asked for but the manager went one better and told me to come back the following week so I could pick up a whole roll! You never know until you ask.

Even if you don’t currently yield enough from your garden, consider adding an extra dozen canned organic fruit or veggies for donation. You may live in an area where the food pantries supply plenty of quality food—I’ve heard that the west coast regularly gives organic or healthy alternatives including gluten free or vegetarian choices. If so, consider donating instead to a homeless or domestic abuse shelter or give the gift of time by volunteering.

I urge each of you to consider what you might do to help. You never know who might be positively affected by your generosity.

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Plan a Memorable Picnic

pretty picnic blanket

(Image courtesy of knit 1 weave 1 under the Creative Commons Attribution license)

Picnics! One of summer’s great pleasures, though a good planner can put a picnic together any time of year. You can build family memories with picnics, too. One of my mother’s favorite childhood memories is of family picnics, even though the forays were always on the homeplace.

When I plan a picnic for an all-day outing, it seems the only food ideas I have are pimiento cheese, egg salad, or peanut butter. But I’m ready for a little more culinary picnic excitement, so I’ve done some research and found lots of fun ideas for easy picnics, whether summer or winter, family or romantic twosomes, basic or gourmet.

You probably have plenty of recipes that would translate into great picnic food, but if you're like me and your mind goes blank and the mention of picnics, these picnic ideas might get your creative juices flowing.

Make Your Picnic Special

If your picnic is nothing more than a roadside stop on the way to somewhere else, then you will likely pull off whenever your stomach tells you to. But if the picnic is your destination, look for someplace scenic, lush, and where shade is an option. If children are in the picture, try to find someplace with space to safely run off excess energy. Take items for pre- or post-picnic activities: a kite, croquet set, a good book, board game.

Pack for the Occasion

Insulated, soft-sided, easy-to-carry totes may not have the romantic look of wicker baskets, but they’ll make picnic life easier. One with straps or dividers to keep things secure is even better. Two smaller containers are better than one heavy one: food in one; non-food items in the other. If your picnic’s on the ground, pack a padded surface to sit on, preferably water-proof on one side. Consider taking something flat to set your food on. A tray or a small folding stool or table. How about a vintage hard-sided suitcase? It can do double duty by holding some of your supplies, too.

A cutting board and sharp kitchen knife will come in handy for bread, cheeses, and fruit. And be sure to pack a bag for any waste you may produce.

Instead of traditional paper and plastic disposables, purchase a set of lightweight, non-breakable plates, cups, and utensils just for picnics. Store them together to make preparation for every picnic a breeze.

Ditch the Soggy Sandwich

Who said picnics have to be all about sandwiches? Consider packing make-your-own ingredients for a hearty salad entrée. Tuck in a flavorful dressing or two. Tabouli is a colorful sandwich alternative. So is a cheesy corn salad. (Hint: Toss in cherry tomatoes and diced avocado. For simpler preparation, boil the corn. It’s still delicious.)

With just a little advance effort, you can whip up this veggie-packed quinoa salad

Prep ingredients for this Asian wrap with peanut sauce at home and prepare wraps on site.

For a truly simple sandwich alternative, pour drizzles of balsamic dressing and olive oil onto slices of ciabatta bread. Top with fresh basil leaves and slices of tomato and mozzarella. If you still prefer old-fashioned sandwich picnics, try using bread that can stand up to travel—say, biscuits or artisan rolls.

Make It Romantic

It’s a cinch. Any picnic will be enhanced by cloth napkins, a bottle of wine (remember the corkscrew) or sparkling water with a citrus garnish, and a jar of freshly-picked wildflowers.

Crackers and a jar of tapinade or chutney followed by a cheese selection (include a cheeseboard and knife) and a fresh loaf of crusty bread. How about hasselback tomato caprese? End the meal with fresh fruit. Make it fancy with chocolate-covered strawberries or sugared grapes. Simple yet elegant.

Picnic-Friendly Drinks and Desserts

Pack some lavender lemonade. (If you’re using the dried herb, use 2-3 Tbsp culinary lavender flowers.) Sorry, but if you want your lemonade to look lavender, you’ll need to add some food coloring. A drop each of blue and red should do it. Go easy—it doesn’t take much.

lavender lemonade drink

Maybe you’d prefer to dress up your iced tea with raspberries

Unless you’re watermelon-averse, this traditional picnic dessert never gets old. Homemade cookies make a simple, delicious picnic dessert, too.

For a different take, try dessert in a jar—layer fruit, small squares of your favorite cake, and some vanilla yogurt in a jelly-sized mason jar. Jars can also hold a healthy banana split parfait with layers of strawberries, bananas, nuts of your choice, and vanilla or honey yogurt. When it’s time to eat, drizzle a little homemade or purchased chocolate sauce on top for a decadent treat.

Winter Picnic?

Why not! Just dress for the occasion.

 winter squash chili

Pack something as simple as mac and cheese, lentil or cheesy-potato soup, or chili in insulated thermoses. Serve with cornbread. Add a couple more thermoses for a hot drink of your choice.

If you don’t want a full-fledged winter picnic, you can still fill thermos bottles with hot cocoa and add a tasty muffin or homemade granola bars. The kids are sure to love such a treat after a romp in the snow.

A Word About Safety

Mayonnaise gets a bad rap when it comes to potlucks and picnics. It’s low-acid foods that can cause a problem, and mayo, especially store-bought, is acidic. North Carolina State University has some tips on ensuring that homemade mayonnaise and other foods pass the picnic safety test. Keeping picnic food properly chilled is also key to food safety.

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, 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.

Garlic Scapes on the Homestead: How to Cook, Pickle and Grow Them

Garlic Scapes Pickled 

In the glorious warmth of summer on the homestead, I find that my garlic plants need some pruning. In order to get very large garlic bulbs, you must cut off the slender curly flower buds that are about to open (and cut them well before they form a flower!). These green buds are called garlic scapes. Once you start seeing these tasty little babies on top of your garlic plants, it’s time to cut them off and bring them inside for cooking or pickling. I want to inspire you to grow this easy plant, and also to cook and pickle garlic scapes!

Garlic scapes have a mild garlic taste when eaten fresh. They can be chopped small and steamed or used in stir fry among many other uses. They are also delicious in a simple scrambled egg or quiche dish. The flavor is similar to asparagus when they are cooked thoroughly, or if only lightly cooked they will retain a bit of a garlic flavor. You can make pesto with them by substituting scapes for basil in the recipe, but you still need to add garlic cloves for the garlic flavor that you are used to in pesto. Just add less cloves and taste as you go to make sure it’s not too spicy. You can add pureed scapes to salad dressing to make a sort of Goddess Dressing. Yum! I eat the unopened flower tips as well but some people find them to be too tough. This also depends on how young they are picked. As soon as you see a slender scape growing at the top of the plant, cut it off and it will be juicy and tender.

Scrambled Eggs and Garlic Scapes

Garlic can be grown in a small backyard plot. Therefore almost anyone can grow their own scapes and bulbs! You can plant either fall garlic to harvest the next summer, or spring garlic for harvest during the current season. Check your favorite seed company’s website to see if they offer spring or fall garlic cloves for planting. 

Garlic is extremely easy to grow and requires hardly any maintenance (other than cutting off the scapes in mid-summer for better clove yields). Garlic does need well draining soil, so compact clay will give you smaller bulbs. It is also harder to harvest garlic in sticky, clumpy clay soil. Garlic will grow even in part shade and is frost tolerant. There are many unique varieties of garlic to grow, ranging from very complex mild Italian garlic flavors, to Russian garlic packing a very powerful garlic punch. The hardest part is deciding which varieties to grow! For a more detailed look at different garlic varieties, sauerkraut blogger Kirsten K. Shockey has written a great article about the different qualities and flavors of garlic (and garlic scapes).

Close up garlic scapes

One of my favorite ways to use garlic scapes is by pickling or lacto-fermenting them. This is so easy, even a 5 year old can do it! My son has helped me pickle foods since he was very young and can now do it on his own with no assistance.

Pickled Garlic Scapes Recipe

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes


  • 1 1/2 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 dried chile pepper or fresh herbs
  • 1 bay leaf (optional) — for more crunchy scapes
  • About 10 garlic scapes cut to fit your canning jar with 1-inch headroom
  • 1 canning jar 1 litre/1 qt size


  1. Cut your scapes to fit in the jar or knot them if they are very curly. 
  2. Pack your cut up scapes tightly in the jar with 1 inch of headroom. 
  3. Pour filtered water over the scapes leaving 1” at the top and pour in the sea salt. 
  4. Push the chile pepper and bay leaf into jar. 
  5. Put the lid on and shake the jar a few times to ensure the salt is mixed in. Then loosen the lid and leave on the counter inside of a larger container (in case you get leaking coming out). 
  6. Depending on the room temperature of your home, you can leave this pickle out for between 4-14 days to ferment at room temperature. Burp the jar every 6 hours and don’t tighten the lid, leave it fairly loose. 
  7. When the brine is cloudy and the scapes have turned a dull green color, put it in the fridge and either eat immediately or age for 2-6 weeks. The flavor gets stronger the longer you leave it in the fridge to age!

Rosemary Hansen is an author, homesteading Mama, and a chef. She has spent the last 10 years “homesteading” in the city. She and her family have just started their off-grid homestead in rural British Columbia, Canada. Her books, Grow a Salad In Your City Apartment and Rosemary’s Natural Cosmetic Guide are a great way to ease into a healthy, pure lifestyle. You can connect with Rosemary at her website, or on her YouTube channel. Read all of Rosemary's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Beef Jerky Recipes from Around the World

Homemade beef jerky

Beef jerky is a type of seasoned, dried meat enjoyed as a snack food across America. Find out how to make jerky using the basic beef jerky recipe below. Included are several variations for dried meats made around the world.

Many other kinds of meat besides beef can be dried. Popular choices include pork, lamb, goat, and game meat such as venison and elk. Salmon and turkey are also commonly dried as jerky snacks.

Safe Methods for Drying Meat

When drying meat for jerky, use a food dehydrator appliance, a smoker (charcoal barbecue or electric smoker appliance), or a standard electric or gas kitchen oven that can be set to 185°F.

To ensure a safe product for snacking, dry the meat until it’s at a safe internal temperature of 160°F. To achieve this, you must set the appliance temperature to a minimum of 185°F.

If you are unsure whether a safe temperature has been reached, after drying, heat the dried meat in a preheated 275°F oven for 10 minutes before cooling and storing.

Alternatively, you can fully cook the meat before drying. Either marinate, roast or grill the block of meat, then slice and dry the strips at 140°F to 160°F. Or, slice the meat into strips, simmer in a seasoned marinating liquid (water, soy sauce, beer, wine, etc.), and then dry.

If these methods for making a safe snack product are not used, dried meat should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer and used in recipes such as soup or stew that will fully cook the meat.

Some dried meat recipes from around the world include Machaca (Mexican shredded dry beef scrambled with eggs), Ropa vieja (Cuban beef stew), old-fashioned American Creamed Chipped Beef, Moroccan Khlii or Khlea (dried meat or gueddid preserved in fat, like a French confit), and Native American  Pemmican (dried meat or fish combined with fat and/or dried berries, then re-dried for survival food).

Basic Beef Jerky Recipe

Makes 8 servings

This basic beef jerky recipe makes a lightly seasoned dried meat. Use it for beef, as well as almost any other meat, poultry, or fish. Ingredient variations listed after the basic recipe include flavor combinations from around the world.

To control flavor in the finished jerky, marinate the meat for a shorter or longer amount of time. For example, when trying a new recipe, remove and dry some meat strips after two, four, eight, and twelve hours of marinating to find the flavor concentration you prefer.

Ingredients for basic beef jerky

2 pounds lean beef (such as loin, round, or flank), trimmed of any visible fat
½ cup soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce (or a combination)
1 to 2 tablespoons liquid smoke (optional, especially if drying meat in a smoker)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Find many flavor variations below in marinade recipes from around the world.

Directions for making jerky

1. To make slicing easier, freeze meat for 30 minutes, or just until firm. Cut meat into thin strips. For tender jerky, cut meat against the grain. For chewy jerky, cut meat with the grain. For traditional jerky, cut strips of meat four to six inches long, one to two inches wide, and ā…› to ¼ inch thick.

2. Combine soy sauce, liquid smoke, salt, and pepper. Toss meat strips with marinade.

3. Cover and refrigerate meat trips several hours or overnight.

4. Preheat a food dehydrator, smoker, or oven to 185°F. (For alternatives, see the previous section “Methods for Drying Meat”.)

5. Remove meat strips from marinade and pat dry with clean towels. Place strips on drying trays or racks close together without touching.

6. Dry until the meat’s internal temperature is 160°F, about 4 or 6 hours, or meat cracks when bent but remains pliable and does not break. Note that drying time can vary widely depending on ambient temperature and humidity.

7. Remove jerky from drying trays. If there are any oil beads on the surface of the meat, pat dry with clean towels. Cool 30 minutes, or until no longer warm.

8. Store beef jerky in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Storage time is about 2-3 weeks, less if the meat is fatty, or you live in a warm or humid climate. For longer storage, vacuum-seal, refrigerate, or freeze dried meat.

Homemade turkey jerky

Homemade turkey jerky

Jerky Recipe Variations

Learn how to make jerky from many other cultures around the world. Substitute any of the following jerky marinade recipes for the ingredients listed in the basic beef jerky recipe above.

Honey-Pepper Jerky Marinade Recipe

Stir together ½ cup soy or Worcestershire sauce (or a combination), 1 tablespoon liquid smoke, 2 tablespoons honey (or brown sugar), 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 2 teaspoon cracked black pepper. Good for beef, venison, lamb, or fish.

BBQ-style Jerky Marinade Recipe

Stir together ¼ cup red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons ketchup, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon liquid smoke, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 clove minced garlic, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. Good for beef, venison, lamb, or goat.

Thai-style Jerky Marinade Recipe

Stir together ½ cup soy sauce or fish sauce (or a combination), 4 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons palm or brown sugar, 2 tablespoons minced shallot or white onion, 2 tablespoons minced fresh gingerroot, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves with stem, and 2 teaspoons ground white pepper. Good for beef, poultry, or fish.

Char Siu–style Jerky marinade Recipe

Stir together ¼ cup rice wine or dry sherry (or a combination), 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground white pepper, ½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder, and ½ teaspoon sesame oil. Good for pork, poultry, or fish.

Indian-style Jerky (Sookha Hua Gosht) Marinade Recipe

Stir together ½ cup lemon juice, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon minced fresh gingerroot, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves, 1 teaspoon cayenne, and ½ teaspoon turmeric powder. Good for beef, lamb, or fish.

Moroccan style Jerky (Gueddid) Marinade Recipe

Stir together ½ cup white wine vinegar, 4 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons crushed coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon crushed cumin seeds, and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Good for beef or fish.

South African–style Jerky (Biltong) Marinade Recipe

Stir together ½ cup cider or malt vinegar, 2 tablespoons crushed coriander seeds, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, and ½ teaspoon cayenne or ground piri piri pepper. Good for beef, lamb, venison, or goat.

Mexican-style Jerky (Carne Seca) Marinade Recipe

Stir together ½ cup fresh lime juice, 2 teaspoon dried oregano, and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Good for beef, lamb, venison, or fish. Good for beef or pork.

Cuban style Jerky (Tasajo) Marinade Recipe

Stir together ½ cup sour orange juice (or half fresh orange and half fresh lime or grapefruit juice), 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons minced onion, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano. Good for beef, pork, or poultry.

Jamaican-style Jerky Marinade Recipe

Stir together ¼ cup Red Stripe or other pale lager beer, ¼ cup pineapple juice, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 4 cloves minced garlic, 4 minced green onions, 1 finely minced Habanero pepper (seeded or not, your choice!), 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon ground allspice, and a few gratings of fresh nutmeg. Good for pork, poultry or fish.

Use these recipes to find out how to make jerky in flavors enjoyed around the world.

Homemade salmon jerky

Homemade salmon jerky

Carole Cancler is the author of The Home Preserving Bible. She has traveled to more than 20 countries on four continents to attend cooking schools and explore food markets. She studies the anthropology of food with a focus on how indigenous foods have traveled and been integrated into world cuisine. Read all of Carole's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Recipe: Best Ever Rhu-Berry Muffins

Rhubarb strawberry oatmeal muffins 

Looking for something to do with the abundance of fresh strawberries and rhubarb available this time of year? This muffins are melt-in-your mouth goodness and are the perfect way to put to use your fresh rhubarb and strawberries. They're dairy free, full of fibre, and lower in sugar and oil that most other muffins! You can enjoy them for breakfast, a mid day snack, or as a healthy dessert option.

Dry Ingredients

1 cup whole oats blended into a fine flour
1 cup unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. hemp hearts
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Wet Ingredients

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup coconut oil (melted)
1/2 cup raw cane sugar
1/4 cup real maple syrup
2 eggs (pasture raised  if possible)
pasture raised 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix Ins

pasture raised 1 cup sliced strawberries 
pasture raised 1/2 cup sliced rhubarb 

Topping Ingredients

4 Tbsp.whole rolled oats
4 Tbsp. raw cane sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Strawberry rhubarb healthy muffins


1. Preheat oven to 350

2. Place oats in a blender and blend until you reach a fine flour like consistency

3. Place oats in a large bowl. Add all other dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated

4. Place all wet ingredients in a separate bowl and mix until well incorporated

5. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just combined (do not over mix)

6. Fold in strawberries and rhubarb, again being careful not to over mix

7. Place batter into prepared muffin tins

8. In a small separate bowl, mix together topping ingredients

9. Sprinkle tops with a small spoonful of the oat/ sugar topping mixture

10.Place in oven and bake for 17-20 min. You will know the muffins are done when you gently press the top and it lightly springs back to you

11. Allow to cool and then remove from muffin tins


Meghan De Jong is the founder of Meg De Jong Nutrition, her personal nutrition platform, which offers tons of seasonal recipes, food growing tips, and nutrition education. She works with clients one on one to provide “garden-to-kitchen” nutrition support, and is the author of e-book entitled Eat to Nourish. She currently is creating a 4-part guide to seasonal eating. Check out the spring edition, then connect with Meg on 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. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Keep Cool in the Kitchen While Canning

jars of apricot jam

Two weeks ago, it was cold and rainy, and summer seemed a long way off. But today the thermometer is pushing triple digits. When that happens, canning season isn’t far behind!

Although standing over a pot of boiling jam in the heat appeals to some masochistic Puritan streak in me, I have learned how to reduce sweaty brows while putting up the harvest. Do you have any additional tips? Add a comment below!

Close the Windows: It’s counter intuitive, but when the temperature outside is higher than the temperature inside, it’s time to close the windows and keep the hot air out.

Open the Windows: Opening the windows when the temperature is lower, like through the night and early morning, lets cool air into the house. Don’t do this unless you live in a safe neighborhood or your windows have safety stops! Otherwise, keeping the windows open when it is cool lets the kitchen cool off too.

Close the Shades: If the sun is up and shining hot, it’s time to pull the blinds. A good rule of thumb; if the kitchen is on the east side of the house, keep the blinds pulled until mid-afternoon. If the kitchen is on the west side of the house, pull the blinds by mid-afternoon and leave them pulled until sunset.

Install Overhead Fans: Although a fan does not cool the air temperature, it makes you feel cooler. Therefore, whenever you are in the kitchen cooking, turn on the overhead fan.

Use a Box Fan: If you don’t have an overhead fan, or need addition air movement, set up a box fan near your work station.

Cover South and West Facing Windows: Sometimes you may have a window without a shade, or an odd shaped decorative window. Cover them with something during the summer heat! Blinds, curtains, even draping an old sheet over the window will reduce afternoon sun and keep the kitchen cooler.

Process in Early Morning or Late Evening: Make jam either first thing in the morning before the outside temperature is too warm, or late in the evening so it will cool down overnight.

Remove the Hot Water Bath from the Kitchen: Once processing is complete, carefully move the hot water bath outside. I usually place it on my metal patio table and let it cool. This isn’t safe if you have small children around of course, but removing the water bath also reduces the amount of heat in your kitchen.

Keep the Lights Off: As long as you can see (you know, with the pulled window shade and all), keep the lights and any unused electrical appliances turned off. Light bulbs, even the low-energy ones, give off a certain amount of heat. Since we want less heat, turn on fewer lights!

Freeze Fruit for Later: This is probably the best way to keep the kitchen cool during canning season – don’t can at all! If you have the space, sort fruit into recipe sized amounts and freeze. Make jam later this fall, once the air has cooled down. Sadly, this doesn’t work for canned fruit, cucumber pickles, or fresh vegetables. But it is a good alternative when making jam or salsa.

Renee Pottle is a freelance food writer and author. She writes about canning and cooking at and is the author of Creative Jams and Preserves – Easy Recipes Handcrafted by YOU.

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.

Plant-Based Proteins on the Rise, Plus DIY Beet Burger Recipe

Beyond Burger from Beyond Foods

You hear the grill sizzle and your eyes and taste buds are drawn to what appears to be the expected ground beef burger. Or is it? Increasingly, plant-based meat alternatives are popping up in the supermarket and at restaurants, helping propel vegetarian and vegan choices more mainstream. 

You could readily see and taste this trend at the 2019 National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, the place to explore everything that’s happening in the industry, from equipment, food and beverage products, and even technology. My husband, photographer John Ivanko, and I attend this show annually to experience what’s hot and up-and-coming in the food scene. Plant-based proteins were already evident at the show when we covered this trend in 2018 and 2017. Today, more companies than ever before are providing vegetable-based alternatives to everything from beef to eggs to eel that might be used in sushi.

Plant-based protein options on the menu give diners an eco-friendly substitute that champions sustainability and mitigates climate change. By simply reducing our animal-based meat consumption, particularly the industrial, large-scale meat most commonly available, we tread lighter on the Earth. 

According to studies conducted by the University of California, Davis, it’s much more energy efficient and cost-effective to eat plant-based foods than animal products. From a greenhouse gas emissions perspective, it’s better for the environment to eat plant-based foods because water use decreases significantly. It takes anywhere between 2,000 and 8,000 gallons of water to produce a pound of commercial beef, with much of this water used to irrigate crops that are harvested to feed the cows.

Interestingly, meat lovers are fueling this growth in plant-based proteins. A growing number of meat eaters identify themselves as “flexitarian” and seek out vegetable-based alternatives like Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger. Both Impossible Foods and Beyond Foods were recipients of the 2019 National Restaurant Show’s Food and Beverage Innovations (FABI) Award. Don’t think this is some niche fad: Beyond Foods, the parent company of Beyond Burger, went public in May, 2019, and was considered one of the best performing initial public offering in nearly twenty years. A key to their success and widespread acceptance is that these meat alternatives taste and cook just like a meat-based burger. Even die-hard meat lovers remain impressed and Beyond Burger is now a limited-time option at many Carl’s Jr restaurants. And Burger King is testing out Impossible Burgers at select locations.

Impossible Burger from Impossible Foods 

“Over 90 percent of the folks who order an Impossible Burger are self-identified meat eaters,” shares Chef J. Michael Melton, Technical Sales and Culinary Manager at Impossible Foods. “We wanted to create something that is uncompromisingly delicious in addition to being as versatile as any other ground meat protein. From a culinary perspective, this versatility lends itself to use this in any application you would use ground beef, from meatloaf to lasagna to tacos to spring roll filling.”

At the 2019 National Restaurant Association Show, we saw this plant-based protein movement evolve. Vegetable-based alternatives that mimic ingredients so realistically you’d swear you’re eating the real deal. It’s arguably a shift from “farm-to-table” to “farm-to-lab-to-plate,” with results that can be both sustainable and tasty, since years of lab research and scientific testing were involved to get to this point. Depending on the manufacturer, these plant-based proteins may come from soy beans, mung beans or peas, depending on the manufacturer.

“People are starting to think more about the impact of their buying choices and at the same time we are producing a product that really caters to meat eaters,” offers Esther Cohn, Communications Operations Specialist at Impossible Foods. “To us, the vegans and vegetarians are already on the right path and have chosen sustainable eating habits, so it was really important for us to we are able to convert meat eaters with a product that tastes like meat, cooks like meat and made entirely from plants.”

Plant-based Egg Substitute from JUST Egg 

“Our company is at the synthesis of science, food and culinary,” explains Matt Riley, Senior Vice President at JUST, a company that developed a vegan egg-based alternative based on the mung bean that can be used exactly like an egg, from scrambling to baking. These mung beans are non-GMO, a food trend that continues to be top of mind at the National Restaurant Association Show for a few years now. “We actually patented the process of isolating proteins in plants, figuring out how they function in food. Do they gel or bind, for example, and then convert that into delicious food. JUST Egg has all the similar positive protein attributes of an egg but without the cholesterol or saturated fat.” 

Other new plant-based options include items like a vegan eel alternative for sushi from Ocean Hugger Foods and a fully plant-based and no-sugar-added ice cream from Reveri Ice Cream that tastes like marzipan, thanks to one of its key ingredients, almonds.

Plant-based Sushi from Ocean Hugger Foods 

With protein dense sunflower and sesame seeds, even beet burgers popped up on a sampling tray at Sol Cuisine at the National Restaurant Association Show. Experiment in your farmstead kitchen by creating a plant-based burger with the Beet Burger recipe from our Farmstead Chef cookbook. Sunflowers and sesame seeds increase the protein content and the deep, natural red color of the beets give it a hearty burger feel. The recipe easily doubles or triples, so make a big batch since they freeze well. Experiment with various kinds of rice for different textures and flavors.

Beet Burger Recipe

From Farmstead Chef by Lisa Kivirist and John D. Ivanko

Yield: approximately 12 burger patties.


4 cup beets, grated (4 medium beets)
1 cup onion, chopped (1 medium onion)
1 cup cooked long grain brown rice
1 cup sunflower seeds
½  cup sesame seeds
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
3 tbsp flour (use a non-wheat flour to make these gluten-free)
1 cup vegetable oil


1. Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl. We find it easiest to do this with clean, wet hands.

2. Form into patties and place on lightly oiled baking sheets.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

4. After about 40 minutes, flip patties for the last 5 minutes of baking. Cooked patties should be browned and firm.

You may need to use a spatula to get patty off baking sheet.

Serve these burgers just like you would a hamburger, with lettuce, tomato, cheese and condiments inside a bun. We like ours with barbecue sauce.

Lisa Kivirist, with her husband, John D. Ivanko, a photographer and drone pilot, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef cookbook along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by renewable energy. Kivirist also authored Soil Sisters. As a writer, Kivirist contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, Living with Renewable Energy Systems: Wind and Solar and 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam and millions of ladybugs.

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.

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