Bright ideas at the Mother Earth News Fair


I wasn’t early enough to grab a chair at the pressure cooking demonstration on Sunday morning, when I went to the Mother Earth News Fair*, so I watched from the back as the presenter, Jill Nussinow, finished a dish with vinegar and smoked salt.

I’ve been hooked on pressure cooking ever since my first pressure-cooked dish, a lentil soup, turned out mushy after it cooked for only 12 minutes. Since then, we’ve made plenty of dal, brown rice, soups, risotto, and, fewer times than we had planned, flan. During the winter, I use it at least twice a week.

Talking with Jill later in the day, I found out how much more we could use our magic pot. Since pressure cookers steam cook food without air, food cooks fast and the colors of the vegetables remain vibrant. (In case you’re worried about the loss of nutrients in pressure-cooked foods, read about how and why pressure cooking preserves nutrients here).

For vegetable stock, Jill freezes scraps from non-cruciferous vegetables, including mushroom stems, pea shells, and asparagus ends. When she has enough, she piles them in her pressure cooker and covers them with water. Then she adds a strip of kombu and some bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary. A good vegetable stock has eluded me because I don’t want to spend all that money on ingredients for a few quarts of stock, no matter how good it is. But how simple and doable to combine two modern conveniences, the freezer and the pressure cooker, to get an almost no-prep stock. She also mentioned that, because it’s so fast, you can make the stock for your soup while you’re sautéing vegetables and peeling potatoes. A long, slow simmer is lovely if you have time, but if you don’t (and I often don’t), this is a beautiful idea.

It’s still early June in the Pacific Northwest so the recipe Jill shared with me for warm lentils is just the thing when the sun goes down and the chill sets in again. See her take on lentils and greens at the bottom of this post. (And thank you, Jill, for sharing one of your recipes.)

When Marilene Richardson of SongCroft Naturals said she doesn’t do much with annuals because she doesn’t want to plant again every year, I stopped taking notes and took a deep breath. That is just what I wanted to hear. Though I’m not brave enough to become a beekeeper, Marilene’s presentation on Medicinal Bee Gardening encouraged me to check out the principles of permaculture and ecological gardening. This book is next on my list.

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There were countless other finds and a few purchases. I bought a luscious blue T-shirt from Mercy Me Designs. (The artists are friends of mine so I’ve had years to covet their hand-dyed, body-loving designs.). I also brought home some thistle honey and a few freebies: sea salt, natural sleep aid, and a tiny little pot from Port Townsend’s Daily Bird Pottery that I’m using to hold my paperclips.

I also stopped by the Farmstr booth, of course. I’ve written about them before. Founder Janelle Maiocco is getting a lot of press for her innovative project that hooks up consumers and farmers electronically. Every week she posts a new “hot sheet” with offerings of eggs, local meats, fruits, and vegetables. Consumers order online and pick up the goods at a local drop site. It’s a flexible, adaptable system that is working for farmers and customers. Check them out.

And next year, check out the Fair. If you live near Seven Springs, Pennsylvania or Topeka, Kansas, you’ll have a chance to try it out for yourself in the fall.


Jill Nussinow’s Mediterranean Lentils and Greens
serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil, optional
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1 cup lentils
2 cups water or broth
3 tablespoons raisins or currants
1 bunch kale, or other greens, ribs removed and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Italian parsley, for garnish

Sauté the onion and carrot in the pressure cooker over medium heat, using olive oil or not, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the lentils, water and raisins and bring to high pressure over high heat for 5 minutes, lowering the heat to maintain high pressure. Let the pressure drop naturally. When the pressure drops, remove the lid carefully and add the kale and lock the lid back on. Bring to high pressure again for 2 minutes and quick release the pressure. Open the lid carefully. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped Italian parsley.

©2014, Jill Nussinow, The Veggie Queen™
Printed with permission.


*As I mentioned last time, I was comped a weekend pass to this event by the Mother Earth News Fair. I haven’t received any other compensation for this post. In fact, I don’t even think they asked me to write it. Everything I’m sharing is something I found intriguing or inspiring. If you’re interested in homesteading and sustainability and you live anywhere near one of the Fairs, go.






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