SGT's Book Club Tonight: This Organic Life, Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader

Joan Dye GussowJoan Dye GussowAs spring rolls full force towards summer, it's time for another food-laden book chat! Tonight's choice, This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader, will be discussed at two venues (at least*):

And because we know summer gets busy, you may want to mark your calendars for the next book club events and books too - they're goodies!

Joan Dye Gussow wrote This Organic Life in 2001, and her observations are more than relevant in our local and sustainable food conversations today. Througout the book, there are recipes comfortably comingling with journal entries, beautiful prose and inspiring gardening adventures. To whet your whistle, here are a couple that can make use of some early summer crops.

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Joan's Kale and Potato Soup

(If you're not using canned beans, cook 1c kidney, pinto, or brown beans before beginning soup, and if you're not a vegetarian, boil half a chorizo or kielbasa with beans for 15 minutes during the cooking.)

4 cups finely cut kale leaves 

3 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 medium yellow or red onion, diced

3 to 6 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1 or 2 bay leaves

1 pound red or yellow potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 teaspoons nutritional yeast (optional)

6 cups of water or stock (bean cooking or bean/chorizon water may be used) 

2 cups of cooked beans

shreded kale, which has been re-chopped finely after steaming

sliced parboiled chorizo


Steam all kale in a large kettle until wilted and bright green. Cool and hold.

Heat olive oil in a soup pot, then add onion, garlic, chili flakes and bay leaves. Saute over low heat until onion is soft but not brown. Add potatoes, yeast and water. Bring to a boil, and simmer about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Roughly crush potatoes against side of pot so most are sort of mashed. Add kale, beans and chorizo. Boil 6-8 minutes. Serve.

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Perfect Strawberry Jam

4 cups (preferably) alpine or wild strawberries

5 cups of sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice


Wash, drain, and hull strawberries. Put them into a kettle, and cover with sugar. Let stand for three hours. Slowly bring to a boil over a low fire, and boil for exactly eight minutes. Then add lemon juice.

Boil just two minutes longer. Cool and skim. Put in jelly jars topped with paraffin or seal in 1/2-pint jars according to canning instructions.

Joan says, "What's especially nice about this recipe is that it's guilt free. When you make jam or jelly using a thermometer or the slip-off-the-edge-of-the-spoon test to see when it's done, you can feel pretty awful if it doesn't jell perfectly, assuming it's all your fault.  This recipe does away with all that.  It's eight minutes and another two; then put it in the little jars and seal it up.  If it's runny, it's the recipe's fault, and the jam is still absolutely delicious.  This recipe can also be used for ordinary strawberries, but it's much better with wild or alpine strawberries."

We look forward to seeing you tonight at bookclub!

Want to kick off an SGT-flavored book club at your own co-op, community center, or other location?  It's easy! Feel free to use the books, dates, discussion questions, recipes, and/or resources shared here. Then e-mail us at so we can be sure to include your event in our calendar and bookclub posts.


Tracy Morgan is a Twin Cities foodie, cookbook hoarder, and owner of all the right kitchen gadgets. Living in downtown St. Paul, she loves to take her green trolley shopping at the Farmer's Market and see how much weight it can handle. When not spotlighting local goodies for Simple Good and Tasty, Tracy runs Segnavia Creative, a business development and marketing firm that helps small companies create big-picture strategies, understand branding, and navigate social media. She also serves on the board of directors for the Mississippi Market Natural Food Co-op.