Canning Crispy Garlic Pickles

Good evening, from the Mountains of Kentucky. I hope wherever you are this post finds you blessed and well. It’s been a bit of a strange summer in our part of the world. We’ve encountered extremely dry weather that resulted in hand watering our garden, to extremely wet weather that is resulting in our picking buckets of tomatoes as they start to ripen to prevent them rotting on the vines. We’ve been laying our tomatoes in the sun and allowing the sun to finish ripening. We’ve juiced the majority of the tomatoes and will begin canning whole tomatoes next. With the diverse extreme weather our grape tomatoes have flourished! The weather don’t seem to have affected them. We’ve enjoyed them with salads, sides, and more. We’ve had so many of them that I’ve already started freezing them to use in stir fries, sautéed dishes, and for one of my favorites, sautéed basil tomatoes!

Stewed basil tomatoes with breakfast

Our cucumbers are still coming and we’re still picking them! We’ve blessed others to have cucumbers to make pickles, relish, and also to enjoy eating. We’ve canned spicy kosher, pickle relish, and enjoyed them as sides with all meals… and they’re still producing.

Garlic pickles

So the question became… what can we do with those lingering cucumbers? It suddenly came to me. Garlic pickles, I would can garlic pickles! You’ve probably ate those delicious big crunchy garlic pickles that you can pickup at gas stations, convenient marts, and several other businesses at some time in your life. If not, you’ve missed a real treat. We usually pick one up when we visit our local Tractor Supply. It’s enjoyed to its entirety on the trip home. So, with the thoughts of those delicious pickles… I decided to try my hand at making them myself. And, it turned out quite well! I’ve already consumed nearly a quart of them by myself! So, for you pickle lovers… here you go!!!

Ingredients:

  • Approximately three pounds of cucumbers
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 8-12 cloves fresh garlic
  • 5 tbs dried dill seeds
  • 7 tsp minced garlic
  • 5 tbs whole black peppercorns
  • 7 sprigs fresh dill
  • 7 tbs Pickle crisp

Process:

Sterilize seven quart jars, rings, and flats and set aside on a clean folded towel. Wash, scrub, and dry cucumbers. Trim the ends of the cucumbers and set aside. (We add these to our chicken’s feed) They appreciate it! Happy chickens lay more eggs! Cut clean cucumbers into spears. You can change the cutting to the type of cut you prefer.

In a stockpot, I prefer to use an enamel coated cast iron stock pot, add vinegar, water, salt, dill seeds, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil slowly. While brine is coming up to a boil, divide garlic cloves, sprigs of dill, and minced garlic to clean jars. Add sliced cucumbers to jars. I usually lay the jars on their side with dish cloth folded beneath the ring to create a bit of slant. This prevents all of the garlic from being one-sided and prevents spills. I then carefully stack the cucumbers in jars until tight. Remember, there will be shrinkage as the pickles process. Now add a full tablespoon of pickle crisp to each jar.

After the brine comes to a rolling boil, remove from heat and ladle the brine over the cucumbers leaving at least a half inch space for headspace. Make sure all cucumbers are covered. Run a butter knife or spoon handle around the jar to remove any air pockets. Wipe the rims with a paper towel that has a bit of vinegar on it and add the flats and rings.

Add warm water to the water bath canner until about half full. Turn the stove on medium high heat, and add the filled jars to the canner. Finish filling the canner until the water is at least an inch over the jars. When the water in the canner comes to a rolling boil, set a timer for ten minutes and allow the pickles to process for the full ten minutes. When the time has exhausted, turn the stove off and allow jars to sit for about five minutes until the water simmers down. Using the jar lifters, remove the jars from the canner and set aside on a folded bath towel or wooden cutting board. Soon you should hear the ping from each jar letting you know the jars are sealed.

I couldn’t wait any longer than two weeks to try them!!! Oh my! They’re delicious! We’ve about devoured a quart in a few days.

I hope you and your family enjoy these delicious crispy garlic pickles as much as we do. I have a feeling they’re going to quickly become a family favorite. Please feel free follow and leave feedback. I love to hear from my readers. I enjoy answering questions and reading comments. For now, may the Lord bless each of you. I’m off to can more tomato juice today! God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

Kentuckians Band Together to Help Their Fellowman

Hello, from the mountains of Kentucky! It’s been a rough couple of weeks in the mountains. With the heavy rains hovering over our beautiful mountains along with flash flooding many of our beautiful small streams turned into raging waves of muddy water. Waters that ripped hard working peoples homes from the foundations, ravished their land, and ripped small children from their parents arms. Areas of our beautiful mountains look like a war zone littered with pieces of homes, broken dreams, memories, children’s toys, clothing, remnants of once thriving gardens, crops, churches, and cars. Schools that were preparing to open for the fall 2022 year are now demolished.

WYMT photo credit of Buckhorn School

As the death toll rises, so do horrible cartoons being published making jokes about the outpouring of rain on poor people. While Hollywood depicts Appalachian people as poor and ignorant. But the pictures that are painted by the heartless overpaid media does not even begin to describe the wonderful people who live in Kentucky! We are Appalachian strong and proud citizens, churches, neighbors, families and neighboring citizens who pull together to help each other in a time such as this.

Random possessions left behind by the raging water.

Appalachia is filled with hard working people. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, bankers, pharmacists, professors, congressman, senators, farmers, authors, artists, surgeons, laborers, judges, welders, Chefs, cooks, homemakers, miners, and truck drivers to name a few. Many of these hard working people are missing days of work to help out their fellow man. Our state is filled with a diverse population made up of many professions, cultures, and ethnicities, some Kentucky born and others who have migrated to Kentucky who now call the mountains of Kentucky their home, but above all our area is filled with genuine good people, kind hearted Christian people, and a community who truly cares about each other.

Photo credit Betty Jo Davidson (local pharmacist, Robin Combs, working to help neighbors clean up)

While much of the media and Hollywood are making money by degrading Kentuckians, Kentuckians are binding together in the trenches offering themselves and their own resources to help their fellow man. Tractor trailer loads of water and supplies have been collected and are being delivered. Businesses are working to help restore, offering free meals, a place to stay, and support. Churches have come together and going into their neighbors homes to clean the loads of mud that filled their floors. Many are delivering hot meals, gathering clothes, rebuilding, offering hugs, prayer, conversation, and a shoulder to lean on and cry on. Men with heavy equipment and tractors are making new drive ways where the old ones washed away. Rerouting gullies and ditches to divert future water from wreaking havoc on their neighbors land. Appalachian people spread the word through word of mouth, Facebook, go fund me, offerings, churches, and through collections to support our fellow man. Many are working tireless hours to clean, create, recreate, scrub, shovel, relocate, and support their fellow man, regardless of who they are, how difficult the situation, their socioeconomic status, beliefs, race, ethnicity, or culture… we are Kentuckians that band together when faced with devastation as so many faced and are still facing.

Photo credit- Betty Jo Davidson (neighbors helping neighbors)

Kentucky is a beautiful land filled with both good and bad people as is all states, but one thing is for sure… in the time of crisis, everyone comes together to help each other. It’s sad to read the derogatory comments, to see the false stigma that lingers about Appalachia, and to watch the media and Hollywood make a profit at the expense of families who’ve lost their parents, their children, their homes, their pets, food, toys, and all of their belongings. Many who are physically unable get in the trenches to help clean search, and restore, are calling, collecting donations, and praying for all who have been affected, and for those working hard to help those in need.

Worries and fear still hovers over many in our small communities as many of their family members remain missing. It’s a time of uncertainty for many, but one thing I know, I am, we are, proud to live in such a caring and compassionate community. I am, and will always be proud to be an Appalachian. My home and family were spared through this raging storm. However, I am confident if we are ever victims of such devastation, my family, churches, friends, neighbors, and community would be there for our family, just as they are, and have been for our community during this horrific crisis. I feel blessed and proud to call Kentucky my home. I am honored to give God praise that our communities still recognize and give Him credit for all, even when for many, all their possessions and in some families, lives were was lost.

May the Lord bless all. Let’s band together, love each other, give grace, and be there for each other. Be positive and shining examples of God’s love today. Your smile and kind words may be the only positive thing that someone encounters in a time such as this. Don’t wait for a crisis to show love toward your fellowman. Feel free to leave comments. I love to hear from my readers. We Are Kentucky Strong!

Kentucky will rebuild and come back even stronger!

Canning Our Favorite Pickle Relish

It’s bean picking time in the mountains!

Good morning, from the mountains of Kentucky. I hope your Saturday is off to a wonderful start! It’s been a busy day already for our household. Early morning prayer and meditation with our Heavenly Father, devotion, and studying His word and enjoying fresh perked coffee. God is so good. I love seeing His fingerprints on the small things in our lives as well as the big things. We are truly a blessed people. As you can see from the picture above, it’ll be bean picking time this week!

A larger pot of spearmint grown primarily for mint water and teas.

I was amazed to see so much new growth in the mint garden this morning. I created a weak mint tea from teabags yesterday and generously watered both the peppermint and spearmint. Wow! This morning both mints were strutting and showing off lots of new leafs that were healthy and shiny. Don’t throw away those used teabags or tea that might be out of date. Create your own fertilizer that is a rich organic treat for your herbs. I’ll try to make a post later about the uses of tea in the garden. Now, let me share our favorite relish recipe with you!

So, for this delicious pickle relish you’ll work in two a two complete this relish in a two day setting. You’ll need the following ingredients for day one;

Day one:

  • Two or three gallons of fresh cucumbers washed and dried.
  • One medium yellow/sweet onion.
  • One small red bell pepper washed and dried.
  • One tablespoon of salt.

Process for day one; dice cucumbers, yellow onion, and bell pepper into very small diced pieces. Put in a bowl that has a lid. Sprinkle the tablespoon of salt over the veggies and gently toss. Put in the fridge over night.

Day two:

Wash and sterilize pint jars, rings, and flats. Allow them to drain and dry on a clean towel. If you use the dishwasher to sterilize you can bypass this step. Next, remove the veggies from the fridge. Line a colander with either cheesecloth or sturdy white paper towels. Put the colander in the sink bowl and pour the veggies into the lined colander and drain well. You may use additional paper towels to blot and gently squeeze the veggies to help remove the excess liquid. Allow veggies to sit and drain while you make the brine.

For the brine you will need the following ingredients;

  • Three cups of distilled white vinegar
  • One cup of water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons diced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of course black pepper
  • One tablespoon turmeric
  • A couple sprigs of fresh deal
  • One teaspoon of dried dill weed

Combine the ingredients above other than the fresh dill along with the diced veggies in a large pot. Bring slowly to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low for ten minutes. Put a little fresh dill in the bottom of each jar and then add the relish mixture to clean jars. A funnel makes this process easier and less messy. Wipe the rims of the jars and add the flats and rings. Place jars in water bath canner with the water covering the lids. Bring the water to a hard boil, and set timer for 10 minutes. Turn the stove off when ten minutes has passed, and remove jars with a jar lifter. Set them aside on a folded towel or cutting board and listen for that wonderful pinging sound to assure you that your jars have sealed. Once the flats have cooled, write the date on them with a permanent marker.

I hope your family enjoys this relish as much as we do. We add it to chili dogs, hot dogs, and hamburgers. My husband loves it on beef burgers and I love it on plant based burgers! Using organic ingredients creates an even tastier and healthy choice for dishes. You may also add a jalapeño in the diced veggies to create an extra spicy relish. Both are a great addition to your summer dishes! This relish is also quite tasty in potato salad or egg salad. Experiment and feel free to let me know you how used this recipe.

Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. I love to hear from my readers. God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

Canning Savory Indian Relish

Good evening, from the mountains of Kentucky! It’s hard to believe that we are nearing the end of July. It seems we were just welcoming spring in only a few weeks ago. Summer time is a time of lots of work, fun, and more work, but one of my favorite seasons of the year. I love to plant seeds, water them and watch them grow. I love to work in our flowers, herbs, and vegetable garden. I love the smell of fresh plowed dirt as much as any summer smell I can think of. The aroma of the fresh earth takes me home to a much more simple time growing up in the mountains. I loved the garden even as a child. I loved to walk through the garden barefoot. I have a confession, I’m guilty of this at times right now. Enough reminiscing, as I promised, I am exited to share my Savory Indian Relish recipe with you. This is one recipe that I plan can each year! It is awesome, and it is relatively easy to make.

Let’s get started! You’ll need the following ingredients;

  • Two large zucchini
  • one large yellow onion
  • One large red bell pepper
  • One green or orange bell pepper
  • One medium size yellow summer squash
  • Two tablespoons salt
  • Two jalapeño peppers
  • Two cloves whole garlic
  • One tablespoon course black pepper
  • One tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • One tablespoon ground turmeric
  • One teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • One pinch nutmeg
  • Two teaspoons of mustard seeds
  • One cup of white sugar
  • Three cups white vinegar
  • Two cups of water

Process: Day One:

You’ll need a large bowl that has an air tight lid. Wash and dry zucchini. There’s no need to peel the zucchini or squash. After drying them dice them into small pieces. You can remove the seedy part of the zucchini if it’s a real big zucchini. Dice the onion, peppers, and squash into the bowl with the zucchini. I removed the seedy part of the squash and used primarily the meaty parts near the peel. Mix gently with hands and then sprinkle the salt over the diced veggies and toss gently again. Cover the bowl and put the veggies in the fridge over night. This will allow the moisture to come out of the veggies.

Day Two:

Wash and sterilize your jars, rings and flats. The dishwasher will sterilize them or boil them in the canner. Remove them with your tongs to prevent contamination. Next, take the bowl of veggies out of the fridge and using a colander rinse the veggies well two times and thoroughly drain. Dice garlic and jalapeño peppers into the veggies and toss. Be sure to wash your hands after slicing the jalapeño peppers. Avoid adding the seeds of the peppers as this might make the relish hotter than desired. In a large stock pot bring the water, vinegar, diced veggies, and remaining spices to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes.

While the brine and veggies are simmering, set up your work area with the jars, flats, rings and a ladle. After ten minutes of simmering ladle the veggie and brine mix into the sterilized jars. Run a knife around the mix on the inside of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Be sure to leave at least a half inch of space for headspace. This will allow the jars to seal appropriately. Wipe the rims of the jars and place the flat and ring on the jars. There’s no need to tighten the lid really tight. A snug fit will be fine.

Place the jars of relish in the canner of warm water making sure the jars are covered with water. Allow the water to come up to a boil slowly. When the boil is rolling, set the timer for 25 minutes. When the time exhausts, turn the burner off and allow the water to reduce to a simmer on its on. After 15 minutes using your jar lifter, carefully remove the jars of relish and place them on a wooden cutting board or on a folded towel on the sink or table. Soon, you’ll hear that lovely sound of the jars sealing one by one. Once the jars have sealed, and cooled, you may choose to remove the rings for future use. Some people remove the rings and others leave the rings on jars, either way is fine. It’s the flat that seals the jars and once the flat is sealed, the ring really doesn’t serve a purpose. This is a great tip from the days of the depression when canning rings were hard to come by. It’s a great money saver.

Don’t forget to write the date on the lids. You’ll appreciate this date in the future when trying to determine which jar of deliciousness you should select for a tasty side for supper. I always like to use the jars with the oldest dates first. Most flats have a seal date of 18-24 months. Most will stay sealed longer though. I’ve opened jars that were six, seven, or eight years old that were perfectly fine.

I hope you enjoy this zesty and tangy relish. It is family favorite around our house. It’s great with soup beans, chili, tacos and many other dishes. Feel free to leave feedback. I love to hear from my readers. God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

A Busy Day in the Mountains

Hello, from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope your July is off to a beautiful start! We’ve had a blessed week with just enough rain to water our thirsty garden and make the zucchini, summer squash, and cucumbers explode. The number of gorgeous veggies awaiting my attention caused me to wake even earlier today. After having a hot cup of coffee, relaxing with my daily devotional, prayer, and another fascinating chapter of the word, I looked at the tasks that lay ahead of me for the day. Farming looks glamorous to those who see it as all the veggies you can eat, decreased payout at the grocery store, and the many wonderful health benefits. All of these benefits are true, but the work and the labor are also very real… but satisfying. Chores are a big part of planting, growing, maintaining, and harvesting the rewards. After reading a chapter of my chosen summer read, What the Wind Knows, it was time to get up and get started checking things off my list. Yes, I am a list maker! It helps me feel organized.

The day began with watering the herbs, which needed harvesting again. It’s been a great year for all of our herbs. I quickly clipped lavender blooms to dry for flavoring teas, and clipped various types of mint. After washing and drying the herbs, I quickly tied them in bundles to hang for drying. The aroma of fresh herbs drying in the kitchen makes me happy.

Fresh mint hanging in the kitchen! This is chocolate mint. It makes great tea!
Lavender Blooms for flavoring Tea

Weekly household chores were next on the agenda. One by one, I checked them off my list. But, between chores… the squash, zucchini, and cucumbers were reoccurring thoughts. So, I decided to bake a little zucchini bread. I also vacuum sealed a few bags of sliced squash and zucchini for the freezer to enjoy this winter. Next on the list, was the sink full of cucumbers. Checking my time, I decided that I would have time to make seven quarts of spicy kosher dill pickles, which are always tasty any time of the year. If you’ve not tried my recipe for spicy kosher dills, you can follow the link below to learn more. These pickles are a family favorite, as well as a favorite among many of our neighbors. Canning Spicy Kosher Dill Pickles

We’ve had an abundance of summer squash and zucchini this year!

Now to proofread. My editor is expecting the final revisions of the last chapters to be ready later this week. I am in the homestretch of finishing this nearly year long project. I’m excited for my students to have this new workbook in their hands. It is designed to accompany the textbook I wrote in 2019. Thankfully, the abundance of rain we received over the last few weeks allowed me to work ahead of schedule, but also resulted in lots of weeds. That was another thing on the list to attend to. Hoeing usually means all hands on deck! Again, lots of hard work, but very satisfying work.

The zucchini kept calling my name! I ended up grating several zucchini for the freezer for bread this winter. I use a hand-held box grater and a glass measuring cup lined with white paper towel or cheese cloth. I grate the clean zucchini into the cup until the measuring cup is full. This is perfect for breads as my recipe calls for one full cup of grated zucchini. It also works well because the paper towel or cheesecloth is already holding the zucchini, and ready to be squeezed to remove the liquid before freezing. I felt better about having used several of the beautiful green bounty.

Three hours later, seven quarts of spicy kosher pickles are cooling and waiting to be taken to the basement for good eating this winter! Zucchini bread will be cooling soon. One loaf to eat and one for the freezer. Yes, you can freeze whole loaves of homemade bread. Allow the bread to completely cool, remove from loaf pan, and wrap twice with plastic wrap, then once with aluminum foil. Once the bread is frozen, you can vacuum seal for reassurance of no frost gathering on the bread. When you’re ready to eat the bread, allow it to thaw in the fridge. Once it’s completely thawed, remove the vacuum seal and unwrap and enjoy. It’s amazing how moist the bread is.

Spicy Kosher Pickles

I hope you’ve enjoyed spending a little time with me in the mountains of Kentucky. It’s been a busy day, but one that makes me feel accomplished. Feel free to leave comments. I love to hear from my readers. I’ll share the vegan zucchini bread recipe soon. It’s a keeper. Also, I’m excited to share my new Indian relish recipe with you! I’m hoping to have it posted later this week. Check out the picture beneath the bread photo! God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

Fresh baked chocolate chip zucchini bread.
Indian Relish recipe coming soon!

Five Organic Gardening Tips

Quote of the week:

Garden work is satisfying to the body and soul, as is the harvest.” ~Dr Bowling

Hello, from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope you’ve been blessed with awesome weather for your gardens! It’s been very dry in the mountains. Our garden is growing and we’re picking, but a lot of hard work has been involved with watering by hand through the month of June. Needless to say, we’ve decided to invest in ground soaking hoses that will water the ground when we want it, or as we need it. For a garden of our size, I’m not sure why we hadn’t already thought about this. I’m often asked questions about the difficulties involved with organic gardening. So, I decided to share five organic tips that can beneficial for your garden at this time of the year.

Love eating from the land… even though it’s a lot of hard work.

Tip One: We’ve also dealt with low calcium in the soil through this very dry beginning to summer. So, through research and back work, we’ve added ground organic oyster shells to the soil around the squash and zucchini. As well as eggs shells and diatomaceous earth. Thankfully the rotting squash and zucchini have come to a stop and we’re back to picking our fill and then some of both fruits!

A few of the straight neck summer squash from our garden.

Tip Two: to add a little extra fertilizer to our herb garden, I’ve been saving organic tea bags and reboiling the bags for a weaker tea and watering the herbs. This is a game-changer for herbs. My favorites are chamomile, mint, and black tea. The plant feed on the rich antioxidants, and the the tea bags are added to the garden as the bags are biodegradable. We add the spicy cinnamon black tea bags around the garden for an additional deer repellent.

Nothing better than fresh herbs to cook with.

Tip Three: in the battle against those pesky beetles on beans, cucumbers, and squash plants. In a spray bottle we mix a spray of 10 drops of lavender essential oil, 10 drops of peppermint essential oil, and 10’drops of citronella essential oil, with a tsp of organic plant based dish detergent. Then fill the bottle with water. This makes a great spay to repel all kinds of munching little friends. We also dust our plants with organic food grade diatomaceous earth for an extra layer of protection.

Tip Four: adding a little potassium to tomatoes while repurposing banana peels. A lot of bananas are consumed at our house. I eat two a day most days. I love organic bananas for oatmeal, baked oatmeal, and as a snack and frozen ones in smoothies. So I’ve learned that not only roses like bananas, do do tomatoes in the form of a tea. To make tea, keep a pitcher of water in the fridge. The pitcher should be about half full to allow for room as you add banana peels. Once you’ve peeled the bananas, add them to the water. You can cut the peels, but don’t have to. There’s no need to cover the pitcher. After a week, take the bananas out and add one part banana tea to five parts water. Use this transit the base of tomatoes. It provides potassium to the soil. This will help produce stronger roots, stems, and great fruit. Banana tea can also be added beside of pepper plants as well.

Banana peel tea.

Tip Five: Begin saving egg shells a couple of weeks prior to planting tomatoes. When it’s time to plant, place an egg shell in the hole before putting the plant in the ground. Egg shells are loaded with calcium and will feed the soil at the roots of the tomatoes and help prevent blossom rot and what some of the old timers called, the blight.

I hope that you find these tips helpful and you have success with your garden this year and for years to come. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. I love to hear from my readers. Well, it’s time to go pick a while and reap the joys of our labors. God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

Harvesting Mint for Teas

Good Morning from the mountains of Kentucky. I hope your morning is off to a great start on this beautiful Saturday. We’ve been hammered with extreme temps this week, so today’s high seventies is a welcomed relief. It’s that time of year when the garden needs to be hoed, the weeds need to be pulled, herbs are coming in like crazy, and the harvesting and drying have begun. I took advantage of the cooler temps this morning to prune my herb garden, which desperately needed a trim. I like to trim my herbs in the early morning hours while the dew is still on the ground, and clinging to the leaves. I also like the cool temperatures as it is easier on me and on the herbs.

This is about a fourth of our vegetable garden.
Spearmint for teas and salads.

I have been enjoying mint-infused water this summer, and quite a bit of mint tea. I have already dried two cuttings of various types of mint, as well as other herbs. They’re carefully tucked away in my kitchen herb cabinet in glass jars in the kitchen. Glass jars with air-tight lids are the best method of storing dried herbs. I have had several questions about how I harvest mint. It’s actually quite easy. As I mentioned above, I trim herbs before they become leggy. Trimming herbs actually causes the herbs to take on a more bushy consistency.

Lemon balm for cooking, teas, and health.

As I trim the mint, I place the fresh-cut mint on large cookie sheets lined with a white paper towel or butcher paper. This allows me to keep the mints separated and labeled if necessary. I rinse the mint to ensure there are no ticks or other small pests. While the mint is draining in the sink, I inspect the mint for the best leaves. I try to pick the mint that is void of holes where insects may have nibbled, dark spots, or any other imperfections. I gently pat the leaves dry and place them on a clean, lined cookie sheet and place them where they are not in direct sunlight. It doesn’t take as long for the herbs to dry with this method.

Chocolate mint tea drying in the kitchen.

A second method I use is to follow the above steps, except do not remove leaves from stems. I pat the stems of aromatic leaves dry, gather the mint into a bunch, and wind cotton twine around the stems to tie the mint in a bunch to hang dry. I hang the mint in an area that is not directly exposed to windows or sunlight. It takes a little longer for the mint to dry by this method, but it allows you to harvest the stems as well as the leaves, while also filling the kitchen with a nice fresh mint aroma.

Once the mint in the tray is dry, you may either crumble the mint and add the mint to the mint jar or simply store the leaves in the jar. I use both methods. I like the crushed mint for baking and the whole leaves for tea. You may use either method of storing the dried bundle.

Chocolate mint leaves drying for tea.

A second question that is often asked is; what type of mint do you grow? To answer that, I respond as much as possible. Then I elaborate and explain that I grow peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, apple mint, lemon mint, and strawberry mint. I always reply that spearmint and chocolate mint are my favorites.

Finally, the third most asked question is; how do you make your tea? I tell them that I enjoy iced teas and also hot teas, depending on my mood and seasonal temperature at the time. For hot teas, I will typically place an organic black tea bag in my cup, put the water on to boil, choose the flavor of mint I want to have in my tea, and then add the mint to my tea ball. Once the water has reached the right temperature, I pour the water into the cup and allow the black tea and mint in the tea ball to steep for three to four minutes. I add a tiny bit of organic agave to the tea, stir and enjoy. You may add milk if you like your tea milky. I occasionally add almond milk or oat milk to mine.

Small jar of dried chocolate mint.

For cold tea, I boil enough water for a quart jar. I add two black tea bags, and if you like green tea, you can add green tea bags instead of black. I also add a larger tea ball filled with my choice of dried mint or even a mix of mints. Allow the tea bags and the tea ball to steep for forty-five minutes to an hour in the glass quart jar. Stir occasionally, and once the tea has darkened and cooled, you can pour tea over ice and add a little lemon, agave, and fresh mint leaves. This is an awesome drink, that is refreshing, full of antioxidants, and tastes great!

Tips of the week: you can pot various types of mint in flower pots to prevent the mint from taking over your garden, or if you have the room, you can isolate each type of mint in separate herb beds. Mint has a way of being intrusive and will quickly take over and can smother other herbs out. I like to do both pots and beds. My second tip is; as you know, I am a doTERRA essential oil consultant and recently I discovered that one drop of peppermint essential oil takes my peppermint tea to a totally new level. One drop of spearmint essential oil can be added to spearmint tea as well. Do not add essential oils from typical over-the-counter, or aromatherapy blends. doTERRA oils that are identified as supplemental can be added for internal use and wonderful internal benefits.

Lavender awaiting plant butter, teas, or cookies.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed learning about how I harvest mints for teas. I encourage you to grow mint, as it is probably the easiest herb to grow. It is also a very versatile herb that can be used for bee stings, headaches, bruising, as a natural pesticide, and also baking and delicious teas. Comments, ideas, and questions are welcomed. For now, God bless, from the mountains of Kentucky. Remember, God has given us an abundant supply of plants that will help sustain us.

Taking Flavor and Holistic living to a Higher Level

Hello, from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope you had an adventurous and restful weekend and that your week is off to a great start. Saturday morning’s is typically time for me to catch up on housework, laundry, and also time to work in my herb garden. But, sometimes the craving for an adventure stirs within me. I love a good adventure as much as the next person! I tell my grandchildren that adventure is in the eye of the beholder and that adventures are everywhere. The mountains of Kentucky are are the perfect place for adventures. Saturday’s are typically a time of catching up on work around the house, last Saturday I felt the craving for an adventure. So, we decided to trail ride in our side by side with our family. We set off for the mountain trails to enjoy the view, recall stories, and enjoy quality family time. Who knew what kind of adventure awaited us! Remember, adventure is in the eye of the beholder! I have always loved the mountains of Kentucky. They provided countless hours of playtime for us when we were growing up. We would build forts, hike, picnic, pretend to be cowboys and Indians, and rugged pioneers surviving the elements. Sometimes, we just enjoyed sitting beneath the trees and cloud watching. Nevertheless, the mountains have always called my name.

Large rocks at the top of the mountain known as the Rat Rocks.

When we were growing up in the hills of Kentucky, we spent hours hiking to the top of the mountains behind our grandparents house. We’d walk until we arrived at the large rocks. Many days were spent enjoying a simple picnic on top of the rocks that pictured above. While we ate we would often retell the story of the man that froze to death one night when a sudden snow storm came while he was traveling. His vision was blurred by the heavy snow and he lost his way. Legend has it that the man sought shelter from the storm near one of the large rock formations. Days passed before he was found in the mountains where he had frozen to death. I’m not sure that we ever grew tired of telling stories, finding arrow heads, pretending to be pioneers, or just waking and enjoying the bounties of nature. We also loved the simple days and afternoons of sitting outside on the porch and listening to our grandparents and relatives tell the mountain stories time and time again. I miss those days and think of them often. So, enough about mountain legends! I have a new recipe that I’m super excited to share with you!

I have always loved growing, drying, and cooking with herbs. I love their smell, their health benefits, and their taste. I also love to make teas from my herbs, which is loaded with health benefits. I also love essential oils. Together they make a wonderful partnership! Recently I decided to become a doTERRA essential oil advocate. It only made sense to me since I have enjoyed diffusing the oils and using them for various other purposes for many years. Essential oils and herbs go hand in hand and are both all natural and healthy. I like to refer to them as God’s blessings. I recently learned that some of the doTERRA oils also offer even more health benefits than topical and diffusion benefits. I learned about their internal health benefits, and also that many of them can be used to flavor some of our favorite dishes. This all intrigued me as I have enjoyed a more holistic way of life with plant-based cleaning products, laundry detergent, and through following a plant-based diet for nearly four years. I edged my way forward from clean eating, to vegetarian, and from vegetarian, to vegan. The rewards and health benefits of a holistic lifestyle are amazing! So discovering even more natural health benefits of essential oils… I was all in!

Enjoying the benefits of diffusing essential oils.

Some of you may have tried the wild orange orange essential oil. It is one of my favorite oils to diffuse in the house late evenings. It smells amazing and provides a calming and relaxing atmosphere. Wild orange is also one of the many oils that can be used in sauces, teas, smoothies, and it’s also great in homemade cleaning products. A couple of drops of wild orange on wool dryer balls provides an amazing fresh scent in your laundry as it is drying. Also, two drops in a chocolate smoothie tastes absolutely amazing! After I discovered this delicious taste, I decided to add a couple of drops to my vegan chocolate protein balls. Can I say, SCORE!!! I am so anxious for you to try this recipe. If you love those cream filled bites of chocolate goodness in flavored assorted chocolates, I think you’ll love these protein balls. However, unlike chocolate candies, protein balls are healthy, vegan, and delicious!

One of my favorites oils!

Ingredients:

• 2 scoops of chocolate plant-based chocolate protein powder (I prefer orgain)

• 1 tbs of good natural smooth organic peanut butter

• 1 tsp cinnamon

• 1 tbs finely chopped walnuts

• 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (can be ground for a finer texture, but doesn’t have to be)

• 1 tsp organic ground flax seed.

• 1 tsp of organic chia seeds. (I measure with the small scoop that came with the chia seeds.)

• 1 tbs of organic agave

• 1 tbs of vegan chocolate chips

• 4 drops of doTERRA wild orange essential oil. (aromatherapy grade oils are not suggested for internal use)

Process:

Mix dry ingredients and add moist ingredients to the mixture. Mixture will be stiff, but keep working it. You may add a tsp of agave if needed to make the mixture easier to work up. Once mixture is mixed, use a small scoop or spoon and dip the desired amount into your hands. Roll the mixture into a ball and place in a dish. Continue working the mixture up until all of the mix has been used. I typically have 12–14 protein balls. Refrigerate for two hours to allow balls to set.

You can experiment and try different toppings or coatings. You may add ground coconut to the balls for an additional burst of flavor. I like them either way! I have also tried them with dates instead of peanut butter, which are delicious too, but I’m a peanut butter-aholic, plus the peanut butter gives them a bit of candy bar taste!

Store the balls in a covered container and keep refrigerated for best texture. They will last for days and days in the fridge, if you can resist eating them in larger quantities. I try to limit myself to two per day.

I rolled this batch in fine unsweetened shredded coconut for an added flavor! Yum!!!

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. My grandkids love them too. They think they taste like brownies. I love that they enjoy them because this allows them to avoid added sugars and butter, which are both ingredients to traditional candies, cookies, and brownies. Feel free to leave a comment. I love hearing from my readers. If you’re interested in doTERRA oils, leave a comment with your email and I’ll be happy to send you a direct link so you can explore and begin enjoying the many benefits essential oils provide. For now, I’m off to care for my herbs before the rain comes today. From the mountains of Kentucky , God bless each of you.

Questions That I’m Asked About Eating Vegan

Italian tofu scramble, stewed tomatoes, fresh cucumbers and Ezekiel toast.

Following a plant based/vegan diet often leads to a variety of questions. Some questions are asked more often than others. My best answer is simply that I am eating healthy for my overall health and my life. I wanted to share some of the more common questions that I’m asked, and also how I answer them. My hopes is that after you read my answers, you may be inspired to eat clean, and healthy for your overall well being.

Why did you decide to follow a vegan diet?

It was an easy transition for me. I was never a big meat eater. I became lactose intolerant as a young adult, so I had had already omitted dairy from my diet. I battled high cholesterol for years, so I had already stopped eating eggs and processed foods. I also was a border line diabetic, which intensifies my concerns about sugars and processed foods. But one thing that helped me make my mind up was reading the research about the connections between consuming animal products and cancer. So, the decision was relatively easy for me.

How long have you ate plant-based?

I slowly transitioned over a period of four years. But, have been totally plant-based for nearly four years now. I have followed a clean diet for several years and loved eating organic foods and home grown veggies. I’ve always loved fruits and vegetables of almost all varieties.

What do you eat?

I always have to hide a giggle when I’m asked this question. I simply smile and explain that I eat from a wide variety of plants including loads of home grown and or organic vegetables and wide variety of organic fruits. I love good non gmo or organic brown rice in lots of dishes. I enjoy a lot of good organic old fashioned oats in many delicious dishes. I also add organic firm tofu to my diet at least three times a week. Tofu can become almost anything from a take on scrambled eggs to imposter fish sticks! I also really like organic veggie burgers. I eat flourless breads occasionally. And I also love soups of a wide variety. I love organic nut butters! I also enjoy almost all beans and lentils. The answer to this question could go on and on forever! Oh, I almost forgot about nuts!!! I love eating walnuts, almonds, pecans, and cashews! It’s really easier to say what I don’t eat. I don’t eat meat or meat products. And, I don’t eat dairy products. I can eat anything else that I want to eat. But, I do always try to eat as clean and organic as possible!

Our garden last year. This year’s is not quite this nature yet.

Does vegan food taste good?

The taste is unreal! I love growing and incorporating fresh herbs and spices in my dishes. My husband loves some of my dishes so good that he prefers some of my dishes to traditional dishes, such as tofu scramble instead of scrambled eggs. Taste lies within the imagination of the cook! The sky is the limit on fresh and or organic spices, molasses, and agave! Creativity is the key!

Plant-based dessert! This is my apple cinnamon tea bread.

Do you miss eating meat?

This is an easy question to answer. No, I do not miss meat at all! There’s many delusions ways to substitute meat. Lentils are great as is tofu. The market also has many healthy and organic options for ground crumbles that honestly taste better than ground beef. There’s also veggie or soy grillers that make outstanding burgers as well as many other options available today. You may be surprised at the amount of foods that are available in your local grocery stores. I encourage you to to be a label reader and also to make wise choices. I prefer fresh foods over processed foods. When I buy processed, I always try to buy organic.

Vegan taco boat in an acorn squash.

Does your family eat the same food as you do?

Dietary choices, lifestyle changes, and healthy habits are a personal choice, which I respect. Our daughter follows a vegan lifestyle as well, which helps with creating new and creative dishes. My husband does not. He is a true meat lover, but consumes less than he did at one time due to gout. He does enjoy my vegan vegetable soup and my vegan chili soup. He also prefers tofu scramble to scrambled eggs.

What do you eat when others are eating meat-based dishes?

Many times I eat the sides that I prepare with our meal. I am also careful in planning and preparing healthy sides. I love to incorporate fresh vegetables such as green beans, corn, spades of all kinds, veggie pasta, steamed veggies, baked potatoes, and many other dishes. If I prepare burgers for my husband, I often eat a veggie burger. I love to air fry small Yukon gold potatoes as fries. My husband now prefers them to traditional French fries. I can honestly say that I never have to worry about not having something to eat!

One of my favorite Italian dishes!

What do you eat when you dine out?

I’ll be honest, after eating clean for a number of years, I don’t or shall I say, we don’t eat out very much. But, when we do, I can usually make a meal on a good salad and baked potato. I have also been known to take my favorite plant-based dressing with me.

Do you miss cheese?

This is another easy question to answer. No, I do not miss cheese. There is so many organic non dairy cheese options available today. Also, raw cashews can be tuned into a delicious cheese! My favorite non-dairy cheese from the grocery is pictured below. Another plus about eating non dairy cheese is that it doesn’t mess with your bowel habits! No more constipation!

One of my favorites!

How has eating plant-based improved your health?

Wow! This is one of my favorite questions to answer. My cholesterol is now in the normal range. My blood pressure now is also normal. I no longer suffer with hemorrhoids. And, I don’t have acid reflux anymore. My joints feel better and I have less inflammation in my body. This is another answer that could go on and on.

How do you substitute eggs?

My favorite method of subbing eggs for a main dish is by using extra firm tofu. You can find my recipe for tofu scramble on my webpage. For baking, I use a flax egg.

Can you lose weight eating plant-based?

If you choose your foods carefully, you can lose weight. Like any other diet or lifestyle choice, there’s healthy options and unhealthy options. For example, Oreos are vegan, but also fattening. If you fill up on lots of raw and steamed veggies and fresh fruit, while remaining physically active, and staying hydrated, you’ll see pounds decrease and also feel better about yourself and like a new person. Remember, focusing on weight loss can lead to unhappiness and often times, failure, and weight gain. Always keep your focus on living a clean and healthy lifestyle that makes slow and steady progress, which leads to an overall difference in your well-being.

Where do you buy the food you eat?

We grow a huge garden every year. So, I eat a lot of fresh vegetables in the summer and fall. I also preserve, can, and dehydrate every year, so we enjoy our homegrown vegetables and fruit all year long. I buy things we can’t grow from Kroger as they have a good organic section and offer a wide variety of meat substitute items as well. I love visiting the local farmers markets and local farms. I also grow loads of herbs for fresh herbs. I also dry them for spices. I love to order some items that I can’t find in the local stores from Amazon. I also order from the Thrive Market as well. I love their organic teas.

Early spring garden a few years ago.

Did your hair come out?

You wouldn’t believe how many times I’m asked this question. The answer is no! If anything my hair is healthier than ever. I use a good plant based organic shampoo and conditioner, which I feel has made a huge difference.

How do you get enough protein?

There’s an amazing amount of protein in plants. Also, tofu is high in protein. I also enjoy lentils, which are loaded with protein. I like to eat at least one tablespoon of organic peanut butter each day. I’ll add it to smoothies, toast, protein balls, and sometimes just a spoon of peanut butter by itself. I enjoy incorporating organic protein powder in oatmeal, baked oats, and in smoothies. My blood work has never came back with low protein, so this has never been an issue for me.

One of my favorite protein powders!

These are only a few of the many questions that I’ve been and continue to be asked. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about a vegan diet/lifestyle. Feel free to leave comments. I love to hear from my readers. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Air Fryer Baked Blueberry Oatmeal

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky!! It’s been a while since I’ve posted. It’s been a busy semester with lots of changes and some exciting news. I’ve just finished writing a lab workbook that aligns with the textbook I wrote in 2019. It should be on the market by the end of summer.

We’ve also been working hard to get our garden planted this spring. With all the rain and some vital equipment breaking down, it’s been a journey. But, we’re in the home stretch! Now comes the hard work, but also the wonderful rewards of fresh veggies!!

Delicious baked blueberry oatmeal

I’m anxious to share one of my favorite breakfasts with you! Baked oatmeal… but not traditional baked oatmeal. I stumbled upon this delicious and very easy recipe while experimenting with ingredients and on the search for something delicious, filling, vegan, and healthy!

I like Quaker Oats because they’re Non GMO

Ingredients include:

1 tsp organic cinnamon

1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal

1 scoop organic vanilla protein powder

1 tsp organic ground flax

1/2 tsp organic chia seeds

1 tbs organic smooth peanut butter or preferred nut butter

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbs organic raw agave or honey

A splash of plant milk (I prefer almond milk)

1/2 cup organic blueberries

My favorite plant-based protein powder!
Add dry ingredients first and mix before adding moist ingredients.

Process:

Before you begin mixing, preheat the air fryer for five minutes. My air fryer doesn’t have a temperature gage, but would assume a moderate temperature would work. Mix all the dry ingredients. Then one by one add the most ingredients. Wash the blueberries and add them as the last ingredient. I like to mash some of the blueberries for extra flavor. The mixture will look similar to a thick cookie dough.

Mixture after mixing all ingredients

Don’t worry about having a big fancy air fryer! my larger air fryer is actually taking up space in the basement! I love this small air fryer for individual servings and servings for two! It works just as well and easier to store away when finished. Empty the mixed ingredients in the pre-heated air fryer. I alway form mine into a larger patty and bake for ten minutes. Check oatmeal at the half way mark as all air fryers vary in baking time. When the oatmeal is browned to your preference, empty the oatmeal in a plate and flake the oatmeal up with a fork. I like to add a drizzle of organic maple syrup over my oats, but that’s just my preference. I also like some type of fresh fruit on the side.

A small air fryer works well for this dish!

There’s something delicious that happens when the peanut butter and protein powder bake together. The berries are tender and burst in your mouth! This is honestly more like a dessert fruit crumble than breakfast. I’ve made this with pumpkin instead of fruit and it’s quite awesome! check out the plate! This was a recent thrift find. I automatically grabbed it when I saw it. It is identified to the plates that my mom used when we were growing up. I enjoy reflecting on the meals she prepared while eating. It’s now my favorite breakfast plate.

One of my favorite breakfasts!

I hope you enjoy this delicious, quick, easy, plant based breakfast. Feel free to leave a comment or share your version of air fried baked oatmeal. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!