Winter in the Mountains

Winter has arrived full force in the mountains of Kentucky this week. Just when the countdown until spring has begun, winter rears it’s almost unfamiliar head. Winter can be rough in the mountains, and we’ve had our fair share of rough winters, but considering our winter weather for the past few years, we really can’t complain. During the past few days we’ve transitioned from sleet to, rain, back to freezing rain, and now snow. I feel humbled and blessed that I am one of the fortunate people that can work from home and do not have to travel. Because of my blessings, I feel compelled to check on others, pray for those that have to travel, the first-responders, homeless, and the elderly. It’s during times like this that I appreciate my mountain roots, heritage, cultural ways, and the knowhow of how to survive hard times such as those that we live in today more than ever.

The ice is clinging to the trees in the mountains.

With winter weather also comes the desire to cook, which I think is a cultural thing as well. As far back as I can remember when snow started flying in the air, laying on the ground, and filling the trees, someone was cooking. Cooking what? Veggie soup, chili soup, pinto bean better known in the mountains as soup beans, and always a side of cornbread. This was only a few family cavities! Some may think that vegans and or clean eaters can’t enjoy tasty dishes or cultural meals. However, being a clean-eating vegan doesn’t mean that I have to sacrifice flavor or my favorite foods. No, I still enjoy savory meals that I’ve always enjoyed, only a healthier version of them.

So, what’s on the menu for this bitter cold and blustery day? Organic soup beans, cooked in the insta pot without oil, but with plant based beyond bullion base. This great tasting base also decreases the amount of salt that’s needed to flavor many dishes. I use this base when I saute mushrooms, I add it to soups, beans of all kinds, and more. I’ll bake cornbread for my husband and plan to make myself roasted potatoes. I discovered along this high-starch journey I could line a sheet pan with parchment paper, spritz the cubed potatoes with vegetable broth, season them and cover them with aluminum foil and after they’ve reached the desired tenderness, I place them for the final minutes under the broiler and allow the potatoes to crisp up. What I discovered is that the potatoes are crispy and tasty. I also occasionally place them in the air fryer, spritz and season, and air fry for a faster dish of roasted potatoes. To add to the deliciousness m, I’ll add a side of sour kraut, which I canned last year, and maybe a skillet of mustard greens stirred up with diced mushrooms, more of the vegetable base, and finally a crumbled tofu to replace the scrambled eggs. This is a supper that is mountain worthy, culturally acceptable, vegan friendly, and filled with starches and high-powered greens. The only thing that makes this dish better is a jar of my canned red tomatoes chilled and served on the side. An all clean, organized, healthy, and tasty on this cold snowy day!

A great source of seasoning that adds a lot of flavor!

Eating vegan, plant-based, and healthy does not mean that you have to sacrifice flavor, culture, or deny your family who doesn’t follow a vegan diet. What I have learned along this journey is most of the time my husband doesn’t realize I prepare the mustard greens without oil, without eggs, and limited to no salt. He still brags on the taste, reaps the reward of less oil, and salt, and also that he loves sauteed portabella mushrooms. He still indulges in cornbread, but often made with less oil, egg replacement, and almond milk. The bread is still tasty, and he eats it without complaining about lack of flavor, but often brags on how tasty it is. Many times we think we need more salt, or we need to add a splash more of oil, or some other fat, when in reality we just need to focus on the flavor of the food…not the seasoning. One of the greatest benefits he has discovered is that a plant-based diet is much better for his gout, which is an entirely different post for later.

Snow and ice fill the trees and the mountains.

For now, I’m off to put beans in the insta pot, grade assignments, tidy the house up, and catch up on a little reading while snuggling beneath my favorite quilt in my favorite chair. I am so thankful for a warm home and knowing that my family is safe at home. I will also enjoy my favorite coffee, the spectacular view of the snow-covered mountains that lies just beyond my windows, and all the comforts of home. Blessings from the snow-covered mountains of Kentucky. I have found that in an impersonal world filled with more struggles than I can recall, a high-tech technology world where social media has replaced much of the personal communication that we once cherished, not to mention the uncertainty of the pandemic, I cherish the simple things in life more than ever before.

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