Vegan Strawberry Salad Dressing

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! We had a beautiful morning filled with a mix of rain and sunshine in the mountains today. I don’t mind the rain. I love an occasional rainy day, especially a rainy summer morning. For me, rainy days are a time to catch up on chores inside the house. Chores that I pushed aside to allow for time to maintain the outside can now be completed. Rainy days are also a welcomed change as they allow me extra time to do a little baking, grade student’s assignments, and try to squeeze in some time to read. I always appreciate and enjoy my quiet morning devotional reading and time spent meditating and talking to our Heavenly Father. My day always seems to be better, less stressful, and more appreciative after bible study and prayer.

I am an avid reader and enjoy the pages of a good novel anytime, but especially on rainy days like today. I am currently reading the fourth book in the Hunger Games series. It is truly a book worthy of reading! I may post a review of it when I finish it. If you’re a fan of this series, now is the time to delve deep into the pages and enjoy the continuing saga of the Hunger Games. As much as I enjoy spending time indoors catching up on work, household chores, reading and cooking…my love for the great outdoors always seems to lure me outside.

Before enjoying a brisk morning walk this morning, I enjoyed a small bowl of Silk non-Dairy vanilla yogurt with a mix of berries and walnuts with a slice of sprouted non-flour organic sprouted Ezekiel bread with a teaspoon of avocado plant butter. It was quite tasty with a sprinkle of ground flax seed and a drizzle of agave. Eating vegan doesn’t have to be boring or tasteless.

As I enjoyed my walk after breakfast this morning, I was reminded of how much I love early summer mornings outside! Our view of the mountains never grows old. The sounds of the creek flowing and the morning farm sounds are always a soothing and welcoming sound to my ears. The gentle cooing of the doves, the low rumble of thunder, birds singing from high in the trees, and the sounds of the farm are always satisfying, soothing, and comforting and a time of peace.

I always feel abundantly blessed on quiet morning walks. I feel especially blessed when walking after a morning rain. The earth is damp, the leaves glisten with drops of rain, and our small farm seems to come alive. I love to walk, meditate, and count my blessings, while also enjoy the sounds of life in the mountains, reminiscing, and enjoying the view.

The sounds of the hens cackling from their nests assures me that there will be at least a dozen or more fresh eggs by midday. Our latest addition to our farm are guinea’s. Our son gave them to us and they’ve earned their keep through their loud alerts of arriving guests and strangers. They’re a security system who also provides tiny eggs for our family and friends. This morning their calls let me know they were awake and on guard, while the roosters chimed in with their good-morning crows.

Two of our guinea’s enjoying picking a little green

There’s something about the sound of roosters crowing that take me back to my childhood growing up in the mountains. I found myself a bit teary eyed as I thought of my grandparents who have gone home, and of all the wonderful times we enjoyed with family while growing up. Times were simple then. Evenings were spent with family and friends porch sitting laughing, talking, and sharing the events of the day. I recall early summer mornings where we spent many happy hours wading in the creek, and warm summer nights that were filled with star-gazing and dreaming of our tomorrows. Those are memories that I will forever cherish and hold close to my heart. Walking this morning was one of those mornings. One flooded with a mix of emotions, memories, and also filled with gratitude.

Our garden in mid May.

The view of our garden was a satisfying sight this morning. Hard work pays off! We worked several long hours yesterday in the garden. It was a long evening of plowing, hoeing, planting, and also picking with family. Hard work, but also a time of making memories. The smell of the freshly plowed earth still lingered heavy in the air this morning. The scent of fresh plowed sod is one of my favorite scents in the morning along with the fragrance of the honey suckle blooms. Both of these fragrances transports me back to my childhood in the mountains. Yes, mountain life is the best life.

I hope your gardens are flourishing this year! Our labor is paying off with an abundance of cabbage, kale, lettuce, onions, zucchini, squash, and cucumbers so far. I am super excited to begin picking tomatoes, digging potatoes, and also picking beans and corn in upcoming weeks.

Even though our garden is doing well right now, gardening has been an unusual journey this year. First, with the bitter cold freezes that came in the early spring also came several evenings of covering each plant in hopes of preventing freezing, and uncovering the next morning. Then came the rain…boy, did it rain…a lot! The rain didn’t harm all of our garden, but wreaked havoc on our beans, which rotted in the ground. This resulted in plowing the beans under and replanting. I am happy to report that our second planting of beans are flourishing! We fenced the long rows of beans this week and the beautiful green bean vines are already climbing the tall fence lines. Our corn has been a challenge as well this year. We are are tending our third planting, which is finally doing well.

We are accustomed to battling and discouraging deer every year from getting in our garden. We won the battle with groundhogs eating our beans a few years ago, and crows pulling our corn up last year. However, this year we were faced with a new unexpected force that destroyed two entire crops of seed corn. Just as the corn reached two or three inches tall it would disappear. Chipmunks were the culprits this year. Who knew that those cute little creatures could destroy row after row after row of corn. They maybe cute, but they can be deadly on a corn crop. Through many creative efforts of soap, peppermint essential oils, moth balls, and many other creative methods…it appears we may have finally won the war with the furry little burrowers.

I am overjoyed with our herbs this year! They are flourishing as well. I’ve enjoyed harvesting basil, and peppermint several times already this year. I am currently drying both to add to the pantry. I plan to make peppermint tea from the medley of mints that are hanging in the drying room. I love the taste and the smell of all mints. My favorite has to be chocolate mint, which is a great addition to brownies, cookies, and makes a great tea all by itself. I purchased a new mint this year, which seems to be doing great. I’ve haven’t harvested any of it yet, in effort to let it get well-established first. I found strawberry mint! I am overly excited about the possibilities that this mint has. I admit, the leaves of the plant are quite tasty and very aromatic. Yes, I’m guilty. I nibble on my herb plants sometimes as I’m watering or pruning. My plans for this mint consist of tea, cookies, bread, and also a fresh berry salad with homemade strawberry salad dressing. It’s the simple things in life that makes me happy.

Speaking of fresh veggie and berry salad, I hope you’ll enjoy my new recipe for strawberry salad dressing. I apologize for neglecting to post my recipe for this refreshing and tasty salad dressing earlier. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks with the garden, grading, and teaching this summer. I hope you and your family enjoy this simple recipe as much as we do.

With warm weather, regardless if it’s raining or the sun is shining…also comes my usual craving for crisp summer salads. I love to experiment with the veggies and herbs from our garden, and also with fresh fruit. While cleaning the refrigerator out the other day, I realized it was time to do a refrigerator cleanup in my produce drawers. What better time to create a summer salad! While foraging through the crisper drawers, I discovered an abundance of fruits and veggies that were perfect for a tasty summer salad. I found a honey crisp apple, a few ripe strawberries, a few leftover blueberries, and score…blackberries that were more than ready to be used. I added a little bib lettuce from our garden, bits of baby kale, and some baby spinach, romaine, and iceberg lettuce. I included chopped cucumbers, green onions, tomatoes, cauliflower and purple broccoli.

Now, the veggies were ready to toss, but I wanted a crunch factor for the salad, so I tossed in a few toasted walnuts. I clipped some fresh basil, peppermint, spearmint, and a few chives and tossed them in the veggies. I can’t wait to include leaves from the strawberry mint plant in my next salad. I like to use a small pair of scissors to cut the fresh herbs into small strips, which prevents a lot of bruising on the tender leaves. I once again gently tossed the fruit, herbs, and veggies to ensure a bit of everything with each bite. What a visual and colorful bounty of beautiful deliciousness!

Crisp summer berry salad with homemade strawberry dressing. 

Finally, if you’re like me, a summer berry salad is not complete without a sweet dressing. So, I decided to create my own dressing. I hope you enjoy this sweet and savory dressing on your summer salads. It’s quick, easy, and takes only a few ingredients.

Ingredients:

1 cup organic chopped strawberries
3 tablespoons of organic extra virgin olive oil 
2 tablespoons of organic balsamic vinegar 
1 teaspoon organic strawberry jam (I prefer homemade)
1 teaspoon of organic agave
1 pinch of course black pepper

Process:

Wash, drain, and chop strawberries and add to the blender. Add the remaining ingredients and blend on medium-low until smooth. Pour into a container with a lid, and chill for about thirty minutes before drizzling over your salad.

How easy was that? I added this beautiful dressing to our summer salad last week, and it was a huge hit! With the addition of a few plant-based homemade croutons, the salad was complete and absolutely delicious.

Hint: Don’t neglect toasting the walnuts before adding them to the salad. It’s amazing how much the flavor is enhanced when toasting nuts of all kinds before adding them to your favorite recipes.

Finished product…a pint of delicious vegan strawberry salad dressing!

Garden tip: If your herbs are not as green, vibrant, or bushy as you would like for them to be, don’t neglect clipping and pruning your herbs. Clipping promotes new growth. Without regular clipping and pruning your herbs will become leggy and less bushy. 

For now, I’m off to enjoy a cup of camomile herbal tea and delve deep into the next chapter of my book!

God bless from the mountains of Kentucky. Stay safe, stay close to home, and stay positive during this time of uncertainty. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. I always enjoy reading your comments.

Organic Vegan Apple Tea Bread

Good Evening from the mountains of Kentucky! We’ve been blessed with a beautiful sunny day in Appalachia today! We had ideal weather this morning for working in the flower and herb gardens. There’s something special about spending a little time on a peaceful, cool morning outside that transports me back to my days of youth.

Beautiful June morning in the mountains of Kentucky.

While working in my herbs with the scent of the morning dew still lingering on the soil and in the air, I enjoyed recalling early mornings from many years ago. Oh, how I loved going out and setting on the porch in the early morning hours with my mom. Mommy, always enjoyed her weekend coffee on the front porch enjoying her beautiful flowers. I can still recall the wonderful aroma from her rich black coffee that filled the morning air. It was a warm and inviting time. Early mornings on the porch was a peaceful refuge then… and remains a peaceful place for me today.

I love the peaceful tranquility of the soothing sounds of the water from the creek flowing over the smooth time-worn stones. Early mornings on the porch is also a favorite time for me to catch up on a little reading, reflect on days gone by, plan for the days ahead, work on a writing project, and also a time to slow down and savor the beauty of our mountains.

img_5759
Our blooms attract an abundance of butterflies. I love to sit quietly and watch them. Our garden loves them too!
I love to watch the colorful butterflies enjoying the blooms of our flowers.

Today was one of those days, but it was also an exciting day. It was the first day that our local farmer’s market has opened since last summer. Typically we would’ve already made a few visits, but due to COVID-19 most businesses have experienced delayed openings, including our farmer’s market, which made opening day even more special. The crowd was at a minimum today, but the market wasn’t short on delicious produce, homemade sweet treats, savory items, fresh-baked bread, a variety of vegetables for planting, and even a local author. The crowd filtered in and out throughout the time my daughter and I browsed the market. It was a wonderful morning with some great people.

I was happy to see a few familiar faces and also happy to meet a few new people. Conversations were interesting as there were so many of the vendors who had similar interests as I do. After discussing natural fertilizer, methods of promoting growth in herb gardens, and our favorite teas, we left with a wide variety of wonderful items. My favorite was a packet of homemade Holy Basil Chai tea. I’ve already enjoyed a hot cup of the tea and a cup of it on ice, which was amazing as well. Her delicious homemade tea was delicious either way.

Something that I’ve noticed over the years is that I have come to enjoy the pleasures of a wide-variety of herbal teas. I love the spicy taste of red chai tea, the flavors of rich dandelion tea, relaxing lavender tea, and so many other flavors. I also find so much enjoyment in experimenting and creating different flavored teas from the herbs in my own herb garden. I find it satisfying to sew seeds or plant herbs, nurture them, delicately prune them, and especially taking time to smell their wonderful diverse fragrances. My daughter and I agree that evening tea is similar to evening coffee….they’re both great with a sweet treat!

Two of the latest additions to our little farm family.

As you know, I enjoy creating new recipes of all kinds. But, there’s something about summer that makes me want to bake sweet treats! The other day while I was enjoying the rich flavor of a vanilla chai tea, I began to think about how a delicious sweet bread would be great to eat with my tea. I thought about my Mamaw’s apple pies, and all their deliciousness. Soon I was thinking about a clean vegan apple bread, an apple tea bread, a sweet bread that would be a tasty addition to tea, or coffee! I mulled the idea over, for a few days, jotted down a few notes, and then began to experiment, which is one of my families favorites. They are my taste testers and enjoy sampling and giving their opinions about my new recipes! After a few tries, I finally found just the right amount and mix of ingredients to satisfy my palette, as well as my husband’s. This is one of his new all-time favorite breads! I am super anxious for you to try my Vegan Apple Tea Bread with your evening coffee or evening tea, and also happy to hear your comments.

Ingredients include:

2 cups all purpose whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamon 
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 cup of monk fruit to replace sugar
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1 cup of chopped walnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 pound of diced Granny Smith apples
1 cup unrefined coconut oil
Zest of one Meyer lemon
Juice of one Meyer lemon
3 eggs for non-vegan (I use Nice Egg an egg substitute)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
Drizzle of organic agave

For the drizzle you will need;
1/2 cup organic confectioner sugar
1/4 cup brewed Apple cinnamon tea cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Process:

Mix all of the dry ingredients and spices, add walnuts and peeled diced apples. Prepare the egg substitute and set aside. Cream brown sugar, monk fruit, coconut oil, vanilla and egg substitute in a separate bowl. Gently combine wet ingredients and dry ingredients and fold in remaining ingredients. Don’t worry if the mixture seems to be too thick, trust me it will bake just as it should! 

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a bundt pan with organic cooking spray. I like to use an ice cream scoop to scoop the mixture into the pan. Don’t press the mixture as the airy pockets between the scoops will make the bread even better than you can imagine. Drizzle the top of your bread dough with a light drizzle of organic agave, place on the bottom rack in the pre-heated oven, set the timer for 45-48 minutes, and get ready for a delicious aroma to fill your kitchen! While your bread is baking brew your apple cinnamon tea and allow it to cool. Once the tea is cooled add the sifted powdered sugar and vanilla to the tea and whisk. Place in the fridge to help it setup.

Test bread at 45 minutes with a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean remove from the oven and allow it to cool before turning it onto a plate. If the bread is still a bit wet, bake for three to five more minutes as oven temperatures will vary. Once the bread is baked and cooled, turn it out onto a plate and drizzle the glaze over the bread and allow the glaze to flow down the sides. Now, all that’s left to do is…slice your bread and enjoy!!!

Vegan Apple Tea Bread

I hope your family loves this Apple Tea Bread as much as my family does. Feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from my followers. For this evening, I’ll say so long and God bless from the beautiful mountains of Kentucky! Remember that faith overcomes fear! Happy baking!

I love the veggie blooms as much as the flower blooms!

Making Organic Vegetable Broth. Mountain Life…Is the Best Life.

Early June morning in the mountains.

I, like most everyone, have spent a lot of time at home since early March. I’m not going to complain about being at home. I love and believe the old cliche, there’s no place like home, especially during the spring, which is planting time for our family.

Our grandson learning to till while planting beans!

During this time of uncertainty I find myself reflecting a lot about days of my youth and also being even more thankful for my heritage. We grew up learning how to plant, harvest, and preserve. We were taught how to be frugal, make a dollar stretch, and also how to enjoy and reap the bounty that our beautiful mountains gift us with.

Our mid-May garden.

Growing up in a low socioeconomic area can be hard, but it can also be a blessing in disguise. Many years ago when the economy was unstable, I watched my family work a farm, harvest crops, reap the delicious bounty, preserve the goodness, and also sell their produce and goods.

Even during my adult years when the economy was thriving, I found it difficult to depart from our way of country living. My family has enjoyed continuing the tradition that was handed down to us from our parents and grandparents. We continue to work the land, plant a large garden, labor lovingly over the many rows of vegetables, enjoy the tasty bounty that our garden produces, and also preserve and put away for the winter and seasons to come. It was a good life the and is still a good way of living. It was and is a lot of sweat and hard work, but well worth it.

Hard work truly pays off! There’s nothing quite as tasty as fresh-picked green beans, freshly dug potatoes, and a crisp ear of golden yellow corn from the garden that you’ve worked, nurtured, and watched grow from a seed to a bounty of deliciousness. As for me and my tastebuds, a meal is not complete without a side of sliced ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, and green onions from our garden to make the dinner complete. Who needs meat? Not me! I love vegetables and fruits of all kind. But, for the meat-eaters in our family, we are blessed to keep a freezer of locally grass-fed beef readily available.

As a little girl, I remember watching my mom create savory dishes from leftovers, re-purpose leftover veggies into tasty soups, create awesome potato cakes from left over mashed potatoes, and also turn stale popcorn into delicious sweet caramel corn. During our quarantine time at home, I too, have learned a few new tricks that has made my life easier, our pantry fuller, and also our stomachs happier. I am excited to share a few ideas that I have tried and also to share a new recipe that I created for an unctuous and delicious apple tea bread. Get ready, that recipe’s coming tomorrow! For today, let’s talk about making homemade vegetable broth!

One of my favorite quarantine discoveries was learning how to make homemade vegetable broth! Let me add, delicious homemade vegetable broth. Have you ever heard the expression, waste not…want not? I grew up with that being repeated often, and have encouraged our children, and grandchildren to do the same.

Are you faced with the dilemma of what to do with leftover vegetables, vegetable peels, and scraps of veggies that’s not big enough to use? So, what do you do with all those vegetables and veggie scraps? We either feed ours to the chickens to ensure they are getting enough protein, or we add them to the compost pile. Either of the above is a great method of useful disposal, but I found myself in need of organic vegetable broth and wasn’t able to find it when many of the store shelves were emptying. So, I figured out a way to turn my veggies scraps into vegetable broth. I’m anxious for you to give this simple recipe a try!

Shopping during a pandemic can be a challenge.
Veggies being prepared for the vegetable broth.

Process: First, you will need to begin saving vegetable scraps such as celery stalks, leaves, herb stems, and bulbs. You can also save onion skins, peppers, herb leaves, leeks, onions, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, turnips, and etc. Basically, the only vegetable that you would not want to include in your broth is tomatoes due to the acidic level. You may not want to add hot peppers, unless you want your vegetable broth to be spicy. Also, do not add decaying or withered vegetables to your bag of scraps. Place your vegetable scraps in a gallon zip lock bag and keep it in the freezer until you have enough vegetables to process. I found that a full gallon bag of vegetable scraps made four full quarts of vegetable broth.

Once you have enough vegetable scraps, thaw them and add them to a stock pot of water, The water should cover the vegetables by at least three to four inches. I prefer to use filtered water or spring water rather than tap water. I used a large deep stock pot to make my broth. Add vegetables to pot, cover with water (water should be three to four inches above vegetables) allow the mixture to come to a rolling boil on medium heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, cover with a lid, reduce the heat to medium low, and allow it to gently simmer for at least an hour. Uncover and allow it to simmer fifteen more minutes on low heat. You may do a taste-test at this point. If your broth is more bland than you would like, you may add more herbs and allow to simmer for an additional ten to fifteen minutes. I added a pinch of salt to mine to add a little flavor, but this optional.

Adding spring water to the veggie scraps.

Allow the broth to cool. Once the vegetables have settled to the bottom of the pot and the broth is cooled, you may use a colander to strain the vegetable broth into a large pot or bowl. Once you’ve drained the vegetables well, they can be added to the compost pile or used for feed your fowl. Pour the broth into clean canning jars, seal with a lid, and place in the refrigerator. The broth keeps well for up to six weeks. The color of your broth will vary depending on the type and color veggies that you use. I used some red onions in my first batch of broth. It was delicious, but darker than the second batch in which I used pieces of yellow onions. Both broths tasted delicious! I think this recipe for homemade vegetable broth fits the description of, waste not want not, while also satisfying saving money, and reducing waste.

Delicious homemade organic vegetable broth!

With so much going on in our world today, from riots, protesting, people dying from COVID-19, and many losing their jobs, life can feel very unsettling. Think about it, life as we know it has literally been turned upside down. Social distancing has created a sad year for our seniors from high-school to college. Prom dresses that were carefully chosen remain in their zippered bags, and services inside the church looks much different than before. Even the process of laying loved ones to rest changed. Through it all, We are still blessed! We had the opportunity to attend church via the zoom app until we were once again able to attend church services. We had food for our family prepared from food we preserved in recent years. We’ve had time to complete some home improvement projects, while also planting our garden. I’ve also been able to teach my courses from home.

During this crazy time, I decided that life does not have to be a doom and gloom situation amidst this horrible pandemic. Also, instead of complaining and worrying, I was determined that I would search for the positive and quit watching the number of people affected by the virus, quit worrying about the economy, and watching the news so much. I decided it was time to set social media aside and dust off that book that I’ve had shelved for too long. I made time to work and improve my herb garden, expand our vegetable garden, do some deep down spring cleaning, enjoy my family, and also make sure to take time to be thankful for the wonderful things that we’re blessed with, and share our blessings with neighbors and friends. But, most of all…it was time to quit living in fear, but time to live and enjoy life!

A glimpse at my herb garden!

It feels good to be posting again. I am pumped about sharing my Apple Tea Bread recipe with you tomorrow. In upcoming posts I’ll share my crouton recipe, new pickle recipe, a ew strawberry vinaigrette dressing, and a garden tip or two. Through it all, we’ll carry on and be thankful for our blessings, health, and family…all the while finding new ways to recreate and re-purpose wonderful dishes from leftovers and what once would have gone straight to the compost pile.

Feel free to leave feedback or ask a question. New followers are welcome. I love to share ideas of organic clean eating, vegan recipes, whole food plant based ideas, and also some vegetarian recipes. I also love to share our story from the mountains of Kentucky, the mountains we call home. God bless and happy Friday.

I love to take a walk in the morning after it rains. God’s beauty is everywhere!

 

Making Memories in the Mountains…

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! We’ve had a couple of beautiful fall-like days in Appalachia. It almost feels like fall with temperatures in the upper seventies! I’m not complaining, this is perfect weather for outdoor activities, porch sitting, and for picking and canning beans.

Fourteen quarts of green beans picked and canned this morning!

I enjoyed the morning yesterday with our oldest granddaughter working up beans that we had picked from the garden. It was a memorable morning for both of us. We enjoyed small talk, reflecting on different things going on our lives, sharing fun-filled memories, and also our dreams and some of our future plans. I love days like this. It reminds me of my days as a young girl sitting on the front porch of my mamaw’s little grocery store. We would string green beans to hang dry for shuck beans, or as some prefer to call them, leather britches. We also sat countless hours breaking freshly picked beans for canning. These were experiences that helped mold me into who I am today and memories that I will forever cherish.

Rows of vining beans on fence from our garden last year.

As we sat working up the beans yesterday, i couldn’t help but allow my mind to drift back to a much simpler time…a time when days seemed to be forever long, summer vacations were the best, hard work was appreciated, porch sitting was welcomed, and families actually talked to each other… face to face! Those were the days prior to personal technology (AKA cell phones) and also days that make me long for those simpler times! I recall sitting for hours on the old bus seat or wooden ladder-back chairs helping my mamaw work up her beans. I never remember saying I was bored or complaining about helping. I enjoyed helping and also working the produce from our garden, even as a kid.

I loved spending time with my mamaw, and also hearing the stories of her youth, and when her kids were growing up. She would talk about the importance of putting away/canning enough food for winter and for what she called, hard-times.

I also thought about the days we spent on our back porch with our mom working in freshly picked cabbage. She would divide the big heads of white cabbage and place a half in a large bowl for me to chop. I loved having the job of chopping cabbage with the sterilized open ring of the empty cream can, and then gradually graduating to using a grater, only after she was sure I wouldn’t lose a knuckle.

I worked along side my mom as she would fill the sterilized jars with beautiful white shredded cabbage to be pickled into delicious sour kraut. We enjoyed the fresh kraut immensely with soup beans, AkA pinto beans. The heat from working outside didn’t bother us or deter us from our mission whether it was work or play. We were not accustomed to air conditioning and often went outside to seek refuge from the heat inside our house. Some of my fondest memories of summer and summer vacation are playing outside, playing hide and seek in our papaw’s corn field, making club houses in the barn, and playing in the creek. Regardless the heat index or what the thermometer read, we enjoyed playing and having fun outside!

Our youngest grandson running through the rows of young corn.

I can also remember as a kid pondering on the words that I had heard my mom and both grandparents speak of. Hard-times, I wondered what they were, when they would arrive, and why would canning hundreds of jars of beans, cabbage, and corn help us when hard-times arrived. I thought canning, drying, and preserving was just something that everyone did, what we were supposed to do.

I didn’t realize that many times in my youth we were actually living in those hard-times that my mamaw and papaw spoke about. We always had plenty to eat, a full root cellar or pantry of canned goods, which included fried apples, peaches, beans, corn, jams, apple butter and more. Today, I am thankful that I learned from my mom and grandparents how to garden, can, preserve, and how to plan for and also to survive and make it through real-life hard-times.

I recall in our youth, and in our own children’s youth relying on our pantry of dried beans, canned beans, baskets of potatoes we dug from our garden, corn from the freezer, and many other goodies we put away. I learned early on in our marriage that when the primary source of income comes from coal mining, pink slips and lay offs were inevitable. Unfortunately, we also learned that unemployment insurance barely met the bills. This was when I truly learned that having a well-stocked pantry of preserved and canned food helped families to survive those real-life hard-times.

Our garden early in early spring.

But, more than anything, I learned from my mom, grandparents, and experience that God will always provide, and He honors hard work. I’ve also learned that planting and working the garden as a family creates many cherished memories, provides nourishing healthy food for our entire family, supplements the weekly grocery bill, and also ensures that an Appalachian tradition of gardening and preserving is still handed down from generation to generation and remains a way of life.

Our oldest grandson hoeing young tomatoes in late spring.

I hope you have enjoyed my Appalachian memory and a small part of my heritage. Feel free to leave feedback. I enjoy hearing from my readers. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Moments in Time…

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope you’re having a wonderful summer wherever you may be. Summer time should be a time for relaxation, reading, and also for road trip adventures! I feel inspired to share an adventure that my sister and I encountered several years ago. Grab yourself a cup of coffee or a cold beverage and relax while you read about a moment in time that forever changed my life.

Morning in the mountains of Kentucky!

First, let me say that I am a firm believer that the Lord places people in our lives when we need them the most. I like to refer to them as divine appointments. Just like the divine appointment my sister and I encountered while we were on our weekend get away. I’m excited to share our unforgettable weekend with you!

Summer vacation had arrived, and it was truly a much needed one for both my sister and myself. At the time I was an elementary school teacher who had been under a tremendous amount of stress due to state tests, overcrowded classrooms, and stress from dealing with the 157 students that passed through my classroom on a daily basis! My sister also needed a break as much as I did for other reasons…so, we did what any sisters would do! We hit the road for a weekend trip for just the two of us.

After much deliberation, we decided that we would spend the weekend at Mammoth Cave National Park. We enjoyed spending time at Gun Town Mountain, an old western town that required us to ride a sky lift up the mountain, which was a blast, especially considering that my sister is afraid of heights. We enjoyed many of the sights in Cave City, which consisted of Dinosaur World, nature walks on beautiful trails, museums, and a fun house. I was super excited to stop at a local tourist attraction called, Big Mike’s Rock Shop. I have been an avid rock collector for many years and was looking forward to adding to my collection. Of all of the gift shops we browsed, this was my favorite shop.

Gun Town Mountain

The store was buzzing with tourists, small talk, and anxious kids awaiting an arrow head or a different rare stone. After browsing the many shelves of different stones I carefully selected my treasures. The checkout line was a bit crowded, but we finally made our purchases and exited the store.

Big Mike’s Rock Shop

The remainder of our evening consisted of more shopping, browsing, scenic walks, and dinner, then we returned to our room to relax our tired feet. While I enjoyed a cup of coffee and browsing my small bags of treasures, I discovered my purchase from the rock shop was missing.

After searching our room and the Jeep, we found the receipt but the bag was no where to be found. I hoped that maybe I had left them at the shop and not the restaurant. We had planned to leave the next morning after breakfast, but decided to stop by the rock shop first. I decided if the bag of rocks from yesterday hadn’t been left behind, I would just purchase more rocks!

Things got really interesting upon entering the rock shop! The same lady who was behind the counter the day before was working the register again, and was bold in praising the Lord as we entered the small crowded shop. We waited anxiously in line to speak with her. We slowly made our way to the counter with several people lined up behind us anxious to checkout and leave with their newfound treasures. I explained my situation to the kind lady. I was eager to learn the whereabouts of the bag of stones that I had so carefully selected the day before.

As she retrieved my bag of stones from beneath the counter she asked us if we were Christians. After answering her she explained with tears in her eyes that she had felt the need to pray for my sister and I the day before. But she wasn’t sure how to approach us or how we would perceive her request to pray for us. She also explained how she questioned her feelings yesterday evening after we had left. She asked the Lord for a sign. She said she prayed we would come back to the shop. If we returned, it would prove to her that it had been meant for her to pray for us. She also said she had no idea that the rocks that had been left behind were mine.

With tears in our eyes we assured her that we would be happy for her to pray for us. Quickly she asked for my hand and began praying for me. She gave me prophetic words of wisdom and handed me a small smooth stone that she told me to carry with me. She added that when I felt alone, unsure of a situation, or had a need to rub the smooth prayer stone and remember the words she spoke. She said it would also remind me that the Lord heard my prayers. She did the same for my sister, only with different prophetic words.

I have recalled that day in the rock shop many times since then. I have also wondered what would have happened if I hadn’t gone back to the small shop, and also been very thankful that I did. As I stated earlier, I am a firm believer that God uses people in the places and at the time that we need them the most to lift us up, encourage, and also to pray for us. My prayer stone is never far from me as is the memories of the elderly lady who gave me the stone and words of wisdom that helped me in a very difficult time in both my life and my sisters’ life.

I hope my encounter with one of God’s divine appointments brings you encouragement and inspires you to believe, or to be that person that helps someone else in their time of need. Will you be the voice in the wilderness that encourages others?

I hope you enjoyed my special moment in time. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky! Feel free to leave comments…your feedback is always welcome!

Rainy Days in the Mountains…

Happy Independence weekend from the mountains of Kentucky! The rainy season has made its way to our small corner of the world and continues to linger over the mountains. Without a doubt this is the rainiest spring and summer that I can remember. I love an occasional slow summer rain, frogs peeping from the trees, and the peace and tranquility of reading and relaxing with a hot cup of coffee while the rain falls softly. However, too much rain for a farmer means a lot of extra work, some disappointments, and making changes when necessary.

Rain clouds gathering over the mountains…

With all the rain also comes lots of weeds in the garden that have to be hoed, tilled, and pulled. We’ve definitely had our fair share of weeds this summer but limited dry time to remove them. All hands were on deck this week as we used the one evening without rain to till our corn, and hoe between and around all the veggies. Talk about a great workout for the upper body and a great workout for the garden. It looked renewed and revived after the working was complete. The rain has actually proven to be a blessing for our cucumbers, squash, and zucchini.

Squash is one our favorite summer veggies!

We’ve been able to pick an abundance of zucchini, squash and cucumbers between the random showers of rain. We’re not complaining…we’ve enjoyed baked, fried, and sautéed zucchini and squash, and delicious vegan zucchini bread. Eating what we’ve grown brings a sense of completion, but sharing the fruits of our labor with neighbors, friends, and family is one of the most satisfying and fulfilling labors a farmer can experience.

Despite the weather and rescuing and reviving and re-staking our forty-five tomato plants that were riddled due to high winds and heavy rains…our tomato plants are still standing with lots of green tomatoes and some that are slowly ripening. Our entire family loves tomatoes ripe or fried green! Fried green tomatoes is a dish that never gets old! Its also healthy, clean, and vegan!

I was also able to check an item off of my ever-growing to do list this week, which always makes me happy! However, happy does not quite describe the emotion I felt as I clicked send on the email containing the attachment of the final revisions and edits of edition II of the textbook that I wrote. It has been long tiring journey, but a rewarding one that I’m glad I embarked on! I’m super excited to teach with and for my students to use the new textbook in the fall!

Summer II classes began Wednesday, which means the fall term is only a few weeks away and also lots of early morning grading and planning. I fully intend to make time for my favorite early morning walks where I love to take pictures capturing the beauty of our mountains. I also look forward to reading on the porch for a few more weeks before the fall term begins when things get a bit crazy…but it’s a good kind of crazy!

Random picture I took on an early morning walk after the rain!

I’ve also enjoyed time in the kitchen this week and working to perfect my vegan lemon bread recipe. No worries…that tasty recipe is coming soon! I must say it is delicious, but I want to try one more tweak before posting the recipe! I’m loving the use of tofu in vegan recipes and am anxious to share new ideas and recipes with you soon.

My first attempt at clean vegan lemon bread!

Despite all of the rain…it’s been a blessed week. Feel free to follow my blog and also leave comments. I enjoy hearing from each of you. God bless for now from the mountains of Kentucky!

A Walk Through the Garden…

Good evening from the mountains of Kentucky. What a beautiful morning we were blessed with today! Thunderstorms appeared this evening, but has since passed and the sky is clearing! Hopefully, we’ll be blessed with more sunshine in the days ahead. It’s been a busy day of editing, planning, and creating the course shell for the upcoming class that I’m teaching this summer. The day also consisted of finding an unexpected treasure…in an unexpected place. The best kind of treasures!

This crane has become a regular visitor on our farm.

First, let me say that what I consider a treasure…others might consider to just be an object or even still, junk. So what constitutes a treasure to me? An unexpected visitor in the garden like the crane pictured above who makes regular visits to our small farm. Some tribes of Native Americans believed that a crane visiting is a sign of a blessing and good fortune for those it chooses to visit. I also enjoy the silent visit of the deer standing cautiously in the field, or even lingering in the safety of the tree lines. As long as they stay away from the garden…I enjoy their random visits.

An unexpected visitor.

I also find pleasure in finding unusual rocks or an occasional arrow head. Finding an arrow head fills me with wonders and feeling of being a part of another day or era of time, if only in my thoughts. I like to whisper a quiet thank you for the discovery. Finding arrow heads allows me to make a small connection to my Cherokee ancestors. And then… there’s simple objects like the one that I found this morning. Although, I don’t think they’re really that simple. I believe every little unexpected treasure that I find has a story of its own.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bent to pick ripe cucumbers from their vines this year or how many times we’ve hoed between the plants. However today just on a casual stroll in the garden an unusual object caught my attention. How had I missed this mysterious object? Was this a hidden treasure? There it was awaiting me…half-buried in the soil among the cucumber vines. I carefully unearthed the object to discover some sort of an old and unusual key. A skeleton key…maybe.

I carefully removed the mud left behind from the rain to discover my suspicions were correct, it was a very old key. I had found an antique skeleton key! My imagination soared and questions whirled through my mind. What did this old key once unlock? Who had originally owned the old key? I carefully tucked the key in my pocket and finished my stroll through the garden with my imagination running rapid. Words flowed through my thoughts. I felt the words of a poem stirring deep within my being. I couldn’t wait to add this newly inspired poem to the anthology that I am working on.

What a beautiful treasure!

I shared the small treasure with my husband and our grandson. Of course our grandson was as intrigued as I was, my husband’s curiosity was intrigued as well, just not as much as ours. Our grandson has a vivid imagination and also loves to discover hidden treasures, and tell stories… much like his nanny.

It was an eventful day indeed. I also placed our first batch of dried herbs of the season in labeled clear glass jars. Dried herbs are great for the winter season when fresh herbs may not be available. They also make a great addition to dishes while they’re cooking. Fresh herbs are better added during the last minutes of cooking or even after the dish is complete. I was also excited to fill white envelopes with seeds saved from the dried blooms of basil, lavender and chives! Saving seeds ensures that future herb plants are not genetically altered or modified like many that are unknowingly purchased, but rather from organically grown plants that we nurture from the seed to the harvest.

Dried herbs ready for cooking!

I hope you’ve enjoyed stopping by and visiting our small corner of the world. Feel free to follow or leave feedback. I enjoy reading comments from all of my readers. I also look forward to sharing my recipe for vegan lemon bread that is coming soon. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Sunday Morning in the Mountains…

I love quiet Sunday mornings in the mountains. I like to refer to them as “my me time.” I enjoy early morning coffee on the porch, listening to the chickens crow their good mornings crows to all, and watching daylight break through the mountains. Quiet mornings like this are also a perfect time to catch up on a little reading, have devotion, prayer time, and to soak up the wonderful atmosphere in our little corner of the world…deep in the mountains of Kentucky.

I love mornings in the mountains…

The simplicity of living in the mountains, along with good role models still inspires me even today! The mountains today are just as rich and lush as they were in the days of our youth. My husband and I live within three miles of where we both grew up. Some might find this boring, dull, or bleak…but we’ve found it to be a place that we loved raising our children and now watching our grandchildren grow and appreciate the mountains as much as we do. Visiting other places is always a fun learning experience and often a fun adventure, but returning home is always welcomed. 

With the cool of the morning still lingering in the air and the dew still beaded on the grass, the garden is beckoning me to come and take a stroll. I value this time as the quiet steps in the rich soil between the rows of beautiful vegetables allows me to reflect on memories of the past, meditate on the blessings of today, and plan for tomorrow. This morning in particular I felt a strong connection to my past as I thought of my Papaw walking along the rows of his garden in the early morning hours. As a child I wondered why he enjoyed this morning stroll so much. I now know. It’s a time to draw strength, relax, and soak up all that the land has to offer, enjoy time in deep thought, reflect, and relax and unwind. The lonesome call of a dove allows my thoughts to return to the present time. Wiping a tear from my cheek…I continue my stroll through the garden enjoying the progress of our labor.

Enjoying a stroll through the veggies.

As I stroll between the broccoli and squash a beautiful vibrant yellow color catches my eye. With a smile on my face I bend to pick our first summer squash of the season. With a closer examination, I find several squash and also some rich green zucchini…ready for the picking. I love this time of year as the fresh veggies are always great for Sunday morning breakfasts. 

First squash and zucchini of the season…yummy!

Today, our veggies will allow me to prepare a veggie tofu omelet for myself and it’s eggs and sausage as usual for my husband, who supports my love for veggies and a vegan diet but who also still loves his portion of meat along side the veggies. We share a mutual respect for each other’s food preferences. With that in mind, God bless and happy Father’s Day from the Mountains of Kentucky! I’m off to prepare Sunday breakfast. Thank you for stopping by my little corner of the world. Feedback is always welcomed! I’ll be posting a new and tasty treat in upcoming days. God bless…

Breathing in Life

With each breath we take we experience a grand opportunity. We are given the grand opportunity to experience life to the fullest. It’s up to us whether we allow negative circumstances to impede and rob of us of our joy, zeal for happiness, creativity, faith, our day at hand, and our days ahead. We have the choice to either get up and live…or sit idle and watch life pass us by.

After receiving a less than desirable report from my doctor several years ago I decided that I had let enough time pass me by. I was tired of sitting idle on the outskirts of life and literally watching it pass me by. I was tired of feeling tired all of the time, lacking energy, waking with aching bones, tired of being overweight, and tired of taking medications that could have serious side-effects.  I wanted to feel good and be healthy. I wanted to live, and I wanted to live life to its fullest.

I began my journey to live a healthier life, a more simple life, a clean life of eating more abundantly from the earth than consuming man-made processed foods. I became more dedicated to myself, my well-being, my faith, and also to my future through making better choices about what I consumed, relaxing more, exercising more, and removing myself from negative situations and negative people. Slowly, one step at a time, one day at a time…my life began to turn around. The weight began to dissipate, my energy level increased, my outlook on life became more positive, my vitality began to emerge from a place where it had lurked deep in the mires of captivity within myself for far too long.

God's beautiful morning

God’s beauty abounds in the mountains of Kentucky.

Fast forward eight years and I am now 77 pounds lighter and only ten pounds from my goal weight. I am actually wearing sizes and styles of clothes that I never thought I would wear again. I no longer shop in the plus size clothing department. My stamina has returned to an amazing level of satisfaction, I am no longer taking diabetic medication, one less cholesterol pill, and I no longer take stomach medicine. I am sleeping better at night, rising earlier in the morning with more energy.  I am enjoying working longer hours in our vegetable garden, and also enjoying every minute of life to the fullest.

With this zest for life also came challenges, both negative and positive. Our world was forever changed by the horrifying word, cancer. My husband was diagnosed with stage two cancer one year ago this month. However, God is good and His grace is abundant. My husband returned to the doctor for a six month check up just last week and was given a clean bill of health. It was a journey…a rough and scary journey along the way, but a journey that was also filled with many life lessons. We were reminded to take each day one day at a time, breath deeply, don’t look back and say what if, remain positive, seek God’s guidance in all things and all decisions, and just keep walking and breathing life’s precious joys both big and small.

early mornings

Life is a journey…

On a more positive note, just before my husband received his diagnosis, I signed a contract to write a text-book for two courses that I teach. It was a scary moment to sign the contract stating that I could have the nearly four page text written within the year, but I decided that I would not allow this opportunity to pass me by. With my signed contract also came excitement, dreams, fears, joys, worries, and rigorous deadlines. I wrote with a fire and passion about what I wanted to teach my students…I was motivated! Writing the textbook was also a journey. A journey of early mornings, late nights, revisions, proofreading, researching, writing, praying, re-writing, praying some more, decisions, predictions, and many long hours sitting at my desk with a blank page opened on the computer awaiting to be filled with inspiring research-based information of how to teach reading and language arts. One day at a time, one page at a time the pages begin to fill and the final submission was emailed to the editor only a couple of weeks ago. I am excited to receive my copies in upcoming weeks, but also excited to have time to blog again!!

Today, I find myself reflecting on the past with gratitude. I am thankful for my husband’s health, the incredible opportunity and experience of writing a textbook that I can use to guide and teach my students the process of teaching reading and writing as I once taught it with passion as an elementary teacher. I am thankful for the bountiful garden that He has blessed us with, our family and our health, and the joys of life. I am thankful for the breath that I take. I know that each breath I inhale is an opportunity to experience the wonderful joys of living another day on God’s precious earth simple and clean, yet full of passion and daily opportunities that I want to cease. Don’t let time pass you by without getting up and living. Life is compared to a vapor on water…it passes very quickly.

Remember, slow down and take the time to enjoy the small things in life, vibrant blooming flowers, majestic oceans, serene sunsets, fabulous sunrises, and enjoy and cherish moments with family. Engulf yourself with positive thoughts and surround yourself with positive people. Embrace opportunities to improve yourself, your health, your peace of mind, and above all your spiritual self.

the journey begins

Enjoy a sunset…

Feel free to leave comments. Also, check back in upcoming days. I will be posting a delicious acorn squash taco salad very soon that I am sure you will love!

rosestwo

Take time to smell the roses…

 

 

Living in the Appalachian Mountains

Courtesy of Jonathan Bowling

Elk captured on our son, Jonathan Bowling’s, trail camera behind our house. @copyright Healthier Me Simple and Clean.

Many people believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have been overheard many times making this statement when referring to the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. I am also a believer that not only is beauty found within the eye of the beholder, but also that success lies within the desire of the believer.

Recently I read an article about life in the Appalachian Mountains that lingered in my thoughts, with a mix of emotions hovering over and within me. Life in Appalachia was portrayed with gloom and despair, thus leaving the reader with a feeling of hopelessness. The article implied that people who were born into poverty didn’t have a choice to live otherwise. The picture that was painted was a stereotypical view of Appalachia that many have and continue to exploit to gain popularity whether it be an audience for their blog, for social media publicity, money, or their name in lights. What the author of this very derogatory article neglected to divulge were the joys of growing up in the Appalachian Mountains.

Over the years authors, filmmakers, and actors in Hollywood have profited through exploitation of Appalachia choosing to focus on what small towns “don’t” have. Films have been made with careful selection of the poorest part of towns carefully and intentionally divulging only dilapidated buildings, rather than new structures, or renovated buildings that houses independent thriving businesses. Many times the focus is often on poor housing in small towns rather than homes that proudly stand boasting beautiful manicured lawns, hardy vegetable gardens, luscious rolling green mountains, blooming flowers, and carefully trimmed hedges and trees. When the media chooses to focus on the negative aspects, or poverty, which by the way exists in all towns whether they’re large or small…the reader is left with a gloomy feeling of sorrow, despair and almost a feeling of doom.

Appalachian people are often-times portrayed as being illiterate, undereducated, and ignorant people who are less fortunate than those living elsewhere. Manchester, located in Clay County, is a small town in Appalachia where I grew up, raised my family, and still reside today has been recently been accused of being one of the hardest places to grow up in the United States, as well as being a community where citizens are expected to have a shorter lifespan than those living elsewhere. I find both of these statements to be misleading, offensive, and also stereotypical. I find myself smiling when I reflect on my childhood. I don’t recall life being a hardship, doom, gloomy, unhappy time in my life. Today, I enjoy sharing my memories of growing up in Kentucky through stories, both oral and written.

My memories are filled with fun escapades of playing outside, working in the garden, helping can fruits and vegetables, listening to countless stories told to me by my grandparents, afternoons sitting in the shade with family just enjoying the serenity of the mountains, playing with cousins, enjoying wonderful cooked meals from the vegetables that we raised, and learning wonderful skills from my mother and grandmother. We didn’t live within city limits, and still do not. We were raised in a rural community that enjoyed farming. My grandparents had a small store that was often referred to as the heart of our little community. Many of my family members still reside in this same neighborhood. I was raised to know that I had choices, and also to believe that I could be anything that I wanted to be. I was encouraged to always try to better myself by reading, learning, working hard, and also by believing in myself.

I was raised in one of the poorest parts of the state of Kentucky. What? We grew up poor! No one told me that! I wasn’t aware that we grew up in a poverty-stricken area. No, again, I was raised to dream and dream big! I could be anything that I wanted to be. I could be a mother, I could be a Christian, I could be a teacher, I could be an author, I could be whatever I chose to be! I was taught good moral values, about Jesus, how to work the land to feed my family, how to always believe in myself, to be proud of my heritage, to have a plan for my future, and if I got knocked down…get back up!  Instead of profiting from negative doom, gloom, and despair…I prefer to divulge the wonders of the Appalachian Mountains, the joys, the beauty, the opportunities, growth, success, and the wonderful mountains that I am proud to call home.

Again, I was never told that we were poor, or that we lived in an impoverished area, and never told that I couldn’t better myself. As a public school teacher, I always passed this same advice to my students. I always encouraged my students year after year that they could be anything that they wanted to be, to reach for the stars, to believe in themselves as I too believed in them. Today, as a college professor, I am still relaying that same positive message.

Many might say that small Appalachian towns have nothing to offer. I disagree. So, what does our small county of Clay have to offer? The beauty of the mountains, rich farm soil, beautiful pastures for livestock to graze, farm fresh eggs, distinguished schools, top-rated teachers, private Christian schools, a multitude of welcoming churches, book clubs, a well stocked public library, quilting clubs, pumpkin patches, ATV rides, elk hunts, successful local authors, artists, parks, employment at the federal prison, kayaking, fishing, local shopping, home cooked meals at locally owned restaurants, farmers’ markets, Main Street markets, grass-fed beef, fresh venison, beautiful walking trails, beautiful homes, friendly people, smiles, and a welcoming environment. One valuable opportunity that goes unmentioned in many articles about our small town of Manchester is the opportunity to complete a college degree at Eastern Kentucky University, which is located within city limits. These are only a few things that residents and visitors have to enjoy. Again, beauty lies within the eye of the beholder, happiness with the heart of the dreamer, and success within the heart and desire of the believer.

I have been asked many times over the years why I haven’t moved…but my answer is and will always remain the same…”I can’t imagine growing up or living anywhere else than in the beautiful Kentucky mountains. As the title of my first book states, Kentucky is…The Mountains I Call Home.”

book 1