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.

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!