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.

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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!

 

Three Bean Plant Based Taco Soup

Three bean taco plant based soup!

This soup quickly became a family favorite! I love Mexican food as does most of my family. We really just enjoy soup of all kinds! I like quick dishes that’s easy to prepare all in one pot. Plus, I love having soup as leftovers. If there is soup left, which is a big if, and we don’t eat it the next day, I freeze it in individual servings. It freezes well, heats up well, and tastes just as good!

The ingredients for this soup include;

  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 small yellow or orange pepper
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 cups of diced portabella mushrooms
  • 1/2 pack of meatless crumbles of choice
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • spices include; cumin, black pepper, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, chili powder, and garlic powder (I prefer organic spices) Season to taste.
  • 1 can of rinsed organic black beans (I like the spicy black beans.)
  • 1 can of rinsed organic chili beans
  • 1 can of choice of rinsed organic beans (I prefer tri blend organic.)
  • 1 can of rinsed organic whole kernel corn or fresh corn
  • 2 cups of organic tomato juice (I use juice that I preserve, but works well with organic canned tomato juice.)
  • 1 can of no salt added diced tomatoes or about two cups of fresh tomatoes diced.
  • 1/2 box of organic vegetable broth (you may prefer more or less broth)

Process:
In large stock pot (I prefer a ceramic lined cast iron pot) pour enough vegetable stock to cover the bottom of the pot and heat to a warm temperature. The broth replaces the oil. Add diced onion, peppers, and mushrooms and sautee until tender in the broth. Add meatless crumbles. You may have to add a little vegetable stock as the mushrooms will soak up some of the broth. Stir and add spices to suit your own taste. Once the meatless crumbles have had time to heat begin draining and rinsing the cans of beans and corn one can at a time while stirring over low heat. Add diced tomatoes, vegetable stock, and tomato paste. Heat to a low soft boil, and then reduce heat to simmer. Taste the soup and add spices as desired. I like to add some of the spices while the onions, peppers, and mushrooms are simmering and then add more spices while the soup is simmering. Simmer covered for thirty minutes on low. Your plant based three bean taco soup is ready to serve! I love to add nutritional yeast to my bowl as it adds a bit of a cheese flavor and it adds to the deliciousness of the soup, while also being very healthy for you. This is an oil free, salt free, and dairy free soup! But, it’s a soup that is filled with flavor!

I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does. I love the taste, the ease of preparing, and also that the entire soup can be made in one pot, vegan, and healthy!

This soup doesn’t have any oil, which really adds to the flavor and the overall health benefits. You can experiment with the seasonings and add your own spices to suit your taste. Feel free to comment as I love to hear from my readers. For now, from the mountains of Kentucky take care and God bless!

 

 

 

 

Keeping All of Those Veggies Fresh!

It’s been quite some time since I last posted. I’ve been one busy professor, wife, grandmother, mother, etc. and all of the other hats that I wear. My apologies to my readers for neglecting you. However, I am back with good news! Yes, that’s right some good news. We can all use good news and a fresh break away from all of the negativity that floods our news, news feeds, and often our conversations. I like to be an uplifting and positive person who spreads cheer, hope, love, and joy as much as possible. So, today I am going to share something with you that sure brought a smile to my face, a little relaxation on my grocery budget, and also hope for all of you that love a plant-based diet and have a vast amount of veggies in your fridge!

For the majority of my adult life I have always been frustrated at how quickly the veggies in the refrigerator go bad. I was tired of throwing away peppers that had suddenly developed soft places, cucumbers that became soft and mushy, and mushrooms that were slimy. Yes, that’s right they get slimy. You know they do. All of this is especially true if you buy organic fruit and vegetables. Why, you may ask. It’s simple reasoning actually when you think about it. Organic produce hasn’t been genetically modified and are not full of unnatural preservatives. I did a little test a couple of months ago. I purchased a couple of non-organic bell peppers, which I must say was a hard thing for me to do, as I always use homegrown veggies, or organic vegetables from the grocery in off seasons. I also bought a couple organic bell peppers. I placed them both in the same vegetable bin and discovered that the organic peppers did not have the same shelf-life that the non-organic peppers had. As a matter of fact, the non-organic pepper is still in my vegetable drawer after three weeks and is still firm. Now, that was an eye opener. My analysis of the experiment is as follows; non-organic veggies last longer due to preservatives and being genetically modified, whereas organic veggies have a true shelf life because they are in their natural state, and haven’t been preserved in some manner. I also am a firm believer that organic produce is healthier and always tastes better. That’s my spill on organic produce. Now for the big reveal…

I have always been guilty of washing and drying my produce when I came home from the grocery store, and then proudly putting them in their appropriate bins in the fridge. They looked colorful and the bin was full with a lot of choices. However, the veggies just didn’t last very long. It was a struggle to either dehydrate, make stock, or try to use the veggies to prevent from throwing them away or feeding them to our farm animals. Now for the good news! What I discovered was this; when I bring produce home, I did not and I repeat, DID NOT wash it, but simply wrapped the beautiful veggies in a good quality white paper towel, the veggies had a longer fridge life! I prefer Viva paper towels as they are thicker and more absorbent.

The paper towel absorbs moisture that often collects on the produce and prevents it from spoiling as quickly. For those organic mushrooms that were always a chore to keep and or use before they went bad, I now simply line the paper bowl they come in, or use a natural basket with a white paper towel, empty the mushrooms in the container, and then cover them with another paper towel. It’s hard to believe, but I have kept organically grown mushrooms for up to three weeks this way. Now, that’s a big deal as the organic mushrooms never seemed to have a long shelf life and I was stopping several times during the week to buy more. Now, they stay dry, firm, and they don’t get slimy in a few days. They are also still fresh and delicious. Now, that is a bargain money saving tip or what?

Preparing to roll these beautiful baby cucumbers in white paper towel.

I house carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower the same way that I store my mushrooms. My vegetable drawer is not as colorful as it once was, but instead filled with odd shapes of vegetables wrapped in white paper towels. But, I know that two weeks after I put cucumbers away with each being individually wrapped, they’re still fresh and crisp!

I individually wrap each cucumber as I roll them into one big bundle. This prevents the cucumbers from touching and also ensures that the paper towels absorb the moisture from each cucumber. 

I love unwrapping vegetables and feeling the firmness of their skin, the freshness of their smell, and holding crisp firm veggies in my hands. I also love the freshness of vegetables while I am preparing them. The taste of the vegetables is still fantastic and their integrity is still top quality. One more advantage about this fabulous discovery is that the vegetable drawer remains dry and requires much less cleaning as opposed to just placing the veggies in the drawer. I know you know what I’m talking about. That veggie drawer can get nasty, but not with this really simple trick. It only takes a few minutes out of your time when putting your groceries away. It will save you a small bundle on your groceries at the register and allow you to have quality vegetables available for all of those wonderful plant-based recipes that you love cooking! Oh, I didn’t mention how delicious, fresh, and crisp that salads are after wrapping the veggies!

I hope you enjoy this wonderful bit of information and find it as useful as I did! Feel free to follow my blog, leave feedback, or comments. I look forward to posting an upcoming new favorite go to plant based soup that I am totally loving right now! I am excited for you to try my recipe for Three Bean Mexican Soup! For now, God bless, happy eating, and remember to always eat fresh and organic when possible. Until the next post God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Nanny’s Clean Vegan Potato Soup

My walking path this morning. The beautiful fall foliage surrounds us in the mountains of Kentucky!

It’s been a while since I last posted. Life on campus get’s really hectic during the fall semester, but it’s a hectic time that I enjoy. I also truly enjoy walking in the crisp fall air. As I walked this morning I was reminded just how beautiful the mountains of Kentucky are this time of year. There’s no need to travel far to look at the fall foliage as the foliage is all around us. The trees are alive with brilliant colors that remind me of my youth and my grandmother’s patchwork quilts.

With a chill stinging my cheeks, and leaves swirling through the air, memories flooded my being as did the craving for rich hot coffee, spicy pumpkin bread, and warm savory potato soup. My thoughts drifted to the chilly fall days of my youth in the mountains. A faint smell of the smoke rising from the neighbor’s chimney enticed me and saddened me as I recalled the smell of coal and wood burning in fireplaces and heating stoves that filled the evening air when I was a child. How I loved that smell. It reminded me I was home, safe, warm, and with a family that loved me. I loved the simple days of my youth. The days seemed much longer than they do today, neighbors were more than just acquaintances, they were friends that could depend on each other, that visited each other, and that knew each other. It was a time when supper was enjoyed by the entire family, together at the dinner table. Where cornbread, soup beans, fried potatoes, and sour kraut were enjoyed by all. It was a time when days seemed to last forever and days when my mom would make delicious soups that helped take the evening chill off. Tears stung the corners of my eyes as I walked and reminisced about the memories of my youth, memories that I will forever cherish in my heart.

Now, for that soup to warm my bones! I hope you enjoy Nanny’s Best Potato Soup as much as my family does.

Rich and savory potato soup. This one’s a family favorite! 

Ingredients:

8-10 large potatoes
1/2 large yellow sweet onion
Cup of baby organic carrots
1 tbs of cornstarch
salt
black pepper
1 tbs plant butter of choice
3/4 box of organic vegetable broth
1/2 cup of Unsweetened almond milk
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Process:

Wash, peel, and cube potatoes and put in stock pot of warm water. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and cook potatoes, but do not overcook. Wash and grate baby carrots into the pot of potatoes. Take potatoes off heat when you can pierce with a fork with ease.

Heat remaining olive oil and plant butter in a skillet. Dice onions and add to oil and butter mixture. Saute until onions are translucent, salt and pepper to preference. Slowly add cornstarch to onions stirring the entire time. Add half of the vegetable broth and stir to create a thickener for the soup.

Drain potatoes leaving only a little of the starchy water and add the onion mixture to the potatoes, stir and add additional vegetable broth. Return the soup to a very low heat. Once the soup has warmed through slowly add the milk/cream while stirring. Add additional salt and pepper if needed and simmer for about ten minutes on low, then reduce heat to keep the soup warm. You may add additional broth if your soup is thicker than you would like for it to be.

Optional: You may add shredded vegan cheese. I like to add dried parsley to my soup to add a little color and another layer of flavor. My family enjoys hot cornbread with this soup. It’s delicious on its own!

Each time I serve up heaping bowls of this rich and savory potato soup, I am reminded of days gone by. The older I get, the more I realize how quickly time seems to pass. I also realize how important family, culture, and tradition is to the present time. If we don’t pass our favorite recipes to the next generation, they will lay and become dormant, and eventually are forgotten.

Good food, family, laughter, reflection, and fellowship has always been a tradition in the mountains and with our family. I want to carry on that tradition as well as pass on our favorite recipes to allow you to create your own family favorites, and your own family memories.

Making this potato soup helps me to hold on a little tighter to those wonderful days of growing up in the beautiful mountains of Kentucky. I hope this soup will be among your families favorites. Feel free to leave comments or questions. I enjoy hearing from each of you. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Coconut Protein Bites

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! Has your week been as busy as mine? It’s that time of year again! Time to can, preserve, dehydrate, and freeze all the wonderful veggies, fruit, and herbs that the Lord has so graciously blessed us with. As busy as it can get, I still love this time of year!

Canning in the last days of summer reminds me of the hot summer days of my youth when helped with the canning each year. It also reminds me that summer vacation is quickly coming to an end and a new academic year is about to begin. Where did summer vacation go? Seems we were planting our garden only a few weeks ago and now we’re harvesting and the fall semester begins next week!

Eight of the 21 quarts of tomato juice we’ve canned so far this year. 

Eight of the forty-two jars of green beans we canned this week.

With all that being said, even with all of of the hard work picking and canning, I did have a little time to work on a new recipe that I think you’re going to enjoy! My family is in agreement…this recipe is a keeper! It’s easy to make, requires no cooking, very versatile, sweet, satisfying and really tasty! But, best of all, it’s clean, healthy, and vegan! I hope you enjoy my vegan chocolate chip coconut protein bites as much as we do!

Ingredients;

10 Whole pitted dates (I prefer medjool dates)

2 tablespoons of Organic or non GMO peanut butter

1 scoop preferred plant protein powder (this ingredient is optional)

1 cup organic gluten free oats

1 tablespoon organic chia seeds

1 teaspoon ground flax seed (optional)

1/2 cup organic vegan dark chocolate chips

1cup organic shredded unsweetened coconut

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (I have substituted Walden’s Chocolate syrup for a more of a chocolate taste and also less sugar)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Process:

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor or a ninja reserving the chocolate chips and half of the shredded coconut. Process until blended well and forms a dough. Add chocolate chips and pulse a few times until chips are incorporated but not completely ground up.

Roll dough mixture into preferred size balls or you may press the mixture in a pan lined with parchment paper for protein bars. Roll the protein balls in shredded coconut and chill for at least an hour or place in the freezer for thirty minutes to eat sooner. The longer these bites chill the better they are!

My choice of preferred dates! They’re delicious right out of the box!

You can change these delicious bites up by melting a few of the vegan chocolate chips and drizzling the melted chocolate over the protein balls. You can also substitute almond butter for the peanut butter. They’re delicious either way! They keep in the fridge in a sealed plastic container or zip lock bag. I have found that they keep their shape in my lunchbox chilled with blue ice and they make a great midday snack!

Delicious peanut butte coconut protein balls!

I have modified this recipe a few times and added coco powder for a deep chocolate taste. I’ve added cinnamon, different flavored protein powders, added craisins, and different flavored Walden’s syrups. Either way, they’re delicious and powerful protein snack. I have to say the recipe above is my favorites as well as my family’s favorite! FYI: If your dough feels sticky you can add a few more oats to make the consistency more dry and easier to handle.

Protein balls with drizzled melted chocolate.

For now, I’m off to grade a few more assignments for the students in my summer course…yes, I even teach during summer vacation, but just one or two classes. I hope you enjoy these delicious protein balls. I’d love to hear from you and maybe your modified version.

If you’re interested in my canning recipes for homemade tomato juice or canning green beans, check out the following links to the recipes that I have used year after year.

Canning Green Beans the Time-Tested Way

Canning Tomato Juice the Easy Way!

God bless from the mountains of Kentucky! Remember, it’s never too late to begin your journey to a healthier and happier you!

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!

Clean Vegan Lemon Bread

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! I am happy to say that the rain took a break and the sun has been shining in our corner of the world for the past three days!! This was a welcomed sight for our garden, my flowers, and for outdoor activities for the grandkids. However, the rain has once again returned to the mountains this morning, which gives me a little time to catch up on a little summer reading.

Beautiful blue sky on the drive home yesterday.

With the rain keeping me indoors today I can catch up on a little housework and prepare for an upcoming road trip. I love a good road trip! I like days that are filled with culture, great food in small town cafes, and of course a little shopping. I like day trips and road trips as much as extended days away from home. I’m always nervous about leaving our home, garden, the flowers unattended, and I worry about my fur-baby, Freckles, who becomes depressed when I’m away for very long. I don’t think I’ve introduced you to Freckles. She is my faithful ten-year old Jack-Rat and my canine friend who is always by my side when I’m home.

Freckles anxiously waiting to leave the vet’s exam room.

So, enough about my small corner of the world. I’ve mentioned a few times in previous blogs that I have been working to perfect a new recipe. If you love eating clean, vegan, the taste of lemon or just enjoy a delicious sweet treat that’s great with coffee, as breakfast, or dessert…then this clean vegan lemon bread is for you! It has become a family favorite very quickly…and it disappears quickly too!

Over the course of a few weeks I have tried a few different versions of this bread and each are tasty and each were enjoyed, but this version of the recipe was agreed upon as a majority favorite. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Wet Ingredients:

5 ounces of extra firm tofu

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 1/2 teaspoons organic lemon extract

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 lemon grated

1 cup organic raw cane sugar

1/4 cup organic coconut oil

Dry Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups of organic gluten free flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Glaze Ingredients:

1 cup organic powdered sugar

1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice or 1 teaspoon organic lemon extract

1 teaspoon unsweetened almond milk

Process:

Press and dry the majority of the moisture from the tofu. I use folded white paper towels to dry mine and it works well. I have also tried the silky tofu in this recipe and wasn’t quite as happy with the results as with the firm tofu. Weigh the tofu after removing most of the moisture to ensure an accurate weight. Add the wet ingredients in a mixer on low speed, just until combined.

Slowly add dry ingredients one at a time. Be careful not to over mix the batter as this will will cause the bread to be too stiff. Set mixed batter aside for a couple of minutes and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Do not use the convection setting. Spray loaf pan with cooking spray and pour the batter into the pan. Gently tap the pan of batter against the counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake bread for 40 minutes and test with toothpick for doneness. Keep in mind that all ovens do not bake the same. You know your oven better than anyone, so you might want to check the bread at 35 minutes.

When the bread has baked allow it to completely cool on a cooling rack. Mix the ingredients for the glaze while the bread is cooling. Turn the cooled bread onto a plate and drizzle the glaze over the bread. Finally, enjoy this delicious, healthy, clean, and vegan sweet treat! Even those in my family who do not typically eat vegan foods absolutely loves this bread, even the grandkids love it and ask for more! It also usually has a way of vanishing within twenty-four hours! But, that’s a good thing! I love when my family enjoys eating healthy food! The picture doesn’t do the bread justice…it’s actually thicker than it appears in the picture. It tastes rich, lemony, and the texture compares to a moist glazed pound cake.

Clean vegan lemon bread

I hope you enjoy this healthy delicious vegan bread as much as we do. Feel free to leave comments and let me know how your bread turns out. I enjoy hearing from each of you. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

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!