Ooey, Gooey, Clean, Baked Apples

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Apples are a staple in my house! They’re  also one of my favorite healthy treats. I’ve loved them since I was a little girl. I remember sneaking apples from my papaw’s apple trees when I was growing up. We would rest in the shade of the trees and eat until our bellies were full! Papaw didn’t begrudge us food, never, he was had a very giving and loving heart! But, the apples on the trees were meant for canning apples, apple butter, and many other wonderful delicious treats that my mom and grandmother prepared. We, my sister, brother, and cousins could have all the apples that we wanted that had fallen to the ground, but were cautioned to not pick the apples from the trees. But, as we all know kids don’t always follow the rules. I was no exception. I loved the taste of apples then, and I still enjoy apples of all varieties.

I enjoy eating apples raw, cooked, as applesauce, apple butter, dried, in oatmeal, baked in breads, and in many more delicious healthy dishes. However, one of my all-time favorite dishes is definitely not a healthy dish! I confess…I love baked apples or apple dumplings. I love the richness, the sweet taste of brown sugar, and the deliciousness of the sweet apples.

Recently, for a week I found myself stopping and staring at the remains of a big bowl of apples. There were five apples left and they seemed to be crying out to me to be prepared in some type of rich, delicious, sweet dish. I considered baking apple bread, but that didn’t seem to be what my pallet was craving. I thought about fried apples with breakfast sweetened with honey and stevia. I even thought about breaking away from eating healthy and satisfying my craving and making apple dumplings. Then I thought about the consequences of the dough, the sugar, and all the butter that goes into traditional apple dumplings. The thoughts of feeling bloated and guilty caused me to refrain. Four years into a healthier lifestyle and the struggle is still real! So, I did what I love to do. I decided to create a delicious, clean, and healthy baked apple dish. With much thought, deliberation, a few errors, and a lot of love. I was able to create what truly satisfied my craving for a sweet, ooey, gooey baked apple dish that didn’t leave me feeling bloated and guilty. I am excited to share with you my Ooey, Gooey, Healthy, Clean Baked Apple dessert! I hope you enjoy it as much as my family has enjoyed it. Let’s get started!

Filling Ingredients:

Five to six organic apples
3 cups of ground Old fashioned oats (I use a coffee grinder to grind the oats)
1/2 cup of Fresh honey or organic honey (I prefer fresh)
1/2 cup of Pure organic maple syrup
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons stevia
2 teaspoons maple extract
1 tablespoon almond milk
1 teaspoon of organic coconut oil (this replaces the butter)
1/2 cup craisons

I like to use a small Pyrex glass baking dish for this recipe. Spray the dish with cooking spray. I prefer coconut oil. Wash the apples and dry them well. Core the center of the apples out. Set the cores and the meat of the apples to include in the crumble.

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For the filling of the apples you will need to grind the oats to a fine flour-like consistency. Mix the ground oats with the above dry ingredients well and begin incorporating the wet ingredients slowly and one at a time until the consistency is pasty. Spoon the mixture inside the apples. Pack the mixture well and allow it to flow over the top of the apples. Don’t worry if you have extra filling you can incorporate it into the crumble. Place the apples in the dish. Now you’re ready to move on to the crumble!

Crumble Ingredients:

3 cups of ground old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 cup of craisons
1/2 cup of finely chopped almonds
2 tablespoons of stevia
1 teaspoon of maple extract
1/2 cup of fresh or organic honey
1/2 cup of organic maple syrup
bits and pieces of the reserved apple cores, minus the tough part of the core (this is optional)

1/2 cup of Organic brown sugar (I prefer the Simple Truth brand) do not add this to the crumble. (this is optional)

Again, mix the dry ingredients well with a fork. Add wet ingredients slowly one by one until the mixture is crumbly, but mixed well. Spoon the mixture around the pan of apples. Once you’ve added the crumble mixture sprinkle the brown sugar over the apples and crumble and drizzle either honey or maple syrup over the sugar. Cover the dish with non-stick foil, or spray the foil before covering. Bake at 355 degree for an hour. Ovens will vary. You will know if your apples are done when a skewer or knife inserts easily.

While your apples are baking make the drizzle! Yes, there’s more ooey gooey goodness!

Drizzle Ingredients:

1 cup of plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon of stevia
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of maple extract

Mix ingredients well and chill. Once the apples have baked allow them to cool a little before drizzling the glaze over the apples. I prefer to drizzle each individual apple as I eat them. Either way it is delicious!

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This dish will definitely become a holiday favorite for my household! Actually, I think this dish will be an anytime favorite. The total prep and cooking time was an 90 minutes. But, as we all know…any good dish is worth the work and the wait. I hope you enjoy my Ooey, Gooey, Sweet Clean, Baked Apple dish as much as my family has. I would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave your feedback. Until the next time…from the mountains of Kentucky…be blessed and be healthy!

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Clean Apple Cranberry Muffins

With a hint of snow in the air a desire to cook and create delicious meals was stirring within me. A craving for something sweet and healthy consumed my thoughts. I also knew if I did not give in to the urge and begin mixing ingredients that I would reach for something that I shouldn’t to satisfy my desires. Even though I am a clean eating activist the pantry always holds a sweet treat for one or more of our five grandchildren, and my husband who loves to indulge occasionally in a sweet dessert. I admit just knowing the sweet treats are in the pantry sometimes stirs a craving.

Yes, the battle with sweets is real, even after all these years. I have learned to fight fire with fire. When the cravings begin to lurk in the crevices of my mind I counter attack them with one of the many healthy sweet treats that do not leave me with an overwhelming sense of guilt, bloating, and discouragement. Instead, after indulging in a healthy treat I feel satisfied, full, and sense of pride feels my being for winning the small battle with sweet treats. Yes! I defeated and quieted the voices that call out…feed me, feed me! Again, the battle between myself and indulging in sweet treats is real!

Quickly I scoured the pantry for ingredients. I discovered that I had week old apples that I could use, or otherwise they would be prepared in protein waffles or a smoothie. I had organic reduced sugar dried cranberries hmm…yes, I had the fruit and the makings for a sweet baked treat. Now I needed to create this unknown sweet dish! The decision was made. I would have some delicious clean fruit muffins to enjoy with a midday cup of coffee.

Ingredients:

2 cups of whole wheat plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons stevia
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup peeled and diced apples (any variety)
1/2 cup of reduced sugar organic dried cranberries
1 large egg white
1/4 a cup of all natural stevia sweetened organic syrup (can substitute with honey)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice (fresh is better)
1/2 cup apple butter (I prefer homemade sweetened with stevia)
1 tablespoon raw honey
1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil

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Mix dry ingredients and then add wet ingredients one at a time.

 

 

Mix dry ingredients incorporating one ingredient at a time. Begin adding wet ingredients one at a time. Do not over mix as this will take away from the texture of the muffins. Fold in fruit as the last ingredients. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. I prefer olive oil spray. Scoop mixture with an ice cream scoop into the tin and drizzle lightly with honey. Bake until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Baking time will vary with different ovens. I bake in a convection oven and my muffins were ready to remove in fifteen minutes.

I was excited as the aroma of the muffins filled the house. I quickly brewed a pot of coffee to enjoy with a muffin, or two. Delicious is an understatement! These muffins rocked! They were not too sweet, but delicious, moist, and very satisfying. I decided to put them to the test and allow our daughter and son in-law to be the critics. Both of them gave them a thumbs up and a rating of ten out of ten! They were a hit with everyone.

I hope you and your family enjoy my clean apple cranberry muffins as muffins as much me and my family did. Feel free to leave comments or feed back as it is always welcomed. If you enjoyed this recipe I can’t wait for you try out my new clean luscious brownie recipe or my clean sweet potato casserole that I will be posting soon. So for now wishing you and your family a blessed week from the mountains of Kentucky!

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A delicious sweet treat that tastes great any time of the day!

 

 

 

 

Ten Achievable Goals that helped Improve My Year and My Life!

Do you find yourself making New Year’s resolutions year after year that you simply do not keep? If so, don’t feel bad, because you are not alone. Making and breaking resolutions is a common practice among a large majority of people whom I surveyed. Many of the people I surveyed had similar responses when asked about the resolutions or goals they had previously made and also previously neglected. Some of the neglected goals included; lose twenty or more pounds, exercise more, read twenty or more books per year, organize my entire house, save more money, shop less, spend less time on my phone, watch less television, pray more, go to church every Sunday, eat healthier, floss my teeth everyday, and the list goes on and on. I must admit, I too, have made and neglected several of the above resolutions in the past. It’s hard to believe that it’s already the time of year to set new goals. But first, before setting new goals, we must reflect on previous goals.

As the year comes to a close I find myself browsing my memories of the year 2016. I also find myself reviewing my goals that I wrote down in December of 2015. Had I achieved them? Had I tried to achieve them? Did I veer off the path? As I reviewed each goal that I had carefully chosen and written down I felt a sense of satisfaction. I had worked hard to attain my goals. Did I ever fall, or fail? Yes, I had worked hard, and yes, I had veered off the path several times. However, I had gotten back up, and dusted myself off and resumed the path that I had mapped out for myself. Had I achieved all of my goals? I achieved some of them, but made progress with all of them. Some of my goals are still a work in progress, but nevertheless I am progressing. What were my goals? How did I and how do I maintain my desire to achieve them? What was my plan? I am anxious to share my ideas with you so that you too can set realistic and achievable goals to help improve your year and your life.

Nearly six years ago while trying to decide what goals to set for myself I realized that the goals that I had previously set, and previously neglected, we’re not realistic goals. My goals were too large! I should have set more manageable goals. Was this possible? My mind immediately rewound and replayed my voice. I could hear myself encouraging my first grade students. I could visualize myself explaining to six-year olds how to set realistic goals. For example, I had students whose goal was to read “big chapter” books. I encouraged them to set mini-goals to read small books first. When they achieved this goal, set another goal to read lengthier books, then advance to small chapter books, and finally begin reading their desired “big chapter” books. So, the decision was made. I would try to follow my own advice that I gave my first, fifth, and sixth grade students when setting their goals. I would begin by setting smaller more achievable goals.

It worked! I had made it through an entire year and had made progress with each goal that I had set. I felt really good about myself and was more encouraged, positive, and better able to deal with stress on those days when I felt the urge to cheat on my diet, spend a little extra on myself, etc. I was also able to resume my plan and move forward on the path that would lead to achievement. The goals that I set actually helped change my year, and have improved my life every year thereafter. I now find myself repeating this story to many of the students that I advise each semester in an effort to encourage them and to also help them learn to set realistic and achievable goals that are meaningful and will change their life as well. What are these goals? I’m excited to share them with you so that you too can make positive changes in your life.

  1. First and foremost, start the day with prayer and meditation as well as a little “me” time. I enjoy walking my dog early in the mornings. This gives me the opportunity to gain exercise, pray, meditate, plan, reflect, visualize, dream, and also appreciate nature, while allowing my canine friend to gain her exercise. Me time can be walking on the treadmill, enjoying a quiet cup of coffee, yoga, a long hot bath, or relaxing on the porch. Wherever your happy place may be…take the time to pamper yourself and focus on you every day, even if it’s just fifteen minutes. I have found that me time promotes peace, tranquility, and a positive attitude, all of which will help you reach your desired goals.
  2. Stop dieting! What? That’s right, stop dieting! Simply make better food choices. I achieved this goal by eating less processed foods, less restaurant food, meal prepping, and also planning my meals. Drink less soda and more water. Replace at least one unhealthy item with a healthy item. For example, replace white sugar with stevia or honey. Bake foods instead of frying them. Replace white bread with whole grain bread. Decrease salt and increase black pepper. Replace cream based dressings with oil based dressings. Eat Greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt. Eat crunchy veggies and fruit instead of chips. This list could go on for pages. Do you have to make all of the above changes? The answer is no. Simply, select one or a couple that you feel would make your diet more healthy. Once you’ve become accustomed to this change you might find that you will have a greater desire to replace more unhealthy foods with healthy ones. Take the step to reducing your intake of unhealthy foods. Remember, your journey begins with a single step and a single choice.
  3. Random acts of kindness are a wonderful way to promote happiness and encouragement while also helping to promote unity of mankind. Have you ever been in the checkout line with two items and find yourself behind someone with a full cart of items. Did you feel the dread of standing in line while the person in front of you prepared to checkout the large number of items and use the hand full of coupons they were clutching? I’ve been there too. Have you been on the receiving end when that person with the loaded cart offered to allow you to check out your two items ahead of her? I have been there as well. Do you remember that wonderful feeling that you felt as you quickly checked out and made your way to the exit? It was a warm and nice feeling. It served to remind you that there are still nice people in the world. How about the feeling that you felt when your waiter explained that your meal has already been paid for? Whether it’s a smile, kind word, encouraging word, paid meal, advancement in a long line, or tiny token of thoughtfulness…each are random acts of kindness that we all enjoy, and that often come when we need them the most. It’s an even greater feeling to be on the giving side of the random act of kindness. I challenge you to shake that veteran’s hand and thank him/her for their service. I challenge you to allow the person with fewer items than you to check out before you. I challenge you to smile or tell the cashier who doesn’t seem to be very talkative to have a blessed or wonderful day. Buy the person behind you lunch, or a cup of coffee. Leave a kind note in a colleagues mailbox or on their door. This list could go on and on. The possibilities are limitless. Above all, be an encourager not a “discourager.”

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    A gift I received as a result of a random act of kindness. I’ll treasure it always.

  4. Read every day, but don’t focus on reading a large number of books in a year. Simply set a goal to read at least twenty minutes per day. This will keep your mind fresh, be a healthy change from television or your electronic device(s), while also helping you to learn something new everyday. Remember, we’re never too old to learn. Reading improves the memory, thought process, and also is a wonderful form of entertainment. In today’s technological society reading is more convenient than ever before which limits your excuses to not read. You can achieve your desired reading goal by reading on your smart phone, tablet, kindle, in a magazine, newspaper, blog post, or my favorite…a good old-fashioned book! Reading for twenty minutes each day will also help you spend that quality time with  yourself that we all need and deserve.
  5. Make time for family and friends. I have come to realize that time does not slow down, for anyone or anything. It truly feels that time is passing more swiftly than ever before. Do you ever think about how eager you were to grow up when you were a child? I’ve thought about this often over the years and have advised my young students as well as my children and grandchildren to slow down and enjoy being a child. We are a child for a short time and an adult the remainder of our lives. Time is something that we cannot get back once it is gone. Make the most of it and enjoy time with family and friends. Plan to have dinner together, road trips, family night, visit each other, go out to lunch, have coffee together, go shopping, or simply sit on the front porch (without our smart phones) and enjoy conversation with them. This can include your immediate family, extended family, and or friends. Don’t take time for granted…make time for family and friends.
  6. So, you want to save a little money? We’ve all made this resolution or set this goal, and all of us have also ended up breaking this resolution or not meeting our goal. I decided several years ago to cut corners on unnecessary spending by watching for bargains, clipping coupons, and also use digital coupons. I also decided to take my lunch to work to avoid buying lunch or spending money in the cafeteria for food that ended up being tossing in the garbage, or consume unhealthy food that I did not need. The result was a smaller grocery bill each week, a few more dollars in my purse at the end of the week, and feeling of satisfaction. Whether it was one dollar or ten dollars each week the savings were added to my makeshift bank, which started as a simple zip-lock bag, and quickly grew to a small storage container. This year my savings were used for various things. I used part of it to help with our remodeling project, to pay my granddaughter who likes to earn a little extra money by dusting, walking my dog, or vacuuming the inside of my jeep. I had a nice little Christmas savings as well. Did I veer off of the path, did I stumble, lose sight of my goal, or go on a spending spree? Well, I didn’t go on random spending sprees, but I did enjoy a few shopping trips…but I am always on the lookout for bargains. Did I eat out for lunch? Of course I did occasionally as it was a great way of spending quality time with family, colleagues, and or friends. We all need to indulge occasionally, but it’s important to not fall into a pattern of indulging on a regular basis. It was a great feeling to have my extra savings available when I needed it without having to dip into budgeted money, or our savings account. I look forward to exceeding last years’ savings this year through the same simple steps. I challenge you…take a cup of coffee with you instead of buying that specialty coffee everyday. Make that specialty coffee a special event, take a friend out for coffee occasionally and spend quality time with them while enjoying your favorite cappuccino.

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    I enjoy an occasional cup of coffee from our local coffee shop.

  7. Exercise more, yeah this is one that most of us make year after year. Year after year we start with a zest and a made up mind, but also year after year we lose that fire and determination and fall into a rut once again. Nearly six years ago, I began working toward this goal in various ways that has helped improve my health and also helped me to achieve my goal, as well as maintain my weight after losing seventy pounds. What did I do? I simply set realistic small goals for myself. These goals included walking my dog daily, even when it was snowing or raining. Parking farther away from the store, even when it’s snowing or raining. Using the elliptical daily, even if it’s just fifteen minutes per day. I have also worn a fitbit for the last three years and tracked my daily steps. Boy, was this an eye opener! I have worked hard to ensure that I am actually getting up and moving every hour. There are hours during the day that I cannot get up and move, such as during my commute to and from work. However, I find this great “me” time, time to listen to an audio book, time to do breathing exercises, and also time to pray, meditate and reflect on the day or plan for the next day. Exercising more can include going to the gym, going to zumba class, or running in the park. But, let’s face it…with the demands of our jobs and the fast paced world we live in, these are not always an option. Instead, take time each day to achieve your goal in small manageable as well as realistic goals. Get up and move everyday!

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    I track my steps using a fitbit.

  8. Get organized! This is a goal that I too have several failed attempts. It is now a work in progress and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. How did I do it? One area at a time is how I started this goal and have maintained my progress. Also, with each mini-goal, I use the three-step process. I make sure that I have a container for donations or sell items, items you wish to keep, and a container for unwanted items to toss. I began my organized journey with the linen closet. I was amazed how much soap, deodorant, air fresheners and many more items I found while cleaning this small space. I bought enough one dollar plastic bins to line the shelves and labeled each so everyone in the family knew where to put items away. Labeling has helped me maintain a clutter free and organized linen closet. Once a month for a year I have worked to de-clutter and organize an area of our home, and once a month or more for a year I have tossed, donated, or sold the excess items and organized the things that I chose to keep. I love  having less clutter and more organization as well as space. My home is still a work in progress, but there is a significant less amount to organize and de-clutter than there was last year! Cha-ching…another realistic goal achieved!
  9. Grow a plant! Yes, I just said that…grow a plant! I love working in our vegetable garden and my herbs. Fresh vegetables are much healthier for you than veggies purchased at the store and are less expensive. I enjoy being able to have fresh basil, chives, oregano, and stevia at my fingertips. Fresh herbs are very expensive in the grocery store, and you either have too many or not enough. Will you be required to grow a large garden to have fresh herbs, tomatoes, or cucumbers? No, you can simply have small  bed, box, flower pots, or a small raised bed. Tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, and onions make a wonderful addition to flower gardens and doesn’t require a lot of space or upkeep. Growing your own herbs and vegetables can also help contribute to a healthier diet. Herbs can also be grown inside, so there’s no reason to deny yourself the pleasure of fresh thyme. Find a herb or plant that doesn’t require high maintenance and will live in your desired location. I have found that thyme is a very easy herb to grow. It requires nothing more than watering, and of course an occasional pruning. I don’t find this difficult as I love cooking with thyme. It’s a great addition to eggs, meats, soups, and much more. Whether you choose to grow a single plant, a window box herb garden, raised bed, flower bed, or a full-scale garden…nurture your plants with tender loving care, make a simple plant journal, record their progress, what worked and what didn’t work, take pictures of their growth, take pride in your plants. It’s a great feeling to watch something that you’ve planted or repotted, nurtured, and enjoyed grow into a fully mature plant. It’s an even better feeling to reap the rewards of their fruit, spice, taste, beauty and or simply their wonderful addition to your home. Caring for your plant(s) is also a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with yourself, or your family

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    I love being able to clip fresh herbs from my herb box.

  10. Make a blessing jar. This was an idea given to me by my Sunday school teacher. Last year was the first year that I had set this small, but significant goal. I simply took a container that I already had to use for my jar. I used a small crock that a previous student bought me. It was the perfect container to add and collect my daily blessings. Several people decorated jars, boxes and other various containers. This is how it works; Simply, find a container or make one,  at the end of each day write down something positive that has happened during the day. Trust me, even on those days when everything seems to be going wrong…you can find something positive to be thankful for. The object is to find positive things in your life and to take focus off of the negative things, which happens to all of us. The plan is to open your blessing jar on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day and revisit and read each blessing that you wrote down. It’s a great way to reflect, remember, count your blessings, while also promoting a positive frame of mind. I challenge you to try it…go ahead and begin today counting your blessings.
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    My blessing jar

     

    In review, these are the realistic goals that has helped improve years for me including 2015, had a major impact on my health, happiness, and my family as well as my life; make a blessing jar, grow a plant, get organized, save a little extra money, make time for family and friends, read every day, stop dieting and most of all make time for yourself! These are only suggestions, and not scientifically proven, but goals that helped me have a better quality of life. What are you waiting for? Today is already the second day of the new year! Have you set your goals? Are your goals realistic? Revisit the goals that you’ve already set to ensure they are realistic and achievable goals. If you’ve not set your goals yet…take that first step of your journey to achieve your resolutions, or your goals! Remember, your journey to a better life begins with a single step. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my New Year’s goals and resolutions. Please feel free to leave your feedback. I’m interested in your goals and how you achieved them. God bless and have a wonderful 2017!

 

 

Don’t Let Those Leftovers Go to Waste…Freeze Them!

Is your refrigerator like mine after Christmas each year? If so, it’s overflowing with dish after dish of delicious leftovers. However, if your family is like mine they are also tired of leftovers, even if they are delicious. The question is…what do you do with all those leftovers? I have asked myself this same question year after year. I usually resolve this problem by feeding the leftovers to our wonderful guard dog, Frosty, and of course the cats. I have also added them to the compost pile, but this year I decided to do something different with my leftovers.

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This is Frosty…our faithful friend that guards chickens, cats, and our garden.

As I was shopping for groceries this week I reached for one of my favorite foods, southwestern grilled chicken strips. To my surprise there wasn’t one bag left in the cooler. I thought about how I would miss this tasty addition to my salads, breakfast, and even as a side dish. I stood there staring at the cooler as if I could magically will a bag or two of my favorite salad fixing to appear in the cooler. Instead of the bag of chicken appearing I had a vision of adding the left over smoked turkey that still resided in my refrigerator to my salads. It was already pulled from the bone and stored in an air tight container. Smiling to myself I left the store with a plan, and a full cart of items to fill my pantry for a couple of months of clean eating. But, that’s a post for a later date.

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Vacuumed sealed individual servings of turkey.

After researching how to freeze cooked meats, I decided that I would freeze my leftovers. The next day with my plan, the vacuum sealer and a large bowl of turkey I moved forward with my plan. I was excited as the smoked turkey would be a tasty and healthy alternative to the southwestern chicken strips. It would be delicious warmed up in salads, as a side, or on wraps. Why had I not thought of this before? Soon I had the turkey vacuum sealed, dated, and in the freezer. I was on a roll and wanted to add additional healthy choices to my freezer. I wondered about freezing other leftovers.

I decided after reading further about freezing foods that I would vacuum seal individual portions of the dressing, and slices of a pumpkin roll that my niece brought as a dessert for Christmas dinner. These would be great sides when our granddaughter, who loves both dressing and pumpkins roll, came to visit. These would also be great sides for my husband as well, and I admit, for myself when I have a cheat day.

Freezing foods is a quick and easy process. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer you can still freeze your leftovers. Below are directions for freezing turkey, pumpkin roll, and dressing.

Freezing Turkey:

Remove turkey from bone
Separate turkey into serving sizes
Vacuum seal or wrap in plastic wrap and place in zip lock freezer bag
Date bag with a permanent maker

Freezing Pumpkin Roll:

Slice the pumpkin roll
Place individual pieces on parchment paper in freezer for fifteen minutes
Either vacuum seal or wrap in plastic wrap in place in zip lock freezer bag
Date bag with a permanent marker

Freezing Dressing:

Cut into serving sizes
Place in freezer on parchment paper for fifteen minutes
Wrap in plastic wrap and place in zip lock freezer bag
Date bag with a permanent marker

I’m excited about being able to enjoy smoked turkey, dressing, a baked sweet potato, and a delicious slice of pumpkin roll any day of the year! The smoked turkey will also be great to make turkey wraps for lunch on the go, and a tasty addition to salads.  I love seeing the full section of leftovers in my freezer and the feeling of satisfaction of having little to no waste with Christmas leftovers, while also stocking my freezer with delicious food.

I hope that I’ve inspired you to freeze all of your tasty holiday leftovers. You don’t have to wait for holidays to try this idea…you can begin freezing leftovers any day of the week! It’s also a great way to plan ahead and meal prep for those busy weeks that we all have. Feel free to leave your feedback. I enjoy hearing from each of you. Be sure to check back next week for my New Year’s post where I will share ten inspiring achievable goals to improve your New Year and your life! Wishing you and your family a very happy and blessed New Year!

Random Acts of Kindness & Clean Almond Joy Bites…

Have you ever felt compelled to display a random act of kindness? Did you act upon it or did you override the feeling and let the opportunity pass by? Maybe you felt like stepping aside and allowing the person behind you in the checkout line to check out ahead of you. Maybe it was the gentleman sitting on the curb holding a homeless sign that stirred the desire within you to buy him a meal from McDonalds, or maybe you thought about leaving a kind note in your co-workers mailbox. Did you follow your heart and act on your feelings? Whatever the kind thought or act of kindness that you feel compelled or inspired to do…I urge you to act on the impulse. You see, we truly do not know what others may be going through. Many people display a happy face in public even when their hearts are aching with sadness, or they’re in a turmoil trying to make an important decision, or just feeling a little down for no particular reason at all. A random act of kindness that may seem insignificant to others, may be a prayer answered for another.

Discouragement visits everyone at one time or another. Recently this sad emotion invaded my peace of mind and tried to camp out long term and linger within my thoughts. I had encountered one of those weeks where I felt tired from daily appointments, overwhelmed with obligations, pressured to meet deadlines, and terribly worried about a loved one’s heath. But, with a smile on my face and faith in my heart I pressed on and prayed for peace as I did not like feeling this way.                                                        . Image result for picture of thank you cards with a candlePeace came in a way that I didn’t expect. I was reminded through a series of small random acts of kindness over a period of days from various people that helped the feeling of discouragement dissipate . I found a small notecard in my mailbox from a student with kind words that filled my heart, two days later I found a candle on my desk from a colleague with a thank you note, and finally one of my students told me the other day that if she could be like anyone in the world, she would like to be like me. What a heartfelt compliment and unforgettable moment. I’m thankful for each of these random acts of kindness as each was timely, and each helped restore my faith in mankind and each brought a smile to my heart and face.

The daily appointments are nearly over and I still feel energized, obligations no longer overwhelm me, and a plan of management is in place to help meet the deadlines that fill my calendar. I am still concerned with my loved one’s health issue, but through the random acts of kindness that I received I am better able to think positive, have increased and renewed faith, and expect better days ahead.

With peace and contentment also comes inspiration. So, with the holidays ahead and plenty of opportunities to overindulge in sweet treats I decided to post a new clean candy sweet treat that’s easy to make and one that I enjoy indulging in without the guilt! I hope you enjoy them as well. I plan to deliver some special treats to my coworkers this week…just a simple random act of kindness that I feel compelled to do. I hope you enjoy my clean version of Clean Almond Joys Bites.

The ingredients that you will need are:

2 cups of Unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup of fresh raw honey
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 cup of organic coconut oil
4 squares of unsweetened dark chocolate
Whole or sliced almonds

Making this sweet treat:

In a glass bowl combine unsweetened shredded coconut, honey, vanilla, and half of the coconut oil. Place in the microwave for just enough time to melt the coconut oil. Mix and allow to completely cool. You may either roll the mixture or spoon the mixture onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator and allow to chill for at least thirty minutes.

almond-joy-one

I prefer to spoon the coconut mixture onto the parchment paper.

Just before removing the candy from the refrigerator place the remaining coconut oil and dark unsweetened chocolate in a bowl and melt in the microwave. While the chocolate is melting place one almond on top of each piece of the coconut candy. Spoon the hot melted chocolate mixture over the chilled coconut balls and refrigerate again until completely chilled and the chocolate is set. Finally, enjoy your sweet treat without the guilt!

almond-joy-four

Delicious bites of pleasure without the guilt!

Don’t forget if you feel compelled to do something nice for someone…don’t talk yourself out of this random act of kindness act on your feelings. I hope that I have inspired you with my story as I am still inspired by others’ small acts of kindness. These thoughtful acts of kindness helped brighten my day, lighten my load, inspire me, and helped me to smile from my heart. I hope that you enjoy the clean almond joy bites. Please feel free to leave feedback as I love to hear from my readers.

Making and Canning Homemade Clean Veggie Soup

I’ve have heard people complaining that there’s too much waste when clean eating. Some people feel this way because other family members won’t eat from the same clean menu. Some people are apprehensive about clean eating as they claim that it’s too hard to figure to plan a lunch menu. Still others confess to being bored with eating the same thing over and over. I totally disagree with all of the above statements and think you will too after trying my clean veggie soup!

This delicious soup allows me to make one item on the dinner menu, as everyone loves it, even if they’re not clean eating. Canning the leftovers allows me to have access to a quick and delicious lunch at home or on the go, or have it months later for a delicious supper. This soup is anything but boring!

I love making homemade clean vegetable soup. However, as many can witness when making soup there’s often an abundance leftovers. I’ve tried freezing soups in the past, which worked out pretty good, but not as tasty as a fresh pot of soup. So, the last time I made this delicious soup I decided to can the left overs. It worked out great! I actually ate a bowl of it today for lunch…and it was delicious! I’m excited to share not only my recipe for clean veggie soup, but also the directions for canning this delicious soup.

soup II

Okay, first things first the ingredients.

1 medium package of ground elk, venison, or organic beef
1 large sweet onion
1 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt and black pepper (this can be adjusted to taste)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
one large organic sweet pepper, or one homegrown sweet pepper (any color)
1 large can of organic tomato juice, or 1 quart home canned tomato juice
1 can of organic corn, or 1 small bag of fresh corn
1 can of organic green beans, or 1 quart of fresh green beans
five-six large potatoes
small bag of organic carrots, or homegrown carrots
1 pint of fresh crushed tomatoes, or one small can of organic crushed tomatoes
1 can of organic peas, or 1 small bag of homegrown sweet peas
3 beef bullion cubes

Next, easy to follow directions:

  • Chop onions and peppers to desired size. I like to chop mine rather large for more of a bite.
  • Place a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large dutch oven and heat over medium heat.
  • Tenderize onions and peppers in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add very lean choice of meat in the same pot and brown with onions and peppers.
  • Stir in garlic and add red pepper flakes and cumin.
  • Drain if necessary. If the mean is lean enough there will be little to no drippings to drain.
  • In the same pot begin adding vegetables one at a time and stirring.
  • When all the vegetables have been added incorporate tomato juice. You may add more if desired. I sometimes add a little water.
  • In a separate kettle boil peeled potatoes and sliced carrots and add salt and pepper, boil until a knife will pierce but still have a bite.
    (if you use can carrots, they can be added when the other vegetables are added)
  • Drain potatoes and carrots and add to the pot of soup
  • Add bullion cubes to soup and season again with salt and pepper to taste
  • Simmer on medium to low heat for at least two hours before serving

This is a great supper for a cold relaxing evening at home. It’s also a fantastic soup for lunch. Very filling and deliciously clean soup that will leave full and guilt free!

Now for canning those delicious leftovers!

You will need very few things to can this delicious soup. You will need clean sterilized pint jars, rings, flats, and a canner. The steps to can it are as simple. Simply fill clean, warm, and sterilized jars with warm leftover soup. It’s important that the soup is warm to prevent jars from breaking. Also, leave approximately a half an inch to an inch headspace. Wipe jars clean and place flats and rings on them. Don’t tighten the rings extra tight, as you can do this after the jars are removed from the canner. Place warm jars of soup in a canner of warm water, bring water to a boil, and boil for 45 minutes. Remove jars carefully from water and allow to cool. Dry jars and check to ensure that each jar has sealed. Secure the rings, and date the soup. Seriously, this soup is as good, if not better after being canned than it was the day it was made! I typically will have enough soup left over to can at least four or five pints of soup.

IMG_1263

I hope you and your family enjoy this soup as much we do! It’s delicious! It’s clean! It’s satisfying and as savory the day you make or six months later when you want it for lunch! If you enjoyed this recipe feel free to check out all of my canning recipes! Also, please feel free to leave comments. I love to hear from my readers! Happy canning!

 

 

 

 

Clean and Delicious No Bake Cookies

I confess that I have a sweet tooth, and that I love no bake cookies!  I’m sure you’ve had those cravings for something sweet as well. They often strike at the most inopportune time. For example, when there’s nothing clean in the house that we want to eat, and when we don’t want to cheat by eating unhealthy foods. Often when we eat clean it’s not always easy to find a sweet treat that satisfies, tastes great, that’s clean, and one that leaves you feeling guilt-free, and un-bloated without regrets.

So, with my sweet cravings and my love for no bake cookies, I decided to create a clean recipe that satisfied both of my cravings. I know you will enjoy my clean no bake cookies as much as my entire family does.

Ingredients:

1 cup organic peanut butter
1/2 cup raw honey
1/2 cup organic coconut oil
2 blocks of unsweetened dark chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups of old fashioned oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup organic crunchy oat granola

organic peanut butter      organic coconut oil

Making the cookies:

  • in a small saucepan combine peanut butter, coconut oil, honey, vanilla, and chocolate squares
  • melt ingredients together over medium heat (You will need to stir to prevent sticking)
  • once the ingredients have melted, stir them well
  • add dry ingredients one at a time and stirring in each
  • you can drop cookies onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper or press into a well greased cake pan for bars
  • place in the freezer for fifteen minutes and then in the refrigerator for approximately fifteen more minutes
  • cookies are ready to eat
  • keep refrigerated to prevent melting
  • yields one dozen cookies or an 8×8 pan of bars

no bake cookies

Eating clean is not a diet, but a way of life. I have enjoyed my journey with clean eating and have enjoyed the benefits as well. The benefits that have made an impact on my life include; lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, weight loss, less inflammation, more energy, and much more. I don’t feel deprived, but I feel empowered!

My entire family enjoys these deliciously clean cookies. Even my grandchildren enjoy them. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do! Feel free to leave comments…I love to hear from my readers!

Getting Back to My Routine

So, it’s been a little while, actually too long since I’ve posted. I’ve been under the weather with carpal tunnel and am finally ready to re-enter the blogging world! I’ve missed my computer, my readers, and reading other blogs. But with the diagnosis of carpel tunnel also came a plan of recovery, which included clean eating! But, first things first…let me catch you up on what’s been going on my world.

The holidays found me as they did most of you cheating a little here and a little there. Am I right? As for me, I enjoyed a indulging in a few Christmas cookies, a couple of pieces of Christmas candy, and of course those savory Christmas dinners with all of our wonderful relatives. With those delicious moments of indulging also came a few extra pounds, a slightly elevated cholesterol, and the suffering that comes with carpel tunnel, which included joint pain, inflammation, and some sleepless nights. But, with all of the this…the life of a college professor doesn’t stop. Classes must go on! So what’s a girl to do? Limit her time on the computer, and get back to my routine and love of clean eating.

So, first things first! The holidays were officially over. It was time to do a healthy cleansing detox which included the following routine:

  • an eight ounce glass of room temperature lemon water first thing in the morning every morning to help kick-start the digestive system.
  • breakfast of either fresh egg whites with wilted baby spinach (I also included onions, red peppers, and mushrooms) or a plain cup of plain Greek yogurt with a fresh fruit and a drizzle of raw honey.
  • fruit choices included apples, tangerines, strawberries, red grapes, blueberries, or fresh peaches.
  • Lunch consisted of lots dark green lettuce, fresh veggies, with either tuna in water, grilled chicken, or grilled turkey.
  • Supper consisted of fresh vegetables steamed or cooked with grilled salmon or halibut.
  • the meats could be rotated between lunch and breakfast.
  • Snacks included fresh fruit (no bananas) or a handful of almonds.
  • For the first two weeks I didn’t incorporate any grains, or pasta into my diet and also drank one cup of unsweetened green tea after each meal to help increase metabolism, I also included eight full 8 ounce glasses of water daily as well.
  • I reduced my coffee intake to two cups per day.
  • And I returned to working out on my elliptical on a daily basis. I started slow and increased a couple of minutes each day.

The results of my all of the hard work and dedication paid off. I dropped the five unwanted pounds that I had gained through the holidays as well as two more stubborn pounds that had hung around far too long! With the clean diet also came less inflammation and more restful nights. My doctor prescribed an arm brace to wear at night and while on the computer, which made a huge difference. I’m also a believer in prayer as well, so between many prayers, a clean and safe detox, returning to a dedicated clean diet, adding more exercise into my daily routine, and a simple arm brace…I’m back at my computer with no pain, down seven pounds, and feel like a brand new person. I’ll return to the doctor in a few weeks to have blood work to check my cholesterol level. I’m expecting great results there too!

Remember, we’re only human. We all have desires, cravings, family dinners, and we all enjoy sweet treats occasionally! We all fall of the wagon occasionally, but the important thing is to regain focus before things get out of control. I’m excited about regaining my vision, inspiration, and love of clean eating. I’m also excited about being back in my comfortable routine after a couple of weeks of indulging in unplanned meals. I’m thrilled about losing a few extra pounds, and thankful that I physically feel well enough to spend the time that I need to with God, my family, students, my computer, my blog, and simply feeling well enough surfing the web with no pain. I give God the praise and glory for it all. I’m also super excited about upcoming posts. I will be sharing new clean and delicious recipes with you! Be sure to come back and check out my blog weekly. I’m planning to post recipes on Mondays.

Eating Clean? Tips To Help You Through The Holidays!

The holidays are quickly approaching. Have I mentioned that I love all of the fall and winter holidays? I love everything about them. I enjoy watching the kids trick or treat, the family gathering for a traditional Thanksgiving feast, and a few weeks later the Christmas festivities begin. Each of my favorite holidays revolve around family, and food! Halloween candy seems to be everywhere during the month of October. My desire to bake breads, cookies, pies, and cakes increases as the falling leaves turn to snow. Oh, and how about all that Christmas candy, and cookies? A few weeks later, it’s time to indulge in all of those delicious Valentine chocolates. Yes, the holidays are a great time for family interaction, celebration, making memories, giving to others, and an opportunity to indulge in our favorite foods! It’s also a time that those extra pounds have a way of creeping up on us before we know it. Yeah, it’s happened to me in the past, year after year. But, not in the past four years!

Since I began the journey of a healthier lifestyle through clean eating, I have learned to be prepared and equipped for the holiday eating binges. How? You might ask. I want to share with you a few tips that have helped me to maintain my focus, resist temptation, and feel satisfied and not deprived of all the holiday goodies!

A Daily Promise

I have found that by making a verbal promise to myself each morning I am more motivated, dedicated, and have a clearer vision of my ultimate goal of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I simply promise myself that I will be good to myself today by making healthy food choices, exercise, and drinking plenty of water. This is a simple statement that I make usually while I am making my morning coffee, and doing my routine stretches, and resistance exercises. I also give myself a little pep talk about how I deserve to feel healthy, have more stamina, energy, joy, and peace with myself. I follow-up with my morning prayer. I have found too that meditation, and prayer help me to stay focused.

Planning meals ahead of time!

Planning meals ahead of time!

Plan ahead

Temptation is the hardest when I don’t plan ahead. For example, I know during the month of October, bowls of candy seem to appear everywhere on campus, at the check out in many of our local stores, all over the store shelves, on television commercials, and in the hands of my students and colleagues. To be equipped to say no, I have found that if I keep a healthy treat with me at all times, I am more likely to say no. By planning ahead, I shop for small healthy and clean items that I can keep in my purse, and or my lunch tote along with a bottle of water. I have found that apples help curb my sweet tooth. Carrot sticks help curb a desire to eat something crunchy, and my homemade apple dips are wonderful to help curb a sweet craving, and are an easy take along treat. These are only a few of many treats that I have found to be satisfying. I love to have organic dried cranberries to snack on, as well as toasted almonds, Greek yogurt, granola, homemade energy balls, organic peanut butter, honey, sorghum, cauliflower bites, oranges, bananas, homemade clean breads, and even smoothies are a terrific way to help carry us through those weak moments. Don’t feel bad for having those weak moments, we all have them. We’re not machines that can be programmed. We are just human. Keep in mind there are loads of healthy and clean recipes that can made with organic peanut butter, dark chocolate, and fruits that are awesome! I’ll post a few of those recipes very soon!

Clean Pumpkin Apple Bread that is Delicious!

Clean Pumpkin Apple Bread that is Delicious!

Holiday Substitutes

For every delicious and fattening holiday recipe, there is also a delicious, clean, and healthy recipe awaiting to be prepared. Do you homework. Scour the Internet for clean recipes. I have several clean bread recipes, clean fruit dip recipes, and many more recipes to come before the holidays. However, there are many more blog sites, websites, and Pinterest pins filled with clean and healthy recipes just awaiting for you to try them. You may also fill up on vegetables, fruit, and healthy dishes of baked or roasted turkey, sweet potatoes sweetened with sorghum, and many more delicious healthy versions of various holiday recipes to substitute the unhealthy recipes that we’ve all eaten for years. It just takes a little creativity and careful planning.

Food journals help keep me accountable.

Food journals keep me accountable.

Food Journals

Food journals have been a source of inspiration for me for years. Many years ago, while I was in college we were required to keep a food journal for a health class. We not only had to record our food intake, but also our water intake, exercises, our daily weight, weekly measurements, and vitals if we had any medical complications. I was amazed how this made me more accountable than ever before. The trick is to be consistent and honest. As years have passed, technology has increased and many wonderful computer programs, apps, and other health monitoring equipment have been developed that makes it so much easier today. I have used various websites, and apps to help me track my food intake. I have also used several apps and interactive bracelets that have proven to be beneficial in tracking my exercise. I love using the map my walk app, and also wearing my fitbit, which can be purchased on amazon. Check out my amazon favorites for a quick look at them. Tracking, journaling, and recording have never been easier. It just takes desire, honesty, and dedication.

Every day brings hope, it's a brand new day!

Every day brings hope, it’s a brand new day!

Every Day is a New Day

Even when we’ve made ourselves a promise, meditated, read an inspirational devotion, planned ahead, made healthy substitutes, and recorded our food, exercise, and water intake…we still are only human, and we will make mistakes, and poor choices. I have my fair share of both. I have also learned through this three-year journey of eating clean, that when I make a poor choice, or I fall off the health wagon, it’s not the end of the journey. Everyday is a brand new day with new choices to make. In years past, when I made poor choices, I often felt so guilty and frustrated that I gave in, and gave up. One day of making poor choices turned into weeks of really bad choices, and before I knew it…five pounds had accumulated, my blood pressure was rising, and I was feeling really depressed. With the changes that I have made in my life through these last three years, I have learned that it’s not the end of the journey, I am only human, I don’t get angry at myself, I give myself a pep talk, re-motivate, and I start a brand new day with a new promise, new plans, new substitutes, and a clean slate. Life is too short to live in the past with regrets, and bitterness. Remember, every day is a brand new day in your journey of clean eating and maintaining a healthier lifestyle.

I hope you have enjoyed learning a little more about me and my personal journey to a healthier life. I have found that the above tips have helped me through this three and a half-year journey. I have also learned that with patience and loving myself, I have developed new eating habits that become easier to maintain with time, and new routines that also become easier over time. I have also learned that every day is a new day, and every day is precious. My desire is to live a clean, healthy, and happy life through healthy choices that I make. Feel free to check out my Pumpkin Almond Fruit Dip and my Almond Butter Fruit Dip to help curb your sweet cravings. I love to hear from my readers, so feel free to leave your comments. Make your holidays clean and happy!

Clean Pumpkin Apple Bread

Fall would just not be fall without pumpkin lattes, pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin smoothies, and the list could go on and on! As a matter of fact, I like pumpkin anything! When I began the journey of living a healthier life through clean eating, less stress, and more exercise I was sure that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy many of my fall favorites. I was wrong, really wrong! Eating clean and healthy is not as difficult as many of the attempts that I previously made by trying to count calories, fats, sugar, etc. With clean eating, I don’t think about counting anything really. I simply use organic ingredients, little to no processed and packaged ingredients, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

One of my all time favorite fall breads is pumpkin apple bread. I’ve been working on getting the recipe just right. I attained that perfection yesterday! My bread was delicious. So delicious that the entire loaf disappeared by night fall. No, I didn’t devour the entire loaf. It was consumed by myself, my daughter (who also enjoys clean eating), and believe it or not, my husband who does not eat clean. I’m excited about sharing this recipe with you, and it’s just in time for the holidays!

A delicious treat anytime!

A delicious treat anytime!

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, or adjust with gluten-free flour
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground ginger
1/1/2 fresh grated cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 fresh, or organic eggs
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup fresh sorghum
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 cup Pumpkin Puree
1 small apple peeled and diced

Fresh farm eggs

Fresh farm eggs

A clean replacement for brown sugar!

A clean replacement for brown sugar!

Agave nectar is a great way to sweeten any drink or dish!

Agave nectar is a great way to sweeten any drink or dish!

Procedures

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.) Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, stir and set aside.

3.) Mix remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and pour into the dry ingredients, mix well.

4.) Oil a loaf pan with coconut oil.

5.) Pour the bread mixture into the oiled pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.

Bake at 350 degrees

Bake at 350 degrees

A delicious treat anytime!

A delicious treat anytime!

Fall breads make great treats anytime of the day. They also make great gifts. I hope that your family enjoys this delicious and festive bread as much as my family does. It’s healthy, clean, tastes great, and feels like you’re cheating, when you’re not! If you enjoy this bread, be sure to check out my recipes for Clean Apple Zucchini Bread, and Clean Apple Ginger Bread. Both of these recipes are easy and just as delicious. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, try my recipes, and enjoy a few minutes in the mountains of Kentucky! Feel free to leave comments, and share how you enjoyed my Pumpkin Apple Bread. Also, feel free to follow my blog!