For Such a Time as This…

Good morning, from the mountains of Kentucky. Let me first begin by saying, we are blessed! I am not just implying my family, I am saying and proclaiming for all that are reading… “we are blessed!” You might be asking how so, or why did she post that? Deep within, you need to know that if you are physically able to read this post or any other post, you are alive, thus… you have been blessed with another day. Even, if there are things going on in your life, and we all have those days and even weeks, or maybe seasons, if you are breathing, you are blessed. Secondly, accept this day and know Lord has your best interest and will take care of you, walk in it. Make this day count. For every day that passes, is a day that we cannot and will not be able to enjoy again.

God’s beauty…

My mind often drifts back to a simpler time when life didn’t seem as hectic or as chaotic. The world seemed to be a more simple place. Sure there’s always been trouble, trials, wars, and bad things that happen, but that’s because we live in a real world where both good and bad happen. However, it seems to rein in a more bold abundance than in the times gone by. Is that it? Or, is that we, as a whole, are more connected to the media, social media, and here say, than we are to our savior and His word? Is it that we focus too much on what others are saying, or implying, than what the word tells us?

My heart is leading me in a direction to simplify life, my life. How so? By disconnecting from so much of the media. I don’t mean that I will live in a bubble where all is well and I will not acknowledge that bad things do happen. No, not at all. I mean, that I am being selective of what news I read, that’s right, read. I feel lead to spend much less time on social media, and more time in my prayer closet, in the word, and with the Lord, and with myself. I am doing some soul searching, meditation, deep and close reading, and also spending some quiet time listening to His voice.

His beauty abounds everywhere!

I was reminded of how we, as a society, often overlook the simple things and become bored when things begin to calm down, or when there’s no fast paced gratification in most anything we attempt. Have we allowed the use of technology to rob us of the blessings of using our hands to create, our strength to labor, our eyes to actually read a book that we physically hold in our hands, and using precise measurements to create delicious dishes? Have we allowed the clutter in our lives to rob our desire of helping our fellowman? Do we care more for ourselves than the elderly widow who would love to have a home cooked meal, or someone to physically talk to? Have we allowed the convenience of instant almost anything to replace the satisfaction that we once felt by actually taking the time to complete a task?

This is an afghan I’m working on for one of our grandchildren. This is the fourth of five that I’ve made with love and many prayers for each of them.

What tasks am I speaking of? For such as a time as this, almost anything would fit into this category. Anything from baking a scratch cake instead of a boxed cake. From crocheting your own afghan for a friend instead of buying a thoughtless gift. Nurturing a plant from a seed with care and love, rather than picking the finest mature plant from a nursery. Growing your own herbs to dry, rather than buying a cheaper easier version from the store. Canning healthy produce for your family, rather than buying cheap imitations that are full of preservatives? It could be as simple as taking a break from browsing your phone, to watching a squirrel gather nuts. Reading deeper than surface reading the Bible. For such a time as this, this list could continue for far too long. We can’t make a total change overnight with simplification, but we can simplify our life, one habit, one deed, or one choice at a time.

I was inspired by our six year-old grandson to post this blog. While I prepared breakfast a few mornings ago, he was enjoying his pre-breakfast muffins and a cup of milk. He was a bit upset because his tablet battery was low and he wouldn’t have enough battery life to watch a cartoon that he wanted to see. Suddenly, his eyes caught sight of a company’s Christmas toy catalog lying on the table. Immediately he laid the tablet aside and asked what the book was for. I explained how his mommy and uncle used to browse the Sears and JC Penny wish-books for weeks circling their favorite toys in hopes of getting those for Christmas. They were making their choices known. Right away, he asked for a pen to circle his choice of toys, not just for himself, but for his brother, cousins, and friends. Grant it, if the item was given a circle and a check, then that indicated the ranking of interest for that particular item. All the while, he never mentioned being bored, or once stopped to watch his tablet. With excitement, he browsed the pages several times and later declared to his mommy that they too needed a book like Nan’s.

Take time to enjoy something with substance. We need more Sears and JC Penny’s moments in life. Simplify things.

With that being said, for such a time as this, I feel inspired to ask you today, to take time to stop and enjoy what our Heavenly Father has created for us. Simplify your life. Choose wisely how you spend your time. And above all, remember that He gave all so that we could have life and have it everlasting.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post. It’s a bit different than many of my other posts, but I am a person of many diverse interests, from crocheting, reading, writing, gardening, thrifting, collecting antiques, baking, creating, singing and so many more things. Above all, I love to tell others about Him. God bless from the mountains of Kentucky. Feel free to follow and comment. May the Lord bless each of you abundantly.

Organic Vegan Vegetable “Beef-less” Soup

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope your fall is off to a great start. Things are beginning to slow down on our small farm. All of the garden produce is either, canned, preserved, dried, or frozen. It was a lot of hard work, but very satisfying and rewarding work. We enjoy the produce year round. But my personal favorite is making soups with all the different veggies. When the cool fall winds begin to creep into the mountains, I feel the urge to cook. One of my favorite dishes is homemade vegan vegetable beef-less soup, especially on wet and drizzly day like today.

A warm bowl of soup on a fall day makes for a cozy meal!

I grew up eating vegetable beef soup. It was always a winter favorite in our house. Our children grew up eating vegetable soup with grilled cheese. Vegetable soup remains a favorite still today. Just because my vegetable soup is vegan, doesn’t mean it’s not tasty. I think you’ll find my vegetable soup to be savory, filling, and healthy.

Ingredients:

  • Half of a large organic yellow onion
  • 1/4 organic red bell pepper
  • 1/4 organic green or yellow pepper
  • 1 tbs organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 can of unsalted diced organic tomatoes
  • 2 cups organic vegan meatless chorizo crumbles (I use Morning Star)
  • 2 cups of meatless beef crumbles (my favorite is Simple Truth crumbles)
  • 2 cups organic frozen sweet peas or 1 can unsalted organic sweet peas
  • 2 cups organic frozen corn or 1 can of unsalted organic corn (I use 3-4 ears of frozen corn from our garden and cut it off the cob)
  • 2 cups of fresh green beans cooked or one can of organic green beans (I use a half quart of beans we preserve from our garden)
  • 2-3 medium sized potatoes
  • 2 cups sliced carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups organic vegetable broth
  • 1 quart tomato juice (I use the tomato juice we can from our garden tomatoes)
  • I like to use good quality organic seasonings. Add salt, pepper, onion salt, garlic powder, turmeric, and paprika to taste. I usually season each layer of the soup while I’m preparing it.
  • One tablespoon of organic tomato paste.

In a large cast iron stock pot, heat olive oil over medium low heat. Dice onions and peppers and add to oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until onions and peppers are tender. Add meatless crumbles and add a small sprinkle of salt and pepper and other spices. Sauté for ten minutes and then add diced tomatoes.

Meatless crumbles are very tasty and textured very close to beef, only better!

While this is simmering peel and dice potatoes, and slice carrots. Add the potatoes and carrots to a pot of boiling water. Add a drizzle of oil and season the potatoes and carrots with salt and pepper. Cook the potatoes and carrots until they’re semi tender or a tiny bit al dent-e, which will prevent them from overcooking when added to the soup.

These are a flavor bomb! Delicious for tacos, chili, or veggie soup!

While the potatoes and carrots are cooking, begin adding the remaining ingredients one at a time. If you choose to use canned veggies, drain the vegetables and rinse well before adding. If you use frozen, allow them to thaw first. Once the vegetables have all been added, season to taste with remaining seasonings and add salt and pepper if necessary. Allow the vegetables to come up to heat and add tomato juice. Allow the mixture to begin to cook and add vegetable broth. When potatoes are the desired tenderness drain and add to the soup. I like to add a tbs of organic tomato paste at this time and add any additional seasonings. Allow the soup to simmer on low for 30 minutes. Serve with your favorite crackers or organic dairy free grilled cheese! Anyway you serve it, your family will love it!

Close up of a bowl of soup to emphasize the delicious veggies!

I hope that you and your family enjoy this savory and delicious soup as much as my family does. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. I love to hear from my readers. If you are not already following my blog, feel free to follow and receive notifications each time I post. For now, so long from the mountains of Kentucky! God bless each of you!

Holistic Living

Hello, from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope you’re having an awesome and blessed day! Things have been quite hectic in our neck of the woods! As a college professor this is one of the busiest times of the year as we are deep into the fall semester. Each year brings growth and change, which are both welcomed, but not always easy. As famers, life has been extremely hectic as we are harvesting, preserving , and canning the remnants of our garden. As a part of a church family, it’s been a busy time of growth, and a sense of urgency to pray more for our country and family than ever before. We’ve also felt the need to preserve and can more than in years past. With that sense of urgency, we’ve actively been growing our pantry, and stocking our shelves with a little more than usual this year.

Making time for self-care, especially when life gets crazy is a must. I have found that taking the time early in the morning hours to sit quietly, reflect, meditate, pray, and journal has proven to be very therapeutic and healthy for my mind and spiritual well-being, which helps to maintain a healthy mind, heart, and soul. I enjoy crocheting, which is also very therapeutic. After prayer, devotion, and Bible study, a few minutes of crocheting is one of my times to reflect and meditate. Mornings are great for me as the house is quiet and the farm outside hasn’t come to life just yet.

Morning fog hovering in the still green mountains. Morning walks are the best!
Crocheting and reflecting on the past and meditating on the day.

Holistic living is healthy and very satisfying way of life. I am often asked how I made the decision to lead a holistic life. I have been an advocate for clean eating for a great number of years, which made the transition somewhat easier. I chose clean eating for my health. My health was declining at a young age. My cholesterol was out of control, my blood pressure was extremely high, I was over weight, and I was border line diabetic. So, the journey began there! I decided that I would take back my health! I chose clean eating as many fad diets just didn’t work. Day by day, week by week, with the help and support of my family, church and friends, changes started happening! One by one I was able to stop taking meds for all of the above health issues, I lost 75, yes 75 pounds! I was finally in control of my diet and my health!

With the wonderful effects that clean eating had on my health, it evolved into my decisions to become a pescatarian, then gradually that evolved to becoming a vegetarian, which both added vitality and a new zeal for life in my thoughts and my body and evolved into an even cleaner diet. I’ve had trouble with digesting diary for years and had gradually made the change to almond milk and plant butter and cheese, which again made the transition easier. For nearly five years now, I’ve enjoyed a vegan/plant based diet, which has lead to an increase in my overall health, and a peace and satisfaction that I am making a difference in my overall well-being.

Enjoying the smell of mint drying in the kitchen.

I am also a herbalist, and enjoyed growing our own herbs for cooking, making teas, and also for minor medial problems for years. I also love sharing them with family and friends. The most recent addition to living a cleaner and healthier life, was the decision to become a doTERRA essential oil consultant. I’ve used essential oils for years, and finally decided that I would become a consultant and purchase from myself rather than online markets. This line is the best that I’ve used thus far and it’s also a nice little supplemental income as well. With a holistic lifestyle come lots of questions. The primary questions I am asked are, why and how.

Fresh basil in the background and one of my favorite oils. Orange is very versatile.

The first question is the most common question. What inspired you to lead a holistic life? I always answer that question with a question. Why wouldn’t I? Then I begin to explain I chose this lifestyle for my health, my peace of mind, and simply put, for my life. I also add some details about the astounding amount of research revealing the high level of toxins, preservatives, and additives that basically poison the human body and our environment. These toxins are found in food, fast foods, shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, makeup, perfumes. detergents, cleaning products, air fresheners, candles, and even in our pet’s food. I’ll share another story in a different post of how we nearly lost my canine baby due to additives in what was supposed to be healthy doggie treats. That was a real eye-opener!

I always share one of the most informative books that I’ve ever read was, How Not to Die, written by Dr Gregor. There is so much information revealed within the covers of this book that confirmed my reasons for eating clean, and eating cleaner than I had been eating. His research also solidified my thoughts about why I had been food poisoned by fast food on more than one occasion, why we nearly lost our house dog, and why cleaning products and certain air fresheners lead to smothering and irritated sinuses. He exposes much about how these horrific toxins are actually allowed to be in our foods, pet foods, cleaning products, and even in medicines and vitamins that we think are helping us.

An eye-opening read!!! I encourage anyone who is interested in living a cleaner, more holistic life to read this book!

Secondly, I’m asked if it was a difficult transition. My answer is no. You don’t have to make the plunge and change everything at once. I made changes over a period time with my diet and I did the same thing with household items, hygiene items, and even my car air fresheners. I didn’t see the need to waste products that I already had on hand, so as I would empty an item, I would replace it with plant based, organic, and a cleaner item. First on the list, I would begin eliminating the toxins from my our home and our vehicles. My first elimination was laundry detergent. To prevent waste, after exhausting the last of my stock, I began using organic plant based detergents that didn’t require fabric softeners. There were some products that I had in my home that I could not convince myself to continue using. Those plug in air fresheners were tossed in the garbage, empty or not!

With the various air fresheners gone, I replaced them with diffusers for essential oils to help clean and purify the air and also bring a wide array of wonderful scents into the house. One by one I replaced our cleaning supplies with either organic plant based cleaning supplies or homemade supplies from natural ingredients. It’s quite amazing how many options are on the market and what’s even more amazing is the number of cleaners you can make using essential oils! I’ll share my bathroom cleaner soon! It cleans great, easy to make, and also prevents those toxic fumes that no one likes.

The next change was hair care products and tooth paste. doTERRA made that change easy for me as well. They have a wonderful plant based shampoo that incorporates essential oils, and a fantastic plant/based conditioner, and leave in conditioner that is excellent! I can’t even explain how wonderful my hair feels after using these products! My hair shines so much more than before and it feels less weighted. I also made the transition from usual tooth paste to a clean toxin free tooth paste from doTERRA. I chose this toothpaste simply because I’m a doTERRA consultant, and after trying it… it works! My teeth are clean and white and after reading the list of ingredients in my old toothpaste, it was an easy transition and one that I am happy I made.

doTERRA shampoo, conditioner, and leave-in conditioner. All natural!!!

Finally, vitamins was the next item to begin changing. It was easy to switch vitamins with doTERRA. The vegan vitality pack is on my monthly auto order. I love these vitamins as they’re all plant based, no additives, or artificial colors added, and they’re in veggie capsules. Essential oils, homegrown herbs, and homemade teas helps with common cold symptoms, allergies, scrapes and minor abrasions. I could go on forever with the reasons why I chose a holistic lifestyle.

Vitality pack! This was a game-changer! Even though I already took vitamins and had for years… I noticed an immediate change in my stamina!!

I’m asked if I miss fast foods, soft drinks, and what in the world do I do about coffee. Number one, I don’t miss fast foods. As a matter of fact, the cleaner you eat, the less you even want fast foods. My husband and I now prefer food prepared at home ten to one over restaurant foods. I gave soft drinks up over twenty years ago for my own personal health and have never looked back. I’ll be honest, coffee change took a while. It took a little while and a lot of different coffees to find a good organic coffee that I truly enjoyed, but have finally found one that is very satisfying. I have also replaced much of the coffee that I drank during the day and evenings with organic and my homemade teas.

Delicious organic coffee from Amazon!!!

Finally, I’m asked if I feel better physically since making so many changes. Simply omitting meats and dairy from my diet was a game changer with my cholesterol and inflammation. Omitting artificial colors, scents, and toxic preservatives really made a positive impact on my allergies. Plant based vitamins, a good clean diet, and the removal of toxic smells in our home has made a positive impact on my overall health, stamina, and lead to a much more simple life that makes me happy knowing I am doing something to improve my quality of life, my families, and decreasing the chances of disease in our bodies.

Enjoy the simple things that bring joy and support your health. Organic lavender growing near our front door! Love to add to plant butter, cookies, teas, and more.

If you’re interested in holistic living, start slow. Remove one thing at a time. Don’t try to do it all at one time! You’ll become overwhelmed, which might result in giving up. Make one change and allow that change to become a routine. Once you feel grounded and content with that change, make a second change. As you empty or exhaust a supply of one particular item, replace it with a cleaner wholesome item. Read the labels, do the research, do a little soul searching, meditate, pray, and take holistic living one day and one change at a time.

Take time to enjoy the change. One change at a time and you’ll be more likely to stay the course. It’s so worth it!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Feel free to leave comments. I enjoy reading comments and answering questions. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky! Happy Fall!!!

Reminiscing in the Herb Garden

Good afternoon, from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope your Labor Day weekend is already off to a great start! It was a quiet morning in the mountains in our neck of the woods this morning. A big music festival has been going on in our small downtown area for the past three or four days. But, for myself, I would rather be in the peace and quiet of our small farm. This morning as the fog lifted and the dew glistened and clung like diamonds on the green leaves, I enjoyed the mountain air with a hot cup of coffee. As a result of the scattered showers last night, damp leaves lay scattered over the still damp ground. A feeling of fall was surely in the air. With thoughts of the inevitable season swiftly approaching, I felt an unction to walk through the herb garden that would all too soon be gone.

My favorite Italian basil.

With the sounds of the hummingbirds feeding and crickets still chirping, a peaceful feeling filled my being. The smell of the herbs filled the air as I brushed past the holy basil, rosemary, lavender, and my favorite Italian basil. The mint caught my attention. It was still thriving as a result of quenching their thirst with organic mint teabags this year. There was such a harmonious feeling being in the midst of the bright and fresh herbs that would soon hang in my kitchen to dry. I felt an anxious feeling for the aroma that the herbs omit while they’re drying. Our entire kitchen would be filled with scents of lavender, basil, and mint. Yet, another indication that fall is near.

My thoughts lingered in many places this morning as I enjoyed the surroundings that I so love. Lingering thoughts of our cemetery service yesterday where we gathered to have church on the graveyard. This is an old tradition that still lingers in the Appalachian mountains. It’s a time to pay respect to our loved ones, worship together in song, preaching of the word, and prayer. It’s also a time when the world outside with all the doom and gloom seems to stop… and family gathers together to remember and celebrate the lives of our family who have gone before us.

My great grandparents grave.

The songs that were sung on the cemetery still felt alive in my mind. While sitting quietly among the herbs, one of my favorite morning fragrances enticed my senses. The earth was alive this morning! The aroma of the rich soil was thick in the air. The smell of the soil after a rain instantly transported me back to my childhood. Rising early to the sounds of our mother singing. I would eagerly follow the sound of her soft voice. Many mornings I found her sitting on the back porch drinking coffee, enjoying the mountain morning air, and other times she would be shucking corn or stringing beans she had picked earlier that morning while my brother, sister, and I slept. The aroma of strong black coffee filled the kitchen and the cool morning air. The scent of damp soil enticed me to run barefoot between the rows of corn, but the freshness of the garden vegetables sustained me. I loved stringing beans, or chopping corn, even as a young child.

Everyone I string beans, I think of my youth.

After a slow and thoughtful walk through the aromatic herbs, reality called my name. It was time to go inside and enjoy a little time with my latest adventures in writing. I’m excited to share more news and details as the project approaches completion. Also, upcoming posts include canning crushed tomatoes, preserving like a pro, vegan zucchini bread, and an update on our fall adventures in the mountains. For now, may the Lord bless you each with a wonderful and restful Labor Day. Feel free to leave a comment. I love hearing from my readers. God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Canning Our Favorite Pickle Relish

It’s bean picking time in the mountains!

Good morning, from the mountains of Kentucky. I hope your Saturday is off to a wonderful start! It’s been a busy day already for our household. Early morning prayer and meditation with our Heavenly Father, devotion, and studying His word and enjoying fresh perked coffee. God is so good. I love seeing His fingerprints on the small things in our lives as well as the big things. We are truly a blessed people. As you can see from the picture above, it’ll be bean picking time this week!

A larger pot of spearmint grown primarily for mint water and teas.

I was amazed to see so much new growth in the mint garden this morning. I created a weak mint tea from teabags yesterday and generously watered both the peppermint and spearmint. Wow! This morning both mints were strutting and showing off lots of new leafs that were healthy and shiny. Don’t throw away those used teabags or tea that might be out of date. Create your own fertilizer that is a rich organic treat for your herbs. I’ll try to make a post later about the uses of tea in the garden. Now, let me share our favorite relish recipe with you!

So, for this delicious pickle relish you’ll work in two a two complete this relish in a two day setting. You’ll need the following ingredients for day one;

Day one:

  • Two or three gallons of fresh cucumbers washed and dried.
  • One medium yellow/sweet onion.
  • One small red bell pepper washed and dried.
  • One tablespoon of salt.

Process for day one; dice cucumbers, yellow onion, and bell pepper into very small diced pieces. Put in a bowl that has a lid. Sprinkle the tablespoon of salt over the veggies and gently toss. Put in the fridge over night.

Day two:

Wash and sterilize pint jars, rings, and flats. Allow them to drain and dry on a clean towel. If you use the dishwasher to sterilize you can bypass this step. Next, remove the veggies from the fridge. Line a colander with either cheesecloth or sturdy white paper towels. Put the colander in the sink bowl and pour the veggies into the lined colander and drain well. You may use additional paper towels to blot and gently squeeze the veggies to help remove the excess liquid. Allow veggies to sit and drain while you make the brine.

For the brine you will need the following ingredients;

  • Three cups of distilled white vinegar
  • One cup of water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons diced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of course black pepper
  • One tablespoon turmeric
  • A couple sprigs of fresh deal
  • One teaspoon of dried dill weed

Combine the ingredients above other than the fresh dill along with the diced veggies in a large pot. Bring slowly to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low for ten minutes. Put a little fresh dill in the bottom of each jar and then add the relish mixture to clean jars. A funnel makes this process easier and less messy. Wipe the rims of the jars and add the flats and rings. Place jars in water bath canner with the water covering the lids. Bring the water to a hard boil, and set timer for 10 minutes. Turn the stove off when ten minutes has passed, and remove jars with a jar lifter. Set them aside on a folded towel or cutting board and listen for that wonderful pinging sound to assure you that your jars have sealed. Once the flats have cooled, write the date on them with a permanent marker.

I hope your family enjoys this relish as much as we do. We add it to chili dogs, hot dogs, and hamburgers. My husband loves it on beef burgers and I love it on plant based burgers! Using organic ingredients creates an even tastier and healthy choice for dishes. You may also add a jalapeño in the diced veggies to create an extra spicy relish. Both are a great addition to your summer dishes! This relish is also quite tasty in potato salad or egg salad. Experiment and feel free to let me know you how used this recipe.

Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. I love to hear from my readers. God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

Canning Savory Indian Relish

Good evening, from the mountains of Kentucky! It’s hard to believe that we are nearing the end of July. It seems we were just welcoming spring in only a few weeks ago. Summer time is a time of lots of work, fun, and more work, but one of my favorite seasons of the year. I love to plant seeds, water them and watch them grow. I love to work in our flowers, herbs, and vegetable garden. I love the smell of fresh plowed dirt as much as any summer smell I can think of. The aroma of the fresh earth takes me home to a much more simple time growing up in the mountains. I loved the garden even as a child. I loved to walk through the garden barefoot. I have a confession, I’m guilty of this at times right now. Enough reminiscing, as I promised, I am exited to share my Savory Indian Relish recipe with you. This is one recipe that I plan can each year! It is awesome, and it is relatively easy to make.

Let’s get started! You’ll need the following ingredients;

  • Two large zucchini
  • one large yellow onion
  • One large red bell pepper
  • One green or orange bell pepper
  • One medium size yellow summer squash
  • Two tablespoons salt
  • Two jalapeño peppers
  • Two cloves whole garlic
  • One tablespoon course black pepper
  • One tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • One tablespoon ground turmeric
  • One teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • One pinch nutmeg
  • Two teaspoons of mustard seeds
  • One cup of white sugar
  • Three cups white vinegar
  • Two cups of water

Process: Day One:

You’ll need a large bowl that has an air tight lid. Wash and dry zucchini. There’s no need to peel the zucchini or squash. After drying them dice them into small pieces. You can remove the seedy part of the zucchini if it’s a real big zucchini. Dice the onion, peppers, and squash into the bowl with the zucchini. I removed the seedy part of the squash and used primarily the meaty parts near the peel. Mix gently with hands and then sprinkle the salt over the diced veggies and toss gently again. Cover the bowl and put the veggies in the fridge over night. This will allow the moisture to come out of the veggies.

Day Two:

Wash and sterilize your jars, rings and flats. The dishwasher will sterilize them or boil them in the canner. Remove them with your tongs to prevent contamination. Next, take the bowl of veggies out of the fridge and using a colander rinse the veggies well two times and thoroughly drain. Dice garlic and jalapeño peppers into the veggies and toss. Be sure to wash your hands after slicing the jalapeño peppers. Avoid adding the seeds of the peppers as this might make the relish hotter than desired. In a large stock pot bring the water, vinegar, diced veggies, and remaining spices to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes.

While the brine and veggies are simmering, set up your work area with the jars, flats, rings and a ladle. After ten minutes of simmering ladle the veggie and brine mix into the sterilized jars. Run a knife around the mix on the inside of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Be sure to leave at least a half inch of space for headspace. This will allow the jars to seal appropriately. Wipe the rims of the jars and place the flat and ring on the jars. There’s no need to tighten the lid really tight. A snug fit will be fine.

Place the jars of relish in the canner of warm water making sure the jars are covered with water. Allow the water to come up to a boil slowly. When the boil is rolling, set the timer for 25 minutes. When the time exhausts, turn the burner off and allow the water to reduce to a simmer on its on. After 15 minutes using your jar lifter, carefully remove the jars of relish and place them on a wooden cutting board or on a folded towel on the sink or table. Soon, you’ll hear that lovely sound of the jars sealing one by one. Once the jars have sealed, and cooled, you may choose to remove the rings for future use. Some people remove the rings and others leave the rings on jars, either way is fine. It’s the flat that seals the jars and once the flat is sealed, the ring really doesn’t serve a purpose. This is a great tip from the days of the depression when canning rings were hard to come by. It’s a great money saver.

Don’t forget to write the date on the lids. You’ll appreciate this date in the future when trying to determine which jar of deliciousness you should select for a tasty side for supper. I always like to use the jars with the oldest dates first. Most flats have a seal date of 18-24 months. Most will stay sealed longer though. I’ve opened jars that were six, seven, or eight years old that were perfectly fine.

I hope you enjoy this zesty and tangy relish. It is family favorite around our house. It’s great with soup beans, chili, tacos and many other dishes. Feel free to leave feedback. I love to hear from my readers. God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

A Busy Day in the Mountains

Hello, from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope your July is off to a beautiful start! We’ve had a blessed week with just enough rain to water our thirsty garden and make the zucchini, summer squash, and cucumbers explode. The number of gorgeous veggies awaiting my attention caused me to wake even earlier today. After having a hot cup of coffee, relaxing with my daily devotional, prayer, and another fascinating chapter of the word, I looked at the tasks that lay ahead of me for the day. Farming looks glamorous to those who see it as all the veggies you can eat, decreased payout at the grocery store, and the many wonderful health benefits. All of these benefits are true, but the work and the labor are also very real… but satisfying. Chores are a big part of planting, growing, maintaining, and harvesting the rewards. After reading a chapter of my chosen summer read, What the Wind Knows, it was time to get up and get started checking things off my list. Yes, I am a list maker! It helps me feel organized.

The day began with watering the herbs, which needed harvesting again. It’s been a great year for all of our herbs. I quickly clipped lavender blooms to dry for flavoring teas, and clipped various types of mint. After washing and drying the herbs, I quickly tied them in bundles to hang for drying. The aroma of fresh herbs drying in the kitchen makes me happy.

Fresh mint hanging in the kitchen! This is chocolate mint. It makes great tea!
Lavender Blooms for flavoring Tea

Weekly household chores were next on the agenda. One by one, I checked them off my list. But, between chores… the squash, zucchini, and cucumbers were reoccurring thoughts. So, I decided to bake a little zucchini bread. I also vacuum sealed a few bags of sliced squash and zucchini for the freezer to enjoy this winter. Next on the list, was the sink full of cucumbers. Checking my time, I decided that I would have time to make seven quarts of spicy kosher dill pickles, which are always tasty any time of the year. If you’ve not tried my recipe for spicy kosher dills, you can follow the link below to learn more. These pickles are a family favorite, as well as a favorite among many of our neighbors. Canning Spicy Kosher Dill Pickles

We’ve had an abundance of summer squash and zucchini this year!

Now to proofread. My editor is expecting the final revisions of the last chapters to be ready later this week. I am in the homestretch of finishing this nearly year long project. I’m excited for my students to have this new workbook in their hands. It is designed to accompany the textbook I wrote in 2019. Thankfully, the abundance of rain we received over the last few weeks allowed me to work ahead of schedule, but also resulted in lots of weeds. That was another thing on the list to attend to. Hoeing usually means all hands on deck! Again, lots of hard work, but very satisfying work.

The zucchini kept calling my name! I ended up grating several zucchini for the freezer for bread this winter. I use a hand-held box grater and a glass measuring cup lined with white paper towel or cheese cloth. I grate the clean zucchini into the cup until the measuring cup is full. This is perfect for breads as my recipe calls for one full cup of grated zucchini. It also works well because the paper towel or cheesecloth is already holding the zucchini, and ready to be squeezed to remove the liquid before freezing. I felt better about having used several of the beautiful green bounty.

Three hours later, seven quarts of spicy kosher pickles are cooling and waiting to be taken to the basement for good eating this winter! Zucchini bread will be cooling soon. One loaf to eat and one for the freezer. Yes, you can freeze whole loaves of homemade bread. Allow the bread to completely cool, remove from loaf pan, and wrap twice with plastic wrap, then once with aluminum foil. Once the bread is frozen, you can vacuum seal for reassurance of no frost gathering on the bread. When you’re ready to eat the bread, allow it to thaw in the fridge. Once it’s completely thawed, remove the vacuum seal and unwrap and enjoy. It’s amazing how moist the bread is.

Spicy Kosher Pickles

I hope you’ve enjoyed spending a little time with me in the mountains of Kentucky. It’s been a busy day, but one that makes me feel accomplished. Feel free to leave comments. I love to hear from my readers. I’ll share the vegan zucchini bread recipe soon. It’s a keeper. Also, I’m excited to share my new Indian relish recipe with you! I’m hoping to have it posted later this week. Check out the picture beneath the bread photo! God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

Fresh baked chocolate chip zucchini bread.
Indian Relish recipe coming soon!

Five Organic Gardening Tips

Quote of the week:

Garden work is satisfying to the body and soul, as is the harvest.” ~Dr Bowling

Hello, from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope you’ve been blessed with awesome weather for your gardens! It’s been very dry in the mountains. Our garden is growing and we’re picking, but a lot of hard work has been involved with watering by hand through the month of June. Needless to say, we’ve decided to invest in ground soaking hoses that will water the ground when we want it, or as we need it. For a garden of our size, I’m not sure why we hadn’t already thought about this. I’m often asked questions about the difficulties involved with organic gardening. So, I decided to share five organic tips that can beneficial for your garden at this time of the year.

Love eating from the land… even though it’s a lot of hard work. Our garden early in the year!

Tip One: We’ve also dealt with low calcium in the soil through this very dry beginning to summer. So, through research and back work, we’ve added ground organic oyster shells to the soil around the squash and zucchini. As well as eggs shells and diatomaceous earth. Thankfully the rotting squash and zucchini have come to a stop and we’re back to picking our fill and then some of both fruits!

A few of the straight neck summer squash from our garden.

Tip Two: to add a little extra fertilizer to our herb garden, I’ve been saving organic tea bags and reboiling the bags for a weaker tea and watering the herbs. This is a game-changer for herbs. My favorites are chamomile, mint, and black tea. The plant feed on the rich antioxidants, and the the tea bags are added to the garden as the bags are biodegradable. We add the spicy cinnamon black tea bags around the garden for an additional deer repellent.

Nothing better than fresh herbs to cook with.

Tip Three: in the battle against those pesky beetles on beans, cucumbers, and squash plants. In a spray bottle we mix a spray of 10 drops of lavender essential oil, 10 drops of peppermint essential oil, and 10’drops of citronella essential oil, with a tsp of organic plant based dish detergent. Then fill the bottle with water. This makes a great spay to repel all kinds of munching little friends. We also dust our plants with organic food grade diatomaceous earth for an extra layer of protection.

Tip Four: adding a little potassium to tomatoes while repurposing banana peels. A lot of bananas are consumed at our house. I eat two a day most days. I love organic bananas for oatmeal, baked oatmeal, and as a snack and frozen ones in smoothies. So I’ve learned that not only roses like bananas, do do tomatoes in the form of a tea. To make tea, keep a pitcher of water in the fridge. The pitcher should be about half full to allow for room as you add banana peels. Once you’ve peeled the bananas, add them to the water. You can cut the peels, but don’t have to. There’s no need to cover the pitcher. After a week, take the bananas out and add one part banana tea to five parts water. Use this transit the base of tomatoes. It provides potassium to the soil. This will help produce stronger roots, stems, and great fruit. Banana tea can also be added beside of pepper plants as well.

Banana peel tea.

Tip Five: Begin saving egg shells a couple of weeks prior to planting tomatoes. When it’s time to plant, place an egg shell in the hole before putting the plant in the ground. Egg shells are loaded with calcium and will feed the soil at the roots of the tomatoes and help prevent blossom rot and what some of the old timers called, the blight.

I hope that you find these tips helpful and you have success with your garden this year and for years to come. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. I love to hear from my readers. Well, it’s time to go pick a while and reap the joys of our labors. God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

Harvesting Mint for Teas

Good Morning from the mountains of Kentucky. I hope your morning is off to a great start on this beautiful Saturday. We’ve been hammered with extreme temps this week, so today’s high seventies is a welcomed relief. It’s that time of year when the garden needs to be hoed, the weeds need to be pulled, herbs are coming in like crazy, and the harvesting and drying have begun. I took advantage of the cooler temps this morning to prune my herb garden, which desperately needed a trim. I like to trim my herbs in the early morning hours while the dew is still on the ground, and clinging to the leaves. I also like the cool temperatures as it is easier on me and on the herbs.

This is about a fourth of our vegetable garden.
Spearmint for teas and salads.

I have been enjoying mint-infused water this summer, and quite a bit of mint tea. I have already dried two cuttings of various types of mint, as well as other herbs. They’re carefully tucked away in my kitchen herb cabinet in glass jars in the kitchen. Glass jars with air-tight lids are the best method of storing dried herbs. I have had several questions about how I harvest mint. It’s actually quite easy. As I mentioned above, I trim herbs before they become leggy. Trimming herbs actually causes the herbs to take on a more bushy consistency.

Lemon balm for cooking, teas, and health.

As I trim the mint, I place the fresh-cut mint on large cookie sheets lined with a white paper towel or butcher paper. This allows me to keep the mints separated and labeled if necessary. I rinse the mint to ensure there are no ticks or other small pests. While the mint is draining in the sink, I inspect the mint for the best leaves. I try to pick the mint that is void of holes where insects may have nibbled, dark spots, or any other imperfections. I gently pat the leaves dry and place them on a clean, lined cookie sheet and place them where they are not in direct sunlight. It doesn’t take as long for the herbs to dry with this method.

Chocolate mint tea drying in the kitchen.

A second method I use is to follow the above steps, except do not remove leaves from stems. I pat the stems of aromatic leaves dry, gather the mint into a bunch, and wind cotton twine around the stems to tie the mint in a bunch to hang dry. I hang the mint in an area that is not directly exposed to windows or sunlight. It takes a little longer for the mint to dry by this method, but it allows you to harvest the stems as well as the leaves, while also filling the kitchen with a nice fresh mint aroma.

Once the mint in the tray is dry, you may either crumble the mint and add the mint to the mint jar or simply store the leaves in the jar. I use both methods. I like the crushed mint for baking and the whole leaves for tea. You may use either method of storing the dried bundle.

Chocolate mint leaves drying for tea.

A second question that is often asked is; what type of mint do you grow? To answer that, I respond as much as possible. Then I elaborate and explain that I grow peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, apple mint, lemon mint, and strawberry mint. I always reply that spearmint and chocolate mint are my favorites.

Finally, the third most asked question is; how do you make your tea? I tell them that I enjoy iced teas and also hot teas, depending on my mood and seasonal temperature at the time. For hot teas, I will typically place an organic black tea bag in my cup, put the water on to boil, choose the flavor of mint I want to have in my tea, and then add the mint to my tea ball. Once the water has reached the right temperature, I pour the water into the cup and allow the black tea and mint in the tea ball to steep for three to four minutes. I add a tiny bit of organic agave to the tea, stir and enjoy. You may add milk if you like your tea milky. I occasionally add almond milk or oat milk to mine.

Small jar of dried chocolate mint.

For cold tea, I boil enough water for a quart jar. I add two black tea bags, and if you like green tea, you can add green tea bags instead of black. I also add a larger tea ball filled with my choice of dried mint or even a mix of mints. Allow the tea bags and the tea ball to steep for forty-five minutes to an hour in the glass quart jar. Stir occasionally, and once the tea has darkened and cooled, you can pour tea over ice and add a little lemon, agave, and fresh mint leaves. This is an awesome drink, that is refreshing, full of antioxidants, and tastes great!

Tips of the week: you can pot various types of mint in flower pots to prevent the mint from taking over your garden, or if you have the room, you can isolate each type of mint in separate herb beds. Mint has a way of being intrusive and will quickly take over and can smother other herbs out. I like to do both pots and beds. My second tip is; as you know, I am a doTERRA essential oil consultant and recently I discovered that one drop of peppermint essential oil takes my peppermint tea to a totally new level. One drop of spearmint essential oil can be added to spearmint tea as well. Do not add essential oils from typical over-the-counter, or aromatherapy blends. doTERRA oils that are identified as supplemental can be added for internal use and wonderful internal benefits.

Lavender awaiting plant butter, teas, or cookies.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed learning about how I harvest mints for teas. I encourage you to grow mint, as it is probably the easiest herb to grow. It is also a very versatile herb that can be used for bee stings, headaches, bruising, as a natural pesticide, and also baking and delicious teas. Comments, ideas, and questions are welcomed. For now, God bless, from the mountains of Kentucky. Remember, God has given us an abundant supply of plants that will help sustain us.

Questions That I’m Asked About Eating Vegan

Italian tofu scramble, stewed tomatoes, fresh cucumbers and Ezekiel toast.

Following a plant based/vegan diet often leads to a variety of questions. Some questions are asked more often than others. My best answer is simply that I am eating healthy for my overall health and my life. I wanted to share some of the more common questions that I’m asked, and also how I answer them. My hopes is that after you read my answers, you may be inspired to eat clean, and healthy for your overall well being.

Why did you decide to follow a vegan diet?

It was an easy transition for me. I was never a big meat eater. I became lactose intolerant as a young adult, so I had had already omitted dairy from my diet. I battled high cholesterol for years, so I had already stopped eating eggs and processed foods. I also was a border line diabetic, which intensifies my concerns about sugars and processed foods. But one thing that helped me make my mind up was reading the research about the connections between consuming animal products and cancer. So, the decision was relatively easy for me.

How long have you ate plant-based?

I slowly transitioned over a period of four years. But, have been totally plant-based for nearly four years now. I have followed a clean diet for several years and loved eating organic foods and home grown veggies. I’ve always loved fruits and vegetables of almost all varieties.

What do you eat?

I always have to hide a giggle when I’m asked this question. I simply smile and explain that I eat from a wide variety of plants including loads of home grown and or organic vegetables and wide variety of organic fruits. I love good non gmo or organic brown rice in lots of dishes. I enjoy a lot of good organic old fashioned oats in many delicious dishes. I also add organic firm tofu to my diet at least three times a week. Tofu can become almost anything from a take on scrambled eggs to imposter fish sticks! I also really like organic veggie burgers. I eat flourless breads occasionally. And I also love soups of a wide variety. I love organic nut butters! I also enjoy almost all beans and lentils. The answer to this question could go on and on forever! Oh, I almost forgot about nuts!!! I love eating walnuts, almonds, pecans, and cashews! It’s really easier to say what I don’t eat. I don’t eat meat or meat products. And, I don’t eat dairy products. I can eat anything else that I want to eat. But, I do always try to eat as clean and organic as possible!

Our garden last year. This year’s is not quite this nature yet.

Does vegan food taste good?

The taste is unreal! I love growing and incorporating fresh herbs and spices in my dishes. My husband loves some of my dishes so good that he prefers some of my dishes to traditional dishes, such as tofu scramble instead of scrambled eggs. Taste lies within the imagination of the cook! The sky is the limit on fresh and or organic spices, molasses, and agave! Creativity is the key!

Plant-based dessert! This is my apple cinnamon tea bread.

Do you miss eating meat?

This is an easy question to answer. No, I do not miss meat at all! There’s many delusions ways to substitute meat. Lentils are great as is tofu. The market also has many healthy and organic options for ground crumbles that honestly taste better than ground beef. There’s also veggie or soy grillers that make outstanding burgers as well as many other options available today. You may be surprised at the amount of foods that are available in your local grocery stores. I encourage you to to be a label reader and also to make wise choices. I prefer fresh foods over processed foods. When I buy processed, I always try to buy organic.

Vegan taco boat in an acorn squash.

Does your family eat the same food as you do?

Dietary choices, lifestyle changes, and healthy habits are a personal choice, which I respect. Our daughter follows a vegan lifestyle as well, which helps with creating new and creative dishes. My husband does not. He is a true meat lover, but consumes less than he did at one time due to gout. He does enjoy my vegan vegetable soup and my vegan chili soup. He also prefers tofu scramble to scrambled eggs.

What do you eat when others are eating meat-based dishes?

Many times I eat the sides that I prepare with our meal. I am also careful in planning and preparing healthy sides. I love to incorporate fresh vegetables such as green beans, corn, spades of all kinds, veggie pasta, steamed veggies, baked potatoes, and many other dishes. If I prepare burgers for my husband, I often eat a veggie burger. I love to air fry small Yukon gold potatoes as fries. My husband now prefers them to traditional French fries. I can honestly say that I never have to worry about not having something to eat!

One of my favorite Italian dishes!

What do you eat when you dine out?

I’ll be honest, after eating clean for a number of years, I don’t or shall I say, we don’t eat out very much. But, when we do, I can usually make a meal on a good salad and baked potato. I have also been known to take my favorite plant-based dressing with me.

Do you miss cheese?

This is another easy question to answer. No, I do not miss cheese. There is so many organic non dairy cheese options available today. Also, raw cashews can be tuned into a delicious cheese! My favorite non-dairy cheese from the grocery is pictured below. Another plus about eating non dairy cheese is that it doesn’t mess with your bowel habits! No more constipation!

One of my favorites!

How has eating plant-based improved your health?

Wow! This is one of my favorite questions to answer. My cholesterol is now in the normal range. My blood pressure now is also normal. I no longer suffer with hemorrhoids. And, I don’t have acid reflux anymore. My joints feel better and I have less inflammation in my body. This is another answer that could go on and on.

How do you substitute eggs?

My favorite method of subbing eggs for a main dish is by using extra firm tofu. You can find my recipe for tofu scramble on my webpage. For baking, I use a flax egg.

Can you lose weight eating plant-based?

If you choose your foods carefully, you can lose weight. Like any other diet or lifestyle choice, there’s healthy options and unhealthy options. For example, Oreos are vegan, but also fattening. If you fill up on lots of raw and steamed veggies and fresh fruit, while remaining physically active, and staying hydrated, you’ll see pounds decrease and also feel better about yourself and like a new person. Remember, focusing on weight loss can lead to unhappiness and often times, failure, and weight gain. Always keep your focus on living a clean and healthy lifestyle that makes slow and steady progress, which leads to an overall difference in your well-being.

Where do you buy the food you eat?

We grow a huge garden every year. So, I eat a lot of fresh vegetables in the summer and fall. I also preserve, can, and dehydrate every year, so we enjoy our homegrown vegetables and fruit all year long. I buy things we can’t grow from Kroger as they have a good organic section and offer a wide variety of meat substitute items as well. I love visiting the local farmers markets and local farms. I also grow loads of herbs for fresh herbs. I also dry them for spices. I love to order some items that I can’t find in the local stores from Amazon. I also order from the Thrive Market as well. I love their organic teas.

Early spring garden a few years ago.

Did your hair come out?

You wouldn’t believe how many times I’m asked this question. The answer is no! If anything my hair is healthier than ever. I use a good plant based organic shampoo and conditioner, which I feel has made a huge difference.

How do you get enough protein?

There’s an amazing amount of protein in plants. Also, tofu is high in protein. I also enjoy lentils, which are loaded with protein. I like to eat at least one tablespoon of organic peanut butter each day. I’ll add it to smoothies, toast, protein balls, and sometimes just a spoon of peanut butter by itself. I enjoy incorporating organic protein powder in oatmeal, baked oats, and in smoothies. My blood work has never came back with low protein, so this has never been an issue for me.

One of my favorite protein powders!

These are only a few of the many questions that I’ve been and continue to be asked. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about a vegan diet/lifestyle. Feel free to leave comments. I love to hear from my readers. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!