Clean Summer Squash Soup

I’m not sure if it’s just me or what, but I feel like we are going to have an early fall here in the mountains of Kentucky. The evenings are becoming cooler and my canning is once again filling the pantry. As our summer yellow squash and zucchini are producing their final blooms and the freezer is well stocked with both, I began to feel creative. I wanted to try something new with the squash and zucchini.  I wanted to try something other than sautéed squash and zucchini, dried zucchini, zoodles, pickled squash and zucchini and all the other creative and delicious dishes that my family enjoys each summer. I had wanted to try using our delicious summer squash in a tasty soup. After a couple of attempts, and a few alterations…we enjoyed a delicious and very satisfying summer squash soup! I am very excited to share my delicious clean summer squash soup recipe with each of you. This soup has quickly become a favorite of my entire family, even my mom!

Ingredients:

1 small onion (I prefer purple onions)
1/2 of a red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 cup of sliced Portobello mushrooms
1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 medium size yellow squash
1 large zucchini 
1 can of organic no salt added diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1 box of organic vegetable broth
1 can of drained and rinsed organic cannellini beans
2 tablespoons of dried parsley
1 cup of organic frozen baby peas
1 cup of either fresh corn or 1 cup of no salt added organic corn

squash

Yellow Summer Squash

Process:

Heat one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a 4 quart cooker add diced onion, diced red pepper, minced garlic, and saute until the onions and peppers become tender. Add salt, pepper, rosemary, and paprika, stir and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Add sliced mushrooms. You may need to add more olive oil once the mushrooms absorb the oil in the cooker. Only simmer for about two minutes, or until the mushrooms change color.

Add tomatoes and the entire box of vegetable broth. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cut zucchini and squash into cubes. I like to cut mine into about one inch sections. I slice the squash and zucchini and then cut the slices into wedges (similar to cutting a pie) this allows each piece to maintain some of the peel, which is important for texture. Add squash and zucchini and stir. Drain and rinse beans and add to the soup. Add frozen peas and corn. You may season with additional salt and pepper to meet your own taste preference.  Add dried parsley flakes and cover. Allow to simmer at a very low temperature for twenty minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

I have tried this recipe both with corn and without corn. My mom and I both agree that it’s best with corn. I also use fresh ears of corn cut off the cob. You may make changes to the recipe to meet you and your families needs. I hope that you and your family enjoy this savory and very easy recipe as much as my family has. You may follow my blog by adding your email and clicking on the follow button at the bottom of the page. Also, feel free to comment on my post. I love to hear from my readers.

Blessings to you and your family from our family in the mountains of Kentucky. Be sure to check back or to follow my blog for upcoming recipes, book reviews, clean eating tips, eating and living a healthy lifestyle, inspiring and uplifting articles, farm life, and what it’s like living in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky.

squash soup

Summer Squash Soup

Clean Acorn Squash Taco Boat

Beef style acorn squash Taco Boat

Mexican and Italian foods are my absolute favorite. I actually think I could eat a taco salad or spaghetti every night for supper and be happy. Just because I am eating cleaner and healthier doesn’t mean that I have to sacrifice taste or Mexican or even Italian food. It just means that I cook…a bit more creative and a lot more healthy! I discovered recently that I love acorn squash. I love it so much, that I decided I would  dry the seeds to plant and grow my own!  I’ll let you know how our attempt at growing our own deliciousness turns out this fall when we harvest them.

So if you love Mexican food as much as I do, I think you’ll love this sweet and spicy take on the traditional taco salad. Keep in mind that you can alter this dish to fit your own spicy needs. In other words, you can make it as spicy as your palate can handle. My favorite Acorn Squash Taco Boat thus far includes the following ingredients;

Ingredients:

  • One acorn squash serves two
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • I use no salt, but you can substitute with salt…one sprinkle of iodized salt
  • Sprinkle or fresh ground black pepper
  • Sprinkle of paprika

To Bake the Squash:

Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Clean out the seeds and stringy middle of the squash. Drizzle olive oil over the squash to prevent the squash from becoming too dry during the baking. Sprinkle with salt, or no salt if you are watching your sodium, black pepper and paprika. If you are baking in the oven, pre-heat oven to 350 and gently spray pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper and place the squash inside down on the pan and bake 45 minutes or until tender when a fork is inserted. If you choose to bake your squash in the microwave, follow the same process above when seasoning and place inside face up and bake for five minutes and check to ensure the squash is tender. Remember microwaves vary in cooking time. If the inside of the squash is not tender, bake for an additional five minutes. When I microwave acorn squash, I typically bake it for ten minutes.

Clean the seeds with a spoon.

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. 

Ingredients for the Taco Filling:

  • 1/4 quarter of an onion (I like red onions best)
  • Small red pepper
  • Four baby portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon of grated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • Meat of your choice (I like to use left over shredded boneless chicken breast, but have used beef as well)
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1 small yellow summer squash
  • Two tablespoons of refried beans (you may also add rice of your choice, I’ve made it both ways. Love adding a tablespoon or two of leftover rice) you may also substitute with black beans this can be your own preference.
  • 3 tablespoons of diced tomatoes
  • One cup of baby spinach
  • 1-2 tablespoons of Taco seasoning
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • No salt or salt
  • Paprika
  • Cumin
  • Shredded cheese of choice
  • Optional tablespoon of sour cream
  • Salsa of choice
  • Half of an avocado

While the squash is baking:

While the squash is baking you will need to prepare meat, unless you are using leftover meat that only needs warming. Set aside and spray a large frying pan with cooking spray and add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Heat pan, but don’t over heat. Add diced onion and peppers and a sprinkle of pepper and salt. Stir and cook but don’t allow them to caramelize. Add sliced or diced zucchini and squash and sauté until nearly tender, but still has a bit of a bite. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, and add sliced portobello mushrooms and meat. If your meat is dry, such as chicken, you may need to add a little extra virgin olive oil as the mixture simmers due to the mushrooms soaking up the moisture. Once the mushrooms become tender add the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and baby spinach. Allow to simmer at a low heat for eight to ten minutes and remove from the heat. You do not want the zucchini and squash to be overdone.

Remove the squash and allow to cool for about three to five minutes. You may use a fork to shred the inside of the squash or leave it in tact. I enjoy leaving it and taking bites of more chunky squash while I’m eating. Spread the refried beans over the inside of the squash (I have used leftover baked butternut squash as a bean substitute…it was an awesome twist) After spreading the beans over the squash spoon the delicious filling that you sautéed into the acorn boats and top with diced avocado, shredded cheese, salsa, and sour cream. All that’s left to do is to enjoy!!

Vegan Style filling for Acorn Squash Taco Boat

Acorn squash chicken taco boat with vegan provolone cheese! Delicious!

I hope you enjoy this delicious twist on the traditional taco salad as much as I have. Keep in mind that you can alter the recipe to fit your dietary needs, taste preferences, and or alter and make the recipe a recipe of your own. This is a great dish to clean out those leftovers that have a way of consuming our fridge. I enjoy shredding baked chicken breast for this dish as well as shredded baked turkey, and have used that leftover chicken burger or turkey burger as well. I have used shredded steak, and even used turkey sausage. That’s just one of the joys of cooking…creating a dish to be exactly what your palate is craving! You may also mint the meat for a delicious vegetarian meal. The possibilities are unlimited. If you like my take on Acorn Taco Boats, you will enjoy my twist on a Clean Spaghetti Boat.

I hope you enjoy my Acorn Squash Taco Boat. Please feel free to leave comments, or ask questions. I love hearing from my readers. Be sure to visit A Healthier Me Simple and Clean in upcoming days. I will be adding new recipes, canning recipes and tips, a book recommendation, and also an inspiring post that will motivate you to eat clean and enjoy the simple things in life. From the mountains of Kentucky, God bless each of you and thank you for stopping by my little corner of the world.

Canning Tomato Juice the Easy Way!

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It’s hard to believe that fall is upon us! While walking Freckles this morning I noticed the colors of the leaves. The subtle changes that are already taking place are beautiful, which make me anxious for all of the fall festivities, foods, colors, fashion and every part of fall except knowing that winter follows these wonderful months. Dreading the snow and ice of winter is a natural part of living in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains…but I can honestly say, there’s no place like home and I can’t imagine living anywhere but the mountains of Kentucky.

With the happy thoughts of fall also came a bit of sadness. As we walked past our garden a mix of emotions consumed me. We’ve been very blessed with a bounty of delicious vegetables this year. But, seeing the final tomatoes of the season struggling to cling to the dying vines, the bean vines turning yellow and the corn stalks anxiously awaiting becoming decorative fodder shocks…a bit of sadness consumed me and filled my heart. I knew that I would miss visiting our garden and picking vegetables each evening. I would even miss hoeing the rows of ripe delicious vegetables, all the hours of hard work…but then thinking about the abundance of canned food our garden has provided somehow made the upcoming days of winter a little less undesirable. Suddenly, I had an overwhelming urge to cook a bit stock pot of homemade vegetable soup!

With the last days of summer approaching also comes the time to can tomato juice. My family loves tomato juice in homemade vegetable soup, chili, macaroni and tomato juice and sometimes just as a wonderful and tasty juice to drink. Anyway homemade tomato juice is incorporated…it’s delicious and always makes the dish a bit tastier!

When I first began canning for myself and my family. I was eager to incorporate skills I learned as a child growing up in a farming community and also experiment and create strategies of my own to discover my own style. I was eager to make it mine, to know it and to own it! Over the years I have learned many new tricks, strategies, and ideas that have made canning much more pleasurable and shortcuts that also helps canning fit into my busy schedule. As a college professor, writer, wife, mother and grandmother my schedule can fill up very quickly, as I’m sure yours does as well. I also wanted to find methods to can healthier food to accommodate my style of clean eating. I’m anxious to share my quick and easy method of canning delicious time-tested tomato juice with you so that you can also preserve your own delicious jars of tomato juice for you and your family.

Ingredients:

Fresh tomatoes (I typically process 3-5 gallons of tomatoes at a time, but you may process as few or as many as you have)
Table salt
Lemon juice

Tools:

Quart jars with rings and lids
Water canner
Large fine mesh wire strainer or sieve 
Ninja, blender or food processor (I prefer using a ninja but either will work)
Large stock pot
Wooden spoon
Funnel

Process:

Wash and sterilize jars, rings and flats. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and one-quarter teaspoon of salt in each quart jar and set aside. Wash tomatoes, cut the core and any bruised or bad spot out of the tomatoes. There’s no need to peel the tomatoes. Cut tomatoes into quarters and place in the ninja or blender. Using the ninja I pulse several times and then process the tomatoes for a couple of minutes, usually only two minutes or so, just until they become a thick tomato puree. Pour the puree into the large stockpot. Once all of the tomatoes have been processed through the ninja and poured into the stockpot turn the burner on and slowly bring to a boil. Once the tomato puree is boiling begin stirring and allow tomatoes to boil five minutes stirring constantly. After five minutes turn the burner off and remove tomatoes from heat.

Place the funnel in the mouth of the quart jar. Holding the strainer or sieve over the funnel begin adding the tomato puree into the strainer. You may use a ladle to add the tomatoes to the strainer. Using the wooden spoon press all of the tomato mixture through the strainer and through the funnel filling the jar with beautiful tomato juice. Once the jar is full with at least a half-inch head space remaining wipe the rim of the jar and place the sterilized flat and ring on the jar. You can then clean your strainer out. You will notice that there’s not much left in the strainer, but you will find seeds and a little tomato peel remaining. The great news is there are little to no seeds in your juice! Yay!

Continue filling the jars by pressing the tomatoes through the strainer and into the jars. Once you’ve filled the jars (usually a 3-5 gallon bucket of tomatoes makes at least 7 quart jars of juice) place jars in the canner with water covering the jars by at least an inch. Slowly bring water to a boil. Once the water begins to boil process the jars of juice for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes turn the stove off and allow the water to settle and slightly cool. Carefully remove jars from the canner and place on a towel or cooling rack. You should hear that wonderful popping sound that we all enjoy hearing so much! The jars should begin to seal right away. Once they’ve sealed and cooled you are ready to add the dates on the lids with a permanent marker and add the beautiful jars of red deliciousness to your pantry shelves!

I have learned that canning a few jars of juice at a time prevents me from getting burn out and becoming overly exhausted with making tomato juice. I have also found that I still gain as many jars of juice over a period of weeks or possibly two months as I do when I have tried to juice bushels of tomatoes at one time. I like juicing in increments as I can involve my grandchildren and allow them to learn the process of canning and gaining a cultural experience and learn a tradition that many have already forgotten. I love passing down cultural experiences from generation to generation.

I hope that you enjoy my method of canning tomato juice as much we do and find as much pleasure in the dishes that you create with this tasty deliciousness. Be sure to check out Canning Green Beans the Time-Tested Way for another time-tested method of preserving your beautiful bountiful vegetables. If you’ve enjoyed my recipes or articles, please feel free to leave a comment. I truly enjoy hearing from my readers. Also, thank you for your continued support. For now, blessings from the mountains of Kentucky!

 

How to Dehydrate Summer Squash & Zucchini

chickens

I love quiet mornings in the Appalachian Mountains. With the house filled with the aroma of brewed coffee and the roosters crowing their good morning wake up call I am filled with enjoyment, peace and the security of home. I’ve always believed in that all too familiar cliche…”there’s no place like home”…even when home is buzzing with activity. Activity is actually an understatement. It’s been a very hectic week around our home. My kitchen is still buzzing with action as we plan, prepare and fill our pantry and freezer with healthy garden food for the upcoming winter months. 

As our garden flourishes our table continues to be filled with family, memories, conversation and wonderful healthy dishes. We’re also still enjoying the process of canning, dehydrating and freezing for upcoming winter months. It’s a comforting feeling and a feeling of accomplishment to know that our family will be enjoying green beans, okra, corn, apples and many more delicious homegrown treats from our garden including summer squash and zucchini. Yes, those big bountiful plants are still producing an impressive amount of deliciousness daily! We have been blessed with enough of both vegetables to enjoy daily and to also preserve for our family, our families family, our church family and our neighbors! God has truly blessed our garden with a bountiful harvest this year!

squash

In my last blog post I shared twelve ideas of how to enjoy all those summer squash and zucchini that you’ve grown. I hope you  stepped outside of the traditional banana bread and baked as well as enjoyed the tropical pomegranate bread made with summer squash! I’ll be honest…we’ve enjoyed a couple more loaves since I posted the recipe. It has quickly become a new family favorite. When you bake don’t forget to vacuum seal a few extra slices for that warm winter evening snack, or anytime snack! If you’ve not checked out this delicious recipe…don’t hesitate…check it out! What are you waiting for? You’ll love it! Tropical Squash & Pomegranate Bread/Muffins For your convenience, just simply click on the link above and introduce your family to my families new favorite!

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With the freezers beginning to fill up and the canning shelves being carefully lined with a multitude of goodies, I decided it was time to crank up the dehydrator and begin filling up a couple of gallon jars that house dehydrated squash and zucchini each year. Year after year I am amazed how quickly a gallon of each delicious dried veggie accumulates! Dehydrating is a simple process that is also an easy an effective way of preserving almost any kind of fruit or vegetable. For squash and zucchini the process is easy. Simply follow the directions below and then enjoy your favorite summer vegetables year round.

Process:

Wash and dry squash and zucchini
Slice in desired thickness and shapes (I prefer thin sliced) with the peel
Long spiral noodles are great as well
Line dehydrator trays
Set temperature to 135 for 13 & 1/2 hours
Dehydrators will vary, but this works best for me
Check vegetables for crispness.
Stop the process when vegetables become crispy.
Place slices in an airtight jar (glass works best)

dehydrated zucchini

These wonderful slices of goodness can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Put a few in a bowl or zip lock baggie and season them with your favorite seasonings and eat them as a snack. They make great veggie chips! I enjoy putting the crispy slices in soups, omelets, casseroles and many other dishes. When the crispy slices are added to dishes they will rehydrate from the moisture of the other ingredients in your dishes. For example, in soups the broth will rehydrate the veggies and bring them back to plump deliciousness. Either way…crispy or rehydrated you can’t go wrong with dehydrated vegetables. The shelf life is great as long as the container is airtight, they don’t take much shelf space, are very versatile, they’re healthy and they taste great!

I hope you and your family enjoy yet another method of preserving, enjoying, and serving all of those wonderful summer squash and zucchini. As always, it’s a pleasure to hear from each of you. Feel free to share your comments, ideas, recipes and your thoughts on my posts. Don’t forget to clik follow to be notified of new posts in the future. Also, check out and enjoy my recipe of the week Tropical Squash & Pomegranate Bread/Muffins I’m sure your family will enjoy it as much as mine. As always, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

http://www.ahealthiermesimpleandclean.com Copyright 2017

 

 

Tropical Squash & Pomegranate Bread/Muffins

It’s that time of year again! What time? The time to figure out what to do with the bountiful harvest of summer squash and zucchini that consumes our garden, refrigerator, counter space and even the dining room table. Even though our family enjoys both squash and zucchini…the multitude and rate at which it grows during the month of July can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what to do with these tasty and healthy veggies. God has truly blessed our garden abundantly this year. I’m excited today to share some creative ideas of how we are preparing both squash and zucchini for our summer meals as well as filling our freezer and pantry for the winter months ahead. So grab a cup of coffee and delve into day one of our journey of preparing and processing summer squash and zucchini.

So what did we do with our bountiful harvest of zucchini and squash? We prepared them and also processed them into the following;

1. zucchini & pomegranate bread/muffins (today’s recipe)
2. tropical squash bread/muffins
3. dehydrated zucchini and squash slices
4. dehydrated zucchini noodles
6. zucchini chips
7. zucchini & squash vegetarian lasagna
8. canned pineapple zucchini
9. zucchini and squash stir fries
10. pickled squash and zucchini
11. parmesan zucchini boats
12. zucchini & squash omelets

What better way to kick off this series of blogs than with bread recipes! I love the smell of fresh-baked breads in the winter and just as much in summer months. Actually, I like the smell of fresh-baked breads any time of the year. But, there’s nothing quite as aromatic and satisfying as tropical squash bread baking. Yes, that’s right, squash bread. I have and enjoyed a variety of zucchini breads over the years but had never attempted squash bread until last week. As I worked around my kitchen with the abundance of both squash and zucchini that we had picked my mind raced with what to do with all of those beautiful yellow squash. With the dehydrator full of both zucchini and squash slices awaiting their fate of being vacuumed sealed for later rehydration. I began planning a new zucchini bread recipe…so why not try baking bread with squash. I am so happy that I followed through with this idea. Both breads were amazing! I hope you and your family enjoy them as much as my family does.

Squash Pomegranate Bread Ingredients

3 cups of self-rising flour (can be substituted with whole wheat or coconut flour)
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I prefer fresh grated cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon of organic flax chia seed combination (optional)

1/2 cup organic dark brown sugar
1/2 cup fresh raw honey
1/2 cup semi-drained unsweetened crushed pineapple (fresh is best)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 medium yellow crooked neck squash (about a cup and a half grated)
1/2 cup of dried pomegranates (can substitute with dried cranberries)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce or apple butter ( I prefer using my homemade apple butter as it adds an additional layer to the flavor)
3 fresh eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 over-ripe organic banana
1/2 cup chopped organic pecans

Mix dry ingredients well and set aside. Mix remaining wet ingredients and add to the dry ingredients. Mash the banana and add to the mixture. Rough chop the pecans and add to the mixture. Don’t over mix. Wash, dry and grate one medium-sized crooked neck squash into the mixture. There’s no need to peel the squash as the peel adds wonderful flavor, color, and fiber to the bread. Don’t worry about the seeds as they will bake away as well. I use a simple hand grater to grate the squash. Once the squash has been grated give the mixture one last stir.

Pre-heat oven to 350 and spray a loaf pan or you may spray a muffin tin and bake as muffins instead. Once the oven is preheated pour the mix into the loaf pan or muffin tin and bake on the bottom rack of the oven for thirty minutes. Check the bread at the thirty minute mark for doneness with a toothpick. Ovens will vary therefore check every five minutes until baked. I like my bread to have a bit of a crispy edge and moist inside…so, usually fourty minutes and my bread is done! Don’t over bake the bread. You’ll know when your bread is done by the edges, when the toothpick comes out clean, and it springs back to touch.

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Before you know it your kitchen will be filled with the aroma of tropical bread baking! This is a sweet delicious treat that is great served as a breakfast treat with a cold glass of milk, a hot cup of coffee or served as a dessert! Honestly, it tastes great anytime of the day or night. It’s tropical flavor dances on your tongue warm or cold.

Tip of the Day:

Once your bread has cooled  you can freeze individual vacuum sealed slices to ensure that you have a slice of this tasty bread anytime. I have vacuum sealed pumpkin roll, zucchini bread and now tropical squash bread. When you are ready to indulge in this sweet treat simply remove from the freezer and either allow it to thaw or defrost for a couple of seconds in the microwave. The bread is amazingly still moist and just as flavorful!

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Pictured above are loaves of tropical squash bread and chocolate zucchini bread. I can’t wait to share the chocolate zucchini bread in upcoming days! I hope your family enjoys this delicious bread as much as mine! Please feel free to leave comments. To find out more creative and useful ways to preserve and bake both squash and zucchini click the follow button on my blog! From my kitchen to yours…Blessings from the mountains of Kentucky!

squash bread II

squash bread