A Walk Through the Garden…

Good evening from the mountains of Kentucky. What a beautiful morning we were blessed with today! Thunderstorms appeared this evening, but has since passed and the sky is clearing! Hopefully, we’ll be blessed with more sunshine in the days ahead. It’s been a busy day of editing, planning, and creating the course shell for the upcoming class that I’m teaching this summer. The day also consisted of finding an unexpected treasure…in an unexpected place. The best kind of treasures!

This crane has become a regular visitor on our farm.

First, let me say that what I consider a treasure…others might consider to just be an object or even still, junk. So what constitutes a treasure to me? An unexpected visitor in the garden like the crane pictured above who makes regular visits to our small farm. Some tribes of Native Americans believed that a crane visiting is a sign of a blessing and good fortune for those it chooses to visit. I also enjoy the silent visit of the deer standing cautiously in the field, or even lingering in the safety of the tree lines. As long as they stay away from the garden…I enjoy their random visits.

An unexpected visitor.

I also find pleasure in finding unusual rocks or an occasional arrow head. Finding an arrow head fills me with wonders and feeling of being a part of another day or era of time, if only in my thoughts. I like to whisper a quiet thank you for the discovery. Finding arrow heads allows me to make a small connection to my Cherokee ancestors. And then… there’s simple objects like the one that I found this morning. Although, I don’t think they’re really that simple. I believe every little unexpected treasure that I find has a story of its own.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bent to pick ripe cucumbers from their vines this year or how many times we’ve hoed between the plants. However today just on a casual stroll in the garden an unusual object caught my attention. How had I missed this mysterious object? Was this a hidden treasure? There it was awaiting me…half-buried in the soil among the cucumber vines. I carefully unearthed the object to discover some sort of an old and unusual key. A skeleton key…maybe.

I carefully removed the mud left behind from the rain to discover my suspicions were correct, it was a very old key. I had found an antique skeleton key! My imagination soared and questions whirled through my mind. What did this old key once unlock? Who had originally owned the old key? I carefully tucked the key in my pocket and finished my stroll through the garden with my imagination running rapid. Words flowed through my thoughts. I felt the words of a poem stirring deep within my being. I couldn’t wait to add this newly inspired poem to the anthology that I am working on.

What a beautiful treasure!

I shared the small treasure with my husband and our grandson. Of course our grandson was as intrigued as I was, my husband’s curiosity was intrigued as well, just not as much as ours. Our grandson has a vivid imagination and also loves to discover hidden treasures, and tell stories… much like his nanny.

It was an eventful day indeed. I also placed our first batch of dried herbs of the season in labeled clear glass jars. Dried herbs are great for the winter season when fresh herbs may not be available. They also make a great addition to dishes while they’re cooking. Fresh herbs are better added during the last minutes of cooking or even after the dish is complete. I was also excited to fill white envelopes with seeds saved from the dried blooms of basil, lavender and chives! Saving seeds ensures that future herb plants are not genetically altered or modified like many that are unknowingly purchased, but rather from organically grown plants that we nurture from the seed to the harvest.

Dried herbs ready for cooking!

I hope you’ve enjoyed stopping by and visiting our small corner of the world. Feel free to follow or leave feedback. I enjoy reading comments from all of my readers. I also look forward to sharing my recipe for vegan lemon bread that is coming soon. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Vegan Lavender Butter: A Sweet Herbal Treat From the Mountains…

A foggy mountain morning in the mountains.

Good morning from the mountains of Kentucky! As I savor the taste of the rich bold coffee and listen to the comforting sounds of our small farm waking up and greeting the world this morning I am filled with a sense of peace and satisfaction. I enjoy the lulling sounds of the soft raindrops gently tapping the lingering puddles yesterday’s showers left behind, and the sounds of Pretty Boy’s boastful good-morning crows from his high-roost. The trees are filled with an anxious zeal for life from the beautiful sounds of music the families of robins, blue jays, and wrens are making, while a blanket of fog still lingers near the mountains tops and over the valleys creating a cocoon of safety in our little corner of the world. I agree with that all-too famous line from one of my childhood favorite movies, “there’s no place like home!”

Our domer rooster. Pretty Boy.

Today will be another busy day as the life of a professor, nanny, writer, and farm-wife never gets boring. There’s always something to keep me busy, but I can’t complain I can’t imagine my life any other way. Today’s agenda consists of editor deadlines, working on syllabi for my summer II courses, light housework, preparing a big kettle of homemade soup, and hopefully a little garden time, if the weather cooperates. But for now, I promised my readers last night that I’d post my recipe for Vegan Lavender Butter.

Have you ever wondered what to do with all those beautiful lavender blooms? Well wonder no more…I hope you enjoy this delicious herbal treat.

Lavender blooming near the basil.

Rich and delicious lavender butter

First, let me say that the picture does not do this delicious treat justice! But without further delay…here you go! I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of your favorite organic plant butter (my favorite is coconut plant butter…see photo below) plain butter for a non-vegan option
  • 1 teaspoon of pure organic maple syrup for a vegan option, honey for non-vegan
  • 3 teaspoons of dried lavender blooms

My favorite plant butter

Dried lavender blooms

Process:

Mix the plant butter, syrup, and dried lavender blooms in a small bowl and set aside in the refrigerator to allow it to chill for at least two hours before serving. As the butter chills the delicate dried blooms rehydrate and soften within the butter to create a smooth and delicious texture. The taste of this delicate and silky sweet treat can be enjoyed on toast, rolls, biscuits or even on a baked sweet potato. Our son-in-law enjoyed it on his steak a few nights ago! He described it as a savory taste that lingers on the back of the tongue.

I look forward to hearing from you and reading your comments and thoughts about this tasty herbal treat. Well, the day beckons me with a to-do list that can’t wait! God bless from my Kentucky mountain kitchen to yours!

Butterflies love our lavender blooms…

Random Thoughts on A Rainy Day in the Mountains…

It’s been a rainy day in the mountains of Kentucky today. A day filled with a lot of rain, much work, cooking, reading, and a little relaxation. Rainy days provides me with opportunities to catch up on chores that need attention inside, which leaves sunny days wide-open for work and activities outside the house. I must admit, as much as I love working and spending time outdoors, I like an occasional rainy day inside. But, I also enjoy a little time outside on rainy summer days. I enjoy the scent that fills the mountain air after the rain subsides, and the beautiful earth that seems to come alive with sounds, sights, and new life. I made sure to take a little time today to enjoy a walk between the rain-showers to enjoy the beautiful mountains that surrounds our home.

Raindrops the rain leaves behind fascinate me.

Even though summer vacation is in full swing for me…to say it’s been a busy summer, would truly be an understatement. Edition two of Reading and Language Arts is in the final stages of editing, which consists of rigorous deadlines of revisions and editing in a short amount of time. Again, I was thankful for the rain today, because in bright red ink on my calendar was one of those deadlines looming over me and scheduled to be complete today! I’m happy to say that I met that deadline about noon today! I find myself getting anxious as the day of print draws closer and also knowing that the new edition will be ready for me to teach with and for my students to hold in their hands for fall classes! It’s always exciting as well as rewarding to see your words come to life in print! I shouldn’t, but below is a sneak peak of the cover of my latest book!

Here’s a sneak peak at edition two of Reading and Language Arts II. 

Our garden also fills many hours of our spring, summer, and fall days. And even though today’s forecast consisted of a lot rain, there was still time between showers to pick a few fresh veggies, and pull a few weeds away from the plants. One of the many things that I have learned about having a healthy garden is that it takes time, time for planting, plowing, hoeing, and nurturing our plants with little tender-loving-care. I enjoy organic gardening, which results in much reading and researching as well as experimenting with new ideas to make our garden as healthy and organic as possible.

I’ve recently begun experimenting with the use of herbal teas in both the vegetable and herb garden. I love drinking a wide-variety of herbal teas and always wondered what I could do with all those used tea bags. After reading and researching, I discovered other gardeners who used the discarded tea bags for feeding their plants and also for pest control in their gardens.

I decided to try making a weak tea from used organic green tea bags. I cooled the tea and poured it in a spray bottle. I’ve been spritzing my herbs and many of my vegetables for weeks now with the tea. I’ve noticed a significant difference in the reduction of pests feeding on the leaves of my veggies and also noticed a rich darker green color on both the herbs and veggies. I’ve also been burying the used tea bags near the base of the plants to help fertilize the roots and also protect them against burrowing pests. The rich antioxidants from the organic tea has truly made a visible difference in the health of our plants.

Sweet Basil that’s been fertilized with herbal tea. 

With that being said, I’m off to salvage the remainder of the evening and be a little creative in the kitchen! I’m anxious to experiment with a new recipe I’ve been working on for clean and vegan energy balls. By the way, cooking is another passion of mine. I love creating new and exciting healthy dishes and meals. I made vegan lavender butter this evening that we enjoyed with our supper. I’m happy to say the first attempt at this tasty addition was a success! Our daughter and her husband both loved it, but unfortunately I neglected to take pictures of the process. I hope to have a new post with the recipe for this delicious sweet treat posted sometime tomorrow. Yes, I remembered to take pictures today!

I look forward to a relaxing with a good cup of coffee this late evening and read the final chapters of the current novel I’m reading! For now, God bless from our little corner of the world in the mountains of Kentucky! Feel free to leave comments. I love hearing from my readers. Also, feel free to follow my blog. Readers are always welcome! Blessings from our home to yours!

 

 

Sunday Morning in the Mountains…

I love quiet Sunday mornings in the mountains. I like to refer to them as “my me time.” I enjoy early morning coffee on the porch, listening to the chickens crow their good mornings crows to all, and watching daylight break through the mountains. Quiet mornings like this are also a perfect time to catch up on a little reading, have devotion, prayer time, and to soak up the wonderful atmosphere in our little corner of the world…deep in the mountains of Kentucky.

I love mornings in the mountains…

The simplicity of living in the mountains, along with good role models still inspires me even today! The mountains today are just as rich and lush as they were in the days of our youth. My husband and I live within three miles of where we both grew up. Some might find this boring, dull, or bleak…but we’ve found it to be a place that we loved raising our children and now watching our grandchildren grow and appreciate the mountains as much as we do. Visiting other places is always a fun learning experience and often a fun adventure, but returning home is always welcomed. 

With the cool of the morning still lingering in the air and the dew still beaded on the grass, the garden is beckoning me to come and take a stroll. I value this time as the quiet steps in the rich soil between the rows of beautiful vegetables allows me to reflect on memories of the past, meditate on the blessings of today, and plan for tomorrow. This morning in particular I felt a strong connection to my past as I thought of my Papaw walking along the rows of his garden in the early morning hours. As a child I wondered why he enjoyed this morning stroll so much. I now know. It’s a time to draw strength, relax, and soak up all that the land has to offer, enjoy time in deep thought, reflect, and relax and unwind. The lonesome call of a dove allows my thoughts to return to the present time. Wiping a tear from my cheek…I continue my stroll through the garden enjoying the progress of our labor.

Enjoying a stroll through the veggies.

As I stroll between the broccoli and squash a beautiful vibrant yellow color catches my eye. With a smile on my face I bend to pick our first summer squash of the season. With a closer examination, I find several squash and also some rich green zucchini…ready for the picking. I love this time of year as the fresh veggies are always great for Sunday morning breakfasts. 

First squash and zucchini of the season…yummy!

Today, our veggies will allow me to prepare a veggie tofu omelet for myself and it’s eggs and sausage as usual for my husband, who supports my love for veggies and a vegan diet but who also still loves his portion of meat along side the veggies. We share a mutual respect for each other’s food preferences. With that in mind, God bless and happy Father’s Day from the Mountains of Kentucky! I’m off to prepare Sunday breakfast. Thank you for stopping by my little corner of the world. Feedback is always welcomed! I’ll be posting a new and tasty treat in upcoming days. God bless…

A Quiet Morning in the Mountains…in the Herb Garden

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky. It’s a quiet rainy morning here in Appalachia. I can’t complain…I love quiet rainy mornings when I don’t have to leave home. I enjoy watching daylight breakthrough the fog capped mountains, hearing the roosters crowing from their roost, and listening to the soft tapping of the rain on the roof as it slowly descends from the sky.

A peace settles over me when I can sit quietly on the porch and enjoy the first cup of coffee of the day. The lingering aroma of the coffee and the aroma of basil on my hands from gently waving my hand through the herb garden reminds me of how much pleasure I find in cooking with herbs, drying them, and also sharing their bounty with others. Herbs serve so many purposes from cooking, visual beauty, health benefits, to making delicious teas…and again, sharing them with family, neighbors and friends.

It was a perfect morning to cut clippings from the beautiful and aromatic herbs for the first official harvest of the year. I found that clipping herbs early morning, prior to blooming, and when the air is cool and damp is the best time to harvest.

An hour and a half later I was pleased to hold two large trays of herb clippings from almost all of the herbs. I carefully sorted the herbs so that I could label them and spread them out on trays lined with white paper towel. The kitchen was instantly filled with a beautiful fresh aroma mixed with smells of a variety of basil, rosemary, mints, and more. I love that smell!

Breathing in the fragrance, I transported the herbs to a location away from the direct sunlight to begin the natural drying process, which I prefer to alternative methods. I feel that drying by dehydrators, ovens, or microwaves takes away from the flavor of the herbs. It takes longer to air dry, but in the end, the wait and taste of the herbs are well worth it!

The process of drying varies depending on the temperature inside the house. I typically allow my herbs to dry so that when I want to crumble them I can do so with my hands. I have recently begun placing whole dried basil leaves, rosemary stems, and other whole clippings in clear jars with BPA free lids for storage. It is best to keep stored herbs in a dark pantry to ensure the flavor lasts. I then crumble whole herbs or grind them in the mortar and pestle when I’m ready to add them to what I am cooking. The flavor is amazing!

So, for now, I’m off to relax and enjoy a little quality reading time and a good cup of coffee on this beautiful rainy day. I hope you enjoyed sharing my morning in the Appalachian mountains. Be sure to come back and visit and feel free to follow my blog so not miss new recipes, book reviews, or Appalachian moments. Don’t forget to leave your comments. I love to hear from my readers! For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

Clean Chocolate Chip Vegan Date Bars

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Morning in the mountains of Kentucky

So, it’s been too long since I last posted. My apologies for that. It has been a very busy semester, but a satisfying one. Summer break has begun…as well as gardening time! I’m not going to complain about either. Summer break is a time to rest, relax, and revive before another hectic, but wonderful semester begins. Gardening time means a lot of hard work, but also very tasty and healthy vegetables follow and make all of the hard work very worth while. Gardening is one of the most therapeutic and satisfying forms of work that I can think of. Each time I breath in the beauty of the mountains, gardens, and nature’s bounty that surrounds me in the mountains of Kentucky…I am revived, rejuvenated, and renewed. A sense of peace consumes me as I walk through our garden awaiting the fruits of our labor, fresh ripe organic veggies.

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Our vegetable garden

With that being said, I am super excited to bring one of my new favorite vegan sweet-treats to you. I have worked diligently to perfect my recipe before adding it to the blog. My family has been “guinea pigs” for this delicious sweet treat and I must say that it has quickly become a favorite of theirs as well. Chocolate chip vegan date bars are very satisfying, rich, and delicious. I hope you and your family enjoy them as much as my family does.

Ingredients:

2 cups organic fresh medjool pitted dates
1 cup natural organic smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 cup organic semi-sweet or dark vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup organic unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup organic gluten free oats
1/3 cup organic pure maple syrup (can substitute with sorghum, or honey for non-vegan bar).

My favorite chocolate chip date bar

Process:

Rough chop dates and add them to a food processor (I use a ninja and works great). Fine chop the dates and add all but one tablespoon of the peanut butter, 3/4 of the chocolate chips, coconut and oats. Slowly add the maple syrup. Mix completely until mixture forms a smooth ball. Press the date mixture into a pan lined with parchment paper and spread the reserved tablespoon of peanut butter over the mixture and refrigerate. While the mixture is cooling and setting in the fridge, heat most of the remaining chocolate chips in the microwave and drizzle over the date mixture. You may add a few chocolate chips to the top of the mixture as well. I also like to lightly sprinkle the top with shredded coconut, but I love the taste of coconut. Allow bars to chill up to two hours for the best results. Cut into desired size and enjoy!

Tips/Ideas:

Date mixture can also be rolled into balls, rolled in the shredded coconut, and drizzled with the melted chocolate chips. The presentation is different, but the taste is same! The bars or date balls lasts for weeks in a covered container in the refrigerator, if you can resist them that long.

Vegan chocolate chip coconut date balls

I hope that you enjoy this sweet healthy vegan treat as much as my family enjoys it. I am super excited to share my recipe for my vegan frozen treat! Our grandchildren love it! I love it, and it’s plant-based and healthy! Until the next post, which will hopefully, be soon…bon appetit from the mountains of Kentucky.

 

 

Clean Vegan 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 Vegan 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
  • vegan approved meatless groun
  • 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 non-dairy cheese (I like Chaos)
  • Optional tablespoon of non-dairy yogurt or vegan approved ranch dressing
  • Salsa of choice
  • Half of an avocado

While the squash is baking:

While the squash is baking you will need to prepare sauce. 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 meatless ground. If your groundless meat is dry, 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 vegan non-Dairy cheese, salsa, and plain non-dairy yogurt. All that’s left to do is to enjoy!!

Vegan Style filling for Acorn Squash Taco Boat

Acorn squash 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. My husband enjoys shredding baked chicken breast for this dish as well as shredded baked turkey, and have used that leftover chicken burger or turkey burger for his meal as well. I have used shredded steak, and even used turkey sausage. For me, I prefer vegan approved meatless ground. That’s just one of the joys of cooking…creating a dish to be exactly what your palate is craving for you and your family. You may also mint the sauce for a delicious vegetarian, vegan, or meal with meat. 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!

squash II

 

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.

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