How to Dehydrate Summer Squash & Zucchini

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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!

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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

 

 

Living in the Appalachian Mountains

Courtesy of Jonathan Bowling

Elk captured on our son, Jonathan Bowling’s, trail camera behind our house. @copyright Healthier Me Simple and Clean.

Many people believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have been overheard many times making this statement when referring to the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. I am also a believer that not only is beauty found within the eye of the beholder, but also that success lies within the desire of the believer.

Recently I read an article about life in the Appalachian Mountains that lingered in my thoughts, with a mix of emotions hovering over and within me. Life in Appalachia was portrayed with gloom and despair, thus leaving the reader with a feeling of hopelessness. The article implied that people who were born into poverty didn’t have a choice to live otherwise. The picture that was painted was a stereotypical view of Appalachia that many have and continue to exploit to gain popularity whether it be an audience for their blog, for social media publicity, money, or their name in lights. What the author of this very derogatory article neglected to divulge were the joys of growing up in the Appalachian Mountains.

Over the years authors, filmmakers, and actors in Hollywood have profited through exploitation of Appalachia choosing to focus on what small towns “don’t” have. Films have been made with careful selection of the poorest part of towns carefully and intentionally divulging only dilapidated buildings, rather than new structures, or renovated buildings that houses independent thriving businesses. Many times the focus is often on poor housing in small towns rather than homes that proudly stand boasting beautiful manicured lawns, hardy vegetable gardens, luscious rolling green mountains, blooming flowers, and carefully trimmed hedges and trees. When the media chooses to focus on the negative aspects, or poverty, which by the way exists in all towns whether they’re large or small…the reader is left with a gloomy feeling of sorrow, despair and almost a feeling of doom.

Appalachian people are often-times portrayed as being illiterate, undereducated, and ignorant people who are less fortunate than those living elsewhere. Manchester, located in Clay County, is a small town in Appalachia where I grew up, raised my family, and still reside today has been recently been accused of being one of the hardest places to grow up in the United States, as well as being a community where citizens are expected to have a shorter lifespan than those living elsewhere. I find both of these statements to be misleading, offensive, and also stereotypical. I find myself smiling when I reflect on my childhood. I don’t recall life being a hardship, doom, gloomy, unhappy time in my life. Today, I enjoy sharing my memories of growing up in Kentucky through stories, both oral and written.

My memories are filled with fun escapades of playing outside, working in the garden, helping can fruits and vegetables, listening to countless stories told to me by my grandparents, afternoons sitting in the shade with family just enjoying the serenity of the mountains, playing with cousins, enjoying wonderful cooked meals from the vegetables that we raised, and learning wonderful skills from my mother and grandmother. We didn’t live within city limits, and still do not. We were raised in a rural community that enjoyed farming. My grandparents had a small store that was often referred to as the heart of our little community. Many of my family members still reside in this same neighborhood. I was raised to know that I had choices, and also to believe that I could be anything that I wanted to be. I was encouraged to always try to better myself by reading, learning, working hard, and also by believing in myself.

I was raised in one of the poorest parts of the state of Kentucky. What? We grew up poor! No one told me that! I wasn’t aware that we grew up in a poverty-stricken area. No, again, I was raised to dream and dream big! I could be anything that I wanted to be. I could be a mother, I could be a Christian, I could be a teacher, I could be an author, I could be whatever I chose to be! I was taught good moral values, about Jesus, how to work the land to feed my family, how to always believe in myself, to be proud of my heritage, to have a plan for my future, and if I got knocked down…get back up!  Instead of profiting from negative doom, gloom, and despair…I prefer to divulge the wonders of the Appalachian Mountains, the joys, the beauty, the opportunities, growth, success, and the wonderful mountains that I am proud to call home.

Again, I was never told that we were poor, or that we lived in an impoverished area, and never told that I couldn’t better myself. As a public school teacher, I always passed this same advice to my students. I always encouraged my students year after year that they could be anything that they wanted to be, to reach for the stars, to believe in themselves as I too believed in them. Today, as a college professor, I am still relaying that same positive message.

Many might say that small Appalachian towns have nothing to offer. I disagree. So, what does our small county of Clay have to offer? The beauty of the mountains, rich farm soil, beautiful pastures for livestock to graze, farm fresh eggs, distinguished schools, top-rated teachers, private Christian schools, a multitude of welcoming churches, book clubs, a well stocked public library, quilting clubs, pumpkin patches, ATV rides, elk hunts, successful local authors, artists, parks, employment at the federal prison, kayaking, fishing, local shopping, home cooked meals at locally owned restaurants, farmers’ markets, Main Street markets, grass-fed beef, fresh venison, beautiful walking trails, beautiful homes, friendly people, smiles, and a welcoming environment. One valuable opportunity that goes unmentioned in many articles about our small town of Manchester is the opportunity to complete a college degree at Eastern Kentucky University, which is located within city limits. These are only a few things that residents and visitors have to enjoy. Again, beauty lies within the eye of the beholder, happiness with the heart of the dreamer, and success within the heart and desire of the believer.

I have been asked many times over the years why I haven’t moved…but my answer is and will always remain the same…”I can’t imagine growing up or living anywhere else than in the beautiful Kentucky mountains. As the title of my first book states, Kentucky is…The Mountains I Call Home.”

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Divine Appointments

With clouds hanging low in the sky this morning and the peaceful sounds of the dove cooing, and echoing over awakening mountains…I find myself in a melancholy kind of mood. I’m not sure, but I think several events that occurred in the past two weeks have helped me to arrive at this level of emotions this morning. Yes, it’s been an eventful couple of weeks. Not that it’s been a particularly sad, unhappy, or over zealous events, but nevertheless weeks of events that others might find to be insignificant or may not give any thought to all. I don’t know, maybe I think too deeply, or maybe I react differently than some. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve been accused of, “reading too much” into things. Maybe, it’s the poet within me that ignites my senses. Maybe…I am an over-thinker, maybe I over react, or maybe…I am becoming more receptive of what the Lord is trying to impress upon me or instill within me. Nevertheless, I think I’ll enjoy the mix of emotions that fill my cup this morning.

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To say the last couple of weeks were busy is an understatement. My daily planner has been overflowing with appointments. Urgent appointments to work on taxes as the deadline swiftly approaches. Scheduled appointments with advisees worrying about their upcoming schedules and anticipated graduation dates, appointments with colleagues to discuss students, curriculum, and more, appointments with students who desire to enter the Education Program, and the most important appointments of all…the ultimate appointed daily time of prayer with our Lord, Jesus Christ. Over time, I have found that keeping this daily appointment helps make all of the other appointments more meaningful, purposeful, and cohesive. And then there’s those divine appointments that often seem to spring up from know where! Or do they? Was it a by chance meeting? Did I just happen to be in the right place at the right time? Was I supposed to be there? What do you think? Were those divine appointments predestined, or were they by chance?

Over the past few years I have come to believe and have arrived at the decision that time is precious. Time is one thing that we cannot get back. With time, there are no do-overs! Thus, we must make the most of every precious moment that we are blessed with. I have arrived at another conclusion through various moments and gentle reminders within my spirit that it’s not about me, or us. It’s about helping others, being a positive beacon in the dark times that others might be enduring, it’s about Him, and about living a happy and appreciative life so there are no regrets. This has led me to the belief that all meetings/appointments whether they are planned or unexpected, in a professional setting, or if it’s in the checkout line at the grocery store can be a positive experience, thus, divine appointments.

So, how do I define divine appointments? Divine appointments do not have a criteria per say. Divine appointments can be the student whom I speak with that is struggling to pass a very important test. A divine appointment can be a friend who needs to be encouraged. A divine appointment can be the lady behind you in the checkout lane who is struggling with finances, or the loss of a loved one. A divine appointment can be simply the stranger that you meet in the frozen food aisle who is in search of a friendly face or a smile. A divine appointment can be that someone you meet who is unsure of the world around them. A divine appointment can be an elderly parent who needs to be reassured that their life was purposeful and that they did a great job raising their children. A divine appointment can be a colleague who needs a simple pat on the back or a hug. A divine appointment can be the young lady who has checked out thousands of dollars of groceries to bitter impatient customers and would like to have a kind word. A divine appointment can even be the person who is trying to pull into traffic, but others have left unnoticed. Divine appointments have been defined with a variety of definitions by many people over the years. However, my definition of divine appointments is simply an opportune meeting with another, whether it is scheduled or by chance, that allows you spread cheer, love, joy, kindness, a positive attitude, while also showing the love of God.

As a professor, I am continually encouraging my students to reflect on their week. So, as I enjoy the taste of my favorite coffee this morning, the sounds of the mountains coming alive, the purposeful crowing of our roosters, the soft snoring of my canine friend, Freckles, who is napping by my feet, and a little “me” time…I find myself following my own advice by reflecting over the past two weeks, while also thinking about the divine appointments that I have had, and whispering a prayer for those whom I have had the pleasure of encountering through those divine appointments, and also counting my blessings. I find myself questioning my self as well. Have I truly enjoyed the time that I have been blessed with and what more can I do for others? With reflections of days gone by and visions of the days ahead of me…I feel excited, inspired, and look forward to the moments and days and opportunities that lay ahead of me, as well as the divine appointments that await me.

From the mountains of Kentucky…be blessed and enjoy the divine appointments that you encounter. Feel free to leave comments as I enjoy hearing from each of you.

Quiet Mornings in the Mountains

Good morning from the mountains of Kentucky! The day that thousands of children have awaited for months to arrive…has finally arrived…it’s Christmas Eve! With our children now married and spending quality time with their families today, I find myself busy this morning baking and preparing for tomorrow’s much awaited family Christmas dinner/breakfast. A few years ago we started a new tradition of breakfast for Christmas. It’s a delicious change from the traditional turkey and dressing. Although, we still prepare a turkey and dressing for those who like to indulge in the traditional Christmas dinner there’s plenty of delicious breakfast items on the menu as well.

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Our Nativity Scene that adorns our mantle every year. 

With the aroma of cornbread baking in the oven, banana bread cooling on the cooking rack, light rain tapping on the roof, and the tree brightly lit…I find myself recalling our family Christmas traditions from years gone by. 

I recall how much we loved watching the much awaited Christmas cartoons each year. When I was growing up cartoons  were not as convenient as they are today. Saturday was considered cartoon day! Cartoon channels didn’t exist at that time, at least not in the mountains. The Internet was obsolete, and only seven channels graced our black and white television, while four of those channels were not always available. Much of the television reception depended on the line that protruded from our television and made its way up the mountain. If a branch fell on the line or the wind blew the cable over…it meant little to no television reception. So, with excitement in our eyes and voices we would gather around the small television hoping for a clear picture while indulging in a pan of homemade caramel corn ready to watch Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, and many other wonderful cartoons that are now referred to as classics. These were simple times, but very happy times.

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Cornbread baking for the dressing and clean banana bread for a sweet treat. While I bake I am enjoying one of my favorite childhood cartoons! 

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Bedtime came early for my brother, sister and myself. Even though we retired early sleep didn’t come easy for us. We were far too excited to sleep thinking about the gifts under the tree. We had high hopes of receiving that one toy that we had dreamed of for weeks. The toy that we circled countless times in the Sears Wish Book. The toy that our mother worked hard to make sure she could afford for us. We knew that we could always depend on a couple new outfits of stylish clothing, and that one desired gift that we had dreamed all year about. When sleep finally arrived it felt like we had only been asleep for a short time when one or the other of us was waking the rest, and urging each other to get up with shouts that it was time to open our presents!

While still in our pajamas we would eagerly run to the tree where mommy would be awaiting us with her coffee in hand. As a child, I often wondered if she ever slept. It seemed that no matter what time we woke up for whatever reason she was already awake and either sewing, humming, drinking coffee, or all of the above. These were wonderful simple days that have come and gone. All too often these cherished simple times are now replaced with glitzy glamorous thematically decorated trees, elaborate gifts, stress from shopping, and often times lack of appreciation. My heart aches as I recall the days of my youth, family times, simple days, and our family traditions. These memories help me to strive and work hard to keep them alive in our family year after year while we continue to build new memories.

The simple family traditions that I grew up with have been revised with many new traditions. The wonderful traditions that I grew up with haven’t been forgotten. I reflect on them often. Over the course of thirty-seven years our family has created many new memories, traditions, recipes and more that will be passed down to our grandchildren. These are years that I will never forget sharing with our children, and now with our grandchildren. Even though time marches on…we can still indulge and enjoy delving into our memories and into own Christmas traditions each year. So, this morning finds me a bit saddened by the sweet memories of the past…but anticipating and excited for the new memories to be made this weekend! I would love to hear from you and hear all about your family traditions. Just a few thoughts from the mountains of Kentucky this blessed Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas from our family to yours! 

 

Feeling Nostalgic

Good morning from the mountains of Kentucky. It’s a cold and clear morning in the heart of the Appalachia Mountains. As I enjoy the warmth of my home, hot coffee, and a sense of satisfaction knowing that my Christmas shopping is finished, presents are wrapped, the turkey and ham are in the fridge, and ingredients for Christmas candy and cookies fill the pantry. However, a little twinge of sadness fills my being this morning as I browse the many cherished ornaments that grace our tree given to us by our children, grandchildren, students, and friends. I find myself missing days gone by. I miss reading the letters to Santa each year that our children would carefully plan, write with excitement, filled with anticipation, and above all their honest and sincerity. I miss baking cookies to leave beside tree, and miss eating them as well. I especially miss the sounds of our children rising before daylight eager to open gifts. There was no other feeling quite like watching the excitement in their faces as they stood before the tree admiring all the presents and a full stocking that had somehow magically appeared during the night. I say that to say this, cherish each day that you are given. As we all know, time is one thing that we cannot get back. However, I was reminded yesterday that we can enjoy and cherish past memories time and time again, and that we can also enjoy making new memories each and every day. Just because we cannot turn back time and relive those wonderful days gone by…we can envelop the present and create a new and lasting memory each and every day.

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A locally owned gift shop filled with wonderful gifts and warm smiles.

I love to reflect on the days of shopping in our small town. The streets were always lit up and busy, the store windows were decorated with beautiful Christmas scenery, and people were bustling about looking for that special gift for that special someone. Smiles adorned the people’s faces as they shopped and greeted each other with Christmas sentiments. It was a more personable time. Neighbors knew each other and above all cared about each other. The fear of a catastrophe happening in a crowded area never entered the minds of the happy shoppers. The true reason and meaning of Christmas was evident in the decor that filled the little shops windows. There was an excitement in the air…not the dread of overspending, finding the best or newest tablet or smart phone for children too young to even own a phone. The competitive spirit that seems to fill far too many today was not evident in this simpler time. A level of mutual respect was obvious between parents and children. Yes, it sounds like a scene from a Christmas movie, but it was actually a selfless place and a time that I grew up enjoying. However, it is also a time that I have sadly witnessed slowly dissipating and evolving into a totally different time.

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The Makery…A locally owned shop filled with handmade gifts, warm smiles, and unique items as well as Christmas cheer.

Have you ever experienced dejavu? It is often defined as an overwhelming sense of familiarity. I think we’ve all had this experience at one time or another and to be quite honest, it’s can be a little creepy when it happens. However, yesterday I found myself enjoying the moments of familiarity and was pleasantly reminded of the wonderful days of shopping in a small town.

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Happily Ever After Boutique…another locally owned shop filled with beautiful gifts, clothes, and friendly faces.

My daughter and I decided to finish the last of our Christmas shopping yesterday. Like most people, we automatically drove to the local department store. The parking lot was crowded, the isles were even more crowded, the merchandise was in a disarray and picked over, people were rushing, complaining, and scampering to finish what appeared to be a dreaded chore. We left the store with a few items and a bit discouraged as we were still in need of a couple of gifts that we couldn’t find in the chaotic and crowded store. We decided to turn our search in the direction of local shops. I must admit that I often forget about these wonderfully local owned shops as they are not in “the shopping” center. It was a wonderful feeling to be met with a warm and sincere greeting from the shop owner in each store. It was nice to be asked if they could help us find what we were in search of. Christmas music filled the buildings as did Christmas decorations that weren’t as elaborate but were more sincere. It was sense of family, friends, neighbors, and a nostalgic feeling. With each purchase I was reminded that we cannot truly turn back time…but we can create new memories that are truly meaningful while also supporting locally owned small businesses. No, it wasn’t exactly like the days gone by, but it was a day of shopping in beautiful small shops that will be a new cherished memory to reflect on in days to come as well as a new Christmas tradition. Just a few nostalgic thoughts from mountains of Kentucky this beautiful December morning.

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The Axis…a locally owned coffee shop is a great place to get a delicious cup coffee and sweet treat or a bite of lunch with friends.

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A locally owned small business filled with wonderful gift ideas.


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A locally owned shop where you are greeted with a warm smile and can receive a great message.

Counting My Blessings…

There is one thing that is certain…life is uncertain. Every day is filled with surprises, some are welcomed while others are not. But through the years I have learned to take life one day at a time. I have learned not to dwell on the past as we no longer live there. I have learned to not depend on the future as we never know our day of departure from this life. However, I have found that reflecting, not dwelling on the past, is a healthy practice to achieve peace and contentment. I have also found that setting goals, but not solely relying on those goals, but working one day at a time to achieve them has brought me much happiness, and I wasn’t devastated when I had to veer off the path occasionally.

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Enjoying the morning reflecting on the past…briefly visiting plans for the future.

Saturday mornings are usually a time of rest, relaxation, and reflection for me. These are mornings that I enjoy a cup of coffee, the sounds of our small farm waking up. Roosters crowing their good mornings from their roost, the puppies barking from the puppy pen, and the rain softly tapping on the windows. This particular morning I am enjoying the beginning of Christmas break. Our tree is up and decorated, shopping is finished, packages are wrapped, and the turkey and ham await our dinner in the freezer. Christmas break isn’t just loved and appreciated by the students at UC, but also loved and appreciated by the professors and all of the staff and administration as well. Christmas break allow us time to rest, relax, reflect, plan, prepare, and above all to enjoy time with our families.

With the days of a busy semester behind me and plans for the upcoming semester hovering above me…I find myself this morning counting my blessings. Yes, it’s been a busy semester. Yes, it came with challenges and yes, I learned much from life’s experiences, as well as from colleagues and students. No, life hasn’t been perfect. It’s been anything but perfect. However, as I think about others who are facing so much heartache from the loss of their loved ones, sickness’ that are ravaging their bodies, traumatic stress from  horrible addictions of their loved ones, loss, failure, and much more…I, although not living in a perfect world, am blessed.

Our immediate family hasn’t suffered the loss of an immediate loved one during the year 2016, we have homes to protect us and house our families, we have food to feed and nourish our bodies, we have clothes and shoes to protect us from the elements, jobs that provide for our families, churches where we worship freely, and the saving grace of God that fills our hearts. Our family also gained a new addition this year. We greeted and welcomed our fifth grandchild into our family.

Was life perfect? No, it was anything but perfect. There were stressful days, hurtful days, heartache, loss, sleepless nights, hard work, sadness, anger, and many other realities real emotions that visit everyone. However, I have learned over the years to take each day one day at a time, live each to its fullest as these are days that we will never be able to live again, pray hard, learn from the experience(s), move forward, get up when we get knocked down, be thankful for what we have, and expect better days ahead. So, as I enjoy the warmth of the fire in the fireplace I find myself reflecting on the past and briefly revisiting plans for the future…I find myself being thankful for past days, weeks, months, and years, and the experiences that each provided, whether they were happy, sad, good or bad…each of them has helped to mold me into who I am today.

I hope you’ve enjoyed browsing my memories and sharing one of my special days. Please, feel free to leave your comments and visit again. If you enjoy healthy delicious sweet snacks, feel free to check out Random Acts of Kindness & Clean Almond Joy Bites… for a delicious holiday, or any day treat. Merry Christmas and God bless from our house to yours.  image

Random Acts of Kindness & Clean Almond Joy Bites…

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

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

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

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

The ingredients that you will need are:

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

Making this sweet treat:

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

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

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

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Delicious bites of pleasure without the guilt!

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

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

Driving to work this morning was such an awesome experience! It was the same stretch of road that I have traveled for years! But, this morning God’s beauty and grace seemed so very evident, as was the beginning days of fall. I always dread saying good-bye to summer, but eager to welcome fall. I think I enjoy events, colors, activities, food, and the wardrobe that comes with fall more than other seasons. Okay, secret’s out…I love wearing sweaters and turtle necks! I also love baking in the fall!

God's beauty abounds in the mountains of Kentucky.

God’s beauty abounds in the mountains of Kentucky.

Even though it’s not technically fall I baked one of my favorite breads Saturday Morning. I baked it for our ladies meeting at church, and it quickly became a favorite among many of the ladies as well. Most of them were surprised when I told them it was clean. Several didn’t know what I was referring to when I said clean, so it started a nice conversation about clean eating while we enjoyed a variety of dishes.

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

For this recipe you’ll need the following ingredients;

1 tablespoon of fresh ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of fresh ground ginger
1 pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 and 1/2 cups 100% Whole grain/flour

Fresh ground cinnamon is delicious

Fresh ground cinnamon is delicious

1/3 cup raw honey (the honey and molasses replace brown sugar)
1 and 1/3 cup molasses
2/3 cup agave nectar (the agave nectar replaces white sugar. I have also used stevia as well.)
1/2 cup almond milk
2 fresh organic eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (the yogurt and applesauce replace the butter)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 large apple of your choice diced (I like larger chunks, but that’s a personal preference)
1/2 cup of walnuts roughly chopped

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

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

Almond milk is a great source of calcium

Almond milk is a great source of calcium

I love having fresh farm eggs that I know are truly organic.

I love having fresh farm eggs that I know are truly organic.

1.) Whip eggs with a wire whisk and through a strainer into mixing bowl.

2.) Add and mix wet ingredients one at a time.

3.) Sift flour through a sifter, or a wire strainer to promote a smooth texture.

4.) Incorporate dry ingredients, spices, and lastly add the diced apples. I like to add the apples last to prevent bruising while mixing the ingredients.

I like larger chunks of apples in my bread.

I like larger chunks of apples in my bread.

5.) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

6.) Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. (I like to use organic coconut spray)

7.) Pour batter into the sprayed loaf pan, sprinkle rough chopped walnuts, and bake for 30 – 40 minutes. (You can increase the amount of nuts and incorporate them in the batter as well.) Oven temperatures may vary, so baking time may vary.

8.) You will know your bread is done when the sides pull away from the pan, and the bread is brown. You may also use a toothpick to test. Insert a toothpick in the center of the loaf, if it comes out clean your bread is ready!

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

This is a recipe that my family enjoys for breakfast, lunch, warm, cold, for dessert, or just as a snack! It will make you feel like you’re cheating, but you’re not! I truly love eating a slice of this delicious bread warm with frozen vanilla yogurt, and a cup of hot coffee. I’m excited to hear how you enjoy eating this deliciously clean treat! If you enjoyed this recipe, be sure to check out my post for Almond Fruit Dip! I’m excited to bring you more fall favorites including; My Pumpkin Passion Smoothie, Pumpkin Apple Bread, zucchini Bread, all of which are clean and delicious! Thank you for taking time to read about my journey through clean eating! Feel free to leave comments. I love to hear from you!