Making Memories in the Mountains…

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! We’ve had a couple of beautiful fall-like days in Appalachia. It almost feels like fall with temperatures in the upper seventies! I’m not complaining, this is perfect weather for outdoor activities, porch sitting, and for picking and canning beans.

Fourteen quarts of green beans picked and canned this morning!

I enjoyed the morning yesterday with our oldest granddaughter working up beans that we had picked from the garden. It was a memorable morning for both of us. We enjoyed small talk, reflecting on different things going on our lives, sharing fun-filled memories, and also our dreams and some of our future plans. I love days like this. It reminds me of my days as a young girl sitting on the front porch of my mamaw’s little grocery store. We would string green beans to hang dry for shuck beans, or as some prefer to call them, leather britches. We also sat countless hours breaking freshly picked beans for canning. These were experiences that helped mold me into who I am today and memories that I will forever cherish.

Rows of vining beans on fence from our garden last year.

As we sat working up the beans yesterday, i couldn’t help but allow my mind to drift back to a much simpler time…a time when days seemed to be forever long, summer vacations were the best, hard work was appreciated, porch sitting was welcomed, and families actually talked to each other… face to face! Those were the days prior to personal technology (AKA cell phones) and also days that make me long for those simpler times! I recall sitting for hours on the old bus seat or wooden ladder-back chairs helping my mamaw work up her beans. I never remember saying I was bored or complaining about helping. I enjoyed helping and also working the produce from our garden, even as a kid.

I loved spending time with my mamaw, and also hearing the stories of her youth, and when her kids were growing up. She would talk about the importance of putting away/canning enough food for winter and for what she called, hard-times.

I also thought about the days we spent on our back porch with our mom working in freshly picked cabbage. She would divide the big heads of white cabbage and place a half in a large bowl for me to chop. I loved having the job of chopping cabbage with the sterilized open ring of the empty cream can, and then gradually graduating to using a grater, only after she was sure I wouldn’t lose a knuckle.

I worked along side my mom as she would fill the sterilized jars with beautiful white shredded cabbage to be pickled into delicious sour kraut. We enjoyed the fresh kraut immensely with soup beans, AkA pinto beans. The heat from working outside didn’t bother us or deter us from our mission whether it was work or play. We were not accustomed to air conditioning and often went outside to seek refuge from the heat inside our house. Some of my fondest memories of summer and summer vacation are playing outside, playing hide and seek in our papaw’s corn field, making club houses in the barn, and playing in the creek. Regardless the heat index or what the thermometer read, we enjoyed playing and having fun outside!

Our youngest grandson running through the rows of young corn.

I can also remember as a kid pondering on the words that I had heard my mom and both grandparents speak of. Hard-times, I wondered what they were, when they would arrive, and why would canning hundreds of jars of beans, cabbage, and corn help us when hard-times arrived. I thought canning, drying, and preserving was just something that everyone did, what we were supposed to do.

I didn’t realize that many times in my youth we were actually living in those hard-times that my mamaw and papaw spoke about. We always had plenty to eat, a full root cellar or pantry of canned goods, which included fried apples, peaches, beans, corn, jams, apple butter and more. Today, I am thankful that I learned from my mom and grandparents how to garden, can, preserve, and how to plan for and also to survive and make it through real-life hard-times.

I recall in our youth, and in our own children’s youth relying on our pantry of dried beans, canned beans, baskets of potatoes we dug from our garden, corn from the freezer, and many other goodies we put away. I learned early on in our marriage that when the primary source of income comes from coal mining, pink slips and lay offs were inevitable. Unfortunately, we also learned that unemployment insurance barely met the bills. This was when I truly learned that having a well-stocked pantry of preserved and canned food helped families to survive those real-life hard-times.

Our garden early in early spring.

But, more than anything, I learned from my mom, grandparents, and experience that God will always provide, and He honors hard work. I’ve also learned that planting and working the garden as a family creates many cherished memories, provides nourishing healthy food for our entire family, supplements the weekly grocery bill, and also ensures that an Appalachian tradition of gardening and preserving is still handed down from generation to generation and remains a way of life.

Our oldest grandson hoeing young tomatoes in late spring.

I hope you have enjoyed my Appalachian memory and a small part of my heritage. Feel free to leave feedback. I enjoy hearing from my readers. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Moments in Time…

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope you’re having a wonderful summer wherever you may be. Summer time should be a time for relaxation, reading, and also for road trip adventures! I feel inspired to share an adventure that my sister and I encountered several years ago. Grab yourself a cup of coffee or a cold beverage and relax while you read about a moment in time that forever changed my life.

Morning in the mountains of Kentucky!

First, let me say that I am a firm believer that the Lord places people in our lives when we need them the most. I like to refer to them as divine appointments. Just like the divine appointment my sister and I encountered while we were on our weekend get away. I’m excited to share our unforgettable weekend with you!

Summer vacation had arrived, and it was truly a much needed one for both my sister and myself. At the time I was an elementary school teacher who had been under a tremendous amount of stress due to state tests, overcrowded classrooms, and stress from dealing with the 157 students that passed through my classroom on a daily basis! My sister also needed a break as much as I did for other reasons…so, we did what any sisters would do! We hit the road for a weekend trip for just the two of us.

After much deliberation, we decided that we would spend the weekend at Mammoth Cave National Park. We enjoyed spending time at Gun Town Mountain, an old western town that required us to ride a sky lift up the mountain, which was a blast, especially considering that my sister is afraid of heights. We enjoyed many of the sights in Cave City, which consisted of Dinosaur World, nature walks on beautiful trails, museums, and a fun house. I was super excited to stop at a local tourist attraction called, Big Mike’s Rock Shop. I have been an avid rock collector for many years and was looking forward to adding to my collection. Of all of the gift shops we browsed, this was my favorite shop.

Gun Town Mountain

The store was buzzing with tourists, small talk, and anxious kids awaiting an arrow head or a different rare stone. After browsing the many shelves of different stones I carefully selected my treasures. The checkout line was a bit crowded, but we finally made our purchases and exited the store.

Big Mike’s Rock Shop

The remainder of our evening consisted of more shopping, browsing, scenic walks, and dinner, then we returned to our room to relax our tired feet. While I enjoyed a cup of coffee and browsing my small bags of treasures, I discovered my purchase from the rock shop was missing.

After searching our room and the Jeep, we found the receipt but the bag was no where to be found. I hoped that maybe I had left them at the shop and not the restaurant. We had planned to leave the next morning after breakfast, but decided to stop by the rock shop first. I decided if the bag of rocks from yesterday hadn’t been left behind, I would just purchase more rocks!

Things got really interesting upon entering the rock shop! The same lady who was behind the counter the day before was working the register again, and was bold in praising the Lord as we entered the small crowded shop. We waited anxiously in line to speak with her. We slowly made our way to the counter with several people lined up behind us anxious to checkout and leave with their newfound treasures. I explained my situation to the kind lady. I was eager to learn the whereabouts of the bag of stones that I had so carefully selected the day before.

As she retrieved my bag of stones from beneath the counter she asked us if we were Christians. After answering her she explained with tears in her eyes that she had felt the need to pray for my sister and I the day before. But she wasn’t sure how to approach us or how we would perceive her request to pray for us. She also explained how she questioned her feelings yesterday evening after we had left. She asked the Lord for a sign. She said she prayed we would come back to the shop. If we returned, it would prove to her that it had been meant for her to pray for us. She also said she had no idea that the rocks that had been left behind were mine.

With tears in our eyes we assured her that we would be happy for her to pray for us. Quickly she asked for my hand and began praying for me. She gave me prophetic words of wisdom and handed me a small smooth stone that she told me to carry with me. She added that when I felt alone, unsure of a situation, or had a need to rub the smooth prayer stone and remember the words she spoke. She said it would also remind me that the Lord heard my prayers. She did the same for my sister, only with different prophetic words.

I have recalled that day in the rock shop many times since then. I have also wondered what would have happened if I hadn’t gone back to the small shop, and also been very thankful that I did. As I stated earlier, I am a firm believer that God uses people in the places and at the time that we need them the most to lift us up, encourage, and also to pray for us. My prayer stone is never far from me as is the memories of the elderly lady who gave me the stone and words of wisdom that helped me in a very difficult time in both my life and my sisters’ life.

I hope my encounter with one of God’s divine appointments brings you encouragement and inspires you to believe, or to be that person that helps someone else in their time of need. Will you be the voice in the wilderness that encourages others?

I hope you enjoyed my special moment in time. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky! Feel free to leave comments…your feedback is always welcome!

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…

Vegan Tofu-Spinach Scramble and a Good Book!

Tofu-spinach scramble, soy-based meatless sausage, tomatoes, and salsa! Delicious!

I love quiet cool spring mornings at home. I also enjoy preparing and enjoying one of my favorite breakfasts while reading a great summer read. Tofu-spinach scramble with veggies is my new favorite alternative to eggs. Tofu is low sodium, low cholesterol, low carb, and low calorie…but doesn’t lack in taste, if prepared and seasoned correctly. Tofu is also very cost-efficient. I prefer the organic extra firm tofu to the others.

Tofu can be prepared to replace meats, eggs, and many more creative and tasty dishes. I enjoy experimenting with the breakfast options the most, but am excited to see what other new dishes awaits me! I’m anxious to share this tasty and also very healthy low carb vegan dish with you.

Ingredients:

  • Extra firm organic tofu (amount based on serving size)
  • 1 tablespoon of organic olive oil
  • Diced yellow or red onion (varies with taste preference and serving size)
  • Quartered zucchini and yellow summer squash (add as much as you desire based on serving size and taste)
  • Organic baby spinach (add as much as you desire based on serving size)
  • Black pepper
  • Turmeric
  • Paprika
  • Salt or salt substitute
  • Chopped blades of green onions or chives
  • Medium salsa (optional)

Heat olive oil over low heat and add desired amount of onions and add squash and zucchini. Season lightly with each of the above spices.

While onions, squash, and zucchini are being prepared, cut desired size of tofu. Tofu portions are very similar to measuring egg portions. Press tofu in a tofu press to release the water. If you don’t have a tofu press, no worries! You can place the tofu between two white paper towels and press until the tofu feels nearly dry. Set tofu aside.

Sauté the onions and squash mixture until onion become translucent and squash and zucchini become tender. Add tofu to the skillet of veggies crumbling it as you add it. Sprinkle tofu and veggies with turmeric and paprika. Treat the scramble much as you would scrambles eggs while they’re preparing. You will visually see the white tofu change to a beautiful yellow. This color change occurs from the combination of turmeric and paprika.

Add baby spinach and allow it to slowly wilt into the tofu scramble. Season with salt or no-salt, which I prefer and black pepper. Once the spinach has wilted remove from heat. You are ready to add your favorite sides and enjoy. I love to top my scramble with chopped chives or scallions and a little mild salsa for an extra addition of flavor, while also enjoying meatless sausage and tomatoes on the side. I have also found that avocado is a great addition.

A few other favorite tasty additions include adding mushrooms or peppers. The possibilities are endless. I also like to add basil and oregano to create a tasty Italian scramble. I like to substitute the salsa with marinara sauce. Again, tofu is a blank slate that can be modified to meet the preferences of your pallet.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about the book I’m reading. I am enjoying a wonderful book that has intrigued me, made me cry, wonder, and to learn more about a very diverse and rich character who’s story is based on her real-life. I encourage you to check out, purchase, or borrow the book, “Educated: A Memoir of Tara Westover” written by Tara Westover. This is a look at the life of Tara and her family that will linger in your thoughts, and in your heart for quite some time.

I am 80% finished with this intriguing book and would rate it as a true five-star memoir that has stirred emotions deep within me. Every person that I’ve recommended this very interesting and inspiring book to has enjoyed it equally as much as I have.

Be sure to try my tofu scramble for a healthy low car, low calorie, and low cholesterol dish that doesn’t lack flavor! Feel free to leave feedback about the tofu scramble or the book suggestion. Also, feel free to follow my blog for future delicious clean and vegan dishes as well as book suggestions.

I think I’ll enjoy a little time outdoors in the beautiful green mountains and our vegetable garden! God bless from mountains of Kentucky!

An early morning visitor…

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.

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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