Organic Vegan Vegetable “Beef-less” Soup

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holistic Living

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoying the smell of mint drying in the kitchen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delicious organic coffee from Amazon!!!

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

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

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

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

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

Canning Our Favorite Pickle Relish

It’s bean picking time in the mountains!

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

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

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

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

Day one:

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

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

Day two:

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

For the brine you will need the following ingredients;

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

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

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

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

Canning Savory Indian Relish

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

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

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

Process: Day One:

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

Day Two:

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

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

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

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

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

A Busy Day in the Mountains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spicy Kosher Pickles

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

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

Harvesting Mint for Teas

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

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

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

Lemon balm for cooking, teas, and health.

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

Chocolate mint tea drying in the kitchen.

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

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

Chocolate mint leaves drying for tea.

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

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

Small jar of dried chocolate mint.

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

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

Lavender awaiting plant butter, teas, or cookies.

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

Taking Flavor and Holistic living to a Higher Level

Hello, from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope you had an adventurous and restful weekend and that your week is off to a great start. Saturday morning’s is typically time for me to catch up on housework, laundry, and also time to work in my herb garden. But, sometimes the craving for an adventure stirs within me. I love a good adventure as much as the next person! I tell my grandchildren that adventure is in the eye of the beholder and that adventures are everywhere. The mountains of Kentucky are are the perfect place for adventures. Saturday’s are typically a time of catching up on work around the house, last Saturday I felt the craving for an adventure. So, we decided to trail ride in our side by side with our family. We set off for the mountain trails to enjoy the view, recall stories, and enjoy quality family time. Who knew what kind of adventure awaited us! Remember, adventure is in the eye of the beholder! I have always loved the mountains of Kentucky. They provided countless hours of playtime for us when we were growing up. We would build forts, hike, picnic, pretend to be cowboys and Indians, and rugged pioneers surviving the elements. Sometimes, we just enjoyed sitting beneath the trees and cloud watching. Nevertheless, the mountains have always called my name.

Large rocks at the top of the mountain known as the Rat Rocks.

When we were growing up in the hills of Kentucky, we spent hours hiking to the top of the mountains behind our grandparents house. We’d walk until we arrived at the large rocks. Many days were spent enjoying a simple picnic on top of the rocks that pictured above. While we ate we would often retell the story of the man that froze to death one night when a sudden snow storm came while he was traveling. His vision was blurred by the heavy snow and he lost his way. Legend has it that the man sought shelter from the storm near one of the large rock formations. Days passed before he was found in the mountains where he had frozen to death. I’m not sure that we ever grew tired of telling stories, finding arrow heads, pretending to be pioneers, or just waking and enjoying the bounties of nature. We also loved the simple days and afternoons of sitting outside on the porch and listening to our grandparents and relatives tell the mountain stories time and time again. I miss those days and think of them often. So, enough about mountain legends! I have a new recipe that I’m super excited to share with you!

I have always loved growing, drying, and cooking with herbs. I love their smell, their health benefits, and their taste. I also love to make teas from my herbs, which is loaded with health benefits. I also love essential oils. Together they make a wonderful partnership! Recently I decided to become a doTERRA essential oil advocate. It only made sense to me since I have enjoyed diffusing the oils and using them for various other purposes for many years. Essential oils and herbs go hand in hand and are both all natural and healthy. I like to refer to them as God’s blessings. I recently learned that some of the doTERRA oils also offer even more health benefits than topical and diffusion benefits. I learned about their internal health benefits, and also that many of them can be used to flavor some of our favorite dishes. This all intrigued me as I have enjoyed a more holistic way of life with plant-based cleaning products, laundry detergent, and through following a plant-based diet for nearly four years. I edged my way forward from clean eating, to vegetarian, and from vegetarian, to vegan. The rewards and health benefits of a holistic lifestyle are amazing! So discovering even more natural health benefits of essential oils… I was all in!

Enjoying the benefits of diffusing essential oils.

Some of you may have tried the wild orange orange essential oil. It is one of my favorite oils to diffuse in the house late evenings. It smells amazing and provides a calming and relaxing atmosphere. Wild orange is also one of the many oils that can be used in sauces, teas, smoothies, and it’s also great in homemade cleaning products. A couple of drops of wild orange on wool dryer balls provides an amazing fresh scent in your laundry as it is drying. Also, two drops in a chocolate smoothie tastes absolutely amazing! After I discovered this delicious taste, I decided to add a couple of drops to my vegan chocolate protein balls. Can I say, SCORE!!! I am so anxious for you to try this recipe. If you love those cream filled bites of chocolate goodness in flavored assorted chocolates, I think you’ll love these protein balls. However, unlike chocolate candies, protein balls are healthy, vegan, and delicious!

One of my favorites oils!

Ingredients:

• 2 scoops of chocolate plant-based chocolate protein powder (I prefer orgain)

• 1 tbs of good natural smooth organic peanut butter

• 1 tsp cinnamon

• 1 tbs finely chopped walnuts

• 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (can be ground for a finer texture, but doesn’t have to be)

• 1 tsp organic ground flax seed.

• 1 tsp of organic chia seeds. (I measure with the small scoop that came with the chia seeds.)

• 1 tbs of organic agave

• 1 tbs of vegan chocolate chips

• 4 drops of doTERRA wild orange essential oil. (aromatherapy grade oils are not suggested for internal use)

Process:

Mix dry ingredients and add moist ingredients to the mixture. Mixture will be stiff, but keep working it. You may add a tsp of agave if needed to make the mixture easier to work up. Once mixture is mixed, use a small scoop or spoon and dip the desired amount into your hands. Roll the mixture into a ball and place in a dish. Continue working the mixture up until all of the mix has been used. I typically have 12–14 protein balls. Refrigerate for two hours to allow balls to set.

You can experiment and try different toppings or coatings. You may add ground coconut to the balls for an additional burst of flavor. I like them either way! I have also tried them with dates instead of peanut butter, which are delicious too, but I’m a peanut butter-aholic, plus the peanut butter gives them a bit of candy bar taste!

Store the balls in a covered container and keep refrigerated for best texture. They will last for days and days in the fridge, if you can resist eating them in larger quantities. I try to limit myself to two per day.

I rolled this batch in fine unsweetened shredded coconut for an added flavor! Yum!!!

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. My grandkids love them too. They think they taste like brownies. I love that they enjoy them because this allows them to avoid added sugars and butter, which are both ingredients to traditional candies, cookies, and brownies. Feel free to leave a comment. I love hearing from my readers. If you’re interested in doTERRA oils, leave a comment with your email and I’ll be happy to send you a direct link so you can explore and begin enjoying the many benefits essential oils provide. For now, I’m off to care for my herbs before the rain comes today. From the mountains of Kentucky , God bless each of you.

Air Fryer Baked Blueberry Oatmeal

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky!! It’s been a while since I’ve posted. It’s been a busy semester with lots of changes and some exciting news. I’ve just finished writing a lab workbook that aligns with the textbook I wrote in 2019. It should be on the market by the end of summer.

We’ve also been working hard to get our garden planted this spring. With all the rain and some vital equipment breaking down, it’s been a journey. But, we’re in the home stretch! Now comes the hard work, but also the wonderful rewards of fresh veggies!!

Delicious baked blueberry oatmeal

I’m anxious to share one of my favorite breakfasts with you! Baked oatmeal… but not traditional baked oatmeal. I stumbled upon this delicious and very easy recipe while experimenting with ingredients and on the search for something delicious, filling, vegan, and healthy!

I like Quaker Oats because they’re Non GMO

Ingredients include:

1 tsp organic cinnamon

1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal

1 scoop organic vanilla protein powder

1 tsp organic ground flax

1/2 tsp organic chia seeds

1 tbs organic smooth peanut butter or preferred nut butter

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbs organic raw agave or honey

A splash of plant milk (I prefer almond milk)

1/2 cup organic blueberries

My favorite plant-based protein powder!
Add dry ingredients first and mix before adding moist ingredients.

Process:

Before you begin mixing, preheat the air fryer for five minutes. My air fryer doesn’t have a temperature gage, but would assume a moderate temperature would work. Mix all the dry ingredients. Then one by one add the most ingredients. Wash the blueberries and add them as the last ingredient. I like to mash some of the blueberries for extra flavor. The mixture will look similar to a thick cookie dough.

Mixture after mixing all ingredients

Don’t worry about having a big fancy air fryer! my larger air fryer is actually taking up space in the basement! I love this small air fryer for individual servings and servings for two! It works just as well and easier to store away when finished. Empty the mixed ingredients in the pre-heated air fryer. I alway form mine into a larger patty and bake for ten minutes. Check oatmeal at the half way mark as all air fryers vary in baking time. When the oatmeal is browned to your preference, empty the oatmeal in a plate and flake the oatmeal up with a fork. I like to add a drizzle of organic maple syrup over my oats, but that’s just my preference. I also like some type of fresh fruit on the side.

A small air fryer works well for this dish!

There’s something delicious that happens when the peanut butter and protein powder bake together. The berries are tender and burst in your mouth! This is honestly more like a dessert fruit crumble than breakfast. I’ve made this with pumpkin instead of fruit and it’s quite awesome! check out the plate! This was a recent thrift find. I automatically grabbed it when I saw it. It is identified to the plates that my mom used when we were growing up. I enjoy reflecting on the meals she prepared while eating. It’s now my favorite breakfast plate.

One of my favorite breakfasts!

I hope you enjoy this delicious, quick, easy, plant based breakfast. Feel free to leave a comment or share your version of air fried baked oatmeal. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Vegan Apple Bread

Good Evening from the mountains of Kentucky! It’s a gorgeous day in the mountains today! I enjoyed a walk around the garden today with the warm sunshine on my face. It felt good to relax a bit. Life has been hectic on our small farm this week. We picked our first picking of beans this week. We picked a bushel and a half, which is not bad for the first picking! We enjoyed them with dinner last night and canned the remaining beans for a total of thirty quarts. Farm life is a busy life, but one that I truly enjoy. There’s a sense of satisfaction with planting, tending, watching the crops grow, and then harvesting, cooking, and canning the fresh veggies! It’s nice to have home canned vegetables and fruit for meals in the cold winter months while the garden is resting beneath the mountain snows gaining nourishment for the next season.

First batch of beans of the season canned.

I’ve also enjoyed trying a few new recipes this week, with fresh produce. Im excited to share my recipe for vegan apple bread with you. It’s the perfect time to try this recipe as the apple trees are loaded with beautiful apples right now. My family described the vegan apple bread as being the best bread I had made! This brought a big smile to my face. I love to create recipes that makes my family happy! I hope you and your family enjoys this recipe as much as mine did. I have a feeling that I’ll be making this moist, flavorful, and delicious bread for most family gatherings in the future.

Vegan apple bread

Ingredients:

  • Two apples of choice (I used honey crisp)
  • One half cup of craisins
  • One half cup of golden raisins
  • One half cup of chopped organic walnuts
  • Two cups of whole wheat flour
  • One cup of organic raw cane sugar
  • Two tablespoons cinnamon
  • One tablespoon nutmeg
  • One teaspoon cardamon
  • One pinch of salt
  • One tablespoon baking powder
  • One teaspoon pure vanilla
  • three flax eggs (see recipe below)
  • One cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • One half cup unsweetened almond milk
  • One half cup unrefined coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a Bundt pan with organic cooking spray and set aside. Mix all dry ingredients fold in fruit and nuts. Add remaining ingredients one at a time folding the mixture after each addition saving the milk until the final ingredient. Once all of the ingredients are combined (the mix will be thick) use an ice cream scoop to dip mixture into the pan. Press mixture gently once all of the mixture has been added to the pan. Bake for 60 minutes. Remember oven temperatures may vary. When a tooth pick comes out clean, your bread is ready. Allow the bread to cool completely before trying to remove it from the pan to prevent it from sticking.

Once the bread is cooled, place a large plate on top of the pan and gently turn the bundt pan upside down still holding the plate and the pan to allow bread to come out onto the plate. I run a small flexible spatula or small handle of a spoon along the edges of the bread to help ensure it releases. You might have to tap the bottom of the pan as well. Once the bread is on the plate, using a small mesh strainer, sprinkle organic confection sugar over the top of the bread.

This bread is a great breakfast treat, can be made into muffins, and also tastes great with hot cup of coffee. I hope you and your family enjoy this delicious bread. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me how you enjoyed this recipe and if you ate it for breakfast, or dessert. For now, God bless each of you. Have a blessed week and weekend. Check back in a few days for my newest squash soup recipe and more memories from the mountains of Kentucky!

Tomatoes are doing great this year!

Flax eggs are basically ground flax seed and water. Mix one tablespoon of flax seed to two tankards of warm water for the equivalent of one egg. Mix ingredients using a fork in a small bowl.

Finding What Works

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky. I hope your week is off to a great start! A memory popped up on Facebook this morning reminding me of the changes that have happened in my life the past ten years. Weight loss changes, dietary choices, and health changes that have had me worried and also celebrating! I hope you enjoy learning a little more about my journey with food, weight loss, and health.

For me, weight loss was like a roller coaster ride! Many ups, many downs, unsure of what was around the next curve, and occasionally the feeling of accomplishment. Diets, like a roller coaster ride, left me with the feeling of accomplishment, but both were usually short-lived.

My journey with roller coaster diets began a long time ago, I mean a long time ago. I, like many others, would find something that worked but it always seemed to be temporary. I was always changing my diet up to try a new diet, fad, or what worked for someone else. My countless endeavors include low fat, low calorie, low carb, no bread, multiple tracking apps, multiple prepackaged diet foods, diets that famous people recommended, liquid diets, protein diets, and the list could go on and on. Were they successful? Some were and some were not. Did I lose weight? Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn’t. Did I gain the weight back? Sometimes I did and a few more pounds to boot! So when did this viscous cycle end? It stopped for me when I found what worked for me. When I found what I believed in, was passionate about, and most of all what I enjoyed!

First of all, I stopped dieting. Yes, you heard me right. I stopped dieting! I adopted a new lifestyle. My journey with fad diets and dieting period took on a new perspective and seriousness when my doctor asked me what I wanted to do. Did I want to live or did I want to die? I chose life! I prayed seriously about what I should do.

After much prayer, my journey began with clean eating. I soon learned that I could eat a wide-variety of good foods, but the food needed to be organic and with the least amount of processing and packaging as possible. I also discovered a new way to cook, new foods to try and new food foods I enjoyed. I also discovered that I could still eat, enjoy my food, and not be hungry. I could actually have dessert too! Clean dessert that is!

My journey evolved into my becoming a flexitarian, which meant the only meat I ate at that time was organic poultry, game meat, and seafood. That lifestyle eventually evolved into my becoming a vegetarian, which removed all meats from my diet. What I realized from this drastic change was that my joints slowly began to feel normal. I had less inflammation. My health was drastically improving and I felt energetic again. Did the change stop there? I was determined to regain all of my health and live a lifestyle that promotes life, not encouraged disease. No! I researched vegan lifestyles and learned that I could live happily, and even more healthy, without eggs and dairy products. My stomach felt better, my digestion was at its peak and I felt more energetic. I began to lose pounds slowly but happily.

My journey with eating vegan has evolved into whole food plant-based eating, which has really changed my life and my health. I feel that I have come full circle with my dietary choices as the whole food plant-based vegan lifestyle is truly one of the cleanest diets possible. The benefits have been tremendous! I no longer take any prescribed meds, other than the smallest dose of blood pressure meds available and expect that to be taken away at my next dr appointment. My blood panel is always good, and contrary to what many believe, my iron and protein levels are fine! Yes, you can get sufficient protein from plants! One of the most notable things that changed with this final change of roller coaster diets, is the positive impact that a plant based diet has made on my joints and gut health! I believe that good gut health is key to living a happy and healthy life! I said all of that to say this, find what works for you and what you are passionate about, not what’s popular.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about my journey with food, diets, and lifestyle choices! I’m happy to say the roller coaster of eating has come to a permanent stop. I’ve been vegan for two years and can’t imagine turning back. The benefits of plant based eating are far too beneficial! I enjoy eating again, I can maintain my weight, lose a little weight and also feel happy about what I’m eating while not feeling deprived. Feel free to leave comments. I enjoy hearing from my readers. Click follow to be notified of new posts. From the mountains of Kentucky, God bless and have a wonderful week!