Winter in the Mountains

Winter has arrived full force in the mountains of Kentucky this week. Just when the countdown until spring has begun, winter rears it’s almost unfamiliar head. Winter can be rough in the mountains, and we’ve had our fair share of rough winters, but considering our winter weather for the past few years, we really can’t complain. During the past few days we’ve transitioned from sleet to, rain, back to freezing rain, and now snow. I feel humbled and blessed that I am one of the fortunate people that can work from home and do not have to travel. Because of my blessings, I feel compelled to check on others, pray for those that have to travel, the first-responders, homeless, and the elderly. It’s during times like this that I appreciate my mountain roots, heritage, cultural ways, and the knowhow of how to survive hard times such as those that we live in today more than ever.

The ice is clinging to the trees in the mountains.

With winter weather also comes the desire to cook, which I think is a cultural thing as well. As far back as I can remember when snow started flying in the air, laying on the ground, and filling the trees, someone was cooking. Cooking what? Veggie soup, chili soup, pinto bean better known in the mountains as soup beans, and always a side of cornbread. This was only a few family cavities! Some may think that vegans and or clean eaters can’t enjoy tasty dishes or cultural meals. However, being a clean-eating vegan doesn’t mean that I have to sacrifice flavor or my favorite foods. No, I still enjoy savory meals that I’ve always enjoyed, only a healthier version of them.

So, what’s on the menu for this bitter cold and blustery day? Organic soup beans, cooked in the insta pot without oil, but with plant based beyond bullion base. This great tasting base also decreases the amount of salt that’s needed to flavor many dishes. I use this base when I saute mushrooms, I add it to soups, beans of all kinds, and more. I’ll bake cornbread for my husband and plan to make myself roasted potatoes. I discovered along this high-starch journey I could line a sheet pan with parchment paper, spritz the cubed potatoes with vegetable broth, season them and cover them with aluminum foil and after they’ve reached the desired tenderness, I place them for the final minutes under the broiler and allow the potatoes to crisp up. What I discovered is that the potatoes are crispy and tasty. I also occasionally place them in the air fryer, spritz and season, and air fry for a faster dish of roasted potatoes. To add to the deliciousness m, I’ll add a side of sour kraut, which I canned last year, and maybe a skillet of mustard greens stirred up with diced mushrooms, more of the vegetable base, and finally a crumbled tofu to replace the scrambled eggs. This is a supper that is mountain worthy, culturally acceptable, vegan friendly, and filled with starches and high-powered greens. The only thing that makes this dish better is a jar of my canned red tomatoes chilled and served on the side. An all clean, organized, healthy, and tasty on this cold snowy day!

A great source of seasoning that adds a lot of flavor!

Eating vegan, plant-based, and healthy does not mean that you have to sacrifice flavor, culture, or deny your family who doesn’t follow a vegan diet. What I have learned along this journey is most of the time my husband doesn’t realize I prepare the mustard greens without oil, without eggs, and limited to no salt. He still brags on the taste, reaps the reward of less oil, and salt, and also that he loves sauteed portabella mushrooms. He still indulges in cornbread, but often made with less oil, egg replacement, and almond milk. The bread is still tasty, and he eats it without complaining about lack of flavor, but often brags on how tasty it is. Many times we think we need more salt, or we need to add a splash more of oil, or some other fat, when in reality we just need to focus on the flavor of the food…not the seasoning. One of the greatest benefits he has discovered is that a plant-based diet is much better for his gout, which is an entirely different post for later.

Snow and ice fill the trees and the mountains.

For now, I’m off to put beans in the insta pot, grade assignments, tidy the house up, and catch up on a little reading while snuggling beneath my favorite quilt in my favorite chair. I am so thankful for a warm home and knowing that my family is safe at home. I will also enjoy my favorite coffee, the spectacular view of the snow-covered mountains that lies just beyond my windows, and all the comforts of home. Blessings from the snow-covered mountains of Kentucky. I have found that in an impersonal world filled with more struggles than I can recall, a high-tech technology world where social media has replaced much of the personal communication that we once cherished, not to mention the uncertainty of the pandemic, I cherish the simple things in life more than ever before.

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Finding Joy During Uncertainty

It’s been a while since I have posted. I’ve been working on this post for a few weeks, but kept encountering interruptions, or starting over to find the right words, and still just setting it aside to work on later. Sometimes I’m not the best at multi-tasking. I have been in a routing of focusing on what needs to be done first, which often results in me neglecting my blog that I enjoy so much. Life has been very different since the outbreak of COVID. We’ve encountered many changes along the away and have had to learn to adapt, and in some cases still adapting as it seems every day brings about new changes and a new, or resurrected sense of uncertainty. I, like many of you, have gone through a roller coaster of emotions with the changes and devastation that have occurred in our world within the last year. My emotions ran amuck from fear and worry to joy, and so the cycle continued for weeks that turned into the months. However, all change that has occurred in my life hasn’t been a fearful change, or a change that came with a dread. No, life is not perfect, nor will it ever be. But, change can bring a freshness, personal growth, and also time to rise up to the challenges, goals, or tasks that we’ve put on the back burner far to long ago. It’s time to find beauty in the ashes!

A peaceful time of prayer while admiring God’s creation.

The way we socialize, shop, worship, educate, vacation, and even dine out have all encountered changes in one way or another. However, I was reminded several months ago of the words given to me by a previous boss. Things were continually changing with the district where I taught, and if you are an educator, parent of school-aged children, or work in the public school system, you know about change. He simply stated, “change is good.” He further explained that we could take what felt like an uncomfortable change, a scary journey, or a dread and turn it to our good, and to our student’s good. Shame on me! I had neglected the wise words from a long-time friend from many years ago. Why had I not used those same words and applied them to our situation today. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that this wicked virus is good by any means. But, what I am saying is that with all of the changes we’ve encountered…also came time. Time, that I seemed to lack when life was rushing by so quickly. It was time to rediscover and renew my prayer life, my creativity, bring a sense of newness to my classes, encourage and bring hope to our students, and bring hope to our family.

These changes would occur one day at a time, overcoming one obstacle at time, living in the day and being thankful for the time that I have. I would not waste time sitting and worrying, wondering about what the future held, when would all the sickness end, or when life would get back to normal? Key word here is, life. I was reminded that I was allowing life to slip away, right before my very eyes. Think about it, for those old enough, it seems we turn around and twenty years of our lives have vanished. We’re left asking ourselves questions such as; What did we do with those twenty years? Were they spent feeling sorry for ourselves, living in constant fear, complaining, spending far too much time on social media, which by the way will deplete our joy, if we allow it to. Or were days, months, and or years spent doing things that we love to do? Were we spending time bettering ourselves through meditation, prayer, reading, breathing the precious air that we have been gifted, spending time with family, or cherishing the life that we have been given?

Through this journey of change, I was also reminded wise words of my pastor’s wife shared. During one of the most difficult times in her life as she battled for her very life of having diverse diseases the doctors thought would take her life, she had a profound encounter with the Lord. While feeling down and or discouraged one day, she felt the Lord express the following question; are you going to sit there and die or get up and live? I have pondered this question many times since then, and actually asked it of myself, and asked others who were going through a rough time. Some might find it hard to believe that the Lord actually speaks to us, but let me say my friends that the Lord has a way of reaching us through His word, in our thoughts, a gentle breeze, kind words of others, in the lyrics of a song, in dreams and in many other individualized ways. It’s about believing and being willing to receive what He has for us that is so very important. It’s what we do with what He says, whether it be directly from Him in a still small voice, a prophetic word, that gentle breeze that stirs when we need reassuring, or from a bold statement such as my pastor’s wife and friend encountered. Fast forward, my pastor’s wife was healed over twenty years ago, and today is one of the busiest women that I know. But, she’s not too busy to neglect her duties as a pastor’s wife, a friend, a mother, grandmother, her career, and her sincerity as a prayer warrior.

Be strong, be bold, be steadfast, and together we’ll brave the storm.

She has shared those wise words with our church and myself often. In the early fall I was reminded of those words just when I was tired of being down-trodden, tired of living in fear, tired of doom and gloom, tired of negativity everywhere I turned, tired of feeling isolated, tired of politics, tired of what seemed like endless changes, tired of so much sickness, and simply tired of being tired. Her words resonated with me one morning as I sat quietly pondering the events that lay ahead of me. I was now teaching full time at home, advising from home, shopping from home, and doing almost everything from home. I needed a positive change. Was I going to sit here and die or was I going to get up and live. I whispered a quiet thank you Lord, for the gentle reminder that I wanted to get up, I wanted to live and make the most of the day that I had been given. I began to count my blessings. I counted the smallest and largest blessings. I found it difficult to count them all. I felt inspired to write them down. Anyone that knows me, knows I have a passion for journals. Quickly, I found just the right journal from among the many blank journals that I had stowed away in my office. I would make a gratitude journal. The pages were filling quickly, my load seemed lighter, and I felt a sense of control and positivity returning. I found that by writing and recording my blessing daily, it was more therapeutic, it was real, it was a reminder of the blessings that were being overlooked and shelved like a competed novel. This was an area that needed to be revisited daily, relived, and an area that needed to be a focus of a dark time in our world. There is light in the midst of the storm, there is hope, there is joy during the crying, there is God and He did not deserve to be shelved. Rereading the Bible daily became a time of joy, a time of learning, re-learning, and a time of connections. Seeking out new inspirational books to read, books that were filled with joy, hope, happiness, and testimonies of triumph became beneficial and an inspiration that I have been able to share with others. Making time to pray, meditate, and sometimes just sit quietly and reflect on the goodness that surrounded me, rather than watching the news, or browsing social media, became an even larger part of my daily routine, and one that I found myself looking more forward to every day. It was time to get up and take back what seemed to slowly be fading from my view. I was reminded that as long as we have breath, we have hope, and without hope we can’t have faith, and faith is what moves what feels like mountains. Faith will sustain us and help us overcome.

For me, preserving and finding and making time to do what I loved, to write, cook, create, spend time outside, read, prayer time, socialize, even if it’s by phone, or zoom, care for others who may be hurting, and simply counting daily blessings, brought joy during the times of uncertainty. No, life is not perfect, yes, changes are still occurring, and yes the virus is real. We have family and friends who have suffered the cold and vicious symptoms, some still battling the side-effects, and others who have lost their lives to this horrible disease. But, through it all we have had family who have overcome and won the battle with the virus, who have lived to help others, and who have become stronger in their faith as a result. We must find a positive in the negative and remember that change is good. The change that I have encountered through it all is a closer relationship with our savior and a new appreciation for the simple things that are too often taken for granted. I have learned to step back and count my blessings and recount them. I have learned to make time when we often say we don’t have time. I have decided to live by the wise words given to my pastor’s wife, I choose to get up and live rather than sit down and die physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Life is precious. I choose to make the most of it every day, even through the changes of uncertainty. Remember, no one can rob you of your joy. Happiness is a daily choice. I choose to dance in the rain, and find beauty in the ashes.

I’ll leave you with two book suggestions.

Love is Real written by Adam Reid. This is a book that will forever change your mindset and your life. Also, When Women Pray, by TD Jakes. This is a book that allows you to connect to the lives of prayer warriors in the bible, grow spiritually, learn how to persevere, and how to get up and keep living, even when life is hard and uncertain. Both books have made a profound impact on my life and helped intensify the desire to get up and live even more than before.

God bless each of you! As always, thank you for stopping by my blog. Feel free to leave comments or feedback. I love to hear from my readers. FYI…upcoming is a new recipe that I have been working to perfect. My family has enjoyed it thus far. If you love lemon, you’ll enjoy my new lemon trifle. I hope to post the recipe soon.

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…