Keeping All of Those Veggies Fresh!

It’s been quite some time since I last posted. I’ve been one busy professor, wife, grandmother, mother, etc. and all of the other hats that I wear. My apologies to my readers for neglecting you. However, I am back with good news! Yes, that’s right some good news. We can all use good news and a fresh break away from all of the negativity that floods our news, news feeds, and often our conversations. I like to be an uplifting and positive person who spreads cheer, hope, love, and joy as much as possible. So, today I am going to share something with you that sure brought a smile to my face, a little relaxation on my grocery budget, and also hope for all of you that love a plant-based diet and have a vast amount of veggies in your fridge!

For the majority of my adult life I have always been frustrated at how quickly the veggies in the refrigerator go bad. I was tired of throwing away peppers that had suddenly developed soft places, cucumbers that became soft and mushy, and mushrooms that were slimy. Yes, that’s right they get slimy. You know they do. All of this is especially true if you buy organic fruit and vegetables. Why, you may ask. It’s simple reasoning actually when you think about it. Organic produce hasn’t been genetically modified and are not full of unnatural preservatives. I did a little test a couple of months ago. I purchased a couple of non-organic bell peppers, which I must say was a hard thing for me to do, as I always use homegrown veggies, or organic vegetables from the grocery in off seasons. I also bought a couple organic bell peppers. I placed them both in the same vegetable bin and discovered that the organic peppers did not have the same shelf-life that the non-organic peppers had. As a matter of fact, the non-organic pepper is still in my vegetable drawer after three weeks and is still firm. Now, that was an eye opener. My analysis of the experiment is as follows; non-organic veggies last longer due to preservatives and being genetically modified, whereas organic veggies have a true shelf life because they are in their natural state, and haven’t been preserved in some manner. I also am a firm believer that organic produce is healthier and always tastes better. That’s my spill on organic produce. Now for the big reveal…

I have always been guilty of washing and drying my produce when I came home from the grocery store, and then proudly putting them in their appropriate bins in the fridge. They looked colorful and the bin was full with a lot of choices. However, the veggies just didn’t last very long. It was a struggle to either dehydrate, make stock, or try to use the veggies to prevent from throwing them away or feeding them to our farm animals. Now for the good news! What I discovered was this; when I bring produce home, I did not and I repeat, DID NOT wash it, but simply wrapped the beautiful veggies in a good quality white paper towel, the veggies had a longer fridge life! I prefer Viva paper towels as they are thicker and more absorbent.

The paper towel absorbs moisture that often collects on the produce and prevents it from spoiling as quickly. For those organic mushrooms that were always a chore to keep and or use before they went bad, I now simply line the paper bowl they come in, or use a natural basket with a white paper towel, empty the mushrooms in the container, and then cover them with another paper towel. It’s hard to believe, but I have kept organically grown mushrooms for up to three weeks this way. Now, that’s a big deal as the organic mushrooms never seemed to have a long shelf life and I was stopping several times during the week to buy more. Now, they stay dry, firm, and they don’t get slimy in a few days. They are also still fresh and delicious. Now, that is a bargain money saving tip or what?

Preparing to roll these beautiful baby cucumbers in white paper towel.

I house carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower the same way that I store my mushrooms. My vegetable drawer is not as colorful as it once was, but instead filled with odd shapes of vegetables wrapped in white paper towels. But, I know that two weeks after I put cucumbers away with each being individually wrapped, they’re still fresh and crisp!

I individually wrap each cucumber as I roll them into one big bundle. This prevents the cucumbers from touching and also ensures that the paper towels absorb the moisture from each cucumber. 

I love unwrapping vegetables and feeling the firmness of their skin, the freshness of their smell, and holding crisp firm veggies in my hands. I also love the freshness of vegetables while I am preparing them. The taste of the vegetables is still fantastic and their integrity is still top quality. One more advantage about this fabulous discovery is that the vegetable drawer remains dry and requires much less cleaning as opposed to just placing the veggies in the drawer. I know you know what I’m talking about. That veggie drawer can get nasty, but not with this really simple trick. It only takes a few minutes out of your time when putting your groceries away. It will save you a small bundle on your groceries at the register and allow you to have quality vegetables available for all of those wonderful plant-based recipes that you love cooking! Oh, I didn’t mention how delicious, fresh, and crisp that salads are after wrapping the veggies!

I hope you enjoy this wonderful bit of information and find it as useful as I did! Feel free to follow my blog, leave feedback, or comments. I look forward to posting an upcoming new favorite go to plant based soup that I am totally loving right now! I am excited for you to try my recipe for Three Bean Mexican Soup! For now, God bless, happy eating, and remember to always eat fresh and organic when possible. Until the next post God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Living in the Appalachian Mountains

Courtesy of Jonathan Bowling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

book 1

Canning Your Very Own Delicious Apple Butter

We opened our first jar of our Apple butter this week! It was delicious! It’s clean, organic, tasty, and easy to make! Follow my step by step instructions to make and preserve your very own Apple butter.

A Healthier Me...Simple & Clean

apple butter

It’s a beautiful morning in the mountains of Kentucky! I love taking early morning walks and listening to the sounds of the mountains waking up! To me, there’s nothing more inviting than hearing our roosters crowing their early morning wake up calls, listening to the doves gently cooing a peaceful call from the tree-tops, and hearing the creek water flowing over the time-worn stones. This type of morning was especially inviting and therapeutic today after a long day of working in fresh picked apples yesterday!

Haney's Entrance to Haney’s Apple Farm in Nancy, Kentucky

A couple of days ago, we decided to visit Haney’s Apple Farm located in Nancy Kentucky. I want to take a few minutes to give a shout out to this exceptional family owned and run business. The grounds were beautiful, clean, had a nice large variety of ready to pick apples, already picked apples, and many more apple related products, and…

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How I Saved 106.86 My Last Shopping Trip Using Apps and Coupons!

After my original post, I discovered that I had saved even more! How? By using the Wal-Mart Savings Catcher app. I saved .87 cents more on the 16.5 lb of Purina dog food! So, actually only paid .13 cents for the bag of dog food! I plan to stock our one hundred gallon tub this week for about 1.13! Now that’s saving!

A Healthier Me...Simple & Clean

Okay, so when I embarked on this clean eating journey my food intake changed dramatically, as did my grocery bill. Many of the foods that became a staple in my pantry wereon my husband’s list offavorite foods to eat. I found myselfbuying groceries for two different menus. To decrease the expenses we decided it was time to increases the produce in our garden. We both enjoyed the majority of the vegetables. I saved a bundle on zucchini, squash, cucumbers, and cantaloupe alone! As much as this helped our budget, encouraged me to eat healthy, and also provided vegetables for our family,therewere some things on my grocery list thatwe couldn’tgrow!

Ihad a desire and a needtoreduce my grocery bill.I was determined to find ways to trim back, and cut corners. So, I decided that coupons would be my first choice.I’ve always enjoyed saving a little money here and there with coupons,but…

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My Grandmother’s Canned Pickled Green Tomatoes

A Healthier Me...Simple & Clean

With fall comes the clean up of the final tomatoes lingering on the now drying vines in our garden. Yes, it’s hard to believe that it’s time to harvest the last of the green tomatoes. Pickled green tomatoes is a third generation family favorite. I also love the memories that come with canning pickled tomatoes each year. Fall canning was one of my favorite times of the year when I was a little girl. I’ve stood beside my grandmother and mother countless times washing jars, rinsing tomatoes, and eventually slicing tomatoes. My grandmother passed away more than fifteen years ago, but she left me a treasured keepsake, her hand-written recipe for pickled tomatoes. My mom doesn’t can anymore due to age, and health complications. But that doesn’t keep me from taking her our canned goods to enjoy! I love to share our canned food, or what I like to call our blessings with others.

Okay, enough reminiscing!…

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