Clean Pumpkin Fig Bars

pumpkin patch II

Fall is my favorite time of the year! The mountains of Kentucky are visually stunning this time of year! The brilliant colors of the leaves are gorgeous! While puttering around the house and making plans for fall break this weekend my thoughts turned to the joys of holiday baking. I wanted to create a new fall dessert…I wanted to create a new clean pumpkin treat that was more than a pumpkin treat. I wanted to create a delicous clean treat! While scouring the pantry for ingredients I stumbled upon inspiration. I love when that happens! The unthinkable ingredient just kind of jumps out at you and your original plan takes a total 360! That’s when inspiration truly takes over and an inspired recipe begins to unfold and come together!

With that being said, I am super excited to share with you my latest recipe for clean fig pumpkin bars. If you like fig cookies and pumpkin pie…I am confident you will enjoy my fig pumpkin bars! Are you ready? Let’s get started!

Crust Ingredients:

2 cups of Old Fashioned Oats
1/2 cup of dates
1/2 cup figs
2 tbs. coconut oil
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbs. honey
1/4 cup water

Pumpkin Pie Filling Ingredients:

15 oz. canned pure organic pumpkin or puree (I like pure)
2 fresh eggs
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tbs. honey

2 tbs. coconut oil or you may substitute with unsalted butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. pumpkin spice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
small pinch of salt

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Ovens will vary, but my best bars worked at 350. Combine the dry ingredients for the crust one at a time and add to either a food processor or a ninja. I used my ninja and it worked out great. Once you’ve added the ingredients you will need to pulse slowly until the mixture is chopped well. Add water and honey a little at a time until the crust comes together. You will know your crust is ready to press in the pan when it forms a ball and stays together. Spray a 8 X 8 glass pan with cooking spray and press crust mixture evenly into the pan and set aside.

pumpkin fig bars I

For the filling you will need to whisk the eggs in a large bowl, add the pumpkin and mix thoroughly. Add softened oil, or butter to the mixture. Add wet ingredients one at a time mixing with each additional ingredient. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Whisk until the filling is fluffy.

Pumpkin fig bars II

Pour pie filling over the crust and smooth out. Tap gently on the counter top to remove any air bubbles and then bake in the preheated oven for an hour. Check your pumpkin bars for doneness by inserting a toothpick. When the toothpick comes out clean your pumpkin bars are ready. You can add a sprinkle of chopped nuts for a little extra crunch. Allow them to cool completely before cutting. I like to allow mine to cool for about thirty minutes on a wire rack and then place in the refrigerator for an additional thirty minutes before cutting. Once the bars are cooled you are ready to enjoy!

Pumpkin fig bars III                                       Pumpkin fig VI

The bars will keep refrigerated for up to two weeks, but trust me they won’t stay around that long! I hope you and your family enjoy my spin on a tradition pumpkin pie for a sweet and clean holiday treat or any day treat!

Pumpkin fig bars V

Feel free to leave feedback. I love to hear from my readers. I would like to hear how you enjoyed this sweet treat. Did you try it with a whipped topping, for an afternoon treat with coffee or for your fall festivities? From the mountains of Kentucky…happy fall y’all!

Each bar is approximately; 75 calories, with 6 g fat and 2g saturated fat, 17 carbs, 24mg cholesterol, 3g protein, and 4g dietary fiber and 46 mg sodium.

Divine Appointments

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

chickens

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

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

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

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

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

Clean Apple Cranberry Muffins

With a hint of snow in the air a desire to cook and create delicious meals was stirring within me. A craving for something sweet and healthy consumed my thoughts. I also knew if I did not give in to the urge and begin mixing ingredients that I would reach for something that I shouldn’t to satisfy my desires. Even though I am a clean eating activist the pantry always holds a sweet treat for one or more of our five grandchildren, and my husband who loves to indulge occasionally in a sweet dessert. I admit just knowing the sweet treats are in the pantry sometimes stirs a craving.

Yes, the battle with sweets is real, even after all these years. I have learned to fight fire with fire. When the cravings begin to lurk in the crevices of my mind I counter attack them with one of the many healthy sweet treats that do not leave me with an overwhelming sense of guilt, bloating, and discouragement. Instead, after indulging in a healthy treat I feel satisfied, full, and sense of pride feels my being for winning the small battle with sweet treats. Yes! I defeated and quieted the voices that call out…feed me, feed me! Again, the battle between myself and indulging in sweet treats is real!

Quickly I scoured the pantry for ingredients. I discovered that I had week old apples that I could use, or otherwise they would be prepared in protein waffles or a smoothie. I had organic reduced sugar dried cranberries hmm…yes, I had the fruit and the makings for a sweet baked treat. Now I needed to create this unknown sweet dish! The decision was made. I would have some delicious clean fruit muffins to enjoy with a midday cup of coffee.

Ingredients:

2 cups of whole wheat plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons stevia
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup peeled and diced apples (any variety)
1/2 cup of reduced sugar organic dried cranberries
1 large egg white
1/4 a cup of all natural stevia sweetened organic syrup (can substitute with honey)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice (fresh is better)
1/2 cup apple butter (I prefer homemade sweetened with stevia)
1 tablespoon raw honey
1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil

image

Mix dry ingredients and then add wet ingredients one at a time.

 

 

Mix dry ingredients incorporating one ingredient at a time. Begin adding wet ingredients one at a time. Do not over mix as this will take away from the texture of the muffins. Fold in fruit as the last ingredients. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. I prefer olive oil spray. Scoop mixture with an ice cream scoop into the tin and drizzle lightly with honey. Bake until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Baking time will vary with different ovens. I bake in a convection oven and my muffins were ready to remove in fifteen minutes.

I was excited as the aroma of the muffins filled the house. I quickly brewed a pot of coffee to enjoy with a muffin, or two. Delicious is an understatement! These muffins rocked! They were not too sweet, but delicious, moist, and very satisfying. I decided to put them to the test and allow our daughter and son in-law to be the critics. Both of them gave them a thumbs up and a rating of ten out of ten! They were a hit with everyone.

I hope you and your family enjoy my clean apple cranberry muffins as muffins as much me and my family did. Feel free to leave comments or feed back as it is always welcomed. If you enjoyed this recipe I can’t wait for you try out my new clean luscious brownie recipe or my clean sweet potato casserole that I will be posting soon. So for now wishing you and your family a blessed week from the mountains of Kentucky!

image

A delicious sweet treat that tastes great any time of the day!

 

 

 

 

Quiet Mornings in the Mountains

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

image

Our Nativity Scene that adorns our mantle every year. 

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

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

image

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

image 

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

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

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

 

Feeling Nostalgic

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

image

A locally owned small business filled with wonderful gift ideas.


image

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

Counting My Blessings…

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

image

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Organic Coffee Time

So, Tuesday was National Coffee day. In order to celebrate I, like many others, posted my celebratory comments on facebook. That’s when I realized how many posts I had made about coffee over the years! Wow! Everyday could be National Coffee Day, well according to my posts it could!  A friend commented on my post suggesting that I start a coffee blog. I explained that I didn’t want to start another blog, but thought I could occasionally write a coffee post! She loved the idea. So, here goes…

But first, a little about me and my coffee addiction. I have loved coffee since I was a little girl. Some of my earliest memories are of me spending the day with my mother while my brother and sister were at school. I remember sitting in the kitchen while she cooked, washed dishes, sewed, or whatever the task at hand was. No matter what she was doing she always had a cup of black coffee nearby. I also remember sipping her coffee after it cooled. I loved black coffee even at a very young age!

One of my favorite mugs!

One of my favorite mugs!

Over time coffee has changed in many ways. It’s not just perked as it was when I was growing up. Now you can perk, boil, or drip it! You can have it brewed in large quantities, or one cup at a time. There’s hot coffee, cold coffee, and iced coffee. We can select from a wide variety of flavors, brands, and roasts. There’s whole-bean, freshly ground, and all ready ground. We can buy coffee cakes, coffee chewing gum, coffee candy, cappuccino, espresso, frappuccino, lattes, and more! There’s even organic coffee. The coffee craze is sweeping the nation, and I for one am thrilled!

A favorite flavor from our local coffee shop, The Axis!

A favorite flavor from our local coffee shop, The Axis!

So, for this week I would like to recommend one of my favorite organic coffees. I have found Green Mountain House Blend Organic Coffee to be delicious and satisfying. It’s great prepared in a Keurig, dripped, or perked. I especially like buying the whole-bean and grinding just enough for either one pot, or one serving at a time. The aroma while brewing is sensational! This is great coffee with breakfast, as an evening cup, with a sweet treat, or with a meal! It can be ordered online from Amazon for a very reasonable price, and can be found in most super markets. I have tried several organic coffees, but have found myself returning to Green Mountain Coffee again, and again. Coffee was once a breakfast staple in most households. Today, coffee time is any time! Be sure to check out my post  Clean Apple Ginger Bread for a delicious bread that goes great with a hot fresh cup of coffee! Feel free to leave your comments after trying this delicious coffee, and my sweet and moist apple ginger bread.

Love This Organic Coffee!

Love This Organic Coffee!