Canning Tomato Juice the Easy Way!

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It’s hard to believe that fall is upon us! While walking Freckles this morning I noticed the colors of the leaves. The subtle changes that are already taking place are beautiful, which make me anxious for all of the fall festivities, foods, colors, fashion and every part of fall except knowing that winter follows these wonderful months. Dreading the snow and ice of winter is a natural part of living in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains…but I can honestly say, there’s no place like home and I can’t imagine living anywhere but the mountains of Kentucky.

With the happy thoughts of fall also came a bit of sadness. As we walked past our garden a mix of emotions consumed me. We’ve been very blessed with a bounty of delicious vegetables this year. But, seeing the final tomatoes of the season struggling to cling to the dying vines, the bean vines turning yellow and the corn stalks anxiously awaiting becoming decorative fodder shocks…a bit of sadness consumed me and filled my heart. I knew that I would miss visiting our garden and picking vegetables each evening. I would even miss hoeing the rows of ripe delicious vegetables, all the hours of hard work…but then thinking about the abundance of canned food our garden has provided somehow made the upcoming days of winter a little less undesirable. Suddenly, I had an overwhelming urge to cook a bit stock pot of homemade vegetable soup!

With the last days of summer approaching also comes the time to can tomato juice. My family loves tomato juice in homemade vegetable soup, chili, macaroni and tomato juice and sometimes just as a wonderful and tasty juice to drink. Anyway homemade tomato juice is incorporated…it’s delicious and always makes the dish a bit tastier!

When I first began canning for myself and my family. I was eager to incorporate skills I learned as a child growing up in a farming community and also experiment and create strategies of my own to discover my own style. I was eager to make it mine, to know it and to own it! Over the years I have learned many new tricks, strategies, and ideas that have made canning much more pleasurable and shortcuts that also helps canning fit into my busy schedule. As a college professor, writer, wife, mother and grandmother my schedule can fill up very quickly, as I’m sure yours does as well. I also wanted to find methods to can healthier food to accommodate my style of clean eating. I’m anxious to share my quick and easy method of canning delicious time-tested tomato juice with you so that you can also preserve your own delicious jars of tomato juice for you and your family.

Ingredients:

Fresh tomatoes (I typically process 3-5 gallons of tomatoes at a time, but you may process as few or as many as you have)
Table salt
Lemon juice

Tools:

Quart jars with rings and lids
Water canner
Large fine mesh wire strainer or sieve 
Ninja, blender or food processor (I prefer using a ninja but either will work)
Large stock pot
Wooden spoon
Funnel

Process:

Wash and sterilize jars, rings and flats. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and one-quarter teaspoon of salt in each quart jar and set aside. Wash tomatoes, cut the core and any bruised or bad spot out of the tomatoes. There’s no need to peel the tomatoes. Cut tomatoes into quarters and place in the ninja or blender. Using the ninja I pulse several times and then process the tomatoes for a couple of minutes, usually only two minutes or so, just until they become a thick tomato puree. Pour the puree into the large stockpot. Once all of the tomatoes have been processed through the ninja and poured into the stockpot turn the burner on and slowly bring to a boil. Once the tomato puree is boiling begin stirring and allow tomatoes to boil five minutes stirring constantly. After five minutes turn the burner off and remove tomatoes from heat.

Place the funnel in the mouth of the quart jar. Holding the strainer or sieve over the funnel begin adding the tomato puree into the strainer. You may use a ladle to add the tomatoes to the strainer. Using the wooden spoon press all of the tomato mixture through the strainer and through the funnel filling the jar with beautiful tomato juice. Once the jar is full with at least a half-inch head space remaining wipe the rim of the jar and place the sterilized flat and ring on the jar. You can then clean your strainer out. You will notice that there’s not much left in the strainer, but you will find seeds and a little tomato peel remaining. The great news is there are little to no seeds in your juice! Yay!

Continue filling the jars by pressing the tomatoes through the strainer and into the jars. Once you’ve filled the jars (usually a 3-5 gallon bucket of tomatoes makes at least 7 quart jars of juice) place jars in the canner with water covering the jars by at least an inch. Slowly bring water to a boil. Once the water begins to boil process the jars of juice for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes turn the stove off and allow the water to settle and slightly cool. Carefully remove jars from the canner and place on a towel or cooling rack. You should hear that wonderful popping sound that we all enjoy hearing so much! The jars should begin to seal right away. Once they’ve sealed and cooled you are ready to add the dates on the lids with a permanent marker and add the beautiful jars of red deliciousness to your pantry shelves!

I have learned that canning a few jars of juice at a time prevents me from getting burn out and becoming overly exhausted with making tomato juice. I have also found that I still gain as many jars of juice over a period of weeks or possibly two months as I do when I have tried to juice bushels of tomatoes at one time. I like juicing in increments as I can involve my grandchildren and allow them to learn the process of canning and gaining a cultural experience and learn a tradition that many have already forgotten. I love passing down cultural experiences from generation to generation.

I hope that you enjoy my method of canning tomato juice as much we do and find as much pleasure in the dishes that you create with this tasty deliciousness. Be sure to check out Canning Green Beans the Time-Tested Way for another time-tested method of preserving your beautiful bountiful vegetables. If you’ve enjoyed my recipes or articles, please feel free to leave a comment. I truly enjoy hearing from my readers. Also, thank you for your continued support. For now, blessings from the mountains of Kentucky!

 

How to Dehydrate Summer Squash & Zucchini

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I love quiet mornings in the Appalachian Mountains. With the house filled with the aroma of brewed coffee and the roosters crowing their good morning wake up call I am filled with enjoyment, peace and the security of home. I’ve always believed in that all too familiar cliche…”there’s no place like home”…even when home is buzzing with activity. Activity is actually an understatement. It’s been a very hectic week around our home. My kitchen is still buzzing with action as we plan, prepare and fill our pantry and freezer with healthy garden food for the upcoming winter months. 

As our garden flourishes our table continues to be filled with family, memories, conversation and wonderful healthy dishes. We’re also still enjoying the process of canning, dehydrating and freezing for upcoming winter months. It’s a comforting feeling and a feeling of accomplishment to know that our family will be enjoying green beans, okra, corn, apples and many more delicious homegrown treats from our garden including summer squash and zucchini. Yes, those big bountiful plants are still producing an impressive amount of deliciousness daily! We have been blessed with enough of both vegetables to enjoy daily and to also preserve for our family, our families family, our church family and our neighbors! God has truly blessed our garden with a bountiful harvest this year!

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In my last blog post I shared twelve ideas of how to enjoy all those summer squash and zucchini that you’ve grown. I hope you  stepped outside of the traditional banana bread and baked as well as enjoyed the tropical pomegranate bread made with summer squash! I’ll be honest…we’ve enjoyed a couple more loaves since I posted the recipe. It has quickly become a new family favorite. When you bake don’t forget to vacuum seal a few extra slices for that warm winter evening snack, or anytime snack! If you’ve not checked out this delicious recipe…don’t hesitate…check it out! What are you waiting for? You’ll love it! Tropical Squash & Pomegranate Bread/Muffins For your convenience, just simply click on the link above and introduce your family to my families new favorite!

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With the freezers beginning to fill up and the canning shelves being carefully lined with a multitude of goodies, I decided it was time to crank up the dehydrator and begin filling up a couple of gallon jars that house dehydrated squash and zucchini each year. Year after year I am amazed how quickly a gallon of each delicious dried veggie accumulates! Dehydrating is a simple process that is also an easy an effective way of preserving almost any kind of fruit or vegetable. For squash and zucchini the process is easy. Simply follow the directions below and then enjoy your favorite summer vegetables year round.

Process:

Wash and dry squash and zucchini
Slice in desired thickness and shapes (I prefer thin sliced) with the peel
Long spiral noodles are great as well
Line dehydrator trays
Set temperature to 135 for 13 & 1/2 hours
Dehydrators will vary, but this works best for me
Check vegetables for crispness.
Stop the process when vegetables become crispy.
Place slices in an airtight jar (glass works best)

dehydrated zucchini

These wonderful slices of goodness can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Put a few in a bowl or zip lock baggie and season them with your favorite seasonings and eat them as a snack. They make great veggie chips! I enjoy putting the crispy slices in soups, omelets, casseroles and many other dishes. When the crispy slices are added to dishes they will rehydrate from the moisture of the other ingredients in your dishes. For example, in soups the broth will rehydrate the veggies and bring them back to plump deliciousness. Either way…crispy or rehydrated you can’t go wrong with dehydrated vegetables. The shelf life is great as long as the container is airtight, they don’t take much shelf space, are very versatile, they’re healthy and they taste great!

I hope you and your family enjoy yet another method of preserving, enjoying, and serving all of those wonderful summer squash and zucchini. As always, it’s a pleasure to hear from each of you. Feel free to share your comments, ideas, recipes and your thoughts on my posts. Don’t forget to clik follow to be notified of new posts in the future. Also, check out and enjoy my recipe of the week Tropical Squash & Pomegranate Bread/Muffins I’m sure your family will enjoy it as much as mine. As always, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

http://www.ahealthiermesimpleandclean.com Copyright 2017

 

 

Canning Spicy Kosher Dill Pickles

It’s been a little while since I last posted. But, I have to admit…life has been a bit crazy for this farm girl/college professor/author. Between teaching two fully loaded classes this summer, which I loved, promoting book sales, and I’ll let you in a little secret…I’ve been working hard on two more books. I’m hoping to have one of the books ready for editing by fall and the other complete by winter. I’ll keep you posted as both books progress!

However, the summer has consisted of more than just being connected to my laptop with students and writing. June was planting time for the Bowling’s. We finally have everything in the ground and have begun to reap the wonderful rewards of hours and hours of planting, weeding, hoeing, and nurturing. The cucumbers, zucchini and squash are growing faster than we can keep them picked. Needless to say…we’ve thoroughly enjoyed zucchini and squash sautéed, baked, zucchini noodles and also made into delicious breads. By the way, I’ll be sharing a new zucchini bread recipe very soon!

I can’t believe we’re already harvesting from our garden! We just canned our first dozen spicy kosher dill pickles this week. For years we worked to perfect our kosher dill pickle recipe. We’ve developed our pickle recipe over a few years by adding, taking away and adjusting the seasoning. After several attempts, we finally perfected the recipe a couple of summers ago. I’m anxious to share our delicious pickle recipe with you so you can enjoy these quick and easy spicy kosher pickles with your family.

Canning pickles requires a little prep work and a few ingredients.

Ingredients:
30-35 cucumbers of choice (I like the pickling cucumbers best)
3 cups of water
3 cups of white distilled vinegar
1 tablespoon of whole black pepper corns
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of white sugar
at least 12 sprigs of fresh dill
1 tablespoon of dried dill
1 tablespoon of mustard seed
1/4 cup of kosher salt
one cup of fresh garlic cloves (whole)
Pickle crisp (optional)

Process:
Wash cucumbers (set aside)
Wash and sterilize a dozen jars, rings, and flats (even if they are new)
Slice cucumbers into quarters and pack carefully into jars (pack jars tight)
Add a sprig of fresh dill to each jar
Add one whole crushed clove of garlic to each jar (can be processed whole garlic, but fresh is better)

Combine the following ingredients in a large cooker:
3 cups of water
1 tablespoon black pepper corns
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
1/4 cup of kosher salt
bring to a rolling boil and add 3 cups of white distilled vinegar and turn heat off.

Pour or dip mixture into jars over the sliced cucumbers and I like to add 1/4 teaspoon of pickle crisp to each jar for an added crispness to the pickles. Be sure to leave head space for the processing of the pickles, wipe the rim of the jars, add the flat and ring. Seal the jar but don’t tighten extremely tight. Place the jars in the canner, cover with water at least an inch above the jars and put the lid on. I like to use a stove top canner. I’m a creature of habit and have always canned with a boiling water bath. I’ve found it to be successful. So, I find no reason to mess with success. Set temperature to medium high so the jars don’t heat up too fast. Bring the water to a rolling boil.

Once the water begins to boil set your timer for fifteen minutes. After fifteen minutes turn the stove off and allow jars to sit for five minutes. Carefully remove the jars from the water with jar lifters (which are the handiest inexpensive tool you’ll ever invest in) carefully place the jars on a towel to protect the surface beneath them. Don’t allow the jars to touch. Soon you’ll hear the POP that I never grow tired of hearing. That sound means the pickles are sealing! They should all seal within the hour. Once the jars and lids are cool to the touch write the date on the lid with permanent marker. Allow jars to cool completely before storing away in the pantry.

kosher pickles

I hope you and your family enjoy our spicy kosher pickles as much as my family, friends neighbors do. We’ve found them to be a tasty addition to burgers, hotdogs, soup beans, and actually as a side to most of our meals. Please feel free to leave feedback. I always look forward to reading your comments. Feel free to check back for upcoming summer canning ideas and more about my new books, life as a college professor, and more of my adventures of living in the Appalachian Mountains. If you notice there’s a jar of squash that’s visible in the picture above. I’ll be sharing this recipe with you soon. Wishing you and your family the best 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.”

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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.

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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.

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.

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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

Drying Stevia

I love fall, but I’m saddened about not being able to step outside my backdoor and clip fresh herbs. My summer herbs are still green, perky, and plentiful…but their days are numbered! Even though I love fall, and will miss fresh herbs, it’s time to focus on the chore of harvesting herbs. To harvest tasty herbs, the herbs must be green and still full of life. Fresh herbs make any dish taste better. I cut fresh basil this morning for an omelet…delicious to say the least! As tasty as summer herbs are during the hot months…they still kick your dishes up a notch when they are dried. Dried herbs can be used year around, but are especially a treat during the cold winter months. Drying herbs can be a bit of a slow process, depending on the method that you choose. Drying herbs is the process that I thoroughly enjoy the most!

My backdoor herb box

My backdoor herb box

When I made the choice to eat clean, I also made the choice to grow my own herbs. What better way to know that your herbs are truly organically grown! I was also eager to try different types of sweeteners. I found that I love using agave nectar and honey, but sometimes a dry sweetener is necessary. After researching, and speaking with some wise old farmers about stevia, my mind was made up. I would grow and harvest my own sweetener!

Stevia is a beautiful green plant that is very easy to grow. It takes very little maintenance, other than water, regular pruning, and a lots of sunshine! I decided to start small, since it was a new herb in my garden. I planted a very large pot of the beautiful green plant. One pot of the sweet herb has provided through the spring and summer months, and is now ready to be harvested for the fall and winter months ahead.

Sweet Herb/Stevia growing outside my back door!

Sweet Herb/Stevia growing outside my back door!

The process is fairly simple. There are a variety of methods of drying herbs. You may air dry them by placing in them in shallow pans, dehydrate them, hang them to dry, or oven dry them. If you plan to dehydrate your herbs, or in a flat pan, simply clip the desired amount of shoots of the sweet herb, and then clip off the leaves. If you dry them by hanging them, you will not need to clip the leaves.

I prefer to dry stevia in a pan in a dark room near filtered window light. No matter the method discard leaves that may be bruised, or have brown spots on them. Rinse the leaves to remove any pests, or dust and allow to air dry. Once the leaves are dry place them in a dry shallow pan near filtered window light in a dark room. Be patient, and check the herbs in a couple of days. You may occasionally manipulate the leaves to allow even drying. After about two weeks, your leaves should be dry enough to pass the crunch test. The crunch test, is simply hearing the crisp and crunchy sound when you crumble the leaves. If they pass the test, you are ready. If they do not pass the crunch test, allow a few more days and check them again.

Process:

Dry leaves in a shallow pan in a dark room with filtered light

When leaves pass the crunch test, crumble the leaves by hand onto a clean white paper towel or large pan.

Place crumbled leaves in a coffee grinder.

Pulse until you’ve reached the desired consistency.

Place fresh ground herbs in a clear glass jar with a lid. (I prefer glass jars to preserve the freshness of the plant.)

Label the Lid or Jar to identify the herb.

Growing & drying stevia

Growing & drying stevia

Enjoy your organically grown stevia in teas, desserts, canning, and more. If you have enjoyed learning about growing and drying stevia, be sure to check out Drying Fresh Basil. I look forward to hearing from you! I would love to know how you incorporate fresh stevia in your favorite dishes.

My Grandmother’s Canned Pickled Green Tomatoes

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! If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating one of these crisp and spicy slices of deliciousness…you don’t know what you’ve been missing! I know they sound weird, but trust me, they are delicious with pinto beans, aka soup beans, soups, meatloaf, and any other hardy supper. Pickled tomatoes doesn’t have to be limited to a side for heavy country cooking. Remember, clean recipes can include soup beans, soups, tuna patties, meatloaf made with venison, or elk, grilled chicken, and so much more. They also make a great addition to salads as well. I like to use them in place of pickled banana peppers with my salads. The possibilities are endless!

Pickled Green Tomatoes are a fall and winter favorite.

Pickled Green Tomatoes are a fall and winter favorite.

Now for the few ingredients that you will need.

green tomatoes
1 pint of salt
1 quart of vinegar
5 quarts of water
jalapeno peppers (optional)

Process

1.) wash and sterilize quart jars

always wash jars, even if they are new

always wash jars, even if they are new


wash jars

Sterilize all jars before using them

2.) in large stock pot combine salt, vinegar, and water

3.) While these ingredients are coming up to a boil, wash and quarter the tomatoes, or slice them according to your preference.

4.) Slice jalapeno peppers (the removal of seeds is optional)

5.) add sliced tomatoes and jalapeno peppers to sterilized jars

5.) Bring ingredients up to a boil and pour over tomatoes

6.) wipe rims and seal tomatoes

7.) Process in boiling water bath for ten minutes (optional) 

my canner

8.) Carefully remove jars of tomatoes, place on a towel to cool

9.) Do not disturb the jars over night, check rings to ensure tightness the following morning

10.) Don’t forget to date the lids before putting the jars of tomatoes in the pantry

Tomatoes will change from bright green to a dull green after they are processed.

Tomatoes will change from bright green to a dull green after they are processed.

Now all that’s left to do is to try to contain the excitement ,and desire to crack open a jar of these delicious green tomatoes! You can experiment with various seasonings for spicier pickles. We have added red pepper flakes to the ingredients, which resulted in a much spicier pickle. They were delicious, but I prefer to use the recipe above. I confess, I’m somewhat a creature of habit! This recipe is time-tested and has always turned out a crispy delicious pickle. I’ll never forget my youthful summers spent helping my grandmother and my mother can tomatoes. I’ve been canning pickled tomatoes with this same recipe for nearly thirty years, and still enjoy the process almost as much as I did when I was a little girl! I am super excited to share this recipe with you, and for you to try my grandmother’s green tomato pickles. If you have enjoyed this fall favorite, be sure to check out my clean and spicy salsa recipe Clean and Spicy Salsa. I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to follow my blog for many more upcoming fall favorites.

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

Driving to work this morning was such an awesome experience! It was the same stretch of road that I have traveled for years! But, this morning God’s beauty and grace seemed so very evident, as was the beginning days of fall. I always dread saying good-bye to summer, but eager to welcome fall. I think I enjoy events, colors, activities, food, and the wardrobe that comes with fall more than other seasons. Okay, secret’s out…I love wearing sweaters and turtle necks! I also love baking in the fall!

God's beauty abounds in the mountains of Kentucky.

God’s beauty abounds in the mountains of Kentucky.

Even though it’s not technically fall I baked one of my favorite breads Saturday Morning. I baked it for our ladies meeting at church, and it quickly became a favorite among many of the ladies as well. Most of them were surprised when I told them it was clean. Several didn’t know what I was referring to when I said clean, so it started a nice conversation about clean eating while we enjoyed a variety of dishes.

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

For this recipe you’ll need the following ingredients;

1 tablespoon of fresh ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of fresh ground ginger
1 pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 and 1/2 cups 100% Whole grain/flour

Fresh ground cinnamon is delicious

Fresh ground cinnamon is delicious

1/3 cup raw honey (the honey and molasses replace brown sugar)
1 and 1/3 cup molasses
2/3 cup agave nectar (the agave nectar replaces white sugar. I have also used stevia as well.)
1/2 cup almond milk
2 fresh organic eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (the yogurt and applesauce replace the butter)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 large apple of your choice diced (I like larger chunks, but that’s a personal preference)
1/2 cup of walnuts roughly chopped

Agave nectar is a great way to sweeten any drink or dish!

Agave nectar is a great way to sweeten any drink or dish!

Almond milk is a great source of calcium

Almond milk is a great source of calcium

I love having fresh farm eggs that I know are truly organic.

I love having fresh farm eggs that I know are truly organic.

1.) Whip eggs with a wire whisk and through a strainer into mixing bowl.

2.) Add and mix wet ingredients one at a time.

3.) Sift flour through a sifter, or a wire strainer to promote a smooth texture.

4.) Incorporate dry ingredients, spices, and lastly add the diced apples. I like to add the apples last to prevent bruising while mixing the ingredients.

I like larger chunks of apples in my bread.

I like larger chunks of apples in my bread.

5.) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

6.) Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. (I like to use organic coconut spray)

7.) Pour batter into the sprayed loaf pan, sprinkle rough chopped walnuts, and bake for 30 – 40 minutes. (You can increase the amount of nuts and incorporate them in the batter as well.) Oven temperatures may vary, so baking time may vary.

8.) You will know your bread is done when the sides pull away from the pan, and the bread is brown. You may also use a toothpick to test. Insert a toothpick in the center of the loaf, if it comes out clean your bread is ready!

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

This is a recipe that my family enjoys for breakfast, lunch, warm, cold, for dessert, or just as a snack! It will make you feel like you’re cheating, but you’re not! I truly love eating a slice of this delicious bread warm with frozen vanilla yogurt, and a cup of hot coffee. I’m excited to hear how you enjoy eating this deliciously clean treat! If you enjoyed this recipe, be sure to check out my post for Almond Fruit Dip! I’m excited to bring you more fall favorites including; My Pumpkin Passion Smoothie, Pumpkin Apple Bread, zucchini Bread, all of which are clean and delicious! Thank you for taking time to read about my journey through clean eating! Feel free to leave comments. I love to hear from you!

Almond Butter Fruit Dip

Living on a farm, no matter the size, means there’s always work to be done. So, what better time to find a little relaxation than in the early morning hours? I’ll admit it, I’ve always been a morning person. I can recall as a child waking up early on Saturday mornings just to get outside and enjoy the day. I still enjoy waking early, sitting on the front porch, drinking morning coffee, and allowing nature to inspire my day.

Through my journey to lose weight, achieve better health, and maintain a healthier lifestyle, I’ve discovered that relaxation is a must. For me, a brisk morning walk right after, or just before breakfast while the dew is still on the ground is one a greatest methods of relaxation. It’s also quiet time that allows me to meditate, pray, and enjoy the beatify around me. I can always find beauty in some form of nature on my early morning walk.

While walking Freckles this morning beauty seemed to erupt everywhere!  As we walked out the front door the sweet aroma of roses filled the air! I couldn’t resist…so, I took a few minutes to smell the roses before our walk began!  As Freckles, and I started down the lane for our two-mile walk, I noticed our usual early morning visitor, Mr. Crane had returned for a few minnows from the creek. He’s a handsome sight! Here are a few pictures that I snapped on our walk this morning.

Our summer roses are in full bloom.

Our summer roses are in full bloom.

crane

I spotted Mr. Crane a regular morning visitor enjoying a few minnows from the creek.

Enough about our morning…let’s get started with this delicious almond butter fruit dip. Honestly, this will make you feel like you’re cheating…when you’re not! It’s clean, easy, and delicious…all the qualifications of a great recipe! This sweet treat will also help stop that craving for something sweet that we all have. It’s a great snack for any time of the day, and a great snack for the kids lunch. Trust me, they will love it as much as you do.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon of organic almond butter
2 tablespoons of Plain, or vanilla Greek yogurt
dash of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root
2 tablespoons of raw honey
apples, or preferred fruit for dipping

almond butter

A delicious alternative to peanut butter that my family loves!

Greek Yogurt

I prefer vanilla yogurt for this dip!

Process

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.

Mix all ingredients in one bowl.

Mix all ingredients in one bowl.

Believe it, or not, that’s all there is to it!

 A simple, delicious, and clean treat!

A simple, delicious, and clean treat!

Now, for the best part! Eating this sweet and delicious treat. You can experiment and try a variety of fruits, but my favorite is apples. You can also increase the ingredients to make a larger amount of dip to serve at a party, family reunion, or any social gathering. This is a dip that is sure to be a hit, and among your guests favorites!

Delicious with apples

Delicious with apples

A delicious dip for any kind of fruit!

A delicious dip for any kind of fruit!

I would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment telling me about your experience with this easy and delicious fruit dip. If you enjoyed this quick and easy clean recipe, be sure to check out my post, Quick Easy, & Clean Coffee Mug Blueberry Muffins. Also, watch for my upcoming post, How to Make an Apple Pie Smoothie!