Five Organic Gardening Tips

Quote of the week:

Garden work is satisfying to the body and soul, as is the harvest.” ~Dr Bowling

Hello, from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope you’ve been blessed with awesome weather for your gardens! It’s been very dry in the mountains. Our garden is growing and we’re picking, but a lot of hard work has been involved with watering by hand through the month of June. Needless to say, we’ve decided to invest in ground soaking hoses that will water the ground when we want it, or as we need it. For a garden of our size, I’m not sure why we hadn’t already thought about this. I’m often asked questions about the difficulties involved with organic gardening. So, I decided to share five organic tips that can beneficial for your garden at this time of the year.

Love eating from the land… even though it’s a lot of hard work.

Tip One: We’ve also dealt with low calcium in the soil through this very dry beginning to summer. So, through research and back work, we’ve added ground organic oyster shells to the soil around the squash and zucchini. As well as eggs shells and diatomaceous earth. Thankfully the rotting squash and zucchini have come to a stop and we’re back to picking our fill and then some of both fruits!

A few of the straight neck summer squash from our garden.

Tip Two: to add a little extra fertilizer to our herb garden, I’ve been saving organic tea bags and reboiling the bags for a weaker tea and watering the herbs. This is a game-changer for herbs. My favorites are chamomile, mint, and black tea. The plant feed on the rich antioxidants, and the the tea bags are added to the garden as the bags are biodegradable. We add the spicy cinnamon black tea bags around the garden for an additional deer repellent.

Nothing better than fresh herbs to cook with.

Tip Three: in the battle against those pesky beetles on beans, cucumbers, and squash plants. In a spray bottle we mix a spray of 10 drops of lavender essential oil, 10 drops of peppermint essential oil, and 10’drops of citronella essential oil, with a tsp of organic plant based dish detergent. Then fill the bottle with water. This makes a great spay to repel all kinds of munching little friends. We also dust our plants with organic food grade diatomaceous earth for an extra layer of protection.

Tip Four: adding a little potassium to tomatoes while repurposing banana peels. A lot of bananas are consumed at our house. I eat two a day most days. I love organic bananas for oatmeal, baked oatmeal, and as a snack and frozen ones in smoothies. So I’ve learned that not only roses like bananas, do do tomatoes in the form of a tea. To make tea, keep a pitcher of water in the fridge. The pitcher should be about half full to allow for room as you add banana peels. Once you’ve peeled the bananas, add them to the water. You can cut the peels, but don’t have to. There’s no need to cover the pitcher. After a week, take the bananas out and add one part banana tea to five parts water. Use this transit the base of tomatoes. It provides potassium to the soil. This will help produce stronger roots, stems, and great fruit. Banana tea can also be added beside of pepper plants as well.

Banana peel tea.

Tip Five: Begin saving egg shells a couple of weeks prior to planting tomatoes. When it’s time to plant, place an egg shell in the hole before putting the plant in the ground. Egg shells are loaded with calcium and will feed the soil at the roots of the tomatoes and help prevent blossom rot and what some of the old timers called, the blight.

I hope that you find these tips helpful and you have success with your garden this year and for years to come. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. I love to hear from my readers. Well, it’s time to go pick a while and reap the joys of our labors. God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

Harvesting Mint for Teas

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

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

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

Lemon balm for cooking, teas, and health.

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

Chocolate mint tea drying in the kitchen.

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

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

Chocolate mint leaves drying for tea.

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

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

Small jar of dried chocolate mint.

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

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

Lavender awaiting plant butter, teas, or cookies.

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

Questions That I’m Asked About Eating Vegan

Italian tofu scramble, stewed tomatoes, fresh cucumbers and Ezekiel toast.

Following a plant based/vegan diet often leads to a variety of questions. Some questions are asked more often than others. My best answer is simply that I am eating healthy for my overall health and my life. I wanted to share some of the more common questions that I’m asked, and also how I answer them. My hopes is that after you read my answers, you may be inspired to eat clean, and healthy for your overall well being.

Why did you decide to follow a vegan diet?

It was an easy transition for me. I was never a big meat eater. I became lactose intolerant as a young adult, so I had had already omitted dairy from my diet. I battled high cholesterol for years, so I had already stopped eating eggs and processed foods. I also was a border line diabetic, which intensifies my concerns about sugars and processed foods. But one thing that helped me make my mind up was reading the research about the connections between consuming animal products and cancer. So, the decision was relatively easy for me.

How long have you ate plant-based?

I slowly transitioned over a period of four years. But, have been totally plant-based for nearly four years now. I have followed a clean diet for several years and loved eating organic foods and home grown veggies. I’ve always loved fruits and vegetables of almost all varieties.

What do you eat?

I always have to hide a giggle when I’m asked this question. I simply smile and explain that I eat from a wide variety of plants including loads of home grown and or organic vegetables and wide variety of organic fruits. I love good non gmo or organic brown rice in lots of dishes. I enjoy a lot of good organic old fashioned oats in many delicious dishes. I also add organic firm tofu to my diet at least three times a week. Tofu can become almost anything from a take on scrambled eggs to imposter fish sticks! I also really like organic veggie burgers. I eat flourless breads occasionally. And I also love soups of a wide variety. I love organic nut butters! I also enjoy almost all beans and lentils. The answer to this question could go on and on forever! Oh, I almost forgot about nuts!!! I love eating walnuts, almonds, pecans, and cashews! It’s really easier to say what I don’t eat. I don’t eat meat or meat products. And, I don’t eat dairy products. I can eat anything else that I want to eat. But, I do always try to eat as clean and organic as possible!

Our garden last year. This year’s is not quite this nature yet.

Does vegan food taste good?

The taste is unreal! I love growing and incorporating fresh herbs and spices in my dishes. My husband loves some of my dishes so good that he prefers some of my dishes to traditional dishes, such as tofu scramble instead of scrambled eggs. Taste lies within the imagination of the cook! The sky is the limit on fresh and or organic spices, molasses, and agave! Creativity is the key!

Plant-based dessert! This is my apple cinnamon tea bread.

Do you miss eating meat?

This is an easy question to answer. No, I do not miss meat at all! There’s many delusions ways to substitute meat. Lentils are great as is tofu. The market also has many healthy and organic options for ground crumbles that honestly taste better than ground beef. There’s also veggie or soy grillers that make outstanding burgers as well as many other options available today. You may be surprised at the amount of foods that are available in your local grocery stores. I encourage you to to be a label reader and also to make wise choices. I prefer fresh foods over processed foods. When I buy processed, I always try to buy organic.

Vegan taco boat in an acorn squash.

Does your family eat the same food as you do?

Dietary choices, lifestyle changes, and healthy habits are a personal choice, which I respect. Our daughter follows a vegan lifestyle as well, which helps with creating new and creative dishes. My husband does not. He is a true meat lover, but consumes less than he did at one time due to gout. He does enjoy my vegan vegetable soup and my vegan chili soup. He also prefers tofu scramble to scrambled eggs.

What do you eat when others are eating meat-based dishes?

Many times I eat the sides that I prepare with our meal. I am also careful in planning and preparing healthy sides. I love to incorporate fresh vegetables such as green beans, corn, spades of all kinds, veggie pasta, steamed veggies, baked potatoes, and many other dishes. If I prepare burgers for my husband, I often eat a veggie burger. I love to air fry small Yukon gold potatoes as fries. My husband now prefers them to traditional French fries. I can honestly say that I never have to worry about not having something to eat!

One of my favorite Italian dishes!

What do you eat when you dine out?

I’ll be honest, after eating clean for a number of years, I don’t or shall I say, we don’t eat out very much. But, when we do, I can usually make a meal on a good salad and baked potato. I have also been known to take my favorite plant-based dressing with me.

Do you miss cheese?

This is another easy question to answer. No, I do not miss cheese. There is so many organic non dairy cheese options available today. Also, raw cashews can be tuned into a delicious cheese! My favorite non-dairy cheese from the grocery is pictured below. Another plus about eating non dairy cheese is that it doesn’t mess with your bowel habits! No more constipation!

One of my favorites!

How has eating plant-based improved your health?

Wow! This is one of my favorite questions to answer. My cholesterol is now in the normal range. My blood pressure now is also normal. I no longer suffer with hemorrhoids. And, I don’t have acid reflux anymore. My joints feel better and I have less inflammation in my body. This is another answer that could go on and on.

How do you substitute eggs?

My favorite method of subbing eggs for a main dish is by using extra firm tofu. You can find my recipe for tofu scramble on my webpage. For baking, I use a flax egg.

Can you lose weight eating plant-based?

If you choose your foods carefully, you can lose weight. Like any other diet or lifestyle choice, there’s healthy options and unhealthy options. For example, Oreos are vegan, but also fattening. If you fill up on lots of raw and steamed veggies and fresh fruit, while remaining physically active, and staying hydrated, you’ll see pounds decrease and also feel better about yourself and like a new person. Remember, focusing on weight loss can lead to unhappiness and often times, failure, and weight gain. Always keep your focus on living a clean and healthy lifestyle that makes slow and steady progress, which leads to an overall difference in your well-being.

Where do you buy the food you eat?

We grow a huge garden every year. So, I eat a lot of fresh vegetables in the summer and fall. I also preserve, can, and dehydrate every year, so we enjoy our homegrown vegetables and fruit all year long. I buy things we can’t grow from Kroger as they have a good organic section and offer a wide variety of meat substitute items as well. I love visiting the local farmers markets and local farms. I also grow loads of herbs for fresh herbs. I also dry them for spices. I love to order some items that I can’t find in the local stores from Amazon. I also order from the Thrive Market as well. I love their organic teas.

Early spring garden a few years ago.

Did your hair come out?

You wouldn’t believe how many times I’m asked this question. The answer is no! If anything my hair is healthier than ever. I use a good plant based organic shampoo and conditioner, which I feel has made a huge difference.

How do you get enough protein?

There’s an amazing amount of protein in plants. Also, tofu is high in protein. I also enjoy lentils, which are loaded with protein. I like to eat at least one tablespoon of organic peanut butter each day. I’ll add it to smoothies, toast, protein balls, and sometimes just a spoon of peanut butter by itself. I enjoy incorporating organic protein powder in oatmeal, baked oats, and in smoothies. My blood work has never came back with low protein, so this has never been an issue for me.

One of my favorite protein powders!

These are only a few of the many questions that I’ve been and continue to be asked. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about a vegan diet/lifestyle. Feel free to leave comments. I love to hear from my readers. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Scrambled Tofu and Spring Daydreams

Good morning, from the mountains of Kentucky! It’s a beautiful sun shiny Saturday morning in the mountains. The birds are whistling their good morning calls and filling the trees with beautiful spring-like music.

I’ve missed everyone! Its been a while since I’ve posted. We had a fairly mild winter in the mountains with enough snow for the grandchildren to enjoy sledding and building snowmen. I love snuggling in with a good book during winter, but the colder weather also brings out the crafty side of myself. I’ve enjoyed perfecting a few older dishes and creating a few new ones. One of my previous favorite breakfast dishes is now a new favorite! I am super excited to share with you my new and improved recipe for tofu scramble! It’s even tastier than before and tastes more like scrambled eggs, is very satisfying, and also keeps you full for hours! See the recipe beneath the image below.

Scrambled Tofu for breakfast.

Ingredients:

3 ounces of extra firm organic tofu pressed

One teaspoon of organic extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup organic vegetable broth

1 tsp of your favorite nondairy plant butter

Cup of sliced organic portobello mushrooms

Two cups of organic baby spinach

One slice of preferred nondairy cheese

Spices include: turmeric, paprika, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion salt, and black salt

Begin by warming a skillet over medium heat add the olive oil and sliced mushrooms. I like to add the vegetable broth next which allows the mushrooms to absorb the broth. Lightly season the mushrooms with salt and pepper.

While the mushrooms are sautéing, dry and press the tofu and weigh if it isn’t pre weighed. When the mushrooms appear to be moist and darkened, crumble the tofu in the pan. Add turmeric, about a teaspoon should suffice. Fluff the tofu to incorporate the turmeric, which will give it the color of eggs and also be beneficial for your bones and inflammation. Add remaining seasoning, except the black salt, which adds the eggy flavor. Reduce the heat and shred the slice of your preferred nondairy cheese. My preference is provolone. Add the spoon of nondairy butter. I enjoy Country Crock best. Add a generous sprinkle of the black salt and spinach to the scramble. You may add extra seasoning to suit your preference. Sauté until the spinach has wilted to your liking and the nondairy cheese has melted.

I enjoy the tofu scramble with Ezekiel toast lightly buttered with non dairy plant butter and fruit. You may add any breakfast side or seasoning that you enjoy. For instance, some mornings I add sautéed onions and peppers with a dash of cayenne for a Mexican dish. The possibilities are endless. I was amazed at how adding the black salt made this scrambled egg imposter a vegan delight! I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do.

I’ve also enjoyed crocheting again! With winter came several new projects. I’ve enjoyed crocheting and sharing handmade afghans and other gifts with family. I’ll share pictures of this project once it’s completed. I can’t wait to surprise a very special family member with this afghan.

A surprise gift in the making!

While the mountains slept beneath the snow and the cold temperatures surrounded our home, my laptop was ablaze with a new book! I’ve been busy writing a workbook to accompany the textbook that I wrote for my college courses. I’m happy to say that this project is in the home stretch, and will go to print before the fall reel begins. My goal is to have all edits complete before time to plant our garden, which I’m more than ready to begin.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my post this morning and will enjoy my scrambled tofu dish! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to stop by and read other posts and enjoy new and upcoming recipes and experiences from life in the mountains. My next post will include my recipe for delicious vegan protein balls!! They really satisfy a sweet tooth with no guilt! Honestly, it’s hard to stop eating them!

Now, let’s go enjoy some sunshine and a little porch sitting! God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Porch sitting, planning gardens, flowered, herbs, and counting our blessings.

Canning Green Tomatoes For Frying

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky. Can you feel fall in the air? With the days becoming shorter and the nights getting much cooler, you can tell that fall is just around the bend. With fall also comes garden remnants. Lingering tomatoes here and there, an occasional head of kale that decides to sprout new growth, and the last nubbins of corn. We’ve had a really good tomato crop this year. We’ve ate our belly’s full, canned nearly one hundred quarts of tomato juice, an abundance of tomato sauce, and a good deal of crushed tomatoes. We’ve canned pickled tomatoes and and fried quite a few, which by the way is one of my all time favorite dishes!

A few of our tomatoes early in early summer.

A few years ago while frying a pan of fried green tomatoes memories of eating my mom’s delicious fried green tomatoes filled my thoughts. I savor those memories and enjoy the trips down memory lane. When I was growing up life in the mountains was simple, plain, and a time filled with family and always good southern cooking, With that thought, I decided that fried green tomatoes didn’t have to be a seasonal food. I wanted to enjoy them year around. So, I began the journey of trying new recipes.

I fried the tomatoes as if they were ready to eat and froze them in vacuum sealed bags. That was a great way to have access to a quick dish of deliciousness, but it wasn’t quite the same as frying them fresh. They’re good, just not as good as fresh fried tomatoes. So, moving forward, I decided to try an idea to can green tomatoes. This is what I died. While canning a batch of my grandmothers pickled tomatoes, I made up a jar of sliced tomatoes with a few preserving ingredients, sealed the jar and added them to the canner of pickled tomatoes. All I could lose was one jar of tomatoes. I was excited to see how they turned out. The rest of the story is why I’m posting about my recipe for preserving green tomatoes for frying! It was a success!

Sliced green tomatoes preserved for frying!

It’s a simple recipe. I hope you like it.

Ingredients: Green tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, and water. You’ll also need clean pint bars and a canner.

Process: Wash and sterilize jars. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to each jar. Rinse tomatoes, pat dry, and slice tomatoes. Place slices of tomatoes in pint jars leaving about a half inch for head space. Bring a tea kettle of water to a boil and using a funnel add boiling water to each jar. Don’t forget to leave about at least a half inch of space for head space. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon of salt to each jar.

Wipe rim of jars and place clean and sterilized flats and rings on each jar. Place jars in a canner of water with water covering the jars by at least two inches. I use a stove top canner because I enjoy the old fashioned method of a water bath for canning. Allow water to come to a boil. Allow to jars of tomatoes process under the boiling water for 35 minutes. Remove carefully and allow to cool. Always add the date to the lid of all jars. This year, I added a 1/8 teaspoon of pickle crisp to few pint jars as an experiment. When I fry the first batch, I’ll let you know how they turn out. Experimentation is one of the best methods of learning. Feel free to check out my pickled tomato tomato juice recipes!

I hope you enjoy this method of canning and winter fried green tomatoes as much as we do! Feel free to leave comments and also check back for my new recipe of refrigerated spicy pickled grape tomatoes. I’m going to try to post that easy and delicious recipe next week. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Reflecting on the Past

Good morning from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope your day is off to a great start! The weather is beautiful here in the mountains this morning. Temperatures were in the mid-fifties when I awoke this morning. Mornings like these transport me back to mornings that I cherish. Cool September mornings reminds me of my childhood in the mountains. I loved early cool mornings and porch sitting with my mom or grandmother. We called our grandmother, Mamaw. She and Papaw were a huge part of all of our lives, and our small community.

Enjoying a good book on a cool September morning.

While porch sitting this morning, I began to think about days of my youth. I thought of how when we were children the days seemed to last forever. Now as an adult days often don’t feel long enough to get everything on out to do list done. Maybe we’re rushing life instead of appreciating it. Have you noticed fall holiday decorations come out in the stores before the hot days of August have passed? What are you supposed to do? Do we enjoy days by the pool, a summer walk, or are we supposed bypass August and begin decorating with pumpkins?

Maybe, it’s that we don’t take time to cherish the moments in the day. Maybe we’re overlooking the smaller things that amazed us as kids. A school of minnows swimming in the creek, a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter, or the amazing web a spider so cleverly wove. Maybe, we spend too much time on social media wishing our lives were like others, or worrying too much about things we can’t fix anyway. Before we know it, we’ve been robbed of precious hours of our day worrying and wondering, instead of appreciating the simple things in our life. Simple things can be a flower bloom, a gentle breeze, a good book, an afternoon of fishing, or spending time with grandkids canning and preserving, and teaching them about family traditions.

Teaching even the youngest grandchildren about gardening.

As a young girl growing up in the mountains, September days were filled with days of canning the final vegetables from the garden. It was a time to can and preserve the final lingering tomatoes and peppers, dry the last of the beans that were left clinging to the fences, and a time of preparation, work, and family. This was and still is a time of a mixed emotions; happy and grateful for the bounty of our hard work, and also sad that the fresh vegetables will soon be gone. It’s always a time of reflection for me. Cool foggy September mornings takes me back to my youth in the mountains of Kentucky when life was simple, hard, yet a life filled with love, family, and respect.

Fog rising above the mountains.

I remember rising early with excitement to sit on the porch of Mamaw’s store with her. The air was cool, fog lingered near the tops of the mountains, and relatives were busy getting their mornings started. Papaw was usually in the garden, mommy would be working in our garden or the flowers. Customers walked to Mamaw’s store to spend a few dollars or sometimes just to share conversations or news they had to share. Neighbors passed always waving or greeting us with a howdy, hello, or good morning. All the while, we worked for hours stringing the last of the garden green beans on heavy quilting thread. The long strings of beans were then hung on the front store porch from old rusty nails near the ceiling of the porch. They hung there to dry during the later days of summer. Once the beans were dry, they were removed from the string and placed in a plastic container and stored in the old deep freeze that stood in the back of the store. They were later rehydrated and cooked as what we referred to as, shuck beans. I remember Mamaw cooking them with a piece of pork and plenty of seasonings. They were delicious served with potatoes and cornbread.

Mamaw, my aunts, and my mom were always planning ahead for cold days of winter when traveling to a grocery store was not as common as it is today. Life in the mountains in the sixties and early seventies was a simple time devoid of social media, television drama, opinionated media, and especially devoid of a lazy society. We were raised hard, but raised with pride, good work ethics, and raised to know about Jesus. Life was simple, but yet life was happy and we knew how to plan ahead for a rainy day.

Mamaw’s pickled green tomato recipe still alive today.

Life in the mountains has changed since I was a little girl, let’s face it life as we all know it has changed a lot in the past three years. However, we still have a choice to enjoy the simple things in life, take time to stop and smell the roses, rise early to greet the day, savor family time, work hard, love deeply, forgive others, help a friend or neighbor, and to plan ahead for our rainy days. With the many recent changes in our world, I am even more determined to hold on to traditions of the past. They were good traditions filled with checking on neighbors, baking a friend a cake, checking on the elderly, taking time to listen to their stories of the past, attending church on Sundays, praying for others, taking pride in our homes, working, and loving others, while also planning ahead through canning and preserving.

Fresh canned tomato juice from our garden tomatoes.

There’s something rewarding about planting seeds, watering them, watching them sprout from tiny sprout into a beautiful plant filled with a rainbow of vegetables. It’s even better to set a table for your family that is spread with a meal that was 90 percent grown on your land with love of your own labor. Yes, planning ahead for a rainy day was a tradition that I enjoy still carrying on. I also enjoy sharing with our elderly neighbors who seem to ever so quickly be leaving this life for their eternal home.

I’ve thought much about that dying generation of elderly grandmothers and grandfathers a lot lately. I miss my grandmother even more when I think of all the memories that we made stringing beans and also canning them. I miss the days of porch sitting in the afternoons, listening to my relatives stories of days gone by, laughing at their funny tales and also quivering a little from the scary stories. I miss star gazing at night with my cousins in the backyard, playing red-light, green-light in the lane beside Mamaw’s store, catching crawdads in the creek, hearing my relatives praying at night before they turned in for the night, and miss those that have passed on.

Yes, cool September mornings brings back a flood of memories. I recall happy memories, sad memories, and memories of a time when the simple things in life, hard work, our neighbors, and self was appreciated. A time when people took time to love deeply, enjoy the fun times and work through the hard times without blaming others. When respect was taught, caring for elderly neighbors was just what we did, and days that families planned and worked together planting, tending, harvesting, preserving, and enjoying the time together listening to stories of days gone by, while carrying on a mountain tradition.

Three generations picking poke salad.

After a beautiful morning of emotional reflection, quiet time of prayer, finishing a chapter in the book I’m reading… I’m off to work on canning tomatoes today. I hope you have enjoyed my reflective ramblings this morning. Have a safe and wonderful holiday weekend. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

Vegan Apple Bread

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

First batch of beans of the season canned.

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

Vegan apple bread

Ingredients:

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

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

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

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

Tomatoes are doing great this year!

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

A Mountain Way of Life

Good morning from the mountains of Kentucky! It’s a beautiful and finally dry morning in the mountains. Rain has been a part of our daily forecast for most July! With rain comes growth. Growth of garden delicacies and also growth of unwanted weeds. We’ve been busier than ever pulling weeds, hoeing, and tilling. Because of our hard work and God’s grace our garden is flourishing, all except our cucumbers. We’re still picking quite a few cucumbers each day, but not as many as we should consider the amount of plants we have. But, I’ll not complain as we’re truly enjoying the harvest!

Early July Garden
Beans are ready for picking!

With the cool spring-like temperatures this morning, I took full advantage of the comfortable morning breeze. It was a perfect morning to trim and prune the herbs. Growing and harvesting fresh herbs is another mountain tradition I thoroughly enjoy. I love the smell of fresh herbs. I enjoy growing them, cooking with them, and most of all the taste of them in home-cooked meals. I also love to dry them for spices. Fresh, dried basil is so much more fragrant than store-bought basil. There’s no other sage quite like fresh sage! After the cutting and trimming, I spread the beautiful green herbs on a clean cloth and enjoy the aroma of fresh herbs in the kitchen and through most of the house for days. Once the herbs are dry, I grind, crush, and store them in empty glass jars and place them in a dark cabinet for future dishes!

Fresh cut sage
Discerning the Voice of God, a great book written by, Pricilla Shirer.

Rainy days are also a great time to sneak away from all the responsibilities that come with working from home, maintaining a home and the farm to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Simple pleasures such as snuggling up with a hot cup of coffee and a good book. There’s also something about a rainy day that inspires me to cook. I’m excited to share two new recipes I tried this weekend with you. I plan to post both recipes later this week. For now, I’ll give you a visual taste with pictures! The first picture is a new summer squash soup I created. It’s rich and full of flavor, fiber, and also very satisfying served with rice, a few croutons, or with crusty bread. The second picture is the delicious apple bread that I created this weekend. Both recipes are vegan friendly and also clean. Be sure to check back later this week for both recipes.

Summer Squash Soup
Apple bread… log in tomorrow for full recipe!

However, weekends are not complete for me without attending a church service. The fellowship is much needed in the day we live as is hearing the word. During church last night, I thought about how important it is to know God’s word, but also the importance of the knowledge of how to apply it to our own lives. During the sermon, the thoughts of my own words rang loud and clear in my mind. One concept that I teach students is reading comprehension. I remind them that recalling and summarizing is only part of comprehension. The goal of comprehension is application. That was the exact thought that I had about God’s word. It’s vital that we know the word, can recall it, but we must also know how to connect it and apply it to our lives to truly receive the full benefits from it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Monday memories for this week. Be sure to come back daily for new posts and for new recipes. I’ll be posting both the summer squash soup and the apple bread recipes later this week! For now, we’re off to the garden to pick beans! God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Treasures From the Mountains

The house is quiet this morning with the sounds of rain pattering softly outside my windows. There’s something about a rainy morning that inspires me to write, cook, and be creative. I have to admit, rising early to greet the day and working in the early morning hours has always been a treasured time for me. Regardless of the task at hand, morning hours always feel special to me. Somehow I feel a closeness to the time at hand, to the past, and to our Heavenly Father.

I enjoy watching the morning fog lift.

As a little girl growing up in the mountains of Kentucky, I recall waking to hear our mother up working in early morning hours. Some mornings the hum of her sewing machine let me know she was sewing. While I rubbed the sleep from my eyes I would wonder what she was making. Other mornings she would already be out in the garden hoeing, picking, or standing with her coffee cup in hand admiring the fruits of her labor. I was a morning person way back then! I loved the smell of the fresh brewed coffee, the smell of the mountain air, the feel of the dew on my bare feet, and smell of fresh plowed dirt. Even then, I knew there was no place like home in the mountains of Kentucky! There was always an adventure awaiting me… or at least I believed there to be. After all, an adventure was and still is what we make of it!

While most kids enjoyed sleeping in on the weekends and the relaxing days of summer, I enjoyed being up early listening to the sounds of my grandfather plowing behind the old mule, my mom humming as she worked, mamaw tending the store, the creek flowing over the smooth worn rocks, and my favorite thing was scavenging for hidden treasures along the creek bank, in the back yard, or buried in the barn. I loved tromping through the mountains with my side kick, who was either my sister, one of my cousins, or both.

Raindrops sparkling like diamonds…

One of our favorite places to dig for treasure was in our mamaw’s old store house that was filled with “dime store” clothes. Talk about treasure! That place was truly a treasure trove for a trio of nine and ten year old girls. Picture it! A couple of young bright eyed little girls who each had an overactive imagination digging through clothes that were either left behind or donated from another generation. Old formal prom dresses suddenly became dresses that were worn by a princess, a queen or two, but each of us were suddenly transformed into royalty. Rhinestone buttons became diamonds that were worth more money than we could imagine. Small leather handbags adorned our arms and were filled with pins, buttons, lacy hankies, odd and end jewelry, hairpins, and various other items/treasures we found among the remnants of the past!

After reflecting on fond memories of the past I feel inspired to ask this question; How do you define treasure? Treasure, is one of those words that is often used without giving much thought to its definition. It can be defined differently by each of us. Treasure is defined as much beauty… however the true definition lies within the eye or the heart of the beholder. Some people describe treasure as an object of value. While others may believe treasure to be family, memories, certain objects, special trinkets, while even still others treasure time as a treasured gift.

Regardless of how you define treasure or what you hold dear in your heart as treasure, know that time, family, friends, and memories are all treasures that we should never take for granted. Time passes all too quickly. Often times We idle our time away doing nothing when we could be spending time with family or friends making new memories. We can’t turn back time. Once time has passed… it’s gone.

Sunset in the mountains.

I encourage you today to enjoy this day that we have been blessed with. Build memories, enjoy family and friends, go search for hidden treasures that might be just below the surface of where you at this moment. Maybe treasure is within your view, but you just don’t recognize it. Above all, take time to love deeply, to forgive often, and live for this is the day the Lord has blessed you with. Today will soon pass and tomorrow will be here. What treasure(s) will you find today?

Feel free to leave a comment. I enjoy hearing from my readers. Also, feel free to follow my blog for inspired moments in the mountains, recipes, and much more. From the mountains of Kentucky… have a wonderful and blessed Tuesday!

Vegan Strawberry Salad Dressing

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! We had a beautiful morning filled with a mix of rain and sunshine in the mountains today. I don’t mind the rain. I love an occasional rainy day, especially a rainy summer morning. For me, rainy days are a time to catch up on chores inside the house. Chores that I pushed aside to allow for time to maintain the outside can now be completed. Rainy days are also a welcomed change as they allow me extra time to do a little baking, grade student’s assignments, and try to squeeze in some time to read. I always appreciate and enjoy my quiet morning devotional reading and time spent meditating and talking to our Heavenly Father. My day always seems to be better, less stressful, and more appreciative after bible study and prayer.

I am an avid reader and enjoy the pages of a good novel anytime, but especially on rainy days like today. I am currently reading the fourth book in the Hunger Games series. It is truly a book worthy of reading! I may post a review of it when I finish it. If you’re a fan of this series, now is the time to delve deep into the pages and enjoy the continuing saga of the Hunger Games. As much as I enjoy spending time indoors catching up on work, household chores, reading and cooking…my love for the great outdoors always seems to lure me outside.

Before enjoying a brisk morning walk this morning, I enjoyed a small bowl of Silk non-Dairy vanilla yogurt with a mix of berries and walnuts with a slice of sprouted non-flour organic sprouted Ezekiel bread with a teaspoon of avocado plant butter. It was quite tasty with a sprinkle of ground flax seed and a drizzle of agave. Eating vegan doesn’t have to be boring or tasteless.

As I enjoyed my walk after breakfast this morning, I was reminded of how much I love early summer mornings outside! Our view of the mountains never grows old. The sounds of the creek flowing and the morning farm sounds are always a soothing and welcoming sound to my ears. The gentle cooing of the doves, the low rumble of thunder, birds singing from high in the trees, and the sounds of the farm are always satisfying, soothing, and comforting and a time of peace.

I always feel abundantly blessed on quiet morning walks. I feel especially blessed when walking after a morning rain. The earth is damp, the leaves glisten with drops of rain, and our small farm seems to come alive. I love to walk, meditate, and count my blessings, while also enjoy the sounds of life in the mountains, reminiscing, and enjoying the view.

The sounds of the hens cackling from their nests assures me that there will be at least a dozen or more fresh eggs by midday. Our latest addition to our farm are guinea’s. Our son gave them to us and they’ve earned their keep through their loud alerts of arriving guests and strangers. They’re a security system who also provides tiny eggs for our family and friends. This morning their calls let me know they were awake and on guard, while the roosters chimed in with their good-morning crows.

Two of our guinea’s enjoying picking a little green

There’s something about the sound of roosters crowing that take me back to my childhood growing up in the mountains. I found myself a bit teary eyed as I thought of my grandparents who have gone home, and of all the wonderful times we enjoyed with family while growing up. Times were simple then. Evenings were spent with family and friends porch sitting laughing, talking, and sharing the events of the day. I recall early summer mornings where we spent many happy hours wading in the creek, and warm summer nights that were filled with star-gazing and dreaming of our tomorrows. Those are memories that I will forever cherish and hold close to my heart. Walking this morning was one of those mornings. One flooded with a mix of emotions, memories, and also filled with gratitude.

Our garden in mid May.

The view of our garden was a satisfying sight this morning. Hard work pays off! We worked several long hours yesterday in the garden. It was a long evening of plowing, hoeing, planting, and also picking with family. Hard work, but also a time of making memories. The smell of the freshly plowed earth still lingered heavy in the air this morning. The scent of fresh plowed sod is one of my favorite scents in the morning along with the fragrance of the honey suckle blooms. Both of these fragrances transports me back to my childhood in the mountains. Yes, mountain life is the best life.

I hope your gardens are flourishing this year! Our labor is paying off with an abundance of cabbage, kale, lettuce, onions, zucchini, squash, and cucumbers so far. I am super excited to begin picking tomatoes, digging potatoes, and also picking beans and corn in upcoming weeks.

Even though our garden is doing well right now, gardening has been an unusual journey this year. First, with the bitter cold freezes that came in the early spring also came several evenings of covering each plant in hopes of preventing freezing, and uncovering the next morning. Then came the rain…boy, did it rain…a lot! The rain didn’t harm all of our garden, but wreaked havoc on our beans, which rotted in the ground. This resulted in plowing the beans under and replanting. I am happy to report that our second planting of beans are flourishing! We fenced the long rows of beans this week and the beautiful green bean vines are already climbing the tall fence lines. Our corn has been a challenge as well this year. We are are tending our third planting, which is finally doing well.

We are accustomed to battling and discouraging deer every year from getting in our garden. We won the battle with groundhogs eating our beans a few years ago, and crows pulling our corn up last year. However, this year we were faced with a new unexpected force that destroyed two entire crops of seed corn. Just as the corn reached two or three inches tall it would disappear. Chipmunks were the culprits this year. Who knew that those cute little creatures could destroy row after row after row of corn. They maybe cute, but they can be deadly on a corn crop. Through many creative efforts of soap, peppermint essential oils, moth balls, and many other creative methods…it appears we may have finally won the war with the furry little burrowers.

I am overjoyed with our herbs this year! They are flourishing as well. I’ve enjoyed harvesting basil, and peppermint several times already this year. I am currently drying both to add to the pantry. I plan to make peppermint tea from the medley of mints that are hanging in the drying room. I love the taste and the smell of all mints. My favorite has to be chocolate mint, which is a great addition to brownies, cookies, and makes a great tea all by itself. I purchased a new mint this year, which seems to be doing great. I’ve haven’t harvested any of it yet, in effort to let it get well-established first. I found strawberry mint! I am overly excited about the possibilities that this mint has. I admit, the leaves of the plant are quite tasty and very aromatic. Yes, I’m guilty. I nibble on my herb plants sometimes as I’m watering or pruning. My plans for this mint consist of tea, cookies, bread, and also a fresh berry salad with homemade strawberry salad dressing. It’s the simple things in life that makes me happy.

Speaking of fresh veggie and berry salad, I hope you’ll enjoy my new recipe for strawberry salad dressing. I apologize for neglecting to post my recipe for this refreshing and tasty salad dressing earlier. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks with the garden, grading, and teaching this summer. I hope you and your family enjoy this simple recipe as much as we do.

With warm weather, regardless if it’s raining or the sun is shining…also comes my usual craving for crisp summer salads. I love to experiment with the veggies and herbs from our garden, and also with fresh fruit. While cleaning the refrigerator out the other day, I realized it was time to do a refrigerator cleanup in my produce drawers. What better time to create a summer salad! While foraging through the crisper drawers, I discovered an abundance of fruits and veggies that were perfect for a tasty summer salad. I found a honey crisp apple, a few ripe strawberries, a few leftover blueberries, and score…blackberries that were more than ready to be used. I added a little bib lettuce from our garden, bits of baby kale, and some baby spinach, romaine, and iceberg lettuce. I included chopped cucumbers, green onions, tomatoes, cauliflower and purple broccoli.

Now, the veggies were ready to toss, but I wanted a crunch factor for the salad, so I tossed in a few toasted walnuts. I clipped some fresh basil, peppermint, spearmint, and a few chives and tossed them in the veggies. I can’t wait to include leaves from the strawberry mint plant in my next salad. I like to use a small pair of scissors to cut the fresh herbs into small strips, which prevents a lot of bruising on the tender leaves. I once again gently tossed the fruit, herbs, and veggies to ensure a bit of everything with each bite. What a visual and colorful bounty of beautiful deliciousness!

Crisp summer berry salad with homemade strawberry dressing. 

Finally, if you’re like me, a summer berry salad is not complete without a sweet dressing. So, I decided to create my own dressing. I hope you enjoy this sweet and savory dressing on your summer salads. It’s quick, easy, and takes only a few ingredients.

Ingredients:

1 cup organic chopped strawberries
3 tablespoons of organic extra virgin olive oil 
2 tablespoons of organic balsamic vinegar 
1 teaspoon organic strawberry jam (I prefer homemade)
1 teaspoon of organic agave
1 pinch of course black pepper

Process:

Wash, drain, and chop strawberries and add to the blender. Add the remaining ingredients and blend on medium-low until smooth. Pour into a container with a lid, and chill for about thirty minutes before drizzling over your salad.

How easy was that? I added this beautiful dressing to our summer salad last week, and it was a huge hit! With the addition of a few plant-based homemade croutons, the salad was complete and absolutely delicious.

Hint: Don’t neglect toasting the walnuts before adding them to the salad. It’s amazing how much the flavor is enhanced when toasting nuts of all kinds before adding them to your favorite recipes.

Finished product…a pint of delicious vegan strawberry salad dressing!

Garden tip: If your herbs are not as green, vibrant, or bushy as you would like for them to be, don’t neglect clipping and pruning your herbs. Clipping promotes new growth. Without regular clipping and pruning your herbs will become leggy and less bushy. 

For now, I’m off to enjoy a cup of camomile herbal tea and delve deep into the next chapter of my book!

God bless from the mountains of Kentucky. Stay safe, stay close to home, and stay positive during this time of uncertainty. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. I always enjoy reading your comments.