Sunday Morning in the Mountains…

I love quiet Sunday mornings in the mountains. I like to refer to them as “my me time.” I enjoy early morning coffee on the porch, listening to the chickens crow their good mornings crows to all, and watching daylight break through the mountains. Quiet mornings like this are also a perfect time to catch up on a little reading, have devotion, prayer time, and to soak up the wonderful atmosphere in our little corner of the world…deep in the mountains of Kentucky.

I love mornings in the mountains…

The simplicity of living in the mountains, along with good role models still inspires me even today! The mountains today are just as rich and lush as they were in the days of our youth. My husband and I live within three miles of where we both grew up. Some might find this boring, dull, or bleak…but we’ve found it to be a place that we loved raising our children and now watching our grandchildren grow and appreciate the mountains as much as we do. Visiting other places is always a fun learning experience and often a fun adventure, but returning home is always welcomed. 

With the cool of the morning still lingering in the air and the dew still beaded on the grass, the garden is beckoning me to come and take a stroll. I value this time as the quiet steps in the rich soil between the rows of beautiful vegetables allows me to reflect on memories of the past, meditate on the blessings of today, and plan for tomorrow. This morning in particular I felt a strong connection to my past as I thought of my Papaw walking along the rows of his garden in the early morning hours. As a child I wondered why he enjoyed this morning stroll so much. I now know. It’s a time to draw strength, relax, and soak up all that the land has to offer, enjoy time in deep thought, reflect, and relax and unwind. The lonesome call of a dove allows my thoughts to return to the present time. Wiping a tear from my cheek…I continue my stroll through the garden enjoying the progress of our labor.

Enjoying a stroll through the veggies.

As I stroll between the broccoli and squash a beautiful vibrant yellow color catches my eye. With a smile on my face I bend to pick our first summer squash of the season. With a closer examination, I find several squash and also some rich green zucchini…ready for the picking. I love this time of year as the fresh veggies are always great for Sunday morning breakfasts. 

First squash and zucchini of the season…yummy!

Today, our veggies will allow me to prepare a veggie tofu omelet for myself and it’s eggs and sausage as usual for my husband, who supports my love for veggies and a vegan diet but who also still loves his portion of meat along side the veggies. We share a mutual respect for each other’s food preferences. With that in mind, God bless and happy Father’s Day from the Mountains of Kentucky! I’m off to prepare Sunday breakfast. Thank you for stopping by my little corner of the world. Feedback is always welcomed! I’ll be posting a new and tasty treat in upcoming days. God bless…

A Quiet Morning in the Mountains…in the Herb Garden

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky. It’s a quiet rainy morning here in Appalachia. I can’t complain…I love quiet rainy mornings when I don’t have to leave home. I enjoy watching daylight breakthrough the fog capped mountains, hearing the roosters crowing from their roost, and listening to the soft tapping of the rain on the roof as it slowly descends from the sky.

A peace settles over me when I can sit quietly on the porch and enjoy the first cup of coffee of the day. The lingering aroma of the coffee and the aroma of basil on my hands from gently waving my hand through the herb garden reminds me of how much pleasure I find in cooking with herbs, drying them, and also sharing their bounty with others. Herbs serve so many purposes from cooking, visual beauty, health benefits, to making delicious teas…and again, sharing them with family, neighbors and friends.

It was a perfect morning to cut clippings from the beautiful and aromatic herbs for the first official harvest of the year. I found that clipping herbs early morning, prior to blooming, and when the air is cool and damp is the best time to harvest.

An hour and a half later I was pleased to hold two large trays of herb clippings from almost all of the herbs. I carefully sorted the herbs so that I could label them and spread them out on trays lined with white paper towel. The kitchen was instantly filled with a beautiful fresh aroma mixed with smells of a variety of basil, rosemary, mints, and more. I love that smell!

Breathing in the fragrance, I transported the herbs to a location away from the direct sunlight to begin the natural drying process, which I prefer to alternative methods. I feel that drying by dehydrators, ovens, or microwaves takes away from the flavor of the herbs. It takes longer to air dry, but in the end, the wait and taste of the herbs are well worth it!

The process of drying varies depending on the temperature inside the house. I typically allow my herbs to dry so that when I want to crumble them I can do so with my hands. I have recently begun placing whole dried basil leaves, rosemary stems, and other whole clippings in clear jars with BPA free lids for storage. It is best to keep stored herbs in a dark pantry to ensure the flavor lasts. I then crumble whole herbs or grind them in the mortar and pestle when I’m ready to add them to what I am cooking. The flavor is amazing!

So, for now, I’m off to relax and enjoy a little quality reading time and a good cup of coffee on this beautiful rainy day. I hope you enjoyed sharing my morning in the Appalachian mountains. Be sure to come back and visit and feel free to follow my blog so not miss new recipes, book reviews, or Appalachian moments. Don’t forget to leave your comments. I love to hear from my readers! For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

Clean Chocolate Chip Vegan Date Bars

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Morning in the mountains of Kentucky

So, it’s been too long since I last posted. My apologies for that. It has been a very busy semester, but a satisfying one. Summer break has begun…as well as gardening time! I’m not going to complain about either. Summer break is a time to rest, relax, and revive before another hectic, but wonderful semester begins. Gardening time means a lot of hard work, but also very tasty and healthy vegetables follow and make all of the hard work very worth while. Gardening is one of the most therapeutic and satisfying forms of work that I can think of. Each time I breath in the beauty of the mountains, gardens, and nature’s bounty that surrounds me in the mountains of Kentucky…I am revived, rejuvenated, and renewed. A sense of peace consumes me as I walk through our garden awaiting the fruits of our labor, fresh ripe organic veggies.

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Our vegetable garden

With that being said, I am super excited to bring one of my new favorite vegan sweet-treats to you. I have worked diligently to perfect my recipe before adding it to the blog. My family has been “guinea pigs” for this delicious sweet treat and I must say that it has quickly become a favorite of theirs as well. Chocolate chip vegan date bars are very satisfying, rich, and delicious. I hope you and your family enjoy them as much as my family does.

Ingredients:

2 cups organic fresh medjool pitted dates
1 cup natural organic smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 cup organic semi-sweet or dark vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup organic unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup organic gluten free oats
1/3 cup organic pure maple syrup (can substitute with sorghum, or honey for non-vegan bar).

My favorite chocolate chip date bar

Process:

Rough chop dates and add them to a food processor (I use a ninja and works great). Fine chop the dates and add all but one tablespoon of the peanut butter, 3/4 of the chocolate chips, coconut and oats. Slowly add the maple syrup. Mix completely until mixture forms a smooth ball. Press the date mixture into a pan lined with parchment paper and spread the reserved tablespoon of peanut butter over the mixture and refrigerate. While the mixture is cooling and setting in the fridge, heat most of the remaining chocolate chips in the microwave and drizzle over the date mixture. You may add a few chocolate chips to the top of the mixture as well. I also like to lightly sprinkle the top with shredded coconut, but I love the taste of coconut. Allow bars to chill up to two hours for the best results. Cut into desired size and enjoy!

Tips/Ideas:

Date mixture can also be rolled into balls, rolled in the shredded coconut, and drizzled with the melted chocolate chips. The presentation is different, but the taste is same! The bars or date balls lasts for weeks in a covered container in the refrigerator, if you can resist them that long.

Vegan chocolate chip coconut date balls

I hope that you enjoy this sweet healthy vegan treat as much as my family enjoys it. I am super excited to share my recipe for my vegan frozen treat! Our grandchildren love it! I love it, and it’s plant-based and healthy! Until the next post, which will hopefully, be soon…bon appetit from the mountains of Kentucky.

 

 

Clean Vegan Summer Squash Soup

I’m not sure if it’s just me or what, but I feel like we are going to have an early fall here in the mountains of Kentucky. The evenings are becoming cooler and my canning is once again filling the pantry. As our summer yellow squash and zucchini are producing their final blooms and the freezer is well stocked with both, I began to feel creative. I wanted to try something new with the squash and zucchini.  I wanted to try something other than sautéed squash and zucchini, dried zucchini, zoodles, pickled squash and zucchini and all the other creative and delicious dishes that my family enjoys each summer. I had wanted to try using our delicious summer squash in a tasty soup. After a couple of attempts, and a few alterations…we enjoyed a delicious and very satisfying summer squash soup! I am very excited to share my delicious clean summer squash soup recipe with each of you. This soup has quickly become a favorite of my entire family, even my mom!

Ingredients:

1 small onion (I prefer red onions)
1/2 of a red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 cup of sliced Portobello mushrooms
1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 medium size yellow squash
1 large zucchini 
1 can of organic no salt added diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1 box of organic vegetable broth
1 can of drained and rinsed organic cannellini beans
2 tablespoons of dried parsley
1 cup of organic frozen baby peas
1 cup of either fresh corn or 1 cup of no salt added organic corn

squash

Yellow Summer Squash

Process:

Heat one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a 4 quart cooker add diced onion, diced red pepper, minced garlic, and saute until the onions and peppers become tender. Add salt, pepper, rosemary, and paprika, stir and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Add sliced mushrooms. You may need to add more olive oil once the mushrooms absorb the oil in the cooker. Only simmer for about two minutes, or until the mushrooms change color.

Add tomatoes and the entire box of vegetable broth. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cut zucchini and squash into cubes. I like to cut mine into about one inch sections. I slice the squash and zucchini and then cut the slices into wedges (similar to cutting a pie) this allows each piece to maintain some of the peel, which is important for texture. Add squash and zucchini and stir. Drain and rinse beans and add to the soup. Add frozen peas and corn. You may season with additional salt and pepper to meet your own taste preference.  Add dried parsley flakes and cover. Allow to simmer at a very low temperature for twenty minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

I have tried this recipe both with corn and without corn. My mom and I both agree that it’s best with corn. I also use fresh ears of corn cut off the cob. You may make changes to the recipe to meet you and your families needs. I hope that you and your family enjoy this savory and very easy recipe as much as my family has. You may follow my blog by adding your email and clicking on the follow button at the bottom of the page. Also, feel free to comment on my post. I love to hear from my readers.

Blessings to you and your family from our family in the mountains of Kentucky. Be sure to check back or to follow my blog for upcoming recipes, book reviews, clean eating tips, eating and living a healthy lifestyle, inspiring and uplifting articles, farm life, and what it’s like living in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky.

squash soup

Summer Squash Soup

Clean Acorn Squash Vegan Taco Boat

Beef style acorn squash Taco Boat

Mexican and Italian foods are my absolute favorite. I actually think I could eat a taco salad or spaghetti every night for supper and be happy. Just because I am eating cleaner and healthier doesn’t mean that I have to sacrifice taste or Mexican or even Italian food. It just means that I cook…a bit more creative and a lot more healthy! I discovered recently that I love acorn squash. I love it so much, that I decided I would  dry the seeds to plant and grow my own!  I’ll let you know how our attempt at growing our own deliciousness turns out this fall when we harvest them.

So if you love Mexican food as much as I do, I think you’ll love this sweet and spicy take on the traditional taco salad. Keep in mind that you can alter this dish to fit your own spicy needs. In other words, you can make it as spicy as your palate can handle. My favorite Acorn Squash Taco Boat thus far includes the following ingredients;

Ingredients:

  • One acorn squash serves two
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • I use no salt, but you can substitute with salt…one sprinkle of iodized salt
  • Sprinkle or fresh ground black pepper
  • Sprinkle of paprika

To Bake the Squash:

Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Clean out the seeds and stringy middle of the squash. Drizzle olive oil over the squash to prevent the squash from becoming too dry during the baking. Sprinkle with salt, or no salt if you are watching your sodium, black pepper and paprika. If you are baking in the oven, pre-heat oven to 350 and gently spray pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper and place the squash inside down on the pan and bake 45 minutes or until tender when a fork is inserted. If you choose to bake your squash in the microwave, follow the same process above when seasoning and place inside face up and bake for five minutes and check to ensure the squash is tender. Remember microwaves vary in cooking time. If the inside of the squash is not tender, bake for an additional five minutes. When I microwave acorn squash, I typically bake it for ten minutes.

Clean the seeds with a spoon.

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. 

Ingredients for the Taco Filling:

  • 1/4 quarter of an onion (I like red onions best)
  • Small red pepper
  • Four baby portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon of grated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • vegan approved meatless groun
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1 small yellow summer squash
  • Two tablespoons of refried beans (you may also add rice of your choice, I’ve made it both ways. Love adding a tablespoon or two of leftover rice) you may also substitute with black beans this can be your own preference.
  • 3 tablespoons of diced tomatoes
  • One cup of baby spinach
  • 1-2 tablespoons of Taco seasoning
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • No salt or salt
  • Paprika
  • Cumin
  • Shredded non-dairy cheese (I like Chaos)
  • Optional tablespoon of non-dairy yogurt or vegan approved ranch dressing
  • Salsa of choice
  • Half of an avocado

While the squash is baking:

While the squash is baking you will need to prepare sauce. Set aside and spray a large frying pan with cooking spray and add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Heat pan, but don’t over heat. Add diced onion and peppers and a sprinkle of pepper and salt. Stir and cook but don’t allow them to caramelize. Add sliced or diced zucchini and squash and sauté until nearly tender, but still has a bit of a bite. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, and add sliced portobello mushrooms and meatless ground. If your groundless meat is dry, you may need to add a little extra virgin olive oil as the mixture simmers due to the mushrooms soaking up the moisture. Once the mushrooms become tender add the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and baby spinach. Allow to simmer at a low heat for eight to ten minutes and remove from the heat. You do not want the zucchini and squash to be overdone.

Remove the squash and allow to cool for about three to five minutes. You may use a fork to shred the inside of the squash or leave it in tact. I enjoy leaving it and taking bites of more chunky squash while I’m eating. Spread the refried beans over the inside of the squash (I have used leftover baked butternut squash as a bean substitute…it was an awesome twist) After spreading the beans over the squash spoon the delicious filling that you sautéed into the acorn boats and top with diced avocado, shredded vegan non-Dairy cheese, salsa, and plain non-dairy yogurt. All that’s left to do is to enjoy!!

Vegan Style filling for Acorn Squash Taco Boat

Acorn squash taco boat with vegan provolone cheese! Delicious!

I hope you enjoy this delicious twist on the traditional taco salad as much as I have. Keep in mind that you can alter the recipe to fit your dietary needs, taste preferences, and or alter and make the recipe a recipe of your own. This is a great dish to clean out those leftovers that have a way of consuming our fridge. My husband enjoys shredding baked chicken breast for this dish as well as shredded baked turkey, and have used that leftover chicken burger or turkey burger for his meal as well. I have used shredded steak, and even used turkey sausage. For me, I prefer vegan approved meatless ground. That’s just one of the joys of cooking…creating a dish to be exactly what your palate is craving for you and your family. You may also modify the sauce for a delicious vegetarian, vegan, or meatless meal. The possibilities are unlimited. If you like my take on Acorn Taco Boats, you will enjoy my twist on a Clean Spaghetti Boat.

I hope you enjoy my Acorn Squash Taco Boat. Please feel free to leave comments, or ask questions. I love hearing from my readers. Be sure to visit A Healthier Me Simple and Clean in upcoming days. I will be adding new recipes, canning recipes and tips, a book recommendation, and also an inspiring post that will motivate you to eat clean and enjoy the simple things in life. From the mountains of Kentucky, God bless each of you and thank you for stopping by my little corner of the world.

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!

 

Tropical Squash & Pomegranate Bread/Muffins

It’s that time of year again! What time? The time to figure out what to do with the bountiful harvest of summer squash and zucchini that consumes our garden, refrigerator, counter space and even the dining room table. Even though our family enjoys both squash and zucchini…the multitude and rate at which it grows during the month of July can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what to do with these tasty and healthy veggies. God has truly blessed our garden abundantly this year. I’m excited today to share some creative ideas of how we are preparing both squash and zucchini for our summer meals as well as filling our freezer and pantry for the winter months ahead. So grab a cup of coffee and delve into day one of our journey of preparing and processing summer squash and zucchini.

So what did we do with our bountiful harvest of zucchini and squash? We prepared them and also processed them into the following;

1. zucchini & pomegranate bread/muffins (today’s recipe)
2. tropical squash bread/muffins
3. dehydrated zucchini and squash slices
4. dehydrated zucchini noodles
6. zucchini chips
7. zucchini & squash vegetarian lasagna
8. canned pineapple zucchini
9. zucchini and squash stir fries
10. pickled squash and zucchini
11. parmesan zucchini boats
12. zucchini & squash omelets

What better way to kick off this series of blogs than with bread recipes! I love the smell of fresh-baked breads in the winter and just as much in summer months. Actually, I like the smell of fresh-baked breads any time of the year. But, there’s nothing quite as aromatic and satisfying as tropical squash bread baking. Yes, that’s right, squash bread. I have and enjoyed a variety of zucchini breads over the years but had never attempted squash bread until last week. As I worked around my kitchen with the abundance of both squash and zucchini that we had picked my mind raced with what to do with all of those beautiful yellow squash. With the dehydrator full of both zucchini and squash slices awaiting their fate of being vacuumed sealed for later rehydration. I began planning a new zucchini bread recipe…so why not try baking bread with squash. I am so happy that I followed through with this idea. Both breads were amazing! I hope you and your family enjoy them as much as my family does.

Squash Pomegranate Bread Ingredients

3 cups of self-rising flour (can be substituted with whole wheat or coconut flour)
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I prefer fresh grated cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon of organic flax chia seed combination (optional)

1/2 cup organic dark brown sugar
1/2 cup fresh raw honey
1/2 cup semi-drained unsweetened crushed pineapple (fresh is best)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 medium yellow crooked neck squash (about a cup and a half grated)
1/2 cup of dried pomegranates (can substitute with dried cranberries)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce or apple butter ( I prefer using my homemade apple butter as it adds an additional layer to the flavor)
3 fresh eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 over-ripe organic banana
1/2 cup chopped organic pecans

Mix dry ingredients well and set aside. Mix remaining wet ingredients and add to the dry ingredients. Mash the banana and add to the mixture. Rough chop the pecans and add to the mixture. Don’t over mix. Wash, dry and grate one medium-sized crooked neck squash into the mixture. There’s no need to peel the squash as the peel adds wonderful flavor, color, and fiber to the bread. Don’t worry about the seeds as they will bake away as well. I use a simple hand grater to grate the squash. Once the squash has been grated give the mixture one last stir.

Pre-heat oven to 350 and spray a loaf pan or you may spray a muffin tin and bake as muffins instead. Once the oven is preheated pour the mix into the loaf pan or muffin tin and bake on the bottom rack of the oven for thirty minutes. Check the bread at the thirty minute mark for doneness with a toothpick. Ovens will vary therefore check every five minutes until baked. I like my bread to have a bit of a crispy edge and moist inside…so, usually fourty minutes and my bread is done! Don’t over bake the bread. You’ll know when your bread is done by the edges, when the toothpick comes out clean, and it springs back to touch.

squash II

Before you know it your kitchen will be filled with the aroma of tropical bread baking! This is a sweet delicious treat that is great served as a breakfast treat with a cold glass of milk, a hot cup of coffee or served as a dessert! Honestly, it tastes great anytime of the day or night. It’s tropical flavor dances on your tongue warm or cold.

Tip of the Day:

Once your bread has cooled  you can freeze individual vacuum sealed slices to ensure that you have a slice of this tasty bread anytime. I have vacuum sealed pumpkin roll, zucchini bread and now tropical squash bread. When you are ready to indulge in this sweet treat simply remove from the freezer and either allow it to thaw or defrost for a couple of seconds in the microwave. The bread is amazingly still moist and just as flavorful!

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Pictured above are loaves of tropical squash bread and chocolate zucchini bread. I can’t wait to share the chocolate zucchini bread in upcoming days! I hope your family enjoys this delicious bread as much as mine! Please feel free to leave comments. To find out more creative and useful ways to preserve and bake both squash and zucchini click the follow button on my blog! From my kitchen to yours…Blessings from the mountains of Kentucky!

squash bread II

squash bread

 

 

 

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!

 

 

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.