Clean Pumpkin Fig Bars

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

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

Crust Ingredients:

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

Pumpkin Pie Filling Ingredients:

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

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

Instructions:

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

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

Pumpkin fig bars II

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

Pumpkin fig bars III                                       Pumpkin fig VI

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

Pumpkin fig bars V

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

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

Canning Tomato Juice the Easy Way!

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Tools:

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

Process:

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

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

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

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

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

 

How to Dehydrate Summer Squash & Zucchini

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

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

squash

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

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

Process:

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

dehydrated zucchini

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

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

http://www.ahealthiermesimpleandclean.com Copyright 2017

 

 

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.

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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!