A Walk Through the Garden…

Good evening from the mountains of Kentucky. What a beautiful morning we were blessed with today! Thunderstorms appeared this evening, but has since passed and the sky is clearing! Hopefully, we’ll be blessed with more sunshine in the days ahead. It’s been a busy day of editing, planning, and creating the course shell for the upcoming class that I’m teaching this summer. The day also consisted of finding an unexpected treasure…in an unexpected place. The best kind of treasures!

This crane has become a regular visitor on our farm.

First, let me say that what I consider a treasure…others might consider to just be an object or even still, junk. So what constitutes a treasure to me? An unexpected visitor in the garden like the crane pictured above who makes regular visits to our small farm. Some tribes of Native Americans believed that a crane visiting is a sign of a blessing and good fortune for those it chooses to visit. I also enjoy the silent visit of the deer standing cautiously in the field, or even lingering in the safety of the tree lines. As long as they stay away from the garden…I enjoy their random visits.

An unexpected visitor.

I also find pleasure in finding unusual rocks or an occasional arrow head. Finding an arrow head fills me with wonders and feeling of being a part of another day or era of time, if only in my thoughts. I like to whisper a quiet thank you for the discovery. Finding arrow heads allows me to make a small connection to my Cherokee ancestors. And then… there’s simple objects like the one that I found this morning. Although, I don’t think they’re really that simple. I believe every little unexpected treasure that I find has a story of its own.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bent to pick ripe cucumbers from their vines this year or how many times we’ve hoed between the plants. However today just on a casual stroll in the garden an unusual object caught my attention. How had I missed this mysterious object? Was this a hidden treasure? There it was awaiting me…half-buried in the soil among the cucumber vines. I carefully unearthed the object to discover some sort of an old and unusual key. A skeleton key…maybe.

I carefully removed the mud left behind from the rain to discover my suspicions were correct, it was a very old key. I had found an antique skeleton key! My imagination soared and questions whirled through my mind. What did this old key once unlock? Who had originally owned the old key? I carefully tucked the key in my pocket and finished my stroll through the garden with my imagination running rapid. Words flowed through my thoughts. I felt the words of a poem stirring deep within my being. I couldn’t wait to add this newly inspired poem to the anthology that I am working on.

What a beautiful treasure!

I shared the small treasure with my husband and our grandson. Of course our grandson was as intrigued as I was, my husband’s curiosity was intrigued as well, just not as much as ours. Our grandson has a vivid imagination and also loves to discover hidden treasures, and tell stories… much like his nanny.

It was an eventful day indeed. I also placed our first batch of dried herbs of the season in labeled clear glass jars. Dried herbs are great for the winter season when fresh herbs may not be available. They also make a great addition to dishes while they’re cooking. Fresh herbs are better added during the last minutes of cooking or even after the dish is complete. I was also excited to fill white envelopes with seeds saved from the dried blooms of basil, lavender and chives! Saving seeds ensures that future herb plants are not genetically altered or modified like many that are unknowingly purchased, but rather from organically grown plants that we nurture from the seed to the harvest.

Dried herbs ready for cooking!

I hope you’ve enjoyed stopping by and visiting our small corner of the world. Feel free to follow or leave feedback. I enjoy reading comments from all of my readers. I also look forward to sharing my recipe for vegan lemon bread that is coming soon. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Vegan Lavender Butter: A Sweet Herbal Treat From the Mountains…

A foggy mountain morning in the mountains.

Good morning from the mountains of Kentucky! As I savor the taste of the rich bold coffee and listen to the comforting sounds of our small farm waking up and greeting the world this morning I am filled with a sense of peace and satisfaction. I enjoy the lulling sounds of the soft raindrops gently tapping the lingering puddles yesterday’s showers left behind, and the sounds of Pretty Boy’s boastful good-morning crows from his high-roost. The trees are filled with an anxious zeal for life from the beautiful sounds of music the families of robins, blue jays, and wrens are making, while a blanket of fog still lingers near the mountains tops and over the valleys creating a cocoon of safety in our little corner of the world. I agree with that all-too famous line from one of my childhood favorite movies, “there’s no place like home!”

Our domer rooster. Pretty Boy.

Today will be another busy day as the life of a professor, nanny, writer, and farm-wife never gets boring. There’s always something to keep me busy, but I can’t complain I can’t imagine my life any other way. Today’s agenda consists of editor deadlines, working on syllabi for my summer II courses, light housework, preparing a big kettle of homemade soup, and hopefully a little garden time, if the weather cooperates. But for now, I promised my readers last night that I’d post my recipe for Vegan Lavender Butter.

Have you ever wondered what to do with all those beautiful lavender blooms? Well wonder no more…I hope you enjoy this delicious herbal treat.

Lavender blooming near the basil.

Rich and delicious lavender butter

First, let me say that the picture does not do this delicious treat justice! But without further delay…here you go! I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of your favorite organic plant butter (my favorite is coconut plant butter…see photo below) plain butter for a non-vegan option
  • 1 teaspoon of pure organic maple syrup for a vegan option, honey for non-vegan
  • 3 teaspoons of dried lavender blooms

My favorite plant butter

Dried lavender blooms

Process:

Mix the plant butter, syrup, and dried lavender blooms in a small bowl and set aside in the refrigerator to allow it to chill for at least two hours before serving. As the butter chills the delicate dried blooms rehydrate and soften within the butter to create a smooth and delicious texture. The taste of this delicate and silky sweet treat can be enjoyed on toast, rolls, biscuits or even on a baked sweet potato. Our son-in-law enjoyed it on his steak a few nights ago! He described it as a savory taste that lingers on the back of the tongue.

I look forward to hearing from you and reading your comments and thoughts about this tasty herbal treat. Well, the day beckons me with a to-do list that can’t wait! God bless from my Kentucky mountain kitchen to yours!

Butterflies love our lavender blooms…

Random Thoughts on A Rainy Day in the Mountains…

It’s been a rainy day in the mountains of Kentucky today. A day filled with a lot of rain, much work, cooking, reading, and a little relaxation. Rainy days provides me with opportunities to catch up on chores that need attention inside, which leaves sunny days wide-open for work and activities outside the house. I must admit, as much as I love working and spending time outdoors, I like an occasional rainy day inside. But, I also enjoy a little time outside on rainy summer days. I enjoy the scent that fills the mountain air after the rain subsides, and the beautiful earth that seems to come alive with sounds, sights, and new life. I made sure to take a little time today to enjoy a walk between the rain-showers to enjoy the beautiful mountains that surrounds our home.

Raindrops the rain leaves behind fascinate me.

Even though summer vacation is in full swing for me…to say it’s been a busy summer, would truly be an understatement. Edition two of Reading and Language Arts is in the final stages of editing, which consists of rigorous deadlines of revisions and editing in a short amount of time. Again, I was thankful for the rain today, because in bright red ink on my calendar was one of those deadlines looming over me and scheduled to be complete today! I’m happy to say that I met that deadline about noon today! I find myself getting anxious as the day of print draws closer and also knowing that the new edition will be ready for me to teach with and for my students to hold in their hands for fall classes! It’s always exciting as well as rewarding to see your words come to life in print! I shouldn’t, but below is a sneak peak of the cover of my latest book!

Here’s a sneak peak at edition two of Reading and Language Arts II. 

Our garden also fills many hours of our spring, summer, and fall days. And even though today’s forecast consisted of a lot rain, there was still time between showers to pick a few fresh veggies, and pull a few weeds away from the plants. One of the many things that I have learned about having a healthy garden is that it takes time, time for planting, plowing, hoeing, and nurturing our plants with little tender-loving-care. I enjoy organic gardening, which results in much reading and researching as well as experimenting with new ideas to make our garden as healthy and organic as possible.

I’ve recently begun experimenting with the use of herbal teas in both the vegetable and herb garden. I love drinking a wide-variety of herbal teas and always wondered what I could do with all those used tea bags. After reading and researching, I discovered other gardeners who used the discarded tea bags for feeding their plants and also for pest control in their gardens.

I decided to try making a weak tea from used organic green tea bags. I cooled the tea and poured it in a spray bottle. I’ve been spritzing my herbs and many of my vegetables for weeks now with the tea. I’ve noticed a significant difference in the reduction of pests feeding on the leaves of my veggies and also noticed a rich darker green color on both the herbs and veggies. I’ve also been burying the used tea bags near the base of the plants to help fertilize the roots and also protect them against burrowing pests. The rich antioxidants from the organic tea has truly made a visible difference in the health of our plants.

Sweet Basil that’s been fertilized with herbal tea. 

With that being said, I’m off to salvage the remainder of the evening and be a little creative in the kitchen! I’m anxious to experiment with a new recipe I’ve been working on for clean and vegan energy balls. By the way, cooking is another passion of mine. I love creating new and exciting healthy dishes and meals. I made vegan lavender butter this evening that we enjoyed with our supper. I’m happy to say the first attempt at this tasty addition was a success! Our daughter and her husband both loved it, but unfortunately I neglected to take pictures of the process. I hope to have a new post with the recipe for this delicious sweet treat posted sometime tomorrow. Yes, I remembered to take pictures today!

I look forward to a relaxing with a good cup of coffee this late evening and read the final chapters of the current novel I’m reading! For now, God bless from our little corner of the world in the mountains of Kentucky! Feel free to leave comments. I love hearing from my readers. Also, feel free to follow my blog. Readers are always welcome! Blessings from our home to yours!

 

 

Vegan Tofu-Spinach Scramble and a Good Book!

Tofu-spinach scramble, soy-based meatless sausage, tomatoes, and salsa! Delicious!

I love quiet cool spring mornings at home. I also enjoy preparing and enjoying one of my favorite breakfasts while reading a great summer read. Tofu-spinach scramble with veggies is my new favorite alternative to eggs. Tofu is low sodium, low cholesterol, low carb, and low calorie…but doesn’t lack in taste, if prepared and seasoned correctly. Tofu is also very cost-efficient. I prefer the organic extra firm tofu to the others.

Tofu can be prepared to replace meats, eggs, and many more creative and tasty dishes. I enjoy experimenting with the breakfast options the most, but am excited to see what other new dishes awaits me! I’m anxious to share this tasty and also very healthy low carb vegan dish with you.

Ingredients:

  • Extra firm organic tofu (amount based on serving size)
  • 1 tablespoon of organic olive oil
  • Diced yellow or red onion (varies with taste preference and serving size)
  • Quartered zucchini and yellow summer squash (add as much as you desire based on serving size and taste)
  • Organic baby spinach (add as much as you desire based on serving size)
  • Black pepper
  • Turmeric
  • Paprika
  • Salt or salt substitute
  • Chopped blades of green onions or chives
  • Medium salsa (optional)

Heat olive oil over low heat and add desired amount of onions and add squash and zucchini. Season lightly with each of the above spices.

While onions, squash, and zucchini are being prepared, cut desired size of tofu. Tofu portions are very similar to measuring egg portions. Press tofu in a tofu press to release the water. If you don’t have a tofu press, no worries! You can place the tofu between two white paper towels and press until the tofu feels nearly dry. Set tofu aside.

Sauté the onions and squash mixture until onion become translucent and squash and zucchini become tender. Add tofu to the skillet of veggies crumbling it as you add it. Sprinkle tofu and veggies with turmeric and paprika. Treat the scramble much as you would scrambles eggs while they’re preparing. You will visually see the white tofu change to a beautiful yellow. This color change occurs from the combination of turmeric and paprika.

Add baby spinach and allow it to slowly wilt into the tofu scramble. Season with salt or no-salt, which I prefer and black pepper. Once the spinach has wilted remove from heat. You are ready to add your favorite sides and enjoy. I love to top my scramble with chopped chives or scallions and a little mild salsa for an extra addition of flavor, while also enjoying meatless sausage and tomatoes on the side. I have also found that avocado is a great addition.

A few other favorite tasty additions include adding mushrooms or peppers. The possibilities are endless. I also like to add basil and oregano to create a tasty Italian scramble. I like to substitute the salsa with marinara sauce. Again, tofu is a blank slate that can be modified to meet the preferences of your pallet.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about the book I’m reading. I am enjoying a wonderful book that has intrigued me, made me cry, wonder, and to learn more about a very diverse and rich character who’s story is based on her real-life. I encourage you to check out, purchase, or borrow the book, “Educated: A Memoir of Tara Westover” written by Tara Westover. This is a look at the life of Tara and her family that will linger in your thoughts, and in your heart for quite some time.

I am 80% finished with this intriguing book and would rate it as a true five-star memoir that has stirred emotions deep within me. Every person that I’ve recommended this very interesting and inspiring book to has enjoyed it equally as much as I have.

Be sure to try my tofu scramble for a healthy low car, low calorie, and low cholesterol dish that doesn’t lack flavor! Feel free to leave feedback about the tofu scramble or the book suggestion. Also, feel free to follow my blog for future delicious clean and vegan dishes as well as book suggestions.

I think I’ll enjoy a little time outdoors in the beautiful green mountains and our vegetable garden! God bless from mountains of Kentucky!

An early morning visitor…

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.

 

 

Raspberry Banana Vegan Oat Muffins

Raspberry banana oat vegan muffins

A healthy lifestyle is not a difficult path to follow…if you have a purpose for choosing this path. I chose to live a healthier lifestyle because I chose to have better health. I chose to lower my cholesterol, stop taking diabetes meds, blood pressure medicine, and acid reflux medicine. I had a clear purpose for eating healthy, sleeping more, drinking more water, and scheduling time to exercise. I no longer take diabetes medicine or acid reflux medicine. My last doctor’s appointment revealed that my A1c remains perfect, my cholesterol is outstanding, and my blood pressure remains normal. I also love sleeping at night without acid reflux! A healthy lifestyle has wonderful rewards that leads to happier life, less meds, and a life that leaves me not feeling deprived or hungry, but leaves me feeling satisfied.

I love creating new and delicious vegan recipes! As I made one of my favorite breakfasts of oatmeal and fruit a couple of weeks ago, I decided I would try oatmeal and fruit muffins, that were also vegan! I’ve tried a few variations of the muffins and have been totally satisfied with each. I think my favorite thus far is the raspberry banana oat muffin. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have and my family has.

Ingredients:

2 cups organic Old Fashioned Oats ground into a flour texture

2 tablespoons organic raw unprocessed cane sugar

1/2 teaspoon Baking soda

1 teaspoon Baking powder

1/4 teaspoon Salt 

1 tablespoon organic cinnamon 

1/2 teaspoon organic ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon organic cloves

1/4 teaspoon organic nutmeg

1/2 cup rough chopped organic walnuts

1 tablespoon organic ground flaxseed

1 teaspoon organic black chia seeds

Zest of one organic lemon

One overripe organic banana

1 cup organic raspberries (can cut in half but not necessary)

2 tablespoons Silk plant based vanilla bean yogurt

1 tablespoon of plant based spread (I use avocado butter)

I use this to replace butter! It’s also vegan approved and non GMO

Juice of one organic lemon

Splash of organic coconut water

1/4 cup unsweetened organic almond milk

1/4 cup of organic pure maple syrup

Process: 

Pre-heat oven to 350. I typically bake these muffins on the convection setting. Keep in mind that ovens vary when baking so baking time may vary. Spray or line a muffin pan with parchment paper. This recipe yields six muffins.

Grind oatmeal to a similar texture of flour. I use my mini blender to grind the oatmeal, simply because it works as well as my food processor, less cleanup, and easier to access.

This handy blender is the perfect size for the measurements for these muffins.

It’s okay if every grain of oatmeal isn’t ground.

Combine all dry ingredients and stir with a fork. Make a well and begin adding wet ingredients one at a time and still gently. Finally, add fruit and gently stir. Don’t over mix as overmixing creates stiff dough.

Once the mixture is ready and the oven is preheated scoop the muffin mixture into the muffin tin with an ice cream scoop. Don’t worry if the muffin section seem too full, they should bake up to the perfect size every time.

Perfect breakfast size muffins!

Bake muffins for 35 minutes and test with a toothpick to ensure they are baked through. The toothpick will come out clean when muffins are done. I usually turn the oven off and leave the muffins in the oven while it cools off before taking them out. Take the muffins out and allow them to cool for at least fifteen minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Allow the muffins to cool for at least an hour.

I store my muffins in an airtight container and enjoy one thier deliciousness each morning with a piping cup of hot organic coffee.

Delicious for a snack, breakfast, and with coffee or with fruit spread!

Variations:

You can substitute raspberries for blueberries, apples, or blackberries. I haven’t tried strawberries yet, but I foresee those soon. My next plans for these moist delicious and totally vegan and very healthy muffins is chocolate chip muffins. I’m anxious to try this for me and for my grandkids.

Eating vegan and healthy is not hard. I have found it to be fun, informative, and also very rewarding. I hope you enjoy my Rasberry banana oat muffins. Please feel free to comment and or ask questions. I love to hear from my readers. Have a wonderful Saint Patrick’s day. For me, I’m going to enjoy a beautiful day in the mountains of Kentucky before going to evening church service. Spring has arrived in the Appalachian Mountains!

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 mint the sauce for a delicious vegetarian, vegan, or meal with meat. 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.

Clean Pumpkin Fig Bars

pumpkin patch II

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

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

Crust Ingredients:

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

Pumpkin Pie Filling Ingredients:

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

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

Instructions:

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

pumpkin fig bars I

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

Pumpkin fig bars II

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

Pumpkin fig bars III                                       Pumpkin fig VI

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

Pumpkin fig bars V

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

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

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.

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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!

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