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.

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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!

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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!

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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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squash bread

 

 

 

Ooey, Gooey, Clean, Baked Apples

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Apples are a staple in my house! They’re  also one of my favorite healthy treats. I’ve loved them since I was a little girl. I remember sneaking apples from my papaw’s apple trees when I was growing up. We would rest in the shade of the trees and eat until our bellies were full! Papaw didn’t begrudge us food, never, he was had a very giving and loving heart! But, the apples on the trees were meant for canning apples, apple butter, and many other wonderful delicious treats that my mom and grandmother prepared. We, my sister, brother, and cousins could have all the apples that we wanted that had fallen to the ground, but were cautioned to not pick the apples from the trees. But, as we all know kids don’t always follow the rules. I was no exception. I loved the taste of apples then, and I still enjoy apples of all varieties.

I enjoy eating apples raw, cooked, as applesauce, apple butter, dried, in oatmeal, baked in breads, and in many more delicious healthy dishes. However, one of my all-time favorite dishes is definitely not a healthy dish! I confess…I love baked apples or apple dumplings. I love the richness, the sweet taste of brown sugar, and the deliciousness of the sweet apples.

Recently, for a week I found myself stopping and staring at the remains of a big bowl of apples. There were five apples left and they seemed to be crying out to me to be prepared in some type of rich, delicious, sweet dish. I considered baking apple bread, but that didn’t seem to be what my pallet was craving. I thought about fried apples with breakfast sweetened with honey and stevia. I even thought about breaking away from eating healthy and satisfying my craving and making apple dumplings. Then I thought about the consequences of the dough, the sugar, and all the butter that goes into traditional apple dumplings. The thoughts of feeling bloated and guilty caused me to refrain. Four years into a healthier lifestyle and the struggle is still real! So, I did what I love to do. I decided to create a delicious, clean, and healthy baked apple dish. With much thought, deliberation, a few errors, and a lot of love. I was able to create what truly satisfied my craving for a sweet, ooey, gooey baked apple dish that didn’t leave me feeling bloated and guilty. I am excited to share with you my Ooey, Gooey, Healthy, Clean Baked Apple dessert! I hope you enjoy it as much as my family has enjoyed it. Let’s get started!

Filling Ingredients:

Five to six organic apples
3 cups of ground Old fashioned oats (I use a coffee grinder to grind the oats)
1/2 cup of Fresh honey or organic honey (I prefer fresh)
1/2 cup of Pure organic maple syrup
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons stevia
2 teaspoons maple extract
1 tablespoon almond milk
1 teaspoon of organic coconut oil (this replaces the butter)
1/2 cup craisons

I like to use a small Pyrex glass baking dish for this recipe. Spray the dish with cooking spray. I prefer coconut oil. Wash the apples and dry them well. Core the center of the apples out. Set the cores and the meat of the apples to include in the crumble.

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For the filling of the apples you will need to grind the oats to a fine flour-like consistency. Mix the ground oats with the above dry ingredients well and begin incorporating the wet ingredients slowly and one at a time until the consistency is pasty. Spoon the mixture inside the apples. Pack the mixture well and allow it to flow over the top of the apples. Don’t worry if you have extra filling you can incorporate it into the crumble. Place the apples in the dish. Now you’re ready to move on to the crumble!

Crumble Ingredients:

3 cups of ground old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 cup of craisons
1/2 cup of finely chopped almonds
2 tablespoons of stevia
1 teaspoon of maple extract
1/2 cup of fresh or organic honey
1/2 cup of organic maple syrup
bits and pieces of the reserved apple cores, minus the tough part of the core (this is optional)

1/2 cup of Organic brown sugar (I prefer the Simple Truth brand) do not add this to the crumble. (this is optional)

Again, mix the dry ingredients well with a fork. Add wet ingredients slowly one by one until the mixture is crumbly, but mixed well. Spoon the mixture around the pan of apples. Once you’ve added the crumble mixture sprinkle the brown sugar over the apples and crumble and drizzle either honey or maple syrup over the sugar. Cover the dish with non-stick foil, or spray the foil before covering. Bake at 355 degree for an hour. Ovens will vary. You will know if your apples are done when a skewer or knife inserts easily.

While your apples are baking make the drizzle! Yes, there’s more ooey gooey goodness!

Drizzle Ingredients:

1 cup of plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon of stevia
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of maple extract

Mix ingredients well and chill. Once the apples have baked allow them to cool a little before drizzling the glaze over the apples. I prefer to drizzle each individual apple as I eat them. Either way it is delicious!

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This dish will definitely become a holiday favorite for my household! Actually, I think this dish will be an anytime favorite. The total prep and cooking time was an 90 minutes. But, as we all know…any good dish is worth the work and the wait. I hope you enjoy my Ooey, Gooey, Sweet Clean, Baked Apple dish as much as my family has. I would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave your feedback. Until the next time…from the mountains of Kentucky…be blessed and be healthy!

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Random Acts of Kindness & Clean Almond Joy Bites…

Have you ever felt compelled to display a random act of kindness? Did you act upon it or did you override the feeling and let the opportunity pass by? Maybe you felt like stepping aside and allowing the person behind you in the checkout line to check out ahead of you. Maybe it was the gentleman sitting on the curb holding a homeless sign that stirred the desire within you to buy him a meal from McDonalds, or maybe you thought about leaving a kind note in your co-workers mailbox. Did you follow your heart and act on your feelings? Whatever the kind thought or act of kindness that you feel compelled or inspired to do…I urge you to act on the impulse. You see, we truly do not know what others may be going through. Many people display a happy face in public even when their hearts are aching with sadness, or they’re in a turmoil trying to make an important decision, or just feeling a little down for no particular reason at all. A random act of kindness that may seem insignificant to others, may be a prayer answered for another.

Discouragement visits everyone at one time or another. Recently this sad emotion invaded my peace of mind and tried to camp out long term and linger within my thoughts. I had encountered one of those weeks where I felt tired from daily appointments, overwhelmed with obligations, pressured to meet deadlines, and terribly worried about a loved one’s heath. But, with a smile on my face and faith in my heart I pressed on and prayed for peace as I did not like feeling this way.                                                        . Image result for picture of thank you cards with a candlePeace came in a way that I didn’t expect. I was reminded through a series of small random acts of kindness over a period of days from various people that helped the feeling of discouragement dissipate . I found a small notecard in my mailbox from a student with kind words that filled my heart, two days later I found a candle on my desk from a colleague with a thank you note, and finally one of my students told me the other day that if she could be like anyone in the world, she would like to be like me. What a heartfelt compliment and unforgettable moment. I’m thankful for each of these random acts of kindness as each was timely, and each helped restore my faith in mankind and each brought a smile to my heart and face.

The daily appointments are nearly over and I still feel energized, obligations no longer overwhelm me, and a plan of management is in place to help meet the deadlines that fill my calendar. I am still concerned with my loved one’s health issue, but through the random acts of kindness that I received I am better able to think positive, have increased and renewed faith, and expect better days ahead.

With peace and contentment also comes inspiration. So, with the holidays ahead and plenty of opportunities to overindulge in sweet treats I decided to post a new clean candy sweet treat that’s easy to make and one that I enjoy indulging in without the guilt! I hope you enjoy them as well. I plan to deliver some special treats to my coworkers this week…just a simple random act of kindness that I feel compelled to do. I hope you enjoy my clean version of Clean Almond Joys Bites.

The ingredients that you will need are:

2 cups of Unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup of fresh raw honey
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 cup of organic coconut oil
4 squares of unsweetened dark chocolate
Whole or sliced almonds

Making this sweet treat:

In a glass bowl combine unsweetened shredded coconut, honey, vanilla, and half of the coconut oil. Place in the microwave for just enough time to melt the coconut oil. Mix and allow to completely cool. You may either roll the mixture or spoon the mixture onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator and allow to chill for at least thirty minutes.

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I prefer to spoon the coconut mixture onto the parchment paper.

Just before removing the candy from the refrigerator place the remaining coconut oil and dark unsweetened chocolate in a bowl and melt in the microwave. While the chocolate is melting place one almond on top of each piece of the coconut candy. Spoon the hot melted chocolate mixture over the chilled coconut balls and refrigerate again until completely chilled and the chocolate is set. Finally, enjoy your sweet treat without the guilt!

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Delicious bites of pleasure without the guilt!

Don’t forget if you feel compelled to do something nice for someone…don’t talk yourself out of this random act of kindness act on your feelings. I hope that I have inspired you with my story as I am still inspired by others’ small acts of kindness. These thoughtful acts of kindness helped brighten my day, lighten my load, inspire me, and helped me to smile from my heart. I hope that you enjoy the clean almond joy bites. Please feel free to leave feedback as I love to hear from my readers.

It’s Organic Coffee Time

So, Tuesday was National Coffee day. In order to celebrate I, like many others, posted my celebratory comments on facebook. That’s when I realized how many posts I had made about coffee over the years! Wow! Everyday could be National Coffee Day, well according to my posts it could!  A friend commented on my post suggesting that I start a coffee blog. I explained that I didn’t want to start another blog, but thought I could occasionally write a coffee post! She loved the idea. So, here goes…

But first, a little about me and my coffee addiction. I have loved coffee since I was a little girl. Some of my earliest memories are of me spending the day with my mother while my brother and sister were at school. I remember sitting in the kitchen while she cooked, washed dishes, sewed, or whatever the task at hand was. No matter what she was doing she always had a cup of black coffee nearby. I also remember sipping her coffee after it cooled. I loved black coffee even at a very young age!

One of my favorite mugs!

One of my favorite mugs!

Over time coffee has changed in many ways. It’s not just perked as it was when I was growing up. Now you can perk, boil, or drip it! You can have it brewed in large quantities, or one cup at a time. There’s hot coffee, cold coffee, and iced coffee. We can select from a wide variety of flavors, brands, and roasts. There’s whole-bean, freshly ground, and all ready ground. We can buy coffee cakes, coffee chewing gum, coffee candy, cappuccino, espresso, frappuccino, lattes, and more! There’s even organic coffee. The coffee craze is sweeping the nation, and I for one am thrilled!

A favorite flavor from our local coffee shop, The Axis!

A favorite flavor from our local coffee shop, The Axis!

So, for this week I would like to recommend one of my favorite organic coffees. I have found Green Mountain House Blend Organic Coffee to be delicious and satisfying. It’s great prepared in a Keurig, dripped, or perked. I especially like buying the whole-bean and grinding just enough for either one pot, or one serving at a time. The aroma while brewing is sensational! This is great coffee with breakfast, as an evening cup, with a sweet treat, or with a meal! It can be ordered online from Amazon for a very reasonable price, and can be found in most super markets. I have tried several organic coffees, but have found myself returning to Green Mountain Coffee again, and again. Coffee was once a breakfast staple in most households. Today, coffee time is any time! Be sure to check out my post  Clean Apple Ginger Bread for a delicious bread that goes great with a hot fresh cup of coffee! Feel free to leave your comments after trying this delicious coffee, and my sweet and moist apple ginger bread.

Love This Organic Coffee!

Love This Organic Coffee!

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.

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

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

God's beauty abounds in the mountains of Kentucky.

God’s beauty abounds in the mountains of Kentucky.

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

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

For this recipe you’ll need the following ingredients;

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

Fresh ground cinnamon is delicious

Fresh ground cinnamon is delicious

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

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

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

Almond milk is a great source of calcium

Almond milk is a great source of calcium

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like larger chunks of apples in my bread.

I like larger chunks of apples in my bread.

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

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

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

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

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

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

Quick and Delicious Apple Pie Smoothie

It’s only Tuesday, and it’s been a busy week already! The campus was buzzing with life yesterday as students were rushing about making schedule changes, exploring the campus, and enjoying a brand new start to a brand new year! College life, you gotta love it! As I made my hour and a half commute to work yesterday, I was reminded of one of the reasons that I love smoothies so much! I love their health benefits, their taste, and I love the fact that they are easy and quick to make, and I love that I can drink my power breakfast on the go! It’s also a healthy alternative to the popular fast food breakfast sandwiches, and just as satisfying!

A delicious, clean, and easy apple pie smoothie!

A delicious, clean, and easy apple pie smoothie!

I am a true believer that we should take what could be a stressful situation, and turn it into a positive one. For example, my long commute could be stressful, even though I love arriving at my destination, the drive on the Interstate has its disadvantages.  What better time to forget schedules, multi-tasking, drivers with road rage, speeders, slow pokes, and deadlines… and instead crank up a little K-Love on the radio, meditate, or pray, and sip on a delicious smoothie! The commute passes quickly, and before I know it, I have arrived on campus in a positive frame of mind, and a full stomach! I’m ready to get my day started!

I like to make smoothies that are simple, quick, tasty, clean, and healthy! My apple pie smoothie meets all of those requirements. I find myself fixing this smoothie more often than any of my other favorites. My grandchildren enjoy this smoothie as well. Imagine that…you could replace a milk shake, or any another high calorie snack with a healthy delicious smoothie. That’s good news for the entire family.

Ingredients

1 cup of ice
1/4 to 1/2 cup almond milk (depends on the thickness you desire)
1 tablespoons of plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons of unsweetened apple sauce (optional)
2 tablespoons of raw honey
1 scoop of Pure Protein Vanilla, or French Vanilla flavor
1 medium apple peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated ginger, or 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger (I prefer grated, fresh is always better)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Greek Yogurt

Delicious Vanilla flavored Greek yogurt is my favorite!

French Vanilla is great in all smoothies!

French Vanilla is great in all smoothies!

Process

I like to use a Ninja to process my smoothies. I recommend them highly, as they can double as a food processor and a blender. I reach for my Ninja more often than my food processor. However, most blenders will work if you don’t have a Ninja. If you’re interested in purchasing a Ninja, check out the Amazon link titled A Few of My Favorites, for an amazon link to purchase one. Now, back to the simple process of making an Apple Pie Smoothie.

Adding the ingredients in my favorite kitchen gadget, a Ninja!

Adding the ingredients in my favorite kitchen gadget, a Ninja!

Pulse ingredients to the desired texture.

Pulse ingredients to the desired texture.

1.) Add ice to the Ninja
2.) Peel and slice apple add to Ninja
3.) Measure and place wet ingredients in the Ninja
4.) Add dry ingredients
5.) Pulse until you reach the desired thickness and texture that you prefer.

Pour yourself a delicious Apple Pie Smoothie!

Pour yourself a delicious Apple Pie Smoothie!

That’s all there is to it! It’s that simple to have a smoothie ready to drink, or take on the go for a fast and nutritious breakfast. I’ll be honest, when I drink one of these healthy and filling smoothies I feel full until midday, or later. Trust me…it’s that satisfying. I know your family will enjoy this sweet, but healthy treat as much as mine. If  you enjoy this smoothie, be sure to check out my previous post for Almond Butter Fruit Dip. Also, be sure to watch for upcoming fall smoothies in future posts. Feel free to leave comments. I’m anxious to know how you enjoyed your smoothie! Cheers!

A delicious, clean, and easy apple pie smoothie!

A delicious, clean, and easy apple pie smoothie!

Almond Butter Fruit Dip

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

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

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

Our summer roses are in full bloom.

Our summer roses are in full bloom.

crane

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

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

Ingredients

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

almond butter

A delicious alternative to peanut butter that my family loves!

Greek Yogurt

I prefer vanilla yogurt for this dip!

Process

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.

Mix all ingredients in one bowl.

Mix all ingredients in one bowl.

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

 A simple, delicious, and clean treat!

A simple, delicious, and clean treat!

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

Delicious with apples

Delicious with apples

A delicious dip for any kind of fruit!

A delicious dip for any kind of fruit!

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