Reflecting on the Past

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

Enjoying a good book on a cool September morning.

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

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

Teaching even the youngest grandchildren about gardening.

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

Fog rising above the mountains.

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

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

Mamaw’s pickled green tomato recipe still alive today.

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

Fresh canned tomato juice from our garden tomatoes.

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

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

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

Three generations picking poke salad.

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

Seasons and Traditions in the Mountains

Happy Independence Day from the mountains of Kentucky! Independence Day in the mountains is a big deal! The sounds of fireworks can be heard ringing throughout the night sky. Family picnics are common. Trail riding, music, drag races, boating, fireworks displays are only a few of the events that are happening in the mountains to celebrate our freedom! Holidays are not the only days that are special. Each Season is full of opportunities to be had! Seasons in the mountains are each unique and each filled with blessings and wonders. Spring in the mountains is filled with vibrant blooms, lush green mountains, fishing, fields of corn and beans, majestic wildlife, trails awaiting to be blazed and familiar trails that are well worn by those who love the scenic and serene mountain rides.

Marigolds in full bloom!
A well blazed road! Great ride!

Summer mountain traditions are the best! Summers in the mountains are filled with summer fruits and vegetables, grilling, cookouts, ATV rides through the mountain trails, fishing in the rivers and lakes, family gatherings, and thrifting, which is one of my favorites. We also enjoy traditions that have been handed down generation after generation. Traditions such as cemetery church services, river baptisms, potluck dinners, horseshoe tournaments, church picnics, and homecoming services to celebrate the foundation of churches, honor our Heavenly Father, enjoy family, and the blessing of fellowship.

Reminder of hope…

The tradition of thrifting is and has been a way to find hidden treasures in the mountains of Kentucky generation after generation. When I was growing up it was known as junking. There were junk stores, thrift stores, rag sales, and dime sales to pick from or rotate. One of my favorite childhood memories was going to the junk store early Saturday mornings. My cousin and I would load up in our uncle’s old red and white pickup truck. We’d ride in the back under the old camper top, while mamaw, aunt Doshia, and Roy rode up front. We held tight to our money, which usually consisted of one dollar in silver. We knew that meant ten items…ten treasures! Those days have long gone and most items in “junk stores” today range in various prices, but still it’s always a treasure hunt, a tradition that’s carried on, and a lot fun!

Redbird Community Store

Another favorite mountain tradition is the handing off of family recipes. The tradition is to hand down a recipe that you created to another family member. That family member can tweak the recipe to fit their taste buds, palate preferences, or dietary needs. I find particular joy in cooking following a hand written recipe. My all time favorite as was our kids when they were small was my great aunt Doshia’s peanut butter fudge candy. I’ve made many platters of this unhealthy delicious treat! There’s not much modifying that can be done to make this recipe healthier, so it stays carefully tucked away in my recipe binder. I seem to find more joy in trying new recipes in the winter, but enjoy cooking year around.

Fall in the mountains is a time for bonfires, cookouts, hunting, festivals, harvesting, trail riding, and camping. The mountains in the fall are majestically beautiful and alive with brilliant oranges, yellows, reds, and hints of green still hanging on to the days of summer. People travel from far and wide year around to view our beautiful Kentucky mountains and experience the tranquility of mountain living.

Fall colors in Kentucky.
Beautiful wildlife
Church picnic 2021

Words cannot accurately describe the beauty of the snow covered mountains of Kentucky during the winter. The cold snows of winter transforms the once green mountains into white mountains of tranquility.

Light covering of snow in the mountains.

Thank you for stopping by and spending a little time with me in the mountains of Kentucky. If you feel yourself craving a road trip…I encourage you to come and experience the culture of Kentucky and the beauty the mountains! Feel free to leave a comment. I always enjoy hearing from my readers. For now, God bless and happy Independence Day from the mountains of Kentucky!

Nanny’s Clean Vegan Potato Soup

My walking path this morning. The beautiful fall foliage surrounds us in the mountains of Kentucky!

It’s been a while since I last posted. Life on campus get’s really hectic during the fall semester, but it’s a hectic time that I enjoy. I also truly enjoy walking in the crisp fall air. As I walked this morning I was reminded just how beautiful the mountains of Kentucky are this time of year. There’s no need to travel far to look at the fall foliage as the foliage is all around us. The trees are alive with brilliant colors that remind me of my youth and my grandmother’s patchwork quilts.

With a chill stinging my cheeks, and leaves swirling through the air, memories flooded my being as did the craving for rich hot coffee, spicy pumpkin bread, and warm savory potato soup. My thoughts drifted to the chilly fall days of my youth in the mountains. A faint smell of the smoke rising from the neighbor’s chimney enticed me and saddened me as I recalled the smell of coal and wood burning in fireplaces and heating stoves that filled the evening air when I was a child. How I loved that smell. It reminded me I was home, safe, warm, and with a family that loved me. I loved the simple days of my youth. The days seemed much longer than they do today, neighbors were more than just acquaintances, they were friends that could depend on each other, that visited each other, and that knew each other. It was a time when supper was enjoyed by the entire family, together at the dinner table. Where cornbread, soup beans, fried potatoes, and sour kraut were enjoyed by all. It was a time when days seemed to last forever and days when my mom would make delicious soups that helped take the evening chill off. Tears stung the corners of my eyes as I walked and reminisced about the memories of my youth, memories that I will forever cherish in my heart.

Now, for that soup to warm my bones! I hope you enjoy Nanny’s Best Potato Soup as much as my family does.

Rich and savory potato soup. This one’s a family favorite! 

Ingredients:

8-10 large potatoes
1/2 large yellow sweet onion
Cup of baby organic carrots
1 tbs of cornstarch
salt
black pepper
1 tbs plant butter of choice
3/4 box of organic vegetable broth
1/2 cup of Unsweetened almond milk
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Process:

Wash, peel, and cube potatoes and put in stock pot of warm water. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and cook potatoes, but do not overcook. Wash and grate baby carrots into the pot of potatoes. Take potatoes off heat when you can pierce with a fork with ease.

Heat remaining olive oil and plant butter in a skillet. Dice onions and add to oil and butter mixture. Saute until onions are translucent, salt and pepper to preference. Slowly add cornstarch to onions stirring the entire time. Add half of the vegetable broth and stir to create a thickener for the soup.

Drain potatoes leaving only a little of the starchy water and add the onion mixture to the potatoes, stir and add additional vegetable broth. Return the soup to a very low heat. Once the soup has warmed through slowly add the milk/cream while stirring. Add additional salt and pepper if needed and simmer for about ten minutes on low, then reduce heat to keep the soup warm. You may add additional broth if your soup is thicker than you would like for it to be.

Optional: You may add shredded vegan cheese. I like to add dried parsley to my soup to add a little color and another layer of flavor. My family enjoys hot cornbread with this soup. It’s delicious on its own!

Each time I serve up heaping bowls of this rich and savory potato soup, I am reminded of days gone by. The older I get, the more I realize how quickly time seems to pass. I also realize how important family, culture, and tradition is to the present time. If we don’t pass our favorite recipes to the next generation, they will lay and become dormant, and eventually are forgotten.

Good food, family, laughter, reflection, and fellowship has always been a tradition in the mountains and with our family. I want to carry on that tradition as well as pass on our favorite recipes to allow you to create your own family favorites, and your own family memories.

Making this potato soup helps me to hold on a little tighter to those wonderful days of growing up in the beautiful mountains of Kentucky. I hope this soup will be among your families favorites. Feel free to leave comments or questions. I enjoy hearing from each of you. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

How to Dehydrate Summer Squash & Zucchini

chickens

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!

squash II

 

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

 

 

Living in the Appalachian Mountains

Courtesy of Jonathan Bowling

Elk captured on our son, Jonathan Bowling’s, trail camera behind our house. @copyright Healthier Me Simple and Clean.

Many people believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have been overheard many times making this statement when referring to the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. I am also a believer that not only is beauty found within the eye of the beholder, but also that success lies within the desire of the believer.

Recently I read an article about life in the Appalachian Mountains that lingered in my thoughts, with a mix of emotions hovering over and within me. Life in Appalachia was portrayed with gloom and despair, thus leaving the reader with a feeling of hopelessness. The article implied that people who were born into poverty didn’t have a choice to live otherwise. The picture that was painted was a stereotypical view of Appalachia that many have and continue to exploit to gain popularity whether it be an audience for their blog, for social media publicity, money, or their name in lights. What the author of this very derogatory article neglected to divulge were the joys of growing up in the Appalachian Mountains.

Over the years authors, filmmakers, and actors in Hollywood have profited through exploitation of Appalachia choosing to focus on what small towns “don’t” have. Films have been made with careful selection of the poorest part of towns carefully and intentionally divulging only dilapidated buildings, rather than new structures, or renovated buildings that houses independent thriving businesses. Many times the focus is often on poor housing in small towns rather than homes that proudly stand boasting beautiful manicured lawns, hardy vegetable gardens, luscious rolling green mountains, blooming flowers, and carefully trimmed hedges and trees. When the media chooses to focus on the negative aspects, or poverty, which by the way exists in all towns whether they’re large or small…the reader is left with a gloomy feeling of sorrow, despair and almost a feeling of doom.

Appalachian people are often-times portrayed as being illiterate, undereducated, and ignorant people who are less fortunate than those living elsewhere. Manchester, located in Clay County, is a small town in Appalachia where I grew up, raised my family, and still reside today has been recently been accused of being one of the hardest places to grow up in the United States, as well as being a community where citizens are expected to have a shorter lifespan than those living elsewhere. I find both of these statements to be misleading, offensive, and also stereotypical. I find myself smiling when I reflect on my childhood. I don’t recall life being a hardship, doom, gloomy, unhappy time in my life. Today, I enjoy sharing my memories of growing up in Kentucky through stories, both oral and written.

My memories are filled with fun escapades of playing outside, working in the garden, helping can fruits and vegetables, listening to countless stories told to me by my grandparents, afternoons sitting in the shade with family just enjoying the serenity of the mountains, playing with cousins, enjoying wonderful cooked meals from the vegetables that we raised, and learning wonderful skills from my mother and grandmother. We didn’t live within city limits, and still do not. We were raised in a rural community that enjoyed farming. My grandparents had a small store that was often referred to as the heart of our little community. Many of my family members still reside in this same neighborhood. I was raised to know that I had choices, and also to believe that I could be anything that I wanted to be. I was encouraged to always try to better myself by reading, learning, working hard, and also by believing in myself.

I was raised in one of the poorest parts of the state of Kentucky. What? We grew up poor! No one told me that! I wasn’t aware that we grew up in a poverty-stricken area. No, again, I was raised to dream and dream big! I could be anything that I wanted to be. I could be a mother, I could be a Christian, I could be a teacher, I could be an author, I could be whatever I chose to be! I was taught good moral values, about Jesus, how to work the land to feed my family, how to always believe in myself, to be proud of my heritage, to have a plan for my future, and if I got knocked down…get back up!  Instead of profiting from negative doom, gloom, and despair…I prefer to divulge the wonders of the Appalachian Mountains, the joys, the beauty, the opportunities, growth, success, and the wonderful mountains that I am proud to call home.

Again, I was never told that we were poor, or that we lived in an impoverished area, and never told that I couldn’t better myself. As a public school teacher, I always passed this same advice to my students. I always encouraged my students year after year that they could be anything that they wanted to be, to reach for the stars, to believe in themselves as I too believed in them. Today, as a college professor, I am still relaying that same positive message.

Many might say that small Appalachian towns have nothing to offer. I disagree. So, what does our small county of Clay have to offer? The beauty of the mountains, rich farm soil, beautiful pastures for livestock to graze, farm fresh eggs, distinguished schools, top-rated teachers, private Christian schools, a multitude of welcoming churches, book clubs, a well stocked public library, quilting clubs, pumpkin patches, ATV rides, elk hunts, successful local authors, artists, parks, employment at the federal prison, kayaking, fishing, local shopping, home cooked meals at locally owned restaurants, farmers’ markets, Main Street markets, grass-fed beef, fresh venison, beautiful walking trails, beautiful homes, friendly people, smiles, and a welcoming environment. One valuable opportunity that goes unmentioned in many articles about our small town of Manchester is the opportunity to complete a college degree at Eastern Kentucky University, which is located within city limits. These are only a few things that residents and visitors have to enjoy. Again, beauty lies within the eye of the beholder, happiness with the heart of the dreamer, and success within the heart and desire of the believer.

I have been asked many times over the years why I haven’t moved…but my answer is and will always remain the same…”I can’t imagine growing up or living anywhere else than in the beautiful Kentucky mountains. As the title of my first book states, Kentucky is…The Mountains I Call Home.”

book 1