This year, we grew a delicious variety of heirloom okra that is called Longhorn Okra. It is perfectly tender even when it grows long…which if you know anything about picking “normal” okra, it will be tough as a cob if it gets too long.
We had oodles of okra this year. I pickled a bunch, cooked it, and then gave some away, and then cooked some more.
This recipe is my new go-to for fried okra. I used to get out three separate bowls to make fried okra. But I found this shortcut to making it easier—and the coating I use is a healthy alternative to your traditional flour or cornmeal breading.
Here’s how I did it:
Chop up the okra into little coins, about ¼ -1/2 inch thickness. Make sure you at least chop the pieces uniformly so they cook evenly.
H: Why aren’t you doing (insert chore/craft here) anymore? Why don’t you make (insert any homemade/homecrafted goody here) anymore?
W: (Shrugs) I really want to! I just have too much on my plate! I go in spurts, I can only focus on a few things at a time!
H: Well…make a bigger plate.
Okay…this was a conversation between an anonymous husband and wife. (You can guess who if you want.)
I have to do some confessing, because just like the scenario above, I have a lot on my imaginary plate and I’m struggling to make it all fit.
At the beginning of the year, I wanted to start writing stories and publish a blog post twice a week, build a website, maybe generate some income, start a soap business, sell eggs on the side of the soap business…this is what I’ll consider “outside” of my normal house work. I also have a list of historical articles I want to work on, people I want to interview, places I need to visit…
Then, I really wanted to step up the self-sufficiency/homestead game, and vowed to make all my bread at home, only make homegrown, homemade, seasonal meals, make all the baby food myself, use cloth diapers…milk my goat, tend the garden, preserve all the produce that came through the door, make herbal concoctions…not to mention maintain a tidy, sane home (which is like trying to keep a pig pen clean…quite literally.)
Then, school time started, and I set a lot of those activities aside because I want to provide the best preschool ever to my two pre-K boys. I spent a month preparing the house, reading articles, deep cleaning so I would feel refreshed, organizing, and finally…preschool started and it’s going great.
Now, after three weeks of a great start to our sweet little school, I have decided to call it quits on the goat milking. This was a big deal in our home, because it was the first time either of us ventured into the chore of having a dairy animal. We did this chore all summer, and it worked out great. I really did love getting up before the boys and having alone time in the little barn. It was nice…until we weaned the baby goats and twice a day milking commenced. It became just plain hard.
I have set my soap sales on the back burner, and this was the conversation that started last night when my husband was encouraging me to keep up with what I started at the first of the year. (I just owned up to the anonymous conversation, didn’t I.)
Let me tell you a little about my husband, who I like to refer to as the Farmer. He is perhaps the hardest working man I know. He never runs out of energy. He has a chore list a mile long, but he somehow keeps all our critters alive and our beef and pork business afloat. He has big dreams in that arena, which we are just praying and waiting on. He is a true farmer.
He has a ton of obligations on his plate. He gets up early to go to his job. He comes home and takes care of literally everything…the animals, the garden, and then somehow helps me with the boys. Does he get burnt out? Sometimes! But he gets right back on the horse as soon as he takes a nap. (Which is rare.)
He comes in the door with bushels of green beans, after working hard at his job all day, and encourages me to get the boys in bed so we can do some canning. I say, “Ain’t you tired? I can’t do no canning tonight, I’m wore OUT!” But– he sits on the couch, breaks the beans, and somehow, the canning gets done. I guess I know how to do it in my sleep by now.
He is constant. He does his chores, adds a little more work, then keeps doing the chores. He doesn’t quit. And he doesn’t complain. Unlike me…I’m not constant, I get excited, do some work, then get lazy and burnt out and I can’t do it anymore.
The internet and the world will tell me that I deserve and should demand, some rest and relaxation—no matter what. (Don’t get me wrong here…I always make time for that…don’t go thinking I’m worked to death!) But here’s a few things that the endless opinions on the internet don’t understand:
-We’ve chosen to live on a farm. If we choose to rest for too long…the farm will suffer.
-We’ve brought the goats, the pigs, the chickens, the bunnies, and the cattle to the farm and we have to take care of them. If they don’t get fed…they die.
-We’ve planted the seeds in the garden, and we have to preserve the harvest. We don’t put it up in cans…it goes to waste and our money is flushed down the toilet.
-I’ve birthed three boys to take care of. They have to be fed, too, right? (I’m being silly, my boys are always my #1 priority.)
-We’ve decided to live this way…
So we have to work durn hard. Everyday. If I want a break…guess what? It’s pizza for dinner and I’m really not doing anyone a favor. The beans go bad and I’ve disappointed myself…and wasted time driving to town when I could have whipped something up from the freezer instead.
It’s healthier, better, more delicious, more fulfilling, and more blessed if I keep myself at home and do it from scratch.
Think about Great-Grandma. She did all these things and MORE! When I consider how much work these women did even75 years ago, my day looks like a walk in the park. I have a washing machine for pity’s sake.
So…my husband’s words were filled with great wisdom.
MAKE A BIGGER PLATE.
I can do this!
I realized something. Instead of limiting myself to a small plate, why not make it bigger?
Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, (I believe this is a direct quote from my Mama) so use it wisely. Instead of taking two hours to drink my morning coffee, I can get up and start a load of laundry or get some reading done while the boys are still asleep. I can wake up thirty minutes earlier and milk the goat.
I can purposefully plan my meals to make sure I set out the chicken to thaw, ensuring a quicker meal prep.
I can carve out 20 minutes to speed clean the kitchen and make it appear like it’s under control!
I can ask my husband to help give the boys a bath while I preserve the veggies on the counter (or at least get it started).
I can make that soap to sell to the soap customers!
I read a book recently that I will recommend to you. It’s called What If You Could (#wiyc) by Danny Valdes, and it really psyched me up. It’s just as the title says… what if I could have a bigger plate? Now just to make it happen. I can do this!
Thank you for letting me rant, dear readers, because it has certainly helped me! I hope it will help you, too.
Do some hard things, get out and get dirty in the garden, cook some delicious meals and fill your expanded plate with all sorts of blessings.
By the time you’re reading this, the day will probably be over and your Labor Day cookouts will be wrapping up.
I’m going to share my husband’s original recipe for stuffed peppers that we made for our Labor Day burger grill. He was pumped to be using this new pepper variety that we planted in our garden. So while Papaw had the grill heated up, my husband cooked these Copperhead Bites!
This particular variety of jalapeno pepper we used is called “mucho nacho”. They are larger than a regular jalapeno, and milder on the spice scale. You could definitely use jalapenos, or even bell peppers for a very mild, un-spicy version.
Here’s his recipe: (Note: he wanted to name the recipe something amazing…if you know my husband, you won’t be surprised that he came up with this!)
One pound sausage (we used pork that was more on the spicy side)
One 8 oz package cream cheese
12-15 jalapeno peppers (We used 13 macho nacho peppers)
Shredded cheddar cheese to top them.
Slice the peppers in two. Remove the seeds, and scrape the pepper clean. Set aside on a baking sheet. Meanwhile…
Brown the sausage in a skillet. When it is cooked through, transfer it to a bowl and add the whole block of cream cheese. Stir it well.
Stuff one pepper at a time with the cream cheesey sausage. When the peppers are stuffed, sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese all over the tops.
Place them on the grill for 15-20 min, or until the cheese is browning and bubbly.
Serve these at your next tailgate or cookout. Tell folks the name of this recipe, and they will have to try ‘em! (At least my husband thinks the name is awesome.)
This recipe was born out of my love for chili cheese fries. I know it’s not smart or healthy to stop by the neighborhood Sonic for my chili cheese fix…so I made these at home with ingredients we had on hand. Easy, cheap, and so delicious! Serve it with Ranch dressing and it knocks it out of the park.
Chili Cheese Taters
Preheat oven to 375.
Thinly slice three to four white potatoes, and start cooking them in 4 tbsp of butter, in a skillet. I drizzled a bit of olive oil over them once they started cooking too. (About 1 tbsp olive oil or less.)
Add one teaspoon of salt, and about ¼ tsp pepper over the potatoes. Cook them until they are starting to get tender, 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, brown 1 pound of ground beef in another skillet. Add about ½ cup of the onions and 2 cloves of garlic.
Cook until the meat is browned and onions are tender, then add 1 can of Rotel tomatoes.
Add the following spices to the meat:
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp paprika
½ tsp garlic powder
1-2 tsp cumin
Stir it all together and cook over medium heat for just a minute or two.
In the potato skillet, arrange the taters in as even a layer as you can.
Pour the meat mixture over the taters.
Add enough grated cheese to cover the top of the meat. (I piled it on…so it was around a cup or more.)
Put the whole skillet into the oven for about 20 minutes to crisp the cheese on top.
This is fantastic alongside ranch dressing, you can find a homemade version here.
Just imagine a misty morning in the mountains. You may see birds flying in the clouds painted beautiful colors by the dawn, and you hear a bell tolling in the distance.
If you lived in Cades Cove, or any other community 100 years ago, the sound of a bell pealing through the air caught your attention. You’d stop whatever you were doing to listen.
A bell could signal a birth, a wedding, a death…so many life events were heralded by the ringing of a bell.
Nowadays all we have to do is scroll through social media to “hear” about our community’s announcements. But there’s something about the sound of a bell that is nostalgic and beautiful.
Gloria Motter, the director of the Cades Cove Museum wanted to be sure the museum featured a working bell just like the people in Cades Cove would have heard. She found this bell at an estate sale in Johnson City. Even though it isn’t native to the cove, it is similar to what would have been there.
The bell was brought to the museum, but it needed a stand to be put on in order for someone to ring it…that’s where my daddy, Donny Abbott, came in.
He is a very talented craftsman specializing in blacksmithing. And as the bell stand shows, he’s pretty good at welding, woodwork, and etching. Blacksmithing is an old art and my father has been interested in the historical craft for nearly 15 years.
He started learning at Fort Loudoun State Historical Park, where he and I started reenacting as volunteers. Fort Loudoun was an 18th century French and Indian War fort. Once a month volunteers get together to portray daily life in a British fort. I loved reenacting as a little girl, and my daddy learned how to blacksmith the traditional way. (Meaning no electricity or new-fangled machines.)
Since he began learning how to forge S-hooks and fire steel sets, he’s broadened his repertoire to include knives, swords, hinges, and now…bell stands.
My father took the measurements, and after collaborating with Stephen Weber, president of the Cades Cove Preservation Association, and Richard Anderson, treasurer, he came up with a design that would be a perfect fit for the old bell.
He made a sturdy stand out of one-inch square steel, and added an artistic twist in the body of the design. The stand itself is 3 feet tall, with the wooden base 2×3 feet. He forged the steel and welded it all in his shop. He made a plaque out of copper etched with ferric chloride that reads: “CCPA 2019 by P. Don Abbott, Jr.” He even made the cart to deliver the bell and to transport it to and from events. He didn’t take enough credit for the cart…but it is really beautiful and looks like a nice tool straight out of 19th century Cades Cove. (All the materials except the steel was repurposed from what he had on hand in his shop. Another old-timey skill is using what you already have and recycling materials!)
My father Donny is a descendant of Russell Gregory, John “Baldy” Myers, and Absalom Abbott of Cades Cove. He is responsible for my interest in history and he always encouraged me to read and learn for myself. He and I share the same passion for preserving tradition, especially the history of our people in East Tennessee.
2. They love dinosaurs and bears and any other animal that is fierce and loud.
3. They love building towers then knocking them over.
4. Destruction is always the goal. (Try playing Chutes and Ladders with two boys…)
5. They are dirt magnets.
6. They make mud soup, mud pies, mud casseroles…
7. They wrestle and fight inanimate objects.
8. They wrestle and fight me, their daddy, the dog, the goats, and each other.
9. They say the cutest, weirdest things.
10. The punch line to any joke is poo poo.
11. They think frogs are hilarious.
12. They are instantly attracted to good stories; the ones about fighting and animal attacks.
13. The best thing in life is playing in the creek.
14. And the worst thing is cleaning up a mess.
15. They love to throw rocks.
16. Playing with toy trucks and cars is endless fun until it’s not.
17. Blocks and legos double as weapons somehow.
18. Really, anything can double as a weapon…even a hanger.
19. My middle child has gone two days without dirtying a single item of clothing. (we’ve been stuck at the house.)
20. The hardest part of life is running out of juice.
21. A cardboard box can be turned into anything, and it’s infinitely more fun than the toy the box came in.
22. Baths are awful and amazing at the same time. I can’t get them in, then I can’t get them out.
23. They are entirely independent until they need a bandaid or a drink.
24. Trains and planes are fascinating.
25. Explosions and fireworks are the best.
26. Anything can and will be chopped.
27. If there’s a smidgen of mud and a little boy is near it, it’ll multiply and become a bigger mess than you could of ever imagined.
28. When given a specific task, if much is expected, they’ll meet that expectation and ooze pride in their good job.
29. I wonder if they have a hearing problem one minute, then when I crack the door open to go outside, automatically they have super hearing and come running from the other end of the house. (Same with the fridge door.)
30. They are sweet, cuddly, innocent, precious little men who love their mommy more than anything at the end of a long bad-guy-fighting day.
This makes my mommy-heart burst with thankfulness. Being a boy mama may be the best thing in the world. I love these little fellers.
Melt the butter in a soup pot, and add the bacon and onion, and cook for several minutes.
Add the garlic, and bell peppers, and the corn into the pot.
Stir everything together, and pour in the bone broth, or chicken broth and the milk. Add the salt and pepper, and let it cook for a while longer. After 10 or 15 minutes, add the cream and the cornmeal.
You can let it simmer until it’s ready to serve.
Like I said earlier, I served with cornbread! A delicious, hearty, celebration of corn. Sure to satisfy the hungriest of farmers.
I used to buy pre seasoned turkey breasts at the store for a quick Crock-Pot meal when we were first married. It was easy, you just opened up the pack and slid the meat in the pot. Although, I have no idea what the ingredients were. I just knew it was easy.
Well, this is almost just as easy!
All you need is:
1 turkey breast (usually around 1 ½ to 2 lbs)
Salt, pepper, dried rosemary, dried tarragon
About 3 cups of water to fill the Crock-Pot to where the water is about halfway covering the turkey.
1 onion, sliced in rings
2 garlic cloves, minced
You will simply coat the turkey in the salt, pepper, dried rosemary and tarragon. Make sure it’s covered well in spices. Pour in the water around the turkey.
Add the onion and garlic on top of the turkey.
Set on low and cook for 4-6 hours.
As is, this turkey breast is low fat, and could fit into THM-FP. But depending on the sides you use, it can be either an S or an E. Serve with rice and some nonstarchy veggies for E, or deviled eggs and buttery squash for S. Or, to keep this a FP meal, steam some nonstarchy veggies and spray with coconut oil spray and season them up well with more spices! You choose your fuel with this main dish!
I planted ONE cherry tomato plant this year. Neither of us like raw tomatoes, so putting them in a salad was out of the question. I had to use them somehow, so here is what I came up with.
These little tomatoes burst with an Italian fresh flavor! This is a great summer side dish for when you have extra little tomatoes hanging around.
Sorry my measurements aren’t exact here, but I didn’t bother to weigh my tomatoes before I cooked them! Don’t forget to read the notes after the recipe for some pointers.
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes:
1 tsp olive oil
Two to three handfuls cherry tomatoes (I used about 20)
Dash of salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp -1 tsp of dried rosemary (feel free to use fresh)
Sprinkle parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in a skillet for a minute, and then put the tomatoes in the skillet.
Sprinkle the garlic over the tomatoes, and then stir around really well.
Add a pinch or two of salt, and crack some black pepper over the tomatoes.
Throw in the rosemary, and cook on the stove top over medium high for about five minutes.
Stir well every minute or so.
Place in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
-These tomatoes will explode if you pop a whole one into your mouth, which is normally a good thing. They will erupt hot lava if you don’t let them cool enough! I know from experience here! So let them cool for a few minutes and test one before you recklessly start tossing ‘em in your mouth.
-I used an iron skillet to make the transition from the stovetop to oven work out well. If you don’t have an oven safe skillet, I’m sure they would be fine finishing up on the stovetop.
-The parmesan crispies left in the bottom of the skillet are amazing. Don’t throw them out. Eat them. Yum!!
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This chicken recipe stars juicy pineapple with a spicy twist! The spice I’m referring to is Tajin® seasoning. I first heard of this spice on the THM podcast, then saw people using it on the Facebook groups. It looked appealing, so I began looking for it. I couldn’t find it at Kroger or Wal-Mart, but I found it at Aldi!
I was so excited to try it, so we used it first sprinkled on top of mango. Delicious!
Tajin is a spice mixture of chili powder and lime…a sweet and spicy twist to put on fresh fruit, and as I discovered…it goes great on chicken!
Cube up squash, zucchini, and red onion. Stick them on skewers, and sprinkle with Tajin. Throw these on the grill next to a juicy steak. These are incredible. Thanks husband, for the great idea!! (Unable to be pictured because they were devoured, by the way.)
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