The Beauty of a Bell

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.

I Love Raising Little Boys Because…

1. They play hard.

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.

Celebration of Corn Chowder

I named this soup a silly name because this is how I announced supper to my husband. I like to keep it fun. 😉

I served it alongside Cornbread to celebrate my day of shucking corn, pickling corn, and now…eating corn. If I could of only ground the cornmeal myself!

Here’s a very yummy Celebration of Corn Chowder:

Ingredients:

6 or 7 medium ears of corn (We had Silver Queen variety.)

6 pieces of bacon, chopped into small pieces (My husband smoked our own bacon. It is so good and adds a world of flavor to any recipe.)

¼ cup butter

1 onion

½ cup chopped bell pepper

3 garlic cloves

3 cups bone broth (or chicken broth)

1 cup milk (woohoo goat milk)

½- 1 cup cream

2 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

2 tbsp cornmeal to thicken (optional)

Cut the corn off of the cob and set it aside.

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.

Crock-Pot Turkey Breast (THM-FP, Gluten Free, Sugar Free)

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!

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes (THM-FP, Gluten-Free)

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.

Notes:

-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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Pineapple Tajin® Chicken (THM-E)

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!

Pineapple Tajin® Chicken:

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Ingredients:

1 tbsp olive oil

2-3 lbs chicken breast (optional: pound to make it thinner and more tender)

Salt, pepper, cumin powder, and Tajin seasoning to coat chicken breast pieces

2 cups cubed pineapple (I cut up a fresh one.)

1 can black beans

1 tomato

1-2 bell peppers

1 red onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

½-1 tsp Tajin (this is pretty spicy if it’s layered on thickly…so go lighter if you’re sensitive to heat)

1 tsp cumin powder

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a skillet until it’s hot.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breast with salt, pepper, cumin, and Tajin. (Go light on the spices if you don’t want much heat.)

Cook the chicken in the skillet for about 3 minutes on each side…they will finish cooking later. Set the chicken aside.

Add the pineapple, red onion, black beans, tomato, and bell peppers to the skillet the chicken just came out of. Add the seasonings, and stir around, cooking for another five minutes.

Add the chicken breasts back to the skillet. Stir everything and let it cook for 10-15 more minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve this with rice, sprinkled with more Tajin. Yum!

This was a pretty filling meal; a satisfying E for your THM’ers out there looking for more variation in your E meals. This one’s fun, colorful, sweet…and spicy, too!

Bonus Tajin® recipe:

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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Five Practical Tips That Help the Kitchen Flow (A Little More) Smoothly

The kitchen is one of the busiest—messiest—places in my home! I love my kitchen…but sometimes I get a little overwhelmed when it looks like an army of hungry people have torn through it, leaving a massive trail of destruction.

I am definitely no expert, but over the years I’ve found a few little tweaks to make my kitchen run a little smoother. Here’s five of ‘em.

1. Open both sides of the kitchen sink.

I have two sections to my sink. (I envy those people that have the huge farmhouse sink!) I used to leave a dish strainer on the right side. Well, when I was having my postpartum vacation from housework, my husband moved the strainer to the area on the counter next to my sink…and left the whole sink open. He put my drying mat under the strainer, and it works out great for me!

Thanks, husband!

It totally changed the way I did my dishes! It may just seem like a little no-big-deal tweak, but I’ll take it, because it makes my life easier.

On first glance, if you know me, you would just think that it leaves extra space for dishes to PILE up! Sometimes it does, but I have room to move around, and I don’t feel *as* overwhelmed after dinner.

Bonus Tip: If you do dishes as you go…it’s so much easier. My mama tells me this constantly. I totally agree that it makes it easier, but I still go against my own advice sometimes and let the dishes “soak” too long.

2. Find a spice rack with minimal depth.

By this, I mean if you buy a spice rack that is too deep, your stuff will pile up and you’ll waste time looking for your seasonings. You’ll also waste money buying more when you still have some hiding in the shadows.

Do I know this from experience? Oh, yeah.

My husband came to the rescue again, and made me a spice shelf that is PERFECT. I can only fit one box or bottle depth-wise—and it is great. I can quickly grab what I need, and I’m not stuck shuffling through dozens of spices/flavorings/ingredients.

It really helps when I keep it organized. This is also where my essential oils live.

3. Allow yourself two mixing bowls.

Maybe some of you don’t struggle with cleaning up dishes like I do. When I cook, my entire kitchen is destroyed. I don’t know how, but a perfectly clean kitchen will be such a mess after one meal!

I’ve found that if I use only two mixing bowls while making dinner…I’m forced to clean them out if I need to use another one. For example, say I’m making meatloaf. I use a bowl to mix the raw meat with all the other ingredients. Instead of throwing the bowl in the sink to be washed later, I’ll wash it to use for my mashed potatoes instead of getting a clean bowl out. (less mess) I’ll usually use another bowl to mix up salad dressing, or another side item.

If I allow myself only two, there won’t be four or five bowls piled in my poor sink.

Sometimes I get in the zone and think I’m Martha Stewart, complete with a camera crew and kitchen crew that will stay behind and clean up my mess…well, that’s never going to happen, so I have learned to take two extra minutes and clean the bowls as I go.

4. Learn to measure ingredients without the measuring spoons.

This one has taken me literally seven years to figure out. Learn how to eyeball a tablespoon, or a teaspoon, and you won’t have to dirty fifteen measuring spoons during your meal prep!

You know what? It’s ok to study how measurements look and you can measure in your palm, or your fingertip. That’s really not against the rules at all, and it makes you feel like a pro.

If you don’t agree with this one, that’s ok. I just don’t like washing three separate tablespoons, and left looking for a dry one when I need it. I don’t like it when the powdery spices stick to wet measuring spoons.

5. Invest in an immersion blender.

This is one appliance I use every day! It’s right up there with the coffee maker. It makes my life so much easier.

If you’re familiar with THM, you know that their recipes use a blender in almost everything. Instead of dirtying a big blender bowl, the blades, and the lid, just whip out the immersion, or stick blender, and stick it in the pot!

I just did this for dinner tonight. I made Cream of Mushroom Trimmy Bisque from Trim Healthy Table, and instead of draggin’ my big ol’ blender out, I just used my immersion blender, easy peasy. (THM affiliate link above.)

It also doesn’t make as much racket as the big blender, and it didn’t wake up my baby that was napping.

I love my immersion blender, and use it pretty much every day, sometimes twice a day. I love this KitchenAid. This was a Christmas present from my parents. So thank you! (Amazon affiliate link above. Use it and I’ll receive a small commission.)

Did you find any of these tips helpful for your home? Sorry if not…this is the best I can do! 😀

Don’t be afraid to share! I’d love to hear from you.

Quinoa Salad (THM-E, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free)

This cool quinoa salad is a perfectly healthy side dish for summer cookouts! There are endless variations and additions you can make to this recipe, so experiment away!

Here’s how I did it based on my mother’s recipe:

2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa (see notes below)

1 small cucumber

1-2 green onions, chopped small

2 cloves minced garlic

1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh squeezed or bottled will work)

¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper (may need to add more salt according to taste)

1-2 tablespoons each fresh parsley, mint, and basil (alt: use ½-1 tablespoon dried)

Optional: 1 small chopped tomato (for the salad pictured, I did not use tomato. But it’s really good with the added tomato!)

Add all the ingredients, give it a good stir, and serve!

Notes on quinoa: I cooked mine the night before and kept it cool in the fridge until I mixed this quick salad up.

This is perfect on a hot summer day. Sometimes a cold salad is just what you need to refresh and cool off.

Quinoa is a complete protein, having twice the protein as rice. It’s high in iron, folate, magnesium, and fiber! So make frequent use of this healthy carb option!

The fresh veggies hydrating and refreshing. The lemon juice and fresh herbs just make you feel light and cool.

This is also a good way to get your dose of fresh raw garlic. I always like to find a way to include that as much as I can.

Mix this up for yourself and add some cooked lean meat like chicken breast for a quick and yummy lunch! (When it’s too hot outside for anything else!)

Berry Cobbler (THM-S, Sugar Free and Gluten Free)

I had the privilege to pick about a gallon of beautiful, vibrant raspberries and blackberries from our farm. I am constantly amazed at how lovely the berries are! They are so bright and sweet…I just love them.

I had to use them in a cobbler…and I wanted to make it sugar-free, gluten-free, and THM friendly!

Berry Cobbler:

Melt ¼ cup butter (1/2 stick) in an 8×8 baking dish, or a pie dish. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2 cups berries (I used raspberries, and then I made it again and used a mixture of rasp/and blackberries)

¼ cup THM Gentle Sweet

-Add the Gentle Sweet to the berries in a small bowl.

½ c. almond flour

¼ c. THM Gentle Sweet

1 tablespoon THM Baobab Boost (optional)

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-Mix these dry ingredients together. Pour the dry ingredients onto the melted butter in the baking dish. Spread it out, but don’t over mix. Just barely coat the flour with butter. Don’t worry if it’s all covered, though.

Pour the sweetened berries on top of the flour and butter mixture.

Now here’s the topping.

Mix together another:

½ c. almond flour

¼ c. THM Gentle Sweet

1-2 tbsp milk (almond milk for THM)

Mix this together, until it forms loose crumbles. You don’t want to get it too moist.

Take the crumbles, and place them on top of the berries. Evenly distribute so every fork-ful will have some on top!

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until the center is done. Let it cool slightly to firm up.

Serve!

This is a simple way to use up fresh berries, but frozen could also be used.

Surprise Mac’n’Beef (THM-S)

What’s the surprise in this recipe? It’s mushrooms! Before you say “gross” and look away, I’m begging you to hear me out!

The mushrooms are processed and mixed into the ground beef…and I promise, you can’t tell there’s mushrooms there! This is picky little boy approved…I’m not lying; he gobbled it up without any complaints!

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to the recipe. See the end of the post for why mushrooms are so good for you.

Ingredients For the Beef:

1 lb ground beef

8 oz baby bella mushrooms, processed until chopped very finely, almost to a paste, but not quite. They have to be tiny enough to be undetectable.

1 tsp onion and garlic powder

1 tsp mineral salt

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp parsley

1 tsp nutritional yeast

1 tsp paprika (smoked or regular)

Brown the ground beef in a skillet, then when it is browned, add the mushrooms that have been processed well. Add all the seasonings, and cook for five to ten more minutes, and while it’s finishing, prepare the Mac.

Ingredients for the Mac:

Dreamfield’s Pasta (a higher protein pasta that is THM-approved), cooked

¼ cup butter

½ cup Greek yogurt

6-8 oz cheese (I used Aldi’s shredded Gouda)

1 tsp mineral salt

Dash of black pepper

1 tsp paprika

½ tsp garlic powder

2 tbsp heavy cream

Mix all the above ingredients into the noodles that have just been drained from their boiling water. The butter and cheese will melt. Stir everything together until all the cheese is melted, and then combine with the beef mixture.

Serve with a side salad, and you have a quick, hearty, healthy dinner.

THM: This is a heavy S. The mushrooms are a hidden veggie, and the addition of the side salad with an S-friendly dressing rounds it out perfectly.

The scoop on the ‘shrooms:

Mushrooms are one of those veggies that you either love or hate, in my limited experience, of course. Now technically, they are in the fungus family…which doesn’t help them sound very appetizing. But here are the benefits of mushrooms: (info taken from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.)

They contain:

· Protein

· Phosphorus

· Calcium

· Iron

· Biotin, a B-complex vitamin

· Selenium, necessary for heart health and the circulatory system

They also boost the immune system and fight cancer cells. That’s a good reason to be eating them!

I’ve seen several articles recently about mushroom teas, mushroom extracts, and mushroom coffees. It seems that mushrooms are gaining popularity! So make use of nature’s medicine, and incorporate more mushrooms in your diet! (And don’t tell picky husbands or kids!)

You may also want to try Surprise Burritos.