Cilantro & Lime Infused Shrimp Tacos with Crunchy Cabbage

Cilantro & Lime Infused Shrimp Tacos“I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers. I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in the summer — and what trees and seasons smelled like…”
-John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Our gladiolas are blooming which is a sure sign that fall is peeking around the corner.

Our gladiolas are blooming which is a sure sign that fall is peeking around the corner. I love to sit right here and have coffee in the morning and/or iced tea in the afternoon.

While I do not enjoy saying goodbye to summer, I love the feeling of transition that fall brings. There is elegance in autumn that is not present in other seasons. Now that I live on a farm, I am finding that I trust my senses more to announce the transition from summer to fall in the landscape. I watch the birds circling the sky, measure the way the morning light filters through the pasture, and I capture various scents in the air.

August Sky

August Sky

Our spring chicks are now full grown hens.

Our spring chicks are now full grown hens.

I LOVE our duck! Even if he refuses to go in the beautiful pond that John made for him.

I LOVE our duck! Even if he refuses to go in the beautiful pond that John made for him.

It’s truly been a magical summer and I feel like I have so much blogging to do to catch up. June started with a trip to New York City and ended with our belated honey moon to Alaska.

My husband built a pond/waterfall, installed a pool, created gardening spaces for me, and did various landscaping projects. We got approved for a grant from the USDA for a hoop house/greenhouse (which will be delivered in the next few weeks) and we added a new rototiller and sawmill to our farm equipment.

Our hotel was only a few blocks from Times Square and Central Park

Our hotel was only a few blocks from Times Square and Central Park

One of my students won a national writing award with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and I was presented with a medal and certificate of achievement.

One of my students won a national writing award with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and I was presented with a medal and certificate of achievement.

Prospecting for Gold in Chicken Alaska

Prospecting for Gold in Chicken Alaska.

One of our "off the grid" camping spots .

One of our “off the grid” camping spots .

Alaskan Fireweed and Mountains

Alaskan Fireweed and Mountains

Our Golden Retriever Ollie even relaxed in the pool this summer.

Our Golden Retriever Ollie even relaxed in the pool this summer.

The beautiful pond John built and my adorable step kids.

The beautiful pond John built and my adorable step kids.

The weather this summer was gorgeous and I walked laps around the pasture for exercise (sometimes while playing “Alien Hunter” with my step son) and we had evening fires in our backyard (which almost always involved a dance party with my step kids).

Lukas received this cool back pack from Uncle Nick. It holds all the essentials that an alien hunter needs: alien proof goggles, food source (snake), guns, and a radio. The radio also serves as an invisibility cloak ray gun (helpful to hide from the Queen..though she can still smell us). I love his imagination!

Lukas received this cool back pack from Uncle Nick. It holds all the essentials that an alien hunter needs: alien proof goggles, food source (snake), guns, and a radio. The radio also serves as an invisibility cloak ray gun (helpful to hide from the Queen..though she can still smell us). I love his imagination!

Speaking of my step kids, I have to give a shameless plug to my sweet stepdaughter Avalon’s YouTube Channel. She is ten years old and I have featured a few of her recipes here on my blog. Not only does she love to help me in the kitchen but we love to shop together and she shares my passion for writing, social media, and being creative.

Avalon and I had a spa day and got our back to school haircuts.

Avalon and I had a spa day and got our back to school haircuts.

Her “House Tour Video” is absolutely adorable and I think that her sparkling personality really shines through. Now that the pool is installed the sunflowers are ready to bloom, I told Avalon that she needs to do an update. Make sure you check out her video, give it a like, and if you leave a comment it will really make her day. This week we hope to record a video together of our new clothes for the school year. Avalon thinks that I need to start adding videos to my blog. What do you think?😉

Avalon’s YouTube channel.

Autumn marks a time for fresh starts and in our house it means getting back to the basics with a new school year. Since I am a teacher, I join my kids in embracing an early bedtime routine, homework (in my case grading and lesson planning), and setting academic and personal goals.

As busy as our schedules get, I do not want to abandon our family dinners around the table. Last fall Lukas (who is now seven) declared that we should have Taco Tuesdays – and we obliged. Sometimes it may end up being Taco Monday or Thursday – but taco night is a hit in our household. Not only does it suit the meat eaters and the vegetarian in our house, but also the leftovers easily convert into salad, nachos, soup, or pizza. Depending on what we have in the house we prepare guacamole, spicy rice, refried or black beans, seasoned meat, and serve up sour cream, cheese, peppers, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, and a variety of sauces.

Since we have a farm we raise our own pork and chicken (and soon beef), but my husband also loves seafood. For this recipe I came up with a simple marinade for shrimp (that would work well with any protein). Vegetarians could also use it to marinate squash, which is abundant in gardens and the supermarket this time of year.
The shrimp tacos also receive a burst of flavor and satisfying crunch from a cabbage slaw that is dressed with the same marinade as the shrimp.

Lukas helped me plant cilantro this summer and he loves adding it to our homemade guacamole and salsa made from our homegrown tomatoes. Have you noticed how kids are willing to eat healthier and try new foods when they help grow and prepare it themselves?

Lukas helped me plant basil, dill, and cilantro in an old tin tub and it is flourishing!

Lukas helped me plant basil, dill, and cilantro in an old tin tub and it is flourishing!

Ingredients:

I recently fell in love with Penzeys spices. My husband enjoys this Cajun spice in alfredo pasta and on eggs too.

I recently fell in love with Penzeys spices. My husband enjoys this Cajun spice in alfredo pasta and on eggs too.

*1 pound of raw shrimp
*1 bunch of cilantro
*1/4 cup chopped onion
*1/2 small cabbage
*3 juiced limes and zest
*2 Tablespoons of olive oil
*1 Tablespoon of Cajun seasoning
*2 teaspoons of sugar
*Salt and pepper

IMG_4036CILANTRO & LIME MARINADE
Pour the following marinade on the shrimp (remove shell and tails):
*Juice and zest of two limes
*1 Tablespoon olive oil

*2 minced cloves of garlic
*1 Tablespoons of Cajun spice (more if you want extra spice. Since the Cajun seasoning that I added already had salt, I did not add any additional)
*1/2 cup of fresh chopped cilantro

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IMG_4047CABBAGE SLAW:
*Chop ½ of the small cabbage
*Juice and zest of one lime

*1 Tablespoon olive oil
*1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
*1 clove of minced garlic
*2 teaspoons of sugar
*Salt and pepper to taste

Ideally, let the shrimp and slaw sit for several hours in the refrigerator (it works well to make the night before). You can grill the shrimp or cook over the stove top until the shrimp turns pink. Serve the shrimp and cabbage on flour tortillas with spicy ranch dressing. You can buy many versions in the store or add salsa to ranch dressing. For a healthier version you can add salsa or hot sauce to plain, fat-free Greek yogurt.

PRINTABLE RECIPE HERE: CILANTRO & LIME INFUSED SHRIMP TACOS

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I hope your family enjoys the fresh flavors of these tacos as much as mine did. Make sure you check out these other recipes for versatile Taco night: Spicy Brown Rice and Snappy Salsa, Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette Dressing, Homemade Taco Seasoning, Layered Refried Bean and Guacamole Dip, Confetti Salad.

Thank you for following my blog and while I have a lot of my plate in the coming months with a new school year, thesis writing, an internship, and motherhood, but I am going to try my best to keep posting. Until then make sure you follow my page on Facebook, Instagram, and I would love to hear from you!❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Savor Summer with an August Green Smoothie Challenge

Summer Green Smoothie Challenge by Produce with AmyAugust is almost here and I would love for you to join me in savoring the last days of summer by participating in a Green Smoothie Challenge. The goal is to drink one Green Smoothie a day (using my recipes or yours) and you can post on my Facebook page, on your social media accounts (make sure to tag me), or here on my blog to help stay accountable and I will be doing the same!

I have a month’s worth of green smoothie recipes with weekly shopping lists and I tried to keep them simple and affordable by taking advantage what is fresh and ripe at our farmer’s markets and supermarkets. You can swap out any ingredients that you wish and please share your favorite combinations. 

We start Monday and here is the shopping list for week #1.

*Spinach (3 ~ nine ounce bags of spinach)
*Bananas (5-7)
*1 peach
*1 nectarine
*1 fresh pineapple
*1 avocado
*2 limes
*1 ~ twelve ounce bag of frozen raspberries (or 2 containers of fresh)
*1 ~ bag of fresh or frozen cherries
*1 bunch of parsley
*1 bunch of cilantro
*1 bunch of fresh basil
*Fresh ginger root
**Coconut water (optional ~(regular water works fine but there are many health benefits to drinking coconut water. It can often be found in the Latin food or heath food section of the supermarket. I usually buy one large can per two green smoothies…or a couple liter containers).
*Chia seeds (Optional – you may also use flax or hemp seeds)

Find the recipes, the other shopping lists for the month, and tips and tricks if you are new to green smoothies here: http://wp.me/p31v4R-Vb

╰ ☆ ╮ƸӜƷ╰ ☆ ╮Please CLICK SHARE and help spread the green smoothie love!╰ ☆ ╮ƸӜƷ╰ ☆ ╮

Greem Smoothies 3

I. You. We Are Worth It!

“Respect your body. Eat well. Dance forever.”
― Eliza Gaynor Minden 

My nine-year-old step daughter Avalon never walks. She prances, glides, and pirouettes. Even when she runs, Avalon has the grace of a gazelle. Her little brother is her best pupil and she teaches him all of her latest dances. His jazz hands are exquisite!  ;)

One of the best family purchases that we have recently made is a Bose SoundLink Bluetooth speaker (in the color red – of course). The sound quality is wonderful and it gives great ambiance to our family dinners. It is portable and easily moves room-to-room and this summer it will help with yard work and give spirit to our time in the pool and hot tub. Plus, it helps us MOVE MORE by dancing! In recent days Avie has taught me a couple of her dances and while it results in an uproar of laughter,  it is also helping me reach my step goals on my new Fit Bit Flex. The idea of spending hours at the gym on a treadmill or elliptical makes me shudder. But dancing with my step kids? Sign me up!

Can you see that dot of hot pink? Yep, that's Avalon. Watch...her...go! I think that she's my new personal trainer. She'll be shouting out cadences to me in no time!

Can you see that dot of hot pink? Yep, that’s Avalon. Watch…her…go!
I think that she’s my new personal trainer. She’ll be shouting out cadences to me in no time!

Buying a new activity monitor was a huge step for me. For months I have been grumbling about my lack of energy and the weight that crept on this winter. Now all that I can say is why did I not purchase one sooner? Last night my Fit Bit encouraged me to walk two miles after dinner so I could reach my step goal when before I would have had a hot cup of tea and relaxed. I have been using it to track my calories and water, and I will also be logging my weight every Sunday morning.

When I purchased my fitbit I made sure that I purchased a few extra bright colored bands. A girl must be fashionable too. ;)

When I purchased my fitbit I made sure that I purchased a few extra bright colored bands. A girl must be fashionable too.😉

Speaking of weight – with reluctance I finally took the plunge and stepped on the scale. I really did not want to because I tend to get a tad bit obsessed by the number. However, I felt that it was time to be honest with myself and I need to have a measurable goal to stay accountable. I was semi-correct in my last post when I said I could tell from the way that my clothes fit that I had put on around fifteen pounds. Sadly, it is closer to twenty. The good news is that after a strong week of sticking to my healthy goals – I was able to take off 2.4 pounds. What a feeling of empowerment after many false starts and stops in the last few months. .

While I am a teacher and am fortunate that I have the ability to be on my feet and am able to walk around my classroom for most of the day, I have gotten out of my habit of walking during lunch and making sure that I move more during the day. That is an added benefit of my Fitbit since it encourages me to move at least 250 steps each hour (from 9-5). This means that I will definitely be walking during my lunch time and I will be taking a lap around the hallways in between classes (which serves double-duty since it is also a great way to monitor hallway activity). In the past it was all of these small little changes that helped me take weight off, and most importantly, keep it off (which I am determined to do again).

For the month of May I am building on the April goals that I shared a couple of posts ago. I am raising my water goal to 64 ounces a day, will continue to be moderate in my intake of starchy carbs, increase my consumption of vegetables, and I am replacing the 30 minutes of activity with 10,000 steps a day.

As far as exercise goes, I really do not have a viable excuse. The property on which we call home is stunningly beautiful and my Fitbit helped me compute that three times around our pasture is a mile. Not to mention that our four dogs guarantee that I have the best walking buddies around. Remi our German Shepherd does not let me out of his sight.❤

Remi, Ollie, Louie, and Gracie help keep me motivated.

Remi, Ollie, Louie, and Gracie help keep me motivated. I will never tire of the view of our backyard/pasture.

I love to watch the world outside my door wake up.

I love to watch the world outside my door wake up.

The fresh air is intoxicating. I LOVE SPRING!

The fresh air is intoxicating. I LOVE SPRING!

In addition to the goals I already listed, I am also going to add breakfast into my routine. While I love green smoothies and believe in the power of breakfast – I do not always make time to do so for myself in the morning. I do a great job taking care of the others in my household, but I often put myself last.

Produce with Amy May Goals

I decided that I needed something different for breakfast and I found that our local Target now carries Vega plant-based protein powders and shake mixes. I bought the Vega Essentials vanilla shake mix and this morning threw it into my Vitamix with almond milk, frozen banana, spinach, pumpkin, and cinnamon. It was exactly what I needed and I cannot wait to create other flavor creations with what I have in the house. If you are looking for smoothie recipes, check out my smoothie tab.

I love the burst of plant-based Vegan protein this mix gives me.

I love the burst of plant-based Vegan protein this mix gives me.

In my last post I shared how a couple of weeks ago I had my eyes checked and found myself getting fitted bifocals (difficult to stomach since I have never needed glasses before). My husband picked out the frames for me because I could not even look at myself in the mirror. I do not have to wear them all of the time but they are starting to grow on me. So much that I am already thinking of what I want my second pair to look like.😉 As several of my friends pointed out, glasses can be a cute accessory (and the fact that my husband and I each have vision insurance is a wonderful benefit).

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I am thankful that each day (each hour, each meal etc.) gives us the opportunity for a fresh start. While I could beat myself up for putting my exercise on hold and not making myself a priority – the strides that I have made in the past few weeks is the empowerment that I need to set and meet healthy goals. Last year I made a couple huge lifestyle changes – not only did I marry an incredible man but I also became a step mom and started a new degree program at Northern Michigan University. While I am familiar with life in the rural Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I now live many miles away from town and (much to the surprise of my friends and family) I am adapting to “farm life”. As I learn how to mesh my healthy goals with a hectic lifestyle, I know that I will learn many important things on the way.

Speaking of my new lifestyle. If you have been following my farm activities, check out how BIG our ducks have gotten! They certainly are not babies anymore. Neither is Lukas! I cannot believe how much he has grown up since fall. His reading is soaring (thank you Mr. Sandell) and his two front teeth are starting to emerge.

Lukas and Daphne.

Lukas and Daphne.

I cannot believe how much Lukas has grown too!❤

Thank you for being part of my healthy community. I would love to hear the goals that you are setting for yourself. Remember, if you feel overwhelmed small goals are a great way to achieve success. When we feel successful, it helps to create a snowball effect and we can build on our goals as we go. If you are not moving now, ten or fifteen minutes a day is over an hour of activity a week. Add in a couple of servings of fruit and vegetables a day, make sure you are hydrating yourself with plenty of water, and do not make the mistake of putting yourself last. We are worth it!

 

There Is No Better Time Than Now

Finally the sign of spring that I was looking for in our yard. The bulbs that I planted in the fall are starting to awaken.

Finally the sign of spring that I was looking for in our yard. The bulbs that I planted in the fall are starting to awaken.

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them…”
― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek 

In June I will be forty-five years old. I have never been one to feel hemmed in by numbers, but I confess that in the past couple of years — I feel my age. While in my 20s and 30s I had boundless energy, now I notice the difference if I am not getting enough sleep. I can put weight on much easier (and take it off much slower) and I need glasses for the first time. Last week I joked on Facebook that it was a sign of aging when a hot date with your husband meant getting your eyes checked. I was not laughing when I got fit for bifocals. Though the doctor said that I would be fine with just reading glasses, I decided to get bifocals to also correct a slight distance vision issue (for night driving). My husband John and I tried to take the sting out of our bifocals by declaring how fortunate we both were to carry insurance from our employers (something I did not have in my early 20s. That’s a benefit of aging, right?). I made John pick out my glasses because it felt strange to wear them and I could not look at myself without being too critical. Maybe I will share a photo when my glasses come in if I can mange to get used to them.

In addition to ordering glasses, I have been doing well with the April goals that I set for myself in my last post, Setting Healthy Goals. While I have been lacking in water a bit, I have been moving more, watching my starchy carbs, and have been incorporating salads and more vegetables with every meal. I have found that bread is something that I cannot go without out so last week I bought one of my old mainstays, Food for Life Ezekiel bread. I love the bread with a smear of avocado, hummus, or natural peanut butter, and I enjoy it when it is made into toasted garlic bread.

While I am acutely aware that I will be forty-five in June, one number that I do not have the slightest inkling about is my weight. After I stepped down from leading Weight Watchers meetings, so I could spend more time with my family, I decided that I would not allow myself to be a slave to the scale. In fact, it has been close to a year since I have monitored my weight on one. While it has been unbelievably liberating, this winter I have managed to put on (in my best guess from the way my clothes are fitting) around fifteen pounds. Last Saturday I was horrified to find out that the summer capris that I bought last year do not fit.😦 Sadly, it was exactly what I needed to get my rear-in-gear.

Speaking of last Saturday, it is amazing the difference a week can make. While the week before we were getting hit with record setting amounts of snow in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – last weekend we were greeted with gorgeous 70ish degree weather. It was the perfect time to head out to enjoy a nature hike and get oxygen into our lungs. John took us to Autrain Falls (for local folks it is a lovely spot on M94 between Chatham and Munising) and I was able to capture the beauty with my new camera.

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In addition to some local sightseeing, we also were able to get some work done at home. My step-son Lukas is learning to drive our tractor and he helped John pull rocks from our property to decorate and protect my flower beds. Luke (with help from John) also took an impromptu dip in the creek on our back property.😉

I love my new camera.

I love my new camera.

John, Lukas, and Avalon. You have to love spring hikes in the U.P. Shorts and Bog Boots! ;)

John, Lukas, and Avalon. You have to love spring hikes in the U.P. Shorts and Bog Boots!😉

Lukas learning to drive the tractor.

Lukas learning to drive the tractor.

Since the snow is nearly gone I have been taking advantage of the network of trails on our property and have been taking long, spirited walks around our pasture. Incidentally, I tried a pair of my capri pants this morning and I was wildly surprised that they fit much better than they did last weekend.

While I was not going to set a reward for accomplishing my April goals, I decided that I would reward my efforts and help increase my motivation by purchasing a Fitbit activity monitor this week. I will make sure to post my step goals and if there is any interest, maybe I will start a challenge on my Facebook page.

I am pleased that my husband has joined my quest to eat more vegetables and fresh produce. We both have been feeling like we are in a food rut and nothing sounds appetizing. As I said earlier I am trying to cut down on starchy carbs and this does present a bit of a challenge (we love pizza and pasta). John has been very receptive to large dinner salads and I thought that I would share one that he has asked for several times in the last few weeks (trust me, getting this man to ask for a salad is a victory).

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Ingredients: romaine lettuce, spinach, strawberries with caramelized pecans, avocado with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, cucumber and feta cheese, Gorgonzola cheese, Newman’s Own garlic balsamic vinegar dressing (though it would be great with one of my dressing recipes), steak with Penzey’s Arizona spices, Parmesan cheese, and sautéed onions and mushrooms (added right before serving). While I try to stick to vegetarian and plant-based meals,  I did have a piece of wild salmon on my salad (as I have done in the past year on occasion). This salad is more proof that salads do not have to be boring and that they are filling when you load them up with fiber rich produce and protein. What is your favorite salad combination?
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In the coming days I will not beat myself up about putting on winter weight, but I am determined to do something about it. As I learned after joining Weight Watchers in 2007 (and losing 50 pounds) that making small changes in our lifestyle can transform our bodies and lead to lasting results. I am worth the effort – and you are too! Please join me in welcoming spring and putting our health first. Forty-five years old in June? No problem! I am ready to take on the challenge with style, finesse, and energy. Age is just a number and I have always been a late bloomer.❤

A mini falls at Autrain Falls.

A mini falls at Autrain Falls.

Luke and Avalon loved splashing around.

Luke and Avalon loved splashing around.

I took off my Bog Boots and enjoyed the icy water.

I took off my Bog Boots and enjoyed the icy water.

A little "dip" in the creek on our property.

A little “dip” in the creek on our property.

The dogs loved taking a dip too. I love this photo of Ollie. He looks like a lion but he is as gentle as a lamb.

The dogs loved taking a dip too. I love this photo of Ollie. He looks like a lion but he is as gentle as a lamb.

John started cutting and peeling logs for our home addition and covered deck.

John started cutting and peeling logs for our home addition and covered deck.

Our ducks and new chicks are getting big.

Our ducks and new chicks are getting big.

Shakespeare II greets spring with a spirited Cock-a-doodle-do!

Shakespeare II greets spring with a spirited Cock-a-doodle-do!

Setting Healthy Goals

Blue skies
“April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.”

― T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

It is far from lilac season in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This fact is reinforced by the presence of our second snow day of the week today. Monday our spring break was extended with a day off and this morning the snow is billowing from the sky which granted us another snow day. A few weeks ago we were graced with mild temperatures and I was thrilled to see that the tulips and daffodils that I planted last fall, and the tiger lilies that I planted last summer, were beginning to emerge. Now they are covered with a thick blanket of snow. I keep telling myself that this will make their eventual blossoms all the sweeter.

Our sweet golden retriever Gracie does not let anything get her down. Look at that smile!

Our sweet golden retriever Gracie does not let anything get her down. Look at that smile!

Ollie, like his sister Gracie, also loves the snow.

Ollie, like his sister Gracie, also loves the snow.

I am thankful for our cozy log home.

I am thankful for our cozy log home.

 

Last week John and I took the kids to Lower Michigan and spent a night at Soaring Eagle Waterpark in Mount Pleasant. Needless to say, fun was had by all and we cannot wait to go back! The weather did not cooperate on our drive home, but thankfully the Mackinac Bridge was open and my husband who is an expert driver – got us home safe and sound.

Avalon and Lukas had a blast at the water park and they can't wait to go back.

Avalon and Lukas had a blast at the water park and they can’t wait to go back.

Lukas and Avalon with Granny Barb, Don, and Maddy.

Lukas and Avalon with Granny Barb, Don, and Maddy.

The Mighty Mac.

The Mighty Mac.

We enjoyed our time downstate visiting with family and friends and while we were sad to leave, it always feels great to arrive home and be greeted by our pets. We have added a couple cuties to our farm. Finally, after a year of convincing, John agreed to get a couple of ducks. Avalon and I each named one. I chose Daphne and she named one Mo. I cannot believe how fast they have grown. This means that John will be adding a pond to his long Honey-Do list this summer.
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In addition to the excitement of spring break, John surprised me with a new camera. I have wanted one for YEARS and I had my first opportunity to snap a few photos at  the Pigs-N-Heat Fire Relief hockey game that John plays in each year. I am proud that my husband participates in an event that helps so many families in our community.

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Thank you, John!

Thank you, John!

Words cannot express how thankful that I am for my camera. My lifestyle has changed drastically in the last year. As I adjust to my new role of step mom, pursue an Education Specialist degree at Northern Michigan University, and continue my career as a high school teacher – along the way I have not made time for myself. The camera is one of John’s gentle reminders that I need to make myself a priority so I do not get burnt out. Photography is one of my passions and I cannot wait to record the world and share the images with my readers.

Along with taking photos I will continue to try to encourage my family, and my online family, to make healthy choices when it comes to food. While my step kids are fans of processed food and do not share my love of fresh fruit and vegetables, I have learned to take baby steps in encouraging them to eat healthier. One of the breakfasts that I made for them over spring break I call Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits.  🍓🍧🍓 I use The Greek Gods Honey Vanilla yogurt, strawberries, crumbled graham cracker, and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. To some people this may not be a healthy breakfast and I agree that it is more of a dessert. But getting my step kids to eat any fresh produce is a victory!😉 For those that are watching their waistlines, the yogurt is indulgent and a little goes a long way – therefore, you can health-it-up and pile on the berries.

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imageAs I have shared in my last couple posts, my healthy goals have taken a backseat to a hectic lifestyle. Therefore, I am starting small with re-establishing my healthy routines. For the month of April I am committing to a minimum of fifty ounces of water a day, thirty minutes of activity, increasing my vegetable intake, and limiting my consumption of bread, pizza (homemade pizza is one of our family favorites), and chips (tortilla chips are my biggest weakness). Like in the past, I hope that being successful with these goals will help them snowball into bigger goals. When summer comes we have a lot of plans and I want to have the energy to tackle all of our projects.

April Healthy GoalsI am a goal person and I find that when I set achievable goals for myself that I am unstoppable. When I attach a reward to my goals – I find success even more eminent. However, for now I am just going to embrace my goals and will set a reward for my May and June goals. I challenge you to set and share your goals here or on my Facebook page. Studies show that when we write out our goals, post them in a prominent place, and share our goals with others we are more apt to achieve them. I hope that you are enjoying your spring and I promise to give an update soon. As warmer weather approaches I look forward to gardening and sharing more of my fresh recipes with you.

 

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Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind myself that I am not dreaming. What a gift it is to live in such a wildly, beautiful place.

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Our property is a dogs’ paradise. Is it any wonder why we have four dogs?

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Ollie has such a sweet and loving personality. Look at how gentle he treats the ducklings.

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It is the best feeling to be greeted by a wagging tail and the boundless love of a golden retriever.

The Versatility of Homemade Pizza

The Versatility of Homemade Pizza by Produce with Amy

Our house was always filled with dogs… They helped make our house a kennel, it is true, but the constant patter of their filthy paws and the dreadful results of their brainless activities have warmed me throughout the years. ~Helen Hayes

Lukas and Louie getting in some Saturday morning snuggles.

Lukas and Louie getting in some Saturday morning snuggles.

Ahhhhhhh, weekends – time to breathe and recharge! Though I think it is fair to say that we all have a bit of cabin fever in our house (yes, our four dogs and kitten too). The kids have been bickering and I have been short-tempered as I try to balance my reading for my college classes with household chores and planning out lessons for my own classroom. This weekend I did manage to organize my closet and the kids helped me fold and put away the mountain of clean laundry that always seems to sneak up. This afternoon I promised them that we would go to town so they can spend their Valentine money from Granny Barb and Grandma Karen and we will join John after he’s done with work for dinner at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants (a splurge since we do not eat out often). After dinner John has hockey practice for the Pigs-N-Heat Charity Hockey Game that he participates in each year. It’s a wonderful cause and we cannot wait to watch him take to the ice in March.

After school on Friday Avalon made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. The color nearly made my heart sink - not the healthiest thing to feed my family. Yet, the kids and John loved them. Next time we will experiment with a healthier alternative and share our recipe here!

After school on Friday Avalon made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. The color nearly made my heart sink – not the healthiest thing to feed my family. Yet, the kids and John loved them. Next time we will experiment with a healthier alternative and share our recipe here!

The kids and I started our morning with a green smoothie. Spinach, frozen bananas and strawberries, fresh pineapple, oranges, and water. I blended Greek Gods honey vanilla yogurt in their smoothies and added a large dollop of yogurt to each of their glasses. This makes up for the Pop Tart they ate yesterday and the red velvet cupcakes, right!?!😦 Baby steps! It was a bit of project getting them to finish their smoothies – but I admit the Vitamix container was FULL and their glasses were huge. At least this way I know they are getting in some nutrients. (Avalon has the sniffles today and was complaining about a sore throat.)

I had a strong week health food wise and ate an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables (and I stayed away from the kids’ after school snacks that are lurking in my classroom). Last night was an indulgent dinner and I made one of our favorite meals – PIZZA! Yes, we love pizza in our house and we really do it up BIG. The truth is that homemade pizza really isn’t that complicated and I love how versatile it is. I make sure that I keep all of the items needed for the dough on hand and I always have cheese and pepperoni (for the kids and sometimes John) frozen in the freezer. The kids are not fond of vegetables on their pizza (remember, baby steps) though Lukas will eat mushrooms. John, however, has become quite the vegetarian pizza fan. At first it was just to appease me – but now he genuinely loves the combinations that I create (minus banana peppers, olives, and the tomatoes must be sun-dried, and not fresh, for him to enjoy).

Pizza for the kids with extra cheese.

Pepperoni for the kids with extra cheese.

Last week I made dough in our bread machine (I use the recipe that came with it – but sometimes I try other recipes on Pinterest). I made two pounds of dough and cut it in half, wrapped in plastic, and tossed it in the freezer. Yesterday morning I pulled it out and it was ready to go by dinner time.

Dough is so simple to make – flour, water, salt, sugar, and yeast (I buy a jar of yeast and keep it in the refrigerator). Sometimes I add seasonings right to the dough like basil, oregano, onion, and garlic powder. Freezing it makes for a convenient dinner. Trust me, after you start making your own you will never want to rely on frozen or takeout pizza again (though I confess that sometimes we succumb to both when in a pinch).
Frozen pizza doughYesterday I decided to create a pizza for John and I with what we had in the house. I decided to forgo the tomato sauce and instead slathered in the dough with olive oil infused with fresh garlic and dried oregano. I also caramelized onions (cook slowly on low heat until brown and soft – they become unbelievable sweet and delicious) and sautéed up a bunch of mushrooms and red bell peppers.

Often I will leave the vegetables raw and add to the pizza, but cooking them first allows them to sweeten and it helps the pizza from getting too runny from all the vegetable’s water content. I love the texture of canned mushrooms on pizza (better than fresh) and I’ve found that cooking them gives them a similar texture. Plus, when I used fresh I can cut thick slices and they give the pizza a “meaty” texture. I used real butter to saute up the vegetables but you can use your favorite cooking oil (I like to use coconut oil or a cooking grade olive oil).

Pizza Toppings

HOMEMADE PIZZA – AMY’S WAY

Pizza dough right out of the oven. After I removed it, I spread one with the infused olive oil and the other with pizza sauce.

Pizza dough right out of the oven. After I removed it, I spread one with the infused olive oil and the other with pizza sauce.

Spread the dough out on a pizza stone or pizza pan by adding olive oil to the pan and the top of the dough. Work the dough out (I pat with my hands – use olive oil to keep it from sticking) and bake for ten minutes in a 350 degree oven (before putting in the oven you can add seasonings to the dough if you would like – fresh garlic and/or garlic/onion salt or powder, basil, rosemary, oregano and even grated parmesan cheese). You can let the dough cool or add the toppings right away.

I love to experiment with different sauces. I buy pre-made pizza sauce and always have it on hand in the house – or I make my own with tomato sauce, tomato paste, and a variety of spices. Sometimes I use alfredo sauce (In the past I was known for my nearly world famous shrimp alfredo pizza), salsa, or BBQ sauce – or infused olive oil – depending on what kind of pizza we want. The nice thing about pizza is it’s easy to create a variety of combinations for one meal (make small individual pizzas or go half and half with toppings).

Once the pizza is topped I cook for approximately 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven and finish under the broiler so the cheese browns. If you’re plant-based Daiya makes non-dairy cheese that works well for pizza.

While pizza not be on the healthiest meals, if you load it up with vegetables and add a salad or broth based soup in the side – it is easier to eat in moderation. Not to mention that the leftovers are to-die-for! There’s nothing like a slice of pizza for lunch the next day (or even breakfast). Sometimes that is how I convince myself from putting that extra piece on my plate😉

For this pizza I used the following:
*1/4 cup of olive oil with a couple teaspoons of minced garlic, dried oregano, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt
Olive oil infused with herbs*1 small caramelized onion
*1/2 container of mushrooms (sliced)
*1/4 cup of sun-dried tomatoes (I bought the ones in bags and “reconstituted” them by soaking in hot water for a few minutes – though some people like to add oil)
*1/4 of a large, red bell pepper (sauted. Roasted red peppers from the supermarket olive bar

are phenomenal on pizza as well)
*Feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, grated parmesan, and little bit of cheddar (honestly, I did not measure – just added a couple handfuls and about 1/4 up of feta)

 

Mushrooms are a great meat substitute.

Mushrooms are a great meat substitute.

Some of my other favorite pizza toppings are:
*banana pepper
*olives (Greek are my favorite)
*artichoke hearts
*broccoli (great with BBQ sauce)
*jalapenos (fresh or pickled)
*zucchini (sliced paper thin)
*fresh basil leaves
*spinach

If you do not make homemade pizza, I hope that my post encourages you to try it. I was intimidated at first but it’s extremely versatile and the kids love to help me create pizza masterpieces (one day I am convinced they will enjoy the vegetables). It is on John’s Honey-Do List to build us an outdoor pizza oven when he encloses our back deck. How cool will that be? I can envision the memories we will make with family and friends as we build the perfect pizza together!

What are your favorite pizza toppings and combinations? Please share – I would love some new ideas. I hope that you are enjoying your February and that you are keeping spring in your heart. Thank you for all the new follows on my Facebook page and all of the supportive and encouraging comments. Thanks to you I have my blogging mojo back. Take care, my friends and I wish you a healthy and productive week!❤


Homemade Pizza by Produce with Amy

Lemony Tomato Sauce with Dill

Lemony Tomato Sauce with Dill by Produce with Amy“There is no technique, there is just the way to do it.
Now, are we going to measure or are we going to cook?”
― Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun

I haven’t read Under the Tuscan Sun in ages and this is my reminder to do so soon. It was one of my favorites when I first began teaching and I pulled out line-after-line to share with my creative writing students. The way that Mayes described the colors of Tuscany took my breath away. Mayes writes, ” When it rains or when the light changes, the facade of the house turns gold, sienna, ocher; a previous scarlet paint job seeps through in rosy spots like a box of crayons left to melt in the sun.” In my dreams, I see the valleys she writes about — like bowls of fog  — filled with fruit tress. I want sink my teeth into figs, pears, and apricots and navigate the ancient Roman roads. I want to be there right now, don’t you? (It was -2 on my commute to work today.)

When I met John I learned that he shares my love of travel. We have plans to visit Alaska this summer – and he will be the travel director – meaning the vacation will be on his terms. Alaska was never on my bucket list before I met John but he talked so passionately about a trip he took there with his uncle and father that I want to experience the real Alaska with him. We will not be taking a cruise or staying in touristy hotels. We will be roughing it – so to say. I am nervous and excited to venture out of my comfort zone. I promise plenty of blog posts from our adventures.

I can get lost in the beauty of our home and land.

I can get lost in the beauty of our home and land.

My friends and family have found themselves shaking their heads in amusement many times over the past year as John encourages me to embrace my true Yooper. This includes helping him split and stack wood to heat our log home, cleaning the chicken coop, weeding the garden in my Bog boots and bikini, and this winter I have even learned how to load the outside wood boiler with logs.

Because marriage is about compromise, John has agreed to visit Italy and Greece – on my terms – for my 50th birthday (that gives us a substantial amount of time to save) and I cannot wait to experience the colors and flavors of the Mediterranean. In my mind’s eye I imagine the magic that  Mayes describes come to life before my eyes. I am a goal setter and I love having my eye fixed on the future and knowing that John and I can reward ourselves for hard work. It also helps me live more frugally, knowing that being wise with our money will pay off with new experiences and the wisdom gained by travel.

In my last post, Time to Make Myself a Priority Again, I shared my struggles in finding time for myself and even for cooking healthy meals. I was waving the white flag at my picky family and relying on processed food  – in return I have been feeling less than healthy. Last weekend an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, greens, and berries found their way into my shopping cart and this week I plan a repeat performance. My favorite mid-day snacks at work this week were grapefruit – peeled like an orange. They were so sweet and juicy that sugar was not needed (though I don’t think I’ve put sugar on grapefruit since I was a kid).

I love having a bottomless fruit bowl at home. Our kids love bananas and cuties.

I love having a bottomless fruit bowl at home. Our kids love bananas and cuties.

On Tuesday I got home from work and whipped up a batch of homemade marinara for a pan of vegetarian lasagna (a great way to sneak vegetables into my family’s diet). I sautéed garlic, onion, celery, red bell pepper, mushrooms, carrots, and spinach, and added one jar of store-bought spaghetti sauce and a large can of crushed tomatoes along with oregano and basil. I layered up the sauce with lasagna noodles, cottage cheese, and added three cheeses to the middle layer and top (mozzarella, parmesan, and Colby jack). My husband and stepson LOVED it – though my stepdaughter picked around her plate. Oh well, more for us!😉

Vegetarian lasagna is a great way to "trick" my family into eating vegetables. They love lasagna!

Vegetarian lasagna is a great way to “trick” my family into eating vegetables. They love lasagna! I am wild about our new Pioneer Woman dishes and accessories.

In recommitting to my health, I started thinking about all the meals that I used to enjoy but have not made in over a year because I know that John and the kids would not favor them. I have decided to cook them again. John is always willing to help in the kitchen and we will just have to eat two totally different things more often. This morning when I came downstairs after getting ready for work; not only had John made my coffee and pulled my vehicle out of the garage, but he had already put dinner in the crock pot for him and kids (ribs with BBQ sauce). On Monday I roasted potatoes, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts and made sure to make a double batch – so there was plenty for tonight. I had roasted vegetables with a GIANT dinner salad with a veggie patty and a dollop of hummus for extra protein.

My dinner salad.

My dinner salad.

After dinner I decided that I would prepare one of my favorite tomato sauces dishes to have for lunch tomorrow. As I chopped up the ingredients and juiced and zested the lemon – I could not help envision the Italy that Frances Mayes has fanned out for me in the pages of her writing. Oh, what a delight it would be to select a fresh lemon from a tree and allow its perfume to fill the kitchen.  Like the quote I shared at the top of the page – I am often a cook that creates without recipes. Of course, blogging has changed that slightly, but I always recommend that you let your own taste buds lead you. Add as much or as little lemon as you like and season with the amount of dill that satisfies you. My recipes are always a suggestion and I enjoy hearing the tweaks that individuals make to suit their family and their own tastes.

This sauce is great with a variety of olives and I have even been known to chop up some of my mom’s famous dill pickles to add to the sauce. It is fantastic over pasta or zucchini noodles  If you eat fish, tuna is a wonderful accompaniment (I have added a tin of tuna to the sauce – or topped with a piece of seared tuna steak). If you are vegetarian or follow a plant-based diet, tender white beans are a fine addition.

LEMONY TOMATO SAUCE WITH DILL

*2 cloves finely minced garlic
*1/4 cup chopped onion
*1/2 cup chopped celery
* 1 Tbsp olive oil
*32 ounces canned tomatoes (I used crushed tomatoes because that is what I had on hand. I often use whole tomatoes and break them apart a bit with a spoon or my hand. In the summer I have made this with fresh garden tomatoes and there is nothing that can compare to it.)
*10-15 olives (cut in 1/2 or chopped)
*2 Tablespoons of capers
*Fresh chopped dill (I use kitchen shears to snip and I used approximately 1/4 cup. A couple teaspoons of dried dill would work as well)
*Juice and zest from one lemon
*Black pepper to taste 
(I do not add salt since the olives and capers add enough of saltiness to the sauce)

image

 

Sauté the onions, celery, and garlic until soft. Add in the tomatoes and simmer for ten minutes. Stir in the olives, capers, dill, and lemon zest and juice – simmer a few minutes to incorporate the flavors. Spoon over pasta or zucchini noodles.

 

 

Print out the recipe here: LEMONY TOMATO SAUCE WITH DILL

I hope that you enjoy this sauce as much as I do. I cannot wait to have it for lunch tomorrow. Incidentally, after my sauce was finished bubbling on the stove – John, who was scrubbing the pans in the sink (he sweetly offered to help without my asking) – eyed the Lemony Tomato Sauce. “Try it,” I encouraged him, curious as to what he would think. “It’s good!” he responded in surprise. He thought it would be a great topping for pasta with seared tuna steak. It looks like I will be adding tuna to my shopping list. I wonder what the kids will think – I will have them try a bite (they love tuna steak).

Not only am I changing up my meals and snacks, but this weekend I am going to buy a new multivitamin and add in a vitamin D and calcium supplement. What are your favorite brands of vitamins? I am open to suggestions.

It is also at the top of my list to make more time for myself to read for pleasure, write, and focus on my photography. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has dramatic landscapes in all seasons and I need to capture the beauty of our hobby farm in the winter.

Thank you for the comments and emails – it certainly is empowering to know that I am not alone in my struggles and I love that we can help encourage each other. As I like to say about my new role of motherhood – it takes a village – and I am happy that you are part of mine!❤

Our kitten Trixie is getting big and Louie loves her so much. Not only do they snuggle together but he growls at the other dogs when they get "too close" to her.

Our kitten Trixie is getting big and Louie loves her so much. Not only do they snuggle together but he growls at the other dogs when they get “too close” to her.

Avalon and Lukas started a mutiny about school hot lunch so we bought them new lunch bags for Valentine's Day. I always send a snack with them to school but it's complicated because their school is nut free.

Avalon and Lukas started a mutiny about school hot lunch so we bought them new lunch bags for Valentine’s Day. I always send a snack with them to school but it’s complicated because their school is nut free. I will be scouring Pinterest for healthy cold lunch ideas.