Embrace the Old-Fashioned with Two Homemade Raspberry Vinaigrette Recipes: Basil & Mint

“We are asleep with compasses in our hands. ”
― W.S. Merwin

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A couple of years ago, when my niece Kristine was in high school, she gave a demonstration speech on how to can dill pickles. After her presentation, when she told me that there were students in her class that did not know that pickles were once cucumbers, I was shocked. Really? How could this happen in a rural community where vegetable gardens commonly sprout in backyards? I guess that I took it for granted that others grew up in a household similar to the one in which I was raised. Pre-bread machines my mom always made homemade bread, cake and frosting were whipped up from scratch, macaroni-and-cheese did not come out of a box, and on a weekly basis stock pots of aromatic soup simmered on the stove. Did we eat junk food and drink soda? Yes. Yet, my mom always made sure our diet was balanced out by home cooked meals and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Even when we spent long, summer days at the beach the slow-cooker was preparing some sort of wholesome, savory dish. Fast food did not exist in our hometown (aside from the seasonal drive-in restaurant) and take-out and dinners at restaurants were rare and special indulgences.

Granted, times have changed, but I think that in some ways we need to go back to the way things were in the past. My mom grew up in a large Finnish-American family with six other siblings, and because finances were lean, they had to learn how to be resourceful. I am thankful that Mom passed this resourcefulness on to me. In October of 2010, I wrote more about the lessons that my mom has instilled in me. Here is the piece that I wrote on the educational blog that I share with my best friend Heather Hollands, called Blended Voices.

The next time you are in line at the supermarket, reflect on the choices in your cart (and even other shoppers around you). It is common to hear (and participate) in conversations about how expensive groceries are these days. Yet, when you take a look at what is tossed into grocery carts there often are cheaper alternatives. Think of how many raw potatoes can be purchased for the price of a bag of potato chips. How many bags of dried beans can be purchased for the cost of canned? Compare the cost of individually packaged instant oatmeal versus a tub of old-fashioned oats. While they may be expensive, how many cherries or grapes could a twelve pack of soda purchase?

While I try to keep my grocery cart limited to whole foods, I do confess to occasional convenience food purchases. Though, I try to be more mindful of making our favorite meals by scratch, because not only is it more economical, but more nutritional as well. Plus, I like to believe that when I stretch my grocery dollar I can afford to put more organic fruit and vegetables on our table.

As I have shared in previous posts, not only are some convenience foods easy to make, but cooking from scratch helps us avoid putting chemicals into our bodies. The next time you pick up a can of soup carefully scan the ingredients. How about salad dressing? Can you pronounce the long list of additives and preservatives? If not, you might want to think about making your own. The base of vinaigrette dressings are simple: vinegar and oil and spices. For creamy dressings I add a base of raw nuts or plant-based sour cream or mayonnaise (if you eat dairy you can use mayo, Greek yogurt, or sour cream). The beauty of making your own dressing is that you can tailor them to suit your taste buds. My husband Mike and I  tend to like tangy dressings, so my vinaigrettes are heavy on vinegar and citrus juice.

Since it is summer and berries are ripe, and my garden is brimming with fresh herbs, I thought that a perfect recipe to share would be a berry vinaigrette. I choose raspberries but you could easily swap out strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, mango, pineapple, pears, plums, or peaches. In the winter frozen berries and dried herbs would work well too.

Berry vinaigrettes tend to be of the sweeter dressing variety, but instead of refined sugar I sweetened these dressings with freshly squeezed orange. (Since oranges are not in season and hard to find in some stores you could easily add mango, pineapple, peach, or another sweet fruit to the blender.)
Raspberry Basil Vinaigrette: Dijon Mustard, Orange Juice, Onion, Raspberries, Basil, White Balsamic Vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Chives, and Salt & Pepper.

Raspberry Basil Vinaigrette: Dijon Mustard, Orange Juice, Onion, Raspberries, Basil, White Balsamic Vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Chives, Garlic, and Salt & Pepper.

107RASPBERRY BASIL VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/2-1 Cup White Balsamic Vinegar (or vinegar of choice. Add in a little at a time and taste test so you can monitor the level of desired tartness)
  • 1/2 Cup Raspberries (or your berry or fruit of choice)
  • 1/2 Cup of Basil (if you are not a fan of basil you could use your favorite herb)
  • 1/8-1/4 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you could also add more. To keep the dressing more friendly on the waist-line I often keep the oil to a minimum and add the desired portion of oil directly to the salad)
  • Juice and Zest of 1/2 an Orange (Orange juice will give the berry vinaigrette a desired sweetness without adding refined sugar)117
  • 1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard (I used spicy brown mustard because that is what I had on hand)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Onion
  • 1 Tablespoon Chives (I have chives in my garden so I add them to all my dressings in the summer)
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste (or you can leave out and season the salad)

Blend well. You can chop and mix with a whisk, but I find that a blender is so easy and makes a smooth dressing.

My salad combination: Avocado, shredded carrots, radish, white beans, Greek olives, tomato, pickled beets, cucumbers, raw nuts, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and a sprinkling of chia seeds.

My salad combination: Avocado, shredded carrots, radish, white beans, Greek olives, tomato, pickled beets, cucumbers, raw nuts, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and a sprinkling of chia seeds.

As delicious as it is pretty.

As delicious as it is pretty. I love the nutritional boost that chia seeds give to a salad.

The next version of raspberry vinaigrette includes fresh mint. I love mint with both sweet and savory dishes and I wanted a dressing that would work with both. I was thinking that this would be a great dressing for a fruit salad (but I would use it on vegetables as well). This version is a little less savory because it leaves out the garlic and onion.

Raspberry Mint Vinaigrette: Raspberries, Mint, White Balsamic Vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Juice of 1/2 a Lemon, Juice of 1/2 an Orange, Chives, and Salt and Pepper.

Raspberry Mint Vinaigrette: Raspberries, Mint, White Balsamic Vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Juice of 1/2 a Lemon, Juice of 1/2 an Orange, Chives, and Salt and Pepper.

104RASPBERRY MINT VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/2-1 Cup White Balsamic Vinegar (or vinegar of choice. Add in a little at a time and taste test so you can monitor the level of desired tartness)
  • 1/2 Cup Raspberries (or your berry or fruit of choice)
  • 1/2 Cup of Mint (mint is perennial and will come up in you garden year-after-year)
  • 1/8-1/4 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you could also add more. To keep the dressing more friendly on the waist-line I often keep the oil to a minimum and add the desired portion of oil directly to the salad)
  • Juice and Zest of 1/2 an Orange (Orange juice 108will give the berry vinaigrette a desired sweetness without adding refined sugar)
  • Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon Chives (I have chives in my garden so I add them to all my dressings in the summer)
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste (or you can leave out and season the salad)Blend well and serve on your favorite salad combination.
My salad: Spinach, Avocado, Cantaloupe, Strawberries, Blueberries, and Raspberries.

My salad: Spinach, Avocado, Cantaloupe, Strawberries, Blueberries, and Raspberries.

The raspberries and mint make a bright and refreshing combination.

The raspberries and mint make a bright and refreshing combination.

Do not forget to add a couple candles and set a pretty table.

Do not forget to add a couple candles and set a pretty table. Poetry does make food taste better!

I had both of the salads featured in this post yesterday and made another one today for lunch. I am excited to try the recipe with different berries and I think it is going to be a staple in our house. Since I have a lot of basil and mint in my garden I will make sure to freeze some to use in dressings this winter.

Today as I prepared to write this post I could not help thinking about the generations before us that did not have access to convenience foods and had to make the most of what they had on hand. I think that things are changing, and as an American nation, we are starting to become more careful label readers. I always tell my students that their generation has the capacity to be wiser than my generation has been about food choices. Their generation understands the importance of recycling and taking advantage of what we have. I often tell them that one of my favorite hobbies is to go thrift-store shopping for vintage items. In fact, this is how I spent my time  this afternoon. 

Today’s thrift-store treasure came in the form of delicate, etched, vintage glasses. If we had a larger house (and if I loved to dust) I would have hundreds of these little beauties. 11I would not want a complete set either, because I love the variety of patterns and shapes they come in. I could easily be a vintage glass hoarder (especially at 25 cents each).119

These glasses are a great reminder of how much our portion sizes have changed. Not only are they beautiful, but they are so much smaller than the gargantuan goblets that are purchased in modern times.

I like to think of food in the same old-fashioned way that I appreciate 13vintage pieces and I will continue to strive to eat whole foods and make the extra time to takes to prepare meals that are nutritionally sound and fuel my body.

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Roses from our garden.

If you have found your way to my blog, I imagine that we share the same philosophy and I thank you for sharing this journey. For more salad dressing recipes you can check out the Dressing Tab. You can follow my board on Pinterest and join the conversation on my Produce with Amy Facebook page.

I do tend to be old-fashioned about many things. I would wear a dress over jeans any day, I love the word ice-box, and I believe in setting a beautiful table. I believe that food made with love, and attention to detail, tastes better.

This week, or weekend, I challenge you to do something to make your dining experience more enjoyable. Float some flowers in a vintage glass bowl, use your Grandmothers doilies as a table runner, or make your salad look like a piece of art. Find, create, and appreciate beauty and your life, and the lives of those around you, will be richer.

Raspberry Basil Vinaigrette

Click on image for a larger version.

Raspberry Mint Vinaigrette

Click on image for a larger version.

While I do not want to rush summer, this fall I look forward to going to my hometown of Crystal Falls to can pickles with my mom and Kristine. Do you know where the food on your table came from? How about starting with some homemade dressing. I promise, you will be hooked and may never buy bottled dressing again.

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Watermelon & Cucumber Splash Green Smoothie (With or Without the Greens)

12Alongside of tomatoes, watermelon has moved up to the front of the line in recent research studies on high-lycopene foods. Lycopene is a carotenoid phytonutrient that’s especially important for our cardiovascular health, and an increasing number of scientists now believe that lycopene is important for bone health as well.
~The George Mateljan Foundation

Mid-July, the sweet spot of summer, has arrived. As the thermometer soars the vegetables in the garden flourish, the roses climb, and the lilies in our front yard burst open in flames of color. While the humidity has been difficult to tolerate with temperatures in  the 90s the past few days, I try to dig deep and recall what February was like in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That instantly takes the whine out of my voice and helps me welcome the heat.

I love to take flowers and blossoms from my garden and float them in vases and bowls (with or without candles).

I love to take blossoms from my garden and float them in vases and bowls (with or without candles).

In addition to having a weak cup of green tea each morning (I gave up coffee a few weeks ago), writing in a journal, taking our dog Phoebe for a short walk (before it gets too hot), and tending to the plants outside, a couple of weeks ago I added yoga to my morning routine. Like writing, I find it helps me set the tone for the day and find my balance both physically and spiritually. Over five years ago after my husband Mike suffered a brain hemorrhage, his neurologist would not clear him for running or lifting weights. She did tell him that yoga would be acceptable and that she highly recommended it for his rehabilitation. Mike laughed. I rolled my eyes at him and rushed out and bought him three Rodney Yee DVDs from Target. Desperate to get in some physical activity, Mike relented and was hooked from his first mountain pose. I remember him commenting on what a fierce work out yoga was, “I really broke out in sweat. It reminded me of some of the PT we did when I was in the Army.”

For a few months Mike and I would start our days by doing 20 minutes of yoga first thing in the morning together (I think Mike loved it because it guaranteed 20 minutes of silence without my probing questions, “bright ideas,” and chatter). Though sadly, because of hectic schedules, we stopped doing yoga together. A couple of weeks ago I dug out the DVD and decided that I wanted to build yoga practice back into my routine (maybe Mike will join me). When I go back to teaching in the fall I hope to continue to incorporate yoga into my mornings.

I highly recommend this DVD. It contains five 20 minute routines so you can rotate and do one each weekday morning. Yee is easy to follow and this is a great DVD for beginners.

I highly recommend this DVD. It contains five 20 minute routines so you can rotate and do one each weekday morning. Yee is so talented and explains fully which makes the poses easy to follow. This particular DVD is a great one for beginners.

This morning when I was doing the forward bend sequence, Yee said something that deeply resonated with me and I have been thinking about ever since. To paraphrase, in a gentle voice he reminded, allow yourself to be in your body, not in your mind. Like poetry, yoga allows us to slow down and concentrate on the moment. It may extremely difficult to shut our mind down and focus on our breathing and the stretch and sway of our bodies, but it is powerful when we attempt to do so. It helps profoundly to let the stress, anxiety, questions, and mile long to-do lists melt away (even if it is just for twenty minutes).

I believe that this philosophy of listening to my body is something that I discovered that I needed to be more aware of when I started Weight Watchers. In fact, six years ago TODAY was the day that I made my goal weight. Often in meetings I share with my members that many weight management experts talk about how it is important for one to discern between food cravings that happen from the neck up and those that occur from the neck down. I try (not always successfully) to listen to what my body NEEDS instead of the cravings that my head WANTS. This year I decided that my mantra would be, “Quality, not quantity,” when it comes to food and I think I have done a great job sticking to my plan to see food as fuel and nutrients. Well, except for the past couple weekends…

The past two weekends have been overflowing with family, friends, laughter, sodium laden food, beverages, steamy temperatures, and not enough water or fresh fruit and vegetables. I knew the moment that I stepped on the scale Monday I would cringe. I did. With hot weather and sodium it is normal for my body to retain water and I found myself up five pounds. Instead of throwing in the towel and feeling miserable and guilty, I created a plan to move more and start rehydrating myself properly. Today I can happily say that three days into the week and I am back at the weight I was Saturday for my weigh-in and I am continuing to hydrate and stay active.

Plain water is not a struggle for me (when I am mindful), and I normally drink multiple glasses a day, but I also know that our bodies get an abundance of water from fresh fruit and vegetables. So to help myself stay hydrated in this heat I am also consuming a green smoothie in the morning and one after dinner for my evening snack. Because I was so mindful of water retention the past couple weeks I have been eating a lot of cucumbers on salads because they contain properties that help our bodies ease bloating. When I shopped this week I also picked up a watermelon (because what can possibly be more refreshing in the stifling heat when you do not have air conditioning?) So I came up with a recipe that combines both cucumbers and watermelon and it was so cool and revitalizing that Mike and I both drank two (okay, maybe I had three 😉 )
Summer on a plate!

Summer on a plate!

This summer I have been finding my body craving green smoothies that are not very sweet. This smoothie is an example of one that contains less sugar. If you prefer a sweeter smoothie I recommend the addition of a frozen banana or another higher sugar fruit such as grapes, a peach, mango, or pineapple. The fresh mint could also be omitted but if you have some in your garden I recommend throwing in a handful to further enhance the freshness. A small amount of fresh basil or rosemary would also be a wonderful flavor addition to this drink.
7The texture of this smoothie was very light, and it is more like a juice, than a thick smoothie. You could add more ice if you wanted it thicker and if you are not a fan of green smoothies this combination would be delicious without the greens. The taste of the cucumber is very dominant so if you want the taste of the watermelon to over-ride the smoothie I would recommend going extremely light on the cucumber. 
Watermelon, cucumber, spinach, fresh mint, lime, and chia seeds.

Watermelon, cucumber, spinach, fresh mint, lime, and chia seeds.

WATERMELON & CUCUMBER SPLASH GREEN SMOOTHIE

  • 143 Cups of Spinach (or greens of choice. I have been plucking turnip greens from my garden and love them in smoothies. Beet greens, radish tops, and carrot tops also are superb out of the garden.)
  • 3 Cups of Watermelon 
  • 1/2 Cup of Cucumber (I left the seeds. Again, you might want to experiment with the cucumber and watermelon ratio to discover what your taste buds find pleasing)
  • Fresh Mint
  • Juice of 1/2 a Lime (use zest to amp up the lime flavor)
  • Chia Seeds (I added 2 Tablespoons. They are high in Omega-3 and make the smoothie more filling)
  • Handful of Ice Cubes (since the water content of the cucumber and watermelon is so high I did not add water but used ice to make the green smoothie cold. You could also chill it for a bit in the refrigerator before drinking. Coconut water would be a phenomenal addition to this smoothie since it contains properties that help rehydrate.)

This combination of ingredients made 32 ounces. It is so light and fresh you may find yourself wanting to make a double batch to keep in the refrigerator. It would keep well for a couple of days (it may separate but would still taste terrific) and would be a welcome relief in the heat.

These margarita glasses were a gift from my WW members and were hand painted by one of my member's mothers.

These margarita glasses were a gift from my WW members and were hand painted by one of my member’s mother.

Do not let the green color frighten you. The green smoothies taste like fruit and bursting with nutrition.

Do not let the green color frighten you. The green smoothies taste like fruit and are bursting with nutrition.

“The earth laughs in flowers.”  ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The earth laughs in flowers.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you are interested in trying some other green smoothies, check out these green smoothie recipes. Are you interested in other cucumber recipes? Here is recipe for a plant-based Creamy Cucumber & Dill Dressing and Cucumber Gazpacho Soup.

You also can find Produce with Amy recipes on 
PinterestPlease consider joining the conversation at my Produce with Amy facebook page.

I hope you make time today to listen. Listen to the sky, the wind, the water. Steep yourself in silence or the gentle rhythm of birdsong. Listen to what your body is telling you that it needs. Are you getting enough sleep? If you are feeling sluggish do you need to drink more water or get up and move and stretch? Do you think that adding more fresh fruit and vegetables into your meals and snacks might give you an energy boost? How about replacing that nightly indulgence of ice cream with a cold and creamy green smoothie? Stop and listen to your body.  Enjoy each ray of sunshine because before we know it the sweet spot of summer will have slipped away. Cheers to plants, healthy routines, and for the wisdom we gain on this journey. Most importantly, remember that you are worth the time that you make for yourself! Namaste.

Click on the image for a larger version.

Click on the image for a larger version.

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Create beauty.

Create beauty.

 

Sunrise Green Smoothie with Mango & Pineapple (and Forty-Two Candles)

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life, and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”
–Sophia Loren

Lake Superior sunrise the last week of June.

Lake Superior sunrise the last week of June.

Yesterday morning, the sky threatened rain and I was determined to not let the weather set a gloomy atmosphere. Instead, I decided to make my own vibrant sunrise in the form of a green smoothie. 14My summer morning routine has been spending my first 30-60 minutes reflecting in my personal journal. I like to listen to classical or meditative music and sometimes, when the weather is murky, I even light a couple of candles. I profoundly believe that we are in charge of our own emotions and moods and I find that quiet time writing and contemplating helps set a positive tone for my day.

I cannot say that I have always been this wise, but in recent years, my state of mind has made a jubilant transformation. The last week of June I celebrated my birthday, and instead of feeling trepidation that I was getting older, I felt a wave of peace wash over me as I blew out my candles 3(metaphorically, since I did not have a cake). My husband Mike and I are not big on celebrating birthdays or anniversaries. However, this year felt different. Mike did buy me a very special present (which I will explain in a future blog post) and when asked what I wanted to do, I told him that I wanted to watch the sun rise over Lake Superior. We were up at 5:00 a.m. and at the lake shore by 5:45. It was in the 40s that morning and not only was the water frigid, but the sand was so icy it instantly turned our feet numb. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Mike snapped  brilliant photos of the sun climbing the horizon and it was the perfect way to welcome my forty-second year.
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The contentment that I felt on my birthday was due to how confident I feel in my 40s. I owe much of my positive outlook to the knowledge that I have gained on my Weight Watchers journey. While I would love to have the body back that I had in my 20s — I also remember achieving it in unhealthy ways. I worked out like crazy and didn’t properly nourish my body. (Which obviously was not healthy but also impossible to maintain.) Instead of focusing on health, my goals were strictly for reasons of vanity. Though, after experiencing a major health scare at thirty-five (I suffered a pulmonary embolism) I am thankful that Weight Watchers has helped guide me down the path of nutrition and establishing healthy Routines and Spaces.

My lilies are starting to bloom.

My lilies are starting to bloom.

This month I will be celebrating my six-year anniversary of reaching Lifetime with Weight Watchers and I have learned so much and have had an inspiring support system along the way. I believe that education, self-reflection, and support are imperative to weight management. A healthy lifestyle helps keep our bodies AND our minds vibrant. Weight Watchers has had a positive ripple effect on my life: It has impacted my personal relationships, organization, ability to plan ahead, and I now have the energy and determination that I need to harness my creativity. Weight Watchers has taught me to be gentle with myself and that food is not a reward, nor is it something that I should feel guilty about. The beauty of the program is that if I encounter a stumbling block, I do not have to wait until the new year, the beginning of the month, or even a new week to start over ~ each meal, each snack, gives me the opportunity to start fresh. Without the experience and knowledge that I have gained with Weight Watchers, I would never have had the confidence to start this blog. Embracing a healthy lifestyle makes me want to help others do the same. Nothing thrills me more than getting a thank you from someone who has tried one of my recipes or was inspired by my reflections here on Produce.

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Mike, Phoebe, and I. We look so happy you cannot tell how frigid the air, sand, and water were that morning.

I am thankful that Mike and I celebrated my forty-second year by getting up early on a Sunday and braving the chilly morning. We promised to make time to see the sunrise from the shore again this summer. It felt like the perfect way to start out a new year and yesterday I as I started my day, I imagined the dreamy kaleidoscope of pastels stretching across the horizon. Drinking my Sunrise Green Smoothie I knew that I had to share my recipe with others who are also embracing a healthy lifestyle. As Weight Watchers has taught me, “Together we achieve more.”

This smoothie is the perfect for those that are new to green smoothies. I always suggest adding a frozen banana for sweetness, but I find with this recipe that the banana is not needed since the mango and pineapple do the trick. It is one of my favorite combinations and I love the bright green color gracing my glass.
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  • 3 cups of spinach or greens of choice (Spinach is naturally sweet and a great 6choice for those new to green smoothies. I also love kale in this smoothie. This is a great combination for kale and other stronger tasting greens because the sweet fruit helps mask the bitterness)
  • 1 cup coconut water (I used young coconut water with pulp. Regular water would be fine as well.)
  • 1/2 cup of pineapple (I used fresh)
  • 1/2 cup of mango (I used fresh but I often buy it frozen)
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 Tablespoon of chia seeds (Optional ~ I find chia seeds make the smoothie more filling and chia seeds are high in Omega-3)
  • Few sprigs of fresh mint (Also optional. 7Because it is summer and I have mint in my garden, I toss it into everything. Mint is great with sweet and savory dishes and since it is a perennial plant it comes back year-after-year)

You might want to freeze your fruit beforehand or toss in a few ice cubes if you want your green smoothie to be cold. 

Other great additions to this smoothie are:

  • Fresh ginger root
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Fresh parsley
  • Celery
  • Avocado

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20If you are interested in checking out my other green smoothie recipes I have links to previous posts on the Green Smoothie tab. You also can find Produce with Amy posts on Pinterest.

What are some of your favorite green smoothie combinations? I would love to hear from you. Please post in the comment section or join the conversation at my Produce with Amy facebook page. If you are new to green smoothies, please do not hesitate to ask questions. Many of my Weight Watchers members were leary to try them but now many of them are as hooked as I am.

I really notice a difference in my energy levels and how my body feels when I am consuming many servings of fruit and vegetables and green smoothies are a great way to start your day. They are also great as a snack because they help curb starchy carbohydrate cravings. Sometimes, I like to have one pre-dinner and, of course, the sweeter combinations serve well as a post-dinner dessert. 17

My goal for my new year is to nourish my body and mind well so I feel more alive. I will strive to find happiness in simple things, like a Lake Superior sunrise, that sometimes get neglected because of a demanding schedule. I will be mindful of seeking and creating beauty.

Do something special for yourself today. Sip a green smoothie and reflect on where you want to be tomorrow and on your next birthday. I raise my glass to you. Cheers to embracing a healthy lifestyle and thriving!

Click on image for a larger version.

Click on image for a larger version.

Phoebe and I greet a new year.

Phoebe and I greet a new year.

Creamy Cucumber & Dill Dressing ~ Homemade & Plant-Based

95“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” 
― Henry James

I am so thankful for a relaxing Independence Day weekend. Mike and I basked in the glow of family, friends, laughter, and sunshine. We spent many hours on the water and were sad to see the weekend come to an end.

Even though I had the best of intentions, I ended up overdoing it on chips, picnic food, and beverages. The heat and sodium really impacts my body so the past couple of days I have been making sure that I am staying hydrated with plenty of water, fruit, and vegetables.

Did you know that cucumbers contain properties that help bring down water retention? Not only are cucumbers comprised of over 90% water but they are also great for our skin and joints because they contain the vitamins A, B, and C and the minerals potassium, magnesium, and silica. Cucumbers aid in digestion and are such a crisp and nourishing addition to salads. Yesterday, while gathering groceries, I added six large cucumbers to my shopping cart (sadly the cucumbers that I planted a long way off from harvesting). This morning I woke up craving cucumbers, so for breakfast I had a salad with cucumbers, romaine, red leaf lettuce, tomato, green bell pepper, avocado, and topped with a plant-based Creamy Cucumber and Dill Dressing that I whipped up. It was  fresh and delicious and really hit the spot after an indulgent weekend. Cucumber and dill make the perfect combination and this recipe will be fantastic with summer’s abundance of crisp cucumbers in the supermarket, the farmers market, and if you are lucky ~ in your garden.

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CREAMY CUCUMBER & DILL DRESSING

  • 1 large cucumber with seeds removed (2 cups. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds)13
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk (If you consume dairy you could swap this out for plain Greek yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup of raw nuts of choice (I used a mix that included cashews, almonds, macadamia, and walnuts) The nuts help give the dressing body and thickness without using the chemicals and additives found in store-bought dressings.
  • 1/4 cup lemon or lime juice (I would recommend lemon but I used lime since that is what I had on hand)
  • 3 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar (any vinegar would work but rice vinegar tends to be more mild)
  • 1 Tablespoon onion
  • 1 clove garlic (1/2 if is is a large clove)
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill (dried would work and I would suggest adding a bit at a time and taste test)14
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional ~ sprig of fresh mint and chives (I add to everything in the summer since I have both in my garden. Mint works well with cucumber)

Blend well and chill in a jar or cruet.  I recommend serving the dressing cold.

This recipe makes 2 cups so if you do not eat salads often, you might want to make half of the recipe.

I buy raw nuts in the bulk section of our local co-op. However, I also purchase raw nuts t from Target.

I buy raw nuts in the bulk section of our local co-op. However, I also purchase raw nuts t from Target.

This dressing will keep for up to a week or longer (because of the vinegar and citrus)  in the refrigerator.

It tends to thicken while stored so you might want to thin it out with a bit of water or more vinegar or citrus juice.

I did not add any oil to the dressing. When I dressed my salad this morning I measured out 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil so I could get exactly the serving of oil that I desired.

I always make sure to plant fresh herbs in the summer. Mint and chives are perennials and will come back each year.

I always make sure to plant fresh herbs in the summer. Mint and chives are perennials and will come back each year. Mint can be invasive so you might want to plant it in a pot and bury in the ground. I do not mind it flourishing and have ours planted in a corner flower bed.

I love the cucumber dressing on top of sliced cucumbers. What a perfect summer salad.

I love the cucumber dressing on top of sliced cucumbers. What a perfect summer salad.

This was my breakfast. In the summer I  love starting my day with something light and refreshing.

This was my breakfast. In the summer I love starting my day with something light and refreshing.

Homemade dressing ~ free of additives.

Homemade dressing ~ free of additives.

If you are interested in other homemade plant-based dressings, here are some that I featured in previous posts:

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

Orange Dill Vinaigrette

Tangy Ranch and Zesty Avocado

In this post, I use homemade hummus and my twist on tabouli for salad dressing: Israeli Feast

These salad dressing recipes and recipes from other posts can be found at my Produce with Amy Pinterest board.

I hope you enjoy the Creamy Cucumber and Dill Dressing as much as I do.  It would make a great dip for vegetables and it is similar to Greek tzatziki sauce and would be terrific on a sandwich or wrap.

It is a perfect taste of summer and a great way for us to fill our  plate with this season’s freshest produce. July is here for us to savor and appreciate and choosing healthy foods will give us the energy and stamina we need to stay active and productive. Have a great week!

Creamy Cucumber and Dill Dressing

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Perk Up Your Plate with Spicy Brown Rice and Snappy Salsa

20“Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I’m taking with me when I go.” ~Erma Bombeck

Before I joined Weight Watchers in October of 2006, boxed rice and pasta mixes were regularly tossed into my shopping cart as an easy side to a meal. Yet, quickly I learned that making my own brown rice had a lot of healthy benefits (not to mention being easier on my budget since I could buy brown rice in bulk which afforded me more fresh produce). While some people can stomach plain brown rice, I tend to favor more flavorful combinations, so quickly I learned to enhance rice side dishes with vegetables and herb and spice combinations.

When I switched to plant-based meal plans a couple of years ago I discovered that my go-to meals would often take inspiration from Mexican dishes. Beans are a huge staple in our house and my favorite way to eat them is to combine them with spicy brown rice, homemade salsa, and guacamole.

Brown rice is very versatile and I like to make the Spicy Brown Rice in bulk. It is wonderful warm, or even cold, as an accompaniment to a salad. Sometimes while it is still warm I fold in chopped spinach or kale, vegetable stock, black beans, and garnish the bowl with a squeeze of lemon and chopped cilantro ~ Voila…a one pot meal that is filling and healthy.

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SPICY BROWN RICE

  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (I used chunky Muir Glen. Sometimes I add the entire can if I want extra tomato flavor. You can also add a few fresh chopped tomatoes)

    Homemade Taco Seasoning

    Homemade Taco Seasoning

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 yellow bell pepper (or color of your choice)
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 4 oz can of fire roasted chilis
  • 2 Tablespoons of Homemade Taco Seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil (or cooking oil of choice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Saute onion, garlic, celery in coconut oil until soft
  2. Add water, rice, and other ingredients

Simmer for approximately 60 minutes until rice is done. Stir often and add extra water if needed. Rendered six cups of rice. Will keep in the refrigerator for several days.

22Snappy Salsa by Produce with AmySNAPPY SALSA (Pico de gallo)

  • 3 large chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • Cilantro chopped (to taste. I added 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 lime (juice and zest)
  • 1/2 finely chopped jalapeno (To taste. Sometimes I add extra if I want my salsa to have a kick)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all the ingredients.
  2. The salsa gets more flavorful as the ingredients mingle so it is a good idea to make a few hours in advance.
  3. You can drizzle with extra virgin olive oil before serving.

When I make salsa, I normally do not measure and simply toss in the ingredients. Sometimes I add chopped parsley, avocado, mango, and I have even added pineapple for a sweet and savory taste. The salsa gets very juicy and this week when we finished off the salsa I reserved the juice and added extra ingredients for another batch. I cannot get enough of this salsa.

We enjoyed this salsa this past week with blue corn tortilla chips and homemade guacamole.

We enjoyed this salsa this past week with blue corn tortilla chips and homemade guacamole.

My husband Mike topped the mini-tortilla pizzas I made with fresh salsa.

My husband Mike topped the mini-tortilla pizzas I made with fresh salsa.

In addition to the Spicy Brown Rice and Snappy Salsa, I am addicted to guacamole. In a previous blog post, Layered Refried Bean and Guacamole Dip, I shared a simple recipe for guacamole. This week I left out the Vegan sour cream and taco seasoning and add extra lime and a dash of cumin instead. While my favorite way to eat guacamole is with tortilla chips, I often use fresh chopped vegetables as dippers for a healthier option.

Eating healthy does not have to translate to bland food if you get creative with ingredients. I will continue to share my different flavor combinations for brown rice and other side dishes. Here is a link to my Pinterest board if you are interested in pinning any of my recipes: Produce with Amy.

With summer in full swing I hope you are enjoying the abundance of produce at the grocery store and at your community farmers markets. Thank you for reading my blog and stay tuned for more fruit and vegetable rich recipes. Together we will reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. ❤

I LOVE avocado. As I have said in an earlier post, I could eat cardboard if it had a smear of avocado on it.

I LOVE avocado. As I have said in an earlier post, I could eat cardboard if it had a smear of avocado on it.

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette Dressing

12Cilantro is an annual member of the carrot family that has been grown for thousands of years. It is popular in South American, Mexican, Asian, and Mediterranean dishes. The leaves are used as seasonings in salsas, guacamole, grain salads. The seed is called coriander. Unripened, it has a citrusy flavor and can be used like fennel as a breath freshener, or as a flavoring for fish dishes. The ripened coriander is milder and is used in pickles, curries, bakery, sorbet, etc. The root is also added to curries, and the stems to bean dishes. The oil from the seed is used in perfumes, toothpastes, liquors and massage oils.
~ How To Garden Advice .Com

Cilantro tends to be a herb that people either love or hate. Personally, I love the bright green flavor that cilantro brings to meals and I add it to salsa, salads, guacamole, garnish soups, and I even enjoy it blended into my green smoothies.11

One of my goals this summer was to come up with recipes for salad dressings. Homemade vinaigrette is simple to throw together, composed of common staples, and is free of additives and preservatives. Also, in the summer I have easy access to fresh herbs outside in my container garden. My Orange Dill Vinaigrette Dressing was a hit so I thought that I would experiment with cilantro.

When it comes to salad dressing I tend to really like it to be tangy. On the rare occasion when I purchase bottled dressing I cut half of the bottle with lemon and vinegar. Therefore, if you do not prefer your dressing on the tart side, you may want to make some adjustments to my recipe. I used raw apple cider vinegar in the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette that I made today. I find that raw apple cider vinegar does have quite a sharp taste to it so if you want a dressing with less tang you could use a milder vinegar. Rice vinegar tends to be less acidic and balsamic vinegar is much sweeter (if you use an aged balsamic vinegar you might want to use some water to thin it a bit. White balsamic vinegar is also a great choice). I keep the oil to a minimum in my vinaigrette to keep it waist line friendly and you could add extra oil to make the vinegar less pungent. The addition of sugar or Stevia would also balance out the tangy vinegar. Taste as you blend the dressing (I like to use pieces of celery to dip in the blender) and tweak and satisfy your taste buds.

If you want a creamy dressing you can take a serving of the Cilantro Lime Dressing and mix it with a Tablespoon or two of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt. I tried this method with Vegan sour cream, added a dash of hot sauce, and served it over cold black beans and tomatoes for dinner and thought it provided a fantastic taste explosion.

Olive oil, lime, cilantro, garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper, and onion.

Olive oil, lime, cilantro, garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper, and onion.

CILANTRO LIME VINAIGRETTE DRESSING

  • 141/2-1 cup of vinegar of choice (add a little at a time and taste as you go to decide how much vinegar your tastebuds enjoy)
  • 1 lime (juice and zest)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons onion
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like spice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

VitamixBlend ingredients well and pour into a shakeable cruet or jar in the refrigerator. Your vinaigrette should keep for several weeks (if it lasts that long).

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This afternoon for lunch I had the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette on a taco salad that had black beans, homemade salsa and guacamole, and spicy brown rice. It was very satisfying and 16the salad was so huge I could not finish it all so I wrapped a portion and put it in the refrigerator. Tonight when I ate the salad I found that the flavors had mingled well and I cannot wait to have the dressing again tomorrow.

Not only would it make a great dressing for green salads but this summer dressing would be great drizzled over roasted or grilled vegetables, to dress corn and tomato salad, to flavor black beans, sprinkled over tacos, and even as a flavor enhancement for fresh salsa and guacamole.

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If you are interested in other salad dressing recipes, previously I posted my two recipes for plant-based Tangy Ranch and Zesty Avocado. You can find this and other recipes on Pinterest.

I hope you enjoy the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette Dressing. Please leave a comment and join the conversation by “liking” my Produce with Amy Facebook group. Recipe reviews are always appreciated and it is helpful for me to learn what recipes people are interested in. I love being able to help others maximize their health and productivity by eating more fresh fruit and vegetables. Cheers to additive and preservative free salad dressing, summer herb gardens, and thriving!

Click on image for a larger version.

Click on image for a larger version.