Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette

Sunflowers from my garden.

Sunflowers from my garden.

This afternoon was the colour of water falling through sunlight; The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves; The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple leaves, And the houses ran along them laughing out of square, open windows.” ~Amy Lowell

The first day of fall. Transition. We have arrived at the half-way point of September which makes me acutely aware that changes are coming. Even though I was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan I am never ready for the cold weather to arrive. In the mornings our house has been chilly but Mike and I cling to our stubbornness and refuse to turn the furnace on. Mike uses the phrases my parents tossed around: put on a sweatercover up with a blanket, you can’t even see your breath yet!  Monday morning he met my whine with, Do some yoga, you’ll warm up! 

I have long said that living in the U.P. gives one bragging rights and not only do we dread the heat bill, but there seems to be an unofficial contest to see who can wait the longest to turn on the heat (I know from Facebook posts that some of my Yooper friends have already lost the contest). In the same spirit of endurance the flower boxes on the front of our house still brandish geraniums and last weekend I painted my toenails with plum nail polish since I refuse to put my sandals away.

Phoebe enjoys a joyful afternoon drive.

Our sweet Phoebe enjoys a joyful autumn afternoon ride.

As the weather cools, I know that I have to be mindful of my meals and come up with healthy versions of comfort food. While I would love to wax poetic about spiced pumpkin lattes and the cinnamon tinged aroma of baking apples, I know that for myself fall translates to food and exercise related challenges. Last weekend I searched through my Weight Watchers eTools account and took a peek at my weekly weigh-ins for the last few years during autumn. I found a trend. While I started out August strong, for the past three years during November (right around Thanksgiving) I stumbled with my weight management and gained a few pounds. While I do contribute this challenge to the hectic school year and lack of energy to workout (A.K.A. excuses), I know that the weather and my mood greatly contributes to this as well. Last January (2013) I started Produce with Amy as an extra incentive to get back on track. I started drinking a daily green smoothie, made time to work out, and tried my best to stay faithful to a plant-based meal plan. This year I am determined to keep my motivation high and focus on activity and making sure that I do not get into a food rut.

Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salads

Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salads

One thing that is really helping me stay on track with my weight management is making Mason jar salads on the weekend to bring to work for lunch during the week. I can fill a one quart jar with a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, berries, grains, seeds, pasta, nuts, and protein. The glass jars keep the ingredients fresh for up to a week and I only have to prep once for a week of lunches.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I was going to conduct an experiment. I set a timer and prepped our lunches before bed. I made Mike’s sandwich, cut up and packaged vegetables for snacks, portioned out raw nuts, filled our water bottles, and blended up my two green smoothies (one for breakfast and one for my 1/2 hour commute home). I was shocked to see that this process took me twenty-three minutes. While I often use the excuse that I “do not have time for exercise” I decided that if I prep our lunches and make my smoothies before bed that I am making precious time in the morning for myself to workout.

This year I will embrace the cold weather induced transition into sweater dresses, tights, boots, and scarves, but I will NOT welcome wearing extra pounds this winter. Mason jar salads are helping me transition back into my full-time work schedule and I refuse to use a mountainous pile of grading, exhausting days of lecturing and managing large classroom rosters, and early mornings be an excuse to not stay committed to my weight management goals. I CAN and I WILL stay grounded, balanced, and committed to my healthy routines.

For my Mason Jar Salads this week I decided to take advantage of seasonal produce. I have witnessed tons of pumpkin and apple recipes posted on social networking sites so I decided to create my own healthy recipe. I thought that pumpkin would make a unique salad dressing and would give the salad a fall flair. 11 PUMPKIN VINAIGRETTE DRESSING

  • 1/2 cup of vinegar (I used raw apple cider vinegar. You may want to vary the amount of vinegar based on how tart you like your dressing. I recommend adding a little bit at a time and tasting the dressing as you go)
  • 3/4 cup of pumpkin (I used canned but your own freshly baked or roasted would work as well)
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (you can always leave the oil out and add it individually to your salad for portion control)
  • 1/4 cup of water (the dressing was thick so I thinned it out with some water. You could add extra vinegar. If you want to use it as a dip you could leave it thick)
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 lemon ~ juice and zest 
  • 3 green onions (you could use regular onion)
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger root 
  • 1 Tablespoon of pure maple syrup (you could also use honey)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Blend dressing until smooth. The combination of sweet, savory, tart, and spicy ingredients in this dressing really make a pleasing combination.

Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salads with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing

Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salads with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing

When making Mason Jar Salads  put the dressing in first and keep it away from the greens. The acid in the dressing will make the greens slimy. If you close tight (I do not vacuum seal my jars) they will keep for over a week in the refrigerator. When you are ready to eat you can shake, and either pour the salad out on a plate or bowl, or eat straight out of the jar.

Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salads with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing

Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salads with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing

APPLE-A-DAY MASON JAR SALADS I layered these ingredients, in the following order, in one quart Mason jars. (I made five salads)

  • 3 Tablespoons of Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing (I also sprinkled a little extra raw apple cider vinegar on top of the vinaigrette since I like my dressing tart)
  • Carrots (I used four carrots)
  • Granny Smith apple wedges (2 apples)
  • Pink Lady apple wedges (or your favorite variety of red apple. I used two apples.)
  • Raw pumpkin seeds (you could use toasted pumpkin seeds. Sunflower seeds would work as well as nuts)
  • Dried cranberries
  • Chopped green onions (I used both the white and the green part of the onion.)
  • Chopped cabbage (cabbage works well in Mason jar salads and it stays crunchy and fresh. I used green cabbage but purple would be a colorful and healthy too)
  • Romaine lettuce

Thinly sliced fennel would be excellent in this salad as well as pears. Pin the recipe here.

Sweet and Savory ingredients make these Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salads with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing a seasonal hit!

Sweet and Savory ingredients make these Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salads with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing a seasonal hit!

I have been bringing Mason Jar Salads to work each day and they help fuel me through a busy day. In the past I have struggled with the temptation of working through lunch and I am finding that these salads are so satisfying and delicious that I look forward to making time to sit down and eat. The abundance of nutrients in the fruit and vegetables will help boost my immune system during the cold and flu season.

If you are interested in other Mason Jar Salads, please check out my salad tab.You can follow my recipes on Pinterest and please like my Produce with Amy Facebook page.

Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing.

Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing.

 

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Garden Fiesta Mason Jar Salad

Yesterday I harvested tomatoes from my garden.

Yesterday I harvested tomatoes from my garden.

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” ~Lewis Grizzard

I have a confession to make. Yesterday, I bought a bag of tortilla chips. The prospect of the fresh salsa and guacamole that I was making today for my latest Mason jar salad was too tempting. As you may know from previous posts, tortilla chips are my weakness. While I grew up having a sweet tooth, I must say that fresh fruit has replaced chocolate coated sugary treats for me. Yet, I love the salty crunch of tortilla chips. The decision to buy the tortilla chips was not on impulse. It was a well thought out purchase and I will portion out each serving and carefully track in my Weight Watchers eTools account.

With week #2 of the school year in the rear view mirror I was faced with some serious self-reflection. The first week I struggled with making time to eat the lunch and snacks that I packed for work and I did much better last week. In the morning I made an extra green smoothie to sip on during my 1/2 hour commute home and this worked marvelously. However, I REALLY struggled with getting to bed early enough to wake up with the energy to exercise. My goal this week will be to get to bed between 10:00 and 10:30 and be up by 4:45-5:00. Eventually, I would like to be to bed even earlier. Baby steps.

Mason Jar Salads are the perfect lunch to take to work. I love that I can make them on Saturday or Sunday and the last one that I eat on Friday tastes just as fresh as the first. This week I wanted to make sure that my salad was hearty enough to fuel me through an intense teenager-filled-day (all my classes, with the exception of one, have over thirty students with one class roster at thirty-six).

(Click on the photo to see a larger version)

(Click on the photo to see a larger version)

When I stopped eating meat, beans became my protein staple. I found Mexican food very easy to work into a plant-based meal plan (thus, began my tortilla chip obsession). I decided that one of my go-to salads could easily be converted to a Mason Jar Salad.

Garden Fiesta Jarred Salad

GARDEN FIESTA MASON JAR SALAD
I layered these ingredients, in the following order, in one quart Mason jars:

  •  Snappy Salsa (I added extra lime juice and used 1/2 a cup. Make sure you include the juice.)1
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil (per jar to make sure I get my WW recommended daily serving of healthy oil)
  • Yellow, orange, and green bell pepper strips
  • White beans (1/4 cup)
  • Black beans (1/4 cup)
  • Spicy Brown Rice (1/2 a cup)
  • Guacamole (1/4 cup. I added extra lime juice and left out the sour cream)
  • Black olives (5 per jar)
  • Fresh mango
  • Fresh pineapple (sadly the pineapple that I purchased was not very ripe)
  • Romaine lettuce

Pin this recipe here.

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I love the crunch and nutritional boost that bell peppers provide. They are high in Vitamin C which is so important for our immune systems.

I love the crunch and nutritional boost that bell peppers provide. They are high in Vitamin C which is so important for our immune systems this time of year.

Since I consider the Mason Jar Salads a meal, and not just a side item, I do not go skimpy on the protein and other ingredients and my jar salads are usually 7-10 Points Plus value. I do have pint-sized jars that I use to make dinner/side salads and those are usually only a couple of Points Plus each. Easily the Mason Jar Salads can be tweaked to meet your specifications.

It is amazing how much produce you can stuff inside a one quart jar and it FILLS a large dinner plate. Jarred salads are a fantastic way to meet your fruit and vegetable Good Health Guidelines.

This summer I made a plated version of this salad with homemade Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette Dressing. This dressing would be a great addition to this Mason Jar Salad but I thought that the juicy salsa and creamy guacamole would suffice.
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If you are interested in other Mason Jar Salads, please check out my other salad recipes.You can follow my recipes on Pinterest and please like my Produce with Amy Facebook page.

Now that my blog is written and I earned a sticker on the calendar for the Fall Forward Healthy Lifestyle Challenge (It is not too late to join) I am going to have a mid-day snack of salsa, guacamole, and tortilla chips. 😉 I hope you are spending your Sunday exactly as you wish ~ relaxing, watching football, or maybe checking off your own to-do list and recharging for another busy week. Remember that food is fuel and make sure you fill your plate (or jar) with an abundance of fruit and vegetables. I promise to keep the Mason Jar Salad recipes coming!
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Glowing Green Mason Jar Salads with Avocado Vinaigrette Dressing

13“Your hands hold roses always in a way that says
They are not only yours; the beautiful changes
In such kind ways,
Wishing ever to sunder
Things and things’ selves for a second finding, to lose
For a moment all that it touches back to wonder.”
~Richard Wilbur (from The Beautiful Changes)

The leaves in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan have been slowly changing color for several weeks. The temperatures have been chilly in the morning and reach perfect mid-to-high seventies in the afternoon. Yet, even when the thermometer climbs, there is a hint of fall goosebumps in the air. The hummingbirds have ceased their frenzied sips from the feeders and soon we will see great arcs of honking geese as they migrate across the cloud-marbled sky. My roses have made one last stand by erupting into pink ruffled cups. Next week I anticipate white and red roses and perhaps the sunflowers will put on a show.

It is Sunday and I am proud to say that I survived the first week back to school. Retraining my body to be productive early in the morning, large classes, mentoring a student teacher, and a course that I have never taught before took every ounce of energy that I had, but the week was satisfying and gave me hope. I eagerly await the writing and stories that will unfold in my classroom. It is going to be an exhausting, satisfying, and rewarding year full of growth and creativity! Instead of being overwhelmed by the work ahead, I will stay true to my healthy goals. I know that sticking to my plant-based diet and making time to exercise will give me more energy and keep my immune system strong during the long winter ahead. I want to be the best teacher that I can be and I want to be a healthy role model for my students.

I was excited to share with my creative writing students the positive feedback that I have received this summer with Produce with Amy. They listened intently when I explained that I had composed close to twenty blogs over the past few months and that I have people from all over the county (and globe) reading and sharing my recipes. One student asked if I would continue to teach when I became a “famous food blogger”. That made me laugh (how sweet it is that they believe in me) and I promised them that I would continue to teach and that it would mean that I would be able to bring more resources into the classroom. It really helps to have their confidence and know that they are cheering me on. It gives me an extra boost of motivation to keep blogging.

With one week of school and the Fall Forward Healthy Lifestyle Challenge under my belt I 9wanted to make sure that I made the weekend count. Last night I came up a new Mason Jar Salad recipe as well as a new dressing. It is not too late for you join myself and others on the challenge. Every day I have been posting a reminder on my Produce with Amy Facebook page and if you feel comfortable you can post to help yourself stay accountable and help inspire others.

When I looked at the calendar today I saw that it was National Grandparents Day. One of the items on my to-do list is to harvest the ripe tomatoes in our garden. 12As I do this, I will honor the memory of my Grandpa Puskala. Grandpa had a legendary organic garden before it was “hip” to do so!  I attribute him to passing on a love of vegetables to my beautiful mother who passed this gift to me.

Since there will be more ripe tomatoes than we can possibly eat this week I am going to try this recipe for roasted tomatoes. Not only will I use fresh rosemary from our garden but I will also incorporate fresh basil leaves. Some of the roasted tomatoes will be frozen and I will  use the others for dinner this week. I bought whole-wheat pita pockets and will stuff them with alfalfa sprouts, cucumbers, Greek olives, homemade hummus, and the roasted tomatoes.

Last week one of my struggles at work was making the time to drink water and eat snacks. On Thursday and Friday I came home famished and ended up eating larger portions of dinner than normal. So this week my goal is to pack more food (raw vegetables, raw nuts, and a green smoothie to sip on during my half hour commute home). I also am finding that I do not have an appetite in the morning so I will force myself to drink a green smoothie because I know it is important for my energy level to get a surge of nutrients. I will be carefully tracking with Weight Watchers and will try to be faithful to the program.

This week I do not anticipate myself struggling with making time for lunch since I have five gorgeous Mason Jar Salads prepped. My Glowing Green Mason Jar salads are stuffed with both sweet and savory ingredients and the dressing is equally delicious and nutritious.

I store dressings in a jar in the refrigerator and the vinegar and citrus keeps it fresh for several weeks.

I store dressings in a jar in the refrigerator and the vinegar and citrus keeps it fresh for several weeks.

AVOCADO VINAIGRETTE DRESSING

  • 1/2 cup of vinegar (I used white balsamic vinegar. You may want to vary the amount of vinegar based on how tart you like your dressing. I recommend adding a little bit at a time and tasting the dressing with a bit of celery. I enjoy my dressing extremely tart and often sprinkle more vinegar on my salad before serving.)
  • 1 cup of fresh parsley (not only do I love the fresh taste of parsley but it also contains a multitude of health benefits)
  • 1 pitted and peeled avocado
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (you can always leave the oil out and add it individually to your salad for portion control)
  • 1/4 cup of water (the dressing was thick so I thinned it out with some water. You could add extra vinegar. If you want to use it as a dip you could leave it thick)
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 lemon ~ juice and zest (the flavor of lime also is a great accompaniment to 3avocado)
  • Chives (I used fresh since I have chives in my garden. If you do not have fresh chives you could add a little bit of onion. Green onions or shallots also work well for salad dressings)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Blend until smooth

The dressing turned out creamy and the avocado adds body, flavor, and healthy fats. I often thicken dressings with raw nuts but I thought I would create a dressing without for those with allergies. I love that this dressing is dairy free and free from chemicals and additives. If you are interested in my other plant-based salad dressing recipes check out the dressing tab at the top of the page. For Weight Watchers members, this recipe rendered twenty-five Tablespoons of dressing.
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When making Mason Jar Salads it is important to put the dressing in first and keep it away from the greens. The acid in the dressing will make the greens slimy. If you close tight (I do not vacuum seal my jars) they will keep for over a week in the refrigerator. When you are ready to eat you can shake, and either pour the salad out on a plate or bowl, or eat straight out of the jar. I find with the quart sized Mason Jars that I need extra dressing. Sometimes I add extra vinegar or lemon juice to the bottom as well as the dressing.

7-001GLOWING GREEN MASON JAR SALADS

I layered these ingredients, in the following order, in one quart Mason jars:

  • Two to Three Tablespoons of Avocado Vinaigrette Dressing.
  • One thinly sliced cucumber (I did not use organic so I peeled)
  • Thinly sliced zucchini (raw with peels on)
  • Two Granny Smith Apples (I bought organic so I scrubbed and left the peelings on. I love the tartness of green apples in salads)

    I love the combination of sweet and salty. Plus, the Granny Smith apples have just the right mixture of sweet and tart. When I was a kid I loved eating green apples fresh from the tree with salt.

    I love the combination of sweet and salty. Plus, the Granny Smith apples have just the right mixture of sweet and tart. When I was a kid I loved eating green apples fresh from the tree with salt.

  • Capers (I love the salty flavor that capers add to meals. When Mike and I started dating the first meal that I cooked for him was chicken picatta with a lemon and caper sauce. In the coming weeks I am going to create a plant-based version with white bean patties.)
  •  Two peeled and sliced kiwi.
  • Green grapes cut in half.
  • Large green olives stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes (I added four per jar)
  • 1/4 cup of raw nuts (you could also add beans for protein)
  • Broccoli florets
  • Spinach
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Pin this recipe here.

I cannot wait to dig into these salads and I know that they will help give me the energy that I need to keep up with my classroom of spirited teenagers. This week I will also be focusing on getting to bed before 10:00 and working in 20-30 minutes of activity in the morning.

If you are interested in other Mason Jar Salads, please check out my other salad recipes.You can follow my recipes on Pinterest and please like my Produce with Amy Facebook page.

I love being able to share my blog with my students as a real world example of writing and how we can use social networking in powerful and healthy ways. Thank you for reading and sharing this produce journey with me. I look forward to staying productive in the coming months and adding new recipes, tips, and techniques for maintaining a plant-based diet. I wish you a week brimming with energy, fruit, and vegetables! 

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Fall Forward Healthy Lifestyle Challenge

“When you wake up, think about winning the day. Don’t worry about a week or a month from now — just think about one day at a time. If you are worried about the mountain in the distance, you might trip over the molehill right in front of you. Win the day!”
― Drew Brees

LeavesSeptember has arrived and I am embracing fall as a time to reset and follow through with goals that I have set for myself. Many of my Weight Watchers members are participating in a Fall Forward Challenge and we are creating charts and using our calendars to keep track of our success and keep ourselves motivated.

One of the things that being a Weight Watchers leader and member has taught me over the years is that I have CHALLENGE myself often and that a well established Routine can easily slip away when life gets busy. Tuesday marks my first day back in the classroom with students and I refuse to let this be an excuse to let my healthy lifestyle erode.

I bought my stickers at Target for 99 cents a package. Though you could inexpensively draw a symbol on your calendar.

I bought my stickers at Target for 99 cents a package. Though you could inexpensively draw a symbol on your calendar.

Not only do structured challenges help me but I have also found that REWARDS help as well. I have created five goals for myself and will keep track with colorful stickers. (Think back to childhood chore charts and how stickers helped motivate. I have found that stickers can still help keep me motivated!)

One of my friends Erinn said it best when she shared that at the end of the day if she has fallen short on a goal that the sticker gives her incentive to go the extra mile. “I want my sticker!” Erinn proclaims. For so many of us, there is satisfaction in the visual reinforcement of SEEING our success mapped out.

Erinn shared her calendar with me today and at the top she included a “key” with what each sticker represents. I decided to do the same. After all, research supports that when we write down our goals we are more likely to accomplish them. Thank you Erinn for always inspiring me to keep moving forward!

The puppy napping on my calendar is a reminder that I need to be productive during my waking hours so I can get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep, like whole, non-processed food = FUEL

The puppy napping on my calendar is a reminder that I need to be productive during my waking hours so I can get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep, like whole, non-processed food = FUEL

My calendar is displayed on the refrigerator for extra reinforcement.

My goals:

*Star = exercise 4 Activity Points Plus (My Weight Watchers Active Link will keep me accountable)
*Smile = tried a new recipe
*Butterfly = weekend organizing/cleaning project (when my house is clutter-free I am more likely to make time to exercise)
*Owl = blog post

Each sticker will be worth $1.

I also added one more goal
*Heart = Dairy free week
(I have been struggling with cheese…I want to be plant-based and feel frustrated with myself) A heart = $5

At the end of the month I will “pay” myself for the stickers that I have earned. The money will go to the purchase of new clothing or something special (I would love to start a fund for a juicer). Your reward may be an indulgence (massage, pedicure, a new bottle of nail polish) or a new cookbook or tool to help with weight management (new running shoes, a piece of exercise equipment, an Active Link purchased at your WW meeting, a yoga DVD…)

If you are on a budget do not underestimate the power of using smaller monetary amounts. A dime or quarter adds up quickly when you are accomplishing your goals on a daily basis.

If you are interested in joining me in this challenge please feel free to like my Produce with Amy Facebook page. I will be posting daily reminders. If you would like you can post your success and challenges. Please encourage others to join us on the Fall Forward Challenge. If there is interest, I will continue to post in the coming months.

The challenge begins today (but feel free to jump in any time) and I WILL have 2 stickers before I go to bed. (This blog gives me one sticker!) Thank you for joining me and I will post each morning as a reminder to us all to stay accountable. I am here to support you and cannot wait to follow your journey! If you are a Weight Watchers leader please encourage your members to participate. Remember, together we can achieve more.

Start Now

Even though it is important to look at our journey day-by-day. Imagine how great you will feel next year at this time knowing that you have transformed your life with healthy routines.

Pin this challenge on Pinterest and do not forget to join my Facebook page.

(Click on image for a larger version.)

(Click on image for a larger version.)