“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 wanted 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. As 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.
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 avocado)
- 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.
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.
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)
- 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
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.
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!