Today was to be my first day back to school/work after a two-week holiday hiatus but Mother Nature had other plans. In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Lower Michigan, and all across the Midwest, school has been closed due to harsh sub-zero temperatures and voluminous snow. Truth be told, I was ready to reclaim my work routines. I crave the structure of a schedule ~ regular bedtime, mealtimes, and purpose. This makes me believe that full-retirement will never be an option for me because I would suffer a completely rootless existence (okay, maybe I am being a tad bit dramatic) but two weeks has been a long time to be away from my classroom and I am anxious to have my students compile their poetry portfolios.
Last night I decided that I needed to make the most of an extra day off and this morning I savored a quiet house and writing time. The blank pages of my journal were pure potential. Linen pages spread out like a glistening frosted meadow and my scrawling lines plowed through the smooth, icy whiteness. Perhaps in January it is easier to find precise words to describe the winter landscape. Though, it is light that I crave. I covet Facebook posts from my friends who live in southern locations and I peek at the photos of sunshine sifting through my summer blooms. Perhaps it is this hope that helps us go on with our days. I believe that metaphorically summer gives us something to look forward to and encourages us to toil and work hard.
The eternal optimist that tries to dominate my heart (usually with success) believes that we must make our own sunshine. The space that I try to create is filled with color and it makes me believe that is why I am so passionate about eating a variety of fruit and vegetables. I find myself in constant awe at the glorious colors and art in food presentation. Perhaps I missed my calling? Maybe not. Without a doubt I believe that I was meant to be an English teacher and one day I will find a way to combine my love of blogging and food writing with teaching. Maybe post-retirement I will teach blogging workshops? Cooking classes? Food writing? Maybe I will take nutrition courses and open a cafe that has poetry workshops and readings? Maybe I will etch poetry on jars and market my own salad line? Maybe I will travel and publish place-conscious cookbooks? Maybe I will use my broadcasting degree from Marquette University and host my own cooking show?
Okay, it appears as if the cold may be making me delirious and I am getting ahead of myself. Right now I need to focus on my thirteenth year of teaching and continue to share vibrant vegetable recipes on my blog. I must thank my readers for encouraging me to share my recipes. I may be situated in a very remote area of the United States that is often omitted from many maps, but social networking allows us to connect.
As you can see from my last post, Top Ten Posts of 2013, my most popular recipes to date have been jarred salads. This does not surprise me, for as I have said previously, jarred salads are visually stunning and look like lovely edible terrarium gardens. Whether you tote them to work or keep them in your refrigerator at home, they will entice you to eat more vegetables, fruit, and greens. If you are new to jarred salads you might want to read this post.
When coming up with the recipe that I am going to share today, I intentionally wanted to create a bright, layered salad that utilized orange and yellow hued produce specifically for its health benefits. I also wanted to give the dressing a little heat, so I kicked it up with fresh jalapeno.
“These bright-colored fruits and vegetables contain zeaxanthin, flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, vitamin C and beta-carotene, which is vitamin A.
The nutrients help our bodies in many different ways, from our eyes to our bones:
- Aids in eye health and reduces the risk of macular degeneration of the eye
- Reduces the risk of prostate cancer
- Lowers blood pressure
- Lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol)
- Promotes healthy joints
- Promotes collagen formation
- Fights harmful free radicals in the body
- Encourages pH balance of the body
- Boosts immune system
- Builds healthier bones by working with calcium and magnesium”
Source: 10 Reasons to Eat Orange and Yellow Fruits and Veggies
I also remembered reading research that documented the complexion promoting benefits of lycopene and nutrients found in these varieties of produce. Read more about this phenomena here. This time of year I find my skin really suffers from the effects of the dry air and lack of sunshine so it gives me another reason to eat my vegetables.
Today as I dream about sunshine winter has iced over any precise words that I could use to describe a gold washed sky. So, I will let my Mason jar salads articulate.
- 3/4 cup of rice vinegar (your favorite vinegar will work. Rice vinegar is a great choice because it is less acidic than a lot of vinegar. Some of my other favorites for homemade dressings are raw apple cider vinegar, champagne vinegar, and white balsamic vinegar. I really like tart dressings and if you do not, I suggest adding a little vinegar at a time)
- 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (often I do not add the oil to the dressing but add it individually to each jar for portion control)
- 1 peeled and pitted mango (you could substitute a cup of frozen)
- 1 clove of garlic
- teaspoon of onion
- 1 lime (both the juice and the zest)
- Jalapeno (I used 1/2 of a large pepper. I added a little at a time until I was satisfied. If you do not want a big “kick” you could use a banana pepper or green chilies)
- 1/4 cup of fresh parsley and/or cilantro (I used a little of each)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Blend well. This made enough for 6 jarred salads with 1/2 cup leftover. I store in a jar in the refrigerator and the dressing keeps for over a month.
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.
SUNSHINE IN A JAR SALAD WITH KICKY MANGO VINAIGRETTE
I layered these ingredients, in the following order, in 6 ~ one quart Mason jars:
- 2-4 Tablespoons of Kicky Mango Vinaigrette (depending how much dressing you like. For these salads I used four since I really crammed in a lot of greens in the top)
- Orange bell pepper (one divided among six jars)
- Carrots (4 large carrots)
- Yellow cherry tomatoes (halved)
- Pineapple (I used 1 cup of fresh)
- Orange (I used one)
- Grapefruit (I used one)
- 2 large roasted sweet potatoes (I peeled and cut into pieces, drizzled with coconut oil, sea salt, pepper, sprinkled with chili powder and roasted in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes…turned at the 15 minute mark)
- Chickpeas (1/4 cup in each jar)
- Raw nuts (Tablespoon in each jar)
- Romaine Lettuce
Printable recipe here: Sunshine in a Jar Salad with Kicky Mango Vinaigrette
As I sit tucked away in my quiet, cozy, and tiny house ~ I cannot help but feel wonder for the opportunity that I have to connect with people from all over the globe and share my passion. I love healthy food, writing, photography, and brilliant color. Food should be savored and appreciated as a piece of art. The composition of flavor, color, nutrients, and attention to detail are vital to both pleasure and health.
As always, if you try this recipe, I would love your feedback. Please stop by my Facebook page and, if so inclined, please share my recipes with others. Make sure that you check out the salad tab at the top of this page for other recipes.
Have a sunny day, my friends! Even if it means having to manufacture your own sunshine.