SUNSHINE BOWLS WITH KICKY MANGO VINAIGRETTE

“The elimination diet:
Remove anger, regret, resentment, guilt, blame, and worry.
Then watch your health, and life, improve.”
Charles F. Glassman

It is that time of the year where many people make healthy resolutions (and perhaps have already abandoned them). If you are like me you believe, no matter how difficult it is, that it is important to make time for ourselves. For example, since my schedule has been extremely busy it feels sacred to me to enjoy a quiet house. For the new year I wanted to make time to write and be more reflective on my personal and professional life. Of course, it’s the end of January and I have not carved out the writing time that I hoped I would. However, I have written endless poems in my mind’s eye. Every time I step outside I marvel in the beautiful place in which I live. I have not given up hope for that precious writing time. After all, here I am on a snow day off of work – writing!

Truthfully, our winter until the last few weeks has been relatively mild. Mid-January delivered some significant snow storms and freezing temperature. Like every year, in January it is light that I crave. This time of year I covet posts from my friends who live in southern locations and I peek at my 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. (Plus, I did notice this week when driving my step children to hockey practice that our days are getting longer. At 5:00 pm it was still considerably light out).

The eternal optimist in my heart believes that we must make our own sunshine. Therefore, the spaces that I try to create in my life (whether it be my home, my classroom, or my blog) are filled with color. I think 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 nature and food presentation.

I had winter in mind when coming up with this recipe. I intentionally wanted to create a bright bowl 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 (Vitamin A).

According to, ahealthiermichigan.org, these nutrients help our bodies in many different ways:

  1. Aids in eye health and reduces the risk of macular degeneration of the eye
  2. Reduces the risk of prostate cancer
  3. Lowers blood pressure
  4. Lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol)
  5. Promotes healthy joints
  6. Promotes collagen formation
  7. Fights harmful free radicals in the body
  8. Encourages pH balance of the body
  9. Boosts immune system
  10. Builds healthier bones by working with calcium and magnesium”

I have heard that nutrients found in yellow and orange produce have complexion promoting benefits. 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.

In January, as I dream about sunshine, winter ices over precise words that I could use to describe a gold washed sky. So, I will let my Sunshine Bowls articulate.

KICKY MANGO VINAIGRETTE

  • 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 cilantro (parsley also works well if you are not on Team Cilantro)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Blend well. I store the leftover dressing in a jar in the refrigerator and it keeps for over a month.

SUNSHINE BOWLS:

  • Orange Segments
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes
  • Orange and Yellow Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Orange Peppers

In the past I’ve also used pineapple, butternut squash, and grapefruit. You can also toss in kale or spinach and some of your favorite beans, chicken, or nuts for protein.

In celebration of the new year I cannot help but feel wonder for the opportunity that I have as a blogger to connect with people from all over 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 feel free to share my recipes with others. Make sure that you check out my other healthy salads at the tab at the top of the page.

Have a sunny day, My Friends! Even if in the winter it means having to manufacture your own sunshine. May your 2019 be filled with vibrant meals, health, and plenty of laughter.

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SPINACH SALAD WITH PEARS, DRIED CHERRIES, & CHERRY VINIAGRETTE

“Instruction is good for a child; but example is worth more.”
Alexandre Dumas

This winter as we headed into the winter holiday season, I was reminded of a quote I read. It went something like, “Don’t put yourself in debt to tell someone how much you love them.” That makes sense. As a writing teacher, I constantly tell my students to, “Show. Don’t tell.” We need to do this in our lives as well.

My husband shows his kids constantly how much he loves them through his labor. This winter, often after a long day at work, he will be found outside putting another layer of ice on their backyard hockey rink. He shows them through countless other ways: from having them gather their own breakfast in the chicken coop, teaching them how to remove a fish from the hook, and giving them the opportunity to splash in a Montana mountain stream in an off-the-grid camping spot.

John found the most amazing off-the grid camping spots last summer in Montana. Even if I did have to close my eyes getting there via curvy mountain roads.

I guarantee the kids will never forget this family vacation.

We LOVED Glacier NP!

While we want to make sure that our kids have modern comforts and are not completely cut off from technology. It is not on the top of our priority list to make sure that they have the latest video game system or cell phones. We want them to appreciate things that are homemade and have old-fashioned values.

The best gift I ever bought for my stepson Lukas was an “art box” full of paper, markers, and creative supplies. He entertained himself, and us, for hours designing eye-popping scenarios involving dinosaurs and military helicopters. Because I am a teacher and his dad is a police officer, he crafted a “21 Jump Street” purse for me. It came complete with a 3-D laptop, handcuffs, grenades, lipstick, and even coupons for my favorite store. Apparently, he still wanted me to look good and save money while I was catching the “robbers” (which is what he used to call anyone who commits a crime). Now that Lukas is nine, he still loves to be artistic. However, now he prefers a sketchbook and he loves to write stories (last year Zombie Snake received rave reviews from his teacher, peers, and family members).

After school, Lukas’ bus drops him off at my building and he loves seeing the projects that my high school students are working on. In October he became obsessed with the fact that my 11th graders were reading Ray Bradbury’s, Fahrenheit 451. I gave him a quick rundown of Bradbury’s plot and he was intrigued by Bradbury’s dystopian view of a society where owning books was illegal and firefighters started fires rather than putting them out. Luke’s eyes grew big when I mentioned the mechanical hound that instead of conducting search and rescue missions was programmed to search and destroy!  Needless to say, Lukas begged to PLEASE let him read the novel. He didn’t relent and for three days didn’t put the book down the whole time discussing the character Montag, how F 451 is the temperature at which paper burns, and marveling in how sixty-five years ago Bradbury imagined a world destroyed by TV/technology where people no longer communicate or think critically. We discussed the Nazi book burnings that fueled Bradbury’s imagination and what Clarisse represented in the novel.

Lukas was captivated by this book.

Some of Lukas’ “take aways” from the book was that he could never go to a school where he could not ask questions, he thought that the main character and his wife should talk more to each other and they would be happier, and he loved stumbling across vocabulary words that he had learned in school. I had to giggle one day, about a month after he read the book, when Lukas stood outside before getting in our vehicle with his mouth opening catching snowflakes on his tongue. For those who have read Fahrenheit 451, he was channeling Clarisse. What an intelligent and remarkable little boy! I am in awe and thankful I get to be his step mom. Lukas reminds me to stop and appreciate the priceless wonders of the world that cannot be purchased in a store.

Ray Bradbury wrote this masterpiece by renting a typewriter in the basement of a library for 10 cents an hour. He was watching the arrival of television and feared it had the potential of wiping out human interaction. He imagined a world where large, looming, interactive video screens occupied the four walls of a house and it was illegal to drive slow or even walk outside. This book gives me goose bumps every time I read it. To me, it is a cautionary tale about using technology in moderation and making sure we do not forget our humanity.

Lukas’ new best friend, a Bearded Dragon named Harper. While we have a cat, many dogs, chickens, and ducks – Harper is special because he is LUKE’S. We hope caring for him teaches him responsibility.

Avalon and Lukas supporting their dad’s role as a K9 Officer – and of course, K9 Nitro.

This holiday season seemed like a great place to focus on the human things that are important. A handmade card, a gift purchased from a local artist, and a meal made and shared with loved ones.

The salad recipe that I am sharing is healthy, festive, and celebrates local wonders with Michigan cherries. Not to mention it is topped with crown jewels – caramelized cashews (which could be artfully packaged to make a delicious homemade gift for guests).

This salad can be plated, arranged on a large platter or in a bowl, or layered in a Mason jar (for a healthy work week).

SPINACH SALAD

Spinach
Sliced Pears (There are several varieties found in stores)
Avocado
Feta cheese (gorgonzola or goat cheese work well with the flavors in the salad)
Dried cherries
Caramelized cashews (recipe to follow)
Cherry Vinaigrette (recipe to follow)

CARAMELIZED CASHEWS
*1 Tablespoon of butter

*1 Tablespoon of brown sugar 
–per 1/2 Cup of cashes–
*Cinnamon
*Nutmeg
*Pinch of Salt

Melt butter and add sugar along with a sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon (depending on how many cashews you are using. I usually make a large batch of cashews (4-5 cups) so I add a couple teaspoons of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg). Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the cashews and stir to coat.

Spread the cashews out on a tinfoil lined cookie sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Remove and cool. The nuts are indulgent and delicious and a few go a long way.

CHERRY VINAIGRETTE

*1 cup tart cherry juice (I found the juice in the refrigerated juice section. While tart cherry juice is expensive – it has a lot of healthy benefits. You can find less expensive varieties that combine cherry and pomegranate juices)
*1/4 cup of vinegar (my favorite variety of vinegar for this dressing are either red wine or balsamic)
*1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
*1 clove of garlic
*1 teaspoon of red onion
*1 Tablespoon honey (more or less to taste)
*salt and pepper to taste

May your New Year be full of health, laughter, and a community of family and friends. Make time to read a good book, share in wholesome and nurturing food, and remember that love comes wrapped in presence – no matter the season.