Top 10 Most Popular Recipes of 2020

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

From our cozy little kitchen to yours: Happy New Year!

I agree with Nietzsche’s quote and come up with some of my best ideas when I am simply putting one foot in front of the other.  I talk to my creative writing students about what we are doing when the best story ideas are born. For me, my creativity peeks when I am walking, snowshoeing, pulling weeds in the garden, chopping vegetables, driving to work, taking a shower, or floating in our pool. I keep a journal that I jot down my ideas and musings in so I do not forget about them. I like to call this place a seedbed for future blog posts, recipes, stories, poems, and lesson plans.

My 11th grade students just finished reading Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” and we discussed the unhealthy hold that technology often has on our lives (ironic, I acknowledge, since I am typing this on a computer on my blog… 😉 ) I shared with my students several articles that discussed cell phone addiction and how our digital devices take away boredom and do not allow us to daydream and come up with “big ideas”. Instead of just allowing our minds to wander, we fill our quiet time with checking our social media accounts and email.

Therefore, as we head into 2021, I need to more mindful of how I am filling my down time. While I will continue to fill my Pinterest boards with decorating ideas for the new addition on our house and share ideas and learn new tips on the Homesteading and Crazy-Chicken-Lady groups that I am member of – I will also remember to walk laps in our pasture, spend more time outside with our dogs and birds, and stare at the star studded sky and draw inspiration from the beauty around me.

In 2020, between this blog, Produce with Amy, and my sister blog, Glitter and Dog Hair, I shared 26 new blog posts. That’s a number that I am proud of since I have been trying to create more content. My goal for 2021 is to surpass that number.

As I reflect on 2020, I decided that I would look back at the traffic on Produce with Amy and share the top 10 most popular recipes from 2020. I thought it was interesting that the top two recipes were not new ones – but ones that I created when I first started blogging. I love that people find my posts helpful and enjoy the recipes that I create.

Here they are (click on the blue links to find the recipes):

#1: Paradise in a Jar Salad with Blueberry Lemon Dressing

We are what we eat, after all. I do not know about you, but I want to be vibrant, unique, and bursting with energy.

#2 Glowing Green Mason Jar Salads with Avocado Vinaigrette Dressing

My Glowing Green Mason Jar salads are stuffed with both sweet and savory ingredients and the dressing is equally delicious and nutritious.

#3 Tuna Fish – a 70’s Kitchen Staple & Beyond

While this tuna salad is great on a bed of lettuce, it also makes a phenomenal sandwich filler. I especially enjoy it in a pita pocket or stuffed into a tomato or hollowed out cucumber rounds.

#4 Old Fashioned Sweet Pickled Beets

While beets are an acquired taste, many people who do not enjoy beets as a side vegetables seem to like them pickled. Many people that I have talked to reminisce fondly about a grandmother who was known for her pickled beets.

#5 Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salad with Creamy Pesto Dressing

Eat the rainbow and your body will thank you!

#6 Spaghetti Squash & Tomato Soup

The spaghetti squash bulks up this soup and makes it filling.

#7 Sunshine Salad in a Jar with Kicky Mango Vinaigrette

When you see a salad this bright and vibrant, you know it has to be healthy!

#8 Cabin Fever Salad – Greek Pasta

Perfect for a potluck, your workday lunch, or as a side to your dinner.

#9 Low Carb Creamy Chicken & Mushroom Soup with Cauliflower Rice

My stepson and husband both thought it smelled amazing and after taking a taste they both agreed that it was soup that they both would eat. The cauliflower adds body and gives it the consistency that rice would.

#10 Mushroom Swiss Burger Soup – A Simple Pleasure

My inspiration for the soup is in the name: a mushroom swiss burger. However, I wanted to create a recipe that was not as calorie laden as a greasy burger and the side of obligatory French fries that usually accompanies it.

Well, there they are – the Top 10 Most Popular Recipes from 2020! I hope that you have tried them and that you enjoyed them as well. Make sure you check out all of my recipes that are organized in the tabs at the top of this page. Please leave a comment or like this post to let me know that you have been here.

I wish you best wishes for a healthy, happy, and productive 2021! While making homemade meals may take extra time – remember, we are worth it. ❤

*Note – Now that this post is finished, I think I will head outside for a walk. Perhaps it will help me come up with a new recipe to share with you!

Happy Holidays from Our Homestead. Welcome 2021!

“Dad, that thing wouldn’t fit in our yard.” -Rusty Griswold

“It’s not going in our yard, Russ. It’s going in our living room.” – Clark Griswold

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

2020 has been a challenging year and I am a reflective woman. If you have been following my posts you know that for the past couple of years, my family has been working on a construction project. We are adding a large addition onto our 130+ year old Finnish homestead. My husband John has worked tirelessly to make this dream of our comes to fruition.

I always tease John that he found the right woman who understands all of his “sweat equity” projects, because growing up, my parents did the same thing. My dad built a sawmill and milled logs from my grandparent’s property on the Paint River in Crystal Falls, Michigan to build our family a house. So when John told me that he wanted a sawmill, it made complete sense to me. I will never forget the excitement we shared when he milled that first board on the Wood-Mizer.

Last year at this time, John was shoveling snow off of the addition and this year it is thankfully all closed in. That is what I call progress!

We just purchased the last of the windows (four had to be custom ordered) and this past weekend we bought all the insulation for a walls (this spring a local company will apply spray foam insulation on the ceiling – we figured this would be a smart decision since it’s over 24 feet high).

We joke that we should probably just have our paychecks deposited to Lowes.

While Covid-19 has created a lot of setbacks, John and I feel fortunate that we have both actively been employed. As a teacher, I have been able to teach both face-to-face and remotely, and as a police officer – John has worked through the entire pandemic.

Last fall John and I made a deal that ended up being both exciting and disappointing. John had never done block-work before, but he decided to save money he would do research and do the foundation and blocks for our addition. With the money we saved we surprised the kids with a spring break trip to Maui. Unfortunately, a few days before our flight, we had to cancel due to travel restrictions. We were heartbroken. However, we were able to flip-our-trip and in July we took an incredible trip to our favorite place on earth, Alaska. John actually got to take a second trip to Alaska in September to go caribou hunting.

We are huge fans of Holiday Travel Vacations in Marquette. Laura Chapman has been our go-to travel agent for many adventures now and we cannot recommend her travel agency and services enough. Laura is down to earth, has a wealth of travel knowledge, and goes the extra mile to make sure your travel plans are perfect. We love to do business local and Laura helps us stay local – and still give ourselves the gift of travel. Find Holiday Travel here on Facebook.

We had the kids fooled that they were getting a toilet for Christmas. I thought it was so sweet that they were fine with a toilet since they knew our construction project was important. I love how surprised they were to find out there was more to their “poopy present”. I don’t think we had a clue how precious that gift of toilet paper would be in 2020. LOL

 

Can you see why this is our favorite place on earth?
My boys at Denali National Park
I took hundreds of photos.


We hope to be living in our addition by this summer, but we still wanted to celebrate the space with something special for the holiday season. John cut a 17+ foot tree down from our property (he trimmed a few feet off) and he put it up in the addition. John and his daughter Avalon trimmed the tree with lights and giant red bow (we also added a few ornaments).

Now that’s a Christmas tree!
I love this photo. Not many people have to put on their Carhartts to decorate their Christmas tree.
The loft came in handy to decorate the tree.
It’s not easy to add lights on such a giant tree.
I couldn’t find a star large enough on short notice. However, I think this bow was perfect.



We may not always do things the easy way, but we do them our way! That is what drives us and makes our hearts and souls happy. I am thankful to have found a partner who works so hard for our family. I think that we make a wonderful team and I am excited to see what 2021 brings. I promise to keep you updated on our construction project.

Best wishes from the Waldos for a healthy and happy holiday season filled with laughter and an abundance of blessings. ❤

Happy Holidays from Avalon, Amy, John, and Lukas. ❤
I finally found a use for my selfie stick! 😉
Say C H E E S E!

SAUTEED SWISS CHARD WITH SMOKED SALMON, POMEGRANATE, & ROSEMARY INFUSED GOAT CHEESE

“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning… Make some light.”
Kate DiCamillo

As I have gotten older, the excitement of New Year’s Eve has lost a bit of its luster. In fact, I do not think I have witnessed the striking of the new year in real time (or in sequins) for many years (I am normally fast asleep). However,  I still love the sparkling potential of a brand new year. I am a goal girl and there is something refreshing about being able to start my healthy intentions anew. For me the new year is an important time of reflection and renewal. 2021 is a special year for me as I welcome my 50th year. My gift to myself is to allow my reflection in the mirror and my challenges and setbacks a little more grace. I will extend that gift to others as well. May 2021 be a year of grace, reflection, and boundless gifts. 

The past few years I have witnessed a lot of New Year posts on social media. One activity that I enjoy engaging my high school students in is the “One Word for the New Year” or a “One Word Resolution”. Focusing on just one word helps us create an intention and gives us a little latitude. It allows us to ruminate over one small word – and that action can impact many aspects of our life. However, it is not a resolution that we can break. Afterall, it is a word. We can start the next day with our word fresh on our lips.

For 2021, my word is Light. Light encompasses the life I want to embrace. I want my footsteps to tread light on the earth when it comes to my responsibility to nature and my community. I want the small things to roll off of me – for my countenance and inner peace to be as light as a feather. I do not want to be held down by the things that I cannot change. 

As I type this post, I think of the purchases my husband and I made this month. We bought windows for the addition on our old Finnish homestead. Six years ago when we met we were in the dreaming stages of what could be. We planned and we worked hard. My husband bought a sawmill and started milling beams.  Today the structure is up and we are installing windows and yesterday we bought insulation. 

The  windows will be the eyes to the new wing of our home. They will protect us from the elements and help us marvel in the beauty around us – birds, trees, rain clouds, snow squalls, sunrises, and sunsets. These windows are more than panes of glass. They are portals for sunshine. The light that seeps into our lives and takes us out of the darkness. A reminder to never lose hope. 

When it comes to making future plans for ourselves, it is imperative to think about our health. I know that I am much more successful when I have the right mindset. I feel much better when I am getting enough sleep, wearing an activity monitor as a daily reminder to keep moving, and doing weekly meal planning.

Today’s recipe embodies my goals for the new year. I am going to remember to make time for myself and treat myself well. I often cater our meals to fit the tastes and preferences of my family members. This is a recipe that I created for myself. I was mindful of the entire process – from creation, presentation, to consumption. It feels good to slow down and enjoy the things that bring us pleasure. I have always loved cooking, but the repetitive act of cooking can sometimes feel like a chore. Therefore, I am reminding myself to be light. To enjoy the vibrant colors, the fragrance, and the flavors of the ingredients.

Swiss chard is one of those greens that people see at the farmer’s market and are not sure what to do with. While it is lovely to look at, it is also a health powerhouse. It is packed with fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and antioxidants. I love the leaves raw in salads, tossed into soups, or lightly sauteed for breakfast or as a dinner side. My friend Anita recently told me she sauteed some Swiss Chard up with bacon and her family devoured it and asked for seconds. 

I also chose pomegranate for it is antioxidant boasting qualities and because I love the taste. Pomegranate always reminds me of the holiday season since Santa always put a giant one in our Christmas stocking when I was a kid.

The smoked salmon in this recipe is wonderfully flavorful and packed with healthy oil. The protein from the fish gives it a bit of heartiness, and you could also serve with tuna steak or a salmon filet that is prepared to your liking. 

The goat cheese and fresh rosemary is such a suitable combination. I recently made roasted root vegetables with fresh rosemary and my step son Lukas was enamoured with the taste, smell, and texture of the rosemary. He thought they were like pine needles – and it reminded me why I love the aroma of rosemary so much. I always have a rosemary plant in our summer herb garden, but I do not often cook with it. I need to change that! 

SAUTEED SWISS CHARD WITH SMOKED SALMON, POMEGRANATE, & ROSEMARY INFUSED GOAT CHEESE

*1 bunch of Swiss chard (spinach or beet greens would also work well)
*1 teaspoon minced garlic
*1 teaspoon finely sliced onion
*1 teaspoon fruit preserves (I used raspberry jam because I had it on hand)
*2 Tablespoons olive oil
*3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
*Goat cheese
*Fresh rosemary (a couple of sprigs)
*4 ounces of smoked salmon (I bought a piece in the fish section of our local Meijer supermarket that was individually packaged and cajun flavored.)
*Handful of pomegranate seeds 
*Few slices of pickled beets 

Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil to a pan and saute the garlic and onion for a couple of minutes. Add the fruit preserves and the balsamic vinegar and stir well. Add the Swiss chard and saute for a few minutes until wilted.

In a small bowl mix the goat cheese with a couple teaspoons of chopped rosemary and a generous drizzle of olive oil.

Plate the greens with the salmon. Sprinkle plate with pomegranate seeds, add the pickled beets, and a dollop of the goat cheese. Enjoy!

While I enjoyed the salmon cold as a sort of salad, this would be a wonderful way to serve broiled, grilled, or baked salmon for dinner. It would also make a wonderful accompaniment to a charcuterie board with the addition of nuts, avocado, olives, fresh berries, and crackers or toasted baguette. 

A little goat cheese goes a long way, so the extra I keep in the refrigerator and use it to top toast for breakfast or steak. 

Another tip is that swiss chard (and other greens like turnip, kale or beet) will wilt in the refrigerator if you do not use them right away). When this happens, cut off their ends and put them in a glass or bowl of water (like you would a bouquet of flowers) and they will perk right up.

You can find pickled beets in many supermarkets, but if you want to make your own, make sure you check out my mom’s recipe

As we enter 2021, I wish you an abundance of light. Do not forget to take care of yourself and make your health a priority. Stop by my Facebook page at Produce with Amy and let me know what One Word you chose for your 2021 Intention. Cheers to a new year and a fresh start! 



 



 

French Onion Soup: Stave Away the Winter’s Chill

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
Edith Sitwell

 

Back in 2014 when I was a vegetarian, I shared a recipe for a plant based French Onion Soup. Since then I was diagnosed with thyroid disease (Hashimotos) and I gradually reintroduced meat back into my diet to reduce the amount of soy that I was eating. While we tend to eat mostly chicken and pork (which we raise ourselves) we do buy locally raised beef as well. Therefore, I thought it was time that I shared a traditional recipe for French Onion Soup that did incorporate beef.

I made this soup for dinner last weekend. My 11 year old step son 
Lukas would have normally turned up his nose due to the “onions” but he enjoyed it too (I did ladle most of the onions out of his bowl). He’s growing up!

I started it the day before by sautéing the onions in our breakfast bacon grease. I slow simmered a roast with beef broth (while I do normally make my own – I did purchase a carton of broth from the store). Of course, before serving, I added tons of Swiss cheese on top of toasted French baguette and finished each bowl under the broiler.

A lot of people do not add meat to French Onion Soup and stick to the broth. However, I fondly remember the best onion soup I’ve ever had more than twenty years ago at a restaurant in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The soup had huge savory chunks of meat and was hearty and delicious. I like when a bowl soup can serve as a meal and this soup definitely does. 

 
I need to find hearty oven safe soup crocks because I didn’t brown it long enough – I was worried the bowls would crack. I also miss fresh garden sage and thyme. What a perfect dinner for a gray Sunday in December.

FRENCH ONION SOUP

*5 cups of vegetable stock (I bought an extra large container)
*3 cups of water
*Optional – 1 cup of red wine
*1 small beef roast (2-3 pounds)
*8 medium sliced onions
*4 minced garlic cloves
*2 sprigs of rosemary (2 teaspoons dried)
*2 clusters of sage (2 teaspoons dried)
*6 strands of chives (2 teaspoons dried)
*1/2 cup of parsley (2 teaspoons dried
(I do not chop the fresh herbs but tie them in a bunch with string and add them to the soup)
*3 Tablespoons of your favorite cooking oil, butter, or bacon grease
*Salt and pepper to taste
*Loaf of crusty bread
*Swiss cheese (several cups)


For this soup I slow simmered the roast in the beef broth the day before for 3 hours and sautéed up the onions and added all the ingredients into the crockpot and stored in the refrigerator to cook the next day. However, you can make it all in one shot. 

I have read recipes where the onions are placed raw into the soup pot or crockpot, however, I think that caramelizing them well in a pan gives the soup a depth of flavor. Divide up your cooking fat and onions in three batches and cook on low heat. Add a little salt to the onions and cook until brown and caramelized. Saute the minced garlic with the last batch of onions. Add the onions, garlic, herbs, and broth to the crock-pot.


Cook on high for four hours (times may vary according to your slow cooker.  This soup could be also be made on the stove top and I would recommend cooking it on low for a few hours).

Serve the soup hot and top with toasted bread. Slice the bread, top with cheese, and allow to brown under the broiler. Dig in! You will find the leftovers of this soup are even better than the first bowl. 

Enjoy!

This weekend we also took advantage our our sauna. It definitely makes the cold weather bearable.
My husband made sure to honor my Finnish roots by making sure we had a sauna on our homestead.

It was 11 degrees this morning in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and my husband was tinkering with the sprinklers?! Covid may have temporarily cancelled hockey for our Lukas. However, it didn’t cancel a father’s love for his son and love of the game. 🏒 
 
John doesn’t use a liner, but normally there’s lots of snow right now that he packs down underneath the rink with his tractor. It’s been a strange winter. Though, I’m sure the snow will show up in full glory.

Thank you for following my blog and sharing my recipes. Make sure you check out all the other soup recipes I have created. Stay warm and take care of yourselves and each other. 💚
 

 

 

Making Progress: Homestead Sweet Homestead

I call architecture frozen music.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Our family is adding an addition on to our 130 year old Finnish homestead in the UP of Michigan. My hardworking husband gets a little cranky with my photo obsession. He gave me permission to document this series of progress photos.

Oh my, check this out! He installed the windows today for the window seat in our loft. 😍 These windows overlook our orchard, the hoophouse, pasture, and upper pond (which John is going to dig deeper and add a section for koi). The loft will house my library of poetry books, a sleeper sofa, a bathroom, and be a cove of creativity and relaxation.

He is a magician creating a magical space.
I get goosebumps thinking about how far we’ve come.

These windows are a wonderful source of light and joy already. Our house is dark so our addition includes a loft and lots of windows and open space.

We are going to work hard to marry the two sections. The cedar logs have been stained dark and we’re going to bring them back to their natural color (they were all harvested from our property). The new addition is not log (but we did incorporate live edge beams that John milled himself). He also milled boards on his sawmill to use as siding. He’ll add chinking to mimic the logs on the original structure.

Doing our own projects may take longer but it’s worth it in the end.

I can’t wait until this is liveable space. Our goal is by next summer. 💚

Thank you to my husband for his ceaseless energy and hard work. You are appreciated more than I can ever express.

I included this photo to show you the incredible cedar logs our house is built from. We are so fortunate to have a house with so much personality and history!

Pay Attention: Life Lessons Learned In The Kitchen

“Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

-Mary Oliver

My eleven year old step son, Lukas, helped me make dinner last night, and like always, we solved the world’s problems with our deep and profound conversation. ☺️

Hello Fresh came through again with Firecracker Meatballs. 🔥We needed to change things up for meals. My boys are picky – and the novelty of the meal kits has expanded our recipe rotation.

I am a teacher and in September I was run ragged teaching both face-to-face and online with tons of extra things built into my teaching practice due to Covid. I was exhausted and couldn’t deal with having to plan meals and shop etc. In addition, my husband had to spend 5 weeks 8 hours away training his new work K9 and he was running home each weekend. So farm /household chores he normally did were left on me as well as running my step son to hockey practice up to 3 nights a week for 8 pm ice time. 😳 The meal kits saved me trips to gather groceries and saved my sanity! 😂

We started rating our recipe cards with 5 star ratings (so we know which ones to recreate with the meat and vegetables we raise). Luke gave this one an 8 and my husband John said it was more of a 9.

Lukas thought our rice needed some lime. This recipe didn’t include lime, but other HF recipes do. Of course, our veggie crisper has many limes since I love to cook with citrus. So I taught Lukas about the microplane. (Which I feel is one of the most important kitchen tools we own.)

Lukas is seriously a ray of sunshine. He is a happy-go-lucky kid who appreciates life and is full of hope and wonder.
A recurring question I get on my blog is how to zest citrus. I recommend investing in a good quality microplane. I’ve had this one for YEARS and it still zests like it did on day 1.

Lukas and I discussed how zesting citrus takes advantage of the most important part of the fruit because the essential oils are in the peel. We also discussed how this is true of many other fruits and vegetables. How the tops of carrots, beets, and turnips contain more nutrients than the part most people eat. Though, these truths have been lost on most people for convenience and convention.

We also discussed how these lessons apply to people too. How sometimes our brightest gifts are not obvious on first glance – but they are there – and those that understand and appreciate can help us develop and arrive at our potential.

It is ironic that the convenience of a meal kit brought Lukas and I to the conclusion that we need to continue to embrace the old fashioned in our lives.

In the miracle of creation there are no accidents.

We just have to pay attention. 💚

*Note – One of the things our family insists on is meals around the table. As a teacher it breaks my heart that so many of my students don’t have access to fresh, home cooked meals. Many tell me they microwave up something and head to their room for dinner. 😢

My step daughter’s friends thought it was strange that we eat three meals around the table when we’re home (or often two since we do big breakfasts to fuel us through projects and eat an early dinner). However, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

This is my husband’s new K9. His name is K9 Zepp (after my husband’s favorite rock group – Led Zeppelin). Zeppelin is a 15 month old German Shepherd from Poland and he’s a very good boy.