Seasonal Simplicity – Squash

We do not have to look at the calendar to be reminded that the winter holiday season is upon us. Christmas displays started popping up in stores right along with jack-o- lanterns, while television commercials repeat a dizzying array of gift ideas. Not to mention that we all have that one friend on social media who has their Christmas shopping finished at the end of September. Unfortunately, I am not that friend. Though every year I want to be.

Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” As my husband and I try to become more self-sufficient in our food production, I have embraced the idea of rustic elegance when it comes to meals. Not only does it suit the farm-to-table lifestyle, but it can be an efficient way to cook.

I welcome food prep that can carry over into a variety of meals. Cooking in bulk can
serve a busy schedule well – especially during the hustle and the bustle of the holidays. For example, a large pan of roasted Brussels sprouts can be a healthy holiday side dish and the leftovers can hearty up a breakfast quiche, add flavor to a spinach salad, or be an unexpected addition to a pasta dish (and with the time you save you can wrap up those last minute gifts).

One of the foods that has come a long way from the bad rap that many of us gave it as kids, is squash. Not only does it grow easily in a garden, but it will keep a long time (several months) when stored in a cool place. If you do not have a green thumb, you can find a wide array of squash in the supermarket.

While I am known to use spaghetti squash as a healthy alternative to pasta, I enjoy preparing butternut and acorn squash. Both can be served whole (or more accurately halved) and they can be stuffed with a variety of ingredients (think rice, quinoa, or farro. Nuts, dried fruit, and even sausage). The squash can also be cubed and roasted, or even mashed. Since it can be prepared ahead of time, you can warm it up or serve cold as a salad. As long as you have the oven turned on, you might as well prepare a few extra squash and puree the leftovers with broth (and cream if you’re feeling indulgent) for soup (I also like to add apples to butternut squash soup).

Since both butternut and acorn squash are quite hard and difficult to cut, I prepare them whole: Pierce Butternut Squash and place in a baking dish (add a couple of cups of water to bottom of the dish)

Roast squash for 30-45 minutes at 400 degrees.

Peel squash and remove seeds. If you want to cube the squash and roast it, you could prepare using the above technique for a shorter amount of time until it is soft enough to cut easily. Once you have the squash cut, drizzle with olive oil and spices and roast until slightly caramelized and soft.

I recommend serving squash on a large serving platter. For a real rustic feel, do not peel but “scoop” the squash to serve.

A great accompaniment to squash is roasted cranberries, walnuts, and a homemade
Pumpkin Vinaigrette. The vinaigrette also makes a fantastic dressing for a green salad and it will keep over a month in the refrigerator.

Roasted Cranberries:


If you have never roasted cranberries before, you are missing out. Not only will your house smell amazing, but the sweet-tart flavor is astounding. Plus, you control how much sugar you want to use. You might want to make a triple batch (or more). Roasted cranberries are delightful as a topping for oatmeal (hot or refrigerator oats) and they make great appetizers (serve on toasted French bread or crackers with brie or goat cheese).

The sweet tart flavor of cranberries is incredible in refrigerator oatmeal.

*Bag(s) of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
*Juice and zest of one orange
*1 teaspoon of rosemary (more to taste)
* 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (more to taste)
* ¼ cup of honey (to taste. You can also use maple syrup or brown sugar)

 Roast for 20-25 minutes at 375-400 degrees
 Serve warm or cold (as they cool they will thicken)

Pumpkin Vinaigrette:
(make sure you check out the recipe Apple-a- Day Mason Jar Salad that
incorporates this dressing)

* 1/2 cup of vinegar (I use 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
* 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
* 1/4 cup of water (the dressing tends to be thick so I thin it out with water. You could add
extra vinegar.)
* 1 large clove of garlic
* 1 lemon ~ juice and zest
* 3 green onions (you can use a Tablespoon of 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 make it a pleasing combination.

This holiday season I hope you find many moments to make memories with your friends and family. If you are responsible for preparing a feast, remember that many foods can be made in bulk to serve many recipes and save precious time. Keeping our menus simple and rustic, does not mean that we have to sacrifice taste. Nature provides us with complex flavors and textures. One of the best gifts that you can give loved ones this year is a meal cooked with fresh and wholesome ingredients. From The Waldo family to yours – may your table be filled with holiday blessings!

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Cilantro & Lime Infused Shrimp Tacos with Crunchy Cabbage

Cilantro & Lime Infused Shrimp Tacos“I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers. I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in the summer — and what trees and seasons smelled like…”
-John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Our gladiolas are blooming which is a sure sign that fall is peeking around the corner.

Our gladiolas are blooming which is a sure sign that fall is peeking around the corner. I love to sit right here and have coffee in the morning and/or iced tea in the afternoon.

While I do not enjoy saying goodbye to summer, I love the feeling of transition that fall brings. There is elegance in autumn that is not present in other seasons. Now that I live on a farm, I am finding that I trust my senses more to announce the transition from summer to fall in the landscape. I watch the birds circling the sky, measure the way the morning light filters through the pasture, and I capture various scents in the air.

August Sky

August Sky

Our spring chicks are now full grown hens.

Our spring chicks are now full grown hens.

I LOVE our duck! Even if he refuses to go in the beautiful pond that John made for him.

I LOVE our duck! Even if he refuses to go in the beautiful pond that John made for him.

It’s truly been a magical summer and I feel like I have so much blogging to do to catch up. June started with a trip to New York City and ended with our belated honey moon to Alaska.

My husband built a pond/waterfall, installed a pool, created gardening spaces for me, and did various landscaping projects. We got approved for a grant from the USDA for a hoop house/greenhouse (which will be delivered in the next few weeks) and we added a new rototiller and sawmill to our farm equipment.

Our hotel was only a few blocks from Times Square and Central Park

Our hotel was only a few blocks from Times Square and Central Park

One of my students won a national writing award with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and I was presented with a medal and certificate of achievement.

One of my students won a national writing award with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and I was presented with a medal and certificate of achievement.

Prospecting for Gold in Chicken Alaska

Prospecting for Gold in Chicken Alaska.

One of our "off the grid" camping spots .

One of our “off the grid” camping spots .

Alaskan Fireweed and Mountains

Alaskan Fireweed and Mountains

Our Golden Retriever Ollie even relaxed in the pool this summer.

Our Golden Retriever Ollie even relaxed in the pool this summer.

The beautiful pond John built and my adorable step kids.

The beautiful pond John built and my adorable step kids.

The weather this summer was gorgeous and I walked laps around the pasture for exercise (sometimes while playing “Alien Hunter” with my step son) and we had evening fires in our backyard (which almost always involved a dance party with my step kids).

Lukas received this cool back pack from Uncle Nick. It holds all the essentials that an alien hunter needs: alien proof goggles, food source (snake), guns, and a radio. The radio also serves as an invisibility cloak ray gun (helpful to hide from the Queen..though she can still smell us). I love his imagination!

Lukas received this cool back pack from Uncle Nick. It holds all the essentials that an alien hunter needs: alien proof goggles, food source (snake), guns, and a radio. The radio also serves as an invisibility cloak ray gun (helpful to hide from the Queen..though she can still smell us). I love his imagination!

Speaking of my step kids, I have to give a shameless plug to my sweet stepdaughter Avalon’s YouTube Channel. She is ten years old and I have featured a few of her recipes here on my blog. Not only does she love to help me in the kitchen but we love to shop together and she shares my passion for writing, social media, and being creative.

Avalon and I had a spa day and got our back to school haircuts.

Avalon and I had a spa day and got our back to school haircuts.

Her “House Tour Video” is absolutely adorable and I think that her sparkling personality really shines through. Now that the pool is installed the sunflowers are ready to bloom, I told Avalon that she needs to do an update. Make sure you check out her video, give it a like, and if you leave a comment it will really make her day. This week we hope to record a video together of our new clothes for the school year. Avalon thinks that I need to start adding videos to my blog. What do you think? 😉

Avalon’s YouTube channel.

Autumn marks a time for fresh starts and in our house it means getting back to the basics with a new school year. Since I am a teacher, I join my kids in embracing an early bedtime routine, homework (in my case grading and lesson planning), and setting academic and personal goals.

As busy as our schedules get, I do not want to abandon our family dinners around the table. Last fall Lukas (who is now seven) declared that we should have Taco Tuesdays – and we obliged. Sometimes it may end up being Taco Monday or Thursday – but taco night is a hit in our household. Not only does it suit the meat eaters and the vegetarian in our house, but also the leftovers easily convert into salad, nachos, soup, or pizza. Depending on what we have in the house we prepare guacamole, spicy rice, refried or black beans, seasoned meat, and serve up sour cream, cheese, peppers, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, and a variety of sauces.

Since we have a farm we raise our own pork and chicken (and soon beef), but my husband also loves seafood. For this recipe I came up with a simple marinade for shrimp (that would work well with any protein). Vegetarians could also use it to marinate squash, which is abundant in gardens and the supermarket this time of year.
The shrimp tacos also receive a burst of flavor and satisfying crunch from a cabbage slaw that is dressed with the same marinade as the shrimp.

Lukas helped me plant cilantro this summer and he loves adding it to our homemade guacamole and salsa made from our homegrown tomatoes. Have you noticed how kids are willing to eat healthier and try new foods when they help grow and prepare it themselves?

Lukas helped me plant basil, dill, and cilantro in an old tin tub and it is flourishing!

Lukas helped me plant basil, dill, and cilantro in an old tin tub and it is flourishing!

Ingredients:

I recently fell in love with Penzeys spices. My husband enjoys this Cajun spice in alfredo pasta and on eggs too.

I recently fell in love with Penzeys spices. My husband enjoys this Cajun spice in alfredo pasta and on eggs too.

*1 pound of raw shrimp
*1 bunch of cilantro
*1/4 cup chopped onion
*1/2 small cabbage
*3 juiced limes and zest
*2 Tablespoons of olive oil
*1 Tablespoon of Cajun seasoning
*2 teaspoons of sugar
*Salt and pepper

IMG_4036CILANTRO & LIME MARINADE
Pour the following marinade on the shrimp (remove shell and tails):
*Juice and zest of two limes
*1 Tablespoon olive oil

*2 minced cloves of garlic
*1 Tablespoons of Cajun spice (more if you want extra spice. Since the Cajun seasoning that I added already had salt, I did not add any additional)
*1/2 cup of fresh chopped cilantro

IMG_4049

IMG_4047CABBAGE SLAW:
*Chop ½ of the small cabbage
*Juice and zest of one lime

*1 Tablespoon olive oil
*1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
*1 clove of minced garlic
*2 teaspoons of sugar
*Salt and pepper to taste

Ideally, let the shrimp and slaw sit for several hours in the refrigerator (it works well to make the night before). You can grill the shrimp or cook over the stove top until the shrimp turns pink. Serve the shrimp and cabbage on flour tortillas with spicy ranch dressing. You can buy many versions in the store or add salsa to ranch dressing. For a healthier version you can add salsa or hot sauce to plain, fat-free Greek yogurt.

PRINTABLE RECIPE HERE: CILANTRO & LIME INFUSED SHRIMP TACOS

IMG_4055

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I hope your family enjoys the fresh flavors of these tacos as much as mine did. Make sure you check out these other recipes for versatile Taco night: Spicy Brown Rice and Snappy Salsa, Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette Dressing, Homemade Taco Seasoning, Layered Refried Bean and Guacamole Dip, Confetti Salad.

Thank you for following my blog and while I have a lot of my plate in the coming months with a new school year, thesis writing, an internship, and motherhood, but I am going to try my best to keep posting. Until then make sure you follow my page on Facebook, Instagram, and I would love to hear from you! ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Versatility of Homemade Pizza

The Versatility of Homemade Pizza by Produce with Amy

Our house was always filled with dogs… They helped make our house a kennel, it is true, but the constant patter of their filthy paws and the dreadful results of their brainless activities have warmed me throughout the years. ~Helen Hayes

Lukas and Louie getting in some Saturday morning snuggles.

Lukas and Louie getting in some Saturday morning snuggles.

Ahhhhhhh, weekends – time to breathe and recharge! Though I think it is fair to say that we all have a bit of cabin fever in our house (yes, our four dogs and kitten too). The kids have been bickering and I have been short-tempered as I try to balance my reading for my college classes with household chores and planning out lessons for my own classroom. This weekend I did manage to organize my closet and the kids helped me fold and put away the mountain of clean laundry that always seems to sneak up. This afternoon I promised them that we would go to town so they can spend their Valentine money from Granny Barb and Grandma Karen and we will join John after he’s done with work for dinner at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants (a splurge since we do not eat out often). After dinner John has hockey practice for the Pigs-N-Heat Charity Hockey Game that he participates in each year. It’s a wonderful cause and we cannot wait to watch him take to the ice in March.

After school on Friday Avalon made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. The color nearly made my heart sink - not the healthiest thing to feed my family. Yet, the kids and John loved them. Next time we will experiment with a healthier alternative and share our recipe here!

After school on Friday Avalon made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. The color nearly made my heart sink – not the healthiest thing to feed my family. Yet, the kids and John loved them. Next time we will experiment with a healthier alternative and share our recipe here!

The kids and I started our morning with a green smoothie. Spinach, frozen bananas and strawberries, fresh pineapple, oranges, and water. I blended Greek Gods honey vanilla yogurt in their smoothies and added a large dollop of yogurt to each of their glasses. This makes up for the Pop Tart they ate yesterday and the red velvet cupcakes, right!?! 😦 Baby steps! It was a bit of project getting them to finish their smoothies – but I admit the Vitamix container was FULL and their glasses were huge. At least this way I know they are getting in some nutrients. (Avalon has the sniffles today and was complaining about a sore throat.)

I had a strong week health food wise and ate an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables (and I stayed away from the kids’ after school snacks that are lurking in my classroom). Last night was an indulgent dinner and I made one of our favorite meals – PIZZA! Yes, we love pizza in our house and we really do it up BIG. The truth is that homemade pizza really isn’t that complicated and I love how versatile it is. I make sure that I keep all of the items needed for the dough on hand and I always have cheese and pepperoni (for the kids and sometimes John) frozen in the freezer. The kids are not fond of vegetables on their pizza (remember, baby steps) though Lukas will eat mushrooms. John, however, has become quite the vegetarian pizza fan. At first it was just to appease me – but now he genuinely loves the combinations that I create (minus banana peppers, olives, and the tomatoes must be sun-dried, and not fresh, for him to enjoy).

Pizza for the kids with extra cheese.

Pepperoni for the kids with extra cheese.

Last week I made dough in our bread machine (I use the recipe that came with it – but sometimes I try other recipes on Pinterest). I made two pounds of dough and cut it in half, wrapped in plastic, and tossed it in the freezer. Yesterday morning I pulled it out and it was ready to go by dinner time.

Dough is so simple to make – flour, water, salt, sugar, and yeast (I buy a jar of yeast and keep it in the refrigerator). Sometimes I add seasonings right to the dough like basil, oregano, onion, and garlic powder. Freezing it makes for a convenient dinner. Trust me, after you start making your own you will never want to rely on frozen or takeout pizza again (though I confess that sometimes we succumb to both when in a pinch).
Frozen pizza doughYesterday I decided to create a pizza for John and I with what we had in the house. I decided to forgo the tomato sauce and instead slathered in the dough with olive oil infused with fresh garlic and dried oregano. I also caramelized onions (cook slowly on low heat until brown and soft – they become unbelievable sweet and delicious) and sautéed up a bunch of mushrooms and red bell peppers.

Often I will leave the vegetables raw and add to the pizza, but cooking them first allows them to sweeten and it helps the pizza from getting too runny from all the vegetable’s water content. I love the texture of canned mushrooms on pizza (better than fresh) and I’ve found that cooking them gives them a similar texture. Plus, when I used fresh I can cut thick slices and they give the pizza a “meaty” texture. I used real butter to saute up the vegetables but you can use your favorite cooking oil (I like to use coconut oil or a cooking grade olive oil).

Pizza Toppings

HOMEMADE PIZZA – AMY’S WAY

Pizza dough right out of the oven. After I removed it, I spread one with the infused olive oil and the other with pizza sauce.

Pizza dough right out of the oven. After I removed it, I spread one with the infused olive oil and the other with pizza sauce.

Spread the dough out on a pizza stone or pizza pan by adding olive oil to the pan and the top of the dough. Work the dough out (I pat with my hands – use olive oil to keep it from sticking) and bake for ten minutes in a 350 degree oven (before putting in the oven you can add seasonings to the dough if you would like – fresh garlic and/or garlic/onion salt or powder, basil, rosemary, oregano and even grated parmesan cheese). You can let the dough cool or add the toppings right away.

I love to experiment with different sauces. I buy pre-made pizza sauce and always have it on hand in the house – or I make my own with tomato sauce, tomato paste, and a variety of spices. Sometimes I use alfredo sauce (In the past I was known for my nearly world famous shrimp alfredo pizza), salsa, or BBQ sauce – or infused olive oil – depending on what kind of pizza we want. The nice thing about pizza is it’s easy to create a variety of combinations for one meal (make small individual pizzas or go half and half with toppings).

Once the pizza is topped I cook for approximately 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven and finish under the broiler so the cheese browns. If you’re plant-based Daiya makes non-dairy cheese that works well for pizza.

While pizza not be on the healthiest meals, if you load it up with vegetables and add a salad or broth based soup in the side – it is easier to eat in moderation. Not to mention that the leftovers are to-die-for! There’s nothing like a slice of pizza for lunch the next day (or even breakfast). Sometimes that is how I convince myself from putting that extra piece on my plate 😉

For this pizza I used the following:
*1/4 cup of olive oil with a couple teaspoons of minced garlic, dried oregano, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt
Olive oil infused with herbs*1 small caramelized onion
*1/2 container of mushrooms (sliced)
*1/4 cup of sun-dried tomatoes (I bought the ones in bags and “reconstituted” them by soaking in hot water for a few minutes – though some people like to add oil)
*1/4 of a large, red bell pepper (sauted. Roasted red peppers from the supermarket olive bar

are phenomenal on pizza as well)
*Feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, grated parmesan, and little bit of cheddar (honestly, I did not measure – just added a couple handfuls and about 1/4 up of feta)

 

Mushrooms are a great meat substitute.

Mushrooms are a great meat substitute.

Some of my other favorite pizza toppings are:
*banana pepper
*olives (Greek are my favorite)
*artichoke hearts
*broccoli (great with BBQ sauce)
*jalapenos (fresh or pickled)
*zucchini (sliced paper thin)
*fresh basil leaves
*spinach

If you do not make homemade pizza, I hope that my post encourages you to try it. I was intimidated at first but it’s extremely versatile and the kids love to help me create pizza masterpieces (one day I am convinced they will enjoy the vegetables). It is on John’s Honey-Do List to build us an outdoor pizza oven when he encloses our back deck. How cool will that be? I can envision the memories we will make with family and friends as we build the perfect pizza together!

What are your favorite pizza toppings and combinations? Please share – I would love some new ideas. I hope that you are enjoying your February and that you are keeping spring in your heart. Thank you for all the new follows on my Facebook page and all of the supportive and encouraging comments. Thanks to you I have my blogging mojo back. Take care, my friends and I wish you a healthy and productive week! ❤


Homemade Pizza by Produce with Amy

Lemony Tomato Sauce with Dill

Lemony Tomato Sauce with Dill by Produce with Amy“There is no technique, there is just the way to do it.
Now, are we going to measure or are we going to cook?”
― Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun

I haven’t read Under the Tuscan Sun in ages and this is my reminder to do so soon. It was one of my favorites when I first began teaching and I pulled out line-after-line to share with my creative writing students. The way that Mayes described the colors of Tuscany took my breath away. Mayes writes, ” When it rains or when the light changes, the facade of the house turns gold, sienna, ocher; a previous scarlet paint job seeps through in rosy spots like a box of crayons left to melt in the sun.” In my dreams, I see the valleys she writes about — like bowls of fog  — filled with fruit tress. I want sink my teeth into figs, pears, and apricots and navigate the ancient Roman roads. I want to be there right now, don’t you? (It was -2 on my commute to work today.)

When I met John I learned that he shares my love of travel. We have plans to visit Alaska this summer – and he will be the travel director – meaning the vacation will be on his terms. Alaska was never on my bucket list before I met John but he talked so passionately about a trip he took there with his uncle and father that I want to experience the real Alaska with him. We will not be taking a cruise or staying in touristy hotels. We will be roughing it – so to say. I am nervous and excited to venture out of my comfort zone. I promise plenty of blog posts from our adventures.

I can get lost in the beauty of our home and land.

I can get lost in the beauty of our home and land.

My friends and family have found themselves shaking their heads in amusement many times over the past year as John encourages me to embrace my true Yooper. This includes helping him split and stack wood to heat our log home, cleaning the chicken coop, weeding the garden in my Bog boots and bikini, and this winter I have even learned how to load the outside wood boiler with logs.

Because marriage is about compromise, John has agreed to visit Italy and Greece – on my terms – for my 50th birthday (that gives us a substantial amount of time to save) and I cannot wait to experience the colors and flavors of the Mediterranean. In my mind’s eye I imagine the magic that  Mayes describes come to life before my eyes. I am a goal setter and I love having my eye fixed on the future and knowing that John and I can reward ourselves for hard work. It also helps me live more frugally, knowing that being wise with our money will pay off with new experiences and the wisdom gained by travel.

In my last post, Time to Make Myself a Priority Again, I shared my struggles in finding time for myself and even for cooking healthy meals. I was waving the white flag at my picky family and relying on processed food  – in return I have been feeling less than healthy. Last weekend an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, greens, and berries found their way into my shopping cart and this week I plan a repeat performance. My favorite mid-day snacks at work this week were grapefruit – peeled like an orange. They were so sweet and juicy that sugar was not needed (though I don’t think I’ve put sugar on grapefruit since I was a kid).

I love having a bottomless fruit bowl at home. Our kids love bananas and cuties.

I love having a bottomless fruit bowl at home. Our kids love bananas and cuties.

On Tuesday I got home from work and whipped up a batch of homemade marinara for a pan of vegetarian lasagna (a great way to sneak vegetables into my family’s diet). I sautéed garlic, onion, celery, red bell pepper, mushrooms, carrots, and spinach, and added one jar of store-bought spaghetti sauce and a large can of crushed tomatoes along with oregano and basil. I layered up the sauce with lasagna noodles, cottage cheese, and added three cheeses to the middle layer and top (mozzarella, parmesan, and Colby jack). My husband and stepson LOVED it – though my stepdaughter picked around her plate. Oh well, more for us! 😉

Vegetarian lasagna is a great way to "trick" my family into eating vegetables. They love lasagna!

Vegetarian lasagna is a great way to “trick” my family into eating vegetables. They love lasagna! I am wild about our new Pioneer Woman dishes and accessories.

In recommitting to my health, I started thinking about all the meals that I used to enjoy but have not made in over a year because I know that John and the kids would not favor them. I have decided to cook them again. John is always willing to help in the kitchen and we will just have to eat two totally different things more often. This morning when I came downstairs after getting ready for work; not only had John made my coffee and pulled my vehicle out of the garage, but he had already put dinner in the crock pot for him and kids (ribs with BBQ sauce). On Monday I roasted potatoes, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts and made sure to make a double batch – so there was plenty for tonight. I had roasted vegetables with a GIANT dinner salad with a veggie patty and a dollop of hummus for extra protein.

My dinner salad.

My dinner salad.

After dinner I decided that I would prepare one of my favorite tomato sauces dishes to have for lunch tomorrow. As I chopped up the ingredients and juiced and zested the lemon – I could not help envision the Italy that Frances Mayes has fanned out for me in the pages of her writing. Oh, what a delight it would be to select a fresh lemon from a tree and allow its perfume to fill the kitchen.  Like the quote I shared at the top of the page – I am often a cook that creates without recipes. Of course, blogging has changed that slightly, but I always recommend that you let your own taste buds lead you. Add as much or as little lemon as you like and season with the amount of dill that satisfies you. My recipes are always a suggestion and I enjoy hearing the tweaks that individuals make to suit their family and their own tastes.

This sauce is great with a variety of olives and I have even been known to chop up some of my mom’s famous dill pickles to add to the sauce. It is fantastic over pasta or zucchini noodles  If you eat fish, tuna is a wonderful accompaniment (I have added a tin of tuna to the sauce – or topped with a piece of seared tuna steak). If you are vegetarian or follow a plant-based diet, tender white beans are a fine addition.

LEMONY TOMATO SAUCE WITH DILL

*2 cloves finely minced garlic
*1/4 cup chopped onion
*1/2 cup chopped celery
* 1 Tbsp olive oil
*32 ounces canned tomatoes (I used crushed tomatoes because that is what I had on hand. I often use whole tomatoes and break them apart a bit with a spoon or my hand. In the summer I have made this with fresh garden tomatoes and there is nothing that can compare to it.)
*10-15 olives (cut in 1/2 or chopped)
*2 Tablespoons of capers
*Fresh chopped dill (I use kitchen shears to snip and I used approximately 1/4 cup. A couple teaspoons of dried dill would work as well)
*Juice and zest from one lemon
*Black pepper to taste 
(I do not add salt since the olives and capers add enough of saltiness to the sauce)

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Sauté the onions, celery, and garlic until soft. Add in the tomatoes and simmer for ten minutes. Stir in the olives, capers, dill, and lemon zest and juice – simmer a few minutes to incorporate the flavors. Spoon over pasta or zucchini noodles.

 

 

Print out the recipe here: LEMONY TOMATO SAUCE WITH DILL

I hope that you enjoy this sauce as much as I do. I cannot wait to have it for lunch tomorrow. Incidentally, after my sauce was finished bubbling on the stove – John, who was scrubbing the pans in the sink (he sweetly offered to help without my asking) – eyed the Lemony Tomato Sauce. “Try it,” I encouraged him, curious as to what he would think. “It’s good!” he responded in surprise. He thought it would be a great topping for pasta with seared tuna steak. It looks like I will be adding tuna to my shopping list. I wonder what the kids will think – I will have them try a bite (they love tuna steak).

Not only am I changing up my meals and snacks, but this weekend I am going to buy a new multivitamin and add in a vitamin D and calcium supplement. What are your favorite brands of vitamins? I am open to suggestions.

It is also at the top of my list to make more time for myself to read for pleasure, write, and focus on my photography. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has dramatic landscapes in all seasons and I need to capture the beauty of our hobby farm in the winter.

Thank you for the comments and emails – it certainly is empowering to know that I am not alone in my struggles and I love that we can help encourage each other. As I like to say about my new role of motherhood – it takes a village – and I am happy that you are part of mine! ❤

Our kitten Trixie is getting big and Louie loves her so much. Not only do they snuggle together but he growls at the other dogs when they get "too close" to her.

Our kitten Trixie is getting big and Louie loves her so much. Not only do they snuggle together but he growls at the other dogs when they get “too close” to her.

Avalon and Lukas started a mutiny about school hot lunch so we bought them new lunch bags for Valentine's Day. I always send a snack with them to school but it's complicated because their school is nut free.

Avalon and Lukas started a mutiny about school hot lunch so we bought them new lunch bags for Valentine’s Day. I always send a snack with them to school but it’s complicated because their school is nut free. I will be scouring Pinterest for healthy cold lunch ideas.

 

Spicy Peanut Dressed Vegetables

Spicy Peanut Dressed Vegetables by Produce with Amy

“You are what you eat. What would YOU like to be?” ― Julie Murphy

With the first week of 2015 in the near distance, I keep reminding myself to stay true to my healthy goals and to keep progress over perfection my mantra. I have been navigating a personal struggle and I have to remember that nourishing my body with fruit and vegetables will help me keep my immune system strong and help me find the balance in my life that I am craving. When I feel like too many things are out of my control  – I need to find a way to manage stress in a healthy way. Therefore, I often turn to the produce section of the supermarket and make sure that I am properly feeding my body.

One of my goals this year is to post a weekly recipe. Today I find myself perched on a chair at a local Starbucks doing just that. I posted photos of this recipe on my Facebook page on December 2nd and I am finally making the time to share it with you.

I am always looking for new ways to reinvent my favorite flavors and I tend to like food with a spicy flair. When I get tired of Mason jar salads for lunch, I like to come up with different options. These Spicy Peanut Dressed Vegetables combine spiralized butternut squash, roasted broccoli, black beans, tomato, and cilantro. Can you imagine anything more perfect?

SPICY PEANUT DRESSED VEGETABLES
(I made five servings in 3 cup Pyrex glass dishes, but you can adapt to your individual needs)

Spiralized Butternut Squash*1 – 1/2 cups of cooked black beans 
*1 pint of halved grape tomatoes
*1 large head of broccoli – roasted (you can also roast frozen broccoli.  I chopped, drizzled with a little olive oil, and roasted for approximately 40 minutes (turning at the 20 minute mark) at 400 degrees.Times may vary depending on your oven)
*Spiralized butternut squash (approximately 1/2 cup per serving. The spiralizer that I use can be found HERE.)
*1 teaspoon of cinnamon
*1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
*1/2 cup of vegetable stock

*1 bunch of chopped green onions
*1/2 cup of fresh chopped cilantro
*Oil 
(2 teaspoons per serving. I used flax oil)

SPICY PEANUT DRESSINGChili Sauce

*1/2 cup of rice vinegar (or to taste. I like my dressings tangy. You could reduce the amount of vinegar and use water)
*1 Tablespoon of garlic chili sauce (or to taste)
*2 Tablespoons of lime juice
*2 Tablespoons of peanut butter
*Optional – teaspoon of fresh ginger

After spiralizing the butternut squash, heat the vegetable broth in a pan with the nutmeg and cinnamon until it starts to boil. Add the squash, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and allow to cook for approximately five minutes. Toss at the halfway point and remove from heat.

I ate this cold but I imagine it would also be terrific warm. It would also be wonderful layered in a Mason jar.
Divide the ingredients in individual containers and dress with the Spicy Peanut Dressing (I used all the dressing). Drizzle each serving with 2 teaspoons of oil. Sprinkle the top with the chopped green onions and cilantro.
Spicy Peanut Dressed Vegetables

 

The vibrant colors of this dish speak for themselves and the flavors and textures work well together. This recipe would also work well with roasted Brussels sprouts, cabbage, or cauliflower and a variety of beans. Sweet potato would also make a great swap for the butternut squash.

I hope you enjoy this meal as much as I did. Please make sign up for email updates of my posts, and follow my posts on Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter.

If you try this recipe, please let me know what you think. I love hearing the tweaks and additions that others make to my creations to fit personal tastes. Together we can thrive and embrace a healthy lifestyle.  Thank you for reading and I look forward to sharing more recipes with you.

 

 

 

 

Italian Hummus Spread with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Capers, and Olives

Italian Hummus Spread with Sundried Tomatoes, Capers, and Olives by Produce with Amy

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”
― Neil Gaiman

Happy New Year and I hope that today finds you full of hope and commitment for a productive 2015. I always love the positive energy that ushers in a new year and this year is no exception. A fresh calendar provides us with the opportunity to dream and live our days with intention.

Today holds a very special place in my heart (and not just because it is the first of the year). Today marks the two-year anniversary of Produce with Amy and I am thrilled to celebrate it with a brand new recipe. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my passion for healthy food with my on-line community and I could not do it without the inspiration, feedback, and comments from my readers.  I cannot begin to explain how much your support means to me. Thank you!

One of the things that I love about blogging is the connections that I make with people across the globe. Living in the rural Upper Peninsula of Michigan it is easy to feel isolated and I love that when I click publish on a post all distance is erased. Instantly I can unite with other health enthusiasts and share ideas as we inspire each other to make positive choices in our lives.

HummusDuring the holiday season I received many inquiries about plant-based dishes to pass at a party. Since I try to follow a plant-based diet, social gatherings can be tricky. I have found that it is important to go beyond the standard fruit or vegetable tray and bring something that is filling.

While protein packed hummus is often my go-to choice – it can get a little bland and boring – so I try to give it a boost with a variety of ingredients. If your hummus needs a little interesting nudge, I think you will enjoy this recipe.

Hummus dip with olives and capers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ITALIAN HUMMUS SPREAD WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATOES, CAPERS, AND OLIVES

*Hummus (you can use store-bought or find the recipe that I use here)
*1 teaspoon of dried oregano
*1/2 cup of chopped sun-dried tomatoes
*1/2 cup of chopped Kalamata Greek olives
*1/2 cup of chopped Italian parsley

*1/2 cup of chopped artichoke hearts
*1/4 cup of finely chopped red bell pepper
*1/4 cup of chopped green olives
*3 Tablespoons of capers
*3 Tablespoons of olive oil
*3Tablespoons of pesto
(store-bought or homemade. In place of pesto you could also use finely chopped fresh basil)
*Loaf of crusty bread (you can also use crackers, pita bread, tortilla chips, or raw vegetables for dipping)

Artichoke Hearts and PestoStir in oregano, sun-dried tomatoes,Greek olives, and parsley to hummus.

*Note – in place of raw garlic I added one head of roasted garlic to my hummus.

Spread hummus evenly on platter. Sprinkle on artichoke hearts and bell peppers. Drizzle with pesto and add the green olives and capers.

Slice bread, brush with olive oil, and toast in the oven or broiler until crisp. Serve and enjoy!

 

Pin this recipe HERE.

Toast

Hummus Spread

If you are looking for other ideas to bring to a gathering you may be interested in my recipes for Layered Greek Dip with Hummus & Tzatziki Sauce and Layered Refried Bean and Guacamole Dip.

I hope that you join me in celebrating Produce with Amy’s two-year anniversary with a burst of productivity and healthy choices. Make sure you stay up to date with my recipes by following my posts by email, by liking my Facebook page, and connecting with my other social media links on the right of this page.

I wish you health, peace, and plenty of laughter. Let’s thrive together in 2015!

Hummus and BreadHomemade Bread

 

 

 

 

 

Mediterranean Wrap with Greek Olives & Tzatziki Sauce

Mediterranean Wrap by Produce with Amy“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 

Since I try to fully embrace a healthy lifestyle, I do wait until the beginning of month to start new if I have slipped up. I truly believe that each day presents an opportunity for a fresh start (or as one of my Weight Watchers members always says – when it  comes to food – each meal). I think that the healthy routines that I have in place help me brush myself off when I stumble and fall.

November started strong but some of my healthy goals fell to the wayside (exercise, tracking, sleep) due to massive snowfall, rescheduled parent teacher conferences, and major stress in my personal life. However, I still managed to maintain a four pound loss. I attribute this to my obsessive food prep and the fact that I eat clean, plant-based foods. Even when my life feels “out of control” I make sure to nourish my body with the proper foods.
November GoalsFor December I decided to continue my November goals and will add in a daily green smoothie. I commit to a minimum of three days at the gym (two of the day attending a Strong Bodies group exercise class) and two other days of formal activity. Even though I was not able to meet my goals in November each week, I still feel it is realistic to do so in December.

Last week I had some personal stresses that made me feel completely out of control with my life and everything was turned upside down. I am thankful for Thanksgiving break to pause, breathe deep, and allow things to settle and seek balance again. I have had a lot of time to think about what I want to happen in the next few months and I am sending out positive vibes. The cardinals in this collage represent the angels in my life – I believe. I have witnessed and felt the fluttering of wings.

December Goals by Produce with AmyWhat are your healthy goals for December? If you are having a hard time setting or keeping goals, check out my post Fall Forward Healthy Lifestyle Challenge for some ideas.

In my last post, Layered Greek Dip with Hummus & Tzatziki Sauce, I shared my recipe for homemade Tzatziki Sauce. Today I thought I would share another recipe that incorporates the sauce.

Seeding the cucumbers by running a spoon down the middle will keep the sauce from getting runny.

Seeding the cucumbers by running a spoon down the middle will keep the sauce from getting runny.

This wrap is one of my husband Mike’s favorite and I make his with chicken breast. Since I do not eat meat, I add a veggie burger patty or white or garbanzo beans, or hummus for myself. If I am using whole beans, and not hummus, I mash the beans and lightly saute with garlic, oregano, and lemon juice. While I try to avoid processed food, I sometimes buy store bought veggie burgers. For this wrap I used MorningStar Farms Roasted Garlic and Quinoa Burger. 

MEDITERRANEAN WRAPS WITH GREEK OLIVES & TZATZIKI SAUCE

  • Med Wrap Tortilla
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of Tzatziki Sauce
  • Tomato (I used 6 grape tomatoes)
  • Handful of spinach
  • 6 chopped Kalamata olives
  • Veggie burger (hummus, beans, or protein of choice)
  • *optional – herbed tofu or feta cheese if you eat dairy

Lightly heat tortilla on griddle until it starts to brown. Layer with ingredients and wrap tightly.

Today I prepped extra ingredients and stored in the refrigerator. This will be our go-to dinner for the week.

Pin this post HERE.

Med Wrap I also made a large batch of Greek potatoes. I scrubbed the potatoes well, sliced, and drizzled with olive oil, minced garlic, finely chopped onion, dried dill, dried oregano, salt, and pepper. I roasted at 400 for 40 minutes (tossing at 20 minutes). I heat them up and squeeze fresh lemon on them before serving.

Thank you for stopping by my blog and I look forward to sharing more healthy and plant-based recipes with you.   I encourage you to sign up for email updates, stop by my Facebook page, and check out my other social networking links at the right hand side of the page. I love being part of a healthy community and together we can maximize our potential. May December be a wonderful month and let me know what your healthy goals are. I would love to keep each other accountable.

Mediterranean Wrap by Produce with Amy