“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! 


*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! 



Not Your Grandmother’s Egg Salad

I am not sure exactly how it happens. It may come in the form of a manual, a hardcover book – or in modern times – the password to a secret website. However, I am fairly certain that when one becomes a grandma, somehow you receive underground information on the art of sandwich making. In my personal experience the grandmas of the world seem to know exactly how to satisfy even the pickiest grandchild’s appetite.

Trust me, I will never forget the day when my step-children Avalon and Lukas both took a sip of their “pink milk” (Strawberry flavored milk) and declared that it tasted just like Granny Barb’s. Talk about feeling jubilant!

I still remember my mom’s frustration when she could not get my brother Jamie’s sandwich quite right.

There was a bit of tension in her voice as she picked up the phone to call my paternal grandmother Edna Armstrong, “Okay, now what brand of bread do you use? And the peanut butter? Do you spread it on both pieces? ”

“What brand of margarine?” (Don’t judge – it was the 70s).

“Do you put it on before or after the peanut butter? How thick? So there is no jelly or jam on the sandwich? Cut at a slant or lengthwise?”

While my mom may not have “mastered” the perfect peanut butter sandwich at this point in her life, she knew that cutting the sandwich wrong could be detrimental to the entire process.

After she put the phone down on the receiver we both turned to Jamie and studied him intently. He was all of six years old, complete with big blue eyes, rosy cheeks, freckles, and a fringe of sandy brown bangs. He took one bite. Put the sandwich down and shook his head.

“No. It still doesn’t taste like Grandma’s!”

My maternal grandma Hilda Puskala, after rearing seven children, had a large brood of grandchildren. One of my sandwich memories of Grandma’s kitchen was her and my mom making Pickle and Bologna. She would haul out the metal grinder and clamp it to the kitchen table. I can still hear the squeak of the handle as they processed the ring bologna and dill pickles. For the perfect sandwich spread she would mix in mayonnaise (or was it Miracle Whip?).

While Grandma and Mom would mix up pounds of Pickle and Bologna in a large McCoy mixing bowl with pink and blue stripes, my Aunt Christina and I would fight them for space at the table with her Fuzzy Pumper Play-Doh Barber Shop. Anyone who grew up in the 70s knew that the meat grinder and the Play-Doh barber shop were soul mates.

I wasn’t sure if Pickle and Bologna was an Upper Peninsula thing, but my husband John (who hails from Muskegon) said he remembers his grandmother making it too. After a quick Internet search, I found recipes for this sandwich spread (most from the Midwest) that are probably inspired from someone’s frugal grandma.

To be honest, I cannot imagine eating Pickle and Bologna today, but I remember eating it as a child. While I probably enjoyed my mom’s, I guarantee it was not as good as when she made it with Grandma.

So in the spirit of Grandmas everywhere, I am introducing a new sandwich spread to the mix. After all, one day – way into the future I may add — I may be a step-grandma. Therefore, I need to work on my sandwich game (just in case no one delivers me that precious manual).

This is “healthed up” version of a traditional egg salad. I do put in a lot of crunchy additions, so you can make edits based on your personal preference. To cut down on fat and add an extra boost of protein, I substitute cottage cheese for salad dressing or mayonnaise.

I will also add that while I do tend to take an old-fashioned approach to cooking and do not invest in a lot of fancy gadgets, purchasing a pressure cooker (such as the popular Instapot) has been a game changer for hardboiled eggs. Since our eggs are so fresh, I didn’t even bother hardboiling them before because they were impossible to peel. Now I put them in my pressure cooker and use the 6/6/6 method. I cook at high pressure for six minutes, let sit in the pot for six minutes, and immerse in an ice bath for six minutes and the shells pop right off like magic. However, I have found that the number of minutes that I cook them for depends on how many eggs I am cooking, so you may want to experiment. Since I have an 8 quart cooker, I can hard-boil 3 dozen or so eggs at a time.


  • 6 large whole hard-boiled eggs (since our eggs are farm fresh from our happy hens, I often have to vary the amount due to differing size)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/8 cup chopped onion
  • 1/8 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 cup 1% low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1+ Tbsp apple cider vinegar (I add several Tbsp for tanginess)
  • 1+ tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp dried dill weed or fresh to taste (fresh is even better)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • *Optional – sugar (if you are used to a sweeter tasting salad dressing)

I think it’s crucial to the taste of the egg salad to let it sit overnight to marry the flavors. It may get a bit runny, but you just have to stir and it will be perfect.

This egg salad may not be as creamy as you are used to, so you can add a touch of mayo or even a small amount of plain Greek yogurt.

Another great addition for healthy fat and flavor is a mashed avocado.

While the egg salad that I remember from childhood was always on white bread, I like to further break tradition and serve as a dip for crackers or celery, and make an open faced sandwich on rye or dark bread with lettuce and tomato. You can also make a tortilla wrap — or if you are watching your starchy carbs — serve on a bed of lettuce or use it to stuff a tomato.

While my egg salad may not be the version that my grandmother’s made, that is okay. Because as corny as it is, we all know that the secret ingredient that made their food delicious was love. ❤

As I create recipes, I try to enhance flavors with ingredients that reflect this unconditional love. We must nourish our bodies with food that is kind to us and that helps us reach our health goals and our potential.

It is an understatement to say that it has been a long winter. I wish you beautiful days full of the luxury of sunshine, songbirds, and green. In the coming weeks, take advantage of milder weather and plan a picnic. While you are at it, whip up some egg salad sandwiches. What a perfect way to celebrate spring and the Grandma Edna and Hildas in our lives!

Grandma Hilda Puskala with myself, my mom Karen Armstrong, and my niece Kristine circa 1996. How perfect that we are wearing our “Easter bonnets”. We were attending a gorgeous shower that my Aunt Christina planned for me.

Grandma Edna. She displays her spunky nature with her creative bonnet. 🙂


My brother Jamie and I in 1976.

Potato Encrusted Fried Chicken

Growing up in Crystal Falls in the 70s, with a traditional family structure, cooking was primarily reserved for my mother. She was a stay-at-home mom until my senior year of high school and the only time I remember my dad cooking was on hot summer evenings when he manned the domed charcoal grill. I know this set-up may sound familiar for many in my generation.

When I left for college, I noticed that my father, James Armstrong, started hobby cooking. He enjoyed making chili, hearty soups, and one of his specialties became Potato Encrusted Walleye. The fish was caught by either him or my brother Jamie on the Paint River — and I often requested it for breakfast when I was home on holiday. A sunny side up egg was the perfect accompaniment to the crispy coating of the fish and I can still hear and smell the fillets sizzling on the stove. My dad taught me that you had to be patient as you fry the delicate fish on low to allow the outside to brown to perfection. Of course, a squeeze of fresh lemon was the mandatory finishing touch. Fish may sound like a strange meal for breakfast, but most people who fish will agree that sometimes it is hard to wait until dinner to feast on your catch. So breakfast it is!

In our household, I try to do the bulk of the cooking. Not only was this the way that I was raised, but my workaholic husband goes above and beyond his share of household chores. However, he often pitches in at mealtime when we are in a time crunch (or when I need a cooking break) and he knows his way around the kitchen.

When I married John and became a step-mom, I tried to encourage my new family to eat healthier. Yet, I quickly learned that they were not going to get excited about hummus, roasted beets, or twenty ways to prepare avocado toast. Believe me, I learned this lesson quick. Our first summer together we spent many evenings at our backyard fire pit and my most important job was to make sure that we always had the ingredients for s’mores on hand (in fact, it is still my most important job). Avalon loves peanut butter cups on hers and Lukas is more of a purist and prefers the traditional chocolate squares and his marshmallows fluffy and toasted a mellow brown. Well, I thought that I would change things up a bit and suggested a ‘healthier’ s’mores substitute that I saw on Pinterest that utilized apple slices instead of graham crackers. I will never forget the looks on all of their faces. Avalon did not miss a beat with her tart reply, “Great job, Amy. You just ruined s’mores!” Thankfully, this was a moment that we still laugh about. Though, anyone with a blended family knows, this moment sums up being a step-parent perfectly.

One of the challenges of mealtime, not exclusive to step-parents, is finding ways to strike a healthy balance and satisfy everyone’s food cravings. One of the things that I discovered was that my step-daughter, who takes her s’mores seriously, is also a chicken finger/nugget/wing aficionado. While we do have hens for eggs, we also raise chickens on our farm for meat. I had the foresight to try out my dad’s walleye coating on chicken breasts and in the process I discovered a new dinner favorite for Avalon and the rest of the family.

The thing that I like about this recipe is that you can be exploratory with spices and it works well for a variety of meals: it makes great fish tacos with a cilantro slaw (check out my shrimp tacos recipe for the slaw. I recommend a firm fish like mahi mahi for the tacos) and I am a huge fan of it as a coating for zucchini or mushrooms. The main ingredient is simple: instant potato flakes. My father prefers “Potato Buds” but I buy whatever is available at the supermarket.


*3 cups of instant mashed potatoes (non-prepared)
*Tablespoon of oregano
*Tablespoon of garlic powder
*Tablespoon of onion power
*Tablespoon of paprika
*Tablespoon of lemon pepper seasoning (the seasoning I buy has plenty of salt – so I do not add any additionally)
*5 beaten eggs
*1 package of chicken breasts
*Cooking oil (1 inch in the pan)

Add all the dry ingredients to a gallon size plastic bag (if you like to recycle bread bags work great for this). Coating the chicken tends to be a messy process, but I promise you that it’s worth it. Coat the chicken near a sink, or have plenty of paper towels within reach (I tend to like to use my hands when I cook so I wash between each piece of chicken the coat).  I also cut the chicken into smaller pieces so it cooks faster.

We raise our own chicken, so happily I have not had to purchase chicken from the store in four years.

I pat dry the chicken with a paper towel and dip in the egg and then toss in the gallon bag and shake. I like to double-dip the chicken so once it’s coated, I dip it again into the egg wash and give it another shake in the coating. I try not to over-handle the chicken once coated. While the coating does maintain itself well (due to the double dipping) I am gentle with it when frying. I have found that if you coat all the chicken and then let it rest for the time that you heat the oil, the coating stays better intact when frying. I like to use a cast iron pan.

“Resting Chicken”

I heat the oil on low for 7-10 minutes and bring it up a few notches (3 or 4 on my gas burner) and cook the chicken for 5 minutes on each side (by then it should be golden brown).  I try not to overload the pan so the chicken cooks faster.  After each side is browned I transfer the chicken into a baking pan and cook at 350 for 20 minutes. While the chicken is baking I have time to finish my sides. Avalon’s favorite is mashed Yukon gold potatoes (I leave the peels on, cook in the pressure cooker for 5 minutes and whip up in the stand mixer with plenty of butter, hot milk — and if I am prepared – roasted garlic. Lukas’ favorite side is canned green beans from our garden.

While this chicken is fit for a Sunday dinner, it is easy enough to prepare for a weeknight. Sometimes I like to change out the spices and we like some heat with a blackening or Cajun spice and dill is fantastic as well. Just as my dad’s fish, I started serving this chicken with wedges of lemon, but I have found that the lemon pepper gives the coating a tangy finish (though personally I do not think you can ever have enough lemon).

As summer approaches after an arduous winter, I am dreaming of some of my dad’s fried walleye. I foresee time spent with him on the pontoon boat listening to Johnny Cash and sipping a PBR. Of course, the best fishing adventures involve stories around the campfire. I guess it is up to me to bring the s’mores. After all, it is the least I can do after nearly destroying the traditional dessert with one of my culinary adventures. Thank you, Dad, for helping me redeem myself!



Lentil Sloppy Joes – Prepare a Healthy & Hearty Meal with Pantry Staples

“The deep roots never doubt spring will come.”
― Mary Rubin

If your household is anything like ours, May is an exciting and hectic time. The kids and I are finishing up with school and my husband always has extra training and projects to finish at work. In addition, in the spring our farm chores start to pick up momentum and in the hustle and bustle of life, meal planning and grocery shopping often get pushed to the side. It is times like these that make it necessary to do an inventory of what is available in the house and make some magic happen the kitchen.

Thankfully, I am great at stocking up on pantry staples. There is a running joke in our house that when the zombies attack – the Waldos will not starve. My step-son Lukas loves to tell the story of the time that John and I got home from our honeymoon in Alaska. I declared to everyone that I HAD to go grocery shopping because we had “no food in the house.” Needless to say, four days later (without grocery shopping) I managed to feed our family of four (plus Grandpa) three meals a day (including snacks and dessert). I guess that is one of the benefits of being a teacher – we are always planning ahead. Even when we do not realize that we are.

Another challenge with a whirlwind schedule is making sure that the food we consume has health benefits. When in a time crunch it is easy to grab heavily processed meals that are void of nutrition. That is one of the reasons that I believe in keeping a well-stocked kitchen. I almost always have the ingredients on hand for the recipe that I am going to share with you today.

Sloppy Joes were a childhood favorite in my house, but this “grown up” version is much healthier. The lentils have staying power and are filling and you can serve in a variety of ways. You can serve it on buns, in pita pockets, or open faced on a piece of artesian bread. I like to toast the bread and sprinkle with with dill pickles. If you are trying to watch your bread intake it is fabulous served over romaine leaves or even as a topping for sautéed cabbage or zucchini. I have shared this recipe before and since I have received a lot of feedback on it, I believe it is worthy of sharing again!

Lentil Sloppy Joes


  • 2 cups lentils (If you want to get fancy you can purchase red lentils in bulk at the Marquette co-op)
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1 cup of chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup of chopped celery
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 6 ounces of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon worcestershiresauce
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes(or more)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • *Optional ~ hot sauce(to taste)


  1. Saute the onion, celery, garlic, and bell pepper until soft (5-10 minutes)
  2. Add in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 60 minutes. Stir often and you may have to add more water as it cooks.
  3. You may want to add more spices/vinegar/mustard based on your taste. Sometimes I like to add extra hot sauce and an extra splash of vinegar right before serving.
  4. Makes Seven Cups. If you do not want such a large batch you can use the same amount of ingredients but reduce the lentils to one cup and only add 2 1/2 cups of water. I like to make a large batch so we have leftovers. Sometimes I freeze in individual containers for grab-and-go lunches.

I hope that your spring plans are in full swing and that you can find solace and healthy comfort in your kitchen. I find that when my calendar gets full it is deeply satisfying to know that I am still managing to feed my family nutritious meals that help fuel our time commitments. So fill out that shopping list with kitchen staples, buy fresh produce and wholesome ingredients, and fill your refrigerator and deep freeze with meals that are simple and satisfying. I hope that you add this recipe to your menu. If you do, please take a  moment and  let me know what you think.

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!

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!


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

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


*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.




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


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

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.


*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)



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?

(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
(2 teaspoons per serving. I used flax oil)


*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

















*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.


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