Peach Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Pistachios, & Raspberry Orange Dill Dressing

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” 
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Autumn, tinged in bittersweet emotion, is arriving on the familiar formation of goose wings. As a teacher and stepparent, next month I welcome the school routine and falling back into regular working, sleeping, and eating patterns. While I will miss late morning coffee sessions pond side with our three noisy and entertaining ducks — Lucky, Dante, and Beatrice — I am ready to embrace the next chapter. Living on a farm I find that I trust my senses more to announce the transition of seasons in the landscape. I analyze the birds circling the sky, measure the way the morning light radiates with a golden filter through the pasture, and I capture various spicy scents in the air. With a renewed concentration I anticipate watching our honeybees visit the gladiolas and sunflowers in our yard (they will be blooming soon) and imagine their amber honey in our mugs of tea this winter. I take nothing for granted. Every moment of beauty I witness becomes a fleeting reminder of nature’s last dash for vibrancy before everything is covered in white fleece.

Lucky, Dante, and Beatrice

The new pond that John is building. It has a “rushing river” (inspired from our honeymoon in Alaska) and a waterfall.

Weather wise, it has been a challenging Upper Peninsula summer. While the lake levels took full advantage of rain, I heard friends and family mourn lackluster gardens. On the contrary, my husband John and I grew the best garden we both have ever had. We were fortunate to acquire a hoop house last year with a grant from the USDA. John, always the industrious workaholic, braved icy fall and spring weather constructing its massive structure and we were able to start planting in April. We were thrilled to harvest broccoli, peas, and beans the first week of July (greens much earlier), and in addition to eating fresh produce, I have been canning, blanching, and freezing at a steady rate. Our goal is to put up enough vegetables to get us through until next summer. It has been a lot of work, but it is worth it knowing where our food comes from – our own backyard.

It’s been a dream come true to have this incredible hoop house.

It has been a dream come true to pick fresh greens daily for salads and have a variety of fresh kitchen herbs at my fingertips. While I always have felt that my happy place was my classroom, I also enjoy letting my creativity bloom in the kitchen. As I always say, there is a close relationship to cooking and writing poetry.

John and Avalon picking peas.

Lukas and John picking cabbage for sauerkraut.

The salad recipe that I am sharing with you today was created in celebration of a visit from my Muskegon in laws. While my husband John fired up the grill to prepare barbequed pork ribs (raised on our farm) I prepared sweet potatoes, cheese bread, broccoli, and assembled a salad with fresh greens that I hoped to be beautiful on both the eyes and the taste buds. I combined fragrant and rosy peaches with earthy and sweet roasted beets, plump and tart raspberries, crunchy and buttery pistachios, and creamy goat cheese and gorgonzola. The dressing honors my Scandinavian roots with the addition of tangy dill (beets and dill are a wonderful flavor combination). I think that I achieved my goal, but you will have to try it and see for yourself.

I made one large family style salad and it served five adults. This salad would also make a fantastic Mason jar salad (remember to layer the dressing first and the greens last so the salad does not get soggy).

Ingredients for salad:

  • Large bag or clamshell of greens (I used leaf lettuce, spinach, and baby kale)
  • 2 fresh sliced peaches
  • 1 pint of raspberries
  • 1 bunch of beets (3 or 4…salt and pepper and a couple Tablespoons of cooking oil)
  • ½ log of goat cheese
  • ½ of a small brick gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/2 cup of pistachios

Ingredients for dressing:

  • 1 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 1 pint of raspberries
  • ¼ cup of dill
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon onion
  • Zest and juice of one orange
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparing beets can be a bit messy but their sweet flavor and silky texture makes them worth the mess.

Cut the beets into several pieces. Scrub well and leave the peelings on. If you have smaller beets you can cut in 1/2 or thirds. Once they are done roasting the peels will slide right off. Roast the beets for 40 minutes at 450 degrees (time may vary depending on your oven). After 20 minutes give them a toss. Let the beets cool before making the salad. The beets can be prepared the night before.                                                                                                                                                       

To make the dressing you can chop the berries, onion, and dill, finely mince the garlic and whisk all of the ingredients together. However, the best method that I have found is to put all the ingredients into the blender and give it a good pulse. If you want to make the dressing more visually pleasing you can add some chopped dill to the final product.

Store in the refrigerator in a cruet or Mason jar and give it a good shake before serving. Leftover dressing will last for a few weeks in the refrigerator.

Arrange the greens, beets, raspberries, peaches, and cheese in a large bowl or on a platter. Pour on the dressing and sprinkle with pistachios (the dressing could also be served on the side). I did not toss the salad since I wanted the lovely beets, peaches, and berries to be on the top. Serve and enjoy!

Printable recipe: Peach Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Pistachios, and Raspberry Orange Dill Dressing

I hope that your transition from summer to fall is a peaceful one. The Waldos will be celebrating a Marquette county autumn with apples from our orchard. Since our family time and being self-sufficient is important to us, we will be making apple crisp for weekend breakfasts to go along with John’s homemade waffles. I will be busy canning apple pie filling and applesauce for our winter table. I hope to squeeze out a few more front porch sessions watching our roosters Shakespeare and Hamlet strut around the yard as the sweet hens and Harriet the turkey warble and free range. Maybe you will join me for some virtual hot apple cider? Make sure that you stop by my Facebook page or leave a comment here for how you are celebrating the autumn and not forget to tell me what you think about this salad.

John bought me a pressure canner to preserve our harvest.

Green beans!

Our shelves are filling up fast.

Shakespeare and Harriet.

Our honey bees stopping to take a drink from the pond.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potato with Pomegranate Balsamic Vinaigrette

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
-Margaret Atwood

Though I refuse to wish my days away, I am dreaming of dirt season. Each day I watch the snow banks recede (or loom larger) and imagine the bulbs that I planted last fall begin to tingle with life. I can imagine the glossy blooms like plump scoops of pastel sorbet – hyacinth, tulips, and crocus – gracing our breakfast table in vintage milk glass vessels perched atop my great-grandmother’s lace doilies.

In addition to indulging in visions of frothy blossoms, I am researching new vegetables to grow. While in the past we have had good luck with tomatoes, squash, beans, and peas – this year John and I are taking gardening to a new level with a 32×70 foot hoop house. While it is exciting to be able to extend our growing season, it is a bit intimidating as well. I hope to share some of our trials and tribulations on my blog for others who want to grow more of their own food.

Since John and I have an affinity for Brussels sprouts, they are on the top of our to-grow list. While the health benefits of cruciferous sprouts are plenty (Brussels sprouts contain many phytonutrients that promote our health by protecting against cancer and fighting cholesterol), the writer in me marvels over the names of different varieties of vegetables. Even Brussels sprouts are poetic when lavished with titles like Jade Cross, Oliver, and Valiant.
As with much fresh produce such as kale, cabbage, and broccoli – the health benefits of Brussels sprouts are heightened when they are lightly steamed. However, John is wild about my roasted Brussels sprouts. The roasting process caramelizes the sprout and makes them sweet and savory at the same time. For this recipe I decided to incorporate another one of John’s favorites sweet potatoes minus the globs of butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows (sorry, Sweetheart) and a homemade Pomegranate Vinaigrette dressing.

(Printable recipe below)


To roast the Brussels sprouts (I roasted two bags) cut in half and spread on a baking sheet (cover with foil for easy clean up) and toss in the following mixture:  

*2 Tablespoons coconut oil (or your favorite cooking oil)
*2 Tablespoons of soy sauce
*I Tablespoon Dijon mustard
*1 Tablespoon minced garlic
*1 teaspoon cumin
*Black pepper to taste

To roast the sweet potato (I used two large potatoes), cut into small cubes and toss in a Tablespoon of oil, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a dash of salt and pepper.

I roasted the Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes on separate sheets since the potatoes take slightly longer. Roast Brussels sprout at 400-425 degrees for 30 minutes (depending on oven) and the potatoes for 45 minutes. Turn both at the midway point.

POMEGRANATE VINAIGRETTE
*1 cup pomegranate juice
*1/4 cup of vinegar (my favorite variety of vinegar for this dressing are either red wine or balsamic)
*1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
*1 clove of garlic
*1 teaspoon of red onion
*1 Tablespoon honey (more or less to taste)
*salt and pepper to taste

Blend well (The dressing will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator)

This dish can be made ahead and the sprouts and potatoes can be heated if you want to serve warm.

Arrange the Brussels sprouts and potatoes on a plate and add a few grapefruit segments. Sprinkle with gorgonzola cheese (blue, feta, or goat cheese make great pairings). Drizzle with a couple Tablespoons of dressing and sprinkle with extra crisp bacon or walnuts. Since my husband eats meat, I serve his with bacon, and I like walnuts or almonds with mine.

This dish can be served as a salad or side, and is delicious warm or cold. While fresh Brussels sprouts would be preferred, I used frozen – which makes this a versatile offering year round. Incidentally, frozen vegetables are healthy because they are flash frozen at the peak of ripeness.

For other seasonal twists on this recipe — serve with roasted cranberries, crisp apples, or fresh blackberries in the fall, in the summer toss with juicy cherries; in the spring early strawberries, and citrus segments in the winter for a splash of color, texture, and flavor.

The roasting technique, and the sauce that I use, also turns cauliflower and other vegetables (carrots, green beans, zucchini, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes) into magical creations. The roasting time will be shorter for more tender vegetables such as beans, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Roasted vegetables are versatile ingredients for vegetarians and meat eaters alike and can be served hot or cold and are great tossed into pasta, soups, or as the bed for salads.

Printable RecipeRoasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Potato and Pomegranate Balsamic Vinaigrette

As I watch the birds puff up their feathers outside our windows, I know that I am not alone when I say that I am aching for green grass, spring flowers, and the opportunity to poke seeds down into a plot of damp earth. Until then, one of the benefits of cool weather is being to enjoy living inside a cozy house with the fragrant aroma of roasting vegetables. It is my pleasure to share this recipe with you and make sure you check out my other recipes for more ways to incorporate a rainbow of produce to your menu.

Witness to Beauty – It’s All About Perspective

“The conclusion I have reached is that, above all, dogs are witnesses. They are allowed access to our most private moments. They are there when we think we are alone. Think of what they could tell us. They sit on the laps of presidents. They see acts of love and violence, quarrels and feuds, and the secret play of children. If they could tell us everything they have seen, all of the gaps of our lives would stitch themselves together.”
Carolyn Parkhurst, The Dogs of Babel

Meesha is the latest member of our family. <3

Meet Meesha, the latest member of our family. ❤

As a teacher I tend to mark the passing of time in marking periods and school events. This week we are hot-on-the-heels of semester one exams and last weekend finished winter homecoming festivities. The students that I have helped mentor as a class adviser are seniors and I was proud of their efforts decorating their hallway and winning the spirit pep jug for the fourth year in a row. My husband showed his support by offering to help chaperone the homecoming dance Friday night (in spite of a full day of work and an early wake up the next morning). It was entertaining to watch Lukas (seven) try out his slick dance moves and Avalon (ten) was pleased that for the third year in a row that she got to help with hallway decorating. As always, I am thankful that my place of employment is family friendly and I love that our kids get to interact with my high school students and their education stakeholders.

Lukas trying out his slick moves on the dance floor.

Lukas trying out his slick moves on the dance floor.

In my last post, Making Time For Ourselves, I shared my January goals. While I am happy to report that I am knocking my sleep, vitamin, and food journal goals out of the park – the formal exercise and water is still a work in progress. It is always perplexing to me that it is so difficult for me to consume water. I am ashamed to admit that many days the final bell sounds and I have not even touched my water bottle. At home I have been drinking herbal tea (my newest favorite Yogi brand Honey Lavender Stress Relief) so I am thinking that maybe I need to stock my classroom with tea as well.

My food journal has helped me be mindful of what I am eating and I have been keeping a pot of Three Bean Vegetarian Chili in the refrigerator (a filling option for dinner with a veggie burger or salad) and last week I made one of my favorite Mason Jar Salads, Israeli Feast, for my work lunches. Many of the messages that I receive are from people who are tired of eating salads and “rabbit food”. One of the goals of this blog is to help others try a wide-range of ingredients – and that salads do not need to be boring. My best advice is to fill your plate with a rainbow of fresh fruit and vegetables. Not only does eating the same thing over and over get boring, but it also prevents our bodies from getting a wide-range of nutrients. In order to keep myself from repetitive meals, I like to try different combinations. The Israeli Feast is a non-traditional salad recipe that uses hummus and quinoa tabouli in place of salad dressing. For last week’s version I added avocado to the hummus to amp up the nutritional content with healthy fats.

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fullsizeoutput_1139fullsizeoutput_113afullsizeoutput_113cWhile I still need to work on moving more, my Fitbit is showing increased activity. On Saturday and Sunday I made a concerted effort to get outside and make the most of the sunshine and blue skies. In fact, the views from our property were so inspiring that I have to share them with you. The recent addition to our family, Meesha a two-year-old German Shepherd, is a bundle of frolicsome energy. She made an incredible subject for an impromptu photo shoot and her and Lukas made the best workout buddies. We did not even both to put on our snowshoes but traipsed around in the snow. Let me tell you, it was a workout and I sure can feel it today in my legs and back end. 😉

I cannot believe how much energy Meesha has!

I cannot believe how much energy Meesha has!

My step son Lukas loves to play outside - he is 100% Yooper and farm boy.

My step son Lukas loves to play outside – he is 100% Yooper farm boy.

On sunny days we open up the chicken coop so our sweet hens can sun themselves.

On sunny days we open up the chicken coop so our sweet hens can sun themselves.

John has put HOURS into setting up our new hoop house. We are eager for spring to start planting vegetables.

John has put HOURS into setting up our new hoop house. We are eager for spring to start planting vegetables.

Run Meesha!

Run Meesha!

I hope you are doing well on meeting your healthy goals. If you are struggling, do not give up – each day (every hour) gives us the opportunity for a fresh start. This week I am going to work on my water intake and will be striving to get in more activity. Join me in making time for yourself. Do something that you enjoy doing and seek out beauty. When I grab my camera and go for hike it is much more enjoyable than the gym. Not only am I doing something good for my body, but I am also nourishing my creativity and filling my senses.  It is all about perspective. While winter is not my favorite season, I cannot afford to miss the beauty around me. Especially when I have a gorgeous, energetic dog and adorable seven-year-old to keep me motivated and inspired. ❤

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Our little guy Lukas is always up for an outside adventure.

Our little guy Lukas is always up for an outside adventure.

It's a winter wonderland in our backyard.

It’s a winter wonderland in our backyard.

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Quadruple Berry Salad with Caramelized Pecans and Raspberry Vinaigrette

Quadruple Berry Mason Jar Salad“Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.”
― Susan Sontag

As an English teacher, I make a living out of helping my students find connections to the world around us. I serve as their guide in helping them to think critically and to use writing as a tool to make their thoughts, ideas, and dreams tangible. We use narratives, poems, articles, novels, and videos as a touchstone to connect with other lives, time periods, and cultures. Our writing becomes a mirror that we can hold up to our ambitions and possibilities. I always tell my students to examine the world with the astute eye of a writer. It makes us pay attention to things that may otherwise slip by.

As a new mother, I try to help my step-children make connections as well. The kids spend the majority of time with us and we try to make the most of our family time together. Since my husband John is a police officer his job often entails the challenge of shift work. However, he currently is on day shift which means that he is home for dinner every night. Last week he cashed in some very precious vacation time so he could accompany as a chaperone for the Winter Homecoming dance. After fall Homecoming, I promised Avalon that if she had high grades, strong attendance, and positive behavior that I would buy her a new dress and let her attend the Homecoming dance. She met and exceeded our goals and expectations – and I think it is fair to say that she felt like a princess dancing the night away.

Avalon posing in her Homecoming dress. What a beauty!

Avalon posing in her Homecoming dress. What a beauty!

John and Avalon. Oh, how I love them both!

John and Avalon. Oh, how I love them both!

How thankful I am that I work in such a family friendly environment. I think that it is a wonderful experience for Lukas and Avalon to interact with high school students and develop relationships and make connections with teachers, administrators, and others that will be stakeholders in their education through elementary, middle, and high school.

Lukas and Lorraine work on creating the yellow brick road in the hallway.

Lukas and Lorraine work on creating the yellow brick road in the hallway.

Avalon and Kori decorating the hallway for Homecoming.

Avalon and Kori make a great team.

As a teacher, I see firsthand the difference it makes in a young person’s life when their parents are actively involved in their education both inside and outside of school. Our first teachers are our parents, and I do not take my new role of mother lightly. I share John’s responsibility to help raise productive individuals that are kind, thoughtful, and independent. One of our family goals in the next couple of years is to construct an addition on to our house. In order to make this dream a reality, we are

Avalon and Lukas wearing their hats for Spirit Week.

Avalon and Lukas wearing their hats for Spirit Week.

trying to save money and stay financially healthy. I am teaching the kids how we can stretch our resources by grocery shopping (instead of dining out all the time) and by appreciating things that are homemade. John models hard work for his children and is a wonderful example of how much value things have when they are made from your own hands. John is extremely resourceful and can build anything. This weekend he put down new flooring in the kids’ room and he is currently building us

Sibling sweetness.

Sibling sweetness.

a sauna from a shed that we purchased from the Gwinn High School building trades class.  Since we live out-of-town we want to maximize our beautiful property and create our own personal paradise.

Last weekend I promised the kids that we would make Valentine’s crafts. We recycled jars and used Mod Podge and tissue paper to make “stained glass” candle luminaries. They loved being creative and suggested that we make more for every holiday. Setting a pretty table is important to me and I love that our Valentine’s centerpiece was created from Avalon and Lukas’ handiwork. I think that they will make our February family dinners even more special.

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Avalon bought me the beautiful family candle holder/plaque for Christmas.

Avalon bought me the beautiful family candle holder/plaque for Christmas.

Speaking of beautiful table settings, I recently became enamored by The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond’s gorgeous table wear collection. Since John and I merged households (I moved into his cozy log home) we feel it is important to acquire some new items together to help tell our story. We have kept quite a few of things we both had (for practical purposes) and slowly are buying a few new things. I wanted new every day dishes, but I am extremely picky. I could envision vintage plates and bowls, or at least a vintage feel, and Ree’s collection went perfectly with our red, yellow, and aqua theme. I love how bright and cheerful they are –  elegant  – with just the right amount of country charm! Not to mention that they are extremely affordable (which works with our goal to not squander our resources).

This weekend, after sleeping in from our late night at the dance and a huge breakfast, John took Lukas ice fishing and Avalon went grocery shopping with me. I told her with all the money that we saved with coupons and smart shopping I would treat her to Starbucks. She is a wonderful shopper and helps me remember the items on our list and she’s a huge helper in the kitchen. In fact, the recipe that I am sharing with you today was one of the first meals that Avalon helped me assemble last spring.

We take breakfast very seriously in our house. The eggs are from our hens and John and the kids had sausage from the pork that he raised last summer. Of course I sautéed lots of vegetables for my plate.

We take breakfast very seriously in our house. The eggs are from our hens and John and the kids had sausage from the pork that he raised last summer. Of course I sautéed lots of vegetables for my plate.

imageWhen I first started dating John, the kids (especially Lukas) were obsessed with the fact that I was a vegetarian. While they tend to be picky eaters and do not have a fondness for fruit and vegetables, I think they have made great strides in eating healthier. They love broccoli and green beans and for dessert they often will choose Greek yogurt and fruit. John, like the kids, has quite a sweet tooth but he loves to take a green smoothie to work and he enjoys my Mason jar salads. The combination that I am sharing with you today is his ultimate favorite. The caramelized pecans are a favorite snack of both John and Avalon and I often say that they are my way of “tricking” John into eating salad. While I do have a recipe for homemade Raspberry Vinaigrette, John prefers a sweeter store-bought version. I usually purchase Paul Newman’s Raspberry & Walnut dressing or Target’s Archer Farms Raspberry Vinaigrette – though I recommend that you give my recipe a try!

If you are new to jar salads, I recommend that you check out this link for helpful tips and tricks.

QUADRUPLE BERRY SALAD WITH CARAMELIZED PECANS & RASPBERRY VINAIGRETTE

I layer the following ingredients in this order – into wide-mouthed, one quart Mason jars. I usually make 7-10 salads. I do not have exact amounts of berries for the salads. I usually buy a quart of strawberries and blueberries and a couple pints of raspberries and blackberries and divide them up into each jar (the more berries the better!)

*If you do not eat dairy you might want to try this Herbed Tofu, from Vegan Yak Attack which makes a great feta cheese substitute.

*3-4 Tablespoons of Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing (depending on how much dressing you like. John likes a lot of dressing. I usually add extra vinegar or lemon juice at the bottom to mine since I like my dressing extra tangy)
*Sliced carrots
*Snow Peas
*Sliced cucumbers

*Strawberries (I use fresh berries. Once in a pinch I used frozen raspberries and they worked out – though they were not quite as good as fresh)
*Raspberries
*Blackberries
*Blueberries
*Feta Cheese
*Blue Cheese
(or gorgonzola)
*A handful of caramelized pecans (link to recipe HERE)
*Spring mix lettuce
*Alfalfa sprouts

This combination has turned John into a salad fan and I hope that you enjoy it too! While life is busy, we are never too busy to make healthy choices. Mason jar salads are a real game changer when it comes to meal prep. I got out of the habit this fall when my schedule got tight and my goal for the coming month is to make jar salads each week for work. I also want to bring back my weekly blog posts. I miss sharing with you, and since I use my blog as a teaching tool, I miss sharing my writing goals with my students. As always, I would love to hear from you. I hope you are meeting your healthy goals and intentions for the new year. Remember, we are worth it!

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John’s mom made us cooking aprons for Christmas.

One of my students Kori and I at Homecoming. I love her!

One of my students Kori and I at Homecoming. I love her!

The kids had so much fun dancing the night away. Jordan, one of my students, made their evening extra special. She is such a sweetheart! Love her!

The kids had so much fun dancing the night away. Jordan, one of my students, made their evening extra special. She is beautiful inside and out – love her!

Miss Avalon enjoying her Starbucks treat.

Miss Avalon enjoying her Starbucks treat.

Strawberry Mango Salsa and Black Bean Jar Salads

Strawberry Mango Salsa by Produce with Amy“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” ~ William Shakespeare

Even though there has been a chill in the morning air, I witnessed subtle shades of green appearing in nature on my morning commute. I will never take the promise of spring for granted. After a long winter it feels like my responsibility to soak it up and marvel in the beauty of an awakening landscape.

The spring marks a fresh start for me on many levels. I have a new name, a new Always keep fresh produce on hand.residence, and a new love (I promise to share more details in the coming months).

Over the past year I have been reminded that life sure works in mysterious ways and can take a sudden turn. While my life has taken a new direction – what remains the same is my devotion to an abundance of fruit and vegetables in my diet. Partnered with whole foods – meal preparation helps me feel good in my clothes, fuels my busy day, and helps keep my immune system strong (though this spring I am suffering from a lingering cough/cold which will hopefully be remedied with green smoothies).

In many circles, when it comes to healthy eating the first thing that comes to mind is the word salad. While I do not think that salads need to be a part of healthy meal plan, they are a great way Strawberry Mango Salsato reach a wide range of nutrients. However, there is no need to grimace over the thought of rabbit food because my salad recipes promise to never be boring. In fact, they incorporate a rainbow of fresh produce and an exotic array of flavors.

When I came up with the Mason jar salad recipe that I am sharing in this post, I decided to make a sweet and savory dressing that would also serve as a salsa. You could use it as a dip for chips or raw vegetables, to dress up wraps, served over a sweet potato, slathered on a burrito, or (if you eat meat) as a topping for fish, shrimp, or chicken.

I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did!

Fresh LimesSTRAWBERRY MANGO SALSA

*16 ounce container of finely chopped strawberries
*1 mango finely cubed
*1 cucumber, seeded and finely chopped
*1 bunch of thinly sliced green onions 
(or 1/4 cup of yellow, white, or red onion)
*1 seeded and finely chopped jalapeno
*1 large clove of garlicLime zest
*1/2 bunch of finely chopped cilantro
*Juice and zest of one lime
*Tablespoon of olive oil
*Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
*Salt and pepper to taste

Printable recipe below. (When I made this salsa I doubled the recipe. This gave me enough salsa for five jar salads and enough to eat with tortilla chips and over bean burritos)

If you are new to Mason jar salads you may want to check out this post where I share tips and techniques for successful salads.

Black Bean Mason Jar Salads with Strawberry Mango Salsa by Produce with AmyStrawberry Mango Salsa
BLACK BEAN MASON JAR SALADS WITH STRAWBERRY MANGO SALSA

 

(I divided and layered the following ingredients in five ~ wide-mouth 1 quart Mason jars)

*1/4 cup of Strawberry Mango Salsa. I also added a drizzle of rice vinegar and a teaspoon of olive oil. *Next time I will add more salsa/vinegar/oil because the salad could have used a bit more dressing.
*1 chopped yellow bell pepper
*1 container of halved grape tomatoes
*1/4 cup of black beans
*1 sliced avocado (next time I would make sure that had more avocado on hand and put 1/2 an avocado in each jar)
*Romaine lettuce
*Alfalfa Sprouts

Other potential ingredients for this salad would be: pineapple, corn, pickled jalapenos, black olives, and any of your other favorite taco ingredients.

PRINTABLE RECIPE: STRAWBERRY MANGO SALSA by Produce with Amy

Pin it HERE

Make sure you check out my other Mason Jar Salad Recipes that all include homemade dressing.

While you are in the mood to check out delicious food combined with writing, make sure that you check out one of my creative writing student’s delightful blog called Superior Tastebuds: The Dish on Local Eating. Abbi is an incredible writer and human being. I find her mature – and always inspiring and creative. I know that her blog will be a success and I encourage her to continue posting. Don’t her Vanilla Crepes with Sauteed Apples and Homemade Whipped Cream sound and look amazing? Maybe Abbi and I will check out a restaurant this summer and write together.

Check out the dazzling visual poem that Abbi wrote in my class the past fall. I think that her poem about canning fits in perfectly with Mason jar salad recipes.
Abbi's Canning Poem

To all my faithful friends and readers, I apologize for being away from the computer for so many months. I am back and it feels wonderful to be blogging again. I have missed you and appreciate your outpouring of support! Please continue to share my recipes, post your comments, and follow me on social media (links on the right hand of the page). Together we can embrace a healthy lifestyle and thrive!

StrawberriesSalsa for Dressing in Mason Jar SaladsAlfalfa SproutsBlack Bean Jar Salads with Strawberry Mango SalsaFullSizeRender (19)Black Bean Jar Salads with Strawberry Mango Salsa

 

Top Ten Recipes of 2014

 

Top 10 Recipes of 2014 “I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

As an English teacher, I always tell my students that when we write we make our thoughts tangible. Our words become our fingerprints and as we embroider paper, or the blinking computer screen, with our insight – our labor is a true act of creation. “Make sure you put the date on your manuscript,” I relentlessly remind them. Our writing serves as a time capsule and helps us chart our personal, academic, and professional growth.

Scrolling through the statistics for my blog, I am given insight into which of my posts have received the most traffic. I can see which links received the most clicks, shares, and various sites that have featured my recipes. I spend my morning reflecting on what my readers want and value and what potential recipes I can shape in 2014.

Yesterday was the two year anniversary of Produce with Amy and there are over one hundred posts that contain recipes crafted from vibrant fruit and vegetables – however, my posts also contain moments of reflection from my personal life. Truth-be-told, some of my ruminations leave me feeling melancholy because of events that have occurred in the past few months. 2015 will prove to be a year of change, growth,  and transformation. At the risk of being cryptic, I will leave it at that.

2014 was similar to 2013, in the fact that my recipes for Mason jar salads were the most popular. To reflect on the past year, and welcome a new year of discovery and health, I thought that I would share them again here.

Glowing Green Mason Jar Salad with Creamy Avocado Vinaigrette

#1 Glowing Green Mason Jar Salads with Avocado Vinaigrette Dressing

Sometimes when I get to the top there is not much room for lettuce. :) Yet, that is fine with me!

Sometimes when I get to the top there is not much room for lettuce. 🙂 Yet, that is fine with me!

#2 Mason Jar Salads: Fresh, Visually Appealing, and Versatile

Mediterranean Mason Jar Salads with Greek Vinaigrette#3 Mediterranean Mason Jar Salads with Greek Vinaigrette

Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salads with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing

Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salads with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing

#4 Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette

Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salads

Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salads

#5 Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salad with Creamy Pesto Dressing

Garden Fiesta Mason Jar Salads#6 Garden Fiesta Mason Jar Salad

Israeli Feast Mason Jar Salad#7 Israeli Feast ~ Mason Jar Salad (with Tabouli, Hummus, and Olives)

Confetti Salad in a Jar with Creamy Chipotle Dressing#8 Confetti Salad in a Jar with Creamy Chipotle Dressing

January Green Smoothie Challenge#9 New Year’s Green Smoothie Challenge ~ 31 Days of Printable Recipes and Shopping Lists

Sunshine Mason Jar Salad  with Mango Dressing#10 Sunshine Salad in a Jar with Kicky Mango Vinaigrette 

As I contemplate the hope and potential of a brand new year, I cannot help but be thankful for every one that has been reading and following my blog. Starting this blog has helped me stay accountable to a healthy lifestyle and I am thrilled that I can help encourage others to do the same. Thank you for sharing this journey and remember that we are worth all the hard work it takes to shop, prep, and prepare fresh meals made from whole foods. I look forward to sharing more recipes with you.

 

Layered Greek Dip with Hummus & Tzatziki Sauce

Layered Greek Dip with Hummus & Tzatziki by Produce with Amy“Variety in your diet is health in your life.”
― Toni Sorenson

One of the reasons that I started this blog in January of 2013 was to challenge myself to come up with new recipes so I could avoid a food rut. Instead of being limited by a plant-based diet, I wanted to branch out and find new ways to incorporate fruit and vegetables and share my ideas with others.

To save both money and time, I am committed to prepping my lunches at home on the weekends. It is the healthiest routine that I have established for myself since I joined Weight Watchers in 2006 and one way that I help keep myself on track. I plan my menu and shopping list on Wednesday or Thursday, shop on Friday night or Saturday after my WW meeting, and prep on Saturday and/or Sunday.

A few weeks ago I found myself not thrilled about the lunches that I was transporting to work. With the cooler weather my salads felt a bit lackluster and I decided to make something that felt a little more special. I contemplated making my Layered Refried Bean and Guacamole Dip recipe, but instead decided to create a new version. I thought that a Greek dip that combined a plant-based tzatziki sauce and hummus would give my lunches a little sparkle.
Layered Greek Dip
Years ago I purchased three cup Pyrex glass containers with lids and I have found them perfect for portion control. I have over a dozen and they have held up well. Pint sized Mason jars would also work for these individual dips.

I made seven individual dips – five for me and two for my husband Mike. I cut up raw vegetables to scoop up the dip.  Mike loved his so much that he ate one straight out of the container with a spoon.

Before I started following a plant based diet, feta cheese was one of my favorites. I really crave feta so I was THRILLED when I discovered Jackie Soban’s blog, Vegan Yak Attack, and her recipe for  Herbed Tofu. I added a bit more vinegar to the recipe and also added dried dill. Because of this recipe I discovered Raw Coconut Vinegar (I bought it at our local food co-op) and I LOVE it. Thank you, Jackie!

Make sure you check out Jackie’s other recipes and follow her on Facebook and other social media. Her meal ideas are phenomenal and she incorporates stunning photography into all her posts. Doesn’t her photo of Herbed Tofu Tomato Salad make you drool? Trust me, you need some of this herbed tofu in your life.


LAYERED GREEK DIP WITH HUMMUS & TZATZIKI SAUCE

Layer the following in your containers. You can decide how much of each ingredient you want to add. I added 1/4 cup of hummus into each dish and divided the tzatziki sauce up between the seven containers.

*Note – next time I will add a little more hummus and less of the tzatziki sauce as the tofu based sour cream was very rich. 

*Hummus (recipe to follow. Store bought would work as well)
* Tzatziki sauce
(recipe to follow)
*Chopped romaine lettuce
(amount depends on how much you want to use. I used approximately three cups)
*Chopped green bell pepper
(I used one medium pepper)
*Chopped kalamata olives (I used approximately 1 cup)
*1 pint of halved grape tomatoes
*Pepperoncini peppers
(I used a couple of Tablespoons per individual dip)
*Vegan Yack Attack’s Herbed Tofu (I used half of her recipe divided between the dips)
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Layered Greek Dip by Produce with Amy

My Vitamix blender is one of my favorite kitchen tools.

My Vitamix blender is one of my favorite kitchen tools.

 

 

HUMMUS
*2 cups of cooked garbanzo beans
*1/8 cup of tahini
*1/8 cup of extra virgin olive oil
*1 clove of garlic
*Cumin to taste (I used close to a teaspoon)
*Salt to taste
(You can add a little water to blend)

 

 

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.

TZATZIKI SAUCE

*2 seeded and finely chopped cucumbers
*1 container of Tofutti Dairy Free Sour Cream 12 ounces (if you eat dairy you could substitute plain fat-free Greek yogurt. I recommend the Greek Gods brand)
*1/4 cup of fresh chopped dill
(could substitute a couple teaspoons of dried)
*1/4 cup of finely chopped onion
*1 clove of finely minced garlic
*1 Tablespoon of lemon juice
*1 Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce (Vegan recipe)
*Salt and pepper to taste

Make sure that you cut up a lot of raw veggies for dipping. I used carrots, cucumbers, celery, and colored bell peppers. Pita chips, tortilla chips, and pretzels would also be great for dipping.

Printable recipe: LAYERED GREEK DIP WITH HUMMUS & TZATZIKI SAUCE

Pin it HERE

The dip stayed fresh throughout the week and was exactly what I hoped it would be. I know that it sounds like a lot of work, but trust me, it is worth it when you taste how fantastic it is. I plan on making a large platter of this dip to bring to my mom’s house for Christmas. The ingredients for this dip also make a wonderful wrap.

If you are like me, variety truly is the spice of life and rotating my meal choices keeps me reaching for healthy food. Thank you for stopping by and make sure you check out all my other recipes. I love being able to share my passion for healthy cooking with you!

Athena, the sweetest little photo bomber.

Athena, the sweetest little photo bomber.