SPINACH SALAD WITH PEARS, DRIED CHERRIES, & CHERRY VINIAGRETTE

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

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

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

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

I guarantee the kids will never forget this family vacation.

We LOVED Glacier NP!

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

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

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

Lukas was captivated by this book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPINACH SALAD

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

CARAMELIZED CASHEWS
*1 Tablespoon of butter

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

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

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

CHERRY VINAIGRETTE

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

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

 

Cherry BBQ Salad with Nectarine, Avocado, Sweet Potato, Basil, & Tempeh

Salad with Cherry BBQ Dressing by Produce with Amy“There was something rather blousy about roses in full bloom, something shallow and raucous, like women with untidy hair.” – Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca)

Rose Collage

The last of the peonies.It has been a cool summer in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and my garden has not been doing well. I kept things simple this year and have six tomato plants, spinach and kale, beans, peas, squash, a couple of cucumbers, and herbs. My flowers are flourishing but sadly I said goodbye to the peonies this weekend. They weeped nearly all their petals on the lawn and at the same time my white rose erupted into bloom. It is punctual since last year it opened its petals around Independence Day as well.

One thing that I make sure that I take advantage of in the summer is the offering of fruit and berries available at the grocers. Last week I purchased cherries, nectarines, plums, watermelon, and strawberries.Cherries

Since I love fruit on salads I wanted to create a combination that involved cherries. I have been experimenting with making my own BBQ sauce and decided that I would allow a sweet and tangy sauce inspire my salad dressing.

The resulting Cherry BBQ Salad Dressing was pleasing and I knew that it had to be shared. To make it a dressing I added extra vinegar. If you want to use it as a BBQ sauce you can reduce the amount of vinegar in the recipe and it will be sweeter and thicker. It can be tweaked to your personal taste. My recipe is rather mild tasting and you could add more garlic, liquid smoke, and your favorite spices. I think it would also work well as a marinade.

Cherry BBQ Dressing by Produce with AmyCHERRY BBQ DRESSING (Printable recipe below)

  • 1 1/2 cup of fresh, pitted cherries (frozen would work)
  • 3/4 – 1 cup of vinegar (I used raw apple cider vinegar. I like tart dressing but if you do not, I suggest a little at a time. You can always use water to thin the dressing if it is too thick. Use a Tablespoon or so of vinegar if you want to use it as a sauce, unless you like your BBQ extra tangy)
  • 8 ounces of tomato sauce
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon of onion
  • 1 Tablespoon of Molasses (Add more if you like your dressing sweeter. You could also use brown sugar or your favorite sweetener but I like the flavor of molasses)
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (if you follow a plant-based diet you can find many recipes on-line. Here is the one that I used.)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Sprig of fresh oregano (about three inches long. Could use a teaspoon of dried)
  • Tablespoon of fresh chives (I have chives in my garden so in the summer I use them in most dishes)
  • 1/8-1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (I omit the oil and add it to each salad instead for portion control)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Blend dressing well and make final tweaks in ingredients based on your personal taste. This recipe made 2 and 1/4 cups of dressing. I will be using it this week as a marinade for grilling. Because the vinegar acts as a preservative, homemade dressing will last over a month in the refrigerator. I store my dressing in a Mason jar with a metal lid.

 

Ingredients for Cherry BBQ SaladCHERRY BBQ SALAD WITH NECTARINE, AVOCADO, SWEET POTATO, BASIL, & TEMPEH

Cherry BBQ Jar Salad by Produce with AmyI used the following ingredients to make two jar salads and two plated salads, so I divided each ingredient into four. If you are new to Mason jar salads you may want to read this post.

  • Cherry BBQ Dressing (I use 3-4 Tablespoons per salad. Since I make my own dressing and add the oil separately, I am able to use more dressing)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (2 teaspoons per salad)
  • 2 large sweet potatoes cubed and divided into four. (I scrubbed well, left the peeling on, wrapped in tinfoil, and baked. One of the heating elements is out in my oven so I check often until the potato is soft. If your oven is working correctly, I would suggest 30-45 minutes at 350-400 degrees. I know – a food blogger with a broken oven? 😉 A new one is on our long list of items that we have to purchase but our budget does not allow us to do so now…one of these days.)
  • 3 sliced avocado  
  • 2 sliced nectarines 
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh chopped basil ( I topped the nectarine with the basil since I enjoy the flavor combination)
  • 4 small onions,  caramelized (cut the onions into rings and cook on low in the oil of Cherry BBQ Tempeh by Produce with Amyyour choice until brown and soft. I used coconut oil)
  • 40 cherries, pitted and halved
  • 1 small package (8 ounces) of tempeh. Dip the tempeh in the Cherry BBQ Dressing and sear in a hot pan with oil for a couple of minutes. (I do try to limit my soy intake but this tempeh is fantastic. My husband does eat meat so the next time I will use meat for him since he is not a huge fan of tempeh and I do not like to give him soy. As an alternate protein source for myself I may add raw nuts or white beans)
  • One bag of spinach (or greens of your choice)

*Note – you can serve the tempeh and the onions warm or cold.

Printable RecipeCHERRY BBQ Salad

Cherry BBQ Salad with Sweet Potatoes, Avocado, and Nectarines

This salad speaks loudly of summer and I love all the lush textures and flavors. If you are interested, check out my other salad recipes and my other salad dressing recipes.

Cherry BBQ Salads

Here are other recipes that incorporate cherries: Scarlet Salads in a Jar with Cherry Chipotle Vinaigrette

Cherry Almond Coconut Shake

Cherry Limeade Green Smoothie

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BBQ Cherry Jar Salad by Produce with Amy

Cherry BBQ Salad Dressing or Sauce by Produce with Amy

 

Summer is the perfect time to experiment with fresh produce and find out what suits your taste buds. I promise to keep posting fresh and tantalizing recipes and if you try one, let me know what you think. I wish you a summer filled with healthy choices and time to appreciate the outdoors. Thank you for joining me on the journey to eat more fruit and vegetables.

Bloom

Pink Peony

Cherry BBQ Salad Plate by Produce with Amy