“…And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
stiffens and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its long blue shadows…”

-from Song for Autumn by Mary Oliver

I have always thought of October as nature’s last extravagant party before the mighty Michigan cool down. Upper Peninsula summer nights often grow cold by August. While each year I woefully morn having to shut down our pool, there are many gifts that come with autumn.

No matter how old I get, my heart beats a little faster when I see and smell a bouquet of freshly sharpened Ticonderoga pencils and remember how agonizing it was to wait to wear my new school clothes (especially the year my mom bought me Jordache jeans). This year back to school felt different due to the fact that we have many precautions in place to keep our buildings safe from Covid-19, yet, I am thankful that we have been able to come back face to face.

This fall our freezer is full of the bounty of our backyard: kale, spinach, beets, and chicken. Our pork is late this year since we had a difficult time finding a processor since our regular go-to place is backed up with so many orders. Since our area is rural, many people raise their own food and with the 2020 shutdown it appears that more people are realizing how important of a life skill it is to take responsibility for where your food comes from. I filled our pantry with canned green beans, spaghetti sauce, salsa, tomatoes, tomato juice, and pickles. Since childhood, one of my favorite kitchen fragrances is my grandmother’s recipe for dill pickle brine.

Autumn transforms our homestead with magical colors.

To celebrate and say goodbye to another gorgeous UP of Michigan summer, I am sharing a party worthy recipe. However, it’s equally superb (maybe even more so) when enjoyed solo on your favorite lawn chair as you study the activity in your neighborhood. Whether that means a crowd of noisy and giggly pre-teens showing off for each other, or as in my case, a strutting rooster keeping watch over his brood of warbling hens.

Instead of a standard tomato salsa, this salsa imparts a flavor burst with marinated beans. Therefore, it is hearty and the protein rich beans make it a satisfying snack or even lunch. It is a great wrap or sandwich filler and makes a tasty layer in a Mason jar salad. While it is especially fantastic with tortilla chips (my weakness).  I try to incorporate healthier low-carb dippers mini-bell peppers, cucumber wedges, celery or carrot sticks, or even a slice of salami or pepperoni.  

CONFETTI SALSA (this recipe will make a party sized bowl – so you may want to reduce it in ½ for a smaller portion)

  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can white beans
  • 1 frozen package edamame
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 4 limes (juice and zest)
  • 2 jalapeno (finely chopped)
  • 2 large cloves of minced garlic
  • ½ cup of chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup of vinegar (I used raw apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/8-1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of vinegar (I used raw apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/8-1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Homemade Taco Seasoning ( recipe to follow)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

I use the entire batch for the salsa (2 ¾ Tablespoons), however, you may want to make extra for tacos. It keeps well in an airtight container or jar. 

Make sure you check my other healthy recipes in the tabs at the top of the page. As fall translates to winter, make sure you stay on top of your immune system and fill your plate with a rainbow of fruit and vegetables. Your skin, waistline, and energy levels will also thank you!

I love to sit outside and take in the beauty of our own personal paradise.


Garden Fiesta Mason Jar Salad

Yesterday I harvested tomatoes from my garden.

Yesterday I harvested tomatoes from my garden.

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” ~Lewis Grizzard

I have a confession to make. Yesterday, I bought a bag of tortilla chips. The prospect of the fresh salsa and guacamole that I was making today for my latest Mason jar salad was too tempting. As you may know from previous posts, tortilla chips are my weakness. While I grew up having a sweet tooth, I must say that fresh fruit has replaced chocolate coated sugary treats for me. Yet, I love the salty crunch of tortilla chips. The decision to buy the tortilla chips was not on impulse. It was a well thought out purchase and I will portion out each serving and carefully track in my Weight Watchers eTools account.

With week #2 of the school year in the rear view mirror I was faced with some serious self-reflection. The first week I struggled with making time to eat the lunch and snacks that I packed for work and I did much better last week. In the morning I made an extra green smoothie to sip on during my 1/2 hour commute home and this worked marvelously. However, I REALLY struggled with getting to bed early enough to wake up with the energy to exercise. My goal this week will be to get to bed between 10:00 and 10:30 and be up by 4:45-5:00. Eventually, I would like to be to bed even earlier. Baby steps.

Mason Jar Salads are the perfect lunch to take to work. I love that I can make them on Saturday or Sunday and the last one that I eat on Friday tastes just as fresh as the first. This week I wanted to make sure that my salad was hearty enough to fuel me through an intense teenager-filled-day (all my classes, with the exception of one, have over thirty students with one class roster at thirty-six).

(Click on the photo to see a larger version)

(Click on the photo to see a larger version)

When I stopped eating meat, beans became my protein staple. I found Mexican food very easy to work into a plant-based meal plan (thus, began my tortilla chip obsession). I decided that one of my go-to salads could easily be converted to a Mason Jar Salad.

Garden Fiesta Jarred Salad

I layered these ingredients, in the following order, in one quart Mason jars:

  •  Snappy Salsa (I added extra lime juice and used 1/2 a cup. Make sure you include the juice.)1
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil (per jar to make sure I get my WW recommended daily serving of healthy oil)
  • Yellow, orange, and green bell pepper strips
  • White beans (1/4 cup)
  • Black beans (1/4 cup)
  • Spicy Brown Rice (1/2 a cup)
  • Guacamole (1/4 cup. I added extra lime juice and left out the sour cream)
  • Black olives (5 per jar)
  • Fresh mango
  • Fresh pineapple (sadly the pineapple that I purchased was not very ripe)
  • Romaine lettuce

Pin this recipe here.


I love the crunch and nutritional boost that bell peppers provide. They are high in Vitamin C which is so important for our immune systems.

I love the crunch and nutritional boost that bell peppers provide. They are high in Vitamin C which is so important for our immune systems this time of year.

Since I consider the Mason Jar Salads a meal, and not just a side item, I do not go skimpy on the protein and other ingredients and my jar salads are usually 7-10 Points Plus value. I do have pint-sized jars that I use to make dinner/side salads and those are usually only a couple of Points Plus each. Easily the Mason Jar Salads can be tweaked to meet your specifications.

It is amazing how much produce you can stuff inside a one quart jar and it FILLS a large dinner plate. Jarred salads are a fantastic way to meet your fruit and vegetable Good Health Guidelines.

This summer I made a plated version of this salad with homemade Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette Dressing. This dressing would be a great addition to this Mason Jar Salad but I thought that the juicy salsa and creamy guacamole would suffice.

If you are interested in other Mason Jar Salads, please check out my other salad recipes.You can follow my recipes on Pinterest and please like my Produce with Amy Facebook page.

Now that my blog is written and I earned a sticker on the calendar for the Fall Forward Healthy Lifestyle Challenge (It is not too late to join) I am going to have a mid-day snack of salsa, guacamole, and tortilla chips. 😉 I hope you are spending your Sunday exactly as you wish ~ relaxing, watching football, or maybe checking off your own to-do list and recharging for another busy week. Remember that food is fuel and make sure you fill your plate (or jar) with an abundance of fruit and vegetables. I promise to keep the Mason Jar Salad recipes coming!

Perk Up Your Plate with Spicy Brown Rice and Snappy Salsa

20“Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I’m taking with me when I go.” ~Erma Bombeck

Before I joined Weight Watchers in October of 2006, boxed rice and pasta mixes were regularly tossed into my shopping cart as an easy side to a meal. Yet, quickly I learned that making my own brown rice had a lot of healthy benefits (not to mention being easier on my budget since I could buy brown rice in bulk which afforded me more fresh produce). While some people can stomach plain brown rice, I tend to favor more flavorful combinations, so quickly I learned to enhance rice side dishes with vegetables and herb and spice combinations.

When I switched to plant-based meal plans a couple of years ago I discovered that my go-to meals would often take inspiration from Mexican dishes. Beans are a huge staple in our house and my favorite way to eat them is to combine them with spicy brown rice, homemade salsa, and guacamole.

Brown rice is very versatile and I like to make the Spicy Brown Rice in bulk. It is wonderful warm, or even cold, as an accompaniment to a salad. Sometimes while it is still warm I fold in chopped spinach or kale, vegetable stock, black beans, and garnish the bowl with a squeeze of lemon and chopped cilantro ~ Voila…a one pot meal that is filling and healthy.



  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (I used chunky Muir Glen. Sometimes I add the entire can if I want extra tomato flavor. You can also add a few fresh chopped tomatoes)

    Homemade Taco Seasoning

    Homemade Taco Seasoning

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 yellow bell pepper (or color of your choice)
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 4 oz can of fire roasted chilis
  • 2 Tablespoons of Homemade Taco Seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil (or cooking oil of choice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Saute onion, garlic, celery in coconut oil until soft
  2. Add water, rice, and other ingredients

Simmer for approximately 60 minutes until rice is done. Stir often and add extra water if needed. Rendered six cups of rice. Will keep in the refrigerator for several days.

22Snappy Salsa by Produce with AmySNAPPY SALSA (Pico de gallo)

  • 3 large chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • Cilantro chopped (to taste. I added 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 lime (juice and zest)
  • 1/2 finely chopped jalapeno (To taste. Sometimes I add extra if I want my salsa to have a kick)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all the ingredients.
  2. The salsa gets more flavorful as the ingredients mingle so it is a good idea to make a few hours in advance.
  3. You can drizzle with extra virgin olive oil before serving.

When I make salsa, I normally do not measure and simply toss in the ingredients. Sometimes I add chopped parsley, avocado, mango, and I have even added pineapple for a sweet and savory taste. The salsa gets very juicy and this week when we finished off the salsa I reserved the juice and added extra ingredients for another batch. I cannot get enough of this salsa.

We enjoyed this salsa this past week with blue corn tortilla chips and homemade guacamole.

We enjoyed this salsa this past week with blue corn tortilla chips and homemade guacamole.

My husband Mike topped the mini-tortilla pizzas I made with fresh salsa.

My husband Mike topped the mini-tortilla pizzas I made with fresh salsa.

In addition to the Spicy Brown Rice and Snappy Salsa, I am addicted to guacamole. In a previous blog post, Layered Refried Bean and Guacamole Dip, I shared a simple recipe for guacamole. This week I left out the Vegan sour cream and taco seasoning and add extra lime and a dash of cumin instead. While my favorite way to eat guacamole is with tortilla chips, I often use fresh chopped vegetables as dippers for a healthier option.

Eating healthy does not have to translate to bland food if you get creative with ingredients. I will continue to share my different flavor combinations for brown rice and other side dishes. Here is a link to my Pinterest board if you are interested in pinning any of my recipes: Produce with Amy.

With summer in full swing I hope you are enjoying the abundance of produce at the grocery store and at your community farmers markets. Thank you for reading my blog and stay tuned for more fruit and vegetable rich recipes. Together we will reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. ❤

I LOVE avocado. As I have said in an earlier post, I could eat cardboard if it had a smear of avocado on it.

I LOVE avocado. As I have said in an earlier post, I could eat cardboard if it had a smear of avocado on it.