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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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

 

Broccoli & Zucchini Jar Salads with Creamy Cucumber Dill Dressing

Broccoli & Zucchini Jar Salads with Creamy Cucumber Dill Dressing by Produce with Amy“We need space to be productive, we need places to go to be free.”
― Laure Lacornette

My promise to you, and myself, is that this post will be short and to the point. My weekend to-do list is lengthy and I have many new and healthy recipes to share.

Since I started posting Mason jar salad recipes a couple of years ago, they have been the most popular recipes on my blog. Weekly I receive comments, questions,  and messages of thanks. I love hearing from my readers and it fulfills me to know that my recipes are helping others eat more fruit and vegetables and embrace a healthy lifestyle. Believe me – you help me too!

Glowing Green Mason Jar Salad with Avocado VinaigretteIf you are new to Mason jar salads I recommend that you read this post for tips: Mason Jar Salads: Fresh, Visually Appealing, and Versatile.

I also have to give a huge shout-out and thanks to Tammy at Organize Yourself Skinny for linking my Glowing Green Mason Jar Salads on her post The Ultimate Mason Jar Salad Tutorial and Recipe Round Up. What an honor it is to be included in one of her posts.

For today’s salad I spiralized zucchini to add to the bottom layer and marinate in the dressing. While I am not a fan of kitchen gadgets, I love my spiralizer and this weekend I will be using it to cut ribbons of zucchini to incorporate into a vegetable lasagna (instead of pasta). Here is a link to the spiralizer that I purchased: Paderno World Cuisine Spiralizer.

The dressing in this salad is one of my favorites and I shared it in a previous post. The combination of cucumber and dill is one of my favorites: Creamy Cucumber & Dill Dressing.
Creamy Cucumber and Dill Dressing

BROCCOLI & ZUCCHINI JAR SALADS WITH CREAMY CUCUMBER DILL DRESSING

I divided the following ingredients in this order in 7 – one quart Mason jars:

*4 Tablespoons of Creamy Cucumber Dressing (link to recipe above)
*1 medium spiralized zucchini (you could also slice the squash)
*Sunflower seeds (I added 2 Tablespoons per jar)
*1 quart of halved cherry tomatoes
*1 head of chopped, blanched broccoli (to blanch broccoli I bring a pot of water to a boilBlanched Broccoli and immerse the chopped broccoli and cook for 3-4 minutes. I take out of the boiling water and instantly immerse in a bowl of ice water. The ice water shocks the broccoli and it is lightly cooks, turns bright green, and retains some of its crispness)
*Romaine lettuce
*Croutons (the croutons were an experiment. They did get soggy after sitting in the jars for a few days. I did not mind this since it reminded me of a panzanella salad. However, if you want your croutons crisp – I would recommend leaving them out and add them right before eating your salad)

Pin this recipe HERE.
Broccoli & Zucchini Mason Jar Salads with Creamy Cucumber Dill DressingThe dressing in this salad works well with the broccoli and zucchini and I hope that you enjoy it. I love being able to prep salads once and being able to eat healthy all week. This weekend I am creating a new jar salad recipe with an autumn theme. It will feature crisp apples and a glorious pear dressing – so stay tuned.

In the meantime, make sure you check out my other Jar Salad Recipes. Thank you for stopping by and please feel free to share my recipes with others. I would love to hear from you. Healthy food prep may take time but remember that we are worth all the hard work. Cheers to our health!

Produce with Amy


 

Spectrum Salad with Chili Lime Dressing

Spectrum Salad with Chili Lime Dressing Three Ways by Produce with Amy “Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing? Can one really explain this? no. Just as one can never learn how to paint.” 
― Pablo Picasso

Summer salads are here – but to be fair – salads are my favorite year round. It is not that I think that you have to eat salads to be healthy, but I love the endless variety of fresh vegetables, fruit, homemade dressing and the creativity that comes with coming up with different flavor and nutrient combinations. All school year I made jar salads for lunch  and the last couple of months I have enjoyed making pasta salads. If you like pasta salad you might want to check out my recipe for Vegetable Filled Pasta Salad with Artichoke Hearts, Capers, and Dill which I have received many positive reviews.

In May I started making bento-styled lunches in three cup Pyrex containers. Instead of making Mason jar salads a week in advance, I would use the leftovers from dinner and other vegetables that I had on hand and make a couple at a time. I would drizzle with homemade dressing, and like always, I would add two teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil to each salad for portion control.

Lunch1

Fresh cilantro, tomatoes, asparagus, cilantro, mixed vegetables, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and chili lime dressing.

Lunch

Whole wheat spaghetti with Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, carrots, capers, green garlic olives, kalamata olives and my Greek Vinaigrette Dressing.

Lunch 2

Edamame, broccoli, tomato, and asparagus dressed with chili lime dressing over rice. Eat warm or cold.

When I make salads, I like to bulk them up with ingredients that are going to have staying power. I love to add beans or raw nuts for protein and whole wheat pasta, other grains, or quinoa. For the salad that I am sharing today, I decided to use rice noodles – because I thought they would work well with the spicy chili lime dressing. My husband Mike loves rice noodles and I usually have them on hand. They come in a variety of textures (for this salad I used a thicker noodle) but the thin strands would work well too.

When I made the salad I prepared it three ways – in a jar, plated, and in rectangular Pyrex containers – so you could see the salad multiple ways. I love to create vibrant salads, since we eat with our eyes first, and I think that taking time to artfully arrange food helps deepen our enjoyment and brings eating to a new level.

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How much of each ingredient you use will depend on how many salads you want to create. I made two Mason jar salads, three Pyrex salads (three cups), and one plated salad with the following:

SPECTRUM SALAD WITH CHILI LIME DRESSING

  • 1 quart of cherry tomatoes halved Rice Noodles
  • 5 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper chopped
  • 1 head of broccoli, steamed (I used one large bag of frozen since that is what I had on hand)
  • 1 twelve ounce bag of edamame (I find mine the “healthy” freezer section. I always make sure the edamame that I purchase is organic)
  • 1/2 head of purple/red cabbage, chopped
  • Rice noodles, cooked (I used 1/2 of a 16 ounce package)

Homemade Chili Lime Dressing by Produce with Amy

CHILI LIME DRESSINGChili Sauce

  • 1 cup of rice vinegar
  • 1 lime (juice and zest. If you are using bottled lime juice, one lime rendered 1/4 cup)
  • 1 clove of minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons of sesame oil (sesame oil has a very distinct taste and I love to use it to stir fry vegetables as well)
  • 2 Tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic chili sauce (I purchase this sauce at Target and many grocery stores carry it in the Asian food section. Warning — chili sauce is SPICY so you may want to add a little at a time. I like heat so I even added more after mixing)
  • 1 Tablespoon of finely chopped onion (I used red onion but green onions would be great for this dressing)
  • 1 Tablespoon of finely chopped fresh ginger root (ginger has a very strong taste and if you are not used to it, I suggest adding a little at a time)
  • Fresh cilantro, finely chopped (1 used 1/4 cup. If you do not like cilantro, parsley would work well)
  • Sprig of fresh mint finely chopped, (since I have it in my garden, I add mint to everything in the summer)
  • Fresh chives, finely chopped (the same as the mint)

Normally, when I make dressing, I use my Vitamix blender. However, for this dressing, I wanted a chunkier consistency so I added all the ingredients into a pint-sized mason jar, put the lid on and gave it a good shake. I added 4 Tablespoons of dressing to the bottom of the two Mason jars and divided the rest between the other salads.

PRINTABLE RECIPE:SPECTRUM SALAD WITH CHILI LIME DRESSING by producewithamy

Plated Spectrum Salad by Produce with AmySpectrum Salad in a Jar by Produce with AmySpectrum Salad in Pyrex Containers

I hope you enjoy this salad as much as I did. I am going to make different varieties this summer and I think it will be great with different stone fruit (especially nectarines and peaches).

Please make sure you stop by my Facebook page, 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 from other health-minded individuals and the tweaks and additions that others make to fit personal tastes. Thank you for joining me in the journey to eat more fruit and vegetables. Together we can thrive and embrace a healthy lifestyle. I look forward to sharing more recipes with you!

My poppies started to bloom this week.

My poppies started to bloom this week.

My light pink peonies loved today's rain and started to unfurl.

My light pink peonies loved today’s rain and started to unfurl.

 

 

 

Paradise in a Jar Salad with Blueberry Lemon Dressing

Paradise in a Jar Salad with Blueberry Lemon Dressing by Produce with Amy“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” 
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Our Phoebe is confused as to why I am home and my presence seems to be interrupting her beauty sleep. She is wary to sleep too deeply because she may miss something exciting.

Our Phoebe is confused as to why I am home and my presence seems to be interrupting her beauty sleep. She is wary to sleep too deeply because she may miss something exciting.

Maybe I am in denial. Yet, a little denial cannot hurt, right? A blissful week off for spring break stretches before me and I am enjoying every moment of this morning as I lounge around in my bedclothes.

While I watch the smiling faces of my friends on holiday in Florida glow across my social network news feeds, I am genuinely happy for them. While I would love to gaze at palm trees against a turquoise backdrop of water, feel the sun kiss my bare shoulders, and dig my toes into warm sand ~ deep down I am thankful that I am tucked away quietly at home in the chilly north. The truth is that I need time to decompress and soak up the quiet of our house. Right now I am all about hot tea, relaxation, furbabies, and being soothed by the gentle click of my keyboard.

Yesterday I was thrilled when my friend Kara at Running From Perfect gave me a shout-out and recipe review of the last jarred salad recipe that I shared. Kara, like many others, felt trepidation in trying the Mason jar salads but learned that they are as great as they sound. Read Kara’s post,  Mason Jar Salads…I’m Obsessed and make sure you follow her blog, and find her on other social networking avenues, because she is one busy and inspiring lady.

If you are new to Mason jar salads you might want to read one of my first jarred salad posts for tips on making these fresh and colorful creations.

So back to my denial meanderings. I am not in denial about needing time to reflect and take a deep breath from  the urgency of my teaching career, but perhaps I am in denial about the weather forecast that predicts more snow on Friday in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. While we all hope it is a cruel April Fool’s joke, it probably is not.

Paradise Salad with Blueberry Lemon DressingWith gray skies looming outside I thought that today was the perfect time to post my Paradise in a Jar Salads with Blueberry Lemon Dressing. The brilliant colors remind me of the feathers of a tropical parrot and what could speak warm weather more than lush kiwi and the sweet, aromatic taste of blueberries? As I have posted before, living in a wild and cold climate one must learn how to manufacture rays of sunshine and what better way to do it than the food that we consume? We are what we eat, after all. I do not know about you, but I want to be vibrant, unique, and bursting with energy. This philosophy is what inspires me when I come up with my recipes. While I feel rooted by certain flavors that go together, sometimes I like to throw together something unexpected. From the sauerkraut, pickles, and hot peppers in my previous jar salad to the mellow undertones that the cinnamon imparts on the blueberry dressing shared today.

Blueberry Lemon Dressing

BLUEBERRY LEMON DRESSING

  • 1 cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen. I was fortunate to have wild Michigan blueberries in the freezer)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of water (depending on how thick you want the dressing. It did thicken a bit so I recommend 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (I omit the oil and add 2 teaspoons of oil into each jar for portion control)
  • Juice and zest of one lemon (for a sweeter dressing you may opt for an orange)
  • 3 Tablespoons of rice vinegar (or to taste depending on the level of tartness you desire)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (the cinnamon really gives this dressing an unexpected flair and depth)
  • 1 teaspoon of maple syrup (or sweetener of choice. To taste depending on how sweet the berries are and how sweet you want the dressing. If you use orange you can omit the sweetener)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Blend well.

Paradise in Jar Salad with Blueberry Lemon Dressing

PARADISE IN A JAR SALADS

I divided and layered the following ingredients in 5 ~ one quart Mason jars:

  • 3-4 Tablespoons of Blueberry Lemon Dressing
  • 1 quart of yellow cherry tomatoes
  • 5 cups of green cabbage (purple/red cabbage would be great too)
  • 1 1/2 quarts of fresh blueberries (I reserved the other berries for a snack)
  • 2 1/2 avocados (I saved the other half to put in a green smoothie)
  • 2 yellow bell peppers (the peppers were small so I used two)
  • 1/2 cup of raw almonds (or your protein of choice…I often use beans)
  • 2 kiwi
  • Spinach (1 bag…I really push it into the jars for a generous serving)

Printable recipe: Paradise in a Jar Salads with Blueberry Lemon Dressing

Pin it HERE

Paradise in a Jar

Trust me, this salad does taste as great as it is pretty. As long as we are daydreaming today, imagine this jarred salad with the addition of summer fruit. I can almost taste a layer of ripe and fragrant nectarines or juicy plums.

The combinations for salads are endless and presenting them in jars not only makes our greens and ingredients stay fresh (which helps reduce waste) but the salads are visually appealing. In turn, we end up eating more fruit and vegetables than if the produce was kept in our refrigerator drawers. I guarantee that the thirty minutes you spend preparing a week’s worth of salads will be time well spent.

If you try my recipes (or tweak them to fit your own tastes) let me know in the comment section or stop by my Facebook page, give it a like, and share a photo and a recipe review. I love hearing how jarred salads are transforming others’ food experiences. I know that they have encouraged my husband and I to eat a rainbow of fruit of vegetables. By the way, if you are visiting my page from someplace warm ~ please send some sunshine our way in Michigan. It will be greatly appreciated.

Blueberry Lemon Dressing by Produce with Lemon

Birds are Messengers

 

Summon Spring Jarred Salads with Asparagus, Strawberries, and Pineapple Vinaigrette

Summon Spring Jarred Salad with Asparagus, Strawberries, and Pineapple Vinaigrette“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” 
― Percy Bysshe Shelley

Even though I try to be the kind of person who views the glass as half full and presses my heart full of optimism, believe me when I say that I am giving winter the evil eye. Yes, I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Yes, I have lived here for most of my forty-two years. Yes, I acknowledge that the precipitation is vital to our water supply. Still, I find myself wistful for long hikes and the verdant green spikes of my spring flower gardens as nature awakens and tingles with life. I watch the birds puff up their feathers outside our windows and I eagerly anticipate long summer days filled with warmth and all of the possibility that we can gather in a few short months (alas, before the cold returns). I do not want to wish time away but I pray that March brings with it at least a hint of mild temperatures.

As I stated in my last post, I am behind in sharing my recipes. Therefore, I will get right to Asparagusthe point with my latest jarred salad recipe. When I went to the grocery store yesterday I wanted to let the produce selection partly inform my menu (the planner in me already had a list compiled) and a brief scan of the produce section determined that my salad would contain asparagus and strawberries (what speaks more of spring than both of those ingredients). The asparagus was thin and tender and the strawberries (though not as sweet as they could be) were red and promised a juicy and sweet accompaniment to spinach.

If you are familiar with my blog you know all about Mason jar salads. However, if you just found your way here I suggest you check out this post for some basic tips and advice on creating these versatile and lovely layered salads.
Pineapple Vinaigrette Dressing by Produce with Amy

PINEAPPLE VINAIGRETTE DRESSING

  • 1 cup of fresh pineapple
  • 1/4 cup of rice vinegar (or your choice of vinegar. I always recommend that you add a bit of vinegar at a time and taste the dressing as you go. I like my dressing on the tart side so I often add even more vinegar than my recipes call for)
  • 1/8 cup of raw apple cider vinegar (raw apple cider vinegar has many health benefits and I really enjoy its tartness)
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (I leave the oil out of the dressing and add 2 teaspoons to each jar for portion control)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon of onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste

If you do not add the full amount of vinegar you may want to add a little water to thin the dressing. I love the combination of the sweet pineapple with the savory onion and garlic and the tangy vinegar. This dressing is so good you may want to make extra (it would be fantastic sprinkled over steamed vegetables). The vinegar in the dressing will naturally preserve it and it will keep in the refrigerator for over a month. I like to store my dressings in one pint Mason jars.

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SUMMON SPRING JARRED SALAD WITH ASPARAGUS AND STRAWBERRIES

I layered the following ingredients in five one quart Mason jar salads:

Blanching involves a quick immersion in boiling water and placing the vegetable instantly in an ice bath. This process allows the asparagus to turn vibrant green and remain crisp.

  • 3 Tablespoons of Pineapple Vinaigrette (I also added 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil)
  • Asparagus (I cut off one inch of the woody stem and cut it into three pieces. I blanched the asparagus by immersing it in boiling water for two minutes and directly dropping it into an ice-bath. This brings out the best of the nutrients but it still retains some of its crispness.)
  • Strawberries cut in 1/2 (1 and 1/2 containers)
  • 1/4 cup of raw almonds (add the protein of your choice. I use raw nuts or beans)
  • Avocado (I used three avocados)
  • Kiwi slices (I used three kiwi)
  • Spinach
  • Balsamic vinegar (I added a little under a Tablespoon of vinegar to the top of each salad. I love the combination of balsamic vinegar and strawberries but I did not want to muddle the color of the pineapple dressing for the photos.)

Printable recipe: Summon Spring Jarred Salad with Asparagus, Strawberries, and Pineapple Vinaigrette

Pin this recipe HERE.

Summon Spring Jarred Salads with Asparagus, Strawberries, and Pineapple Vinaigrette by Produce with Amy

I am really looking forward to my lunches this week and I think that they will help put me in a spring state of mind. Maybe you will make a batch too and help me in giving winter the evil eye. Together we will thrive and have a productive week that is bursting with fruit and vegetables.

Please make sure you stop by my Facebook page and give it a like and check out my other salad recipes.

Summon Spring Jarred Salad with Asparagus, Strawberries, and Pineapple Vinaigrette

Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette

Sunflowers from my garden.

Sunflowers from my garden.

This afternoon was the colour of water falling through sunlight; The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves; The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple leaves, And the houses ran along them laughing out of square, open windows.” ~Amy Lowell

The first day of fall. Transition. We have arrived at the half-way point of September which makes me acutely aware that changes are coming. Even though I was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan I am never ready for the cold weather to arrive. In the mornings our house has been chilly but Mike and I cling to our stubbornness and refuse to turn the furnace on. Mike uses the phrases my parents tossed around: put on a sweatercover up with a blanket, you can’t even see your breath yet!  Monday morning he met my whine with, Do some yoga, you’ll warm up! 

I have long said that living in the U.P. gives one bragging rights and not only do we dread the heat bill, but there seems to be an unofficial contest to see who can wait the longest to turn on the heat (I know from Facebook posts that some of my Yooper friends have already lost the contest). In the same spirit of endurance the flower boxes on the front of our house still brandish geraniums and last weekend I painted my toenails with plum nail polish since I refuse to put my sandals away.

Phoebe enjoys a joyful afternoon drive.

Our sweet Phoebe enjoys a joyful autumn afternoon ride.

As the weather cools, I know that I have to be mindful of my meals and come up with healthy versions of comfort food. While I would love to wax poetic about spiced pumpkin lattes and the cinnamon tinged aroma of baking apples, I know that for myself fall translates to food and exercise related challenges. Last weekend I searched through my Weight Watchers eTools account and took a peek at my weekly weigh-ins for the last few years during autumn. I found a trend. While I started out August strong, for the past three years during November (right around Thanksgiving) I stumbled with my weight management and gained a few pounds. While I do contribute this challenge to the hectic school year and lack of energy to workout (A.K.A. excuses), I know that the weather and my mood greatly contributes to this as well. Last January (2013) I started Produce with Amy as an extra incentive to get back on track. I started drinking a daily green smoothie, made time to work out, and tried my best to stay faithful to a plant-based meal plan. This year I am determined to keep my motivation high and focus on activity and making sure that I do not get into a food rut.

Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salads

Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salads

One thing that is really helping me stay on track with my weight management is making Mason jar salads on the weekend to bring to work for lunch during the week. I can fill a one quart jar with a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, berries, grains, seeds, pasta, nuts, and protein. The glass jars keep the ingredients fresh for up to a week and I only have to prep once for a week of lunches.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I was going to conduct an experiment. I set a timer and prepped our lunches before bed. I made Mike’s sandwich, cut up and packaged vegetables for snacks, portioned out raw nuts, filled our water bottles, and blended up my two green smoothies (one for breakfast and one for my 1/2 hour commute home). I was shocked to see that this process took me twenty-three minutes. While I often use the excuse that I “do not have time for exercise” I decided that if I prep our lunches and make my smoothies before bed that I am making precious time in the morning for myself to workout.

This year I will embrace the cold weather induced transition into sweater dresses, tights, boots, and scarves, but I will NOT welcome wearing extra pounds this winter. Mason jar salads are helping me transition back into my full-time work schedule and I refuse to use a mountainous pile of grading, exhausting days of lecturing and managing large classroom rosters, and early mornings be an excuse to not stay committed to my weight management goals. I CAN and I WILL stay grounded, balanced, and committed to my healthy routines.

For my Mason Jar Salads this week I decided to take advantage of seasonal produce. I have witnessed tons of pumpkin and apple recipes posted on social networking sites so I decided to create my own healthy recipe. I thought that pumpkin would make a unique salad dressing and would give the salad a fall flair. 11 PUMPKIN VINAIGRETTE DRESSING

  • 1/2 cup of vinegar (I used 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 (I used canned but your own freshly baked or roasted would work as well)
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (you can always leave the oil out and add it individually to your salad for portion control)
  • 1/4 cup of water (the dressing was thick so I thinned it out with some water. You could add extra vinegar. If you want to use it as a dip you could leave it thick)
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 lemon ~ juice and zest 
  • 3 green onions (you could use 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 in this dressing really make a pleasing combination.

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

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

When making Mason Jar Salads  put the dressing in first and keep it away from the greens. The acid in the dressing will make the greens slimy. If you close tight (I do not vacuum seal my jars) they will keep for over a week in the refrigerator. When you are ready to eat you can shake, and either pour the salad out on a plate or bowl, or eat straight out of the jar.

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

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

APPLE-A-DAY MASON JAR SALADS I layered these ingredients, in the following order, in one quart Mason jars. (I made five salads)

  • 3 Tablespoons of Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing (I also sprinkled a little extra raw apple cider vinegar on top of the vinaigrette since I like my dressing tart)
  • Carrots (I used four carrots)
  • Granny Smith apple wedges (2 apples)
  • Pink Lady apple wedges (or your favorite variety of red apple. I used two apples.)
  • Raw pumpkin seeds (you could use toasted pumpkin seeds. Sunflower seeds would work as well as nuts)
  • Dried cranberries
  • Chopped green onions (I used both the white and the green part of the onion.)
  • Chopped cabbage (cabbage works well in Mason jar salads and it stays crunchy and fresh. I used green cabbage but purple would be a colorful and healthy too)
  • Romaine lettuce

Thinly sliced fennel would be excellent in this salad as well as pears. Pin the recipe here.

Sweet and Savory ingredients make these Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salads with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing a seasonal hit!

Sweet and Savory ingredients make these Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salads with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing a seasonal hit!

I have been bringing Mason Jar Salads to work each day and they help fuel me through a busy day. In the past I have struggled with the temptation of working through lunch and I am finding that these salads are so satisfying and delicious that I look forward to making time to sit down and eat. The abundance of nutrients in the fruit and vegetables will help boost my immune system during the cold and flu season.

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

Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing.

Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing.