Top Ten Posts of 2013

Top 10 Recipes of 2013 by Produce with Amy“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
― T.S. Eliot
Happy New Year

Happy New year to you and I hope that this post finds you full of renewed energy and healthy commitment for January and beyond. I always love the feel of a blank slate of a new year and have had a remarkable and relaxing two-week holiday away from work. Yet, I am ready to get back to my classroom and my routines. One of the things that my husband Mike and I decided that we had to do was try to capture a family photo. It was quite entertaining trying to get the cats to cooperate. If you look closely at the above photo our black cat Pandora is lurking behind the tabby Athena. I cannot tell you how many times one of us had to run to the camera to set the timer. I do believe that a camera remote is in the forecast for 2014.

I decided that I was not fully ready to usher out 2013 yet and decided that I needed to write a post with my top ten posts from the year. 2013 was definitely the “Year of the Mason Jar Salad” for Produce with Amy and I am excited for this recap.

The end of the school year is racing at me. I find that prepping my lunches and dinners makes healthy eating a snap. If you find yourself in a pinch at mealtime you cannot go wrong with salads in a jar.

When I first started making Mason Jar Salads I recycled spaghetti sauce jars!

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

Glowing Green Mason Jar Salad with Avocado Vinaigrette#2: Glowing Green Mason Jar Salads with Avocado Vinaigrette Dressing

Homemade salad dressing that is fresh and free from the chemicals and preservatives that often accompanies store bought versions.

 #3: Tangy Ranch and Zesty Avocado ~ Plant Based, Homemade, Salad Dressing

Israeli Feast Mason Jar Salad#4: Israeli Feast ~ Mason Jar Salad (with Tabouli, Hummus, and Olives)

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

#5: Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette

Mediterranean Mason Jar Salads with Greek Vinaigrette

#6: Mediterranean Mason Jar Salads with Greek Vinaigrette

Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salad with Creamy Pesto Dressing

#7: Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salad with Creamy Pesto Dressing

Garden Fiesta Mason Jar Salads#8: Garden Fiesta Mason Jar Salad

Photo by Heather Hollands

Photo by Heather Hollands

#9: Caprese Pasta Salad in a Jar

Green Smoothie

#10: Lean & Green Smoothie Challenge: Amy’s Sunday Energizer

New Year’s day was Produce with Amy’s 1st anniversary and I am so thankful for every one that has been reading and sharing my recipes. I promise to share many more healthy dishes in the next year. My journal is full of ideas, scribbles, and brainstorms and this Sunday I plan to share another Mason Jar Salad and homemade salad dressing. Thank you for reading and sharing the journey to eat more fruit and vegetables. Let’s thrive together in 2014.

22Amy Laitinen

Advertisements

Winter Citrus & Fennel Mason Jar Salads with Green Apple Vinaigrette

This afternoon our living room was bathed in sunlight and our cat Athena basked in the glow.

This afternoon our living room was bathed in light and our cat Athena basked in a puddle of sunshine. How quickly the weather turned…it’s now a frenzy of snowflakes outside.

“Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair…”
~Wallace Stevens from “Sunday Morning”

It is the week before Christmas break and I cannot believe how fast time rushes by. Today was Day #15 of the December Green Smoothie Challenge and I am enjoying sharing my recipes and being artful by capturing a photo each morning to share on my Facebook page.

Mike and I enjoyed a quiet weekend at home and last night watched, Broadcast News. It reminded me of high school when I had aspirations of being a television journalist. While I do have a broadcasting degree from Marquette University, life had other plans for me and I am thankful that I heard my calling to be a teacher. As I type this, I am hoping that the blizzard conditions outside cease. I do not want a snow day tomorrow ~ I have too much to accomplish with my students. Though, if we do, I will make sure to be productive and may find time to share a recipe for the soup that is bubbling in my Crock-pot.

Yesterday afternoon, after my Weight Watchers meeting, I went grocery shopping (I wouldWinter Citrus & Fennel Mason Jar Salads with Green Apple Vinaigrette Dressing really like to bring back my routine of shopping mid-week) and in addition to green smoothie ingredients I bought fresh produce for Mason jar salads. Often we associate salads with summer but, like soup, I think that salads are seasonless. I brainstormed what I thought would constitute the perfect winter salad. Of course, what came to mind was juicy oranges and grapefruit. I thought that the perfect accompaniment to both would be fennel and pomegranate. But what about the dressing? I knew that the citrus salad needed something both sweet, tart, and savory. How about green apple? I have to say ~ the result was pleasing and I am almost as excited to share these gorgeous salads with you as I am to eat them this week.

Green AppleGREEN APPLE VINAIGRETTE DRESSING

  • 1 cup of vinegar (I used 1/2 cup raw apple cider vinegar and 1/2 cup white balsamic)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Granny Smith apple (I left the peel on)
  • 1 orange (juice and zest. This gives the dressing sweetness without adding refined sugar)
  • 1 clove of garlicHomemade Green Apple Vinaigrette Dressing
  • 1 teaspoon of onion
  • Salt & pepper to taste

If you want to control the amount of oil that goes into your dressing you can leave it out and add the oil to each individual salad. Lemon juice or lime juice would work well in place of the orange and you could add honey or sweetener of choice to make it slightly sweet. I always recommend that you taste as you go when making homemade dressings. I like dressing tart so I am in generous when I add in the vinegar.
Winter Citrus & Fennel Mason Jar Salads with Green Apple VinaigretteWinter Citrus & Fennel Mason Jar Salads with Green Apple VinaigretteIf you are new to Mason Jar Salads you may want to read one of my previous posts that shares many tips for jarred salads: Mason Jar Salads: Fresh, Visually Appealing, and Versatile.

WINTER CITRUS & FENNEL MASON JAR SALADS

I made six jarred salads and layered the following in each one quart sized Mason jars. Layer the dressing first, followed by hearty fruit/vegetables. Layer the lettuce/greens last.

  • 3 Tablespoons of Green Apple Vinaigrette DressingWinter Citrus & Fennel Mason Jar Salads with Green Apple Vinaigrette
  • Red bell pepper (I used one pepper)
  • Sliced fennel (I used one bulb)
  • Grapefruit (I used one. Peel like an orange and cut in slices)
  • Oranges (I used two)
  • Pomegranate
  • Celery (three ribs)
  • Raw pumpkin seeds and almonds (2 Tablespoons per salad)
  • Chopped kale
  • Chopped romaine lettuce

I am so thankful to the weekends and time to recharge and prepare for a busy week. Mason Jar Salads are a huge time saver since they only take about a half an hour to prepare and they stay fresh all week.

If you are interested in other salad and dressing recipes, make sure you check out my Salad Tab and my Salad Dressing Tab. I hope that you enjoy this recipe and that it makes your life a little less hectic and a lot more healthy. There are only a couple more weeks left in 2013 so let’s make them the best that we can. I look forward to a new year and sharing this journey with my health-minded friends. I promise many more recipes in the days to come.
Winter Citrus & Fennel Mason Jar Salad with Green Apple VinaigretteGreen Apple Vinaigrette Dressing

Mediterranean Mason Jar Salads with Greek Vinaigrette

Mediterranean Mason Jar Salads“If we are creating ourselves all the time, then it is never too late to begin creating the bodies we want instead of the ones we mistakenly assume we are stuck with.”
― Deepak Chopra

In two weeks I celebrate my seven-year anniversary of walking through the doors of the Weight Watchers center in Marquette, Michigan to become a member. I shared the story of my journey in a post on my birthday in June (click here to read).

Daily, I think about how thankful I am to have embraced a healthy lifestyle and to be given the opportunity to be a Weight Watchers leader and help others maximize their health and find success in weight management.

When I started Produce with Amy I was nervous and unsure if anyone would even read my posts. I am grateful for the continued support and messages that I receive from those who are following my blog and those who stumble on my Facebook page or find my recipes on Pinterest. If you are reading this now I would like to thank you! While writing helps keep me accountable to my own goals, I love the way the Internet can erase the miles and that my posts from the rural Upper Peninsula of Michigan can reach people across the country and across the globe. I am constantly using my blog as an authentic and real world example of writing with my high school students. It makes me giggle when they roll their eyes and tell me, “Mrs. Laitinen, my mom reads your blog and last night we had green smoothies.” How cool is that?

There's my name. Part of my fifteen minutes of fame! :)

There’s my name on the very bottom. Part of my fifteen minutes of fame. 🙂 Thank you, Florine!

In July, I was THRILLED to be contacted by Weight Watchers Marketing Manager, Donna DeMarco, to see if I would be interested in writing an article for the THINLINE publication. THINLINE is given out at all of the meetings within our WW franchise. (Read my piece on page 24 entitled Inner Spark.) Ms. DeMarco said that both her and Florine Mark are fans of my blog. I cannot think of a bigger compliment and I am so thankful.

Earlier today I shared my recipe for an exotic and elegant, Fruited Chia Salad with Blackberry Vinaigrette. I am equally excited to share a more classic salad and dressing recipe that I know will be a big hit with many because what is better than a Greek salad? I have never been to Greece but it is a destination that occupies the top of my bucket list. Even though my heritage is mainly of Finnish and Swedish descent, I am asked often if I am Greek.
Mediterranean Mason Jar Salads with Greek Vinaigrette Greek Vinaigrette DressingGREEK VINAIGRETTE DRESSING13

  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of red wine vinegar (since homemade dressings can be made to suit individual tastes, I always recommend that you add vinegar to meet the level of tartness that you enjoy. If you prefer your dressings less tart you can add more olive oil)
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard (I have also used spicy brown mustard)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 Teaspoon red onion (you can substitute with green, white, or yellow onion)
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano (Approximately 2 Tablespoons. If you are using dried use 1-2 teaspoons. Taste as you go and add more if desired)
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil (You can add more depending on taste. You could also skip the oil and add the oil directly to each salad, or to the jar, to maintain portion control)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Blend well. When this dressing is blended, it does get frothy but will separate when stored in the refrigerator. It could also be mixed with a whisk if you want a more rustic texture.
Mediterranean Mason Jar Salads with Greek VinaigretteWhen 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.

MEDITERRANEAN MASON JAR SALADS
I layered these ingredients, in the following order, in one quart Mason jars. (I made six salads)

  • 3 Tablespoons of Greek Vinaigrette 
  • Sliced cucumber (I used two cucumbers)
  • Chopped green bell pepper (I used two peppers)
  • Beets (I love beets in Greek salad. I used my mom’s pickled beets but you could roast your own or buy them prepared in a can or jar)
  • Artichoke hearts (I bought them from the olive bar in our local grocery store. You can also buy them canned or in a jar)
  • Orzo pasta salad (recipe to follow)
  • Pepperoncini (I divided this jar between the salads ~ 4-5 peppers per jar)
  • Kalamata olives (I used 5 olives per jar)
  • Feta Cheese (even though I try to remain dairy-free I did end up putting 2 Tablespoons of feta in the salads.)
  • Chopped romaine lettuce

Orzo SaladORZO PASTA SALAD 

  • One cup of white beans
  • Two cups of cooked orzo pasta
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons of finely chopped red onion
  • 1 cup of chopped tomatoes (I was still able to pick fresh tomatoes from my garden)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon each of fresh oregano, mint, and dill (if you are using dried you can use one teaspoon)
  • Handful of fresh parsley (you can substitute a couple teaspoons of dried)Orzo Pasta Salad
  • 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix well. This also serves as a great side or main dish. If serving on its own you can add olives, artichokes, peppers, feta cheese, and even chopped kale, spinach, or your favorite green.

How lucky am I to have these for my lunches this week?!

How lucky am I to have these for my lunches this week?!

A classic Greek salad gets a modern makeover when layered in a jar.

A classic Greek salad gets a modern makeover when layered in a jar.

Mediterranean Mason Jar Salads with Greek VinaigretteSo far, for this school year, I have made a different kind of Mason Jar Salad each week. They stay fresh and are a great way to make sure you are getting a variety of fruit and vegetables into your meal plan. Many of my Weight Watchers members love them and say that the jarred salads inspire them to make more vibrant selections and that they end up throwing away less produce. The bottom line is that Mason jar salads can be better on our waistline and on our pocketbook. I hope you enjoy this recipe and if you try this salad, or any of my other recipes, please let me know. I wish you a healthy and energy packed week!

Click here to Pin this recipe on Pinterest.

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

Mediterranean Mason Jar Salads with Greek Vinaigrette

Fruited Chia Mason Jar Salads with Blackberry & Lavender Vinaigrette

 “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

― L.M. Montgomery

A tree in our neighbor's backyard.

A tree in our neighbor’s backyard.

There is an elegance in autumn that is not present in other seasons. The light, filtering through the leaves, has the quality of honey – thick and syrupy. Toothache sweet.

I had a revelation this afternoon. My Mason Jar Salad obsession takes root in the fact that my salads are like fall. October in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is very much like a Mason Jar Salad.

October contains all of summer’s potential bottled up and presented in layered prettiness. Autumn is nature’s last stand before a long and cold winter. Fall attempts to coax our senses into accepting another season of hibernation. A jarred salad is portable and has the potential to be filled with an abundance of nutrients. It is an enticing container of fuel for our hectic and busy lives.

I have not posted recipes for the past couple weeks but I still have been preparing healthy meals. Last week I wanted to create a salad that was brimming with autumn’s lushness. About a month ago I started experimenting with the lavender in my garden and I found the flavor it brought to salad dressing pleasing.
Lavender

The night that I met my husband Mike (August 2011), he walked me home from a gathering. We lingered outside and talked for hours. My landlord had planted a patch of lavender and I remember that night plucking a strand to crush and smell the tranquil aroma. To this day, lavender reminds me of Mike. When he was deployed to Iraq I bought lavender linen spray for his return and it was the first perennial we planted when we bought our house.

Mike, Phoebe, and I have been enjoying the mild weather with evening walks.

Mike, Phoebe, and I have been enjoying the mild weather with evening walks.

In the past I would pick and dry lavender, but I had not experimented with using lavender in recipes until this fall. Lavender imparts a fruity taste so I combined it with fresh berries, fruit, and citrus.

Fruited Chia Mason Jar Salads with Blackberry & Lavender VinaigretteFruited Chia Mason Jar Salads with Blackberry & Lavender Vinaigrette

Homemade salad dressing is so easy to make. When you start with wholesome ingredients the end result is satisfying and packed with nutrition. Store-bought dressings often contain chemicals and preservatives.

Homemade salad dressing is so easy to make. When you start with wholesome ingredients the end result is satisfying and packed with nutrition. Store-bought dressings often contain chemicals and preservatives.

I tend to like tart dressings and I suggest that you experiment with how much lemon juice and vinegar you like in your dressing.

I tend to like tart dressings and I suggest that you experiment with how much lemon juice and vinegar you like in your dressing.


BLACKBERRY & LAVENDER VINAIGRETTE DRESSING15

  • 1 pint of fresh blackberries (frozen would work as well)
  • 1/2 cup of vinegar (I used champagne vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup of water (many homemade dressings do thicken as they sit and I thin out with water or extra vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (you can always leave the oil out and add it individually to the Vitamix Dressingbottom of your jar, or to each salad for portion control)
  • 1 lemon ~ juice and zest 
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon of lavender blossoms (I harvested the lavender a few days ahead so it would dry)
  • 1 Tablespoon of raw honey (you could also use maple syrup)Blend dressing well.

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.

Fruited Chia Mason Jar Salads with Blackberry &  Lavender VinaigretteFRUITED CHIA MASON JAR SALADS
I layered these ingredients, in the following order, in one quart Mason jars. (I made five salads)

  • 3 Tablespoons of Blackberry & Lavender Vinaigrette Dressing
  • Sliced cucumber (I used two cucumbers)
  • 1 cup of fruit salad with Chia seeds and lime juice (recipe to follow)
  • White Beans (I used 1/2 cup)
  • Raw mixed nuts (I used 1/4 cup)
  • Chopped romaine lettuce

Fruit Salad with Lime Juice and Chia Seeds

FRUIT SALAD WITH LIME JUICE AND CHIA SEEDS

  • 1 chopped orange (I also included the orange zest before peeling)
  • 1 pint of raspberries
  • 1 chopped mango
  • 2 chopped kiwi
  • 1 cup chopped pineapple
  • Juice and zest of one lime
  • 5 Teaspoons of chia seeds
  • 2 Teaspoons of fresh mint ~ chopped
  • Optional ~ sweetener of choice (I did not use any). As the fruit salad sits the juices will marry and the flavor will become even more pleasing. 

There was approximately a cup of fruit salad remaining after I assembled the salads.

The salads turned out exactly as I hoped they would. They would also be lovely plated and would make a superb course for an autumn luncheon or dinner.

The combination of blackberry and lavender speak eloquently of autumn's ripe splendor.

The combination of blackberry and lavender speak eloquently of autumn’s ripe splendor.

The dressing and salad both harness the jubilation of October and I can imagine recreating both in the heart of winter for a fragrant and uplifting taste of deja vu. What is next up on my agenda? My plan is to continue writing and this evening I will be sharing another recipe for a Mediterranean Mason Jar Salad with Greek Vinaigrette. So stay tuned!

Pin this recipe here.

If you are interested in other Mason Jar Salads, please check out my other salads and dressings. You can follow my recipes on Pinterest and please like my Produce with Amy Facebook page.
Fruited Chia Mason Jar Salads with Blackberry & Lavender Vinaigrette

The flowers in my garden are still blooming.

The flowers in my garden are still blooming.

My pink roses are blooming better now than they were this summer.

My pink roses are blooming better now than they were this summer.

My sunflowers were late in blooming this year. Normally they bloom in the beginning of September.

My sunflowers were late in blooming this year. Normally they bloom in the beginning of September.

22

Chia Fruit and Berry Salad with Citrus

 

Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salad with Creamy Pesto Dressing

Rainbow Collage4Most experts agree that there is no comparison between fresh and dried basil in terms of flavor. The fresh leaves have a flavor complexity and intensity that is largely lost in the dried form. If storing for a week or less, basil can be wrapped in several layers of paper towels and placed in an airtight or Ziplock bag and stored in the highest section of the refrigerator where it will stay fresh for several days. It can also be stored for a few days in a glass of water placed on a counter top. ~Herb Society of America Guide

This week gently heralds in a new school year and I am back to work for two days of professional development. It has been a spectacular summer full of gardening, organizing our house, and reading and writing for pleasure. Yet, I am ready to reclaim my work schedule.

The morning glories that my mom planted from seed for me started blooming last week.

The morning glories that my mom planted from seed for me started blooming last week.

This school year I am changing things up a bit when it comes to my cooking routine. Normally I shop on Friday night or Saturday afternoon and engage in a cooking marathon for the week’s meals on Sunday. This fall I am going to try to break my grocery gathering up into segments. I will shop on Wednesdays after work and cook on Thursday and Friday (Thursday a large pot of soup and Friday a couple of entrees for both Mike and I). On Saturday I will take a trip to the Marquette Food Co-op and will assemble my Mason Jar Salads. Monday I will leave myself open to the possibility of another quick trip to the market.

Last year, submerged in piles of essays to grade, grocery shopping and cooking started to feel like a chore instead of a pleasure. I am hoping that my new routine will make meal preparation more manageable and help free up precious time on the weekend to grade, blog, do housework, and spend time with Mike, family, and friends. I also think that pre-weekend cooking will help me make strong food choices on the weekend since I will have healthy food already prepared.

When I joined Weight Watchers in 2006 I found that planning and prepping my meals was essential to my weight management success. I never allow myself the excuse that I do not have enough time. I make time for my health.

This summer, when I had the luxury of more free time on my hands, I tried to be flexible and spontaneous with meals and during the week took many small trips to the store and 7farmers market for fresh fruit and vegetables. I think that breaking my shopping into small trips actually helped save money and time. I found that I have not been dreading the weekly shopping and since I often grab one of the hand-held baskets, (instead of a large shopping cart) I am not stockpiling food and I am only buying what we will eat for the week.

One item that has not been on my list in the past couple weeks is tomatoes. My tomato plants have perfect timing and each day I am able to harvest enough ripe fruit for the day’s meals. I wait all summer for the candy-sweet tomatoes straight off the vine and I am savoring each juicy bite.

While my tomatoes have persisted and were able to survive our cold and rainy summer in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, my basil plants have not done as well. While I have been able to pluck quite a few clusters of leaves for basil vinaigrette and a few slices of bruschetta, the plants have remained small and many of the leaves are brown (a woman at the farmers market told me this was due to the cold temperatures we have experienced this summer). 3

Since one of my favorite fall food combinations is tomatoes and basil, I have been disappointed my lackluster basil crop. This Saturday my friend Brenda gave me a generous gift of robust basil plants from her father’s garden. The plants are healthy and thriving and I am so thankful.

I love the aroma of basil and this morning I picked a bowl of fresh tomatoes for tonight’s dinner. I will be making Vitamix recipe for a raw dish: Zucchini Pasta with Pomodoro Sauce (with extra basil, of course). This coming weekend I am planning on making homemade pizza topped with plenty of basil, green and ripe tomatoes, Greek olives, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. As I type I am also imagining tomato and basil soup with fresh spaghetti squash from my garden.

Earlier this summer my recipe for Raspberry Basil Vinaigrette Dressing received many positive reviews. So yesterday I decided that I needed to come up with another basil dressing for a batch of Mason Jar Salads. I wanted a creamy dressing that featured the intense aroma and flavor of basil. Naturally, pesto came to mind.

Here is my version of a plant-based Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing that uses raw cashews as a thickening agent. A traditional pesto recipe would use pine nuts, but I did not have any on hand. I think that any nuts would work; almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds. Next time I make this dressing I will toss in a few pine nuts but will still stick to raw cashews since I like the creamy texture that they yield. If you wanted to make this dressing a vinaigrette you could leave out the nuts. If you eat dairy you could also add a fresh grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano to the blender or to your salad. 1CREAMY PESTO SALAD DRESSING

  • 1/2 cup of vinegar (I used 1/4 cup of white balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup of raw 5apple 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 with a bit of celery. I enjoy my dressing extremely tart and often sprinkle more vinegar on my salad before serving.)
  • 1/2-1 cup of fresh basil leaves (depending on how strong you want the flavor to be. I also tossed in a few extra leaves in the blender for good measure)
  • 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 raw cashews (you could substitute almonds, walnuts, or nuts of choice)
  • 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
  • Chives (I used fresh since I have chives in my garden. If you do not have fresh chives you could add a little bit of onion)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Blend until smooth

The dressing turned out just as flavorful as I imagined it would. I knew that the salad that I created to accompany it had to be extra special. Since I had purchased a wide variety of fruit and vegetables I decided to capture a rainbow in a jar.

2When making Mason Jar Salads it is important to 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. I find with the quart sized Mason Jars that I need extra dressing. Sometimes I add extra vinegar or lemon juice to the bottom as well as the dressing.

I made two versions of the Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salad. For the first one I layered the following:11

  • Three Tablespoons of Creamy Pesto Dressing
  • Quartered cherry tomatoes
  • Sliced nectarines
  • Yellow bell pepper
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • White beans
  • Romaine lettuce

For the second version I layered the following:

  • 8Three Tablespoons of Creamy Pesto Dressing
  • White beans
  • Quartered radishes and cherry tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Quartered yellow tomatoes and yellow bell pepper
  • Broccoli florets
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Pickled beets
  • Romaine lettuce

Since part of the charm of the Mason Jar Salads are how visually appealing they are I think it is important to make them as pretty as possible. Plus, by filling them with a vibrant rainbow of fruit and vegetables we are making sure that we are meeting our nutritional needs.

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

My goal for fall and winter is to continue coming up with new recipes and to blog at least once a week. As always, I really appreciate feedback if you try my recipes. I am so thankful to my readers and love that together we can embrace a healthy lifestyle.

I would like to extend a thank you to my dear friend, and Weight Watchers receptionist, Brenda and her father for the gift of basil. It really made my weekend special and I appreciate your kindness.

In the coming weeks Brenda has agreed to do a guest blog so I can feature the story of her incredible weight loss journey. Brenda has lost seventy pounds and for the past two years has done an amazing job maintaining her loss. I am thankful for her friendship and the way she inspires, motivates, and helps keep me (and our entire Weight Watchers group) accountable. Brenda strives to educate herself about nutrition and is always aiming to understand what her body needs to stay healthy, fit, and energized.

Since I launched Produce with Amy in January of 2013, Brenda has been my biggest fan and supporter. She is always willing to give my recipes a try and her belief in me helps give me the confidence and the drive to keep experimenting and coming up with new recipes.  If you know Brenda, make sure you encourage her to write her guest post so others can be inspired by her hard work, determination, and weight management tips and advice. I am excited to share her story with you!

6I know that Brenda will be trying the Creamy Pesto Dressing and I hope that you do too. If you do not have basil in your garden (or a generous friend who will share) make sure you check out your local farmers market or produce section of the grocery store for fresh basil.

Fill your plate (and Mason jars) with a vibrant rainbow. Your health will thank you.

9

Creamy Pesto DressingRainbow Plate

Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salad with Creamy Pesto Dressing

Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salad with Creamy Pesto Dressing

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

2“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
― Henry Miller

I am enamored with Mason Jar Salads on many levels:

1. One of my obsessions is having a food plan for the week. During the school year I cook a huge stock-pot of soup or chili on Sundays and I also take time to cook/prep lunches, dinner entrees, and snacks. This helps immensely with my weight management and keeps Mike and I sane with our busy schedules. Even though I am home for the summer I plan to still make the Mason Jar Salads because they are so handy to grab when I am right in the middle of a project. I am hoping to come up with a plethora of recipes this summer to get me through next school year with healthy and satisfying lunches that involve fruit and vegetables.

2. As a visual person the salads entice me. It may sound silly but I find the Mason Jar Salads extremely visually appealing. They look like pretty terrarium gardens and always make me anticipate diving into the salad.

3. They really stay fresh. I have friends who have in the past few weeks reported that their salads have kept for OVER a week in the refrigerator. (The glass keeps the lettuce more crisp than if stored in plastic.)

4. The Mason Jar Salads eliminate wasted produce. I tend to be thrifty and utilize every fruit and vegetable I purchase, but I have many people say that these salads have helped  prevent them from tossing out expensive produce. (It is incredible how many vegetables you can stuff into a jar). Try it and you will be a believer!

5. The jarred salads are igniting my creativity. Since I follow a plant-based meal plan salads are a daily staple and variety is key. It is so easy to fall into a food rut and this new concept in food preparation is helping me come up with new tastes and flavor combinations.

Sue courtesy of: Sue Anderson

Sue courtesy of: Sue Anderson. Click on photo for a larger view.

The outpouring of response from my Weight Watchers members and readers of my blog has been immense over the past few weeks. So much so that on my Produce Facebook Page I declared that June was Mason Jar Salad month. I have had so many people share fantastic ideas. My friend Sue ran with the Mason Jar Salad idea and came up with a recipe for a mouth-watering beet salad. Sue used extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for the dressing. She then added roasted beets, celery, leeks, carrots (she doesn’t normally include those, but wanted more of a barrier between dressing and cheese), goat cheese, walnuts, sprouts, and red and green leaf lettuce. Oh my!

Photo courtesy of: Brenda Aldrich (click on photo for a larger view)

Photo courtesy of: Brenda Aldrich

Brenda, my friend and Weight Watchers Receptionist, yesterday shared a recipe that used extra virgin olive oil, Mojito-Style Chickpeas: which is ~ 3 TBSP Lime juice, 1 TBSP honey, 1/4 tsp Himalayan Salt, 1/4 cup fresh mint, 15 oz chickpeas & 2 cucumbers all mixed together and then divided between the jars. She then added carrots, radishes, yellow pepper, orange pepper, tomato, and baby lettuce. Brenda got the recipe for the chickpeas (which I cannot wait to try) from greenlitebites.

Photo courtesy of: LeeLa Heinzel (click on photo for a larger view)

Photo courtesy of: LeeLa Heinzel (click on photo for a larger view)

LeeLa  incorporated a Weight Watchers recipe for Santa Fe Salad with Chili Lime Dressing. Her salads use hearty beans and corn. The recipe can be found here on Pinterest. I am going to try these with my plant-based Tangy Avocado Dressing.

Photo courtesy of: Cheryl Alexander (click on photo for a larger view)

Photo courtesy of: Cheryl Alexander (click on photo for a larger view)

Cheryl made Mason Jar Salads for using: radishes, zucchini, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, two types of lettuce, and bottled dressing (one of them being a raspberry vinaigrette dressing with added grapes, strawberries, and some raisins.) 

Ladies, thank you for the terrific Mason Jar Salad combinations, keep the recipes coming!

On Produce so far I have shared two recipes for Mason Jar Salads: Classic Salad Bar in a Jar and Waldorf Inspired Slaw. Here is the link on Pinterest.
Classic Salad Bar in a JarToday’s recipe was inspired from a trip that I took to Israel last spring. In my very first blog post, back in January, I highlighted how easy it was to maintain a plant-based diet in Israel. The food was fresh and every dish was brimming with vegetables. I found myself eating salads for breakfast with dollops of hummus and avocado salad (similar to guacamole). One of my current breakfasts of choice is a salad or a vegetable filled plate.

Photos that I snapped of food in Israel.

Photos that I snapped of food in Israel.

In honor of the opportunity I had to travel to Israel, I wanted to create a salad that would bring me back to that sacred time and place in my life. Here is my creation…

ISRAELI FEAST MASON JAR SALAD: (I made six jars of salad)

6

I layered in the following order:

  • 1 Tablespoon of vinegar in each jar (I used raw apple cider vinegar)
  • Thinly sliced cucumber (I used one large cucumber and divided it between the six jars)
  • 1/2 cup of Amy’s Twist on Tabouli (recipe to follow)
  • Tomato (I used three medium tomatoes; 1/2 in each jar)
  • Olives (I used two large green olives stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes and 4 Greek olives)
  • 1/4 cup of hummus (recipe to follow)
  • Green pepper (I used one large green pepper)
  • Lettuce (I used romaine and red leaf lettuce)

3

7

Israeli Feast Mason Jar Salad

AMY’S TWIST ON TABOULI

  1. 1 generous cup of quinoa (While most recipes call for bulgar, I opted for protein rich quinoa. In the past I would have used much more quinoa. The tabouli that I had in Israel was heavy on parsley and did not have as much bulgar as the tabouli I have had in the states)
  2. 1/4 cup of chopped onion
  3. 1 clove of finely minced garlic
  4. 1 bunch of parsley finely chopped (it ended up being two cups chopped)
  5. 1 lemon juiced (I also used the zest. I highly recommend using citrus zest in recipes because it really amps up the flavor. The zest is where all the essential oils are contained)
  6. Few fresh mint leaves
  7. Salt and pepper to taste
  8. 2 Tablespoons of olive oil (normally I would put in 2 additional Tablespoons of oil but I knew that the hummus would have oil as well)

Tabouli ingredients

Tabouli ingredients


Quinoa is an ancient seed that is a complete protein and can be used in sweet or savory dishes.

Quinoa is an ancient seed that is a complete protein and can be used in sweet or savory dishes.

5

VITAMIX HUMMUS RECIPE (from the Whole Food Recipes cookbook)

10(I made 1/2 of the recipe for the six Mason Jar Salads)

  1. 30 ounces of chickpeas (it says to reserve one can’s liquid. Though, I always make my own from dried beans)
  2. 1/4 cup raw sesame seeds (I used jarred tahini)
  3. 1/4 cup lemon juice (again I used the zest)
  4. 1 garlic clove
  5. 1 teaspoon cumin
  6. salt
  7. I also added freshly snipped chives since I an abundance in my garden.

Hummus

Here's information on cooking your own garbanzo beans/chickpeas.  Click on image for a larger version

Here’s information on cooking your own garbanzo beans/chickpeas.
Click on image for a larger version

13The Israeli Feast salads turned out exactly as hoped and I have enjoyed two already. For those who eat cheese, feta would be a flavorful layer. The next time we grill I plan on planking and grilling eggplant and zucchini to add to the salad.

My trip to Israel was life-changing in so many aspects of my professional life as an educator. However, it greatly impacted my personal life as well both spiritually and physically. It helped me further embrace a lifestyle that is surrounded by plant-based meals.

Hummus and Tabouli are two of my go-to meal additions. You will love the flavor that they impart and will want to make them both alone and to enjoy in a lettuce salad, in a wrap, or on a sandwich. Imagine making a large version of this layered salad for a picnic or BBQ.

Hummus can be infused with endless herb combinations. Great additions are: caramelized onions, roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, olives, capers, and artichoke hearts. Sometimes I like to add a little bit of nut butter and I love to whirl in pumpkin, roasted squash, or eggplant.

Here is the pin to the Israeli Feast Mason Jar Salad on Pinterest.

Quinoa Tabouli by Produce with Amy

Let me know what some of your favorite jar salad combinations are. I hope you are enjoying summer and the fresh produce in the supermarket, road-side stands, and at your local farmer’s market. Remember to let today involve beauty. Create it and seek it out. It is all about perspective. Cheers to health, fresh produce, and  thriving! ❤
16

Here is a sampling of the hundreds of photos that I snapped in Israel:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mason Jar Salads: Fresh, Visually Appealing, and Versatile

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin

Our dog Phoebe and I enjoying sunshine and tulips on a gorgeous May afternoon.

Our dog Phoebe and I enjoying sunshine and tulips on a gorgeous May afternoon.

If you have a Pinterest account you are probably familiar with Mason Jar Salads. They are easy to make, keep for up to a week in the refrigerator, and are visually appealing (I think they look like lovely edible terrarium gardens). Jarred salads are a great way to encourage yourself, and your family, to eat more fruit and vegetables and reduce waste (since you will not be throwing out unused produce). Food waste is usually a common concern that comes up when people tell me they are trying to eat healthier. So many people confess to buying fresh fruit and vegetables which become doomed to live in the bottom of the refrigerator drawer to inevitably spoil and get tossed in the garbage. If that is a problem that plagues your kitchen, I think that these salads are exactly what you need to make!

For the past few weeks I have made a number of Mason Jar Salads to enhance my lunch and dinners. Usually, I toss in the ingredients that I have on hand but this summer I hope to come up with recipes for tasty salad combinations (I have already brainstormed ten recipes, two of which I will share today).

A few weeks back I made a visual for my Produce with Amy Facebook page and for these salads I used vinegar and oil dressing, bell peppers, banana peppers, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, radishes, red onion, kalamata and garlic stuffed green olives, pea pods, artichoke hearts, and romaine lettuce.
(Click on the photo to see a larger version)(Click on the photo to see a larger version)

While I often have Mason Jars on hand from my mom’s should-be-world-famous dill pickles, I give the jars back to her so she will give me more. Instead of going out and buying new Mason Jars, I started recycling spaghetti sauce jars and they work perfectly for the jarred salads. However, I plan to eventually purchase wide-mouthed one quart Mason jars for my salads.

jars

Recycle spaghetti sauce jars

When you prepare your salads make sure that you add the dressing first, heartier vegetables and fruit next (bell peppers, carrots, beans) and the lettuce last (the acid in the dressing will make the lettuce slimy so you have to make sure it does not touch). The salad dressing marinates the fruit and vegetables that it touches and helps marry the flavors of your salad.

Some of the frequently asked questions about the salads that I have heard are:

Q: Do you have to vacuum seal the salads?
A: No, I do not vacuum seal my salads. I simply close the lid tightly and they have kept for seven days in the refrigerator. They may even last longer but I often eat one for lunch and one for dinner so they disappear quickly.

Q: Can you put meat and cheese in the salads?
A: While I do not eat meat or cheese, I have seen Mason Jar Salad recipes that contain both. I would think that the meat would stay fresh for a few days and I would sprinkle cheese near the top of the salad.

Q: How do you eat the salads?
A: Give the jars a shake and pour on a plate or bowl or eat straight out of the jar.

Q: What is the benefit of putting the salads in a jar?
A:1. The glass helps keep the greens crisp. I read one blog post where a woman washes and stores all her greens in glass jars in the refrigerator.
2. The salads are quickly made in bulk and the slim jars are easy to store in the refrigerator.
3. I have made the jarred salads for my husband and they fit easier in his lunchbox (cooler) than a covered bowl.
4. The salads are visually beautiful and a great reminder to grab a healthy snack before or after school/work. You can also make fruit salad in the jars. Kids LOVE helping make the salads and you can use smaller jars for small children.
5. Many of my Weight Watchers members commented that if they toss together a salad for work or after a long day they use lettuce, tomato, and maybe cucumber. The jarred salads REALLY hold a lot of ingredients and are a great way to add variety and rainbow of fruit and vegetables to your menu. I find that the more layers that I add the more visually appealing the salads become.

My friend Sally Karttunen shared a great tip for the jarred salads. She said when she made her salads she used mason jars and added a large, decorative cupcake paper liner to the flat jar lid before screwing on the jar ring. This touch made the salads extra cute and attractive. Thanks for the great tip, Sally!

The two jarred salad recipes that I will share today are CLASSIC SALAD BAR IN A JAR and WALDORF INSPIRED SLAW.

Traditionally, I am a fan of vinegar and oil based Italian salad dressing. Yet, since going to plant based eating I find that I eat one or two salads a day and have worked hard to add variety into my salads. The first jar salad that I will share would be my “go to” favorite when making a salad from a buffet.

CLASSIC SALAD BAR IN A JAR

The amount of each ingredient depends on the size of your jar. Since I follow the Weight Watchers 360 plan, I eyeballed all the 0 Points Plus ingredients and measured out the other additions.

1. 2 Tablespoons of my homemade plant-based Tangy Ranch Dressing.
2. Cucumbers
3. Grape tomatoes
4. Banana peppers
5. Peas (I used 1/4 cup)
6. Carrot sticks
7. Celery sticks
8. Sunflower seeds (I used 1/4 cup)
9. Alfalfa sprouts
10. Romaine lettuce (I buy heads of romaine instead of packaged. I find the heads are more fresh, leafy, and not as bitter)

Since my cucumbers were not organic, I scrubbed well and peeled.

Since my cucumbers were not organic, I scrubbed well and peeled.

I find that cherry or grape tomatoes hold their shape better and do not get as runny in the jars as larger tomatoes.

I find that cherry or grape tomatoes hold their shape better and do not get as runny in the jars as larger tomatoes.

Banana peppers impart a lot of flavor to salads. I also LOVE them on pizza.

Banana peppers impart a lot of flavor to salads. I also LOVE them on pizza.

I am not a huge fan of peas unless they are fresh out of the garden. However, I do enjoy the texture of peas in a salad.

I am not a huge fan of peas unless they are fresh out of the garden. However, I do enjoy the texture of peas in a salad.

They always have carrot sticks on a salad bar so I thought I would leave the carrots in larger pieces.

They always have carrot sticks on a salad bar so I thought I would leave the carrots in larger pieces.

There is nothing like the satisfying crunch of celery!

There is nothing like the satisfying crunch of celery!

Sunflower seeds. Need I say more?

Sunflower seeds. Need I say more?

Sprouts are so fresh and delicious. Bean sprouts also make a wonderful addition to jarred salads.

Sprouts are so fresh and delicious. Bean sprouts also make a wonderful addition to jarred salads.

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!

Lovely layered salads.

Lovely layered salads.

Classic Salad Bar in a Jar

While the Classic Salad Bar in a Jar was delicious. I must say, that the WALDORF INSPIRED SLAW was phenomenal. In fact, one day I had one for lunch AND dinner.

I used the following ingredients:

To make the dressing:
3 Tablespoons of plant-based Mayonnaise (I used Vegenaise) but your favorite brand will do. I added 1/4 cup of lemon juice and 1/4 cup of raw apple cider. Salt and pepper to taste. Many Waldorf Salad Dressings call for sugar but I did not add any since I like mine tangy. Plus, I found that the fruit that I added to salad imparted just the right amount of sweetness.

1. I added three Tablespoons of the dressing to the bottom of the jar.
2. Chopped celery
2. Green cabbage
3. Red/purple cabbage
*Note ~ The second time I made this jarred salad I tossed the cabbage in the dressing and celery first . I liked the way it marinated and thought it was more flavorful this way.
4. A few thin slices of red onion
5. Granny Smith apple slices
6. Red apple slices (your favorite variety)
(since I used organic apples I left the peels on the apples. Incidentally, I did not add any lemon juice to the apples and they stayed fresh and did not brown)
7. Two Tablespoons of raisins
8. 1/4 cup of raw almonds (most Waldorf recipes call for walnuts but I had almonds on hand)
9. Red grapes (I had to run to the store to get grapes after I made the salads. I sliced the grapes in 1/2 and added to the top).
Waldorf Inspired Slaw

I am making Waldorf Inspired Slaw in jars again this week. Yes, they are really that terrific! :)

I am making Waldorf Inspired Slaw in jars again this week. Yes, they are really that terrific! 🙂

The end of the school year is racing at me. I find that prepping my lunches and dinners makes healthy eating a snap. If you find yourself in a pinch at mealtime you cannot go wrong with salads in a jar.

The end of the school year is racing at me. I find that prepping my lunches and dinners makes healthy eating a snap. If you find yourself in a pinch at mealtime you cannot go wrong with salads in a jar.

Update: December 8, 2013
Today I made the Waldorf Inspired Slaw but instead of grapes I added pomegranates since they are in season.
Waldorf Inspired Slaw with PomegranateI hope that my post helped answer a few questions about Mason Jar Salads and inspired garden fresh eating for you and your family. You will find more recipes under the salad tab at the top of the page. Please feel free to share some of your favorite salad jar combinations in the comment section or on my Facebook page. Here is a link to these recipes on Pinterest. I am up to 244 likes and would love to see more health minded and creative individuals join the conversation. Please recommend my blog to your friends and family.

After experimenting with Mason Jar Salads you might find yourself adding an extra row of lettuce to your garden this summer. I know that I am eagerly awaiting getting my garden in the ground. I have been told that in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan the second week of June will be the time to get the tomatoes and other plants in the ground. Cheers to a happy, healthy, and productive week!