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

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Sunshine Salad in a Jar with Kicky Mango Vinaigrette

Sunshine Salad with Kicky Mango Vinaigrette by Produce with Amy“Even trained for years as we all had been in precision of language, what words could you use which would give another the experience of sunshine.” 
― Lois Lowry 

Today was to be my first day back to school/work after a two-week holiday hiatus but Mother Nature had other plans. In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Lower Michigan, and all across the Midwest, school has been closed due to harsh sub-zero temperatures and voluminous snow. Truth be told, I was ready to reclaim my work routines. I crave the structure of a schedule ~ regular bedtime, mealtimes, and purpose. This makes me believe that full-retirement will never be an option for me because I would suffer a completely rootless existence (okay, maybe I am being a tad bit dramatic) but two weeks has been a long time to be away from my classroom and I am anxious to have my students compile their poetry portfolios.

Last night I decided that I needed to make the most of an extra day off and this morning I savored a quiet house and writing time. The blank pages of my journal were pure potential. Linen pages spread out like a glistening frosted meadow and my scrawling lines plowed through the smooth, icyA poppy from my summer garden whiteness. Perhaps in January it is easier to find precise words to describe the winter landscape. Though, it is light that I crave. I covet Facebook posts from my friends who live in southern locations and I peek at the photos of sunshine sifting through my summer blooms. Perhaps it is this hope that helps us go on with our days. I believe that metaphorically summer gives us something to look forward to and encourages us to toil and work hard.

The eternal optimist that tries to dominate my heart (usually with success) believes that we must make our own sunshine. The space that I try to create is filled with color and it makes me believe that is why I am so passionate about eating a variety of fruit and vegetables. I find myself in constant awe at the glorious colors and art in food presentation. Perhaps I missed my calling? Maybe not. Without a doubt I believe that I was meant to be an English teacher and one day I will find a way to combine my love of blogging and food writing with teaching. Maybe post-retirement I will teach blogging workshops? Cooking classes? Food writing? Maybe I will take nutrition courses and open a cafe that has poetry workshops and readings? Maybe I will etch poetry on jars and market my own salad line? Maybe I will travel and publish place-conscious cookbooks? Maybe I will use my broadcasting degree from Marquette University and host my own cooking show?

Okay, it appears as if the cold may be making me delirious and I am getting ahead of myself. Right now I need to focus on my thirteenth year of teaching and continue to share vibrant vegetable recipes on my blog. I must thank my readers for encouraging me to share my recipes. I may be situated in a very remote area of the United States that is often omitted from many maps, but social networking allows us to connect.

Sunshine Salad with Mango DressingAs you can see from my last post, Top Ten Posts of 2013, my most popular recipes to date have been jarred salads. This does not surprise me, for as I have said previously, jarred salads are visually stunning and look like lovely edible terrarium gardens. Whether you tote them to work or keep them in your refrigerator at home, they will entice you to eat more vegetables, fruit, and greens. If you are new to jarred salads you might want to read this post.

When coming up with the recipe that I am going to share today, I intentionally wanted to create a bright, layered salad that utilized orange and yellow hued produce specifically for its health benefits. I also wanted to give the dressing a little heat, so I kicked it up with fresh jalapeno.

“These bright-colored fruits and vegetables contain zeaxanthin, flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, vitamin C and beta-carotene, which is vitamin A.

The nutrients help our bodies in many different ways, from our eyes to our bones:

  1. Aids in eye health and reduces the risk of macular degeneration of the eye
  2. Reduces the risk of prostate cancer
  3. Lowers blood pressure
  4. Lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol)
  5. Promotes healthy joints
  6. Promotes collagen formation
  7. Fights harmful free radicals in the body
  8. Encourages pH balance of the body
  9. Boosts immune system
  10. Builds healthier bones by working with calcium and magnesium”
    Source: 10 Reasons to Eat Orange and Yellow Fruits and Veggies

I also remembered reading research that documented the complexion promoting benefits of lycopene and nutrients found in these varieties of produce. Read more about this phenomena here. This time of year I find my skin really suffers from the effects of the dry air and lack of sunshine so it gives me another reason to eat my vegetables.

Today as I dream about sunshine winter has iced over any precise words that I could use to describe a gold washed sky. So, I will let my Mason jar salads articulate.

Sunshine Salad in a Jar with a KickKicky Mango Vinaigrette *Printable recipe below

KICKY MANGO VINAIGRETTE

  • 3/4 cup of rice vinegar (your favorite vinegar will work. Rice vinegar is a great choice because it is less acidic than a lot of vinegar. Some of my other favorites for homemade dressings are raw apple cider vinegar, champagne vinegar, and white balsamic vinegar. I really like tart dressings and if you do not, I suggest adding a little vinegar at a time)
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (often I do not add the oil to the dressing but add it individually to each jar for portion control)
  • 1 peeled and pitted mango (you could substitute a cup of frozen)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • teaspoon of onion
  • 1 lime (both the juice and the zest)
  • Jalapeno (I used 1/2 of a large pepper. I added a little at a time until I was satisfied. If you do not want a big “kick” you could use a banana pepper or green chilies)
  • 1/4 cup of fresh parsley and/or cilantro (I used a little of each)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Blend well. This made enough for 6 jarred salads with 1/2 cup leftover. I store in a jar in the refrigerator and the dressing keeps for over a month.

When 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.

Sunshine Mason Jar Salad  with Mango Dressing

SUNSHINE IN A JAR SALAD WITH KICKY MANGO VINAIGRETTE

I layered these ingredients, in the following order, in 6 ~ one quart Mason jars:

  • 2-4 Tablespoons of Kicky Mango Vinaigrette (depending how much dressing you like. For these salads I used four since I really crammed in a lot of greens in the top)
  • Orange bell pepper (one divided among six jars)
  • Carrots (4 large carrots)
  • Yellow cherry tomatoes (halved)Roasted Sweet Potato
  • Pineapple (I used 1 cup of fresh)
  • Orange (I used one)
  • Grapefruit (I used one)
  • 2 large roasted sweet potatoes (I peeled and cut into pieces, drizzled with coconut oil, sea salt, pepper, sprinkled with chili powder and roasted in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes…turned at the 15 minute mark)
  • Chickpeas (1/4 cup in each jar)
  • Raw nuts (Tablespoon in each jar)
  • Kale
  • Romaine Lettuce

Printable recipe here: Sunshine in a Jar Salad with Kicky Mango VinaigretteSunshine SaladSunshine Vegan SaladSunshine Salad with Citrus and Pineapple

Pin this recipe here.

As I sit tucked away in my quiet, cozy, and tiny house ~ I cannot help but feel wonder for the opportunity that I have to connect with people from all over the globe and share my passion. I love healthy food, writing, photography, and brilliant color. Food should be savored and appreciated as a piece of art. The composition of flavor, color, nutrients, and attention to detail are vital to both pleasure and health.

As always, if you try this recipe, I would love your feedback. Please stop by my Facebook page and, if so inclined, please share my recipes with others. Make sure that you check out the salad tab at the top of this page for other recipes.

Have a sunny day, my friends! Even if it means having to manufacture your own sunshine.

This afternoon while selecting photos I marveled at this ray of sunshine that found its way to grace my Sunshine Salad.

This afternoon while selecting photos I marveled at this ray of sunshine that found its way to grace my Sunshine Salad.

Glowing Green Mason Jar Salads with Avocado Vinaigrette Dressing

13“Your hands hold roses always in a way that says
They are not only yours; the beautiful changes
In such kind ways,
Wishing ever to sunder
Things and things’ selves for a second finding, to lose
For a moment all that it touches back to wonder.”
~Richard Wilbur (from The Beautiful Changes)

The leaves in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan have been slowly changing color for several weeks. The temperatures have been chilly in the morning and reach perfect mid-to-high seventies in the afternoon. Yet, even when the thermometer climbs, there is a hint of fall goosebumps in the air. The hummingbirds have ceased their frenzied sips from the feeders and soon we will see great arcs of honking geese as they migrate across the cloud-marbled sky. My roses have made one last stand by erupting into pink ruffled cups. Next week I anticipate white and red roses and perhaps the sunflowers will put on a show.

It is Sunday and I am proud to say that I survived the first week back to school. Retraining my body to be productive early in the morning, large classes, mentoring a student teacher, and a course that I have never taught before took every ounce of energy that I had, but the week was satisfying and gave me hope. I eagerly await the writing and stories that will unfold in my classroom. It is going to be an exhausting, satisfying, and rewarding year full of growth and creativity! Instead of being overwhelmed by the work ahead, I will stay true to my healthy goals. I know that sticking to my plant-based diet and making time to exercise will give me more energy and keep my immune system strong during the long winter ahead. I want to be the best teacher that I can be and I want to be a healthy role model for my students.

I was excited to share with my creative writing students the positive feedback that I have received this summer with Produce with Amy. They listened intently when I explained that I had composed close to twenty blogs over the past few months and that I have people from all over the county (and globe) reading and sharing my recipes. One student asked if I would continue to teach when I became a “famous food blogger”. That made me laugh (how sweet it is that they believe in me) and I promised them that I would continue to teach and that it would mean that I would be able to bring more resources into the classroom. It really helps to have their confidence and know that they are cheering me on. It gives me an extra boost of motivation to keep blogging.

With one week of school and the Fall Forward Healthy Lifestyle Challenge under my belt I 9wanted to make sure that I made the weekend count. Last night I came up a new Mason Jar Salad recipe as well as a new dressing. It is not too late for you join myself and others on the challenge. Every day I have been posting a reminder on my Produce with Amy Facebook page and if you feel comfortable you can post to help yourself stay accountable and help inspire others.

When I looked at the calendar today I saw that it was National Grandparents Day. One of the items on my to-do list is to harvest the ripe tomatoes in our garden. 12As I do this, I will honor the memory of my Grandpa Puskala. Grandpa had a legendary organic garden before it was “hip” to do so!  I attribute him to passing on a love of vegetables to my beautiful mother who passed this gift to me.

Since there will be more ripe tomatoes than we can possibly eat this week I am going to try this recipe for roasted tomatoes. Not only will I use fresh rosemary from our garden but I will also incorporate fresh basil leaves. Some of the roasted tomatoes will be frozen and I will  use the others for dinner this week. I bought whole-wheat pita pockets and will stuff them with alfalfa sprouts, cucumbers, Greek olives, homemade hummus, and the roasted tomatoes.

Last week one of my struggles at work was making the time to drink water and eat snacks. On Thursday and Friday I came home famished and ended up eating larger portions of dinner than normal. So this week my goal is to pack more food (raw vegetables, raw nuts, and a green smoothie to sip on during my half hour commute home). I also am finding that I do not have an appetite in the morning so I will force myself to drink a green smoothie because I know it is important for my energy level to get a surge of nutrients. I will be carefully tracking with Weight Watchers and will try to be faithful to the program.

This week I do not anticipate myself struggling with making time for lunch since I have five gorgeous Mason Jar Salads prepped. My Glowing Green Mason Jar salads are stuffed with both sweet and savory ingredients and the dressing is equally delicious and nutritious.

I store dressings in a jar in the refrigerator and the vinegar and citrus keeps it fresh for several weeks.

I store dressings in a jar in the refrigerator and the vinegar and citrus keeps it fresh for several weeks.

AVOCADO VINAIGRETTE DRESSING

  • 1/2 cup of vinegar (I used white balsamic 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 cup of fresh parsley (not only do I love the fresh taste of parsley but it also contains a multitude of health benefits)
  • 1 pitted and peeled avocado
  • 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 (the flavor of lime also is a great accompaniment to 3avocado)
  • 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. Green onions or shallots also work well for salad dressings)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Blend until smooth

The dressing turned out creamy and the avocado adds body, flavor, and healthy fats. I often thicken dressings with raw nuts but I thought I would create a dressing without for those with allergies. I love that this dressing is dairy free and free from chemicals and additives. If you are interested in my other plant-based salad dressing recipes check out the dressing tab at the top of the page. For Weight Watchers members, this recipe rendered twenty-five Tablespoons of dressing.
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When 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.

7-001GLOWING GREEN MASON JAR SALADS

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

  • Two to Three Tablespoons of Avocado Vinaigrette Dressing.
  • One thinly sliced cucumber (I did not use organic so I peeled)
  • Thinly sliced zucchini (raw with peels on)
  • Two Granny Smith Apples (I bought organic so I scrubbed and left the peelings on. I love the tartness of green apples in salads)

    I love the combination of sweet and salty. Plus, the Granny Smith apples have just the right mixture of sweet and tart. When I was a kid I loved eating green apples fresh from the tree with salt.

    I love the combination of sweet and salty. Plus, the Granny Smith apples have just the right mixture of sweet and tart. When I was a kid I loved eating green apples fresh from the tree with salt.

  • Capers (I love the salty flavor that capers add to meals. When Mike and I started dating the first meal that I cooked for him was chicken picatta with a lemon and caper sauce. In the coming weeks I am going to create a plant-based version with white bean patties.)
  •  Two peeled and sliced kiwi.
  • Green grapes cut in half.
  • Large green olives stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes (I added four per jar)
  • 1/4 cup of raw nuts (you could also add beans for protein)
  • Broccoli florets
  • Spinach
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Pin this recipe here.

I cannot wait to dig into these salads and I know that they will help give me the energy that I need to keep up with my classroom of spirited teenagers. This week I will also be focusing on getting to bed before 10:00 and working in 20-30 minutes of activity in the morning.

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.

I love being able to share my blog with my students as a real world example of writing and how we can use social networking in powerful and healthy ways. Thank you for reading and sharing this produce journey with me. I look forward to staying productive in the coming months and adding new recipes, tips, and techniques for maintaining a plant-based diet. I wish you a week brimming with energy, fruit, and vegetables! 

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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.

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Creamy Pesto DressingRainbow Plate

Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salad with Creamy Pesto Dressing

Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salad with Creamy Pesto Dressing

Embrace the Old-Fashioned with Two Homemade Raspberry Vinaigrette Recipes: Basil & Mint

“We are asleep with compasses in our hands. ”
― W.S. Merwin

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A couple of years ago, when my niece Kristine was in high school, she gave a demonstration speech on how to can dill pickles. After her presentation, when she told me that there were students in her class that did not know that pickles were once cucumbers, I was shocked. Really? How could this happen in a rural community where vegetable gardens commonly sprout in backyards? I guess that I took it for granted that others grew up in a household similar to the one in which I was raised. Pre-bread machines my mom always made homemade bread, cake and frosting were whipped up from scratch, macaroni-and-cheese did not come out of a box, and on a weekly basis stock pots of aromatic soup simmered on the stove. Did we eat junk food and drink soda? Yes. Yet, my mom always made sure our diet was balanced out by home cooked meals and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Even when we spent long, summer days at the beach the slow-cooker was preparing some sort of wholesome, savory dish. Fast food did not exist in our hometown (aside from the seasonal drive-in restaurant) and take-out and dinners at restaurants were rare and special indulgences.

Granted, times have changed, but I think that in some ways we need to go back to the way things were in the past. My mom grew up in a large Finnish-American family with six other siblings, and because finances were lean, they had to learn how to be resourceful. I am thankful that Mom passed this resourcefulness on to me. In October of 2010, I wrote more about the lessons that my mom has instilled in me. Here is the piece that I wrote on the educational blog that I share with my best friend Heather Hollands, called Blended Voices.

The next time you are in line at the supermarket, reflect on the choices in your cart (and even other shoppers around you). It is common to hear (and participate) in conversations about how expensive groceries are these days. Yet, when you take a look at what is tossed into grocery carts there often are cheaper alternatives. Think of how many raw potatoes can be purchased for the price of a bag of potato chips. How many bags of dried beans can be purchased for the cost of canned? Compare the cost of individually packaged instant oatmeal versus a tub of old-fashioned oats. While they may be expensive, how many cherries or grapes could a twelve pack of soda purchase?

While I try to keep my grocery cart limited to whole foods, I do confess to occasional convenience food purchases. Though, I try to be more mindful of making our favorite meals by scratch, because not only is it more economical, but more nutritional as well. Plus, I like to believe that when I stretch my grocery dollar I can afford to put more organic fruit and vegetables on our table.

As I have shared in previous posts, not only are some convenience foods easy to make, but cooking from scratch helps us avoid putting chemicals into our bodies. The next time you pick up a can of soup carefully scan the ingredients. How about salad dressing? Can you pronounce the long list of additives and preservatives? If not, you might want to think about making your own. The base of vinaigrette dressings are simple: vinegar and oil and spices. For creamy dressings I add a base of raw nuts or plant-based sour cream or mayonnaise (if you eat dairy you can use mayo, Greek yogurt, or sour cream). The beauty of making your own dressing is that you can tailor them to suit your taste buds. My husband Mike and I  tend to like tangy dressings, so my vinaigrettes are heavy on vinegar and citrus juice.

Since it is summer and berries are ripe, and my garden is brimming with fresh herbs, I thought that a perfect recipe to share would be a berry vinaigrette. I choose raspberries but you could easily swap out strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, mango, pineapple, pears, plums, or peaches. In the winter frozen berries and dried herbs would work well too.

Berry vinaigrettes tend to be of the sweeter dressing variety, but instead of refined sugar I sweetened these dressings with freshly squeezed orange. (Since oranges are not in season and hard to find in some stores you could easily add mango, pineapple, peach, or another sweet fruit to the blender.)
Raspberry Basil Vinaigrette: Dijon Mustard, Orange Juice, Onion, Raspberries, Basil, White Balsamic Vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Chives, and Salt & Pepper.

Raspberry Basil Vinaigrette: Dijon Mustard, Orange Juice, Onion, Raspberries, Basil, White Balsamic Vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Chives, Garlic, and Salt & Pepper.

107RASPBERRY BASIL VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/2-1 Cup White Balsamic Vinegar (or vinegar of choice. Add in a little at a time and taste test so you can monitor the level of desired tartness)
  • 1/2 Cup Raspberries (or your berry or fruit of choice)
  • 1/2 Cup of Basil (if you are not a fan of basil you could use your favorite herb)
  • 1/8-1/4 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you could also add more. To keep the dressing more friendly on the waist-line I often keep the oil to a minimum and add the desired portion of oil directly to the salad)
  • Juice and Zest of 1/2 an Orange (Orange juice will give the berry vinaigrette a desired sweetness without adding refined sugar)117
  • 1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard (I used spicy brown mustard because that is what I had on hand)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Onion
  • 1 Tablespoon Chives (I have chives in my garden so I add them to all my dressings in the summer)
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste (or you can leave out and season the salad)

Blend well. You can chop and mix with a whisk, but I find that a blender is so easy and makes a smooth dressing.

My salad combination: Avocado, shredded carrots, radish, white beans, Greek olives, tomato, pickled beets, cucumbers, raw nuts, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and a sprinkling of chia seeds.

My salad combination: Avocado, shredded carrots, radish, white beans, Greek olives, tomato, pickled beets, cucumbers, raw nuts, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and a sprinkling of chia seeds.

As delicious as it is pretty.

As delicious as it is pretty. I love the nutritional boost that chia seeds give to a salad.

The next version of raspberry vinaigrette includes fresh mint. I love mint with both sweet and savory dishes and I wanted a dressing that would work with both. I was thinking that this would be a great dressing for a fruit salad (but I would use it on vegetables as well). This version is a little less savory because it leaves out the garlic and onion.

Raspberry Mint Vinaigrette: Raspberries, Mint, White Balsamic Vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Juice of 1/2 a Lemon, Juice of 1/2 an Orange, Chives, and Salt and Pepper.

Raspberry Mint Vinaigrette: Raspberries, Mint, White Balsamic Vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Juice of 1/2 a Lemon, Juice of 1/2 an Orange, Chives, and Salt and Pepper.

104RASPBERRY MINT VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/2-1 Cup White Balsamic Vinegar (or vinegar of choice. Add in a little at a time and taste test so you can monitor the level of desired tartness)
  • 1/2 Cup Raspberries (or your berry or fruit of choice)
  • 1/2 Cup of Mint (mint is perennial and will come up in you garden year-after-year)
  • 1/8-1/4 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you could also add more. To keep the dressing more friendly on the waist-line I often keep the oil to a minimum and add the desired portion of oil directly to the salad)
  • Juice and Zest of 1/2 an Orange (Orange juice 108will give the berry vinaigrette a desired sweetness without adding refined sugar)
  • Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon Chives (I have chives in my garden so I add them to all my dressings in the summer)
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste (or you can leave out and season the salad)Blend well and serve on your favorite salad combination.
My salad: Spinach, Avocado, Cantaloupe, Strawberries, Blueberries, and Raspberries.

My salad: Spinach, Avocado, Cantaloupe, Strawberries, Blueberries, and Raspberries.

The raspberries and mint make a bright and refreshing combination.

The raspberries and mint make a bright and refreshing combination.

Do not forget to add a couple candles and set a pretty table.

Do not forget to add a couple candles and set a pretty table. Poetry does make food taste better!

I had both of the salads featured in this post yesterday and made another one today for lunch. I am excited to try the recipe with different berries and I think it is going to be a staple in our house. Since I have a lot of basil and mint in my garden I will make sure to freeze some to use in dressings this winter.

Today as I prepared to write this post I could not help thinking about the generations before us that did not have access to convenience foods and had to make the most of what they had on hand. I think that things are changing, and as an American nation, we are starting to become more careful label readers. I always tell my students that their generation has the capacity to be wiser than my generation has been about food choices. Their generation understands the importance of recycling and taking advantage of what we have. I often tell them that one of my favorite hobbies is to go thrift-store shopping for vintage items. In fact, this is how I spent my time  this afternoon. 

Today’s thrift-store treasure came in the form of delicate, etched, vintage glasses. If we had a larger house (and if I loved to dust) I would have hundreds of these little beauties. 11I would not want a complete set either, because I love the variety of patterns and shapes they come in. I could easily be a vintage glass hoarder (especially at 25 cents each).119

These glasses are a great reminder of how much our portion sizes have changed. Not only are they beautiful, but they are so much smaller than the gargantuan goblets that are purchased in modern times.

I like to think of food in the same old-fashioned way that I appreciate 13vintage pieces and I will continue to strive to eat whole foods and make the extra time to takes to prepare meals that are nutritionally sound and fuel my body.

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Roses from our garden.

If you have found your way to my blog, I imagine that we share the same philosophy and I thank you for sharing this journey. For more salad dressing recipes you can check out the Dressing Tab. You can follow my board on Pinterest and join the conversation on my Produce with Amy Facebook page.

I do tend to be old-fashioned about many things. I would wear a dress over jeans any day, I love the word ice-box, and I believe in setting a beautiful table. I believe that food made with love, and attention to detail, tastes better.

This week, or weekend, I challenge you to do something to make your dining experience more enjoyable. Float some flowers in a vintage glass bowl, use your Grandmothers doilies as a table runner, or make your salad look like a piece of art. Find, create, and appreciate beauty and your life, and the lives of those around you, will be richer.

Raspberry Basil Vinaigrette

Click on image for a larger version.

Raspberry Mint Vinaigrette

Click on image for a larger version.

While I do not want to rush summer, this fall I look forward to going to my hometown of Crystal Falls to can pickles with my mom and Kristine. Do you know where the food on your table came from? How about starting with some homemade dressing. I promise, you will be hooked and may never buy bottled dressing again.

Creamy Cucumber & Dill Dressing ~ Homemade & Plant-Based

95“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” 
― Henry James

I am so thankful for a relaxing Independence Day weekend. Mike and I basked in the glow of family, friends, laughter, and sunshine. We spent many hours on the water and were sad to see the weekend come to an end.

Even though I had the best of intentions, I ended up overdoing it on chips, picnic food, and beverages. The heat and sodium really impacts my body so the past couple of days I have been making sure that I am staying hydrated with plenty of water, fruit, and vegetables.

Did you know that cucumbers contain properties that help bring down water retention? Not only are cucumbers comprised of over 90% water but they are also great for our skin and joints because they contain the vitamins A, B, and C and the minerals potassium, magnesium, and silica. Cucumbers aid in digestion and are such a crisp and nourishing addition to salads. Yesterday, while gathering groceries, I added six large cucumbers to my shopping cart (sadly the cucumbers that I planted a long way off from harvesting). This morning I woke up craving cucumbers, so for breakfast I had a salad with cucumbers, romaine, red leaf lettuce, tomato, green bell pepper, avocado, and topped with a plant-based Creamy Cucumber and Dill Dressing that I whipped up. It was  fresh and delicious and really hit the spot after an indulgent weekend. Cucumber and dill make the perfect combination and this recipe will be fantastic with summer’s abundance of crisp cucumbers in the supermarket, the farmers market, and if you are lucky ~ in your garden.

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CREAMY CUCUMBER & DILL DRESSING

  • 1 large cucumber with seeds removed (2 cups. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds)13
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk (If you consume dairy you could swap this out for plain Greek yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup of raw nuts of choice (I used a mix that included cashews, almonds, macadamia, and walnuts) The nuts help give the dressing body and thickness without using the chemicals and additives found in store-bought dressings.
  • 1/4 cup lemon or lime juice (I would recommend lemon but I used lime since that is what I had on hand)
  • 3 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar (any vinegar would work but rice vinegar tends to be more mild)
  • 1 Tablespoon onion
  • 1 clove garlic (1/2 if is is a large clove)
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill (dried would work and I would suggest adding a bit at a time and taste test)14
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional ~ sprig of fresh mint and chives (I add to everything in the summer since I have both in my garden. Mint works well with cucumber)

Blend well and chill in a jar or cruet.  I recommend serving the dressing cold.

This recipe makes 2 cups so if you do not eat salads often, you might want to make half of the recipe.

I buy raw nuts in the bulk section of our local co-op. However, I also purchase raw nuts t from Target.

I buy raw nuts in the bulk section of our local co-op. However, I also purchase raw nuts t from Target.

This dressing will keep for up to a week or longer (because of the vinegar and citrus)  in the refrigerator.

It tends to thicken while stored so you might want to thin it out with a bit of water or more vinegar or citrus juice.

I did not add any oil to the dressing. When I dressed my salad this morning I measured out 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil so I could get exactly the serving of oil that I desired.

I always make sure to plant fresh herbs in the summer. Mint and chives are perennials and will come back each year.

I always make sure to plant fresh herbs in the summer. Mint and chives are perennials and will come back each year. Mint can be invasive so you might want to plant it in a pot and bury in the ground. I do not mind it flourishing and have ours planted in a corner flower bed.

I love the cucumber dressing on top of sliced cucumbers. What a perfect summer salad.

I love the cucumber dressing on top of sliced cucumbers. What a perfect summer salad.

This was my breakfast. In the summer I  love starting my day with something light and refreshing.

This was my breakfast. In the summer I love starting my day with something light and refreshing.

Homemade dressing ~ free of additives.

Homemade dressing ~ free of additives.

If you are interested in other homemade plant-based dressings, here are some that I featured in previous posts:

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

Orange Dill Vinaigrette

Tangy Ranch and Zesty Avocado

In this post, I use homemade hummus and my twist on tabouli for salad dressing: Israeli Feast

These salad dressing recipes and recipes from other posts can be found at my Produce with Amy Pinterest board.

I hope you enjoy the Creamy Cucumber and Dill Dressing as much as I do.  It would make a great dip for vegetables and it is similar to Greek tzatziki sauce and would be terrific on a sandwich or wrap.

It is a perfect taste of summer and a great way for us to fill our  plate with this season’s freshest produce. July is here for us to savor and appreciate and choosing healthy foods will give us the energy and stamina we need to stay active and productive. Have a great week!

Creamy Cucumber and Dill Dressing

Click on image for a larger version

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette Dressing

12Cilantro is an annual member of the carrot family that has been grown for thousands of years. It is popular in South American, Mexican, Asian, and Mediterranean dishes. The leaves are used as seasonings in salsas, guacamole, grain salads. The seed is called coriander. Unripened, it has a citrusy flavor and can be used like fennel as a breath freshener, or as a flavoring for fish dishes. The ripened coriander is milder and is used in pickles, curries, bakery, sorbet, etc. The root is also added to curries, and the stems to bean dishes. The oil from the seed is used in perfumes, toothpastes, liquors and massage oils.
~ How To Garden Advice .Com

Cilantro tends to be a herb that people either love or hate. Personally, I love the bright green flavor that cilantro brings to meals and I add it to salsa, salads, guacamole, garnish soups, and I even enjoy it blended into my green smoothies.11

One of my goals this summer was to come up with recipes for salad dressings. Homemade vinaigrette is simple to throw together, composed of common staples, and is free of additives and preservatives. Also, in the summer I have easy access to fresh herbs outside in my container garden. My Orange Dill Vinaigrette Dressing was a hit so I thought that I would experiment with cilantro.

When it comes to salad dressing I tend to really like it to be tangy. On the rare occasion when I purchase bottled dressing I cut half of the bottle with lemon and vinegar. Therefore, if you do not prefer your dressing on the tart side, you may want to make some adjustments to my recipe. I used raw apple cider vinegar in the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette that I made today. I find that raw apple cider vinegar does have quite a sharp taste to it so if you want a dressing with less tang you could use a milder vinegar. Rice vinegar tends to be less acidic and balsamic vinegar is much sweeter (if you use an aged balsamic vinegar you might want to use some water to thin it a bit. White balsamic vinegar is also a great choice). I keep the oil to a minimum in my vinaigrette to keep it waist line friendly and you could add extra oil to make the vinegar less pungent. The addition of sugar or Stevia would also balance out the tangy vinegar. Taste as you blend the dressing (I like to use pieces of celery to dip in the blender) and tweak and satisfy your taste buds.

If you want a creamy dressing you can take a serving of the Cilantro Lime Dressing and mix it with a Tablespoon or two of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt. I tried this method with Vegan sour cream, added a dash of hot sauce, and served it over cold black beans and tomatoes for dinner and thought it provided a fantastic taste explosion.

Olive oil, lime, cilantro, garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper, and onion.

Olive oil, lime, cilantro, garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper, and onion.

CILANTRO LIME VINAIGRETTE DRESSING

  • 141/2-1 cup of vinegar of choice (add a little at a time and taste as you go to decide how much vinegar your tastebuds enjoy)
  • 1 lime (juice and zest)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons onion
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like spice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

VitamixBlend ingredients well and pour into a shakeable cruet or jar in the refrigerator. Your vinaigrette should keep for several weeks (if it lasts that long).

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This afternoon for lunch I had the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette on a taco salad that had black beans, homemade salsa and guacamole, and spicy brown rice. It was very satisfying and 16the salad was so huge I could not finish it all so I wrapped a portion and put it in the refrigerator. Tonight when I ate the salad I found that the flavors had mingled well and I cannot wait to have the dressing again tomorrow.

Not only would it make a great dressing for green salads but this summer dressing would be great drizzled over roasted or grilled vegetables, to dress corn and tomato salad, to flavor black beans, sprinkled over tacos, and even as a flavor enhancement for fresh salsa and guacamole.

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If you are interested in other salad dressing recipes, previously I posted my two recipes for plant-based Tangy Ranch and Zesty Avocado. You can find this and other recipes on Pinterest.

I hope you enjoy the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette Dressing. Please leave a comment and join the conversation by “liking” my Produce with Amy Facebook group. Recipe reviews are always appreciated and it is helpful for me to learn what recipes people are interested in. I love being able to help others maximize their health and productivity by eating more fresh fruit and vegetables. Cheers to additive and preservative free salad dressing, summer herb gardens, and thriving!

Click on image for a larger version.

Click on image for a larger version.