“This afternoon was the colour of water falling through sunlight; The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves; The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple leaves, And the houses ran along them laughing out of square, open windows.” ~Amy Lowell
The first day of fall. Transition. We have arrived at the half-way point of September which makes me acutely aware that changes are coming. Even though I was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan I am never ready for the cold weather to arrive. In the mornings our house has been chilly but Mike and I cling to our stubbornness and refuse to turn the furnace on. Mike uses the phrases my parents tossed around: put on a sweater, cover up with a blanket, you can’t even see your breath yet! Monday morning he met my whine with, Do some yoga, you’ll warm up!
I have long said that living in the U.P. gives one bragging rights and not only do we dread the heat bill, but there seems to be an unofficial contest to see who can wait the longest to turn on the heat (I know from Facebook posts that some of my Yooper friends have already lost the contest). In the same spirit of endurance the flower boxes on the front of our house still brandish geraniums and last weekend I painted my toenails with plum nail polish since I refuse to put my sandals away.
As the weather cools, I know that I have to be mindful of my meals and come up with healthy versions of comfort food. While I would love to wax poetic about spiced pumpkin lattes and the cinnamon tinged aroma of baking apples, I know that for myself fall translates to food and exercise related challenges. Last weekend I searched through my Weight Watchers eTools account and took a peek at my weekly weigh-ins for the last few years during autumn. I found a trend. While I started out August strong, for the past three years during November (right around Thanksgiving) I stumbled with my weight management and gained a few pounds. While I do contribute this challenge to the hectic school year and lack of energy to workout (A.K.A. excuses), I know that the weather and my mood greatly contributes to this as well. Last January (2013) I started Produce with Amy as an extra incentive to get back on track. I started drinking a daily green smoothie, made time to work out, and tried my best to stay faithful to a plant-based meal plan. This year I am determined to keep my motivation high and focus on activity and making sure that I do not get into a food rut.
One thing that is really helping me stay on track with my weight management is making Mason jar salads on the weekend to bring to work for lunch during the week. I can fill a one quart jar with a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, berries, grains, seeds, pasta, nuts, and protein. The glass jars keep the ingredients fresh for up to a week and I only have to prep once for a week of lunches.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I was going to conduct an experiment. I set a timer and prepped our lunches before bed. I made Mike’s sandwich, cut up and packaged vegetables for snacks, portioned out raw nuts, filled our water bottles, and blended up my two green smoothies (one for breakfast and one for my 1/2 hour commute home). I was shocked to see that this process took me twenty-three minutes. While I often use the excuse that I “do not have time for exercise” I decided that if I prep our lunches and make my smoothies before bed that I am making precious time in the morning for myself to workout.
This year I will embrace the cold weather induced transition into sweater dresses, tights, boots, and scarves, but I will NOT welcome wearing extra pounds this winter. Mason jar salads are helping me transition back into my full-time work schedule and I refuse to use a mountainous pile of grading, exhausting days of lecturing and managing large classroom rosters, and early mornings be an excuse to not stay committed to my weight management goals. I CAN and I WILL stay grounded, balanced, and committed to my healthy routines.
For my Mason Jar Salads this week I decided to take advantage of seasonal produce. I have witnessed tons of pumpkin and apple recipes posted on social networking sites so I decided to create my own healthy recipe. I thought that pumpkin would make a unique salad dressing and would give the salad a fall flair. PUMPKIN VINAIGRETTE DRESSING
- 1/2 cup of vinegar (I used raw apple cider vinegar. You may want to vary the amount of vinegar based on how tart you like your dressing. I recommend adding a little bit at a time and tasting the dressing as you go)
- 3/4 cup of pumpkin (I used canned but your own freshly baked or roasted would work as well)
- 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (you can always leave the oil out and add it individually to your salad for portion control)
- 1/4 cup of water (the dressing was thick so I thinned it out with some water. You could add extra vinegar. If you want to use it as a dip you could leave it thick)
- 1 large clove of garlic
- 1 lemon ~ juice and zest
- 3 green onions (you could use regular onion)
- 1 inch of fresh ginger root
- 1 Tablespoon of pure maple syrup (you could also use honey)
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- Salt and pepper to taste
Blend dressing until smooth. The combination of sweet, savory, tart, and spicy ingredients in this dressing really make a pleasing combination.
When making Mason Jar Salads put the dressing in first and keep it away from the greens. The acid in the dressing will make the greens slimy. If you close tight (I do not vacuum seal my jars) they will keep for over a week in the refrigerator. When you are ready to eat you can shake, and either pour the salad out on a plate or bowl, or eat straight out of the jar.
APPLE-A-DAY MASON JAR SALADS I layered these ingredients, in the following order, in one quart Mason jars. (I made five salads)
- 3 Tablespoons of Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing (I also sprinkled a little extra raw apple cider vinegar on top of the vinaigrette since I like my dressing tart)
- Carrots (I used four carrots)
- Granny Smith apple wedges (2 apples)
- Pink Lady apple wedges (or your favorite variety of red apple. I used two apples.)
- Raw pumpkin seeds (you could use toasted pumpkin seeds. Sunflower seeds would work as well as nuts)
- Dried cranberries
- Chopped green onions (I used both the white and the green part of the onion.)
- Chopped cabbage (cabbage works well in Mason jar salads and it stays crunchy and fresh. I used green cabbage but purple would be a colorful and healthy too)
- Romaine lettuce
Thinly sliced fennel would be excellent in this salad as well as pears. Pin the recipe here.
I have been bringing Mason Jar Salads to work each day and they help fuel me through a busy day. In the past I have struggled with the temptation of working through lunch and I am finding that these salads are so satisfying and delicious that I look forward to making time to sit down and eat. The abundance of nutrients in the fruit and vegetables will help boost my immune system during the cold and flu season.