Witness to Beauty – It’s All About Perspective

“The conclusion I have reached is that, above all, dogs are witnesses. They are allowed access to our most private moments. They are there when we think we are alone. Think of what they could tell us. They sit on the laps of presidents. They see acts of love and violence, quarrels and feuds, and the secret play of children. If they could tell us everything they have seen, all of the gaps of our lives would stitch themselves together.”
Carolyn Parkhurst, The Dogs of Babel

Meesha is the latest member of our family. <3

Meet Meesha, the latest member of our family. ❤

As a teacher I tend to mark the passing of time in marking periods and school events. This week we are hot-on-the-heels of semester one exams and last weekend finished winter homecoming festivities. The students that I have helped mentor as a class adviser are seniors and I was proud of their efforts decorating their hallway and winning the spirit pep jug for the fourth year in a row. My husband showed his support by offering to help chaperone the homecoming dance Friday night (in spite of a full day of work and an early wake up the next morning). It was entertaining to watch Lukas (seven) try out his slick dance moves and Avalon (ten) was pleased that for the third year in a row that she got to help with hallway decorating. As always, I am thankful that my place of employment is family friendly and I love that our kids get to interact with my high school students and their education stakeholders.

Lukas trying out his slick moves on the dance floor.

Lukas trying out his slick moves on the dance floor.

In my last post, Making Time For Ourselves, I shared my January goals. While I am happy to report that I am knocking my sleep, vitamin, and food journal goals out of the park – the formal exercise and water is still a work in progress. It is always perplexing to me that it is so difficult for me to consume water. I am ashamed to admit that many days the final bell sounds and I have not even touched my water bottle. At home I have been drinking herbal tea (my newest favorite Yogi brand Honey Lavender Stress Relief) so I am thinking that maybe I need to stock my classroom with tea as well.

My food journal has helped me be mindful of what I am eating and I have been keeping a pot of Three Bean Vegetarian Chili in the refrigerator (a filling option for dinner with a veggie burger or salad) and last week I made one of my favorite Mason Jar Salads, Israeli Feast, for my work lunches. Many of the messages that I receive are from people who are tired of eating salads and “rabbit food”. One of the goals of this blog is to help others try a wide-range of ingredients – and that salads do not need to be boring. My best advice is to fill your plate with a rainbow of fresh fruit and vegetables. Not only does eating the same thing over and over get boring, but it also prevents our bodies from getting a wide-range of nutrients. In order to keep myself from repetitive meals, I like to try different combinations. The Israeli Feast is a non-traditional salad recipe that uses hummus and quinoa tabouli in place of salad dressing. For last week’s version I added avocado to the hummus to amp up the nutritional content with healthy fats.

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fullsizeoutput_1139fullsizeoutput_113afullsizeoutput_113cWhile I still need to work on moving more, my Fitbit is showing increased activity. On Saturday and Sunday I made a concerted effort to get outside and make the most of the sunshine and blue skies. In fact, the views from our property were so inspiring that I have to share them with you. The recent addition to our family, Meesha a two-year-old German Shepherd, is a bundle of frolicsome energy. She made an incredible subject for an impromptu photo shoot and her and Lukas made the best workout buddies. We did not even both to put on our snowshoes but traipsed around in the snow. Let me tell you, it was a workout and I sure can feel it today in my legs and back end. 😉

I cannot believe how much energy Meesha has!

I cannot believe how much energy Meesha has!

My step son Lukas loves to play outside - he is 100% Yooper and farm boy.

My step son Lukas loves to play outside – he is 100% Yooper farm boy.

On sunny days we open up the chicken coop so our sweet hens can sun themselves.

On sunny days we open up the chicken coop so our sweet hens can sun themselves.

John has put HOURS into setting up our new hoop house. We are eager for spring to start planting vegetables.

John has put HOURS into setting up our new hoop house. We are eager for spring to start planting vegetables.

Run Meesha!

Run Meesha!

I hope you are doing well on meeting your healthy goals. If you are struggling, do not give up – each day (every hour) gives us the opportunity for a fresh start. This week I am going to work on my water intake and will be striving to get in more activity. Join me in making time for yourself. Do something that you enjoy doing and seek out beauty. When I grab my camera and go for hike it is much more enjoyable than the gym. Not only am I doing something good for my body, but I am also nourishing my creativity and filling my senses.  It is all about perspective. While winter is not my favorite season, I cannot afford to miss the beauty around me. Especially when I have a gorgeous, energetic dog and adorable seven-year-old to keep me motivated and inspired. ❤

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Our little guy Lukas is always up for an outside adventure.

Our little guy Lukas is always up for an outside adventure.

It's a winter wonderland in our backyard.

It’s a winter wonderland in our backyard.

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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)

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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)

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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.

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

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