Citrus Berry Slaw Jarred Salad with Strawberry Basil Balsamic Dressing

Citrus Berry Slaw Jarred Salad  with Strawberry Basil Balsamic DressingWhen baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste.
 – Laiko Bahrs

Today has been a mellow day in the kitchen. Normally my Sunday routine is to engage in a cooking marathon, but since I have been tackling cabin fever by cooking, our freezer is stocked with individual homemade frozen meals, soup, chili, and I still have a few Mason jar salads in the refrigerator. It has been nice to have a relaxing Sunday.

I did roast a chicken and make homemade bread for Mike’s lunch. While some who embrace a plant-based meal plan may take issue with this, I must say that I have to honor my husband’s food choices. I was a meat-eater when we met and I cannot ask him to change because I have altered what I eat. As a Weight Watcher leader I hear this complaint often from my members. When we decide to follow the Weight Watchers program it does not mean that all of our loved ones do the same. Of course, we hope that our healthy lifestyle choices impact their lives but we all must make our own choices. Ultimately, we are the only ones who control what we consume (even when there are tempting foods in the house).

Mike is a healthy eater (he loves fruit and vegetables) and he will eat many meat-free meals. His lunches are important to me because I like to take care of him like he takes care of me (he does the majority of cleaning, maintains our house and our vehicles, and is always going out of his way to make my life easier). He started a new career in July and this meant having to make a switch in his lunches. Before he could take leftovers or even jarred salads (he may not admit this now 😉 ) but with his current job he does not have access to a microwave and only has time for a sandwich (he does also bring raw nuts, fresh fruit, a granola bar and Greek yogurt). However, sometimes he comes home with his lunch fully intact because he worked through lunch.

I promise you that I did try. I tried to convince Mike that peanut butter or hummus makes a satisfying sandwich filling. Yet, he gave me that look. So I agreed…only after trying to seduce him with the prospect of peanut butter AND banana. I realized that I was not going to win and decided that instead of feeding him store-bought lunch meat or deli meat packed with nitrates, that I would roast a chicken each week and make sandwiches and soup along with homemade bread. I admit that I have zero experience with baking but after finding a couple of slices of bread that were stuck in the back of the refrigerator after a couple of weeks (without a speck of mold) I decided this week to make my own. I am sure my homemade bread adventures will spur future blog posts.

In the meantime I have a new jarred salad recipe to share. My latest obsession in my salads is cabbage. I love its heartiness and the way it holds up longer than lettuce in salads. I think that the Citrus Berry Slaw that I have created would work well on its own and could be made with any berry and your choice of ingredients. This salad reminds me of summer and in the heart of winter that is a good thing. While the groundhog may have predicted this weekend that there will be six more weeks of winter ~ in Michigan we know what that means!
Strawberry Basil Balsamic Dressing by Produce with Amy

STRAWBERRY BASIL BALSAMIC DRESSING

  • 1 cup of strawberries (I used frozen)
  • 1 orange (juice and zest)
  • 1/8 cup of aged balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup of white balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup of basil
  • 1/8-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (I often leave the oil out of salad dressing and add 2 teaspoons to each jar for portion control)
  • 1 Tablespoon onion
  • 1 clove garlic

Citrus Berry Slaw by Produce with AmyCITRUS BERRY SLAW JARRED SALAD WITH STRAWBERRY BASIL DRESSING

strawberry slawI layered these ingredients, in the following order, in one quart Mason Jars:

  • 2-3 Tablespoons of Strawberry Basil Balsamic Dressing
  • 2 colored bell peppers (cut in chunks)
  • Radish (sliced)
  • ¼ cup of white beans
  • 1 quart of halved cherry tomatoes
  • Cauliflower (one head)
  • ¾-1  cup of Citrus Slaw (recipe below)

CITRUS BERRY SLAW

Citrus Berry Slaw Ingredients

  • 2 cups of chopped green cabbage (I did find that the cabbage really shrunk and the next time I will add a couple more cups of cabbage to the slaw)
  • 1 thinly sliced apple (your favorite variety)
  • 3 cups of fresh strawberries
  • ¼ cup of white balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup of sliced celery
  • ¼ cup of chopped colored bell pepper
  • 1 bunch of thinly sliced green onion
  • 1 clove of minced garlic
  • 1 lime (juice and zest. For a sweeter slaw you may use an orange or tangerine instead)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Optional ~ Extra Virgin Olive Oil (if you are watching your fat you may choose to leave out)
    Citrus Berry Slaw Salad by Produce with AmyI promise that this salad is as flavorful as it is pretty. Make sure you check out my Salad Tab for other healthy and vibrant salads.Pin this recipe HERE.

As winter continues I promise to keep sharing my healthy recipes. It may not be strawberry season but we can fool Mother Nature by creating our own gardens. To me nothing tastes more like summer than strawberries and basil and I hope you enjoy this combination. Keep me posted and let me know what you think.
Citrus Strawberry Slaw Mason Jar Salads

 

Citrus Berry Slaw

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Confetti Salad in a Jar with Creamy Chipotle Dressing

Confetti Salad in a Jar with Creamy Chipotle Dressing by Produce with Amy

“We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.” ~ Adelle Davis

I am sitting on the sofa wrapped in a blanket with a steaming cup of Egyptian Licorice tea and taking advantage of another spontaneous day off of work to blog. Nearly every school in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (aside from Michigan Technological Universty which never seems to close) has been cancelled because of  blizzard conditions and dangerous wind chills (this morning’s windchill dipping to -40 in some areas). Tonight it is predicted that the wind Phoebe chill will be even more severe. I refuse to let the looming winter dampen my spirits. As I said in a Facebook post this weekend, “I love to re-frame my misery over the weather and imagine how much more poignant the beauty of my summer flowers will be. The water will be that much more refreshing and the sky will ache even more blue. Positive thinking will reshape your world.”

This is day #6 off in our school district because of inclement weather. This means that any additional days (and I am sure there will be more) will have to be made up. I guess that the fierce winter weather is an opportunity cost for living in such a wild and beautiful place. Even our pup Phoebe is feeling the cold pinch and we had to buy her little booties to protect her feet from the icy conditions. She does not seem to mind them one bit and frolics around in the snow when they are on her feet.

As winter progresses I think that I am tackling a case of cabin fever by cooking up a storm.Jars Our freezer is fully stocked with a wide selection of soups, chili, and individually portioned meals. We have a dozen Mason jar salads in our refrigerator and my husband Mike suggested that perhaps I needed an intervention. In fact, we can barely open the freezer and I think that next week I will only make jarred salads (and maybe a small batch of soup) so that we can make a dent in our frozen supply. 

Planning and prepping meals is the #1 most valuable lesson that I learned when I joined Weight Watchers seven years ago. This routine not only helps me with my weight management but it also reduces stress and is kind to my pocketbook. Mid-week I figure out what our meals will be and write out my shopping list and go shopping either Friday night after work or Saturday after my WW meeting. I would like to bring back my routine of shopping mid-week but Friday evening seems to work well and it saves me valuable time on the weekend. 

While I do not think that it is necessary to eat salads when you follow the Weight Watchers plan, since I try to stick to a plant-based meal plan, salads are an obvious choice for me. The combinations for salads are endless, and since I constantly rotate my ingredients and dressings, I never get tired of them. I am thankful that my salad posts have been popular because it encourages me to keep coming up with new variations. So thank you for all of your comments and feedback! Please keep them coming. It inspires me when I know that people are reading and trying my recipes. 

If you are new to Mason jar salads you might find this post helpful. I make my salads in one quart wide-mouthed jars and they are filling enough to serve as a meal. They last over a week in the refrigerator and they display the salad so beautifully that I always look forward to eating them. My recent salad addiction is cabbage. I enjoy its crunch and the multiple health benefits it offers. While I love cooked cabbage, studies show that lightly steamed or raw cabbage offers up more nutrition. Read more HERE

Chipotle in Adobo SauceA couple of weeks ago I made Scarlet Salads in a Jar with Cherry Chipotle Vinaigrette. Since I froze the remaining chipotles, and have an affinity for their smoky and spicy flavor, I decided to incorporate them in another salad dressing recipe. I also wanted to impart a flavor burst with a marinated bean salad. Many people commented on photos that I posted that my bean salad looked like Cowboy Caviar and I am certain that this salad would work well as a dip for chips (though I am trying to ignore that thought since tortilla chips are one of my biggest weaknesses). 

Creamy Chipotle DressingCREAMY CHIPOTLE DRESSING (printable recipe below)

  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened organic soy milk (I also use unsweetened almond milk for creamy dressing. You could also use soy yogurt or if you eat dairy, Greek yogurt)
  • 3 Tablespoons of vinegar (I used raw apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 lime (juice and zest)
  • 1 chipotle pepper (be warned, a little goes a long way. If you want the dressing extra spicy add more but taste as you go)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon of onion
  • Fresh Cilantro (I grabbed a handful or approximately a 1/4 cup)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

(Next time I make this dressing I am going to stir in some salsa.)

Blend well and store extra dressing in a cruet or jar in the refrigerator.  I have found that my homemade dressings last for over a month because the citrus and vinegar help to act as a natural preservative. I made a batch of Pumpkin Vinaigrette for a family gathering on Christmas Eve and my mom said that she had some the other day and it was still fresh.
Confetti Salad in a Jar with Creamy Chipotle Dressing

CONFETTI SALAD IN A JAR WITH CREAMY CHIPOTLE DRESSING

I layered the following ingredients in 5 ~ one quart Mason jars:Creamy Chipotle Dressing

  • 2-3 Tablespoons of Creamy Chipotle Dressing (since the confetti salad is marinated you may find that you need less dressing but I added 3 generous Tablespoons)
  • Green bell pepper chopped or in strips (1 used two peppers)
  • Cherry tomatoes halved (I used one and 1/2 pints)
  • Avocado (I used three avocados) Update: after eating the salads I will put in more avocado next time. The avocado stays fresh and is so delicious with the Confetti Salad.
  • 1 cup of Confetti Salad (recipe to follow)
  • Chopped kale
  • Chopped cabbage (do not be afraid to push down so you can fit more cabbage in the jar)Confetti Salad

CONFETTI SALAD (This recipe made exactly enough for five salads. However, it is so good, next time I will make extra to eat as a snack or side.)

  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup black beans
  • 1/4 cup white beans
  • 1/4 cup edamame
  • 1/4 lentils
  • 1/4 cup corn
  • 1/4 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 limes (juice and zest)
  • 1 jalapeno (finely chopped)
  • 1 large clove of minced garlic
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • 1/8 cup of vinegar (I used raw apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/8-1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Homemade Taco Seasoning (to taste. I ended up adding approximately 1 Tablespoon)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Confetti Salad

Printable Recipe: Confetti Salad in a Jar with Creamy Chipotle Dressing

Pin this post HERE. 

Confetti Mason Jar Salad in a Jar with Creamy Chipotle Dressing

Every week when I make a new jarred salad I think that it is my favorite one. That is exactly what I thought this morning when I had one of these salads for breakfast. Yes, that is right, I love to eat salad for breakfast. A couple of years ago when I was in Israel I really enjoyed the wide-array of raw vegetables and salad fixings that were served for breakfast at the hotels we stayed at. Now a salad is often my breakfast of choice. Today this salad really hit the spot today and I will be making the Confetti Salad at the next gathering I am invited to (it will give me the excuse to nibble on some tortilla chips 😉 )

Garden Fiesta Jarred SaladIf you like Mexican inspired food as much as I do you may also be interested in the Garden Fiesta Mason Jar Salad that I created in September.

Make sure that you check out all my other Salads and Salad Dressing recipes too.

If you try one of my recipes please make sure to let me know what you think. I love when people stop by my Facebook page and leave photos and feedback. It is also interesting to hear what tweaks individuals add to my recipes to make them their own.

Winter can be a challenge for meal choices and I find that making jarred salads really helpConfetti Salad in a Jar with Creamy Chipotle Dressing streamline my work week and keeps me on the healthy path. I do not have to think about what I will be eating for lunch and I end up getting in a variety of fruit and vegetables that I would not normally eat if I was just throwing together a salad on the spot. I am also mindful of rotating my fruit and vegetables to make sure that I am meeting my bodies nutritional needs. While the salad makes a meal on its own, I find that I can share one with my husband Mike as a side-salad with dinner.

I will be posting more jarred salad recipes so make sure you check back often. An upcoming post will feature a salad with a layer of Citrus Berry Slaw and a Strawberry Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette. Take care, stay warm, and fill your plate with the rainbow. Your immune system, skin, waistline, and energy levels will thank you!

Confetti Salad in a Jar with Creamy Chipotle Dressing

Confetti Salad

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.

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

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

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