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


  • 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


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.

Orange Dill Vinaigrette Dressing

Soon tomatoes will appear!

Soon tomatoes will appear!

“Gardening is akin to writing stories. No experience could have taught me more about grief or flowers, about achieving survival by going, your fingers in the ground, the limit of physical exhaustion.” 
― Eurdora Welty

Is there anything more delicious than a homegrown tomato fresh out of the garden? While purists say garden tomatoes should be enjoyed plain and unfettered from even a shake of salt and pepper, I love to embellish tomatoes with fresh snipped herbs. Basil, dill, cilantro, chives, parsley (you get the picture…I have an affinity for fresh herbs AND tomatoes). Knowing this, you can imagine how happy I was when I spotted the first flowers on my

My cute little garden

My cute little garden

tomato plants a few days ago. True, in the U.P. of Michigan we start our gardens late (unless you want to go through the labor of covering them each night in hopes that frost’s cruel fingers do not wrap tightly around your tender plants) but our weather can also be hot and fruitful for tomatoes.

My vegetable garden was planted on June 10th and my tomatoes are starting to thrive in the warm weather we are finally experiencing. My mom, Karen, started my tomato plants from seed and we planted twenty-five. She also gave me spaghetti squash, turnip, jalapeno pepper, eggplant, cabbage, and many flower seedlings. I planted a variety of lettuce,

The self-watering containers that Mike built me for five tomato plants. They water from underneath.

The self-watering containers that Mike built me for five tomato plants. They water from underneath.

spinach, cucumber, zucchini, a couple of beans, and peas, along with a container herb garden. Turnips do especially well in my garden and I do confess that I enjoy the greens more than the root vegetable. Turnip greens make phenomenal smoothies.

Last night I did spot a sweet little rabbit munching away on my front flower bed and a few minutes later our dog Phoebe and I caught him in the vegetable garden. (Sorry Mom, I think he nibbled on my cabbage plants…).

I have a soft-spot for animals.

I have a soft-spot for animals.

I know that we could put up fencing, or make the liquid fence my mom swears by, but I am not too concerned since the rabbits seem to leave my tomatoes alone. Soon our farmer’s market will be brimming with fresh produce and I am looking forward to being able to support local farmers.

With an abundance of fresh produce, summer is salad season. While we eat salads year round, in the summer our salads often take center stage and become the main course. When it is hot a salad really hits the spot and is a snap to prepare (without having to cook).

I love to make my own salad dressings so I know exactly what I’m eating. I feel better knowing that my dressing is 11preservative and additive-free, and since I control how much oil I put in, my dressing is easy on the waistline. I normally do not follow a recipe and just dump in the ingredients, but I have come to realize that being a food blogger means that I have to share exact measurements. 😉 Though, as I always mention in my posts, make sure you tweak recipes to suit your own taste buds. When it comes to salad dressing I prefer tart and tangy. The only salad dressing that I buy is Newman’s Own Light Italian and an occasional bottle of Annie’s. I keep two bottles in the refrigerator and when I buy a fresh bottle, half gets dumped into the other and I fill both with a combination of vinegar and lemon juice. Not only does this give me the tangy taste that I desire, but cutting it with vinegar/lemon juice, also makes it less fattening.

Today I am going to share my recipe for Orange Dill Vinaigrette. Because of the addition of  orange juice it is a sweeter variety of dressing and you can control the level of tartness by how much vinegar you add. Often when I make dressings I do not add the oil in and instead add the oil to each individual salad for portion control. Often people trying to manage their weight want to skimp on the oil, but a high quality olive oil truly enhances the taste of dressing and has so many health benefits. The oil helps us absorb the Vitamin K in the greens, keeps our digestion regular, is necessary for proper brain function, and our skin, nails, and hair really benefit from the nutrients in the oil. For this recipe I keep the oil portion small but adding more would work as well. After investigating vinaigrettes on-line I found that some chefs use a 3:1 oil to vinegar ratio for dressings.

Ingredients Pictured: White Balsamic Vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Onion, Fresh Dill, Garlic, Salt, and Pepper

Ingredients Pictured: White Balsamic Vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Onion, Fresh Dill, Garlic, Salt, and Pepper


  • 1 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 orange (juice and zest. The orange I juiced rendered 1/2 cup of juice and I added approximately 1 Tablespoon of zest)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (for Weight Watchers: 1/4 cup of oil makes the dressing 2 PP per Tablespoon. If you reduce the oil to 1/8 cup it is 1 PP per Tablespoon)
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill (this may vary by personal taste. Growing up, dill was a major food group since my family loves pickles.)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon of onion
  • Salt & Pepper to taste (or you could omit and season the salad itself)

To make the dressing you can chop the onion, dill, finely mince the garlic and whisk all of Vitamixthe ingredients together. However, the best method that I have found is to put all the ingredients into the blender and give it a good pulse. If you want to make the dressing more visually pleasing you can add some chopped dill to the final product.

Store in the refrigerator in a cruet or Mason jar (or recycle a jar the next time you have one) and give it a good shake before serving. People often ask how long my salad dressing last in the refrigerator but I end up using them within a week . I would imagine that this one would last for a couple of weeks.

Link to recipe on Pinterest

This dill in this dressing marries well with the orange juice and it gives it just the right balance of tangy and sweet without having to add sugar. In my next post I will be featuring a salad that I came up with using my Orange Dill Vinaigrette Dressing. To give you a hint it combined roasted beets, mango, blueberries, and other fresh vegetables for a vibrant and cool summer salad. It is a perfect plated dinner salad or can be layered in a Mason jar.

My latest goal is to not buy bottled dressing at all, so I promise to keep the salad dressing recipes coming! If you are interested in more homemade dressings here are my recipes for Tangy Ranch and Zesty Avocado (plant-based dressings). Link to Ranch and Avocado dressing recipes on Pinterest.

I hope you enjoy the Orange Dill Vinaigrette dressing as much as I do. Please join the conversation by “liking” my Produce with Amy facebook group. Recipe reviews are always appreciated and let me know what kind of recipes interest you. 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, the bounty of summer, and thriving!
(Clink on image for a larger version).

(Clink on image for a larger version).

Link to recipe visual on Pinterest

Orange Dill Vinaigrette Dressing