Top Ten Recipes of 2014

 

Top 10 Recipes of 2014 “I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

As an English teacher, I always tell my students that when we write we make our thoughts tangible. Our words become our fingerprints and as we embroider paper, or the blinking computer screen, with our insight – our labor is a true act of creation. “Make sure you put the date on your manuscript,” I relentlessly remind them. Our writing serves as a time capsule and helps us chart our personal, academic, and professional growth.

Scrolling through the statistics for my blog, I am given insight into which of my posts have received the most traffic. I can see which links received the most clicks, shares, and various sites that have featured my recipes. I spend my morning reflecting on what my readers want and value and what potential recipes I can shape in 2014.

Yesterday was the two year anniversary of Produce with Amy and there are over one hundred posts that contain recipes crafted from vibrant fruit and vegetables – however, my posts also contain moments of reflection from my personal life. Truth-be-told, some of my ruminations leave me feeling melancholy because of events that have occurred in the past few months. 2015 will prove to be a year of change, growth,  and transformation. At the risk of being cryptic, I will leave it at that.

2014 was similar to 2013, in the fact that my recipes for Mason jar salads were the most popular. To reflect on the past year, and welcome a new year of discovery and health, I thought that I would share them again here.

Glowing Green Mason Jar Salad with Creamy Avocado Vinaigrette

#1 Glowing Green Mason Jar Salads with Avocado Vinaigrette Dressing

Sometimes when I get to the top there is not much room for lettuce. :) Yet, that is fine with me!

Sometimes when I get to the top there is not much room for lettuce. 🙂 Yet, that is fine with me!

#2 Mason Jar Salads: Fresh, Visually Appealing, and Versatile

Mediterranean Mason Jar Salads with Greek Vinaigrette#3 Mediterranean Mason Jar Salads with Greek Vinaigrette

Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salads with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing

Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salads with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing

#4 Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette

Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salads

Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salads

#5 Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salad with Creamy Pesto Dressing

Garden Fiesta Mason Jar Salads#6 Garden Fiesta Mason Jar Salad

Israeli Feast Mason Jar Salad#7 Israeli Feast ~ Mason Jar Salad (with Tabouli, Hummus, and Olives)

Confetti Salad in a Jar with Creamy Chipotle Dressing#8 Confetti Salad in a Jar with Creamy Chipotle Dressing

January Green Smoothie Challenge#9 New Year’s Green Smoothie Challenge ~ 31 Days of Printable Recipes and Shopping Lists

Sunshine Mason Jar Salad  with Mango Dressing#10 Sunshine Salad in a Jar with Kicky Mango Vinaigrette 

As I contemplate the hope and potential of a brand new year, I cannot help but be thankful for every one that has been reading and following my blog. Starting this blog has helped me stay accountable to a healthy lifestyle and I am thrilled that I can help encourage others to do the same. Thank you for sharing this journey and remember that we are worth all the hard work it takes to shop, prep, and prepare fresh meals made from whole foods. I look forward to sharing more recipes with you.

 

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Vegetable Herbed Pasta Salad with Homemade Dressing – Fresh and Versatile

Vegetable Herbed Pasta Salad “I want every day to be a fresh start on expanding what is possible.”
― Oprah Winfrey

It has been a challenging summer on many levels. Not only has the weather been cool in the U.P. of Michigan, but I have been facing many personal stresses. Unfortunately, I have allowed myself to make excuses and have abandoned many of my healthy routines. Instead of waiting for the 1st of August to make changes – my husband and I hit the reset button yesterday. We are starting each morning with a green smoothie, reducing our caffeine to one cup of coffee or green tea, eliminating adult beverages, engaging in more strenuous exercise, and are sticking to clean meals. While we are healthy eaters in the past couple months – I have slipped into cooking unhealthy meals for my husband. This means that I find myself also munching on homemade fries or breakfast potatoes, chips, and other things that have zero nutritional value. Once we eliminate these foods – we do not miss them.

In addition to a healthier lifestyle, I have many blog posts in the works. This post includes a recipe that I shared on my Facebook page in May. It is for a vegetable and pasta salad recipe. Forget dressing your salad with bottled dressing – because homemade dressing is simple to make from your pantry. You can follow my basic recipe and toss in whatever vegetables you have on hand. Roasted or grilled vegetables make a great addition to this salad – zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts are some of my favorites. In the summer I like to grill vegetable kabob and I make a few extra skewers to toss into salads. The flavors in this salad improve as it sits. I portion into individual containers and add a splash of extra vinegar to the top (aged balsamic vinegar adds a lot of flavor). If you are a Weight Watchers member, this salad works perfectly for Simple Start or the Simply Filling Technique since it is made up of Power Foods. For additional points olives are great in this salad and you can add your favorite protein for a complete meal. This week I am going to make a version of this salad and I will swap out the whole wheat pasta with quinoa and brown rice for something different.
Pasta salad

VEGETABLE HERBED PASTA SALAD

*1 package of cooked whole wheat pasta (sometimes I do not use the whole package depending on how much pasta I want in the salad)
*1 quart of halved grape tomatoes
*1 chopped cucumber,
*5 peeled and chopped carrots
*4 ribs of chopped celery
*1 bunch of fresh, chopped parsley
*1/4 of a medium, chopped onion
*2 cloves of minced garlic
*juice and zest of one lemon
*1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
*1 teaspoon each of dried dill, oregano, basil (in the summer I use fresh garden herbs and I also add fresh chives)
*pinch of salt and pepper.
*I add 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil to each serving for portion control.

Printable recipe: VEGETABLE HERBED PASTA SALAD   

Pin the recipe HERE.

Make sure that you check out my Salad tab for other recipes.

Today I am working on recipes for an August Green Smoothie Challenge. If you have a favorite recipe, let me know and I will feature it in my post (I will give you credit). You can send me an email at amyslaitinen@gmail.com or message me on my Facebook Page. If you would like, please include biographical information about yourself and even a photo. Thank you! I am looking forward to drinking a month’s worth of green smoothies with my friends. Cheers to our health!
New Year Green Smoothie Challenge

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