Put it in a Jar!

21 Sep

salad

If you’ve been around the blogosphere lately, you’re fully aware that “Put it in a Jar” is the new “Put a Bird on It!”.  Jo-Ann Fabrics has a Pinterest board dedicated to mason jars.  A former coworker has her own board spotlighting the best worst usages of the medium.

I am not sure whether I became a fan of mason jars before or after their surge to popularity, but even though they’re featured in every third blog post in the crafting and cooking sphere, I still think they’re pretty rad.  My latest obsession has been mason jar salads.  I started making them about a month or so ago and it has changed my lunchtime routine for good.  At first I was unsure if I believed the promise of freshness and non-soggy lettuce, but the claims have been verified. I make a week’s worth of salads every Sunday evening (dressing and almost everything else – see below) and don’t have to think about lunch once during the work week.  Since I often eat lunch and dinner at work, this is fantastic for me and saves me from succumbing to eating out.

If you aren’t sick of (fill-in-the-blank)-in-a-jar yet, here are some tips for awesome mason jar salads of your own.

1. Build a Pantry Sure you’ll have to buy things like lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and such every week, but there are a ton of things that will last weeks if not months that make your salads interesting.  I like slivered almonds, olives, canned roasted red peppers, and wonton strips.  Vegetables like zucchini last for over a week in the fridge and can easily be grilled for salads.  Beans and grains are a great addition, too.  I use a lot of frozen veggies, like corn and edamame, which defrost in the fridge by the time you’re ready to eat your salad.  If you have these things already at your disposal you can spend much less than $10 for a week’s worth of lunches.

2. Don’t Overdo It I started by making 5 salads a week and invariable one would go to waste.  Between work luncheons and seriously craving Chipotle, there’s almost always one day a week that I don’t need to have a lunch.  Rather than letting one go to waste, I make 4.  If I still need a lunch for Friday, I just pack one up on Thursday night.

3. Come up with a Theme I cycle between salad “themes” for the week so I’m not eating the same thing every day.  I switch between Asian, Mexican, Garden and Froo-Froo (which usually means adding quinoa).  I’ll make two salads from two of the themes each week.  I get bored with food easily and I like to make a decision on what type of salad I want to eat that day rather than being stuck with a fridge full of one kind.

4. Gather Inspiration If you can’t think of more than romaine, cucumber, tomato, ranch for a salad, there are tons of places to get awesome ideas.  The link I posted above is a good start.  You can also check out  salad recipes from your favorite restaurant.  Trader Joe’s and Corner Bakery are two of my favorite sources.  A friend was bringing in this Asian salad from Costco that I liked so I bought some Napa cabbage, wonton strips, almonds and made an Asian dressing for a homemade version.  Anything they make anywhere else is reproducible at home.

5. Put Ingredients Where They Belong Obviously you want to separate the lettuce from the dressing, which can be done using any veggie that won’t get soggy.  However, some pick up the flavor of the dressing better and just get yummier.  I like putting mushrooms, edamame, tofu and carrots on the bottom.  They stand up well, but still soak up a lot of flavor.  I’ve found you can put almost everything in the jar (including almonds, protein and cheese) except for one thing.  Keep any crispy toppings in a separate baggy.  Even on top, croutons, chow mein noodles and wonton and tortilla strips get soggy and no one likes soggy strips.

Sound good?  Let me know your tips and recipes for mason jar salads.  I’m always looking to shake them up (get it… that’s a pun because you shake it to mix the dressing… I bet you got it because you guys are smart).

Peace, love, and mason jars,

~ april

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