Eat This: Mason Jar Salads
Finally, mason jars have a purpose in my life! And no, it's not because I'm planning a wedding, canning vegetables from my garden, or making a candle (although, I love that idea). No, this is for a far more practical reasons: salads for lunch!
I read this post from A Beautiful Mess awhile ago, and have seen this trend pop up now and then on Pinterest. But, I never really thought I would do it. Mainly because I like to eat heartily for lunch, and it usually consisted of dinner leftovers. Cooking for one is hard, so I always cooked for two and had leftovers. Recently, my cooking for two has started turning into two actual people eating dinner - goodbye my leftovers! Not that I mind at all. I'd much rather have the additional company than leftovers for lunch. But, that always posed a problem for lunch: what to eat?
In NYC, eating lunch usually consists of whatever is closest to you. Most people work by a deli (oh, how I envy you!), or those in larger companies have a subsidized cafeteria in their building somewhere (oh, how I miss you L'Oreal cafe), so lunch usually doesn't pose a problem. We also always have Seamless as our go-to option. However, for me, I have Chop't, Cosi or Roast. I love Chop't, Cosi, and Seamless (haven't tried Roast), but my bank account does not seem to feel the same way (strange, huh!). My relationship with Chop't was getting to a point where I had to choose either healthy eating or my ability to not be homeless.
One of the main reasons I loved Chop't so much, was because they chopped and mixed the salad dressing into your salad. I also have always hated making salads at home because I never felt like they were good, and if I made too much, I couldn't save the rest and I'd be forced to eat soggy lettuce. No one wants soggy lettuce.
Once I finally stumbled upon Laura's post, I realized my soggy problem was solved, and I could transport salad and salad dressing in one easy container! I decided to not err on the side of homelessness, and stocked my Fresh Direct basket up with ingredients specifically for salads.
It's been 7 business days, and I'm not looking back. I think I'm actually going to make this my #100daysofmasonjarsalads project (that'll be another post).
There are a lot of posts that teach you how to make a mason jar salad or what to put in a mason jar salad (you can see the ones I want to try/have tried here). So, I thought I would put together my tried and true tips and tricks. It's only been 7 days, but there's always knowledge to share. These photos are also what the salads look like when they come out of the jar, no staging necessary- beautiful!
Mason Jar Salad Tips & Tricks:
An ingredient can go a long way! I was able to use 1 can of black beans for 3 salads, 1 can of corn for 2 salads, 1 large red onion for 5 salads, 1 avocado for 2 salads, and 1 mango for 2 salads.
Plan your salads for the week based on like ingredients. I love variety in my food, but I also love efficiency and hate to waste food. If you're buying a red onion, black beans, and corn, try to make those last for 2-3 salads. You can switch up the 2-3 salads with different fruits, veggies, or salad dressings so you're not eating the same thing everyday.
If you do have extra ingredients after the salads are made, store them in Tupperware in the fridge.
Add extra filling. Quinoa is a great addition, so is some whole wheat pasta. I haven't tried adding meat in yet, but I plan to add ground beef soon. If you're not into meat, then substitute with tofu, or something that you enjoy.
You can pack a LOT in a mason jar. If you think you're going to run out of room, you're probably wrong. I usually fill the ingredients up until there is about 1in left of the jar. Then, I'll put in my lettuce. The more you chop your lettuce, the more you can fit in. Once you start stuffing it in, keep going until it's literally falling out. This will also eliminate any air in the jar which will make your ingredients last longer and stay fresher (key for things like avocados, which can spoil quickly).
The wetter an ingredient, the lower it goes in the layers.
Make sure you have a plate and fork at work, or wherever you're taking the salad. It's not meant to be eaten from the mason jar. Rather, it's meant to be stored and transported in the mason jar. It's meant to be eaten on a plate or large bowl. If your place of work doesn't supply those, stock up on plates and forks, and keep those in your desk. Just make sure your fork is long enough to scrap the bottom of the mason jar.
Sometimes you don't need a dressing. I'm a total dressing person, but I've found that most of my salads don't even need one. The leftover juice from ingredients like mangos, canned corn, black beans, and tomatoes can provide a nice taste. This will save you on calories too.
If you do want dressing, be sure to put it in the jar first. For caprese salads, I put the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in the jar. However, for salads that I like to eat with ranch, I usually bring it on the side. Since ranch is thicker than olive oil and vinegar, I prefer to dip my fork in before each bit. But, to each their own.
Chopping and assembling the ingredients does take a little time. I would estimate about 30-45 minutes, depending on your efficiency. Turn on a TV show, or talk to someone on the phone while doing this. It requires little concentration once you get the gist, so it's a perfect activity to multitask.
Reuse old pasta jars, pickle jars, etc. to save on money.
Any salad recommendations? Share them in the comments!