4.25.2013

Mason Jar Salads


**UPDATE: Since I wrote this post I have written a cookbook on mason jar salads, Mason Jar Salads and More, which is now available on Amazon!**

Today I have to talk about my new favorite work lunch - the mason jar salad. I love eating veggies and when I see fresh vegetables at the farmer's market I always walk away with the intention of making delicious salads every day of the week. Does that ever happen? No. Mostly the problem I run into is that it takes work to make a salad each day and furthermore, it is hard to make salads for the office because salads end up soggy if you add dressing in the morning. The result is that my work lunches tend to be a lot less healthy than I would like, and the wonderful vegetables I buy on the weekend end up going unused.  

However, in the last few months I started hearing a lot about a possible solution to my problem - making salads in mason jars for the work week. Initially I was skeptical about how fresh and crisp the salads would be, but after The Kitchn did a whole week focused on lunches, I had to try mason jar salads for myself. The result has been a total success and for the last month, instead of heavy and unhealthy lunches, I have eaten salads almost exclusively at work. 

So what is great about a mason jar salad? The fact that you can make the salads ahead of time is incredible and my fresh veggies no longer languish in my fridge. Mason jar salads stay fresh for about 4-5 days in your fridge. I make my salad lunches on Sunday evening so that I can just grab a jar as I head into work each morning. 

Mason Jar Salads
           

1. Utensils: You don't need much to start making these salads. The only required object is a mason jar. I use quart-sized jars and recommend wide-mouthed jars (I don't use wide-mouthed jars and it can be tricky getting everything in). Mason jars are around $15.00 for 12 and these jars have countless other uses, for example, I carry coffee and tea to work in them as well.
        
Another helpful utensil is a canning funnel, which run around $5.00 and are collapsable and dish-washer safe. While not required to make these salads, I've found the funnel makes it so much easier to make sure your food goes into the jar easily. 


The last utensil you need is a salad bowl that you can keep at the office. It is not easy to eat these salads straight out of the jar and it is best if you have a bowl on hand. 


2. Base Ingredients: Begin by washing all the ingredients and cutting the vegetables for the salad. Choose a few vegetables that will be the same across each of the salads. It is good to have a few hard veggies to layer at the bottom of the jar. For these salads I had:
- spring mix salad greens
- 2 cucumbers
- sugar snap peas
- radishes
- three vine tomatoes
- red onion

Once you've decided on your base ingredients, you can add different ingredients to one or two salads to make them a bit more interesting. This week I added a white bean salad to two of my salads and quinoa to another one. 

           

3. Layering: The key to the mason jar salad is to layer, by placing the salad dressing on the bottom and putting the salad greens on the top you can create a barrier which prevents the entire salad from becoming soggy. The Kitchn posted a helpful diagram to give you ideas on how to layer. I use about 1-2 tbsp. of dressing. Here my dressings were a dijon vinaigrette, two salads had olive oil with red wine vineagar, and one salad used a blueberry vinaigrette from Cindy's kitchen. 


Next, add some hard vegetables that won't soak up the dressing. I used cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and my white bean salad. I've also found it helpful to place your onions at the bottom because the salad dressing helps take some of the strong onion taste away and prevents bad breath at work.


Continue to layer your salad with the vegetables you want. Try and pack them as tightly as possible - the less air between layers the better sealed the salad will be. 


Your final layer should be your salad greens. Adding cheese on top of your greens also works well, I've found that feta is fantastic in salads. 


Seal your salads with the jar top and place them in the fridge. Now each morning you have a fresh salad for lunch! 


A Note on Salad Measurements: Mason Jar salads do not need to be perfectly measured, put what you feel like into them and see how they turn out! However, if you prefer a measured recipe, then try out the peas and quinoa recipe below: 

Mixed Greens, Radish, and Quinoa Salad

Ingredients
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Cindy's Kitchen Blueberry vinaigrette
  • 1/3 cup of sugar snap peas
  • 1/3 cup of cubed cucumber
  • 1/3 cup of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • 1 quart-sized mason jar
Preparation
Begin by placing the vinaigrette at the bottom of the jar. Next, layer the peas, cucumber, tomato, and radishes. Add the quinoa and then fill the rest of the jar with salad greens. Seal the jar and place it in the fridge until you're ready to eat it.


28 comments :

  1. Great post, Jules! Marcia and I will be lunching healthy soon, thanks to you.

    Pete

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    1. Glad you like it, Pete! Let me know how it works out :)

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  2. THANK YOU!! I was worried how to eat it from a mason jar but I see you keep a bowl at work - this idea MIGHT ACTUALLY SAVE our health - THANK YOU SO MUCH for the photos too

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    1. Glad I could help!!! Keeping a bowl at the office is definitely key to eating the salads because you need the jars to be tightly packed to stay fresh. Plus, keeping the bowl and fork at the office means less items to cart with you (or possibly forget)on your commute to the office.

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  3. As an added bonus, you can use a FoodSavr to seal the jars - they stay fresh and crisp all week long, with no browning! Super easy. :) Thanks for the tips and links!

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    1. That's a great idea! In general I find that if it is tightly packed the salads dont' go brown but vacuum sealing it would be fool proof. Thanks!

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  4. could something similar be made with non breakable container? (wondering)

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    1. You definitely could, but I'm not sure what other containers have this sort of shape - what makes the mason jars so successful is that their vertical shape allows you to layer and create an airtight seal. The most important part is to minimize the amount of vegetables that sit in the dressing. As for being breakable, I know they are glass but they are pretty sturdy. I take them to work each week and haven't had problems. Let me know if you figure out a good container alternative!

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    2. Quart plastic mayonnaise jars would probably work as well. They are the same size. Or the large peanut butter jars.

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    3. This is a good idea too! Especially if you want your kids to take salads to school but are worried about glass.

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  5. Great idea but what kind of material are lids made from? Its not aluminium I hope?

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    1. They have white plastic screw on lids for mason jars. I use them all the time for my make ahead jar meals:)

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    2. I wonder if the issue with the aluminum lids was the bpa? I'm not sure if the plastic would help with that though . . .

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  6. Great idea. I got rid of all of my plastic and started to use glass for food storage, and I was trying to figure out how to do meals. This is perfect, thank you for sharing! = )

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  7. I hate making a salad every night at dinner but have found if I eat a salad first, I can't eat so much of the more fattening food. So this is a much better idea. I can make the salad ahead for a few days and save some time. I tend to skip the salad when I am rushed. Thanks for posting this.

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    1. Yea it is a real time saver and I definitely am more inclined to eat a salad if it is already put together. Glad you like the post!

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  8. Super idea...Never would have guessed. Think I will try it for our truck driver. I am thinking a small cooler would work what do you think?

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  9. Great idea! I think a cooler would work for a day's worth of salad but you would need a refrigerator for multiple days. Using heartier salad greens would help as well.

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  10. Can I add grilled chicken breast to the jar?

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    1. Yes, definitely! It is actually best not to put the meat in early in the week, but instead add it in at the top the night before or the morning you plan on eating the salad.

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  11. How about hard boiled eggs?

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    1. Hard boiled eggs are good, though I tend to put them above the greens. They also will limit the time the salad is good, about 2 days.

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  12. Where do you put meats/noodles/and cheeses in your salad jar layers? I'm just starting to get into this and want to be successful. Thanks.

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    1. For meats and cheeses I place them at the top. The meat I usually add in the day I'm ready to eat the salad, so that it doesn't ruin all the greens. For cheese, you can add it when you're making the salad, just sprinkle it on the top before you close the jar. As for noodles, put them under the salad greens, because you don't want them to weigh the greens down too much.

      Good luck with the salads!

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  13. Does this work with creamy dressings too, e.g. yogurt-based? I notice all yours are vinaigrette types.

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  14. Cook once...serve five times! I'm loving these because I prepare once and that's the biggest negative in making salads everyday. I love not wasting expensive organic veggies, too. Use the harder veggies on the bottom and cucumbers, tomatoes up higher in the layers. Pack and seal tightly for fresh, crisp salads the whole week!

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  15. I've just ordered some of these, should be about the same size as the jar. http://www.amazon.com/Sistema-Klip-Accents-Round-Container/dp/B00FJXY8RE/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1395069553&sr=8-2-fkmr2&keywords=Sistema+Klip+It+Round+Container%2C+1+Litre

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  16. I featured this Mason Jar Salads on Cute Mason Jar Craft Ideas. It looks so wonderful!

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