**UPDATE: Since I wrote this post I have been asked to write a mason jar salad cookbook! The book is called Mason Jar Salads and More and is now available for pre-order on Amazon; it will start shipping April 15, 2014. I'm giving away 10 copies of the book through a Goodreads Giveaway, click here to enter!**
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
- 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!