Salad in a Jar

Eliminate the Lunchtime Guesswork

salad-in-a-jarI hate dealing with lunch. Hate it. I work from a home office, and I don’t have anyone to drag me away from my desk for a social lunchtime event. I never want to prepare a proper meal (more dishes? no thanks) and sometimes I’ve spent all of my food-related interest on dinner. And so I end up eating stuff that’s unsatisfying but simple. Yogurt. Apple with peanut butter. Cereal. I’m just too lazy to do anything more.

I know I should do more. I have a whole kitchen at my disposal. But the last thing I want to do is plan yet another meal, no matter how nutritious.

And then I kept seeing all of these reference to salad in a jar. Hmmm. I have plenty of mason jars. I usually have more than enough fixins for salads. Why not crank out half a dozen of these on a Sunday afternoon and feed ourselves for most of the week?

Asalad-in-a-jarnd that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. The idea is simple: a couple of tablespoons of dressing on the bottom, to keep the lettuce from getting soggy. Heavy fixins — cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, onions — as the next layer. The top half is spinach or other lettuce. Seal the jar, refrigerate and shake like mad to distribute the dressing when it’s time to eat.

Here are the lessons that I’ve learned.

Creamy dressing. The outcome seems best with a dressing of a medium consistency. I’ve made a few with a yogurt base: yogurt ranch, yogurt blue cheese, and a sort of tzatziki dressing that works well. Too thick and you can’t shake it to mix it. Too vinegary and your bottom items will be super-saturated vinegar bombs.

Cherry tomatoes. Diced tomatoes just won’t work here. Avoid anything that will release extra liquid into the mix.

Firm veggies. These salads really work well with heavy-duty items like cabbage and carrots.

salad-in-a-jarPack the lettuce tightly. The salads settle more than you would think. You’ll have enough room to shake.

Store meat in a separate baggie. I prefer to keep meats separate. I think it’s purely psychological fear of cross-contamination, as though I wouldn’t get sick if I added the meats at lunchtime? No clue why I think this way.

Some lunchtime successes are:

  • Buffalo chicken. Make a quick yogurt blue cheese sauce, thin it with wing sauce, and add plenty of celery in the base layer. The zestiness really works for me.
  • Chef’s salad. A wide array of veggies and deli meats.
  • Mixed garden salad. Heavy on the carrots and red cabbage, because I like them.
  • Tabouli. This was meant for a jar, tossed with heavy veggies like cucumbers, bell peppers and carrots.
  • Pasta. Throw in some leftover cooked pasta with your garden salad.

What doesn’t work:

  • Quinoa. What’s with all of these salad recipes that use quinoa? It’s not that there’s anything wrong with quinoa, but when paired with leafy lettuces, all of those tiny little quinoa grains go flying. It’s incredibly messy.

Have you tried it? Are there any great recipes that I’m missing?

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