Beat the lunch-making-blahs with an easy, colourful mason jar salad, customized to your liking. Kids will love helping prepare it as much as eating it. And it makes fantastic adult lunches, too! (Skip to recipe.)
Cooking with Meredith
Make up a mason jar salad. It's:
- Crunchy. Sweet. Tangy.
- Got bright fruits. Colourful vegetables.
- Chunks of chicken or ham.
- Crunchy bits.
- Fun to serve.
All the things kids love. Really. They don't all just want candy and chips for every meal.
Set out an array of vibrant ingredients. Let children add a slurp of their favourite salad dressing or this sweet raspberry vinaigrette to a jar, then layer in their own veggie rainbow, along with a few chunks of protein. Top it off with crunchy nuts or seeds.
Pack it into their lunch kit with a plastic plate or bowl, and let them dump it out for a fun lunch they've chosen themselves. What a welcome change from sandwiches!
If you're a big kid (which we all are), pack yourself a delicious salad into a quart jar for an adult-sized meal you'll love just as much. In fact, you can make up several of these mason jar salads on Sunday night and they will keep in the fridge for four to five days for easy work lunches throughout the week.
Or pack up a bunch for a family picnic or road trip.
The wonderful thing about these salads is that anything goes, really.
They can be totally customized to everyone's individual tastes or dietary restrictions. You can make a different salad for each day of the week for endless variety. The seal on mason jars keeps the salad fresher than when sealed in plastic (and they don't absorb flavours like plastic containers do, especially when refrigerated for several days.) Use wide-mouthed mason jars if making the larger sized salads, for ease of dumping.
There are only a few simple rules for making a great mason jar salad.
- Pack the dressing at the bottom (any kind of your favourite dressing - homemade or bottled, creamy or tangy).
- Layer with a couple of hard veggies at the bottom to make a barrier and separate the dressing from the softer ingredients and salad greens.
- Place the proteins at the bottom if they are bland and would benefit from being soaked in dressing - like cooked chicken breast or tofu cubes. Place any other protein higher up.
- Place the lettuce or other greens second from the top.
- Place anything that you want to stay crunchy at the very top.
- Seal the jar by adding the canning lid and screwing it finger tight (don't vacuum seal the jar like for canning!)
- Keep the jar upright while refrigerating, to keep the dressing from the soft ingredients. But even if the jar tips while being transported in a lunch bag for a few hours, the lettuce and crunchies won't get soggy in that amount of time.
- Mason jar salad will stay fresh, if refrigerated, for up to 5 days.
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Scrumpdillyicious Mason Jar Salad
In a pint-sized (500ml) mason jar, pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of your favourite salad dressing or the sweet raspberry vinaigrette recipe below. For a generous adult-sized salad, use a wide-mouthed quart-sized (1 litre) mason jar and adjust the amount of dressing to taste.
Add a few layers of hard vegetables that won't get mushy from soaking in the dressing - like diced carrots, cucumbers, broccoli or cauliflower florets, sliced celery, defrosted frozen green peas, halved snow peas or sugar snap peas, sliced red or green cabbage, diced bell peppers, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced raw asparagus, sliced canned baby corn cobs, cooked corn kernels, sliced mushrooms, avocado cubes tossed in lemon juice, diced or sliced radishes, green onions, diced raw beets, blanched green beans, sliced black olives, etc.
Add a layer of protein - like cubed cooked chicken or beef, diced ham, diced slices of salami or other cold cuts, cooked shrimp, diced tofu, crumbled or shredded cheese of any kind, chopped or sliced boiled eggs, curds of cooked scrambled eggs, crumbled bacon, etc.
Add an optional layer of cooked pasta, or other grains (like rice or quinoa), cooked or canned beans, diced cooked potatoes, if you like.
Add an optional layer of fruit like blueberries, diced strawberries, halved grapes, canned mandarin orange segments, diced pineapple, raisins, dried cranberries, etc.
Near the top of the jar, add a layer of greens like baby spinach, shredded iceberg lettuce, or other spring greens.
Lastly, add a layer of something crunchy like nuts of any kind, raw or roasted & salted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, bacon bits, croutons, crumbled tortilla chips, tiny fish crackers, etc.
Add the jar lid and ring and screw it closed. Refrigerate upright until you pack it into a lunch bag. Can be kept at room temperature in the lunch bag for several hours until serving time.
To eat, dump the contents of the jar into a bowl. (You can eat the salad out of the jar, but it is a little bit awkward.)
Refrigerate sealed mason jar salads for up to 5 days.
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Sweet Raspberry Vinaigrette
- ½ cup (120ml) grapeseed oil or other mild-flavoured oil
- ¼ cup (60ml) white vinegar
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) seedless raspberry jam (purchase seedless, or push regular seeded raspberry jam through a seive)
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
Place all ingredients in a jar. Seal with a lid and shake vigorously. Or place in a bowl and whisk until smooth.
Makes a scant 1 cup (235ml).
For more fun cooking projects to make with kids, see the ‘Cooking With Kids’ series here.
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