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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

You've GOTTA See My Lunch!

I stumbled across the idea of a salad in a jar a few months ago....You've probably already heard of these, but please remember, I live under a rock, so I just may be a bit behind the times.

I pinned a few recipes on a Pinterest board, but I really just wanted the underlying concept. I wanted to create my own with all the things I like. I didn't want to be tied to someone else's recipe.

Today, this is what I had:

While at the store today, I pondered all the yummy things that could go in a salad, and I bought them....ALL.

Just in case I climbed out from under my rock before you heard about this, here's basically how it's set up (You can use any size Mason jar that you might have lying around. I used a regular mouth large jar):

  1. salad dressing of your choice
  2. harder veggies--those you have to chop up to get into the jar
  3. beans, grains, or pasta (I didn't add any of these things this time)
  4. cheeses and proteins
  5. softer vegetables/fruits
  6. nuts or seeds
  7. greens

When I first heard of this, I thought, oh, you just shake it up and the dressing coats everything, and I assume that if you pack it lightly or use a runnier dressing than I did, you might be able to do this, but let me tell you, I crammed that puppy about as full as was humanly possible. Those ingredients weren't going anywhere. Totally portable without worries of the wet stuff making the other stuff gooshy and gross.

So...when all is said and done, you pour the salad into a bowl. I was blown away by how big that salad was. I'd say if you're going to use a big Mason jar, you'd probably better have a pretty large bowl as well.

Also, I learned that if you want to, you can prepackage these for about five days, but if you're going to do this, it's best to add the cheeses/proteins and the softer fruits/vegetables on the day you plan on eating the salad.

I liked that I had options....My house felt like a salad bar you'd find at a restaurant; only, it was personalized with all the things I like. Here are some ideas of what each layer might contain:

Layer #1: salad dressing
Let's be real here....The sky's the limit. I opted for Thousand Island because clearly it's the salad dressing of the gods, but you could do whatever lesser dressing you might be tempted to consume. ;)

Layer #2: Hard, chopped up vegetables
I used cucumber, green and red bell peppers, and broccoli, but was kicking myself later that I hadn't added celery. Snap peas would be good too. Carrots are another obvious option, but they make my mouth itch, so I left them out.

Layer #3: Beans, grains, or pasta
Like I mentioned above, I didn't add any of these kinds of things, but I had garbanzo and black beans on hand just in case, and I think those would've been great. You can add grains like cooked rice or barley, but that was more work than I wanted to put in at the time--saving these for the future. Pasta-wise, corkscrews, bowties, macaroni, etc., etc. might be a fun layer in the jar and might add a little something texture-wise to the salad.

Layer #4: Cheeses and proteins
This is my very FAVORITE layer. I LOVE salads with cheese and hard boiled eggs. I also love chicken. I had cooked up some chicken in some enchilada sauce in my crockpot the other day and have been using it in a lot of things lately. It was a great addition to this salad. Ham, canned chicken or tuna or chopped lunch meat might be good in a salad. Do I even need to mention bacon? Man, oh, man! Bacon would take it over the top....YUM!

I used Tillamook medium cheddar just because that's our go-to cheese in this house, but you could crumble some feta or cube any ol' kind of cheese to give it a fun flavor and texture.

Layer #5: Softer vegetables and fruits
I added the less-sugar-added Craisins to my salad today. Wow! I love a little sweet zing. I was thinking Mandarin oranges, pineapple, olives, peas, tomatoes, avocados, dried apricots or even papaya, or berries might bring some yummy flavors to the experience.

Layer #6: Nuts and seeds
Here, I threw in some sunflower seeds, but you could really go with anything with a little crunch--almonds, walnuts, etc. I also strayed from the path a wee bit and threw on some dry chow mein noodles--SO GOOD! These, of course, you'd want to throw on when you ate the salad so they didn't get soft...EEK! Croutons would probably be this way too....You might just want to hold off on those until you've got the salad poured out.

Layer #7: The greens
It's funny to throw the greens in last. Somehow it seems fitting to me. The thing I'm least excited about in a salad is the greens, so with the way this all plays out, at least for me, you throw in all the things you enjoy eating, so you get all excited about what you're about to partake of, and then you add the part that makes it a salad--the obligatory greens. Somehow it's like eh, alright, if I have to, but by then you don't really care anymore--just let me at the chicken, cheese, and Craisins.

I put in green leaf lettuce. I pulled off a few leaves, rinsed them, and tore them up with my hands and stuffed them into the top of the jar. You could use spinach, red leaf or Romaine lettuce, iceburg, etc. Really any green you'd throw in any other salad is great here.

So, there you have it. Put your lid on, and it's good to go for that day. Pour it out into that bowl you've had sitting aside, and you're good to go. When I got the greens poured out, I put the lid back on and tossed the rest of the ingredients so that the dressing would coat it all. I did have to use my fork to get some of the toppings out. Croutons and softer, bread-like toppings might be best tossed on at this point.

They say you can store it for up to five days with the lid on (without those ingredients that I mentioned above--add those in on the top on the morning you plan on eating that jarful, and you're set).

If you have other ideas, leave a message. I'd love to hear and try some new things.


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