Last night I decided to attempt the salad-in-a-jar idea for the first time. The idea has been shared heavily on social media over the last couple of weeks from numerous sources and it looked so easy, simple and yummy that I had to give it a go.
Now if you haven’t heard of this latest craze, let me explain. The salad-in-a-jar concept is where ingredients for a salad are layered into a Mason jar. The Mason jar is then put into the fridge and ingredients are kept fresh and crispy for up to six days. This is unheard of when using basic plastic containers. The trick is in the layering. Keeping leafy greens (lettuce, rocket, spinach, pak/bok choy, kale, parsley) at the top and dressings at the bottom ensures that leafy greens stay crisp.
I love the idea as it minimises wastage of fresh produce. Ingredients will stay fresh for up to six days. It is time efficient. I made five lunches in twenty minutes the other night. All I had to do was chop, layer and then refrigerate. Voila. Five days worth of lunches prepacked. It is healthy. You can be as creative as you like with combinations. I often make chickpea salads, tuna salads, tabouli type mixes and roast pumpkin rocket salads. I make my own dressings from scratch using olive oil and lime juice as the base ingredients. I also had nut mixes to some of my combinations as well which helps boost the protein and healthy fat combination.
Interested? Here is how it is done. You will be amazed at how easy it is and how much time it saves you. Who said creating healthy lunches had to be expensive and time consuming?
Where to Purchase Mason Jars
Mason jars can be purchased from Woolworths and/or discount stores. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes. You can buy wide mouthed or regular jars. You can also buy plastic screw on lids for Mason jars. These lids are very handy as you can use a marker to label the contents of the jar and date packed. The label can be wiped off when you are ready to use the same jar for something new.
The Salad-in-a-Jar How-to
• Prepare ingredients you wish to use for the salad. This may involve chopping, roasting vegetables, making salad dressings and/or cooking rice or quinoa.
• Spoon dressings/sauces into the bottom of the jar first.
• Use ingredients that can soak and marinate in the dressing as the next layer. Ideas for this are mushrooms, fetta, meat, chickpeas, tofu, quinoa and/or rice. Basically anything spongy.
• Once this is done, you can be creative and put in whatever you like, red onion, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, tomato and capsicum.
• The next and final layer is the leafy greens. Pack the jar as tight as you can with leafy greens. The benefit of this is stops ingredients moving around as they are pressed down flat. This helps to keep the greens as far away from the dressing as possible.
• Screw the lid on once you have jam packed the jar with lettuce and refrigerate.
• Grab and go whenever you need a lunch for work.
To eat the salad-in-jar, you can open the lid and pour the contents of the jar into a plate or bowl. Doing it this way means that the dressing falls out at the top of the greens, making the perfect salad.
Or you can simply unscrew the lid, grab a fork and start munching. The only disadvantage of this method is that you have to eat plain leafy greens to begin with to create space at the top of the jar. Once this is done, put the lid back on and shake the jar around to ensure the dressing and ingredients are mixed up.
What to Remember
There are two things to remember. They are:
• Keep the leafy greens as far away from the dressing as possible and pack it tightly. The further away and tighter packed, the better.
• Be creative. Try with fruits (strawberries, blueberries), greek yoghurts and rolled oats. Breakfast in a jar? Yes, please.
Lastly, Be Creative a Thousand Times Over
I made a Vietnamese salad one the other night where I put rice noodles in the bottom with a chilli dressing and then layered with zucchini, cucumber, capsicum, and carrot and pak choy. It was everything I would put in a vegetarian rice paper roll.
I’ve even heard of people making taco type ones, where the guacamole and sour cream sit at the bottom, refried beans/mince next, then personal preference of salad ingredients such as cheese, grate carrot, tomato and lettuce. I haven’t tried this one myself and I’m not sure how the guacamole goes, but if anyone wants to try, be sure to let me know.