Fresh Lunchtime Inspiration in a Jar
If you’re reading this, I’m pretty certain that you care about the food you eat. You’re no stranger to fruits, veggies, lean protein and healthy fats, and salads are probably consumed regularly in your house. Perhaps you’ve vowed to include more of them in your daily meal rotation this year, and perhaps you’re looking for some ideas to keep them exciting. If this is the case, then I’ve got just the thing to help.
Ages ago, I posted a recipe for Chopped Chicken Salad to Go, a delicious chopped salad with a rainbow of veggies, all conveniently sealed into a mason jar. The food blog world seems to have re-popularized mason jars (I personally am a sucker for the trend and drink out of one at work) as vessels for everything from smoothies and soups to complete meals. Not only are they portable, but you also don’t have to worry about any nasty BPA leeching into your food as is the case for plastic containers. I’ve got a big drawer of glass containers in my kitchen, but lately, my lunches for work have been packed in these guys:
About 99% of the time, my lunch consists of a great big entree-sized salad. They’re totally satisfying, nutritionally balanced, and unlike heavier meals, don’t lead to a mid-afternoon energy slump. If you want to infuse a little excitement into your lunch time fare (and get into the good habit of prepping a week’s worth of salads on a Sunday afternoon) here are some of my favourite make-ahead combos.
The Southwestern Black Bean Salad: Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, black beans, green onion, bell peppers, corn, cucumber, salsa.
The Lean Green Veggie Machine Salad: Mixed greens, alfalfa or broccoli sprouts, cucumber, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, celery, tempeh, green dressing.
The Waldorf Salad: Romaine lettuce, apples, walnuts, chopped chicken, red onion, celery, creamy herb dressing.
The Caprese Tuna Salad: Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers, tuna, boccocini or mozzarella cheese, cucumber, balsamic vinaigrette.
The Asian-Inspired Quinoa Salad: Shredded green and purple cabbage, cucumber, shredded carrot, fresh cilantro, edamame, quinoa, peanuts, sesame seeds, sweet ginger dressing.
A few pointers:
- Remember that greens are light and your other ingredients are likely heavy, so keep the greens at the top of the jar. This way, they won’t sop up any moisture and become soggy.
- About 15 minutes before you plan to eat, tip the jar upside down to give the dressing a chance to coat all the other ingredients.
- When ready to eat, ether take the lid off and dump the salad straight into a salad bowl/plate, or, if you’re on the go, eat straight out of the jar.
- If you’re using tofu or tempeh cubes, place these ingredients near the dressing when layering the jars. This will save you having to marinate them ahead of time because they’ll absorb some of your dressing while the salad is stored.
- If you’re concerned about the ingredients becoming too soggy from the dressing and plan to eat the salad out of a bowl later, you can simply pack your dressing in a separate container and drizzle it on later.
- For a complete and satisfying meal, include lean protein (animal or plant-based), plenty of veggies, healthy fats (such as seeds, nuts, and heart-healthy salad oils) and whole grains such as quinoa, millet, or rice.
- Don’t be shy when it comes to jar size. Most veggies are fairly low in calories yet high in volume, so don’t be afraid to fill a big jar. I have some 2-cup mason jars which I’ll use on occasion, but most days I go for a 4-cup one and fill the top 1/3 with greens.
So tell me…
- What have you been taking to work/campus for lunch these days?
- Do you like to pack your salads in jars? If so, what are some of your favourite combos?