Monday, August 17, 2015

Mason Jar Salads

Ok, guys, so I love this new mason jar salad trend.  It's actually awesome.  Like crockpot freezer-meal  awesome.  Why?  I shall explain.....

So what you do is you build a salad in a mason jar in a particular order so it stays fresh and crisp and good for longer.  They keep for about a week.  So.... over the weekend, you take an hour and prepare two or three kinds and fill a shelf on your fridge with these lovely lunches.  Then you have delicious, filling meals for the whole week with no more fuss than pulling one out of the fridge and dumping onto a plate. 

They look awesome, travel well, stay fresh longer, and you can adjust for your tastes as much as you want.  Plus, you get Pinterest bonus points for using mason jars.

This is a perfect solution for meals to take to work, to school, or even if you are at home during the week, like me.  Having a bunch of these lovelies in the fridge eliminates the need to mess up the kitchen and stare at the cupboards in pursuit of a tasty, filling lunch.

Ok, so the three salad recipes we've got here today are:
Italian Pasta Mason Jar Salad
Harvest Chicken Mason Jar Salad
Sesame Ramen Mason Jar Salad

While these three salads are all delicious, you should definitely use mason jar salads to fit your tastes and ingredients.  I love to add leftover grilled chicken or steak to some of the salads.  You can also try other kinds of salad that you enjoy in mason-jar-format.  Make two or three kinds for the week so you don't get bored, and there you go, all set.

Mason Jar Salads: Method

Alright, so first we need jars.  I like the pint-sized jars, as it seems the perfect amount for a meal-sized salad.  So line up some clean pint-sized jars.

Now you need to understand the ingredient layers. The idea is to add the wet stuff to the bottom of the jar, with the dry stuff (or stuff that may get soggy) at the top.  So it goes something like this:

The other big tip to remember is to pack the ingredients tightly, so that you get the least amount of air in the jar as you can.  Especially pack that lettuce in tight.  This helps everything stay fresh longer.  

The amounts of each ingredient is up to you, I typically like about 3 T of dressing at the bottom, then I add the other ingredients in amounts according to what I personally prefer (more bacon! always more bacon!).  It seems to work well to leave about half the jar for the lettuce (or pasta, if it's a pasta salad).
Now seal the lids and arrange the jars in your fridge and try not to open the fridge to admire them too often.  It's tempting, I know.  

Of course, you can use store-bought dressing and any salad ingredients you'd like.  But you want some really yummy ideas?  Well, then, I'm happy to oblige:

Harvest Chicken Mason Jar Salad

In a pint-sized mason jar, layer the following ingredients in this order, from bottom to top:

Creamy poppyseed-onion dressing (recipe below)
Dried cranberries
Sliced celery
Sliced green apple
Cubed grilled chicken
Cooked crumbled bacon
Lettuce or spinach, packed tightly

1/4 c mayonnaise or greek yogurt
3 T milk
2 T minced onion
1 t dry mustard
2 t apple cider vinegar
3 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1 t poppyseeds
Blend together well.  Add more milk, a teaspoon at a time, to thin as needed. 

Italian Pasta Mason Jar Salad

In a pint-sized mason jar, layer the following ingredients in this order, from bottom to top:

Creamy Italian Dressing (recipe below)
Black olives
Cherry tomatoes
Roasted red peppers, sliced
Cubed cucumbers
Salami, chopped bite-sized
Cubed cheese
Chopped fresh basil
Cooked pasta (small macaroni, shells, spiral or mini penne)

1/4 cup mayonnaise or greek yogurt
1 T olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
2 t dried oregano (or 2 T fresh)
2 t dried basil (or 2 T fresh)
2 t granulated garlic (or 1 whole head roasted garlic, see note below)
1/2 t salt
4 T grated parmesan

Puree all ingredients til thoroughly combined.

*Note:  I like to roast a couple of red pepper halves and a head of garlic (slice the top off the whole head and drizzle with oil) under the broiler until the pepper skin is blackened and the garlic is soft.  Then peel the skin off the peppers and slice to use in the salad.  Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the papery shell to add to the dressing.

Asian Ramen Mason Jar Salad

In a pint-sized mason jar, layer the following ingredients in this order, from bottom to top:

Ginger soy dressing (see recipe below)
Grated carrots
Chopped red bell pepper
Cubed Cucumber
Sliced Celery
Edamame (if you can get it)
Chopped green onion
Cooked chicken, cubed
Fresh cilantro
Shredded cabbage or bok choy
Uncooked ramen noodles, broken 
Toasted sesame seeds

1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
Juice of 1/2 a lime
2 T soy sauce
1 T sesame oil
1 T olive oil
2 t rice vinegar
2 T brown sugar

Puree together until thoroughly combined.