8.13.2014

Easy, Healthy Lunches: Salads in a jar

First, I want to say this is nothing new. I did not invent putting salads in a mason jar. I saw others doing it, my aunt said they lasted a week, and with doubts I gave it a try. Really, that salad will still be crispy a week from now? My veggies don't stay crispy in the drawer that long. Okay, some will, some don't, but I am sure you understand.

Through trial and error I found a secret to success that not only leaves me with a crispy, healthy salad for lunch but makes my week easier too.

On Sundays I pull out the jars and start chopping. I used to start by putting the lettuce in first. Okay, not the best idea. Don't get me wrong, it works but then when I put the salad on my plate all the fixings are under the lettuce that I have to help out of the jar with a fork. I realize this isn't the worst problem in the world but still, every minute counts in my life. Why struggle? And I am crazy enough to actually want the fixings on top of my lettuce. Sorry, it's true.

I now put my fixings on the bottom. Right now my current craze is black olives. I am in love with them beyond belief and so is darling daughter. We open a can, she gets a few right away, and I toss the rest in the jars trying to be somewhat equal but realize it is okay to have more olives one day. And yes, I drain the olives first.

Next, the tomatoes. I usually buy grape tomatoes since they are a good bite size and I like not cutting my tomatoes. I really don't like the idea of the tomato juice in the jar for days with my salad. This week I used freshly picked cherry tomatoes from our garden - yum!

Then, peppers. I always have sweet peppers - red, orange, and yellow at home. I usually turn to orange or yellow in my salads and use the red for my pasta sauces. I slice them up, give darling daughter a couple of bites (she always comes running for peppers) and split the rest between the jars.

This is where my structure ends. I then add other veggies I have and I try to mix things up a bit week by week. Sometimes I add cucumber (peeled and sliced), sometimes sliced carrots (this week I used carrots we harvested from our garden - delicious!), and sometimes celery. I haven't tried mushrooms yet. I just think they would get too brown but I should give it a try one day.

Finally, I fill the rest of the jar with whatever lettuces or spinach I have in the house. Again, I vary this in my shopping adventures to keep things fresh and interesting. A salad every day could become boring to me if I didn't mix things up.

But what good is a salad without dressing? I have these awesome little containers from Laptop Lunches. I fill one for each day with a dressing and toss it on top of the lettuce and then seal the jar. You may have thought what if the dressing is different? It is sometimes and that just means once at work I get a surprise dressing! Fortunately, I don't mind not knowing until I open it up. I could get color coded and all structured but where is the fun in that?

I wish this would be enough for me but I need protein. I handle this in many ways. I hard boil eggs ahead of time and can grab one to add to my lunch bag (and darling daughter loves them too!). I have even pre-cooked chicken in my slow cooker on the weekends and have divided that up between containers so I can grab one each day. Thankfully, prepping some protein each day isn't a big chore. If I have a pasta night on the menu I will make a little extra so I have a small portion to go with my salad. Leftover chicken works well too if that is on the menu one night. Plus don't forget tuna! I still have to make my daughter's lunch almost daily so if I make her a tuna salad sandwich there is always some tuna left for me.

It has saved me time on my work nights to have a good portion of my lunch made. As easy as making salads are all the cutting, dicing, and cleaning up takes time. Why clean that mess five times when you can do it just once? And like I said, the veggies are indeed staying nice and crisp in their mason jars. To make things even better, almost every day someone at works comments on how delicious my lunch looks!

Daily Gratitude: I am thankful for mason jars.
Daily Affirmation: I am happy.

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