Mason Jar Salads: Fresh, Visually Appealing, and Versatile

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin

Our dog Phoebe and I enjoying sunshine and tulips on a gorgeous May afternoon.

Our dog Phoebe and I enjoying sunshine and tulips on a gorgeous May afternoon.

If you have a Pinterest account you are probably familiar with Mason Jar Salads. They are easy to make, keep for up to a week in the refrigerator, and are visually appealing (I think they look like lovely edible terrarium gardens). Jarred salads are a great way to encourage yourself, and your family, to eat more fruit and vegetables and reduce waste (since you will not be throwing out unused produce). Food waste is usually a common concern that comes up when people tell me they are trying to eat healthier. So many people confess to buying fresh fruit and vegetables which become doomed to live in the bottom of the refrigerator drawer to inevitably spoil and get tossed in the garbage. If that is a problem that plagues your kitchen, I think that these salads are exactly what you need to make!

For the past few weeks I have made a number of Mason Jar Salads to enhance my lunch and dinners. Usually, I toss in the ingredients that I have on hand but this summer I hope to come up with recipes for tasty salad combinations (I have already brainstormed ten recipes, two of which I will share today).

A few weeks back I made a visual for my Produce with Amy Facebook page and for these salads I used vinegar and oil dressing, bell peppers, banana peppers, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, radishes, red onion, kalamata and garlic stuffed green olives, pea pods, artichoke hearts, and romaine lettuce.
(Click on the photo to see a larger version)(Click on the photo to see a larger version)

While I often have Mason Jars on hand from my mom’s should-be-world-famous dill pickles, I give the jars back to her so she will give me more. Instead of going out and buying new Mason Jars, I started recycling spaghetti sauce jars and they work perfectly for the jarred salads. However, I plan to eventually purchase wide-mouthed one quart Mason jars for my salads.

jars

Recycle spaghetti sauce jars

When you prepare your salads make sure that you add the dressing first, heartier vegetables and fruit next (bell peppers, carrots, beans) and the lettuce last (the acid in the dressing will make the lettuce slimy so you have to make sure it does not touch). The salad dressing marinates the fruit and vegetables that it touches and helps marry the flavors of your salad.

Some of the frequently asked questions about the salads that I have heard are:

Q: Do you have to vacuum seal the salads?
A: No, I do not vacuum seal my salads. I simply close the lid tightly and they have kept for seven days in the refrigerator. They may even last longer but I often eat one for lunch and one for dinner so they disappear quickly.

Q: Can you put meat and cheese in the salads?
A: While I do not eat meat or cheese, I have seen Mason Jar Salad recipes that contain both. I would think that the meat would stay fresh for a few days and I would sprinkle cheese near the top of the salad.

Q: How do you eat the salads?
A: Give the jars a shake and pour on a plate or bowl or eat straight out of the jar.

Q: What is the benefit of putting the salads in a jar?
A:1. The glass helps keep the greens crisp. I read one blog post where a woman washes and stores all her greens in glass jars in the refrigerator.
2. The salads are quickly made in bulk and the slim jars are easy to store in the refrigerator.
3. I have made the jarred salads for my husband and they fit easier in his lunchbox (cooler) than a covered bowl.
4. The salads are visually beautiful and a great reminder to grab a healthy snack before or after school/work. You can also make fruit salad in the jars. Kids LOVE helping make the salads and you can use smaller jars for small children.
5. Many of my Weight Watchers members commented that if they toss together a salad for work or after a long day they use lettuce, tomato, and maybe cucumber. The jarred salads REALLY hold a lot of ingredients and are a great way to add variety and rainbow of fruit and vegetables to your menu. I find that the more layers that I add the more visually appealing the salads become.

My friend Sally Karttunen shared a great tip for the jarred salads. She said when she made her salads she used mason jars and added a large, decorative cupcake paper liner to the flat jar lid before screwing on the jar ring. This touch made the salads extra cute and attractive. Thanks for the great tip, Sally!

The two jarred salad recipes that I will share today are CLASSIC SALAD BAR IN A JAR and WALDORF INSPIRED SLAW.

Traditionally, I am a fan of vinegar and oil based Italian salad dressing. Yet, since going to plant based eating I find that I eat one or two salads a day and have worked hard to add variety into my salads. The first jar salad that I will share would be my “go to” favorite when making a salad from a buffet.

CLASSIC SALAD BAR IN A JAR

The amount of each ingredient depends on the size of your jar. Since I follow the Weight Watchers 360 plan, I eyeballed all the 0 Points Plus ingredients and measured out the other additions.

1. 2 Tablespoons of my homemade plant-based Tangy Ranch Dressing.
2. Cucumbers
3. Grape tomatoes
4. Banana peppers
5. Peas (I used 1/4 cup)
6. Carrot sticks
7. Celery sticks
8. Sunflower seeds (I used 1/4 cup)
9. Alfalfa sprouts
10. Romaine lettuce (I buy heads of romaine instead of packaged. I find the heads are more fresh, leafy, and not as bitter)

Since my cucumbers were not organic, I scrubbed well and peeled.

Since my cucumbers were not organic, I scrubbed well and peeled.

I find that cherry or grape tomatoes hold their shape better and do not get as runny in the jars as larger tomatoes.

I find that cherry or grape tomatoes hold their shape better and do not get as runny in the jars as larger tomatoes.

Banana peppers impart a lot of flavor to salads. I also LOVE them on pizza.

Banana peppers impart a lot of flavor to salads. I also LOVE them on pizza.

I am not a huge fan of peas unless they are fresh out of the garden. However, I do enjoy the texture of peas in a salad.

I am not a huge fan of peas unless they are fresh out of the garden. However, I do enjoy the texture of peas in a salad.

They always have carrot sticks on a salad bar so I thought I would leave the carrots in larger pieces.

They always have carrot sticks on a salad bar so I thought I would leave the carrots in larger pieces.

There is nothing like the satisfying crunch of celery!

There is nothing like the satisfying crunch of celery!

Sunflower seeds. Need I say more?

Sunflower seeds. Need I say more?

Sprouts are so fresh and delicious. Bean sprouts also make a wonderful addition to jarred salads.

Sprouts are so fresh and delicious. Bean sprouts also make a wonderful addition to jarred salads.

Sometimes when I get to the top there is not much room for lettuce. :) Yet, that is fine with me!

Sometimes when I get to the top there is not much room for lettuce. 🙂 Yet, that is fine with me!

Lovely layered salads.

Lovely layered salads.

Classic Salad Bar in a Jar

While the Classic Salad Bar in a Jar was delicious. I must say, that the WALDORF INSPIRED SLAW was phenomenal. In fact, one day I had one for lunch AND dinner.

I used the following ingredients:

To make the dressing:
3 Tablespoons of plant-based Mayonnaise (I used Vegenaise) but your favorite brand will do. I added 1/4 cup of lemon juice and 1/4 cup of raw apple cider. Salt and pepper to taste. Many Waldorf Salad Dressings call for sugar but I did not add any since I like mine tangy. Plus, I found that the fruit that I added to salad imparted just the right amount of sweetness.

1. I added three Tablespoons of the dressing to the bottom of the jar.
2. Chopped celery
2. Green cabbage
3. Red/purple cabbage
*Note ~ The second time I made this jarred salad I tossed the cabbage in the dressing and celery first . I liked the way it marinated and thought it was more flavorful this way.
4. A few thin slices of red onion
5. Granny Smith apple slices
6. Red apple slices (your favorite variety)
(since I used organic apples I left the peels on the apples. Incidentally, I did not add any lemon juice to the apples and they stayed fresh and did not brown)
7. Two Tablespoons of raisins
8. 1/4 cup of raw almonds (most Waldorf recipes call for walnuts but I had almonds on hand)
9. Red grapes (I had to run to the store to get grapes after I made the salads. I sliced the grapes in 1/2 and added to the top).
Waldorf Inspired Slaw

I am making Waldorf Inspired Slaw in jars again this week. Yes, they are really that terrific! :)

I am making Waldorf Inspired Slaw in jars again this week. Yes, they are really that terrific! 🙂

The end of the school year is racing at me. I find that prepping my lunches and dinners makes healthy eating a snap. If you find yourself in a pinch at mealtime you cannot go wrong with salads in a jar.

The end of the school year is racing at me. I find that prepping my lunches and dinners makes healthy eating a snap. If you find yourself in a pinch at mealtime you cannot go wrong with salads in a jar.

Update: December 8, 2013
Today I made the Waldorf Inspired Slaw but instead of grapes I added pomegranates since they are in season.
Waldorf Inspired Slaw with PomegranateI hope that my post helped answer a few questions about Mason Jar Salads and inspired garden fresh eating for you and your family. You will find more recipes under the salad tab at the top of the page. Please feel free to share some of your favorite salad jar combinations in the comment section or on my Facebook page. Here is a link to these recipes on Pinterest. I am up to 244 likes and would love to see more health minded and creative individuals join the conversation. Please recommend my blog to your friends and family.

After experimenting with Mason Jar Salads you might find yourself adding an extra row of lettuce to your garden this summer. I know that I am eagerly awaiting getting my garden in the ground. I have been told that in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan the second week of June will be the time to get the tomatoes and other plants in the ground. Cheers to a happy, healthy, and productive week!

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Layered Refried Bean and Guacamole Dip ~ Individually Packaged for Portion Control

Layered Dip with Beans and Guacamole by Produce with Amy“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” 
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Bleeding Hearts Spring 2013

It appears that we have finally turned corner on winter in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I keep reminding myself, however, that it is not unheard of to have snow storms in May. Mike and I made sure we took advantage of the beautiful weather this weekend and yesterday and today took our dog Phoebe for a hike. We are fortunate to have many scenic trails right in our backyard. We witnessed many patches of snow still lingering in the woods and it was quite muddy.

Mike and Phoebe enjoying the fresh air.

Mike and Phoebe enjoying the fresh air.

I have been struggling with finding time to blog recently and today I knew that I had to push myself. My intentions were to write this post during spring break since that is when I took the photos. The flurry of Cinco de Mayo posts on Facebook today made me realize that today was the perfect day to share my recipe for a luscious plant-based Layered Refried Bean and Guacamole Dip.

A plant-based diet relies very heavily on beans for protein and I am always looking for new ways to use them. One of my favorite party appetizers is layered taco dip and here is my version. While tortilla chips are one of my favorite foods, they are also a trigger for me so instead of tortilla chip I try to eat this dip with raw vegetables. I also like to make the dip in individual containers for portion control. Years ago I made a sound investment by purchasing a couple dozen of Pyrex glass containers in a 3 cup size. They have really held up well and are so convenient for lunches. I

These glass containers stack neatly in the refrigerator and freezer.

These glass containers stack neatly in the refrigerator and freezer.

Ingredients for the guacamole: fresh cilantro, three avocados, lime juice, taco seasoning, red onion, and sour cream (I use Vegan soy-based sour cream). If you eat dairy you could also use plain Greek yogurt.

Ingredients for the guacamole: fresh cilantro, avocados, lime juice, garlic, taco seasoning, red onion, and sour cream (I use Vegan soy-based sour cream). If you eat dairy you could also use plain Greek yogurt.

I saw a recipe on Pinterest for taco seasoning and had all the ingredients on hand in the pantry. I doubled the batch and am storing in a recycled jar. Never will I buy pre-packaged taco seasoning packets again!
Homemade Taco Seasoning
Source: Allrecipes
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Instructions:
In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container. Yields about 2 3/4 tablespoons.
Homemade Taco Seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Guacamole
*2 avocados cubed
*1/4 cup chopped red onion
*1/2 Tablespoon taco seasoning (or to taste)
*2 cloves of minced garlic
*1/4 cup chopped cilantro
*2 Tablespoons lime juice
*1/2 cup sour cream (I used Vegan sour cream)

I LOVE avocado. As I have said in an earlier post, I could eat cardboard if it had a smear of avocado on it.

I LOVE avocado. As I have said in an earlier post, I could eat cardboard if it had a smear of avocado on it.

Add the chopped red onion.

Add the chopped red onion.

Add the taco seasoning.

Add the taco seasoning.

Fresh cilantro really perks up the flavor of the avocado. Add the garlic and lime juice as well.

Fresh cilantro really perks up the flavor of the avocado. Add the garlic and lime juice as well.

The sour cream gives it some body.

The sour cream gives it some body.

When I made guacamole to serve on its own I also add in some chopped tomatoes.

When I make guacamole to serve on its own I also add in some chopped tomatoes.

The finished product.

The finished product.

For each individual dip you will need:
*1/2 cup Vegetarian Refried Beans
*1/2 cup Guacamole
*1/4 cup salsa
*Lettuce
*Tomato
*Black olives
(any other toppings you desire)
I made four individual dips. They were quite generous in size and I probably could have made five from the recipe.

To start the dip, I added 1/2 cup of Vegetarian Refried Beans.

To start the dip, I added 1/2 cup of Vegetarian Refried Beans.

Top the beans with a 1/2 cup of guacamole.

Top the beans with a 1/2 cup of guacamole.

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Top the guacamole with 1/4 cup of salsa. You can also use taco sauce.

Top the guacamole with 1/4 cup of salsa. You can also use taco sauce.

Next chop lettuce.

Next chop lettuce.

A layer of crispy lettuce gives the dip a pleasing crunch.

A layer of crispy lettuce gives the dip a pleasing crunch.

Top tomatoes. I used grape tomatoes but any tomato will do.

Top with tomatoes. I used grape tomatoes because they do not release much juice (my dip needed to sit a few days in the refrigerator) but any tomato will do.  If I make this dip on a platter for a party I purchase large tomatoes and cut into small pieces.

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Sprinkle the dip with black olives.

Sprinkle the dip with black olives. You can also add jalapenos, corn, cheese, and your favorite taco additions. A drizzle of hot sauce or taco sauce is always a welcome addition.

My guacamole recipe and one can of refried beans rendered four individual layered dips. I will make my own refried beans next time.

My guacamole recipe and one can of refried beans rendered four individual layered dips. I will make my own refried beans next time.

Ready to store in the refrigerator.

Ready to store in the refrigerator.

I ate the dip with raw vegetables.

I ate the dip with raw vegetables.

Why wait for a party when you can eat taco dip whenever you want. Fresh, healthy, and a great way to eat your vegetables!

Why wait for a party when you can eat taco dip whenever you want. Fresh, healthy, and a great way to eat your vegetables!

This dip is versatile and you can fashion it to suit your tastebuds. I have swapped out the refried beans for black beans before and have topped with spinach instead of lettuce. If you are like me and are always looking for healthy comfort food, you will enjoy this dip.

This weekend was a very productive weekend. Yesterday I cooked for the week and my lunches this week will be homemade marina over whole wheat pasta. I added two different kinds of olives to the sauce, capers, and lemon juice. My plan is to share my recipe in a future post.

Olive marinara over whole wheat pasta.

Olive marinara over whole wheat pasta.

In February I pinned a recipe for a Vegan Split Pea Soup from Healthy. Happy. Life. on Pinterest and in the past week 180 people repinned the recipe and it received 23 likes. I figured that it was time that I tried the soup recipe. It is delicious and I am thankful that I did. It will serve as this week’s dinner with a large green salad that is topped with my homemade plant-based creamy dressing.

I let the peas soak over-night.

I let the peas soak over-night. There still is a chill in the air and this soup will be my dinner along with a large green salad.

As we head into the summer I am anxious for break so I can get back on pace with my weekly blogging. While it will fill me with sadness to say goodbye to my students for the summer, I am ready to garden and spend some time in the sun. Cheers to sunshine, productivity, and healthy plant-based eating!

Layered Refried and Guacamole Dip