Make Ahead Mason Jar Lunches

Healthy lunches are hard when you are busy or not at home during the day.  It’s just too easy to run to the café or a nearby restaurant to grab something quick. So this week I have been I I would experimenting with some healthy lunches that you can make ahead of time.

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Mason Jar Cobb Salad

Food prep in mason jars has been all the rage lately.  My breakfast overnight oats in mason jars is one of my most popular recipes.  So I thought I would test some of these mason jar salads out and see if they held up to the hype.  Overall I was fairly impressed.   You can make a bunch on one day, vary the ingredients so you don’t get bored and they keep for a couple days in the fridge.

They last about 3-5 days in the fridge (to be honest, I feel 5 days is kind of stretching it. I would stick closer to 3.) The trick in making them is how you layer them. The order of ingredients is very important to keep everything delicious and not soggy.

Below are the basic instructions to making your own jars. By following these basic instructions, you can easily come up with your own versions. These are incredibly customizable and just like the overnight oats you can easily adjust for your own tastes.  I have also included a couple recipes I tested out below, a Cobb salad and a basic salad with quinoa.  (I am also testing out a zucchini noodle and quinoa salad.  If it is a success look for that recipe in a few days!)

You need wide mouth quart size mason jars. The pint size it just too small. The regular mouth could work, but it is just easier and less messy with the wide mouth.

  1. Dressing goes on the bottom. This helps keep the more delicate or absorbable ingredients from getting soggy.  Generally, I use 1-2 tablespoons.  But if you are dressing fanatic you can add more. Can adjust to your personal taste preferences.
  2. Layer the ingredients. After the dressing add the heaviest NON ABSORBANT ingredients, like carrots or cucumbers. Next add in any grains, beans or pasta. Then add in any cheese or protein. Next add in any soft veggies or fruit, like cut strawberries or avocado (if you are making these more than 24 hrs. ahead of time I would wait and add these the day of.) On top of these place any nuts, seeds or light grains (like quinoa! I layered the quinoa above the dressing in my recipe below and it ended up soaking up most of the dressing, so make sure you layer it up higher.) Last but not least, add the salad greens. When adding your greens, gently push everything down.  You want it fairly compacted to keep the layers mixing.
  3. Add perishables the day off. Things like avocado or fruit (or maybe hard boiled eggs) need to be added the day of (or at most the day before) I found in my experiments that anything more than 24 hrs. the avocado started to brown and the fruit started to break down.
  4. When it is time to eat: shake, shake, shake, shake it off. (sorry couldn’t help myself there). But seriously you need to really shake it up good.  Then pour onto a large plate or bowl and enjoy.  Technically you could eat it straight from the jar, but every time I did that I ended up making a huge mess. That might be my problem though.

 

After constructing the salads, tightly cap and store in the fridge.  When transporting them, try to keep them as up right as possible.  That will keep the dressing from mixing with the other ingredients.

 

Mason Jar Cobb Salad

Makes 2 quart jars

  • 2 Tb your favorite Ranch (I used Bolthouse)
  • 2 strips bacon
  • 10 grape tomatoes
  • ¼ cup grated carrots
  • ¼ cup sliced cucumber
  • 2 ounces avocado, diced
  • 2 large hard-boiled eggs, diced
  • 4 ounces cooked or grilled chicken breast, diced
  • 1/2 ounce blue cheese
  • 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce

Layer everything in the mason jar in the order listed above.  Pack it tightly and secure lid.  Will last 24 hrs. as is, if making ahead of time add the avocado and egg in no more than 24 hrs. in advance.  When it’s time to eat, shake it up really well and pour on to large plate.

nutrition:

calories: 357 fat:18 carbs:18 Protein: 30

 

Quinoa salad Jar

  • 1 Tb Vinaigrette*
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup garbanzo beans
  • 1.5 oz. grilled chicken breast
  • ¼ cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
  • 1 oz. avocado
  • 2 cups salad greens

Layer everything in the mason jar in the order listed above.  Pack it tightly and secure lid.  Will last 24 hrs. as is, if making ahead of time add the avocado and egg in no more than 24 hrs. in advance.  When it’s time to eat, shake it up really well and pour on to large plate.

(In the pictures, you’ll notice I layered the quinoa right above the dressing.  I don’t recommend doing this.  The quinoa absorbed a lot of the dressing and got soggy.  By layering it up higher, it will stay dry and fluffy) *I used a basic homemade vinaigrette.

Nutrition:

Calories: 380 Fat: 11 carbs:39 Protein: 32

 

 

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