Lunch in a Jar


lunch-box-vector.jpgThere seems to be a current trend of Mason jar meals — this is positive for many reasons. People are preparing and consuming healthier foods: You are not likely to have a mason jar filled with a burger and fries. It is economical, and it’s also green because you are reusing the jar.

And let me be clear — you don’t have to use an actual mason jar. I’m partial to cylindrical, quart-sized plastic sealable containers, the kind that you get when you takeout soup from a deli. They are the right shape, and they are a heck of a lot lighter than glass jars if you are carrying this portable meal around in a tote bag.

These keep for a day or two in the refrigerator, so they are an excellent do-ahead meal for tomorrow’s lunch at the office, school or day camp for the kiddies.

The ingredients of these layered meals vary pending personal tastes, but they generally involve a stacked salad. Rather than prescribe an actual recipe, I offer a step-by-step “formula,” if you will, that allows for individual preferences.

In terms of quantities, you want about 2 tablespoons of dressing in the bottom of the container, about ½ to ¾ cup of each vegetable/grain/protein layer and about 2 tablespoons in the nut/seed layer.

Here’s the hierarchy from the bottom up:

Dressing: Whether you make or buy it, put the dressing in the bottom of the jar to prevent sogginess.

Hard veggies that will absorb the dressing well and not wilt come next; think celery, carrots, beets, cabbage, fennel and peppers.

Follow that with beans and/or grains: cooked chickpeas, black beans, barley, pasta, brown rice, groats or bulgur wheat.

Next comes the protein: crumbled cheese, cooked chicken, flaked tuna, cubed tofu or sliced hard-boiled eggs.

Follow up with more delicate vegetables like tomatoes, avocados and cucumbers, or fruits like berries, melon or peaches. If you use avocados, peaches or apples, give them a spritz of lemon to keep them from browning.

Next, add almonds, peanuts, cashews or walnuts, and/or sunflower, sesame, pumpkin or chia seeds.

Top the whole tower off with salad greens — try spring mix, arugula or a chopped large-leaf lettuce such as romaine, bibb or iceberg.

When all of the layers are in place, seal the jar, refrigerate and, when ready to serve, shake it up, or toss it in a bowl and enjoy.


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