Monday Mealtimes: Salad Jars

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There is this new awesome trend going around that saves a bunch of time later in the week and is a fantastic go to for those nights when all you're really wanting to eat are light meals. We've got bitten by the bug, so this whole post is dedicated to - you guessed it - salad jars! There's so many variations that you can customize to your liking, and honestly, mason jars are just the shit. Pardon the language, but I've kept things fresh in them forever, which pretty much seems like a miracle with a young child that likes to open and close the refrigerator door a million times a day. How are these magical meal savers constructed?

It's simple, really. You need to grab some mason jars from your local store (any size you'd like!), and your favorite salad toppings.

Here are some of our favorite compositions.

The first rule of salad jars is to put your dressing on the bottom (if you put the dressing in the jar at all - sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't.) Keeping the wet stuff down in the bottom of your jar will keep your lettuce (or other leafy greens) crisp and fresh up top, and packing it down firm will provide a nice, bulky salad jar.

Next, I'd put anything you want to marinade in your dressing - if you're using it in your jar. Meats, or your meatless proteins (tofu, beans, mushrooms), sometimes I'll put fresh tomatoes or peppers down in the dressing, etc. A good rule of thumb it so keep the more wet stuff at the bottom so it doesn't make the lettuce squishy.

So, on to the recipes!

Variation #1 - Chicken & Veggie Salad

Dressing: Italian or some sort of vinaigrette (I bet raspberry or balsamic would be delicious)

Toppings: Diced, cooked chicken (seasoned however you want - sometimes salt and pepper is perfect, and sometimes you want a bit of spice), raw sliced and diced peppers, tomatoes (cherry is always a go to for salads around here), goat cheese

Greens: Spinach! I also really like mixing a bunch of spinach with a spring mix found in the produce section. It usually has some kale, arugula, and spinach already in it for variety.

Dressing first, veggies and chicken after, cheese, and pack down your greens. Viola!

Variation #2 - Caprese in a Jar

Dressing: Balsamic dressing

Toppings: Cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese (fresh), pasta (optional)

Greens: Spinach

Put the balsamic on the bottom, dice up your tomatoes and cheese, add your pasta if you want it, and pack down the spinach. This is so good, it's like a caprese sandwich - which is one of our favorites, so this salad jar is a hit here. You can also take balsamic vinegar and boil it down to a sweet, syrupy reduction for this salad jar and it'd be even more amazing.

Variation #3 - Taco Salad!

Dressing: Ranch (Check out this amazing recipe for homemade dairy free ranch - we love it, even if the name is a bit strange.)

Toppings: Ground meat (turkey or beef - or tofu!) seasoned with taco seasoning, black beans cooked and seasoned with salt, pepper and a touch of onion and garlic powders (cooled), cheddar cheese, pico di gallo

Greens: Crunchy romaine with  a little bit of iceburg

Layer your dressing and your pico on the bottom, add beans, meat/tofu, cheese, and then pack in your greens. You won't even miss the tortilla for this, but you can always add some tortilla chips if you do.

Variation #4 & 5 - Pasta salad!

Alright, so this isn't exactly a salad, per se, but it's still a delicious substitute for having a big container of pasta salad, when all you want is a few little ones. Right?

I'm going to split this one into two, but the overall process is the same. One recipe uses ranch, and one uses the more traditional Italian, but both use cooked rotini pasta (or you can substitute shells if that's your preference), so you'll want to have those cooked and cooled.

Dressing: Ranch (Try out the dump ranch here, too - I bet it would be amazing!)

Toppings: Broccoli florets diced finely, red onion, green peppers, and celery all diced, grape tomatoes sliced into quarters, semi-cooked peas (it's a preference thing, so these are optional!), chopped bacon (also optional), and cubed cheese

Stack it dressing, pasta, broccoli, onion, green peppers, celery, peas and grape tomatoes in that order, with broccoli and cheese on top. I'd also pack a little extra dressing for this one.

For the Italian pasta salad, the ingredients are as follows:

Dressing: Italian (Did you know you can buy Olive Garden's dressing now? It's delicious! Or try out making your own!)

Toppings: Diced red onion (optional), green peppers (a lot!), tomatoes, olives (also optional - they're not my favorite, so I leave them out of mine), cucumbers diced, pepperoni slices or chunks, salami chunks (optional), and cubed cheese (cheddar or feta are great options here)

Layer your dressing, pasta, and veggies (with the wet tomatoes and cucumbers at the top), with the meat and the cheese on top of them. Enjoy!

Do you have any salad jar favorites you'd like to share? Post them in the comments below!