Friday recipe: Mason jar salads

Our wellness intern, Jessica Nier, and Julian Rivera, research assistant in DMU’s Human Performance Lab, gave a tasty and highly useful presentation in our Wellness Center kitchen this week on making Mason jar salads. I’ve seen these iconic jars my entire life, living with canners (grandmas, my mom and now my spouse), but Jessica and Julian revealed them as the brilliant salad vessels they are. The jars are inexpensive, lasting and portable, and they will keep your greens crisp for several days in the fridge.

Behold the beauty of Mason jar salad!
Behold the beauty of Mason jar salads!

Here are the basics: Pick up some wide-mouth quart-size Mason jars at your local grocery along with your salad ingredients and preferred dressing (bottled or homemade). At home, you’ll want your jar and all your salad ingredients to be as dry as possible. Pour about two tablespoons of dressing into the bottom of the jar, trying to avoid letting it touch the sides. Next add in hearty vegetables like chopped/sliced peppers, radishes, carrots, broccoli and cooked beans. These veggies will happily marinate in the dressing.

Then scatter in “lighter” ingredients like fruit, cooked quinoa or pasta, sprouts and shredded cheese. Sliced almonds add a tasty crunch. Shredded chicken and bacon are good options if you want more protein. (In addition to later feeding you, these layers will keep the dressing and the greens separated before you do.) At this point, you’ll want about half the jar to be empty.

Finally, fill the jar with your desired greens. Romaine, spinach, arugula and spring mixes are healthy choices. Cover the jar with a lid, step back and admire its lovely layers of lusciousness. Store upright in the fridge until you’re ready to dig in. When you are, give the whole thing a few good shakes to distribute the dressing. Do a little dance with your jar if you want. Then attack with a fork. You can also dump the jar into a salad bowl to share – or not.

If you Google “Mason jar salads,” you’ll see the options are seemingly endless. They’re also convenient for busy people who want to eat healthfully. For example, Julian says he and his wife make 12 jar salads every Sunday night so they are set for lunch for the coming week. Try these recipes and then experiment with your favorite ingredients. If you come up with a particularly pleasing jarful, send it to me and I’ll run it in a future Friday blog post.

Arugula, blueberry and bacon salad

  • 1 1/2-2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup blueberries, washed and dried
  • 1 tablespoon cooked and crumbled bacon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped toasted almonds
  • Arugula (spinach or other preferred greens are fine, too)

In the bottom of a clean, dry quart Mason jar, pour the vinaigrette. Scatter the yellow bell pepper and blueberries on top. Repeat with the bacon and toasted almonds. Pack the remainder of the jar with well-dried greens and cover with a lid. Refrigerate for up to five days. Shake right before eating to coat the ingredients with dressing.

Greek pasta salad

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 8 black olives
  • 1/2 cup whole-grain orzo pasta, cooked, drained and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons feta
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano

Prepare orzo according to package directions. Drain and cool.

Pour balsamic vinaigrette in the bottom of a clean, dry quart Mason jar. Layer the remaining ingredients in the order listed. Cover with a lid and refrigerate, then shake and enjoy.

Fresh mozzarella, tomato, pasta and spinach salad

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1 quart grape tomatoes
  • 2 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • 1/2 cup dry whole-grain pasta, cooked, drained and cooled
  • 2 cups baby spinach

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and cool.

Pour the balsamic vinaigrette into the jar and then layer the rest of the ingredients in the order listed. Top with a lid and refrigerate until you’re ready to shake and eat.

Tex-Mex Salad

  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1 tablespoon salsa
  • 1/4 cup bell pepper, diced
  • 1/3 cup shredded cooked chicken
  • 1/4 cup cooked corn
  • 1/4 cup cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons shredded cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sliced black olives
  • 2 1/2 cups romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces

Mix the balsamic vinaigrette and salsa together, then spoon it into the bottom of the jar. You know what to do next: Layer on top the other ingredients in the order listed. Top with a lid and refrigerate until you’re ready to shake and enjoy.

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