I have been trying, valiantly, to eat better and less lately, and one of the major ways to do that, it seems, is to take one’s lunch to work. By many estimates, you save dollars every day that you choose to pack something from home (unless, you know, it’s filet mignon or something), so I figured part of my goal would be monetary, but primarily I wanted to bring only enough food to nourish me, not to make me sluggish after lunch. I had experienced, after a big catered staff meal, the fog that descended over me and made me feel like there were no productive activities for me to work on for at least an hour or two. I’d inevitably turn back to coffee, which I’m trying to cut down on as well, just to perk up for the last few hours.
So what I needed was a pack-ahead meal that was appetizing to me, while not always just being leftovers from the night before. I’ve talked about leftovers before, and with Husband faithfully scarfing them most days, I rarely want that to be my only option.
Enter, the Mason Jar Salad.
I thought it was non-revolutionary at first, just a cute package for a normal food. However, it’s really quite lovely. Mason jar salads are built on a simple principle: use a dressing on the bottom, a layer of hearty veggies, cheese, and pasta in the middle, and lettuce on top. When you get to work, the veggies will be flavorful from having gotten into the dressing, the lettuce will still be crisp, and the whole thing will mix pretty epically when you are dumping it out into a bowl. This can be tricky, but it really works quite well. Especially if you have a sink where you can wash the bowl and fork and keep them for a future salad day, and take the goopy mason jar home all sealed up and non-smelly… this just makes so much sense. It takes the multiple tiny containers out of salad transportation, and ensures non-wilty lettuce.
My first salads were made just with what was on hand: bell peppers, carrots, fresh mozzarella, cashews, and baby spinach. For one of them, the bottom layer was a creamy caesar dressing, and for the second, I used honey mustard (not even honey mustard dressing; just honey mustard I had in the fridge). The first salad filled my bowl perfectly and the peppers were imbued with a bright parmesan flavor, but total I had very little dressing and cheese on the salad. The cashews had gone from stiff-crunchy to slightly-crunchy, which was still perfectly pleasant; if you hate that effect, you might put them atop the spinach just to keep them out of the dressing. I usually don’t like carrots, but the mildly marinated effect of the dressing made them really quite delicious.
I got this idea from S, who sent me a link about the salads, which I will recommend to all of you; they have a bunch of good ideas for when you don’t want to just play fridge roulette and throw in whatever you have. Over the years, S and I have enjoyed many meals together, but it’s kind of fun to be accompanied, even from far away, on new endeavors toward healthier eating. S has never been unhealthy, that I know, but her salad suggestion helped me on my path.