When I got my first real desk job out of college I had one of three things for lunch every day for what felt like forever:
- Pizza Luce’s Baked Potato Pizza (I worked above the restaurant and can still smell the torturous scent that wafted upstairs at 10am,) plus a double pack of Grandma’s Homestyle Peanut Butter Cookies from the vending machine. Pizza and cookies – good call, K!
- Signature Spicy, Smoky, Sweet Chili. I’d make a giant batch every Sunday then eat a tupperware full of chili every. single. day. Day after day after day.
- Lean Cuisine Frozen Macaroni and Cheese. I can’t even.
Totally wishing I’d had Apple, Cranberry, Almond Mason Jar Salads with Greek Yogurt Poppy Seed Dressing back then, because this fresh and delicious lunch idea is not only make-ahead — so you’re not tempted to grab pizza for lunch everyday! — but it’s chilled and portable so you don’t have to sit at your desk to eat it!
Seriously, I know frozen meals and heading to a nearby restaurant may seem easier/more exciting than bringing your own boring lunch from home, but I’m telling you, not only are these mason jar salads incredibly economical (I didn’t have to buy a thing to make them,) but they’re fun, fresh, and nutritious. Plus it takes less than 20 minutes to assemble four of these babies, which you can split with someone in your house or keep all for yourself. And if you’re worried about monotony, mix it up! I’ll show you the secret for making sure these salads stay nice and crisp for days in the fridge no matter what toppings you use.
Even if you don’t go with my savory, sweet, crunchy, and chewy combination of fresh celery, apples, sauteed chicken, sliced almonds, green onions, dried cranberries and fresh lettuce, the secret to success is in the layer order.
How to Layer Salads in Jars
- Dressing. First spoon 2-3 Tablespoons dressing in the bottom of a 32oz mason jar.
- Crunchy vegetables. In this case it’s celery, but the rule also applies to radishes, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, etc.
- Fruits and berries. Toss fruit like chopped apples, pears, and berries in next.
- Protein. Chopped chicken, steak, beans, and shrimp are to be placed on top so they don’t get soggy from moisture-rich fruits and vegetables.
- Toppings. Add goodies like dried fruit, fresh herbs, nuts and seeds next.
- Greens. Place delicate, leafy greens on top then screw on the lid.
When it’s time to eat, grab the mason jar from the fridge then give it a big shake and voila! A fresh, nutritious, and vibrant lunch that you can eat anywhere but your desk. Just not your car. I think the only thing sadder than a desk lunch is a car lunch. #speakingfromexperience
Although my “desk” is technically the kitchen counter these days, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate having these mason jar salads ready and waiting in the refrigerator. By the time I get Lincoln settled into his chair and decide what to fix him for lunch, the last thing I want to do is turn around and try and figure out what I’m going to eat. I’d rather be sitting next to him chatting, and these Apple, Cranberry, Almond Mason Jar Salads remove the guesswork so I can do just that!
Start by making the Greek Yogurt Poppy Seed Dressing, which is a cinch to stir together. Combine plain Greek (not regular) yogurt with apple cider vinegar, honey, minced shallot, poppy seeds, salt, and pepper in a bowl then stir until smooth.
Scoop 2-3 Tablespoons dressing into the bottom of 4, 32oz mason jars with lids then top with chopped celery and apples. You can find mason jars everywhere from the grocery store to the hardware store, or you can order them online.
Next layer in chopped chicken that’s been seasoned with garlic salt and pepper then sauteed and cooled completely (or use leftover chicken to make these jars even easier!) followed by sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and chopped green onions. I love this combination of sweet, savory, crunchy, and chewy.
Last step is to fill the mason jars to the top with your greens of choice. I used a mixture of chopped romaine and baby spinach, but you can use whatever you like/have on hand. Last step is to screw on the lids then stash in the fridge. When it’s time to eat, just shake, unscrew, and eat!
I really wanted to share the method for making mason jar salads – start with the dressing followed by crisp vegetables, fruit, protein, toppings, and lettuce – so that said, feel free to jazz up your mason jar salads to your liking. Get creative, and enjoy!
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Apple, Cranberry, Almond Mason Jar Salads
Apple, Cranberry, Almond Mason Jar Salads with homemade Greek Yogurt Poppy Seed Dressing are a fresh and healthy make-ahead lunch option. Filling and delicious!
- 2 chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness
- garlic salt and pepper
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 apples, chopped
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 6-8 cups mixed greens
- 4, 32oz mason jars with lids
- For the Greek Yogurt Poppy Seed Dressing:
- 5oz plain Greek yogurt
- 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 Tablespoon minced shallots
- 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
- salt and pepper
- For the Greek Yogurt Poppy Seed Dressing: Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl then taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Scoop 2-3 Tablespoons dressing into the bottom of each mason jar then set aside.
- Season chicken breasts on both sides with garlic salt and pepper then saute in a nonstick sprayed skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through. Cool completely then chop into bite-sized pieces - can be done ahead of time.
- Divide remaining ingredients evenly then layer in the following order on top of the dressing in the jars: celery, apples, cooled chicken, sliced almonds, dried cranberries, green onions, and lettuce. Screw on lids then store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.