Jar Salads & the Lunchtime Dilemma

Okay, I’m 49 this year, which means I’ve been working my fair share of years…so this is not my first rodeo with the “what should I take for lunch” question. Many of my colleagues have something quick from the Costco freezer section, or leftovers from the night before, or a couple of simple things they’ve thrown in a bag in the morning, like a banana, hard boiled eggs, a granola bar. But I love food and fun meals and something interesting during my “30-minute duty-free lunch” to which I’m contractually entitled, which actually isn’t 30 minutes at all after I’ve talked to three or four students, closed my classroom and gone to the bathroom. It’s more like 20 minutes, but I digress.

Before Teaching (heretofore known as BT), I worked for a university and enjoyed hour-long lunch dates at great, fun restaurants. For years, the topic of conversation between my best-friend-at-the-time and me was, “where are we going for lunch.” I loved the options–Le Le Thai & Vietnamese, Europa Bistro, Gateway to India, Primo Grill, E-9.

Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh! That was my stomping ground and I am both starving and missing Tacoma just thinking about all the great lunch options. Needless to say I expect a little more for lunch than a yogurt and crackers. But making lunch? Not my favorite thing. Until I stumbled upon this idea of making salad ahead in a jar. You’ve heard of this, right? The jar salad?

My first jar salad was a tex-mex take-off, and I learned rule one of jar salads: Do not put quinoa on the bottom with the dressing. Seriously. Soaks everything right up. I tried the Cilantro Lime Fajita Salad (cleaneatingrecipes.com). Not written for a jar, so I decided to wing it. I thought quinoa with cumin and smoked paprika would be fun because I’ve seen quinoa in “Bowls” a lot (also a rage right now), and I swapped shrimp for the chicken. Unfortunately, I layered the quinoa on top of the dressing, so when I turned it upside down at lunch to “dress” the salad, the dressing “dressed” nothing. It didn’t move. It suffered from a lack of enthusiasm, perhaps. It tasted great, but the lackluster performance of the vinaigrette dampened my enthusiasm. My second attempt was much better as I layered things better when I made CleanFoodCrush’s Mediterranean Chicken Salad (cleanfoodcrush.com). Yum-O. I’ve made it three times, now.

My next attempts at jar salad? I’m going to retrofit these salads & bowls into a jar salad format and have my lunch “to go.”

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