Converted

Salad-in-a-jar is definitely not a “new” thing, but I always took it for an absurd fad. Why on earth,” I thought, “would someone need to put their salad, dressing and all, in a jar to carry it to work for lunch?” And, “Wouldn’t the salad get wilted and soggy by lunchtime?” I couldn’t fathom that putting the dressing on the bottom first would solve the problem. I couldn’t open my mind to the fact that since so many people had already done it, ergo it obviously works.

So I always just packed a big, square, clunky container (that never quite fit in any lunchbag so I had to lug an oh-so-attractive grocery sack for my lunch that day) with a small one for dressing on the side. Forget that an icepack was terribly inconvenient for this too. There I was with my big, awkward container silently judging (pretending I wasn’t jealous of) those gals who really had it together with their tidy jars, that fit perfectly in their lunchbags, with their appealing salads never knowing what I was really missing out on. Until recently…

My church was one that reopened as soon as phase one was rolled out in my state (while studiously following all the recommendations from our Governor in how to conduct ourselves), so we have been celebrating the rejoining together of the believers for a couple weeks now. We have all truly missed one another. I serve in one of the children’s areas, which means I frequently need to be there early for set-up. Often for us who volunteer, this means running from work with little time to change/refresh ourselves/grab a bite to eat on weeknights.

Friday night, was one of those nights where we had a special ladies night and, you guessed it! It was my turn to serve! I always look forward to my times of serving. The children are a blessing to be around and due to recordings, I am still able to catch the message the next day. My dinner habits on special service nights tends to look like the aforementioned infelicitous Rubbermaid container of leftovers or a salad or some unhealthy drive-thru. It’s always an awkward size and I look a little awkward walking through the church atrium with it. Afterwards, I look just as awkward toting soiled, empty plastic containers home again. In the words of the stereotypical TV infomercial host, “There’s gotta’ be a better way!”

I often reject trends if I think they’re ridiculous or unflattering. There is no celebrity or friend out there who can get me on board with high-waisted “mom jeans.” I was finally liberated from being strangled by them towards the end of the 90s and I’m not going back! Often I don’t want to “like” something just because it’s trendy. I want to like it because it bears true, intrinsic value or that it is in fact aesthetically pleasing. Friday night, I finally relented and decided to try out this whole salad-in-a-jar thing. Of course it was presented by Reese Witherspoon as a “Vegetable Plate-in-a-Jar” from her book Whiskey in a Teacup. Sometimes, I think maybe it takes the right delivery to get me on board with some ideas in the end.

After receiving Reese’s book as a Christmas gift, I poured through it nearly in one sitting! It’s bright and breezy, but simultaneously rich with treasured anecdotes from her youth about growing up in Nashville. It inspires and motivates me in various ways and it’s lovingly woven with personal and familial recipes for various occasions. The Vegetable Plate-in-a-Jar recipe comes from a menu entitled “Summer on the Porch.” The whole menu reflects lighter sips and bites for the quintessential hot Summer days here in the South.

Ingredients:
1sm shallot, minced
Pinch kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper
3tbsp red wine vinegar (or ACV)
1/3c EVOO
1tbsp chopped fresh basil
2c shredded Romaine hearts (or butter lettuce)
1c diced yellow bell pepper (or preferred color)
1c halved cherry tomatoes (or Sprinkles)
1c cooked peas (I just boiled frozen ones for 5min. Drained & rinsed in cool water.)
1c diced celery (I like to chop some of the leaves into the mix for added flavor)
1/2c sliced green onions (or 1/4c rough chopped chives)
1/2c crumbled feta (or goat cheese)

Instructions:
1) Combine shallot, S&P, and vinegar in a shaker and set aside to soften the shallot while you cook the peas. After the peas are cooked, add the oil and basil into the shaker and give it a good shake to combine. Set aside.
2) Divide the salad ingredients evenly among 4 pint-size Mason jars starting with the lettuce. Next add the bell peppers, tomatoes, peas, celery, and scallions/chives. Finish with the cheese and dressing. Screw on the lids and give a little turn back and forth to each jar to allow the dressing to trickle down while still leaving the layers in tact. Refrigerate an hour or two prior to serving.
3) To make these more ideal for longer wait times, just reverse the order of the ingredients!

It’s a refreshing menu replete with “Sun Tea” and “Frozen Fruit Salad” among other light nibbles. I have only made a couple of the recipes so far, but they seem approachable and yet still exciting. This one in particular was obviously the simplest, but no less appealing. And it turned on a little light bulb within. The ingredients in this dish are layered like one would expect, but this one wasn’t meant to travel since the dressing is drizzled over top. It’s no matter. The seed was sown. I traveled (not too far) with it anyway and it honestly was so enjoyable for dinner that night that I plan to incorporate more salads-on-the-go in the future.

I will, of course, take heed from others and put the dressing and heavier toppings on bottom first (just reversing the above), but I definitely intend to make more of a habit out of these. So I’m late to the trend. Oh well! What trends have you succumbed to later than the rest of the crowd?

Currently Reading: Passionate Nutrition: A Guide to Using Food as Medicine from a Nutritionist Who Healed Herself from the Inside Out by Jennifer Adler, MS, CN

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