Experimenting with Mason Jar Salads

During the summer, I crave salads of all kinds. Discovering the trend of Mason Jar Salads or Salad in a Jar was like a godsend for my summer work lunches. These have been all over Pinterest lately. They caught my attention because they looked like an effective way to bring an interesting salad without having a lunchbox full of separate containers for each ingredient. — So, I had to do an experiment to see if these salads in a jar would actually work.

One of my mason jar salads

One of my mason jar salads

I didn’t go out and buy mason jars. I live in the South and I’m crafty – I just used spare mason jars that I had hiding out in my kitchen. A lot of blogs posts about these salads marvel at how cheap these jars are. Yes, you can get a dozen for approximately $10.00 – but make sure that you pick up a set with both jars and lids. From my experience, the jars and the lids are usually sold separately.

Most of the salad in a jar recipes called for quart mason jars. Using a quart mason jar for a salad just seemed like a little much to me (that is 4 cups of salad!); instead, I used pint mason jars (only 2 cups of salad). After eating my very filling mason jar salads, I cannot imagine having a quart jar full of salad for lunch.

From jar to bowl - and only two cups

From jar to bowl – and only two cups

I made each of my salads the night before but supposedly, these can be made days in advance if you layer correctly. Based on my experiment with these salads, I would only make a lot in advance if you have very fresh ingredients.

How to Layer Your Jar Salad

The key to these salads is to keep the greens separate from the liquid or dressing. The Skinny Mom’s Kitchen suggests giving the jar a quick wipe with a paper towel and completely drying all ingredients before you start to assembly (to reduce the liquid in the jar). Try to not get the dressing on the sides of jar – or your salad will wilt before you eat it.

This helped me a lot in making my salads in a jar.

The basic layering of the salad in the jar is dressing, hearty bits, lighter bits, and greens on top. The Paleo Mama blog suggested that cut tomatoes should be at the bottom of the jar due to their higher water content — which worked perfectly! Whatever you put near the dressing, be prepared to have it marinated in the dressing. I had to push my cut tomatoes into the dressing to get enough lettuce for a healthy salad. A few blogs have the lighter bits (such as nuts, seeds, or cheese) on top of the greens, but I like the look of having those ingredients just below the greens.

None of the blog posts that I found mention cutting your greens prior to putting them into the jars.  However,  if you cut your greens, then you can put more into the jar and get a fuller salad.

Once you finish layering your jar, you store it up-right in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat it.

My Experiment Experience

By using the pint jars, I didn’t have any difficulty in getting the jars to stay up-right in the commute to work. The pint jars are small enough to fit into a lunch bag and still have room in the bag for dessert.

I didn’t notice any texture or flavor issues. By making the salads each night, nothing stayed too long in the dressing. I didn’t have any issues with the bacon but I made sure to place it closer to lettuce than the dressing. I like chewy bacon and my bacon seemed to stay chewy.

I didn’t use any recipes for my salads. I just layered whatever sounded interesting each day. Of my more interesting combinations, I ended up with a caesar turkey club and southwestern turkey salad.

My favorite part of these salads is pouring them out into a bowl at lunch. Due to the layering, the salads look like something you would get at a restaurant. It wouldn’t be impossible to eat the salad out of a wide mouth jar but I prefer eating it out of a bowl. To ease the hassle of carrying two containers for your salad, you could buy some paper bowls to keep at work.

Absolutely delicious!

Absolutely delicious!

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Wordless Wednesday: Whovian Dessert

Yes, every Whovian needs some fish fingers and custard especially when this past weekend was the Dr. Who season premiere.

Yes, every Whovian needs some fish fingers and custard especially when this past weekend was the Dr. Who season premiere.

My dear husband made these from the Bakingdom blog.

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Quest for the Fried Chicken Liver of My Childhood

Before I started this blog, I didn’t feel that I was all that Southern.  I was born and raised in the South.  I knew what chocolate gravy was (and I could make), but I didn’t talk particularly Southern and I didn’t identify with most Southern stereotypes.  However, over the past year, I have found that I am distinctly Southern especially in my food cravings.

This past weekend, I was craving fried chicken livers.  However, Kroger seemed to have removed all of the chicken livers for frozen turkeys.  Just because Thanksgiving was next week did not mean that these little gems should be removed from the meat section. Luckily, I was able to find some after looking around (and three trips to the grocery store).

My own delicious version

Fried chicken livers are a Southern staple.  When I was little, almost every restaurant (non-chain restaurant) had fried chicken livers on the menu. There was a fried chicken place near the gas station on the way to my grandparent’s house that would sell fried chicken livers by the pound.  I even knew a few places that would spice up the livers with garlic and cayenne pepper. 

Livers taste different from gizzards.  To me, the gizzard tastes like you are eating sand; it’s a very coarse texture.  Livers are smoother.  It’s like biting into the tenderest piece of meat that you have ever eaten.  The flavor of the liver is so strong that after a few bites, you feel like you have eaten enough to last more than a few hours.

Since I’ve lived away from home, I have had to figure out how to cook this dish myself. It’s hard to find a restaurant that serves them or cooks them properly.  Plus, not just any liver will do – – You should never use livers that are yellowish in color; livers for cooking should only be bright red.  Yellowish livers are sub-par and I don’t even waste the effort on sub-par livers (the flavor isn’t there in livers this color and results in disappointing dishes).

There are a few ways to cook livers – battered and deep-fried, battered and sautéed, and sautéed.  Deep-frying livers is a talent; you need very hot oil and can’t leave the livers in the oil too long (oil-logged livers are not tasty treats).  I lost my gallbladder a few years so deep-frying is always off the table, but I have figured out a good way to make them which tastes almost as good as the deep-fried livers from my childhood. My recipe has been a lot of trial and error with improvements from my mother and the internet.   I never use specific measurements when I cook these but this is the closest to what I do.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of chicken livers (only use the bright red ones) (do not diced or cut)
  • Flour
  • 1 large egg
  • Milk (1/4 to 1/2 cup)
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Apron

Directions

  1. Rinse the livers off.  Any dark blood should be rinsed off before any other preparations are done.
  2. In a small bowl, mix 1 egg and milk together well.  I always grind some pepper into the mix.  In another small bowl, pour about 1/2 cup of flour and grind some pepper into the flour.  Add the livers to the egg mixture to coat.
  3. Pour about 3-5 tablespoons of olive oil into a skillet (I always approximate the oil and add more if it cooks off).  When the skillet and oil are hot, remove a couple of livers from the egg mixture and add to the flour.  Coat the livers well and shake any excess flour off.  Place the livers into the skillet.
  4. Livers pop when they are cooking so always wear an apron and do not stand over the livers while they are cooking. 
  5. Cook the livers on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes per side or until they are golden brown. Cooked liver has a gray-brown color to it (grayer than cooked hamburger).
  6. Place on a paper towel lined plate to cool.
  7. Serve with ketchup.

The recipe can be made omitting the batter and simply sauteing them.  It works wonders for a dinner in a hurry.

Enjoy!!

Breakfast Miracle or The One Where I Invent a Recipe

The other morning, I was craving something easy for breakfast that Z didn’t have to cook – and I thought of a pinterest recipe that I saw a few months ago with a bacon cup. However, I couldn’t find the recipe that morning [or since then] and ended up producing this breakfast miracle.

Breakfast Miracle!!!

Ingredients

  • Bread slices, toasted [One slice makes two]
  • Uncooked bacon sliced [I used center cut bacon]
  • Shredded cheese
  • Eggs
  • Canola spray
  • Optional: Salt, pepper, or chives
  • Muffin tin
  • Small cookie cutter

Directions

  1. Using a small cookie cutter, cut out toast.  Pre-heat oven to 350-400.
  2. Spray the inside of the muffin tins and place a toast cut out into the muffin tin.

    Toast First …

  3. Wrap bacon around the edges of the muffin tin.

    Bacon next …

  4. Add cheese to the toast.

    Ignore the blurry cheese

  5. Crack one egg into each muffin tin.  Add cheese and any other optional ingredients.

    Everything else pre-baking …

  6. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes.  Serve with coffee and OJ.

Z and I were treated to one amazing breakfast that I could eat without silverware.  I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did.

Southern as Chocolate Gravy

While I was born and raised in the South, I only have a few mannerisms that scream Southern.  My family recipe for chocolate gravy is definitely one of them.

Bowl of Chocolate Gravy

When I was little, my maternal grandmother would make this dish for the family whenever it started to get chilly outside or just for me whenever I was sick.  She told me that she got the recipe from her mother, Rosella (or Rose Zella), and that when her father remarried after her mother’s death, she had to teach her step-mother how to make it.  My great-grandfather ate chocolate gravy every morning for breakfast in a big bowl with butter or poured over his buttermilk biscuits.

When I moved away for law school, I made my grandmother write down the recipe so that I could make it when I was homesick.  Everyone would make faces at me whenever I ate it wrapped up in a blanket on cold, snowy Fayetteville days.

Recently, I talked Z into trying it.  He was the first guy that I have dated that actually saw the tastiness of chocolate gravy [while he maintains that it should only be eaten over pancakes or biscuits].

Mmmmmmm

Chocolate Gravy

Ingredients for One Serving

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Hershey’s cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons flour

Mix the dry ingredients very well.  Press out any lumps of flour or cocoa. [My grandma demanded that you sift the ingredients for the best results.] Boil water until you have a rolling boil.  Slowly pour in the dry ingredients and stir until thick.

Enjoy over biscuits or in a large bowl with a teaspoon (or tablespoon if you are feeling decadent) of butter.

Recipe: Tilapia Tacos with Sauce & Salsa

Wednesday night, I was craving fish tacos for some odd reason, but I didn’t have a standard recipe that I could use.  So, the internet surfing starting looking for a recipe that sounded delicious and appetizing.  I ended up finding a recipe for Tilapia Soft Tacos with Chipotle Cream, but I knew that it would need some adjustments before I could eat it.  And that is what I did …

Tilapia Tacos with Chipotle Sauce & Avocado Salsa

Ingredients

  • Soft taco/fajita tortillas (approx. 8 – corn or flour are both great)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon pepper
  • 1.5 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Approx. 1 pound of tilapia filets
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Mixed greens

Chipotle Cream Sauce

  • 1/4 can chipotle chiles in adobo (mince after opening)
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) non-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Avocado Salsa

  • 1 small avocado, diced
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • 1-2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Optional: sliced green onions &/or chopped fresh jalapeno peppers

Directions

  1. Mix the Chipotle Cream Sauce ingredients in a bowl. Add the chipotle slowly to make sure that the cream sauce isn’t too hot for your tastes.  I used roughly 1/4 of the can and Z actually told me that it was spicy.
  2. Combine the ingredients for the salsa and set aside.
  3. In a skillet set at medium-high heat, add the seven ingredients from the olive oil through the cilantro. Saute those ingredients for 5 minutes.
  4. After the 5 minutes, add the tilapia and cover and cook for 3 minutes or until fish is fully cooked. Then add in lime juice and let cook for 1 additional minute.  I placed my fish over the cilantro mixture and flipped the fish roughly 1.5 minute into cooking.  It might smell like the cilantro mixture & fish is burning, but it’s just blackening and will be fine.  When adding the lime juice, there will be steam; Be careful.
  5. Remove the fish from the pan and shred the fish into small pieces (think of the consistency of homemade taco meat).
  6. Heat the tortillas according to their package instructions.  Place mixed greens and fish on the center of each tortilla. Top with Chipotle Cream Sauce and Avocado Salsa.
  7. Fold to form tacos and enjoy.

I served these tacos with Mexican rice, but I’m sure that they would taste delicious with another side dish.  Z said that the tacos tasted delicious with the rice inside of the tacos.

If anyone tries this recipe alternation, let me know.  I would love to see how someone else adjusts the recipe for their family.