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!

Wordless Wednesday: 2012 Christmas Cards

Nothing is better than having Christmas Cards ready before November 30th.

As many of you know, I have a special relationship with Christmas cards.  Instead of crafting or self-designing our Christmas cards for 2012, I took a chance and ordered cards from Minted.com based on @evolvedmommy’s blog post.  She is completely correct about these cards – amazing paper quality and beauitful designs.  As to the actual design of our Christmas cards, the world will have to wait until December 1 per the Christmas Card Rules. 

This is a picture of the thickness of my 50 cards and envelopes.

Ode to My Kindle Fire

Disclaimer:  I am not being paid or receiving any free merchandise due to this post.  This is my personal opinion and it is not being influenced from any outside sources.

I love books and reading.  As a child, I would see in the sun on a summer day and read or read in the car on the way to a family event.  Yet, when I finished law school, the last thing that I wanted to do was read a book for personal pleasure.  After 3 years of reading at least 150 pages per night, I was tired of reading.  I still read the occasionally trashy romance novel for relaxation, but my reading never came close to the amount that I read prior to law school.

For Christmas, my parents bought me a Kindle Fire and a $50 gift card to buy books.  I used up the gift card over 2 months ago and I am still reading.  Between Christmas and now, I have finished reading 7 entire books and I am working on 2 more (Kitchen Confidential and Belle Du Jour: Diary of An Unlikely Call Girl – which is the book/blog that Showtime’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl is based on).

I love that my desire to read is back.  I love that I can’t lose my bookmark in my bag or mess up the book.  I don’t have to worry about  having to look up a word (highlight a word and the definition pops up).  The Kindle is fairly light and not bulky like some books are; it’s barely bigger than my hand and less than an inch deep.  I can use Amazon Prime and read books for free.  The controls are easy and I can change the look (font and color) of the books to my taste.  Everything is so convenient.

My favorite part about my Kindle is that I can email my personal documents to it.  All of those knitting patterns are no longer folded and crumpled up at the bottom of my bag; they are stored away for use in my Kindle where I can enlarge the image and scroll through the pattern at my leisure.  As I finish projects, I can delete the pattern from the device and store it in my Kindle Library for future reference.  My thesis proposal is stored on it as well.  Now I can look through it and make notes at the drop of the hat.  I can download all of the pdf articles that I am using for research for easy reference.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for this amazing gift!  I never thought that I would use it as much as I have.

Now, I think I’m going to the porch to continue reading … 🙂

A Revolutionary Veal: Che and The Motorcycle Diaries

When I was in college, it seemed like all of the college students had Che Guevara stenciled, etched, or screen printed to something that they carried everything.  But after watching The Motorcycle Diaries, I don’t think they understood who they were plastering themselves with.

The Motorcycle Diaries is a 2004 movie distributed by Focus Features which is based upon the travelogue The Motorcycle Diaries written by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara (published 1996)[with some supplemental context from Traveling with Che Guevara: The Making of a Revolutionary by Alberto Granado (published 2004)].  The movie is entirely in Spanish with English subtitles.

In 1952, Ernesto Guevara is an asthmatic medical student who decides to take a semester off to travel South America with his biochemist friend, Alberto Granado.  Their original plan is go from Buenos Aires through Chile, Peru, Columbia, and Venezuela on a motorcycle ( which they dub ‘The Mighty One’) in 4 months.  Unfortunately, they have several mishaps with their motorcycle and they don’t end up making it to Venezuela until July.

Along their journey, they encounter the disparity among the classes and see how those in poverty are treated.  They meet a couple who are persecuted from their political beliefs and watch the unfair treatment of workers.  They witness the indigenous-built beauty of Machu Pichu and the urban decay of Lima.  They spend three weeks volunteering in a leper colony where Guevara refuses to wear gloves when dealing with the victims of leprosy.

It was interesting to watch a young privileged man in the 1950s awaken to the injustices of his world.  At one point in the movie, Granado talks about staging a revolution by marrying an indigenous woman and encouraging indigenous people to vote and Guevara replies, “A revolution without guns?  It will never work.”  He started as a doctor and ended his life as a militia political leader through Latin America.  Throughout the movie, you can see Guevara’s political beliefs take shape and crystallize.  Interestingly, Ernesto and Alberto get the nickname Che in Chile due to how they pronounce a word.

If you haven’t seen The Motorcycle Diaries, I would highly recommend it.  Perhaps the Occupy Wall Street movement should understand Che in order to understand their true cause.

The only side effect of watching the movie is that I can’t get this song out of my head.

Custom Fabric Testing

My friend picked maps and travel for her nursery theme.  Pair that with teal and chocolate-brown and you have a recipe for disaster.  This disaster is not caused by the theme or the colors, but by the difficulty in finding appropriate fabric for a swaddling blanket.

At least until I discovered the many possibilities of digital printing fabric.  I stumbled upon this blog post  from 2009 which compares the major digital printing fabric companies (Spoonflower, Fabric On Demand, Karma Craft & Eye Candey [which was no longer accessible]).  After reviewing the post and comparison chart, I decided to use Spoonflower for the super special secret baby blanket.  Spoonflower has been around longer than the other sites and had the best results from the blogger.  Spoonflower also is the only site with an online community which includes contests and a fabric of the week.  I liked the website interface better than the others; it was easier to use for me and seemed to encourage your creativity as opposed to simply being a service for fee.

I uploaded my image and altered the design size. I tried to make the image bigger on the fabric by increasing the number of dpi from the default of 150 to 300 (I’m not sure if this will help).  I also changed my pattern to have a half drop repeat and order a test swatch (8″ x 8″) to see if the design will be right without alterations. The price for a test swatch was $5.00 for your basic quilting cotton fabric with a $1.00 shipping/handling fee.  I should receive the test swatch in about 6 to 7 days … but in the meantime, my fingers are crossed that everything turns out perfect!

If the fabric turns out ok, I will probably end up buying this squirrel fabric for another friend’s upcoming bundle of joy, this roller derby fabric for another, and this mushroom fabric for yet another.