Like so many of us, I struggle with maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. With its abundance of fresh produce, summer encourages me to eat healthy and lose weight. As the Ella Fitzgerald song declares its “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.” I am finding that summertime livin’ is definitely easier when I spend a few hours prepping fruits and veggies. Long before the resurgence of the popularity of Mason jars, I’ve been using them for food storage. When my refrigerator is stocked with fresh fruits and veggies from my local farmers’ markets I can just open my fridge, grab a healthy choice and go.
A refrigerator well stocked with jars of salads, cut veggies and fruit helps me stay on track.
One of my new go to salads is a seven layer Mason jar salad I found in the lifestyles section of my local newspaper.
Seven-Layer Mason Jar Salads*
- 1 head iceberg lettuce or baby iceberg lettuce, chopped
- 2 shallots, cut into thin rings
- 10 ounce package frozen green peas, thawed and drained
- 1 cup thinly sliced celery
- 4 ounces of diced pancetta, cooked until crisp
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup light mayonnaise
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
In the bottom of each Mason jar, layer a quarter of the lettuce, then the shallots, peas and celery, in that order.
In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, scallions, vinegar and rosemary, then spread a quarter of it over each salad.
Finish each salad with the crisped pancetta and Parmesan cheese. Can be covered and refrigerated for up to 48 hours. If refrigerated, let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
*Recipe as originally appeared in the April 17, 2015 edition of The Eagle Tribune; article by Elizabeth Karmel of the Associated Press.
My ingredients for the salads and salad dressing lined up on my counter.
Coarsely chop a head of lettuce. The recipe calls for iceberg lettuce or baby iceberg, I opted for iceberg; but you could as easily have used Bibb or romaine.
Thinly slice stalks of celery. Notice the bottom slice of celery is my normal cut but in this salad I sliced the celery to about a third of my usual thick cut.
The recipe calls for one cup of thinly sliced celery, I used a generous cup.
Rinse and spin the chopped lettuce in a salad spinner before assembling the salad jars.
Slice shallots into thin rings. I used a combination of shallots and Vidalia onions as both deliver a milder, less pungent onion flavor.
Lettuce, celery and shallots prepped and ready to layer in Mason jars.
Layer one quarter of the lettuce on the bottom of each Mason jar; filling each jar about a third to a half way full with lettuce.
Add a layer of thinly slices shallots or Vidalia onions on top of the lettuce layer.
Drain and spin peas in a salad spinner.
Place a quarter of the peas on top of each layer of onions.
Mason jars are popping with the vibrancy of the green peas and lettuce.
Top the peas with a layer of thinly sliced celery.
The recipe calls for pancetta. I substituted bacon. Pictured is about a quarter of a pound of bacon sizzling in my skillet.
Set the crisped bacon or pancetta aside.
A sprig of fresh rosemary on chopping board.
Hold the sprig with one hand while moving the other hand swiftly down the sprig to remove the rosemary leaves.
Mince the rosemary.
Measure one teaspoon to be used in salad dressing.
The salad dressing recipe calls for two scallions, I used three; living on the wild side.
Chop the scallions.
Measure out ½ cup of mayonnaise. The recipe calls for light mayonnaise. I did not have any so I used regular mayonnaise – let’s not get all crazy with this healthy living kick. Besides I’m not always convinced that the lower fat option is always the best option. Oftentimes low fat products are filled with chemical additives to add flavor. In my book, the additives negate the health benefits of reduced fat.
Add cider vinegar, scallions and rosemary to the mayonnaise.
Thoroughly mix together the mayonnaise mixture.
Top each salad with one quarter of the salad dressing.
Top the salad dressing with ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese. Do not use the finely grated parmesan as I used in my initial batch. I did not read the recipe closely and thought the Parmesan went into the salad dressing not on top of it. Finely grated Parmesan is powdery and is like ingesting sawdust. I made it work by mixing it with the dressing to absorb the cheese. The recipe means freshly grated or coarsely grated cheese with a consistency similar to what is sold as taco or pizza toppings in the dairy aisle of the grocery store.
Chop the cooked bacon or pancetta.
Top each salad with crisp bacon or pancetta; and enjoy.
Instead of bacon or pancetta, I’ve considered topping the salads with toasted pecans or Asian noodles for a crunch factor. As the original recipe indicates a variety of “dry” vegetables, nuts, seeds, dried fruit or croutons can be added to the salad to make it your own creation.
I’ve made this salad in a jar several times. Instead of the dressing in the recipe (because I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand), I’ve substituted Ken’s Steak House Sweet Vidalia Onion dressing and Stop & Shop’s Limoncello Vinaigrette. Both worked well. I’d like to find or develop my own homemade versions of these salad dressings; any opportunity to remove a processed food item from my diet equates into a healthier me.
This salad in a jar is definitely a keeper. It’s portable and delicious. I’ve taken it to the softball field and to pool parties already this summer so I have a fresh, healthy food option.