Last week I placed the following photo on Big Red Kitchen’s FaceBook Page and received an overwhelming amount of requests on how I made these Mason Jar Meals. I aim to please…
How many of you have poured over the web looking at this photo or that wishing it was your house, or pantry, or wardrobe, or garden? I do it all the time. It is so easy to click through Pinterest and say, “I wish I had that.” Then I realize, I can have all that by working within my means using what I already have, add a dash of contentment, a splash of money, and a pinch of time. Did you see that word “work”? Yes, it is a naughty little word that has to be done by me to get what I want. I wish that word was “magic” instead. Alas, I have no wand, and the only thing that has followed a wiggle of my nose is a sneeze. Blast!
I have always wanted my refrigerator to look like that photo up there because I was tired of…
1. Wasting food
2. Not knowing what to have for dinner
3. Cooking every night
4. Blah food
5. A messy refrigerator
6. Plastic containers
7. Unhealthy food
8. Coming home from CrossFit ravenous, but too
tired comatose to cook.
With a little work I made it happen.
I have done those once a month cooking marathons in the past and hated it. That style of cooking was not for me. It is great for most, but I was overwhelmed with the magnitude of 10 pounds of cooked chicken needing shredding staring me in the face to the point I put my face and my hands and wept.
What was different this time?
1. I wanted fresh not frozen meals, so “canned” enough for 4 days.
2. I did not make complete meals, some side salads to go with a quick cook protein like a grilled steak.
3. I worked 3 hours only.
4. I used quart, pint, and halfpint mason jars. They are dishwasher safe, re-usable, not plastic, clear to see food through, stain-proof, makes food look delicious, stackable, lids and jars can be purchased separately, help control portions, inexpensive, packable, and by golly, they just plain look cool!
Ready to start?
Purchase and lay out all the food you are going to prepare, and wash and dry your jars and lids. It helps to have a variety of jar sizes giving you different portion options. Meals I knew Himself would take to work went in pint-sized jars, snacks in half pint jars, and larger salads that more than one person would eat, went in the quart-sized jars.
Next, start cooking. But first things first. Make sure your kitchen is clean, your counters are clear, the trash can empty, the dishwasher empty, and you have eaten a good meal. Also drink water as you cook.
Tips on Cooking
1. Roast all your vegetables in one giant aluminum pan, setting your kitchen timer for the items that need to be removed first. In this case I set my timer for 18 minutes for the green beans. The potatoes took another 40 minutes or so.
2. Cut your potatoes or veggies in uniform pieces. Season each as you would like.
3. Roast your meats in the same fashion. I cooked my salmon and chicken together removing the fish after 18 minutes and the chicken at 22 minutes.
4. Multi-task! Fry bacon, boil grains or pastas, and hard cook eggs while the meats and vegetables are roasting.
5. Clean up as you go.
6. All cooked items must cool before placing them in jars or you will wilt salads or cause other items in the jar to get mushy. As things came out of the oven, I placed them on plates to cool, shredded the chicken, and cut the fish in bite-sized chunks.
1. Choose the jar size you are going to work with for a particular meal. Some recipes divide well in half for smaller families, while other recipes would need to be doubled for larger families.
2. Lay out all the ingredients you need for that particular jar meal and start layering the items in the jar with the dressing always on the bottom and more delicate ingredients on the top such as leafy greens or fresh herbs.
3. Make the meals look visually appealing by making the layers look nice and even. The more appealing the meal, the more likely your family will want it!
4. Layering helps also for when the meal is removed from the jar. For example, in my Salmon Niçoise Salad as I removed each layer, I was easily able to remove the potatoes for a bit of heating. Although the salad can be eaten cold or at room temp, I wanted to take the chill off my potatoes.
5. Items that need to remain crispy, like ramen noodles for a chicken ramen salad, store them in a little baggie or container and place with the jarred meal.
6. I am no expert on this, but I am going to keep my jarred meals up to 5-7 days in the refrigerator, anything leftover beyond that goes in the rubbish bin. So eat up!
7. If you choose to freeze these jarred meals, it is the same concept as freezing any meal. Only freeze items that are freezer-friendly. Lettuce does not freeze and be sure the items are cool before freezing or you will have condensation and ice crystals.
Now it is YOUR turn. Think of some meals that would work beautifully as Mason Jar Meals and make them for your family. Start small and work up from there. I have found that I am the type of person that as soon as I get hungry I have to eat that second or my blood sugar drops. These ready-made Mason Jar Meals have kept me from reaching for the chips in those instances. Himself has found this has been a great way to take lunch to work and the bonus, they’re aesthetically pleasing. That’s an inside joke between him and me. Wink.
Tomorrow in Part 2– I have received many emails from my readers about my eating habits, what specifically I had placed in the jars, and how I stay trim. In Part 2 I will give more details about the Mason Jar Meals I made for me and my family, including recipes and some more ideas I have for future Mason Jar Meals. Oh and don’t forget to signup for my feeds, my newsletter, and FB Fan page so you don’t miss a trick!
See you tomorrow.