Tag Archives: health

Jar Lunch: Pesto Quinoa Salad with Smoked Mozzarella

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

I tried to keep it simple this week. Translation: we are still without an oven. Time has been scarce, so I even went for store-bought pesto, although homemade pesto would make this recipe all the more delicious. You could omit the smoked mozzarella to lighten this up a bit, but I’m pretty sure you deserve a little smoked mozzarella. Levi took one bite of this and said, “Is that smoked mozzarella!?!” at which point I knew this one was a keeper.

Pesto Quinoa Salad with Smoked Mozzarella
Makes ten 1-1/3 cup servings

Igredients:
5 cups cooked quinoa
1 bunch asparagus
1 cup pesto, homemade or store-bought
½ cup mayonnaise (light or regular)
1 (10 ounce) package grape tomatoes
1 (12 ounce) package frozen baby lima beans, thawed
1 (13.75 ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
8 ounces smoked fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes

Directions:
For quinoa cooking instructions, this method works great (and 1.5 recipes worth makes a bit more than 5 cups). You can make the quinoa the night before and chill overnight in the fridge. Otherwise, spread the quinoa on a baking sheet to allow it to cool faster.

Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus spears. Cut the spears into 1″ strips and steam for about 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water and spread on a baking sheet to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pesto and mayonnaise. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, and toss until combined and evenly coated.

Please add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr pool for this or any other jar lunches you make!

See our other Jar Lunches here.

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Jar Lunch: Thai Peanut Tofu Spread

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

This is an old recipe of mine that somehow has never made it onto this blog. I love flavored tofu spreads. You can eat them on a bagel, in a wrap or on a sandwich. This recipe would even be good in a fresh spring roll with some lettuce and sprouts. Here we’ve packed it in jars with vegetables and whole wheat flat bread for dipping.

Thai Peanut Tofu Spread
Makes 5 cups (10-15 servings)

20 ounces high protein, extra firm tofu
1-1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon chili paste
1/3 cup tamari
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar*
1 cup shredded carrot
3/4 cup finely diced bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
1/3 cup chopped peanuts or cashews

Directions:
Press the excess liquid out of the tofu. You can watch a quick video on that technique here. I use two cutting boards instead of plates, slice the tofu lengthwise into two thinner pieces, and wrap them in a kitchen towel to absorb the liquid. This step is important, as you want to get rid of the tofu liquid so it can absorb the liquid you are adding to the recipe.

In a food processor, pulse the ginger and garlic until finely minced. You may need to open the food processor and scrape down the sides and pulse again to get all of it minced. Add the peanut butter, coconut milk, chili paste, tamari, rice vinegar, and sugar. Mix in the food processor until thoroughly combined, about one minute.

Cut or tear the tofu into several smaller pieces and add to the peanut mixture. Pulse the food processor until the mixture is combined and the tofu is chopped into small pieces. Leave some texture, as pictured below:

Finally, put the peanut mixture in a medium bowl and fold in the remaining ingredients.

Though we love this stuff on bagels, we packed a jar lunch with about 1/2 cup of tofu spread in a half-pint jar along with a pint jar of carrots & cucumber and another half-pint with triangles of whole wheat flat bread.

Cucumber rounds are great for dipping.

It reminds me of little Levi in kindergarten getting “carrot cookies” from his teacher in the school garden. They were just slices of carrot. That would make these cucumber chips.

*You can substitute a different sweetener of choice, but don’t omit sweetener entirely as it will throw off the balance of flavors.

Please add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr pool for this or any other jar lunches you make!

See our other Jar Lunches here.

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Jar Lunch: Sesame Noodle Salad with Ginger Tofu Cubes

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

I love sesame noodles a little too much. I make a double batch so big it barely fits in our biggest bowl. I don’t know why I don’t make this more often. We use whole grain noodles and lots of ginger baked tofu for protein. A cold noodle salad like this makes an easy jar lunch that you don’t even have to heat before you eat.

Sesame Noodle Salad with Ginger Tofu Cubes
Makes eight pint mason jar lunches

Ingredients:
1/2 pound whole grain spaghetti noodles
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1/2 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced and cut into 1” lengths
2 cups thinly shredded napa cabbage
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced and cut into 1” lengths
1 (15 ounce) can sliced baby corn
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup cashews, toasted* and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 recipe ginger baked tofu (below)

Directions:
Cook the noodles al dente and drain. After draining, rinse with cold water until completely cooled and drain again. Whisk together the honey, tamari, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients. It is best to let the salad marinate in the bowl overnight and toss the salad again. Then pack into eight pint-sized mason jars for lunches.

*To toast the cashews, spread on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 350° F for about 10 minutes, checking on them frequently. When they are done they will be golden and fragrant.

Ginger Baked Tofu

Ingredients:
20 ounces high protein, extra firm tofu
1/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons minced ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon red chili paste

Directions:
Press the excess liquid out of the tofu. You can watch a quick video on that technique here. I use two cutting boards instead of plates, slice the tofu lengthwise into two thinner pieces, and wrap them in a kitchen towel to absorb the liquid.

Once the tofu is pressed, cut it into ½” cubes. Combine all the other ingredients in a medium casserole dish and marinate the tofu in the dish for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Spread the cubes of tofu in a single layer. Put the casserole dish in the oven to bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Turn the tofu with a spatula every 15 minutes.

Please add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr pool for this or any other jar lunches you make!

See our other Jar Lunches here.

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chipotle mashed cauliflower

Years ago in Vegas I ate the most decadent chipotle mashed potatoes at a buffet. I could seriously eat those every single day, and I immediately came home and replicated the recipe. Since we are always looking for new ways to add veggies to our dinner plates, it occurred to me that chipotle mashed cauliflower might be pretty damn good, too.

It is.

chipotle mashed cauliflower
Makes 4 cups

one large head cauliflower (about 2-1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pureed chipotles in adobo*
1 cup shredded white cheddar
1/4 cup milk

Remove the leaves and chop the cauliflower into small florets. Steam in a steamer basket until very soft, about 10 minutes. In a medium sized pot, place the steamed cauliflower, butter, salt, chipotle, cheddar, and one tablespoon of the milk. Puree with an immersion blender, adding the rest of the milk one tablespoon at a time until you achieve the perfect mash texture.

If desired, you can put the mash in an oven-safe dish and place under the broiler with a little additional cheese and/or butter. Sprinkle with some additional cheese, leaving a small well in the center. Broil until golden, remove from oven and place a pat of butter in the well to melt.

*I always keep this in the refrigerator in a jar. Simply buy canned chipotles in adobo and dump them in the blender, stems and all. I usually puree two cans at once.

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Jar Lunch: 7 layer dip with baked tortilla strips

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

If you’re anything like us, you have a taco or burrito night in your dinner repertoire. Here’s a simple lunch to pack with those leftover ingredients. This Jar Lunch has the official teenager seal of approval. Packed in a wide mouth half-pint jar, the less healthy ingredients are portioned. If you have time, make some of my baked tortilla chips, only cut them into strips instead of triangles. Pack with a generous portion of fruits or vegetables like pineapple slices, jicama and carrot sticks, or a green salad.

7 Layer Dip in a Jar

In a wide mouth half-pint mason jar layer:

1/4 cup refried beans
2 tablespoons salsa or pico de gallo
3 tablespoons guacamole
2 tablespoons crema or sour cream
2 tablespoons shredded colby jack cheese
sliced black olives
pickled jalapeño slices

This lunch is easily customizable for those picky eaters. Jess got a layer of shredded cabbage instead of olives. Other layer options: crumbled cotija, scallions, cilantro, lettuce, tomatoes.

Here’s the link to the baked tortilla chips again. If you’re going for healthier, it’s worth the time to make chips that don’t taste like the store-bought cardboard ones. They don’t take long to make, but they do take undivided attention as they go from perfect to burnt in an instant.


about 2-1/2 small corn tortillas worth of chips

Other tips:

  • Thoroughly stir ingredients like guacamole or crema before layering for easier spreading.
  • If you use canned refried beans, add hot sauce and fire roasted diced green chiles to improve the flavor.
  • Simple homemade guacamole is always better: avocado, finely diced jalapeño, fresh lime juice, cilantro, salt.

Enjoy! Please add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr pool for this or any other jar lunches you make!

See our other Jar Lunches here.

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Jar Lunch: Irish Shepherd’s Pie

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

Shepherd’s Pie is already Irish, but this vegetarian version adds bit of Guinness and is topped with colcannon instead of plain ol’ mashed potatoes. Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish with cabbage or kale in mashed potatoes. I’ve used kale here as we still have it in the garden and it adds a festive green touch for St. Patrick’s Day.

This recipe can easily be made vegan with non-dairy margarine and milk & forgoing the optional cheese.

Irish Shepherd’s Pie
Makes six jar lunches in wide-mouth pint jars.

colcannon topping ingredients:
3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (just under 1-1/4 lbs.)
3 (packed) cups chopped kale, tough ribs removed
1 leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
¾ cup milk
1-½ tablespoons butter
¾ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

filling ingredients:
14 ounces vegetarian sausage (such as Gimme Lean), crumbled
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 cup chopped cabbage
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup Guinness
½ cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons vegetarian Worcestershire
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

optional topping:
6 tablespoons shredded Dubliner cheese or sharp white cheddar

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Prepare the colcannon:
Peel the potatoes and chop into large cubes. Place in a medium-sized pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over high heat, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer about 15 minutes, until the potatoes begin to break apart when poked with a fork. Drain the potatoes, return to the pot, mash thoroughly and cover.

While the potatoes are cooking, bring the kale, leek, milk, butter, salt, and nutmeg to a simmer in a small pot. Keep covered and stir occasionally until soft, 10-12 minutes. Add the kale mixture to the mashed potatoes and stir to combine. Keep covered while you prepare the filling.

Prepare the filling:
Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the vegetarian sausage crumbles. Cook until browned. Set sausage aside on a plate.

Put ½ tablespoon olive oil in the same pan used for the sausage. Add onion, garlic, celery, carrot, cabbage, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Saute for 10-12 minutes, until soft. Add flour and stir until veggies are evenly coated. Next add the Guinness, broth, and Worcestershire and cook until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Add the sausage, peas, and parsley and continue to cook until combined and warmed through. Remove the bay leaf.

Fill the jars:
Divide the filling evenly between six wide-mouth pint mason jars (a little over a cup in each jar). A jar funnel is very helpful for this step but not required. Next divide the colcannon topping evenly between the six jars (just over ½ cup in each jar).

Bake the filled jars:
Place jars on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 400° F for 20 minutes. Remove the sheet with jars from the oven, and switch setting to broil.

Add cheese as an optional topping. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon at the top of each jar. Return baking sheet and jars to the oven under the broiler. Watch closely while broiling. Allow the cheese (or colcannon if you didn’t add cheese) to turn golden, approximately 1-3 minutes.

Cool completely before putting lids on the jars and refrigerating.

Next time I make this, I’m doubling it and freezing half!

If you try this recipe or any of the other Jar Lunches, don’t forget to add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr Group. Flickr users, please join! Show off your own clever jar lunches.

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Jar Lunch: crustless quiches 3 ways

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

This week’s Jar Lunch is individual crustless quiches in three flavors so your family won’t get bored: rosemary tomato, broccoli cheddar, and pea & leek.

For this recipe you’ll need my absolute favorite jar, the half-pint wide mouth mason jar.


half-pint wide mouth mason jar

These jars are perfect for preserves like jam, but they truly are versatile as you can use them in place of an 8-ounce ramekin for just about any recipe. The bonus is you can see your food from all sides!

Crustless Quiche in a Jar 3 Ways: Rosemary Tomato, Broccoli Cheddar, and Pea & Leek

Makes 8 individual quiches.

Ingredients:
butter for greasing jars
12 eggs
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Filling options (choose one):
Option one: Rosemary Tomato
(this option requires extra prep time)
8 medium tomatoes
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups halved, thinly sliced onions
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, torn into small pieces
4 ounces crumbled feta

OR

Option two: Broccoli Cheddar
20 ounces frozen broccoli florets
6 ounces sharp cheddar, grated
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

OR

Option three: Pea & Leek
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 tablespoon butter
4 medium leeks, sliced (white & light green parts only)
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
3/4 cup shredded parmesan

Instructions
1. Prepare chosen quiche fillings according to directions found below.

2. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly butter 8 half-pint wide mouth mason jars and place them on a rimmed baking sheet.

3. Beat together eggs, half-and-half, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Mix in the prepared fillings along with cheese and fresh herbs or spices listed for your chosen quiche flavor. Using a ladle, divide evenly between the eight mason jars. Though not required, a jar funnel makes this job a little easier.

4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until set and golden on top. Allow to cool completely before putting on lids and refrigerating.

Preparing fillings:

Rosemary tomato: If you opt for the tomato quiches, roasting will take an additional 45 minutes of prep time. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats. Slice the tomatoes, and spread evenly over the prepared baking sheets. Roast for 35-45 minutes, until most of the liquid is gone and tomatoes begin to caramelize. Roughly chop the tomatoes after they have cooled.

Meanwhile, heat a medium pan over medium high heat and then melt one tablespoon butter. Sauté the onions until soft and golden, 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Broccoli Cheddar: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the broccoli florets, and cook for one minute. Drain well and remove excess water with paper towels. Roughly chop.

Pea & Leek: Heat a medium pan over medium-high heat and then melt one tablespoon butter. Sauté the leeks until soft, 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.

Show us your jar lunches! We have created a Flickr pool for everyone to share. What are you packing in your mason jars? Go here to join the Flickr Group and add your photos!

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