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Jar Lunch: Polenta with Cream Cheese & Chives

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.

Oh my gosh, it’s Friday! I went to bed last night convinced it was Wednesday. This post was already a week late thanks to a trip to urgent care last week. Everyone is okay, except possibly my gallbladder. We have been absentee bloggers as we’ve moved from one project to the next in our house and yard. Sadly, the blog and garden have been neglected. I do have a new Jar Lunch for you, however!

Sometimes new ideas come about from leftovers. Instead of trying to make a creamy polenta packed with milk and heavy cream, I decided to try stirring in a little cream cheese and fresh chives. It was a hit, and stores perfectly in a pint-sized jar. You can make them ahead, store in the fridge and add your favorite toppings later.

Polenta with Cream Cheese & Chives
Makes six small servings

4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup yellow corn meal
6 tablespoons cream cheese
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Directions:
In a medium sauce pan, bring water and salt to a boil. Add the corn meal slowly while whisking. Reduce to low heat and simmer about 10 minutes, stirring frequenly, until thickened.

Turn off heat and stir in cream cheese and chives until fully incorporated. Using a jar funnel, divide the mixture between six pint-sized mason jars. Allow to cool, then refrigerate until set.

You can put just about anything on top of polenta. This week we opted for vodka sauce, sauteed mushrooms, Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs, and a little parmesan.

Next time, I’m taking a cue from the store bought tubes of polenta and adding some cooked quinoa for a healthier grain. And perhaps a poached egg on top!

xo Krista

See our other Jar Lunches here.

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Jar Lunch: PB & J

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.

Instead of the standby lunch sandwich, how about a peanut butter and jelly yogurt parfait? If you are skeptical about peanut butter in yogurt, I understand. I’ve tried it before to not-so-great results. This lunch was inspired by Levi, who taught me that peanut butter and jam yogurt really works. We eat plain yogurt with homemade jam just about every single day, and he decided to add some peanut butter. I went with his discovery and just added fruit.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Yogurt Parfait

Ingredients per lunch:
3/4 cup fresh fruit (sliced strawberries, blackberries, blueberries)
1 tablespoon jam
one cup plain yogurt
1 heaping tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon sweetener (sugar, cane syrup, agave, honey)

Directions:
In one bowl, combine fruit and jam until evenly coated. In another bowl, whisk together yogurt, peanut butter, and sweetener. Layer fruit and yogurt into pint-sized mason jars.

All that is missing here is a sprinkling of granola.

Next time I’m going to have to try Elvis-style, with bananas and honey.

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: Homemade Pudding Cups

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 won’t turn down a Snack Pack, but nothing from the store compares to homemade pudding. Why not pack it in jars for lunch? Add a little whipped cream – even better. Any half-pint jar will do. If you can’t get the wide mouth half-pints, this would be adorable in the quilted jelly jars.

Being huge fans of lemon desserts (Lemon meringue pie! Lemon curd! Lemon bars!), we decided to try this lemon pudding recipe.

If only we had thought of this sooner.

In case you don’t have a favorite pudding recipe, how about a pudding recipe round-up:

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: Little Lasagnas

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.

Pasta and cheese are not at the top of my list of healthy foods, but sometimes what you need is a healthy-sized portion of something delicious. It’s the whole concept behind many of the frozen diet meals on the market, only better and cheaper. Why not make your own small lasagna portions in wide mouth half-pint jars to take for lunch with a giant salad?

Little Lasagnas with Portobello Mushroom
Makes 8 small servings in wide mouth half-pint jars

Ingredients:
8 lasagna noodles
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large portobello mushroom
1-1/2 cups marinara sauce
3/4 cup low fat cottage cheese
1 egg
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded parmesan

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions. After draining, rinse with cold water. Slice the noodles in half lengthwise.

Roughly chop the portobello mushroom. If you prefer, you may opt to remove the gills first. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and once hot, add the mushroom to the pan. Sauté until soft and browned, 8-10 minutes.

Place 8 wide mouth half-pint jars on a baking sheet. Add a tablespoon of marinara sauce to the bottom of each jar. Fold each piece of noodle back-and-forth a few times and stuff two into each jar, ruffled ends up. Add two more tablespoons of marinara sauce evenly on top of the noodles. Divide the mushroom pieces evenly between the jars, stuffing them down between the folds of the noodles.

In a small bowl combine the cottage cheese, egg, parsley, and garlic. Divide the cottage cheese mixture amongst the jars and spread evenly. Top each jar with two tablespoons of mozzarella and one tablespoon of parmesan. Pat the cheese down slightly so it doesn’t cover the rim of the jar.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden around the edges.

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: Preserved Lemon Pasta with Morrocan Olives

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 pasta was created for the sole purpose of trying to eat some of our preserved lemons. I would say both the lemons and the pasta were a success! I paired the preserved lemon with Moroccan olives, which are cured black olives.

Morrocan olives: cured black olives. If you don’t have these available, you can substitute Kalamata.

Preserved Lemon Pasta
Makes 8 generous servings

Ingredients:
1 (14.5 ounce) package whole grain pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 egg yolks
1 cup reserved pasta cooking water, divided
1/2 cup halved and pitted Moroccan olives
1/2 cup diced preserved lemon (pulp and peel)
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas
3/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
4 ounces pecorino, shredded

Directions:

Cook the pasta al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, reserving one cup of the starchy pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat and then add the olive oil. Once the oil has heated, add the onion. Sauté until translucent, 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Add the wine, turmeric, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook until liquid has reduced by about half and appears slightly thickened.

In a small bowl whisk the egg yolks. Very slowly pour in 1/2 cup of reserved pasta cooking water while whisking constantly. There should be no lumps. Add the egg mixture to the sauce, and continue to cook over low heat until slightly thickened, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Toss the sauce with the noodles. Add as much additional reserved pasta cooking liquid as needed so the sauce easily coats the pasta. Add olives, preserved lemon, parsley, and pecorino and toss until well combined.

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: 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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Jar Lunch: Soba Noodles with Asparagus & Miso Butter

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.

Have you heard about miso butter yet? It’s all over the internet. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to try it. Simply mix equal parts butter (softened) and miso. White miso makes for an amazing, subtle flavor. We now keep a mason jar of this heavenly stuff in the fridge.

This jar lunch was inspired by the Momofuku recipe for pan-roasted asparagus with miso butter and a poached egg on top. I am practically obsessed with poached eggs, but for lunchtime food safety I settled for hard-boiled*. This lunch is so simple, no recipe is needed. Just chop some steamed asparagus, toss freshly cooked soba noodles with miso butter to taste, and let them cool completely. Layer into a wide mouth pint jar along with a peeled, hard boiled egg sliced in half.

I promise, you won’t regret it.

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.

*I don’t ever boil my “hard-boiled” eggs anymore. Boiling fresh eggs always leads to difficult peeling. Awhile back I discovered you can steam them for 10-12 minutes and avoid the difficult peeling problem. Now I’ve tested Alton Brown’s Hard Cooked Eggs that are baked in the oven. Although I need to reduce the baking time next time around, I am excited to report that they peeled perfectly and tasted great!

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Jar Lunch: dessert edition

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.

Everyone loves the occasional special sweet in their lunch. I remember the excitement of a Hostess cake in my brown bag. Tomorrow I will post the usual Friday Jar Lunch, but today you get dessert: Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes.

These are best warmed up in the microwave for about 45 seconds before eating so the brown sugar stays gooey and melty. If you don’t have access to a microwave, they are still quite delicious when cool, just a little crunchier.

All you have to do is divide your favorite pineapple upside-down cake recipe into wide mouth half-pint mason jars. I used this recipe and made 7 jar cakes. Pineapple rings are ever-so-slightly too big for the jars, so simply cut a slit in the ring and overlap the ends a bit. I also added maraschino cherries to some and home canned drunken cherries to others.

And if you have a plate available, you can always put your upside-down cake right side-up.

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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