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Salad to Go 

click to enlarge ERINN SIMON
  • Erinn Simon

It's my job to figure out what the 40-plus toddlers and preschoolers at the Burlington Children's Space should eat for lunch — and I'm pretty good at it. But I still struggle with fresh ideas for my own kids' midday meal. Every September I find myself wondering yet again what the heck to pack in their lunch boxes.

click to enlarge ERINN SIMON
  • Erinn Simon

We are just as rushed as everyone else on weekday mornings, so the kids' lunches have to be easy to prepare. It helps if they're visually appealing; the kids will likely ignore a peanut-butter sandwich that's been squashed under an apple all morning. Of course, the cook in me wants the food to be delicious, too.

This year, just as I was beginning to doubt there was a packable lunch that met all those requirements, I turned to Pinterest — and found salad in a jar.

The Mason jar is ubiquitous on the internet these days, filled with everything from breakfast smoothies to wedding favors. Using it as a salad container is a simple and brilliant idea.

You can pack dressing and salad together by layering ingredients from the heartiest to the lightest, with dressing on the bottom, so your fixings stay fresh and crunchy. And you can mix and match ingredients depending on your kids' likes and dislikes. If you don't want to use a glass jar because your kids are young (if their school doesn't allow glass containers), just use any tall container with a tight seal.

Kids can dig right in, shaking up the jar so that the dressing is distributed and eating the salad "upside down," or turning it out onto a plate or bowl. Add some bread, crackers or tortilla chips and fruit, and you're done. Easy, healthy, fresh and delicious. You might even want to make an extra one for yourself. K

Salad in a Jar

This is not so much a recipe as a set of suggestions. (I made a southwestern salad with homemade spicy ranch dressing.) Just follow the basic guidelines — and have fun!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Mason jar or similar container with a tight seal, at least 4 inches deep
  • 2 tablespoons of your favorite dressing (see right for ranch recipe)
  • 2 cups assorted veggies, protein and garnishes, layered from the heartiest to the lightest

Directions:

  1. Pour your dressing into the jar.
  2. Next, layer your salad components. I started with chickpeas and black beans, followed by cubed cheddar cheese, shredded carrots, diced cucumbers, black olives and romaine lettuce. You could also use firm, cubed tofu, sunflower seeds, cooked chicken, grapes, raisins or Craisins, quinoa, farro or brown rice, and nuts (if their school allows them). If your kids aren't into leafy greens, just omit them and sub in veggies they do like.

Spicy Southwest Ranch Dressing:

Makes about 1 cup; keeps in the fridge for up to a week

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plain full-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill (or 2 teaspoons dried dill)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a small bowl and mix well. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking until fully incorporated.

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