Picnic Mason Jar Salads

Picnic Mason Jar Salads with Watermelon and Blueberry Skewers

Picnic Mason Jar Salads with Watermelon and Blueberry Skewers

May Long has come gone, officially opening up all things “summer”. Included in this is one of my personal favourites, picnic season. We have a whole lot of picnic ideas coming your way, but let’s start with some essentials; the food. Mason jar salads are an easy, fast, and healthy meal on the go. Not only perfect for picnics, they’re great for lunches too. Not into Mason Jars? Any Tupperware or bowl will work. I usually feel as though I’m onto a good thing when my toddlers have their hands all over the food. Not terribly picky eaters, but it is salad after all.

Vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores  alike can rejoice here; I’ve got all of you covered in the most delicious ways possible.

My little ham digging into the Black Bean and Avocado Salad with a Cilantro-Lime Dressing

My little ham digging into the Black Bean and Avocado Salad with a Cilantro-Lime Dressing

I will mention that the layering of the sales I’ve written below is key. The dressing is at the bottom with specific items to prevent any ingredients from getting soggy; no one likes a soggy salad. Leaving room at the top is also required for when you get your salad shake on. (That’s not really a thing, but I’d like it to be.) Regardless, an inch or two at the top of the jar will allow all the ingredients to get fully coated by the dressing and well mixed.

Humble pantry ingredients;  (clockwise from top left) black beans, millet, chickpeas, & whole wheat couscous

Humble pantry ingredients; (clockwise from top left) black beans, millet, chickpeas, & whole wheat couscous

I’ve taken some pretty basic (and to be honest what can be bland) pantry staples and paired them with satisfying flavourful items to wake up your salad routine. I used whole wheat couscous, although normal couscous will work too. If you use Israeli couscous, please follow the package instructions on how to cook it; it will differ from the instructions below. Millet is similar to quinoa, only I find it a heck of a lot tastier. If you can’t find millet (it’s usually next to the quinoa and cheaper) use quinoa with very similar results. Blacks beans and chickpeas are abound, although please use canned (well rinsed and drained) for quick and easy salad assembly. If you use dried, please follow package instructions on how to soak and cook the beans before assembling your salad.

Tiny fingers grabbing at the fruit skewers.

Tiny fingers grabbing at the fruit skewers.

If you’re kids are quite young, chopsticks are an excellent alternative to skewers. Fruit, vegetables, meats, and cheese all work well for skewers. I added mint leaves to mine for a little extra pop of colour.

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Each recipe makes 2 large (1 ltr) mason jars of salad and extra salad dressing.

The two salads without meat will last 3-4 days, chilled, depending upon the freshness of your ingredients. The Chicken and Millet Salad will last 2-3 days, chilled, depending upon the freshness of your ingredients.

The additional dressing will keep for up to 1 week chilled.

Couscous Salad with Yogurt Dill Dressing

Ingredients:

Couscous Salad: 

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup couscous
1 cup vegetable stock (or water)
1 finely chopped shallot
1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cucumber, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper

Yogurt-Dill Dressing:

1 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp chopped dill
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

Directions:

Couscous Salad:

In a small sauce pan with a lid, heat oil over medium heat. Add chopped shallots and cook for 3-4 minutes until soft and translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add couscous and stir. Add stock and stir. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, remove lid and fluff with a fork. Allow to cool.

Yogurt-Dill Dressing:

Whisk all ingredients together.

Assembly: layer yogurt at the bottom of the container, then couscous, vegetables, chickpeas, and top with chopped dill.

Black Bean and Avocado Salad with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette 

Ingredients:

Black Bean & Avocado Salad:

1 x 14 oz can black beans
1 small carrot, grated
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 red onion, chopped
100 grams quesco fresco cheese, crumbled (optional, feta is an excellent alternative)
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 avocado peeled, pit removed, and chopped

Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette:

2 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Directions:

Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette:

Whisk ingredients together.

Assembly:

Layer vinaigrette in the bottom of the container then black beans, tomatoes, carrots, cilantro,cheese (if using), and top with avocado*.

*if you’re assembling this salad the day before you eat it, I’d recommend tossing the avocado chunks in some lime or lemon juice (1-2 tsp) to prevent browning. It won’t alter the flavours of the salad. You could also cut it immediately before serving.

Tarragon Chicken and Millet Salad with a Lemon-Tarragon Vinaigrette 

Ingredients:

Chicken and Millet Salad:

1 lbs boneless/skinless dark chicken meat, chopped into 1/2″ or slightly smaller (such as thigh meat)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 millet
1/5 cups chicken stock (vegetable stock or water can be substituted if you wish to make this vegetarian)
1 tart apple, such as Pink Lady or Granny Smith
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 green onion, finely sliced
salt and pepper

Lemon-Tarragon Vinaigrette:

2 tbsp finely chopped shallot
1 tbsp fresh chopped tarragon
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions:

Chicken and Millet Salad:

In a medium sauce pan with a lid mix together millet and stock. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for about 30 min, until millet is tender. Set aside and allow to cool after fluffing with a fork.

Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken, stirring occasionally until no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Lemon-Tarragon Vinaigrette:

Whisk all ingredients together.

Assembly:

Place apple pieces in the bottom of the container and top with vinaigrette (this will keep apples from browning). Top with millet, celery, green onion, and chicken.

Enjoy!

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