DIY Mason Jar Lunch Kit Tutorial

diy mason jar lunch kit 7Do you ever find that one mason jar is just not enough? But that two mason jars rattling around in a lunch bag together make you fear you might lose your hummus due to breakage? (I guess you are also risking injury, and a mess to clean up . . . but the hummus, people! The HUMMUS!)

Well, if there is more than one person (me) in the world for whom this is an issue, I hope they find this post, because I’ve got the cutest solution!

DoubleJarThis quick DIY hack is inspired by this post by Kayla of Say Not Sweet Anne who calls her creation “DIY Lunchable Jars”. I saw her post and wanted to make some immediately!

So I asked my brother, whom I was visiting, if I could use his soldering iron. His reply?

“Don’t solder. Soldering makes too many fumes.”

Gah! So frustrating! But was I daunted? Oh no—I wanted to make these so bad.

So I asked my Dad if I could use his soldering iron. His answer?

“Don’t solder. It makes too many fumes.”

Do they share a brain those two???

“Why don’t you use tape instead?”

Tape? TAPE?? Tape is no replacement for solder! It would never hold!

I fumed. I schemed. I looked up “How to solder” on Youtube and priced out soldering irons . . . I spent days scheming how I could stitch rings together with jewelry wire . . . And then went absolutely nowhere with it.

Until one day when I was packing up my two doomed-to-rattle-and-endanger-my-hummus Mason jars for my lunch, I thought, “Oh, fine—I’ll try the dang tape.” I grabbed the closest thing, which was I think electrical tape (?) and hastily taped two Mason Jar rings together.

And do you know what? It actually worked. Not only that, it worked brilliantly! It worked so well that the next day I quickly taped together two wide-mouth rings with masking tape so I could bring salad and some crackers. Again, a flawless design (apart from it being really ugly).

But there is no reason to carry around ugly Mason Jars when there is Washi tape! And Washi-inspired tape!

Enter phase II of my design. I’ve always wanted a reason to buy Washi tape. So I picked up some Scotch brand and tried it. Super cute, though the inflexibility of the Scotch tape didn’t seem to grip the Mason jar rings quite as effectively as either of my ugly tapes in the prototype designs.

diy mason jar lunch kit 3

But the next thing I tried, well it combines two of the most beloved low-tech solutions: Mason Jars and Duct Tape. Not just any duct tape; not the ubiquitous silver kind, no. The cutest, girliest Duct Tape at the Staples store.

It did just the trick.

diy mason jar lunch kit 2

Flexible? Check. Sticky? Check. Super cute? Super check!

So please enjoy my super easy tutorial, and let me know what you’re packing in your new DIY Mason Jar Lunch Kit! Remember, it doesn’t have to be fancy (unless you’re secretly hoping someone will put it on Pinterest)!

DIY Mason Jar Lunch Kit Tutorial

Step 1diy mason jar lunch kit 4

Line up two clean same-sized mason jar rings.

Step 2diy mason jar lunch kit 5

Using tape of choice (or of convenience), wrap tape around the rings, keeping them even and together, until the tape goes around the whole circumference.

diy mason jar lunch kit 6Step 3

Put lids onto jars, and screw on rings one at a time. Make sure to decide which one will be upside down, and pack accordingly.

Step 4

Comment below and tell me what you’re packing in your new super cute kit (mine is hummus–of course–with Mary’s crackers on top).

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And then you eat salads out of mason jars — an accidentally vegan lunch salad recipe

eat salads out of mason jarsOkay, so I’m about two years behind the whole salad in a jar craze. But actually, I was Way ahead of the trend because I’ve been eating–and drinking–out of Mason jars since before they somehow became cool. Just ask my co-workers circa 2000 (they thought I was crazy! Who’s crazy now?!).

Despite my jar-lovin’ ways, I was sceptical when I first heard about salad in a jar. My scepticism asked, how can you possibly get enough salad into a jar to constitute a meal? Really, this girl gets pretty hungy, and I’m sorry but a mere pint of romaine just isn’t going to fill my bellah.

However. That was before I discovered my current lunch salad.

It’s crunchy. It’s healthy. It’s filling. And it packs conveniently inside a Mason jar. Oh, and did I mention it is also super frugal?

My lunch salad starts with a bag of pre-shredded coleslaw, which goes for $1.39 at Food Basics. One bag of cole slaw mix will make 3-4 lunch salads, which truly fill my tummy for hours.

I add a simple, wholesome, vegan dressing, toss with some toasted sunflower seeds, and head to work with my frugal healthy filling lunch. In a Mason jar.

Frugal Urban Tummy-Filling Lunch Salad

1 pint pre-shredded cole slaw mix, raw

1.5 tbsp tahini

Enough Olive oil to make it runny, about a tbsp

3/4 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Salt to taste

Sunflower seeds, roasted without salt

To take this to work, I usually pre-mix the salad the night before, following these exact instructions: First, place cole slaw mix in a bowl. In a small mason jar, mix together the tahini, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and salt, using an old bamboo chopstick. Pour dressing over the cole slaw and stir with the chopstick until everything is combined. Then use first the chopstick, and then your finger, to get every last bit of dressing out of the smaller jar and eat it right then & there because it is sooooo yummy.  Taste the salad and adjust for salt. Pack the salad in a pint-sized (500 ml) Mason jar, put the lid on, and store it in the fridge overnight. Pack the sunflower seeds separately, and when you are ready to eat, sprinkle them over the salad.

When you make it the night before, the salad shrink down as the cabbage gets soft and chewy. I like it this way, but if you prefer to follow the Pinterest-approved salad-in-a-jar method, you could choose to mix the dressing in the pint jar, then pour the undressed cole slaw mix in over top of it, keeping it upright overnight. In the morning at work, turn it upside down and the dressing will magically mix with the cabbage, theoretically leaving you with a perfect, fresh salad for your lunch. Still pack the seeds separately, or they will get soft and less fresh and crunchy.

While the second method gives you a fresher salad, I found the dressing didn’t mix completely well, as it is a fairly thick consistency, and I found eating it a bit awkward, with bits falling all over since they weren’t stuck together all nicely with the dressing. But maybe that’s just me. I am known to be a bit clumsy.

Enjoy my contribution to the world of “salads in jars”! With a full tummy 🙂

 

Pink Things: a recipe for a frugal probiotic condiment

scrambled kale & eggs with lacto fermented rutabaga on the side
scrambled kale & eggs with lacto fermented rutabaga on the side
scrambled kale & eggs with lacto fermented rutabaga on the side

I’ve been doing a fair bit of fermenting here the last few weeks, with some successes, and some screw-ups here and there. But one of my successes has been what we call “pink things”. What they are, in fact, are sticks of rutabaga, lactofermented with garlic and beet in brine. The beet chunks mixed in with the rutabaga make everything turn a vibrant pink, while the garlic just makes it yummy.

I think these are the brilliant pink condiments that Lebanese restaurants add to Shawarma.

Rutabaga are under a dollar a pound at this time of year–making this one frugal ferment! I though I had shared my recipe on my blog before, but when I searched, I couldn’t find it. So here it is!

Pink Things

1 rutabaga

2-3 beets

3-4 cloves garlic

3-4 pint/500 ml mason jars, very clean or sterilized with boiling water

1 litre basic brine (approx. 1 tbsp salt to 1 L water: less salt in colder weather, more salt in warmer weather; see note about water to use)

Peel rutabaga and cut into spears, about the size of your pinky finger. Dice beets. Bruise or crush the garlic cloves so that the flavour will emerge but the cloves will stay intact. Divide the ingredients evenly between the pint jars, making sure there is at least one clove of garlic per jar, and a small handful of beet chunks.

When the veggies are divided up, pour brine over it all to cover. The veggies should stay submerged beneath the brine: you can use a lid from a smaller jar, maybe weighted down with a stone that you have boiled to sterilize. The lids should be put on "fingertip tight" to allow carbon dioxide, produced during the fermentation, to escape.

Leave on the counter for several days, maybe 3 days if the weather is warm, and as long as a week if it is cooler. They will lose the “raw” taste, the beets will start seeping colour into the brine, and the whole thing will take on a dark shade of pink. If they smell alcoholic, or grow a lot of mold, throw them out and try again with fresh ingredients and sterile jars. Using filtered or distilled water can also help if you have problems.

These disappear pretty quickly at my house! I hope they are as popular at yours. What a frugal way to get some gut-supporting probiotics, in the form of a delicious condiment!

Rice and Black Bean casserole

Here is my recipe for a recipe so delicious you will swear it is full of fat and very bad for you. In fact it’s got lots of protein and fiber, and is pretty healthy. Not only that, but it’s very cheap and super easy! Get out your slow cooker for this one.

Rice and Black Bean Casserole

1 1/2 cups of rice

1 can, or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans

1 cup salsa

1 cup sauteed mushrooms (optional)

3 cups broth or water

cheddar cheese, shredded

fresh cilantro

sour cream

Slow cooker directions: Combine rice, beans, salsa, mushrooms and broth in slow cooker and cook on high for about 3 hours, or until the water has been absorbed, stirring occasionally so everything mixes together evenly. Remove crock pot insert from casing. Top the casserole with shredded cheese and place in oven under a hot broiler until cheese is bubbly.

Conventional directions: Cook rice in broth or water. Combine cooked rice, beans, salsa and mushrooms, and top with cheddar cheese. Bake at 375 or until the cheese has melted and is bubbling.

Top with chopped cilantro and sour cream if desired.

This amount made two dinners for us (2 adults plus 1 preschooler), plus one lunch for my partner to take to work. It goes really nicely with avocado so I made a salad with that in it. You could probably eat it in a pita or a tortilla too. For a vegan option, omit the cheese and sour cream.

I’m planning on making more dinners with black beans since I bought a 3 kilo bag from Food Basics (about 17 cents per 100 grams). Any recommendations?

Iced Tea

If you’re anything like me, you might find yourself dealing with a daily afternoon craving for something sweet, caffienated, or both. For me, it’s both–and I don’t mean just sweetened coffee. No, I mean I want a coffee AND a sweet baked something, plus maybe a handful of chocolate chips for good measure.

Well, I’ve discovered a little solution to this problem quite by accident. It happened when instead of throwing out the half-pot of un-drunk tea, I stuck it in an empty yogurt container and squeezed in the juice from a leftover half a lemon. My husband scoffed. I shrugged my shoulders–waste not, want not I figured as I stuck it in the fridge, though I was a bit sceptical as to how this would turn out. It was chai tea after all–not a usual flavour for iced tea.

I was thirsty the next afternoon so I pulled out my tub-o-tea, spooned in some sugar and took a sip. Eureka! It was delicious–cold and sweet and lemony, blending perfectly with the chai spices. Plus I found it satisfying both my sugar craving and giving me my caffeine fix, but without any jittery feelings that sometimes accompany that afternoon extra cup.

So this is my new thing: never waste tea. Actually, it’s so good I’ve been making it intentionally. Brew tea, stick in fridge with lemon juice. Stir in sugar. And then grab a cookie.

You deserve it for being so damn clever.

Five Dollar Dinners?

I recently found a website that specializes in $5 dinners. Unfortunately, I can’t fix any of those dinners for the prices listed–mostly due to the price differences with meat, eggs and dairy items in the US. And vegetables. Sigh.

Not that I think all our food should be that cheap. In fact, most of the problems with our food system are due to the super-cheap prices we demand. North America spends less on food than anywhere else in the world, which leads to all sorts of problems like concentration of power, over-use of chemicals, mono-cropping, super-sizing animals with hormones, etc. etc. etc.

But. It is a challenge to feed a family of four healthy foods on a budget in downtown Ottawa. Yep, that’s 50% of my blog content summed up right there.

So I’m going to try producing some of my own $5 dinners. Not $5 per serving. Not $5 per night. $5 for the whole dang healthy pot of dinner. Now, I guarantee these won’t be anything fancy. You won’t find any arugula or pancetta or anything else in French or Italian. You might not even want to admit to eating this for “dinner”. But I will guarantee they will be healthy, balanced, and contain at least some fresh vegetables.

I’m going to try making this black bean casserole I saw online some place, and if it comes in under $5, I’ll blog the recipe. Until then, let me know your favourite cheap meals! If they’re under $5, I’ll add them to my list.

“Chips”

A friend of mine has started taking me to Food Basics down at Herongate. It’s got some great deals, including large pita bread at $1.69 per package. That’s 6 very big pitas–about 12″ across–at about 30 cents each. I’ve been getting the whole wheat ones which are very tasty and also very filling, especially with hummus or refried beans. Yum!

Last time I went I stocked up and got about 4 bags and thew them in the freezer. Now when I want something to dip, roll or top, I pull out a pita.

But my favourite thing to do with them, especially if they sit around and get a little stale, is to tear them up into pieces and toast them in the oven to make “chips”. Super fast, healthy, substantial and delicious. Maybe next time I will try brushing them with butter or olive oil, plus some salt and/or spices for an even more delicious treat.

Other things I’ve been doing with the pitas include tearing away one half, folding it over with shredded cheese inside, and making a melt in my skillet. I’ve also used them as a wrap for scrambled eggs, but you could wrap anything inside really.

What do you do with your pita bread?