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 🙂

 

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Real Food Standby #5: Oatmeal

I’ve blogged about oatmeal before. It is cheap, sustaining, healthy and quite adaptable. Some days I want it for supper too! Our current oatmeal recipe that we eat every second day (alternating with cream of wheat) is an apple/cinnamon mix sweetened with a dab of honey. I also add an egg to boost protein and creaminess. I think I invented that 🙂

Soaked Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

The night before, soak 2/3 cups oats in 1 1/2 cups water and a tablespoon of yogurt liquid or apple cider vinager

In the morning, bring to a boil and add 1 apple, grated, and a couple of shakes of cinnamon. Cook until done and take off heat.

Off heat, stir in 1/3 cup yogurt and 2 tbsp honey. Once that is combined, beat in one egg. It will be very glossy and “wet” looking at first, but after a couple of minutes it will very gently cook and combine with the oatmeal. You might see some streaks of white egg protein, or you might not.

Serves 1 hungry mom and 2 kids.

Real Food Standby #4: Stove-top Popcorn

You put the oil in the pot

And you let it get hot

You put the popcorn in

And you start to grin

Sizzle-sizzle, sizzle-sizzle, sizzle-sizzle, sizzle-sizzle

Sizzle-sizzle, sizzle-sizzle . . . . POP!!

That’s really all you need for a recipe! This snack can be salty or sweet, cheesy or plain, but it’s always easy and low-cost.

Popcorn has long been the go-to late-night snack for our family. For years my partner and I have been driving various neighbours crazy with the aroma filtering through to their apartments late in the evenings. Lately I”ve been throwing it in our snack bag. The kids see this as a real treat!

It’s very frugal–even if you factor in buying non-GMO organic popcorn and coconut oil–and just about as quick as microwave popcorn. But when you make it yourself, the ingredients are much healthier. We usually buy ours in the bulk aisle of the health food store, or occasionally through the ONFC food co-op. Either way, it’s a fraction of the price of any store-bought snack, and also much better for you.

Simple Stovetop Popcorn

coconut oil or palm oil

popping corn

Optional toppings: sea salt, melted butter, parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast

Spoon a large gob of coconut oil into the bottom of a large cold lidded saucepan. Turn the heat to max. As soon as the oil has liquefied, add popcorn to cover the bottom of the pot. We don’t measure quantities, but rather aim for the oil to be level with the kernels, and the whole mass covering the bottom of the pot. Too little oil and you will end up with lots of unpopped kernels. Too much, and the popcorn will be soggy or oily. Feel this out and you will have a skill for life 🙂

Put the lid on the pot and listen for the popping to start. Have a large bowl or two ready to receive your popcorn.  If the popcorn starts to fill up the pot and lift the lid, dump some of it out into the bowl. In this way you can easily make large quantities even in a relatively small pot. Throw some salt on it immediately, as it sticks better when it’s hot. Return pot to heat and give it a good shake every few seconds so any kernels get shifted to the bottom of the pot for a chance to pop.

Once the popping almost stops, dump the whole into the bowl(s) and salt to taste. Add your optional toppings and enjoy!

How do you like your popcorn?

Real Food Standby #3: Applesauce

While I’ve never been one to buy jars & jars of applesauce off the shelves, I’ve come to ADORE home made applesauce. There is something so delectable about the aroma of simmering apples, and the warm sauce freshly made just can’t be beat. I have no idea why, but it tastes so much sweeter than a raw apple, even though there’s no sweetener added. It’s fast, it’s easy, and if you preserve a bunch, it’s a great way to continue eating local apples all winter long.

Some of our favourite uses include:

– in oatmeal. Since going sugar free, this sweet sauce has been a major boon to us in the breakfast department.

– in yogurt. I’ve perfected the art of forming a cute pink applesauce heart in the middle of a tiny bowl of yogurt.

– just plain eating. Best while it’s still warm, but also a delicious snack when the kids are hungry NOW!

Next year I am definitely going apple picking with the kids, and will make jars and jars of applesauce to last us all year. For now, I’m getting them by the slightly bruised bagful from the Herb & Spice (I just discovered their cart of marked down produce–what deals!!).

Simple Applesauce

3 pounds organic apples

1 cup water

Core and roughly chop apples. Place in a saucepan with a cup of water. Bring to boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Once cooked pass them through your food mill to squash out all the good stuff and leave the skins behind. If you don’t have a food mill you can always peel the apples beforehand, or leave the skins on and blend it all together for a more fibre-rich mixture. If you use very red apples, the sauce will be a lovely pink colour. Refrigerate and enjoy, or process in a water bath according to up-to-date canning instructions.

Real Food Standby #2: Smoothies

We’re officially on day 4 of our Real Food Revolution, and things are going so well. My kid has been able to stay in the “green zone” pretty much 100% of the time, not counting normal reactions to having shiny pieces of red ribbon snatched away by her little brother and that sort of thing.

To be honest, I feel a little guilty and silly for not trying this earlier. Imagine trying to learn and figure out the world, all the while battling these monster reactions to stuff your mom keeps giving you!!

I think the biggest change has been with our breakfast. We used to have oatmeal with honey and blueberries, or cream of wheat with brown sugar. No more! We’re still having oatmeal, but I’m using a few drops of Stevia instead of the honey. And we’re also starting the day with a smoothie, which gives them some fruit, some pro-biotics in the form of yogurt, and some omega-3s from flax oil.

With organic blueberries and sustainable strawberries, this is certainly adding to our budget but hopefully next year I can stock up when they are in season. (I think I will need a bigger freezer!) The kids are loving their smoothies (as am I!), and I feel really good getting all that healthy stuff into them at the top of the day.

So here’s the recipe. You can adjust the quantities depending on your taste and budget. I just eyeball it, to be honest!

Breakfast Smoothie

yogurt

frozen blueberries

frozen strawberries

1 ripe banana

4-5 drops of Stevia

3-4 tsp flax oil (it’s pretty flavourless so I’ve been increasing it day by day)

water to cover

Toss everything into the blender. Blend on highest speed until smooth. Enjoy with a side of soaked oatmeal.

Our Real Food Revolution

Yesterday at 9:37 am I instituted a Real Food Revolution. Not that we were eating much “fake” food, but I will explain that in a minute. The reason it happened at 9:37 am was that that was the time my daughter started screaming at the top of her lungs, throwing her toys around her room, and slamming her door over and over again . . . because I had not adequately tied the knitted ear-warmer around her waist in such a way as to hold the sheet around her small body.

I emailed my husband, “Did you give her sugar?” He had let me sleep in after yet another night of terrible sleep caused by our little guy nursing like a newborn (he’ll be 2 next week). “Yes,” he replied, “but only a little.” Only a little, and yet there it was, the connection I had seen and have been seeing for years, only for some reason this time it gelled in my brain: give her sugar, and she acts like a maniac.

Sure, there are times she has had a bit of something sweet and not freaked out, usually when we’re outdoors, maybe with friends or family, or after a good solid dinner. But we aren’t always in an outdoor, social, post-prandial state of being.

So I googled something along the lines of “Kids, food, behaviour” and started reading. So much of what they recommend avoiding reminded me of what I’ve read in Nourishing Traditions, so I’ve decided to change our eating.

This won’t be a dramatic departure for us, but one shift I’ve decided to make is in my concern over spending money on food. While eating in a more traditional way will certainly cost more money, I think it is worth it. Our children deserve to get the best we can give them, and even our adult bodies will thank us for things like cutting out sugar, reducing grains, and doing things to boost the nutrition of whatever we are eating.

We will try to do this as frugally as possible, which means cutting waste and spending right for the right things. So my current quest will be to find some frugal “real food” staples that I can attempt to have on hand so we won’t resort to less nutritious options.

Today’s staple is Hummus! I love my hummus recipe. It makes a nice big batch which lasts us several days of snacks and lunches. My challenge right now is to find something instead of pretzel sticks to dip in it!

Fantastic Hummus

1 cup dry chick peas, soaked overnight then cooked for 1 hour

1/4 cup cooking water from the chick peas

1 clove garlic

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cumin powder

2 tbsp lemon juice

25 g olive oil

75 g tahini

Soak the chick peas overnight, drain and cover with fresh water. Cook for 1 hour. Place cooled cooked chick peas in food processor along with the garlic, salt and cumin. Process  until mushy. Scrape down the sides. Stir together the water and lemon juice and add to the food processor while it is running. Stop machine and scrape down, then process until quite smooth. Stir together the olive oil and tahini, and slowly drizzle in while the machine is running.

That’s it! Enjoy your creamy delicately flavoured hummus with a drizzle of olive oil or a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or a few cooked chick peas scattered over the top.

One chicken: three dinners

I’ve been doing a lot of roast chicken lately, mostly because I can get three dinners from one chicken. The first night we eat it as-is, with a side veggie. Day two we either have chicken sandwiches or the pasta below. And on the third day I usually make chicken soup. It’s simple and good and pretty frugal, even when we buy the hormone-and-antibiotic-free ones.

One of the best parts is the second day pasta sauce. It’s very simple, and makes good use of the breast meat (we’re dark-meat folks for just plain eating).

Leftover Chicken-Cream Pasta

1 onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp olive oil

1 can of tomatoes

fresh or dried thyme

1 cup diced chicken meat

1/4 to 1/3 cup heavy cream

Heat oil in pan on medium-low heat. Add onion and saute until soft and fragrant. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so, being careful not to let it burn. If you have a lot of time, you can cook the onion and garlic very slowly so they get sweet and saucy, but you can do it more quickly if you are pressed for time.

Add can of tomatoes. Again you have two options. If you have a lot of time, drain the tomatoes, reserving the liquid. Add just the tomatoes to the pan and cook them over medium heat so they caramelize and sweeten. Once they are quite broken down, add the tomato juice and stir. If you don’t have extra time, just add the whole can at once and simmer.

Add the thyme and cook until it is thickened. Then take off heat and stir in the cream, adding more or less according to your taste. Heavy cream will not curdle in the acidity of the tomato sauce.

Serve over penne or rigatoni.