Mason Jar Salad(s)

I love a good salad with lots of “stuff,” but the last thing I feel like doing when I’m hungry is pulling out all the many ingredients and slicing and chopping to make one salad for me, myself, and I.  Making multiple single-serving salads at once and storing them in quart-size wide-mouth mason jars is a great solution here.  I bought my jars at Target, and chose the blue ones so they would be a bit distinctive — when I see them in the cabinet, I know it’s time to make more salads.

Here’s a before photo of all the ingredients I used this time:

The eggs are hard-cooked in the Instant Pot, then peeled and chopped.  The asparagus I roasted in the Breville mini-oven at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes with a little olive oil and salt.  I used the mandoline for the carrots, toasted the sliced almonds on the stove, chopped the (precooked) beets and the cucumbers, and broke up the chicken strips a bit.

Now, I know that a lot of people like to put their salad dressing right in the bottom of the mason jar.  I elected not to do that, because I like to choose the dressing I want at the time I’m eating the salad.  (Hmm . . . am I in a balsamic-ish or a honey-mustard-like kind of mood?)  But if you are prepping these to eat them in a location where you don’t have that kind of flexibility, go ahead and put a couple of tablespoons of dressing in the jar before you load up on salady goodness.

So, below is a gif of the salad assembly.  Having checked around a bit on other websites about the proper order of ingredients, I decided on this one, but without the dressing to consider, I don’t think it matters a whole lot.  Feel free to experiment.

  1. carrots
  2. cucumbers
  3. beets
  4. asparagus
  5. eggs
  6. almonds
  7. feta (not pictured below)
  8. chicken
  9. baby spinach

Note: Before adding the greens, I pressed down on the chicken layer a bit to pack everything down


Next, I vacuum sealed the jars, using our new Food Saver and a wide-mouth jar sealing attachment.

This is the first time I’ve done the vacuum sealing step with these salads, but I am hopeful that vacuum sealing will help everything stay as fresh as possible.  Plus, it is hard to overstate the satisfaction I get when I remove the top of one of these jars and it pops.


Instant Pot Pork Chops with Mushroom Gravy

M, age 4, has been refusing a higher percentage of dinners lately than I would like, so I’ve been trying something: she and I made a list of dinners that we agree that all the solid-food-eaters in the house like.  Then, I plotted the dinners out over the course of a couple of weeks — I used a blank calendar that I’d been given.  This means that I’ve got her buy-in, as we say in business jargon, for those meals, and then I can schedule new recipes as well, and she knows we’ll get back to something familiar the next night.

We’ve been following this new system for a couple of weeks now, and as it turns out, I’m enjoying it quite a bit, myself.  Due to last weekend’s days-long, storm-induced power outage, I had to throw out almost everything in the fridge.  (D and I agreed that I should err on the side of caution.  After all, eating, like, ketchup that had gone bad would be a particularly silly way to die.)  It was a cathartic, if wasteful, process that left us with this amazing situation:

Since then, I’ve gone to Stop & Shop and BJ’s once each, and have had groceries delivered (a spendy indulgence that we are embracing while the twins are so little) from Wegman’s once.  Thanks to the dinner planning, the groceries we’ve bought are much more directed.  I get specific ingredients for specific meals, plus stuff for M’s and D’s lunches, plus assorted breakfast items.  And a few staple-type snacks.  Our fridge now looks as close as it ever will to the kind of fridge that might belong to someone who is professionally healthy:

Look at the salad dressings in the middle of the left door!  Only three, and all brand-new!  Nothing is falling out of anywhere!  The celery is not rubbery and is destined for one of our favorite recipes (that D will make) this weekend.  I’m sure we’re not following any of the rules about where you should keep which produce in order to maximize freshness, etc., but one step at a time, folks.

Anyhoo, on the calendar for tonight was pork, but I wanted to try something more savory than sweet.  I settled on This Old Gal’s Pressure Cooker Pork Chops in Homemade Mushroom Gravy.  Here’s a before photo:

I didn’t think we had any sherry and didn’t feel like looking, so I substituted white cooking wine.  I also opted for cornstarch because it’s what I had.  For the seasoned salt, I used Jane’s Crazy Mixed-Up Salt because, say it with me now, it’s what I had.

Here’s a sort of mise-en-place stage, with two of the pork chops obscured by the head of the mysterious mustachioed man who showed up at our house tonight.

For sides, I did some sweet potato mash (trim tough ends off three sweet potatoes and prick them with a fork before microwaving them for 8 minutes.  Cut in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon.  Mash with a masher or fork and a little (1 Tb?) butter and salt to taste).

Sweet potato carcasses and mash

I also roasted some cauliflower, which I bought in floret form from BJs.  I lined a pan with aluminum foil, sprayed on a little olive oil, laid out the florets in one layer, sprayed with a little more olive oil, salted, and roasted in our Breville mini oven thing at 425 degrees with convection for 11 minutes, or until a little brown at the edges.

Here’s a sample plate:

And here’s the one for M, who says she doesn’t like mushrooms, but who did end up asking to add some gravy — without mushrooms — to her pork:

We all liked the meal enough to add it to our regular rotation.  D thought the pork was a bit tough, but that might have been due somewhat to my impatience — I released the pressure directly after cooking instead of waiting for 10 minutes of natural pressure release.  Next time, I might try decreasing the pressure cook time from 8 to 7 minutes.

Back to work

I returned to work from maternity leave on February 28, and just today I discovered that someone there (hi, coworker H!  You rule!) had read at least one of these blog posts!  O frabjous day!  So here are a few cute kid photos to celebrate.

I can’t believe this photo happened. They’re (almost sort of) holding hands! They’re both looking at the camera!  And more or less smiling!  I also love that H’s outfit has been worn before by at least three of his older cousins (G, B, and L).
The best out of many attempts at a photo the other day. Hey — they’re not crying.
Big sister was happy to get in on the action.