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a mason jar meal (my 6th PFB challenge)

UPDATE: You can VOTE FOR ME HERE, if you’re so inclined.

I love mason jars. They are perfectly portioned, retro, convenient, and reusable. They are affordable, accessible, versatile and stylish. They contain, shake, serve and store. And they travel. And given that Round 6 of the Project Food Blog challenge is to create a meal that will travel well and still look great, and given that my pizza pops survived Round 5 (THANK YOU for all of your wonderful votes, wonderful people!), I get to do something I’ve wanted to do for ages: create a mason jar meal. My meal for two fit easily in the Project Food Blog cooler we received, with plenty of room to spare.

Here is what I served:

I wanted a meal that tasted freshly made, even after sitting for hours in a jar. Mason jars allow you to stack food in layers, keeping unfriendly mixing at bay, until right before serving. My biggest challenge was deciding in what order to layer the meal in the jar. How could I dress the salad but not have limp lettuce? How do I prevent pesto from browning? Here’s how I layered things (there really isn’t layering to the chips, cookies or drink, but I thought you’d appreciate the consistency):

Put dressings and heavy items on the bottom, foods to stay crisp and fresh at the top. For the salad, I mixed the dressing with the chick peas at the bottom to keep them away from the lettuce. Barriers help, like my layer of cucumber slices. For the pasta, I figured the tomatoes would add moisture (for mixing) and acidity (to prevent browning) to the pesto, so I put them together. And I left space at the top of each for shaking and mixing.

chickpea and chicken salad: Rinse and drain a can of chick peas. Place about half in a bowl, add your desired salad dressing (generously, as this will dress the whole salad) and mix. Spoon a layer of the chickpea mixture on the bottom of a mason jar. Top with a layer of sliced baby carrots, a layer of bite-size, cooked, seasoned chicken pieces, a layer of cucumber slices and a layer of lettuce. Shake right before eating.

homemade bagel chips: Slice several bagels in half. Slice crosswise in thin slices. Brush both sides of the bagel pieces with olive oil and arrange on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once. Let cool and place in mason jar.

pesto pasta: Cook penne pasta and drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the water. Prepare pesto: Process two cloves of garlic, about a cup of fresh basil leaves and 1/4 cup of walnuts in a food processor. With the blade running, pour in about 1/4 cup of olive oil and the pasta water. Add salt and pepper to taste and blend. Add about 1/2 cup of Parmesean cheese. Mix briefly. Blend in more olive oil or hot water to desired consistency. Spoon a layer of pesto on the bottom of a mason jar. Add a layer of halved cherry tomatoes, a layer of cubed mozzarella cheese, and some of the penne pasta. Shake right before eating.

white wine sangria (adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe): In a saucepan, combine and heat 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup honey, the zest and juice of a lemon, six whole cloves, and two cinnamon sticks over medium heat to a simmer. Turn heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes. In a pitcher, combine a bottle of white wine, the spice mixture, one apple peeled, cored and cubed and lemon slices. Refrigerate overnight and pour in individual mason jars.


chocolate sandwich cookies: Prepare chocolate cookie dough (click the link for recipe). Chill, roll out, cut out 1 1/2 inch circles and bake according to the recipe. Let cool. Prepare frosting (click the link for recipe) and tint white. Prepare a frosting bag with a coupler and size “10” tip. Fill with frosting and close tightly with a rubber band. Pipe and fill a circle of frosting on the back of a cookie and top with another cookie. Let dry overnight before packaging in mason jars.

The beauty of mason jars is the pretty package. You can add ribbon, labels, and tags. Or attach napkins, plasticware, and straws with ribbon. I made labels for the top: “SHAKE” (pasta and salad), “CRUNCH” (chips), “SWEET” (cookies), “SIP” (drink), and “BRR” (ice).

To test the freshness, I prepared my mason jar meal in the morning and we dined in the evening. The result? Even better than I expected. Flavorful, fresh, balanced. The layering works well for meals-that-have-to-wait because the veggies at the bottom of the jar marinate in the dressing and sauce, adding flavor, but the food at the top of the jar stays pristine. The pesto stayed green and the lettuce crisp. My pesto could’ve been a bit thinner for better mixing, but that’s my only complaint.

Some tips:

  • I used the wide-mouth mason jars for the meal, as that made layering the food easier. For the drinks, I used the small mason jars.
  • Add a couple extra mason jars filled with ice to your cooler to keep things cool.
  • Mason jar meals would be ideal for outdoor parties and picnics to keep the bugs away.
  • Mason jars add heft and the fear of breakage, so while they are perfect in so many ways, and they are perfect for traveling when heft and the fear of breakage is controlled (such as a nearby picnic, for tailgating, or for traveling in cars). I wouldn’t recommend packing a mason jar meal in your rucksack and climbing a mountain.

Feel free to share (nicely)! While my blog's photographs and text are protected by copyright, I do allow (and encourage) you to share ONE photograph with credit to "the decorated cookie" and link to this blog post. PLEASE don't reprint any part of the blog post and PLEASE don't post a photo without credit. Thank you!


90 Comments

  1. I run for cake!
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    This is fabulous! Each week your ideas just keep getting better and better! Way to keep plowing through this competition! I'm thinking you have a HUGE chance of winning! Good luck!

  2. Meg
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic idea- I could see these as the perfect way to do food for a backyard picnic (or even lunches) that don't prep well ahead of time.

  3. Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    This is such a great idea to use mason jars! I love you even put pasta in the jars. YUM! And how cool that you attached the utensils and straws to the jars, very clever. I love what you did with this challange Great job and best of luck!

  4. Ravenous Rowie
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    This is such a fun post! Very creative, and effective!

  5. ♥peachkins♥
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    everything you put in that mason jar looks terrific!

  6. daphne
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    very creative. . What a fun and novel presentation!

  7. The District Chocoholic
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    Absolutely adorable. So creative.

  8. ClassicKitchenTwist
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    Very clever! What a great idea!

  9. Sue
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    What a FANTASTIC idea! I just love it, and want to do it myself! You thought of everything, down to the labels and utensils! Darling, Meaghan:)

  10. Emily (Foodie/Nutritionist)
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    This is SO cute!! Beautiful presentation and all the recipes sound super yummy as well! Wish I was going on this picnic! :)

  11. Fun and Fearless in Beantown
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    This is such an inventive and fabulous idea. You definitely have my vote in this round!

  12. SprinkleBakes
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful and smart! Now I want go on a picnic. I love mason jars too. My family drinks iced tea from them – it's our little southern tradition.

  13. notyet100
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    everytime i come here,theres something new,..good luck for the next challenege

  14. bridget {bake at 350}
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Super, super cute, Meaghan!!! Love the Mason jars! Good luck!

  15. Claudia
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    I am going to totally steal your mason jar idea for picnics. Very creative! Kudos! I love the thought that went into it all – from the meal to the layering. Wishing you well with the voting (I'll be there).

  16. FabFrugalFood
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Wow – so creative! I MUST try these!
    Donna

  17. Chic Cookies
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Can you all please call me every day with such comments? What great cheerers you are!

  18. Lorraine
    Posted October 24, 2010 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    Wow. This is such a fabulous idea. Your ideas are so motivating. I want to have a picnic now too. I am going to have to try out the recipes as well – they all look delicious. It is so great that you continue to advance. Best of luck and cannot wait to see what you come up with for the next challenge.

  19. LiEr
    Posted October 24, 2010 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Alriiiiiight, Meaghan! Very glad you're on to Round 6! Love the mason jar meals – the salad and the pesto ones are my favorite – and something I shall try out myself soon – so simple and scrumptious. Thank you!

  20. shaz
    Posted October 24, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Yay for advancing to round 6!! And such a brilliant idea for a picninc especially the salad layering technique. Definitely going to use that one. Well done again :)

  21. Christina
    Posted October 24, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Very cool! I think a fall picnic will be in my near future!
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  22. Letizia Golosa
    Posted October 24, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    LOVEEEEEEEEEE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Mara @ What's For Dinner?
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    Great minds think alike!! I did a mason jar meal too :) I love your photo instructions and labels!

  24. ZUHAL
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    Hello.Very useful post.

  25. {Marianna}
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    You are a GENIUS!!! Love it! Hugs, Marianna:*

  26. cookeatlove
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic post. You have my vote.

  27. Winnie
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant! You have my vote, for sure :)

  28. Lisa Orgler
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE this!! That a cute idea! Great job!

  29. Kim
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Love it!!!! So creative!!

  30. Amelia PS
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    your entries are always very very cute!!!

  31. Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    That is adorable! I love the mason jar idea and your instructions on what to do with each are priceless! Very creative! Good luck!

  32. Shannon
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    LOVE IT!!!!!! I'm so inspired to go on a picnic now!

  33. Kimberly :)
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Meals in mason jars AND fondant demystified AND little painted marshmallows? This must be Heaven…

  34. Kimberly :)
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Meals in mason jars AND fondant demystified AND little painted marshmallows? This must be Heaven…

  35. Kimberly :)
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Meals in mason jars AND fondant demystified AND little painted marshmallows? This must be Heaven…

  36. Kimberly :)
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Meals in mason jars AND fondant demystified AND little painted marshmallows? This must be Heaven…

  37. Leila Hamilton
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    what a great meal! and your choice of container brilliant!
    Leila @ My Barbarian Table

  38. Ashley Craft
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    What a perfect idea!! Love the package ideas. :)

  39. Brooke - in Oregon
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    You are the BOMB this is awesome!!

  40. Lynn
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Love it, love it, love it. This is just the cutest post ever.

  41. Sippity Sup
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    You gotta love Mason Jars. They are durable, transportable and reusable. Great qualities for a picnic. GREG

  42. Leslie
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    What an awesome idea!

  43. Megan
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    As a fellow Mason jar-a-holic, I approve! I love the cute labels you added. Great job!

  44. Amy K. @ Onehealthypeanut
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    I LOVE eating out of mason jar! Something about it is so sweet. I love the pictures and graphics! bravo!!

  45. Anonymous
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    So great! This makes me want to pack a mason jar lunch! I have been looking forward to reading your entries every week! Voted!

  46. marla {family fresh cooking}
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    You are just genius! I am truly speechless. Not only does this look tasty, but it is one of the most creative meals I have ever seen! xo

  47. Chic Cookies
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I needed that! I'm afraid my days are numbered in this competition with the amazing other entries!! Thank you all!!

  48. Kudos Kitchen
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Meaghan, your creativity amazes me. Do you lay awake at night thinking of these brilliant ideas or what? I am SO impressed!!!
    Good luck. Hope you win!

  49. danasfoodforthought
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    The most creative meal I've seen yet!

  50. Deeba PAB
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    This is brilliant, just brilliant. WOW! I love how creative you got here!! GOOD LUCK Meaghan!!

  51. Barbara @ Modern Comfort Food
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    What a brilliant way to pack a picnic, and the courses you've put in them are so very special and scrumptious looking.

    I'm a new reader and am so happy to have discovered your fantastic blog. I love everything you're doing here!

  52. J+S
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    I love it and of course voted for you!

  53. angela@spinachtiger
    Posted October 26, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    I love mason jars. I use them in my pantry for everything. This was a very creative idea. I voted for you.

  54. Nads' Bakery
    Posted October 27, 2010 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    Very cool!

  55. We Are Not Martha
    Posted October 27, 2010 at 4:32 am | Permalink

    I love the way all the jars look fit into the cooler :) This is such a fun idea and I think it's awesome how everything from salads to ice to crackers and sangria can go in a jar!

    Sues

  56. Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
    Posted October 27, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    CUTE and informative! Love the way you showed how to layer the jars! You have a vote from me!

    For my entry, I wanted to create a road trip and picnic for my boyfriend, who had recently given me a "do over" of one of my childhood memories. I decided to give him his own "do over" — a special birthday picnic with a heart-themed meal. Come see if you'd like :)

  57. Joie de vivre
    Posted October 27, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    I just love this idea and love that you included the recipes. You have my vote!

  58. Liren
    Posted October 28, 2010 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    Super clever! What a great way to contain and organize a picnic!

  59. eataduckimust
    Posted October 28, 2010 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    love this idea and your presentation. so stylish :) i also like that it ends up being the cleanest, most practical and a delicious meal on the go :)

  60. Jennifer (Savor)
    Posted October 28, 2010 at 2:20 am | Permalink

    LOVE – you are just too much Meaghan . keeping my fingers crossed

  61. Mariko
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    What a great idea. Your pictures enhance it so well.

  62. Sarah Kerchner
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Well done!

  63. L'Atelier
    Posted May 8, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    fabulous!!

  64. sherala
    Posted May 12, 2011 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    Yes!!
    I do this for lunch at work everyday using mostly mason jars but occasionally French Le Parfait jars too.

  65. Charlotte
    Posted May 21, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    I am enamored with this idea!! Where do you suggest buying mason jars? (Looking for an online source.) Thanks!

  66. Chic Cookies
    Posted May 22, 2011 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    Charlotte, I've never ordered online since they are so plentiful around me, but search for Ball's mason jars and they are everywhere. I even spotted some at overstock.com, which has the best shipping prices and speed. I buy mine at the hardware store. Supermarkets often have them, too.

  67. Eliza J
    Posted May 31, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    LOVE the idea! Great for summers! England doesn't really have mason jars, more pickle jars really. Will definitely be stacking up some cookies into those puppies and going for a picnic!

  68. red food colouring
    Posted June 1, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    these are amazing!!! great idea. mason jars are great to transport soup and liquids because they won't spill.

  69. quilly
    Posted June 3, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    What an attractive, charming and FUNCTIONAL idea! Thank you!

  70. dolphin lady
    Posted June 3, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    What a great idea! And very creative way to go about it, too! Thanks for sharing!

  71. Sarah @ Mum In Bloom
    Posted June 4, 2011 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    What a gorgeous post.. the photos, the instructions, the ideas, the inspiration! Wow! I don't think I've ever read a more complete post! I adore mason jars and pack the kids snacks in them, we no longer use drink boxes or plastic cups but use jars now and we never run out of ideas for them. Now I also prepare my steel cut oats, then put them in jars to continue soaking & pop them in the fridge to heat up later… perfect for my hubby sack lunch :)

  72. Chic Cookies
    Posted June 4, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Aw, thank you everyone! Agreed. Aside from the whole heavy-fear-of-breaking-glass thing, mason jars are practically perfect in every way. Sigh.

  73. Jamie Barber
    Posted June 8, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    This is very creative! I bet kids would get a kick out of it too! Thanks for the great idea!

    -jamie

  74. Kathi Kraftyzales
    Posted June 9, 2011 at 3:19 am | Permalink

    I just thought of putting jello/yogurt (make jello but add one container of yogurt instead of cold water) …repeat: put jello/yogurt on the bottom of jar, about an inch, once it sets add pasta salad with veggies. Once the grandkids eat the pasta, time for dessert….yummy!!

  75. Chic Cookies
    Posted June 9, 2011 at 3:26 am | Permalink

    Just thought of the gum from Charlie in the Chocolate Factory that has an entire meal, from apps to dessert, contained in one piece of gum! Well, a stretch, but sort of the same concept. :)

  76. Elizabeth
    Posted June 9, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    This is awesome.

  77. Geek+Nerd
    Posted June 13, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    These are great. The presentation is *really* cute!

  78. kelley
    Posted June 29, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    SO cute. i am going to plan a picnic specifically so i can do this and make everyone think i am adorable. thank you for sharing!!

  79. Aimee Steckowski
    Posted July 9, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    i have been looking EVERYTHING for wonderful little picnic ideas for our monthly theme: hot&spicy — and came across your lovely little mason jar lunch! i've added it to your "picnic date" post today to encourage our readers to schedule something with their hubby's: http://www.fancylittlethings.com/2011/07/a-few-fancy-lil-things-2-picnic-date/

    thank you again – lovely idea that i intend to use this summer!! :)

  80. Anonymous
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Love this! What size are these jars?

  81. Chic Cookies
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    The larger the jar the better, I think these are the wide-mouth pint jars. (The though bigger the heavier… warning for picnics involving lots o' carrying and walking.)

  82. maman made
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    just brilliant!.. : )

  83. Anonymous
    Posted October 14, 2011 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Hi. I'm an Italian girl… I'have seen your jar and I love it so much. Can you say where I can buy your perfect jar?
    Thank you very much…
    my e-mail is: scarabeo1807@hotmail.it
    excuse me my english… ^_^

  84. Maudene
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    I love your ideas and I’ve got zillions of jars (from peanut butter, mayonnaise, pickles & salsa) that I just can’t see putting in the recycle collection. Now they’ve got a purpose just waiting for summer. Thanks!

  85. Chanda
    Posted March 26, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    I posted this page on facebook. Thanks for the fabulous idea. I saw my cousin post last year and I never forgot it. My husband said that it was the best picnic ever and if I wanted to do all future picnics like this, he is game. (I sometimes have trouble getting picnic cooperation from him.)

  86. meaghanmountford
    Posted March 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much Chanda!! Ha, funny what we have to get the guys to do :)

  87. Posted April 15, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    I love your picnic jar idea. I am really fond of mason jars and use them to freeze extra food, like chili and sauces. I can’t wait to take your ideas on my next picnic.

  88. Posted October 21, 2013 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful for picnics. I’m sharing this!

  89. Kim hamstra
    Posted May 21, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Do u eat the pasta cold, or do u heat. Only asking cuz of the cheese. Theses all look so yummy

  90. meaghanmountford
    Posted May 21, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kim… Cold! But gosh, mason jars are microwaveable. I’m thinking of all new recipes now :).

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