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!

Comments

  1. I run for cake! says

    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 says

    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 says

    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. Sue says

    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:)

  5. Emily (Foodie/Nutritionist) says

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

  6. SprinkleBakes says

    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.

  7. Claudia says

    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).

  8. Lorraine says

    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.

  9. LiEr says

    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!

  10. shaz says

    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 :)

  11. Mara @ What's For Dinner? says

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

  12. Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot says

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

  13. Sippity Sup says

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

  14. Amy K. @ Onehealthypeanut says

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

  15. Anonymous says

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

  16. marla {family fresh cooking} says

    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

  17. Chic Cookies says

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

  18. Kudos Kitchen says

    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!

  19. Barbara @ Modern Comfort Food says

    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!

  20. angela@spinachtiger says

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

  21. We Are Not Martha says

    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

  22. Julie @ Willow Bird Baking says

    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 :)

  23. eataduckimust says

    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 :)

  24. sherala says

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

  25. Charlotte says

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

  26. Chic Cookies says

    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.

  27. Eliza J says

    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!

  28. red food colouring says

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

  29. Sarah @ Mum In Bloom says

    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 :)

  30. Chic Cookies says

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

  31. Jamie Barber says

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

    -jamie

  32. Kathi Kraftyzales says

    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!!

  33. Chic Cookies says

    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. :)

  34. kelley says

    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!!

  35. Chic Cookies says

    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.)

  36. Maudene says

    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!

  37. Chanda says

    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.)

  38. says

    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.

    • meaghanmountford says

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

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