How I enjoy my lunch in a bottle!

An array of bottled salads at my friend Kim Galanto's fridge: Grab to go

An array of bottled salads at my friend Kim Galanto’s fridge: Grab to go

Pouring salad out of a jar for friends to share

Pouring salad out of a jar for friends to share

By Cecile Caguingin Ochoa

Swapping comfort Filipino food, like ‘tapsilog,’ ‘kaldereta’ and ‘kare-kare’ for, ahem, healthful food bites or what favorite family friend, Kimmie Galanto, refers to as “clean food” was not easy. But given an appetizing choice of a nouveau menu via jars, I became a convert.

And for at least two weeks now, I was chugging along layers of appetizing vegetable sushi, taco and burrito salad in jars to share with co-workers in the office. Thanks to the sealing wonders of the turn-of-the-century mason jars — pint or quart-sized — that used to can fruits and other condiments and storing grains in the pantry. And to the youthful, health- conscious generation that still keeps me and my husband company.

Layered together with the dressings at the bottom, my jar salad of both fruits and vegetables were so colorful to ignore in the office fridge.

One day I brought in a Greek Pasta Salad with the layers in this order: At the bottom was lemon vinaigrette (to keep the leafy salad from getting soggy), cherry tomatoes, a few sliced red onion, diced cucumbers, feta, some cooked rigatoni, a few chicken breast cubed, and mixed greens on top. One quart size was plenty enough to share with two others who brought some peanuts and walnuts to keep our protein supplements.

It was incredible to see how a quart jar could store so much as we tossed the salad together in large bowl. Everything stayed separate and dressing-free until we tossed those in preparation for our shared lunch. We were pleasantly surprised to find the leafy vegetables fresh and crispy like the day it was bought.

The next day, my jar was layered with burrito salad that included, from bottom up: 5 tablespoons of Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, cubed chicken breasts, cucumber, corn, black beans, some bacon bits, cherry tomatoes, and topped with 3 cups of lettuce.

Kimmie Galanto, a graphic designer for a thriving west-side company, prepares her salad jars a week ahead for five days which include five lunches, five dinners and snacks. She budgets $100 for these weekly fare which can include special condiments and healthy snacks.

“Each jar could be between 350 to 500 calories and enjoyable,” she shared.

I enjoy watching her layer each ingredient like an artist (that she is) painting a canvass. One color over another. I do enjoy some of these jars on days she wants to “skip” and actually eat out. It is my plan to keep it up with my own recipe, and of course, motivated that I can pack my jars with fruits, granola and yogurt and a bit of chocolate pudding – just a little (Lawrence, stop laughing).

My favorite is sushi salad, an unrolled version of the very popular California Roll. Layers of seaweed, rice, crab (imitation, OK), cucumber, and avocado. It creates a magnificent salad that costs a fraction of what you would pay at a restaurant.

How do the greens not get soggy?

Tammy Kresge, a self-confessed jar queen wrote: “The basic idea when packing salads in jars is to start with the heaviest and most non-absorbent ingredients with the dressing on the bottom of the jar and work your way up through the lighter ingredients until you end up with the salad greens themselves. As long as your jar doesn’t accidentally tip over you in your bag, the delicate greens will be well-protected from the dressing until you’re ready to eat.”

Shedding five pounds after keeping up with this recipe for two weeks was easy. But as many diets tell us: keeping those pounds away permanently may call for a genie in a jar.

My officemate Patricia Guevara enjoys a portion of my salad

My officemate Patricia Guevara enjoys a portion of my salad

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