There is an art to pulling off a good quinoa mason jar. Adhering to a few best practices makes it easier. Why bother? Because quinoa travels very well in a mason jar, making a bring-to-work lunch much healthier. #notsaddesklunch, anyone? Let's begin!
The first step is having a ready supply of cooked Toasted Quinoa. Toasted Quinoa has a nutty, well-rounded flavor that other quinoa is lacking. I usually throw 2 cups of dried quinoa into a rice cooker on Sunday night so that I have access to freshly cooked quinoa throughout the week. 2 cups of dried quinoa will yield 4 cups of cooked quinoa -- enough for about 4 quinoa mason jar lunches.
The second step is simplifying your life and focusing on just 3 core "ingredient groups" per mason jar. Limiting things to just 3 ingredients makes the idea of a homemade lunch less daunting. Texture and nutrition are key here. None of the ingredients should require cooking which makes meal prep a cinch. You can do this!
Ingredient Group 1: Something "Briny"
Adding something briny does two things. First, it adds moisture to the dish (which means you'll need less dressing, which ultimately means less calories). Second, brined or fermented vegetables are super flavorful and probiotic. Keep a fridge well-stocked with items such as lacto-fermented sauerkraut, spicy kimchi, brined olives, marinated sun-dried tomatoes, etc. The bonus: these items are pre-made in a traditional sense (brining is one of the oldest ways of preserving food).
Ingredient Group 2: Something "Raw"
Adding something raw to the quinoa mason jar will add a fresh element to the overall meal. Think of raw spinach, thinly sliced raw kale, diced carrots or your green of choice. This is your chance to really eat healthy.
Ingredient Group 3: Something Meaty"
You didn't think I meant real meat, did you? You can add a meaty (translation: chewy) element to the jar by relying on cooked beans. Use either used canned beans or cook your own (requires a pressure cooker and some extra prep but worth the added step; I cook my beans concurrently with my Sunday night quinoa prep). You can also be creative and add clean tofu, firm tempeh, woody mushrooms or even omega-3 rich nuts such as walnuts or cashews.
- Always put your dressing at the bottom of the quinoa mason jar. This ensures the dressing stays wet, and it prevents the raw items (which are towards the top of the mason jar) from getting too soggy.
- Put your brined item at the top of the jar so that the fermented brine will subtly seep into your raw layer. The brine will lighten the crunch of that chopped kale or grated carrot, without making it soggy.
A quinoa mason jar is ready to eat straight out of the jar. However, my preference is to dispense the items into a bowl and mix.
Three of our favorite quinoa mason jar recipes:
Something "Briny": Homemade cabbage sauerkraut
Something "Raw": Finely chopped kale
Something "Meaty": Chopped mushrooms
Suggested dressing: miso-tahini dressing: 1/4 cup tahini, 1 tablespoon red miso, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 cup or more warm water, freshly cracked black pepper and a drizzle of maple syrup
Something "Briny": Homemade Korean kimchi
Something "Raw": Diced carrots
Something "Meaty": Cooked black or Adzuki beans
Suggested dressing: 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
Something "Briny": Canned olives
Something "Raw": Baby spinach leaves
Something "Meaty": Cooked chickpeas
Suggested dressing is a 2-to-1 ratio of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Mix in some dried thyme and course sea salt for a flavor boost.
Here's what the recipes look like when plated. Pretty delicious, right?
Come with your own combo and let us know!