150 Best Meals in a Jar
Salads, Soups, Rice Bowls & More
A cookbook review by Linda Kissam & Adrianne Morrison
Gotta make lunch for the family but rather be crafting? How about putting your imagination and artistic eye to work in the kitchen creating beauty in mason jars?
How? Take a look at Tanya Linton’s fun cookbook, 150 Best Meals in a Jar. Photographs and recipes get your creative juices flowing. Think 150 unique presentations of breakfast dinner, lunch and dessert all assembled and served in a portable mason jar. Seriously.
Tanya Linton is a partner and executive producer at Architect Films, a leading television production company in lifestyle and factual programming. At one time she was in charge of some of HGTV’s biggest brands. She’s an accomplished writer and producer living in Toronto, Ontario with husband and three children. Her book is 248 pages with 24 color photo pages.
Adrianne and Linda give this cookbook 4 out of five stars. The visually pleasing end product store well in the fridge, so you can make grab and go meals several days ahead of time. We like time savers, we like beautiful presentations, we like easy recipes and we definitely like an end product that tastes good. This book has it all. We held back one star for lack of photos. The ones in the book are tastefully done, but we’re visual learners and appreciate knowing what the end product should look like for each creation.
In typical Robert Rose publishing style, these recipes include “Tips” and “Variations” and an excellent introduction to assist you in creating the “Perfect Meal in a Jar.” As you might expect, the “Dos and Don’ts” are important. Sure, you could probably put the dry ingredients for an oatmeal chocolate-chip cookie in a jar and make it look appealing by layering color and texture, but would you intuitively know the order of a Shepard’s Pie with Lamb and Wilted Spinach or a Moroccan Couscous Salad? I’m guessing not.
When you have this fun Meals in a Jar cookbook, all guesswork is eliminated. You, with the kids or with friends, can jump right into making beautiful looking meals—in a jar, ready to go—for fun, gifts, auctions and whenever you just want to! Consider a team-building experience… shop the ingredients, print a few recipes and let the team figure it out. Be creative with sharing your new found meal preparation skills and techniques for your next party, or gift the cookbook itself with a set of mason jars. You’ll likely get one back, beautifully crafted and ready to eat, as a thank you.
I love shopping. I love food. I crave a beautiful presentation. This book got me thinking how amazing these meals in a jar would look in a beveled antique jar. Some of the recipes in this book require large jars, others, small jars. The shopping opportunities are limitless. Now that’s what I call inspirational cooking.
Unique and collectable jars can be found in antique and second hand stores. Although practically a classic Mason jar is the key container for this type of cooking, any sparkling, creative or beautiful jar would be an excellent way to serve divine meals.
Most of the inspiring recipes serve up to four, which makes them the perfect thing to present your contribution to a potluck party in. There are solo recipes for one. Think what a kick it would be to eat creatively presented meals at your work desk. They’re so charming and pretty, they also make the perfect gift, and they stay fresh and travel well, so they’re the perfect make-ahead option. My suggestion? Be inspired to get out of the meal time presentation rut and experiment with new flavors and combinations. I simply cannot describe the look on my husband’s face the first time I sent his work lunch in a jar. I’ll say this for this type of meal preparation – it’s definitely a conversation starter.
Portable Paella recipe
Makes 1 serving
1-quart (1 L) wide-mouth mason jar
1 cup water 250 mL
1⁄2 cup long-grain white rice 125 mL
1⁄4 tsp salt 1 mL
4 saffron threads 4
1 tsp butter 5 mL
1 tbsp olive oil 15 mL
1⁄2 cup sliced red onion 125 mL
1 cup chopped seeded tomatoes 250 mL
1⁄4 tsp smoked paprika 1 mL
1⁄2 cup cooked peas 125 mL
1⁄4 cup finely chopped dry-cured chorizo 60 mL
1⁄2 cup cold shredded cooked chicken 125 mL
4 cold cooked medium shrimp 4
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley 60 mL
- In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil over high heat. Stir in rice, salt and saffron, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender and water is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in butter, fluffing rice with a fork. Let cool completely.
- Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in tomatoes and paprika; cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes or until tomato juice has evaporated. Let cool completely.
- Layer onion mixture, rice, peas, chorizo, chicken, shrimp and parsley in jar. Seal jar and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
- When ready to serve, remove lid and microwave on High for 3 minutes or until warmed through.
Image credit: Colin Erricson