Mason Jar Chickpea, Farro and Greens Salad (& lunch packing tips!)

Mason jar chickpea, farro and greens salad made with pantry/refrigerator staples - cookieandkate.com

Can we talk about lunch today? Basic, necessary, weekday lunches? I work from home these days, but I learned a thing or two about packed lunches when I was commuting to an office job a few years ago. Even now, I like to keep my lunches really simple, for productivity’s sake.

parsley and celery

To state the obvious, lunch is important. Skipping lunch altogether is not a viable option. Coworkers will start giving you funny looks when your head is on the desk and your stomach is growling for help. (I speak from experience.) Also, why skip a perfectly good excuse to eat?

You also can’t completely overdo it at lunch… well, you can, and I totally understand the desire to indulge after a miserable morning. Assuming that your human body functions similarly to my human body, however, choosing fast food with fries or mac and cheese will suck the energy right out of you.

Here’s how it goes: the grease, carbs and all that tasty, tasty salt will probably leave you feeling jazzed for about an hour. Then your eyelids will start to feel verrrrrry heavy. You’ll start fantasizing about crawling under your desk for a little nap. “Will anyone notice?” you’ll wonder. “Just for a few minutes…”

chopped parsley and olive oil

Lunch done right helps us power through the workday. My old office was nowhere near a decent, quick restaurant, so I always scrambled to throw together my lunch in the mornings.

Here are a few of my favorite packed lunch options:

1) Leftovers. Always prime candidates for packed lunches, even better if packed in an air-tight, individual portion container the night before.

The best leftovers for lunches include:

2) One-bowl, throw-together meals. This is my default option beyond leftovers. I will always choose a bowl meal over a sandwich or wrap, just because those don’t taste as good a few hours after they’ve been packed.

Here’s my general strategy for one-bowl meals: I cook extra whole grains or pasta and store those for later. I try to keep a hearty bean salad in the refrigerator that works with the texture of the leftover grains. Or, I usually have leftover beans and veggies that are good mix-ins. A handful or three of pre-washed greens is a nutritious addition. Finish it off with leftover dressing or salsa or another complementary sauce, and maybe some garnishes (nuts, cheese, dried fruit, hot sauce). Lunch is served!

Here are some ideas for meal-in-a-bowl/mason jar salad ingredients you can keep on hand:

  • Canned beans (chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, white beans)
  • Pre-cooked lentils (Trader Joe’s carries them in the refrigerated section)
  • Frozen organic edamame
  • Jarred artichoke
  • Jarred roasted bell peppers, preferably organic
  • Pitted olives
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Cheese
  • Salsa
  • Hummus
  • Pesto
  • Chopped bell pepper
  • Chopped raw broccoli
  • Chopped celery
  • Chopped carrots
  • Leftover roasted vegetables (any kind!)
  • Leftover cooked grains (farro, wheat/spelt berries, quinoa, rice, pasta, couscous)

3) Last but not least, freezer options. Sometimes there’s no time in the morning to do anything other than grab a meal from the freezer. You can plan ahead for these occasions and store freezer-friendly, individually-sized portions in the freezer.

You can also pick up some quality frozen meals at the grocery store these days (yep, I’m endorsing freezer meals!). I’m partial to Annie’s organic and Trader Joe’s Indian meals. Just check the ingredients list and make sure there aren’t any crazy preservatives that you can’t pronounce. Balanced frozen meals are better than fast food, right? They’re also cheaper than fast food or take-out from the Chinese place around the corner. It’s a win-win.

Greek salad dressing and dried cherries

When I was working at the aforementioned office job, I usually opted to take a 30-minute lunch so I could get a head start on my commute home. That meant that I ate lunch at the office.

Here are a few ways that I made my office lunches a little more tolerable:

1) Salt, spices and hot sauce. Sea salt tastes much better than those little iodized salt packets. Pre-filled pepper grinders cost less than five dollars in the grocery store spice aisle. This might sound crazy, but I kept a mini container of powdered cayenne pepper in my lunch box. You could keep a little bottle of your favorite hot sauce in your desk drawer instead.

2) Cute lunch box. It’s the little things! I’m still unduly attached to my red, neoprene lunch “box” made by Built. We’ve been through some tough times together.

3) Real silverware. Because metal utensils are more functional and make a desk lunch seem a little less sad.

4) Leak-proof storage containers. Opening your lunch box to discover that your precious sauce has spilled all over the inside is a serious bummer. Glasslock containers have never let me down. The lids are BPA-free and the glass containers are microwave safe. You might get lucky and find some at TJ Maxx or Marshall’s.

5) Good salad dressing. I make my own these days. If you have access to an office refrigerator, you could store some in a small jar and keep it in there until you run out. You can also store dressing in a little bitty container in your lunch box, but I have better luck with the refrigerator option or the mason jar salad technique. Another option? Keep small bottles of your favorite vinegar and olive oil in your desk.

chickpea celery salad

To illustrate these tips, I’m sharing a mason jar salad today. I’m betting that you’re already familiar with the concept, but if not, the idea is that you stack ingredients in a quart-sized mason jar (or in this case, 28.7-ounce Weck jars, which are easier to eat out of thanks to the wide top).

Here’s how mason jar salads work: Dressing goes on the bottom so it stays separate from the greens. The next layer up is composed of heartier, heavier ingredients like beans and chopped vegetables. Then comes a layer of grains, which are optional, but I think they make a salad feel more like a full meal. Lastly, greens and garnishes go on top. When you’re ready to eat, just flip the jar over and give it a few gentle shakes to distribute the dressing and the ingredients. Flip it back over, unscrew the lid and stick a fork in it!

chickpea, farro and greens salad

This salad is designed to be a relatively seasonless meal made from pantry/refrigerator staples. Each component can be mixed and matched to suit your cravings. Like, maybe you’re starving when you get home, so you want to snack on some chickpea salad. Or, maybe you want to change things up and stuff a tortilla with chickpea salad, greens and hummus for a hearty wrap. Maybe you want a hot meal of pasta with pesto, served with a side of chickpea salad and greens with Greek dressing. Sounds like a good idea to me.

This Greek dressing keeps well for a few weeks. Leftover farro (and other grain “berries” like wheat/spelt berries) freezes particularly well for later. Just let the grains cool, then pour some into a freezer-safe bag (don’t overstuff it). Squeeze the air out, flatten the bag and place it in the freezer. You should be able to pull off a chunk to defrost for future individual portion salads.

What am I forgetting? What are your best lunch tips? I bet you guys are lunch pros!

mason jar salad ingredientsmason jar saladMason jar chickpea, farro and greens salad recipe. Recipe makes enough for 5 lunches! - cookieandkate.com

5.0 from 4 reviews
Mason Jar Chickpea, Farro and Greens Salad (plus lunch packing tips!)
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
A mason jar salad made with components that you can mix and match! Amounts listed below should yield plenty for five mason jar salads.
Ingredients
Farro (feel free to substitute another grain and/or cook extra for later)
  • 1¼ cup farro
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium clove garlic, pressed or minced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Greek dressing (this recipe is easily halved)
  • 1 cup quality extra-virgin olive oil, such as California Olive Ranch brand
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar, honey or sugar
Chickpea and celery salad
  • 2 cans chickpeas (or 3 cups cooked chickpeas), drained and rinsed
  • 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced crosswise and roughly chopped
  • ⅔ cup chopped red onion (about one small red onion, chopped)
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • ⅓ cup Greek dressing or olive oil and lemon juice, to taste
Greens and garnishes
  • Mixed greens, roughly chopped if you have time (a couple handfuls per salad)
  • ¼ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds
  • Handful dried cherries or cranberries, roughly chopped
  • Kalamata olives, pitted and thinly sliced (optional)
  • Feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
Instructions
  1. To cook the farro: In a medium saucepan, combine the rinsed farro with at least three cups water (enough water to cover the farro by a couple of inches). Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer, and cook until the farro is tender to the bite but still pleasantly chewy. (Pearled farro will take around 15 minutes, unprocessed farro will take 25 to 40 minutes.) Drain off the excess water and mix in the olive oil, garlic and salt. Set aside to cool.
  2. Make the dressing: Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients until emulsified.
  3. Make the chickpea and celery salad: In a serving bowl, toss together the chickpeas, prepared celery, red onion and parsley. Stir in enough dressing (or olive oil and lemon juice) to lightly coat the salad. Toss and set aside.
  4. Toast the pepitas: In a skillet over medium-low heat, toast the pepitas for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until they smell fragrant and toasty. Transfer the pepitas to a bowl to cool.
  5. To assemble your mason jar salads: In a quart-sized mason jar (32 ounce capacity), layer the chickpea salad at the bottom along with an additional tablespoon or two of dressing (enough to lightly coat the salad when you turn the jar upside down). Top with cooled farro, then greens (leave about an inch of room at the top). Finish with a sprinkle of
Notes
Salad inspired by my Greek farro and chickpea salad with herbed yogurt, chickpea salad and Lebanese lemon-parsley salad. Greek dressing originally seen in my Greek salad with broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes. You might also enjoy my roasted cauliflower and farro salad.
Why buy organic? Conventionally grown celery and greens are usually high in pesticide exposure.
Make it vegan/dairy free: Just skip the feta. Add extra olives for a salty punch.
Quick farro tip: Trader Joe's sells pre-cooked farro that only takes 10 minutes to cook. Look for it near the rice.
Storage suggestions: Feel free to prepare mason jar salads up to a few days in advance. Just store them upright so the dressing doesn't get to the greens. You can also store the components separately and mix and match as desired. If the olive oil in the dressing solidifies when refrigerated, just let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes or give it a brief zap in the microwave, then whisk the dressing back together.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by California Olive Ranch and I received compensation for my participation. Opinions are my own, always. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who support C+K!

Comments

  1. jen says

    i love hearty, delicious salads like this!

    i like to make large-ish quantities of a few different grains at a time (brown rice, quinoa, millet, etc.), then i portion them out into batches–some to freeze, some to stick in the fridge to enjoy during the next week or so. i also usually have a few different kinds of proteins (beans, tuna, sauteed cubes of tofu or chicken–not a vegetarian…) and veggies (shredded veggies, chopped up salad greens, roasted veggies, various herbs) on hand as well. then, every day i pick some of each to make a new, slightly different-tasting salad, with minimal effort!

  2. says

    I am alll about making lunch more tolerable, especially in an office! I’ve found that using real dishes and silverware makes everything better. I am fortunate enough that my office provides dishes and washes them for us, so I see no reason to use paper!

  3. says

    Such a great presentation of Mason Jar Salads! I’ve never really been inspired to try this myself until now. :) Love how it looks in the Weck jar!

  4. says

    I’ve seen a ton of recipes involving chickpeas, but I’m just not a chickpea gal. I guess I better turn into one though so I can try these delicious looking recipes! Yum.

    • says

      I started loving chickpeas not long after becoming a vegetarian (I think?). Feel free to substitute white beans or lentils, if you like those better!

  5. says

    This is such an amazing idea. After working in an office I have become quite good at salad transportation and lunch transportation, I am often the envy of the office for my healthy and delicious fresh lunches. I am totally making and taking this recipe to work and shall be the envy of all!
    Bec

  6. says

    Okay, I probably can’t even tell you how much I love this post, Kate! Lunch is such an important meal which gets neglected way too often. I work at a place where I can’t go out for lunch, so I always have to bring my own lunch with me. I suck at buying prepackaged meals at grocery stores (I guess that’s actually a good thing) so I really need to be organized if I want to make sure that I get something proper for lunch. Leftovers are great as are quick salads with a protein source. I’m the girl who always has a box of flour de sel around because salt really matters (I’m pretty sure my co-workers think I’m a bit fancy/crazy). Also, I love my black + blum ‘box appetit’ lunch box that allows me to store the dressing in a separate section so I can dress my salad just before eating.

  7. says

    This salad looks great, and I love all of your lunch ideas! It’s nice to think of a lunch as many different elements that you can mix and match. I really like having lentils as the basis of a lunch. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods carry already-cooked lentils, which are delicious and last a long time in the fridge. They are great with goat cheese and walnuts or a simple marinara sauce and parmesan. Thanks for all these new tips!

  8. Barbara Davidge says

    Great ideas and recipes! This is exactly how we like our salads and lunches to go down….My Costco carries that brand of olive oil, we just bought it and it is delicious and full flavored. Thanks for a fantastic post.

    • says

      Thank you, Barbara! I’m glad you enjoy California Olive Ranch olive oil as well. It’s always a treat to work with my favorite brands.

  9. TellyHanny says

    very inspiring, to say the least! farro is a rock star for lunches. I actually look forward to going to work with lunch options like this! thanks for another great idea and recipe.
    follow me on Instagram- tellyhanny

  10. Sandy says

    First of all, I always use California Olive Ranch products. I’m so happy that Walmart carries them. Buy in the US! Secondly, the mason jar salads look so appetizing that I’m tempted to make some just to eat at home. They’ll also work well for outings and picnics. I saw this just in time to put my daily salad together, so thanks for the inspiration.

  11. says

    There’s so much I want to comment on in this post! First – THANK YOU. I’ve been in desperate need of lunch inspiration and all of the tips are fantastic. Second – I’m going to buy myself a cute lunch bag and start using real silverware. Third – I definitely learned the hard way about heavy lunches. No good. Making salads like these are the best. Your Lebanese Lemon-Parsley Bean Salad is one of my favs. :) I have a feeling this mason jar salad will join it on my favs list, looks so tasty!

  12. Ellen says

    This is perfect timing! I’m a teacher and school starts on Monday AND with a 15-month old I don’t have a ton of time to cook for myself. Easy, Healthy, Delicious … just what I need!

  13. says

    Thank you so much for this delicious looking post! I can be sure that this salad will make I way into my school lunch at least once a week. That way I won’t have to survive on PB&J.

  14. says

    Great tips, love your advice on how to layer the mason jar too! When I used to work out of an office, I’d often grab a salad from Trader Joe’s. However, that flimsy plastic fork was always a deal breaker!

  15. Michelle says

    Thank you, Kate! I am a stay @ home mom & I feel like I spend way too much time in the kitchen! I am needing mealtime inspiration & this post really helps! I plan on trying your mason jar salads soon. Can the jars be made up on Sunday for the whole week? I wouldn’t think the greens would stay fresh but they might?

    • says

      Michelle, I’m sorry I didn’t answer your question sooner! The greens might be a little wilted by the end of the week. They keep pretty well in the jars since they are kept separately from the dressing. A sturdy green like chopped kale would probably be fine for five days. Let me know if you give it a try!

  16. says

    Another beautiful, bright post to cheer up this decidedly rainy London day! (I have missed so much whilst trying to find wifi… ah! I need to take some time to catch up!) Anyway, back to this beautiful salad and lunch packing notes: so useful! I usually use a lunchbox rather than a mason jar, with a separate little jar of dressing but this is way simpler (with less mess!). I’ve also been struggling to get fresh veggies whilst away from home so seeing your photos is making me crave greens. I’m going to have to find some salad options over the next few days. Hope that you are well beautiful one! xx

  17. says

    Well, this salad looks amazing as always! I love packing my lunch. With a few dietary restrictions and working in a mainly industrial area full of truck-stop diners I can’t really find an ‘eating out’ option easily. I stock up on fresh salad ingredients over the weekend and while I am chopping veggies for dinner I make my lunch too. Add a grind of pepper and salt and I have a bowl of sunshine to eat for lunch. Also, my boyfriend and I are paying off our house, so eating out gets way too expensive. He is living on cheese, ham and salad sandwiches :) We treat ourselves once a week on Friday to lunch out. I grab sushi with a girlfriend and he eats the fried and nasty :) Who really works on Friday afternoon in their cubicle anyway ;)

    • says

      Hey Amy! Sounds like you have a great pack-for-lunch system! I don’t know why I don’t prep more veggies in advance. Great idea!

  18. says

    Looks like something i’m going to be trying this salad. Theres no good healthy places to eat near where i work, so having something nice to bring in will make for a great lunch. :)

  19. Flor says

    I love the layers of this salad. The chickpea salad can stand on its own and the salad dressing pairs so perfectly with it.

  20. Melissa says

    I’ve made this for lunch at work every day for the last two weeks and I’m still not sick of it. It’s so good! This dressing!

  21. says

    This looks absolutely delicious! I’m slowly “pinning” all your “Recipes to Pack for Lunch” ready for when I start uni on Saturday. Not sure how many I’ll get around to making, but I love all of your ideas.

    Can I just ask how long you think this salad would last for if kept in a mason jar in a fridge? I imagine it would be okay to make the night before, but not sure if I could stretch it another day if I’m super busy.

    Thank you so much for sharing, Kate! Your blog is stunning and really inspiring. :)

    Bethan.

    • says

      Hey Bethan! I think this salad would list for a couple of days in the fridge, for sure. The only issue you might run into is wilted salad greens, so you could reserve those for the last minute if you’d like.

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