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Restaurant lunch highlights:

Gainesville Greens: 'Put a lid on it'

MJS: Heavy on the Bottom, light on top

By Kim Harris, GLOB Guest Columnist

KimHarrisMUGEDITOR's NOTE: Say Hello to vegetarian and lover of all things green, Kim Harris. Kim will be writing Gainesville Greens occasionally covering not only the leafy green side of lunch, but other topics of interest that will lead all GLOBers to a more healthy approach to diet, lifestyle, and lunch. Kim has been a vegetarian for close to 25 years. Ms. Harris looks forward to sharing her take on lunchtime salads, smart living, and a positive look at all things good for our bodies.

It's springtime! Salads are great options for lunch or dinner during spring and summer. You can find interesting, inventive salads at most restaurants in town, but sometimes you might just want to make your own salad and take advantage of our current beautiful weather by eating outside at a local park or nearby lake. Salads are light, healthy, and (best yet) don't require cooking.

033114Ggreens2A popular way to make salads to go these days is to prepare them in a mason jar. You can make several Mason Jar Salads at once and, tightly sealed, they should remain crisp for five to seven days if you follow a simple formula: heavy at the bottom, light on top. Choose a pint- or quart-sized jar with a lid and make sure it is completely dry before filling with goodies. (A pint-sized jar will yield the equivalent of a side salad, while the quart will provide a meal's worth of goodness.)

The heaviest part of your salad is the dressing, so put 1-4 tablespoons of your favorite dressing in the bottom of the jar. Other weighty items go next: chopped veggies like red peppers or cucumbers, and cooked pasta, rice, or quinoa. Then add proteins, like shredded or crumbled cheese, meat, tuna, or hardboiled egg. Finally, you can add nuts or seeds, like sunflower seeds, slivered almonds, or chia seeds, before packing in greens. You can then add romaine lettuce, spinach, mixed greens, or whatever is your favorite. Tear the greens; cutting them will lead to brown edges or wilted leaves. You should pack everything in well, so it doesn't shift in transit.

I would recommend leaving items that have an especially strong smell, like onions, or those that will get soggy or brown, like strawberries, tomatoes, or avocados, out of the jar until the day you want to eat the salad. This also applies to meats that might not stay fresh for a week. If you use tofu or tuna, be sure to do a good job of squeezing out any liquid it may be packed in, so the rest of your salad stays crisp. You could toss these extras in on top or carry them separately in a small container.

033114MJSWhen it's time to eat your salad, open the jar and shake everything into a bowl or onto a plate. If you don't have a bowl, you can eat the salad straight out of the jar, but you should probably leave some room at the top so your ingredients have room to blend when you shake them up to mix them.

You can be as creative as you want when making a salad in a jar. Experiment with all your favorite salad fixin's and try something new every once in a while. If you prefer to start out with a recipe, you can find a ton on Pinterest; just search "salad in a jar".

Making your own salad allows you to take advantage of all the fresh veggies and fruit available at local farmers markets this time of year (think spinach and other lettuces, beets, or strawberries). Not only will you have a healthy lunch, you'll support local farmers and enjoy the freshest produce available.

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