Keep these Mason Jar Taco Salads in the fridge for quick, filling, and flavor-packed lunches. The salads are perfect for sharing, and after they’re gobbled up you can keep the sharing going by using them to collect spare change for local food pantries!
My son is in a season of life when most of my parental energy seems to be spent on keeping him alive. There’s lots of chasing, corralling, and dragging away from certain peril, sprinkled with pulling things out of toilets and magic-erasering crayon off the walls. Oh yeah, and somewhere in there we attempt to feed, clothe, bathe, and change the kid. I love this stage, I really do. It’s wild and fun and unpredictable. But it also makes me appreciate the rare moments when my little tornado slows down long enough for us to connect on a deeper level.
When I think about all the hopes I have for my son’s future, most of them have nothing to do with society’s view of success. I don’t hope he makes a lot of money or earns multiple degrees. I don’t care if he goes to an Ivy League school or the community college down the block. My deepest desires for his life are all about his character, not his accomplishments. I hope my son is kind. I hope he is compassionate. I hope he sits with the kid at school who has no one else to sit with. I hope if he sees someone without a lunch, he’s willing to share his. I hope he’s brave enough to do the right thing, even when it’s the hard thing.
In this season, a lot of the bigger stuff gets lost in the day-to-day whirlwind of parenting a toddler. I mean, we’re really just trying to get him to stop hitting things when he’s mad. Sharing his lunch seems like a long way off. Still, I’m reminded that these small moments matter. Our words, yes, but also our actions. Most of what he learns will come from watching me (gulp), which is a tough reminder on the days I’m tempted to throw an adult-sized tantrum myself.
Here’s the thing. I know my kiddo is going to catch me being impatient or selfish or angry, but I hope at least as often he catches me being kind and forgiving and compassionate. I know one of the best ways I can teach my son about these values is by modeling them myself, which is why I was really excited to discover Feeding America and Scholastic’s Hungry to Help Family Action Plan. This awesome toolkit was developed to help educate families on the issue of child hunger and give them practical ways they can practice empathy together.
1 in 6 children may not have enough to eat, an issue which is especially detrimental in the summer, when children cannot rely on the school lunch program for any meals. Hunger has an obvious impact on children’s physical well being, but it also impacts them mentally, emotionally, and socially. This summer, your family can use the Family Action Plan to help address this issue together. Included in the toolkit is more information about childhood hunger, family conversation starters, ideas for community action, and an activity sheet where children can draw their perfect world.
Some of my favorite ideas from the action plan included putting a box in your house to collect canned foods or planting a garden and donating some or all of the produce. Another idea is to make and take food to someone in the community who is ill or facing a family emergency, which is where these Mason Jar Chicken Taco Salads come in.
Mason jar salads became all the rage a few years ago, and for good reason. They’re a healthy, delicious, and portable lunch, a combination that’s not terribly easy to find. But besides these obvious benefits, mason jar salads are also the perfect meal to make and share with others. They can easily be packed up and delivered to friends or neighbors who could use a homemade meal. They’ll keep for a few days in the fridge and don’t require any prep at all. Just dump and go!
I decided to add a little spice to my mason jar salad routine with this taco version. Packed full of chicken, corn, tomatoes, bell pepper, cheese, and tortilla strips, these salads have plenty of fresh flavor and a satisfying crunch. You can use any dressing for these salads (I think ranch mixed with hot sauce would be superb), but my favorite is a copycat recipe of Chipotle’s Honey Vinaigrette. It’s the perfect balance of smoky heat and subtle sweetness, and it complements the salad perfectly. Like all mason jar salads, the dressing goes on the bottom and the lettuce goes on top to ensure everything stays nice and crisp until you’re ready to eat it.
Once you’ve finished devouring the salads, consider rinsing out the jar and using it to collect spare change for your local food bank. Kids will love watching the pennies add up and delivering it to the food bank. I hope you’ll take some time in the few weeks left of summer to check out the Family Action Plan and stretch your empathy muscles with your littles. If you need other recipes great for sharing with neighbors in need, check out my Johnny Marzetti or Creamy Chicken Sausage, Tomato, and Tortellini Soup.
For the dressing
- 6 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3/4 cups vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
For the salads
- 2 cups chopped chicken
- 1 cup sweet corn
- 1 cup diced red onion
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
- 1 cup chopped orange or yellow bell pepper
- 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped into 1/2 inch strips
- 1 cup tortilla strips
Ladle about 3 Tablespoons of dressing in the bottom of four wide mouth quart size mason jars. (You'll have leftover dressing--just store it in the fridge for other uses).
On top of the dressing, layer the chicken, corn, onion, tomatoes, bell pepper, and cheese, dividing them evenly between the four jars. Top with the lettuce and tortilla strips. Seal the jars and store in the fridge until ready to eat.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 861 Total Fat: 64g Saturated Fat: 11g Cholesterol: 79mg Sodium: 1276mg Fiber: 7g Sugar: 26g Protein: 25g
This post is sponsored by Feeding America and Scholastic. As always, all thoughts are my own.
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