These portable salads are perfect for lunch on-the-go. If you have them, wide-mouth pint jars are the easiest to eat your salad out of, but any pint-size jar or container with a tight-fitting lid will work. This recipe is one example of a salad in a jar—check out “Food for Thought” at the end of the recipe to learn how to make a salad with all your favorite ingredients. If you can’t find Persian cucumbers, use half an English cucumber instead.
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What You’ll Need
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 4 teaspoons juice, zested and squeezed from ½ lemon
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard or mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon salt
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 Persian cucumbers, ends trimmed and cucumbers chopped
1 cup (6 ounces) cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
½ cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
Ask kids: Have you heard of food groups before? Can you name any food groups? Discuss what kids may already know about food groups.
Explain to kids that foods can be grouped together based on how they help your body when you eat them. Nutritionists (scientists who study what people eat and how food works in your body) recommend eating a balanced mix of foods from different groups to help your body stay healthy. Tell kids that the United States Department of Agriculture categorizes foods into five different food groups:
- Fruits, which include fresh fruit, dried fruit, and fruit juice
- Vegetables, which include raw or cooked vegetables and vegetable juice
- Grains, which include any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or other grains (such as bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, grits, or tortillas)
- Protein, which includes foods made from meat, chicken or turkey, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, soy products, nuts, and seeds
- Dairy, which includes milk and foods made from milk, like yogurt or cheese
Before kids begin cooking, have them lay out all of the ingredients for this recipe on the counter. Ask kids: Can you sort these ingredients into the five food groups, plus a group for “other”? Have kids sort the ingredients into groups with their best guesses. Ask kids: What were your reasons for putting these ingredients into these groups?
Tell kids that nutritionists would sort the ingredients of this recipe into these groups:
- Fruits: lemon
- Vegetables: cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce
- Grains: none
- Protein: chickpeas
- Dairy: feta cheese
- Other: extra-virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard or mayonnaise, salt, pepper
Ask kids: Were you surprised by any of these answers? Why or why not? (Biologically speaking, cucumbers and tomatoes are technically fruits, because they contain seeds. However, in culinary and nutritional terms, they're classified as vegetables.)
Take It Further
This salad in a jar is made up of layers of ingredients that are stacked on top of one another. When you look at the jar from the side, you can see the different layers. Ask kids to count how many layers they can see. We saw five: dressing on the bottom, followed by a layer of protein (chickpeas), then sturdy vegetables (cherry tomatoes and cucumbers), then more delicate vegetables (lettuce), and lastly, a sprinkle of cheese. Layering the salad this way helps to keep your salad fresh until you’re ready to eat.
Ask kids: Did you know that the ground you are standing on is also made of layers? Explain to kids that just below our feet are layers of different kinds of soil and rock that make up the Earth’s crust. If you could cut through all of the soil and look at it from the side, you’d see five layers: the organic layer, topsoil, subsoil, parent material, and bedrock. The organic layer is the layer we stand on, made up of leaves and other plants that are slowly breaking down. Below that is the topsoil, where plants’ roots grow in loose, airy soil that is also home to some insects and bacteria. The next layer down is subsoil, which is dense, hard-packed, and full of minerals. Only large and sturdy plant roots can grow deep into the subsoil. Below that, the parent material layer is made of pieces of rocks. It’s called “parent material” because all the layers above it are made from it as it erodes, or breaks down. And lastly, at the bottom, is bedrock. Bedrock is made of large rocks like granite, quartzite, basalt, and sandstone. To learn more about layers of soil and what they’re made of, kids can watch this video.