We hold our meals to high standards here, and on-the-go eating can be tough. While big-batch potluck dishes work for set destinations, not all adventures end in crowds and cutlery. Such times call for sweet little servings of somewhat balanced meals — and jars make the perfect vessel (we love Ball’s new line, but any resealable glass jar will do). These portable mains, sides, and sweets will satisfy on the road, in the woods, or simply at the table.
Do note that a jar-packed bag will get heavy. We suggest making a midday snack-meal of one or two favorites, and having each person BYO jar by appetite. A lucky pack mule can haul the salt, pepper, and dressing made right in the jar.
Related: 14 New, Lighter Comfort Food Ideas
Jam Jar Salt and Pepper Shakers How-To
Place a piece of clear tape over a lid, and use a marker to create a pattern of holes. With a pushpin, pierce the lid at each mark. Remove tape, and head to the picnic.
Sandwiches are classic hit-the-road fare, and trimming them and stacking them in a wide-mouth jar helps avoid the dreaded knapsack smush. Our picks: cucumber and prosciutto, smoked salmon and olive-caper butter, or classic PB and J.
"Goldilox" Tea Sandwiches
Goldilocks would have devoured her portion (and the three bears’ share) of these sandwiches. Each moon-shaped cutout has layers of briny olive-caper butter and a just-right amount of smoked salmon for an endearing take on bagels and lox.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup large pitted green olives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons brine-packed capers, drained, rinsed, and finely chopped
20 very thin slices white bread
10 slices smoked salmon (about 4 ounces)
Sandwiches can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours. Olive-caper butter can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.
1. Stir together butter, olives, and capers. Spread 1 teaspoon butter mixture onto each slice of bread. Lay salmon slices in a single layer on 10 bread slices. Sandwich with remaining bread, buttered sides in.
2. Cut out 2 moons per sandwich using a 3-inch moon-shaped cookie cutter (nycake.com).
Related: Brunch Recipes to Try This Weekend
Slicing ahead turns a family-style dinner into an on-the-go snack. Try our chicken with almond-mint pesto and zucchini too.
Family-Style Rolled Omelet with Spinach and Cheddar
You don’t have to stand over the stove and make individual omelets with this recipe. Round out the meal with bread and a simple cherry-tomato salad.
Olive oil, for pan
1 cup milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
8 large eggs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar (6 ounces)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 10-by-15-inch rimmed baking sheet or jelly-roll pan with oil. Line bottom of pan with parchment, leaving a 1-inch overhang on the two shorter sides. Brush parchment with oil.
2. In a bowl, whisk together milk and flour. Add eggs, mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, and teaspoon pepper; whisk to combine. Pour into pan. Sprinkle spinach over top in an even layer.
3. Bake until edges of omelet are set, 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle with cheddar; bake until cheese has melted, 2 to 4 minutes. Beginning at one shorter end, lift parchment, and roll up omelet tightly, peeling back parchment as you go. Slice and serve.
Greens keep their bite when wrapped in prosciutto and dressed just-barely ahead. Store them vertically, and enjoy the wonders of salad-as-finger-food.
Bitter-Greens Salad Wrapped in Prosciutto
1/2 cup pecans
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 bunch red dandelion greens, trimmed (4 cups), or any bitter greens
3 ounces Medjool dates (about 12 small), halved and pitted
4 ounces Stilton blue cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Thinly sliced prosciutto, for serving
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss pecans with 1 tablespoon oil, and season with salt. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until fragrant and edges begin to darken, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
2. Combine dandelion greens, dates, and half the Stilton in a bowl. Toss with lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange salad on a platter. Sprinkle with pecans and remaining cheese. Serve with prosciutto.
Base of Beans
Salads built on beans are both tasty and tenacious — and no one does alfresco like the Italians. Add the greens last to ensure that they stay fresh on top.
Roasted Red-Pepper Salad with Anchovy White Beans
4 small red bell peppers
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 anchovy fillets packed in olive oil, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 can (15 ounces) small white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (2 tablespoons)
1 cup packed spicy baby greens, such as watercress or arugula
1. Char bell peppers over the flames of a gas burner, turning with tongs until blackened and blistered, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, broil them 2 or 3 inches from heat source.) Transfer peppers to a bowl, cover with a plate, and let stand until cool. Scrape off skins with a paring knife and wipe flesh clean with a paper towel. Keeping stems intact, cut peppers in half lengthwise, then remove and discard seeds. Arrange on a platter and season with salt and pepper.
2. Whisk together anchovies, garlic, vinegar, oil, and parsley in a medium bowl. Add beans and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon over peppers and top with Parmesan and greens.
For a casual, communal approach to sides, pass around a jar of layered bean dip. (The chips can travel by store-bought bag — no jar required).
Seven-Layer Bean Dip
4 tablespoons safflower oil
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped onion (from 1 medium onion)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) pinto beans, drained, liquid reserved
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled
1 to 2 pickled jalapeno chiles, minced
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 ounces cheddar cheese, grated (1 cup)
6 scallions, thinly sliced
6 ounces pitted black olives, chopped
1 to 2 bags tortilla chips, for serving
1. Heat oil in a large pan. Add 1 cup onion and the garlic, and cook over low heat until translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in beans, and cook for 3 minutes. Roughly mash with the back of a spoon, adding reserved liquid as needed to attain desired consistency.
2. Mix tomatoes with remaining 2 tablespoons onion and the salt. Mash avocados with jalapenos, 2 tablespoons sour cream, and the lemon juice.
3. Spread 1/2 inch mashed beans into bottom of each jar. Top with 2 tablespoons cheddar, 1 tablespoon scallions, cup tomato mixture, 3 tablespoons avocado mixture, 2 tablespoons sour cream, then 2 1/2 tablespoons olives. (Alternatively, layer all ingredients in a large bowl.) Serve with chips.
Take advantage of leakproof lids with fruit salad that’s made to soak. Try this tropical fruit in ginger syrup, or for grown-up adventures, bourbon-poached peaches steeped with real vanilla bean.
Tropical Fruit In Ginger Syrup
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup sugar
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 banana, sliced crosswise
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut (optional), toasted
The syrup can be made several days in advance. Add the fruit up to a day ahead.
1. In a medium saucepan, bring ginger, sugar, and 1 cup water to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.
2. With a sharp knife, slice off ends of oranges. Following curve of fruit, cut away peel and white pith; cut fruit crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. In a large bowl, combine oranges, mango, and banana. Pour ginger syrup over fruit and let sit 10 minutes. Serve fruit with a little syrup and toasted coconut if desired.
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