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Make Your Own Rainbows in a Jar

The key to perfect make-ahead salads kids will plead for: It's all in the layering.

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Ever eaten your very own rainbow? Kids who might turn their noses up at traditional salads are much more likely to be excited about creating their own edible art project. All it takes is an array of colorful vegetables and a little imagination. Best of all: Because of a savvy layering technique that keeps crisp greens snappy for days, you can prep school lunches or dinners days ahead of time.

To keep your salads as fresh as possible, simply remember this rule: Start with dressing and wet ingredients on the bottom, working your way up to greens and dry ingredients at the top. A typical jar might start with a layer of dressing and chopped veggies, followed by proteins like beans or leftover cooked chicken, and end with the greens and crunchy bits like tortilla chips, roasted nuts, or croutons.

For a fun kitchen game, challenge your child to add as many colors as possible to the jar to create a full rainbow spectrum. (This can start at the grocery store, where kids can help shop for produce and additional ingredients by color.) Here are some ideas to get you started:

Red: Tomatoes, bell peppers, radish, beets, pomegranate seeds, dried cherries or cranberries, strawberries, roasted red potatoes, steak, bacon bits

Orange: Shredded carrots, cheddar cheese cubes, dried or fresh mango, clementine wedges, roasted butternut squash or sweet potato, shrimp

Yellow: corn, tortilla strips, pineapple, yellow bell peppers, cooked yellow potatoes, egg yolks, yellow summer squash, chickpeas, croutons

Green: Broccoli, cucumber, fresh herbs, celery, kale, spinach, lettuce, peas, zucchini noodles, edamame, snap peas, pumpkin seeds, green beans, shaved Brussels sprouts

Blue/Purple: Olives, red cabbage, black beans, grapes, blueberries, blackberries, purple kale, cooked blue potatoes

White: Feta, cauliflower, mushrooms, fennel, cooked pasta, chicken salad

Make loading the jars easier (read: keep the amount of chopped food on your floor to a minimum) by choosing wide-mouth jars and investing in a funnel: This one’s easy-to-hold handle is great for smaller hands. It will capture all the flying bits of lettuce and veggies and send them into the jar where they belong.

And the fun doesn’t have to stop at the salads! We’ve also collected some vibrant dressing ideas to add one last pop of color.

Golden Tahini Dressing: In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, add the juice of one lemon, ¼ cup tahini, two tablespoons water, ½ teaspoon ground turmeric, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon sugar, plus salt and pepper to taste. Pop the lid on and shake until combined.

Zombie Green Ranch: Blend your kid’s favorite ranch dressing (or our dairy-free version) with a handful of spinach until smooth.

Ruby Slippers French Dressing: In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, add 2 tablespoons ketchup, ⅓ cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon mustard, ¼ cup red wine vinegar, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon onion powder. Pop the lid on and shake until combined.

Purple Honey Mustard: In a blender, combine ½ cup fresh blueberries, ¼ cup Dijon mustard, 1 to 2 tablespoons honey (experiment to find out how sweet you like it—it’ll depend on the ripeness of your berries), ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, ¼ cup olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Blend until combined.

Did you know? Little Sous offers a monthly themed kids cooking box that will help your family connect in the kitchen. Check out our subscription options!