Flavors At Home: Jar Meals for When You Don't Feel Like Cooking

Jar meals have been Urmila Ramakrishnan's go-to for lunches and dinners that require little thinking. (Urmila Ramakrishnan / KQED)

In light of the shelter-in-place order, many of us have resorted to cooking at home, revisiting old recipes and getting creative with our pantries. Instead of our usual Flavors Worth Finding column with recommendations from restaurants, KQED staffers are sharing the meals they’ve been making at home to find some comfort and grounding during uncertain times.

Lately, my weeknights have been filled with trying to reclaim my time instead of spending 30 minutes to an hour making dinner. I've picked up reading again and finally finished a book I started almost a year ago.

Because of this, I've had little desire to actually cook anything. Yes, kitchen apathy has become a full-on mood here. To combat this, I've been working on prepping these layered jar meals on Sundays, inspired by vegan blogger and dietician Sadia Badiei.

The trick is to make sure that your liquids are at the bottom, followed by your grains and crunchy stuff up top. This prevents ingredients from getting soggy and gross. This trick can be used for lunch salads too, which will keep the dressing from interacting with your greens until you're ready.

mason jars with quinoa, edamame, carrots and tofu in tem
For me, the airfryer has been the best thing for tofu. (Urmila Ramakrishnan / KQED)

I've been remixing different versions of this, swapping out noodles for quinoa or brown rice, interchanging vegetables and making different sauces to spoon into the bottom. The best part is that I only really have to boil some water and possibly air fry some tofu. Unlike previous pandemic cooking ideas, it's the ease and simplicity for me.  It's also visually appealing to see all the layers, which has been an inspiration to actually eat lunch instead of skip it.

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For crispy tofu, the key is to get out as much moisture as possible. What I typically do is wrap the tofu in some paper towels and let it sit for about 30 minutes. I repeat the process at least once before seasoning and either baking or air frying for extra crispy cubes. You can also coat the cut cubes in cornstarch or arrowroot, which will help with the texture.

This version centers around kimchi. I used gochujang, but you could also use sriracha or sweet chile sauce. For an extra punch, I added smoked maple syrup instead of regular maple syrup.