For the past two years, my students have operated a small business at the holidays selling Mason Jar Cookie Mixes to the families in our school community. It is part of our focus on business and financial literacy skills that we cover all year. This year, we changed it up a little and manufactured layered cocoa mixes. The new business had a lower overhead, and it was easier to source pint sized Mason jars, which translated into (a little) less work for the teacher-supervisors!
The cocoa mixes make great gifts for friends and neighbors at the holidays and are easy to assemble. Whether you are making 27-dozen like we did or just a few for gifts, it is an easy DIY holiday gift.
1/2 c. powdered milk
1 T. original powdered creamer
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/8 t. salt
1/4 c. semi sweet mini chocolate chips
1/4 c. crushed peppermint bits
1/4 c. mini marshmallows (or enough to fill to the top of the jar)
In a pint Mason jar, layer ingredients in the order listed above beginning with the powdered milk.
Press firmly after the chocolate chip layer and again after the peppermint bits layer.
Fill to the top of the jar with marshmallows.
Attach a tag with a ribbon that says, “Mix jar ingredients in a large bowl. For each serving, place 1/3 c. mix in a mug and stir in 1 c. boiling water. Store remaining mix in an airtight container.”
I found 5 oz. bags of crushed peppermint at Walmart in their holiday baking display. If you can’t find pre-crushed peppermint, buy classic candy canes and crush them yourself. If you are making really large quantities, order online from a source like Candy Warehouse in 5-lb. bags.
Here is another summer salad that will be easy to pack in individual containers and bring to swim meets, picnics, or any other tailgate type event that comes up this summer. It can be made ahead and keeps in the refrigerator for a day or two as long as you do not add the lettuce until just before serving. I also tested to see if it could be stored in a Mason jar for a teacher or office lunch, and it works perfectly. I won’t lie; the fact that it looks very Martha Stewart and Pinterest-y in the Mason jar is a huge draw for me.
16 oz. shell pasta, cooked and cooled
2 roast chicken breasts, pulled off the bone and diced/shredded (a grocery store rotisserie chicken works too and saves time)
12 oz. Caesar salad dressing (I like Marie’s brand)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/4 to 1/2 purple onion, thinly sliced in 1/4 circles
~1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
black pepper, to taste
1-2 heads Romaine lettuce, shredded or chopped
Combine cooked pasta, chicken pieces, tomato pieces, and sliced onion.
Add dressing and mix gently. Start with about 2/3 of the dressing and add more if it seems too dry. You will need more dressing than you think because of the lettuce that will be added before serving.
Sprinkle with black pepper and Parmesan cheese and mix again.
Just before serving, add the lettuce to the pasta and mix.
If you are packing in a Mason jar or tupperware for a work lunch or picnic, layer the serving of pasta salad on the bottom. Place a layer of lettuce in the top. Store in the refrigerator (or cooler) until ready to eat.
Salads taste so much better in the summer. There is a crunchy coolness to them that is perfect for evening meals on a hot day. My favorite salad recipes are the ones that work as a whole meal. I have a few different taco salad combinations that I like to use. The Mexican Chopped Salad and the Baja Chicken Salad are good options, but I played around with a new layered chicken taco salad recipe this weekend while my mom was visiting. I made a version that serves a group in a trifle dish, and I also tested it out in Mason jars to make single servings to take to school for school teacher lunches. It was a hit both ways.
2 heads Romaine lettuce chopped (or amount needed for number of people serving)
~3 c. chopped fresh spinach (or amount needed for number of people serving)
1 (15-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (11-oz) can white shoepeg corn, rinsed and drained (or any type of canned corn)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
2 c. cooked chicken, diced (I used 2 roasted chicken breasts)
1-2 c. shredded Colby-Jack cheese
2 green onions, chopped
2 T. fresh cilantro chopped
~3/4 c. salsa
~1/2 c. ranch salad dressing (or dressing of your choice)
tortilla chips, ( ~1/2 c. broken into smaller pieces)
Directions for Assembling in a Trifle Dish
Sprinkle black beans on the bottom layer of the trifle dish. You might not use the whole can. Add the amount of beans you like.
Mix the chopped Romaine and spinach together in a separate bowl. Add half of the lettuce mixture on top of the black beans.
Sprinkle a layer of corn on top of the lettuce.
Sprinkle cherry tomato pieces on top of the corn.
Add the chicken.
Cover the chicken with the remaining lettuce.
Drizzle ranch salad dressing over the top layer of lettuce. I like a light salad dressing layer.
Cover dressing with a layer of cheese.
Spoon desired amount of salsa in the center of the trifle dish on top of the cheese.
Sprinkle green onions and cilantro over the salsa. Sprinkle crushed tortilla chips around the edges. Sprinkle a little more cilantro in the center for garnish.
Offer additional whole tortilla chips, salad dressing, and salsa on the side.
Directions for Assembling in a Mason Jar
Spoon ~1 T. ranch dressing in the bottom of the jar.
Add ~2 T. black beans.
Add a layer of lettuce followed by corn, tomatoes, chicken pieces and another layer of lettuce. Do not overfill.
Sprinkle the top with cheese, green onions, and cilantro.
Put one spoonful of salsa on the top, add the lid and tighten.
To eat, pour salad into a bowl or out on a plate, so the dressing on the bottom will drizzle over the top. Serve with tortilla chips on the side.
You do not need exact ingredient amounts. Use amounts you need for the number of people you are serving. 2 heads of Romaine lettuce and 3 c. of spinach will serve 5-6 adults.
You can add/delete any toppings. I think diced red pepper would be a good addition and possibly seeded and diced cucumber.
My fourth grade students sold Mason jar cookie mixes as a class fundraiser. It is a great project for integrating skills from a bunch of different academic areas. It is also a great project for creating a lot of extra work for the teacher. My teammate and I are exhausted and are not feeling nearly as charitable as we were at the beginning of this business project. However, it is a project that works well for groups of children. If you need a service project for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or your classroom, this might be something to consider. Like the soup mixes I am giving as teacher gifts, these are also something you can make at home with your kids to give to teachers, neighbors and friends over the holidays.
The students kicked off the project by voting on a variety of recipes (oatmeal was out but after testing cookie samples, they approved the M&M White Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix Recipe). Once we selected two recipes, we priced ingredients and estimated sales. We limited production to ~200 jars, and the students calculated the ingredient amounts for that number of mixes. I recommend limiting sales to a specific number you think is possible for your group, so you do not over commit.
The adults have to gather many supplies, and quality control needs to be monitored closely. Most of the stations need funnels, which we made by loosely rolling a piece of copy paper. The baking soda station needs a dedicated adult! With 34 students on 5 assembly lines, we had all of the mixes assembled in about 1 1/2 hours. We spent another half day tying labels and delivering.
If you can buy the ingredients in bulk, it costs between $4 and $5 to make one jar of cookie mix, and we sold our mixes for $8.50. The biggest cost is the chocolate chips and M&Ms. One warning– during the holidays, Mason jars are hard to find. We needed 17 dozen 1-quart jars. If you are buying jars in the Charleston area, stores are sold out (so I have heard). If we decide to repeat this project next year, we will be purchasing our jars in August! Click here for the M&M White Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix Recipe, and click here for the Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix Recipe.
Each year I like to have a gift idea I can produce in bulk to give to the “extra” teachers at school, support staff, neighbors, hosts at any Christmas parties we might attend, the mailman, etc…
Sewing Sister assembled cookie mixes in Mason jars a few years ago for teacher gifts, and I wanted to do something similar. My 4th grade students are running a Mason jar holiday cookie mix business to raise money for Water Missions International, so I did not want to double up on the cookies. Instead, I mass produced soup mixes. I think these will work well since every parent (adult?) I know loves to have an easy low prep weeknight meal on hand.
Apparently, I was not the only one with the Mason jar idea. Mason jar supplies were wiped out when I shopped this weekend. So, make sure you can purchase the jars before starting this project. Once you have sourced your supplies, gather your cheap labor (in my case, Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss) and begin.
Pour ingredients in various mixing bowls and set up an assembly line in the correct order.
Roll a piece of 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper loosely and make a funnel with a wide opening but not too wide, so it will fit in the top of the jars. Tape the handmade funnel, so the shape will hold.
Give each assistant a 1/2 measuring cup and have them go down the line in order adding 1/2 cup of each ingredient. After each ingredient, lightly tap the jar on a flat surface to level the ingredient before adding the next item.
When it is time to add the macaroni noodles, add 1/2 cup then add up to 1/2 c. more until the noodles are about one inch under the neck of the jar. You need space to add the zip-type baggie of herbs before sealing with the lid.
We did all of the above steps first and left the jars open, then assembled the seasonings.
I delved into my massive collection of zip bags that I get from the bead department at Michael’s Crafts. I used 3″ x 5″ baggies and did most of the seasoning assembly since the herbs sort of static to the sides of the bag, and it was messier than the jar assembly. I know we have a few vegetarian teachers, so I separated the beef bouillon from the other herbs and had two zip bags in a few of the jars.
Add a seasoning packet to the top of the jar and seal.
I printed labels on white and green cardstock. One side had the preparation instructions, and the other side had a holiday greeting. I am not a fan of play-on-word cutesy notes for teacher gifts, but I am a fan of “professional” looking labels in coordinating colors. If you are up for this extra time suck detail, you really need to invest in a paper cutter. We hole punched the corners of the tags and attached with curly ribbon. Alternately, you could print the directions on adhesive labels and stick them to the sides of the jars.
We also made chicken noodle soup mix in 1 pint jars. The smaller sized jars were much easier to find. We followed roughly the same procedure. Any teachers with young children are getting the chicken noodle soup mix. Click here for the Chicken Noodle Soup Mix in a Jar ingredient list and directions.
Is anyone else working on a gift in bulk to have on hand this holiday? There were many tasty looking mixes when I Googled “mason jar recipes” so you could take this idea and run with it.