Clam Chowder From Food Storage Items

chowder in a sour dough bread bowlAs the weather gets colder, we begin to think in terms of  foods that are hot and hearty.  Nothing is more comforting than a warm bowl of clam chowder served with some crusty sour dough bread.  Baker’s Man isn’t much of a soup fan, but he loves chowder.  After growing up in San Francisco, he is  also very fond of sour dough bread.

We have a small food storage cache.  I try to pull from it and add to it regularly.   I decided that I wanted to see if I would be able to create something new from the items in our food storage.  The idea I came up with was Clam Chowder.


Among the canned meat in my pantry,  there is almost always canned clams.  They have many uses from linguine with white clam sauce to chowder.   Another thing that I have in the pantry on a regular basis are dehydrated soups we can take camping.   I looked at the soup and I looked at the clams and I had an idea.  Why not combine the two to make clam chowder?

After reviewing the ingredients on the package of dehydrated potato soup, I realized that it had almost everything in it that I would add to scratch made clam chowder.   It was at this point when I knew with certainty that my idea would work. The only missing ingredient was celery.

Armed with my ingredients, I rushed into the kitchen.

celery sauteing in butter

I finely chopped two celery stalks.  I added these along with two tablespoons of butter to the bottom of my soup pot.  I sauteed the celery until it began to carmelize.   If you don’t have any fresh celery, you can also use a couple tablespoons of dehydrated celery, but you just toss it into the pot with the dehydrated soup mix.

add clam juice

I added the clam juice from the cans of clams (1 1/2 cups)  as well as the balance of liquid called for on the package of soup mix.  (The recipe called for 8 cups of water, but since I had added 1 1/2 cups of clam juice, I only added 6 1/2 cups water.)

Clam Chowder from food storage

I waited until this mixture came to a boil, then I whisked in the potato soup mix.  Once this was well incorporated, I poured in the clams for my 3 cans.  Once it returned to a boil, I lowered the heat and allowed the chowder to simmer for 15 minutes as directed on the soup pouch.

bread bowl overflowing with clam chowder

When it was ready, I ladled it into sour dough bread bowls and served it with a shrimp ceasar salad on the side.

It was very filling, and it was delicious.  Give it a try.

Clam Chowder From Food Storage Items
Recipe type: Lunch, Dinner
Cuisine: Soup/Stew
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
Made from ingredients in our food storage pantry, this clam chowder was surprisingly filling and delicious.
  • 8 serving size package of instant, creamy potato soup
  • 3 (?? oz) cans of clam chowder
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 cups combined water and clam juice (or the correct amount of liquid for the brand of soup you are using.
  1. Sautee Celery in Butter over medium heat until celery becomes tender.
  2. Drain and reserve liquid from clams
  3. Add enough water to clam juice to provide the amount of liquid called for in the recipe
  4. Add water and clam juice
  5. Bring liquid and celery mixture to a boil
  6. Whisk in soup mix until thoroughly incorporated
  7. Add clams
  8. Bring to a boil again.
  9. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes



Shrimp Caesar Salad

shrimp caesar saladI have done something this week that I never thought I would do.  I certainly never imagined that I would blog about it.   I have stooped to an all new low.  I purchased a salad kit and even justified it to myself.  I know it’s a shock, but before everyone starts yelling at me, let me tell you the whole story.

I was doing my weekly grocery shopping and I noticed that the light Caesar salad kits were on sale for $1 each for the 7.7 ounce size package.  I realize I might have been able to assemble the salad for less than $1, but I considered the prepackaged croutons and dressing to be well worth it.

Did I mention that I have been working a lot of overtime in the non cyber world, and I was very tired?

So, I bought a couple of the kits and took them home.  A few days later, we were having clam chowder in sour dough bowls.  I realized that clam chowder did not meet my requirement for enough vegetables, so I wanted to put together a salad.

I reached into the refrigerator and pulled out one of the salad kits.  One thing to keep in mind regarding light salad kits is that one way they make them light is to remove any cheese.  This kit was no exception.  I also realized that I didn’t want to have just a plain Caesar salad with our chowder bowls, so I thawed 3/4 cup of salad shrimp to add to it.

Ingredients for Shrimp Caesar Salad
I also measured out 1/4 cup of an Italian blend of cheeses to sprinkle on top.  (The Italian blend of cheeses contained Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, Mozzarella, and Provolone.)

I poured the lettuce into a serving bowl, and I added the dressing, shrimp, cheese, and croutons.

shrimp caesar salad ready to be tossed

I tossed it all together just before serving time, and everyone was happy with their salad.  It was a great accompaniment to the chowder.

I know salads in a bag seem like a tremendous cheat, but if you’re tired and hungry and come home and need to face a mountain of vegetables that need to be chopped before you can eat, you might just go grab fast food instead.  Even a fast food salad will cost more than the $2.50 that this salad cost to put together, and it was enough for 4 of us to have side salads.

Check the prices at your local grocery stores and you can use leftover chicken or other meats to mix with the salad kits to make entree salads for your family.

Salads in a Jar in fridge

Of course, you can also make some of those salads in a jar that I have been posting about.  They come in quite handy and last for 4 – 5 days in the refrigerator.

There was a reason beyond my salad for this post.  I just want to remind anyone who happens to read this of one important thing.  You need to keep things in perspective when making your shopping and grocery budget.  This particularly applies to when considering the purchase of convenience foods.  A $13 package of store bought frozen lasagna feeds my family of four for one meal with leftovers for two of us for the next day’s lunch.  I can make at least  two of them from scratch for that money, but if I’m too tired to cook after a long day at work, that $13 is still cheaper than the $20+ I would spend on fast food. It’s just something to think about.

Bacon Ranch Pizza Bites

cheesy bacon ranch bitesWhen I was a little girl,  my dad would make little kitchen experiments.  One of those experiments that I have always remembered was his bacon pizzas.  I remember the first time he made them for us.  He invited me into the kitchen to watch him cook.  He took slices of bread and topped them with slices of cheese and sprinkled chopped leftover bacon on top and popped them into the oven.  Within a few minutes, he served up toasty warm cheese and bacon pizzas.  They were good,  and I often asked him to make them for me when I was little.  As I got older, whenever I would see leftover bacon in the fridge, I would make these.  Usually, they were made on a slice of bread, but sometimes, they were made on english muffins.   It was a fast and easy snack for after school or anytime I was hungry between meals.

Today, I was looking around my kitchen for something to grab for a quick lunch.  I noticed that I had some leftover sour dough dinner rolls from the French Dip Sliders.  I realized that if I didn’t come up with a way to use them, they rolls would probably sit there until they molded.  There were only 4 of them left.  I mentally inventoried what I had on hand in the refrigerator.  I remembered that there was some bacon and cheese inside.  I thought of my dad’s bacon pizzas.

cheese and bacon piled onto a sour dough roll ready for the oven

First, I cut the rolls in half horizontally.  When I thought about it, I realized that the sour dough rolls were dryer and tougher than either bread or english muffins, so I brushed the cut tops of the rolls with a thin layer of ranch dressing before topping them with chopped bacon pieces, and then cheese.

cheezy bites in under the boiler in the oven

Once the pizza bites were fully assembled, I popped them into the broiler for 5 minutes until the cheese was melted and lightly browned.

bacon ranch pizza bites

We ate them ala carte.  I served them up, and they were devoured in minutes.  Of course, the smell of bacon and cheese wafting from under the broiler brought people out of their rooms to ask what was for lunch, so there were more people sharing them than I had originally intended.  It was okay.  It was an opportunity to tell  them about my father, and how he made a variation of them for me one day, long ago.   Everyone gave them the thumbs up.   You can serve these with a cup of soup or a salad for a more complete meal.   I really like them as a side for a creamy tomato soup.

bacon ranch pizza bites out of the oven

Here’s the recipe.  Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

Bacon Ranch Pizza Bites
Recipe type: Snack, Lunch
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
Using leftover rolls and leftover bacon with some cheese and ranch dressing is a delicious way to whip up a snack or quick lunch. These go great with tomato soup.
  • 6 sour dough dinner rolls, split horizontally
  • 6 tablespoons of ranch dressing
  • 12 tablespoons chopped, cooked bacon
  • 1½ cups shredded cheese
  1. Slice sourdough rolls in half horizontally and arrange on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with non stick spray with the cut side facing up
  2. Top each half roll with ½ tablespoon of ranch dressing
  3. Place 1 tablespoon chopped, cooked bacon on top of the dressing
  4. Top bacon and dressing with 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese.
  5. Place cookie sheet under broiler set to high for 4 - 5 minutes, checking after each minute
  6. Remove from oven when cheese is melted and begins to brown
  7. Serve immediately


Halloween Treats From The Pantry

halloween and harvest festival pumpkinsHolidays don’t necessarily mean that you have to ignore your grocery budget.  In fact, holiday treats can often be pulled together from things that you already have on hand as long as you have a well stocked pantry and plan ahead.

Candy for the trick-or-treaters still has to be budgeted, but fun food for the family is already in the bag.  Lets take a look at some of the great Halloween recipes/ideas that can be pulled together from things you may already have in your well stocked pantry.  I’ve gathered these ideas from around the web.  Click on the photos to be taken to the source site.

When I was a little girl, my parents always struggled to get me to eat something before going out trick or treating.  Remembering this childhood battle of the wills, I try to make the dinner on Halloween night something fun and memorable for my kids, so they are excited and eager to eat.  After all, they need to be fueled and ready for that long walk and hauling home all of that candy.  Toward that end, I recommend the following Halloween night dinner ideas.

For the taco lovers out there, I have two different versions that make a great dinner idea.

First up are the Tarantula Taco from

Tarantula Spiders CollageIf the olive tarantulas aren’t creepy enough, how about Eyeball Tacos.  This one came from

Eyeball TacosIf you want to encourage your kids to eat vegetables before acquiring that stockpile of candy, there are some really cute ideas out there involving veggies.

There’s the jack-o-lantern crudite platter from

Pumpkin Veggie Tray RecipeThen, there’s the skeleton crudite from

Let’s not forget dessert.  In our family, the Halloween night tradition is Ghosts in the Graveyard.  I found the recipe on years ago.  We make it every year, and the kids usually have it after they come home from trick or treating.  On occasion, we have even made it with sugar free chocolate sandwich cookies and sugar free instant chocolate pudding.  (For some reason, my links to kraft recipes never stay active.  I think they reject me.  If that happens AGAIN, go to and search for “Ghosts in the Graveyard.”) 

Ghosts in the Graveyard recipe

We have also been known to use graham cracker quarters for the tomb stones because that was what we had on hand.  Some years, we just make the mud and toss some candy pumpkins or candy corn on top for decoration.  Vampires crave blood, but my lot craves mud, at least the stuff made from instant pudding and crushed chocolate sandwich cookies. 

If you want to try something a little healthier, that doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners, there’s always the old standby of chocolate covered fruit.

First, there are the Mummy Chocolate Covered Strawberries from  I know, it’s fall and strawberries aren’t really in season, but they look so good.

Then, there are the Frozen Banana Ghosts over at

I hope this post helps to inspire you to create some frugal Halloween Treats for your family.  Thanks for stopping by.

French Dip Sliders

french dip sliders  This is the story of  a recipe from the make ahead freezer meals that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago.  This is specifically about the  French dip sandwiches that you cook in the crock pot.  The recipe came from Six Sister’s Stuff.

The last time I made these French dip sandwiches, my family complained that they didn’t have enough flavor.  I mentioned in my earlier post that I planned to add chopped garlic or onion to the broth the next time I made them, but I came up with an entirely different idea.  The new idea didn’t require any additional prep work and it didn’t increase the cost of the sandwiches either.  All I did was substitute two cans of condensed French onion soup for the beef consommé.  It was a simple fix that worked out well.  The zipper-topped bag was placed in the freezer where it waited for us to give it a try.

Fast forward several weeks.  My life is extremely hectic and crazed.  I am working tons of overtime, and fast food temptation is calling my name.  My husband and daughter prepared two delicious meals, but we needed something easier.  I remembered the French dip sandwiches.  We thawed it in the fridge for a day and then poured it into the crock pot.  Upon plugging in the crock pot, sparks flew from where the cord attaches to the body of pot.  Alas, the crock pot was dead.

This was definitely a problem.  We had a crock pot meal and no crock pots.  I carefully considered my options as I returned the meat mixture to the refrigerator.  I vaguely remembered once when I was very young that my mother had roasted a beef stew in a cast iron Dutch oven for several hours in the oven.  Since Baker’s Man and Sue Chef would be home all day, they could put it in the oven at the designated time and monitor it while it baked at 300 degrees F for 4 hours.

It worked perfectly.  I returned home from work to the smell of French dip sandwiches.  They were served on crusty sourdough dinner rolls with some homemade broccoli slaw and tater tots.

french dip sliders on sour dough rollsIt was delicious.  It’s good to know that, in a pinch, your cast iron Dutch oven in a slow oven can substitute for your crock pot.  The recipe said that it served 6, but we had leftovers enough for roast beef wraps the next day, and then some.

We chose sourdough rolls because they wouldn’t fall apart or become soggy when dipped.  I forgot to put the little cup full of broth for dipping near the plates before I took the pictures.  By the time I realized my error, they were gone!

French Dip Sliders on Sour Dough Rolls

Here’s my take on the recipe.  Give it a try.

French Dip Sliders
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
Simple make ahead meal that can be assembled, stored in the freezer. Once it's thawed, it cooks in the crock pot., so dinner is ready when you are.
  • 3 pound chuck roast
  • 2 (10.5 ounce) cans condensed french onion soup
  • 12 sour dough dinner rolls
  • 6 slices provolone cheese (your can substitute your favorite cheese here)
  1. Place chuck roast into a zip lock bag
  2. Add 2 cans condensed french onion soup
  3. Seal Bag and place in Freezer
  4. When ready to serve, thaw ingredients for 24 hours in the fridge
  5. Pour into crock pot
  6. Cook on Low for 8 - 10 hours or high for 4 - 6 hours or until meat shreds easily with a fork
  7. Remove meat from crock pot and shred with two forks
  8. Pile meat onto split sour dough dinner rolls
  9. Top hot meat with ½ slice of cheese and the other half of the roll.
  10. Serve with a small container of broth for dipping

Taco Salad in a Jar

Vegetarian Taco Salad in a JarOver the past few weeks, I have been sharing salad in a jar recipes here.  This is the third post in that series.  I am really in love with the salad in a jar idea because it allows me to make the salads on the weekend and have ready-made lunches that I can grab at least through Wednesday.  This ensures that I will eat a fresh, healthy and economical lunch at work and helps to prevent spending money on take-out.

In addition to being a great lunch, these salads can also be a quick and easy dinner idea as well.  For instance, this taco salad would make  a great accompaniment for some quesadillas.   Quesadillas come together quickly, and I don’t feel guilty because I didn’t make a well balanced meal.  The salad is chock full of vitamins and minerals from the veggies.

One caution about making salads in a jar, or any salad, is that you must follow certain guidelines for building a healthy salad or the salad will not necessarily be healthy.  It’s really easy to pile high calorie items onto your salad.  You must be careful so that your salad doesn’t end up containing more calories than a  typical fast food meal. That defeats the whole purpose of eating a salad.

To make this taco salad, I opted to go vegetarian.  There used to be a restaurant on the second level of the Santa Maria Town Center Mall.  My friend Molly and I used to go there for lunch and share a taco salad.  There was no meat in the taco salad, but it was delicious.  It has been years since I have eaten that salad, but I tried to picture it in my mind.  Mostly, I pictured all the things we got on the side because Molly didn’t like them on her salad, but I did.  It was always a very filling lunch.

I washed and dried my widemouth quart-sized mason jars and set them aside.  Then I began prepping all of the ingredients.  I washed and chopped up lettuce, I drained a (2.25 ounce) can of sliced black olives and a can of kidney beans.  I also rinsed the kidney beans.

I chopped red onion.

chopped red onionI chopped orange and yellow bell peppers.

chopped bell pepper







Actually, you can tell by the residue on my cutting board that I did the peppers first and then the onions, but it doesn’t really matter.  The point is that I chopped up everything I needed beforehand. 

The assembly is fast and easy once the vegetables are prepared in advance.  I assembled two of these at one time.

First 1/2 cup of jarred salsa was placed in the bottom of the jar.  Fresh salsa does not hold up well for this application.  A dollop of sour cream was placed into the salsa.  I had intended to mix them together and make a creamy salad dressing, but I forgot.  It still worked out okay in spite of this oversight.  Calorie conscious people can opt to use fat-free or reduced fat sour cream.  In this instance, no one really notices.

Next, I put half of the kidney beans into the salsa.  Kidney beans went first because they can tolerate sitting in the salsa without losing their texture.

kidney beans are added to the jarNext, the onions and bell peppers were layered into the jar.  onions, peppers, and sliced olives go into the jar before cheese is added.This was topped with the well-drained olives and shredded cheese.

finally, the rest of the jar was filled with lettuce.The rest of the jar is then filled with chopped or shredded lettuce.  I prefer romaine lettuce because it holds up better than the other lettuces.  I made two,  quart-sized salads, but this recipe could easily make 4 pints.   Keep in mind that you may need to shred a little extra lettuce in order to fill up your jars.

I usually pack a side of tortilla chips to eat with the salad.  I like to line the edges of a plate with them before pouring out my salad.  Baker’s Man likes to sprinkle his on top like croutons.  Either way, it’s delicious.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Taco Salad in a Jar
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Southwest
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 quart sized
Taco salad makes a delicious lunch. This vegetarian version is layerd in a mason jar and makes a great make ahead lunch.
  • 1 cup salsa from a jar (mild, medium, or hot--whatever you prefer)
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium sized red onion, chopped
  • 1 orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 (2.25 ounce) can sliced black olives, drained
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 - 3 cups chopped lettuce
  • Tortilla Chips.
  1. Layer ingredients, except for tortilla chips. into two, quart sized, or four ,pint sized, wide mouth mason jars in the order listed above finishing off with lettuce.
  2. Place lids onto jars and store in the refrigerator. until ready to serve.
  3. I usually pack the tortilla chips in a separate bag and either put them on the plate/bowl before adding the salad or sprinkle them on top.


Make Ahead Meals

Having Partially Prepared Freezer Meals makes getting dinner on the table a cinch.By now, everyone who comes here knows that I really like to make things simple.  One of the ways I do that is to have some make ahead meals in my freezer that we can use when life gets hectic.  Without planning ahead, we quickly resort to fast food runs to solve the nightly dinner dilemma.  Without leftovers, this often leads to buying lunch the next day.  One week, a hectic life, without planning ahead, resulted in spending $259 on take out.  That is more than  twice what I allocate as a weekly grocery budget for my family of four.

I have previously discussed ways to cut out take out including making some home made convenience foods to keep in the freezer.   Traditional once-a-month cooking means spending hours in the kitchen standing over a hot stove assembling meals.  The meals are then placed in the freezer for us to draw upon when things get busy.    Because the once a month cooking methods can be so time consuming, I often fill my freezer with homemade “convenience foods” by making larger portions of food and freezing the leftovers.  This works well for things like spaghetti sauce, lasagna, chili, and stews, but some nights, our dinners aren’t things that freeze well.  I was really happy when I found a post over at Six Sister’s Stuff that promised 8 Slow Cooker Freezer Meals in an hour.

The above is the image I saw on one of their posts.  I couldn’t resist clicking on it.  Eight Dinners in one hours?  Is it even possible?  I had to try.  The really cool thing about their site is that they even had a printable shopping list as well as printable recipes. If you click on the picture, it will take you to their site and the specific post.

Lists in hand, I went through my pantry and marked off the things I already had on hand and headed out to the store to buy the rest.  Shopping was a breeze, and I didn’t really come in too much above my usual budget for the weeks groceries.  I actually spent $60 more than I had allocated for my weeekly groceries, but I didn’t mind because I knew that the freezer meals wouldn’t all be eaten in one week.  I was purchasing  groceries for future weeks, so it was okay that I borrowed from future weeks budgets.

When I returned home, I discovered that a pipe in the  backyard had burst and necessitated the water to the house being turned off.  Of course, I didn’t learn this until I had carried in my first heavy load of groceries.  This was definitely not good.  I needed running water to wash my hands while I assembled tme meals.  I needed a solution.

My oldest son lives 4 miles from me.  He likes to cook, so I quickly put away all of the  groceries except for the ones that I was going to use to make my freezer meals.  These items were loaded back into the car along with the things on the shelf that I already had on the shelves that were necessary to make the 8 freezer meals.   I drove to my son’s house and took over his kitchen.  I was midway through the assembly when I realized that I had forgotten ketchup and the fresh cilantro.  I had to drive back home, get the things I forgot, and drive back to his house.   I took a few of the already assembled dinners back to my house and stuck them into my  freezer.

Forgetting those few things allowed me to check on the repairs  to my water line.  Baker’s Man was making great progress with the pipe repairs, and  it looked like I would have running water by dinner time.   I was a happy camper.  It took me 2 1/2 hours including travel time to finish assembling all 8 of the freezer meals.  I believe that if I had been in my own kitchen and not had to drive the 8 miles round trip, we would have been done in a little more than an hour.

The freezer meals have served us well, but we need to anticipate when we want to cook and eat them because they require  a full 24 hours to thaw in the refrigerator before we can put them in the crockpot to cook.   Overall, this has worked out well for me because I can usually anticipate a crazy day.  We liked almost all of the dishes, but will make a few changes before we make them again.  My family likes really bold flavors.

BBQ Ribs

They  loved the barbecued ribs with some extra bbq sauce added at serving time, and black bean taco soup.  They complained about the french dip sandwiches needing a bit more flavor.  The next time I make these, I will probably add either garlic or onion to the consomme to liven it up for them.  Overall, I would say that these are worth making.  The important thing to remember when making crock pot dishes like this is that the raw meat will release cooking  juices and fat which then dilutes the flavor of the sauces.

Go visit Six Sisters Stuff.  Try out their recipes.  They have several make ahead meals or freezer meals posts.  The site is full of great resources.

Chinese Chicken Salad in a Jar

chinese chicken salad in a jarThis recipe is a combination of two ideas that came from two different places.  The first is the salad in a jar idea which I discussed a few weeks ago and you can read about here.  The second is an idea for a Chinese chicken salad that I ate in the wee hours of the morning in a diner inside the old Boardwalk Hotel and Casino which used to be on the Strip in Las Vegas just north of the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino.

As I was beginning to attempt my first salad in a jar, I noticed that I had a full jar of ginger-sesame dressing.  That dressing made me think of the Chinese chicken salad I ate many years ago at the Boardwalk.  I thought about the ingredients and decided that if I arranged them correctly, they should make an acceptable combination for creating this salad inside of a quart-sized mason jar.

I began by pouring between 1/4 and 1/3 cup of the Asian flavored dressing into the bottom of the jar.

Next, I added 7 grape tomatoes on the bottom of the jar.

1/4 cup of julienne carrots were evenly distributed on top of that.

1/2 cup chopped cucumbers were next.

1/2 cup chopped cooked chicken

1/2 (11 ounce) can of mandarin oranges in light syrup, drained

1/4 cup blanched broccoli florets broken into small pieces

3 large radishes halved and thinly sliced

2 green onions (white and green parts) thinly sliced

chopped romaine lettuce to fill jar nearly to the top

1 handful of bean sprouts

I placed the  lid on jar and stored the salad upright in the fridge until the next morning when I loaded it upright into my lunch box.  At lunch time, when I was ready to serve my salad, I turned it upside down and let the dressing run through it. Then I dumped the whole thing into a large capacity bowl.

I packed a small bag containing about 1/2 cup of crunchy chow mein noodles with the salad in a jar and sprinkled them on top.

This salad was very good.  It held up well for two days in the fridge.  I don’t know how well sprouts would hold up over several days, so I made only two of these and we ate them quickly.

chinese chicken salad in quart and pint jars

This makes a very large salad and is good for people with big appetites.  If your appetite isn’t so big, I suggest that you make the salad in a pint jar instead.  Just cut the ingredients in half, or you can do what I do.  I make the salad in a quart jar, and share it with a friend.

Chinese Chicken Salad in a Jar
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 quart sized
Salad in a jar is a good make ahead lunch and keeps for a few day in the fridge.
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup of the Asian flavored salad dressing.
  • 7 whole grape tomatoes on the bottom of the jar.
  • ¼ cup of julienne carrots were evenly distributed on top of that.
  • ½ cup chopped cucumbers were next.
  • ½ cup chopped cooked chicken
  • ½ (11 ounce) can of mandarin oranges in light syrup, drained
  • ¼ cup blanched broccoli florets broken into small pieces
  • 3 large radishes halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 green onions (white and green parts) thinly sliced
  • chopped romaine lettuce to fill jar nearly to the top
  • 1 handful of bean sprouts
  • ½ cup of crunchy chow mein noodles.
  1. Layer all ingredients, except chow mein noodles, in order listed above into jar. Keep it upright and store in fridge until ready to serve or pack into a lunch box with an ice pack.
  2. Pack chow mein noodles in a small baggie to sprinkle on the salad when served.
  3. Invert the salad in a jar to distribute the dressing and then pour into a bowl to serve.
  4. Sprinkle chow mein noodles on top.




Easy Southern Style Banana Pudding

Easy Southern Style Banana PuddingMy mother made delicious banana cream pies when I was growing up.  We’ll talk about Mom’s pies later.  My friend, Tammy, had a mother who made delicious banana pudding.  Both of them made these dishes from scratch.  I will be sharing their recipes in the future.  Anyone who comes here often knows that sometimes, I just want to be lazy, I want to take a simple approach to making dessert.

This recipe fits the bill, though banana pudding is still labor-intensive if you want it to look pretty.  My mom asked me once why we bothered to take all the time to make the banana pudding look so pretty when the family devoured it so fast.  She once suggested that we just pile everything into the bowl haphazardly and give it a stir and top it with some crumbs.  We both agreed that the family might not notice, but we never gave it a try just in case they liked the way it looked.

Here’s how you make this version of the pudding.

A bowl of milk

Put 3 cups of milk in to a bowl.

mix vanilla extract and pudding mix into milk

Add  1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and two  4 serving size packages of vanilla instant pudding.

pudding thickens after stirring

Stir until pudding begins to thicken.

Cool whip in top of pudding

Fold in an 8 ounce package of frozen whipped topping, thawed.   Then set aside.

Gently fold cool whip into jello pudding

Arrange a layer of vanilla wafers in the bottom of a 9 x 12 inch baking dish.

vanilla wafers layered in pan

Arrange sliced bananas on top of this (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of this step.)

pudding spread evenly over cookies

Then spoon half of the pudding mixture on top of the bananas and cookies and spread evenly across the entire pan.

Layer cookies on top pudding mixture and top with sliced bananas.

Then, layer cookies on top of the pudding mixture.  Top these cookies with more sliced bananas. (Yes, I realize that I forgot to take a picture of the bananas, AGAIN!) 

pudding spread evenly over cookies

Spoon the rest of the pudding on top of this layer of cookies and bananas and smooth it over the pan, spreading it evenly to the edges.

Whole vanilla wafers and crushed vanilla wafers top of the pudding.

Finish pudding by putting a row of cookies around the edge of the pan and sprinkle some crushed cookies over the middle.  Cover the pan and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.  (You can eat it right away, but the cookies get soft if you let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours.)

To make this recipe more friendly for dieters or diabetics, make it with non-fat milk and sugar-free instant pudding.  You can choose either fat-free or sugar-free frozen whipped topping, too.  No one in my house has complained when I make it this way, and my diabetic guests are appreciative.

Easy Southern Style Banana Pudding
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Southern
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8-10
This is a simple and tasty banana pudding recipe. You can trim calories by using non-fat milk and sugar free pudding mix. You can also use either fat free or sugar free frozen whipped topping. No one in my family has noticed when I make these changes for visitors with diabetes or other health concerns. It's still not a health food, but it's better.
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 (4 serving size) packages of Instant Vanilla Pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (8 oz) package frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 4-6 bananas sliced
  • 12 oz box vanilla wafers
  1. Mix together milk and instant pudding until pudding begins to thicken.
  2. Stir in vanilla extract and mix well.
  3. Fold in frozen whipped topping.
  4. Set aside.
  5. Place vanilla wafers in a single layer on the bottom of a 9x12 inch pan
  6. Slice bananas and layer them in a single layer on top of the vanilla wafers.
  7. Top bananas and vanilla wafers with half of the pudding mixture.
  8. Spread pudding evenly over vanilla wafers and all the way to the edge of the pan.
  9. Layer with another layer of vanilla wafers then another layer of bananas.
  10. Top with the pudding and spread it to the edge of the pan.
  11. Place a row of cookies around the edge of the pan and sprinkle crushed cookies into the middle.
  12. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.


Salad in a Jar

Salads in a Jar in fridgeIt all started with a Good Housekeeping magazine that someone had left on the table in the break room at work.   Inside, there was an article about how to make yourself look seven years younger.  One of the things they recommended was this salad which was supposed to promote healthy skin because of all of the healthy ingredients.

What I noticed about the salad was not the promise of beautiful skin; I noticed rather that the salad was artfully arranged in layers in a mason jar.

I may be one of the last people to have heard about this phenomenon, but I thought it was a great idea.  I was excited because I’m always looking for ways to make lunch preparation both simple and healthy.  I immediately began searching for instructions on the internet for making salads in a jar.  After reading other people’s recipes, I decided to mix things up a bit and try to create some of my own salads in a jar.

My first creation was a Chinese chicken salad recipe.  This was followed by a taco salad recipe.  (Both of these recipes will be featured on Patty Cakes Pantry over the next few days or weeks.)  My creations were well received by my family as well as one of my co-workers who is always willing to try something new.  In fact, she was so excited by the idea that she made twelve quart-sized salads and stuck them into her fridge.

The salads she created consisted of six chef’s salads and six taco salads. The photo at the top of this post is hers.   These salads were eaten, one at a time, over the next four days, and she reported that the salads she pulled from the refrigerator on day four were as fresh as the ones she ate on day one.  I had read that they would stay fresh for that long, but having someone I knew and trusted confirm it for me was wonderful.

There are a few rules to be observed when assembling your salad in the jar in order to ensure success:

  1. Dressing goes into the bottom of the jar.
  2. The items that are added next must be able to withstand being submerged in or in contact with the dressing for extended periods of time without losing their texture.  Good items for this layer are whole cherry or grape tomatoes, diced bell peppers, julienne carrots, chopped onions, cucumbers and beans.
  3.  Once vegetables have been stacked beyond the point where they will be in contact with the dressing, other ingredients such as meat, cheese, hard-boiled egg, and olives can be added.  You don’t want to put something toward the top that will dampen ingredients below it.  For instance, the olives would probably go toward the bottom of that list.
  4.  Finish off your jar with salad greens of your choice.  I prefer romaine lettuce and my co-worker prefers iceberg.  Both types of lettuce served us well in our jar salads.

Salad in a jar is a simple, delicious and healthy way to prepare those work day lunches or to leave a ready-made lunch at home for your family.  Give them a try, you’ll be glad you did.