Make Ahead Meals

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.

They  loved the black bean taco soup, but 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.

Spinach Salad with Dried Cranberries

Spinach Salad with Cranberries and baconAs anyone who is a frequent visitor to this site knows, I am always on the lookout for ideas for new salads.  Recently, while on a trip to one of those big warehouse stores, I noticed that they had a collection of prepared, easy to serve food items.  One of the things they had on display was a spinach salad.

The salad in question was a bed of spinach that was topped by neat rows of egg, sliced red onion, crumbled bacon, shredded mozzarella cheese, dried cranberries, and cherry tomatoes.   It was packaged with a container of poppy seed dressing.  Though the salad was pretty and looked tasty, the price tag for what appeared to be a one or two serving salad gave me pause.

When I got home, I kept thinking about that salad.  I realized that I had all of the ingredients to recreate the salad already in my house.  Actually, I didn’t have any poppy seed dressing, but I didn’t really think that would be a problem.  I could use something I already had, or I could make a dressing for the salad.  I decided to make the salad for our lunches. I layered spinach into the bottom of a container and then topped it with a rows of sliced red onions, shredded cheese, dried cranberries, crumbled bacon, cherry tomatoes and two hard boiled cut in half.  I packed a container of a red French dressing to top it with at work. The resultant salad was delicious.  The tartness of the red French dressing was a perfect match for the salad ingredients.

I shared it with a friend at work, and she agreed that it was good.  The photos were taken after it traveled to work in my lunchbox and was tossed around in the break room  fridge so all of the layers aren’t visible.  After removing the hard-boiled eggs, we tossed everything else together with the dressing, so it didn’t really  matter that the pretty rows weren’t there anymore. The best thing about this salad was that I made salad for 6 for the price of one of those little containers in the warehouse store. All in all, everyone agreed that this salad is a keeper.  The recipe I’ve included is for all 6 servings to go into one large container.  Give it a try and let me know how you like it.

Spinach Salad with Dried Cranberries
Recipe type: Entree Salad
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
A simple and delicious spinach salad that makes a great lunch
  • 12 oz package of fresh baby spinach
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ -1/2 cup prepared bacon pieces
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, halved
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 10 to 14 cherry tomatoes
  1. Layer spinach in an oblong bowl.
  2. Place other ingredients, except for eggs, on top of salad in rows.
  3. Arrange egg halves around the edge of the serving bowl.


Shrimp and Vegetable Quiche–A Leftover Makeover

Quiche made from LeftoversLeftovers lurk in the dark recesses of my refrigerator.  They are trying to weaken my resolve to use everything and let nothing go to waste.  Sometimes, it’s something that we didn’t really like that much.  Other times, it’s something that there just isn’t enough of to make a meal.  There are even times when it was such an unusual thing that it just doesn’t seem to go with anything else that’s lying around in the fridge.  Of course, there are those occasions where I totally misjudge the volume of food the recipe is going to make and we end up staring at the same thing over and over again until we just wish it would disappear.

Since the philosophy in our house is to use it up and not throw it out, I have to make it disappear in some way other than the trash can or garbage disposer.  The dogs are also considered an unacceptable receptacle for many of our leftovers.  They have their own food.

This is the story of shrimp succotash.  It seemed like a good idea.  It was chock full of delicious vegetables, a combination of fresh and frozen.  The night I made it, it was well received by my family when served with a side of rice.  They willingly ate it the next night.  I took two servings to work to share with my favorite co-worker, so I actually ate it twice that day.  It was okay.  I liked it, but after that night’s dinner, I knew I didn’t want to see it again in its current incarnation.

The next night, I stirred some of the drained shrimp succotash into a fried rice dish.  It was delicious, and the leftovers were served for lunch the next day.  Unfortunately, there was still quite a bit of the shrimp succotash left in the fridge.  We needed to use it up before it went bad, and I had been staring at it for 4 days already.  I poked around in the pantry and the freezer trying to figure out what I could do when I came across some frozen pie crusts.    Pie crust in hand, I shouted out my solution: “Quiche!”   I know what they say about real men not eating quiche, but Baker’s Man is a really good sport about these things.

I couldn’t find my standby quiche recipe, so I consulted the source of all knowledge–the internet.  I found several quiche recipes, opened them in different windows, and studied the ingredients.  I listed all ingredients from several of them side by side and picked out the common denominators, and considered the measurements.  Finally I was prepared.   I had a list of what I thought would be the makings of a delicious quiche.    Only one problem.  Most quiche recipes contain cream or half and half, and all I had was non-fat milk.  It didn’t matter.  I was confident, so I drained the succotash, broke some eggs, and whipped up a creation while in mad scientist mode.  the result was two quiches which were very well received.  No one even knew that it was made out of leftover shrimp succotash.  I simply called it Shrimp and Vegetable Quiche.

shrimp Vegetable Quiche

I do have a confession to make, though.  I poured the leftover broth from the succotash onto the dogs food.  It’s terrible, I know.  I just didn’t want to have to imagineer a use for the broth.  Please forgive my blatant waste of potable food.  Next time, I will more closely watch how many vegetables I am chopping when I make succotash.   We don’t need enough to feed the entire infantry.  After all, there are only 4 of us at home now.

The prepared quiches can be cooled, covered, and frozen to take out and eat at a later date, or they can be devoured immediately.  We ate one the first night and had leftovers for lunch the next day.  It was delicious.

Here’s the recipe.  I have eliminated the need to make succotash first in this version.  I hope you enjoy it.  Thanks for visiting my site.

Shrimp and Vegetable Quiche
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: French
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 - 10 servings
Quiche is a great leftover food. You can substitute any type of meat and vegetables that you like in this recipe. You only need to drain any excess cooking liquid which might prevent the quiche from setting up.
  • 2 frozen 9" pie crusts with the fluted edges (raised up above the edge of the pan)
  • 3 cups cooked, chopped vegetables of your choice. (I almost always use a chopped onion in this mixture for the flavor)
  • 1½ cup salad shrimp (you can use chopped cooked chicken or beef in place of shrimp)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (your choice, but make sure it complements the meat and vegetables that you are using).
  • 8 eggs
  • 1½ cups milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put 1½ cups of chopped cooked vegetables into the bottom of each pie crust.
  2. Top each pie with ¾ cup of cooked salad shrimp
  3. Sprinkle to top of each with 1 cup shredded cheese.
  4. In a mixing bowl, whisk together 8 eggs and 1½ cups milk. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When well mixed, pour into pie pans. They should be very full. If they are not, sprinkle in some more cheese to fill them up. They will raise slightly during cooking.
  6. Place quiches onto a cookie sheet or sheet of foil in a 350 degree oven. (The pan or foil is in case they boil over while baking.)
  7. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes until the filling is set.
  8. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting.
  9. This is delicious served warm or cold.


The Zorba

Zorba SandwichWhen I was away at college, I spoke with my parents at least once a week.  It was during one of these weekly calls that my mother told me about a sandwich that she and my father had for lunch one day while traveling to a neighboring town.  The sandwich was called “The Zorba.”  She described the ingredients, a mixture of ground beef, broccoli, and “ripe olives” which were served in a “pita pocket bread,” and promised to make the sandwich for me the next time I was in town.  I know some of you are probably wondering what a “ripe olive” is, so let me explain.  The olives that come in a jar with the pimento are called green olives, right?  My mother considered the black ones to be “ripe”.  I don’t know if they were ever actually labeled that way for sale, but I grew up calling them ripe olives until one of my roommates asked  “What’s a ripe olive?”

Personally, I thought that my mother’s description of the sandwich sounded pretty weird, and  I was not eagerly anticipating the day when she would make one for me.  In fact, when she commented at the end of Thanksgiving weekend that she had forgotten to make me a Zorba, I was secretly happy I had managed to avoid the taste test.

“It’s okay, Mom.”  I told her.  “We had so much turkey and other stuff, we really didn’t need them.  I’ll be home again.  We can try it then.”   I was hoping that she would forget.  What I didn’t know was that she made these sandwiches for my father at least once a month.

It was when I came home for Christmas break that she finally was able to make the Zorba for me.  I stood in the doorway to her kitchen which was near her stove and talked with her about the things going on at school as I watched her prepare this strange sounding mixture.

First, she chopped up some garlic.

chopped garlic

Then she chopped up some onion.  She probably only used one type of onion but I had two half onions sitting in the fridge. 

Chopped Onion

Then she put all of it into the pan with some ground beef.

Ground Beef, Onion, and Garlic go into the pan

She cooked this until the meat was browned.

Cooked ground beef that has been cooked with onion and garlic

Then, she stirred in frozen chopped broccoli.

Frozen Chopped Broccoli

Finally, she added a 2.5 ounce can of sliced black olives that had been drained.  I have been known to use a 4.25 ounce can of chopped black olives instead.

Sliced Ripe or Black Olives

She continued to cook this mixture, adding black pepper and salt until the broccoli was cooked to her liking. I usually add only black pepper because of the saltiness of the olives, but my mom always complained that  I don’t use enough salt when I cook.  Taste it and decide for yourself.

Heat the zorba mixture through

The mixture was then served inside pita pockets that had been spread with mayonnaise, and served topped with shredded cheese.

Completed Zorba Sandwich

To my surprise, it was very good.  I guess you could call it “love at first bite.”

During Spring break, my mom wanted me to go with her to try the original sandwich upon which she had based her recipe.  We drove 30 miles, and after completing some other errands, we stopped at the diner.  After studying the menu, we couldn’t find the Zorba anywhere.  My mom summoned the waitress who was new.  She brought out the manager, and he told her that, sadly, the sandwich was no longer available.    I don’t remember what we had for lunch, but I remember that I liked my mom’s Zorba Sandwich.

When I got  back  to the college, I made it for my boyfriend.  He really liked it, too.  He’s now my husband.   I can’t promise that Zorba sandwiches will turn your boyfriend into your husband, but it worked for me.   In fact, he’s the one who is responsible for this post.  I asked what he wanted for dinner, and he said “You know something that you haven’t made in a long time?   Zorbas.”  Baker’s Man is really an awesome guy.   Of course, I might be prejudiced.

Here’s the recipe.  Please give it a try and let me know what you think.

The Zorba Sandwich
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Pseudo Greek
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
A remake of a sandwich my mother and father ate at a diner in a neighboring town. You can add some shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes to the sandwich if you like. If pita bread is expensive in your area, use flour tortillas and roll up burrito style.
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 10 oz frozen chopped broccoli
  • 1 (2.5 ounce) can sliced or chopped olives, drained
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 6 pita (pocket) breads
  • Shredded Cheese or crumbled cheese of your choice
  1. Cook garlic, onion, and ground beef together in a skillet until meat is browned and onion is translucent.
  2. Drain off excess grease.
  3. Add frozen chopped broccoli and cook, stirring frequently until broccoli is nearly cooked.
  4. Add olives, and heat until broccoli achieves desired degree of doneness and olives are heated through.
  5. Cut pita's in half and open the pockets.
  6. Spread the interior of the pocket with 1 - 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  7. Spoon in meat mixture
  8. Top with a couple pinches of shredded cheese.
  9. Serve


Crab Louie

Crab Louie Salad

Homemade Crab Louie Salad

Summer is synonymous with salads in my house. During the hottest times of the year, it’s not uncommon for us to have large salads for dinner topped with meat cooked outside on our grill. Sometimes, it can be a challenge to create salads different enough that my family doesn’t become bored with the menu. We try to follow the guidelines for building a healthy salad. It’s amazing how easy it is to make an unhealthy salad if you don’t follow some simple rules.   I believe that if you’re making a salad, you should make the effort to make it healthy.

We frequently try different combinations of lettuce with different vegetables. Of course, we swap out the types of dressings, too. I have even been known to use salsa as a dressing when I am trying to create a salad with a southwestern flair. During a recent heat spell, I was trying to come up with some new salad ideas. That was when I remembered Castagnola’s Lobster House and their Crab Louie salad.

Lobster House in Santa Barbara

A postcard showing the exterior of Castagnola’s Lobster House

Castagnola ‘s Lobster house was a Santa Barbara institution.  The owners of the restaurant owned a fleet of fishing vessels, so the restaurant’s advertised “catch of the day” really was the day’s catch.  The food was excellent and the Crab Louie salad was a visual work of art. At least, that was my opinion when I was a teenager. I had never tasted crab before the first time I tried one of these salads, and I fell in love with the sweet taste. I would squeeze lemon juice onto the heaping pile of crab meat and only sparingly use the “Louie Dressing” which tasted suspiciously like 1,000 Island.

It was a love affair that ended only when I went away to college. Sadly, The Lobster House, as my dad called it, is closed. The restaurant and the salad live only in my memory. I did my best to recreate  the taste of that salad with this recipe. Let me know what you think. Thank you for visiting my site.

Crab Louie
Recipe type: Main Course Salad
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
A refreshing dinner salad that is delicious and filling. It can be modified by using other seafood such as shrimp or lobster.
  • 2 - 3 outside leaves from head of romaine lettuce
  • 2 cups hearts of romaine torn into bite sized pieces for each salad
  • ½ cup shredded carrots
  • ¼ cup shredded red cabbage
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions
  • 4 - 5 slices of cucumber, halved
  • 1 hard boiled egg cut into quarters
  • 2 radishes, halved and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup chopped tomato
  • 4 ounces of cooked crab meat, shelled and deveined
  • A wedge of Lemon (or two)
  • 1000 island or seven seas dressing to taste
  1. Arrange the exterior leaves from the romaine on a plate to form a decorative base on which to build the salad
  2. Toss lettuce, carrots, and cabbage together. Arrange on serving plate or bowl.
  3. Arrange chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and egg quarters around the edge of the plate
  4. Arrange crab meat in the middle of the salad
  5. Sprinkle green onions and radishes around the top
  6. Serve with lemon wedge and dressing on the side.

A link to this recipe was also shared at Strut Your Stuff Saturday and Beverly’s Pink Saturday.

Watergate Salad

This is an old and easy salad recipe that dates back to my childhood.  It was allegedly created by a chef at the Watergate Hotel in D.C. and was  served at brunch and on weekends.  This may or may not be true.  The salad reportedly gained popularity after the political scandal of the same name  (Watergate Scandal) that began in June of 1972 when  there was a break in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex which is on the same 10 acre site as the hotel.  For more information about that scandal, refer to the Wikipedia.

Whatever the source of the recipe, it is very quick, easy, and uses some pantry staples, mainly canned crushed pineapple and instant jello pudding.  Toss in some marshmallows, cool-whip, and chopped nuts (optional) and you have a delicious treat that is somewhere between a fruit salad and dessert.  It’s really good, too.


All you need is a small package of instant pistachio pudding, a 20 oz can of crushed pineapple packed in pineapple juice, 2 cups of marshmallows, 1/2 cup of chopped pecans (optional), and an 8 oz container of frozen whipped topping such as cool whip..  One of the things that I love about this recipe is that it is easily adapted.  It tastes just as good with sugar free instant pudding or fat-free frozen whipped topping.

Once you have gathered all of the ingredients, here’s what you do.

Dump the entire can of  pineapple into a medium sized mixing bowl.  Sprinkle the instant pudding on top of the pineapple and mix well until the pudding has completely dissolved and is beginning to thicken.  Stir in the 2 cups of marshmallows and the chopped nuts (if you are using them).  Fold in the thawed, frozen whipped topping.  Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve it.

It’s really that easy.

Recipes like this always seem to take on a personality of their own as they travel through different regions of our country, and different households.  I recently had a colleague bring Watergate Salad to a party.  Her version was very tasty, but tasted different than mine.   She made the pudding with  milk before adding the other ingredients.  She also drained the pineapple before adding it.  The result was a still a delicious pineapple and pistachio dessert.  It just had a slightly different taste and texture than the way I make it.  She was incredulous to find out that I don’t make the pudding first.  I promised to bring her a batch of Watergate Salad made my way.

For my home, I prefer my method.  I get to be a little lazy because  I don’t have to make the pudding first.  Of course, there’s also the fact that I don’t want  to waste the juice from the pineapple.  I do admit that  if my colleague wants to make another batch of her version for me, I’ll gladly eat it.  It’s just that when I’m in the kitchen, I sometimes like to be able to be lazy take the shortest distance between two points without sacrificing flavor.

Here’s the recipe.  Let me know what you think.

Watergate Salad
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
Simple pineapple and pistachio fruit salad type dessert that is very easy to make.
  • 1 small package of instant pistachio pudding (3.4 oz regular or 1 oz sugar free)
  • 1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple packed in pineapple juice
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 1 (8 ounce) tub frozen whipped topping
  1. Thaw frozen whipped topping in refrigerator prior to beginning recipe.
  2. Place entire contents of can of pineapple into a medium sized mixing bowl.
  3. Sprinkle instant pudding onto pineapple.
  4. Mix pudding mix into pineapple until pudding mix is dissolved and the mixture begins to thicken. This takes approximately 2 - 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in miniature marshmallows and pecans (if using)
  6. Fold in whipped topping.
  7. Cover and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  8. Serve .



Grilled Chicken Salad With Watermelon?


I forgot to put on the pine nuts before I took the picture. They add a delicious crunch to the salad, so don’t forget them.

It all started with a bunch of inexpensive watermelons.  Watermelons are the perfect summer food.  They come in their own package.  They’re loaded with juice which helps to quench your thirst.  They’re low in calories, and you only need a knife to cut them up so you can eat them.   More civilized folks might want to consider using a bowl and a fork, but we’re pretty much barbarians when it comes to watermelon.

So, one day, while holding a 10 inch chef’s knife and staring at the dwindling pile of watermelons in my kitchen, I thought of the summer salads that are served at some of the fast food chains that feature fresh berries.  I wondered why no one made a salad that contained watermelon.  That was all it took to get me started on my salad experiment.

First, I took some spring greens and baby spinach and spread them onto a plate.  Next, I seasoned some chicken with lemon pepper and my hubby cooked it on the grill.   We placed the hot chicken onto the bed of lettuce and spinach.  Then scattered chopped watermelon, radishes, avocado, and pine nuts onto the plate.  The entire thing was topped with a home made lime vinaigrette.  It was good.  It took a pretty picture, but some of the strong flavors of  the spring greens were so strong that they were overpowering the more delicate flavor of the watermelon.

The next day, I repeated the same thing for dinner with a couple of changes.  Since it’s extremely hot, no one complained.   I prepared the salad again, but this time, I substituted an entire head of butter lettuce and part of a heart of romaine for the spring greens.  Both of these are more delicately flavored lettuces.  Everything else, remained the same. That was all it took to create salad perfection.   I have one word to describe it.  YUM!   My daughter even ate two salads that night.

The answer to the question in my title is this.  Yes, a grilled chicken salad with watermelon can taste good.

Here’s the recipe.  I hope you like it as much as we did.  Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

Grilled Chicken Salad With Watermelon?
Recipe type: Entree Salad
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Grilled chicken, and watermelon, on a bed of delicately flavored lettuce make a delicious summer salad.
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 head butter lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 5 - 6 leaves from a heart of romaine torn or cut into bite sized pieces
  • 4 cups watermelon cut into small chunks
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 8 radishes, halved then sliced
  • ¼ to ½ cup pine nuts toasted
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1 pinch of salt, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper or to taste
  1. Put olive oil, white wine vinegar and lime juice together with salt and pepper in a sealable jar or container. Shake to mix well.
  2. Season chicken breasts to your liking and cook on grill. (I sprinkled mine heavily with lemon pepper seasoning.)
  3. Arrange lettuce evenly among 4 plates.
  4. Place one cooked chicken breast in center of plate on lettuce, or you can slice chicken breasts into strips and place onto bed of lettuce.
  5. Arrange watermelon chunks, avocado, and sliced radishes around chicken on each plate.
  6. Sprinkle with pine nuts.
  7. Serve with vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is so refreshing, you don't need very much. Generally, no more than 2 tablespoons per salad.