Santiago Bean Dip

This dip is fantastic.  If you’re having a get together for Labor Day, you should definitely make this.  Everyone will thank you.

My dear friend, Becky, made this a while back for a baked potato bar dinner party, and it was super scrumptious!  I’ve been dreaming about it ever since.  So since we were cooking for vegetarians and gluten-free eaters at the beach, I thought a baked potato bar with this dip would be the perfect thing.  It was a huge hit and the leftovers of this dip make an excellent snack with tortilla chips, or would be great mixed with scrambled eggs, or would be delicious eaten with a spoon!  …I think I need to make this again ASAP.

For convenience sake I left out the rice when I made it at the beach.  Next time I’ll add it in.  It’s not very noticeable, but acts as a great binder for all the delicious beans and cheese.

Santiago Bean DipSantiago Bean Dip (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 8-10

Adapted from The Kitchn

  • 2 (15oz) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15oz) cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice (optional, but recommended)
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes (I used fresh, but 1 can of diced tomatoes would probably work too)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  •  1/4 cup pickled jalapeño, diced (optional)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 6 cups shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Grease a 9×13″ pan or deep casserole dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix beans, rice, tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, spices and 4 cups of cheese together.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Spread mixture into prepared baking dish.  Cover with foil and back for 30 minutes, until bubbly.  Remove foil and add remaining cheese.  Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted.   Serve with baked potatoes, chips, eggs, crackers, or spoons!


Spinach Pesto Strata

This strata was something that I whipped up because we had guests coming to the beach, a loaf of bread getting stale, and some egg whites leftover from the German Chocolate Cake.  This is a great recipe to make for company since you assemble it the night before and bake it off in the morning.  I didn’t have a recipe for this, so below are just estimates for amounts.  I was a little skeptical of whether this would turn out, but it actually turned out great and was a big crowd pleaser.  It’s also a great multi-meal option, so while I served it as a breakfast, it would definitely work for lunch or dinner too.

Spinach Pesto StrataSpinach Pesto Strata (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 6-8

  • 1 loaf stale bread (I used half of a French baguette and half of a whole wheat boule)
  • 3 cups fresh spinach (thawed, drained frozen spinach would also probably work)
  • 6 egg whites
  • 10 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup pesto

Grease a 10×13″ pan with cooking spray.  Cut the bread into large bite-sized chunks, and add 1/3 of the bread to the prepared pan.  Layer about half of the spinach over the bread, add another 1/3 of bread, the remaining spinach and then the remaining bread.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, eggs, milk, salt, pepper and pesto.  Carefully pour the mixture evenly over the bread and spinach.  Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning remove the strata from the fridge and preheat the oven to 350°F.  Bake for about 30-45 minutes, or until set, a knife inserted into the middle should be mostly dry.  If the strata starts to brown too quickly, cover with foil and continue baking until set.

I’ve returned

My lovely beach vacation has ended.  It was a great trip!  I made some fast easy meals, so I’ll have some updates coming.  Beach Clouds (A Seat at the Table)

I also read a fantastic food related book, Foodist.  It’s a great book talking about how to create a “healthstyle” that works for you.  It’s written by the blogger of Summer Tomato, Darya Pino Rose, Ph.D., who has a great, engaging, and thought-provoking writing style.  The book has tons of personality, some awesome recipes I’m eager to try, great tips on how to create habits that will help you lose weight/maintain your healthy living style.   I loved her approach to fresh, seasonal foods and thought the whole book was a fun and motivating guide to making good choices (in a completely non-preachy way).

If you’re at all interested in healthy eating, and feel like you need some inspiration, I’d highly recommend this book.Beach Dunes (A Seat at the Table)


Happy Birthday, Dad and Grampy!!

If you want to check out how we’ll be celebrating please see the fabulous, legendary German Chocolate Cake recipe.  This is my dad’s birthday tradition, and I’ve taken over making it since my mom’s been doing it for the past 30-some odd years.  I’ll be making it even more epically at a beach house this year!

Which leads me to say, I’m on vacation, so posts will be a bit more scattered and may have some new/different content for then next week or so.  Hope you’ll stick with me and we’ll be back to our regular programming soon.

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

This dressing is a great slightly sweet, kind of zingy, creamy vinaigrette.  The mustard and vinegar are tart and the honey balances it out.  This was great for the Salmon Cake Salad Nicoise, but is also just a great versatile salad dressing to add to your repertoire.

Honey Mustard VinaigretteHoney Mustard Vinaigrette (A Seat at the Table)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 6 Tbsp honey mustard (I used a kind that wasn’t very sweet)
  • 2-3 Tbsp honey, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt

In a blender, mix all ingredients until smooth.  Store in a air-tight container and store in the refrigerator.

Salmon Cake Salad Nicoise

This updated salad nicoise uses salmon cakes instead of the traditional tuna.  This is a great way to make a salad exciting, or a great way to serve either of these salmon cakes.  Adding salmon cakes to the other traditional aspects of a nicoise salad, like potatoes, green beans, eggs, tomatoes, and olives makes this a great update.   I also like to keep things flavorful throughout the salad, so after boiling the potatoes (when they’re still warm), I dressed them in a honey-mustard vinaigrette, that way each bite of potato is packed with flavor.

Salmon Cake Salad NicoiseSalmon Cake Salad Nicoise (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 4-6

  • 1 salmon cake per person
  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 6 potatoes (I prefer to keep the skin on, so choose a new potato or red potato)
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups green beans
  • 3 hearts of romaine, chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup kalamata or green olives, optional (I didn’t use olives since the salmon cakes had capers in them)
  • honey mustard vinaigrette, to taste

Place washed potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water and add salt.  Cook over high heat, and let boil for about 15 minutes, or until fork tender.  Remove potatoes from the water and leave the water on the stove.  Add green beans to the boiling water and blanche for a few minutes until tender, then run under cold water to stop the cooking and keep the bright green color.  Chop green beans into thirds.  When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut into large dice and drizzle with about 1/3 cup honey mustard vinaigrette.

To assemble the salad, divide chopped romaine between plates.  Add 1 salmon cake and sliced hard boiled egg to each plate, then divide potatoes, green beans, tomatoes and olives equally.  Serve with honey-mustard vinaigrette on the side.

Holy Trinity Salmon Cakes

These salmon cakes were fantastic.  The name comes from the addition of onion, celery and bell peppers, referred to as the “holy trinity” in Cajun/Creole cooking because it’s such a fundamental part of recipes.  I love adding extra veggies, it adds great flavor and texture.  While these totally taste like beach food (from the Old Bay), they’re still fresh tasting from the veggies, and with a little spritz of lemon juice, they’re absolute perfection.  Next time I might try baking them instead of frying (I’d try 375°F for about 30-40 minutes) just because it’s easier (and a little healthier).

Holy Trinity Salmon CakesHoly Trinity Salmon Cakes (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 8 (makes about 16 – 20 patties)

Adapted from Ina Garten

  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 7 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/4 tsp hot sauce
  • 3/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 3/4 tsp Old Bay seasoning (or crab boil seasoning)
  • 1/2 cup (light) mayonnaise
  • 2 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 18 oz (3 6oz cans) boneless, skinless salmon
  • 1 1/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs (I used Panko)
  • olive oil and butter for frying (a couple Tbsp should suffice)

In a large skillet, heat about 2 tsp olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add diced onion and sauté for a minute.  Add the diced celery and bell peppers and sauté for a few minutes, until tender.   Add capers, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and Old Bay and mix well.  Remove from pan and let cool.

In a large bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, eggs, and salmon.  Gentle fold in the bread crumbs and the cooled vegetables, until well mixed.

Heat olive oil (and butter, if using) over medium high heat, when the pan is hot, add a scoop of the salmon mixture and press down on the top to form a patty.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.  Keep patties warm in the oven at 250°F while you cook the rest.  Serve hot with a lemon wedge.

Fresh Blackberry-Plum Crisp

This is a recipe for all those people that don’t like cooked fruit.  A dear friend of mine doesn’t like the texture of baked fruit, which is just a tragedy when you think of all the delicious crumbles and crisps she’s missing out on!  So when I stumbled upon this recipe I thought it was a little like cheating to not bake the whole crisp, but then I realized how perfect it would be for people that don’t want to bake their fruit.  This takes full advantage of the delicious fresh flavors of summer fruit, and yet adds a great little extra crunch to make your favorite summer produce just a bit more special.  The crisp topping smells like oatmeal cookies while it’s baking, and this recipe comes together really quickly.  Perfect for a low-key summer dessert.  The combination of blackberries and plums is really good, and creates a dark purple sauce that blends wonderfully with vanilla ice cream.  Feel free to use whatever fruit looks good to you, this topping will be good on anything!

Fresh Blackberry-Plum CrispFresh Blackberry-Plum Crisp (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 4

Adapted from Bon Appetit (July 2013)

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • pinch of salt

In a rimmed pan, combine all ingredients and mix with clean fingers to form clumps.  Should kind of look like a sandy beach when it’s all blended together.  Pop pan in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350°F and bake topping for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden.

  • 1 cup (1/2 pint) blackberries, lightly crushed
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 plums, thinly sliced
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced (about 2 tsp)

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine all the filling ingredients.

Once topping is done baking, assemble your crisp.  Layer fruit, then ice cream, more fruit and then top it off with the crumbly oat mixture.

Avocado Buttermilk Dressing

So now that you know how to cut an avocado, let’s put it to good use!  This dressing is creamy and fabulous.  It’s a bit reminiscent of a Green Goddess dressing.  The creamy avocado pairs nicely with the buttermilk, and a bit of basil makes it fresh and summery.  There’s a little kick to it from the pepper and raw garlic to give it some sparkle.  I used this on my favorite meal, taco salad, but this would also be great as just a standard creamy dressing and would go well with grilled vegetables or chicken as well.

Avocado Buttermilk DressingAvocado Buttermilk Dressing (A Seat at the Table)

Makes about 1 cup

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens (June 2013)

  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 5-6 basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

How to Cut an Avocado (without cutting yourself)

So it’s recently come to my attention that cutting avocado can be a dangerous past-time.  In the past month I’ve heard two stories from friends of friends about ending up in the ER due to failed avocado cutting.  Avocado is delicious and full of those healthy fats, potassium, folic acid and various vitamins.  So in case fear of cutting yourself is keeping you from tasty avocados, here’s my step by step for how to cut into this tricky fruit.

First step is picking a ripe avocado.  This is always a little tricky.  The key is to find one that’s soft but not bruised.  This can be challenging in a grocery store where it seems like they’re usually rock hard or way too squishy.  You want an avocado that gives a little, kind of like picking a ripe peach.   I tend to try to buy avocados a couple days before I need to use them and let them ripen on the counter.  If you’re in a rush you can try ripening them in a brown paper bag (like with pears), this should help them ripen faster.

Cutting an Avocado 1 (A Seat at the Table)
Ok, now that you’re ready to eat your avocado, you’re going to use a sharp knife and cut the avocado in half length-wise.  You’ll just cut around the big seed.  Once you’ve cut all the way around the pit, use a twisting motion with your hands to separate the two halves.

Cutting an Avocado 2 (A Seat at the Table)

The pit will be on one half.  To remove the pit, carefully use the sharp part of your knife to thwack (technical term) the pit.  This should lodge the knife into the pit, at which point you can twist the knife to pull the pit out of the avocado.  Carefully, pull the avocado pit off of your knife.  If the knife didn’t stick the first time, try thwacking again.  Sound too dangerous?  Use a spoon to scoop the pit out; you’ll probably loose some avocado, but you always want to be safe.

Cutting an Avocado 3 (A Seat at the Table)

Now you can carefully dice the avocado while it’s still in the peel.  Be careful not to slice through the peel (you can use a butter knife).

Cutting an Avocado 4 (A Seat at the Table)

Finally, use a spoon to scoop out the diced avocado and enjoy!

Cutting an Avocado 5 (A Seat at the Table)

Let me know if you have any other how-to questions!