Anatomy of a Salad

Let’s talk salad.  As you may have guessed, I’m a big salad fan.  They’re easy, incredibly versatile and fast.  So let’s break it down so you can come up with some new ideas, and try some new combinations!  You can also skip the whole forma salad and do like this cute skeleton from Kraft.

This is by no means a complete list!  Leave a comment and let me know what your favorite salad/salad toppers are!  Also, if you think you don’t like a veggie, try roasting it.  I haven’t met a veggie that didn’t taste awesome after a little time in the oven!


  • Romaine (holds up well for a few days)
  • Arugula (a little spicy/peppery, my favorite)
  • Baby Spinach (holds up well and pairs nicely with fruits)
  • Kale (needs to be massaged, but holds up well for days)
  • Red Cabbage (great shredded)
  • Green/White Cabbage (great shredded)
  • Nappa Cabbage (more tender than regular cabbage, great with Asian flavors)
  • Endives (a little bitter)

Chopped Veggies (I usually pick 2-4):

  • Carrots (diced or shredded)
  • Cucumber (quartered then sliced)
  • Celery (sliced or minced)
  • Broccoli (raw or cooked)
  • Cauliflower (raw or cooked)
  • Radishes (thinly sliced, a little peppery)
  • Beets (a little sweet)
  • Tomatoes (grape, cherry, on the vine, plum, heirloom, orange, sun-dried)
  • Bell Peppers (diced)
  • Mushrooms (sliced)
  • Eggplant (diced and roasted)
  • Green Beans (steamed, sautéed, roasted)
  • Brussels Sprouts (shredded, roasted)
  • Summer Squash (diced, sautéed, roasted)


  • Oranges (slices, Mandarin)
  • Grapefruit slices
  • Grapes
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Dried Blueberries
  • Fresh Cherries
  • Watermelon
  • Apples
  • Pears


  • Chicken
  • Beans (black beans, garbanzo/chickpeas, kidney, white beans, pinto…)
  • Lentils
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Eggs (hard boiled, fried, poached)
  • Nuts (pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, candied, peanuts)
  • Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)
  • Turkey
  • Cheese (feta, goat, blue, gorgonzola, brie, parmesan)


  • Wheat Berries
  • Couscous
  • Barley
  • Millet
  • Squash (butternut, delicata, kabocha, pumpkin)
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Potatoes (white, sweet, red/new: roasted, boiled, grilled)

Herbs:  (nothing like fresh herbs to make your salad fancy!  But herbs won’t last long, so make sure you only garnish what you’ll eat at one sitting)

  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Scallions
  • Mint
  • Cilantro
  • Oregano
  • Tarragon
  • Dill
  • Chives

Salad dressing options are endless.  Use your favorite, or experiment with something new.  Basically you can’t go wrong if you combine equal parts tart, acid (lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar-red, white, balsamic, champagne, etc) with oil (canola, olive, etc), then season with salt and pepper.  Totally easy, fresh and delicious.  Like a little more cream to your dressing?  Whisk in some dijon mustard or blend in an avocado or some Greek yogurt.  Fresh herbs are also a great way to add some freshness to your dressing.

Hope this helps you find new salad inspiration!

Ham and Green Bean Soup

This is an old family recipe.  My mom’s grandma would make this every spring just as the green beans came up in the garden.  It’s a great, easy recipe that’s total comfort food.  I actually made this using a frozen ham hock that we saved from Easter.  You can also just buy a ham hock at the store, or make this soup whenever you’re making a ham and freeze it for later.  If green beans aren’t in season, you can use frozen green beans, just throw them in in the last few minutes and cook until heated through.

Ham and Green Bean SoupHam and Green Bean Soup (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 10-12

  • 1 large ham hock
  • water to cover the hock (about 10-15 cups)
  • 3 Tbsp salt
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley (optional)
  • 6 medium red potatoes, cubed
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 5 large carrots, diced
  • 4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 5 cups green beans, cut in “1 pieces
  • 2-3 cups diced ham
  • 2 Tbsp dried dill
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sour cream or plain Greek yogurt to garnish

In a large stock pot, combine ham hock, water, salt, bay leaves and dried parsley.  Bring to a boil, then let simmer for about two hours, stirring occasionally.  Remove the ham hock from the pot and let cool.  Pick any remaining ham off the bone and reserve for later.

Add potatoes and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until beginning to get tender.  Add onion, carrots, and celery and cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until vegetables are fork-tender.  Add green beans and ham to the pot and cook for about 8 minutes, or until green beans are bright green and tender and the ham is heated through.  Add dill, taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Recipe inspiration

Let’s talk about recipe inspiration.  I love watching cooking shows, browsing food magazines, following blogs, and browsing Pinterest.  These are all great ways that I find recipes.  The only problem is finding a way to keep track of all the recipes I want to try!  Pinterest is a great way to visually keep track of recipes.  You can follow me here.  Also, check out the recipe inspiration tab to see the blogs I follow regularly for recipe inspiration, they’ll make your mouth water.

Recipe Organization (A Seat at the Table)Now, for magazines that’s where the real organization comes in.  We get a couple of food specific magazines, like Taste of Home, or my favorite, Cooking Light.  To keep track of the recipes from magazines, we’ve started to rip out the pages, put them in slipcovers and organize them in binders.  When I cook one of those recipes, I make sure to add a little post-it note with the date I made it, and how it turned out.  If a recipe was a complete flop, it gets tossed.  Keeping these organized can be a little challenging, but so far we’ve been organizing them by appetizers/drinks/sides, soups/salads/breads, main dishes (meat), vegetarian/fish, and desserts.  Another idea (especially if you don’t have a ton of collected recipes), would be to have a binder of things you want to try, and a binder of things you’ve tried and like.  That way you’ll have a complete book full of tested recipes you know you like.

What are your tips for recipe organization?

Bacon Fried Rice

This is a childhood classic.   My mom would make this fairly regularly when we were growing up.  It’s a great way to reinvent leftovers.  This is perfect if you have some leftover rice from getting take-out, or just make a bit extra and save it for this.  Day old rice is perfect in this recipe.  Other than the rice and bacon, you can add whatever you like.  Frozen peas were classic growing up, but whatever veggies you have on hand will be great in this.  It comes together quickly in just one pan, now that’s what I call comfort food!

Bacon Fried RiceBacon Fried Rice (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 6-8

  • 3 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil, divided
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • 4 cups rice
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium high heat with about 1 tsp canola oil (this helps the bacon crisp).  When bacon is cooked, add the onion and sauté until translucent, then add the carrots and celery.  When the vegetables are tender, wilt the kale.  Add the rice and mix well.  When the rice begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, add the remaining oil, and mix well.  Make a space in the skillet and pour in the eggs.  Scramble the eggs briefly, then mix them into the rest of the fried rice.   Pour soy sauce over the top and season with salt and pepper, then mix well.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

Stovetop Popcorn

Ok, so our kitchen is being redone.  Which is hugely exciting!  But also means that my cooking options are rather limited for the next couple weeks.  I’ll still try to keep up with posting, but they won’t all be recipes.

While we’re trying to clear out the entire kitchen, the last thing I’ve wanted to do is make a big mess by cooking something, so we’ve been eating a lot of crudités and hummus and popcorn.  Popcorn is actually a whole grain, so it’s a great snack option and one serving is 3 cups!  Sister is totally into popcorn, and her popcorn always tastes the best.  So abandon the gross butter-flavored store bought bags of popcorn and spend just a little bit longer making your own on the stovetop.  It’s totally worth it.

Stovetop PopcornStovetop Popcorn

Serves 4-6

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • about 1/4 cup popcorn kernels (enough to coat the bottom of your pan in one layer)
  • salt to taste
  • varieties:  paprika, cumin, cinnamon-sugar, dill, flavored salts, salt & vinegar

In a large pot (preferably one with a wide bottom, my pot is about 10″ in diameter), heat oil over medium-high heat.  To test the oil, add a couple kernels to the bottom of the pan.  When they sizzle, add a thin layer of kernels over the entire bottom of the pot.  Cover with a lid and wait until it begins to pop.  Once it starts popping, carefully give the pot a shake.  Crack the lid a little to let some steam out, but be carefully not to get splattered with any oil, or heat by the steam.  Continue to shake the pot every so often until the popping begins to slow down.  When there begins to be breaks in the popping turn the heat off.  Continue to shake the pot until the popping stops.  Quickly transfer the popcorn to a large bowl and season with salt (and spices of your choices).  Enjoy!

Throwback Thursday

So I haven’t had a real win in the kitchen lately, and things have been busy with starting class, so instead of a new post today I’m doing a throwback to an old favorite!  It’s September (despite my protests at the passage of time!), which means it is now acceptable to bring on the pumpkin!  This recipe is spectacular.  It’s like pumpkin pie in a mini-muffin.  These are decadent and delicious and the perfect way to welcome fall!  Still need a picture of these tasty treats, they go too quickly to get one!

Pumpkin Pie Spice Muffins  (Originally posted March 27, 2012)Pumpkin Pie Spice Muffins (A Seat at the Table)

Makes about 24 muffins

Adapted from the Pioneer Woman

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1  1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1  1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp (1  1/2 sticks) butter, frozen and grated
  • 1 large can (29oz or about 4 cups) pumpkin puree
  • 1 (regular size, I think 14oz) can evaporated milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1  1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Grease two muffin tins and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.  Cut in (or grate frozen) butter into dry ingredients until fully incorporated.

In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, and vanilla.  Pour pumpkin mixture into flour mixture and fold gently until just incorporated.

Scoop into muffin tins, filling almost to the top (they don’t rise very much).  Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

Egg and Veggie Scramble

We all know we should eat more veggies, so here’s an easy way to start the day’s veggie count early.  This is also a great way to use up some of the veggies in your crisper.  Since this was served for breakfast on the last day at the beach house, we were eager to use up some of the leftover veggies and eggs.  Served with Easy Homefries and a fruit salad, this was the perfect last meal at the beach.

Egg and Veggie ScrambleEgg and Veggie Scramble (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 5

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • dill, to taste

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook until beginning to soften.  Add zucchini and bell pepper, cook for a few minutes until beginning to brown (try not to stir it too frequently so it has a chance to crisp up on the bottom).  Add spinach (in batches if necessary), and carefully fold in with veggies until beginning to wilt.  Pour in the eggs and stir together until eggs are no longer runny, season with salt, pepper and dill.  Serve immediately.


Easy Homefries

So after making baked potatoes to go with the delicious Santiago Bean Dip, we had a couple left over.  So on our last morning at the beach, it was time to use up the leftovers.  These homefries were the perfect thing.  Everyone loved these and they’re a cinch to make when you already have a cooked potato.  If you don’t have a baked potato on hand, scrub your raw potato, stab it with a fork, and wrap in a damp paper towel; then microwave for about 6 minutes.  The potato should be fork-tender when done.  Allow to cool enough to chop before proceeding with the recipe below.

Easy HomefriesEasy Homefries (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 2

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 vidalia onion, diced
  • 1 baked potato, diced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a skillet (I used a cast iron one), heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and sautee until translucent.  Add diced potato and cook for about 5-10 more minutes.  Try not to mix the potatoes too much so they have a chance to get crispy and browned.  Add more butter if necessary.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately, and enjoy!