Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Make Ahead Layered Salad

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister

When you are just learning how to cook, one of the hardest things to manage is getting all the food prepared and served at the same time. Anything that can be done ahead of time, particularly if you are entertaining guests, is a huge time saver!

This salad can be served either immediately after making it, or covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before serving it. The trick is not to mix in the dressing (or salt) until just before you serve it. (Otherwise it will wilt.)

As is true with most salads, you can vary the ingredients to your taste.

This recipe includes: iceberg lettuce, celery, green onion, hard-cooked eggs, bacon, peas, and Swiss cheese.

(I based this recipe on one given to me by my friend Jean Williams of Salisbury, North Carolina. She does not include the hard-cooked eggs in her version.)

STEP ONE: Preparing the Salad Ingredients

1) Frozen Peas:

Remove a 10-ounce bag (or box) of frozen peas from the freezer. Let them defrost while you prepare the salad. There is no need to cook the peas.

2) Iceberg Lettuce:

Iceberg lettuce is crispy and fresh and great in salads (or shredded and added to Tacos). It is generally the least “sandy” lettuce to buy. To wash iceberg lettuce, remove the core with a paring knife.

Break it apart with your hands. (Some heads of iceberg are much firmer than others!)

I like to put the lettuce in my salad spinner then set the base of it in the sink.

Cover the lettuce with water and swish it around a bit. Lift out the colander portion of the spinner out of the water and drain the lettuce.

Put the lid on the salad spinner and let it whirl! The centrifugal force will pull all the water away from the lettuce leaves. The iceberg lettuce should end up bone dry.

If you do not have a salad spinner, wash the lettuce in a colander and shake out as much water as possible. Let it dry on paper towels or a clean dish cloth while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Or just buy a bag of pre-washed, ready to use lettuce. The “Lettuce Trio” pictured below includes iceberg, romaine, and green leaf lettuce and would be perfect for this salad!

3) Celery:

Wash and trim the ends off from 3-to-4 stalks of celery. Cut each stalk in half and then each half into strips. Line up the strips and start chopping away.

4) Green Onions:

Wash and trim the ends off 3-to-4 green onions. (The word “scallion” is often used interchangeably with green onion.) Cut them in half and then line them up and start slicing. The white ends have a much stronger flavor than the green part.

5) Bacon:

6 strips of bacon will cook up in less than 6 minutes in the microwave. Once cooked, cut the bacon into very small bits with a large kitchen knife.

6) Hard-Cooked Eggs:

Start by checking out my video for a quick review on How to Boil an Egg. I was having a heck of a time peeling my eggs so I cracked the shell and put them in a bowl of ice water. Once the water seeped in under the shell, peeling them was so much easier! Now just chop up the two cooked eggs.

7) Swiss Cheese:

Shred 3 ounces of Swiss cheese. (Monterey Jack or cheddar would also taste great with this recipe!)

STEP TWO: Layering the Salad:

Now that all the ingredients are prepared, it’s time to start layering!

Tear the lettuce with your hands or cut it into bite size pieces. Put one half of the head of lettuce on the bottom of a salad bowl. Sprinkle on (in turn) one half of the peas, celery, green onion, eggs, bacon, and shredded cheese.

Repeat layering all the ingredients in that order: lettuce, peas, celery, green onion, eggs, bacon, and shredded cheese.

STEP THREE: The Dressing:

In a small bowl mix together 1/2 cup of mayonnaise and 1/2 cup of sour cream. Either “light” or regular full-fat mayonnaise and sour cream will work for this recipe. It’s up to you which one you would prefer.

Cover the entire top of the salad with the mayonnaise-sour cream dressing.

The salad is now ready to serve. Or you can cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours.

Wait until just before serving the salad to toss the dressing into the salad with salad spoons or two large kitchen spoons.

Add a bit of salt and pepper to your taste, and…


P.S. Even “salad-haters” love this salad!

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print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister

Taboule (pronounced: tuh-boo-lee) is a Middle Eastern wheat salad. It is eaten cold and is a terrific substitute for a potato or rice dish. It needs to chill for at least 1 hour before serving. It’s actually best to make it the day before serving so that all the flavors blend together.

This box mix requires NO cooking.

In addition to the box mix of taboule, you will need:

  • 1 cup of chopped fresh tomato
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh mint (optional)

The box of taboule not only contains the wheat but also a separate spice packet.

Put the wheat and the contents of the spice packet in a large bowl.

Stir in 1 cup of boiling water.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Before chopping the tomato, remove the seeds by first slicing the tomato in half.

(The stem bit should be on the right or left of the knife when you are cutting it in half. If you cut it in half by slicing through the stem you will not be able to remove the seeds.)

Give each half a gentle squeeze or with your fingers poke out the seeds. (Throw away the seeds!)

Now chop the tomato. (Just set it aside for the moment.)

Stack about 7 or 8 mint leaves on top of each other.

Roll the stack into a log…

…and chop the mint into very fine ribbons.

Instead of or in addition to the mint, you could add extra parsley. (In the comments below, many people said they add up to one whole bunch of chopped parsley!)

Now squeeze the juice from ½ of a lemon. Be sure to strain away any seeds.

When the timer goes off, it’s time to remove the bowl of taboule from the refrigerator and add the chopped tomato, mint, lemon juice, AND 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix everything together.

Cover up the bowl again and put it back in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

When you are ready to serve the taboule give it a stir and then spoon it onto a bed of lettuce garnished (decorated) with slices of lemon and mint leaves.


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How to Cook Potatoes in a Microwave

posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Vegetables and Beans by Kathy Maister

I love baked potatoes, and have already written about how to bake them in the oven. Unfortunately, I often don’t have the time to wait for up to an hour for my baked potato to cook in the oven, even though they definitely taste better that way.

So, like lot of people, I often zap potatoes in the microwave. In less then 10 minutes, they get cooked, covered with sour cream and bacon, and I’m ready to turn on the TV.

Here’s how to cook a potato in the microwave oven.

First, wash the potato under running water (no soap!). You can scrub it with a vegetable brush or just rub it with your hands. Then pat it dry with a paper towel.

Puncture about four holes in the potato, with the tip of a sharp knife or a fork. This is important, as it allows the steam to escape. Otherwise the potato may explode when you cook it. (Seriously! If you don’t puncture it, the potato will go SPLAT all over the inside of you microwave!)

If you are baking potatoes in the oven, you can rub a small amount of oil on them so that the skin gets nice and crispy. It is not necessary to rub oil on potatoes you are cooking in the microwave oven.

Place the potato on a microwave-safe dish. Check the small print on the back of the dish to be sure. Then place it in the microwave oven. (By the way, microwave ovens do not have to be preheated.)

Many microwaves have moisture sensors inside so that all you need to do is press the button that says ‘potato’ and just wait for the microwave to beep at you.

If your microwave doesn’t have a potato button, a general rule is that one 7-to-8 ounce Idaho potato takes about 7 minutes to cook. 2 will take about 11 minutes.

The microwave will often say REST. That means the potato, not you! You need to just let it sit for a couple of minutes, for it to actually finish cooking.

But remember, each microwave oven is different, so you need to stick a knife in the potato to see if it is done. The knife should slide in easily and you should be able to squeeze the potato without too much resistance.

To open a microwave ‘spud’, it needs a bit of a bash first to break the fibers apart.

First, slice the top with a knife.

Then place a folded paper towel over the microwave potato. Using the bottom part of your fist, give it a bash. Be really careful as the potato will be very hot.

Now if you give it a squeeze it should be nice and fluffy.

You can now top it with your favorite topping.

As my Irish grandfather used to say, “I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like!”

Here are a few more startcooking.com potato posts:

Baked Potato Toppings

Baked Potato with Salsa

Mashed Potatoes

Oven Baked Potatoes

Roasted Potatoes

Sweet Potato Casserole

How to Choose and Use Potatoes


Microwave Potatoes Ingredients:

(4 Servings)

  • 4 medium baking potatoes

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