Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Chicken Salad with Grapes

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

Chicken (or turkey) salad is often what people made when they had leftovers. Not any more! It’s so easy and versatile it could end up as your signature dish . Like any salad, choose the added ingredients according to your taste.

To make this chicken salad you will need:

  • 10 oz. chicken
  • 1 cup of seedless grapes
  • ½ cup nuts
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper

You can roast your own chicken or buy an already-cooked chicken.

I like nice chunks of chicken in my salad. Start by chopping up the chicken into slightly larger than ½ inch chunks. (Not mashed up the way tuna salad ends up looking.) Put the chicken into a medium size mixing bowl.

Rinse the grapes under cool water and let them dry. Cut the grapes in half. It is a lot easier to stab them with a fork if they are cut in half. If you have bought grapes with seeds (pips) you need to pick them out. It’s a very tedious task, so be sure to buy seedless grapes.

Walnuts add a great texture and flavor to this salad. Add ½ cup of to the bowl. It is not necessary to chop them.

About ½ cup of mayonnaise will bind the salad together. Mix that in.

Give it a taste and see if it needs some salt and pepper.

Put the salad in a serving bowl and garnish with some fresh parsley and a small bunch of grapes.

There are tons of variations you can make with chicken salad.

I often mix in ½ teaspoon of curry powder to the mayonnaise before adding it to the salad.

Chopped green onion also works well with the sweetness of the grapes.

If you didn’t have grapes, you could try adding raisins or dried cranberries to the mix.

You could substitute pecans, or cashews or actually any nut for the walnuts.

If you don’t like nuts, try some chopped celery or drained and chopped water chestnuts to give your chicken salad a nice crunch.

What’s your favorite addition to Chicken Salad?


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Salmon Quesadillas

print recipe card posted in Lunch by Kathy Maister

Quesadillas are flour tortillas filled with a few savory ingredients. This salmon quesadilla is great for breakfast lunch or dinner!

It also has a bit of elegance and sophistication because of the wonderful combination of ingredients which are:

  • 2 -8 inch flour tortillas
  • 3 tablespoons of herbed cream cheese spread
  • 1 ounce of smoked salmon
  • 2 teaspoons of capers
  • 1/8 teaspoon of dried dill

  • Start with the 8 inch size flour tortillas. The bigger ones are just too difficult to try and flip.
  • Buy your favorite brand of soft herbed cream cheese.
  • One 4 ounce package of smoked salmon will make 4 quesadillas. Salmon is a bit expensive but a small amount goes a long way.
  • An extra sprinkle of dried dill (1/8 teaspoon) is nice but not essential.

The one unusual ingredient is capers. They are sold in a jar and are found in the grocery store near all the condiments. They are packed in a salty brine and should be drained and rinsed. They add a tangy flavor to these quesadillas which goes really well with the salmon.

Spread 1 ½ Tablespoon of the herbed cheese on one flour tortilla. You really don’t want to put too much filling in the quesadillas or they will fall apart when you try to eat them.

Lay the tortilla in a non stick fry pan, cheese side up. Chop one ounce of smoked salmon and sprinkle it on top of the cheese.

Sprinkle the capers on top of the salmon and then add the dried dill. (Left over capers are great on a salad.)

Spread 1 ½ Tablespoons of the herbed cheese on the other tortilla.

Place the tortilla, cheese side down, in the pan. It now looks like a sandwich.

Place the pan on the stove and set it to medium heat. It will take about 1 ½ – 2 minutes for the cheese to melt and the tortilla to get lightly toasted. (If you want you can brush a bit of butter or oil on the grilled side of the tortilla to give it a nicely browned and crispy finish. It’s not really necessary)

Using a spatula, flip the quesadilla and cook that side for about another 1 ½ minutes until is it lightly browned.

Slide the whole thing onto a cutting board.

With a big kitchen knife slice it, the way you would a pizza, in half, then quarters, then 1/8s.


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Baked Macaroni and Cheese

print recipe card posted in Lunch, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister

Macaroni and Cheese lovers have many differing opinions on what is the perfect way to make this classic dish. Baked is my favorite. Many other people prefer the Stove-top version, while others stick to a Box-Mix. Different skill levels are needed to make each version, with the Baked generally being the most complicated and time consuming to prepare. But it’s oh so good!

This recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese is based on first making a white sauce (in French it’s called béchamel), then adding shredded cheese. There are some simpler “baked recipes” which do not require making a white sauce first, but personally,I have yet to find one I like.

I’ll go over some of the many recipe variations on Baked Macaroni and Cheese at the end of this post.

This version will take approximately 30 minutes to prepare and another 30 minutes to cook.

There are several steps necessary to make Baked Macaroni and Cheese. You will need to be able to:

Be sure to get all the ingredients measured and prepared before turning on the stove!

A complete list of ingredients is in the recipe; here is a photo of what you will need:

Preparing the ingredients

a) Measure out the macaroni: 8 ounces = 2 cups = 1/2 box

b) Shred 12 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese

c) Mince (that means to chop really fine) 1/2 cup of yellow onion

d) Measure (precisely) 3 Tablespoons of flour, 3 Tablespoons of butter, 3 cups of milk, 1 tablespoon of powdered mustard, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper

The flour, butter and milk must be measured accurately. Those three ingredients are the base of a béchamel (white sauce) to which we will then add the mustard, salt and pepper and the cheese. The ratio of the flour, butter and the milk will affect the outcome of your Mac and Cheese. (Too much milk and it will be runny, too much flour and it will too dry)

Bread Crumb Topping

Make the bread crumb topping by trimming off the crusts of 4 slices of bread, and then cut the bread into crumbs.

Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter.

In a medium bowl, combine the butter and bread crumbs.

Set this aside for now.

Cooking the Macaroni

Follow the directions on the box of the macaroni YOU purchased. Elbow style is traditional, but any small-to-medium size pasta would work as well. To review how to cook pasta, check out my video on How to Cook Pasta.

Putting it all Together

While the pasta is cooking, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over very low heat in a separate medium size pot.

Whisk in the flour and…

…keep it moving for about one minute, making sure it’s free of lumps.

Whisk in the mustard, salt and pepper, milk…

…and the minced onion.

Simmer for about seven to ten minutes until the mixture is thickened and smooth, stirring often.

The next step-adding an egg- can be a bit tricky. You need to “temper” the egg first. That means to warm it up so that it does not just turn into scrambled eggs when you add it to the thickened, hot, milk mixture (béchamel).

The egg will make the Mac and Cheese smoother and creamier. I have tried this recipe with and without adding the egg and it does affect the texture of the final recipe.

In a medium bowl, beat one egg.

Warm the egg by drizzling in, very slowly, 2-3 Tablespoons of the thickened milk mixture. Continue to wisk the mixture as you drizzle. (You can use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop out the sauce from the pan.)

Now add the egg mixture to the pot. Stir in the cheese.

Fold the cooked and drained macaroni into the mix

Pour everything into a 2-quart casserole dish. (My dish is a Pyrex dish measuring 8 inches square by 2 inches high.) It should be very “soupy” at this point. Don’t worry, it will firm up in the oven.

Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs.

Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree preheated oven. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.


As I said at the very beginning, there are many variations to this classic dish. Many recipes use a combination of three or four cheeses. Each affects the final taste and texture. (One very famous recipe uses American cheese for a smoother consistency. That recipe was, by far, MY least favorite as I found the American cheese flavor overpowers the entire dish.)

There are also many options on the type of bread crumbs which you can use. I use fresh bread crumbs as it is the most traditional. Japanese-style Panko crumb topping seems to be gaining quite a bit in popularity.

There are many people who like to add extras like: salami, ham, browned ground beef, hot dogs (which I’m told kids love), crumbled cooked bacon, hot sauce, paprika, parsley, chopped canned tomatoes, butternut squash, salsa, etc….

Baked Macaroni is an American Classic. Everyone has a favorite.

What’s yours?

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