The 🐝BeKeeper's Original Chicken Salad

I haven't created many of my own recipes, but the first one I created was a keeper🐝 for sure.  It started when I had chicken salad at a local restaurant.  Their chicken salad was so good! I ordered it each time I visited and finally decided that I wanted to make it at home.  I did my best to examine it and figure out all the ingredients.  I saw golden raisins and nuts in there. (I can't remember now which nut.  Pecans, I'm thinking, but several types work well in this recipe.) I jotted down what I thought was in there and have tweaked the amounts over time.  The result is a delicious combination that I have been making for years.  

Interestingly, when I went back and had the restaurant's chicken salad again after tasting mine, I found that they were not very similar. Not even recognizably close. But, hey, it inspired me to create a great recipe so it's all good.

The BeKeeper's Original Chicken Salad
Makes 3 cups

Combine and chill:
2 chicken breasts, cooked, deboned, chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3/4 cup mayonnaise
8 oz sour cream
2 Tbsp minced red onion (optional)

I like recipes that include the instructions in the ingredient list instead of having you go back and forth from the ingredient list to the instruction paragraph, trying to find your place over and over. The initial command of "combine and chill" frees you to go to town putting the ingredients in as you work your way down the list.  Of course, you can take the word "chill" as a recipe instruction AND a personal invitation to relax after you get your cooking done. 😊 I suggest using a larger bowl to combine the ingredients so that you have room to stir them together, and then move the mixture to a smaller bowl to store and serve the finished product.

Chicken salad is great as a sandwich or on crackers.  It can be served as an entree (the main dish of a meal) by spooning it onto a lettuce leaf that has curly edges.  Very pretty presentation. Chicken salad on mini-croissants are staples at a party or reception.

You can cheat with the chicken. (That sounds quotable.) This is a great way to use leftover chicken from some other recipe or meal.  Grilled, baked, roasted, boiled, even canned chicken will work in this recipe.  Just make sure you use enough to make a thick chicken salad and not cold, runny chicken soup. 😝

Instead of "golden raisins" I could have said "any dried fruit".  My favorite is actually dried cranberries.  It adds flavor and color.  I have used dried cherries, also, but they require some chopping since they are a little bigger and tend to "bleed" into the salad if not used up quickly.  You could experiment with other fruits such as dried blueberries or apricots, or even chopped grapes.  Some friends at church have doctored (that's Southern for "messed with" 😊) my recipe by adding a little pineapple juice or even pineapple tidbits. I must admit it was a good idea.  Very yummy!

Almonds are great in this but so are pecans and walnuts.  Some of my people do not like "rocks" in their food so I often leave the nuts out.  You could always take out their portion and then add the good stuff to yours.  Just be sure you label the containers appropriately.

I list the mayonnaise before the sour cream to allow for the possibility of using one spatula or spoon for both.  If you have an 8 ounce container of sour cream OR if you are using the last 8 ounces of a larger container of sour cream, you can scrape it out with the same spatula you used in the mayonnaise jar.  Otherwise, if you had used the spatula in the sour cream first, you wouldn't want to then put it in the mayonnaise and leave bits of sour cream in the mayonnaise.  Hey, when you are the dishwasher, you look for opportunities to use fewer kitchen tools. And, remember, light sour cream works equally as well as the regular stuff. 

And why did I list the mayonnaise in cups and the sour cream in ounces? Why, how clever of you to notice! That's because mayonnaise comes in a jar from which you will need to measure the small amount and sour cream comes in an 8 ounce container so it is already measured for you. It also comes in 16 ounce containers, in which case you can either eyeball half of it or measure it out.

And, unless you enjoy tasting and smelling like red onion for the rest of the day, skip the red onion. A momentary pleasure is rarely worth a lasting displeasure.

So that's the scoop on my chicken salad!

Now, I could have just given you the recipe and kept all these details to myself. However, if you want to learn to cook, you need to read the details and understand how you can change things and get tips on smarter ways to do things. You can learn a lot just from reading detailed recipes. If you print or copy this recipe, you may want to go back and make notes about these suggestions.

Oh, and one more thing.  Just replace the chicken with shrimp and adjust a few of the measurements and you have my delicious shrimp salad.  It's good on crackers or, my favorite, a fork!

The BeKeeper's Original Shrimp Salad
Makes 3 cups

Combine and chill:
12 oz bag small frozen shrimp, thawed, rinsed, chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp minced red onion (optional)


This post is featured on Christy Jordan's Southern Plate, Meal Plan #4.

🐝Be-Nana Pudding

For our very first recipe, I chose a simple and Southern one: Banana Pudding. Some of y'all need a taste of the South anyhow so I have added a teaspoon of Southern flavoring to this post. Now, if you are truly Southern, you might tend to call it 'Nana Puddin'.  I guess we Southerners are just too busy to say all those unnecessary syllables and letters.  Plus 'Nana Puddin' is somethin' we say often enough that we know exactly what we mean AND there are lots of grandmas around here named Nana so maybe we're just talking about their puddin'.

This recipe is a great one for you to make as a beginner because it doesn't require any "cooking".  There is no heat involved and hardly any measuring (just the milk).  If you can use a hand mixer and layer the ingredients, you can make this recipe. Actually, a hand-held whisk would work, too.

PC: Evy Beach

You will want to mix this in a large mixing bowl so that you don't sling the ingredients all over kingdom come when the mixer comes on.  Always keep the beaters straight up and down.  That apron is going to come in handy on this one!  The first speed on the mixer is all you need and remember to always keep a hold of the bowl in which you are mixing or you will be cleaning pudding off the floor. And since there is no egg in this recipe, you may lick the beaters.

The only thing you will have to measure is the milk.  Measure it in a glass or clear plastic measuring cup that has the measurements marked up the sides.  Set it on the counter and stoop down to look at it at eye level to be sure it is exactly 2 cups.

PC: Evy Beach

Don't forget to follow the instruction about leaving 1/3 of the whipped topping.  I use a clean spatula to section it off and then push the other 2/3 into the mixing bowl.  See?  They told you that you would use math in real life! There are lots of fractions in cooking, but they are as easy as pie.

That word "divided" is important to note. When an ingredient is divided, it means that you will eventually use that whole amount in the recipe, but part of it at one time and the rest at another time. Be sure not to dump the whole amount in at the first use.

PC: Evy Beach

The trickiest part of this recipe is to get the ingredients mixed smoothly.  When incorporating things like sour cream, the mixer may tend to chop it up into little chunks so make sure you mix until it is smooth.  

By the way, the lid to that sour cream makes a great disposable spoon rest (if you are using all of an 8 ounce container). Use it and toss it. There will be no pudding to wipe off of the counter!

You will want to stop the mixer, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is blended, and then mix just a little bit longer.

Now you are ready to put the dessert together. "Desert" (like in the Sahara Desert) has one "s"-- just the bare necessities; nothing extra. Dessert IS something extra. It has two. Someone once told me they look at those two s's and think "strawberry shortcake".

Assembling the banana pudding is just a matter of layering.  I use a clear glass bowl so you can see the wafers lining the bowl.  Start by making a layer of vanilla wafers in the bottom of the bowl and then one row going up the sides.  Now peel and slice a banana. A table knife is sharp enough to slice bananas and provides a safe way for you to learn to chop food. Lay the slices on all the wafers you have put in so far.  Now add just enough of the pudding to cover the wafers and bananas.  You may need to push it around with the spatula to cover the bananas. The pudding holds the wafers in place.  Now add a few more rows of wafers and bananas and follow by putting pudding [Hey, that's fun to say! 😉] on top.  Do this until you use all of the pudding.

PC: Evy Beach

I like to place banana slices and then wafers over the top surface of the banana pudding so that you get bananas and wafers in every spoonful.

The final step is to spread that reserved whipped topping over the top of the whole dessert. Remember that it is the air that makes the bananas turn brown (oxidation) so you want to cover them completely.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for several hours.  Bananas start turning brown quickly so this is a dessert that doesn't keep very long. It's so good that it won't last long anyway!

PC: Evy Beach

When I need to double this recipe for a bigger crowd, I like to do an extra layer of wafers and bananas through the middle, like I described doing on the top. I almost said "This recipe may be doubled" but that always makes me say "Duh!" when I see that.  Of course, you can double it!  Make it as many times over as you want.

Banana Pudding is a great dessert to serve with a heavy or spicy meal. It is much lighter than some desserts, the flavor is mild so it doesn't compete with strong flavors, and that chilled pudding may be just what you need to cool down a burning tongue.

Now keep all of those tips in mind as you follow the recipe. Don't forget to W.A.I.T.! 


Let's review some things you learned.

1. Liquids are measured at eye level in transparent measuring cups.

2. Use a disposable container lid as a temporary spoon rest.

3. The word "divided" in a recipe means to use part now and part later.

4. Dessert is spelled with two s's.

5. Oxidation makes peeled bananas turn brown when they react with air.

6. "Putting pudding" is fun to say. Putting pudding, putting pudding, putting pudding...

PC: Evy Beach

🐝Be-Nana Pudding
makes 6-8 servings

2 cups milk
2 (3.4 oz) packages vanilla instant pudding and pie filling
8 oz whipped topping, divided
8 oz sour cream
1 (11 oz) box vanilla wafers
3-4 ripe bananas, sliced

1. Mix the first 4 ingredients, saving one-third of the whipped topping.
2. In a large bowl, layer wafers, bananas, and mixture.
3. Top with the reserved whipped topping.
4. Keep refrigerated.


This recipe is featured on Christy Jordan's Southern Plate Meal Plan Monday #5

W.A.I.T.! 🐝Be4 U Cook

There are some basic things we need to talk about before you begin to cook.  Today we will talk about the very, very first things you must do before preparing food.  In my Life Skills class, when I say, "OK, Ladies, we are ready to cook.", they exclaim in unison, "WAIT!"

PC: Colton Beach

(Now I have to start with a side note.  It is obvious why you would wash your hands before you handle food so washing hands definitely has to be in the list.  HOWEVER, you REALLY need to wash your hands AFTER you have handled your hair and the trashcan so I recommend washing your hands last but A.I.T.W. doesn't spell anything so washing hands had to go first. So, there.)

Let's start with A, shall we?  

A is for "apron".  It is important to protect your clothes from your food (and to protect your food from your clothes) with the use of an apron. Aprons come in various shapes and few sizes and make a great first sewing project (no zippers or buttonholes, doesn't have to leave the house, simple construction). Wearing an apron is basically like wearing a dish towel on which you can dry your hands. 

I learned the hard way about wearing an apron.  It was a Sunday after church when I was wearing my REALLY AWESOME WHITE skirt while stirring SPAGHETTI SAUCE.  Yep.  I tried everything to get that stain out to no avail. And it can take much less than spaghetti sauce to ruin clothing, like a grease spot, for instance. Some aprons have handy dandy pockets--the perfect place to keep your ponytail holder for your hair.  Your hair must be pinned back while you cook to avoid dropping a hair in the food [shiver].

It's either that or a hairnet. 😳

(Hair had to be included with apron because there was nowhere else that it fit in the acrostic.  W.H.A.I.T.?  W.A.I.T.H.?  W.A.I.H.T?  No, it just wasn't working.  Plus, they are closely related in that the apron and hair both have to do with protecting yourself and the food. Call it A for appearance if it makes you feel better.)

I is for "ingredients". (I is? I am for ingredients? THE WORD "INGREDIENTS" BEGINS WITH THE LETTER "I"!) The ingredients to make a recipe should be gathered before you begin to cook so that you can be sure you have everything you will need. Even if you are sure you bought everything you need, some family member may have used it up, not that that ever happens at my house. Sometimes eggs, butter, and cream cheese need to sit out to become room temperature before using them in a recipe. It's just smart to do all your gathering up front instead of running hither and yon while following a recipe.

T is for "trashcan".  Cooking is a trashy business.  You create a lot of trash while opening packages and cracking eggs.  It is best to bring the trashcan near your cooking area rather than banking shots of dripping tomato cans and egg shells or running back and forth to the trashcan, especially if there is a cabinet door to open with each use.  If you are using the last of anything in a carton such as eggs, oats, cake mix, flour, or sugar, you can use the empty carton as your countertop mini-trashcan and then toss the whole thing when you are done.

And, finally...

W is for "wash your hands".  You must have clean practices when cooking food for others.  NO tasting from the spoon and putting it back in the sauce! NO pets on the counter [shiver]! NO nose rubbing, coughing, or sneezing in the kitchen! NO hanging your head over the pot! Most contaminants would never be detected but a hair of any length [shiver] will tell on you every time. Most unappetizing. The stuff nightmares are made of. Practice being a trustworthy person by keeping your cooking clean for those who will be eating it.

This brings us to the topic of dish towels, and who doesn't LOVE a good discussion about dish towels?!  I've seen people dry their hands on a dish towel and then use the same towel to dry a dish.  Some families use the kitchen sink to wash their hands after cutting the grass and use the dish towel to dry them.  A kitchen needs some ground rules for towel use. Is the towel for hands or dishes? (Hint: It's a DISH towel. Not a HAND towel.) How many times do you hang it up and let it dry before switching it out for a clean one and how do you keep track of how long it has been in use? And, by the way, if you have a dish "rag", it's  time to toss it and replace it with a dish "cloth".

My practice is to use a dish towel to dry dishes. It is not used to wipe up a mess on the counter or to dry my hands. Once food touches it, the towel is no longer clean. (By the same token, the hand towel in the bathroom is not for WIPING toothpaste off your face but for DRYING your face and hands.) At the end of the day, the towel I used that day goes in the laundry and I bring out a clean one the next day.

I use a paper towel to dry my hands.  I suspect that I'm rubbing more than just water off my hands when I dry them.  I'm probably getting a bit of dirt off, too.  I then leave that paper towel lying on the counter to wipe up any spills I may have and then toss it in an effort to save money and get the most use out of the item. It seems like a waste to get a clean paper towel to wipe up a mess when I just had a paper towel that I used to dry my hands.

Granted, you can call a family meeting and train each member on which is the hand towel and which is the dish towel and hope that everybody gets it just right. I'm not choosing teams over dish towel use, but I hope to give you food for thought concerning the sanitary practices of your kitchen. (If you really want to think about cleanliness, think about the practice of washing kitchen towels in the same load with bath towels. Maybe it's ok. Maybe.)

Before you cook, you should W.A.I.T. It's like putting on your seat belt.  It should just happen without any reminder.  Every time.

So, quiz yourself. Can you tell me what you should do before you cook?





And now that you have that down, you can practice until the next cooking post.  😊