Celebrate Can-It-Forward Day with Pickled Dill Beans and a Giveaway!

Place seals and rings on jars

Calling all canners! The Ball® brand will host this year’s sixth annual Can-It-Forward Day on Friday, July 22. This year, Ball is “hosting Can-It-Forward Day entirely online via Facebook Live. Throughout the day, the Ball brand and our expert ambassadors will be demoing a variety of canning recipes and in the true spirit of “canning it forward,” for every engagement received on the videos, whether it be a comment, like or share, the brand donates $1 to a local charity.”

This year’s celebration also includes a link to the Freshly Preserved Ideas Tumblr page, a place for consumers to take the pledge to Can-It-Forward this year. You may ask Jarden Home Brands canning experts any preserving or home canning questions via Twitter with the hashtag #canitforward from 10AM – 5PM ET on July 22nd. Consumers can also share their own #canitforward creations with the brand on Pinterest and Instagram.

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My Fat Dad’s Cheese Fondue, Book Blog Tour, and Giveaway!


When asked to participate in the My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes blog tour, I jumped at the chance. This book received fantastic reviews, and it also gave me the chance to recreate one of its many tasty recipes for this post. Plus I get to give away a copy of this wonderful book to one of my lucky readers! But more about that later.

My Fat Dad is a poignant, heartwarming memoir about how food shaped Dawn Lerman’s “connection to her family, her Jewish heritage, and herself.” Dawn’s Dad, an iconic adman who created slogans such as “Fly the Friendly Skies of United,” “Coke Is It,” “This Bud’s for You,” and “Leggo My Eggo,” battled with his weight all of his life, topping the scales at a whopping 450 pounds at his heaviest. Dad tried every diet on the planet and made his family do the same (they were not thrilled, to say the least.) From Atkins to Pritikin to the Rice Diet at Duke to Weight Watchers, etc., he had limited successes, and most were short-lived. Dieting was truly a rollercoaster ride for him, as it is for many.

Dawn’s mother was the exact opposite, limiting herself to one small meal a day, “usually a can of StarKist light tuna right out of the can with a plastic fork — while standing up and chatting on the phone.” There were rarely any meals together as a family and Dawn felt lonely and disconnected. Luckily, she had her grandmother, Beauty, to turn to for love. friendship and inspiration in the kitchen. Beauty doted on Dawn and taught her how to make, appreciate, and savor fresh, delicious food. When the family moved from Chicago to New York, Beauty sent Dawn $20, a recipe and shopping list each week, to keep Dawn’s culinary interests and their close bond intact.

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Posted in Appetizers, Product Reviews, Tools of the Trade, Vegetables/Vegetarian/Vegan | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kel’s Old-School Moscow Mule, Perfect for Summer

Kel's refreshing Moscow Mule

During our last time in Manhattan, we went to the Russian Tea Room and I was intrigued by what was served in the beautiful, shiny copper mugs. Let’s be honest, even though I bartended for several years, I had never heard of a Moscow Mule – it just isn’t on most cocktail menus in Raleigh. After researching Moscow Mule recipes, I learned the copper mugs helped brand the drink (like martini and margarita glasses do for their respective liquors), plus they helped keep it icy cold.

Something attracts me to copper and I’m not exactly sure what. Maybe it’s the warm, reddish-orange color, or perhaps its brilliant shine when highly polished. Regardless, I’ve been eyeing copper mugs since my visit to New York, but couldn’t reconcile the price of most of them until I found these two on clearance at a home goods store. Yaaay!

Moscow Mule Mugs



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Kel’s Asian Inspired Bowtie Pasta Salad

Garnish with sesame seeds

I receive daily recipes from Allrecipes.com, and when this one appeared in my email, I knew I was going to have to give it a try. I’m always looking for new ways to make pasta salad and this one sounded nice and refreshing for the summer. Although this recipe calls for chicken, you could easily eliminate it and still have a wonderful and filling salad.

Of course I had to tinker with the ingredients some and used more mandarins, pasta and garlic than originally called for. I substituted grape tomatoes for the Roma tomatoes and increased the amount to a cup, and replaced the toasted sesame oil with hot chili sesame oil for an extra kick. I added sesame seeds as a final garnish. Here’s a link to the original recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/143555/mandarin-chicken-pasta-salad/

This pasta salad keeps well in the fridge for a few days after making it.

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Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series Returns to Raleigh July 11 to 24!

_CDS main logo

I am so excited to announce that The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series, a single-elimination tournament highlighting the best of the state’s food, agriculture and culinary talent, returns to Raleigh with interactive battles July 11, 12, 14, 18, 19, 21 and 24. It will pit eight highly competitive chef teams against each other for the seven dinner events, which will be held at 214 Martin St. in downtown Raleigh.

According to the press release I received, “For the first time in the Triangle, the series will feature two separate brackets and the winners of each will battle it out in a finale to name one local champion. Tickets are available now at www.competitiondining.com/events/Raleigh and are expected to sell out quickly.”

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Kel’s Copycat Version of P.F. Chang’s Most Delicious Mongolian Beef


Okay, break out your woks – this Mongolian Beef is a keeper! My sister-in-law, Karen, recently sent me this recipe, and since everything she sends me is usually so yummy, I couldn’t wait to try it. This recipe is a copycat version of the Mongolian beef from the restaurant chain Pei Wei, whose parent company is P.F. Chang’s.  I basically took ingredients from both recipes, based what I already had in my pantry, and was extremely pleased with the results. And I took Karen’s suggestion and added an extra veggie, in this case snow peas, for extra crunch and color.

Since Brad and I like food with some heat, I used hot chili sesame oil and added crushed red pepper flakes for an extra kick. If you like milder dishes, use regular sesame oil and regular black pepper instead.

Sesame oil

If you don’t have a wok, use a large skillet instead, and heat the oil to medium-high (you don’t want the oil to be too hot, though.)

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Kel’s Semi-Boozy Banana Pudding from Scratch

Kel's Boozy banana pudding

When I crave comfort food, it usually involves cheese and/or meat and/or some sort of rich sauce — rarely do I lean toward a dessert. But a few weeks ago I was at a potluck and there were three (yaaay) banana puddings. If you’re from the South, you know the banana pudding of which I speak. Yeah, the one with vanilla wafers, lots of bananas and vanilla custard, topped with a bunch of yummy meringue. I have to admit I felt obligated to try all three of the puddings and all were great, but each was missing one special ingredient — bourbon.

The best banana pudding I ever ate was at the 3rd Annual YMCA Chili Cook-off (which I won for my black bean chili, BTW, but I digress.) This pudding won the best dessert at the Cook-off and I found out the secret ingredient was bourbon.

banana pudding at YMCA chili cook off

It was delectable, and after a few tries of replicating it, I think I’ve found a recipe that comes close. Maybe one day if anyone gifts me a cooking torch, my dessert may look like this fancy-pants one. At least mine tastes great, even without the staging!

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