The Perfect Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Baked Two Ways

Kel's Oatmeal raisin cookies

Do you prefer a soft and chewy oatmeal cookie, or one that is crispier? Since National Oatmeal Cookie Day is quickly approaching on April 30, I am sharing my recipe for the perfect oatmeal cookie, baked each way based on your preference.

Use raisins or dried cranberries for this recipe. And here’s a pro tip – soak the raisins/cranberries in an egg and vanilla extract mixture to allow the fruit to become juicer and plumper as the cookies bake. You definitely will thank me later.

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14-Karat Carrots, Just in time for International Carrot Day

Since International Carrot Day is April 4th, I wanted to share a new recipe I’ve been developing using my sous vide and cast iron, plus revisit a couple of previous posts to help celebrate this carrot holiday!

I hadn’t really considered using my sous vide for carrots (or any veggies for that matter), but I’m so glad that I did. These honey glazed sous vide baby carrots have a wonderful texture – they’re tender but still snappy.  Sous vide cooking reduces the risk of overcooking the carrots and helps retain their bright color and wonderful flavor, not to mention the nutrients, essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are so good for your health. And these carrots are just plain good!

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Perfect Pepperoni Petal Pizza Puffs

Not only are these pepperoni pizza petal puffs adorable and look just like flowers, but they taste great, too! I found this recipe (which I modified some) on https://realhousemoms.com/wprm_print/60989 and wanted to give a shout out to blogger Aubrey for her inspiration for this yummy and pretty appetizer.

The first time I made these tasty pizza puffs, I used regular pepperoni and it was really salty (even for this salt-a-holic), plus the pepperoni browned too much before the end of the cooking time. Oops!

So the next time, I used turkey pepperoni and covered the pan with aluminum foil for part of the cooking time, which resulted in pizza  puffs that were less salty and perfectly browned. I may try reduced sodium pepperoni the next time I make them, and there definitely will be a next time as these things are addictive!

These perfect pizza puffs refrigerate for several days. I like to reheat them in my air fryer for a few minutes or else in a cast iron skillet.

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Incredible Pressure-Cooker Black Beans with Turkey Kielbasa

This easy black beans and turkey kielbasa recipe has become a staple in our home year round – it is so incredibly flavorful, works great as a meal or a side dish, and reheats beautifully. But, is it a soup or is it a chili? What’s great is you get to choose! If you’re like me, you’ll go with the best of both worlds. I like to serve it as a soup the first day and then remove some of the liquid and have a hearty chili for leftovers.

I make this in my Instant Pot and it is so incredibly easy to prepare. Luckily, there is no need to soak the dried black beans, and once you brown and remove the kielbasa, just add the rest of the ingredients to the pressure cooker and let it work its magic. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can substitute the dried beans with 5 or 6 cans of drained and rinsed black beans and cook (along with the kielbasa) in a large pot on the stovetop for a couple of hours to let the flavors meld.

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The Best Jalapeño and Cheddar Skillet Cornbread

If you like your cornbread with a bit of a kick, then this recipe is for you. The jalapeños add the heat, which you control, and the cheddar adds a tasty salty, cheesy flavor. And using both flour and cornmeal gives it a moist, cake-like texture, not gritty like some cornbreads. But what makes this cornbread so good is by cooking it in a cast iron skillet.

This cornbread gets its crunchy, buttery crust when the batter is poured into a sizzling, hot skillet with some bacon drippings (everything’s better with bacon, right?!) The cast iron retains heat while baking, resulting in a wonderful golden crust and crisp edges.

This goes great with chili, but also pairs well with any type of greens, BBQ pork, or black bean soup. Use it in your holiday stuffing, or just enjoy it on its own, with a little bit of butter or honey.

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Sous Vide Duck Breasts with Blueberry-Citrus Port Wine Sauce

In 2013 at the International Food Blogging Conference in Seattle, I attended a sous vide workshop on this fairly new technique (at least for the home cook) of prepping food, but unfortunately forgot about it soon after I got home. After hearing a few friends rave about their sous vides, I asked Brad for one this past Christmas, and he did not disappoint.

In a relatively short time, I am now hooked on this cooking method. For those not familiar with sous vide, it’s generally any kind of cooking that occurs in a temperature controlled water bath.  Since the food never gets hotter than the temperature of the water, there’s very little risk of over-cooking! Here’s a link that explains it in detail: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sous_vide

I’ve cooked duck breasts in the past with much success, but preparing them in a sous vide water bath is a game changer. This duck came out perfectly – medium rare and so, so tender with no guess work at all. The citrus-blueberry port wine sauce provides another layer of fabulous flavor to this dish and it is so easy to prepare.

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Shrimp Potstickers with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

I love these garlicky shrimp potstickers and they are totally worth the effort it takes to assemble them, which really isn’t that much. These little “purses” are packed with tons of flavor and pair wonderfully with a spicy peanut dipping sauce (recipe near the bottom of this post), which is a treat on its own.

These are best when served immediately, so if you can’t use all of them at once, freeze what you want for later, right after you assemble them. Simply place them in a single layer on a baking sheet, freeze and store in freezer bags. Cook as directed below when ready.

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Heavenly Hasselback Potatoes

Heavenly Hasselback Potatoes

Thank the chefs at Restaurant Hasselbacken in Stockholm, Sweden for the invention of this yummy potato in 1953. Also known as accordion potatoes, the result is the same: a single potato, sliced into thin wedges but left joined at the bottom, baked until the layers fan out into rounds of crispy bliss, while remaining tender on the inside

Despite their fancy appearance, they take no more time and little more effort than your average foil-wrapped baked potato. Place each potato on a pair of chopsticks or wooden spoons to make slicing them fast and easy.

These decadent Hasselback potatoes will become a favorite alternative to ordinary baked potatoes, especially if you want your meal to look extra special for family and friends.

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Nancy’s Famous Pasta Salad

Whenever my family has a large gathering, we always share food duties. The host usually covers the main entrée and a few accompaniments, while the rest bring side dishes. By far, the most requested side is my sister’s pasta salad, which pairs up well with almost anything the rest of us are making.


Make sure your bacon is extra crispy to hold up in this creamy pasta salad, or else omit it completely if you want to go meatless.


This dish shines in the summer when tomatoes and cucumbers are in full season, but is truly wonderful any time of the year. It’s so easy to make and is great as a meal on its own.

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Easy-Peasy Peach and Blueberry Cobbler

 

Kel's Peach and Blueberry cobbler

Fresh peaches! Fresh blueberries! If you live in the South, a visit to your local farmer’s market would not be complete without bring home some of these delicious fruits, which are now in the heights of their seasons.

This recipe is so easy to make – the hard part is waiting for it to cook as your kitchen starts to smell like heaven. Serve warm or at room temperature, and if you want to be extra decadent, add some fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

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Best Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats

Kel's Cafe Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats

These buffalo chicken zucchini boats are so easy to make and taste marvelous! The mozzarella cheese helps to balance the tanginess of the buffalo chicken sauce and the celery adds a nice crunch. If you’re not a bleu cheese fan, you can use mozzarella or even cheddar instead.

I like to broil these on high for 1 to 2 minutes at the end of the cooking time, but that is optional. Oh, and if you’re wondering why I only have 5 boats pictured, I clumsily dropped one and couldn’t save it. Mega sigh, I just hate wasting something this good!

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Shrimp Creole, Kel’s Style

Kel's Cafe Shrimp Creole Up Close

Shrimp creole hails from southern Louisiana and has a Spanish and French heritage. Most shrimp creole recipes don’t include okra but mine does. It’s a wonderful way to use fresh okra while it’s abundant in the summer. Plus, I just love the combination of okra and tomatoes. Yum! But if you’re not a fan of okra, just leave it out. No worries.

You can substitute chicken stock for the shrimp stock, but why not take advantage of the shrimp shells and make your own, where you control the salt and make it tastier than what you’d find in a box or can. It’s as easy as throwing some veggies and the shells in a pot and letting them simmer for about 20 minutes. This delicious stock will add extra depth to the creole. The recipe is at the end of this post.

Serve this tasty and spicy shrimp creole over rice or creamy grits, unless you’re watching your carbs and then it’s great on it’s own. And if you’re not watching carbs, add some crusty bread and a glass of crisp white wine and you are good to go!  Continue reading

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Citrusy White Wine Sangria, Great Year Round

Citrusy White Wine Sangria, Great Year Round

Kel's Summertime Citrusy Sangria

 

This light, refreshing and delicious white wine sangria is the perfect adult beverage on a warm sunny day. OK, it’s good on rainy days as well. In addition to the citrus fruits in my recipe, next time I would add some fresh pineapple chunks and use jarred grapefruit as it holds together better.

Don’t add ice to the pitcher unless you’ll be drinking it in one sitting. You don’t want to water down the sangria when the ice starts to melt, heaven forbid. This sangria will keep a few days in the fridge – actually, I doubt that because it’s so mouthwatering good that you won’t have much leftover. Just saying.

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Elk and Turkey Sausage Meatloaf

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After Brad had his heart attack a couple of years ago, his doctor and dietician told him to eliminate red meat from his diet. The doctor did say he could have game meat occasionally, so when I saw ground elk on sale the other day, I thought I’d try it and some hot Italian turkey sausage in a meatloaf for a change from using ground turkey.

What a great flavor combination! Naturally lean, elk tastes much like ground beef and slightly sweet. The hot Italian turkey sausage adds a nice kick to the meatloaf, but you can use mild if you don’t like the heat. Next time I will add some red or green bell pepper to the mix.

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