Kel’s Chicken and Black Bean Empanadas and/or Puff Pastries – You Choose


Kel's chicken and black bean empanadas

Puff pastry is my new best friend of late — I just love how it’s light, buttery, flaky and so, so tasty when making both sweet and savory dishes, from appetizers to entrees to desserts.

The chicken and black bean filling for these empanadas/puff pastries is based on a recipe I’ve been tweaking for years for my delicious quesadillas. You can make it as spicy or mild as you want by adjusting the amount of hot sauce and cayenne pepper.

So here’s the deal — this recipe is great as an appetizer with the empanadas, or as an entrée with the puff pastry. The empanadas naturally take more time to make since they are smaller, but the results are stellar, especially if you have the preparation time.  The puff pastry version of this is simply divine and easier to prepare, and is more like a meal instead of an appetizer.  Serve with salsa, guacamole, and/or sour cream.

Kel's Cafe up close empanadas

Chicken puff pastries out of the oven

Can’t choose? Make both like I did, which yielded 12 empanadas and 4 puff pastries – yum, yum, yum, yum, yum!  Continue reading

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Easy Ethiopian Chickpea Wat


Kel's chickpea wat

My meetup group, Raleigh Cooks, recently had a gathering featuring Ethiopian food. I was on a waiting list and got in to the event the day before, finding myself scrambling on what to make since most of the few Ethiopian that I’m familiar with were already taken. After searching the Internet for a while, I settled on this chickpea wat as I loved that it was vegetarian and something that would work great for Brad’s cardio-metabolic diet.

Chickpea wat at Raleigh Cooks!

What is a wat, you may ask (I know I did). It is simply a thick stew, often made with chicken or beef and lentils or beans, or without meat like this version. Don’t let the long list of ingredients turn you away — this wat is so easy to make and not only will you love its aroma as it cooks, but also how savory and filling it is as you devour it.

I was so pleased with the results of this recipe and so were many members of my meetup group – several said it was their favorite dish of the night! Traditionally this is served hot 
with injera, pita, naan or rice, but it can stand on its own if you are avoiding extra carbs.

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Kel’s Amazing Apple and Cranberry Pies, Baked in Apples

Drizzle caramel over apple and cranberry pies

Yaaaaay! Fall means apples and I’ve been craving apple pie, which I haven’t made in ages. I wanted to recreate my traditional recipe in order to cut calories and carbs but still taste great.  So I came up with these individual apple and cranberry pies baked in the actual apples, thereby eliminating most of the carb-y crust. I replaced the sugar with a low-calorie brown sugar blend and some diet cranberry juice. And to be really decadent, I used a sugar-free caramel sauce to top each pie. Wow, these apple cranberry pies are incredibly awesome and all of my substitutions worked perfectly.

Green and red apple cranberry pie

I used one granny smith and one gala since both are supposed to be good baking apples, plus I just liked the color combination. The gala apple held up much better than the granny smith, which was a bit soggy but still tasted great. Next time I will use my favorite honey crisps, another good baking apple suitable for this recipe.

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Kel’s Café Chicken Cacciatore



Add chicken thighs to the sauce

When I ran across chicken thighs on sale the other day,  I bought a big pack, knowing I could freeze what I didn’t use for my delicious chicken cacciatore. You can make this with a variety of chicken pieces, but what I love about just using thighs is that they have great flavor and are usually uniform in shape and size, making them cook more evenly.

Brad loved this, but did add some heat to his serving with one of his favorite hot sauces. He gave this dish a solid A and put it on our favorite comfort food list, great year-round!

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Kel’s Best Barley Salad, Greek Style


Kel's barley salad

This refreshing and easy-to-make barley salad is great anytime during the year, but especially in the summer when there is an abundance of ripe tomatoes. In the winter, I just substitute romas or cherry tomatoes instead.

You can serve this at room temperature or chilled in the fridge for a couple of hours, depending on your preference. It works well as a side dish to your favorite protein or as a stand alone meal. Eliminate the feta for a vegan version of this tasty salad.

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Kel’s Café Basil and Sweet Pea Pesto

Kel's sweet pea pesto

Got basil? More than likely if you grow your own you do, but it’s probably reaching its seasonal end and you’re getting ready to make pesto to freeze and enjoy year round.

Or, if you’re like me and have limited space to grow it to begin with and want to stretch what you have, here’s a great recipe for both scenarios — just add some sweet peas to the basil for a different and refreshing taste treat! And it’s easy-peasy to make (groan)!

Sweet basil

I used a combination of sweet and purple basil from my garden and loved the combination. This freezes quite well — as I suggested in a post several years ago on my pistachio pesto, place it in an ice cube tray and that way you can use the individual pieces throughout the winter as needed


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Summer break is almost over!


To all of my wonderful followers, it’s been a great little break from posting on my blog for the past month or so. I’ve been quite busy with numerous swim lessons, Gabe and Lexi’s 6-week visit from Arizona, and our visits to the North Carolina coast and Quebec, Canada, and I needed to put my blog on the back burner. I’ll be ready to get back into the swing of things in the next week or so, with a recipe for a great Mediterranean-style salad featuring  barley, fresh veggies and feta; plus a great pesto with peas and basil, to emphasize summer-fresh veggies in N.C.


While we were in Quebec, Lexi and I fell in love with the poutine (aka cardiac arrest in a bowl.) Please share any of your favorite recipes for this delicious comfort food – I may try to recreate it once it gets cold around here.

Thanks for following Kel’s Café – we’ll be cooking and eating soon!

Bon appétit!

Eat, drink and be merry!

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