Kel’s Perfect Pork Enchiladas with Tangy Tomatillo Sauce

Kel's pork enchiladas with tomatillo sauce

I’ve been making these pork enchiladas for years, tweaking the recipe along the way until coming up what I think is one of my favorite comfort foods ever. My original inspiration was to make a great tomatillo sauce as a base for several recipes, after devouring some of the best chili verde I’d ever eaten after a long day on the ski slopes in Vail, Colorado, many moons ago. Enter these pork enchiladas and the rest is history!

If you are unfamiliar with tomatillos, I urge you to try them. They are tangy, tart and tasty and look like small green tomatoes in husks. A common staple of Mexican cuisine, they are the basis of many green sauces for enchiladas and salsas. Choose ones that are still firm to the touch — most grocers have these in their tomato/garlic/avocado section. Beware, tomatillos are often sticky, but that washes off easily!

tomatillos

I prefer to use white corn tortillas to wrap the shredded spicy pork for the enchiladas — just make sure to warm them first to make rolling easier. Since they are fairly small, I use a spoon to hold down the enchiladas as I add them to the casserole dish so they won’t accidentally open!

Roll up tortillas and place in casserole dish

I used my Instant Pot to shorten the cooking time of the pork, but feel free to brown the seasoned pork in a dutch oven on the stovetop. Either transfer the pork and the water to a slow cooker for at least 4 hours on high, or leave the meat in the dutch oven, add the water, and simmer for several hours until the pork is fork tender.

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Kel’s “Kind-of-Like-Bojangles” Dirty Rice

Kel's Cafe dirty rice

Tailgating in the South? If you don’t stop at Bojangles before heading to the stadium, somebody partying next to you surely has. Let’s face it — it’s a tasty Southern tradition. Crunchy Cajun fried chicken, fluffy to-die-for biscuits, excellent iced tea and a handful of sides make it a favorite stop on the way to the game.

bojangles

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Kel’s Cucumber and Pineapple Salsa with Roasted Jalapeños

 

Kel's pineapple cucumber jalapeno salsa

When I saw this recipe by Katie Lee in the July/August 2017 issue of Food Network Magazine, I knew I was going to have to give it a try. Of course I tweaked it a bit and substituted jalapeño hot sauce for the fresh ground pepper. I also decided to roast the jalapeños to add a hint of smoky flavor to the salsa – great call!

What a wonderful and refreshing combination of flavors, with the sweetness of the pineapple, the crispiness of the cucumber, and the heat of the jalapeños. The cool thing is that this tastes great year round, unlike tomato-based salsas that are at their best in the summer when tomatoes are ripe.

Pineapple cucumber salsa

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Kel’s Italian Meatball Sub Stuffed Bell Peppers

Kel's Meatball Sub Stuffed Peppers

I came up with this recipe the other day when I was swimming laps. I really, really wanted Italian food, which I haven’t had much of lately since we have been trying to watch carbs (and yes, Brad is doing much better than me.)  I decided to make some meatballs with marinara sauce and let Brad just skip the pasta. But then it hit me – why not make meatball sub stuffed bell peppers, the perfect dish to satisfy my Italian cravings while watching our carbs.

What’s cool about this recipe is that you can cheat and use bottled marinara — there are several halfway decent brands on your grocer’s shelves, just pick your favorite, but make sure it’s a chunky variety. You can also use prepackaged meatballs instead of making your own. I recommend getting these from the meat section of your favorite store – they’re usually better than frozen. These two steps will cut your prep time down to a fraction.

Personally, I like to make my own meatballs and sauce, because I make extra to freeze for later, which saves time in the long run. Plus, I just think mine tastes better, in my (not so) humble opinion.

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Kel’s Asian-Inspired Spicy Beef Lettuce Wraps

Kel's Asian-inspired Spicy Beef lettuce wraps

These lettuce wraps are incredibly delicious and so easy to prepare. Just make sure that the lettuce leaves you use are big because that makes them easier to roll. Larger leaves also hold more of the spicy beef filling, which is truly the star of these mouthwatering wraps. And here’s a tip – purchase as many of the ingredients that you can at your local Asian market – you’ll be amazed at the savings!

Encourage your diners to assemble their own lettuce rolls and to add garnishes (such as sliced green onions, shredded carrots, peanuts, etc.) as desired. First, place a spoonful or two of the beef on the lettuce leaf. Next, add garnishes. And finally, fold burrito style by bringing in sides first and then rolling lengthwise.

These can be messy, especially depending on your rolling skills, so have plenty of napkins available just in case!

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Kel’s Tasty Tossed Niçoise Salad with Vibrant Vinaigrette

Let's eat Kel's Nicoise salad

If you like tuna, green beans, potatoes, olives, hard boiled eggs and other fixings with a tasty vinaigrette dressing, then this salad recipe, which eats as a meal, will become one of your favorites. It’s great to serve year round, just substitute cherry or grape tomatoes when you don’t have garden fresh ones. Also, if you’re not a fan of anchovies or capers (and I know many who are not), just omit them. You’ll still have a great salad!

Most of the Niçoise (pronounced “nee-swaz”) salads I’ve eaten have been “composed,” with all of the ingredients in separate little batches on a salad plate. While this type of presentation may look artsy, somehow I feel that something is lacking when the ingredients aren’t tossed to take full advantage of how the flavors of this salad blend so well together. Plus it’s just easier to eat.

I’ve had Niçoise salads with fresh tuna cooked perfectly rare or with canned tuna, and honestly like both. For this recipe, I use jarred tuna filets with garlic in olive oil, which pack more taste than the canned variety, and is not as expensive as fresh. It’s your call.

tuna filets in olive oil

Chill your salad bowls before serving for an extra special touch.

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Frozen or Traditional Negronis? Why Not Both!

 Kel's frozen NegroniGin-based cocktails are rarely on my radar, probably because the first time I ever got sick from drinking liquor was when I sneaked some of my grandparents’ Gilbey’s gin when I was a senior in high school. While Mamma and Pampa had impeccable taste in so many things, obviously their gin of choice was not one of them. It took more than a decade for me to try gin again, and even now I drink it sparingly and almost always in the heat of the summer.

I recently found a small, unopened bottle of Tanqueray in the back of our liquor cabinet that I had on hand for my father-in-law (who loves a nice gin martini), the last time he visited for Christmas two years ago. It was during a recent heatwave and I decided to make some frozen Negronis as suggested by a recipe that came up on one of my newsfeeds. I had tried a traditional Negroni several years ago on the suggestion of my then supervisor (and fellow foodie) Ken and actually liked it.

A traditional Negroni is made with gin, Campari (a bitter liqueur obtained from the infusion of fruit and herbs in alcohol and water) and red Vermouth (which is sweet), garnished with orange slices. Since I couldn’t easily locate the recipe I had originally seen for the frozen version of this drink, I decided to improvise and just add some blood orange sorbet (on sale, of course) and ice to the traditional recipe, put it in the blender, and keep my fingers crossed. Great decision and excellent frozen cocktail, much different and a nice change from a typical frozen daiquiri or margarita. Yum-O!

Kel's refreshing frozen Negronis

If you’re a gin lover, more than likely you already appreciate a traditional Negroni, so go ahead and give this frozen version a try – you’ll be glad you did! And if you’re new to Negronis, give both a try and decide which one is your favorite – it may come down to the time of year. And by the way, chilled glasses keep your frozen Negroni colder longer. But whatever you do, don’t skimp on the brand of gin. Just don’t. Just don’t.

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