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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To-Die-For Tomato and Grilled Corn Salad with Honey Lime Dressing


Kel's tomato and grilled corn salad ready to serve

This salad screams freshness and is just what the doctor ordered as a flavorful and cool side dish in the summertime heat. Grilling the corn adds smokiness to the sweetness of the tomatoes and the creaminess of the avocados. The corn, onion, red pepper and jalapeño add a nice crunch to this salad and balance the texture of the tomatoes and avocados.

I used silver queen corn for this batch, but you may prefer bicolor or yellow corn, which tend to have larger kernels, giving the corn a larger presence in the salad. I also used a mixture of red and yellow cherry tomatoes, but just use red ones or even grape tomatoes if you wish. You may also substitute cilantro for the basil and add black beans for a more substantial salad that would pair great with Mexican dishes. Add the avocado right before serving so it will retain its green color longer.

This vegan salad will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days, that is if you have any leftovers!

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The Most Moist and Luscious Lemon Pound Cake Ever

Kel's Luscious Lemon Pound Cake with Berry Garnish

I love lemons. With their sour and fresh flavors, they add a spark to most dishes, from lemonade and cocktails to marinades and sauces for veggies and proteins. A burst of fresh lemon juice is a wonderful pick-me-up for seafood dishes, and lemon zest is a great addition to many baked goods.

I’ve been craving lemon pound cake lately and decided to make one as a special treat for Gabe and Lexi as soon as they arrived from Phoenix to spend several weeks with us. I knew I wanted to make a lemon bundt cake with pudding in the mix, which helps to make it moist, and found this great recipe from Jocelyn Delk Adams of Since baking is an exact science, I followed her recipe closely, with the exception of reducing the sugar by half a cup.

Kel's lemony poundcake greatness

Of course I wanted this recipe to be more of my own, so I decided to garnish the cake with fresh berries (raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries are great choices), fresh lemon slices, and a few sprigs of fresh mint form my garden. The result? A lemony, moist and scrumptious cake that tastes as great as it looks!

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Kel’s Omelet Casserole is Eggscellent!

A bite of Kel's omelet casserole

Gabe and Lexi, now 15 years old, will be here in a few weeks and we are so excited! Since I’ll be at work most mornings, I’m trying to have some breakfast options for them to enjoy until I get home to make lunch. I’m not sure if I need to be concerned – Lexi will fend for herself (last year she was making avocado toast, eggs over easy with bacon or sausage, yogurt with fruit, etc.) and Gabe will either still be asleep or else stuffing himself with Pop Tarts and/or cereal. But I’d still like to give them other choices, like this casserole that is easy to reheat, healthy and tasty, tasty, tasty.

Kel's Baked Omelet Casserole

The twins always enjoy the breakfast casseroles I make during the holidays, most of which are laden with lots of cheese and sausage (yum, yum, yum!) However, when I saw a recipe for baked omelet squares from, I knew I needed to give it a try since it was heavy on veggies and less so on meat. Of course I changed it a bit and substituted milk with fat-free half and half, ditched the butter, replaced onions with spring onions, and added red bell pepper and tabasco sauce. Eliminate the ham and you have a great vegetarian version of this dish.

Not only is this easy to prepare, the cheddar cheese crust is to die for — need I say more? And it’s Brad-approved as well. He’s not a casserole fan, but was surprised how much he loved this, especially being skeptical about the black olives, which he said made it great! And it’s carb friendly to boot – another plus in Brad’s eyes.

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Love Flavored Popcorn? You Must Try This!


GH Cretor Pop Corn!

Did you know that Americans eat an estimated 17 billion quarts of popcorn each year, and nearly 70% of it at home? It’s one of my favorite snacks, especially when I sit down to watch television or a movie. So when the folks at G.H. Cretors asked me to review some of their flavored popcorn, I jumped at the chance (see full disclaimer at the end of this post.) They sent me a home movie night kit that included:

  • Two bags of G.H. Cretors popcorn
  • Two Oscar nominated DVDs (Arrival and Moonlight)
  • Tissue packs and a soft blanket to cuddle under while watching the movies.

GH Cretor's home movie night kit

G.H. Cretors’ popcorn roots date back to the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, where the very first commercial popcorn maker was unveiled by Charles Cretors. Today, the passion for obsessively delicious popcorn continues, with all popcorn varieties made with high-quality, real ingredients, like premium aged cheddar cheese, at the G.H. Cretors facility in Waukegan, Illinois.

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