Seriously Sweet: Rebecca Burnett, Durham Toffee Company

 Rebecca Burnett of Durham Toffee

Let me start by saying this: Best. Peanut. Brittle. Ever. And I mean ever! The Brittled Nut Clusters from Durham Toffee Company are simply divine and after just one bite if you’re not addicted to them, then something is seriously wrong with you. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning and let me introduce you to the delightful Rebecca Burnett – founder, chef, and owner of Durham Toffee Company, based in Durham, N.C.

Durham Toffee will be making its debut at this year’s 2018 Southern Women’s Show, and I was lucky to interview Rebecca about the show and her business.  Within the first five minutes of meeting her, I could tell that Rebecca was genuinely passionate not only about her products and business, but for her customers as well. She wants to ensure that her sweets are of the upmost quality, while at the same time displaying some artistic flair to make them feel truly special, such as decorative ribbons, holiday tags, or heart-felt messages to accompany each bag of her delicious goodies.

Easter packaging Durham Toffee

Here’s a peak on how Rebecca started with Durham Toffee Company, some of the challenges she has faced, and where she sees her business in the next several years.

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Kel’s Minty Irish Iced Coffee, Perfect for Saint Paddy’s Day!

So happy together

You all already know I’m a huge Guinness fan. I also love coffee and, when I do drink whiskey, I’ll always defer to Jameson’s, thank you very much. So here’s a great libation, a little bit off the traditional St. Patrick’s Day menu, to help celebrate this most awesome Irish holiday.

I discovered I was out of Bailey’s Irish Cream when I went to make this (okay, who drank all of my Bailey’s and didn’t throw away the bottle? Really? Really?) So I substituted light cream instead, but by all means, if you have Bailey’s on hand, definitely use it!

Decadence!

Also, I make a minted simple sugar for this cocktail, but if  you don’t like mint, just make regular simple sugar instead. But you really should go with the mint as it adds just another great dimension to this awesome iced coffee. Regardless, make the simple sugar about half an hour in advance to let it cool.

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Happy National Pi Day!

Tart - Let's eat

National Pi Day (3/14) snuck up on me again and I ran out of time to make a homemade pie to celebrate. So I dug into my archives and came across this most awesome strawberry chocolate tart, which actually qualifies for a pie since it’s round, has a crust, and, well just because I thought you’d love it, especially with strawberry season right around the corner. So enjoy, and I’ll try to have a brand new pie recipe this time next year!

Bon appétit!

Eat, drink and be merry!

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Kel’s Classic Cobb Salad, A Meal on Its Own

Cobb salad, ready to be served

The first Cobb salad I ever had was at the Fairview Dining Room at the Washington Duke Inn in the early 1990s, shortly after I started working at Duke University. To this day, it is my favorite Cobb salad in a restaurant and my gold standard for all others. The Washington Duke Inn has since renamed it the “chopped salad,” but luckily the ingredients are basically the same as decades ago.

One of the things I love about this filling salad is that you can change ingredients to fit your tastes and diet. For example, if you don’t eat meat, substitute black beans or tofu for the chicken and leave off the bacon. Fresh tomatoes aren’t in season? Use plum, grape or cherry tomatoes instead. The possibilities are endless, just make sure you are using the freshest ingredients possible.

Many restaurants like to plate this salad with the ingredients in rows on top of the lettuce, but I prefer to toss the salad instead. It’s entirely your choice! Plus, put the ingredients in any order you like it’s your salad after all. Same with the dressing — you can either drizzle it on top of the salad or serve it on the side.

Tossed Cobb salad

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Kel’s Classic Chana Masala, or Chickpeas With a Kick

Kel's chana masala up close

Chana = chickpeas. Masala = a blend of ground spices used extensively in Indian cuisine. Mix them together with a few other ingredients for a heavenly vegetarian/vegan side or main dish.

So here’s a tip. When you purchase the spices and some of the other ingredients for this recipe (such as the ghee, garam masala, fresh ginger and cilantro), go to a specialty Indian/Asian store for the best deals. Not only do you have a wider selection of regional-specific ingredients, but the prices are usually much, much better than those in a traditional grocery store.

I used organic ghee (clarified butter, read more about it at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghee) for this chana masala, but for a vegan version just substitute extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil instead.

When serving chana masala as a side dish, you likely will be cooking rice as well (jasmine rice is my preference), and I like to make extra because it’s perfect for leftovers. The rice and chana masala, which gets better overnight in the fridge, heat well in the microwave for a fast lunch or dinner.

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Kel’s Simple and Seriously Satisfying Sausage Gravy

Kel's Simple Sausage Gravy

My dear friend Martha has a friend who makes his own country sausage that is out of this world. She lets some of us know when she’s ready to place an order so we can add to it. This sausage is absolutely hands-down better than what you can buy in the grocery store, but if you don’t have access to homemade, I recommend using Neese’s hot country sausage instead.

My sausage gravy is so simple to make and comes together quickly. Make sure you use whole milk for better results. This is comfort breakfast food at its best, but just to be enjoyed every once in a while, because let’s face it, it’s not the healthiest choice for your morning meal.

I highly suggest serving this with homemade biscuits instead of the canned ones – if you’re going to splurge on the gravy just every now and then, you might as well pour it over great biscuits.

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Kel’s Quick and Easy Chicken Fried Rice

Let's eat Kel's chicken fried rice

This chicken fried rice is so easy to make, with incredibly tasty, go-back-for-seconds results. There is a bit of prep work involved the day before you make this, which basically involves cooking the rice according to package instructions (leaving out any butter or oil) to yield 3 cups. You want to refrigerate the rice overnight as this helps to dry out the grains enough to give your fried rice a good texture and not be soggy.  I use jasmine rice, but any medium-to-long grained rice will work.

You can also prep the chicken the day before by following the first three steps in the preparation section of this recipe. Do this while the rice is cooking – not only will the chicken be more tender and flavorful, but it also eliminates an extra step on cooking day!

Marinate chicken in teriyaki

Make sure you taste this before adding any salt – I usually do not have to add any when using regular instead of low-sodium soy sauce.

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