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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Kel’s Tuna Pan Bagnat, With a Hat Tip to Rachel Ray


Kel's Cafe Tuna Pan Bagnat up close

It’s been more than a decade since several of us, on our then annual Thanksgiving trip to the Outer Banks, took a deep sea fishing trip and caught a boat load of yellowfin tuna. Seriously – more than 350 pounds of beautiful, beautiful fish, in less than an hour and a half! We were back to the marina much earlier than expected thanks to the wonderful captain and staff of Tuna Fever. It was an experience I think none of us will ever forget!

Tuna Fever catch

After getting our fish filleted and put on ice to bring home, I can’t remember how many pounds were divided among four couples, but it was a lot! Brad and I decided to invest in a food vacuum sealer once we got home to preserve all of our wonderful seafood bounty. And I started looking online for recipes to take advantage of our catch.

Back then I was hosting a lot of poker parties that our fishing friends attended. I wanted to have an appetizer to remind us our tuna catching trip and here’s where Rachel Ray comes in – I found her recipe online for Tuna Pan Bagnat (pronounced pahn-bahn-yah) and thought it would be great as an appetizer for all of my poker folks. And it was, with no leftovers and several requests for the recipe! Of course I had to tweak her recipe on my first try and then again over the years and am quite pleased with my latest version.
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Kel’s Tasty Turkey Taco Lettuce Boats

Kel's Cafe Turkey Taco Lettuce Boats

Since Brad loves Mexican food but is avoiding red meat and all things bread (anything carb-laden, really), I created these wonderful ground-turkey-filled-lettuce boats, and used traditional taco seasonings such as cumin, chili powder and paprika to help spice up the turkey.  Brad gave the dish two-thumbs up as well as a regular rotation on his new cardio-metabolic diet. That is a great thing, trust me!

You control the heat by using your desired amount of hot sauce and adding or omitting the sliced jalapeños. I used Romaine lettuce (before the national scare), but Bibb lettuce will work as well – just look for fairly big and sturdy leaves to hold all of the yummy fillings.

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These Chips Rule, No Joshing! Carolina Kettle Chips

Basket full of Carolina Kettle Chips

Love chips? Specifically kettle chips? Well of course you do, who doesn’t? I am so thrilled to introduce you to Josh Monahan, founder and owner of Carolina Kettle Chips. Josh started his business a couple of years ago while still in college at N.C. State University. It’s still going strong, thanks in part to his fresh, crunchy and delicious products, but also because of his refreshing entrepreneurial spirit. And it helps that he just loves chips. And I love, love, love his chips, especially his Bee Sting and Carolina Barbecue creations, crispy, crunching and so full of flavor, but more about them later.


I had so much fun interviewing Josh for the upcoming 2018 Southern Women’s Show this weekend in Raleigh (information about the show is at the end of this post). If more people his age had his passion, foresight, drive and smarts to launch a successful business, and a tasty one at that, this world would be a much, much better place. And in his case, one charitable snack at a time!

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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!


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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