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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Kel’s Classic Linguine with White Clam Sauce for Two

Kel's linguine with white clam sauce

Linguine with white clam sauce is one of Brad’s go-to pasta dishes, in restaurants and especially at home. I try to make this whenever he slacks up on not eating carbs, which is usually around the holidays at the end of the year.

This is so easy to make, especially if you use canned chopped clams. Don’t make the mistake of buying minced clams as they are way too small – trust me! I have used fresh clams in this recipe before, but doing so makes it too time consuming without adding much (if any) more flavor. So keep it simple and fast, use the canned clams, and get out of the kitchen and on to your table to enjoy this wonderful and comforting pasta dish. Continue reading

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Happy New Year!


Kel’s Café wishes everyone a healthy and happy new year, filled with family, friends, laughter and love, and of course great food and drink. I’m looking forward to posting new recipes and reviews in 2018, and truly appreciate all of my followers.

Bon appétit!

Eat, drink and be merry!


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