Easy Ethiopian Chickpea Wat


Kel's chickpea wat

My meetup group, Raleigh Cooks, recently had a gathering featuring Ethiopian food. I was on a waiting list and got in to the event the day before, finding myself scrambling on what to make since most of the few Ethiopian that I’m familiar with were already taken. After searching the Internet for a while, I settled on this chickpea wat as I loved that it was vegetarian and something that would work great for Brad’s cardio-metabolic diet.

Chickpea wat at Raleigh Cooks!

What is a wat, you may ask (I know I did). It is simply a thick stew, often made with chicken or beef and lentils or beans, or without meat like this version. Don’t let the long list of ingredients turn you away — this wat is so easy to make and not only will you love its aroma as it cooks, but also how savory and filling it is as you devour it.

I was so pleased with the results of this recipe and so were many members of my meetup group – several said it was their favorite dish of the night! Traditionally this is served hot 
with injera, pita, naan or rice, but it can stand on its own if you are avoiding extra carbs.

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Kel’s Amazing Apple and Cranberry Pies, Baked in Apples

Drizzle caramel over apple and cranberry pies

Yaaaaay! Fall means apples and I’ve been craving apple pie, which I haven’t made in ages. I wanted to recreate my traditional recipe in order to cut calories and carbs but still taste great.  So I came up with these individual apple and cranberry pies baked in the actual apples, thereby eliminating most of the carb-y crust. I replaced the sugar with a low-calorie brown sugar blend and some diet cranberry juice. And to be really decadent, I used a sugar-free caramel sauce to top each pie. Wow, these apple cranberry pies are incredibly awesome and all of my substitutions worked perfectly.

Green and red apple cranberry pie

I used one granny smith and one gala since both are supposed to be good baking apples, plus I just liked the color combination. The gala apple held up much better than the granny smith, which was a bit soggy but still tasted great. Next time I will use my favorite honey crisps, another good baking apple suitable for this recipe.

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Kel’s Café Chicken Cacciatore



Add chicken thighs to the sauce

When I ran across chicken thighs on sale the other day,  I bought a big pack, knowing I could freeze what I didn’t use for my delicious chicken cacciatore. You can make this with a variety of chicken pieces, but what I love about just using thighs is that they have great flavor and are usually uniform in shape and size, making them cook more evenly.

Brad loved this, but did add some heat to his serving with one of his favorite hot sauces. He gave this dish a solid A and put it on our favorite comfort food list, great year-round!

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Kel’s Best Barley Salad, Greek Style


Kel's barley salad

This refreshing and easy-to-make barley salad is great anytime during the year, but especially in the summer when there is an abundance of ripe tomatoes. In the winter, I just substitute romas or cherry tomatoes instead.

You can serve this at room temperature or chilled in the fridge for a couple of hours, depending on your preference. It works well as a side dish to your favorite protein or as a stand alone meal. Eliminate the feta for a vegan version of this tasty salad.

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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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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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