Kel’s Famous Crunchy Fried Chicken

Kel's Cafe Crunchy Fried chicken

I decided to learn how to fry chicken and make homemade gravy while I was still in high school. I was dating Ted, who later turned out to be my ex-husband. His mom, Geraldine, made some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had, to this day. She used an electric fryer and as much as I tried to duplicate her recipe, I couldn’t get it exactly right. My Dad made really good fried chicken as well, and he used cast-iron skillets instead of electric fryers. I couldn’t replicate his recipe either, so I decided to take some of the techniques from both of them and come up with my own signature dish. And that I did.

By the time I was in college, I had a recipe that I was quite pleased with. I bought a cast-iron skillet that I used just for frying chicken and still have to this day (I have my Dad’s skillets, too!) Unlike my Dad and Geraldine, I decided to marinate my chicken in buttermilk at least 6-8 hours before frying. Buttermilk is a natural tenderizer and helps to make the chicken nice and juicy. I also added crushed cornflakes to my flour mixture, which gives the chicken extra crunch.

Three essentials for Ke's fried chicken

This was one of my most requested dishes for several years, until the age monster made so many of us watch our fried food intake. But every now and then, I love to get out my cast-iron skillets and fry up a batch of this wonderful comfort food. National Fried Chicken Day is July 6th — a great reason to give this a try, or make some for your Fourth of July celebration. You’ll be glad you did!

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Let the Kitchen Games Begin!

Kitchen p.m. first demo day

Brad and I bought our house in late 2006 and started moving in the following spring. It’s a funky and modern home — an envelope house, if you will, which basically means it’s a house inside of house and is passive solar. We have four different levels, with non-heated atriums on the first three floors. For the most part, each level mimics the other, except the very top, which does not have the atrium and has a slanted roof instead. If you count the atrium space, we have approximately 4,400 square feet, sitting on almost ¾ acre wooded lot.

Our home

The house was a foreclosure, which was the only way we could afford something with so much room in this location. It was built in the mid-1980s, which certainly is reflected in the kitchen (and bathrooms, but I’m not even going there.) The kitchen itself is miniscule (90 sq. ft.) – I guess they didn’t cook much in the 80s, LOL.

tiny kitchen

Luckily, cabinet space has not been much of an issue, since a wall of them live right outside the kitchen proper.

Bare cupboards

Anyway, we knew one of our first projects was going to be a complete kitchen remodel, right after we had the deck built a few months after moving in. I’m talking all new appliances, cabinets, floors, counters, lights, etc., plus knocking down a load-bearing wall (see below), adding an island, moving plumbing and enlarging a window. A major undertaking, to say the least!

Wall is going away

Flash forward to six years later ….

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Tip of the Month, June 2013: Best Chicken Wings in Raleigh? Enter to Win!

Chicken wings from Buffalo Brothers

Chicken wings. One of the best bar foods, ever. I prefer the drumettes and like them crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside, with a nice and tasty sauce. I don’t want to kill my taste buds with wings that are insanely hot, but on the other hand I do like some heat and definitely lots of flavor.

I like bleu cheese dressing with my wings, at least the buffalo style, but ranch dressing works, too. I want lots of celery and carrots on the side. And don’t forget the napkins, please bring me plenty. If I’m not making a mess, then I’m probably not going to be a big fan of the wings. Extra points for places that have those cute little moist towelettes.

So where are your favorite places in Raleigh to get chicken wings? All who respond by 7/15/13 on the comment section of this post and suggest a great wing place automatically will be included in a drawing to win a $25.00 gift card to Target. So  please take just a minute and let me know where I need to conduct my next round of market research.

Target-gift-cardThank you and good luck!

Bon appétit!

Eat, drink and be merry!

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Kel’s Basic Black Bean Salad

Kels' basic black bean salad

I love black beans, especially in salads. I’ve been making this particular black bean salad for years and it’s one of my go-to dishes to take to pot luck lunches or dinners. It goes great with Mexican dishes, as a side to chicken and fish, or as a stand-alone salad. Not only is this black bean salad fast and easy to make, it is good for you and, as an added bonus, vegan. The red bell peppers and corn give it a slight bit of sweetness and a lot of crunch, and the jalapeño hot sauce and lime juice make the perfect marinade for it. It is one of my most requested recipes!

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Kel’s Individual Pineapple Upside Down Cakes With Grand Marnier

Place pinapple and cherry in ramekin

Break out your ramekins – it’s time to make individual pineapple upside down cakes. These mini-cakes are so cute and the brown sugar and Grand Marnier sauce is awesome. It soaks into the cake, making it incredibly moist, not to mention mouthwatering delicious.

So good!

I use fresh pineapple for this, but you can use the canned rings instead (buy the pineapple in its own juice, not heavy syrup.) Also, I use a boxed cake mix, but feel free to use your favorite homemade cake batter. I did have enough batter from the cake mix to make six cupcakes, which made the kids happy! Or, just make more of these fantastic pineapple upside down cakes.

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Jerry’s Most Delicious Marinated Yellow Squash

Pour the marinade over the squash

My friend and fellow foodie, Jerry Jackson, sent me this recipe for marinated yellow squash the other day. Jerry is (among other roles) senior editor and publisher of FMI Quarterly, the journal I edit, and he loves to go to all of the new restaurants in the area and then let me know which ones are worth visiting. We meet several times a year to discuss Quarterly production, etc., usually at an area restaurant, which is much better than getting together in the office.

After reading his recipe, I knew I would have to try it since I love yellow squash. Two added bonuses are (1) it is vegan, and (2), it does not require any cooking. The marinade is excellent, with two types of vinegar and just the right amount of sugar. The sweet onion, green pepper and celery add extra crunch to the dish. Perfect for the summer – light, yet tangy and refreshing. A perfect blend of flavors that is good for you! Continue reading

Kel’s Cucumber Melon Mojito

Kel's cucumber melon mojito

I was taking stock of my container herb garden a few weeks ago to see what I needed to replant, and was happy that my mint was coming back quite nicely. That’s a good thing, because my main use for it is in mojitos, one of my favorite summertime drinks. Now I just needed to decide what new flavor of mojito I was going to make — last year it was pineapple (see my post Mojito Mojo for the recipe) and the year before it was blood orange, both of which are excellent.

fresh mint

I decided to go with a melon mojito since I have almost a full bottle of Midori liqueur. Then I thought I’d add some cucumber as well — I love the taste of melon and cucumber together. The result?  A cool, refreshing and pretty green cocktail that is not too sweet. Kermit would love it!

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Joyce’s Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas For a Crowd

Enchiladas out of the oven

For nearly 30 years, a group of us who used to work or hang out at The Pub in Raleigh (now closed) has been going to the beach for a week around Memorial Day. While many of the faces have changed during the years, one thing has remained constant and that is the wonderful food that is prepared during the week.

chicken enchilada

For several years I have only been able to stay a couple of days, and last year I had the pleasure of trying some of Joyce’s most excellent leftover chicken enchiladas for lunch. When I heard she was making them again this year, I asked if she’d be willing for me to post her recipe, complete with photos. Lucky for all of us, she said yes. These enchiladas are fantastic – wonderfully spiced with tons of cheese. And perfect for leftovers the next day! Continue reading

Tip of the Month, May 2013: Take Them a Meal


So many times when our friends, neighbors and/or coworkers are faced with a life-altering event, one of our first thoughts is to bring them a covered dish or casserole so the last thing they have to worry about is preparing meals for the rest of their family. I know that I’ve been on the receiving end more than once and was grateful for all of the food people brought me.

Recently, my neighbor Connie underwent back surgery. Right before she was getting out of rehab, another neighbor, Mary (who heads up our neighborhood community watch program), sent out an email asking several of us if we could take Connie meals while she was recovering. But instead of having people sign up via numerous email messages and phone calls, she directed us to this fantastic website: Take Them a Meal ( Take Them a Meal makes meal planning for others a breeze — it’s easy to use and it’s free.

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Kel’s Pineapple Tomato Salsa with Avocado

Kel's pineapple tomato salsa with avocado

Fresh pineapples and avocados were on sale in several different grocery stores the other day – I think they were marking down these items after Cinco de Mayo. Whatever the reason, I was thrilled and decided to make a new salsa with said pineapple, avocado and tomatoes as the base. This stuff rocks – what a great and refreshing salsa that goes great with pork (and I imagine salmon or other fish), or by itself as a delicious and refreshing dip with tortilla chips.

I knew I had a hit on my hands the first time I made this salsa and left it on a counter at work — once my coworkers discovered it they told others they had to try it! I made it a week later when we were at the beach with a bunch of friends, again to many positive reviews. Don’t hesitate to take this to a pool party or picnic this summer — it won’t last long!

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