Grazing at HOK

We share the dinner prep here at HOK (House of Kelley). When it’s my turn I have a problem waiting for everyone to get home. I can barely stave off hunger while chopping, slicing and sautéing. I’m a grazer.

Here’s my new hold-me-off-until-dinner graze plate:

Zero fat.
Only 35 measly calories in five of them.

What am I describing?  Peppadews of course!

Prepare yourself a little plate – Peppadews, cucumbers, Feta, and some Peppadew brine lightly sprinkled on top, punctuated with cracked pepper. This also makes a tasty and light appetizer. Keep the ingredients on hand. Maybe pour a glass of wine while you graze and cook? (Just a thought…)

Cooking the Turkey Outdoors is a Social Event

Bill Kelley knows a good thing when he sees it. His decision to smoke our Thanksgiving turkey on the outdoor smoker is more than just sustenance, it’s a social event. Everyone gathers around the smoker to smell, add some wood chips, turn the bird, plus ogle and tell Bill what a cool guy he is. Pair that with a fire pit, popped corn over the flame, a TV screen with football, a couple of footballs to toss, and you have a Thanksgiving party!

Cooking the turkey outdoors is a social event.

Bonedust Brine

It starts with the wood chips. Our yard has nearly 20 varieties of trees and we are always trimming and chopping. Bill used oak wood this time for the smoker. Then, he built his recipe around something called Bonedust Seasoning Rub – a seasoning mix with pungent spices that he incorporated into a brine/marinade. The recipe he found was for smoked turkey legs – first marinating the turkey legs then rubbing Bonedust on them before smoking. Bill took the basic tenets of this recipe and adapted them for an 18-pound turkey.

He created the brine by using the marinade with Bonedust recipe from King of the Q’s Blue Plate BBQ cookbook. The Bonedust Seasoning Rub is author Ted Reader’s signature seasoning mix that can be used on everything from ribs to popcorn.

A typical brine for any meat would involve soaking it in a solution of water, salt and sometimes sugar before cooking. As the turkey soaks it absorbs the brine, retains it during cooking and the result is a juicy and great-tasting bird. Bill improvised a bit from Ted Reader’s turkey leg method and here is what he came up with.

Make the Bonedust Rub

  • ½ cup paprika
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 3 T salt
  • 2 T ground coriander
  • 2 T garlic powder
  • 2 T hot mustard powder
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 T freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T dried basil
  • 1 T dried thyme
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1 T cayenne pepper

Make Luther’s Sheep Dip Marinade

  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 12-oz. bottle of beer (preferable dark ale)
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup Worcester sauce
  • ¼ cup Bonedust Seasoning
  • 2 T freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T salt

Bill doubled the marinade for an 18-pound turkey. Place the turkey in a brining bag, place turkey in bag, seal, and turn occasionally to cut turkey. Marinate for 12-24 hours.

The turkey went on the smoker at 8:30 a.m. and by 5 p.m. we were ready to eat. He tended to the wood and the temperature except for a few hours when he played in the annual Turkey Bowl (see He Left Me…Alone with the Turkey). The bird was succulent, juicy and oh so memorable. Pared with Bobby G’s gravy, it was a turkey to remember.

Bookmark this page for next year or try it for Christmas. It’s worth it. And, everyone will think you are really cool!

Burywood Boyz Second Annual Fantasy Football Draft (and it was Fan-Tasty!)

Stadium food, sort of...

It’s fall and it’s football season and a few of the boys in our neighborhood have a fantasy league. They hear about fantasy football everywhere, but these leagues can be a tad complicated and all-consuming for the little guys. Our league is composed of boys ages 12 to 15, plus three dads, and one mom (me!). We welcome girls too; we just haven’t found any yet.

Early in the morning, before anyone else is up, the commissioner is working on the Burywood Boyz Fantasy Football Draft.

The draft happens on Labor Day, two days after the final NFL team rosters are released, and three days before the first NFL game. It’s also the last day before school starts when we know the kids won’t have any homework. Our draft, paired with Labor Day, signifies the official last day of summer.

Thanks to the co-commissioners of the Burywood Boyz League (my husband Bill and our son Patrick), they keep the draft simple. Everyone drafts 11 offensive players and one team defense. The commissioners run the draft and keep it moving and organized with a white board. This year, each “coach” starts with the team he drafted last year. He then has the chance to release players and draft new ones. In the end, the boys felt they got their best picks. (For more explanation see Fantasy Football 101.)

The draft picks are displayed on a white board.

Each week during the regular football season, the teams submit to the commissioner their six-man roster which includes: one quarterback, one running back, two wide receivers (or tight end), one kicker, and one team defense. At the end of the football week (after Monday Night Football) the scores are tallied and whoever has the most points wins the week. At the end of the season, we have a playoff.

What’s in it for the Boys?

  • Fathers spending time with their sons on something they are both interested in.
  • Friendly competition.
  • Being a “coach” and researching players to draft.
  • Doing meaningful work by studying the stats each week in the sports section and deciding who plays the following week.
  • Learning how to manage an Excel spreadsheet.
  • Practicing math skills with scoring and stats.
  • Having fun!

What’s in it for Me?

I get to throw the party! Of course the food is secondary, but what would a football draft be without stadium food? And, since it is the last hoorah of summer, it could possibly be the last official picnic of the year. So the entire family attends the draft.

The Menu

  • Hot Maryland Cab Dip for appetizer
  • Spiced Burgers with Melted Colby Cheddar Cheese
  • Hot Dogs (I recommend Ballpark all-beef brand or Hebrew National, both taste-tested by me and both win!)
  • All the condiments: pickles, sliced sweet onions, tomatoes, lettuce, mustards, ketchup
  • Bagkelley’s Summer Veggies 
  • Chips
  • Desserts: food the kids can pick up and eat easily while they are drafting players. For today, Pale Summer Cookies. Live it up; it’s the last hurrah of summer.
  • Extras: Marion brought watermelon and Melanie brought a homemade peach-blueberry crisp with fresh whipped cream. “It’s healthy, it has oatmeal in the crisp part,” she says apologetically. (I say who cares, it’s delicious!)

The Table Settings

Keep it simple. It’s the day before school starts and you don’t need a lot of clean up. Use sturdy plastic and paper ware. Bring out all the football dishes you have. If you have time, get some team napkins. Decorate or not.

Everyone goes for the Hot Maryland Crab Dip

Main thing: the food should be good and everyone should have fun.


I play because they needed an eighth team so the teams could be paired for an end-of season playoff game. The name of my team? “Reed’s Rowdy Gurlz” named for Washington Redskins Safety Reed Doughty —  the Kelley’s favorite player on our favorite team. Yes, Reed’s wife, Katie, knows about the name. She grinned (or grimaced, I couldn’t tell) when I told her.

Guess who won the Burywood Boyz Fantasy Football League playoffs last year? Who else? — Reed’s Rowdy Gurlz! Just because I’m throwing a party doesn’t mean I can’t draft a playoff contender team!

One of the Burywood Boyz and his sister, deliver their mother's Peach-Blueberry Crisp, still warm...

Recipes from the Burywood Boyz Second Annual Fantasy Football Draft

 Hot Maryland Crab Dip

Mix together:

  • 1 pound of cream cheese
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon of sherry
  • 1 tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard – use any kind, grainy or not, even spicy brown will work (whatever’s in the fridge)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ¼ cup sweet onion like Vidalia, minced fine, or use scallions, again, whatever you have
  • ½ pound of crabmeat – I prefer a local Baltimore brand, Phillips ™ (Maryland Blue Crab)
  • Mix well. Spray a pretty baking dish with oil, bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Serve hot with crackers. This also freezes nicely if you want to make it ahead.

Spiced Burgers

This time I used Williams-Sonoma burger seasoning mix with the ground beef, but you can easily season your own. (Use some garlic salt, Worcester sauce, pepper, cumin, whatever you like.)

TIP: The trick to a good burger is to use meat with a liberal amount of fat in it (like an 80-20 mix. Season it with some good spices and mince some onion in the meat (the kids will never know the onion is in there that way). The trick to grilling is to be patient. Don’t over-flip, in fact, flip only once when one side is done, and don’t flatten with the spatula and release the juices. Keep the grill lid open or the grease drippings could cause a fire.

Warm peach-blueberry crisp

Melanie’s Peach-Blueberry Crisp

Melanie says, “Personalize it, baby!”

  • 4 or 5 large peaches
  • 1- 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla or almond extract


  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ c. flour (Melanie uses whole wheat pastry flour)
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • grated fresh nutmeg to taste
  • ¼ c. butter, cold

Preheat oven to 350. Peel and thinly slice peaches into a two-qt. baking dish. Add blueberries; mix gently.  Sprinkle 2. T. flour and 2 T. sugar over fruit and mix gently. Sprinkle vanilla or almond extract over the top.

Prepare topping: combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cut in the butter until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. You can either do this with two knives, or with a food processor. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the fruit.

Bake at 350 for 40 to 45 minutes, until the topping is browned and crispy.  Let cool somewhat before serving.  Best served warm with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Of course, you could make this with all peaches, or use any other fruit such as nectarines, apples, other berries, etc.  Personalize it, baby!

My Pale Summer Cookies get around...this time on a football platter.


Summer Vegetables That “Show Up” (Especially the First Week of School)

Summer brings fresh tomatoes and all sorts of herbs and goodies from the garden. There are still a few weeks left in some parts of the country for locally-grown tomatoes and basil.

Ratatouille is a popular summer dish because it uses garden fresh tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and can be made ahead, reheated, and even served at room temperature.

I created a new twist to ratatouille---you can't mess it up because all the vegetables "show up" for you.

This week, I played around with my own recipe—a new twist on an old standby (ratatouille). I simplified it a bit and omitted the peppers and used the delicious bruschetta seasoning that I found in Wilmington, North Carolina this summer at the Italian Gourmet Market. I also experimented with adding cheese, which typical ratatouille does not do.

There are still plenty of “deck days” left where we live in Virginia. This will be a good dinner this Friday evening with some French bread, grilled chicken, and some wine…all on the deck as we recover from the first week of school! I’ll make it ahead the night before so when I get home from work on Friday all I have to do is put it in the oven.

Bagkelley’s Late-Summer Veggies

First, the good things about this recipe:

Do you like bleu or feta cheeses? Add one for a different taste. This recipe goes with your mood and taste buds. I experimented separately with both feta and bleu with great results.

TIP: Peeling and salting the eggplant will give it a buttery and not bitter flavor. Typical ratatouille does not call for peeling the eggplant.

You’ll note that these are all approximate measurements. You simply cannot mess up this dish. The vegetables “show up” no matter what you do to them.

TIP: Don’t use a sweet onion like a Vidalia sort—the sweet ones lose their onion pungence-ness (is that a word?) when cooked. Save sweet onions for salads or on burgers.

This dish can perch on a buffet for several hours, not spoil, get to room temperature and still be delish!

This is light fare that can be eaten with French bread dipped in the olive oil.


  • Olive oil, plenty of it
  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 3 zucchini or yellow squash or both, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly.
  • Garlic, about a clove minced
  • Basil, about ½ cup, rolled and sliced (this is the way my brother Bobby advises cutting basil)
  • Bruschetta seasoning (or season to taste with salt, black pepper, chili powder, dried basil)
  • Panko breadcrumbs mixed with ½ cup parmesan cheese and ¼ cup olive oil
  • Cheese is optional, choose crumbled feta or bleu or mozzarella

Heat oven to 424 degrees.

Sautee onion, tomatoes, fresh garlic and fresh basil in a pan. Season to taste with the bruschetta seasoning or other recommended seasonings. Cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Set aside

Cover a foil-lined baking sheet with olive oil. Place the peeled and sliced eggplant on the sheet. Top with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast for 10 minutes.

Do the same with the zucchini and/or yellow squash, olive oil, but they don’t need much salt to make them tender and good.

Now, we are ready to assemble and bake:

Spray a baking dish with oil, about 9’ x 12”, or use round casserole, whatever you have on hand

Layer eggplant, then tomato mixture, then one type of cheese if you like, then zucchini/yellow squash, eggplant. End with tomato mixture and cheese.

Top with Panko breadcrumb/cheese/olive oil mixture

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Serve hot or room temp.

Pale Summer Cookies

"Pale Cookies"

My brother-in-law, Chuck McLaughlin, recalls the days when we were growing up in western Pennsylvania. He and my sister Jane were married as she was the second oldest of five. I was still a young pup at home. Chuck often recalls when “Barb would spend her whole summer baking…then she would eat it all!”

Truer words were never spoken so when summer comes and the days are long, I still have the urge to bake and please my family. Summer vacation equals homemade cookies.

Last week I noticed our son (age 11) snacking frequently from the bag of chocolate chips. I said to him, “Patrick, if you want me to make homemade chocolate chip cookies just ask me.”

Minutes later, “Mom, can you make some homemade chocolate chip cookies?”

That was all I needed to hear so off I set to bake my trademark chocolate chip cookies. One problem, thanks to Patrick—not enough chocolate chips left in the bag. So I skimped on the chocolate chips and added a few butterscotch chips. The result was delicious but the color? Patrick said, “Mom, these are really good but I’m going to call them “Pale Cookies.” (He gets the naming rights.)

"Pale Cookies" named by Patrick. Read why.

Pale? First, one of the good things about my chocolate chip cookies is the texture—big, soft and chewy. TIP: This is achieved by using unsalted, melted butter cooled to room temperature in the creamed mixture with the sugar. Second, the cookies are not baked fully so they are not rock hard so they lack a truly browned finish. Add this to the lack of dark chocolate chips and you have some pretty darned awesome “pale cookies.”

We Have a Theme Going Here

Snickerdoodles, an old-fashioned cookie, definitely fits the pale cookie theme.

You can see I don’t need much encouragement, so what other “pale cookies” could I bake?

Snickerdoodles—Oh! Those are really pale for sure. This is an old-fashioned cookie made with butter, cream of tartar and the trademark cinnamon-sugar coating. You can find a recipe anywhere and they are all pretty much the same. TIP: I use a recipe with both unsalted butter and solid vegetable shortening which makes it the right amount of chewy and crispy.

So I whipped up a batch of Snickerdoodles and watched four boys devour two dozen of them with milk right before my eyes.

Kevin, a real boy, dunks his pale cookie.

You see, the boys in this neighborhood are hungry. They are a breed of boys (ages 10-14) who still play outside, climb trees, swing on ropes, ride bikes, hike to the creek and catch crawly things, play flashlight tag, flag football, kick-the-can, and more. (Okay, so the can is now Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes instead of canned green beans like the old days…) These real boys are not sitting in front of video games all day, so they get really, really hungry! Better yet, they burn off everything they eat so they are lean and healthy too!

Coconut Macaroons

You can’t get any whiter than these. They have a limited audience but for those who love coconut, they are a hit. For purposes of this blog and the pale cookie theme I did not dip these macaroons in chocolate. However, when I’m done blogging, I will. I am such a coconut nut that I like them both ways.

These are so delicious and, really, a great no-fat cookie if you don’t dip them in chocolate. If you do dip them in chocolate, choose a dark chocolate and you really do have a cookie that is good for you. Bring ’em on.

School doesn’t start until September 7, so I have a little time left to re-live the summer baking days of my past. And, a message to Chuck—I’m not eating them all up this time! Love ya bro!

Goodnight Irene

The view from our living room -- waves are almost over the dunes during Hurricane Irene on Pleasure Island, North Carolina.

Hurricane Irene spared much of the Cape Fear Coast and the Wilmington, North Carolina, area. We weathered the storm in our oceanfront condo — a place we playfully refer to as “Banana Cabana.” (I like yellow walls!) Stocked with batteries, water, libations, and food, the four of us — me, Bill, Patrick, and Mike Kelley, fire chief from Montgomery County, Maryland, and Bill’s brother — watched the storm.

Safe and sound, we’re all back home. So ends my reporting from the Carolina Coast until I return. Stay tuned, this fall will bring many more escapades from Kelley Hospitality. I hope you’ll follow me as I transform the ordinary into the extraordinary!

And that's a wrap from Coastal Carolina. See you soon. (Wraps are an easy-to-prepare hurricane food while you're busy storm watching.)

Stoking the Small Businesses in Wilmington, NC — Part II with Fire & Spice

Some of the offerings at Fire & Spice in Wilmington

Fire & Spice Gourmet

Fire & Spice Gourmet in the Historic Cotton Exchange

We’ve been paying Tommy a visit for about eight years in his store, the Fire & Spice Gourmet. Located in the historic Cotton Exchange, Tommy and Judy Cooper offer wine, sauces, seasonings, kitchen gadgets and every hot sauce you can imagine. Tommy knows his products too. We always bought the Aussie rub and Tommie can tell you why in detail the company no longer makes our favorite rub. You may be able to get some of his products online, but visiting the store in person is worth it. You walk out with much more than your purchases.

Kathy, a retired New Yorker complete with the accent, now living in Wilmington, was staffing the shop today. She said, “You wouldn’t believe the women who go for these hot sauces. I’m not a sexist or anything, but I just always thought hot sauce was a macho thing. Not so…women like them too.”

I never quite thought about hot sauce that way, but I suppose if I worked at Fire &Spice, I might think about those kinds of things. I see Kathy’s point. After all, it was my husband Bill who discovered this place and remains a loyal customer.

Every hot sauce you can imagine and more.

Today’s purchases: three hot sauces and a southern treat:

Marie Sharpe’s Comatose Heat Level Habenero Pepper Sauce

The heat level was XXXXX (that is five Xs!). We gave this to our neighbors whose 14-year-old son, Kevin, loves taste-testing hot sauces. The critique came back as not so hot that it made you uncomfortable. It was spicy hot but with a nice flavor. Kevin said that even some XXX levels he has tried just burnt and didn’t have a good taste.

Gecko Gary’s Roastin’ Red PepperSauce

This is a hot sauce with a blend of roasted red pepper, red-ripened pepper and ripened jalapenos and habanero peppers with fresh garlic and southwestern seasoning. It’s robust with a bite and I recommend it for a variety of palates. Love the cute blue gecko on the label.

Magma Hot Sauce (Talk about “Stoking a Fire!”)

This one looks scary. It’s not even red until you shake it up. Directions read “Tilt then Shake.” Manufactured by CaJohns Groumet Foods, I have a feeling this one is true to its label that states: “WARNING! An Eruption of Disastrous Proportions…EXTREMELY HOT!

Oddly enough, the ingredients are vinegar, water, salt, and oleoresin of capsicum which is an agent found in pepper spray. Too bad Tommy wasn’t on site to explain this one.  This remains untested at this writing. I’ll let you know if anyone was brave enough to try it.

And, my favorite southern treat — Rose & Ivy Southern Pecan Pepper Jelly

Pepper jelly -- part of a well-stocked pantry.

When I chose this brand, Kathy rolled her eyes back in her head and said, “Ohh…mmmmm….that one is so delicious but my diabetes won’t let me eat it!”

I completely trust Kathy so I bought it. This all natural pepper jelly is made homemade by Bell Buckle Country Store, Inc., in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, where else?

This pepper jelly should be a pantry staple along with a block of cream cheese for those pop-in guests. Put the cream cheese in a pretty dish and pour some pepper jelly over it and serve with water crackers and they’ll think you’re real southern. Offer the beverages and you are good to go. (Now we’re talkin’ Kelley Hospitality!)

Be sure to visit Fire & Spice Gourmet in the Cotton Exchange, 312 Nutt Street, Wilmington, NC 28401. Phone: 910.762.3050. Email:

And remember, support those local businesses wherever you are!