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Indian Spiced Potatoes Fit for a Diwali Feast

Indian Spiced Potatoes Fit for a Diwali Feast

Sour Potatoes on a Stick

Are your lights on? It’s Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights which started on the 7th this year. I recently had an opportunity to take these Indian spiced potatoes to a Diwali pot luck hosted by the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance in honor of this annual fête. I am not going to lie – although I feel quite confident in the tastiness of this dish – it is a bit daunting to take my spin on classic Indian cuisine to a culinary celebration that includes many Indian professional women chefs. Cultural appropriation is a big thing these days and the culinary world is not exempt. I tried to slide my dish in unnoticed, but it’s lack of “nametag”, sparking a few “what IS this???” comments, and those cute little bell-clad picks that I snagged in Mumbai’s Crawford Market ruined any chance of fading in the background. Oh, and I used habanero flakes instead of plain ole red pepper flakes!! These Indian spiced potatoes are no shrinking violet. Apologies to native Indian chefs for any pirating of their cuisine. And for Pot Lucky fans, rest easy. I already had an Indian feast on the docket for early next year. More taste treats in this flavor palate are on their way soon!

Fit for Diwali Indian Spiced Potatoes

Diwali is a highlight of the Hindu calendar, celebrated in the fall here in the northern hemisphere. It is a triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. Sounds like something we could all use these days. “Light” has roots in most all world religions. While Diwali is celebrated for five days, the third day – today, as I write this – is the pinnacle, as it marks the darkest night in the Hindu calendar. Friends and family gather throughout the five days, and food is king.

Spices in Mapusa Market

I spent about a month in India ten years ago with a group from Women Chefs & Restaurateurs. We covered all things food along the entire west coast of the subcontinent, from Thiruvananthapuram to Mumbai. While very enlightening and informative, with stops at so many wonderful spice markets, it is not where this recipe derives its inspiration. I came by this recipe, if not with cultural integrity, with honor. It was handed to me maybe 30 years ago by Louise Spicehandler. If you can’t get spiced potatoes, with cumin, coriander and cardamom from a spice handler, then from whom? While I NEVER LOSE ANYTHING, this tattered print copy is, shall we say, temporarily indisposed. I suspect the original might have been copied from the NY Times, but since I can’t currently locate it, I am not positive. Louise was a great source of recipes and encouragement in my pre-professional days, as I dipped a toe in the culinary stream. As usual, Louise meticulously noted her adjustments in the margins of this recipe, and I meticulously followed them, until I didn’t. I think the ginger and the fresh herbs are my own, but to be honest, I never make it the same way twice. What do I have on hand? That’s the way I like it!!

Herbs and Spices

Indian Spiced Potatoes (Khatte Aloo)

Khatte Aloo, or sour (khatte) potatoes (aloo), are often made with diced, possibly boiled, big potatoes. I can’t resist the cute little mouth-poppable rounds that are now found easily in your supermarket thanks to The Little Potato Company.  They are multi-colored, one-bite wonders, serving as a delivery system for a whole lotta spice. And, I like to roast the potatoes, coated in spices, to further release the spices’ aroma.

Hero Potatoes

I have always used lemon juice, but I asked one of the Indian chefs at the pot luck, and she uses lemon and lime. That sounds amazing. However you chose to make them, don’t overthink it. Large & diced or whole & small; spiced then roasted or boiled then spiced; whatever choices you make, Indian spiced potatoes are a great dish to serve with a pick as an hors d’oeuvre or even as a side dish at an Indian feast. I have also served them skewered with brats and peppers, both grilled first, then assembled for serving and topped with a tomato.

Indian Spiced Potato and Brat Skewers

This dish is so quick and easy you might have time to run out and get yourself a henna tattoo! Then don’t forget to light the candles. Enjoy!

Henna Hands by Ravi Sharma

Henna Photo by Ravi Sharma on Unsplash
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Fit for Diwali:  Indian Spiced Potatoes in a multi color bowl with a tile pattern, with lots of toothpicks with colorful bells

Celebrating Diwali with Indian Spiced Potatoes

  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 as side, or many as part of an hors d’oeuvre buffet 1x


Khatte Aloo (sour potatoes) traditionally are diced, possibly boiled, potatoes. I like to roast tiny multi-colored, one-bite wonders and dose them with a whole lotta spice! Taste buds…you have been warned!!!


  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1 1/2 pounds small (large marbles) potatoes
  • Zest of one and juice of 1/2 lemon, juice reserved
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


Preheat oven to 425oF.

Pulse cumin, coriander, and cardamom about four pulses in a food processor or spice grinder until coarsely ground.

In a medium bowl, combine potatoes, lemon zest, and ginger.  Drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat the potatoes. Season with cumin, coriander, cardamom, salt, and pepper flakes, stirring until the potatoes are spice-crusted.

Transfer to a sheet pan and spread out in one layer. Roast for 15-18 minutes until cooked through.

Transfer to a serving dish, scraping up additional spices left behind. Drizzle warm potatoes with lemon juice.

Serve warm or at room temperature, as a vegetable side dish or as an hors d’oeuvre. Before serving, toss with chopped mint and cilantro.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Appetizer, Side
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Indian

Keywords: Indian, Potatoes, Spicy

Indian Spiced Potatoes

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2018. All rights reserved.

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Fig Prosciutto Pizza with Blue Cheese & Arugula

Fig Prosciutto Pizza with Blue Cheese & Arugula

Fig Prosciutto Pizza

This Fig Prosciutto Pizza is a far cry from those sticky Newtons you grew up on. Sweet jammy fig butter, with crispy and salty Prosciutto, creamy rich Cambozola and fresh luscious figs let this pizza span a meal from appetizer to dessert, while achieving rock star status along the way.  If you are like me, your first exposure to figs was the famous Fig Newton. Can’t say I was really a fan. It was kind of gummy and way too seedy for a kid. But yet, against all odds, the Newton became a fan favorite. Must be all that sugar. What really surprises me though is that Newtons are almost always the end of the line for the poor fig. After childhood, we fickle feasters don’t look back and all too often have never seen a fresh fig, much less tasted one. I ran across them in the garden when staying with friends in Italy some thirty years ago. My hostess was not a fan of the texture, and I get that, especially if you pull it from the tree and chomp into it, apple-style. But the flavor!! Oh my. It is a perfect foil for a creamy rich blue cheese and some salty Prosciutto. Hmmm…let me think what else? Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. Pizza dough? Now we’re cooking with gas!!!

Black Mission Figs

Fresh figs have a fairly short season – found both in the spring and the fall, or if you are in Cali maybe a bit longer. They date back to 9000+ BC and were cultivated more than 1000 years before wheat or rye. Their existence is well documented from Aristotle to the art world. I mean, where would we be without fig leaves? Spanish missionaries brought them to the US in the late 1700s, where the Mission variety thrived in the California sunshine. To this day, Black Mission figs are among the most popular and that is what I used here.

Dried figs used to be a bit tough and required soaking (brandy wouldn’t be so bad) to use. But today there are unsulfured, wonderful, juicy varieties available in resealable pouches. Valley Fig offers organic dried  Mission figs and Made in Nature offers dried Smyrna figs that are velvety and have “hints of honey, jam and butterscotch.” If you can’t find fresh figs, try chopping some of these in place of the fresh. As Made in Nature’s package says, “… congrats, nature. You really nailed it on this one.” They’re “figgin awesome.”

Prosciutto, Cambozola, Fresh Figs and Fig Butter

For the cheese, I used Cambozola, but there is a wide range of blues from which to choose, especially Stilton or Roquefort. I like the creaminess and richness of Cambozola as an offset to the salty meat and juicy fruit. This cow’s milk cheese, made in Germany, is a triple crème-ripened blue cheese and you might liken it to a cross between a blue and a brie. You would not be all wrong. While the name appears to be a portmanteau of Camembert and Gorgonzola given its similarity to the rich creaminess of Camembert and the blue bite of Gorgonzola, the name is also a nod to its terroir. It is made in Kempten (in Bavaria), whose Roman name is Cambodunum.

Fig Prosciutto Pizza

Fig Prosciutto Pizza

This is really another non-recipe recipe, which I know y’all love. Proportions are not essential when topping pizzas. Actually, even choosing the ingredients is not critically important. Just remember to aim for a balance of sweet, salty, fat and acid and a mix of textures, and if you dare, a contrast in temperatures. As written below, the jam provides sweetness; the cheese and meat are salty; the cheese adds creamy fat and richness; the vinegar add acid and serves as a light (just a drizzle) dressing for the arugula. The textures range from creamy to crispy, and the temperature is hot pizza with cold salad. Done and Done!

Fig, Cambozola and Prosciutto Pizza with Arugula

Let me know how it goes, and – as always – I love to read your comments on the website and see your photos on Instagram.

Happy Fall!

Arugula atop a fig prosciutto pizza

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Fig, Cambozola and Prosciutto Pizza with Arugula with a slice out - overhead shot and close up

Fig Prosciutto Pizza with Blue Cheese & Arugula

  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8 slices 1x


This Fig Prosciutto Pizza is a far cry from those gummy Newtons you grew up on. Sweet jammy fig butter, with crispy and salty Prosciutto, creamy rich Cambozola and fresh luscious figs let this pizza span a meal from appetizer to dessert. 


  • 1-pound fresh pizza dough (see notes)
  • 11-ounce jar of Fig Butter (or fig jam) – may have leftovers
  • Favorite oil for drizzling on crust (I wouldn’t be mad if you used truffle oil once it comes out of the oven, but brush the crust with something less delicate before baking. Lemon oil is nice)
  • 8 fresh figs, about 1/3 pound, sliced
  • 1/2 pound Cambozola cheese, or other creamy blue like Gorgonzola
  • 8 slices Prosciutto
  • 3 cups of arugula
  • Crema di Balsamico, or a balsamic reduction
  • Flaky sea salt to finish – like my beloved Maldon’s


Preheat oven and pizza stone to 425oF. Check pizza dough directions to confirm this is best for your dough.

Lightly flour a work surface and stretch or roll the pizza dough into a 12” diameter round. If you are using the roll-out dough that comes in a popping-fresh canister, follow those directions and roll into a rectangle, but plan on using more topping ingredients. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled pan.

Spread the fig butter to create a thin layer, leaving a 1/2 “ border of dough around the outside. (See notes.)   Brush the exposed outer ring of dough with a favorite oil.

Set the pan on the pizza stone and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the crust is set.

Carefully remove from oven, adding the figs, some dollops of Cambozola and the Prosciutto. I like to take a half-slice of Prosciutto and twirl into a rosette, but some prefer to chop it and distribute the flavor more uniformly. Maybe you should be making two pizzas?

Return to oven and bake for 10 more minutes or until the crust is golden and the Prosciutto starts to crisp. The cheese should be melty.

Remove from oven and top with the arugula. Drizzle with a balsamic reduction (or Crema di Balsamico) and sprinkle with a flaky finishing salt.


Dessert Pizza or Appetizer? Actually, I have served it both ways. Spread the fig butter according to taste and purpose. If you use the whole jar (don’t judge) it will be pretty sweet. But it will also be nice and jammy. Depending on your taste, you might want to load up a bit more on the salty items like the cheese and Prosciutto.

Trader Joe’s makes a great fresh pizza dough, stashed in the cheese and prepared food refrigerator case. You can find it made with white flour, whole wheat and even gluten-free.

Stonewall Kitchen makes a lovely Fig & Walnut Butter and Valley Fig offers three flavors of fig spread. For this test, I used the Trader Joe’s Fig Butter.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Main, App, Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Italian, American

Keywords: fig prosciutto pizza

Fig Prosciutto Pizza with Arugula

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2018. All rights reserved.

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Pot Lucky: Food on a Stick Edition

Pot Lucky: Food on a Stick Edition

Food on a Stick

I probably say this every Pot Lucky – but the stick party was the best ever. Food on a stick! Skewered anything! Skewered everything! Kicked up Shish Kabobs……Swish Kabobs! It was the perfect storm of a late summer night with stunning weather, a beautiful pool patio with gorgeous gardens, amazing guests ready to have fun, and a commitment from people to bring their culinary A-game to the table. Literally – to the table. 

Limoncello Sparklers

Special cocktail: Limoncello Sparkler. Add lemon seltzer and Prosecco to Limoncello and garnish with mint and lemon slices.

Pot Luckys, for the uninformed, are my spin on the dreaded (to me at least) pot luck. The emphasis is on the Lucky. Menus are curated around a theme and the goal is to avoid supermarket fare stored in the office desk drawer all the damn day. Don’t think you are fooling anyone by using a frilly pick. That does NOT make it special. I’m on to you. I know, I know. Not everyone that you want to invite is game for this, but there are so many ways for all to participate. Pot Luckys are always about the food, in this case the Swish Kabob, but since there was a lovely pool patio I layered luau onto the theme. That left room for people who don’t cook to get excited about leis. I mean who doesn’t love that?  The order went out to don trop frocks and the crew did not disappoint. From banana slippers to tiki attire, it was a colorful group.

Trop Frocks

Atmosphere was easy to come by. Between the host’s inflatable shark raft and my 4 zillion floating flip flop candles the pool was set. Lights in trees, colorful cloths, lots of flowers and a few banana leaves and you have yourself a party. 

Setting the Table

I always supply “placecards” to let guests write their own title on the dish. While I use this app to track the menu and help guests decide on a dish not already claimed, there are always last minute changes. Best to let guests create their own card on arrival. This time I slapped on a few stickers from a crazy stash that I had apparently hoarded. Who knew I was long in tropical stickers? I also ordered an inexpensive photo booth kit of tiki props from Amazon, which made taking photos a lot of fun. 

Hula in the House

We’ve done about a dozen Pot Luckys so far with a good list of more to come. Some of my favorites include the salad paloozafajitas, sliders, and a nautical theme. For details on how to host your own, link here. Depending on the party (8 kinds of meatloaf or 6 flavors of soup), you can plan on leftovers for your freezer. But for other themes, like Swish Kabobs, you can expect the pineapple to get licked right off the dish, with nothing but amazing memories (and possibly a few compromising photos) to take away.  

Food on a Stick

Shrimp, Chicken and Watermelon with Feta

Tropical Shrimp on a stick; Chicken Satay on a stick with peanut sauce; Watermelon, Feta  & Mint on a stick with a Balsamic glaze.

There are no rules on how to put food on a stick and though I provided a few menu ideas for each category (apps, sides, mains, desserts), I also sent people off to google food on a stick. Pinterest has its share of ideas. If it looks tricky, it might not hurt to give it a test run. I find that the online photos that have their subject carefully laying down might be displayed this way due to precarious skewerability. That’s a word, right? If the photo shows the skewers upright and poked into a watermelon or pineapple or someone holding them, that’s a safe bet. I hope my guests know by now that I appreciate the effort as much as the success. Not all things turn out, but they are always tasty…A+ for effort, and I love their enthusiasm for trying something new. I had an Italian cooking teacher who always said, “That’s the way we like it!” in reference to any dish and any outcome. Applause. Applause.

Greek Salad and Chicken & Waffles

Greek Salad on a stick; Chicken & Waffles on a stick.

Some dishes were cooked or prepared separately and then assembled and some were cooked on the skewers. Don’t forget to soak your skewers if you are going to grill them. Also some had a single portion with a lot of skewer showing, appetizer-style, and some were loaded end to end, entree-style. Variety is the spice of life. 

Antipasti, Brats & Corn

Antipasti on a stick; Hatch Chili Brats & Spiced Potatoes on a stick; Corn Cobbettes on a stick.

I often have Pot Luckys where the cooking happens on the scene, like pizzas or burgers. This time I asked for the food to be ready-to-serve since it wasn’t my house. Either way you need to be clear about expectations. Let your guests know that quantity is not a concern, because there are so many dishes from which to choose. I try to give a head count as a guideline, but know that not all guests will try each dish, especially when you have 20 items. And then there are those who will try every single one and then some. Why are you looking at me? It’s my job.  

caprese, grilled peaches & mozzarella, pineapple chicken on a stick

Caprese Salad on a stick; Grilled Peaches with Basil & Fresh Mozzarella on a stick; Pineapple Coconut Lime Shrimp on a stick.

Flank Steak, Veg Kabob, Pork Wings, Pork Belly with Avo

Flank Steak on a stick; Summer Squash & Red Skins on a stick; Pork Wings on a stick: Pork Belly, Pineapple, and Avo on a stick.

One brave guest rolled his own sushi and popped that on a stick. Kind of perfect! And what you see below is not any old fruit kabob. Oh, no! This fruit – mango, pineapple, fresh cherries and Moon Drop grapes – has had a little boozy bath before being skewered. 

Boozy Fruit and Sushi on a Stick

Sushi on a stick; Boozy Fruit on a stick.

Special props to the ladies who went the extra mile to fill the challenging dessert category. I wasn’t sure if we would get any takers on dessert, but two brave souls stepped up to the challenge with tremendous success! Three flavors of ice cream pops and mini blueberry pies on a stick. So creative, so beautiful, and so tasty. A real crowd-pleaser!! 

Ice Cream Pops on a Stick

Ice Cream Pops on a stick: Pineapple/Kiwi/Coconut; Brownie/Pecan; Strawberry/Blueberry.

I love that some of the blueberry pie-ettes were made using a Michigan-shaped pastry cutter. We call ourselves the Mitten State. So, these are officially “Hand” Pies!! Yum!

Blueberry Hand Pies

Blueberry Hand Pies on a stick – get it? Michigan mitten-shaped, aka “Hand”, pies!
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Greek Salad Salad on a Stick: marinated cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, feta and black olives on a white tray with fresh thyme

Food on a Stick: Greek Salad

  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 32 skewers 1x


Greek salad on a stick is a quick and easy solution when you need an hors d’oeuvre to go. Prep the ingredients ahead, and marinate the Feta up to overnight. About 20 minutes before you are ready to assemble, marinate the vegetables. Once assembled, these will keep in the fridge for several hours. 



For skewers:

  • 8-ounce package of Feta (chunk or block, not crumbles or cubes)
  • 4 mini cucumbers (8 ounces)
  • 32 cherry tomatoes, assorted colors
  • 32 oil-cured, pitted olives
  • 32 bamboo skewers

For marinades:

  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Fresh herbs: chives, thyme, oregano
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


Marinate the Feta:

Slice the block of Feta in half, creating a top half and bottom half. Cut each section in 4 x 4 sections, resulting in 32 pieces of Feta. Transfer to a mixing bowl and drizzle lightly with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Season with chopped chives and red pepper flakes, to taste. Set aside for 20 to 30 minutes, up to overnight. 

Marinate the vegetables:

Trim off the ends of the mini cucumbers, and slice each one into 8 slices. Slice the stem end off each cherry tomato and using a small knife or spoon (I like to use a strawberry huller), cut out the ribs and seeds from the tomatoes. The tomatoes will serve as a cup to keep the Feta intact.  Place the cucumbers and tomatoes in a small bowl and drizzle with olive oil, enough to coat, and a squeeze of lemon. Season with fresh thyme, chopped oregano, sea salt and black pepper.  Marinate for 20 to 30 minutes only. 

Assemble the skewers:

Skewer the cucumber slice (lollipop-style), a tomato (open end up), a piece of Feta (pressed down into the tomato), and an olive. Repeat using up all the ingredients. Refrigerate until serving and sprinkle with salt and pepper before serving. 

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: No Cook
  • Cuisine: Greek

Keywords: Greek Salad, Food on a Stick, Kabobs

Food on a Stick Finale

Thanks to all my Pot Lucky-ers for continuing on this journey and being intrepid voyagers. Are you game to try your hand at a Pot Lucky? Let me know how it goes, tag me with #PotLucky  & #PalatePassionPurpose and as always, I love to get your comments below. 

Ice Cream Pops

Michigan Mitten Hand Pies

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2018. All rights reserved.


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Going Crackers: Best-Ever Cheese Crisp

Going Crackers: Best-Ever Cheese Crisp

Best Cheese Crisp on a wooden board

You’re driving me crackers, she said to this weather. Luckily this tasty little number is neither season- nor weather-dependent. I found my inspo for this recipe in a fancy store in California (Market Hall in Berkeley, if you must know), and I just might have eaten my weight in them. After “serving” them to guests two nights in a row, while secretly polishing them off on my own in the kitchen, I decided it was time to stop paying this fool’s ransom and knock them off for myself. Armed with only a visual on the seed varietals and my longstanding loyalty to a good cheese crisp, I took it upon myself to try to replicate and I must say I nailed it first try. You’re welcome!!  The base recipe for these – when seed-free – reminds me of the signature dish at an early Lidia Bastianich restaurant – Frico. The frico, as a dish, is a melted cheese crisp, usually made with unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Friuli called Montasio. At the restaurant, these cheese crisps crowned salads and were often stuffed with potatoes or mushrooms and more, served as an appetizer. How I miss this!

But, oh my, these Cali ones were chock-full of seeds, which provides more crunch and an additional level of nuttiness. Yahoo. As I was testing them, I remembered a frequent guest that I cooked for during my days as the food stylist at The Rosie O’Donnell show. Marjorie Johnson, from Minna-so-TA, dont’cha know. At 4’8”, this feisty redhead, always decked out in a red dress, topped with a red apron, is pure sass.  Here she is in 2016 at the Anoka County Fair, where she won 52 ribbons, including 22 blue and the sweepstakes prize for her tea ring. Yes, those are all hers…from that week!

Marjorie Johnson at Anoka fairgrounds

Photo courtesy of Marjorie Johnson, BlueRibbonBaking.com

I met Marjorie before the millennium, and her goal was to have 2000 blue ribbons by the year 2000. She has well over 2500 now and has not slowed down one bit. Her secret, she told me, to beefing up her ribbon count was to enter random categories with less competition……………like crackers. And we’re back. Temporarily. (I must add that is something I was long aware of – don’t take the easiest path using a sweet ingredient in a dessert. Work harder and come up with something that is unexpected.) I haven’t seen Marjorie in a while, but we keep in touch and I have her book. I’ll never forget the segments we did with Alec Baldwin or Paul and Nell Newman after Marjorie won a load of dough from Newman’s Own.  It all went to her favorite charity – American Cancer Society in Minnesota – and they in turn crowned her the belle of the ball, tiara and all. I think Alec summed it up best – while on his knees to meet Marjorie eye to eye – “We need more Marjories!!”

Seeded Cheese Crisps

I debated calling this a Cheese Krackle instead of a Cheese Crisp, because the seeds make it so much more than a Crisp. Such decisions!?!  Luckily the recipe is much more straightforward than that challenge. I really don’t need to tell you in great detail about this recipe, because once I locked in the ratio of ingredients, it pretty much baked itself. Instead of Montasio, I chose a rosemary Asiago, an Italian cow’s milk gold medal winner at the 2008 World Championship Cheese Contest, and Fontina Fontal, also Italian, and also cow’s milk…from our friends at The Cheese Lady, of course.  The Asiago adds a bit of tang and the Fontina is a sublime melting cheese. Keep the cheeses cold until you grate them, as they tend to be a bit softer than many cheeses we often grate. I used the big holes on a box grater.

Rosemary Asiago Wedge on a cutting board with grater in the background

Add all the seeds to the grated cheese and mix well to combine. You may find that as you dole out the mixture onto a sheet pan that the smaller seeds will settle so be sure to keep mixing as you go.

All the seeds and cheeses in a bowl with measuring spoon

You will need two or three batches on a half-sheet pan to bake off all the mixture. If you need to re-use a pan for a later batch, let it cool to room temp first so it doesn’t throw off your oven timing. I used two Tablespoons mixture per cracker and flattened them a bit with my fingertips for even cooking. You will need to leave a little space between them, but more for an easy removal than to accommodate massive spreading.

Cheese Crisp into the Oven

Bake at 375o for 7 – 8 minutes until the crisps are lightly golden. Remove the pans from the oven and let the cheese crisps cool slightly on the sheet pans until they firm up. Then you can transfer quickly to a wire rack using an offset spatula. I would tell you to store them in an airtight container once cooled, but let’s be real – are you going to have any leftovers? Kind of doubt it!!!

Cheese Crisp Ovenfresh

These are tasty as a garnish for soups and salads, or as an accoutrement to a cheese or meze spread. Call it a Krackle, call it a Crisp, but definitely call it delicious.  

When you give this loaded cheese crisp a whirl, tag me on Instagram and as always, I LOVE to see your comments below.

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Best Cheese Crisp on a wooden board

Going Crackers: Best-Ever Cheese Crisp

  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 15 pieces 1x


This seed-filled cheese crisp is great on top of a soups and salads, or as an accoutrement to a cheese or meze spread. Call it a Krackle, call it a Crisp, but definitely call it delicious.  And while you are at it, double up on  the recipe. You’re gonna want more. 


  • 3 ounces grated Asiago, or 1 1/3 cups
  • 1 ounce grated Fontina Fontal, or 1/3 cup
  • 3 1/2 ounces raw shelled pumpkin seeds, or 2/3 cup
  • 1 ounce raw shelled sunflower seeds, or 1/4 cup
  • 3 Tablespoons sesame seeds, or 1 ounce
  • 1 Tablespoon flax seeds, or 1/2 ounce
  • 1 Tablespoon poppy seeds, or 1/3 ounce
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt


Preheat oven to 375o F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well. The smaller seeds may settle so be sure to stir as you dole out the mixture.

Divide the mixture into crackers, allowing 2 Tablespoon per cracker. Flatten any mounds to a uniform thickness.

Bake for 7 – 8 minutes until lightly golden. Cool slightly on the sheet pans until they firm up, and then quickly transfer to a wire rack using an offset spatula. Store in an airtight container once cooled.


I used a rosemary Asiago but plain works well too.

Keep the cheeses cold until you grate them, using a box grater. They are a bit soft so they don’t grate as well at room temperature as a harder cheese, like Parmesan.

These are delicious on top of a soup or a salad, or as an accoutrement to a cheese or meze spread, but do note they are not sturdy like a Ritz, so don’t go planning to spread your Cheez Whiz atop. Who are you anyway??:)

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: cracker
  • Method: oven

Cheese Crisp Chock Full of Seeds on a wooden board

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 © Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2018. All rights reserved.


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Old World Meat Pie Spiced with Horseradish & Dill

Old World Meat Pie Spiced with Horseradish & Dill

Horseradish Meat Pie in a spring form pan

I have had a tattered copy of the grandmother of this meat pie recipe since I first moved to New York – and I always read the faded title as Kulebvaka. Shared with me by an older Jewish woman who was very adventurous in exploring international flavors even in the 70s, the copy was covered in her handwritten notes. I assumed, wrongly as it turns out, that the vaka had something to do with beef, the main ingredient in this recipe. All those years of having the name wrong prevented me from making the connection to coulibiac, one of my earliest catering days’ fancy puffs. The coulibiac I made was filled with salmon and – oh yes – crammed full of eastern European flavors, like dill and sometimes horseradish. Coulibiac. Kulebyaka. “Yaka”, not “Vaka”. The name had nothing to do with the beef that fills the pie. Color me surprised – years and years later.

It turns out the word Kulebyaka comes from the Old Slav verb kulebyachit which means to make with hands – nothing to do with what was inside. It can be stuffed with fish, meat, mushrooms, rice, hard-boiled eggs and so much more. The traditional meat pie recipe calls for a yeast-based dough (I am just using a store bought pre-rolled pie crust), but it was elevated to haute cuisine status (and the pastry became more delicate) during the 19th century when French chefs started appearing in Russia. The tradition continues as the Hennin twin brother chefs that I trained under in Paris spent time in Russia. One showed up here with a vat of caviar as his carry on. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaas!

Pushing hard boiled eggs thru a potato ricer

That meat pie recipe I received so long ago did in fact have sieved hard-boiled eggs in it, and I kept that intact, making good use of one of my favorite tools, the potato ricer. It helps bind the mixture and is a nod to its Russian roots. I changed all the spices and added fresh dill and an entire bottle of prepared horseradish, because we like our flavors a bit more assertive here in ‘Murica.

Meat mixture with sieved hard boiled eggs and lots of dill

There are no real secrets to make this a perfect party addition, and it’s also great for a cozy night at home, served with just a simple salad. Serve it cold, serve it hot; make it an app, make it an entrée. I used a springform pan here, but I have also made it in a scalloped-edge tart pan which gives it a great look. Take some of the extra dough scraps and create flowers or leaves to decorate the top.  Just make sure you have a removable-bottom pan for easy removal. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think!

russian meat pie slice on a white plate

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Russian Meat Pie - close up with sprig of dill

Old World Meat Pie with Horseradish and Dill

  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 68 as main, or 10 as appetizer 1x


This tasty beef pie is great hot or cold. Easy to pull together and pour into a ready-made crust, it is a real crowd pleaser year-round. 


  • Pastry for a double crust pie
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 small onions, minced, about 3 cups
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1 8-ounce bottle prepared horseradish, drained
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, coarsely ground (pulse in a spice grinder)
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds, coarsely ground (pulse in a spice grinder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch fresh dill, stems removed and finely chopped
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tablespoon half & half (cream, milk, whatever you have)


Preheat oven to 400oF. Lightly butter a 9-inch, deep-dish, removable-bottom springform or tart pan.  Arrange the bottom crust, pressing into the bottom and sides. Refrigerate until needed.

Sauté beef, breaking into small pieces, until no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a strainer and let fat drain off. Wipe out the pan and add the butter. When melted, add the onions and sauté until golden brown, about 13 – 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, press the hard-boiled eggs through a potato ricer or strainer until finely sieved.

Add the drained beef to the onions, and heat through. Sift the flour over the beef and stir in. Add the stock and stir again, cooking through 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir in the sieved eggs, the horseradish, pepper, mustard seeds, celery seeds, salt, and dill. Let the mixture cool.

Spoon cooled mixture into the bottom crust. Press down with the back of a spoon to compact. Cover with the remaining pie dough, seal edges, and crimp decoratively. Cut several vent holes to allow steam to escape.

Mix egg yolk and half & half in a small bowl and brush the top of the pie. Place pan on a sheet pan to bake.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Serve hot or cold, as an appetizer or main.


If you cut the pie straight from the oven it will be a bit loose. Better to let it rest for 10 minutes to firm up. 

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Method: Stovetop, Oven

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© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2018. All rights reserved.

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Summer Entertaining – Graduation, Father’s Day, & Grilling!

Summer Entertaining – Graduation, Father’s Day, & Grilling!

Summer Entertaining: Graduation - Maranda and Katy Keck

I just had the chance to join Maranda on WOTV 4 Women’s program Maranda Where You Live to share with her viewers some ideas on how to zhouzz up a party –in this case graduation – by adding a few easy details that give it real style.  For entertaining, like most things in life, it’s the details that make the difference. Most of these style tips, with just a tweak here or there, will seamlessly slide from graduation, to Father’s Day…even to a wedding celebration. It’s summer entertaining at the brink of the season.

Summer Entertaining – Graduation with Style

I created a graduation celebration, themed around an outdoor event. In Western Michigan, we wait all year for this time.  It’s great because the temps are mild, the days are long, and who doesn’t want to keep the masses and that mess outside.  One of the tricky parts of any entertaining is how to avoid the long lines that form around buffets.  I’m more likely to not at eat at a party than to stand in line, and as a host that is not something you want! To hack that, I created a menu that is grab and go. Everything is pre-served and portable. And I suggest scattering dishes around the patio, grouping two or three items together, to help spread the crowd. It’s best to cluster around a central theme – maybe a vegetarian station, or a dessert station, or together by temperature – the hots, the colds…you get the idea.

Draining Salsa to Make Turkey Burger - in a sieve with a platter of turkey burger sliders behind

Kicked-Up Southwestern Turkey Burgers

One of the portables that I served was a slider. Assuming you don’t want to grill while you have guests – though I am fully aware that some hosts love that distraction – these turkey burger sliders can be grilled earlier in the day and reheated to serve. But won’t they dry out? Au contraire! By adding a jar of drained salsa to the ground turkey, the flavor profile is kicked up a notch and the salsa adds both moisture and depth of flavor. Its super simple and you are letting the salsa factory do all the heavy lifting of lots of chopping and roasting the chipotle.

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Juicy Turkey Burger sliders on mini buns with guacamole and tomato slice on a pedestal plate

Kicked-Up Southwestern Turkey Burgers

  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 24 sliders or 8 full-size hungry-girl burgers 1x


Turkey burgers can get a real boost in the flavor profile category by just adding a jar of drained salsa to the ground turkey. The salsa adds both moisture and depth of flavor. Why not let the salsa factory do all the heavy lifting by roasting chipotles and doing all the chopping for you. More time to enjoy, less time in the kitchen. 


  • 16 ounce jar of favorite salsa, drained and liquid discarded (or saved to season a sauce)
  • 3 pounds ground turkey
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


Pour the salsa into a fine mesh strainer, set over a bowl to drain. Set aside for 20 minutes or more until the liquid has been released.

Mix the turkey, drained salsa, shallots, cumin, salt and pepper by hand until mixed through and shape into patties.

Grill over a medium-hot fire until cooked through (timing depends on burger size).  Poultry should always be thoroughly cooked.


These are best made ahead and left to chill in the refrigerator for an hour or up to a day or two. This gives the patty time to firm up.

They also freeze really well, and so I tend to make a large batch and wrap in plastic wrap, individually. I spread them out on a tray to freeze. Then once frozen solid, I transfer to a big Ziploc. 

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes (plus draining and chilling time)
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Mains
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Southwestern

Veggie Shooters - shot glasses with crudite and dipping sauce

Veggie Shooters

The next idea I showed was veggie shooters – using a shot glass or even a disposable clear plastic. By transferring the ranch dressing to a squeeze bottle (think diner ketchup or mustard bottle), you can put a squirt in the bottom of each shot glass without “sliming” the sides.  Then just tuck in an assortment of fresh veggies – carrot sticks, celery, multi-color peppers, snow peas.  And I tuck different combinations in each glass because not everyone will like them all, so pick let your guests pick what suits them.  Could this be any cuter? 

For all the dishes, both savory and sweet, I used herbs, flowers and vegetables to create super simple garnishes for each tray.  It’s that little extra touch that will let your guests know you “THOUGHT OF EVERYTHING”!!

Fresh Mozzarella and Grilled Pineapple Brochettes skewered on rosemary branch

Fresh Mozzarella and Grilled Pineapple Skewers

For the last savory dish, I used rosemary sprigs in lieu of toothpicks – both flavorful and adorable.  I marinated some mini mozzarella and grilled pineapple rings, then assembled.  Very fresh tasting! Be sure to get the pot of rosemary at the nursery or garden center and plant what remains in your herb bed so it can regrow…because you ARE going to want to do this again. Cut the sprig with sharp scissors so you get a point and remove the bottom few leaves to create the “pick”. 

Individual Banana Cream Pies in mason jars

Portable Pies: mini banana cream pies in individual mason jars

Mini Banana Cream Pies

For dessert and continuing with the portable idea – in this case pie – I used mason jars to create individual banana cream pies.  This is a no-recipe recipe and takes good advantage of all basic supermarket items: vanilla wafers, banana pudding (2 minutes to mix with cold milk), sliced bananas and some whipped topping. Crush a few more wafers on top.  Sometimes super cute goes a long way to mask shortcut cooking. Shhh don’t tell anyone. That’s a professional tip and I could get kicked out of my professional tip society. This dish lands squarely in the “People Love It!” category. A+!


Diploma Cookies tied with a ribbon on a white plate

Diploma Cookies

And then just because I could……diploma cookies – using packaged pirouette cookies, tied with a ribbon. Adorable. Easy. Win. Win.


S\'Mores Bar with cans of sterno, jumbo marshmallows, Hersheys and grahams

DIY S’mores

There is always a pride of ownership when you contribute to a meal, so let your guests help cook dessert with a DIY S’mores Bar – featuring GIANT Kraft Jet-Puffed marshmallows.  (I’m personal friends with JP, the Jet-Puffed guy!)

My Main Man JP, the Jet Puffed Marshmallow man

Giant Jet-Puffed Marshmallows in a basket with skewers for a DIY smores bar

There are a lot of ways to set up the fuel station – creating a bed of river rock – or even charcoal briquettes as a prop – to surround the fuel.  Make sure to place this in a low wind area, with proper ventilation and pay attention to potential flammables, keeping them far away.  (It wouldn’t hurt to have a fire extinguisher under the table, because like an umbrella, if you have it, you won’t need it). Now you can find Green Heat products that are environmentally friendly and bio-degradable, as well as safe for direct contact with food. They are plant-derived, and come from corn-based ethanol and are non-toxic.  Look for those – good for you, good for the planet.  

Jenga Time - write your wish for the graduate on a jenga piece they will treasure for life

Making Memories

I ended the segment with a couple ways to make memories, something that is important for every celebration. Using a Jenga set – along with a bunch of markers – guests can add their wishes or advice, date and sign it – and the grad will have a keepsake to remember this day forever. Can you imagine the day when Bubba Junior will be playing Jenga with his grandchildren and a smile will cross his face thinking about this incredible party you hosted – back when?

Jenga Memories - close of Jenga wishes with a glass full of sharpies

Portable Photo Booth - Frame with handles on the back for impromptu poses

And the final portable for the party: a photo booth.  Along with a few photo booth-type props (mortarboards on a stick) and one giant frame, this show can go on the road….grabbing photos of the grad and guests throughout the party.  The frame can be decorated for a princess, a sports career, or the college that lies ahead. Just screw a couple drawer pulls into the back so all those in the photograph can help hold it.  By being hand-held, this has the added advantage of going from portrait to landscape orientation and from straight on to cockeyed.  That variety of angles will inspire a lot of candid moments, making for a great souvenir photo book which you can give at Christmas when your grad comes home from college! And what a great chance to reinforce the idea of gratitude. He can print the photos and write the guests a note of thanks …for the support …for the gift… for being part of the day. Just slap a stamp on it and mail a photo of the guest and grad enjoying this wonderful celebration.

Have Fun! And that’s an order!!!

The most important thing to remember is to enjoy the day. You have worked hard for whatever it is you are celebrating – getting a child through school, walked down the aisle, or even your own significant anniversary – put your focus on planning and prepping, but the minute the doorbell rings, close the door on stress and open the front door with a big old smile to greet your guests. This day is as much about your achievements as those of your graduate.  No matter how awry a plan may have gone, no one but you will know. In the business, we have a saying no matter how a dish turns out: “That’s the way we like it.”  That might be the most important lesson I ever learned from Anna Teresa Callen, the great Italian cooking teacher.  She’d just shake her head and smile and in her wonderful Italian lilt, whisper….”Ah! That’s the way I like it!”

Thank you Maranada for the kind invitation! And the rest of you, check out the segment on Maranda Where You Live!

Maranada and Katy Keck on set posing in a picture frame

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2017. All rights reserved.

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