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Ken Kelley's Seminar Buns: tasty unique interitance


Last updated 3/1/2007 at Noon

From time to time I’ve written about Kenena (Ken) MacKenzie Kelley. We met when I was still in high school and she was a well known professional scriptwriter for General Mills. Ken cooked up a gourmet storm in her private life and I was blessed enough to partake of many meals at her home. Plus, I was one of a select group of women invited to her seminars held every fall.

Picture yourself in a cozy cottage-like home situated on a lovely lake talking about foods, cooking and entertaining. Just the thoughts cause me to smile… and get my salivary glands working.

Ken would give a short lecture on the menu she had created, “walk” us through printed recipes and at the end, provide much needed sustenance in the form of her “Seminar Buns.”

I revisited my Ken Kelley recipe collection and the cookbook “Ken Kelley Cooks” that eight of us put together after Ken died. What a legacy and inheritance she left! Just reading the recipes I can almost taste them and remember her simple elegance, sparing creations and wit. Ken was probably the first accomplished food professional I knew well. She gifted me with her collection of recipes and clippings. What a tasty and unique inheritance that I am pleased to share today.

Master Recipe for

Ken’s Seminar Buns

Choose hamburger buns of whatever flavor might compliment the filling: onion, sesame seed, poppy seed or rye. Or, use hot dog buns. For a large buffet, use smaller buns.

Fill buns with amount of filling desired.

Place filled buns side by side (unwrapped) in a pan large enough to hold. If the pan is deep enough, a second layer may be added. A large roasting pan with vented cover is ideal. Cover pan, leaving vent open. Or, using foil, cover pan, leaving small opening so steam can vent.

Place in a 325-degree oven and heat until buns are warmed through, about 30-40 minutes.

If you do not need a whole pan of buns, wrap each bun loosely in foil and heat in a 325-degree oven about 15-20 minutes.

This must have been one of Ken’s favorites, as in her unassuming way she seldom named anything after herself. Do go to the extra little effort of toasting the walnuts… they are ever so much more flavorful. Try it just once and you’ll see that this small measure of effort pays off with large flavor dividends.

Ken’s Buns

1 can (7 oz.) tuna, flaked

½ cup chopped toasted walnuts*

1 cup chopped celery

¼ cup minced green pepper

¼ cup minced onion

2 tbsp. pimento, chopped

¼ tsp. salt

¼ cup mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients lightly. Pile into buns. Heat as directed in Master Recipe. Serve with chops, if desired.

*Ken’s Toasted Walnuts

Drop walnuts into rapidly boiling water. Boil 3 minutes. Drain well on paper toweling. Spread in a shallow pan and bake in a 350-degree oven, stirring often, for 12-15 minutes. Watch carefully as smaller pieces will toast faster. Remove and cool. Walnuts can be toasted and then placed in a plastic bag and frozen so they are ready when needed.

I remember this bun as if I tasted it just yesterday… a chicken salad recipe with a twist. Canned boned chicken was used in the original recipe. Today we have many choices for cooked chicken so you can select the one that is the most convenient and best value.

Chicken Peanut Buns

1 can (5 oz.) boned chicken, chopped

1 cup minced celery

¼ cup minced onion

¼ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup sour cream

1 tbsp. minced herbs

1 tbsp. lemon juice

½ cup salted peanuts, chopped

Mix all ingredients. Taste for salt, adding salt if needed. Pile into buns. Heat according to Master Recipe and serve.

Ken was a cosmopolitan traveler with an insatiable curiosity and great imitative skill. In this recipe she combined the popular concept of “Veronique” (which teamed chicken and green grapes) into a humble bun.

Tuna Veronique en Buns

2 cans (7 oz. each) tuna, drained and flaked

1 cup finely chopped celery

¼ cup minced onion

1 cup seedless grapes, halved

¼ cup toasted chopped almonds

½ cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup sour cream

½ tsp. garlic

1 tbsp. minced chives

1 tbsp. minced herbs (parsley, tarragon, oregano)

Combine drained flaked tuna with remaining ingredients. Fill buns and serve cold.

Sardines… either you like them or you don’t. For those who do, here’s a satisfyingly simple sardine sandwich suited to a simple supper.

Sardine Buns

12 boneless sardines, chopped (about ½ can)

¼ cup mayonnaise

1-2 dashes Tabasco

4 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

2 tsp. dill weed

2 tsp. minced parsley

½ tsp. chives or dried minced onion

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. Jane’s Crazy Mixed Up Salt

Mix all ingredients. Fill buttered buns and heat according to Master Recipe. Or, serve cold.

Barbecued beef and beans in a bun would be good for lunch or supper and certainly a popular choice for a church potluck.

Barbecue Buns

1 lb. ground beef

1 medium onion, finely chopped

½ green pepper, chopped

1 can (1 lb.) kidney beans, drained

1 cup barbecue sauce

Salt and pepper

½-1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Brown meat, stirring from time to time. Drain off fat. Add onion and green pepper. Cook 5 minutes. Add beans and barbecue sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer slowly for 20 to 30 minutes. Add cheese and cook just until cheese melts. Fill warm buns and serve.

Or, follow Master Recipe for warming buns.

Prepared chutney adds great flavor to this unusual chicken salad mixture designed to fill buns. Miniature buns would make this a savory choice for cocktail fare.

Chicken Chutney Buns

3 cups minced cooked chicken

½ cup minced celery

¼ cup chutney, cut up

¼ cup minced green onion

1 ½ tsp. dry mustard

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup sour cream

2 tbsp. minced parsley

1 tbsp. Durkee’s Sauce

Combine ingredients. Fill buns. Follow Master Recipe for heating. Serve warm with chips.

Pizza is possibly the top choice for many meals. Here’s a variation of pizza flavors combined in a bun… a good choice for a family lunch or supper.

Pizza Buns

1 can (3 oz.) chopped mushrooms

1 lb. ground beef

1 envelope (1 ½ oz.) spaghetti sauce mix

½ cup water


8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Drain mushrooms, reserving liquid. Mince mushrooms. Brown ground beef, stirring. Drain off fat. Ad sauce mix, minced mushrooms, mushroom liquid and water. Season with oregano. Simmer 15 minutes. Spread on halves of buns. Top with cheese. Serve hot.


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