Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Creepiest, Scariest Sauces for Halloween

The Ghost Hot Sauce
Some holidays are strongly linked with a specific food, so much so that the mere mention of the holiday brings to mind its trademark food.

For Thanksgiving, it's turkey.

For Easter, it's ham (or maybe chocolate bunnies if you're a kid, or a kid at heart).

For Halloween, it's......   Hot Sauce!

Contrary to popular belief, candy is not the perfect Halloween food.  For me, it's hot sauce. After all, spicy foods and chili peppers can be pretty scary in terms of heat level (the aptly-named "ghost pepper" immediately comes to mind), and there are plenty of frighteningly fiery hot sauces with creepy labels and fear-inspiring names.  In support of my claim, I present to you my list of the top ten creepiest, scariest hot sauces for Halloween:

10.  The Ghost Hot Sauce: Made with the notorious bhut jolokia "ghost pepper," The Ghost hot sauce will continue to haunt your tongue and mouth long after it's gone. Made in the Caribbean style with carrots and papaya in a lime juice and vinegar base, this hot sauce has one of the scarier ghost labels on the market, making it a good choice for displaying on Halloween.
Fear Hot Sauce

9.  Fear Hot Sauce: The eerie, blood-spattered spectral image on the label of this jolokia hot sauce reminds me of the movie "The Ring." Approach this extreme hot sauce with extreme care, and be ready to get scared.

8.  You Can't Handle This Hot Sauce: This classic ultra-hot hot sauce taunts you with its name and the smirking demon daring you try it. Its exotic molasses-cinnamon-cloves flavor initially seduces you and just when you think you're safe, the fiery heat blasts you out of nowhere. CAN you handle this hot sauce?? Try it and find out.

7.  The Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce Gift Box: This hot sauce gift box comes with four full-size bottles of popular and powerful ghost pepper hot sauces, making it an ideal gift for anyone who craves the punishing punch of the naga jolokia chile. It's also a great value for a Halloween party.

Bat's Brew Hot Sauce
6.  Bat's Brew Hot Sauce: Hailing from the Transylvania, Louisiana area, this intensely hot habanero & jalapeno hot sauce is a natural choice for gracing a Halloween dinner table or party buffet spread. It also makes an excellent spicy marinade for chicken, meat, shrimp and seafood.

5.  Zakk Wylde's Berserker Shot to Hell Hot Sauce: From the makers of the skull-decorated Blair's Death hot sauces, this insanely intense hot sauce is nightmare-inducing both in its packaging and in its heat. Made from two types of habaneros, jolokia pepper, cayenne, chipotle and pepper extract, one taste and you'll swear you've been shot to hell.

Ass Reaper Hot Sauce
4.  Ass Reaper Hot Sauce: With its skull-topped cap wearing a black cloth cape, this grim-reaper themed hot sauce is an obvious choice for displaying on Halloween. Habaneros, scotch bonnet peppers and African pepper extract deliver an equally frightful heat level.

3.  Widow No Survivors Hot Sauce: This one is high on my list of terrifying hot sauces simply because of the black widow spider on the label and the large, realistic plastic black spider that comes attached to the neck of the bottle. Arachnophobes beware...

2.  Satan's Blood Hot Sauce:  This had been my favorite Halloween hot sauce for years, not just because of its name and the intimidating devil image but because of its unique bottle shape, reminiscent of old vials of poison or dangerous laboratory concoctions. Satan's Blood is a pure pepper extract rather than a hot sauce, so handle with extreme caution and never serve directly on food.

Pure Evil/Ultra Death 1 Million Scoville Club
1.  Pure Evil & Blair's Ultra Death 1 Million Scoville Club: This is my new favorite hot sauce selection for Halloween. Pure Evil is all-natural 15 million SHU strength pure capsaicin in a dropper bottle, and Blair's Ultra Death is a naga jolokia pepper sauce packing over 1 million SHU (and it comes with the legendary Blair's skull keychain). You get both of these shockingly hot items when you order the 1 Million Scoville Club Gift Set.

What is YOUR favorite hot sauce or food for Halloween? Leave us a comment to let us know.
Happy Halloween, y'all!

Zestfully yours,

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Last Chance to Get Your Oct VIP Coupon!

Our exclusive Carolina Sauce Company VIP coupon sale ends tomorrow on Halloween... Have you received your special 7% off VIP coupon yet?

If not, and if you'd like VIP savings at the Carolina Sauces online store, simply send me an email that says "Sign Me Up!" and I'll send you your exclusive October VIP coupon and add you to our VIP list.

As a Carolina Sauce VIP, you'll receive our FREE e-Newsletter once a month (and only once a month - unlike other companies, we won't bug you with frequent emails). In each monthly newsletter you'll find a private coupon or reward offer to thank you for being a loyal customer and subscriber, plus a featured recipe or food/grilling tips, and the latest news on products recently added to our offerings.  Our newsletter is always free and sent only once a month, your email will never be sold, shared, disclosed or added to other lists, and you can unsubscribe anytime.

Our October VIP coupon is a great way to stretch your dollars while getting a jump-start on your holiday shopping for friends and family who enjoy zesty barbecue sauce or collect hot sauces, or who prefer hot & spicy snacks. And with monthly VIP savings and other newsletter benefits, you won't have to worry about last-minute gifts, recipe ideas or exceeding your budget.

Email us at to receive your private coupon, good through October 31st.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you're reading this after Halloween, don't despair: You can still email me to be added to our VIP list, or simply sign up here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

How to Cook Bacon in Your Oven

Oven-Cooked Bacon
Until yesterday, I had almost always cooked bacon in a skillet or frying pan on the stove. The "almost" refers to one misguided attempt at cooking bacon in a microwave oven, said method resulting in unappealingly flaccid, anemic-looking bacon and a greasy mess involving environmentally unfriendly quantities of paper towels.

Today I decided to make bacon in my (conventional) oven, after hearing from friends about this method and finding articles on the internet proclaiming the wonders--or at least the convenience--of oven-cooked bacon. Oven-cooking bacon is touted as easier and less messy than pan-frying because no turning is involved, no splattering occurs, and the resulting flat strips of bacon are ideal for BLTs, hamburgers and other sandwiches.

Being someone who doesn't believe everything she reads on the internet, I approached this experiment with doubt and skepticism, a large roll of paper towels and a fire extinguisher, just in case.

The first decision I had to make was whether to preheat the oven or to turn the oven on only after placing the bacon in the oven. I chose the "cold oven" method  simply because it would take slightly longer and I needed the time to prep other ingredients for the dinner recipe I would make with the cooked bacon.

Next, I had to choose whether to lay the bacon strips on a baking pan, on which they would cook in their own glorious grease, or to place them on a ridged broiler pan or a cooling rack placed over a baking pan so that the rendered bacon fat would drip down and result in "healthier," "less fatty" bacon (which, in my opinion, somewhat defeats the purpose of bacon). Having a sufficiently large oven, I decided to use both methods simultaneously in order to compare the results.

After laying the raw bacon on the foil-lined baking pan and the cooling racks precariously balanced over a pan, I carefully placed both pans on the center rack in my cold oven, turned the oven up to 400°F, and set my timer for 15 minutes. I then left the oven alone while I worked on other things, and resisted the urge to take a peek when the seductive scent of of cooking bacon began to tease my nose. When the buzzer sounded, I checked the bacon for doneness and found that neither set of bacon was fully cooked after only 15 minutes, although the bacon sizzling on the foil-covered pan had made more progress than the strips suspended on the rack. This observation was consistent with what I had read in several articles, most of which called for a 17- to 20-minute baking time when using the cold oven method. Thus I returned the pans to the oven and set my timer for an additional 3 minutes.

Back in the oven to cook longer (the bacon in the pan was a little more cooked)
When the buzzer sounded for the second time, it took me an additional minute or so before I was able to remove the pans from the oven, so the complete cooking time was probably close to 20 minutes. This time, the bacon looked crispy, with bronzed-pink and golden color, plenty of percussive sizzling (you can see the frothy fat bubbling on the strips on the pan below), and emitting that unmistakable bacon aroma. Below are the results:

As recommended by various online sources, I immediately transferred the cooked bacon to a large plate lined in paper towels to absorb excess grease.

My observations: To my surprise, the bacon suspended on the racks seemed no less greasy than that cooked directly on the pan in its own rendered fat. The suspended bacon, however, didn't crisp as much as the "oven-fried" bacon in the foil-lined pan, but this difference was minor. Once they were all placed on the paper towels and had "rested" for a minute, it was difficult to tell which strips had been cooked in which manner.

My verdict: Oven-cooking method is indeed quite easy, fool-proof and convenient, especially if your goal is crispy, flat bacon requiring minimal post-cooking cleanup. If effortless cleanup is most important, then forget the rack method and stick with the foil-lined pan. Not only did the rack method require careful handling to keep the bacon from falling through the spaces, but the racks had to be cleaned after cooking. In contrast, the foil kept the pan from getting dirty and I simply lifted out the foil, folded it up to pour the rendered fat into a container, and then discarded the foil. The rack-cooked bacon didn't seem to have rendered any more grease than the pan-cooked bacon, thus eliminating any "health" advantage to the more complicated rack method. 

In sum, cooking bacon in your oven at 400°F on a foil-lined pan produces crispy, yummilicious bacon with little effort and virtually no mess--and no fire extinguisher required. Using your oven frees you and your stove to cook or do other things while the bacon cooks. And if your goal is to make flat strips of bacon for sandwiches, definitely forget the frying pan and use your oven. Just remember to start checking on the bacon after 15 minutes of cooking, or sooner if using a preheated oven, because ovens heat up at different rates and vary in their efficiency.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you can't get enough bacon flavor in your life but don't care for adding more fat or cholesterol to your diet, simply use some of our bacon-flavored sauces and condiments, such as Bacon Hot Sauce or Bacon Ketchup (and we have more coming soon)! And of course we also have the real deal, from old-fashioned dry-cured, hickory smoked North Carolina bacon to many varieties of gourmet, flavored and specialty bacon.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

2012 Lexington NC BBQ Festival: Making the Best of Disappointment

The 29th Annual Lexington NC Barbecue Festival was held yesterday in charming uptown Lexington, North Carolina, which is located in the Triad region (near High Point, Greensboro & Winston-Salem) of the state. Despite having lived in NC for almost 30 years, including 5 of them in Winston-Salem, I had never visited this festival--although I have eaten at several excellent BBQ joints in and around Lexington over the years. At long last, I finally was able to attend yesterday's event, and did so with the expectation of a celebration of all things barbecue with offerings from some of the area's most celebrated restaurants.

I was sadly mistaken, and as a result, disappointed.

Don't get me wrong, there was barbecue at the Lexington Barbecue Festival, but only at three large "barbecue tents" dishing out mass-produced (albeit wood-smoked) chopped BBQ. Choices were limited to BBQ sandwiches and BBQ trays, both with a helping of Lexington's signature red slaw, and for an additional few bucks you could get a cup of "pig tails" aka curly fries. The tents were closed off with plywood walls, with "bank teller" style openings through which you would order and pay, and receive your food. It was rather disconcerting to me that I could not see past the "teller" to glimpse at the food before receiving my order. There were NO other vendors serving up barbecue; instead, you had your typical selection of carnival and fair food ranging from funnel cakes and deep-fried candy bars to giant turkey legs, roast corn, sausage, and a few unusual (for a street festival) items like crab cakes and French style apple desserts.

Having driven almost two hours to get there, we were NOT going to leave without eating some barbecue, so we decided to make the best of a disappointing situation and ordered the BBQ tray from one of the three large tents. Here is what we got:

This was more than enough to feed two hungry people, and by carnival-food standards the barbecue was actually quite good (although nowhere near the quality of what you'd expect at the best BBQ joints). The pork had indeed been slow-smoked over wood, with tell-tale crunchy bits amid the tender, subtly smoky chopped meat, and the seasoning complemented the pork without calling attention to any individual spices. Surprisingly, there was no additional barbecue sauce to be seen anywhere for those of us who like to add some to the pork. The red slaw was the real star, at least for me given my preference for Piedmont or Lexington slaw. This was crisp, finely chopped cabbage mixed with western NC barbecue sauce instead of mayonnaise, for a bright and tangy, slightly sweet flavor hinting at the blend of tomato and vinegar that defines Lexington style barbecue sauce (an excellent example of this type of sauce is Jim's Own Homestyle BBQ Sauce).

Making fried apple pies
Having enjoyed some authentic, if not fantastic, local barbecue, we spent a few hours wandering the well-attended festival, watching the entertainment and checking out some of the vendors... in other words, making the best of situation that didn't meet our original expectations.

The event was much more of a typical small-town street carnival with local arts and crafts for sale, a few companies selling NC barbecue sauces and other North Carolina products, plenty of other merchandise for sale, some kiddie rides and a rather intense-looking corn hole tournament, several stages with live music, and the aforementioned carnival food. A juggler and a few costumed "mascots" also meandered through the festival. If you wanted to, you could watch vendors frying up pork rinds and making old-fashioned deep-fried apple pies, and then enjoy these snacks piping-hot and fresh from the fryer.

The only evidence of the festival's barbecue theme were the giant sand sculpture featuring cartoon pig characters, a fenced-off area where pig races were to take place (like the ones at the State Fair), and several large signs/directories for the festival. Even the three large tents serving barbecue were rather nondescript and tucked down side streets, most likely to cut down on congestion from the tens of thousands of attendees.

After seeing everything there was to see and visiting with our friends from Nephew's BBQ Sauce, we hit the road back to Durham--but stopped for an early dinner at Allen & Son Barbecue to satisfy our craving for the kind of slow-smoked, swooningly good pulled pork that we had hoped to find at the festival.

Will I be back for the 30th anniversary of the Lexington BBQ Festival next October? Probably not, if the same format continues. Instead, I might visit Lexington next spring for their barbecue cook-off and competition, where I had better find plenty of what the city boasts to be the best barbecue in the world.

Zestfully yours,

PS:  You can see more photographs from the Lexington BBQ Festival on the Carolina Sauce Company Facebook page.  And you can see more photos from Allen & Son Barbecue on Pinterest.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ruby Risotto with Shrimp & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

This risotto is perfect for winter, when you might not have ready access to fresh herbs or good tomatoes. The deep ruby or burgundy color comes from red wine, which is more likely to be used in winter risottos than in summer risottos that typically call for white wine. Make sure to use a good-quality Parmigiano (parmesan) cheese, and not the stuff that comes from the green can.

Unlike traditional risotto recipes that demand nearly constant stirring and the slow addition of liquid, I used the short-cut of adding all the liquid at once. As a result, it took me well under an hour to make my Ruby Risotto with Shrimp & Sun-Dried Tomatoes, proving once again that it's possible to make great-tasting, wholesome, home-made dinners from scratch without slaving in the kitchen for hours.

2 cups water
1 cup chicken stock or fish/seafood stock
1 cup red wine (preferably Italian)
1 cup Carnaroli rice (or other risotto rice)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomato strips (not oil-packed)
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 lb raw medium shrimp, peeled, deveined & tail removed
Frontier Tarragon Leaf Cut & Sifted CERTIFIED ORGANIC 0.42 oz. Bottle
1 Tbs olive oil OR bacon fat
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp dried tarragon
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Bring the water, stock and wine to a boil in a deep, lidded saucepan. Add rice, sun-dried tomato, salt & pepper, stir, reduce heat to low and cover. Let simmer for 15 minutes to 20 minutes. 

While the rice is simmering, heat the oil or fat in a frying pan over medium-high heat and saute onion & garlic until translucent and softened. Reduce heat to medium, add shrimp, marjoram & tarragon and cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp turns pink and is done. Remove from heat and set aside.

Uncover rice and check for doneness: If there's still liquid, bring back up to a simmer and cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender (I like it a little al dente), about 5 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent sticking. When rice is done, stir in the shrimp mixture and cheese. Taste for balance and season with additional salt & pepper if desired. Serve hot.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Want to be a Carolina Sauce VIP with VIP-Only Benefits?

The official launch of the NEW, greatly improved & vastly expanded Carolina Sauces online store will take place tomorrow! In celebration of this event, we're giving our VIP customers a special discount coupon for bigger, better savings available only to Carolina Sauce VIPs.

Are you a Carolina Sauce VIP? If you're on our monthly Newsletter mailing list, you already are.... And we thank you for being a subscriber and a loyal customer!

Would you like to be a Carolina Sauce VIP?

It's easy: Simply sign up for our FREE newsletter, and you'll join our VIP club!

As a VIP, you'll receive exclusive benefits like VIP-only coupons and savings, a special monthly recipe published only in our Newsletter, and a chance to receive preferred-customer rewards and savings.

If you want to receive our October Newsletter with our first VIP coupon & recipe, be sure to subscribe TODAY because the newsletter will go out tomorrow morning, October 25th.

If you're reading this on or after October 25th, don't worry, you can still sign up and receive future monthly coupons, recipes & savings because we send a new Newsletter to our VIPs every month.

If you have any problems signing up, or have any questions, just leave a comment below or send an email to and we'll make sure you get on our VIP list. You can also contact us on Facebook.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you're used to reading our monthly Newsletter on this blog, I have good news and bad news. First the bad news: We will no longer be publishing the Newsletter here, and instead will make it available only to subscribers (VIPs). Now the good news: To keep reading our monthly newsletters, simply subscribe to the Carolina Sauce Newsletter.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spicy Honey-Rum Kabocha & Apple Smash

This winter squash recipe balances savory, sweet and spicy flavors in a vegan/vegetarian side dish that will complement your favorite Autumn entrees, be they vegetarian or meat-based (e.g., roast pork or chicken, venison or game birds, and even steak or holiday turkey).  The mellow sweetness and mild to medium spiciness comes from Dog-Gone Honey Rum Hot Sauce, a delectably different gourmet hot sauce made from all-natural ingredients including pineapple, mango, honey, peri-peri and cayenne peppers plus a splash of dark rum. You control how spicy-hot to make the dish by adjusting the amount of hot sauce to suit your taste.

I call this recipe a "smash" for two reasons: First, the roasted squash and apple are "smashed up" either by hand with a potato masher or fork for a chunky texture (shown in photo), or processed in a food processor for a smooth puree; and second, rum is one of the ingredients thanks to the hot sauce-- but don't get too excited because there's nowhere near enough rum to make YOU smashed or even tipsy.  Although the cooking time is long (about 2 hours), the actual hands-on prep time is very brief, no more than 10 minutes. I used a 2-lb kabocha squash, which made enough for 4 side servings. You can use other winter squash like acorn, hubbard or even pumpkin, and adjust the ingredient quantities depending on the weight of your uncooked squash.

For a pretty, seasonal presentation, garnish the served squash & apple smash with a bit of fresh sage.

Honey-Rum Hot Sauce
1 kabocha or other winter squash (approx. 2 lbs)
1 apple
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbs olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp dried sage, divided
Salt & pepper to taste
1 to 2 Tbs Dog-Gone Honey Rum Hot Sauce (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 450°F. Halve the squash vertically (from stem to bottom) and scoop out the seeds & fibers. Place squash halves, cut side up, in a small enough baking dish to keep the halves upright (I used an 8"x8"x2" baking dish). Add half of the onion into the cavity of each squash half. Quarter and core the apple, then cut into small cubes. Fill each squash half with cubed apple (I had a few apple cubes left over and snacked on them as the squash roasted). Drizzle each stuffed squash half with 1 Tbs of olive oil, sprinkle each with 1/4 tsp dried sage and then season with salt & pepper to taste. 

Ready to roast
Carefully pour about 1/4 cup of water into the baking dish around the squash, cover the dish with foil and roast in preheated oven until the squash is fork-tender--this can take anywhere from 1 1/2 hrs to over 2 hrs. Check the squash after one hour and add more water to the dish if necessary. When squash is almost done, remove foil and continue to roast, uncovered, until done, to add a touch of golden-brown color.

When squash is tender, remove dish from oven and allow to cool until the squash halves are safe to handle without burning yourself. Use a large spoon to scoop the squash flesh and filling into a bowl or your food processor, being careful not to include pieces of the squash shell. Add hot sauce (start with 1 Tbs to make sure you don't make it too spicy) and then either mash by hand or puree in food processor to desired consistency.  If the smash is too thick during processing, add just a little bit of broth or water or olive oil. Taste for balance and season with more salt or hot sauce if desired. Refrigerate leftovers, as they taste even better the next day.

Zestfully yours,

PS: When you buy Dog-Gone Hot Sauce, one hundred percent of the after-tax proceeds are donated to animal shelters and rescue groups.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Want a Sneak Peek at our NEW Carolina Sauce Co. Store?

If you're a regular reader of my blog and have been wondering what's been going on, you're in for a treat in the very near future. In addition to spending time at the North Carolina State Fair, which opened this past weekend (stay tuned for photos and reviews of the fair food), we've also been updating the Carolina Sauce website and online store, including a BRAND NEW updated design and layout, a HUGE expansion of our product offerings, fully integrated USPS shipping including shipping to Canada and other countries plus APO/FPO and PO Boxes and Hawaii and Alaska and US Territories, plus many other new features to make your shopping experience better than ever.

The updated logos shown here reflect the "country" or "rustic" look of the new online store while preserving the well-known Carolina Sauce Company name and images. And while the look may be rustic, the functionality of the new site itself is state-of-the-art, with much more robust search & sorting capabilities, and even a new feature that lets you post product reviews!

We're still adding the finishing touches to some of the features of the new online store, as well as incorporating a few products that are temporarily absent from the site. However, we're so excited about the new and improved website that we can't help ourselves and have to share a "sneak peek" to let you get an idea of what's (literally) in store. And yes, you can go ahead and shop on the site at this time!  Visit the NEW and IMPROVED Carolina Sauce online store.

***And here's a heads-up:  As soon as the new site is fully operational, we'll be emailing the October Newsletter with an exclusive discount coupon, available ONLY to newsletter subscribers! Unlike past newsletter issues, we will not be publishing the newsletter on this blog, so the only way to get this special discount coupon (it's not the coupon currently published on the site) is by signing up for our free monthly eNewsletter. If you're not already on our newsletter list, sign up here.

So, how do you like the new site so far? Leave us a comment below, or email us ( with your feedback and any questions. We'd love to hear from you!

Zestfully yours,

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How to Make Risen Buttermilk Biscuits

These light and fluffy biscuits are melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the buttermilk adds just the right amount of tang for genuine Southern flavor. If you want to be authentic and make these biscuits the old-fashioned way, use pure pork lard instead of vegetable shortening. In my opinion, lard produces the best results in terms of flavor and texture, but they're still darn good when made with vegetable shortening.

Biscuit-making is an art, which means that practice makes perfect. Don't despair if you don't achieve perfection your first few times, because less-than-perfect homemade biscuits fresh from the oven are still better than those from a can.

For a real Southern snack, split your homemade buttermilk biscuits in half and add a thick slice of country ham. And if you have some hoop cheese, add a slice of that, too. If you prefer, drizzle honey, molasses or sorghum over the split biscuits for a sweet treat. Nom nom nom...

Buy NC Country Ham
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup lard or vegetable shortening
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk
3 Tbs sugar
2 packages yeast

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Cut in the lard or shortening until the mixture resembles fine crumbs--two forks work well for this, and it helps if the lard or shortening are chilled. Combine the water and 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, and heat to lukewarm, about 115°F to 120°F. Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the warm water-buttermilk mixture. Make a hole in the middle of the flour-shortening mixture, then pour in the warm liquid. Stir with a wooden spoon, adding up to 1/2 cup of additional buttermilk if necessary to make the dough manageable. Turn dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and gently knead just a few times (not too much or else the biscuits will turn out tough). Roll out with a floured rolling pin to a thickness of about 1/2" and use a biscuit cutter, coffee cup or drinking glass to cut out biscuits. As you cut them, place the biscuits on a lightly greased baking sheet. You can mush together the leftover dough ends and roll out again to make more biscuits, repeating until all the dough is used up. Let the biscuits sit at room temperature to rise for about 10 minutes. While they're resting and rising, preheat oven to 400°F. After 10 minutes, bake the biscuits for about 12 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve hot.

Zestfully yours,

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sauce for a Cause is Back!

Buy Dog-Gone Sauce
The Carolina Sauce Company is excited to announce that the "Sauce for a Cause" section of our website is back! On this page you'll find sauces, snacks and other zesty products from manufacturers who have pledged to donate a portion of their proceeds to a nonprofit organization or other charitable cause. Thus, when you purchase any of the products listed on our Sauce for a Cause page, you'll also help to support a good cause while also enjoying some great tasting food. In other words, it's a win-win for all!

As of right now, we have the following products participating in this program:

Dog-Gone BBQ Turkey & Taters
*Dog-Gone Sauces (all-natural gourmet barbecue and hot sauces): This Florida-based company donates 100% (yes, one hundred percent) of their after-tax proceeds to animal shelters and rescue groups. If you enjoy zesty foods, love animals and want to help homeless dogs, cats and other creatures in need of some TLC and a good home, these mouthwatering sauces are for you. The barbecue sauce is thick and rich, with a savory-sweet, slightly smoky & spicy flavor that complements anything you grill or cook indoors. I used it to make Crock Pot BBQ Turkey Thighs & Taters (scroll down that post for the recipe), a ridiculously simple and family-pleasing dish you can serve "as is" or with rice or noodles. For hot sauce fans, Dog-Gone Sauces makes three fabulously feisty and flavorful varieties: Smoky Chipotle Hot Sauce (medium-hot), tropical Honey-Rum Hot Sauce (medium), and fruity Pineapple Honey Hot Sauce with habaneros (hot).

JT Pappy's Flaming Gator
*Another company supporting the fight against breast cancer is J.T. Pappy's Gator Sauces, makers of five all-natural mustard-tomato barbecue sauces that are savory and tangy, not sweet, with smoky notes and varying levels of heat. Choose from the mild original Gator Sauce and Hickory Heaven Sauce, the medium-heat Flaming Gator Sauce, the fiery Gator Grenade Hot BBQ Sauce, and the outrageous (in heat and in label!) Extra-Hot Termigator Sauce. Be sure to order plenty of your favorite(s) because these food-friendly barbeque sauces are among our best-sellers and sometimes they sell out faster than the manufacturer can make them!

Buy African Rhino Peri Peri Hot Sauce
*African Rhino Peri-Peri Hot Sauces are made here in the USA, but their heart belongs to the wilds of Africa. Made from the elusive peri-peri or birds' eye pepper (the hottest chile that's native to Africa), African Rhino uses peri peri peppers grown in Botswana and Mozambique especially for this line of sauces, and blends them with a rich, roasted-tomato base that's seasoned with roasted garlic and other all-natural ingredients for incomparable depth of flavor. Available in Mild, Hot and Extra Hot, your purchase of these hot sauces helps support Save the Rhino International, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and growing the rhino population through community-based initiatives (the Kalahari Pepper Company, manufacturer of African Rhino Hot Sauces, is an official corporate sponsor)

Save A Dog Hot Sauce
*Save A Dog Hot Sauce is named for a Massachusetts nonprofit that has rescued thousands of dogs from high-kill shelters in MA and from other states, as well. The organization uses foster homes and its own shelter to take in dogs of all breeds, shapes and sizes. Save-A-Dog Hot Sauce is a classic Louisiana-style vinegar pepper sauce that was created specifically as a fundraiser to support Save A Dog, and the manufacturer donates 50% of its retail sales to the organization. If you are a dog lover and are looking for a versatile, all-purpose hot sauce to use at the table and in your cooking, Save A Dog Hot Sauce is for you.

We plan to continue growing our selection of Sauce for a Cause products as we partner with more manufacturers and vendors, so be sure to bookmark the page and visit it often. And don't forget to shop there first when you're looking to buy hot sauce, BBQ sauce, peanuts or other tasty products.

Zestfully yours,

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Budget-Stretching Roasted Veggies with Crispy Greens

Disclaimer: The following is not really a recipe. It is "throw cooking" at its best: Use what you have on hand with minimal and simple preparation, and cook in a foolproof manner for flavorful results the whole family will love--yes, even the avowed vegetable-hater. As an added plus, this dish uses inexpensive ingredients that are packed with healthy vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other good stuff, and it's low in fat without sacrificing flavor.

Roasting produces deep layers of flavor ranging from rich, mellow earthiness to smooth, almost caramel-like sweetness in even the most ornery, unpopular vegetables including sharp radishes, pungent garlic, and ugly-duckling turnips. You can stretch your budget by buying root vegetables with their green tops intact and using the greens in this recipe. The greens are edible and nutritious, and thoroughly cooking them eliminates any bitterness or bite. Stir-frying until slightly crispy gives them an intriguing texture that contrasts pleasantly with the buttery roasted veggies, and also brings out a subtle sweetness by caramelizing some of the natural sugars in the greens.

If you don't have vegetables with green tops, you can substitute a bunch of chard, kale, collards, spinach, or other fresh dark leafy green. Remember, quantities and types don't matter. Likewise, although I only used salt and pepper, you can certainly add other seasonings such as dried or fresh chopped herbs, a squeeze or two of lemon juice, a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, or even a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce if you prefer spicy foods.

Here's how I made the version shown in the photos:

1 large onion, peeled, quartered and then sliced about 1/4" wide
15 to 20 peeled garlic cloves (or the peeled cloves from 1 head of garlic)
6 small sweet peppers, seeded & sliced into 1/4"wide rings
1 bunch red radishes with greens (save them), trimmed & halved or quartered
2 large carrots, peeled & cut into 1/2" thick rounds
Olive Oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss the vegetables (except the radish greens) with just enough olive oil to coat, then spread in a single layer on a roasting pan or shallow baking dish. Sprinkle to taste with salt & pepper. Place in oven on center rack and roast at 425°F for approx. 45 minutes or until tender and slightly caramelized, stirring once or twice to ensure even roasting.

While the vegetables are roasting, thoroughly wash the radish greens to remove all dirt and grit. Discard any wilted or yellow leaves and the tough stem ends (you can keep the thinner, more tender stems). Shake off excess water, then use a sharp knife to chop the greens fairly finely. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped greens and cook, stirring from time to time, until the greens become tender and have cooked down. Continue to cook, stirring regularly to stir-fry until the greens begin to crisp up and brown ever so slightly (they should be pretty dry, and you might need to reduce the heat a little to prevent burning). Remove from heat. When the vegetables are roasted, remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add the crispy greens and gently stir together. Taste for balance and season as desired with additional salt & pepper, or with herbs, or some lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, or hot sauce, etc. Refrigerate any leftovers and reheat or serve cold (I like to toss the cold leftovers with some balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil and then add to salad greens).

Zestfully yours,

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hot & Spicy Pumpkin-Chili Pepper Bread

My hot and spicy pumpkin & chili pepper bread is a different take on traditional pumpkin bread recipes, which are usually very sweet and only "spicy" in the sense that they call for cinnamon, nutmeg and other "warm" autumnal spices. In contrast, this bread is more savory, has a definite fiery kick from two kinds of hot peppers, and a deep, earthy flavor that hints at smokiness.

I used the pulp from a smoked pumpkin (instructions on how to smoke a pumpkin are included in this prior post on Smoked Pumpkin Pie). If you don't want to smoke a pumpkin, you can use regular cooked pumpkin puree, including canned. Just make sure it's pure pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling, and drain any excess liquid.

This is a quick bread, which means it doesn't use yeast and there's no rising time. My recipe below makes a pretty hot bread, probably too hot for people who don't eat much spicy food. You can control the spicy heat by the type of dried pepper and the amount of smoked habanero powder you use. If you're concerned about the heat level, substitute a milder chili pepper powder (pure ground peppers, not a chili powder blend containing other spices such as cumin) or a mild smoked paprika, and use a mild dried chile like ancho or Anaheim pepper. Or, use two different peppers for a more complex flavor.

Enjoy my hot & spicy pumpkin-chili pepper bread with butter, cream cheese--it's divine with pumpkin cream cheese or maple-walnut cream cheese--or with a scoop of ice cream (vanilla, cinnamon, or coffee).

1 large egg, beaten
1 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (smoked pumpkin is best)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground smoked habanero powder

1 or 2 dried New Mexico chilies or other large dried chilies (or 4 to 6 smaller dried chilies)

Place dried chilies in a small bowl and cover with hot water to rehydrate. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 5" x 9" bread pan with butter. Mix together the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl stir together the remaining ingredients except the dried chilies. When the chilies are soft enough to cut, remove from water (reserve the water) and use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to coarsely chop.

Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet and stir until thoroughly combined into a fairly stiff dough. If the dough is too dry, add a little bit of the soaking water from the dried chilies (I ended up adding 1/4 cup). Fold in the chopped dried chilies, then transfer the dough into the greased bread pan and place on center rack in oven. Bake at 350°F until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 1 hr 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hrs. Remove pan from oven and let sit for a few minutes, then carefully turn out onto a cooling rack until cool enough to handle. Wait until bread comes to room temperature before wrapping or otherwise storing. You can keep it at room temperature for a day, but after that it's best to refrigerate.

Zestfully yours,

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Top 10 Best-Selling Sauces etc. for September

Jamaica Hellfire 2 in 1
Below is the list of September's top ten best-selling sauces and other products at the Carolina Sauce Company. Among the "regulars" you'll find a brand-new sauce and the long-awaited return of an old favorite:

1. Jamaica Hell Fire 2 in 1 Hot Sauce is back atop our list of best-sellers, where it's been earlier this year. Created by a Jamaican doctor and bursting with exotic flavor, this all-purpose hot sauce is twice as hot--and twice as tasty--as your average vinegar pepper sauce.

2. Wells Hog Heaven BBQ Sauce continues to hold on to the second slot (and will likely finish in first place for the entire year). Made in Burgaw, NC, with a zesty blend of spices in a traditional eastern NC vinegar base without any tomatoes, Wells is ideal for making real North Carolina BBQ (pulled, chopped or sliced smoked pork), and for marinating chicken or splashing on cooked greens.

3. Matouk's West Indian Hot Sauce jumped up three spots from its August finish. This perennial favorite hails from Trinidad & Tobago and features a classic combination of aged scotch bonnet peppers and naturally sweet papaya in a thick mustard base for a festive blend of fire and heat.

Walkerswood Scotch Bonnet
4. Walkerswood Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce comes from the makers of Jamaica's famous Walkerswood jerk products. If you're looking for an honest scotch bonnet pepper vinegar sauce that works well with a multitude of foods, this is it.

5. Matouk's Calypso Sauce slipped two spots last month, but continues its impressive hold on a top-ten spot. It's similar to its 3rd-place sibling, but more savory rather than sweet, and with a more pronounced scotch bonnet flavor and heat.

6. JT Pappy's Hickory Heaven BBQ Sauce is back on our monthly best-seller list, and it seems that every month at least one member of the J.T. Pappy's Gator Sauce family is on the list. As its name suggests, Hickory Heaven is packed with rich smoky flavor. This savory, all-natural mustard-tomato barbecue sauce also boasts a pleasant peppery kick.

WingTime SuperHot Sauce
7. Busha Browne's Pukka Sauce is one of our all-time best-selling hot sauces, and comes to us from Jamaica like many other popular hot sauces. Unlike others, however, it's made from an old colonial recipe for a unique, spicy flavor of its own that pairs well with virtually anything savory from breakfast to dinner fare.

8. Wing Time Super Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce is a newcomer to the Carolina Sauces online store, and this incredibly HOT and tangy Buffalo style wing sauce made a triumphant entrance by finishing in the top ten for September. Habaneros provide the extra firepower and tomatoes add richness and body to the traditional tangy vinegar base.

9. Jim's Own BBQ Sauce & Rubs are made in North Carolina and have been long-absent from our website, but thanks to a new partnership directly with the manufacturers, we are once again able to offer their entire--and recently expanded--product line, including the original Lexington style Homestyle BBQ Sauce and the hot & spicy version along with the new Mustard BBQ Sauce and Smokey BBQ Sauce, and both of their new BBQ dry rubs.

Grill-Top PizzaQue Stone 10. Grill-Top Pizza Stone: This deluxe pizza stone lets you cook brick-oven style pizza on your grill for genuine pizzeria flavor. The porous-clay stone is mounted on a sleek stainless-steel base with a built-in thermometer to take the guesswork out of grilling pizza, calzones and homemade bread.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you're wondering what were our best-selling sauces, seasonings and other products broken down by category (e.g., best-selling hot sauces, best-selling barbecue sauces, etc.), simply visit our Best-Selling Products page where you can browse the category-specific lists for 2011. After the end of this year, we'll update these lists with the results for 2012.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ratatouille Quiche with a Southern Twist

Having made an enormous batch of ratatouille, I had just enough left over a few days later to use in a quiche. Although most quiche recipes call for a traditional European cheese such as Swiss, Gruyere or Cheddar, I decided to add a Southern (or North Carolina, to be more specific) twist to my quiche by using a locally made, aged hoop cheese.

For the uninitiated, hoop cheese is an old-fashioned cow's milk cheese common to the South, usually deep orange in color and with a rather soft texture that makes it easy to melt but not so easy to shred unless it's super-cold. The flavor usually is mild with just a little tang, unless the hoop cheese is aged, in which case it will be somewhat similar to a mild cheddar in flavor and the texture will also be somewhat firmer than regular hoop cheese.

My Ratatouille Quiche with a Southern Twist turned out quite lovely and colorful, and because the hoop cheese was not as strong or assertive as Swiss cheese would have been, the rich, savory flavor of the ratatouille shone through.

9" pie shell (I used whole wheat), partially baked*
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup milk (I used 1% low-fat)
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup shredded hoop cheese
1 cup ratatouille (drain off as much liquid as possible before measuring)
Optional garnish: A few fresh basil leaves

Ready to bake
*Preheat the oven to 375°F. If the pie shell is not already in a pie pan or quiche dish, place it in one. Put a pie weight or a few small clean stones in the shell (to keep it from puffing) and bake for 10 minutes until lightly golden. Remove the pie pan or quiche dish from oven, remove the weight, and place the pan or dish on a baking sheet (this will make it easier to move back into the oven after you've poured in the filling).

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, milk, salt & pepper and beat well. Stir in the cheese, then fold in the drained ratatouille and gently stir until thoroughly combined. Carefully pour into the pie shell, garnish top with a few basil leaves if desired, and place on middle rack in preheated oven. Bake at 375°F until the quiche has set and puffed, and is lightly browned, about 1 hr to 1 hr 15 minutes depending on your oven.

Zestfully yours,

PS: Quiche freezes well! All you have to do is make sure it's completely cooled before you wrap it tightly in freezer paper or heavy duty aluminum foil, then place in a freezer bag and squeeze out as much air before freezing. When you're ready, defrost in the refrigerator (overnight or for a full day), preheat your oven to 350°F, unwrap the quiche and heat in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until heated through.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Who Wants to Win FREE Hot Sauce & BBQ Sauce?

Dog-Gone Sauces
It's time to play the October Crock Pot Game on the CarolinaSauce Company Facebook Page

This month’s game has “gone to the dogs,” and that’s a GOOD thing: We’re giving away a Dog-Gone Sauce Prize Pack (shown on left) with a full-size bottle of: 

* Dog-Gone Pineapple Honey Hot Sauce, plus a Dog-Gone cutting board for your kitchen!

To play, simply visit our Facebook page (and “like” it if you haven’t done so already), find our Oct 1st Crock Pot Game post with the photo of our trusty old crock pot, called Grandma Gert (photo on right), and leave a comment to tell us about a strange food your pet likes to eat.  Don’t have a pet? Then tell us about a pet in your past, or a friend’s pet. You can comment as often as you wish, but only 1 comment per person/page will be counted. And because we can’t ship internationally, you must have a US shipping address to be eligible to win.

This month's game will run through 10pm on Thursday, October 4th, after which we’ll randomly draw a name from those who commented, and that lucky person will receive the Dog-Gone Sauce Prize Pack.

Dog-Gone Sauces are all-natural gourmet BBQ and hot sauces that were created specifically to help save and care for homeless animals. One hundred percent of the after-tax proceeds from each sale is donated to animal shelters and rescue groups.  Visit our Dog-Gone Sauces page to learn more about them, and to order them online.

Here is a super-easy crock pot or slow-cooker recipe for Dog-Gone Good BBQ Turkey Thighs & Taters (shown on left):

2 to 2 ½ lbs turkey thighs, skinned and frozen (I used boneless thighs but you can use bone-in)
1 to 1 ¼ lbs small red potatoes, halved or quartered
1 bottle of Dog-Gone BBQ Sauce

Pour just enough sauce to cover the bottom of your crock pot. Place the frozen turkey thighs as flat as possible on the bottom of the pot, meaty side down, drizzle with more of the sauce, then add the potatoes and pour in the rest of the sauce over everything. Cover and cook on high for about 6 hours (or on low for about 12), or until the turkey meat pulls easily with a fork and the potatoes are tender. Serve in bowls, or over noodles, spaetzle, couscous, quinoa or rice--it's especially good with wild rice or brown rice. Makes approx. 6 servings.

Zestfully yours,