Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Coupon Sale Ends TODAY!

Happy Halloween!  This is just a quick reminder that our October Newsletter 10% off coupon sale ends at midnight tonight, October 31, 2011.  Use the special coupon code in the October issue of the Carolina Sauce Company Newsletter to save 10% off your product total when you shop at the Carolina Sauces online store.  There's no minimum purchase required, and the coupon is good even on already-reduced sale items.  Just make sure to place your order online before the end of the day.

If you don't already receive our FREE monthly e-newsletter, be sure to sign up for the Carolina Sauce newsletter.  We're already planning our November issue, which will include beautiful and bountiful NEW gourmet gift baskets and boxes just in time for the holidays, as well as a seasonal recipe and possibly even a few surprises.  Our newsletter is sent ONLY once a month (we won't clog your in box with email!), you can unsubscribe anytime, and we never share your email or other private information with anyone.  If you have any questions about the Newsletter, please leave a comment here or on our Carolina Sauce Facebook page.

Don't forget, the October Newsletter coupon expires at midnight tonight!

Zestfully yours,

PS:  The October Newsletter also has a scary-hot ghost-pepper recipe for fans of fiery foods

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to Make BBQ Pizza in Just 10 Minutes

Grilled BBQ Pizza is a quick, easy, and delicious way to enjoy leftover barbecue. All you need is a package of ready-to-top pizza crusts, your favorite barbecue sauce, your choice of shredded cheese, and some BBQ pork or chicken.  The following video shows exactly how simple--and FAST--it is to make BBQ pizza on your grill:

If you want to achieve that perfectly-cooked, crispy crust shown in the video, you'll want to use a GrillGrate on your grill.  They're available in a variety of sizes to fit virtually any grill, and you can order them, along with other useful grill products, from our BBQ & Grill Accessories page.

When making BBQ pizza I prefer to use a thicker, tomato-based North Carolina barbecue sauce like George's Special BBQ Sauce because it's a little closer to traditional pizza sauce than a Kansas City style sweet BBQ sauce.  If you want more of that American barbeque sauce flavor, however, an excellent choice is Outta the Park BBQ Sauce, especially if you're topping your pizza with chicken or even shrimp.  Also, as shown in the video, it's much easier to spread the sauce on the pizza crust when you use the Sauce Tool on your bottle of sauce.  Finally, if you're looking for the right BBQ rub to use on a pork butt or on chicken, you can't go wrong with either the original or Hot version of Bone Suckin' Seasoning & Rub.

Do you have a favorite recipe for BBQ pizza?  If so, please share by leaving a comment.

Zestfully yours,

Friday, October 28, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Scorned Woman Sweet Majic Hot Sauce

Late yesterday I learned the sad news that Scorned Woman had discontinued their seductively sweet & spicy Sweet Majic Hot Sauce.  Made with peaches and apricots, plus horseradish and a secret blend of hot peppers, Sweet Majic paired well with pork and chicken, as well as with grilled fish and hamburgers.  This is the latest casualty in the Scorned Woman product line, which at one time included one of the best hot & spicy mustards on the market, an herb-seasoned wing sauce, and light & crispy Scorned Woman cheese straws packed with rich cheddary flavor and a fiery kick from the original Scorned Woman Hot Sauce.  To my knowledge, there are no plans to discontinue the ever-popular original, and their smoky-savory Scorned Woman Chipotle & Garlic Hot Sauce is also still available.

If you were a fan of Scorned Woman Sweet Majic Hot Sauce and are looking for another fruity, savory-sweet hot sauce to enjoy on the same sorts of food, here are my suggestions:

Georgia Peach & Vidalia Onion Hot Sauce:  This is one of the best-selling hot sauces on the market, and once you taste it, you'll know why.  The combination of juicy, ripe peaches with mellow sweet onions plus spicy hot peppers is like bottled sunshine on a lazy summer afternoon.  Enjoy it on everything you used Sweet Majic on.
Dave's Gourmet Ginger Peach Hot Sauce:  While Dave's Gourmet is widely known for their super-hot Insanity Sauce hot sauces, they do a surprisingly good job with milder, more flavorful and food-friendly sauces.  This is one of them.  The ginger and garlic add a subtle Asian flavor, and the mild-medium heat comes from red chiles.  And instead of adding sugar, Dave's Gourmet uses peach nectar to add just a touch of sweetness, making this sauce more savory and thus more versatile.  Enjoy it on the same dishes you'd use Sweet Majic, plus you can splash it on Chinese takeout or homemade stir-fry dishes to brighten up the flavors while adding just a little heat.

I hope you'll give one of these other tasty, fruity hot sauces a try.  If you have a favorite fruit-based hot sauce or a recipe pairing hot peppers with fruit, please share by leaving a comment on this blog.

Zestfully yours,

PS:  If you're jones-ing for some Scorned Woman Cheese Straw and need a cheesy, spicy snack, I highly recommend Deano's Cheddar Jalapeno Chips, made using real sliced jalapeno peppers with a cheddar cheese coating.  The jalapenos are thinly sliced and the heat level is about a medium, making these unique chips a low-carb, addictively delicious alternative to potato chips--and a nice substitute for the Scorned Woman Cheese Straws.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sweet & Spicy Sweet Potato with Walnuts

This is one of my go-to Autumn recipes, hearty enough to keep me full for several hours when I have it as my lunch.  You can also serve these sweet & spicy sweet potatoes as a substantial side dish to a savory entree such as roast chicken, pork chops, steak, etc.  The recipe below is for one, but you can certainly multiply it for as many people as you need to feed.  And feel free to adjust the ingredient amounts to your personal taste preferences.  Just make sure the sweet potato is fully cooked so that you can easily cut into it.

1 cooked sweet potato, still hot
Butter, approx 1/2 Tbs
Real maple syrup, approx scant 1/4 cup
Coarsely chopped walnuts, approx scant 1/4 cup
Cinnamon, approx 1/8 tsp
Dash (or more) ground habanero powder, preferably smoked habanero (use ground cayenne or red pepper for less heat)

Split open the sweet potato and use a fork to slightly break up each half.  Add the butter and use the fork to gently incorporate it into the two halves as the butter melts (you don't need to thoroughly mix it in; the goal is simply to have some butter on both halves).  Sprinkle with walnuts, cinnamon, and ground habanero powder to taste.  Drizzle maple syrup on top, and enjoy.  I use a spoon to get every last bit of goodness!

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

PS:  If you like sweet potatoes and enjoy spicy foods, check out Cackalacky Spice Sauce, an award-winning North Carolina sauce made with sweet potatoes, aged hot peppers, and other all-natural ingredients for a fun-loving sassy flavor that pairs well with everything from chicken, burgers and fries to meatloaf, shrimp, chicken, grilled veggies, bean dishes and more.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Carolina Sauce Newsletter: Ghostly Recipe & Halloween Coupon Sale!

Get 10% Off All "Carolina Sauces" Products

Use coupon code HALLOWEEN10 to save 10% off your product total at the Carolina Sauces online store, good on ALL products including on-sale items, gift sets, and, of course, the newly arrived Wells BBQ Sauce.  This coupon is good ONLY through the end of October, and will expire at midnight on Halloween, October 31st, 2011.  Here are some scary-looking and frightfully hot hot sauces and pepper extracts to get you in the Halloween spirit:

Blair's Death Hot Sauces, available in 6 hellish heat levels and flavors including Jalapeno Death with Tequila and the lethally-hot Ultra Death Sauce, plus a mini-bottle 4-pack, each full-size bottle comes with a skull keychain.

DEFCON Wing Sauces, award-winning Buffalo style wing sauces bottled in medical flasks with HAZMAT labeling and available in 3 heat levels including extreme-heat DEFCON 1 for making "suicide wings."

Our ever-popular Scary Sauces Gift Set (pictured above on right) with full-size bottles of You Can't Handle This Hot Sauce with the Devil label, Blair's After Death with the skull keychain, Satan's Blood in the old-fashioned "mad scientist" poison flask, and Widow No Survivors with a lifelike plastic black spider attached to the top, sold together at a special discount price that's less than you'd pay if you bought the sauces individually.

Remember to use the coupon code
HALLOWEEN10 when you order any of the above from us to save 10% off the product total!  Don't delay, because this coupon expires on 10/31/2011.
Additional scary products are available through our partner Insane Chicken, including:

Ahrun's Zombie Boogie Pineapple Habanero BBQ Sauce, a medium-hot tropical barbecue sauce so delicious, even brain-eating zombies can't resist it  

Danny Cash's Jolokia Havoc Hot Sauce Flask, one of the coolest ghost-pepper hot sauces on the market because it comes in a reusable metal flask.  Makes a great gift for your favorite Chilihead!  

***Please note, the Halloween10 coupon doesn't apply to products purchased from our partners.***

Grill Accessories & Monthly Clubs

We're proud to announce our partnership with, providers of fine BBQ & Grill Accessories including their award-winning Grill Grates that fit virtually any size and type of grill to produce evenly-cooked, beautifully seared and deliciously juicy food every time; plus meat thermometers, all-natural wood smoking pellets, grill tools and other essential items for the BBQ enthusiast. 

We also now offer a variety of Monthly Clubs through several partners, including Hot Sauce of the Month Clubs, BBQ Sauce of the Month Clubs, and even Bacon of the Month and "Swine and Wine Clubs" pairing red or white wine with gourmet bacon plus recipes.  Monthly clubs are available in 3-, 6- and 12-month plans, and make an excellent corporate gift or special gift for friends and family.  Some of our partners even offer flexible "pay as you go" clubs, so make sure to visit our new Sauce of the Month page and click on a link to see what options are available from that partner. 

October Recipe:  Fiery Ghost Shrimp

The ghost pepper, also called the naga or bhut jolokia, is widely regarded as the hottest chili pepper on the planet, so this recipe is NOT for the faint of heart or sensitive of tongue.  Feel free to substitute ordinary red pepper flakes if you prefer.  Otherwise, enjoy with caution--and with plenty of parmesan cheese.
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Ghost pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 lb peeled raw shrimp
1 tsp dried parsley

Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a large pan until butter is melted.  Add garlic and pepper flakes, saute until garlic is softened (just a few minutes).  Add wine and shrimp, cook until shrimp turns pink.  Stir in parsley.  Serve over your favorite cooked pasta.

Recipes, Coupons, Product Reviews, Zesty News & More
The Carolina Sauce Facebook Page is your source for Carolina Sauce news, interesting food articles, and exclusive Facebook-only coupons. For access to these special coupons and the latest zesty news, simply visit our Facebook page and click on the "Like" button to become a Fan. You can then click on the Coupons tab and access special offers. And if you're looking for new recipes, grilling tips, product reviews, and the occasional chuckle, visit this blog on a regular basis. Here's where we post delicious recipes, review new products as soon as they arrive, announce any discontinued or unavailable products, warn of possible product shortages, run special sales and discounts, and provide other useful information. Subscribe to our free RSS feed or NetworkedBlogs feed and you won't miss a single zesty thing! Just fill in your RSS subscription info in the spaces provided in the left-hand column of this blog, or click on "Follow My Blog" in the NetworkedBlogs icon at the bottom of the left-hand column.

Follow SaucyGlo on Twitter for the latest food news, pithy culinary observations & for sharing zesty tips! 
Zestfully yours,

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wells BBQ Sauce is in Stock Again!

Our new warehouse has received a fresh shipment of both flavors of Wells Barbecue Sauce, and they're once again available for purchase, just in time for the holiday season!  Wells Pork & Beef is based in the little town of Burgaw NC just before you get to Wilmington, and is known far and wide for their high-quality meat products--they raise, slaughter and butcher their own pigs and cattle, and operate their own meat market in Burgaw as well as a stand at the State Farmer's Market in Raleigh.  But perhaps their biggest claim to fame is their Wells Hog Heaven BBQ Sauce (in the black label), an authentic vinegar-based eastern NC barbecue sauce with no tomatoes, developed especially for making genuine North Carolina pulled pork BBQ.  This thin, tangy sauce has just the right touch of spice to enhance the flavor of pork barbecue, as well as collards and other greens.  Wells Hog Heaven Sauce also works quite nicely as a marinade for chicken, and as a table sauce for fried catfish or other fried seafood, French fries, hushpuppies and onion rings.

Also in stock again is Wells All-Purpose Rib & Chicken Sauce (in the yellow label).  This thick, rich sauce is made with plenty of tomatoes but isn't overly sweet like your everyday grocery store BBQ sauces.  Don't let the name limit your creativity:  Wells Rib & Chicken Sauce is made for slathering on anything you grill, including portobello mushrooms and other vegetables, shrimp, fish, pork chops and more.  You can also use it indoors as a finishing sauce with broiled and baked foods, and as an alternative to tartar sauce or ketchup for a more grown-up flavor.

You can buy both flavors of Wells BBQ Sauce from the Carolina Sauce Company's North Carolina Products page:  Look for the link at the bottom of the page because the products are arranged alphabetically.  And if you order by October 31st and use the coupon code Halloween10, you'll get 10% off the entire product total (not just Wells products) when you shop at the Carolina Sauces online store.

Zestfully yours,

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gloria's Coffee-Bourbon BBQ Sauce

This recipe is my very first barbecue sauce creation.  It's thick and rich, with a sweet and sassy flavor that gets subtle earthy, oaky notes from the coffee and bourbon, with just a little kick at the end from the jalapenos and cayenne (it's not hot, just a little feisty in its finish).  The bits of minced onion, garlic and pepper create a tongue-pleasing texture.  I still have some ideas for tweaking the recipe a bit, and would love your input, so please make sure to read the Notes after the recipe and leave your Comments on this blog.  We used my coffee-bourbon barbecue sauce on grilled chicken thighs this weekend, and I'm convinced that the sauce would be wonderful on ribs, and possibly even on shrimp, and perhaps as a dipping sauce, too.  I suspect it would be a nice addition to baked beans or meatloaf.  Let me know what you try it on, and what you think about it.

1 cup ketchup (I used organic ketchup from Whole Foods)
1 cup water
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup very strong brewed coffee
3 Tbs butter
2 jalapeno peppers, de-seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs minced onion
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (I used low-sodium Lea & Perrins brand)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp prepared mustard (I used a whole-grain brown mustard)
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
Salt, to taste (I used less than 1/4 tsp Kosher salt)
1 Tbs bourbon (I used Woodford Reserve)

In a medium saucepan combine all ingredients EXCEPT the salt and bourbon, and bring to a low boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat to a low simmer, taste for balance and add salt to taste.  Simmer over low to medium-low heat until thick, stirring occasionally:  This will take about an hour.  As the sauce thickens, it will require more regular stirring and possibly reducing the heat of the burner, too, to keep it below a boil.  When the sauce is almost thick enough to slather, stir in the bourbon and continue cooking until the sauce is reduced to desired thickness (about another 10 minutes).  For best results with grilled food, use this sauce for basting or slathering during the final few minutes of grilling, OR do what Greg does:  Pour some of the sauce into a large heat-proof bowl, add the fully-cooked grilled food to the bowl and toss in the sauce until evenly coated.  This method prevents the sauce from burning on the grill, and is what we did for the chicken thighs (see photo above on right).

Gloria's Notes:  For a more robust sauce, I'm considering re-working the coffee & water amounts to 3/4 cup each.  To cut back on fat while still preserving the satiny mouthfeel of the sauce, I might reduce the butter to just 2 Tablespoons, especially for use on ribs or in recipes like meatloaf.  Another idea I have is to use molasses instead of brown sugar for earthier flavor and less sweetness, but this would probably require a reduction in the liquid ingredients (water, coffee).  For a hotter, spicier sauce with more of a zesty bite, I'd probably increase the amount of cayenne pepper and possibly even add a little ground dried habanero, and double the amount of garlic.  If you make this coffee-bourbon BBQ sauce or any of my suggested variations, or even your own variations, please do leave a comment to let me know how it turns out.

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

PS:  This sauce keeps well in the refrigerator - use a lidded glass jar - and in fact the flavors are better the next day after they've had a chance to meld and develop.  You can probably also pressure-can it for longer-term storage, although I haven't tried that.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Healthy Foods & Vegetarian Fare at the Fair

Contrary to popular belief, not everything edible at the North Carolina State Fair is deep-fried.  And the exceptions aren't all sugary sweets or fatty meat, either.  It is indeed possible to find healthy, tasty food and vegetarian dishes at the fair, including roast corn (skip the butter), apples with or without caramel dipping sauce, frozen bananas and strawberries dipped in chocolate, salads, wraps (vegetarian and grilled chicken/meat), and lots of Mediterranean options.  A new vegetarian option this year is the "Flyin' Mayan" sweet potato & black bean burrito from the Gobblin' Gourmet/Gourmet Funnel Cake stand, but I didn't get a chance to try it as they always seemed to have a crowd ordering gourmet funnel cakes.  Instead I decided to try the "Festival Corn" from the booth in the photo on the left, described as whole-kernel corn, chopped tomatoes, chiles, sweet red peppers, jalapenos and spices, served up in a cup.  Unfortunately, they were out of Festival Corn on both days I tried to order it. Hopefully they'll have it again next year, as it sounds spicy-good.

Among the healthy vegetarian food I did sample was a fresh and flavorful falafel wrap from the Neomonde booth:  A grilled pita spread with hummus and filled with their homemade falafel, lettuce, tomato and a light tahini-yogurt dressing.  Also available were similar wraps filled with grilled chicken or beef, shawarma (chicken or beef & lamb), and sides of hummus and tabbouleh.  My wrap was prepared on order, and the lettuce was crispy-fresh.  The falafel was very mild and light in flavor, with enough parsley to give it a pale green color.  The dressing had a nice tang with just enough sesame flavor to complement the falafel.  This turned out to be my favorite of the healthy veggie foods this year.

Later in the day I tried the spinach pie from John the Greek.  I discovered the spinach pie by accident:  It's not listed on the menu at either of their booths, but one of the booths had a tray of spinach pies next to their other Greek offerings.  Also available were grilled portobello wraps, "veggie gyro" wraps (basically lettuce, tomatoes, raw peppers & onions, with the typical fixings), Greek salad, gyros, kabobs, sandwiches and other wraps.  The spinach pie was substantial in size and tasted fine, but it had been sitting under a heat lamp for too long, making the phyllo somewhat rubbery and very hard to cut with the flimsy plastic fork I was given.  While the spinach filling was pleasantly savory, the cheese was mozzarella instead of feta.  But since this was the fair and not a Greek restaurant, I was willing to forgive.

My final healthy, vegetarian meal consisted of the Vegetarian Platter from Party in a Pita.  This dish was quite substantial in size and very filling.  It came with hummus, tabbouleh, pita bread, 4 grape leaves in yogurt sauce (presumably tzadziki but with an odd, slightly sweet flavor), and 2 large falafel in tahini sauce.  To my disappointment, some of the items weren't as good as I recalled them from prior years:  The grape leaves were obviously from a can and very oily although their flavor was pleasantly tangy; the hummus was unusually creamy with a strange bitter aftertaste; and while the falafel had plenty of chickpea flavor it was over-seasoned and too salty.  In contrast, the tabbouleh was EXCELLENT, with a generous amount of fresh parsley and an authentic lemony-minty flavor, diced cucumber and tomato.  The pita bread also was quite good, with a soft texture indicating freshness.

If you want to eat healthy but aren't looking for vegetarian food, a giant turkey leg isn't a bad choice, especially if you share it with a friend.  There are also numerous vendors selling meat and chicken kabobs, salads with or without kabobs, grilled chicken, steak salads, turkey subs and a variety of wraps.  If you can't live without some of the less-healthy meats like ribs or sausage, you can save on calories and fat by sharing them.

But if you must indulge on something sweet, I'll leave you with two suggestions:  First, the Campfire Delight ice cream from the NC State University ice cream booth.  This ice cream was inspired by S'mores, and in my not-so-humble opinion it's even better than the original camping treat:  Graham cracker flavored ice cream with large chunks of semisweet chocolate and swirls of marshmallow cream.  My second decadent dessert suggestion is any type of pie from the Apex Lions Club Restaurant on "Restaurant Row" (also known by some as "Church Row").  Outside the entrance their "barker" drawls that they have "all kinds of p-i-i-i-e:  Apple pie, coconut pie, chock-lit pie, PEEEcan and peh-CON, we have both; sweet potato pie, and lemone [rhymes with "own"] p-i-i-i-i-e...."  Greg and I split a slice of their pecan (or was it peeee-can?) pie.  The only way it could have been better is if it had been served warm with a scoop of Campfire Delight ice cream on top.

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

Friday, October 21, 2011

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Smoked spatchcock chicken
Smoking a spatchcocked chicken
To those unfamiliar with the term, "spatchcocking" a chicken might sound intimidating or downright bizarre, but it's actually a very simple preparation technique that's easy to master and worth learning if you like to grill, barbecue or smoke chicken.  All you need is a whole raw chicken, a sharp paring knife, and kitchen shears that can cut through small bones.

Spatchcocking is an ideal way to grill or smoke a whole chicken because it allows all parts to cook evenly and simultaneously at the right temperature -- no more dried-out breast meat or under-done dark meat.  If you spatchcock a chicken before seasoning or marinating it, you can fully cook the drumsticks, thighs and wings without worrying about overcooking or drying out the more delicate breast meat. The entire bird will turn out juicy and tender, all at the same time.

Spatchcocking involves cutting out the backbone of the chicken and removing the breastplate.  In contrast, when you butterfly a chicken, you cut it from the front or breast. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to spatchcock a chicken:

BBQ spatchcock chicken
Grilling spatchcocked chickens
1. Place the whole chicken breast-down on a cutting board so that you're looking down at the back of the bird.

2. Use kitchen shears to cut the backbone completely out, cutting through the ribs close to the backbone on each side.

3. Use a paring knife to cut underneath the breastplate on both sides, then lift to pop it out.  Use the knife to trim away any excess skin.

4. Flip the chicken over (breast side up, cut back down). Use your hands to press down gently on the breast to flatten out the carcass.

5. Now you're ready to rinse the chicken with water, pat dry with paper towels, and season with your favorite dry rub, or place in a marinade in the refrigerator, before cooking on your grill or smoker as usual.

The video below demonstrates how easy it is to spatchcock a chicken:

For the best results on your grill, I recommend using a Grill Grate and meat thermometer, and delaying any basting or saucing with BBQ sauce until the last 10 or 15 minutes of grilling.

Do you have a favorite spatchcock chicken recipe?  Please share by leaving a comment!

Zestfully yours,

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Easy Sausage & Shrimp Skillet

This simple but satisfying recipe comes from the makers of George's Barbecue Sauce, a tangy eastern NC vinegar barbecue sauce that's won accolades from Rachael Ray as well as from regular folks who know good food when they taste it.  This dish is comfort food on a blustery Fall or Winter evening.  I've added some notes at the end in case you want to change things up a bit.  Feel free to experiment and please leave a comment!

1/2 lb raw shrimp, shelled & deveined
1 lb smoked sausage links, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
Vegetable oil
George's Original Barbecue Sauce
Hot cooked rice

In a deep skillet, brown the sausage, bell pepper and onion in a little vegetable oil.  Add the shrimp and just enough George's BBQ Sauce to make this saucy (about 1/3 of a bottle, give or take).  Stir, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until shrimp turns pink and is done.  If it starts to look too dry, add a little more barbecue sauce.  Serve hot over cooked rice.

Gloria's Notes:  The original recipe calls specifically for beef smoked sausage, but I like this better with pork sausage.  If you prefer your food hot and spicy, simply chop up a jalapeno pepper and add it with the green pepper, OR add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce.  For zestier flavor, I add a minced clove of garlic with the onion & bell pepper.  You can serve this over your choice of brown rice or white rice.

Zestfully yours,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cupcakes, Crafts & Cattle at the State Fair

Yesterday was another gorgeous Fall day to spend at the NC State Fair, less windy and noticeably sunnier & warmer than last Friday.  Having scoped out the food vendors during my first visit, I had an agenda as I set out on my carbo-loading quest (I play hockey on Tuesday nights, and that's my excuse for eating cupcakes and ham biscuits, which normally aren't part of my meal plan).  I also wanted to try one of the myriad deep-fried items found only on the fair--but only one, so as to not incur a pre-game digestive injury (would that be considered a "lower body injury" in NHL parlance?)

Breakfast was a triple-chocolate "ice cream sandwich" cupcake from Kimmy's Cupcakes:  A light, moist chocolate chip devil's food  cupcake cut in half and filled with densely rich chocolate icing that had a slight crunch of tiny sugar crystals and a hint of coffee.  Because of its size and unconventional construction, this cupcake was best attacked with a fork, which I gratefully accepted from the vendor.  I should have followed his other recommendation and bought some milk to help wash it down.

I walked off my sugar buzz by visiting the Kerr Scott exhibit hall, where I stumbled upon another cupcake vendor that was new last year:  Blue Bird Cupcakes.  Last year I sampled their trendy, tasty maple-bacon cupcake, which wasn't on their menu this year.  This time I had their Caramel Apple Spice Cupcake (towards the top of the picture--sadly, both closeup pics of the cupcake came out blurry).  This more traditional flavor combination was even better than the maple-bacon cupcake.  The cupcake itself was a dense spice cake that tasted like Autumn, full of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and other pie spices.  The buttercream frosting was dreamy-creamy, dusted with cinnamon and drizzled with a very light (not sticky) caramel sauce.  After a couple of bites I was delighted to discover that the cupcake had a minced Granny Smith apple filling that was similarly spiced and not too sweet, highlighting the tartness of this variety of apple.  The filling complemented the spice cake and deftly balanced the sweetness of the frosting.  Bravo!

Needing shelter from the sun and rescue from additional sweet temptations, I decided to visit the food-free craft exhibit halls, including the NC pottery tent and the Village of Yesteryear: 

Additional photos are available on the Carolina Sauce Facebook page, where you'll also find additional State Fair food photos shared from my personal page.

Lunch was a gigantic buttermilk biscuit with country ham, from the NC Farmers' Market Restaurant food truck.  The biscuit had been baked fresh on-site by Miss Debra, who regularly cooks at the Farmers' Market Restaurant in Raleigh.  My biscuit was assembled to order (other filling choices include sausage, egg & cheese, pork chop, PB&J, etc.) and was fresh and hot.  The biscuit itself was a huge, fluffy, buttery pillow with a hint of buttermilk tang, split in half to hold two generously large slices of salty, toothsome, full-flavored country ham that was remarkably lean and completely lacking in gristle.  I've had biscuits from other vendors at the fair, including the popular "Church Row" restaurants, and this one had them all beat.  And did I mention it was HUGE???

After lunch, it was time to look at cattle:

One final indulgence:  Deep-fried Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  It was well worth the wait to have these fried up on order, as they tasted best while still piping-hot.  The batter smelled like freshly-cooked pancakes and was surprisingly soft & dough-like rather than crispy, but it was not at all greasy.  The powdered sugar was overkill, especially the excessive amount that was dumped on my serving, but that was the only negative mark.   My first bite revealed a melted chocolate-peanut butter center that was warm and gooey and oh so delicious, somehow tastier than a "solid" Reese's cup.  This treat is substantial enough to share as  I was sated after devouring one cup, but I soldiered on and eventually finished the second one.  I was still riding that sugar high later through the entirety of my late-night hockey game... and into the wee hours of the morning, making today a "high caffeine consumption" day out of necessity. 

When I head back out to the fair, I'll focus on healthy food options and sample the North Carolina products available from the new group of vendors who've moved in to the "Got to be NC" tent for the second half of the fair.

Zestfully yours,

Monday, October 17, 2011

Guiltless Tuna Salad

No mayonnaise tuna salad Regular tuna salad is packed with fat and calories from mayonnaise. Here is a much healthier, mayonnaise-free tuna salad recipe that's not only much lower in fat, but also tastes delicious and is super-easy to make. I've included a few variations in the notes at the end, in case you prefer salmon, or different herbs, or even a hot & spicy version. Enjoy this Guiltless Tuna Salad in sandwiches, on a bed of greens, with pita wedges or raw veggies for dipping, or as a spread for crackers, rice cakes or crostini. Trust me, you won't miss the mayo!

1 can (6 1/2 oz) light tuna packed in water, drained
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion, including green part
1 1/2 tsp dried parsley OR 2 Tbs fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbs prepared mustard
1 tsp honey
1 tsp lemon juice, preferably fresh-squeezed
Dash of a basic hot sauce, such as Marie Sharp's Hot Sauce (1 dash adds flavor, not heat)

Use a fork to flake the tuna in a bowl, and add celery, green onions & parsley. In a small bowl whisk together the yogurt, mustard, honey, lemon juice and hot sauce. Add this mixture to the tuna & veggies. Stir well until thoroughly combined.
Variations: Substitute salmon for the tuna. Substitute cilantro OR dillweed for the parsley. Add a teaspoon of minced jalapeno or other hot pepper, and use a hotter, more flavorful hot sauce like Blue's Chipotle Mustard Pepper Sauce (or more than 1 dash) for a spicier tuna (or salmon) salad.

Zestfully yours,

Sunday, October 16, 2011

How to Make Cackalacky Chicken Lollipops

Cackalacky Chicken Lollipops have been featured on the Food Network's "BBQ with Bobby Flay," ABC's "The Tony Danza Show," the Memphis In May World BBQ Championship competition, The American Royal "BBQ World Series" in Kansas City, The North Carolina State Barbecue Championship, and numerous other BBQ competitions and events. Most recently, Cackalacky Chicken Lollipops were featured on the Fine Living Network's "15 Bodacious BBQ's," on which they ranked #2 out of the show's 15 "favorites" from around the country. These tasty morsels make great party appetizers, tailgating snacks, and even a fun main course. Our good friend Page Skelton of Cackalacky agreed to share his technique, complete with photos, so that you can make Cackalacky Chicken Lollipops at home.

First, some background: A chicken lollipop is a chicken wing drumette (the drumstick-shaped portion of a chicken wing) that has been "frenched," which means the meat and tendons have been cut from the lower or thinner end and pushed up towards the top of the drumette to form a ball (the "sucker" part of the lollipop), leaving the lower half of the bone exposed like the stick on a lollipop. To make a Cackalacky Chicken Lollipop, you wrap the ball of chicken meat in bacon, grill, and finish with Cackalacky Spice Sauce. Here's how it's done, in three simple steps:

First, assemble the ingredients:
--A bunch of chicken wing drumettes (available at many grocery stores and certainly from any butcher)
--An equal number of thinly sliced (regular-thickness, not "thick cut") bacon strips
--An equal number of wooden toothpicks, pre-soaked in water for about 30 minutes
--At least one bottle of Cackalacky Spice Sauce

Step 1: Prep 'em!

"French" the drumettes by cutting the skin and tendons around the base of each drumette, as shown:

Push the meat up into a ball to make a lollipop shape:

Wrap each ball of chicken meat with a strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick:

Step 2: Grill 'em!

Fire up your grill and carefully grill the chicken lollipops over indirect heat, turning or rolling frequently to cook evenly on all sides and avoid scorching. Ideally, use a meat thermometer to know when they're done: the internal temperature should be no less than 175F degrees. Otherwise, the lollipops are fully cooked when the bacon is crispy and the chicken juices "run clear"

Step 3: Sauce 'em!

When the chicken is done and the bacon is crisp, remove the lollipops from the grill and place them in a large pot. Add enough Cackalacky Spice Sauce to cover, and shake the pot or use a rubber spatula to toss until the lollipops are thoroughly coated. Serve hot. That's it!

Cackalacky is one of many delicious North Carolina products available from the Carolina Sauce Company

Zestfully yours,

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Food-Filled Friday at the NC State Fair

Yesterday was my first trip of season to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh. The summer-like weather was almost perfect: temperatures in the upper-70s, without humidity, but with a gusty wind that managed to blow dust and ash onto my contact lenses more than once. The air was filled the crisp snap of banners flapping in the wind, the pulsing beat of pop music from rides, and the cacophony of carnival barkers and sound-effects from games, randomly punctuated by the occasional blatting of vuvuzelas (WHY are those still around??) My nose was tickled by the aromas of frying batter, grilling meats, roasting corn, and farm animals being farm animals. I decided to spend the day outdoors and postpone my visit to the exhibit halls until next week.

I began my fair-food sampling with an apple dumpling from Smitty's Apples. The peeled and cored apple was wrapped in dough that tasted like well-made pie crust, and the tender apple yielded readily to my plastic fork. The caramel drizzle added just the right touch of sweetness to complement, not overwhelm, the flavor of the apple. This would be a great treat for someone looking for a dessert that's not sugary.

After strolling the grounds and taking many photographs (which you can see on the Carolina Sauce Company Facebook page, I stopped for lunch and selected two of my annual fair food stops: The "Hot Fish" booth across from the waterfall by Dorton Arena, and the NC State Farmers' Market Restaurant food truck. The folks at "Hot Fish" know how to fry tilapia, and their fish is always fresh, moist-flaky, lightly battered and never greasy. I dressed my sandwich with Texas Pete Hot Sauce and a long squirt of creamy tartar sauce, and devoured it with a small (which is actually enough to share) side of fried okra from the Farmers' Market truck. The fish was as good as always, but the crispy okra was just on the verge of being greasy, which was a bit disappointing.

The highlight of my day was the bread-making demonstration at the Neomonde Bakery tent, where Chef Benjamin entertained the crowd with his outgoing personality, self-effacing humor, and useful tips for baking bread, all while making a 10-lb batch of cranberry-pecan bread with hands-on audience participation. The large tent accommodated a few dozen folks and came equipped with a commercial mixer, three-oven "tower," a proofing oven, sink, cooking stage & counter, and well-stocked bakery display. Several types of all-natural artisanal breads were available for sampling and purchase, and the jalapeno-cheddar bread was particularly outstanding. You could also buy a variety of pastries and muffins. I took home a loaf of multigrain bread with currants, which has been wonderful with breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you visit the NC fair this year and you are a home baker, I highly recommend watching one of Neomonde's twice-daily baking demonstrations as you'll surely pick up a tip or two that you can use at home.

My next stop was the NC State University ice cream store, where the line wound around the side and extended for some distance--in fact, it was significantly longer than any of the lines for rides. It was well worth the wait for a heaping bowl of their new flavor for 2011, called "Wolftracks," a play on the NC State Wolfpack mascot and "moose tracks" ice cream: creamy vanilla ice cream made by students from milk from the University's dairy farm, with swirls of chocolate fudge and mini peanut butter cups. I don't even want to think about the calories or fat grams.

Feeling safely full and able to resist all further food temptation, I headed over to the "Got to be NC" tent to check out the North Carolina products and say hello to some of my colleagues in the food business, including the folks from Mackeys Ferry Peanuts who were sampling their award-winning peanut butter, and Cheng & Weng of Capsicana Zing with their ever-popular Zing sauce. I did NOT count on hearing the siren-song of Lumpy's Ice Cream and being lured in by their latest inspired creation: bourbon & bacon ice cream. Admittedly, I was both intrigued and skeptical, but decided to get a cup, purely for the sake of research of course. That, and because I cannot resist bacon, especially in unconventional preparations.

The ice cream was unassumingly nondescript in appearance, but with one bite it was clear that this was no "plain-jane" kid stuff. Dense, custard-like vanilla ice cream had been infused with the subtle oaky flavor of bourbon, for an effect similar to that of rum-raisin ice cream but less sweet and without the alcohol bite. As the ice cream melted on my tongue, the generous chunks of chewy, salty, smoky, meaty bacon emerged in all their glory. This was bacony ice cream NIRVANA! If you like eating bacon with syrup-drizzled pancakes, this ice cream flavor is for you. Unfortunately, it's not available in stores--BUT you can buy it by the pint from Lumpy's at the fair! ("It comes in pints!" cried the overjoyed, wide-eyed hobbit.) I'm bringing a cooler with dry ice and stopping at Lumpy's booth at the end of my fair visit next Tuesday.

Having had "second dessert" (the apple dumpling was breakfast, mind you!), I felt compelled to walk another lap--or three--around the fairgrounds before calling it a day. I paused to watch the Jaycees' charity Turkey Shoot, where people compete by shooting at targets and the winner of each round takes home a frozen turkey. For the record, no turkeys are harmed during this competition. But as I turned to leave, I couldn't help but notice the "Giant Turkey Legs" booth strategically located just across the road from the turkey shoot. Coincidence? Perhaps....

Zestfully yours,