Friday, November 30, 2012

The Great Yeast Revival Experiment (Part 1)

Yeast from 1996
What's the oldest food or ingredient you've found in your kitchen, and dared to eat?

The other day while cleaning out a spice cupboard I discovered two strips of yeast packets that had been long forgotten behind seldom-used items like a seed sprouter and a broken garlic press that I previously couldn't bring myself to throw out (it's now gone). While finding yeast packets might seem rather unremarkable, these packets were "special" in that they had best-by dates from 1996--which means the packets were at least 16 years old, and probably closer to 17 years.

While the practical side of me wanted to throw them out, the "mad scientist" side was morbidly curious and wanted to find out if this relatively ancient yeast might still be alive and usable. Reluctant to waste a batch of flour, milk and other bread ingredients on what was likely to be a lost cause, I turned to my friend Chef Jenni of Pastry Chef Online to ask what she would do if she were in my shoes.  Sharing my morbid curiosity, she promptly suggested a third option I hadn't considered: Proofing 1 packet of the old yeast.

how to proof yeastAt this point I must confess that I rarely proof my yeast before baking. Well, ok... I NEVER proof my yeast. And in all the years I've been baking, I've never had bread fail due to "dead" yeast. But I was familiar with the concept of proofing and this was precisely the sort of situation in which one would want to proof yeast before using. I assembled my materials for the Great Yeast Revival Experiment:  1 packet of vintage January 1996 Fleischmann's Rapid Rise Yeast, 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon sugar, a Pyrex measuring cup, whisk, kitchen thermometer and a timer.  And a notepad, pencil and camera to document the event.

proofing yeast
I heated the water to 120°F (below the suggested temperature range of 125-130°F on the packet), dissolved the sugar in the warm water, whisked in the yeast, and set the timer to go off in 10 minutes after which I would pronounce the yeast dead or alive, based on whether it had bubbled up a frothy foam and released that unmistakeable yeast aroma that I enjoy.

Upon hearing the timer, I returned to the kitchen to discover that the yeast was, in fact, alive and bubbling, albeit somewhat less enthusiastically than fresh, young yeast still in its prime.

yeast proofing

Thinking that this elderly yeast would benefit from a little more time to feast on the sugar water, I reset the time for another 5 minutes. After a total proofing time of 15 minutes, I was delighted to discover that the yeast had produced a very respectable head of foam:

proofed yeast

Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to use the proofed yeast in a bread recipe prior to heading out for an evening commitment. Not wanting to kill my newly-revived old yeast, I turned again to the ever-helpful Chef Jenni to ask for advice. On her recommendation I whisked in a little more sugar and a bit of flour to give the activated yeast something to work on overnight and then stored it in my refrigerator to use the following morning.

In the morning I removed the proofed yeast from the refrigerator and placed it on a counter to come to room temperature over the course of a couple of hours.

instructions for proofing yeast

When I was ready to bake, I pulled out my simplest, most familiar bread recipe: Easy English Muffin Bread. Having halved it many times before when I wanted to bake only 1 loaf, I knew this would be the right recipe to see what the old yeast could do.

Because the yeast had been proofed in 1/2 cup water with over a tablespoon of sugar, I had to modify my recipe accordingly. I heated 3/4 cup milk to 120°F and then whisked in the proofed yeast liquid. I poured this into the combined dry ingredients (I added only 1 tsp sugar to the dry because the yeast had already received over 1 Tbs) and then continued with the recipe. This is what the dough looked like before I covered it with a towel and placed it in my oven with light on to rise in a warm environment:

bread dough

My recipe calls for 45 minutes for rising and normally the dough doubles in size in that time. But in this case it had only risen a little, which was consistent with Chef Jenni's advice that refrigerated proofed yeast, especially very OLD yeast, would take much longer to rise:

yeast bread

After another 45 minutes the bread still hadn't doubled, although it was continuing to make progress:

rising dough

I was running out of time and patience, so this time I set the timer for only 30 additional minutes, for a total rising time of 2 hours. The dough *almost* doubled by then, but not quite:

homemade bread

I removed the bread from the warm oven, preheated the oven to 400°F and baked the loaf for 25 minutes as usual.  When it was done, it looked quite similar to bread made with fresh yeast:

baking bread

I transferred the bread to a cooling rack for a few minutes:

homemade yeast bread

When I cut into the bread, I noticed that it was a little denser than usual. Had I let it keep rising longer than two hours, I suspect it would have produced a lighter crumb. Nevertheless, it was delicious.

homebaked bread

Thus concludes Part 1 of the Great Yeast Revival Experiment, proving that "teenaged" yeast can still be used to bake bread. Because the overnight refrigeration added a second variable to this experiment, a second test is warranted and will be conducted on a day when I can bake with the proofed yeast immediately instead of refrigerating it overnight. So stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!

Please leave a comment below to share your story of the oldest ingredient or food you've found and dared to eat.

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company, Inc.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Raspberry Balsamic-Dressed Salad with Maple-Glazed Cashews, Cranberries & Feta

raspberry balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
This colorful salad is an excellent choice for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, holiday parties and other Fall or Winter meals.

While you could use commercial caramelized nuts and bottled balsamic vinaigrette dressing, making these two ingredients from scratch is surprisingly quick and easy, tastes even better than store-bought, and also ensures that there are no artificial ingredients or preservatives. Plus, you'll have some extra nuts left over for snacking or using in other recipes, and enough vinaigrette for other salads or dishes (it's nice on steamed or roasted vegetables).

If you don't have raspberry vinegar, you can substitute regular balsamic vinegar.  Feel free to substitute raw almonds (whole, sliced or slivered), walnut halves or pecan halves for the cashews, or crumbled goat cheese for the feta, if you prefer. You can also substitute dried cherries for the dried cranberries, or use baby Romaine or other tender lettuces. Regular Romaine is a good choice if you are making the salad "in bulk" (you can multiply the recipe) rather than serving individually.

My recipe serves 6 to 8, with enough maple-glazed nuts and vinaigrette dressing left over for other uses. You can multiply or halve the recipe to suit your needs.

1 head green or red leaf lettuce, OR 10 oz. (approx.) bagged mesclun or mixed baby lettuces
1 cup coarsely chopped raw cashews
Maine Maple Syrup by Stonewall Kitchen
Maple Syrup
2 Tbs real maple syrup (Dark Amber or Grade B have deepest flavor)
1/8 tsp Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs raspberry vinegar
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1/2 to 1 tsp Kosher or sea salt (to taste, start with lesser amount)
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Nuts: Spread the cashews or other nuts in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, stirring regularly, until fragrant and just starting to toast. Stir in maple syrup and cook, stirring frequently, until the syrup has caramelized (no more liquid) and the nuts are evenly coated & lightly toasted, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat and immediately sprinkle salt over the nuts while stirring, then transfer the nuts onto wax or parchment paper to cool, spreading in a single layer.

Vinaigrette: Combine the oil, vinegar(s), salt & pepper in a small lidded jar (I use a 1/2 pint mason jar), close lid tightly and shake well to mix and dissolve salt. Taste for balance and add salt if desired. Shake again and set aside or pour into a salad dressing cruet. Makes approx. 3/4 cup vinaigrette.

Salad Spinner/Pair
Salad Spinner
Salad:  If using a head of lettuce, wash the leaves and remove as much water as possible by spinning in a salad spinner or gently patting dry with paper towels, then tear leaves into bite-size pieces (you can skip all of this if using a bagged mix). Place torn lettuce in a large bowl, give the vinaigrette a final good shake and then drizzle 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette over the lettuce and gently toss to coat the lettuce. If lettuce seems too dry, add a little more vinaigrette.

If serving individually:  Divide the dressed lettuce among the salad plates, then sprinkle each with crumbled feta, dried cranberries, and half of the maple-glazed nuts (reserve the remainder for another use). Pour remaining dressing into a cruet for the table, in case anyone wants to add more to their plate.

If serving "in bulk" for a party or buffet service:  Immediately before serving, add half of the dried cranberries and crumbled feta plus 1/4 cup nuts to the dressed lettuce in the bowl and toss to combine, trying to keep these "toppings" from settling at the bottom of the bowl. Top the salad with remaining cranberries, feta and an additional 1/4 cup of the nuts (reserve remaining nuts for later use). Serve with leftover dressing available in a cruet for those who wish to add more to their salad.

Zestfully yours,

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) Sauces are Here!

PETA Burger & Steak Sauce
PETA Steak Sauce
If you're looking for a unique and amusing Christmas, Hanukkah or other occasion gift for your favorite carnivore--or for that special vegetarian with a healthy sense of humor, here it is:  PETA sauces and seasonings!

No, these are not condiments from the (in)famous animal-rights organization. In this case, PETA stands for "People Eating Tasty Animals." Let's face it: If we were meant to be vegetarians, meat wouldn't taste so good!

These cheeky PETA sauces and seasonings will complement and enhance the natural flavor of everything from beef and pork to chicken and other poultry, venison and other game meats, and even fish and seafood. And although I hate to admit it, they're also quite yummy on meatless and vegetarian foods from grilled veggies to tofu stir fry dishes, black bean burgers, seitan, tofu and more.

PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) BBQ Sauce is a mildly spicy, tangy tomato barbecue sauce that's sweetened with apple juice, brown sugar and molasses and balanced with just the right touch of savory spices for rich flavor the whole family will enjoy.  Whether you're grilling ribs or burgers, smoking a brisket or pork butt, roasting chicken or pork loin, or even barbecuing some shrimp kabobs or tuna steaks, PETA Barbecue Sauce will bring out the best in them and make your taste buds sing.  You can also use it in indoor recipes like sloppy joes, meatloaf, chili, party meatballs, and other stovetop or oven favorites. And if you like to eat healthy, you'll be glad to know that this finger-licking good barbeque sauce is made with all-natural ingredients and does NOT have any high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

PETA Hot Sauce
PETA Hot Sauce
For meat-eaters who enjoy zesty, fiery hot sauces, we have PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) Garlic Habanero Hot Sauce. Boasting a solid medium-hot habanero burn and distinctive habanero pepper flavor, this is an honest, straightforward vinegar-based habanero hot sauce that's spiked with pungent garlic to keep things interesting. PETA Hot Sauce is an excellent choice as your go-to table sauce and all-purpose hot sauce, whether you're cooking, grilling, tailgating, camping, or eating breakfast, lunch or dinner. Because it doesn't have any "extra" ingredients such as fruit, herbs or strong spices, liquid smoke, or sweeteners, it's perfect for when you want to add habanero heat to a dish but don't want to change its flavor or overpower the food.

PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) Steak Sauce is mild on the heat scale (not spicy) but at the top of the flavor scale. This gourmet steak sauce is superb on all sorts of red meat, from filet mignon and ribeyes to hamburgers, brisket, pork chops, venison medallions, breakfast sausage patties and even over meatloaf instead of ketchup. And I guarantee that if you pour it on a veggie burger, your vegetarian friends will thank you for improving its flavor. In fact, this fine-tasting steak sauce does NOT contain anchovies or any other animal products (unlike many commercial steak sauces), so it's actually an ideal choice for vegetarians and vegans. One taste and you'll never go back to supermarket steak sauces again.

PETA Steak Seasoning
PETA Steak Seasoning
If you like your steak seasoning and BBQ dry rub on the savory, not sweet, side then PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) Steak Seasoning & Rub is for you. Paprika, garlic and Kosher salt are the main three ingredients in this all-natural, savory rub, and there's just a dash of dried peppers and a pinch of a secret spice blend for a deep, robust flavor that's both complex and food-friendly. Pat some PETA rub on your steak before grilling, broiling or searing in a pan, or rub it on ribs, chicken, pork butt, chops, London broil, brisket and other cuts of meat before grilling, smoking or cooking. Sprinkle it on cooked vegetables, French fries, popcorn, baked potatoes and even over a salad.

All PETA products are currently on sale at the Carolina Sauces online store, so get them today before they run out as they're sure to be quite popular as Christmas gifts.

Zestfully yours,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

#GivingTuesday: BBQ for a Good Cause, & More

Did you know that today is "Giving Tuesday?"

I didn't, either, until I saw some headlines in the news about it.  Giving Tuesday is a grassroots effort to put the spirit of giving back into the holiday season.

After a 3-day weekend devoted to shopping and spending plus Cyber Monday yesterday, the idea of a day devoted to charitable giving sounds like a noble idea to me, and a great opportunity to support a worthy cause.

In the spirit of Giving Tuesday, here are three different nonprofit groups, all of which are 501(c)(3) organizations that are doing many good deeds in our communities and beyond:

1.  Operation North State was founded in 2010 and offers several unique support programs for deployed troops, veterans in need, and other military personnel. Perhaps their best known program is the Christmas Gift Box Project, which has shipped thousands of gift boxes full of NC goodies AND much-needed supplies (e.g., warm socks, magazines, messages of support, etc.) to deployed troops. Other programs include sending birthday gifts to veterans living in nursing homes, and identifying North Carolina's military memorials statewide. Having run a much smaller military gift box program myself and having a family member serving overseas, I can personally attest to how important programs like Operation North State are to our military men and women. To learn more about this organization, name a potential gift box recipient, or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit the Operation North State website.

Operation BBQ Relief
2. Operation BBQ Relief was founded last year by competition BBQ teams from 8 different states who answered the call to help feed needy families and emergency response personnel in the aftermath of of the tornadoes that devastated Joplin, Missouri. Over 120,000 meals were served in less than two weeks in Joplin. Since then, Operation BBQ Relief has mobilized in response to other disasters including Hurricane Sandy in the northeast, providing much-needed nourishment, compassion and friendship to those afflicted and to the first responders and others assisting in relief efforts onsite. To learn more about this organization and/or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit the Operation BBQ Relief website.

Sisterhood Agenda 3.  Sisterhood Agenda was founded in 1994 and its mission is to uplift and aid in the self-empowerment of women and girls of African descent, through sisterhood, self-knowledge, self-development and self-esteem. Its award-winning "A Journey Toward Womanhood" curriculum has been implemented throughout the United States and in many countries around the world, with countless documented success stories. Serving over 5 million constituents each year and with over 3000 Global Partners, the organization has created an extensive sisterhood network and conducts Global Training Academy programs online. I've had the pleasure of knowing and working with its founder and visionary, Angela Coleman, and her commitment to the cause is truly inspirational. To learn more about this organization and/or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit the Sisterhood Agenda website.

Please consider supporting one or more of these worthy organizations, or perhaps another cause of your choice, on Giving Tuesday (and beyond).

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company, Inc.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday Sale & FREE Shipping at Carolina Sauce

Carolina Sauce Company online store
Our huge Black Friday through Cyber Monday sale is going on at the Carolina Sauces online store, and today is the final day!

ALL orders, regardless of size, automatically get 10% off the product total when you shop online, and no coupon is needed.

Additionally, if your product total is more than $95, you ALSO will get FREE ground shipping along with your 10% discount!

Now is the time to save big on Christmas gifts and other holiday shopping for your favorite foodie or fiery-foods fanatic, whether you're looking for hard-to-find regional barbecue sauces, themed hot sauce gift sets, novelty sauces like political hot sauces or collegiate hot sauces, spicy or fruity or gourmet salsa, and other zesty sauces and seasonings. We even have Hanukkah and Christmas hot sauces!

Hot Sauce gift box
4-Bottle Hot Sauce Gift Box
For a one-of-a-kind, unique gift, you can design your own hot sauce gift box when you purchase our sturdy, easy-to-assemble white 4-pack gift box and four 5-oz bottles of hot sauces of your choice. Simply fold the box together, insert the bottles and slap on a label you've created or perhaps a bumper sticker, etc. You can even draw, paint or decorate the box, if you're artistically inclined.

This special Cyber Monday sale ends at midnight today, Monday November 26th, so don't delay in placing your order.

Zestfully yours,

PS:  Can't decide what to get? Then send a Carolina Sauces gift card!  These email gift cards never expire and are available in any amount from $5 to $5000.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Quinoa with Caramelized Vegetables

This quinoa recipe can be served as a vegetarian or vegan entree (assuming you caramelize the vegetables in oil and not bacon fat), or as a side dish for steak (as shown), pork, roast chicken or turkey, venison or other hearty meat or poultry.

The secret to caramelizing onions and other vegetables is to Be Patient and Let Them Be--in other words, you must resist the urge to stir them or otherwise disturb them as the slowly cook down into a golden-sweet and deeply savory ambrosia. Caramelized vegetables are all about the flavor, not the appearance, so don't expect them to be bright and beautiful and instead accept them as the mysteriously dark and sultry tempters of your taste buds.

While the method I've described below does take some time, it is well worth it. And here is my disclaimer: I am merely a self-taught home cook, not a chef or a culinary school graduate, so I have no idea if my method is "orthodox." All I know is that it results in tasty caramelized veggies, and that is good enough for me. If you use a different method that works and produces tasty results, by all means please leave a comment below because I love reading and learning about cooking.

This recipe serves 4 to 6 as a side dish, and 2 or 3 as a main dish.

quinoa and steak
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 or 2 garlic cloves
2 green onions
1 small red bed pepper OR 2 mini sweet peppers
1 medium tomato
1 Tbs olive oil or bacon fat (or combo)
1/3 cup red wine
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup quinoa, rinsed if required
1 1/3 cup water
1 tsp dried herbs (e.g., oregano, marjoram, thyme, basil, etc.)

Heat the oil and/or fat in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and stir to coat. Slice the green onions, including tops, and stir in. Mince the garlic, stir in, then spread the mixture to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin layer. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to cook, undisturbed, for at least 30 minutes.

While the onion & garlic mixture is cooking, dice the tomatoes and chop the peppers, then set them aside to be added after the onion-garlic mix has cooked for at least 30 minutes. After the time has elapsed, stir the peppers & tomato into the onions & garlic, raise heat to medium and allow to cook until you hear sizzling. Stir once more, spread to cover the bottom of the pan, reduce heat to medium-low and allow to cook, undisturbed, for at least 30 more minutes. After that time, stir once more, spread, and let cook for at least another 15 minutes--by now, the veggies should be pretty well broken down and the onions & garlic turning golden. If not, let them cook longer than 15 minutes until they do.

caramelizing vegetables

Once the veggies are well on their way to caramelizing, raise the heat to medium, add about half the wine while stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Spread the mixture to coat the bottom of the pan, reduce heat to medium-low, and let cook for at least another 15 minutes--at this point, you can start the quinoa:

Combine the quinoa and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Stir in the dried herbs, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking, stir the remaining wine into the caramelizing vegetables to deglaze the pan, and let cook until the quinoa is ready. If at any point the vegs appear to be fully caramelized to your desire, simply turn off the burner and let them sit until the quinoa is done.

caramelized vegetables

After the quinoa has cooked for 15 minutes, turn off the burner and let it sit, covered, for 3 to 5 minutes. At this point, remove veggies from heat if they are done, taste and season with salt & pepper. When the quinoa is done, uncover, fluff with a fork, and gently fold into the caramelized veggies (I use a silicone spatula). Taste for balance and season with a little more salt/pepper if desired.
quinoa with caramelized vegetables
Zestfully yours,

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Small Business Saturday Sale Online at Carolina Sauce

Carolina Sauce Company
Carolina Sauce Company founders, Greg & Gloria Leman
Today is Small Business Saturday - are YOU going to "Shop Small" today?

If you're planning on supporting small businesses as you do your holiday shopping, don't forget that you can Shop Small online.

The Carolina Sauce Company is a family-owned and operated small business--in fact, it's as small as they come, as it's basically just me, which is why we carefully select partners like the Carolina Sauces warehouse, Jim's Own BBQ Sauce and Outta the Park BBQ Sauce here in North Carolina, plus other fine businesses to help us bring you the best selection of zesty sauces and specialty foods with impeccable customer service.

When you Shop Small, your dollars have a much greater and more direct impact on the people who work at and run the small business, and you know your money isn't going to some huge, foreign-owned corporation who couldn't care less about customer service or quality. So in addition to supporting your small, "mom & pop" local retailers and specialty shops, don't forget to shop small online with companies like Carolina Sauce. We're even having a 10% off sale this weekend thru Monday, good on ALL orders (no coupon necessary) AND you get free shipping on orders above $95!

Thank you very much for your consideration, and for your patronage. And please don't ever hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, concerns, or are simply looking for help picking out the right sauce or gift for a friend or loved one.

Zestfully yours,

PS: You can read more about the Carolina Sauce Company here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

10% off ALL Orders #BlackFriday thru Cyber Monday at Carolina Sauce

Carolina Sauce Company
Shop the Carolina Sauce Black Friday-Cyber Monday Sale
At Carolina Sauces, our Black Friday sale is for real: Shop online today through Cyber Monday and get 10% off ALL orders, no coupon or minimum purchase required!

Yes, you'll automatically get 10% taken off your product total when you order from the Carolina Sauce Company online store. And if your product total is over $95.00, we'll throw in FREE SHIPPING, too!

Don't spend this Black Friday stuck in heavy traffic, endlessly circling parking lots looking for a spot, then fighting your way through pushy customers only to discover that the stuff you wanted is already sold out (or not even on sale). Instead, sit back in the comfort of your home or office, pour yourself another cup of coffee or glass of your favorite beverage, and browse our extensive selection of hot sauces ranging from mild to wild, barbecue sauces from every major region, hard-to-find North Carolina products including vinegar BBQ sauce, zesty salsas and spicy dry rubs, unusual mustards & ketchups, exotic Jamaican jerk products, themed hot sauce gift sets & boxes and more. Shopping for Christmas, Hanukkah, and other occasions has never been so convenient and easy--and money-saving, too!

Don't delay: This special discount coupled with free shipping will expire at midnight on Cyber Monday...

Zestfully yours,

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving dinner
Thanksgiving is an annual reminder that each of us has so much for which to be grateful, no matter what obstacles, frustrations, disasters or tragedies life may throw our way.

If we are blessed--or lucky if you prefer that term--we can be grateful for the love, friendship and company of the people who matter to us. And that's just for starters, when you consider that much of the world's population can only dream of the comforts we likely take for granted on any given day: Shelter from the elements, security from those who might want to harm us, a reliable source and safe supply of food and drinking water, adequate clothes to keep us warm and dry...  As anyone who suffered through recent storms (or worse) knows, it's easy to take basic necessities and everyday comforts for granted, until they vanish even if only temporarily. Indeed, each and every comfort and blessing of modern life--and life itself--is so very fragile, and in reality merely temporary.

Perhaps if each of us were to set aside a minute or two each day to give thanks for just two or three people or things things in our lives, the world might slowly but surely begin to turn away from violence and cruelty and towards greater beauty and understanding...

Why not start today?

Wishing all of our friends, family, partners, colleagues, customers and fans a Zesty and Happy Thanksgiving,
Carolina Sauce Company, Inc.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bacon-Jalapeno Quick Bread

bacon jalapeno bread
This rustic quick bread (doesn't require yeast or rising time) combines two of my favorite savory foods: Bacon and hot peppers. I like to bake it in a cast-iron skillet as if it were a cornbread, but you can use a 9 x 9 x 2 baking pan if you prefer.

The oat flour adds fiber as well as heartiness, but you can substitute all-purpose or bread flour for it if you prefer. Although I haven't tried using whole wheat flour in this recipe, you could probably use it in place of the oat flour.

Using one jalapeno pepper and mild smoked paprika will result in a mildly peppery, not hot, bread. If you prefer a hotter, spicier flavor, use two jalapenos or even a habanero pepper, and use hot smoked paprika instead of mild. The earthy, complex flavor of smoked paprika complements the bacon quite well and adds depth of flavor, but you could use ordinary paprika if that is what you have.

1 cup oat flour*
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 Tbs butter or bacon fat, chilled, plus more for greasing
2 or 3 green onions, thinly sliced (including tops)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 Tbs)
4 strips cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 large egg, beaten

*You can make oat flour by processing 1 cup of rolled oats (old-fashioned, not instant) in your food processor until finely ground.

Preheat oven to 425F. Grease a 10" cast iron skillet or a 9x9x2 baking dish. If using a skillet, place the greased skillet in the oven to warm up while you make the bread. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, then cut in the butter or bacon fat until the mixture resembles cracker crumbs (see below).


Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir just enough to combine, making a soft dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 8 times (resist the urge to knead more). Transfer the dough into the greased pan or warmed skillet (see below).

recipe for bacon jalapeno skillet bread
Bake at 425F until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean--about 20 minutes, depending on your oven (see below).

bacon jalapeno bread

Allow to cool to the touch before cutting.

bread recipe

Zestfully yours,

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sweet & Spicy Cranberry Bliss

cranberry salsa
Spicy Cranberry Salsa
Who knew that spicy hot peppers like jalapenos and habaneros would complement the distinctive tart-sweet flavor of cranberries so nicely? If you are a fan of spicy foods that actually taste good instead of merely burning, try one or both of these hot and spicy cranberry condiments with your Thanksgiving dinner--or, if that's too much of a radical departure from family tradition, use them to jazz up your turkey leftovers, from sandwiches and wraps to casseroles, burritos and even turkey nachos.

First up is one of the newer products on the Carolina Sauce Company online store, Cajohn's Gourmet Cranberry Salsa.  Made from the finest all-natural ingredients, this festive salsa begins with Cajohn's award-winning tomato salsa and then dresses it up with real cranberries (no pie filling or fruit syrups here), jalapeno peppers, turbinado sugar (not corn syrup) and other seasonings and spices, for a bright, seasonal flavor that will complement holiday turkey, ham, goose, roasts, and other hearty fare. The heat level is no more than a mild-medium, ensuring that practically everyone will enjoy its delightfully unique flavor without suffering from too much heat. A natural alternative to that tired, old can of jellied cranberry sauce, Cranberry Salsa is equally at home as part of your formal Thanksgiving dinner, on your party buffet, with your tailgating spread, and of course with your turkey leftovers. You can also enjoy it with chips or crackers, spooned over cream cheese or warm brie, alongside a turkey-filled omelet or crepe, and pretty much any other way you'd use a sweet and spicy salsa.

Cranberry hot sauce
Cranberry Hot Sauce
Another excellent choice for spicing up your Thanksgiving meal and subsequent turkey-filled days is an old favorite that's made in North Carolina, the award-winning Toad Sweat Cranberry Dessert Hot Sauce. If you're not familiar with dessert hot sauces, think of them as sweeter and fruitier than your typical tangy fruit hot sauce, making them an inspired choice for drizzling over cheesecake, ice cream, fruit, bread pudding, pancakes, waffles, biscuits, and other similar desserts or breakfast fare. This sassy, sweet and spicy cranberry hot sauce blends together real cranberry juice (not cranberry cocktail or "beverage") with habanero peppers, vanilla, cocoa, sugar (not corn syrup) and other all-natural ingredients for inspired gourmet flavor that pairs equally well with dessert as with baked ham, roast turkey, grilled shrimp or chicken, and even as a dip for spring rolls. Its medium heat and superb flavor means that it will appeal to virtually all fans of fiery foods--and you can add it to your homemade cranberry sauce to wake up the flavors, and to your favorite barbecue sauce or marinade recipes, too.

Both the Cajohn's cranberry salsa and the cranberry hot sauce from Toad Sweat are currently on sale at the Carolina Sauces website.

Zestfully yours,

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Southern-Style Greens with Fatback

southern style greens with fatback
Turnip greens with fatback
WARNING: The following recipe is NOT "health food" or "low fat," although I use only half as much fatback as many traditional Southern cooks use. It's also not really a "recipe" because ingredient quantities should be based on your taste preferences, as should your choice of greens.

If you want to make old-fashioned, southern-style collards or other similar tough and strong-tasting greens--turnip, mustard, kale, etc.--you need a large pot, a slab of fatback (some cooks also add a ham hock), water and a mess of greens. Greens cook down significantly, so keep that in mind when buying. For seasoning, you'll need salt and pepper, possibly a pinch or two of sugar if the greens are too "sharp" for your taste, and perhaps a splash or more of vinegar or a vinegar-pepper hot sauce. Finally, you'll need time to let the greens cook (but don't worry, they don't require much attention while they're cooking), and you'll probably want to open your windows or run your stove fan because the greens--especially collards--can and will be stinky (but the flavor will be fabulous).

Here's how I make Southern style greens:

1/2 lb fatback
Large bunch of collards or other greens (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 cups water
Salt & pepper to taste
Optional: Cider vinegar, pepper vinegar, or hot sauce (Texas Pete or Tabasco are good choices)

Slice the fatback into strips like bacon, then chop into large pieces. **Note: It's easier to cut when it's partially frozen or at least VERY cold.**

Fry the fatback until browned in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. While the fatback is frying, thoroughly wash the greens and strip the leaves off the stems. When the fatback is done, pour or spoon most of rendered fat from the pot, leaving behind the browned fatback and about 2 or 3 Tablespoons of fat. **Note: Traditional recipes don't do that but a little bit of fatback renders a LOT of fat, so I leave it to your discretion. I save the poured-off fat in a lidded jar in my refrigerator for other uses, just like I do with bacon fat.**

Toss the cleaned greens into the pot, stir and fry over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until the greens wilt. Carefully pour in the water, stir and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender and most of the water has evaporated.  **Note: Depending on how tough the greens are, this can take an hour or more and you might need to add a little more water if they start getting too dry before they're fully tender.**

When the greens are tender, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a splash or two of vinegar or hot sauce if desired. You can refrigerate and reheat leftovers.

Zestfully yours,

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Zesty Bloody Mary Mixes Now Available!

Dave's Gourmet Bloody Mary Mix
Dave's Gourmet Bloody Mary Mix
By popular demand, we  now have several hot and spicy Bloody Mary mixes for sale at the Carolina Sauces online store! These zesty, full-flavored mixers are alcohol-free, of course, so all you need to do is add your favorite vodka or enjoy them "virgin" as a savory alternative to tomato juice. Heck, some folks even use Bloody Mary mix in recipes that call for tomato juice, so go ahead and get a little wild in the kitchen with these tasty, tangy tomato beverages.

To help you select the perfect Bloody Mary mixer for your tastes, or for that holiday party or tailgating cookout, here's some information on each of the brands and flavors that we offer (simply click on the product name to buy online):

Dave's Gourmet Original Bloody Mary Mix is a traditional bloody mary mix made from all-natural ingredients including tomatoes, worcestershire sauce, horseradish and hot peppers, but those crazy folks at Dave's Gourmet have added a secret blend of spices for insanely delicious flavor. Yes, this mixer comes from the same company that makes the infamous Insanity Sauce and started the whole ultra-hot hot sauce craze, but thankfully their bloody mary mix is a quite sane and reasonable "medium" on most people's heat scale. It comes in a generous 32oz bottle, which is a good thing because it's likely to disappear quickly, it's that tasty!

Habanero Bloody Mary Mix from Hell: This devilish drink from the makers of the "From Hell" product line is sure to light your mouth on fire thanks to the use of fiery-hot habanero peppers, but it's a pleasant burn on par with that of Dave's bloody mary mix. Like the one from Dave's, this one is made from natural ingredients, but depending on your sensitivity to the distinctive heat of habaneros you might consider it a little hotter. Its savory flavor is also less complex than Dave's version because this one uses soy sauce instead of Worcestershire sauce. Habanero Bloody Mary Mix from Hell comes in a 26oz bottle and is a great choice to use in recipes for spaghetti sauce or chili or even stews, as well as in your favorite tomato-juice based drinks.

Bloody Iguana Bloody Mary Mix
Iguana Bloody Mary Mix
Iguana Bloody Mary Mix adds a bright and festive tropical twist to the traditional bloody mary, both in terms of heat (there are habaneros and cayenne peppers along with a hefty dose of cracked black pepper in this spicy beverage) and also in terms of flavor (sweet red peppers, carrots, pineapple and even banana combine for a subtle hint of island flavor). Perhaps a touch spicier than the other two, Iguana bloody mary mixer is an inspired choice for a party or other gathering when you want to make an impression, because it's not your ordinary, everyday take on the bloody mary. It comes in a 27.5oz bottle so you might want to order several if you're planning on a crowd.

Pain is Good #37 Original Bloody Mary Mix: With its pleasant medium heat level and robust flavor, this savory and spicy bloody mary mixer from the makers of the Pain Is Good hot sauces bears the trademark "screaming head" label and is sure to satisfy people who enjoy a bold and hearty drink. A secret pepper mash plus habanero powder add just enough of a kick, while worcestershire sauce and beef flavor contribute layers of complex, dark notes for an intriguing and satisfying zesty beverage. The original bloody mary mixer from Pain Is Good is the cook's choice for enhancing recipes that call for tomato juice but would benefit from an additional kick.

Pain is Good #114 Jamaican Bloody Mary Mix: Jamaican jerk seasonings add a festive and exotic flair to this unique take on the Bloody Mary from Pain is Good. I guarantee you've never tasted anything like it before, and even if you're skeptical go ahead and take one sip--if you enjoy Jamaican flavors then you will be delighted by this one-of-a-kind beverage. Heat-wise, it's no more than a medium, so you won't have to worry about it burning out your taste buds the way some jerk seasonings will do. Turn on some reggae, pour yourself a glass, add a jigger or two of your favorite vodka or tequila, and get mellow.

Pain is Good Bloody Mary Mix
Jamaican Bloody Mary Mix
Pain is Good #218 Cajun Bloody Mary Mix was inspired by the spicy, hearty flavors of Louisiana cooking, and this zesty Bloody Mary mix will have you dreaming of jambalaya, gumbo, and the best of New Orleans cuisine. Although it's the mildest (heat-wise) of our spicy bloody mary mixers, this one might have the richest, most "food-like" flavor because in addition to worcestershire sauce and pepper mash it also uses beef base and a dash or two of chipotle for a rich and deep, almost earthy flavor. Sure, it's great with vodka or as a "virgin Mary," but try adding some Cajun Bloody Mary Mix to your favorite Cajun and Creole recipes, soups, stews, etc. for remarkable flavor.

Stock up now on one or more of these Bloody Mary Mixes while they're on sale at the Carolina Sauce Company.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you prefer to concoct your own bloody mary mix from scratch, or if you already have a mass-produced mix and want to rev it up, simply add a few dashes of Another Bloody Day in Paradise Hot Sauce, an all-natural tabasco pepper & green chile hot sauce created especially for use in bloody marys. It's also superb as an all-purpose hot sauce at the table or in recipes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cuban-Inspired Pork Chops with Onions & Mushrooms

Pork chops with mushrooms & onions
These zesty pork chops are marinated in an authentic Cuban "mojo" (a citrus-garlic marinade) and cooked cooked in a traditional Cuban manner. Although mushrooms are not traditionally used Cuban cooking--hence my calling this recipe "Cuban-inspired" rather than Cuban--I think they complement and enhance the other flavors in this recipe, adding earthy depth and richness to an already robust and hearty dish.

If you don't care for mushrooms, you can either omit them and add a second onion, or you can substitute a sliced green bell pepper.

And if you cannot find bitter-orange juice (called "naranja agria" in Spanish) you can use a 50-50 combination of lemon or lime juice and orange juice.

My recipe serves two. If you have 4 or more mouths to feed, simply multiply the recipe accordingly. I served these pork chops with Southern style turnip greens and a baked sweet potato--not exactly traditional Cuban side dishes, but the flavors and textures complemented the pork chops nicely.

2 bone-in pork chops (about 10 to 12 oz each)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Pan-frying pork chops
1 large onion, sliced into 1/4" rings
4 white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup bitter orange juice
2 Tbs olive oil or bacon fat (or 50-50 combo)
1/4 cup red wine

Use a mortar and pestle to mash the salt, pepper, garlic, oregano and cumin into a paste. Rub this paste onto the pork chops, then lay the chops flat in a shallow non-metal container or a large resealable plastic bag. Top the chops with the sliced onion and mushrooms, pour the bitter orange juice over them, and cover (or seal the bag). Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. When ready to cook, heat the oil or fat over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet (I use a cast iron skillet). Brown the pork chops on both sides, then add the marinade, onions, mushrooms and wine. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook until the pork chops are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the chops and keep warm while you cook down the onions and mushrooms over high heat, stirring regularly, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Serve the pork chops with the onion-mushroom mixture spooned on top.

Zestfully yours,

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Perfect Hot Sauce for a Firefighter

Captain Sorensens Firehouse Subs Datil Pepper Hot Sauce
Captain Sorensen's Datil Pepper Sauce
If you're looking for a hot sauce gift for your favorite firefighter, look no further than Captain Sorensen's Datil Pepper Hot Sauce. This unique hot sauce from Firehouse Subs comes in a bottle shaped like a fire hydrant, and its generous 15-oz size (three times larger than your average bottle of hot sauce!) makes it perfect to share at the firehouse.

Made with genuine datil peppers from St. Augustine, Florida, Captain Sorenson's Datil Pepper Sauce delivers plenty of fiery heat while being surprisingly tasty. Tomatoes, molasses, bell peppers, onion, garlic and other fine ingredients complement the spiciness of the datil peppers. A touch of bright sweetness livens up the savory tang, and its full-bodied texture means it will stick to your food unlike thin, vinegary hot sauces. Whether you use it at the table to spice up your favorite foods, or add it to recipes for chili, sloppy joes, burgers, meatloaf, homemade barbecue sauce or even pasta and pizza, this lively hot sauce is sure to please any firefighter (and anyone else) who enjoys hot and spicy food.

Buy Captain Sorensen's Datil Pepper Hot Sauce while it's currently on sale at the Carolina Sauces online store.

Zestfully yours,

PS: Remember to "shop small" this Christmas and holiday season at the Carolina Sauce Company, your online source for hot and spicy gifts including themed hot sauce gift boxes and specialty-foods gift certificates.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thank You to Our Veterans

Flickr photo by uscgpress (LCDR Jo Cousins)
On this Veteran's Day, the Carolina Sauce Company and I wish to convey our deepest gratitude to all who have served our country with honor and courage in any branch of military service.

May we never forget that freedom and democracy are not free, and that we are forever in your debt for your service and sacrifice on our behalf.

You are in our thoughts and prayers, and you have our heartfelt thanks.

And to my friends, acquaintances and readers who are not Veterans of our armed forces: If you know a Veteran or if you encounter a military service person today, please take a moment to thank them for their service.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Hot Sauces are Here!

Trinidad Scorpion Pepper Puree
Scorpion Pepper Puree
As part of our recent re-design and expansion of the Carolina Sauces online store, we have added several new hot sauces made from the Trinidad Scorpion Pepper (aka Moruga Scorpion Pepper), which recently dethroned the ghost pepper (aka bhut or naga jolokia) as THE hottest pepper in the world with a searing heat consistently greater than 2 million Scoville Heat Units.  It should come as no surprise that these hot sauces are brutally hot and meant to be used only in extremely small quantities, and with much care. That being said, some of these scorpion hot sauces are surprisingly flavorful, assuming you can handle the heat. Here's a brief introduction to our new Trinidad scorpion hot sauces, along with quick links to where you buy the hot sauces online:

Cajohn's Trinidad Scorpion Hot Sauce: The Cajohn's brand is well-known and highly respected among chiliheads and fiery-foods fanatics who appreciate quality hot sauces and crave authentic hot pepper flavor and fire. This new hot sauce from Cajohn's continues that tradition by focusing on purity of flavor and heat. The main ingredient is the Trinidad scorpion pepper, and rather than masking or playing down its intensity, the other ingredients in this all-natural hot sauce highlight and complement the characteristics of what is now recognized as the world's hottest pepper. The savory, tangy base is a traditional combination of vinegar, tomato and lemon juice, and only a few spices and seasonings are added to ensure that you'll have a genuine scorpion pepper experience when you (carefully) consume this incandescent condiment.

Cajohn's Trinidad Scorpion Puree:  You don't get simpler--and more dangerous--than this. Pureed scorpion peppers and vinegar, that is all you'll find in this pure pepper mash. If you enjoy cooking extremely hot foods or if you regularly make large batches of spicy chili, salsa or barbecue sauce, Cajohn's scorpion pepper puree is an excellent choice for you. This is what you'd make at home if you grew your own scorpion peppers and wanted a convenient "base" for making your favorite hot and spicy recipes. A little goes a long way when you're working with a hot pepper puree, so always err on the side of caution and add less than you think, because you can always add more if needed but you cannot do the reverse!

Cauterizer Trinidad Scorpion Hot Sauce
Cauterizer Scorpion Hot Sauce
Heartbreaking Dawn's 1498 Trinidad Scorpion Hot Sauce:  This is one of the tamer (heat-wise) and more richly flavorful scorpion pepper hot sauces available, taking advantage of a blend of scotch bonnet peppers and scorpion peppers for a burn that takes you right to the edge... but doesn't push you over. Made from the finest all-natural ingredients, this hot sauce is sure to please foodies who appreciate fiery hot sauces: A touch of palate-pleasing fruit flavor and sweetness comes from the unique combination of apricots, blueberries and honey, but there are enough savory ingredients like soy sauce, garlic and sea salt to keep this hot sauce from turning into a sweet or fruity hot sauce. This appealingly tasty and seriously hot sauce complements grilled or smoked meats and poultry, including ribs, steaks, pork chops or loin, smoked turkey, and also roast chicken or portobello burgers.

Heartbreaking Dawn's 1498 Cauterizer Trinidad Scorpion Hot Sauce: Created in response to customer demand for a hotter version of her original 1498 hot sauce but preserving that gourmet flavor, Heartbreaking Dawn's Cauterizer Hot Sauce is significantly hotter and burns longer by replacing the scotch bonnet peppers in the original with even more scorpion peppers. This hot sauce rates our highest "five flames" rating and sports a deeper, darker color, but assuming your taste buds can handle the unforgiving burn they will be caressed with the same sublimely complex blend of savory and fruit notes. The new label is also quite attractive, with a stylized, mysterious skeleton figure that should serve as a sinister warning of this hot sauce's firepower.

Moruga Madness Hot Sauce:  If you are a fan of sweet hot sauces, especially extremely hot or ultra-hot sweet hot sauces, Moruga Madness scorpion hot sauce is for you.  The excruciating burn in this baby can be blamed on its inspired blend of moruga scorpion peppers (both fresh AND powdered) plus black pepper and exotic caribe chilies. As a result, there are several layers of hellish heat (like Dante's Inferno) that will play devilishly with the other all-natural sweet and savory ingredients, leaving you to cry in pleasure and pain.

Trinidad Scorpion Pepper BBQ Sauce
Trinidad Scorpion BBQ Sauce
Sancto Scorpion Hot Sauce:  Similar to Moruga Madness in sweetness, but focused on providing straightforward, "unadulterated" Trinidad scorpion flavor, this hot sauce uses only the scorpion pepper and no other chilies. The sweetness doesn't overpower but rather complements the natural flavor of the hottest chile pepper on the planet, making Sancto Scorpion Hot Sauce a preferred choice for robust, savory dishes that are enhanced by "bright" condiments. It's also great if you're making a homemade fiery barbecue sauce, a pot of flavorful chili, and other recipes or sauces that rely on multidimensional flavors.

All of these ultra-hot hot sauces are now on sale at the Carolina Sauce Company, just in time for your holiday shopping.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you can't get enough heat in your life and you crave the powerful burn of the moruga scorpion pepper, you'll need to treat yourself to a jar of Cajohn's Trinidad Scorpion Salsa, which uses habaneros, jalapenos and scorpion chiles in a traditional tomato salsa base, and a bottle of their Trinidad Scorpion barbecue sauce, a tangy-sweet and super-hot tomato BBQ sauce that gets its intense heat from scorpion peppers as well as several other chilies.