Monday, June 23, 2014

Important News from Carolina Sauce Company

Carolina Sauce Company
Dear loyal patrons, friends, colleagues, partners and other devotees of the zesty lifestyle:

Please join me in welcoming my friend Dee Taggart as the newest member of the Carolina Sauce Company family! As of today, I will be stepping away from the "front lines" to begin a new job here in Bozeman, MT, and Dee will be taking care of daily operations at Carolina Sauce, which mostly consist of the Facebook page and other social media as well as monitoring email.

Rest assured that nothing is changing with our online store, which continues to be operated by our partner Carolina Sauces, and you will continue to receive the same outstanding level of customer service that you've come to expect from all of us. Because Carolina Sauces is a completely separate company from Carolina Sauce Company, my stepping back will have absolutely no effect whatsoever on orders, shipping, warehouse operations, customer service or anything else pertaining to the online store.

Should you have any questions about an order you placed online, or about products, shipping or anything else whatsoever, please feel free to email Customer Service and they will be more than happy to help you any way they can.

Please stop by the Carolina Sauce Company Facebook Page to say hello to Dee, and to keep up with the latest news including a "heads up" when we're ready to launch our July VIP coupon sale.

Zestfully yours,

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mountain Trout Stuffed with Lemon-Butter Mushrooms

Recipe for stuffed trout
What a long, strange week-plus it's been since I last blogged! I'll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that nothing went as planned with the house we thought we were buying, and with the job I thought I was starting last week. The good news is that we've found a new house we love and plan to make an offer on tomorrow, AND I'm now all set to start my new job tomorrow, so I think our temporary streak of mishaps and setbacks is coming to an end.

During this tumultuous time, Greg treated me to the following magnificent fish dinner: Fresh local mountain trout, butterflied and stuffed with butter, lemon and mushrooms, and delicately seasoned with tarragon, salt & pepper. I whipped up some sassy sauteed spinach to serve on the side, and that recipe will be posted here in the near future.

Back to the trout: There's no need to measure any ingredients for this recipe. Simply plan on one butterflied trout per person (they're not very large), then use your judgment and common sense when layering the ingredients and sprinkling with the seasonings. As with any fish recipe, it's imperative to use the freshest fish possible.

stuffed trout with lemon butter mushroomsIngredients
Butterflied trout
Thinly sliced lemon
Sliced mushrooms
Coarse salt & crushed pepper
Dried tarragon (or another herb such as dill, parsley or marjoram)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Open up each butterflied trout, skin side down, in the center of a square of foil that's large enough to wrap completely around the fish when it's stuffed and folded back together. Place a few lemon slices in a single layer on one half of the fish, then a few pats of butter, then the sliced mushrooms. Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper and tarragon or other herb. Fold the other half of the trout back over the topped half to "close" the fish up, then wrap the whole fish with aluminum foil, crinkling the seams of the foil to seal.

baking stuffed troutPlace the packets of fish on a baking sheet, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350°F until fish is fork-tender.  Remove from oven, carefully open each foil package and gently transfer each baked fish onto a plate. Enjoy!

Zestfully yours,

PS:  As much as it pains me to admit it, this fish requires no hot sauce. But if you must spice it up, keep it simple and select a milder, gentler, simpler hot sauce such as Cholula Green Pepper Sauce or Amazon Green Hot Sauce.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sauteed White Kale & Mushrooms

white kale with mushrooms
If there's one dark leafy green vegetable that Greg will eat without complaint, it's kale. He also loves mushrooms, so I whipped up this zesty side dish featuring two of his favorite vegetables to serve with seared pork chops as my first dinner cooked in Montana in our RV, where we're living until we close on our new house.

With its robust seasonings, my sauteed kale and mushrooms would be equally appropriate and tasty if served alongside steak, chicken, venison or another hearty entree.

white kale
white kale
The kale is white kale from the local farm stand at a garden shop within a short walk of the RV park at which we're staying. I had never heard of or seen white kale before, and these bunches had been harvested earlier that same morning, so I took a chance and bought a bunch. Its flavor was surprisingly mild and almost sweet, without any bitterness at all, and its broad, flat leaves proved very easy to wash, strip from the stems and tear or chop for cooking.

If you can find white kale in your area, I recommend giving it a try. If it's not available where you live, use any other variety of kale -- and for that matter, you can substitute spinach, chard, or other dark leafy greens if you prefer them over kale or simply have them on hand.

1 bunch white kale (or other greens), washed, stems removed and leaves torn or chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, sliced as thin as possible
4 oz (1/2 a box) mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
1 tsp (or to taste) savory steak seasoning such as Stubb's Steak Spice Rub
2 Tbs olive oil

Stubb's Steak Seasoning
Heat the oil in a medium heavy-bottomed pot or a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute until translucent and soft. Add garlic and mushrooms; saute until both are soft. Stir in the kale a handful at a time, stirring each handful until it cooks down enough to add another handful. Stir in the seasoning, reduce heat to low, and partially cover with a lid. Allow to cook, stirring once or twice, until the kale is cooked and tender to taste (we like it a little "al dente" but you can cook it longer if you prefer). If the vegetables appear to be drying out as they cook, you can add a very small amount of water to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pot or pan. Before serving, taste for balance and add more steak seasoning if needed. Makes 2 to 4 servings.

Zestfully yours,

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Get 7% off THIS WEEK at Carolina Sauces: Read This to Find Out How

Carolina Sauce VIP Club
Our Father's Day VIP coupon sale is going on at the Carolina Sauces online store -- but only Carolina Sauce VIP Club members are invited!

Would YOU like to become a Carolina Sauce VIP and get your 7% off coupon for our sale?

Simply sign up here, confirm your membership by clicking on the link in the confirmation email that you'll receive, and then I'll personally send you a copy of our June VIP Newsletter with the 7% off coupon.

Our VIP Club is completely FREE and gets you our biggest, best discounts and coupon sales available only to our VIPs. In each monthly VIP newsletter you'll find at least one exclusive coupon or sale, a preview of our newest products, zesty recipes & cooking tips, and any breaking news to keep you informed with the latest or upcoming developments at the Carolina Sauce Company. As a VIP, you'll receive our monthly Newsletter and we will not email you more than once a month, unlike other clubs or newsletters thar constantly flood you with emails. We value your time and privacy as much as we value ours, and won't share your contact info with anyone else. You can also unsubscribe any time, and your feedback is always welcome.

If you want to cash in on our current VIP coupon sale for 7% off everything at our online store AND free ground shipping (continental US) for orders over $75, click to join our VIP Club or just send me an email with "Sign Me Up" in the subject line and I'll take care of it for you.

Any questions? Just leave a comment below, or message me on Facebook, or send me an email and I'll be happy to help.

Don't delay: Our June VIP coupon sale ends at midnight EDT on Father's Day, June 15th!

Zestfully yours,

Monday, June 9, 2014

Seared Pork Chops with Zesty Italian Seasonings

A well-seasoned cast iron skillet is a must for the following recipe, as are the best pork chops you can get, ideally from a small farm specializing in heirloom hog breeds rather than your standard mass-produced pork chop found in supermarkets and even most butcher shops. But if "fancy" pork chops aren't in your budget, or aren't available in your area, don't fret: The following cooking technique and seasoning blend will bring out the very best in any pork chop.

When selecting pork chops, I prefer bone-in chops with a nice amount of fat, especially if from an heirloom hog. Here in Montana, the Bozeman food co-op had guinea hog chops -- no, not guinea pig, although from the diminutive size of the chops I did wonder for a moment if they had come from an overgrown, cuddly guinea pig. Guinea hogs are a rare breed of pig that's unique to North America and known for its small size, and they produce a rich, deeply flavorful meat. You can read more about guinea hogs here.

There are no ingredient quantities for this recipe because it works for any number of pork chops and you season them to taste. This recipe is all about technique, and about the quality of the ingredients.

Pork chops
Fennel Seed Whole, 1 lb, StarWest Botanicals
Fennel seed
Lard, bacon fat, olive oil or pure coconut oil (not extra virgin because of its flavor)
Coarse sea salt or Kosher salt
Cracked or coarse-ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes
Fennel seed
Granulated garlic
Onion powder
Dried oregano
Dried basil
Dried thyme
Dried rosemary (use your fingers to crush)
Brown sugar - just a pinch per chop side

Heat your cast iron skillet on high until you can feel the heat radiating from it and it has barely begun to smoke -- you'll want to have your kitchen well-ventilated by opening windows if practical, running any vent fans, and probably disconnecting your smoke detector. While the skillet is heating, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350°F, pat dry your pork chops and place them on a plate, then season the top side of the chops with the herbs & seasonings, using your fingers to sprinkle them evenly, liberally applying the salt & pepper and following your taste preferences for the remainder of the seasonings. I recommend going light on the fennel seed and rosemary because of their strong flavor. Gently pat the seasonings onto the chops with your fingers, without rubbing.

When the skillet is smoking-hot, use a bundled up paper towel or piece of brown paper bag to smear on the grease or oil, working quickly to coat the skillet generously and evenly. Let that heat for a few seconds until almost smoking, then carefully place the chops in the greased skillet seasoned-side down, and then LET THEM BE for 90 seconds to 2 minutes (the latter for very large or very thick chops). Resist the urge to disturb the chops because doing so will prevent them from searing properly.

While the chops are searing, season the exposed side of the chops in the same manner as you did the first side. When the 90 to 120 seconds have passed, carefully flip the chops over to sear the other side, again letting them cook undisturbed for 90 seconds to 2 minutes. After that allotted time, turn off the burner and carefully place the skillet with the chops in your preheated oven. Let the chops cook in the oven at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 145°F using a meat thermometer -- don't touch the bone with the probe or you'll get a false reading.

Stubb's Pork Rub
Buy Stubb's Pork Rub
When the chops are done, remove skillet from oven and serve the pork chops. Enjoy!

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you want to save time, you can season the pork chops simply with salt & pepper, or with a good pork seasoning blend that has little or no sugar, such as Stubb's Pork Spice Rub, Historic Lynchburg Tennessee Whiskey Seasoned Salt or PETA Barbecue Seasoning, then use the same cooking technique for searing and finishing in the oven.

PPS: If you're curious about the greens served with the pork chops in the photo at the top of this post, stay tuned because that recipe will be available on this blog in the very near future.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Jim Beam Bourbon Bacon BBQ Sauce is Back!

Jim Beam Bacon Barbecue Sauce
After inexplicably going MIA for some time, Jim Beam Bacon Barbecue Sauce is back at the Carolina Sauces online store!

Big, bold, robust and all-American in flavor and attitude, this thick, tangy-sweet barbecue sauce is enhanced with a splash of real Kentucky bourbon from Jim Beam, and delivers unmistakeably meaty, smoky and mouthwatering bacon flavor with every bite.

Whether you slather it on grilled chicken or mop it on ribs (beef or pork), baste kabobs with it or pour it on hamburgers, or even mix it into your baked beans or meatloaf recipe, Jim Beam Bacon BBQ Sauce will be a hit with the entire family and any friends lucky enough to be invited for dinner or a cookout. This full-flavored barbecue sauce is also manly enough to be a thoughtful gift for Father's Day.

Buy Jim Beam Bacon BBQ Sauce online now while it's on sale, and while there's still time to give it as a Father's Day gift to that special Dad who loves to grill or barbecue.

Zestfully yours,

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Low Carb Recipe: Faux French Onion Soup (aka Mushroom & Garlic Soup)

Low-carb mushroom soup
Greg and I both love homemade French onion soup, but the real thing doesn't fit into either of our dietary preferences: The bread topping makes the soup prohibitively high-carb for Greg, and its cheesy high-fat richness makes it a very rare indulgence for me.

The following soup was one of the last meals I cooked in North Carolina before our move, born primarily of the need to use up the last frozen container of my homemade brown stock along with the shredded cheese, mushrooms, garlic, spring onions and part of a yellow onion residing in our refrigerator. I did not intend to make a soup that tasted very similar to French onion soup. It was only after we tasted it and Greg exclaimed, "I love it! It's like French onion soup without the bread!" that I decided to call this robust mushroom & beef stock soup a "faux French onion soup."

Regardless of whether you're looking for a low carb or gluten-free soup recipe, or are watching your fat intake, or simply enjoy mushrooms and hearty soups made with beef stock, this recipe is for you. Its flavors are sufficiently robust that you can omit the cheese, if you prefer.

sauteed mushrooms
Sauteing the mushrooms
2 Tbs butter plus 1 Tbs butter
1 cup very thinly sliced onion
1 cup thinly sliced spring (or green) onions including green top
Approx. 15 cloves garlic, crushed
8 oz sliced mushrooms
scant 1/4 cup dry sherry
1 quart beef broth OR 2 cups brown stock + 2 cups water
Salt & Pepper to taste
Opt: A splash or two of Hot Pepper Sherry
Shredded cheese, e.g., Swiss, gruyere, gouda, parmesan, mozzarella, etc.

Faux French Onion Soup recipe
Simmering the soup
Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden but not yet caramelized. Stir in the spring onions & garlic and saute until softened and the garlic is lightly golden. Stir in remaining Tablespoon of butter and when melted, stir in the mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms until soft. Slowly stir in the sherry to deglaze the bottom of the pot, then allow to simmer & cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has mostly evaporated but the vegetables are still moist. Add the broth or stock & water, bring to a simmer (you may need to increase the heat) and cook at a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes. Taste for balance, season with salt & pepper to taste, and add a splash or two of pepper sherry if you like a spicy soup. Serve in bowls and top each serving with shredded cheese if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Zestfully yours,

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

May's Best-Selling Products at Carolina Sauce

Wells BBQ Sauce
The Silver Sausage, aka the RV-Que, has arrived in Bozeman, and I'm back in (almost) full-swing, at least when our flaky internet connection permits. We're camped on the outskirts of Bozeman for the month, and should be able to move into our new house in early July assuming all goes as planned with the final inspections and closing. In the meantime, I'm busily catching up on Carolina Sauce work, including the following list of the Top 10 Best-Selling Products for May:

1. Wells Hog Heaven BBQ Sauce is a genuine eastern North Carolina vinegar sauce that's thin and tangy with a touch of spice and absolutely no tomatoes, corn syrup or thickeners. Usually enjoyed with pulled pork barbecue, Wells can also be used as a marinade for chicken or a seasoning for greens like collards or kale. This is our best-selling barbecue sauce and also our best-selling product of all time.

2. Matouk's West Indian Hot Sauce is our top-selling hot sauce of all time, which should come as no surprise when you taste it. A sensory delight, its thick texture sticks to your food and delivers spicy-hot scotch bonnet pepper heat in a tangy mustard base that's naturally sweetened with papaya for a lusciously exotic flavor that complements fish, chicken, veggies, rice & beans, and grilled foods of all kinds.

Jump Up & Kiss Me Hot Sauce
3. Jump Up & Kiss Me Hot Sauce was created by a heat-loving gourmet chef and beautifully proves that a hot sauce can be packed with layers of palate-pleasing flavors while still delivering enough of a peppery kick to thrill chileheads. Enjoy it with any savory dish that could benefit from a spark of flavor and fire, including burgers and fries, spaghetti and chili, nachos and burritos, scrambled eggs and quiche, fried or broiled fish or chicken, and even steaks, chops, ribs and roasts.

4. Busha Browne's Pukka Sauce is found regularly on our monthly and annual lists of best-selling sauces and has a devoted following among people who enjoy an all-purpose, food-friendly hot sauce that sparks the tongue without burning out the mouth. Made in Jamaica but not a jerk sauce, its special blend of peppers and spices dates back to colonial days, as hinted at by the name and the pith-helmeted explorer on the label. Pukka Sauce is excellent in the kitchen for cooking as well as on the table for splashing and saucing served food.

Scorned Woman Hot Sauce
5. We had a tie for 5th place last month, between Walkerswood Traditional Jamaican Jerk Seasoning, probably the most famous jerk seasoning that's made in Jamaica, with authentic fiery heat and intense aromatic herbs & spices; and Scorned Woman Hot Sauce, a classic all-purpose vinegar pepper sauce that's savory and fiery, perfect for recipes and table use, and great in Bloody Marys and other spicy beverages.

6. Matouk's Calypso Sauce is similar to its second-place sibling with one major difference: It doesn't have that fruity papaya sweetness, and as a result this island hot sauce will seem hotter and more savory on the palate. You can enjoy Calypso Sauce just as you would the West Indian Sauce, and it's even better than its sweeter sibling for heartier, more robust foods such as grilled or roasted red meats or smoked ribs.

Salsa Lizano
7. JohnBoy & Billy's Hot & Spicy Grillin' Sauce hails from the Old North State and blends together the three distinctive styles of barbeque sauce found in the Carolinas: zesty mustard from South Carolina and the NC "low country," sweet tomato from western NC, and tangy vinegar from eastern North Carolina. These three foundations are brought together with a handful of hot peppers for a crowd-pleasin', lip-smackin', finger-lickin' and tongue-ticklin' sauce that brings out the best in anything you grill, barbecue or smoke. Magnificent on pork or beef ribs, grilled chicken, brisket, chops, burgers, and even shrimp and veggies, it's hot enough to get noticed but not so hot that it hurts.

8. Matouk's Hot Pepper Sauce is a no-nonsense savory-tangy hot sauce that packs a serious scotch bonnet pepper punch. If you want to experience the real flavor and fire of West Indian and Caribbean cuisine, this is the hot sauce for you. Thick enough to pour without dripping all over the place, and versatile enough to add to all sorts of recipes calling for hot sauce, it's excellent with most styles of spicy fare, whether you're serving island cuisines or Cajun/Creole favorites, nacho chips or Mexican food, Chinese stir-fry or fried rice, and even pizza or pasta, as well as all-American burgers or sausages.

Flexible Cordless Stainless Steel Grill Light9. Salsa Lizano is a favorite in Costa Rica, where it can be found on virtually all tables whether at home or in restaurants. A classic recipe that's almost 100 years old, it's still made the old-fashioned way from natural ingredients including vinegar & molasses, secret spices and locally-grown vegetables for a food-friendly, savory-sweet flavor with just a touch of peppery zip. Superb as a marinade or table sauce for steak and all sorts of red meat, it's also terrific with chicken, beans & rice, and vegetable dishes.

10. This Flexible Cordless Stainless Steel Grill Light is one of our most popular BBQ & grill accessories and sold remarkably well during National BBQ Month. Available through one of our trusted partners, its brilliant white LED light will cut through the darkest night so that you can see what's cooking anytime. With a long-lasting light source and durable stainless steel construction, this grill light is battery-operated so there are no cords to get tangled up or in the way. Makes a great Father's Day gift for Dads who love to grill and barbecue!

Zestfully yours,

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

This Memorial Day, Carolina Sauce Company is remembering the fallen who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our freedom.

May we never forget....


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hitting the Road for the Big Move

Dear friends of Carolina Sauce Company:

Tomorrow, May 26th,  Greg and I will begin our long drive to Montana, with our RV in tow behind Greg's truck and two cats in my SUV (lucky me). We expect to reach Bozeman by the first or second of June, assuming all goes smoothly -- yes, theoretically the drive should take no more than 4 days but we are taking the southern, aka "BBQ" route, which will take a little longer but hopefully result in some memorable meals along the way.

While we are traveling, I will have limited internet access and might be posting even less frequently than I've been able to lately. I'll do my best to check email at least once a day, and with any luck I'll also check Facebook etc. But I can't make any promises, as there's no telling where we'll end up camping on any given night. So please bear with me, and if you need immediate help on anything, please email Customer Service at our warehouse and they'll be able to help you out.

Thanks for your patience and understanding!

Zestfully yours,

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Mushrooms in Tarragon Sherry-Cream Sauce

Mushrooms in Tarragon Sherry Cream Sauce
The following recipe was inspired by three different people: Two of my friends who appreciate good food but have never met each other, and my dear husband who, after almost 26 years of marriage, still surprises me by occasionally declaring that he hates or loves a particular ingredient.

Case in point: Greg recently complained that I "never buy mushrooms," and then informed me that he he loves them. Well, perhaps if I'd known this sooner, he'd have enjoyed more home-cooked meals featuring mushrooms (and of course he could have bought said mushrooms anytime he went grocery shopping...).

And now you know why mushrooms have been appearing in more of my recipes.

The following creamy mushrooms are lovely served over baked, roasted, broiled or grilled chicken or turkey breast; absolutely divine over pork chops (my favorite way to enjoy them) or pork loin; magnificent with steak or brisket; and probably also quite tasty with venison and game meats, although I haven't tried that yet. You can also enjoy them as a rich side dish on their own, which is what we did the first time I made this recipe. For a thinner consistency, add a little more half-and-half or a splash of milk -- and for a thicker consistency, use a little less or cook a little longer.

2 Tbs plus 2 Tbs butter
Mushroom sauce recipe
8 oz mushrooms (brown or white), sliced
2 Tbs flour (I use whole wheat)
1/2 cup half & half
3 Tbs dry sherry
1/2 tsp dried tarragon (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and saute until just softened. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the mushrooms to a small bowl and set aside. Add remaining 2 Tablespoons butter to the saucepan and melt over medium heat. Slowly stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, to make a blond roux -- this takes about 4 minutes, and the roux should be the consistency of a paste, have a light golden color and emit a nutty aroma that indicates the flour has cooked.

Busha Browne's Spicy Hot Pepper Sherry
Pepper Sherry
When you have a blond roux, stir in the sherry and cook, stirring constantly, until you reach an even consistency. Slowly pour in the half & half, again stirring constantly to produce a smooth consistency. Stir in the tarragon, salt & pepper, then add the mushrooms along with any juices in the bowl. Continue to cook, stirring gently, until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated and the sauce is as thick as you want it. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

PS:  To add a little bit of a spicy kick, add a splash or two of Busha Browne's Hot Pepper Sherry, or substitute up to 1/2 Tbs of regular sherry with the hot pepper sherry for a bigger peppery bite.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Don't Get Left Out of our Invitation-Only BBQ Sauce Sale!

Click for your BBQ Sale invitation & Free Newsletter
Time is short, so I'm skipping the small talk and getting straight to my point:

In the very near future -- as in, early this coming week -- the Carolina Sauce Company will be launching an invitation-only coupon sale in celebration of National BBQ Month. The coupon will be good on all barbecue sauces and seasonings, indeed on ALL products sold at our online store, and will be good through May 31st.

If you're a member of our free VIP Club, you'll receive your invitation in the next few days.

If you are not currently in our VIP Club and want an invitation, click here to sign up for our VIP Club. You'll receive your invitation and coupon upon completing the sign-up process (it's really easy, simply click the confirmation link in the email you'll receive when you first sign up).

If you're a VIP and don't receive your invitation by Friday, or if you have any questions or would like help signing up, please email me and I'll make sure you get invited.

Zestfully yours,

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Spicy Vodka Risotto with Spinach & Mushrooms

This recipe is what happens when I'm desperate for a creamy, richly flavored risotto.... and I have nary a drop of white wine but a nearly full bottle of vodka.

Prior to creating my spicy vodka risotto with spinach and mushrooms, I had never heard of anyone using vodka in a risotto. But being an adventurous sort in the kitchen (except when it comes to pressure cookers, of which I am terrified), I figured I had nothing to lose by giving it a try especially since I was cooking only for myself. To my relief, delight and gustatory satisfaction, the risotto was not only edible, it was downright delicious -- and Greg can back me up on that as he did try a bite of the leftovers the following day.

A note about the rice: Most people are familiar with arborio rice for risotto. Somewhat less well-known is carnaroli rice, which happens to be what I had in our RV kitchen and therefore what I used. Feel free to use either type of rice, as both are equally good for risotto. While on the topic of ingredients, be sure to use a decent quality vodka that you consider good enough to drink.

Some words of caution: Vodka can burst into flames if added to a very hot cooking vessel. I recommend taking your pot off the burner before pouring in the vodka, and then pouring it in slowly while stirring. Also make sure your kitchen is well-ventilated, as the evaporating alcohol fumes can get intense (at least they did in my tiny RV kitchen, until I opened up some windows). Finally, if you are sensitive to hot and spicy foods, use no more than half the amount of red pepper flakes listed below. On the other hand, if you are a serious chilehead, feel free to add more than the listed amount, or even add a dash or two of ghost pepper powder or dried jolokia chili powder.

3 Tbs olive oil
8 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
Carnaroli Long Grain Italian Rice by Gli Aironi
Click to buy Carnaroli rice
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium bell pepper, chopped
4 oz (half of an 8oz box) brown mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 bag (6 to 8 oz) baby spinach
1 Tbs butter or olive oil
1 cup Carnaroli rice
1 cup vodka
2 1/2 to 3 cups water or broth (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 tsp sea salt (or Kosher or table salt if that's what you have)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup (or more to taste) shredded parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion & bell pepper and saute until onion is turning golden and the pepper has softened. Add mushrooms and saute until just softened. Stir in the oregano, thyme and red pepper flakes, then add spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until spinach is wilted. Use a slotted spoon to remove sauteed vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Vodka risotto recipe
Cooking after adding vegetables
Add the Tablespoon of butter or oil to the pot and melt (or heat) over medium heat. Stir in rice and cook, stirring frequently, until rice is coated and turns translucent on the edges with a white spot in the middle (about 3 minutes). Remove pot from heat and slowly pour in the vodka, stirring constantly. Return pot to burner and cook at a simmer, stirring constantly, until almost all the liquid is absorbed, then slowly pour in half a cup of the water or stock. Continue to cook at a simmer, stirring frequently, until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Continue to add water or stock in half-cup increments, following the same cooking method, until the rice is creamy and almost fully cooked but still somewhat firm in the middle, and reserving 1/4 cup of water or broth for later. Note: Your rice might absorb anywhere from 2 1/2 cups of liquid to 3 cups, or a little more or a little less. Use your judgement and preference for "creaminess vs. chewiness." Don't feel compelled to use all 3 cups of liquid, or worry if the rice absorbs less than 2 1/2 cups before reaching your preferred doneness.

When rice is almost done, stir in the sauteed vegetables along with any liquid remaining in the bowl, and also stir in the salt, black pepper and reserved 1/4 cup of water or broth. Cook and stir until the vegetables are evenly incorporated into the rice and the rice is tender. Add the parmesan cheese and stir until combined and melted. Taste for balance and add more salt and/or pepper if desired. Serve hot. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Zestfully yours,

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ole Ray's Apple Cinnamon BBQ Sauce Now in Gallon Jugs!

Ole Ray's Apple Cinnamon Barbeque Sauce
Attention BBQ fanatics and lovers of great tasting barbecue sauces:

The Carolina Sauces online store now sells Ole Ray's Apple Cinnamon BBQ Sauce in gallon jugs!

Perfect for whenever you're cooking for a crowd, these food-service gallon jugs of one of Ole Ray's most popular barbecue sauce flavors is not just for catering, family reunions, charity BBQs or other special events: It's also a very economical way to stock up on tangy-sweet, thick and sassy apple cinnamon barbecue sauce for the summer. Not only do you save money buy buying "in bulk" when you purchase the larger size, you also save on shipping by ordering one or two of these plastic jugs rather several glass bottles throughout the course of the grilling season. In short, these gallons of Ole Ray's Apple Cinnamon BBQ Sauce are a no-brainer for anyone who loves outdoor cooking, grilling and smoking.

Fantastic as a basting, finishing and dipping sauce for pork or beef ribs, this award-winning barbeque sauce is also wonderful with brisket, pork chops, grilled chicken, veggie or shrimp or meat kabobs, and even on burgers, in meatloaf and in other more creative recipes that benefit from a good barbecue sauce. The sweet apple flavor marries beautifully with the rich tomato and cider vinegar base, while mustard, a pinch of cayenne and savory spices add a touch of zest without making this sauce hot or spicy. Cinnamon, molasses, brown sugar and natural smoke add depth and mellow warmth, for a luscious flavor the whole family will love.

Ole Ray's BBQ Sauce
If you'd rather buy barbecue sauce in "regular" 16 oz. bottles, don't worry, we also sell Ole Ray's Apple Cinnamon Barbecue Sauce in pint bottles. And if you're interested in other flavors of this award-winning line of cooking, grilling and barbeque sauces, check out our huge selection of Ole Ray's Sauces, all of which are on sale now.

Zestfully yours,

PS: This is merely one of the several different sauces we sell in larger or "food service" sizes. Click here to see our full selection of BBQ & hot sauces in gallon and  half-gallon sizes.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Spring Salad with Strawberries & Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette

salad with strawberries & feta cheeseThe following recipe is an elegant twist on "throw cooking," a technique that eschews specific quantities for the ingredients and invites the cook to omit or replace any "supporting" (not principal) ingredient to suit personal preferences and what's on hand at the time, e.g., omit the celery if you don't like or have it, replace the sweet onion with spring onions or red onion, etc.

While the idea of using a chocolate-infused balsamic vinegar on a green salad might strike you as odd, trust me on this one. As long as you drizzle it on with judicious discretion instead of wild abandon, the overall effect will be one of velvety, mellow, dark cocoa and wood flavors rather than the sweetness of candy chocolate.

And no, I didn't mix together the vinaigrette separately to pour over the salad. Again, trust me on this.... although you are certainly welcome to do so if you prefer, or to otherwise improvise and add your own touch, of course. After all, that's the whole point of throw cooking:

To inspire, not dictate.

Young spring lettuce leaves, washed, patted dry & torn
1 small, slender stalk of celery, trimmed & sliced (I include the leaves)
1/2 small young cucumber, quartered, seeded & thinly sliced (I don't peel)
A few paper-thin slices of sweet onion
Several ripe strawberries, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Cracked black pepper
Dried or fresh thyme
Chocolate balsamic vinegar
Crumbled feta or goat cheese

Place the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, drizzle with EVOO to taste, sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and thyme to taste, then gently toss. Lightly drizzle with chocolate balsamic vinegar, then gently toss. Transfer to individual bowls or salad plates and top with crumbled cheese. Enjoy!

Stawberry salad with chocolate balsamic dressing

Zestfully yours,

PS: Do you enjoy the interplay of savory and sweet when adding strawberries to recipes? And do you like spicy foods? Then check out the strawberry hot sauces & salsa available at the Carolina Sauces online store!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Carolina Reaper Salsa is Here!

The Reaper Super Hot Salsa
Trinidad Moruga scorpion chiles? C'mon, they're sooooo last-year.

Ghost peppers or jolokias? Get serious, that's ancient history. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Habanero or jalapeno peppers? Puh-leeze! Those are for wimps and newbies.

OK, then what about pepper extracts or capsaicin oil? Totally unnecessary if you're dealing with GOOD super-hot salsa made with high-quality ingredients and enough hot peppers.

If you're SERIOUS about SEARING chili pepper heat, nothing but Carolina reaper peppers will do.

And if you're also uncompromising as to flavor and quality, then we have the salsa for you:

Introducing Cajohn's Reaper Super Hot Salsa, featuring the NEW hottest pepper in the world, the Carolina Reaper chili!

Sure, this baby is powerfully hot and showcases the reaper pepper in all its fury, but it's more than just another super-hot salsa. The Reaper Salsa from Cajohn's actually tastes good, is made with quality all-natural ingredients, and delivers multi-layered heat thanks to the addition of habanero peppers and jalapeno peppers. Garlic, onion and secret spices deliver zest, fresh tomatoes provide the rich traditional salsa base, and a touch of turbinado sugar takes the edge off and brings everything together harmoniously while letting the fiery heat take center stage. There's no pepper extract or capsaicin oil in this product because there's no need for artificial enhancement of the heat level, and thus your enjoyment of this salsa won't be marred by chemical- or metallic-tasting off-flavors, unnecessarily painful heat or any tongue-numbing side-effects that would prevent you from enjoying your food.

Are YOU brave enough to try a hot salsa made with the infamous Carolina reaper pepper? Then get yourself a jar of Cajohn's Reaper Super Hot Salsa from the Carolina Sauces online store, while it's on sale, and you'll earn yourself some serious bragging rights if you can handle the heat!

Zestfully yours,

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Vegan Recipe: The Unlucky Hunter's Lentils Cacciatore

Lentils Cacciatore vegan recipe
When Greg's away, the Glo will play -- in the kitchen, that is, and with carbohydrates, which are otherwise verboten for the sake of his diet.

Lentils are one of my favorite legumes because they don't require overnight soaking or lengthy cooking periods. I also appreciate their earthy, "meatier" and less "beany" flavor, and their small size makes them useful in a wider variety of recipes than larger beans.

I had been craving lentils for some time now, so one recent morning when Greg informed me that he'd miss dinner due to an afternoon appointment back in Durham followed by a late-night hockey game in Raleigh, I jumped on the opportunity to play in the kitchen with carbs, and more specifically, with regular brown lentils. The following recipe is what I came up with, which was inspired by a friend's request for vegan Dutch oven recipes.

The name is a play on "Chicken Cacciatore," or hunter-style chicken (cacciatore means hunter in Italian), a traditional Italian dish that traces its roots back to earlier times when a hunter would bring back a rabbit or wild fowl to throw in a pot along with tomatoes and other vegetables from his family's garden, some herbs, maybe a few foraged mushrooms and a splash or two of wine. Presumably, an unlucky hunter would have to settle for a meatless stew, perhaps one like this...

1 cup lentils, picked over & rinsed
2 cups water
cooking lentils1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, or 1/2 large bell pepper, seeded & chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
4 oz (1/2 of a package) small brown mushrooms, cleaned & quartered
1/2 cup dry red wine (something Italian is perfect)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp of each of the following dried herbs: rosemary (crushed lightly with your fingers), rubbed sage, thyme, parsley
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp (or to taste) red pepper flakes (or hotter crushed chilies if preferred)

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat, add onions and saute until beginning to turn golden. Add garlic & bell pepper and saute until softened. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the mushrooms and the salt, stir and bring to a simmer. Partially cover with lid and cook at a simmer for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Stir in the mushrooms, bring back to a simmer, partially cover with lid and cook at a simmer for another 10 minutes or until lentils are tender. Stir in the salt, taste for balance and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve in bowls, either "as is" (shown on left here) or spooned over cooked pasta or rice (shown over rotini in the large photo at the top of this post). Makes approx. 6 servings and leftovers are delicious reheated the next day.

Zestfully yours
Carolina Sauce Company

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

You Think Shakira is Hot? Check Out these New Colombian Imports!

Amazon Green Hot Sauce
Attention spicy-foods lovers with a taste for the hot and exotic:

Amazon Hot Sauces from Colombia have three new flavors now available at the Carolina Sauces online store, and they're all currently on sale!

Amazon Green Hot Sauce, aka salsa picante verde in Spanish, is made with green Amazon peppers and turmeric for an eye-catching pale green color,  moderate heat level and savory-tangy flavor. Food-friendly and approachable, it's an excellent choice for everyday and every-meal use at the table and in the kitchen when a recipe calls for hot sauce. Enjoy it on anything from breakfast eggs and potatoes to lunchtime sandwiches and salads, cookout staples like burgers or kabobs, appetizers like nachos or fried finger food, party fare like pizza or dips, and with dinner entrees ranging from steak and chops to broiled seafood, roast chicken, casseroles and sides, and more.

Amazon Habanero Hot Sauce
Amazon Habanero Hot Sauce is a solidly hot, all-purpose savory hot sauce made with ripe red Amazon chiles and fiery red habanero peppers, for a unique fiery flavor that's bright and almost fruit-like but not sweet or fruity -- rather, there's a mellow roundness to the peppery flavor, obtainable only by using ripe rather than green chiles which have an edgier, sometimes "grassy" or vegetal quality (think of the difference in flavor between red bell peppers and unripe green ones). The light touch of cane sugar harmonizes everything together without turning this into a sweet hot sauce. Amazon Habanero Hot Sauce is great with more robust foods like grilled meats and poultry, rice & bean dishes, chili, stews casseroles, pizza and pasta.

Amazon Mild Sweet Mango Hot Sauce
Amazon Mild Hot N' Sweet Mango Sauce is an alluring, piquant blend of juicy sweet mango with just the right amount of spicy habanero peppers for a playfully zesty sauce that adds sweet excitement and tropical intrigue to lighter foods like fish, seafood, chicken, stir-fry and other rice dishes. But that's not all: This sweet & savory hot sauce is a welcome companion to salty tortilla chips, french fries, calabash shrimp and other crunchy-salty fare. This is the mildest of the Amazon hot sauces, but most definitely not bland or boring when it comes to palate-friendly flavors. Made with exotic ingredients such as passionfruit, mango vinegar and turmeric, it's a memorable sensory experience that will enthrall and enchant you.

These are only three of the newest products to arrive at our warehouse partner, and we have more showing up regularly. Click here to see all new products.

Zestfully yours,

Monday, May 5, 2014

Our Favorite Cinco de Mayo Recipes (Not the Usual Stuff!)

Bread recipe for Cinco de Mayo
¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Or, Happy 5th of May!

Surprisingly, Cinco de Mayo is a much bigger deal here in the U.S. than it is in Mexico, perhaps because so many Americans enjoy having an excuse to eat hearty Mexican food with lots of big, zesty flavor and drink beer, tequila shots and margaritas.

If you're planning on celebrating today with Mexican food or dishes inspired by Mexican cuisine and are searching for recipes for Cinco de Mayo, you've come to the right place. Here are some of our favorite Cinco de Mayo recipes at the Carolina Sauce Company, several of which are refreshingly different from the usual "rice & beans, cheese & sour cream, guacamole & chips" fare (not that there's anything wrong with those, but sometimes it's fun to change things up):

Cinco de Mayo Skillet Bread: As easy to make as a cornbread, but made with flour instead of cornmeal and loaded with cheese and chili peppers yet relatively healthy in comparison to other quick breads, this crowd-pleaser is fantastic with any meal, and not just on the fifth of May. Its also festively colorful, as you can see from the photo above on the left. Click for the recipe for Cinco de Mayo Skillet Bread.

Five-alarm chili recipe
Five-Alarm Chili: I can't resist including this recipe, even if not truly authentic in terms of Mexican pedigree. But with a five in the name, and plenty of fiery heat along with ingredients frequently used in Mexican cuisine, this HOT chili is a natural fit for Cinco de Mayo, especially if the weather is still fairly cool in your neck of the woods. Click for the recipe for Five Alarm Chili. By the way, this chili is shown on the right with home-cooked tortilla chips, which are extremely easy to make, a lot tastier served warm from the oven (yes, they're baked but blow away the "baked" chips sold in supermarkets), and far better for you than store-bought chips. Click here for how to make healthy tortilla chips.

crock pot chili recipe
If you want to serve chili today but prefer a milder, more family-friendly recipe that's more about the flavor rather than fiery heat, you can't beat my Crock Pot Chili, which I not-so-humbly call the Best Ever Chili Recipe. Are you skeptical about my boast? Go ahead and try my recipe, and I bet you'll agree -- just as everyone has who's already tried it. It's also very easy to make, and you can make it as mild or as spicy as you prefer. Click here for the Best Ever Crock Pot Chili Recipe, which is also shown on the left.

avocado tuna melts recipe
Another non-traditional but Mexican-inspired recipe that's appropriate for Cinco de Mayo is my recipe for Avocado Tuna Melts. This one is extremely popular on Pinterest, and also among followers of low-carb diets. It's high in protein and healthy fats because of the avocado, and is devilishly spicy without being overwhelmingly hot. The avocado becomes decadently creamy when roasted in the oven, resulting in a luxurious and satisfying mouthfeel. It also looks pretty as well as tasting great, and even if you're a hard-core bread addict like I am, you won't miss the bread once you experience a bite. Click for the recipe for Avocado Tuna Melts.

Mexican tuna salad recipe
Continuing with the healthy but zesty theme, I give you my Mexicali Tuna Salad, another low-carb recipe featuring Mexican flavors without restaurant-food guilt. Especially if you're celebrating earlier in the day and don't want to get weighed down with the more traditional rice and beans or heavy cheese and sour cream, these feisty and festive spicy salads are perfect -- and they wash down nicely with margaritas or beer. And yes, you can turn the salad into Mexican wraps by spreading it onto flour or corn tortillas and rolling them up, or dig into it with tortilla chips if carbohydrates aren't a concern. Click for the recipe for Mexicali Tuna Salad.

For more Cinco de Mayo recipes, click here.

And if you're in the market for genuine Mexican hot sauces, the Carolina Sauces online store is the place to go -- you can search by country from our "sauces by country" drop-down menu on the left margin of any page in the store, and just select Mexico to see what we have.

Zestfully yours,

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Smoked Garlic, or, How to Roast Garlic on a Smoker

salad with smoked garlic
I love garlic.

Whether served raw and slivered paper-thin into EVOO with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt and cracked peppercorns as a gloriously pungent and assertive dip for artisan bread, or mellowed into robust yet elegantly well-rounded earthiness through slow roasting, sauteing, baking or frying, I can safely say that garlic is one of my favorite things to eat.

My favorite way to enjoy garlic has always been roasted -- that is, until yesterday.

Yesterday, Greg made smoked garlic.

Cooking garlic cloves on a smoker produces the most wonderfully smooth, rich roasty flavor and buttery-soft spreadable texture I have ever experienced in garlic. To my surprise, the smoked garlic had just a light, subtle kiss of smokiness that played a complementary supporting role to the almost sweet, toasty and deeply complex roasted garlic flavors. And there was absolutely no pungency or sharpness. In short, the roasted garlic tasted sublime.

If you enjoy garlic, especially when roasted, you'll be happy eating smoked garlic as an appetizer with crackers, crostini or bread (you can mash a bunch of smoked cloves into a paste or use a knife to spread a clove onto your cracker etc.); blended with cream cheese and sour cream to make a roasted garlic dip; spooned over sliced roast beef, London broil, grilled pork chops, roasted chicken or turkey, or with other similar main courses; tossed with cooked vegetables or a salad; and even on its own.

cooking garlic on a barbecue smoker
Smoked garlic is virtually foolproof to make, and takes practically no effort, especially if you're already firing up your smoker to cook other things.

In the photo on the left, Greg smoked the garlic in a tray along with a separate tray of jalapeno cheddar cheese, placing both trays on the smoker when the chicken he was smoking had about an hour left to cook.

If you can buy containers of already-peeled "dry packed" (not in a jar with liquid) garlic cloves at Whole Foods or other supermarket, I recommend make a large batch because you can store the smoked garlic in your refrigerator if you place it in a small jar or other tightly lidded container and cover the smoked garlic cloves with olive oil.

Here's how to cook garlic on your smoker:

raw garlic clovesLots of peeled garlic cloves (at least a couple dozen)
Olive oil or butter (about 1 Tbs per 15-20 cloves)
Kosher salt or other salt

Start your smoker and bring to about 250° to 275° F. Place the garlic in a small aluminum foil pan, such as the disposable ones for baking mini-loaves of bread if smoking 2 or 3 dozen cloves; a larger foil pan for larger quantities. The garlic cloves should be spread out to cover the bottom of the pan as close to a single layer as possible and not more than a double layer in depth, as shown on the right, to ensure even cooking.

Add the olive oil or butter, then sprinkle very lightly with salt -- Greg used no more than 1/4 tsp for this batch of about 30 cloves.

how to smoke garlic

Place the pan on your smoker and cook until the garlic cloves are golden-brown and extremely soft -- this takes about 45 to 60 minutes, and below is what they looked like after 30 minutes:

how to roast garlic on a BBQ smoker

Cooking time will vary depending on how much garlic you're smoking, the smoker temperature, and weather conditions that may influence smoker temperature (e.g., winds, humidity, cold, etc.). You might also prefer a deeper or a lighter roast. Here's how we like our smoked garlic, at about the one-hour mark:

smoked garlic

That's it!

Zestfully yours,