Category Archives: Condiments & Sauces

Cherith Valley Gardens Island Jerk Barbecue Sauce

DSC01121When we introduced you to Cherith Valley Gardens Hot ‘n Spicy Corn Relish, it was with notice of our long-time friendship with Terri & Alan Werner, the entrepreneurs who started the company.  The Werner Family stays very busy cooking up a tasty line of relishes, condiments and sauces, pickled vegetables, gourmet stuffed olives, salsas, and jellies.  Karen and I are always happy when we can catch up with Terri for a visit, and right now we are overdue for a girls’ lunch!

Jerk seasoning is a popular import from Jamaica, and it is known for its peppery heat combined with cinnamon, thyme, and allspice.  It is a super spicy blend that we enjoy on fish, chicken, and pork, although Allen would probably say he enjoys it in moderation!    Jerk barbecue sauce sounded interesting, especially when I saw that Cherith Valley’s version contains banana and honey.  Doesn’t that sound deliciously tropical?  We popped a jar open and did a taste test as a dipping sauce for smoked sausage.  The barbecue sauce has the distinctive jerk seasoning kick, very slightly tempered by the sweetness of honey and banana.  It is not your run of the grill barbecue sauce, and it garnered high praise from our lunch guests.

After its successful debut at our house, I was anxious to cook with the barbecue sauce.  Chicken on the grill was an obvious option, but I wanted to do something different.  Do you ever stand in front of your pantry shelves, looking at what’s on hand, waiting for inspiration to strike?  It was at just such a moment when I spotted the navy beans destined to make white chicken chili, and thought about making jerk chicken chili.  Adapting a white chicken chili recipe was easy and resulted in a pot of spicy jerk chicken chili goodness.  The recipe below can be adjusted to your tolerance for heat and your desired ratio of chicken to beans.

Jerk Chicken ChiliJerk Chicken Chili

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed in 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 cups Cherith Valley Gardens Island Jerk Barbecue Sauce (or to taste)
  • 3 cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • Optional toppings:  shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, chopped onion, sour cream, sliced jalapeño peppers

In a large stock pot or dutch oven, sauté cubed chicken breasts with onion until the chicken is no longer pink.  Add chicken broth and barbecue sauce, and stir well.  Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for an hour, stirring occasionally.  Add beans and simmer uncovered until chili reaches the desired consistency, about 45 minutes.  Serve with toppings of your choice.

Note:   We enjoyed our jerk chicken chili with yummy Rumiano Family Organic Monterey Jack Cheese.

Check out Cherith Valley Garden’s products on their website, especially their gift packs.  Call them and get some Cherith Valley Gardens goodies coming your way!

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Mateo’s Gourmet Red Enchilada Sauce

Once we became obsessed with Mateo’s Gourmet Salsa, it was only a matter of time before another Mateo’s gourmet product would find its way into our shopping cart.  I’ve had a couple of bottles of Mateo’s Gourmet Red Enchilada Sauce in the pantry for several weeks, and after the rich holiday food over the Thanksgiving weekend, a Tex-Mex entree sounded pretty good.  (Just for the record, Tex-Mex always sounds good to me after turkey and dressing!)  I wasn’t in the mood to prepare enchiladas, so a casserole recipe was in order.  I checked out my reliable From My Kitchen, Once More!! cookbook by Barbara Richardson McClellan, and found one I thought would adapt well.  With no disrespect to the recipe’s creator, I also felt compelled to change the recipe’s name from “Matador’s Mania” to something a little less dramatic.  After all, its a casserole.

Mateo’s Enchilada Casserole

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 16-oz. can refried beans
  • 6 oz. Mateo’s Gourmet Red Enchilada Sauce (1/2 bottle)
  • 6 corn tortillas (6″ size)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350°.  Prepare a 7″ x 11″ baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Sauté ground beef in skillet over medium heat.  Drain, and add onion, seasonings, and water.  Cook, stirring occasionally until water is evaporated.  Stir in beans.  Layer as follows in the baking dish:  2 oz. of enchilada sauce, 2 tortillas placed side by side in sauce, half of meat mixture and sour cream.  Continue layering:  2 oz. enchilada sauce, 2 tortillas placed side by side, and half of meat mixture.  Create the final layers:  2 tortillas side by side,  2 oz. enchilada sauce, and grated cheese.  Cover with foil and bake for 35-40 minutes.  Makes 6 servings.

I tasted the enchilada sauce before layering it in the casserole dish, and thought it had a very flavorful spicy blend of chili powder, oregano, garlic, cumin, jalapeño and cilantro in a tomato base.  The casserole was very tasty, and because the recipe did not call for a lot of spices, Mateo’s Gourmet Red Enchilada Sauce played a leading role in the dish’s flavor.  The end result was family friendly, because the pepper taste was not exceedingly hot.  People who enjoy their Tex-Mex more heated could layer some jalapeño peppers into the dish.

Andrew Robbins and his family have another winner with their Gourmet Red Enchilada Sauce!  They also offer margarita and blood mary mixes, and February is the expected launch date for the latest product – barbecue sauce.  Their retail distribution network is growing rapidly, and you can order any of their products from their website.


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Grandad’s Gravy

I’m a southern gal without a single Italian bone in my body, but I do love pasta.  In fact, Italian food is probably second only to Mexican food on my fave food list.  I picked up Grandad’s Gravy simply because I was intrigued by the name.  If your southern roots run deep like mine, you probably understand my first thought, which was “Gravy?  This is pasta sauce!”

I’m sure my fellow shoppers thought I was fascinated by the nutrition facts on the jar, but instead, I was charmed by the story behind Grandad’s Gravy.  A young boy grew up watching his grandfather make his red sauce, which he called “gravy”, for family and friends.  His admiration for his grandfather and the family recipe were the inspirations for this family business, carrying on the traditions of good food, but perhaps more significantly, the love of family, the value of a strong work ethic, and the honor associated with always trying to do what is right.  I immediately connected with the business owner and namesake of Mauro Mastrapasqua, “Grandad”.   His grandfather embodied the same strong character traits as my dad, who was grandfather to eight adoring grandchildren.  Although my dad was not known for his cooking skills, he enjoyed food, particularly family meals, more than anyone I know.  He worked very hard to take care of his family, he instilled in all of us a desire to do our best, and he didn’t just tell us to do the right thing, he modeled it day in and day out.  We’ve missed him terribly since we lost him just a little more than a year ago, yet his legacy is with us every day.  It is so easy to understand how the younger Mauro was inspired by his grandfather’s life.

You wouldn’t be reading how much I loved the story behind this company, if we hadn’t also loved Grandad’s Gravy.  I have what I consider an acceptable pasta sauce recipe, which takes at least three hours to prepare, and which I make almost never.  I have relied on commercial pasta sauces, but have been less than enthused about them because they are generally overly processed and entirely too sweet.  I decided to try Grandad’s Gravy at the end of a very long day when I didn’t have much time or energy for meal preparation.  I made a very simple meat sauce, starting with a pound of lean ground beef, and about a half cup each of diced onion and green pepper.  I opened the jar of pasta sauce while the meat was browning, and was very pleased not to be overwhelmed by the aroma of oregano, and to see evidence of tomatoes not puréed into oblivion.  I drained the excess fat from the ground beef, then added the sauce and simmered for about 20 minutes.  I was very pleased with the result.  This small-batch sauce had a light, fresh taste and was not super-sweet like many national brands.  We thoroughly enjoyed it!

Grandad’s Gravy is available on the company’s website, and they even offer a “subscription” option for automatic shipments so your cupboard will never be bare!  I think Grandad Mauro would be very proud of his grandson’s success in sharing his gravy.


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The Great San Saba River Pecan Company Pecan Praline Topping

I didn’t have to think twice about picking up this Pecan Praline Topping.  I’ve loved pecans and pretty much anything made with pecans for as long as I remember.  My siblings and I spent many Sunday afternoons picking up pecans in my grandparents’ backyard.  My granddad would shell some of the pecans and toast them in a skillet with butter and salt.  Yummy!  Fast forward to the next generation, and my son was spending Sunday afternoons picking up pecans in my parents’ backyard.  Not only did he help with the harvest, he was also my dad’s assistant in keeping squirrels at bay.  Their efforts included strategically positioning fake rattlesnakes around the yard!  Effective?  Maybe.  Picturesque?  Not so much.

I’m not sure what measures The Great San Saba River Pecan Company takes to ward off critters from their 10,000 tree orchard in the Central Texas Hill Country.  That many trees could require several dens of fake rattlesnakes!  The company’s processing facilities are in the orchard, and they do so much more than grown, harvest, shell, and package pecans.  They also offer a gourmet line of pecan products, including their award-winning pecan pie, and peach, pecan & amaretto preserves.  You can pick your own pecans in GSSRPC’s orchard from November to January, and they offer free samples of their pecan goodies in their company store.

The Pecan Praline Topping is beautiful in the bottle, with pecan pieces suspended in the golden syrup, and it tastes even better than it looks.   The buttery sweet topping was the perfect complement to our Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream.  Allen pronounced it “really, really good”.  I think it would be stellar atop some pecan waffles or a warm slice of pound cake.  It might just make great addition to a sweet potato casserole, too.  I expect to be pulling it out of the pantry often.  Get your own bottle at The Great San Saba River Pecan Company’s website!

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Desert Creek Cinnamon Creamed Honey

I walked in the kitchen one recent morning only to be confronted by three bananas on the counter quickly approaching end of life.  It was one of those rare weekend mornings when a supply of overripe bananas intersected with having the time to make banana bread.  I’ve always used a very straightforward banana bread recipe that doesn’t have much spice, but I was in the mood for something a little different.  King Arthur Flour has become a trusted resource for baking recipes and products, and I was happy to find a recipe on their website that could be adapted to use the Desert Creek Cinnamon Cream Honey I had purchased a few days earlier.

North Texas is home to Blake and Kathleen Shook’s Desert Creek Honey.  What began as thirteen-year-old Blake’s hobby evolved into a commercial beekeeping enterprise with more than 72 million honeybees!  The Shooks raise their own bees, harvest the honey and sell it directly to their customers.  Blake is very active in beekeeping organizations, and supports beekeeping hobbyists.  Desert Creek’s website has very interesting facts about honeybees and beekeeping.  For instance, a honeybee produces only about 1/12 teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.  Hence the need for 72 million bees at Desert Creek!  I also learned the FDA has approved a specific honey for wound care.  Who knew?  Most importantly, Desert Creek offers liquid honey, creamed honey, pollen, comb honey, and beeswax  for sale directly on their site.

When I saw a banana bread recipe on King Arthur’s website that called for cinnamon and honey, my first thought was of Desert Creek Cinnamon Creamed Honey.  This adaptation is a delicious, moist bread we will definitely be enjoying with coffee for the next few days — maybe with some additional Cinnamon Creamed Honey!

Cinnamon Honey Banana Bread

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 teaspoon Sonoma Syrup Vanilla Bean Extract “Crush”

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups mashed, ripe banana (about 3 medium bananas)

1/4 cup Desert Creek Cinnamon Creamed Honey

2 large eggs

2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325° and grease a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
Combine butter, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl, beating until smooth.  Add the bananas, honey and eggs, again beating until smooth.  Add the flour and pecans, stirring until just smooth.
Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan, smooth the top, and let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before placing it in the oven.  Bake the bread for 45 minutes, then place a piece of aluminum foil gently over the top of the pan to prevent over-browning.  Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.  Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove it from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

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Moni’s Famous House Tomato & Oil Vinaigrette

People sometimes begin a new business venture because they want a better way of life, and that is Ditran Saliovski’s story.  He grew up in his family’s restaurant business and became a restaurateur himself.  Although he loved many things about the hospitality business, he and his wife wanted more quality family time.  A February 2012 article profiling the family in Frisco Style recounts Ditran’s “eureka” moment when he realized the family’s signature vinaigrette dressing probably had commercial appeal.  After all, it was the top-selling dressing in all of the family restaurants and customers carried it out in plastic containers.  With his family’s blessings, he began tweaking the recipe, removing corn syrup and preservatives and achieving an all-natural product.  The resulting vinaigrette is very bold and tangy.  It has a lot of body — much more than many vinaigrettes.  It definitely elevated my everyday “house” salad to super.  Moni’s website has some yummy-sounding recipes using their tomato and oil vinaigrette.  Ditran’s wife, Sanida, created a baked chicken recipe that I’ve bookmarked to try very soon.

Ditran and Sanida called on extended family members to develop more products for the Moni’s line, including a spicy marinara and a garlic and basil marinara.  According to the Frisco Style article, Saliovski siblings and cousins are actively involved in the business.  That seems to be very much a family tradition since Saliovski family members own more than 200 restaurants across Texas!

You can order directly from Moni’s website or check for a retailer near you.  Moni’s products are also now available in many Costco stores.

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More Than Gourmet White Wine Sauce

A short-cut to a classic French sauce?  Mais oui!  “Sauce Guys” Brad Sacks and Bill Finnegan, and the More Than Gourmet staff have done the shopping, chopping, mixing and slow-simmering to make this delicious “foundation sauce” that will have you on your way to compliments before you can say “sous chef”.  One of Central Market’s “foodies” did an excellent job of selling us on the foundation sauces.  First, they are made with real food – nothing artificial.  The recipes are formulated so home or professional cooks can add a variety of seasonings to make the sauces their own.  More Than Gourmet’s website has a great selection of recipes to encourage creativity.  The sauces are shelf-stable, so they are easy to keep on hand.  Finally, the soft-packs are easy to store and environmentally friendly.  Karen picked up the red wine sauce and I chose the white to try.

I can’t believe the foundation sauce  sat in my pantry as long as it did.  My thought was to try one of the more complex and elegant recipes on MTG’s website for a special dinner.  As it turned out, the sauce was the starting point for a great alternative to take-out at the end of a workday that lasted just a little too long.  More Than Gourmet’s Garlic Sauce recipe seemed like a natural with baked parmesan chicken.  You may already have a parmesan chicken recipe in your repertoire that you can dress up with this delicious garlic sauce, but here is how I prepared mine.

Parmesan Baked Chicken

Preheat oven to 375°.  Line a shallow baking sheet with foil coated in nonstick spray.  Mix 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese with 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or mayonnaise.  Place 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts on baking sheet and cover with parmesan cheese mixture.  Sprinkle about a tablespoon of Italian bread crumbs over the cheese mixture.  Bake for 40 minutes, or until chicken is done.

More Than Gourmet Garlic Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 (11 ounce) container More than Gourmet White Wine Sauce

Salt and ground pepper

Warm the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add minced garlic and sauté until golden, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the More Than Gourmet White Wine Sauce, parley and thyme and simmer for 4-5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Plate the chicken breasts when done and ladle the garlic sauce over them.  Enjoy!

The sauce had promise from the start.  When I opened the carton, it was very fragrant, and as I poured it into the saucepan, it was smooth and silky.  In less than ten minutes, the garlic sauce was ready to top our parmesan chicken.

More Than Gourmet offers a pantry full of sauces and stocks you can order directly from their site.  There are vegan and gluten-free options for those with dietary restrictions or preferences.  The Sauce Guys have poured their love of classic French cooking into their products, and they have organized their website so you can easily search recipes by product, cooking method, occasion, or degree of difficulty.  We’re counting this as a great find!

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Dr. Pete’s Praline Mustard Glaze

I had planned a special birthday dinner for Allen this week, but things started going south when he came down with a very bad cold at the end of last week.  The downward spiral continued when I got sick a couple of days ago.  Between sneezing, coughing, and getting very little sleep, neither of us has been in a celebratory mood.  Although I promised Allen his birthday dinner when we are feeling better, including his favorite chocolate meringue pie, I couldn’t let the day pass without having something special.

Dr. Pete had the perfect prescription for a quick and delicious birthday treat.  Dr. T. A. Peterson, known as “Dr. Pete” to his patients, made house calls in his Savannah, Georgia medical practice.  Although he loved medicine, he was also passionate about cooking.  He really enjoyed creating special sauces to serve to friends and family.  His daughter and son-in-law, Jan and Joel Coffee, began commercial production of some of Dr. Pete’s recipes in 1985.

Dr. Pete’s Praline Mustard Glaze is a rich blend of brown sugar, mustard, spices and pecans.  The aroma alone will make you want it eat it straight from the jar, but control that urge and spoon it over ham, chicken or fish instead.   We’ve enjoyed Dr. Pete’s Praline Mustard Glaze with smoked gouda wrapped in puff pastry.  So yummy!  This 2008 Flavor of Georgia award-winner will be a hit in your kitchen.

One of the things we love about keeping ready-to-eat artisan or gourmet foods handy is they are often the catalyst for an easy, yet elegant, dish.  I had a small wheel of baby brie in the refrigerator, so Allen’s birthday treat was quickly underway.  The result?  In less than 20 minutes, we were enjoying creamy, melted brie with a most delicious pecan praline mustard sauce.

Baked Brie with Dr. Pete’s Praline Mustard Glaze

Preheat oven to 350°.

Unwrap brie and place on a greased cookie sheet.  (Do not remove the rind from the brie.)  Top with 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped pecans.  Place brie in oven and bake until the cheese is very soft (probably about 15-20 minutes).  Remove brie from the oven and spoon 4 tablespoons of Dr. Pete’s Praline Mustard Glaze over the brie.  (I warmed the glaze slightly in the microwave first.) Serve with crackers or toasted bread slices.

Doesn’t it look good?

Dr. Pete’s has an impressive retail distribution network listed on the company’s website, so you may be lucky enough to find it in a store near you.  If not, you can order directly from the website.


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Essie’s South American Style Sauce

Credit goes to my sister-in-law for this great find.  Essie’s South American Style Sauce originated in her home state of North Dakota, so she grew up enjoying it.  She easily converted the Texas family into true believers!  Essie’s Sauce is a blend of soy sauce, vinegar, tomato paste and spices that makes a tasty marinade for beef, pork, seafood and poultry.  It is a complex sauce that might be described as an Asian, Mexican, Cajun fusion.  It isn’t overly spicy, nor is it sweet; call it unique!  Marinating almost any protein in Essie’s for a couple of hours before grilling will bring rave reviews, but it is exceptional with pork.  My dinner “crunch-time” trick is to brush boneless chops with Essie’s and pan-fry, while simmering about a cup of Essie’s in a separate pan until it is thick.  Top the cooked chops with the reduced sauce, and dinner is done!  Essie’s is a gluten-free product that is shelf-stable without refrigeration and the ingredients list includes no preservatives.

There really is an “Essie”, Esther Davis.  The Davis family opened a restaurant in Dickinson, North Dakota in the mid-1960’s.  Their top-selling menu item was a South American steak seasoned with a product purchased from a company in California.  When their supplier went out of business, the family was faced with their customers’ favorite entrée disappearing from the menu.  Essie and crew went into high gear, experimenting with ingredients until they perfected the sauce themselves.  The family says customers soon began bringing in their own “to-go” jars to be filled with the savory sauce, so the next logical step was to sell Essie’s commercially.  Although the restaurant has closed, Essie’s South American Style Sauce is still a staple in the region and is now distributed from Seattle.

Essie’s website isn’t fully operational at the time of this post, but it does provide a link to order from Amazon.


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Sucklebusters Texas Heat Original Pepper Sauce

I like, no I love, spicy foods.  I’m particularly fond of anything peppery, except for pepper sauce.  There has always been a bottle of the stuff in my fridge, waiting for that infrequent use in recipes that call for a quarter teaspoon, or “to taste”.  Some folks use it liberally on food at the dining table, but I just never understood why.  To me, pepper sauce is too thin and watery, blazing hot, but not very tasty.

Karen picked up a bottle of Sucklebusters Texas Heat Original Pepper Sauce while we were shopping at Central Market.  It sat in my refrigerator alongside my usual brand for a while because, again, I’m just not a big pepper sauce fan.  I cooked some vegetables last week that were a little bland and needed something to kick up the flavor.  The Sucklebusters Pepper Sauce caught my eye.  On opening the bottle, I knew right away that Sucklebusters was different.  Smelling some pepper sauces might induce a sneeze or watery eyes and their aromas have never been particularly appetizing to me, but Sucklebusters smelled delicious!    No wimpy, thin sauce here; Sucklebusters is thick.  The company’s website claims the pepper sauce’s heat is as oppressive as Texas summer.  If you live in Texas, or have visited the state in August, you have a pretty good idea about the heat index of Sucklebusters!  But the taste is more than simply hot; it has complex flavor that sets it apart from ordinary.

Dan Arnold created his pepper sauce to spice up his own cooking.  As he and his wife, Cheryl, began searching out healthier foods, they realized that many seasonings contained “bad stuff” — MSG, fillers, dyes, preservatives, and others.  In 2006, they decided to develop and market their own artisan seasonings with natural ingredients, and Sucklebusters was born.  You must read the origin and meaning of the Sucklebuster’s name — it is quite unique.  Their website displays their extensive product line, including the very intriguing “Texas GunPowder”, all-natural ground jalapeno peppers, and “Texas Gold Dust”, an all-purpose spice blend.  The online store has some gift packs that would be great for barbecue chefs.

Oh, and the bottle of my old brand of pepper sauce?  In the garbage!

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