Karen and I are ranch dip fans going way back to Friday night sleepovers during junior and senior high, when ranch dressing on tortilla chips was our snack of choice. I’ve haven’t eaten a lot of ranch dressing or dip in the past several years because I just got a little tired of the taste. That all changed when I brought Austin Slow Burn Creamy Jalapeno Dip and Dressing home from Central Market. This ranch dip has a tastebud popping blend of spices and jalapeños that blew me away. The “slow burn” was evident, with the initial creamy ranch flavor slowly igniting into a tasty jalapeño burn with lots of interesting flavor notes in between. It was love at first bite, but it didn’t stop there. I literally could not stay away from the jar. I started feeling a little guilty about my tortilla chip intake, so I switched to eating my new addiction as a salad dressing. Talk about waking up a plate of greens! I added sliced grilled chicken breast with maybe just a few more tortilla chips, crushed, on top of the greens, and it was a restaurant-worthy salad. The bottom of the jar came way before I was ready.
Kevin and Jill Lewis are the masters behind the magic of this delicious dip and dressing. As former restaurateurs, they were experts on chile peppers, and started their journey to the gourmet food business by gifting friends and family with Salsa con Habanero made from their home garden bounty. As demand grew, the couple decided their products were commercially appealing and in 1994, they launched Austin Slow Burn. The company now offers a variety of salsas, jams, jellies, marinades and a very interesting product named “Fire Dust’d P-nut But’r”. All of the products are award-winners.
I’m not going too far out on a limb by declaring right now that Austin Slow Burn Creamy Jalapeno Dip and Dressing is going to be one of my favorite foods of the year, probably forever. It is amazing stuff!
Where to buy Austin Slow Burn Creamy Jalapeno Dip and Dressing
(Note: “Find a store” links to a list of retailers on the Company’s website, but stores may not carry all of the Company’s products. Please check with your local store to be sure they have this specific product in stock. If not, ask them to carry it!)
Wind & Willow provided the winning snack for our Super Bowl spread this year. I had their Savory Herb & Pecan Dip Mix on hand, and it couldn’t have been easier to prepare. A few hours before the game, I stirred together the dip mix and the included package of chopped pecans with mayonnaise and sour cream. The harder part of the process was waiting for an hour or two for the flavors to blend! Patience paid off when the snacking began. With a mayonnaise and sour cream base, you know it is a super creamy dip. The herb blend is flavorful without being in-your-face strong. It isn’t hyper-salty as many packaged dips are. Green bell pepper, onion and garlic add tasty texture and the dip’s costars, pecans, are just crazy good.
The dip disappeared quickly and Allen commented several times that we could have it again anytime! There is a sweet and savory dip recipe on the box that calls for crushed pineapple and cream cheese, and that might be the way we have it next time. It really sounds good.
Wind & Willow is a family-owned gourmet food company that has been producing cooking mixes since 1991. They offer a large variety of sweet and savory cheeseball mixes, hot and cold dip mixes, soup mixes, salsa mixes, and spiced cider mixes. Their baking mixes sound heavenly, too. How about whipping up a recipe of Butter Rum Bread Pudding with their Caramel Butter Rum Cheesebake Mix? Check out Wind & Willow’s website to find an online or local retailer.
Did you do a double take on that combination? That’s what I did when a pimento cheese sandwich on cinnamon raisin bread was served at a country club luncheon I attended. The sandwich had eye appeal, for sure, but I wasn’t too sure about the combined flavor profile of cinnamon, cheese and raisins. After one bite, I was a true believer, and I’ve been sharing this tasty duo with others for years. Most have become fans of this somewhat quirky combo.
The country club sandwich was simply made with cheddar pimento cheese and a national brand cinnamon raisin bread. That is how I had always made it, too. That is, until I realized I had some delicious smoked gouda pimento cheese made with Yancy’s Fancy Smoked Gouda Cheese in the refrigerator at the very same time there was Greenlee’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread in the pantry. I knew this would be a very different sandwich. Smoked gouda has a more robust flavor profile than cheddar and Greenlee’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread has a softer texture than other cinnamon raisin yeast breads. The possibilities were intriguing.
I made a sandwich for lunch, and it was very different, as I had expected, and very flavorful, as I had hoped. The cheese and raisins paired nicely, and the sweet cinnamon bread was balanced by the onion and garlic flavors in the pimento cheese. This would make a good grilled cheese sandwich, too. Yancy’s Fancy Smoked Gouda Cheese and Greenlee’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread are both stellar products in their own right, and it is great when we find artisan products that partner well, as these do.
Do you have a favorite sandwich with unusual ingredients?
Our regular Costco shopping trip last weekend was interrupted by the sight of a feeding frenzy around one of the “road show” displays. For those of you who aren’t Costco shoppers, the store invites guest gourmet food vendors to set up sampling displays and offer their products for a few days. These events usually offer crazy good products for a really good price, so I’m always in line to see what is going on. In this case, cheerful workers were distributing cheese samples at lightning speed as they chatted with shoppers about mouth-watering recipe ideas. I popped a bite of Yancey’s Fancy Smoked Gouda into my mouth and immediately understood why people were stuffing cheese in their mouths as fast as they could! The pasteurized process cheese had a delicate, smoky flavor and a really creamy texture. Allen was just as impressed as I was, and so into the shopping cart it went.
Process (or processed) cheese is a combination of natural cheese and emulsifiers which make it a very uniform product that melts smoothly. It is great for cooking because it doesn’t separate when heated for long time periods as natural cheese does. American cheese is a very popular process cheese that most people have eaten at one time or another. While you might not bust out a process cheese to serve on a cheese tray at your next dinner party (unless your guests are five-year-olds), I think it is a really good option for cooking, especially when it is as tasty as this smoked gouda. I immediately thought of the smoked gouda pimento cheese that Karen and I pick up from Market Street’s deli whenever she is in town. It is so good that sometimes I don’t wait until she comes to town! I had a quick and easy version of it mixed up in under 10 minutes, and was pleasantly surprised to find that Yancey’s Fancy had a firmer texture than some process cheese, so it was very easy to grate.
Smoked Gouda Pimento Cheese
- 8 ounces Yancey’s Fancy Smoked Gouda Cheese, grated
- 1 – 2 ounce jar diced pimento
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Grate cheese and place in a medium mixing bowl. Add all other ingredients and blend well. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.
Our delivery vehicle of choice for this savory pimento cheese was Primizie Crispbreads Smoked Dutch Gouda and Garlic flavor, which was the only flavor we hadn’t yet tasted. As with the other crispbreads, it was stellar. The combination made for a great contrast between super-crunchy and ultra-creamy, and the double gouda and garlic layers were almost too good for words. This duo should definitely have an addiction warning label attached!
Yancey’s Fancy’s company roots go back to post-World War I New York, when Leo Kutter emigrated from Germany and began using his European cheese-making skills to produce Limburger cheese. Mr. Kutter left his business to his sons at his death in 1962. Richard and Tony Kutter partnered with master cheesemaker Brian Bailey in the mid-1990’s, who helped them expand their variety of cheeses. In 1998 when the Kutters retired, Mr. Bailey, John Yancey and Mike Wimble bought the business and Yancey’s Fancy was launched.
If you are a Costco member, you should definitely check out the Yancey’s Fancy website for their roadshow schedule. If you aren’t a Costco member, you can order online directly from the website. We brought home two more flavors of Yancey’s Fancy cheese, and we will be sharing some recipe ideas soon!
Incorporating gourmet food products into recipes is a quick way to take a homemade dish from good to great. Finding a gourmet food product that can be used in different recipes is also pretty great, and Cherith Valley Gardens Hot ‘n Spicy Corn Relish is one of those foods. It is tasty straight from the jar, and we’ve mentioned using it in our favorite spicy cornbread recipe. We also adapted a dip recipe that has become a regular at our house.
Sweet & Spicy Corn Dip
- 1 jar Cherith Valley Gardens Hot ‘n Spicy Corn Relish
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Could this be any easier? I especially love the fresh taste added by the cilantro, although I know Karen would probably leave it out and love the dip just as much. We enjoyed the dip with tortilla chips this week. We’ve also used it as a garnish for baked potatoes served with spicy southwestern grilled steaks. It would be a very good taco topper, too!
I’ve said this before, but I’m not one of those cooks who can open the pantry, pull out ingredients and create a gourmet meal. I almost always start with a recipe, but I’ve learned to make it my own by adjusting ingredients to our tastes. The increasing availability of wonderful artisan foods, gourmet condiments, and specialty spices makes it possible to add a touch of creativity to your own recipes.
You can’t grow up as close to Louisiana as I did without having many opportunities to enjoy Cajun food. Spicy étouffée, hot beignets, muffalettas, and red beans are among my favorites. I’ve also enjoyed my share of traditional hummus made from chickpeas, tahini paste, olive oil, lemon juice and spices. When I ran across Baby Zach’s Cajun Red Bean Smoked Hummus at Whole Foods, my taste buds went on high alert and I knew I had to try it. A quick read of the ingredients was even more convincing. It was the expected hummus recipe with a twist. Swap red kidney beans for chickpeas. Add classic Cajun spices plus something really unusual — applewood smoke.
I opened the hummus while the rest of the groceries were still in bags on the kitchen counter. It looked a lot like the bean dip I’ve been eating since I was a kid, but the aroma was much more complex. The taste was completely addictive. It had the distinctive Cajun red bean flavor and the applewood smoke added another delicious layer. I could have eaten the entire container at one sitting!
Baby Zach’s website touts his seven smoked hummus flavors: Original, Black Bean, Roasted Red Pepper, Spicy Smoked BBQ, Black Bean with Jalapeño, Cilantro and Lime, Thai Curry and Cajun Red Bean. They are made with natural products and do not contain any liquid smoke. Baby Zach credits his trade secret “agitative barking process” for evenly smoking the hummus products. I can’t even imagine what that process might be, but the end result is proof enough that it works.
Baby Zach had aspirations to be a doctor, but two serious car accidents derailed his medical education and reset his direction from “MD to chickpeas”. With time on his hands, he began smoking brisket and ribs for friends and family. Word spread and he was invited to sell his products at Austin’s prestigious SXSW Music Festival. His smoked hummus was created to satisfy vegetarian tastes, and was soon a favorite at Austin area farmers’ markets. Baby Zach’s products are available in select Whole Foods, Central Market, HEB, and other stores in Texas and Louisiana. If you are outside the current market area, lobby your local grocer to carry Baby Zach’s Smoked Hummus!
We found KC Classic Gourmet Foods Chipotle Cheese Dip with a “foodie find” tag at Central Market. That was recommendation enough for us, so we brought a jar home. This cream-cheese based dip with a strong pop of chipotle seasoning could be very versatile in your kitchen. It has a great creamy texture and a nice balance of cheese and chipotle flavors. As a dip, we definitely would recommend serving this at room temperature with sturdy chips or crackers. A producer-recommended recipe provided a great idea to enjoy this product as a spread. The recipe was written to use a jar of KC Classic Gourmet Foods Chipotle Cheese Dip, but this is so simple, you could easily make a single serving. We’ve estimated measurements, and you don’t really need to get out any measuring spoons. These chipotle cheese wraps would make a tasty lunch, or nice appetizers on a buffet. I’m already thinking about holiday recipes and this one definitely goes on the “possibility” list for a gathering of family and friends.
Chipotle Cheese Wraps
For a single serving:
1- 6-inch flour tortilla (we used low-carb tortillas for a healthier snack)
2 tablespoons KC Classic Gourmet Foods Chipotle Cheese Dip
1-2 slices very thin-sliced smoked turkey
2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons shredded lettuce
1 tablespoon chopped black olives
Spread Chipotle Cheese Dip on tortilla. Place turkey on tortilla, then top with cheese, lettuce and olives. Roll the tortilla snugly, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve whole, or slice into rounds.
KC Classic Gourmet Foods is operated by a mother-daughter team, Nina and Rosina. Nina’s Italian family owned a Mexican food restaurant, and after many customer requests for their taco sauce, she began learning the food manufacturing business. Not only does Nina produce her own line of products, she also specializes in helping other budding food artisans achieve their dreams. According to KC’s Facebook page, Rosina is active in marketing KC products. Their Lemony Cheesecake Fondue sounds like a “must try” for dessert.
Check out KC’s ordering site and get some soon!
Mike and Debbie Sams have been dairy farmers for almost two decades. Like many farm families, they found profitable farming extremely challenging, and in 2002 they decide to create a new revenue stream by making cheese. They’ve found markets for their cheeses in grocery stores, farmers’ markets and at their own farm. They offer fresh and aged cheese, cheese spreads, cheese balls and marinated cheeses. We purchased their Garlic-Basil Cheese Spread.
This is a superb, creamy spread and the combination of garlic and basil flavors is outstanding. We appreciate the Sams family’s natural approach to farming and cheese-making. Their dairy cows graze on fresh grass all day, with their diets lightly supplemented by grain. They use organic farming practices, and their delicious garlic-basil cheese spread is made with no preservatives or artificial colors.
The farm also offers other dairy products, whey-fed pork, grass-fed beef, free-range chickens, turkeys, and vegetables. Mike and Debbie have made farming a family affair, with their children and grandchildren working along side them on their northeast Texas farm. They even have a quaint vacation home available for rent on the farm. The Sams family is a sterling example of the many resourceful, creative, hard-working farm families around the country who deserve our admiration and support.
Full Quiver Farms products can be found at Whole Foods and Central Market, as well as many farmers’ markets in Texas.