Category Archives: Salsas & Relishes

Happy New Year!

2014 got off to a great start with a family gathering at our house for brunch.  With a few make-ahead recipes and some of our favorite gourmet foods, preparation was a breeze.  A sausage, egg, and cheese casserole along with a hash brown casserole were the hearty centerpieces of the buffet.  As expected, RoRo’s handmade Cinn-A-Rolls quickly disappeared.


Our good friends at Cherith Valley Gardens provided new inspiration for our traditional “lucky” dish.  Their recipe combines black-eyed peas, CVG’s Hot ‘n Spicy Corn Relish, onion, tomato (which I omitted today), and fresh cilantro to make a tasty partner for tortilla chips.  Yum!


We love Henning’s Natural Chipotle Cheddar Cheese and Cheddar Cheese Curds, so we were excited to add Henning’s Natural Garlic and Dill White Cheddar to the buffet.  The Henning Family recommends this flavorful cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches and a burger topper, but we thoroughly enjoyed it solo.  (Garlic dill cheeseburgers will be on the menu this month!)


When I saw Roth Moody Blue cheese in the deli case, I bought it on name alone.  I love my classic rock almost as much as I love cheese!  The small batch cheese made with local Wisconsin milk is smoked over fruit wood, adding sultry notes to this creamy blue.  Our first new gourmet food tasting of 2014 received 100% “thumbs up” from the blue cheese lovers present.


No brunch would be complete without coffee and mimosas, but we have also been enjoying coffee liqueur-spiked hot chocolate this winter.  You might just forget about coffee shop hot chocolate once you try this!

IMG_0811Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

  • 4 cups half and half
  • 3/4 cup Ghirardelli Premium Hot Cocoa Double Chocolate Flavor
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup coffee liqueur (we like Kahlua)
  • whipped cream
  • caramel topping
  • coarse Kosher or sea salt

Mix half and half, hot chocolate mix and espresso powder in a medium saucepan.  Whisk until well blended over medium heat just until it boils.  Remove from heat and stir in coffee liqueur.  Divide among 4 mugs.  Top with whipped cream, drizzle with caramel topping and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.    (Note:  the hot chocolate mixture without toppings keeps well in the refrigerator overnight.)

Happy New Year to all who share our love for gourmet foods and best wishes to the talented artisans who delight us with their creations.  May you prosper in 2014!

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Filed under Breads, Breakfast, Cheese, Salsas & Relishes

Cherith Valley Gardens Mango-Lime Salsa

We seriously are not on the payroll of the marketing department at Cherith Valley Gardens; we just love their products!  Their Mango-Lime Salsa is one of our favorites with generous bits of sweet mango, spicy jalapenos, and cilantro.  We really enjoy it over grilled fish and chicken, and it is a tasty change of pace from tomato salsa for a chip and dip plate.

Our friend and CVG owner, Terri Werner, recently posted a crockpot recipe on Facebook I knew I had to try, although we normally don’t do much crockpot cooking at our house.  I’m usually not organized enough on weekday mornings to complete dinner prep before I get my workday started, and on weekends, I like to be a lot more hands-on in the kitchen.  However, when I looked at my busy schedule for the week, Terri’s recipe sounded pretty perfect, first, because we love CVG’s Mango-Lime Salsa; second, the prep work couldn’t take more than about three minutes; and finally, I already had all the ingredients on hand.  Done deal, or so I thought.  My schedule got even crazier than I expected and the super-easy early morning recipe prep I had planned just didn’t happen, so we were in restaurants for dinner way more than we like.  By the weekend, I was running on empty and the crockpot was beginning to look like a life saver.

CVG Mango Line SalsaOn Sunday morning, I lined the crockpot with the genius disposable liners that make clean-up a snap, added 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts straight from the freezer, poured CVG Mango-Lime Salsa over the chicken and pressed “Go” on the crockpot.  The chicken cooked over low heat for about 7 hours, during which I took a very long nap!  When the chicken was done, I took it out of the crockpot and stirred in one cup of heavy cream to make a decadent sauce.  Could this be any easier?

Crockpot Mango Lime ChickenWe enjoyed the chicken over rice, with a green salad and some fresh bread.  The chicken was fall-apart tender and the creamy sauce was subtly sweet and spicy.  It was definitely the best meal of the week, and as an added bonus, the leftovers were even better the following day.  I’ve said it before: having artisan and specialty food products in my pantry makes it easy to create delicious meals for  family and friends.  CVG condiments, sauces, relishes and salsas offer great taste and convenience, so  they are often on the menu at our house.

Cherith Valley Gardens marks its 20th anniversary this month, and since the beginning, the Werner Family has focused on providing the finest in gourmet foods from their family to yours.  Well done, dear friends!  Read more about the company’s history and get some of their tasty products for your pantry.  Be sure to try their Hot n’ Spicy Corn Relish, too.  It makes some amazing cornbread.

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Catching Up

Are you sometimes at the intersection of “want to” and “have to”, and “have to” is the road you must take?  That has been our path for the past couple of weeks.  While new, interesting gourmet foods have beckoned at every turn, more pressing issues have presented themselves.  However, in spite of having too much to do with too little time, there were moments where artisan foods could not have fit into our lives more perfectly.

Grandad's GravyWe were so happy to find Grandad’s Gravy on the shelves of our local Dallas area grocer, Market Street.  It made a great lasagna for a weekend family dinner, then when the work week got crazy hectic, we had some pretty delicious “rerun” meals.  I’m determined to try it in a skillet lasagna recipe that will be tasty, yet quick enough for weeknight preparation.  Allen is definitely all in for that program, as lasagna is his favorite Italian dish.  If your local grocer doesn’t carry Grandad’s Gravy, you can order it online.

A family member was diagnosed with Celiac’s disease (gluten intolerance) last week, which reminded me of Mary’s Gone Crackers, and her great line of sweet and savory gluten-free treats.  Care package in the works!


We made a trip East Texas over the weekend to visit family, and I got to spend a couple of hours with my BFF, Karen, while she was in town DSC01490visiting her parents.  Yea!  Unfortunately, in our haste to leave home and get on the road, I forgot to pack her “Tex-Mex Package” , so I need to mail the Mateo’s Gourmet Salsa, the Mateo’s Gourmet Red Enchilada Sauce, and the Primizie New Mexican Chimayo Chile & Lime Crispbreads I had bought for her.  I was thrilled to find Mateo’s Gourmet Salsa at a market in East Texas, so I introduced my extended family to the only salsa we ever have in our refrigerator!

We have continuously followed RoRo’s Baking Company’s efforts to raise $35,000 for their new facility.  Their Kickstarter project is a win/win.  Send RoRo’s delicious Cinn-A-Rolls to the troops in Afghanistan for only $10, or savor some delicious Cinn-A-Rolls or Dinn-A-Rolls for yourself, while at the same time you help a fledgling artisan business expand.   You will not have to fulfill your pledge unless RoRo’s fund-raising goal is achieved.  Time is short for RoRo’s to make their February 28th deadline, so don’t delay!

Here’s hoping the new week will bring more time for savoring good foods, catching up with good friends, and delighting in precious family time.

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Filed under Condiments & Sauces, Crackers, Chips & Snacks, Food for Thought, Salsas & Relishes

Sweet & Spicy Corn Dip

Incorporating gourmet food products into recipes is a quick way to take a homemade dish from good to CR16great.  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.

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Filed under Dips & Spreads, Salsas & Relishes, Uncategorized

Smokin’ Texas Gourmet Sweet Onion and Peach Salsa

We picked up a jar of Sweet Onion and Peach Salsa at the State Fair of Texas two weekends ago, before we knew anything about the Smokin’ Texas Gourmet label.  Chef Peter Mollett is the creative force behind Smokin’ Texas Gourmet,  and we are very much in tune with his mission to “make homemade happen”.  Finding specialty foods that spice up home cooking is our goal, and we have a winner with Smokin’ Texas Gourmet.  Chef Mollett’s recipes are free of MSG and high fructose corn syrup, they are prepared with reduced sugar and salt, and have no additives or preservatives.  The entire Smokin’ Texas Gourmet line is gluten-free, as well as vegan and vegetarian-friendly.  Whether you cook for someone with dietary concerns or just want try some new spices and sauces, Smokin’ Texas Gourmet has options for you!

I adapted one of Chef Mollett’s recipes to make some delicious pulled pork sandwiches.  The end result was probably not quite as healthy as he would have prepared in his kitchen, but we thought it was tasty!  The peach flavor complimented the pork without overpowering it.

Peachy Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Pork shoulder roast – about 4 pounds

1-16 oz jar Smokin’ Texas Gourmet Sweet Onion and Peach Salsa

1-12 oz can Coca-Cola

Salt & pepper to taste

Dry BBQ seasoning to taste (Note:  Try Smokin’ Texas Gourmet’s BBQ Rub)

Season roast with salt, pepper and dry BBQ seasoning and place in crockpot.  Combine Smokin’ Texas Gourmet Sweet Onion and Peach Salsa and Coca-Cola, and pour over roast.  Cook on high for about 6 hours, basting the roast with sauce about every two hours.  Remove roast from crockpot, and shred meat with forks, discarding fat.  Skim fat from sauce and set aside.

Peach BBQ Sauce

Sauté in 1 tablespoon of olive oil:

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons minced onion

Pour garlic and onion mixture into blender and combine with:

1 1/2 cups fresh, frozen or canned peach slices

1 cup ketchup

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup pickled jalapeno pepper slices

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Pepper to taste

Blend until smooth, pour into saucepan, and simmer for 20 minutes.  (Slightly adapted from

Place shredded pork , reserved sauce, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup peach sauce in crockpot and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours on high.

Spoon pulled on toasted buns and garnish with dill pickle slices.  Serve with additional Peach BBQ Sauce.

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Fredericksburg Farms Peach Salsa

After we fell in love with Fredericksburg Farms Peach Pecan Amaretto Preserves, it was a no-brainer to try their other peach products.  Peach salsa was our next pick because we never pass up a chance to try a new salsa.   Before using it in a recipe, it had to pass our “salsa on a plain tortilla chip” test and this peach salsa passed with flying colors.  Peaches and brown sugar provide a sweet complement to the usual salsa mix of tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalapeno peppers, cilantro and spices.  In a word, yummy!  I could hardly wait to cook with it, so I quickly started looking for a recipe.

We’ve been trying to cut back on carbs (except for dessert, naturally) at our house, so I turned to my Six Ingredients or Less Low-Carb Cooking cookbook.  Bingo – a jerk-seasoned mahi mahi which suggested a fruit salsa accompaniment!  I halved the recipe below.

Jamaican Jerk Mahi Mahi

4 mahi mahi filets or steaks

2 tablespoons jerk seasoning (or to taste – this is a very spicy seasoning)

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 tablespoons Fredericksburg Peach Salsa

Brush the fish with olive oil and rub with jerk seasoning.  The fish may be grilled or sautéed in a nonstick pan.  Cook on one side 3 or 4 minutes, then turn over and cook until opaque in the center, about another 3 or 4 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook.  Remove fish from the heat, place on a plate, and garnish with salsa.

We introduced you to Fredericksburg Farms several weeks ago.  Located in the Texas Hill country, the company started as a plant farm, but has expanded into a gourmet food producer with dozens of sauces, condiments, and rubs.  Check out their website for tasty seasoning and garnish options for your kitchen!

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Cherith Valley Gardens Hot ‘n Spicy Corn Relish

Full disclosure right up front — Karen and I went to school with the owners of Cherith Valley Gardens, Alan and Terri Werner.  We were in band together, we spent hours at the golf and swim club Terri’s parents own, and Alan’s mom gave my siblings piano lessons.  Terri’s creativity in the kitchen emerged early, because Karen remembers making salsa with her in high school!  Alan ran a successful oil and gas drilling business until the late 1980’s, when the economy tanked.  The Werners began gardening to feed their family, and they gifted friends and family with their homemade salsas and canned vegetables.  Encouragement from those who loved their food and a small loan from a friend at church helped launch Cherith Valley Gardens.  The family has developed a delicious line of salsas, jellies, pickled vegetables, “spirited” fruits, and gourmet stuffed olives.  They maintain busy travel schedules promoting their products at gourmet and fancy food shows, and they wholesale their product to more than 2,500 specialty stores around the world.  This is a classic example of a small artisan food business growing into a commercial success.  While our love for the Werners’ products might not be completely unbiased, Cherith Valley Garden’s long list of awards validates their culinary talent!  Check out their products on their website.

One of our favorite CVG products is Hot ‘n Spicy Corn Relish.  This corn, onion, pepper and spice combination elevates the most humble tortilla chip to gourmet status, so yes, we eat it straight from the jar often.  On a recent trip to Central Market, I noticed there was a demonstration for Hot ‘n Spicy Corn Relish, and they used it to make cornbread.  Well, this really started the brain cells firing, because I had just made a jalapeno cornbread recipe that was a bit disappointing.  The recipe called for creamed corn and a healthy measure of jalapeno peppers.  I thought the creamed corn made the cornbread a little on the mushy side, and Allen thought it was too spicy.  Plus, I made the recipe as written, and it didn’t call for sugar.  Not good, since I really like sweet cornbread.  On the plus side, the recipe called for the batter to be poured into a hot, oiled skillet, which made an excellent crispy crust.  Could Hot ‘n Spicy Corn Relish take the recipe from mediocre to magnificent?  Yes, it certainly could!  After making a few recipe adjustments, we had a winner.  The cornbread retained the crisp crust we had originally enjoyed.  The sugar in the relish toned down the heat from the jalapenos, and the whole kernel corn in the relish banished the mushy creamed corn texture.  Although you could bake this cornbread in a shallow, 2-quart ovenproof dish, I recommend a cast-iron skillet for the best results.  I found Hot ‘n Spicy Corn Relish on Amazon if you can’t find it in a store near you.

Spicy Skillet Cornbread

3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

8 ounces freshly-grated cheddar cheese (divided use)

1 cup milk

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 1/2 cups Cherith Valley Gardens Hot ‘n Spicy Corn Relish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Pour the oil into the baking dish or skillet, and heat in the oven until very hot.  While the baking dish is heating, combine the cornmeal, salt, baking soda and 1/2 the grated cheese in a medium bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the milk, eggs, and CVG Hot ‘n Spicy Corn Relish.  Add the liquid ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients, and mix well.  Remove hot baking dish from the oven.  Using a paper towel, carefully rub a little of the hot oil on the sides of the dish.  Do not let the paper towel absorb much of the oil.  Pour the cornbread batter into the hot skillet and sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes.


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Mateo’s Gourmet Salsa

Karen and I are all about Mexican food, Tex-Mex to be more exact.  We think our obsession began with tortilla chips and a local favorite,  Albert’s Hot Sauce, in junior high school (more on that later).  We still talk about the best shrimp dish we ever tasted during a trip to Cancun and the chicken tortilla soup we had at Disneyworld.  When Karen comes to Texas, we often go straight from the airport to our favorite Mexican food restaurant in Dallas.  So, when it comes to Mexican food, we definitely know what we like.

In our opinion, the only thing a great salsa really needs is fresh tortilla chips.  But what makes great salsa?  Grocery store shelves have rows of salsa, hot sauce, and picante sauce.  Chunky, smooth, mild, hot and hotter – what to choose?  A relative newcomer in the market is Mateo’s Gourmet Salsa and it is well worth a try.  Andrew Robbins grew up in Dallas and enjoyed his dad’s homemade salsa for years.  He realized after trying many commercial brands that nothing came close to his dad’s recipe, so he went into the salsa business himself.  After trying a jar, we can say this is seriously good salsa that would rival that of any fine restaurant.  The all natural ingredients create a perfect blend of spicy tomato flavor with a texture that isn’t too thin or too chunky.  The label states that Mateo’s is “not responsible for obsession”, so consider yourself warned! It comes in mild, medium, hot, and habanero.  We tasted the medium and it had enough heat to be interesting, but not so much that it dominated the other flavors.  It was the perfect accompaniment to breakfast tacos, one of our favorite morning treats.  We don’t really have a recipe, but we’ll share our method.

Karen and Deb’s Breakfast Tacos

For each serving you will need:

  • 1 flour tortilla
  • 1 egg, well beaten.
  • 1 slice of bacon or 1 ounce breakfast sausage
  • 1/4 cup peeled and finely diced potato
  • 1 Tbsp each finely diced onion and green pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. cheddar cheese

Wrap the tortilla in aluminum foil and warm in a 350° oven.  Dice bacon into 1″ pieces and fry in a skillet until done.  Remove the bacon from the skillet and pour all but 1 Tbsp of bacon grease out of the skillet.  Add the potato, onion and green pepper to the skillet and cook until potatoes are browned and done, stirring frequently.  Add bacon back to the skillet, then quickly stir in the egg until scrambled to the desired consistency.  Place the bacon and egg mixture in the warm tortilla, add cheese and roll the tortilla.  Top with Mateo’s Gourmet Salsa and enjoy!

Mateo’s is sold in select grocery stores in parts of Texas and California, and is available through the company’s website, along with their signature enchilada sauce, bloody mary mix and margarita mix.    Look for the chili peppers with sunglasses and big grins on the label, and prepare to become obsessed!

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