Tag Archives: Texas Gourmet Foods

RoRo’s Baking Company is Growing!

RoRo's

Photo credit: Kortnee Kate Photography for RoRo’s Baking Company

We’ve had RoRo’s Baking Company on our radar screen for more than a year.  Karen and I flipped over their Cinn-A-Rolls and we loved the company’s story.  Amy’s grandmother (RoRo) had delighted family members and friends with her handmade cinnamon rolls for years.  Orders started coming in, and RoRo started a small business from her home kitchen.  Shortly after Amy got married, she had a vision of expanding RoRo’s reach outside the immediate circle of friends and family.  Her husband, Lauren, was on board and soon the three were renting time in a shared catering kitchen and selling Cinn-A-Rolls wholesale to specialty grocers.  With the launch of crescent-style Dinn-A-Rolls, and increasing popularity of both products, adequate time in the catering kitchen and inventory storage has become a challenge inhibiting the company’s growth.

Growing a business isn’t easy.  Financing for new businesses is often hard to find, and even more often, expensive.  RoRo’s creative funding solution?  Kickstarter, a project funding source that allows the owners of creative endeavors to solicit financial pledges from volunteer backers.  RoRo’s wants to raise $35,000 by February 28 to build out their own commercial kitchen.  Customers and fans of RoRo’s products can participate in the company’s growth by pledging funds to help with this expansion project.  In return, RoRo’s is offering  “rewards” for different support levels.  You can support RoRo’s with as little as a $1 pledge or as much as $1,500.  For a small $10 pledge, RoRo’s will donate a pan of Cinn-A-Rolls to our military personnel serving overseas.  Don’t you love that?  If for any reason, RoRo’s does not meet their $35,000 support level, pledges will not have to be fulfilled.  We can’t see a downside here, can you?

We love RoRo’s Cinn-A-Rolls and Dinn-A-Rolls, and have already made our pledge.  As of Sunday, February 3rd, Amy, Lauren, and RoRo have 24 days to raise over $32,000.  Head over to their Kickstarter page and help them raise the dough they need to grow!

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Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese

We always enjoy going to Central Market, but it was especially enjoyable last weekend.  Wackym’s Kitchen Margarita Cookie samples were available as part of the Citrus Fest celebration, and we were not surprised to see the display table was very popular!  We picked up a delicious lemon dill cooking sauce, and will be sharing it with you soon.  Central Market’s variety of cheese products is pretty amazing any day of the week, and on this particular day, a display table was being manned by Dave Eagle from Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese.  Dave introduced his cheese, and as we savored bites of his sharp and mild Gouda-style cheese, he introduced himself as a “recovering attorney”.  He said after many years of practicing law, he was ready for a career change.  He is a self-avowed cheese lover, and because he had always enjoyed European artisan raw milk cheeses during his travels, he decided to make raw milk cheese himself.  In true Texas competitive fashion, he reasoned that since Texas is the ninth largest dairy state in the union, he should be able to make the same fine artisan cheeses he had enjoyed in Europe, California, Vermont and Wisconsin!

Dave’s first task was to learn the art of cheese making,  so he attended artisan cheese school in Vermont.  His second task was to find a source for  fresh raw milk, and he relies on Sandy Creek Farm in Bridgeport, Texas.  Sandy Creek’s purebred Brown Swiss cows provide the Grade A raw milk for Eagle Mountain’s artisan cheese.  After Dave returned to Texas from Vermont, he taught his son, Matt, all he had learned about cheese making.  They work together at Dave’s Granbury facility making Gouda and Swiss style cheeses, and others.  Dave is clearly passionate about his cheese, but he is also passionate about the process.  He told us he will be offering cheese making classes this spring, and we will be watching his website for more information on that.

DSC01376Allen and I brought Dave’s mild cheese home, and Sunday night seemed like a good time to enjoy it.  Dave had reminded us to bring the cheese to room temperature before we ate it.  It was so good that it was hard to stop eating! The cheese is semi-firm, yet still creamy.  The flavor is smooth and rich.  I’m never going to be asked to be a cheese competition judge, but I would eat this cheese again and again.  In 2011, actual cheese competition judges awarded Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese a blue ribbon  for their Birdville Reserve cheese.  Dave has clearly mastered the art he admired for so long, and he obviously enjoys sharing his cheese and his craft with others.  Contact him on his website to find out how you can get some of this great cheese for your very own, or to get more information about his cheese-making classes.

Dave handed us a brochure about Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese, and it states “Bless’ed are the Cheese Makers”.  We say, “Amen, Brother Dave!”

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Picolo Reds

Allen and I recently made a quick trip to East Texas.  The afternoon drive back to Dallas was dreary, with heavy clouds, light rain, and cold temperatures.  We stopped at Collin Street Bakery for coffee and a snack to revive us a bit.  Collin Street Bakery produces world-famous fruitcakes from their Corsicana, Texas location, and they recently opened a beautiful bakery and cafe on Interstate 20 near Tyler.   What a nice alternative to convenience store stops and drive-through fare on our frequent trips to visit family!

I could have browsed their displays of cakes, cookies and breads for an hour, but we were pressed for time.  We were quickly on our way DSC01359with coffee, brownies and cookies, and an unexpected find — a jar of pickles.  While we were waiting at the bakery counter for our coffee and treats, I noticed the “Picolo Reds”, hand made and hand packed in a beautiful red sauce.  I just had to try them.    When I opened the jar a couple of days later, I was excited to find the pickles tasted as good as they looked.  They are thick-sliced bread and butter pickles with an attitude — a spicy Cajun attitude.  They are crisp and delicious straight from the jar, so they would be a natural on a relish tray.  They are also awesome on jalapeño and cheese sliders, providing a sweet, sour and spicy crunch.  They would no doubt dress up any sandwich.

Picolos Pickles have been around since the 1920’s when Corsicana businessman J.M. Dyer and one of his employees made pickles in the back of his Collin Street department store.  Although the department store is now closed, the pickle business got seriously underway in 1988 with a new company and a real pickle factory in a new location.  If you can’t get to Collin Street Bakery to buy a jar, you can order from the Picolo Pickles website.  There are four varieties to choose from:  classic bread and butter, pickles and jalapeños, hamburger dills and Picolo Reds.  The Picolo Reds certainly won us over.

P.S.  The next time we stop at Collin Street Bakery, we’ll share some of their fantastic treats!

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Filed under Pickles & Olives

The Davis Mountains Nut Company

The health benefits of nuts have been well-documented, and many people are making a conscious effort to add more nuts to their diets.  We are among that number, and usually have a large container of unsalted nuts in the pantry for snacking.  Although The Davis Mountains Nut Company does offer fresh, healthy pecans, we received some of their gourmet candied nuts as a Christmas gift.  Delicious?  Yes.  Healthy?  Maybe not as much as our usual unsalted nuts.  Since we firmly believe any foods can be enjoyed in moderation, we are happily pacing ourselves through the four flavors we received:  Praline, Vanilla Almond, Cinnamon Toast, and Sassy Sinamen.

Gus and David Billing started their West Texas gourmet pecan company after wowing friends and family with their vanilla almond pecans.  The Billing brothers developed a three-step process in which pecans are first marinated in flavored syrups, then roasted , and finally hand-dipped in sugar-based flavored coatings.  That pretty much explains the deliciousness.  We opened the brown sugar and molasses coated Praline Pecans first.  These pecans had the consistency of crumbly creole pralines you might find in New Orleans, rather than the creamy pralines Karen and her mom make so very well.  Still, they were sweet and tasty.

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Vanilla Almond Pecans

Allen thought the Vanilla Almond Pecans were completely amazing.  I was a little skeptical about adding almond flavoring to my all-time favorite nut, but this combination really works!  Eating the Cinnamon Toast Pecans was like having the cinnamon, brown sugar and pecan streusel topping from a coffee cake without the cake.  Yep, they were that good.

DSC01332My favorite flavor was definitely Sassy Sinamen, which has chili pepper added to the Cinnamon Toast Pecans.  It starts sweet and ends with a spicy burn.  Love it!  Gus and David have even more yummy-sounding flavors:  Key Lime, Orange Twang, Mocha Madness, Hot-N-Spicy, and Chocolate.  They pride themselves on using quality Texas pecans to produce gift-worthy snacks.  They operate a small retail store on Main Street in Fort Davis, Texas, about 80 miles north of the Texas-Mexico border, if you happen to be in the neighborhood.  They also have an online store where you can shop for gifts, or for yourself!  Our gift arrived safely in a sturdy box with a nice handwritten card.  The fresh pecans pictured on the company’s website look delicious, and would be great to have on hand for baking.

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Filed under Fruit & Nuts

Tiff’s Treats

If you don’t like warm cookies, you might want to skip this post.  Everyone is still in, right?  How about warm cookies delivered to your door?  If you live in Houston, Dallas, or Austin, you can experience this treat, or surprise a friend or family member who lives in the area.   Although most of the foods we share are pretty widely available, either at brick and mortar retailers or online, there are some foods that may be limited to certain areas.  Tiff’s Treats is one of those products, but it is too good not to share with local residents and with those who want unique food gifts for folks in these areas.

DSC01289We were introduced to Tiff’s Treats when they arrived during the holidays.  A neatly uniformed young lady was on our doorstep with two insulated bags.  From the first she pulled a warm box and from the second, a cold bag.  We opened the box to find warm chocolate chip and snicker doodle cookies, while the bag contained a pint of Blue Bell Cookies ‘n Cream Ice Cream.  Talk about a wow factor!  We were impressed before we took the first bite, and that first bite (as well as those that followed) were terrific.  The chocolate chip cookie had a generous number of chips in a soft and chewy cookie.  The snicker doodle was also delicious with a satisfying cinnamon sugar crunch on top.  The accompanying ice cream was super, as always.  The little creamery in Brenham, Texas turns out some of the best premium ice cream imaginable.  This is a long-time Texas tradition,  and now Blue Bell is available in 20 states, mainly in the south.

Tiff’s Treats started in Austin in 1999 when University of Texas students Tiffany and Leon recognized a need – the need for college students to have warm cookies.  The business launched with $20, Leon’s apartment oven, and a cell phone, operating only at night.  Their genius idea and quality product led to expansion, and now Tiff and Leon have 11 stores delivering warm cookies to college campuses, businesses and homes.  Cookies aren’t the only thing coming out of the oven — the Tiff’s Treats website has yummy-looking brownies, too.  A variety of cookie flavors and accompaniments makes personalizing a gift easy.  How about warm milk and cookies for a late night study session?  Brownies and Starbucks Frappuccino for an afternoon break from work?  How about treating yourself?  Very reasonable prices make Tiff’s Treats an affordable luxury!

Cookies & Ice cream

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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

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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

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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Filed under Condiments & Sauces

Twisted Pepper Co. Creamy Corn Chowder

Finally, some cold weather in Texas!  We thought it would never come, but it has been in the mid-20’s for the past couple of evenings, which means my Corn Chowder Mixthoughts turn to soups, stews and chili.  The creamy corn chowder soup mix I purchased at the State Fair of Texas almost two months ago was finally on the menu.  I was cautiously excited about making the soup because I love corn chowder, but my experiences with soup mixes has been hit or miss, and it has been mostly miss lately.

Ellie Hughes and her family are the driving force behind the Twisted Pepper Co.  (Don’t you love the company name?)  This small food manufacturing company specializes in gourmet dip, spread and soup mixes that are easy to prepare and delicious to eat.   Ellie, or “Miss Ellie” as she is known, has loved cooking since she was a small girl.  The company’s website has an amazing number of dip mixes, soup mixes, BBQ rubs, bread dipping oil seasonings, Tex-Mex seasonings and pasta seasonings.  I browsed the virtual “grocery shelves” for quite some time.  The selections run the gamut from a classic brisket BBQ rub to a very intriguing cranberry jalapeño pasta salad seasoning mix.  The company focuses on healthy mixes, with lower sodium, gluten-free and MSG-free options.

I think one of the reasons this soup mix really works is that it is basically a seasoning mix to which cream-style corn and fresh or frozen corn kernels are added; the “just add water” type soup mixes always seem to fall short for me.  I tweaked the recipe on the package a bit, mainly changing the cooking time.  The package calls for the soup to be simmered for 10 minutes, but I knew from previous experience with soup mixes that a longer cooking time really blends and intensifies the flavors.  The package suggests several variations and I elected to add diced potato.  My revised recipe is below.  Fair warning:  the mix makes a big pot of soup, so plan accordingly!

Creamy Corn Chowder

  • 1 package Twisted Pepper Co. Creamy Corn Chowder soup mix
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can (15.25 oz) cream-style corn
  • 1 (16 oz) package of frozen corn kernels
  • 1 medium sized potato, diced

Combine water, half & half, broth, cream-style corn and frozen corn kernels in a large stockpot.  Whisk in the soup mix and bring just to a slow boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the diced potato and continue simmering until the potatoes are done and the chowder is thick, about 20-30 minutes.

Bowl of corn chowder

You will be rewarded with a very well-seasoned, hearty bowl of chowder.  Everyone at our family dinner loved it.  Miss Ellie also suggests adding chicken or crab to the chowder, and I think it would be fantastic with diced, smoked ham.

Twisted Pepper Co.’s website would be a great place to do some holiday shopping for those on your list who love to cook.  Special holiday packaging on some products and free shipping on orders over $50 make it even more fun!

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Filed under Soups

Toffee Treats White Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Toffee

Toffee TreatsMary Louise (ML) Dubay ‘s Christmas traditions included making toffee from a “secret” recipe with her grandmother each year.  She continued the toffee tradition for years, gifting friends and co-workers with her sweet treats during the holidays.  Many of them encouraged her to start a toffee business, but she was happy in her corporate career.  A change of direction often comes unexpectedly, and for ML, one was precipitated by a cancer diagnosis.  She left her corporate position, spent some time volunteering for Legacy Brain Foundation, a Texas organization that raises funds to provide financial assistance to cancer patients and their families, and she made her special toffee.  Along the way to a successful candy business, she was encouraged by her husband, Chef Duane Dubay, and Food Network celebrity Paula Deen.

I love toffee, and I’m pretty convinced that people who don’t like it just haven’t had good toffee!  However, finding said good toffee can be a bit of a challenge, and we have had our share of disappointments.  I was excited to find Toffee Treats at Central Market, especially because the package I picked up had some of my favorite ingredients: white chocolate, cranberries and pecans!

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The toffee has generous measures of fruit and nuts.  The toffee layer is superb — perfectly golden brown without even the slightest hint of stickiness.  The buttery caramelized sugar base is complemented by luscious, creamy white chocolate.  Could this get any better?  A bigger box of toffee, perhaps?  Fortunately, Toffee Treats’ website has lots of options.  You can select from several flavors in addition to the white chocolate cranberry pecan:  milk chocolate almond, dark chocolate almond, or Hatch chile dark chocolate almond.  ML offers package sizes from 1/4 pound to a full pound of toffee, and she has a combination box with several flavors.  Her creativity is evident, not only in the lovely toffee we tried, but also in chocolate almond “olives” in a martini glass.  Check it out on her website.  I can imagine setting several of these on a holiday buffet table.

If you have been following our blog for any amount of time, you know we love a good product with an equally good back story.  ML’s courage in battling cancer, her generosity in donating part of her profits to cancer charities, and her scrumptious toffee totally hit the mark for us!

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Filed under Candy

Primizie Spicy New Mexican Chimayo Chile & Lime Crispbread

We told you a couple of months ago how much we loved Primizie Classic Italian Red Chile & Herbs Crispbread.  We knew at first bite we would be tasting Primizie’s other flavors.  Their Spicy New Mexican Chimayo Chile & Lime Crispbread should go on your “must try” list right away!  Everyone at our weekend buffet gave these crispbreads two thumbs up.

chile chips

Mark and Lisa Spedale, the Austin caterers who launched Primizie crispbreads, have created a masterpiece line of snacks that are all natural and free of preservatives, trans fats and cholesterol.  Their process of grilling, then frying the dough creates a texture and crunch that is like no other snack chip.  The chile and lime combination is a classic which in this case, is very well done.  I don’t know that I had ever tasted chimayo chile before, but it is flavorful without being hot.  Primizie’s website suggests serving these tasty treats with soft cheese, queso or guacamole.  We stuck with the basics for our buffet because we wanted to focus on the flavor of the crispbreads.  They were delicious solo, and with simple toppings of monterey jack cheese, diced avocado and jalapeño peppers.  I changed gears today and topped the crispbreads with creamy Chimay beer cheese, which might my favorite combination, at least so far!

DSC01128I wish I could send each one of you a bag of these tasty treats because they are not yet widely available outside Austin and Dalls.  The Spedales are working to expand their distribution network and you can help them (and yourself).  Visit their website and download a letter you can take to your local grocer, asking that they carry Primizie crispbreads.  The company’s tagline is “Crave the Crisp” and I promise if you get your hands on these snacks, you will!

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Filed under Crackers, Chips & Snacks