Category Archives: sauces

Make Mine Spicy

There are two different kinds of people in this world:

1. The ones that live for anything spicy. The hotter the better, they say, bring it on. The most firey hot sauce, the buffalo-iest (ha) buffalo wing, the zestiest salsa. They can handle ANYTHING.

And 2. The wimps who won’t touch it. (Sorry wimps. Time to man up…. 🙂 I kid, I kid. If you don’t like spicy food, that’s okay…but you probably won’t be real interested in the recipe below. So fair warning!)

I guess I fall somewhere between person #1 and person #2, which, really, if you want to get technical, totally negates the argument that there are only two kinds of people in this world. Hm.

Moving on!

I really do enjoy spicy food. Most likely because it was always around when we were growing up. My mom and dad like spicy, so that’s what we ate. Once upon a time, I thought I was pretty tough when it came to handling the spicy stuff. Then came The Day I Accidentally Ate the Pepper in the Kung Pao.

There’s a fabulous Mandarin restaurant in Schaumburg, IL called Yu’s. Now, I’m no world traveler (I’m not even much of a US traveler, to be honest) but Yu’s is the best Chinese food I’ve ever had and it was right in our backyard! Everything is so fresh and delicious – big chunks of meat, crunchy veggies, homemade noodles, perfectly flavored sauces. Oh, yum. I need a napkin over here! I’m drooling all over myself. I haven’t been there in forever. Need to think about making a stop when I go back home sometime soon.

The Shrimp Kung Pao is one of my favorites there. It sure does pack a punch! WOWEE! Super spicy and delightful. However, you must, at all costs, avoid the skinny little red peppers that are in there. Unless you are some kind of spicy food eating champion, those peppers will knock you right on your butt. I always make sure to pick them out and push them to the side.

One day I dug into the leftovers from dinner the night before, thinking all the peppers had been picked out. Oh, how wrong I was. A stray had been left behind. I crunched down on that thing on my very first bite. HOLY CRAP. I have never felt a fire in my mouth quite like that. It was so intense, I immediately lost my appetite. Even long after the burn subsided, I really didn’t feel like eating. I was sure my tongue had been permanently seared.

I have recovered from the infamous Kung Pao Pepper incident, and I still enjoy a good kick of spice every now and then. It did not sour me for life. 🙂 I was craving some really fresh, tasty, spicy salsa this week so I hunted down some ingredients at the farmer’s market. I already had the onions and garlic on hand so I picked up some great looking tomatoes and jalapenos and went to town chopping and dicing.

I looked around a variety of different recipes. The best thing about salsa is it’s pretty customizable – it can be spicy or mild, red or green, super chunky or a little thinner. I like a fresh tomato salsa, with some well defined chunks and a big old kick of spice. I have to admit – I leave out the cilantro. I know, I know…  I just don’t care for cilantro. I kept trying to like it. I felt like I HAD to like it – like I had to give up my Foodie License because I didn’t like it . I’ve given up on that. I just can’t like it. My salsa is a cilantro-free zone. 🙂

This recipe contains two jalapenos. For less spice, cut out all the ribs and all the seeds. That’s where the heat lives. For more spice, of course, chop the whole pepper. I removed all the seeds from both peppers, removed the rib from one and left some of the rib of the other. It’s plenty spicy that way. It’s not too spicy for me, but it’s got a kick for sure. If you are nervous, don’t leave in any ribs or seeds – it will make it much more mild. Or knock back the jalapenos from two to one.

SPICY HOMEMADE SALSA (Recipe inspired by a whole slew of recipes – especially this one at Dinner & Dessert and this one over at Annie’s Eats)


  • 1 pound of fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
  • The juice of one lime


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, stir to combine.
  2. Customize it. You can either leave it as is, puree the entire mixture in a blender or food processor for a smooth consistency, or you can do what I did and puree about half the mixture and leave the other half chunky.
  3. Place in an air tight container and refrigerate at least two hours before serving.




Filed under appetizers, sauces, veggies

Sweet ‘n’ Spicy

So….tired of blueberry recipes yet?? Me neither! That gallon bucket in my freezer is always in the back of mind. I always think, what can I make with blueberries today? All the desserts have been well and good (expect many more in the future) but I knew I wanted to use some of bounty in a savory dish as well.

This Blueberry Chipotle Chutney totally hit the spot. Love that sweet, spicy heat. It’s super simple to throw together and will keep for a couple months in the fridge. Just throw all the ingredients in a saucepan, boil until thick and enjoy! It’s so so so good. If you are into canning, this would be a great gift. I always think I need to get into canning, not so much because I want to do it, but more just because I think it’d be fun to design little labels and make cute gift baskets for all my friends. 🙂 But that’s another post all together…

Tonight I basted some of the chutney on a grilled turkey tenderloin and then served it up a bit more spooned across the top. YUM! I’ve never purchased turkey tenderloins before but they were on super sale at the store this week, so I snatched some up. It took a bit longer on the grill, but the end result was tender and juicy. The chutney complemented the meat perfectly.

Next up for the remaining chutney – Monte Cristo sandwiches. Turkey, ham, swiss, a big ole glop of this stuff – dipped in an egg batter and grilled until golden. Hello deliciousness! I think it would also make an AWESOME turkey panini. A little smoked turkey, brie cheese, the chutney, something green (arugla, perhaps) piled high on some really good bread and pressed until crunchy and melty.

Here’s a napkin…you’re drooling. I know what will help….make this!


Note: Below is the full recipe, which will yield about 4 cups. I halved it, but I think it will freeze wonderfully – so you may want to make the full recipe after all! 🙂


  • 4  cups  fresh blueberries
  • 1  cup  finely chopped Granny Smith apple
  • 1/2  cup  white wine vinegar
  • 1/3  cup  sugar
  • 1/3  cup  honey
  • 3  tablespoons  grated orange rind
  • 1  tablespoon  mustard seeds
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (about 2 chiles)
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground ginger


Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 25 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Cool; pour into airtight containers.

Refrigerate Blueberry-Chipotle Chutney in airtight containers up to two months.


One Year Ago:
Blueberry Muffins – Heh. More blueberries…what are the odds!
Raspberry Pineapple Sorbet – This…you will love. Trust me. To.Die.For.


Filed under fruit, sauces

All Natural Easiness!

I found a recipe for a lemon sandwich cookie that I was really eager to try. When I saw the filling called for lemon curd, I considered just buying a jar and calling it good.

The thing is, I’m really trying to move away from “just buying a jar/box/bag/bottle”, etc. etc. I feel so much better about eating anything (even if it’s a sweet treat) when it’s made with all-natural, real food. The reality of it is, I’m not going to give up my sweet treats. I can’t. I’m addicted and it’s a sickness and we preferred not to be judged harshly, thank you very much. 🙂 The very least I can do is stay away from processed,  hydrogenated, high-fructose corn syrup laden, store bought foods.

So off I went to make my own lemon curd. Holy Easiness, Batman! It literally took 15 minutes to put together. Really, there is no excuse to EVER buy it. Creamy, tangy and totally delicious…ready to add to cakes, cheesecakes, and cookies everywhere. Or to just eat straight out of a bowl with a spoon. YUM.



  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 to 3 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon of finely shredded lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces


In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce) (160 degrees F or 71 degrees C). This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately (so a skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate for up to a week.



Filed under fruit, sauces

Welcome to the Family!

Say hello to my new friend! TA-DA!!

Yesterday, I welcomed to my humble kitchen family a brand new KitchenAid 12-cup food processor! YEAH!! I got some gift cards for Christmas and with those, plus the 20% off Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon (LOVE it!) and a $20 manufactuer’s rebate, this little gem became mine for…well, let’s just say a very affordable price. Woot!

You know, a kitchen is a lot like a garage. In order to be successful and enjoy your work, you need to have the right tools. Think about it…would you jump at the chance to mow your lawn if you had an ancient manual push mower that didn’t even have a motor on it? No. It would be a dreaded chore. On the other hand, if you have a spiffy new John Deere zero-turn ride on mower (which we also added to our arsenal recenlty, LOL.), it will still be something you have to do but suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad….because you have the right equipment! That’s what cooking is like – you have to do it because you gotta eat. Sometimes it’s not something you really want to do, but when you have the right things around to get the job done quick, it’s a lot easier to get motivated!

When Eric and I moved in together I had a couple of ratty pots and pans I confiscated from my college apartment, like one baking sheet and maybe a plastic spoon and spatuala. That was it. Did I do a ton of cooking back then? Nope. I couldn’t get anything accomplished so I just didn’t do it. In fact, I dreaded it. Then we got married and I had a boatload of new tools to use. All of a sudden, cooking didn’t seem so bad. And now, adding to my kitchen empire in an effort to be even more successful really gets me excited. Yay for new toys!!

I took my new KA for a spin (pun intended) right away and made a delish sun-dried tomato pesto sauce from Giada. I’ve been eying it forever, but didn’t feel like dealing with doing it in batches in my mini. It was the perfect thing to break in the food processor! Soooo good. What a fresh, yummy alternative to marinara sauce. Good thing Eric likes things like this because it’s got two cloves of garlic in it and it’s basically raw…you don’t really cook pesto. If we both eat it, then no one notices. LOL.

Ready for it’s go round:

Fast forward about 5 seconds and you get……

PENNE WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATO PESTO (Recipe Source: – Giada De Laurentis)


  • 12 ounces penne pasta
  • 1 (8.5-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan


  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, blend the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil, garlic, salt and pepper, to taste, and basil in a food processor and blend until the tomatoes are finely chopped. Transfer the tomato mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the Parmesan.
  3. Add the pasta to the pesto and toss to coat, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper and serve.



Filed under pasta, sauces

Marinara Sauce – The World’s Most Perfect Food

I’ve tried several marinara recipes now but I keep coming back to this one from Giada. The extra veggies give it a really nice flavor and texture. I hate how jarred sauces are super smooth…like tomato soup almost. I want to bite and chew on something in my sauce. If I wanted soup, I’d make soup!  I’m weird like that, I guess. HA!

I almost always double this recipe when I make it so I have plenty for my freezer stash. When I double, I do NOT double the amount of olive oil to cook the veggies, it’s way too oily. I also add a couple other things that suit our tastes. Changes in italics!

MARINARA SAUCE (Recipe Source: Giada DeLaurentiis)


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 (4) small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 (4) garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 (4) stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 (4) carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 (1) teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 (1) teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (4) (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (Erin likes her marinara spicy)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 dried bay leaves


  1. In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)

**Note**: You can also put the sauce in a slow cooker and let it cook on low for however long you want! The longer the better!


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Filed under sauces

Slow Southern Style…

Well, it just so happens there was a big argument (ahem, discussion) on the cooking board I frequent about what qualifies as “BBQ” today. Some concluded that BBQ implies cooking outside on the grill…hamburgers, hot dogs and the like. Other thought BBQ referred specifically to certain meats slow cooked with rubs and sauces. I fall into the later category. Hamburgers and dogs on the grill is “grilling out.” As in, we’re having people over tonight and grilling out. But true BBQ is a whole different ball game.

Here in the Midwest, it’s not like there are BBQ places on every corner like in other parts of the country. I sure do love it though. Of course, I can’t actually make anything that even comes close to authentic BBQ here at home, but I thought I would try to bring in some of those yummy flavors that are such a treat. Eric isn’t a big fan of thick, goopy, tomato-based BBQ sauces so I wanted try a vinegar-based Carolina-style sauce with pork. We both really enjoyed this! And I had a blast making my own sauce!


  • 1 2lb. Pork Loin Ribeye Roast (I buy this cut over the tenderloin because it’s cheaper, and since it cooks in the crockpot, it ends up nice and tender)
  • 1 12 oz. can of rootbeer
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Carolina BBQ Sauce (recipe to follow)


  1. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Coat a heavy skillet or dutch oven with olive oil and sear each side of the meat to get some color to it. Place in a slow cooker with root beer and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours. Drain root beer and chop or shred pork. Stir in BBQ. Serve over sandwich buns, if desired.


**WARNING!** This sauce is SPICY! For me, there’s no such thing as too spicy, but I know some might find the kick to be a bit too much. To knock back the spice, I would decrease the amount of Cayenne and leave out the hot sauce completely.


  • 1 1/2 cups prepared yellow mustard (I knocked this back 3/4 cup per some suggestions from reviewers)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup beer
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon Louisiana-style hot sauce, or to taste


  1. In a heavy non-reactive saucepan, stir together the mustard, brown sugar, vinegar, and beer. Season with chili powder and black, white, and cayenne peppers. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, and cook for about 20 minutes. DO NOT BOIL, or you will scorch the sugar and peppers.
  2. Mix in the Worcestershire sauce, butter, and liquid smoke. Simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. Taste, and season with hot sauce to your liking. Pour into an airtight jar, and refrigerate for overnight to allow flavors to blend. The vinegar taste may be a little strong until the sauce completely cools.



Filed under pork, sauces