Category Archives: Sauces and condiments

Spicy Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!

I write to you with a belly full of food, pajamas that look like candy canes, and three movies lined up for watching: Frosty The Snowman (currently watching), A Charlie Brown Christmas (up next), and How The Grinch Stole Christmas! (the natural one to end the evening). I’m at Braeden’s parents’, and tomorrow we will have German food for Christmas. It’ll be sehr, sehr gut.

But for now, some hot sauce!


I got the basic recipe for this sauce from my friend Caleb, who said that I should keep it secret, and keep it safe, but things this tasty shouldn’t really be kept secret, so Caleb said I could share it with you. I made two variations: one with just jalapeños and apples, and another with jalapeños and chipotles in adobo sauce. Both are tasty, but I liked the chipotle one the best – it’s just so smoky and delicious! I like my sauces a little thicker, so that they really stick to the foods they adorn, but if you like yours a bit thinner feel free to add more vinegar or water.

tah dah

Hot Sauce: Two Variations
adapted from Caleb’s Super Spicy Super Sauce

Base for both sauces:

  • 5 ounces (145 grams) hot peppers – I used just jalapeños, but feel free to use a variety
  • 1 smallish bell pepper (about 3 1/2 – 4 ounces, or 120 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water

For Apple Hot Sauce:

  • 2 small or 1 medium sweetish apples (about 4 ounces or 115 grams), peeled and cored – I used Macoun
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, if you like, minced
  • A few dashes Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or other sweetener of choice)

For Chipotle Hot Sauce:

  • 2 chiles in adobo, plus a spoonful or two of the sauce
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, if you like, minced
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar

Trim and chop your hot peppers, removing the seeds if you’d like it less spicy. Remove the stem and seeds from the bell pepper, and roughly chop. Put the peppers and salt in a medium saucepan, cover with vinegar and water, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients for either the Apple or Chipotle sauce and simmer for 10 more minutes. Blend sauce to desired smoothness (easiest with an immersion blender, but doable with a food processor or blender as well).

Store in sterilized jars for optimum shelf life; keep refrigerated.

Yield: about 3 cups each sauce (that is, if you don’t accidentally break one of the jars with the all powerful hotness of the sauce…)


P.S. This is SUPER adaptable. I made another batch the other day and added roasted poblanos, agave syrup, and smoked paprika. Homemade condiments > store-bought.

P.P.S. Watch this.



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Jalapeños, long over due

If you pay attention to our little blog, you might have noticed that we’re a teensy bit obsessed with these candied jalapeños. So obsessed, that between the three of us, I’d say we’ve made more than 50 pounds of candied jalapeños. 

That’s a lot of jalapeños. 

They’re so good, that I decided they could probably even win a prize.



Or hey, why not two prizes?

The D.C. State Fair (yes, I know D.C. is not a state, thank you) took place last month, and at the gentle prodding of friends and family, I entered the obsessive-worthy candied jalapeños. Apparently other people thought they’re pretty great, too, because they won second and third place. (They lost to some pickled martini tomatoes, which I guess I understand. Martini tomatoes are probably pretty great.) 

I changed the recipe up a bit to make it my own, experimenting with ginger and garam masala in one batch and coriander and cumin seeds in another. I really, really like the ginger jalapeños, because I really, really like ginger, but the judges liked the coriander and cumin jalapeños better. 

If you have to choose between just making one type, though, I’d go with ginger. Just trust me. 

Sweet, spicy, and addictive, the jalapeños are excellent on crackers with cream cheese, nachos, tacos, burritos, breakfast sandwiches, all sandwiches, hummus, baba ganoush, or, straight from the jar. They make the perfect gift for just about anyone or may also be hoarded in your cupboards.

(Prize winning!) Candied Jalapeños with Ginger or Coriander and Cumin
Adapted from a Candied Jalapeño recipe found here

Recipe easily doubles (or quadruples). 

For both types:

  • 3 pounds jalapeños
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 6 cups sugar

For ginger jalapeños:

  • 3-inch piece fresh ginger (about 50 grams or 2 ounces), peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (yellow or black, or a mix of both)

For Coriander and Cumin jalapeños:

  • 4 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch (or two) of cayenne


  • large pot with rack on bottom for canning
  • canning tongs or normal tongs with rubber bands wrapped around the ends (use these to transfer your jars into and out of the canner)
  • about 9 half-pint jars, or about 5 pint jars

1. Prepare your canning materials: fill your canning pot with water and bring to a boil (this will take a while), wash your jars, and place jars in the pot of water while it heats. Once the water comes to a boil, allow the jars to boil in the water 10 minutes to sterilize the jars. Remove the jars, emptying the water back into the pot, and place on a towel.

2. Meanwhile (while water is coming to a boil and jars are sterilizing), slice the jalapeños into 1/8-inch rings, leaving core and seeds as intact as possible. Slice the jalapeños as uniformly as you can. And, be sure to wear gloves or your hands may burn later. Set aside.

3. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, bring the vinegar, sugar, and either ginger spices or coriander/cumin spices to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking often. Lower the heat and simmer liquid for five minutes, whisking occasionally.

4. Add jalapeños to the vinegar/sugar pot, bring the heat up to medium-high, and cook jalapeños for four minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so to ensure even cooking. It will seem like there is not enough liquid (the jalapeños will not be completely covered in liquid), but don’t fret.

5. After the four minutes is up, immediately move jalapeños to your prepared jars, using a slotted spoon. Turn up the heat and boil the syrup at a rolling boil for six minutes. Turn heat off and funnel liquid into jalapeño-filled jars, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 –inch in head space. Wipe rims clean with a damp paper towel and affix new two-piece lids to finger-tip tightness. ALSO: if you have leftover syrup, don’t through it away. You may can it as well, or you can just keep it in the fridge for a while. It’s great in a home-made vinaigrette, to glaze vegetables or meats, or anywhere you need a spicy-sweet-vinegary kick.

6. Process jars, covered in at least two inches of water, for 10 minutes (if using half pint jars) or 15 minutes (if using pint jars). When done processing, transfer jars to a spot where they can remain undisturbed for 24 hours. After a few minutes, you should hear the ping of the lids sealing. If any jars do not seal, store in refrigerator for up to a month or so. Sealed jars are shelf-stable for up to a year. Enjoy the jalapeños the next day, or allow to mellow for a few weeks. The longer you wait to open them, the more they will mellow.




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It’s All Greek To Me

When experimenting with grilled cheese, you must always keep in mind that the experiments could go awry. Obviously you hope and even believe this won’t be the case, and that you’re invincible, and that no grilled cheese is too great for you, but there will come a day when your grilled cheese is just “meh.”

For me, today was that day.

I make a pretty delicious tzatziki, if I my say so myself. So I thought, “Hey! Grilled cheese would love some tzatziki! Maybe with a little roasted lamb? A slice or two of tomato? Like a kebab-meets-extra cheese-and-an-American type thing?! YEAH!”


I was wrong. Or at least, I think I was wrong. Today’s grilled cheese was made of tzatziki, havarti, a slice of deli-style turkey, and that’s it. No lamb, for no pre-roasted slices of lamb were to be found. Sure, I probably could have bought some lamb and roasted it myself, but I wasn’t quite in the mood to wait that long when I was already starving. I also forgot to buy a tomato, and I think my slices of bread were a teeny bit too small to handle all the saucy mess of grilled havarti + tzatziki.

But, in spite of alllllll these shortcomings, I recommend you give it a shot.

Or at least make the tzatziki. It’s good.

Tzatziki Grilled Cheese

To make tzatziki, combine about a cup of Greek yogurt, a big handful of chopped dill, a 1/4 cup of crumbled feta, a squirt or two of lemon juice, some zest of a lemon, a splash of olive oil, ground pepper, and about a 1/3 – 1/2 cup of finely diced cucumber (peel and seed it first). Taste; adjust for seasoning and add salt if you need to. I added a few pinches of dill seed, because I felt like it. Also some garlic would be nice (I just don’t really use garlic).


To make the sandwich, spread a layer of tzatziki on one slice.  On the other slice, carefully layer turkey (Or lamb! Do try lamb! And tell me if it’s good!), havarti, a bit of extra feta if you’d like, and tomato slices if you remember to buy a tomato. (I really think that would have improved the sandwich a lot. It was just very….richandcheesy. Which might make you go “Uh…yeah Kara…it’s grilled cheese….it’s s’posed to be cheesy…” but whatever.) Grill, serve with some extra tzatziki on the side, and give it a try.

grilled cheese with extra tzatziki

That’s all I ask.


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What to do with all that zucchini

I love zucchini!  We usually have quite a few growing in our garden, but unfortunately this year we were hit with a pretty crazy Colorado hailstorm just when things were starting to look good. Boo.  Lucky for me, we have a decent  little farmers market where I can get an abundance of fresh zucchini on a weekly basis!

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking for a creative recipe to make something new, and came across something pretty awesome. Zucchini fries!! Yum!!


Zucchini Fries
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

  • 3-4 medium sized zucchini, cut into 3 inch sticks
  • 1 ½ cups bread crumbs (I used plain old bread crumbs, but I think Panko would provide a better crunch)
  • ½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground crushed red pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • A splash of heavy cream
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper

After all of the zucchini is cut, place them in a colander and sprinkle with a generous amount of kosher salt. Let the zucchini sit for at least an hour to draw out the moisture.  When they are done, place them on a paper towel and pat dry.

Preheat oven to 425 Fahrenheit. Mix the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl.  I like to mix them in glass pie plate.

Mix the eggs, heavy cream, and cayenne pepper in another bowl or pie plate.

Toss some of the dry zucchini in the egg mixture, and then toss in the breadcrumb coating. Make sure they are all covered and then transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Continue with the rest of the zucchini until they are all ready for the oven.

Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown. You will want to turn them over halfway through baking.

Serve and enjoy!

I made this awesome dipping sauce that I found with the original recipe, but added a generous amount of crushed red pepper to make it spicy. It was delicious! My children, of course, chose to dip theirs in ranch.


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The Savory Side of Apples

Not long after I started talking to Braeden, he informed me that his hometown in Pennsylvania is known as the “apple capital.” As a native of Washington state, I quickly contested this designation. Literally (meh, figuratively) everyone has heard of Washington Apples. Who’s heard of apples from the Pennsylvania apple capital? Probably no one. …or so I claimed. After four-odd years of living in Pennsylvania, I’m afraid that I’ve been solidly converted to Adams County apples. Don’t worry Washington, you still hold a special place in my heart, but let’s face it – a girl’s gotta grow up, and the apples here are really, really good. (This doesn’t mean, however, that a little poking fun isn’t in order.)

For the past four months I’ve been working at an orchard and winery that, among other things, grows a lot of apples. Housemate Matt works for the same orchard. Braeden’s sister works for another orchard in the area. Basically, apples are all around. To top it all off, the beginning of October marks the Apple Harvest Festival, rain or shine.

With all these apples floating around, the natural apple dish du jour is an apple pie. As you can imagine from her blackberry pie, my mom makes a mean apple pie. Janessa makes a slightly differently mean apple pie, too, and were I forced to choose between the two, I could not. They are both so good, that whenever my dad is around, at least two apple pies must be made because he will eat half of one for breakfast. True life: my family considers pie an acceptable breakfast food. We also fancy molasses cookies, but that is another post for another day.

However, I’m not going to tickle your tastebuds with apples all sugared and cinnamoned up. Today I present to you the other side of apples – the darker side, some might say. Instead, I give you the savory side of apples:

The past few weeks I’ve made this egg salad (more or less), this curried apple couscous, and a few grilled cheeses with apple slices and dijon mustard spread on the bread (a classic savory apple dish, I must say). I also discovered that when eating a plate of pickled things (beets, cucumbers, carrots, what have you), apple and white cheddar slices serve as a nice foil to all the vinegar. What I present to you now, though, is something else. It’s a savory condiment made from apples, to be spooned and slurped with sausage, pork, even turkey or chicken. Heck, I’ll bet it’s even great with beef. Or, if you don’t eat meat, it would be fantastic as a spread on toast or flatbreads or served as a little somethin’ extra with a roasted winter vegetable like cauliflower or a squash.

I must give credit where credit is due, and tell you that the idea for this apple-y/compote-y/chutney-y idea came from none other than Molly of Orangette, with her recipe for Bratwurst with Creamy Apple Compote. I twisted and tweaked the apple compote a bit to make it into more of a chutney/sauce to be served with, well, everything. I made a batch this morning and stood for literally (and I do mean literally this time) 5 minutes in the kitchen, spooning little bits of the stuff into my mouth. Yum. It has a slight sweetness from the apple, but I don’t add any sugar or even any butter or cream (although these would of course be welcome additions). I know next to nothing about canning, but I just got this book so maybe that’ll tell me if I could somehow can this stuff. Really, it’s that good.

Savory apple sauce

Note: I used a mix of sweeter apple varieties, but you could throw in a tart one or even use just tart apples to create a slightly tarter version of the sauce. I think it’d be just as good, in a different way. The spices/herbs I suggest are of course only suggestions. You could add a little curry and cumin if you wanted to serve it with an Indian twist, or some cumin and chili powder for more of a Mexican one. Experiment to your heart’s content. Oh, and if you happen to be making a meat dish at the same time, a few spoonfuls of meat drippings make a great addition as well. Bacon fat would be lovely too, but I suspect you already knew that one.

  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 or so medium sized apples, cored and coarsely chopped (and peeled if you want)
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup dry white or red wine (I used a Chardonnay twice and a Pinot Noir another time)
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
  • a pinch or two of ground cayenne
  • a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped (leaves only), or dried parsley, or dried marjoram
  • olive oil

Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan. Cook the onions in olive oil until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the apples and cook until softened, another 5 to 7 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, spices, herbs (if using dried, otherwise add herbs at the end), vinegar, and a half cup of wine. Lower heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more wine if you want more liquid, but I think a half cup is usually good. If you want a chunky sauce leave as is and put in an airtight container. If you want a smoother sauce, mash with a potato masher or back of a fork. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Yield: about 3 cups of sauce.

Also, today is a perfect fall day. Pennsylvania is awfully pretty in the fall.

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Use this with that enchilada recipe! Red and Green Enchilada Sauces

So, I have never blogged before. Like ever. But! I can cook.  I saw my mom’s post on enchiladas, and thought (or………Kara said, “Janessa, you should write a post to go with this!”) I can make good enchilada sauce! I can’t quite decide whether or not I like red or green sauce better.  I’m a “love the one you are with” kind of girl (when it comes to enchilada sauce, not my man).

Red Sauce

Place 6-8 dried chilies (we prefer New Mexico chilies) in a hot frying pan.  Turn them frequently until the oils have released.  Remove the chilies from the pan, sauté diced onions (1 small white) and garlic (4 cloves…but I like garlic, right Mom?) When they are translucent, add 3 diced fresh tomatoes.  Cook until all of the juice has rendered.  If you live at high altitude, like me, you can use a can of stewed tomatoes instead.  If you use them, also add a can of tomato paste and some chicken stock.  Add salt and pepper, then add the chilies back into the pan. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the chilies are soft.  Place everything in a blender, and puree. Return to pan and cook until desired consistency/ taste is reached.  Feel free to add extra salt and pepper to your liking.  If you like the hot/sweet thing, you can add honey or agave nectar.

Green Sauce

Pre-roast and peel green chilies.  Again, we like New Mexico chilies.  You can leave seeds and stems if you want extra heat.  Sautee 1 small diced white onion, and garlic in oil.  Place chilies back in pan.  Add 3 diced fresh tomatoes or one can of stewed tomatoes. Cook for 20 minutes. Puree mixture, and return to pan. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, and add salt, pepper, and honey or agave nectar to taste.


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