Americana Blends Recipes

Lemon-Pepper Fish Fry

Try this quick and delicious fish recipe as a great luncheon dish, or as a variation for dinner on Fish Friday!

Directions

1. Melt 2 tbsp butter (or coconut oil), 2 tbsp white wine, and 1 tbsp Lemon-Pepper Herb Blend in a saucepan over medium heat.

2. Rinse and pat dry 1 pound white fish filets (tilapia, cod, and haddock are good options).

3. Place filets on a broiler pan. Brush with butter-herb mixture.

4. Broil 4-6″ from the heat element for 8-10 minutes until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Options

  1. Bake in a pre-heated 375 F oven for 10-15 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
  2. Or, grill on the BBQ grill, on either a grill-safe pan or a sheet of aluminum foil.

Side

Prepare a side dish of summer vegetables by thinly slicing yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, celery, and carrots. Toss lightly in olive oil or melted coconut oil, sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons of Lemon-Pepper Herb Blend or Mellow Santa Fe Blend, and roast alongside the fish in the oven or on the grill. Stir once or twice to expose all sides to the heat element to encourage light browning and prevent burning.

Texas Burgers

These are perfect for the grill!

Directions

For an easy and quick tangy Texas BBQ flavor, thoroughly mix 3-4 teaspoons Smoky Texas blend into one pound of ground hamburger. Shape into 4 or 5 hamburgers and grill as usual.

Adding a spice blend that includes sugar will cause a normal “blackening” effect on the surface. Be sure to check for doneness by temperature or by slightly opening the burger to see if the center is at its desired level of cooked.

Hint: Meat flavor is in its fat. That’s why grilled meats taste best when they include 10-15% fat. (Fat also keeps grilled meats from drying out.) The higher the heat during cooking, the more fat will be lost; a slower cook will help seal in the flavor – and the blackening effect of the rub will contribute to the sealing.

20-Minute Mediterranean Chicken Stir-Fry!

Here’s a lean and tasty one-pan meal for mid-week “hump day!”

Directions

1. Thaw 1 pound of skinless, boneless chicken all day in the refrigerator.

Tip: Use pre-cut chicken tenders to make this an easier meal to prepare. Whole breasts will need to be sliced into tenders. Thighs can also be used if you prefer dark meat.

2. Rinse the chicken pieces, pat them dry, and if necessary slice them into chicken tender-size strips.

3. In a bowl, toss the sliced chicken with 1-2 tablespoons Lemon-Pepper Herb Blend. Coat thoroughly and set aside.

4. Prepare 3 cups of summer vegetables.

Suggestions: Slice yellow squash or zucchini into 1/4″ thick rounds; snap or cut green beans and baby asparagus into 1/2″ lengths; slice a fresh tomato into thin (1/2″) wedges; slice a stalk of celery thinly; cut a sweet red or green bell pepper, or a carrot, into matchstick-sized pieces; chop up some leaves of spinach or kale; thinly slice a sweet onion or several scallions; add some bean sprouts. 

5. Heat a large skillet on medium temperature with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

6. When the oil is hot, add the chicken strips and brown on all sides.

7. Add the vegetables and (optionally) a little water. If you have a lid to cover the skillet, turn the heat down and cover – the vegetables will steam, cooking faster.

8. When the harder vegetables are al dente (or to your liking), turn off the heat and sprinkle up to 1 tablespoon Lemon-Pepper Herb Blend over the dish. (Optionally also add a pinch or two of salt.) Stir and serve.

Optional: garnish with whole green olives.

Optional: serve with a side of sliced fresh mozzarella drizzled in olive oil with a drop or two of balsamic vinegar added, and sprinkled with Italian seasonings.

Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Red Pepper & Black Olive Sauce

With thanks to Rachel Ray, who inspired this delicious recipe!

Ingredients

  • 2 center-cut pieces of beef tenderloin (2-2½ lbs each)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2+ tablespoons Sweet Carolina spice blend
  • 5 whole roasted red peppers, chopped, drained, and patted dry (see roasting instructions, below)
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, stripped from the stems
  • 1 cup good-quality kalamata olives (or other black olive; but fresh or artisanal rather than commercially canned), well-drained
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 500° F.
  2. Liberally coat the meat with the oil and Sweet Carolina spice blend – at least 1 tablespoon per tenderloin.
  3. Place meat on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Roast 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350° and cook another 30 minutes.

Do not open the oven in the first 10 minutes, even if it seems smoky! You are developing a crust to seal in the juices, and partially steaming the meat. Ideally, don’t open the oven until at least 20 minutes have passed at 350°, at which point you can check to see if the meat is cooked to your desire in the center – especially if you prefer your meat rare.

  1. When the meat has cooked, remove from the oven and let it rest 10 minutes. Then slice thinly against the grain and at an angle from top to bottom for maximum flakiness and tenderness.
  2. While the meat cooks, place the roasted, chopped peppers, garlic, parsley, and black olives in the blender. Turn it on, then very slowly drizzle in up to 3 tablespoons olive oil until the mixture thickens into a thin mayonnaise-like consistency.

To serve, garnish piles of thinly sliced meat with the red pepper-olive sauce. Add a side of thickly cut crusty bread and plenty of fresh, cultured butter.

Roasted Red Peppers

Make these peppers a day or more in advance. Keep them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them – up to 5 days.

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Place the whole peppers on a sheet pan and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until the skins are completely wrinkled and the peppers are charred, turning them twice during roasting (about every 10 minutes).
  3. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately cover it tightly with aluminum foil. Set aside for 30 minutes, or until the peppers are cool enough to handle.
  4. Remove the stem from each pepper and cut them in quarters. Remove the peels and seeds. Discard the stems, peels, and seeds.

Tip: Don’t cube or dice the peppers until you’ve removed the skins – it’s a lot easier to de-skin quarters than small squares!

Smoked Texas Short Ribs

Okay, so it takes half a day to make these delicious smoked ribs, but that makes it ideal for a day at the lake with friends – and the results will knock your socks off!

Ingredients

  • 2 racks of beef short ribs, roughly 1 square foot each
  • 6 tbsp Smoky Texas spice blend
  • 1 package of oak or hickory smoking wood (available wherever grills are sold)
  • optional: 2 large pieces of butcher paper (try asking your local butcher when you buy the ribs)

Directions

  1. Prepare the rib racks by removing the membrane and trimming the hard fat cap to about 1/8″ thickness. Then thoroughly and thickly coat them with Smoky Texas spice blend. Let rest bone side down until ready to cook, at least 30 minutes, and up to 24 hours wrapped and refrigerated. Add remaining rub as a second layer, and let rest 10 minutes before grilling.
  2. Preheat grill to medium-low. Use the vents to achieve a temperature of 225-250° F. Then spread 1 cup well-soaked wood chips on the coals.
  3. Place the ribs, bone side down, on the grate. Cover and smoke until the meat’s internal temperature registers 165° F in the thickest part – 4 to 6 hours.

Note: check the ribs every hour or so. As needed, add a dozen briquettes to each side of the grill and spread a cup of soaked wood chips over the coals at those checks.

  1. When the ribs register 165° F, wrap each rib in a piece of butcher paper and replace on the grill. Continue smoking until the internal temperature reaches 185° F, another 2 hours or so.

Note: Texans often use tin foil, which doesn’t breathe; it’s a matter of choice. Foil traps the stream and speeds up the cooking process. It also softens the “crust.” By contrast, butcher paper allows much of the steam to escape, but retains enough to help soften the meat without altogether softening the crust made by the rub. So it’s a question of time or crust: you decide!

  1. When the internal meat temperature reaches 185° F transfer the ribs to an empty cooler and let it rest at least 30 minutes, up to 3 hours. The longer it rests, the softer and juicier it will become.

To serve: Slice into individual ribs and serve garnished with steak sauce or Hickory smoked BBQ sauce.

Lemon-Pepper Pasta

Try this creamy pasta dish as a side, or topped with chicken or beef for a complete meal!

Directions

1. Cook 8 ounces of pasta. Set aside.

2. In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt 1/2 stick (4 oz) butter, then sprinkle on 4 tablespoons flour and whisk or stir to form a thick, lump-free paste.

3. Add 1 cup milk, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in and continue to stir until the sauce thickens.

4. Stir in 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 2-3 tsp Lemon-Pepper Herb Blend. Taste test and add more of the spice blend if desired.

5. Pour lemon-butter sauce over individual side dishes of pasta. Garnish lightly with more Lemon-Pepper Herb Blend and a few pinches of either finely chopped fresh parsley or finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves. Serve.

Options

Top with chicken strips quickly stir fried in a light combination of 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons dry white wine, perhaps with a mere splash of tamari or soy sauce. Add to the pasta, then lightly sprinkle with Lemon-Pepper Herb Blend and a pinch or two of either freshly chopped parsley or freshly chopped cilantro leaves.

Alternatively, top with sirloin tips quickly stir fried as above, except with red table wine rather than dry white.

Simple Baked Tomato and Sweet Onion Side Dish

Use this topping, without the bread crumbs, on medallions of potato or on a whole cauliflower.

Ingredients

  • 3 garden-fresh tomatoes, sliced into thick (¼”) rounds
  • 3 garden-fresh onions (sweet Vidalia is a great choice), sliced into thick (¼”) rounds
  • 1 tablespoon Sweet Carolina spice blend mixed into ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons prepared bread crumbs (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Slice tomatoes and onions into ¼” thick rounds. Place on a baking sheet.
  3. Mix 1 tablespoon Sweet Carolina blend with ½ cup sour cream and 3 tablespoons prepared bread crumbs. Spread over the tops of the tomatoes and onions.
  4. Place tray in heated oven and bake 20 minutes.

Potatoes

Slice the potatoes into ¼” thick medallions, spread on a baking sheet, coat with the sour cream and spice mixture, and bake until soft, 20-30 minutes.

Cauliflower

Place an entire head of cauliflower in a small baking dish and slather with the sour cream and spice mixture. Bake until the florets are fork softened, about 45 minutes.

Texas BBQ Flavored Dip

Great with chips, pretzels, and cut vegetable plates!

Directions

For a tasty BBQ chip dip at your next party or picnic, blend 1 or 2 tablespoons of Smoky Texas spice blend into a 16-ounce container of sour cream. Serve.

Tip: Start with 1 tablespoon, thoroughly mix, and taste before you decide if you want a stronger flavor. Add additional rub one teaspoon at a time.

Tasty Grilled Chicken

Here’s a Southwest grilled chicken recipe that makes great chicken tacos or fajitas!

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp Mellow Santa Fe spice blend
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tbsp olive or coconut oil
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Garnishes

  • shredded lettuce
  • diced tomatoes
  • grated Monterey Jack cheese (perhaps with jalapeno peppers)
  • salsa
  • guacamole
  • sour cream

Directions

1. In a small bowl mix Mellow Santa Fe blend, brown sugar, and olive or coconut oil. Mix until crumbles form.

2. Thoroughly and generously coat chicken breasts with the mixture and place in a baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

3. Grill at a medium heat 6-8 minutes on each side until cooked through.

4. Rest for 5 minutes, then slice into strips and serve as is, or with soft tortillas and taco garnishes.

Side Dish Suggestion: Corn Salad

Ahead of time, cook 6 ears of corn. Let cool, then cut the kernels off the cobs.

In a large bowl, mix the corn kernels with

  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 3 tablespoons red wine (or apple cider) vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon each sea salt and ground black pepper.

Cover and chill.

When ready to serve, mix in 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves.

Spicy Beef Stew

Here’s an old friend: a stand-by meal with a refreshing heat pop. This simple recipe takes about 15 minutes to prep and1¾ hours to cook; or get the slow cooker on it all day so it’s fork-tender and savory when you get home! Boil up some egg noodles and slice a vegetable plate to deliver a complete meal within a half hour of walking through the door!

Ingredients

  • 1½ lb beef stew meat, cut into 1″ cubes
  • ¼ cup flour
  • dash sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 2+ tbsp olive or coconut oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 5 cups beef broth
  • 3 tbsp Spicy Hot spice blend
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4 potatoes, cubed

Directions

  1. Drain and pat dry the stew meat. Dredge in the flour combined with sea salt and black pepper.  Reserve any left-over flour.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a stockpot, then brown the coated beef in 2 or 3 batches, adding oil as needed to prevent sticking.

Tip: Don’t crowd the meat. Crowding causes meat to steam rather than brown; you want to create a crusty surface on all sides, to hold in the meat’s juices as it stews.

  1. As you finish browning a batch, remove meat to a plate, or if you are using a slow cooker, place meat in the slow cooker and turn the cooker on ‘high.’
  2. After all of the meat is browned, add remaining oil (up to another tablespoon) to the pot. Scrape the meat bits from the bottom, then add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are golden and softened.
  3. If you are cooking on the stove top: 
  • Add the meat back in and stir to integrate with the onions.
  • Then add 3 tbsp Spicy Hot spice blend and any left-over flour from Step 1, and stir to coat.
  • Add the beef broth. Cover, bring to a boil, then turn to low and simmer uncovered 45 minutes.
  • Add the potatoes and carrots. Continue to simmer 30-45 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
  1. If you are using the slow cooker
  • When the onions are golden and softened, add the potatoes and carrots and stir to coat with oil.
  • Add 3 tbsp Spicy Hot spice blend and any left-over flour from Step 1, and stir to coat.
  • Add the vegetables to the slow cooker. Add the beef broth. Turn heat setting to ‘Low’. Fit the cover snugly and go about your day!

Egg Noodle Side Dish

  1. Cook 12 oz. of egg noodles in lightly salted boiling water until al dente. Meanwhile, finely chop ½ bunch parsley leaves. Set aside.
  1. When noodles are cooked, dip ¼ cup cooking water into a skillet. Heat. Whisk in 4 tbsp butter, 1 at a time. Then add the chopped parsley and 1 tbsp lemon juice. Stir, remove from heat.
  2. Drain the noodles, place in a serving bowl and toss with the sauce.

Serve as a base for the stew, or as a side dish.

Optional: If you are using the noodles as a side dish, sprinkle liberally with our Lemon-Pepper Herb blend.

Optional: Also slice up a side plate of cut fresh vegetables. Carrot sticks, sweet bell peppers, crisp cucumbers, and juicy garden tomatoes are among my favorites.

Santa Fe Summer Vegetable Chowder

Great with tortilla chips, pretzels, or seasoned crackers!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup diced sweet onion
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped chilis (mild or hot)
  • 1-2 tbsp Mellow Santa Fe spice blend
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups diced white or red potatoes (or 1 cup each)
  • 2 cups peeled and diced sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 3 cups chicken broth (or water)
  • 1 cup diced red (or green) bell pepper
  • 1 cup diced zucchini or yellow summer squash
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small chunks
  • 1 cup (whole) milk

Directions

1. In a large pot, saute, chopped chilis, and 1 tbsp Mellow Santa Fe blend in olive oil until onions are translucent.

2. Add potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and chicken broth. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer 10 minutes.

3. Add diced bell pepper, zucchini, corn, and fresh tomatoes. Cover and cook on medium until vegetables are tender (15-20 minutes).

5. Put 3 cups of the vegetables and liquid in a blender. Add cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and milk. Blend until smooth.

6. Return blended mixture to the pot. Stir to combine, and reheat as needed. Taste test and add more Mellow Santa Fe spice blend if needed.

Serve with tortilla chips, pretzels, or herbed crackers.

Squash Soup

A perfect side dish, or stand-alone meal when you are just not that hungry. Serve cold on a hot summer evening, or hot on a cold winter evening, with inch-thick chunks of Italian bread.

Directions

1. Dice 2 lbs (about 10 cups) of peeled, seeded squash, and place in a large stock pot.

Tip: Our favorite squash for soup is the naturally sweet Red Kuri. Other good soup squashes include Butternut and Acorn. Even Pumpkins make great soup.

2. Add about 4 cups of chicken stock (more, to cover) and 1 cup of diced onion. Cover and bring to a slow boil; cook until squash is soft.

3. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture into a smooth soup; or, puree in batches in a blender, temporarily placing each batch of puree in a bowl. Then return all of the puree to the stock pot.

4. Add 2 tbsp butter or coconut oil and 2 tbsp Lemon-Pepper Herb Blend. Mix thoroughly with a spoon, whisk, or immersion blender.

5. Add 1/2 cup milk or coconut milk and stir until just blended. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Tip: Make your own chicken broth. When you cook a whole chicken, set the included neck, gizzard, liver, and heart in a small sauce pan with one coarsely chopped onion, one chopped celery stalk, a carrot cut in 2″ lengths, one large bay leaf, and (optionally) half a teaspoon of whole black peppercorns. Cover and simmer on low for 45-60 minutes, then strain into a mason jar and store in the refrigerator to use within a week. Or freeze the broth in ice cube makers or other nonbreakable container to use later as a nutritious homemade addition to soups and broths. (You can also add Italian seasoning or our Lemon-Pepper Herb Blend to the simmering broth for a more Mediterranean flavor.)

Fiery Grilled Salmon & Gazpacho

This delicious barbequed salmon tastes great right off the grill, as well as served cold; and it’ll surely spice up your Fish Friday! Serve it with something cooling, like Gazpacho.

Ingredients

  • 8 (4-5 oz) Salmon filets
  • ½ cup peanut oil (olive will work, also)
  • 4 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp chopped scallions
  • 1½ tbsp Spicy Hot spice blend
  • 2 minced cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Directions

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Mix thoroughly.
  2. Place the filets in a large plastic bag; pour in the marinade; refrigerate and allow to marinate 4-6 hours, or overnight.
  3. Prepare a grill, bringing the temperature to 350° F. Lightly oil the grate and add the fish. (If your grate height is adjustable, 5″ is ideal.)
  4. Grill for a total of 10 minutes per inch of thickness of the fish, turning half way through.

Note: if you’re cooking salmon with its skin, cook the non-skin side first for 3 minutes, then turn the fish and complete the cooking with skin side down.

To confirm the fish is fully cooked test flakiness by running a fork across the flesh.

Gazpacho for Six

Makes about 6 cups.

Directions

In  a stainless steel or glass bowl, combine, cover, and chill for 4 hours:

  • 1 cup finely chopped, peeled fresh garden tomato
  • ½ cup each, finely chopped green pepper, celery, and cucumber
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 tsp snipped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp snipped fresh chives
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tbsp tarragon wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • Optional: ½ tsp Worcestershire Sauce, and 3 drops Tabasco

Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, and sprinkle with a pinch of fresh, snipped chives.

Southwest-and-Maple Baked Pork Chops

This dish is delightful when made with local, field and forest raised pork chops with a rich strip of fat still attached!

Directions

1. Mix 3 tbsp of Mellow Santa Fe spice blend in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon real maple syrup. Stir until a thick paste forms.

2. Coat one side of 4 center cut pork chops, using a basting brush, and place them in a baking dish, coated side down. Then throughly coat the tops, letting the paste drizzle down the sides, too. Cover and refrigerate for 1-4 hours.

Tip: Thicker pork chops (1″ or more) retain more moisture; thin chops dry out quickly. Chops with up to 1/2″ fat attached will have more flavor, and will retain more moisture.

3. To cook, preheat oven to 350 F, place pork chops on a center rack and bake until the internal temperature is 160 F (35-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops).

4. Reposition the rack for broiling, turn oven to Hi Broil and quickly broil for 5-10 minutes to form a crusty top surface. Serve immediately.

Side/Garnish Suggestion

Serve with a side of young, thin stalks of asparagus lightly sauted with 1 teaspoon butter in a covered skillet until just tender. Remove from heat, drizzle with a light touch of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Use as a side or to garnish.

Simple Baked Tomato and Sweet Onion Side Dish

Use this topping, without the bread crumbs, on medallions of potato or on a whole cauliflower.

Ingredients

  • 3 garden-fresh tomatoes, sliced into thick (¼”) rounds
  • 3 garden-fresh onions (sweet Vidalia is a great choice), sliced into thick (¼”) rounds
  • 1 tablespoon Sweet Carolina spice blend mixed into ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons prepared bread crumbs (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Slice tomatoes and onions into ¼” thick rounds. Place on a baking sheet.
  3. Mix 1 tablespoon Sweet Carolina blend with ½ cup sour cream and 3 tablespoons prepared bread crumbs. Spread over the tops of the tomatoes and onions.
  4. Place tray in heated oven and bake 20 minutes.

Potatoes

Slice the potatoes into ¼” thick medallions, spread on a baking sheet, coat with the sour cream and spice mixture, and bake until soft, 20-30 minutes.

Cauliflower

Place an entire head of cauliflower in a small baking dish and slather with the sour cream and spice mixture. Bake until the florets are fork softened, about 45 minutes.

Spiced-Butter Chicken

A creamy dish with a spice infusion. The heat grows in the cooking, so test and add more spice at the end to meet your heat preference!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken (I prefer thighs, you might like breasts), cubed
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 4 oz (¼ cup) butter
  • 2 tbsp pure peanut oil, separated (coconut or olive will do)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (see recipe, below)
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp Kashmiri Garam Masala
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp + 2 tsp Spicy Hot spice blend
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • ¼ cup plain full-fat yogurt
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp corn starch

Directions

Butter Sauce

  1. Sauté the onions in 1 tbsp peanut oil until translucent.

Tip: Most commercial peanut oils are either diluted with cheaper vegetable oil, or contaminated with an anti-foaming agent. Both additives are harmful to your health. (Most vegetable oils burn at low temperatures, and burned oil irradiates body cells when consumed.) We only cook with heat-tolerant coconut, olive, and peanut oils (palm is also good), butter, and occasionally tallow or lard that we render from organic, grass-raised pig or cow fat. We source peanut oil by purchasing pure peanut butter and pouring off most of the natural oil that separates during storage.

  1. Add the butter, ginger-garlic paste (directions below), lemon juice, 1 tbsp Kashmiri Garam Masala, 2 tsp Spicy Hot spice blend, and bay leaf. Stir briefly until fragrant (about 1 minute).
  2. Add tomato puree and stir another minute.
  3. Add yogurt and cream, reduce temperature to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Chicken

  1. While the sauce simmers, in a large skillet heat 1 tbsp peanut oil, add chicken pieces, and brown (10-12 minutes).
  2. Sprinkle chicken with 1 tsp Kashmiri Garam Masala and 2 tsp Spicy Hot spice blend.
  3. Add ½ cup of the finished sauce to the chicken and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened. Then transfer the chicken and sauce to the main pot of sauce.
  4. Mix the cornstarch and water thoroughly. Pour into the butter chicken dish. Simmer on medium-low until the sauce thickens.

Serve on a bed of rice.

Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and diced fresh tomatoes.

Ginger-Garlic Paste

Put ½ cup whole garlic cloves and ½ cup peeled fresh ginger, with ¼ cup olive oil, in a small food processor and run until it forms a semi-smooth paste. (There will be tiny pieces, but overall it should resemble a paste.)

Keeps well in a glass jar in the refrigerator at least 3 weeks.

Use to spice up marinades, pasta sauces, stir fry sauces, slow-cooker recipes, gravy, etc.

Easy Oven-Baked Chicken Breast Dinner

Here’s a complete mid-week dinner that can be on the table in 30 minutes!

Ingredients

  • 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or equivalent amount of chicken tenders
  • 1½ tbsp Sweet Carolina spice blend
  • 3 garden-fresh tomatoes, sliced into thick (¼”) rounds
  • 3 garden-fresh onions (sweet Vidalia is a great choice), sliced into thick (¼”) rounds
  • 1 tbsp Sweet Carolina spice blend mixed into ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp prepared bread crumbs (optional)

Directions

  1. Before starting your busy day, place chicken breasts in the refrigerator to thaw. (We usually set frozen food in the refrigerator the night before.)
  2. When you return home, crank the oven on to 350° F to pre-heat.
  3. Remove the thawed chicken from the package, rinse, pat dry. Then coat on all sides with Sweet Carolina spice blend.
  4. Place on a full-sized cookie sheet or in a large baking pan. (Put down a sheet of parchment paper first to make cleanup a breeze.)
  5. Place tomato and onion rounds on the same baking sheet as the chicken.
  6. Mix 1 tbsp Sweet Carolina spice blend with cup sour cream and optional bread crumbs. Spread over the tops of the tomatoes and onions.
  7. Place tray in heated oven and bake 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Serve immediately, perhaps with a fresh garden salad.

Quick, Tasty Pork Loin

This simple and delicious oven recipe also works well with pork chops!

Ingredients

  • 2-2½ lb pork loin roast
  • 6 tbsp Smoky Texas spice blend
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. Very thinly coat the entire pork loin with olive oil, then evenly coat with Smoky Texas spice blend, and pat or rub it in. Let it rest at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator, covered. Add a second layer of rub before cooking.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 325°, then place the roast fat side up in a shallow roasting pan, preferably on a roasting rack in the pan. Position the pan in the center of the oven. Roast uncovered, 20 minutes per pound, until the internal temperature reads 145° F.
  3. Remove from oven and rest the meat 15 minutes before slicing.

Au Jus

While the pork is resting, pour off the accumulated roast juices into a heavy skillet.

Use a tablespoon to skim off the excess (not all) fat, then gently heat on a medium setting on the stovetop.

Sprinkle 2 tbsp flour over the heating juice and whisk it in until lump free.

Keep stirring as the juices thicken, making a thin gravy.

Spoon Au Jus over plated slices of pork. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Santa Fe Seasoned Ground Beef

Here are 3 ways to spice up your ground beef dishes!

Directions

For a delicious Southwest flavor, thoroughly mix 1-2 tbsp Mellow Santa Fe blend into one pound of ground hamburger. Then make one of the following 3 options.

1. Hamburgers: Shape into 4 or 5 hamburgers and grill as usual.

Note: Adding a spice blend that includes sugar will cause a normal “blackening” effect on the meat’s surface. Be sure to check for doneness by temperature or by slightly opening the burger to see if the center is at its desired level of cooked.

Hint: Meat flavor is in its fat. That’s why grilled meats taste best when they include 10-15% fat. (Fat also keeps grilled meats from drying out.) The higher the heat during cooking, the more fat will be lost; a slower cook will help seal in the flavor – and the blackening effect of the rub will contribute to the sealing.

2. Meatballs: Form into 2 oz meatballs to top your next pasta dish. Or use this easy 3-step white sauce recipe:

a. In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt 1/2 stick (4 oz) butter, then sprinkle on 4 tablespoons flour and whisk or stir to form a thick, lump-free paste.

b. Add 1 cup milk, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir until the sauce thickens.

c. Pour over cooked noodles and top with meatballs.

3. Meatloaf: Make meatloaf according to your usual recipe, or use this one (this family-sized recipe uses 2 lbs ground meat; cut the recipe in half to serve one or two persons):

a. Mix 2 pounds ground beef with 2 tablespoons Mellow Santa Fe blend.

b. Sautee 1/2 cup finely diced onions and 1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper in 2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil, or butter.

c. In a bowl, mix 2 seasoned pounds of ground beef with 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats, 1 large lightly beaten egg, 1 (14-oz) can diced tomatoes with juice, and the sauteed onions and peppers.

d. Press into a bread loaf pan and bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 F for 1 hour. Rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Carolina Style Pulled Pork (with Carolina Coleslaw)

This is a very simple recipe and meal – really, it can’t get much easier to make a delicious lunch or dinner treat for your next party or gathering! But it does take time to do it right, so consider preparing your pulled pork a day or more ahead, if your party day is going to be busy. Then simply reheat it in a low oven or on the grill before serving.

We find the Carolina Coleslaw too vinegary and spicy for our palates, however we’re including it because it’s traditional, and you might enjoy it.

Ingredients

  • 1 pork shoulder butt (this is not a part of the pork’s butt; it’s the upper portion of the front shoulder, also known as Boston Butt.)
  • 3-6 tbsp Sweet Carolina spice blend
  • 1-3 tbl olive or pure peanut oil (if you use peanut oil be sure it’s pure – most available peanut oil is mixed with some low-quality vegetable oil or is treated with an anti-foaming agent; neither is good for your health)

Hint: In choosing the size of the pork shoulder (or how many pork shoulders) you need, estimate ⅓ to ½ lb finished pork per person; and know that pork shoulder loses about 40% of its weight between cooking and removing the bone. So, a 5 lb pork butt will yield about 3 lbs of finished, pulled pork. At ½ lb per person, that will feed 6 people (9 people at ⅓ lb per person). 3 tbsp Sweet Carolina spice blend will easily and richly coat a 5-pound roast, but only thinly cover twice that. For best flavor, you want a thick coat that blackens richly as it cooks, which is why doubling the spice coat can be a good idea.

Preparation

Coat the thawed pork butt in a very thin film of oil. Then cover thoroughly with my Sweet Carolina spice blend, and pat or rub it in. (You can add 1-2 tsp salt to the spice blend before you spread it over the pork, if you wish.) Let it rest, fat side down, until it’s time to cook.

Cooking/Smoking

You can cook a pork shoulder butt in the oven, or on a grill. But you can’t smoke your pork in the oven.

Simple Oven Method

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Select a large enough roasting pan with a rack in it for lifting the meat off the floor of the pan; place the seasoned pork on the pan, fat side up. Roast for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Continue cooking until a thermometer reads 190 degrees in the center, near the bone, typically 4 – 5 hours. Remove the pork from the oven and rest it 20 minutes or so, to finish cooking and so you can pull it apart without burning yourself.

Smoking on a Grill

To smoke your pork shoulder, you’ll need a package of smoking wood chips. You should be able to purchase one for about $5 wherever grills or smokers are sold. Soak your chips in water for at least 30 minutes before adding them to the grill so they’ll smoke rather than burn. (Leftover chips can be let dry and re-bagged.)

Gas grill

To use a gas grill for smoking you will need a smoker box and a drip pan. Both are available wherever gas grills are sold, and should not be very expensive. They are, however, a great investment!

Make sure you have a full propane tank! (A backup wouldn’t hurt, either, but one tank should be enough.)

Fill your smoker box with the well-soaked wood chips.

Preheat the grill to high.

When smoke appears, reduce the heat to medium. (If you have a thermometer built into the cover, you’re looking for about 300 degrees cooking temperature.) Center the pork butt on the grate over the drip pan, fat side up. Close and smoke until the pork’s internal temperature reaches 195 F. It will take at least 4 hours, unless it’s an unusually small butt, and could take 6 hours. When it gets to temperature, it should be falling-off-the-bone tender.

Charcoal grill

To use a charcoal grill, you will need a drip pan that you can place in the coals to catch the melting fat. Otherwise, you could end up with a flash fire.

Preheat the grill to medium-low. Use the vents to establish a temperature of 300 degrees F.

Spread 1 cup of well-soaked wood chips on the coals. Place the pork shoulder on the grate, centered over the drip pan.

Cover the grill and smoke the pork shoulder at least 4 hours, and as much as 6 (or even longer if it’s a very large butt), until the meat’s internal temperature registers 195 F. It should be fall-off-the-bone tender.

Check the grill every hour, and add a dozen or so fresh briquettes to each side when you do. Also spread another cup of soaked woodchips over the coals at those hourly inspections.

After Smoking – Final Preparations

When the internal temperature of the pork butt has reached 195 F, transfer it to a cutting board or platter. (Use care, if it’s very tender it may fall apart easily!)

Tent loosely with a bit of tin foil and let it rest 20 minutes, until you can pull it apart without burning your fingers.

Using two large forks (or your washed fingers), remove any remaining fat and bits of skin. Then shred the pork into thin, short strips. Patience and time pay off, here. You’re aiming for something like 1-2 inches long and not more than, say, 1/4″ thick pieces. Toss the bones and fat you come across.

Transfer the shredded pork to a nonreactive roasting pan. Stir in enough of your favorite BBQ Sauce to keep the meat moist, but not so much it becomes sloppy. You want it to be able to sit on a bun without sliding out or dripping all over your new summer shorts.

Cover with foil and warm in a 300 degree oven, or on the grill. Keep it covered and on a medium-low heat until served.

Serve on a bun.

Carolina Vinegar Sauce

If you want to be more Carolina authentic, try this Carolina Vinegar Sauce in place of your BBQ Sauce. Simply whisk until thoroughly dissolved and combined:

  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1⅓ cups (non-chlorinated) water
  • ¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 5 t salt (or less)
  • 4 t hot red pepper flakes (halve it for more flavor and less heat)
  • 1 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 t freshly ground white pepper

Carolina Coleslaw

Shred one small green cabbage, and mix it with 1 cup Carolina Vinegar Sauce. Salt to taste. Let it rest at least 1 hour, and even overnight in the refrigerator for a softer texture.

Use the Coleslaw as a side dish, or as the topping for the pulled pork on a bun.