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Sauces and Relishes

sauces and relishes

Try the following sauces and relishes to dress up meats, vegetables, grains, and desserts.  The sauces are easy to prepare and generally far less expensive than those you find in the markets.  In addition, making your own sauces and relishes lets you determine what goes into them—fewer “bad for you” additives, like extra salt and sugar. 


Curry Sauce


Serve the sauce with chicken, pork, or vegetables. 


¼ cup of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt

¼ of light sour cream

2 teaspoons of curry powder

¼ teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of grated orange zest

3 tablespoons of mango chutney (optional)


Combine all the ingredients well and refrigerate them, covered.  When you’re ready to use the sauce, serve it cold or heat it gently until warm (don’t boil it).


Plum Sauce


Serve the sauce, warm, with chicken or pork. 


12-16 ounces of plums, chopped and pitted (3-6 plums, depending on the


1 cup of water

1 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons of minced garlic


Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring them to a boil.  Stir the ingredients well and reduce the heat.  Simmer everything for about 10 minutes. 


Salsa Verde


This is a great sauce to use with enchiladas and many other Latin-style dishes.


2 teaspoons of olive oil

16 ounces of tomatillos

1 medium onion, chopped

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of pepper

Hot peppers, if you want


Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add the oil.  When the pan is hot add the tomatillos, onion, and garlic powder and sauté until the mixture becomes slightly mushy—about 10 minutes.  Stir in the lemon juice and salt and let cool for 10 minutes.  Pour the mixture into a food processor or blender (with the hot peppers, if you want) and pulse or blend until just a little chunky. 


Mustard Sauce


Serve the sauce warm on top of fish, chicken, pork, or vegetables.  Leave out the capers if you’d prefer. 


1 cup of low fat sour cream

1 ½ tablespoons of grainy Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of capers


Combine all the ingredients, mixing well.  Heat gently (do not boil). 


Almost Instant Marinara (Meatless Spaghetti) Sauce


This is a very inexpensive, simple sauce, and you control what you put into it.  It’s better than many of the store bought sauces, because it lacks the huge amounts of added sugar and salt that most prepared sauces contain. 


1 can (28 ounces) of crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of dried basil

1 teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning

1 tablespoon of minced dried onion

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of pepper


Mix all the ingredients and simmer them, covered for 15 minutes to blend the flavors.  If you are using the sauce in baking or slow cooking (for instance, in lasagna), don’t bother to simmer it.  Just combine the ingredients and use the sauce “as is.”  The flavors will blend during the cooking process. 


Almost Instant Enchilada Sauce


This isn’t real enchilada sauce, but it’s good, cheap, and will work when you discover you thought you had some but don’t.  I use the diced tomatoes simply because I like the chunks.  You could substitute more tomato sauce if you prefer.


1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes in juice

1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of onion powder

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

½ - 1 teaspoon of chili powder

½ teaspoon of dried oregano

½ teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of pepper


Mix all the ingredients and simmer them, covered for 15 minutes to blend the flavors.  If you are using the sauce in baking or slow cooking, don’t bother to simmer it.  Just combine the ingredients and use the sauce “as is.”  The flavors will blend during the cooking process. 


White Sauce (Bechamel)


This is a very simple white sauce.  You can certainly double the butter if you’d like to make a richer sauce, but I find the quantity sufficient and so do my arteries.  The sauce can be used “as is” to top meats, vegetables, eggs, grains, and pastas and in casseroles.  You can also add cheeses, mushrooms, chicken stock, and vegetables, depending on your needs and desires. 


2 tablespoons of butter (or Smart or Earth Balance)

¼ cup of flour

3 cups of low fat milk

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of pepper

1 tablespoon of minced dried onion or 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped onion



Put the butter in a skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat and melt it, stirring it occasionally.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir it into the melted butter.  Cook the mixture for a minute or two.  It will make a pasty mess.  Don’t worry.  Gradually whisk in the milk until the mixture becomes smooth.  Add the onion, if you’re using it.  Simmer and periodically stir the sauce until it thickens, generally about 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the salt and pepper. 


Cheese Sauce


Follow the directions for the white sauce above and, when you add the salt and pepper, also add ½ cup of the cheese of your choice—cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, Colby Jack, etc.—and stir or whisk it into the sauce until the sauce is smooth again. 


Spinach Sauce


Follow the directions for the white or cheese sauce above and, when you add the salt and pepper, also add ½ cup of thawed, drained frozen spinach to the sauce


Mushroom Sauce


Follow the directions for the white sauce above and, when you add the salt and pepper, also add a small can of mushrooms, drained, to the sauce.  If you’d like to use fresh mushrooms, before you begin the sauce, add 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil to the saucepan.  Heat the pan over medium high heat and, when hot, add 8 ounces of fresh mushrooms.  Saute them until they begin to brown and soften.  Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set them aside.  Then turn down the heat and proceed with the directions for the white sauce, adding the sautéed fresh mushrooms when you add the salt and pepper. 


Cream of Chicken Sauce


Follow the directions for the white sauce above but substitute 1 cup of reduced sodium chicken broth for 1 cup of milk. 


Vanilla Rum Sauce


Serve this sweet and tangy sauce in place of barbecue sauce with pork chops, pork roast, pulled pork, meatballs, or chicken. 


1 teaspoon of olive oil

1 medium chopped onion

½ cup of rum (or ½ cup of water and 1 teaspoon of rum extract)

1 tablespoon of vanilla

1 cup of dark brown sugar

1 cup of cider vinegar

½ cup of molasses

½ teaspoon of nutmeg

½ teaspoon of pepper

½ teaspoon of salt


In a skillet or large saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add the onion and sauté it for 5 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients, reduce the heat, and simmer the mixture, stirring it periodically, for about 15 minutes or until thickened to a syrup-like consistency. 




Charoset is a sweet condiment eaten at the Passover Seder.  The word, charoset, comes from the Hebrew word meaning “clay,” and the food—a sweet mixture of fruits and nuts—is meant to symbolize the mortar the Israelites used when they were enslaved doing back-breaking work in Egypt.  The Talmud suggests that the sweetness of charoset hints at a sweeter, slavery-free future for the Israelites.  Many variations and traditions relate to charoset.  Some Jews claim that, in the “best” charoset, the fruit and nuts are ground into a brown mush to make them look like mortar.  The version below is an ecumenical/United Methodist variant that leaves the fruits and nuts chunky.  Charoset is wonderful with roast meats—in lieu of cranberry sauce—and atop desserts.  For a special treat, try a little—cold or warmed a bit in the microwave—on top of some cheesecake, pound cake, or vanilla ice cream.  


3 apples, cored and chopped (preferably a mixture of red and green—leave

   the peels on)

¼ cup of chopped dates

¼ cup of golden raisins or chopped apricots

1 tablespoon of honey

4 tablespoons of sweet wine (Mogan David is traditional, but I use what I

   have open for cooking—usually Burgundy or Marsala)

½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon

¾ cup of chopped walnuts

¼ cup of orange juice

1 tablespoon of grated orange zest


Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate the mixture for at least a few hours to let the flavors meld. 


Cranberry Relish – With Options


This is an uncooked relish.  You can make it simply—using only 3 ingredients.  Alternatively, you can add additional items to the relish to stretch it and dress it up, if you like.


12 ounces (1 package) of fresh cranberries, washed well and picked over

1 orange washed well, quartered, and seeds removed

½ cup of sugar, or to taste

¼ cup of chopped walnuts (optional)

1 small apple, cored and chopped (optional)

1 small pear, cored and chopped (optional)

¼ cup of chopped crystallized ginger (optional)


Put the cranberries and orange in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds.  Scrape down the sides of the processor bowl.  Add the sugar and pulse again to combine all the ingredients.  Taste and add more sugar if necessary (pulsing again to mix it in).  If you want to add them, stir in any or all of the additional ingredients (the chopped walnuts, the apple the pear, the ginger).  Cover the relish and refrigerate it for at least a couple of hours before you serve it. 


Lemon Curd


This is a very, very sweet-tart thickened sauce.  It’s traditionally served with biscuits or scones and cakes.  A little goes a long way. 


¾ cup of sugar

1 tablespoon of grated lemon zest

2 eggs

2/3 cup of lemon juice (about 3 large lemons)

1 tablespoons of butter


Combine the sugar, lemon zest, and eggs in a medium saucepan.  Heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking it.  Cook until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is light colored—3-5 minutes.  Whisk in the lemon juice and butter and cook for about 5 minutes or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.  Cool the mixture, cover it, and refrigerate it for at least an hour to thicken it. 


Sugared Cranberries


These little cranberries are great for eating “as is” or garnishing desserts.  You could, of course, also treat them as a condiment, if you’d like, scattering some across roasted turkey slices or sweet potatoes, for example.  The sugared cranberries are easy to make—and to eat out of hand—with their sweet tart flavor.  Try some today. 


1 ¾ cups of sugar (divided)

1 cup of water

1 12 ounce bag (1 ½ cups) of fresh cranberries, washed, picked over, and drained


Combine one cup of the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves.  Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring periodically.  Before the mixture reaches a rolling boil, remove it from the heat and stir in the cranberries.  Pour the mixture into a bowl and let it cool, covered, for at least 30 minutes or until it reaches room temperature.  Refrigerate the mixture for at least 8 hours.  Drain the cranberries, reserving the liquid.  Whir the remaining ¾ cup of sugar in a blender or food processor for a few pulses and pour it into a shallow pan.  Add the drained cranberries, rolling them to coat them with the sugar.  Spread the sugared cranberries out in a single layer on waxed paper or a baking sheet (or a waxed paper lined baking sheet if you want easy clean up).  Let the cranberries stand for at least an hour or until they dry (usually at least an hour).  Store the cranberries in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week. 

marinara sauce
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