Saturday, October 15, 2016

Big changes at Not Ketchup, my condiment business

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Erika Kerekes of Not Ketchup

Click here to support my crowdfunding campaign on PieShell - keep reading for details...

Many of you know that I am not great at asking for help. But today, I'm asking.

Not Ketchup, my line of all-natural sauces, is about to undergo a huge change.

By the end of the year, all five flavors of Not Ketchup will be made with zero added sugar.

And every new product I create going forward will be made the same way: sweetened with fruit and nothing else. No added sugar, no artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners. Sweetened by nature.

Why am I taking my business in this direction? It's simple: My health changed, so my life changed. And now my business is changing.

Which is why I need your help.

Diabetes: My wake-up call

In August 2015, shortly after the family photo above was taken, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I had been ignoring the warning signs for years, so when the actual call came from my doctor, I wasn't surprised.

But I was angry with myself. And determined to do something about it.

After only a few months of eliminating added sugar, careful low-carb eating and regular exercise, my blood sugar numbers were normal again. My diabetes is controlled, but it's never going to be gone. I'm going to have to eat mindfully for the rest of my life.

So long, sugar

I realized quickly that I am not the only person trying to cut down on or eliminate added sugar. While many people (including me) love my original Not Ketchup sauces, they do contain added sugar. And it's time for that to change.

Two of my Not Ketchup sauces are already made without added sugar (Tangerine Hatch Chile and Cherry Chipotle), and they are by far my most popular products on Amazon. Over the next few months I'll be adjusting the recipes for the rest of my Not Ketchup sauces, making test batches, redesigning and reprinting labels, and producing my first cases of the new *no added sugar* Smoky Date, Blueberry White Pepper and Spiced Fig Not Ketchup sauces. Everyone who's tasted the new recipes says they're even better than the originals, and I agree. I'm also working on additional flavors made without added sugar that I know you're going to love.

Please support my campaign

I'm running a crowdfunding campaign on PieShell to help me take Not Ketchup in this new, healthier direction, and I'm asking for your support. Any contribution helps, even if it's only $1. Rewards start at $30 and will be shipped in time for holiday gifting - wouldn't it be great to give your health-conscious friends and family delicious, unique, Paleo-friendly Not Ketchup sauces made without any added sugar?

And to those of you who have already contributed, thank you. Your support means the world to me.

Click here to help me bring my new, healthier Not Ketchup sauces to kitchens around America.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cream of mushroom soup

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The key to good cream of mushroom soup is a really good blender

There are three secrets to an aromatic, smooth, ultra-delicious cream of mushroom soup:

  1. High-quality chicken stock, homemade if possible
  2. Butter
  3. A high-powered blender
We eat a lot of mushroom soup, especially now that I am following a low-carb, high fat diet to control my diabetes. And yes, I am in love with an appliance. Why are you smirking? A kitchen appliance. Get your mind out of the gutter.

My Vitamix blender is my sweetheart, my crush, the apple of my eye.

An immersion blender is handy when you're making soup because you can puree it right in the pot. But it never gets totally smooth. I've made this cream of mushroom soup many times with an immersion blender, and while it tastes fabulous, it's always got a little texture to it. But the Vitamix produces cream of mushroom soup as smooth as milk. The cream I added just gilded the lily.

I'm a convert. The Vitamix is expensive (I bought it at Costco for about $400) but I think it's worth it. There's a lot of soup in my future.

Note: No one paid me anything or gave me anything to write this post. I bought my Vitamix with my own hard-earned money. And I intend to keep it for a good, long time. The link included in this post is an Amazon affiliate links, so if you click and buy anything, I will get a (very small) commission.

print recipe

Cream of mushroom soup
The better your blender, the smoother your soup will be. Flavorful Baby Bella mushrooms (also known as crimini mushrooms) add more personality than standard white button mushrooms, but use any mushrooms you like.
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 pound Baby Bella (crimini) mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped (use the stems too!)
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
Add the butter and oil to a large pot over medium-high heat. When the butter melts, add the chopped onion and saute about 4 minutes, until the onion is softened. Add the mushrooms and chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer gently about 30 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft.Transfer the soup to your blender, working in batches if your blender isn't big enough to hold the whole pot. Puree the soup in the blender until very smooth, 1-2 minutes depending on the manliness of your appliance. (Alternatively, puree the soup in the pot with a hand-held immersion blender.)Return the soup to the pot, add the cream, and stir just until steaming. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Serve immediately.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8-10 servings

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cheeseburger stuffed mushrooms recipe {low carb}

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When I started eating a low-carb diet, my family's diet changed too.

My (healthy) husband and two (healthy) teenage boys do not and should not have to eat as carefully as I do. They don't have the health problems that prompted me to make these changes.

But I am my family's primary grocery shopper, meal preparer, refrigerator stocker and lunchbox packer.

I also have a full-time job and a side business to run (my Not Ketchup sauces).

All of which means I am not very interested in making two sets of meals - one for me and one for the rest of the family.

My protein-loving family loves most of the low-carb foods I have been enjoying. These Cheeseburger Stuffed Mushrooms disappeared quickly. I glazed some of them with my new *No Sugar Added* Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup, and that was also a big hit.

I love these Cheeseburger Stuffed Mushrooms because they're easy, fast, low-carb, and FUN. Dinner tastes so much better when you can eat it with your fingers, don't you think? These would also be a great low-carb appetizer for a cocktail party.

Cheeseburger Stuffed Mushrooms


  • 12 large mushrooms (I used crimini mushrooms)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded or finely chopped cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup *No Sugar Added* Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup sauce


  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Wash the mushrooms and carefully pop out the stems. Brush each mushroom with olive oil and lay it on the baking sheet.
  3. Put the mushrooms in the oven for about 10 minutes. The idea is to cook them partially before stuffing them to concentrate the mushroom flavor a bit and get out some of the liquid.
  4. While the mushrooms are cooking, mix together the ground beef, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and cheese in a bowl. Roll the beef mixture gently into 12 balls.
  5. Remove the mushrooms from the oven, then put one beef ball inside each mushroom. Press down gently and smooth the beef mixture so it fills the entire hole and extends all the way to the edges of the mushrooms. If using the Not Ketchup, brush about a teaspoon on top of each stuffed mushroom. 
  6. Return the now-stuffed mushrooms to the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the beef is cooked through. Serve immediately with more Not Ketchup for dipping.

Preparation time: 45 minutes | 6 servings

Saturday, September 10, 2016

How to change your life: Talking to myself

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One of the tools I have used as I made some long-overdue lifestyle changes over the past year has been talking to myself, or what I like to call "the script in my head." Sort of like Stuart Smalley and his "Daily Affirmations" from Saturday Night Live.

When you're trying to break bad habits, every day is a series of decision points. And at every point, you have a choice: You can make a good decision that moves you closer to your goals, or a worse decision that doesn't.

During the first few months of trying to break my bad habits, I found it helpful to have a prepared "script" in my head as I met each decision point. 

Actors have scripts that (mostly) have beginnings, middles and ends. They know where the story is going. They know how they're supposed to react when other actors say their lines or do something. They rehearse their lines so that when they speak them on camera it sounds natural. 

So I figured if I had lines, a script, that I could go back to and practice, eventually that script would feel natural. The words, but more important the feelings and actions, would start to come naturally.

Here some of my internal conversations:

When I look in the mirror and get frustrated with my size and shape

  • It took a long time for your body to get this way. It's changing because you're making good decisions and taking care of yourself. It won't be perfect overnight, or maybe ever, That's okay.
  • If your health is getting better, it doesn't matter what your stomach looks like.
  • Grandma Rose always had a belly, and she was the most beautiful woman in the world. (A fact.)
My Grandma Rose and me, c. 1989. Isn't she gorgeous?

When someone offers me food that doesn't fit my current eating preferences

  • Just because they're asking doesn't mean you need to say yes.
  • Is that food going to make you healthier or sicker?
  • Are you actually hungry? Physically hungry?
  • You don't have to eat that to know what it tastes like.
  • You don't have to eat that just because everyone else is eating it.

When I have a craving for food that doesn't fit my current eating preferences

  • Don't think about how it looks or smells. Think about how it will make you feel.
  • You think you want it, but is it going to make you healthier or sicker?
  • Will taking one bite make you want more or will it be enough to satisfy you? Be honest now.
  • What can you eat that will hit the same flavor notes but fits within your current preferences? (That's how I created my low-carb eggplant parmesan casserole - I was craving pizza.)

When I don't feel like exercising

  • Would you rather get on the elliptical / go for a walk / ride your bike or take another pill?
  • You'll feel better five minutes after you start.
  • Exercise is a non-negotiable part of your day.
  • Put on your exercise clothes and sneakers, then decide. (Once I'm dressed, I figure I might as well.)
  • Exercising will lower your blood pressure and blood sugar instantly. Skipping it is stupid.

Notice that none of these scripts is about losing weight. Not one. For me, this journey toward better health has not been about losing weight. It's about getting healthy, and that's it. After a few months I realized that I wasn't hearing these voices in my head as often because I needed them less. 

Have you ever tried to change your habits by talking to yourself? How did it work for you?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Roasted Hatch chile mayonnaise

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It's Hatch chile season again, and food lovers in my neighborhood are going nuts. The long, tapered green chiles from New Mexico have a cult following here in southern California. I can get both the hot and mild varieties at just about every grocery store within a 10-mile radius.

Many stores have chile-roasting events in their parking lots so you can take home bags of freshly roasted chiles instead of having to roast them at home. Personally, I don't mind roasting them at home.

I wash the Hatch chiles, turn the burners on my gas stove to high, and lay the peppers directly on the iron grates of my stove. I turn them until they're blackened on all sides, then pop them into a zip-top bag to steam. The charred skin slips off easily and I'm left with strips of fragrant roasted chiles to use in sandwiches, quesadillas, casseroles, and condiments like this Hatch Chile Mayonnaise.

I've already made several quarts of this roasted Hatch Chile Mayonnaise since Hatch chiles showed up in local stores a few weeks ago. My husband and sons love it on a roast beef sandwich. Or you could:
  • Spread it on a sandwich with roast turkey, thinly sliced Granny Smith apples, shaved red onions and watercress
  • Spoon it on a burger (put some diced roasted Hatch chiles in the burger itself, too)
  • Serve it with broccoli fritters, zucchini fritters or spinach pancakes
  • Use it as a sauce for oven-roasted salmon fillets or chicken
  • Mix it with chopped hard-boiled eggs for the best egg salad of your life

print recipe

Hatch Chile Mayonnaise
A simple condiment made with roasted fresh Hatch chiles from New Mexico
  • 6 Hatch chiles (hot or mild)
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
Wash the Hatch chiles. Roast them over an open flame on a gas stove (I lay mine directly on the burner grate), turning frequently, until the skin is black and charred on all sides. (If you don't have a gas stove, broil the peppers in the oven, turning frequently.)Put the charred Hatch chiles in a zip-top bag for 30 minutes. They will steam as they cool.Slip the charred black skin off the chiles. If you want your Hatch Chile Mayonnaise very mild, remove the seeds and ribs from inside the peppers. Put the roasted Hatch chiles, mayonnaise and lime juice into a food processor. Process until smooth.Store in a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 cups