The Weekend Gourmet F

Monday, April 16, 2018

Wendy's Great Eight April 2018 #greateight #wendyfavethings #tryit

After a five-month hiatus, my monthly Wendy's Great Eight column is finally back! This has always been one of my favorite features of The Weekend Gourmet, because I love trying new food/beverage/kitchen items and sharing my favorites with you. Starting this month, Wendy's Great Eight will focus mostly on healthier food and beverage items that are lower in fat, sugar, and/or calories...and contain more protein, fiber, and nutrients. There'll definitely be a splurge here and there since life is all about moderation. However, the dietary changes I've implemented post-stroke will be one of the chief guiding factors of this column. I want my readers to know that healthier-for-you food can taste AMAZING! Ready to get started?!?!?

(1) ONE Protein Bars. I've been focusing on including more protein daily since joining a gym a few weeks ago. Protein bars are an excellent way to boost protein intake...but I have found that most brands have a chalky consistency and lack flavor. I was elated when I discovered ONE protein bars. Each bar averages 220 calories, with 20 grams of filling protein and just 1 gram of sugar. Best of all? ONE protein bars are certified gluten free and come in a variety of fun flavors that taste great! I love the Blueberry Cobbler, Peanut Butter Pie, or Birthday Cake flavors with a bottle of water after a gym workout. However, my favorite flavor is Salted Caramel. Tastes great AND provides a burst of protein? Sign me up! ONE protein bars can be purchases via their online store...or visit their online Store Locator to find a retail location near you. 

(2) Popchips Nutter Puffs. Peanut butter lovers -- myself included -- can easily eat peanut butter straight from the jar with a spoon  when a craving hits. It definitely satisfies a PB craving...but it's also a lot of fat in one setting. My newest discovery to satisfy PB cravings is crunchy, addicting Nutter Puffs. I am literally in. love. with this tasty sweet-salty snack! Nutter Puffs are made with real peanut butter, and each 1-ounce serving (approx. 27 corn puffs) contains 5 grams of protein. They're also non-GMO, gluten free, and contain no artificial ingredients. Nutter Puffs come in three great flavors: Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter & Honey (my fave!), and Peanut Butter & Chocolate (it really satisfies those peanut butter cup cravings)! Nutter Puffs can be ordered direct from Popchips. They can also be found at retailers near you by searching their handy online Store Locator.

(3) Bai Bubbles Beverage. I recently made a conscious decision to drink fewer sodas...and more water...on a weekly basis. I'm sticking with this goal pretty well, but sometimes I just want to enjoy something fizzy and refreshing. Bai Bubbles has been filling that void perfectly for me lately! Each 11.5-ounce serving has just 5 calories and 1 gram of sugar. Each can of antioxidant-infused Bai Bubbles also contains zero artificial flavors -- Bai products are sweetened with a blend of stevia and erythritol. With bold flavors like Bolivia Black Cherry, Jamaica Blood Orange, and Bogota Blackberry Lime, you have tons of options to refresh yourself on warm days! Bai Bubbles are tart, refreshing, and lightly sweet -- not as sweet as a soda, but sweeter than flavor-infused sparkling water. Bai Bubbles and other Bai beverages can be purchased direct via the website, as well as at major retailers nationwide.
(4) Enlightened Ice Cream Bars. I try to snack mostly on fruit and yogurt, but sometimes I want to treat myself to something a bit more decadent -- like ice cream. These days, I try to make wiser frozen treat choices. One of my favorite ice cream bars is from Enlightened. Each bar has between 70 and 100 calories, added protein and fiber, and less sugar and fat. We absolutely love the Frozen Hot Cocoa flavor, which has 90 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of protein. Each creamy bar features mini chocolate chips and a marshmallow swirl in chocolate ice cream. Enlightened ice cream bars come in 10 great flavors, including Sea Salt Caramel, Red Velvet, and Birthday Cake. To locate Enlightened ice cream bars, be sure to visit their convenient online Store Locator.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Cookbook Spotlight and Giveaway...The Tex-Mex Slow Cooker #giveaway #bigflavor #slowcooker

It's no secret that we love big-flavor foods in my house -- including spicy Tex-Mex recipes. I am so excited to share a wonderful new cookbook with you today, including a recipe for a tasty side dish that is bursting with big flavors! The Tex-Mex Slow Cooker cookbook is a fabulous resource of 100 recipes uses a slow cooker to create a wide range of dishes. Author Vianney Rodriguez is a fellow Texas blogger via Sweet Life. She's also a well-regarded recipe developer...and an all around sweetheart of a person! I had a very difficult time selecting one recipe to share with you today. I considered the Elote Shrimp Dip, Ancho Chile Carnitas, and Chile Relleno Casserole recipes before opting to make Vianney's Elote Rice recipe while home visiting family over Easter weekend.

This flavorful rice features all of the amazing flavors and textures of traditional elote in a delicious side dish! If you're not familiar with elote, it's a popular, beloved Mexican street food. Corn on the cob is roasted on a stick, then covered with crema, crumbly queso fresca cheese, chile powder, and lime. These flavors are all present in the Elote Rice recipe. I loved being able to start the rice cooking a couple of hours before dinner and letting the slow cooker do its thing. After the rice-corn mixture has cooked, transferring to serving bowl and adding toppings takes only a minute or two to complete. Everyone who tasted this Elote Rice gave it a hearty thumbs up!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road...Featuring a Three-Day Weekend Texas BBQ Roadtrip! #roadtrip #texasbbq #weekendfun

After a five-month medical hiatus while I recovered from my November stroke, The Weekend Gourmet team is embarking on our first culinary travel feature of 2018 this weekend! We're sticking close to home for this trip to spotlight six of the state's very best BBQ joints over the course of one flavorful three-day weekend. Us Texans are very serious about our BBQ -- which we sincerely believe is the best anywhere in the world. The meat here is smoked low and slow...and BBQ sauce is always considered optional and served on the side. Many Texans' preferred beverage of  choice to wash down their BBQ? Ice-cold Big Red soda, of course! Texas BBQ is all about the quality and flavor of the meat, but good sides are definitely a plus in my book. 

Texas has literally hundreds of BBQ joints located across the state, so picking which specific locations to spotlight was tricky. For this trip, we mapped out a route that focuses on a section of the state that is easily covered in three delicious days and features some of Texas' most highly rated BBQ. Our itinerary will take us to San Antonio hot spot 2M Smokehouse; the legendary Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor; a day in East Texas to visit Bodacious Bar-B-Q in Longview and Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Q in Tyler; and finally to Austin to visit Micklethwait Craft Meats and la Barbecue. We've even worked in a pit stop at Slovacek's Bakery in the tiny town of West, Texas for the very best Czech kolaches we've ever tasted! The following trip preview video should definitely get your mouth watering!

Be sure to follow The Weekend Gourmet team on Instagram (weekendgourmet) and Twitter (@TheWeekendGourm) to follow our Texas BBQ adventure in real time. We'll share pictures and video of the best food we sample at all six of our featured BBQ joints...along with each restaurant's unique ensure you receive a true feel for the authentic Texas BBQ experience!

Disclosure: The BBQ joints being featured in our social media shares this weekend, as well as the resulting feature article, are hosting us for tastings to facilitate inclusion. As always, all opinions shared are honest and reflect the views of The Weekend Gourmet team.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Weekend Gourmet Flashback: No-Bake Easter Egg Mini Cakes #nobake #dessert #noovenrequired

I’ve got a fun Easter treat to share with you today -- one that’s no-bake and so simple that you can make them with your little ones next Saturday afternoon ahead of your Sunday Easter celebrations! I shared these festive No-Bake Easter Egg Mini Cakes last year, and they were very popular with y' I decided to spotlight them again this year. The cakes were inspired by a petite four recipe I saw at the Woman’s Day website. My mini cakes come in two flavors: peanut butter and chocolate-hazelnut.

To up the chocolate factor on these tasty Easter treats, they’re decorated with peanut butter-filled chocolate eggs and chocolate-hazelnut candy. I used items from Vosges Haut-Chocolat's Easter collection, but feel free to have fun and choose décor that speaks to you. For setting up a themed display for these Easter mini cakes, be sure to also pick up some Easter grass and miniature chocolate bunnies!

What makes these two-serving mini cakes no-bake? The secret is frozen pound cake that's cut with an egg-shaped cookie cutter. The peanut butter version is filled with a silky peanut butter buttercream, while the chocolate version is filled with a decadent chocolate-hazelnut buttercream. The filled mini cakes are then glazed with a simple ganache made from candy melts and whipping cream. I used pastel-flecked white glaze for the peanut butter cakes and milk chocolate and colorful confetti sprinkles for the chocolate- hazelnut cakes. These cakes are a blast to make and decorate. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather hunt for these tasty Easter eggs on Easter morning! Wait until you see how fun these easy treats are to create.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

My Stroke Recovery Journey Part 2: Rehab and Coming Home #strokesurvior #strokerehab #takingmylifeback

Last week, I shared the first part of my stroke recovery journey. Today, I'm sharing the rest of my story -- which encompasses my post-stroke rehabilitation process. If you haven't seen the video slideshow I created to highlight my stroke recovery since November, here it is again.

Rehab Phase 1: TIRR Memorial Hermann 
On November 20th -- following nine days at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Westover Hills Hospital in San Antonio -- I was transferred via ambulance to TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston for the next part of my stroke recovery journey. TIRR is a rehabilitation hospital, which means they provide both medical care and rehabilitation therapy services. My team of physicians and nurses worked on stabilizing my blood pressure and aspiration pneumonia that was directly linked to my inability to swallow food/water or saliva. Over the following 24 days, my therapy team also provided focused rehabilitation services. In physical therapy, I worked on standing and walking with assistance. In occupational therapy, I focused on strength, control, and fine motor skills for my impacted left arm and hand. In speech therapy, we concentrated on targeted exercises designed to teach me to swallow liquids and food again. 
Swallowing is something humans are born automatically knowing how to do, so having to relearn this task as an adult was a huge challenge that required intense daily exercises and periodic swallow study tests to evaluate my progress. As a foodie, not being able to enjoy my favorite foods -- especially on Thanksgiving -- was extremely frustrating. How did I cope with the frustration? Ironically, I watched a ton of Food Network programming...and enjoyed smelling the food our friends and family brought to Michael. During my time at TIRR, Michael was a constant presence and support -- he attended every therapy session and slept in a small twin pullout bed every evening. I couldn't have asked for a more dedicated advocate and partner by my side!
By the time I was declared medically stable to leave TIRR on December 14th, I had made some significant recovery strides. I was able to stand up from my bed and wheelchair on my own, walk a few feet with assistance -- albeit with a form that needed further refinement, transfer unassisted between my bed and wheelchair, and write/sign my name very close to normal. I was also tasting small bites of foods like soup, yogurt, and pudding at this point via in-room trials with my speech therapist. Best of all? The day before I was discharged from TIRR was Michael's birthday. My present to him was a simple breakfast scramble that I cooked all by myself in TIRR's Occupational Therapy kitchen. The Weekend Gourmet was officially back in the kitchen! I considered that real progress that I could build on during the next phase of my rehab at Mentis Neuro in San Antonio.
Rehab Phase 2: Mentis Neuro San Antonio
On December 14th, I was transported from TIRR in Houston to Mentis Neuro in San Antonio to continue the next phase of my recovery -- intensive inpatient therapy. As a symbolic gesture, I stood up from my wheelchair and walked 2-3 steps out the door with Michael's support. I rode to San Antonio in my parents' van while Michael followed behind us with my personal items in his truck. The four-hour trip went smoothly, and we arrived at Mentis mid-afternoon. I was scheduled for at least 2 months of intensive inpatient physical, occupational, and speech therapies. The rehab therapy sessions were paired with individual and group counseling sessions, healthy lifestyle and medication education classes, and community outings to reintegrate successfully into everyday tasks like grocery shopping and dining out. 
Inpatient therapy means I lived at Mentis 24/7, with weekend day passes with Michael to see movies, go to restaurants, shop, etc. My living situation was very similar to a college dorm. I had a private bedroom with a television; a shared bathroom; and a common area with a table and chairs, fridge, and sink. My roommate was awesome! She was also recovering from a stroke, so we quickly discovered we had a lot in common. Becoming friends with her during our mutual recoveries was an unexpected -- but appreciated -- positive outcome during my time at Mentis.
The day after arriving at Mentis, my speech therapist began trial meals of pureed food. The food looked like baby food -- but it may as well have been a 4-star meal at The French Laundry afer a month of liquid formula "meals" via my PEG tube! Within days of arriving, I was cleared to eat pureed food for all three meals/day...augmented at first by small PEG feedings. However, all liquids had to be thickened to a honey consistency for me to swallow without choking. I also took all medication -- crushed and added to water -- via the PEG. After a month of eating only pureed foods, I had a final swallow study in mid January. This time, I was cleared for regular thin liquids and soft/chopped foods! To celebrate, my parents took me out for Mexican food that weekend: enchiladas, refried beans, and rice! 
I owe much of my recovery success to the fabulous team of ladies who comprise my rehabilitation therapy team! In physical therapy sessions, the main focuses were improving my  balance and coordination, strengthening my leg and core muscles, and walking independently. I arrived at Mentis using a wheelchair at all times. However, I progressed to using a walker within 2-3 weeks of arriving. By the time I left Mentis on March 1st, I was walking solo inside and outside the building...with my walker nearby in case I became fatigued! Occupational therapy mostly focused on successfully performing real-world tasks like typing, grocery shopping, and cooking My typing speed increased from 23 WPM to 45 WPM, and I successfully navigated the grocery store to purchase items to cook a multi-course dinner for Michael. We also worked on strengthening my impacted left hand/arm and improving control and fine motor skills in my left hand -- which is my dominant hand.
Speech and communication therapy focused on improving the noticeable facial paralysis/droop on the left side of my face. A key treatment was twice-weekly electrical stimulation  (ESTIM) treatments on the left side of my face. The first session was a bit painful -- like a thousand simultaneous bee stings. However, within 2-3 sessions, it was much less uncomfortable...and I started noticing the treated muscles moving slightly! The left side of my mouth drooped less, and my speech became clearer. Speech therapy also focused on concentration, organization of ideas and tasks, and successfully planning and implementing multi-component tasks.

Unlike TIRR, Mentis didn't permit Michael to spend the night or take part in every therapy session. That was an adjustment for him at first, but it was vital for me to become more independent during my recovery. He visited me every evening, and he was invited to several all-day visits to observe my therapy sessions. Michael also drove me to a number of doctor appointments -- including having my PEG tube removed on February 1st. Once I was successfully able to swallow my medications whole with water, the PEG was no longer necessary. One of the highlights of my time in Mentis was finally being able to see Maggie (our cat) in late January for the first time since my stroke in November. While Michael and I focused on my recovery, a dear friend cared for Maggie in her home. I missed her so much and was so happy to see her again!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Visa Gift Card #Giveaway Celebrates Entenmann's Little Bites® Make the Pledge Program with TerraCycle® #LoveLittleBites #LittleBitesPledge #PledgetoRecycle

I'm excited to share some exciting news with you today about Entenmann’s Little Bites®. Little Bites® are yummy bite-sized muffins and cakes that come in in pre-portioned pouches! They're perfect for today’s busy lifestyles and the resulting on-the-go needs -- they're a perfect "grab and go" snack! From year-round favorites like Chocolate Chip and Blueberry Muffin to limited edition seasonal flavors, Little Bites® are moist and delicious, made with real ingredients, and never contain high fructose corn syrup. I love to pair a four-piece Little Bites® Blueberry Muffin pouch with 8 ounces of vanilla almond milk for a 220-calorie afternoon pick-me-up!

This Spring, Entenmann's Little Bites® is partnering with TerraCycle®, an international recycling company, to turn waste into plastic that can be used to create useful products like park benches, recycling bins, and playground items. Check this out! Via this FREE recycling program, you can collect waste -- including empty Little Bites® pouches -- and ship them to TerraCycle® for processing via a pre-paid shipping label. From now through April 30th, TerraCycle® and Entenmann’s Little Bites® will to reward you for making the pledge to make eco-friendly choices a positive lifestyle habit! As a further incentive, if you collect Little Bites® pouches on behalf of a K-12 school, you could be placed in the running to win a very cool Classroom Party!! It’s easy to participate! Simply make the pledge online, send the waste to TerraCycle®, and earn more rewards. The Entenmann's Little Bites® Pouch Recycling Program is open to any individual, school, or organization that is interested in reducing local landfill waste. Visit the official campaign website to learn more about the Entenmann's Little Bites ® Pouch Recycling Program.

How to Win:
  • Pledge: Your pledge qualifies you for the contest.
  • First Shipment: Your first shipment earns you 500 bonus points.
  • Second Shipment: Your second shipment earns you 1,000 bonus points.
  • TerraCycle® Sweepstakes: K-12 schools have the chance to win a Classroom Party as long as they pledge. The classroom party will include five (5) cases of Entenmann’s® Little Bites® and 100 upcycled pencil cases. Please be sure to closely read more details and official rules to learn more.

To learn more about Entenmann’s Little Bites® products, be sure to follow them via their Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest social channels. To celebrate this amazing recycling program with TerraCycle®, my friends at C are providing one lucky reader of The Weekend Gourmet a $25 digital Visa gift card -- along with three coupons for $5.00 off the purchase of any Entenmann’s Little Bites® package! To enter, simply follow the instructions included in the following Rafflecopter giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I will accept entries until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, March 18th. The winner will be notified via e-mail on Monday, March 19th, and they will have 48 hours to reply back to me. If I do not receive a reply by this deadline, a new winner will be selected. Good luck!

Disclosure: Coupons, information, and a VISA gift card were provided to me by Entenmann’s Little Bites® so I could try the product and share information about the Entenmann's Little Bites ® Pouch Recycling Program with TerraCycle® -- along with my thoughts and information about Entenmann’s Little Bites® snacks. The opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not reflect the opinions of Entenmann’s Little Bites®.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Weekend Gourmet is Back After a Four-Month Medical Hiatus!!

Where Has The Weekend Gourmet Been Since November?
You may have noticed that The Weekend Gourmet has been silent for the past 4 months. However, starting today...I'm officially back! I’ve been on a medical hiatus since November 11th, when I had a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) – more commonly known as a stroke – at my home. I was taken by ambulance to a hospital here in San Antonio for evaluation, where I spent the next 10 days – including three days in ICU. During this time, I couldn’t stand or walk, swallow, eat and drink, or speak in more than a garbled whisper. It was a time of uncertainty for my long-term health prognosis, but I was fortunate to have the unwavering love and support of Michael and my family – along with countless prayers.

After my hospital stay in San Antonio, I spent just over three weeks at The Institute for Research and Rehabilitation (TIRR) Memorial Hermann in Houston -- a nationally recognized rehabilitation hospital. While there, I took part in intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapies. After my time at TIRR, I returned to San Antonio in mid-December for focused inpatient rehabilitation therapy at Mentis Neuro. I remained at Mentis until March 1st. As the following video shows, my recovery journey since November has been marked by hard work in my rehab therapy sessionw, a conscious decision to remain positive and hopeful -- and infinite gratitude for my significant recovery!

Life Can Change In a Second

The afternoon of November 11th, I learned first-hand that life as you know it can change in an instant. That Saturday started like a typical weekend day for me. While Michael slept in, I went to the grocery store to pick up ingredients to make gumbo for my best friend's visit that evening. I started a load of laundry and headed to the kitchen to chop and prep the ingredients. I was literally fine one second – then it was like a switch was flipped. I suddenly experienced severe dizziness and coordination issues. I made my way to the bedroom and laid down, hoping the feeling would quickly pass. Instead, my symptoms worsened over the next hour. I became numb down the left side of my body, unable to swallow, and my speech became slurred. Michael and I quickly determined something serious was going on, so we called 9-1-1.

Getting Some Answers

The EMTs arrived in minutes, checked my vital signs, and determined I needed to quickly get to CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Westover Hills Hospital – the nearest hospital to my home – to determine whether I was having a stroke. The next few hours were a flurry of activity – medical tests, lab work, and exams -- to determine the cause of my symptoms. After an afternoon and evening of waiting and trying to stay calm, we were told that I had had a CVA and was being transferred upstairs to the ICU. The staff monitored me constantly, Michael stayed glued to my side, and my parents drove up from the Houston area to be with me that weekend. This was the most uncertain time of my recovery process. Would I walk again…talk normally again…or be able to eat my favorite foods again? I was very fortunate that my brain’s cognitive functions – my personality, memory, etc. – were not significantly impacted by my stroke. From the outset, I made a conscious decision to stay focused and positive, and to lean on the loving messages of support and prayers from friends and family near and far.

After three days in the ICU, I was transferred to a private intermediate care room for a week. My blood pressure was closely monitored – and I received medication, nutrition, and fluids via an IV. When my ability to swallow food and liquids didn’t immediately return, I opted to have a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube surgically inserted in my stomach. The PEG ensured I would receive vital nutrition via liquid formula while I took part in therapy to regain my ability to swallow and eat solid food again. During this time, we also determined I would need ongoing physical, occupational, and speech therapy for the next phase of my recovery. During research, Michael discovered that TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston was the #2 ranked rehabilitation hospital in the nation. We immediately initiated the process to transfer there so we could be close to our families during the rehab process.

Be sure to come back this weekend for the second part of my stroke recovery journey: laying the successful foundation for a stong recovery at TIRR in Houston, continued significant strides at Mentis Neuro in San Antonio, and my ongoing outpatient fine tuning now that I'm back home with Michael and our cat Maggie. I'll also  be sharing some exciting news about a few significant changes happening at The Weekend Gourmet going forward!

Disclosure: This article describes my personal stroke recovery journey. It is not meant to be representative of every stroke patient's recovery and rehabilitation experience. I am not a medical professional, so I am not providing any official medical advice. For specific questions about stroke risk factors, stroke information, etc., please contact your personal physician.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Steviva Blogger Recipe Challenge...Featuring Holiday Candy Cane Cocktail #steviva #nectevia #sweetandeasy #peppermint

I was recently invited to take part in the Steviva Blogger Recipe Challenge using one of the company's natural sweeteners to create an original recipe. Steviva's mission is to safely and healthfully replace artificial sweeteners and table sugar. Their product line includes ingredients like monk fruit, erythritol, coconut sugar, agave nectar, xylitol, inulin, and crystalline fructose. I decided to enter a recipe in the contest's Beverage category that features their Nectevia liquid sweetener -- which contains blue agave nectar and premium 100% pure stevia extract. The end result is a natural syrup sweetener that tastes great and has only a quarter of the calories, carbs, and sugars of regular agave or table sugar -- and just FOUR tiny calories per 1-teaspoon serving. 

My festive Holiday Candy Cane Cocktail is ideal for the upcoming holiday entertaining season! It features a simple homemade peppermint-infused simple syrup made with Nectevia, vanilla-infused vodka, Rum Chata liqueur, and a bit of cream for richness. To up the fun quotient of my cocktail, I rimmed the cocktail glass with melted chocolate and crushed peppermint for an edible peppermint bark effect. This smooth and creamy cocktail features an intense peppermint flavor that's sure to be a hit at any holiday parties on your calendar over the coming weeks. It would be an ideal centerpiece for your Christmas morning brunch!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Wendy's Great Eight for October 2017 #GreatEight #WendyFaveThings #tryit

Fall is's soup weather...and the Houston Astros are leading in the World Series! Life doesn't get much better for us here in central Texas this week. I'm so excited to share this month's Wendy's Great Eight picks with you!! This month, I'm sharing some fun treats, a fabulous appetizer...and even a magical elixir that will help you get a restful night's sleep. Ready? Let's get started!

(1) Angie's Boom Chicka Pop White Chocolate & Peppermint Flavored Kettle Corn. I love popcorn...and I love peppermint anything during the holiday I fell in love with Angie's Book Chicka Pop white chocolate-peppermint kettle corn at first bite! If peppermint bark and salty-sweet kettle corn, it would taste just like this. Even better? It's just 110 calories per cup. That means I can have a sweet treat in the evening that won't wreck my daily calorie budget. Other yummy flavors in Angie's fabulous seasonal lineup include Hot Cocoa Marshmallow and Candy Corn. I also love their year-round White Cheddar popcorn -- so good! Be sure to check out their amazing online Store Locator, which can be searched by specific flavor to easily find your favorite popcorn flavors in a store near you...without the guesswork. How handy is that?!?!?!

(2) Gorton's Potato Crusted Cod Bites Seafood Appetizer. I love serving fun finger foods -- especially during Astros and Texans game days! One of my favorite recent finds is Gorton's new frozen Potato Crusted Cod Bites. These one-bite appetizers are fun mixture of mild flavored wild-caught cod and tater tot. The potato coating cooks up crunchy and golden. You can dip them in tarter or cocktail sauce if you like, but I prefer to sprinkle them with Cajun seasoning before baking to give them a spicy kick. Each 8-piece serving of these baked bites is 180 calories and has 8 grams of fat. Prefer your appetizers on the cheesy side? Gorton's also has a new Mac and Cheese Shrimp Bites appetizer. To find these two new frozen appetizers near you, be sure to check out Gorton's convenient online Find Your Fish feature.

(3) Stock the Crock: 100 Must-Have Slow Cooker Recipes, with 200 Variations for Every Appetite. If you're like me, the cooler weather has you using your slow cooker more. I'm always on the lookout for tasty "set and forget" recipes that I can make in my slow cooker, so I was thrilled to find Phyllis Good's amazing new cookbook! Ms. Good is a New York Times bestselling author whose cookbooks have sold more than 12 million copiesThis handy resource contains 100 must-have slow cooker recipes. Every recipe also includes variations to tailor it for gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, or Paleo diets. Many recipes can also be adjusted to be more kid-friendly or made for two. Some of the delicious recipes that have caught my eye include Beef and Barley Stew, Sausage Barbecue Bean Dip, and Cornbread from the Tropics. This versatile cookbook would definitely be an ideal holiday gift for the cooks on your shopping list. Stock the Crock can be purchased online -- including via Amazon.

(4) Edoughble Edible Cookie Dough Dough-It-Yourself Kit. When I bake cookies, I only wind up with half as many baked cookies as the recipe calls for...because I love eating the raw cookie dough so much. I know it's not that healthy to eat typical raw cookie dough, so I was thrilled to try Edoughble's delish ready-to eat cookie dough! They only use real, natural ingredients like hormone-free butter and vanilla bean extract that's alcohol-free. To make Edoughble 100% safe to eat, each batch of cookie dough has zero eggs, raw flour, or chemical leaveners -- just great cookie dough flavor. The Dough-It-Yourself Kit lets you freestyle to create your own customized flavor. The kit contains two tubs of edible cookie dough in Dough Schmo (original flavor) and sugar (Plain Jane)...along with cookie crumbles, color sprinkles, and mini chocolate chip mix-ins. From there, simple mix and match your favorite mix-ins! My favorite combo was adding sprinkles and cookie pieces to the Plain Jane...positively addictive! This fun kit is perfect for holiday gift giving and can be purchased online from Edoughble's website.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sneak Preview: The 8th Annual Texas Monthly BBQ FEST #tmbbq #bbq #bestintexas

Attention all Texas BBQ lovers! What if I told you that you could sample the very best BBQ from all over the state in one afternoon? This scenario is a dream come true for Texas BBQ fanatics! Texas Monthly magazine's 8th annual TMBBQ FEST is being held Sunday, November 5th at Austin's The Long Center for the Performing Arts. This smoketacular event will take place from 1:00-4:00 p.m. -- and there are still a few tickets available for purchase. This will be our fourth time to attend and cover the TMBBQ FEST, and it’s always a great time. This year, more than 30 of Texas' best BBQ joints are taking part -- including Austin’s beloved Franklin BBQSnow's BBQ from Lexington (currently ranked #1 in the state by Texas Monthly), and longtime favorite Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor. 

Every participating BBQ joint has a booth where hungry BBQ lovers line up to sample their brisket, ribs, sausage…and fun surprises like lamb chops too! As these picture from last year’s TMBBQ FEST show, we had a great time sampling some amazing BBQ.
In addition to fabulous Texas BBQ as far as the eye can see, attendees can also purchase soft drinks, beer, and cocktails to wash it all down. There’s also plenty of great live music to enjoy – the event is in Austin, after all! Bottom line: TMBBQ FEST is a fun afternoon where BBQ lovers of all ages mingle and sample as much smoky Texas BBQ as they can eat in a beautiful location near picturesque Lady Bird Lake. Keep in mind that this is a very popular event, and tickets typically sell out before the day of the event. If you are interested in attending the 2016 TMBBQ Fest, I highly recommend you purchase your tickets online as soon as possible! 
VIP Tickets for this family-friendly event can be purchased online. VIP tickets are $165 and include noon admission, two drink coupons, and a subscription to Texas Monthly. General Admission tickets are $80 each, and discount tickets for children 5 and under are just $10.
The Weekend Gourmet team will be posting lots of fun social shares the day of the 2017 TMBBQ Fest – including live video via Facebook and Instagram! If you’re not already following us on social media, what are you waiting for? Follow us via WEEKENDGOURMET on Instagram and @TheWeekendGourm on Twitter.

Disclosure: TMBBQ Fest has graciously provided The Weekend Gourmet team with media credentials to attend and cover this year's event. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Comfort Food Soup and Stew #SundaySupper...Featuring Slow Cooker Smoky Chicken-Potato Soup #fallfood #comfortfood #soup

It's late October...and Fall is in the air. Here in Texas, it's not terribly cool yet...but the worst of our heat is over for another year and evenings can be cool. That means one thing...soup weather! This week, #SundaySupper is focusing on comforting soup and stew recipes. I'm sharing a comforting Slow Cooker Smoky Chicken-Potato Soup that's hearty, without being overly heavy. It's a perfect weekend meal, because the slow cooker does most of the work. That leaves you time to take care of other stuff around the house...or maybe watch the Astros play World Series baseball!

Boneless skinless chicken thighs, aromatic veggies, and creamy baby potatoes are healthy additions to this chunky soup. This hearty soup is definitely a meal on its own, but I added garlic toast on the side. A simple green salad would be a perfect healthy accompaniment too!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Perfect Halloween Side: Spicy Purple Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Green Goo Dipping Sauce #halloween #spookyfood

Halloween calls for serving fun, creepy food to set a spooky mood! Whether you’re serving dinner before trick-or-treating this year -- or if you're planning a scary movie fest like I am -- today’s fun dish will be a perfect addition to your Halloween menu. My Spicy Purple Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Green Goo Dipping Sauce. The vibrant purple color of the sweet potatoes and the creamy green dipping sauce are really fun…and the flavor is spicy good. All you need are some fun Halloween serving pieces and creepy decor to complete the Halloween mood!
Purple sweet potatoes are similar to traditional sweet potatoes, with a vibrant purple color and a richer flavor. I tossed my sweet potatoes in olive oil seasoned with herbs and spices. Before baking, I sprinkled them with coarse salt and black pepper. While the fries baked, I made the “green goo” dipping sauce. This spicy dipping sauce is ranch dip made green by adding a puree of cilantro, green onion, and seeded jalapeno. The end result is definitely green…and monstrously good! This duo is great paired with burgers for Halloween dinner. Can't find purple sweet potatoes at your local grocery store? No worries! Simply substitute regular orange sweet potatoes.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Make Your Halloween Purposeful with Global Purpose...Featuring a Wickedly Good Halloween Snack Mix Gift Bag #PurposefulHalloween #helponenow

The Halloween season is upon us, which means sharing fun, spooky treats – no tricks allowed! -- to your friends and family. Today, I’m teaming with a great company called Global Purpose to show you how to create a fun Halloween snack mix, then package it in a fun and purposeful way using Global Purpose burlap gift bags! My no-bake Wickedly Good Halloween Snack Mix Gift Bag is a perfect project to make with your kids, grandkids, or nieces and nephews. While you assemble the snack mix, you’ll have a perfect opportunity to talk with them about Global Purpose’s life-changing mission! The company was founded by Kaylynn and Jon Jordan as a social enterprise to connect purchases and positive change in real, sustainable ways. This purposeful giving company provides education and income opportunities for people living in vulnerable communities. 

Through these giving bags, Global Purpose is providing fair wages and training for 50 teachers at four schools across Haiti -- as well as 16 teachers in rural Uganda. Via those teachers, the future of more than 2,000 students each school year are directly affected – talk about truly making a difference! The purchase of these giving bags supports teachers in a way that supports the entire community. Let me show you in a few simple steps how to create my Wickedly Good Halloween Snack Mix Gift Bags, that are presented in a Global Purpose burlap bag. I'm not typically crafty, but I had a fantastic time with this project!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Slow Cooker Comfort Food #SundaySupper...Featuring Slow Cooker Asian Garlic-Ginger Meatballs #meatballs

The hectic Fall season is here...cooler temperatures and hectic schedules are the norm these days. That means I rely on my slow cooker more than ever! I can start a meal early in they day, then take care of errands and other events while dinner cooks away. This week, #SundaySupper is featuring Slow Cooker Comfort Foods that are perfect for cooler temperatures. My contribution to this week's event is Slow Cooker Asian Garlic-Ginger Meatballs. These versatile meatballs can be served over rice or noodles for a delicious and easy dinner...or they can be served as a delicious finger food at your next game day spread!

These meatballs are made with a combination of lean ground turkey and a bit of ground pork. They're flavored with fresh ginger, garlic, green onions, hoisin sauce, and a bit of chile paste. Chopped water chestnuts provide crunch and texture. The meatballs are browned and cooked in a sauce featuring ponzu, more hoisin and chile paste, and a bit of white balsamic. The end result is moist meatballs in a sauce that packs a ton of umami, along with a bit of sweetness and spice. We absolutely loved them!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fall Baking with Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag...Featuring Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake #InTheRaw #giveaway #pumpkinspice #sponsored

October is here...and that means it's time for all things pumpkin! What if I told you that you could enjoy a decadent Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake that is lower in sugar and calories...but doesn't sacrifice flavor or appearance? I know it sounds too good to be true, but it's not...thanks to Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag! Stevia In The Raw® is a zero-calorie sweetener that contains an extract from the sweet leaves of the stevia plant. Convenient Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag measures cup-for-cup like sugar, so it can easily be used in recipes to reduce sugar and calories with no confusing conversions necessary.

The big key for successfully baking with Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag is to replace approximately half of the sugar in a recipe. This ensures browning, rising, and caramelizing that only sugar can provide. However, this simple substitution can save up to 700 calorie for every cup of sugar replaced with Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag. Most importantly, you'll never know that you've replaced half of the sugar in this Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake when you taste it!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Easy Taco Recipes for National Taco Day #SundaySupper...Featuring Surf and Turf Tacos #NationalTacoDay

Welcome to October...the last three months of the year are definitely my favorite. Cooler weather finally arrives here in Texas, football season is full swing...and there's all kinds of fun holidays to celebrate! First up is National Taco Day on October 4th. Tacos are one of my most favorite foods...what's not to like? They're so versatile...and they definitely feature the Big Flavors that we crave at my house! This week, #SundaySupper is celebrating National Taco Day by sharing our favorite taco recipes just in time for your celebration this coming Wednesday. 

I'm sharing a taco today that's perfect for those times when you just can't decide if you're hungry for shrimp or beef. My Surf and Turf Tacos solves that problem perfectly -- it features both! Add in a colorful avocado-corn salsa, a bit of sour cream, and some shredded cheese -- and you've got yourself one fabulous meal. To save time, the shrimp and beef can be added to the simple marinade the night before and refrigerated -- which means these tacos can be on the table in about 30 minutes for dinner the next day!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Wendy's Great Eight for September 2017 #GreatEight #WendyFaveThings

It's time for another fun edition of Wendy's Great Eight. This month, I've got some really fabulous food and kitchen items to share with you! I'm featuring everything from cream cheese-filled bagel bites to a crispy protein bar...and classic Southern biscuits to crispy bite-size cookies. Let's get started!

(1) Callie’s Charleston Biscuits. Callie’s Charleston Biscuits is based in North Carolina…and they produce a delicious line of frozen buttermilk biscuits that are so good my Southern grandma would give them her seal of approval. All the flavors I’ve tried so far have been fabulous – but I’m especially partial to their Sharp Cheddar Biscuits! These yummy two-bite buttermilk biscuits are studded with sharp cheddar before being baked – and cheese always makes food better! I simply heat these frozen biscuits in the oven -- then serve buttered with cheesy scrambled eggs and bacon for a perfect weekend brunch. The biscuits bake up golden on the outside and perfectly tender on the inside – like the perfect biscuit should. This weekend, I’ll be trying Callie’s new Iced Blueberry Biscuits…and I know I’ll flip for them too! To order Callie's Charleston Biscuits, visit their convenient Goldbely online store.

(2) Mrs. Thinster’s Cookie Thins. Do you prefer your cookies thin and crispy? Then you simply must give Mrs. Thinster's Cookie Thins a try! These crispy cookies come in a variety of flavors like Chocolate Chip, Brownie Batter, and Cake Batter. Perfect for Fall, they even have a yummy Pumpkin Spice cookie that pairs great with pumpkin spice latte! Mrs. Thinster's delicious Cookie Thins are made with no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or corn syrup – and they’re non-GMO. That means I don't have to feel nearly as guilty when I eat an entire bag in one sitting :lol:! To me, Mrs. Thinster's Cookie Thins are the closest to homemade of any packaged cookies I’ve tried. They’re buttery and downright addictive! To find Cookie Thins at a store near you, be sure to check out their handy Store Locator.

(3) Bagel Dots. Austin-based Bagel Dots offers a fun line of two-bite bagel rounds that are filled with cream cheese. They're perfect for a quick breakfast or an afternoon snack! Bagel Bites are available in the grocery store’s freezer case, and they come in four fun flavors: Plain Jane (plain bagel with plain cream cheese), Kitchen Sink (everything bagel with veggie cream cheese), Jalapeno Cheddar (cheddar-topped bagel with jalapeno cream cheese – reminiscent of a jalapeno popper), and Cinnamon Raisin (cinnamon raisin bagel with cinnamon cream cheese). Every flavor is fantastic, but I’m especially partial to the Kitchen Sink  -- the flavors and textures are really delicious! My Texas readers can find Bagel Dots at select grocers across the state.

(4) Large Marge Churro Cake. With a fun name like Large Marge, I just knew this cinnamon-infused Churro Cake would be fabulous! Being a big fan of the movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, I immediately understood the reference. The owner of this Los Angeles-based company is originally from Texas, and her Churro Cake is a little slice of heaven! Each cake serves up to 10 people and is handmade with brown butter cinnamon cake layered with Mexican chocolate frosting, cinnamon-sugar churro snaps, Pralinella. Then, each cake is topped with churro snaps for a crispy, crunchy finish. After baking, each cake is packed perfectly and shipped direct to your door – simply sprinkle the cake with the pieces of chopped cinnamon-sugar churros and serve. If you love churros, you’ll go nuts for this creative cake flavor. To order, simply visit Large Marge's Goldbely shop.

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