The Weekend Gourmet F

Monday, March 2, 2015

Guest Post: Scallop Ceviche from Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Michael and I are in New Orleans and Biloxi the next two days to learn all about how delicious Gulf Seafood is harvested, processed, and cooked! While I'm gone, one of my talented blogging friends is sharing a fabulous recipe with you today. Keeping with the seafood theme, Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla is sharing a scallop ceviche recipe with you! Light and refreshing, this ceviche is a perfect way to kick off any party or meal. I'd serve this ceviche with warm tortilla chips and crisp white wine!
Ceviche is probably one of my favorite appetizers. It’s versatile and – best ever! – largely hands-off. Ceviche is a simple dish of seafood "cooked" by the acid in lemons or limes. It's easy, but it requires incredibly fresh ingredients. I usually ask my fish monger which is the best choice for ceviche that day. Sometimes he'll say shrimp, sometimes it's fish. The day I made this ceviche, he said scallops. Because you just have to try this refreshing seafood dish, I'm sharing it with the readers of The Weekend Gourmet. Enjoy!

Scallop Ceviche
by Culinary Adventures with Camilla

  • 1 pound scallops, sliced. (Click here to see the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch findings on scallops)
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 6-8 fresh lemons, juiced (I used Meyer lemons from a tree we have in our yard)
  • 1 cup mini heirloom tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1 cup fresh herbs, chopped (a mixture of cilantro, parsley, and other green herbs of your choice)
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tbs. salsa
  • Shredded cabbage, for serving
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste, for serving
  • freshly ground pepper for serving
(1) Place the raw scallop pieces in a glass dish and cover them with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. The scallops should be completely covered by juice.

(2) Cover the dish and place it in the refrigerator. Let the scallops marinate or "cook" in the lemon juice for at least 4 hours. Once the scallops are "cooked" in the juices, add the remaining ingredients just before serving.

(3) To serve, place shredded cabbage on your plate. Top with the ceviche. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Baked Crab Cakes with Avocado Crema and Mango-Avocado Salsa

Michael and I are busy taking care of last-minute errands and packing today before we hop on a plane and head to New Orleans and Biloxi. While we're there, we'll be learning all about how Gulf Seafood is harvested, processed...and cooked! This trip is being provided by the Gulf Seafood Marketing Council. I'll be coming back here and sharing all the great information I learn -- along with tons of great seafood recipes -- throughout March! To follow my live social media shares during our trip, follow me on Twitter @TheWeekendGourm and on Instagram @WEEKENDGOURMET!

To get you in a seafood mood today, I'm sharing one of my very favorite crab cake recipes with you. If you've got the Winter blahs, this dish will definitely give you a taste of Spring! My Baked Crab Cakes with Avocado Crema and Mango-Avocado Salsa are lighter in calories than fried crab cakes, and they're served with a duo of flavorful sauces. The crema is made with avocado and fat-free Greek yogurt flavored with lime, cilantro, and a bit of spice. The sweetly spicy salsa is flavored with honey, cilantro, and jalapeno. Be sure to allot an hour or two for the formed crab cakes to hang out in the fridge to firm up before baking. That gives you plenty of time to assemble the salsa, so it's all good!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Perfect for Busy Weeknights: Skillet Sicilian Chicken Tortellini #WeekdaySupper #McSkilletSauce

The work week is always hectic for me…get home from work, work on blog tasks, and somehow find time to make a quick and tasty dinner. I recently discovered a secret weapon to save time in the kitchen – without sacrificing flavor in the process. New Skillet Sauces from McCormick provide all of the zesty seasonings and spices you want in a handy pouch! They come in a wide range of flavors – whether you’re craving Mexican, Asian,  Itlalian…or even good ‘ol American comfort classics like sloppy joes or BBQ! You simply add the protein of your choice and a few veggies…and dinner’s ready in about 30 minutes! For today’s #WeekdaySupper, I’m sharing my flavorful Skillet Sicilian Chicken Tortellini, made with the Sicilian Chicken with Tomato, Bail & Garlic Skillet Sauce.

This hearty skillet dinner is ready in just about 30 minutes, making it ideal for even the busiest of busy weeknights! This all-in-one meal features mushrooms, onions, cheese tortellini, and chicken breast in a creamy tomato sauce. The flavorful sauce is perfectly seasoned by the McCormick Skillet Sauce. Its robust Italian flavors and spices pair perfectly with the veggies, tortellini, and chicken.  Some shredded mozzarella blend added just before serving adds an extra layer of flavor too. Who doesn't love melted cheese?!?!? All you need to add is a simple salad and maybe some garlic bread to complete this simple weeknight skillet dinner!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for February: Celebrating Mardi Gras at Luke San Antonio

After a bit of a hiatus during the holiday months, my monthly The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out feature is finally back! I can't think of a better way to kick off 2015's dining experiences than taking part in a fun Mardi Gras celebration right here in San Antonio. We were invited to enjoy a special taste of Mardi Gras menu at Lüke San Antonio, which is part of Louisiana Chef John Besh's family of restaurants. In fact, Lüke is Chef Besh's only restaurant located outside of his home state of Louisiana. We've dined here several times, and the food is always excellent. When we arrived for dinner, the restaurant was already hopping! There was live jazz music playing, and the staff was handing out colorful Mardi Gras beads to those lucky enough to have a reservation to this fun event. We were quickly seated and looked over the evening's special menu offerings.

Because the items served were reduced-sized menu portions, we were able to sample all five of the menu offerings. Add in a couple of tasty Mardi Gras cocktails, lively music, and some colorful beads...and our Fat Tuesday dinner was off to a great start! We started the fun by ordering a pair of Happy Hour-priced New Orleans-inspired cocktails: a Texas-sized Bayou Satsuma Hurricane and a French 75. Both were expertly made and very tasty. The hurricane was served over ice in a carafe, and it was fruity and delicious. Sort of like punch on steroids! Michael's French 75 was made with champagne, cognac, and lemon. It reminded me a bit of a sophisticated fizzy lemonade. We sipped our cocktails, which came served with a duo of locally sourced Peeler Farms Fried Chicken Wings. The wings were fried perfectly crisp, with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and a fabulous house-made buttermilk dipping sauce.
As we sipped our cocktails, we had a great time people watching and listening to the live music the jazz trio was playing. This is my kind of Mardi Gras celebration -- lots of great food and drink -- without huge hordes of people! The other guests seemed to be having a great time too...and the staff at Lüke were in a festive mood. Next out of the kitchen was a four-course sampler of Louisiana specialties from Chef John Russ' kitchen.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Red Carpet #SundaySupper...Featuring Indulgent Lobster-Champagne Risotto

In honor of the Oscars this evening, #SundaySupper is throwing a Red Carpet bash featuring black tie recipes that be served for any special occasion or party. Our hostess this week is Katie from Ruffles and Truffles, and she asked us to share our favorite special-event recipes. To me, nothing is quite as indulgent as risotto...and I happened to have two lobster tails in my freezer. I knew that lobster would take this basil-kissed risotto into "red carpet" territory! The end result was my Indulgent Lobster-Champagne Risotto. It's an indulgent treat that is a perfect dinner for two. This creamy risotto is flavored with a bit of pesto and parmesan cheese...and morsels of tender lobster meat.

If you're intimidated by the idea of making risotto...don't be! It's not hard, but you do have to be patient and have 20 or so minutes uninterrupted to stand at the stove and stir and add the broth as it cooks. I like to pass the time by listening to some good music...and sipping on a glass of the wine I use to flavor my risott0. In this case...sparkling champagne. Your patience will be rewarded by creamy and indulgent risotto. Once you have the basic technique down, you're ready to experiment with as many variations as your imagination can come up with!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Weekend Gourmet Is Headed to New Orleans and Biloxi to Learn About #GulfSeafood

As a native Texan who grew up less than an hour from the Gulf of Mexico, I've been a fan of Gulf seafood for decades. The legacy of the country’s great seafood belongs to the Gulf Coast. Comprised of five coastal states -- Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas -- Gulf seafood has been providing fishermen, chefs, and foodies with great food. Gulf seafood is also an economic engine that powers the entire region. In fact, the Gulf Coast produces 70% of the country’s oysters, 69% of domestic shrimp, and is a leading producer of domestic hard and soft-shell blue crabs. I love to cook with Gulf seafood year-round, so I'm very excited to share some fun news today: Michael and I are headed to New Orleans and Biloxi next month to learn about Gulf seafood up close and personal! The Gulf Seafood Marketing Coalition is hosting us and four other food bloggers to learn about how Gulf seafood is harvested and processed. Of course, we'll be eating lots of Gulf seafood too!
Gulf seafood features a superior flavorful profile as a result of the nutrient-rich environment in which it is born. With many different ways to prepare -- from grilling with Creole seasoning to baking with remoulade sauce -- Gulf seafood creates great flavor profiles. The Gulf coastline spans approximately 1,680 miles with access to many major ports and cities -- including Galveston, New Orleans, and Biloxi. Gulf seafood can be harvested, processed, and on the table in a matter of hours. By being in such close proximity to major seafood processors, this ensures the freshest catch possible. My personal favorite Gulf seafood is shrimp, which I like to enjoy in as many ways as possible. Today, I'm sharing a recipe for an easy Hot Gulf Shrimp Dip -- perfect for entertaining during the Lenten season!

Hot Gulf Shrimp Dip
From the Gulf Seafood Marketing Coalition

Photo provided by Edelman and Gulf Seafood Marketing Coalition 

  • 1 pound Gulf shrimp, cooked, peeled, deveined, and chopped
  • ½ cup chopped yellow onion
  • ½ chopped green onion
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, or Monterey Jack)
Step 1: Combine all ingredients in an 8x8 baking dish, reserving ¼ of the cheese. Mix well. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top of mixture.

Step 2: Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with toasted pitas or sliced fresh bread for dipping.

I can't wait to whip up a batch of this spicy and cheesy shrimp dip for our Oscar menu this weekend! You can also visit the Eat Gulf Seafood website to find tons more amazing recipes. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @TheWeekendGourm or on Instagram at WEEKENDGOURMET to follow the fun of our upcoming trip. I'll be sharing tons of live social shares, so you won't want to miss the fun!

Disclosure: The Gulf Seafood Marketing Coalition provided me with the facts and photographs shared in this post. They are also providing us with airfare, hotel, and meals for our upcoming media trip. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Red Beans & Rice-Sausage Soup for Mardi Gras

I hope that you've got some fabulous Mardi Gras plans on your calendar tomorrow. We do! We won't make it to New Orleans to celebrate, but we are attending a lively Mardi Gras celebration at Luke San Antonio on the Riverwalk. Luke is part of Louisiana Chef John Besh's restaurant group -- so we'll get to enjoy a taste of NOLA right here in Texas! If you're celebrating at home, fire up some zydeco music, pop on some Mardi Gras beads...and make a simple, delicious dinner at home! I made this Red Beans & Rice-Sausage Soup for our Mardi Gras dinner last year, and it's so good I wanted to share the recipe again this year. It's an economical and delicious meal-in-a-bowl. If you're like me and your weeknights are hectic, this easy-to-make soup will make a perfect Mardi Gras celebration dinner.
This hearty soup starts with a package of Zatarains' red beans and rice mix, and it's ready to eat in less than an hour. Most of that time is hands off while the soup simmers on the stove, so you have time to do other things. I love quick meals during the work week, so I was thrilled to find a recipe for Andouille Red Bean Soup on Zatarains' website. I tweaked their recipe a bit, using a combination of bulk pork sausage and smoked sausage. If you can get your hands on andouille, definitely use that instead of the smoked sausage. I also subbed low-sodium chicken stock for water and added a can of petite diced tomatoes for additional flavor and texture. This recipe made a large pot of soup -- we enjoyed four large bowls of soup and still had a large container left to freeze to enjoy on another busy weeknight!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Perfect Valentine's Dessert: Split Decision Cinnamon-Orange Chocolate Fondue

To celebrate Valentine’s, I'm sharing a simple recipe for a luscious dessert that you can whip up in no time for your sweetheart tonight. In fact, this very dessert is on our dinner menu tonight! Nothing says Valentine’s quite like chocolate…and the ultimate romantic chocolate treat is fondue! What's not to like about rich, melty chocolate and tasty treats to dip into it. Best of all, this chocolate fondue easy to make…and really fun to eat! To ensure the best end result, make sure to splurge on the highest quality chocolate and dippers that you can find. From there, have fun…fondue is infinitely adaptable!! My Split Decision Cinnamon-Orange Fondue is sure to make your sweetie smile tonight…or any night that you’re looking to up the romance factor.

Around here, Michael is a milk chocolate fan…while I prefer semisweet. My harmonious fondue features both types of chocolate…hence the “split decision” in the title. This decadent fondue is flavored with orange liqueur and orange zest, along with cinnamon and a dash of vanilla extract. The mixture can be prepped earlier in the day and stored in the fridge…then it’s ready to be warmed up just before serving. Everyone has their favorite dippers…so make it your own. I paired our fondue with strawberries, apple slices, cubes of pound cake…and salty ridged potato chips. The potato chips are a bit of a curve ball, but they’re super fun! I'm serving our fondue in a fun Fire Water Chocolate Fondue Tower from Max Brenner’s. If you’re lucky enough to have a Max Brenner’s location near you -- or come across one during travels to the East Coast -- you can pick one of these fabulous three-tier warmers up! This warmer keeps your fondue perfectly melted, without scorching. The base holds a lighted tea light, the center piece holds warm water, and the top piece is for the fondue. The candle heats the water, which gently warms the chocolate. That means you're good until the last dip!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Double-Dipped Strawberries with Strawberry Cheesecake Filling...Featuring Driscoll's Long-Stemmed Strawberries #ValentinesDay

One of my favorite Valentine's treats is chocolate dipped strawberries. They're simple, yet they feel like a very special treat. That's why I was so excited when my friends at Driscoll's Berries asked me to share a fun new spin on chocolate-dipped strawberries. To up the wow factor just a bit, I created Double-Dipped Strawberries with Strawberry Cheesecake Filling. These berries are over-the-top good...and they're really simple to make. I splurged and picked up a package of Driscoll's seasonal long-stemmed jumbo strawberries. These strawberries are sweet and super juicy...they're good by themselves straight from the package, but chocolate and creamy filling are a great accompaniment!

I removed the steams and used a sharp spoon to make a well in the top of each berry. Then, I dipped each berry in both milk and white chocolate. I let the chocolate set up in the fridge, then piped a strawberry-flavored cheesecake mousse into the top of each berry. To ensure the most decadent treat possible, make sure to purchase the best quality chocolate you can find!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Wendy's Favorite Things for February: Valentine's Gift Guide 2015

Wendy's Favorite Things for February is focusing on Valentine's...specifically on Valentine gifts that are perfect for the food lovers in your life. I've got some great suggestions, so let's get started!

(1) Godiva Six-Piece Valentines Day Truffle Flight. Godiva is offering a deliciously decadent Valentine's collection this year, and one of my favorite items is the six-piece Valentines Day Truffle Flight. It's perfect for couples to share at the end of their celebration, and it contains some fabulous truffle flavors. When you Valentine opens the festive red box, they'll find the following seasonal truffle flavors inside: Aztec Spice, Chocolate Lave Cake, Strawberry Crème Tarte, Dark Chocolate Souffle, Milk Chocolate Mousse, and White Chocolate Passion Fruit. Some of the truffles even come decorated with a heart on top to complete the romantic mood. The hardest part may just be deciding who gets to eat which truffle. If so, just do what Michael and I do: each of us takes a bit of each truffle so we can taste them all! Godiva's entire Valentine line is available online and at their boutiques.

(2) Frexeinet's Mia Rose. Mia Rose is the perfect wine for your Valentine's celebration. If you show up with a bottle of this wine, your sweetheart will know that you've got romance on your mind! This pink-hued Spanish wine is lightly sweet and really easy to drink. It's a rosado wine that's made with a distinctive, unusual red grape. Frexeinet uses Bobal to give this wine its gorgeous pink color, and they only allow the skins to have short contact with the juice to ensure a delicate body. The result is a perfumed and slightly floral wine with a real tang of strawberry and raspberry. Mia Rose should be served well chilled as a companion to dishes like salmon, seafood, pizza and Thai food. I absolutely love this wine and can't wait to enjoy it during the warmer months.

(3) Monterey Meringues. If your sweetie is a die-hard music lover, Monterey Meringues' line of delicious meringue cookies with fun music-inspired names is a perfect Valentine's gift! The meringues are packaged right after baking and decorated with a colorful ribbon, then shipped direct to you. They arrive perfectly crisp and fresh. They taste great...and they come in a variety of bright, festive colors. Some of their creative, fun flavors include: Oreo Speedwagon, Miley Citrus, Nuts 'N Roses, and Purple Haze-lnut -- my personal favorite! It features a crunchy purple swirled meringue with a hidden surprise: a center of chocolate-hazelnut spread! They are also offering a special Valentine's flavor: My Yummy Valentine. In addition to enjoying eating these delish meringues? Your Valentine will know that a portion of proceeds from all sales supports music education and music rehabilitation! To purchase Monterey Meringues, simply visit their online store.

(4) Kansas City Steak Surf and Turf. Let's face it: waiting for hours with hordes of other couples at a crowded restaurant on Valentine's is a real romance buzzkill! Instead, why not order surf and turf from Kansas City Steaks and whip up a romantic dinner for two at home? Their Surf and Turf package contains two 8-ounce super-trimmed fillet mignon and two 5-ounce cold-water lobster tails. Simply add a dinner salad and baked potatoes, and you've got a steakhouse-quality meal at home. Without the crowds. If lobster's not your thing, they also offer surf and turf packages that feature shrimp skewers or crab cakes instead. To purchase this dynamic duo, simply visit Kansas City Steaks' online store.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Spicy Blueberry-Basil Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp...Featuring NOT Ketchup, Voodoo Chef, and Gourmet Garden #TripleSBites

Today, I'm sharing the third menu item on amy romantic Valentine's appetizer menu for two as part of #TripleSBites. I've been having a blast seeing all of the recipes that my fellow blog participants have been sharing! So far, I've shared phyllo cups filled with a sweetly spicy chicken salad and pesto meatballs stuffed with mozzarella cheese. For the third course, I'm pulling out all the stops. I created over-the-top Spicy Blueberry-Basil Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp. These beauties feature a tasty trio of our #TripleSBites sponsors: Not Ketchup, Voodoo Chef, and Gourmet Garden herbs. These shrimp are super easy to make, and the blueberry-basil mixture serves as both a glaze on the shrimp and as a flavorful dipping sauce. You can even assemble them up to a day ahead and refrigerate until you're ready to pop them in the oven to cook!

The blueberry flavor in the glaze and sauce comes from Blueberry White Pepper Not Ketchup. This line of sauces is sweet and savory -- and proves that ketchup does NOT have to be made from tomatoes. I knew that basil would work really nicely with the blueberry, and Gourmet Garden's lightly dried basil meant  no chopping for me! To bring the spice, I used Voodoo Chef's seductively spicy Red Rub. Add it up and you've got an
Photo from Voodoo Chef
appetizer that'll "put a spell on" your sweetie. Be sure to use the biggest shrimp you can find -- I used U12 super jumbo. This is also a great recipe to feature applewood smoked bacon. I buy mine by-the-slice from the deli counter at the grocery store. I'm even going to show you a trick to ensure you end up with crispy bacon outside and tender, perfectly cooked shrimp on the inside. It's a tiny bit more work -- most of it hands off -- but I promise the end results  
are worth it.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

February Foodie Recipe Collection: Romantic Chocolate Desserts for Valentine's...and Beyond!

Check out Romantic Chocolate Desserts for Valentine's...and Beyond!
by Wendy Wofford-Garcia at

This month’s Foodie Contributor recipe collection is focusing on decadent chocolate desserts that are perfect for Valentine’s – or any other romantic occasion you have planned during the coming months. Chocolate is the quintessential Valentine’s treat for good reason: it's rich, flavorful…and downright sexy. My recipe collection features a wide range of chocolate desserts with one thing in common: they’re sinfully delicious! I’m featuring gorgeous cakes, cheesecakes, bread pudding, fondue…and even slutty brownies! No matter which of these amazing options you choose, they’re guaranteed to put your special someone “in the mood for love” if served as part of your Valentine’s celebration. What happens next is completely up to you! I personally recommend playing some romantic music in the background and a opening a bottle of sweet sparkling moscato to complete the mood. Here’s a dozen of my favorite love songs to create an ultimate Valentine's playlist:
  • The Beatles: I Will
  • Madeleine Peyroux: Getting Some Fun Out of Life
  • Peter Gabriel: In Your Eyes
  • Sting: You Were Meant for Me
  • Norah Jones: Come Away With Me
  • Shelby Lynne: I Only Want to Be With You
  • Adele: Make You Feel My Love
  • Beyonce: Love On Top
  • Coldplay: Sparks
  • Justin Timberlake: Not a Bad Thing
  • Sixpence None the Richer: Kiss Me
  • Diana Krall: Let's Fall In Love
Now you have all of the ingredients necessary to cook up a romantic Valentine's celebration...just call me Cupid Wendy!

Disclosure: This is a compensated post for Mode Foodie as part of its Foodie Contributor Program. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Valentine's Appetizer Menu Course 2: Mozzarella-Stuffed Pesto Meatballs Featuring Garden Gourmet Herbs #TripleSBites

I'm having such a great time taking part in a very special Valentine's-themed blog event this week! #TripleSBites is featuring 20 food bloggers sharing our favorite Spicy, Saucy, and Sexy recipes that are guaranteed to tantalize the tastebuds of you and your significant other! Our fabulous hostess for the event is Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla. We're working with a great group of sponsors to create dishes meant to provide a relaxing, romantic atmosphere for your Valentine's celebration. I'm sharing a three-course appetizer menu -- along with some decadent brownies -- for my celebration menu. Today's recipe features one of my husband's favorite ingredients: pesto. My Mozzarella-Stuffed Pesto Meatballs are a snap to make, and they're bursting with Italian flavor! When your honey takes a bite of these meatballs, they'll love finding a pocket of melted mozzarella inside! 

These flavorful turkey meatballs are a snap to make thanks to Gourmet Garden herbs and spices, one of our #TripleSBites sponsors. I used their tubed garlic and Italian Herbs, as well as their new lightly-dried parsley, in my recipe. Both items are located in the refrigerated Produce section of most large grocery stores. I love using Gourmet Garden products, because they save me a ton of time in the kitchen. I didn't have to spend extra time chopping herbs and garlic. Face it: who wants to spend all night in the kitchen on Valentine's? These meatballs can be mixed and formed a day ahead, then stored in an airtight container in the fridge until you're ready to bake them. To keep the pesto flavor profile going, I made a simple creamy pesto dipping sauce to serve with my meatballs . To complete the mood, I added some fun Valentine's toothpicks to each meatball just before serving. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Amped-Up Chicken Salad Phyllo Cups...Featuring Intensity Academy and Gourmet Garden Products #TripleSBites

I'm excited to share that I'm taking part in a very special Valentine's-themed blog event over the next week! #TripleSBites features 20 talented bloggers sharing our favorite Spicy, Saucy, and Sexy recipes that are guaranteed to tantalize the tastebuds of you and your significant other! Our fabulous hostess for the event is Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla. We're working with a great group of sponsors to create dishes meant to provide a romantic atmosphere for your Valentine's celebration. I hate dealing with the crowds at restaurants for Valentine's -- definitely a romance buzzkill! Instead, this year I'm planning an at-home celebration featuring appetizers, champagne, and decadent homemade brownies. I'll be sharing all of the recipes from my menu with you over the next week. I'm kicking things off the fun with my easy-to-make Amped-Up Chicken Salad Phyllo Bites!
The sweet and spicy chicken salad filling can be made up to a day ahead of time so you don't spend all of Valentine's evening in the kitchen. To keep things easy, the elegant phyllo shells are from the freezer section of the grocery store. My flavorful chicken salad features two of our #TripleSBites sponsors: Intensity Academy Gourmet Sauces and Gourmet Gardens herbs. My chicken salad is flavored with Intensity Academy's amazing sweetly spicy Saucy Everything mayo and Gourmet Garden's tubed ginger and lightly dried parsley. Both of the products allowed me to assemble my chicken salad in about 10 minutes -- and a roasted deli chicken saved me tons of time too! These elegant bites taste like you spent hours preparing them, but they literally come together in about 5 minutes once the chicken salad is assembled. This appetizer is sure to put the ooh-la-la into your Valentine's celebration!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

February Secret Recipe Club...Featuring Slow Cooker Peking Chicken

After a brief hiatus for the holidays, I'm back for another fun Secret Recipe Club reveal! My blog this month is Mostly Food and Crafts. Danielle's fabulous blog had so many great dishes to choose from, but one quick-prep slow cooker recipe especially caught my eye. Her Slow Coker Peking Chicken used ingredients that I already had on hand in my kitchen. It literally took me 10 minutes to prep everything, then my slow cooker did the rest. If you're looking for a super easy recipe that delivers great Asian flavors? You'll definitely want to give this recipe a try ASAP!! The only tweaks I made to the recipe were to cook four chicken thighs instead of eight...but I kept the amount of sauce ingredients the same to ensure we had lots of flavorful sauce. I also added a bit of red pepper for spice and some lime juice for a slight tang. Finally, I seared the skinless chicken thighs before pouring the zesty sauce over the top. This flavorful chicken can be served over steamed rice, noodles...or even over orzo like I did!

McCormick Easy Skillet Dinners #SundaySupper...Featuring Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes #McSKilletSauce

This post is sponsored by McCormick in conjunction with a social media campaign through Sunday Supper LLC. All opinions are my own.

If you’re like me, you’re constantly on the go! Between a hectic day job and running a busy blog, it seems like I’m always running short on time -- especially in the evenings. I like to serve a tasty dinner for Michael and I to enjoy together, and I especially like finding ways to save time in the kitchen without sacrificing flavor. Enter McCormick’s new line of tasty and convenient Skillet Sauces! They’re partnering with #SundaySupper this week to showcase flavorful quick-cook meals. McCormick’s line of seven skillet sauces provides the flavor and spice. You simply add meat or other fresh ingredients, and you’ve got dinner in about 30 minutes! 

I received several flavors of the Skillet Sauces to try, and the Sweet & Smoky Sloppy Joes flavor immediately caught my eye. I’ve loved sloppy joes since I was a  kid...and I still love them today! I used this sauce to create smoky, slightly spicy Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes. The Skillet Sauce is made with natural spices and ingredients. All I had to do was add some lean ground turkey, corn, jalapeno, and diced onion. While the meat mixture simmered on the stove, I had time to make the creamy, cooling avocado spread. Add some pico de gallo and shredded cheddar, and you’ve got the perfect dinner on a bun!  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Daily Meal's Tyson Crispy Strips Recipe Contest...Featuring Buffalo Ranch Puffs with Blue Cheese-Ranch Dipping Sauce

I'm a member of The Daily Meal's Culinary Content Network, a great group of talented food bloggers. They're having a fun recipe contest this week featuring Tyson Crispy Chicken Breast Strips, which are made with 100% all natural ingredients and are fully cooked for easy preparation. These yummy chicken strips bake up crisp, and they're perfect for a meal or as part of a fun party spread. With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, I wanted to create a spicy dish for our game-day feast. My Buffalo Ranch Puffs with Blue Cheese-Ranch Dipping Sauce are indeed spicy...and totally dude-approved! Even better? They're super simple to make! 

While the crescent-wrapped chicken strips bake to a golden-brown in the oven, you've got a pocket of time to make the addictive dipping sauce. Some people like to dip their wings in ranch...and some prefer blue cheese. My dipping sauce combines both flavors into one delicious sauce, then adds chopped celery and green onions for extra texture and flavor. To really up the spice factor, I decided to brush ranch-infused hot wing sauce on each puff before baking, and I included hot sauce in the dipping sauce too.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Wendy's Favorite Things for January

It's time once again for my monthly Wendy's Favorite Things feature...where I share eight food items or kitchen tools that I've been using in my kitchen and absolutely love. I've got some great suggestions to share with you let's get started!

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(1) Gourmet Garden Lightly Dried Herbs & Spices. Gourmet Garden is known for its tubes of organic herbs and spices. I love using them in my kitchen, because it's so handy to squeeze the tube to add flavor to my recipes. Gourmet Garden's newest product is a line of stackable herbs and spices that are lightly dried. Unlike their tube products, these herbs and spices can be sprinkled on top of a finished product -- but I don't have to do the chopping! The line includes parsley, basil, cilantro, ginger, and chile pepper. They're easy to store in the fridge, because the containers lock together and stack. So far, I've used the cilantro and ginger. It's so easy to grab a pinch and sprinkle on top of whatever you're making. They last for 4 weeks in the fridge too! To find a store near you that carries this new line, visit the Gourmet Gardens online store locator.

(2) Woats Oat Snack. Woats is a Texas company that makes one of my favorite new snacks. If you love oatmeal cookies, but want a snack you can feel better about? Woats is perfect for you! Woats comes in three yummy flavors: Peanut Butter Graham Slam, Cookies 'n' Dreams, and Nuts About Cherries. Lightly sweet Woats are great sprinkled on top of Greek yogurt for breakfast, but they're equally good straight out of the bag for an after-work pick-me-up. All of the flavors are great, but I'm especially partial to the Peanut Butter Graham Slam. It contains all-natural peanut butter, crisp graham crackers and crunchy butter toffee peanuts. Woats is available at select retailers around the country, but you can also order it online at their website.

(3) Saucy Everything Spicy Mayo. This addictive sauce is from Intensity Academy, and boy is is good! Mayo is a very popular condiment here in the South, so I know good mayo when I taste it. Saucy Everything Spicy Mayo is creamy, slightly sweet, and gently spicy. It comes in a handy squeeze bottle, making it easy to use as a topping on a variety of foods. I am officially in love with this versatile sauce. So far, I've had it on a chicken sandwich and on a burger. It worked equally well with both! I'll be sharing a fun recipe featuring this product very soon, so be on the lookout. Saucy Everything Spicy Mayo can be purchased direct from Intensity Academy's website. It's also available at select locations in Florida.

(4) NatureSweet Cherub Tomatoes. NatureSweet is based here in San Antonio, but I'd adore these bite-sized grape tomatoes even if they weren't. Their flavor is sweet, and the packaging makes them convenient for easy snacking. They come in a round container with a peel-back lid on top. This makes it easy to grab 3-4 of them for a quick snack. -- one you don't have to feel guilty about enjoying! Even if you enjoyed half of the container, it would only cost you 50 calories and 1 gram of fat! I also love to halve Cherubs lengthwise for adding to salads or pasta -- I find them to be very versatile. The NatureSweet website offers a helpful store locator, as well as many delicious recipes featuring Cherubs.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Celebrating Oktoberfest at San Antonio's Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa

Photo provided by Hyatt Regency
We recently enjoyed a relaxing overnight stay at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa here in San Antonio. This amazing resort is located less than 15 minutes from our home, but it felt like the cares of the real world were literally "a world away" once we stepped onto the 300-acre property. This resort offers so much to see and do, and it's perfect for a weekend getaway -- whether you're a family, a couple, or even a group of girlfriends looking for a spa retreat. This AAA Four-Diamond resort has everything you could want right onsite, allowing you to simply drop your car with the valet and never leave during your stay. Located at the Hyatt is a 27-hole golf course, restaurants, a huge pool and water park area, and the Wildflower Spa. However, if you're also looking for some offsite fun nearby? You're in luck -- SeaWorld San Antonio is located less than 2 miles away! 

The first thing we noticed when we dropped our car with the valet and walked inside the main building is how relaxed the atmosphere is. The Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort is definitely upscale -- but it has a relaxed, rustic vibe. Check in was quick and easy, and we were on our way to our spacious suite. The suite featured a spacious living room/dining room area with ranch-themed decor, a large bathroom, and a bedroom area featuring a King bed and flatscreen television. The art that adorned the walls of our suite shared information about the property's rich history as a working ranch!
We visited during the resort's Oktoberfest celebration, so we were able to enjoy a fun party featuring German food and music...and beer, of course! The Hyatt's outdoor Oktoberfest celebration was located a short walk from our room. We enjoyed some cool breezes and admired the resort's perfectly maintained grounds during our walk. We arrived and quickly found seats in the communal outdoor dining area. There was a German band playing lively music, and we had our choice of a beer or cocktail to pair with a buffet of tasty German food. We enjoyed visiting with our fellow diners and watching people dance to the polka music coming from the band while we ate our dinner. 
Highlights of the delicious buffet of German food included slow-simmered beef sauerbraten over buttered egg noodles, a boldly flavored warm German potato salad, and a variety of steamed brats and other sausages. The food was expertly prepared and hearty -- perfect Fall food. We also enjoyed a duo of desserts to choose from: German chocolate cake and cobbler. Talk about a perfect dessert combo for a Texas Oktoberfest celebration!
There was a nice selection of Oktoberfest beers to choose from, both Texas brews and imported German beers. I especially liked that the beers were served in fun boot-shaped glasses to go with the German-Texas celebration theme. For my Oktoberfest libation, I selected Karbach Oktoberfest. It was an easy-to-drink Bavarian Marzen with a smooth finish. Michael went with the Hacker Pschorr Munich Gold from Germany. It had a stronger flavor profile than my beer, with a slightly bitter finish. It paired very nicely with our German sausages...and some German polka music! 
Before we knew it, the Sun was starting to set. We decided to make our way over to the Hyatt's fire pit to enjoy a smores nightcap. Needless to say, the smores were a popular attraction for the resort's guests -- of all ages. I had a great time making the perfectly toasted marshmallow for my smore. Something about gooey marshmallows and melted chocolate seems perfectly fitting on a cool Fall evening!

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