The Weekend Gourmet F

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Last-Minute Stocking Stuffer and Hostess Gift Ideas for Food Lovers!

Christmas is just around the corner...and perhaps you're feeling frazzled trying to figure out last-minute stocking stuffer or hostess gift ideas for the food lovers in your life? No worries...The Weekend Gourmet to the rescue!!! I'm going to share a handful of my favorite last-minute gift ideas with you today...and the best part is that many of them are easy on the wallet too! 
(1) Godiva Chocolate's Holiday Collection. Godiva's 2014 holiday collection has something for everyone...and the items come in a wide range of prices. Godiva has some amazing gift ideas for the chocoholics on your list -- whether you're looking for truffles, gourmet chocolates, or other chocolate delights! Their holiday collection has tons of great items to choose from...but my two favorite items are their Hot Cocoa Gift Set and the 24-Piece Signature Truffle Gift Box -- Holiday Edition. The hot cocoa set features a trio of cocoa flavors in convenient single-serving pouches: milk, dark, and caramel. The decadent truffle collection features a broad range of delicious flavors...my personal favorites are the Crunchy Hazelnut and Strawberry Tarte. 
(2) Chandon Délice Sparkling Wine. Since New Year's Eve is also coming up later this month, a bottle of bubbly champagne or sparkling wine is the perfect Christmas gift for the wine lovers in your life! Chandon's Délice is a delicious and versatile sparkling wine that's my pick for this holiday season. Délice is perfect for pairing with spicy foods (think Cajun and Mexican), creamy cheeses --- and rich desserts like creme brulee. Délice is a moderately priced fruity sparkling wine made from both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. I especially love to serve this semi-sweet sparkling wine icy cold, with a bit of raspberry liqueur mixed in. Just before serving, I like to add a couple of frozen raspberries to float in each flute. Talk about easy sophistication to ring in the new year!

(3) Sur la Table Cooking Class. Whether you're shopping for someone who's an experienced cook...or someone who aspires to feel more comfortable in the kitchen...a cooking class is an excellent holiday gift! Sur la Table offers a wide range of classes that fit all skill levels and taste buds. The fun, interactive classes last about 2 hours and are taught by experienced chefs. Even better? You get to taste the dishes both during and after the class. They even offer Kids & Teens Holiday Cooking Camps, as well as a Date Night classes for couples! The easiest way to gift one of their cooking classes is to purchase a gift card for the amount of the class...then attach it with ribbon to one of Sur la Table's fun kitchen gadgets for a cute presentation!

(4) Budget-Friendly Treats and Gadgets. Proving you don't have to spend a fortune to give a thoughtful hostess gift or stocking stuffer, here's some ideas for presents that cost $10 (or less!!) and will bring a huge smile to any foodie's face! Cabot's Farmers Legacy line of premium cheddar combines Cabot quality and rich flavors. Pair a block of this cheese in a gift bag or basket with a box of gourmet crackers, and you have a gift any cheese lover will cherish! For the "kid at heart" on your list, pick up a package of fun Peeps candy cane flavored marshmallows! These Peeps chicks float perfectly in a mug of cocoa, so pair a package of them with a few packets of gourmet cocoa for an inexpensive, fun gift.
OXO's handy Grape & Tomato Cutter is a lifesaver for busy cooks -- it allows them to quickly and easily quarter grapes, small tomatoes, and pitted olives for recipes. Great for making salads and other dishes, it's so much easier than using a knife to cut these smaller items. Simply drop the item into the slot and push down on the plunger, directly into the bowl...GENIUS! Finally...for the spice lover, Doxy's Pasta Sauce Herbs is a thoughtful Simply add tomatoes, chopped onion, and water to this perfect combination of non-GMO dried herbs and garlic to make a perfect pot of homemade marinara sauce. To round out this gift, add a box of gourmet pasta and a loaf of bakery French bread!

Disclosure: The makers of these products provided me with samples of their products to facilitate inclusion. I have personally tried them, and I only recommend products to my readers that I love myself!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Holiday Fun with Peeps...Featuring Gingerbread White Hot Cocoa #PEEPSONALITY


I'm a huge fan of marshmallow Peeps from way back...especially their fun seasonal flavors and shapes! Peeps started as a fun Easter basket treat when I was a kid, but now they make fun seasonal goodies all year long. Their line of Christmas marshmallow Peeps is out now...with fun flavors like peppermint, gingerbread, chocolate mousse, and sugar cookie. They can certainly be enjoyed as a fun treat straight from the package, but they're also a really easy way to add a bit of fun holiday decor to your seasonal food and beverages. I recently received a box containing a wide variety of fun holiday-themed marshmallow Peeps, and I decided to feature the whimsical gingerbread men variety in a fun holiday drink!

My Gingerbread Hot White Cocoa features a trio of warm spices normally found in gingerbread. To make this decadent treat extra fun, each mug of cocoa is served garnished with an easy-to-make gingerbread man marshmallow Peep stirrer. It's a win-win: everyone gets to enjoy a comforting mug of white chocolate-infused cocoa...and they get to enjoy a tasty gingerbread marshmallow Peep too. This white cocoa is ready to drink in about 20 minutes. While the cocoa is heating on the stovetop, you have a pocket of time to make the adorable Peep stirrers. Let me show you how easy it is!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Secret Recipe Club Holiday Cookie Carnival...Featuring Salted Peanut Butter Cookies with Snickers

After looking at my calendar today, it's slowing sinking in: Christmas is NEXT WEEK! I'm woefully behind on my shopping this year, but plan to work on completing it this week. At least my decorating is done...and I've narrowed down my cooking and baking list. Today, Secret Recipe Club is sharing some fabulous holiday cookies as part of our Cookie Carnival. I was so happy to be paired with my #SundaySupper friend Susan from The Wimpy Vegetarian. She always shares such great recipes -- and her photographs are just mouthwatering! I knew that I wanted something a bit different...and easy...for this fun event. I knew I had found just what I was looking for with her Salted Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Nuggets

These are seriously the easiest and most delicious peanut butter cookies I've ever tasted -- and I'm crazy about their salty-sweet flavor combination. The only change I made to Susan's recipe was to use bite-size Snickers candies in place of chocolate chips. My officemate Kim makes amazing chocolate chip cookies with pieces of Snickers, and I thought it would work really well here too. These cookies are truly swoon-worthy! Anyone who loves true peanut butter flavor will flip for these cookies. I'm also betting that Santa would love to find a plate of these waiting on Christmas Eve!

Celebrate the Holidays via a Libational #SundaySupper...Featuring Big Easy Milk Punch!

Christmas is somehow less than TWO WEEKS away...which I'm in a bit of denial about! I feel like I still have a million things left to do between now and then. If you're like me and have some holiday parties on your calendar between now and New Year's Eve, today's Libational #SundaySupper theme is perfect for you! Our hosts this week are DB from Crazy Foodie Stunts and Alice from A Mama, Baby, and Shar-Pei In the Kitchen. This week's theme asked us to share our favorite recipes -- cocktails and savory or sweet dishes -- that contain alcohol or wine as an ingredient. I immediately knew this was the perfect week to share one of my favorite cocktails: Big Easy Milk Punch. If you love the flavor of eggnog, but not its thick consistency...this is the perfect cocktail for you!

Whenever we visit New Orleans, nearly every restaurant has their version of milk punch on their weekend brunch menus. After one sip, it's easy to tell why! It's creamy, sweet, and topped with a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg. Think of it like a grown-up milkshake. This cocktail is easy to whip up and it goes down very easy. Be careful, though...this cocktail may taste innocent, but it's deceptively potent! I'm going to show you how to make individual cocktails, but feel free to mix up a large batch in a pitcher for easy self serving at holiday brunches or other parties.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wendy's Favorite Things: Holiday Gift Guide for Foodies...Part 2

I'm back to share the second half of my Holiday Gift Guide for Foodies...gifts that are ideal for the wide range of food lovers on your holiday shopping list! Today's list features some really fun and unique ideas for the hard-to-shop for food and wine lovers in your life! 
(1) For the Stylish Foodie: ChicWrap Baker's Tools Reusable Parchment Dispenser. Maybe you're like me and hide all of your parchment, foil, and plastic wrap out of sight in a drawer. With ChicWrap's line of stylish reusable dispensers, you can keep them on the counter -- where their bright colors and whimsical design can be enjoyed! I use a lot of parchment in my kitchen, so I love my ChicWrap Baker's Tools dispenser. It fits most standard rolls of store-bought parchment and features a nifty CleanCut SlideCutter that works perfectly every time. It even has four rubber feet to ensure it stays put on the counter. Each dispenser comes with a starter roll of parchment and costs $14.95 or less; they can be purchased online or at stores nationwide. ChicWrap also offers a foil dispenser with a BBQ motif and a choice of Cook's Tools or Veggies for plastic wrap -- and that's just for starters!

(2) For the Adventurous Wine Lover: Lodi Native Old Vine Zinfandel. If you have a wine lover with a sophisticated palate on your shopping list, look no further than Lodi Native Zinfandel. This zinfandel is produced in California's Lodi region, using minimalist winemaking processes. The six different winemakers who produce Lodi Native utilize only native yeast fermentation, zero new oak, and minimal interference with the vineyards and cellar. The set of six wines is produced by the the following vineyards: Century Block Vineyard, Marian's Vineyard, Noma Ranch, Souci Vineyard, TruLux Vineyard, and Wegat Vineyard. A bottle of each vineyard's zinfandel comes packaged in a wooden box and can be purchased direct from Lodi Native. I sampled a bottle of the TruLux zinfandel and was blown away -- it's lush and fruity with a truly complex flavor. Anyone who receives this wine under the Christmas tree is in for a treat!


(3) For the Altrustic Foodie: Hand-Carved African Wooden Serving Spoons from the World Vision Catalog. These gorgeous wooden spoons are made by hand in Kenya -- and they're perfect for year-round entertaining. Each beautiful set of hand-carved smooth olive wood serving spoons comes in a colorful gift bag of African fabric hand-sewn by local women. The serving spoons retail for $65 and are made to benefit orphans of the Kamba tribe in Kenya. Not only does your gift recipient received a gorgeous set of serving spoons that they'll enjoy using again and again, your purchase helps out those in need as well! The World Vision catalog has a variety of gifts in all price ranges that help children and families in need around the globe.


(4) For the Gourmet: O Olive Oil and Vinegar Gift Sets. O makes artisan olive oils and vinegars in California, and they're some of my very favorite! The products come in a wide range of flavors, and the quality is unmatched. For the gourmet on your shopping list, O offers a wide range of gift sets. Whether you're in the market for a set of olive oil, flavored vinegars, or a combination...they've got you covered. My personal favorite collection is their Basil & Blossom Oil & Vinegar set. It contains O's Basil and Roasted Garlic Olive Oils and Orange Blossom Champagne Vinegar. This combination is excellent for flavoring pasta...and making a flavorful vinaigrette for a salad on the side. O Olive Oil and Vinegars can be purchased online and at select stores across the country. Right now, O is offering free shipping on all orders of $60 or more...so it's the perfect time to try their products!


(5) For the Foodie Who Loves to Try New Foods: Love with Food Sampler Boxes. Some food lovers want to be among the first to try the latest food products. A Love With Food lets them do just that! Each month, Love with Food hand selects a variety of great new food items and sends them to subscribers. Each box also donates a meal to a hungry child in the United States. Their motto is Snack Smart. Do Good...making Love with Food a win-win situation all the way around! Each month's box features at least 8 items comes in three different price ranges and categories: a Tasting Box, a Deluxe Box, and a Gluten Free Box. You can give your recipient a subscription for 3 months, 6 months, or an entire year. Whatever fits your budget or dietary concerns, they've got you covered! It's so fun to receive the monthly box in the mail and open it up to see what's inside. It's like Christmas every single month!!!

Disclosure: The companies who make the items featured in this gift guide provided me with samples to facilitate inclusion. I only recommend products that I have personally tried and like, and all opinions are solely my own.
 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wendy's Favorite Things for December, Part 1: Holiday Gift Guide for Foodies

It's time for my annual Holiday Gift Guide for Foodies! Today and tomorrow, I'll be sharing my best ideas for holiday gifts that food lovers will love finding under the tree on Christmas morning. I've got a little something for everyone, so let's get started!

(1) For the coffee lover: The coffee lovers on your list will love being able to make their own gourmet coffee and espresso at home. The Nespresso Inissia is a perfect gift! It's compact (9 inches high), lightweight (just over 5 lbs.), and so simple to use. Not only that, this affordable machine retails for approximately $99, and it brews a perfect cup of coffee or espresso in seconds using specially made Nespresso coffee and espresso pods. The average price per cup of coffee or espresso made with the Inissia is $1 or less -- much more affordable than the neighborhood coffee shop! The machine is compatible with Gourmesso coffee pods too. To find a store near you that carries the Inissia, visit the store locator. 
(2) For the gourmet cook: Many times, I see a recipe call for creating a bouquet garni of herbs. They can be both frustrating and time-consuming to make yourself...even if you already have twine and cheesecloth on hand in your kitchen. Enter Pre-made Bouquet Garni from French lifestyle shop QuelObjet.com. A package of 8 ready-to-use bouquet garni is just $15, making it an affordable gift for the cooks on your shopping list. Each individual bouquet garni contains​ oregano, thyme, savory,and bay leaves that are perfectly ​rolled inside a bay leaf and tied with cotton string. They're great for ​infusing great herb flavor in roasts, stews, and soups. 
(3) For the wine lover: Wine of the Month Club membership is an ideal gift for the wine enthusiasts in your life. It's a gift that keeps giving all throughout the year, allowing wine lovers to discover the added value and instant gratification they provide friends and relatives via these memberships. The memberships start at $139.99 for an entry level four-month shipment schedule that can be delivered monthly or quarterly. That's a great price for eight bottles of highly rated wines! Each delivery features two bottles of hand-selected wine. Depending on your recipient's preference, you can specify whether the deliveries will contain 1 bottle of red and 1 bottle of white...or all red or all white. Each shipment arrives in a smart leather case, along with a newsletter containing information about the wines in that month's shipment.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Glade Limited Edition Winter Fragrance Collection...and Peppermint Bark Brookies!

In honor of Patience Brewster's 2014 online cookie exchange here is my Peppermint Bark Brookies recipe. Patience Brewster is a artist and designer of holiday ornaments and figurines.
December is my favorite month of the year...the sights and smells of the holidays always seem to evoke happiness and smiles in my home! Glade recently sent me a few items from their Limited Edition Winter Fragrance Collection to try out in my home. All of the scents are perfect for the holiday season...but my two favorite items are the Sparkling Spruce™ Glade® PlugIns® Scented Oil Warmer and the Frosted Cookie Party Jarred Candle. Simply plug in or light, and you've got instant holiday cheer within minutes. We have an artificial tree in our living room, but the natural pine fragrance of the Sparkling Spruce PlugIn provides the perfect Christmas tree scent. I love walking into my living room and smelling the scent of pine, eucalyptus, cedar, and patchouli. It instantly puts me in a festive mood -- the scent of pine, without having to deal with pine needles!

I also love to light the Frosted Cookie Party candle -- it smells just like cookies baking in the oven. The scent is cozy and comforting...and it makes me want to get into the kitchen and bake! Inspired by the candle's vanilla and marshmallow scent, I went into my kitchen and whipped a perfect -- and easy -- holiday cookie. My Peppermint Bark Brookies combine two of my favorite flavors: peppermint and chocolate into an irresistible treat. The cookies are made using Ghirardelli Double Chocolate brownie mix, which includes chocolate chips. The brookies bake up moist and fudgy...and my addition of peppermint mini marshmallows adds a dash of fun. After cooling, the brookies are dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with crushed peppermint. For peppermint lovers like me, these are the ultimate holiday cookie!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Perfect Peppermint Holiday Goodies!

Some people get excited about pumpkin...pumpkin's fine and all, but I don't go crazy for it. The flavor that makes my heart sing during the holiday season is peppermint...especially if it's combined with chocolate! Ever since I was a kid, I loved candy canes during the holidays. Now that I'm grown up, I love to incorporate it into as many holiday goodies as I can. I thought I'd share some of my favorite peppermint recipes from the past few years. They're all wildly popular with my friends and family, so I hope you'll give them a try!

(1) Peppermint Surprise Truffles. This is one of my go-to holiday treats -- my peppermint take on the ever-popular Oreo truffles. Mine are infused with crushed peppermint and peppermint extract to maximize the peppermint flavor -- and I sprinkle crushed peppermint on top too! These are a snap to make and positively addictive. 
(2) Santa's Favorite Holiday Bark. Kids of all ages will go nuts for this easy-to-make candy that features swirled white and semisweet chocolate -- and all of my favorite holiday flavors. You can literally whip up a batch of this bark in under 30 minutes -- then pop it in the fridge for a few minutes so it firms up. Feel free to sub in your favorite holiday goodies, but I love to include mint Oreos, Christmas M&Ms, and peppermint mini marshmallows.
(3) Chocolate-Peppermint Puff Pastry Bites. Thanks to frozen puff pastry, these minty turnovers are ready to eat in no time flat. They make a great holiday dessert -- or a special weekend brunch treat. They have chocolate and peppermint-infused white chocolate inside...then they're drizzled with more white and semisweet chocolate. To take them over the top, they're sprinkled with chopped candy canes too!
(4) Peppermint Hot White Cocoa. This is my Wintry spin on hot chocolate -- perfect for the holiday season! Warm milk is flavored with melted white chocolate and mint extract...then the rich mixture is poured into festive holiday mugs and topped with whipped cream and crushed peppermint. This is the perfect partner for holiday cookies -- a little decadent and so very easy to make!! You might feel a little naughty when you drink it, but you'll get over it...
I hope you've enjoyed some of my favorite peppermint creations from holidays past...and that you'll give them a try between now and Christmas. I'm still creating lots of yummy peppermint goodies this year. In fact, I've got a fabulous recipe for Peppermint Bark Brownie Cookies to share with you in a few days...so stay tuned for that!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

TexaSweet® Rio Star® Grapefruit...Featuring Mistletoe Kiss Grapefruit Sparkler

Photograph provided by TexaSweet®
The holiday season is the best time to enjoy Texas-grown citrus...especially juicy, sweet Texas-grown grapefruit! Citrus season --  including grapefruit -- kicks into high gear here in Texas in November and December. Texas Red Grapefruit in particular are sweet, juicy, and tree-ripened. Texas produces the several trademarked categories of grapefruit, including the amazing TexaSweet® Rio Star®. It combines the two reddest varieties of grapefruit – the Rio Red and Star Ruby. Rio Star® grapefruit are definitely not your typical grapefruit – they have an overall blush on the exterior peel, with a gorgeous deep-red interior color that’s 7 to 10 times redder than other grapefruit varieties. The juice is also much sweeter and less bitter than standard grapefruits! If you think you're not a grapefruit fan, pick up some Rio Stars® and give them a try! TexaSweet® recently sent me a box of Rio Star® grapefruits to create a holiday recipe to share with you today.

Photograph provided by Deep Eddy
I immediately decided that a citrusy adults-only sparkling cocktail was the perfect way to showcase the Rio Star’s® sweet-tart juice. My Mistletoe Kiss Grapefruit Sparkler is ideal for holiday entertaining. Because this refreshing cocktail is served in a pitcher, your guests can serve themselves – leaving you time to mingle with your guests instead of pouring drinks. This fizzy punch contains grapefruit juice, sweet Moscato, a bit if citrus soda for fizz…and my secret ingredient: Texas-made Deep Eddy Ruby Red grapefruit vodka! The Austin-based company's grapefruit vodka works perfectly here. To play up the red color of the Rio Star® grapefruit, I added a bit of raspberry syrup as well. The finishing touch is the addition of some frozen raspberries. They keep the drinks chilled without watering them down…and provide a pop of festive holiday red!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Cookbook Spotlight: Fish Market...Featuring Sizzling Garlic Shrimp

Growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast between Houston and Galveston, I learned to love seafood at a young age. My Grandpa Wofford was an avid fisherman, so freshly caught fried fish is a comfort food for me all the way back to childhood. I can still remember my  Grandma Wofford in her kitchen breading the fresh catch in cornmeal and frying it up in her cast iron skillet! Gulf shrimp? Don’t even get me started…it’s my #1 favorite food to this day!! I was so excited when author Kathy Hunt offered to send me a copy of her new Fish Market cookbook. As the cover says, it's a cookbook for selecting and preparing seafood. It's full of great recipes featuring a broad range of fish and shellfish, so it’s a perfect holiday gift for the seafood lovers on your shopping list. The cookbook is divided into small chapters that focus on a particular type of fish or shellfish. Kathy gives her insights on the best cooking technique for each seafood variety, along with recipes that enhance that seafood variety’s natural flavors. 

I found so many great recipes that caught my eye, including: Lobster-Corn Chowder, Pecan-Crusted Trout, and Beer-Battered Cod. However, I decided to share a shrimp recipe that’s perfect for the holidays! December is a busy month full of parties, and her Sizzling Garlic Shrimp is an ideal dish for this month. It's quick to make for a simple, fast dinner before you start wrapping presents…and it makes a fabulous appetizer to take to a party or serve holiday guests who drop by. Hint: if you buy shrimp that are already peeled and deveined, this dish can literally be ready to serve in about 10 minutes. While you whip up the shrimp, make sure to put some French bread in the oven to soak up the flavorful sauce that’s in the bottom of the serving bowl!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Review: Gourmesso Coffee Capsules for Nespresso Coffee Machines

Picking up a latte or espresso while out shopping is a fun indulgence...but the price can add up quickly if I do it too often. Luckily, I've found a great way to enjoy coffee indulgence at home without breaking the bank! I recently tried Gourmesso® coffee capsules, which are designed to be used exclusively in Nespresso coffee machines. Gourmesso® sent me a sampling of their coffee pods and a Nespresso Inissia coffee maker, and my family enjoyed their Soffio Nocciola (Hazelnut) espresso with Thanksgiving dessert. Gourmesso® is a New York-based company, and their coffee capsules are sold exclusively via the company's website. They ship to all 50 states at a price that averages 30% less than original Nespresso capsules. One box containing 10 Gourmesso® coffee capsules starts at only $4.49 -- or about $0.45 per capsule. For comparison, Nespresso coffee capsules retail for an average of $0.65 per capsule. Those savings start to add up very quickly! 


Gourmesso® launched in Germany in 2013, quickly becoming the #1 online seller of alternative coffee capsules for Nespresso machines. After expanding throughout Europe, they started selling their coffee capsules in the U.S. early this yearGourmesso® currently offers 20 different espresso varieties made with coffee beans from South and Central America, Africa, India, and Asia. These blends include 10 different espresso blends, three lungo (long-pour) blends, six flavored blends, and even one decaf option. They also proudly offer the only certified Fairtrade coffee capsules available. The capsules are easy to use, and you can have a small espresso ready to drink in about 2 minutes -- instant gratification! Simply pop a Gourmesso® coffee capsule into the light, compact Nespresso coffee machine. Then, press one of two buttons on top -- depending on the cup size you want to enjoy. In seconds, your espresso starts to brew.
We served small cups of the fragrant hazelnut espresso with a dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel syrup -- it was a perfect Thanksgiving indulgence! The espresso was strong -- but not bitter -- and very smooth. The hazelnut flavor is subtle, rather than overpowering. Cute cups and saucers are optional, but they certainly add to the festive mood.

Disclosure: Gourmesso® provided me with a variety of their coffee capsules, along with a Nespresso Inissia coffee machine, to facilitate this post. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: My Family's Favorite Turkey Leftovers...Turkey Mornay Open-Faced Sandwiches

I hope that y'all had a fabulous Thanksgiving yesterday! If you're like my family, chances are you have a fridge full of leftover turkey today. One of my family's favorite holiday comfort foods is my Grandma Texene's Turkey Mornay Open-Faced Sandwiches. We all look forward to eating these comforting hot sandwiches every year the weekend after Thanksgiving. It's sort of a family tradition! What's not to like? This hot sandwich combines toasted thick Texas Toast, topped with chopped broccoli, slices of juicy turkey breast, homemade cheese sauce, bacon(!), and a toping of ooey gooey melted cheese. Every single time I eat Turkey Mornay, I smile and remember my Mom's mother, my Grandma Texene. Despite her Lone Star-sounding name, Grandma Texene was actually born and raised in Wisconsin. Given her name, I suppose it was meant to be that she ended up moving to Texas as an adult. 

She was elegant and well-traveled, and I absolutely adored her! I'm convinced that my love of travel, good food, and wine comes directly from her. She was a little fireball, standing just under 5 feet tall with bleached-blonde hair. When I was a young girl, she drove a yellow Firebird sportscar. She smoked Parliament cigarettes, wore Chanel No. 5, and slept in a round bed. Not just any round bed mind you, but one with a yellow velvet headboard! Above the bed were painted formal portraits of her and my Grandpa Bob -- and she always had a poodle companion with painted toenails. She's been gone for more than 20 years now, but I think of her and smile each time I enjoy this delicious sandwich! 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Couple of Last-Minute Thanksgiving Recipes!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow...if you're still scrambling to round out your menu, I've got a few of my favorite no-stress Thanksgiving dishes to share with you. All they take are a few simple ingredients and a few minutes in the kitchen, and you're ready to go! Speaking of go...we're heading out of town after work tomorrow to be with our families in the Houston area for the long holiday weekend. Time spent with family enjoying good food, lots of laughs...and some football sprinkled in for good measure...are what Thanksgiving is all about!!! Now, about those no-stress side dishes...

(1) Creamy Cranberry and Chicken Puff Pastry Bites. These easy-to-make appetizers are the perfect starter for your guests to munch on before the big meal! I always keep a package of frozen puff pastry in my freezer for whipping up elegant, no-stress appetizers. These feature cranberry sauce and roasted chicken breast. They're downright addictive and very festive!
(2) Butternut Squash Puree. This savory-sweet side dish from Perry's Steakhouse is flavored with bacon and maple syrup, both of which work perfectly with butternut squash. To save time, do what I do: pick up a package of peeled and diced butternut squash at the grocery store. The flavor is similar to sweet potatoes, but a bit more elegant.
(3) Slow Cooker Cheesy Chive Spoonbread. This dish is perfect for taking to Thanksgiving potlucks...or if your oven space is already allotted to other dishes! If you've never head spoonbread, it's a Southern dish that's a cross between cornbread and a pudding. My version contains corn kernels and creamed corn, and it's flavored with green onions and melted cheese. This economical, easy-to-make dish is a keeper, folks!
(4) Pumpkin Risotto with Bacon, Goat Cheese, and Pecans. This elegant risotto features familiar Thanksgiving flavors...and an elegant presentation. This dish is savory sweet, with a smoky background flavor from the bacon. The goat cheese provides a creamy tanginess, while the pecans add an earthy crunch. I absolutely love this dish, and I'm betting your guests will love it too!
(5) Bonus Dessert Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Bundt with Maple-Pecan Glaze. This dessert has Thanksgiving written all over it! I am not much of a pie eater, so this moist and flavorful bundt cake lets me enjoy pumpkin without the pie. This cake features a maple syrup-infused glaze and lots of toasted pecans. A slice of this bundt is perfect with a cup of coffee flavored with pumpkin spice coffee creamer...and a great ending to your Thanksgiving meal!!
There you have it: my favorite Thanksgiving dishes. I hope that you get a chance to try one -- or more -- at your feast tomorrow! Be sure to come back here on Friday to get one of my family's favorite post-Thanksgiving meals...it's the perfect hot-sandwich solution to the mountain of leftover turkey that's likely to be in your fridge. Whether you're hosting an intimate Thanksgiving gathering...or you're attending a big extended family-style feast...I hope that your Thanksgiving is blessed beyond measure. This year has had its rough patches, but I have so many things to be thankful for: a loving husband and family, great friends, two very spoiled cats, and my health. Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you!!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Leftovers #SundaySupper...Featuring Italian Mashed Potato Pancakes

I think I'm in denial that Thanksgiving is less than a week away...in my mind, we just celebrated Halloween! However, the calendar definitely tells me otherwise. We're headed home to Houston to spend the long holiday weekend with our families, which is always a good time. Thanksgiving is all about time spent with family and friends...and enjoying lots of good food! If you're like us, we end up with lots of turkey and other dishes left after the big feast. A big plate of Thanksgiving leftovers is great...but they get a little tired after a meal or two. Today, the #SundaySupper group is sharing fantastic recipe ideas to repurpose those Thanksgiving leftovers into tasty treats! Our hostess is Jennie from The Messy Baker Blog

For many people, leftover mashed potatoes are a particular challenge. But...they don't have to be! My tasty Italian Mashed Potato Pancakes transform leftover plain mashed potatoes into a savory Italian delight. Mashed potatoes are the base for these savory pancakes. They're flavored with pancetta, mozzarella cheese, and Italian herbs. After being pan-fried to crispy perfection, they're topped with a homemade quick-cook tomato sauce and Asiago cheese. These versatile potato pancakes can be a side dish, light lunch...or even paired with eggs for a hearty weekend brunch. 


Friday, November 21, 2014

Cooking Light's Mad Delicious Cookbook #Giveaway...Featuring Carnitas de Pollo

I’m a long-time fan of Cooking Light magazine, because their recipes are healthy without sacrificing the big flavors that we crave. Tastes good + healthy for you = a recipe for success in my book! I recently received a copy of Cooking Light’s new Mad Delicious cookbook to try out in my kitchen, and I'm happy to say that it's one of the best cookbooks I've cooked from this year! The focus of the cookbook is the creative use of ingredients and cooking techniques to maximize flavor while reducing sugar, salt, and fat. The end result is food that tastes great and is healthier for you. Author Keith Schroeder has created an informative, fun-to-read cookbook that features a unique format. Mad Delicious contains 126 recipes – both savory and sweet – that even novice cooks can feel confident preparing. Using a detailed and informative chart-style recipe format, Schroeder clearly explains why each ingredient in a recipe enhances its overall flavor and texture. This format helps readers easily understand how a recipe's ingredients interact. 

With a conversational writing style, he walks the reader step-by-step through the preparation of every recipe. When the dish is complete, you have delicious food to enjoy -- as well as insightful knowledge about ingredients and cooking techniques. The photography in the book is gorgeous and colorful too -- every recipe features at least one photograph! This cookbook is a fantastic cooking resource, no matter your skill level in the kitchen. While looking over my copy, several recipes quickly caught my eye! Among them are: Georgia Peanut Fried Chicken -- which includes peanut butter powder in the crispy coating, Twice Cooked Garlic Shrimp, and slow-braised Carnitas de Pollo. As soon as I saw carnitas made with chicken, I knew I had had found my first recipe to try! 

Carnitas are normally made with succulent pork slow cooked in its own fat. It’s delicious – but very high in fat. Schroeder’s version reduces the fat by using boneless, skinless chicken thighs slowly braised in a rich cooking liquid. The end result contains just 7.8 grams of fat per serving, but the tender meat has a rich depth of flavor. The only change I made to the recipe in the cookbook is using skinless bone-in chicken thighs in place of boneless, skinless thighs. That’s what I had in my freezer, but the bones were easily removed at the end of the braising time. This dish is also a winner because it’s economical and uses staple ingredients that I have on hand in my kitchen nearly all the time. This recipe makes enough carnitas de pollo for a dozen tacos. Schroeder recommends topping the finished tacos with a pickled onion recipe from the book. I decided to top our tacos with reduced-fat Monterrey Jack cheese and spicy pico de gallo. This is one amazing recipe!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Holiday Cooking with BAILEYS Seasonal Coffee Creamers...Featuring Pumpkin Pie French Toast Casserole

Thanksgiving is coming up next week, and I’ve got a fabulous make-ahead breakfast casserole featuring pumpkin that you can assemble the night before. Then simply pop the dish into the oven in the morning to make sure your family has a warm, comforting breakfast ahead of the traditional Thanksgiving feast. You’ll appreciate the fact that this breakfast is totally stress-free and basically hands-off. Since you assemble my Pumpkin Pie French Toast Casserole the night before, the oven does all the work for you on Thanksgiving morning! To make sure that you get to maximize your pumpkin quotient, I added pumpkin puree to both the creamy cheesecake-like filling…and the sweet custard. My secret ingredient for ensuring that the finished breakfast casserole is perfectly sweetened and moist, you ask? BAILEYS Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer is the base of this recipe’s rich and flavorful custard!
I don’t drink a cup of coffee every day, but I love to use non-alcoholic BAILEYS Coffee Creamers to add sweetness and a touch of seasonal flavor to my hot chocolate, as well as an ingredient in baked goods. If you’ve never used flavored coffee creamers as a cooking ingredient, I’m about to change your life...starting with my comforting pumpkin-infused breakfast casserole! You can use honey or brown-sugar flavored spreadable cream cheese between the bread layers for this decadent casserole, but I used a new product I recently discovered: Blue Isle Mediterranean Yogurt Spread. The texture and flavor is similar to cream cheese, but it contains healthy probiotic cultures. I used the Honey flavor for this recipe. If you make this Pumpkin Pie French Toast Casserole for Thanksgiving breakfast, your family will definitely be thankful when they awaken to the smell of it baking away in your kitchen!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November Foodie Contributor Program...Featuring Party-Ready Holiday Appetizers

Check out Party-Ready Holiday Appetizers
by Wendy Wofford-Garcia at Foodie.com

November...Thanksgiving is next week (!!), which marks the official kickoff of the holidays season. If you're like me, that means lots of parties between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. It doesn't have to be a reason to panic if you've got a stash of party-ready holiday appetizers at your disposal. Whether you're hosting a party or are asked to bring an appetizer to a potluck, I've got you covered. 

I've got everything from dips to festive red-and-green colored appetizers...and even a veg-friendly option. Many of the appetizers in my collection can be made a day or so ahead, which is a great time saver...and a stress reliever. Check out my collection of Party-Ready Holiday Appetizers...and give them a try!! If you see something you like in the slideshow above, simply click on the picture to access the recipe!

Disclosure: This recipe collection is a compensated post for Mode Foodie. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A #MovieNight4Less with Orville Redenbacher's and M&M's®...Featuring PB-Chocolate Popcorn "Wolf Pack" Snack Mix #CollectiveBias

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.
One of my very favorite things to do on a chilly Fall night is stay inside and put together a creative at-home #MovieNight4Less! It's fun to pop in one of our favorite movies and enjoy some yummy movie-watching treats to munch on during the movie. One advantage to at-home movie nights is the cost savings! To help stretch your budget, Warner Brothers is making movie night more affordable by putting some of their popular DVDs and Blu Ray titles on sale at participating Walmart locations. Through November 24th, you'll find a selection of $5 DVDs and $7.88 Blu Rays. Some of the titles on sale include The Shawshank Redemption, The Notebook, and one of our personal favorites: The Hangover. I recently visited my local Walmart for #CollectiveBias to pick up a copy of The Hangover so we could enjoy an adults-only quote-along movie night! The sale display was easy to locate in the store's Electronics department. Once the movie was selected, it was time to select some yummy snacks to enjoy with our movie. My personal favorite movie munchies include M&M's® and Orville Redenbacher's popcorn!
I could have simply popped up some buttery Orville Redenbacher's popcorn and eaten the M&M's® straight from the box -- but I decided to up my game a bit and create a delicious snack mix incorporating both items! My sweet and salty PB-Chocolate Popcorn "Wolf Pack" Snack Mix features two kinds of M&M's®, Orville Redenbacher's microwave popcorn, salty pretzel bites, sweetly salty honey-roasted peanuts, and a decadent chocolate-peanut butter glaze. This popcorn-based snack mix takes only a few minutes to prepare, and your personal wolf pack will go absolutely NUTS for it!


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