Saturday, June 9, 2018

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Zesty Tex-Mex Shrimp Cocktail #spicy #shrimp #avocado

It's early June, but it's already hot as an oven here in central Texas, with afternoon temperatures soaring to near 100 degrees already -- and Summer is just getting started! All I can think about is having plenty of ice-c0ld beverages and refreshing dishes on hand to combat the brutal heat. Today, I'm sharing a recipe for Zesty Tex-Mex Shrimp Cocktail. It's super simple to whip up a batch of this appetizer or light lunch/dinner in no time. It's one of the most popular recipes ever shared here, so I wanted to share it again now that cookout season is in full swing. Because it's served chilled, it's perfect for keeping cool on a hot Summer days. If you've never tasted Mexican-style shrimp cocktail (aka coctel del camarones), it's a bit different from the American-style shrimp cocktail you may be used to.

This Zesty Tex-Mex Shrimp Cocktail is my personal spin on a dish that has a zillion different variations. My homemade cocktail sauce is flavored with ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice juice, and smoky chipotle hot sauce. In addition to chopped boiled shrimp, it contains lots of diced ripe avocado and chunky pico de gallo. The entire dish comes together in about 20 minutes, then it chills in the fridge until you're ready to serve. See Easy! I love to serve this fun appetizer well chilled in two large margarita glasses, with lots of crispy tortilla chips for dipping. Everyone who tastes this appetizer goes crazy for it!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Exploring Tulsa's Vibrant Food Scene...and Seeing U2's Tour Opener #TXOKRoadtrip2018

Early last month, Michael and I spent 24 hours in Tulsa as part of a four-day roadtrip from Houston to Oklahoma, and back home to San Antonio. We're huge U2 fans, so the inspiration for the trip was to see the band's opening date of their current eXPERIENC + iNNOCENSE tour at Tulsa's BOK Center. We decided to stay overnight in Tulsa and explore the city's food scene and catch a Norman Rockwell exhibit that was showing. We found Tulsa to be a city full of friendly, welcoming people...and a thriving food scene! I can't wait to share our stay with you today!

We arrived in Tulsa from Fort Worth mid-afternoon Wednesday, the day of the concert. We wanted to make sure we ate a hearty late lunch to tide us over until after the show. Our visit to Lassalle's New Orleans Deli in Downtown Tulsa fit the bill perfectly. Lassalle's offers an authentic New Orleans dining experience in the heart of Oklahoma! Owners Chris and Amanda West were displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They ended up in Tulsa, where they opened Lasalle's in 2014. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual, and the light-filled dining room features tons of NOLA-inspired artwork. We stepped up to the counter to order our food and took a seat while it was prepared in the kitchen.
We selected two po boy sandwiches and a duo from Lassalle's Cups & Bowls menu -- which we opted to share. Po boy number one was a classic fried shrimp po boy, which featured perfectly fried shrimp and perfectly crisped French bread. The po boy was dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickle and Wow sauce --  similar to a classic remoulade sauce. The shrimp po boy was paired with a cup of sublime chicken and sausage gumbo. Good gumbo needs a thick, dark roux...and Lasalle's definitely delivers! 
Our second po boy was traditional New Orleans roast beef with lots of gravy--messy by oh so good! This po boy was dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and mayo. The roast beef was sliced thin and perfectly good. It was paired with a cup of crawfish etoufee. The sauce was mildly spicy, and they didn't skimp on the crawfish! We were getting full, but we simply *had* to share an order of Lassalle's signature bread pudding for dessert.
Their unique spin on bread pudding features tangy dried cranberries, slivered almonds, and a killer buttery warm amaretto sauce. Wowza, was it good -- a perfect ending to our late lunch visit. I can honestly say that unless I knew I was in Tulsa? I would've sworn that I was enjoying my meal in New Orleans. That's how tasty and authentic Lassalle's food is!

Photo courtesy of BOK Center
After lunch, we went to our home base at the Holiday Inn Express Tulsa South to get changed for the concert. The hotel was about 20 minutes from the BOK Center, which is located in Downtown Tulsa. Since I'm still recovering my mobility after my stroke, we opted to take Uber to the concert so I could be dropped off right in front of the venue's entrance. BOK was built in 2008 and features modern architecture. It was 2 hours before the show, but thousands of our fellow U2 fans were waiting outside the arena waiting for the doors to open. Once inside BOK Center, we purchased tee shirts and made our way to our seats. What an incredible show! I snapped a few pictures during the concert so I could show y'all exactly how cool U2's enormous stage setup was!

The stage setup included a stage in one end of the arena, a long walkway the length of the stadium, and a smaller round stage at the other end of the arena -- directly below us! The walkway was along a HUGE rectangular structure that ran the length of the walkway. It was used as a video screen, and as an enclosure U2 could enter to perform as well. The show was amazing -- fabulous music *and* a sight to behold. Seeing the opening night of the tour made the experience even more fantastic.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Weekend Gourmet's Best Bites for May 2018 #bestbites #diningout #newmenuitems

One of my favorite things to do is try new-to-me restaurants and new/seasonal menu items at long-time favorite dining establishments. Over the past few weeks, Michael and I have visited Snooze for brunch, tried some new seasonal menu items at California Pizza Kitchen, enjoyed create-your-own pizza and salad at MOD Pizza, and created customized Mediterranean bowls at Trio Modern Mediterranean Kitchen. All four dining experiences were wonderful! I can't wait to share them with you today.

(1) Snooze: an AM Eatery's Weekday Brunch. Snooze is based in Denver, Colorado, where they've been providing amazing sweet and savory breakfast/brunch items since 2006. Their concept has been so popular that they've expanded to 20+ locations in four states. Snooze's San Antonio location has been wildly popular since it opened last March, with long weekend waits. However, we discovered that the wait is much shorter on weekdays! We visited Snooze around 1100 on a weekday morning and enjoyed a variety of their sweet and savory menu items:

We especially love to share Snooze's genius Pancake Flight Trio and Benny Duo -- which let you sample multiple sweet and savory menu items at once! I also fully support Snooze's local community initiatives. One percent of sales from every Snooze location is given back to the surrounding community via donations and services. Snooze supports local causes and issues related to the neighborhoods where they live and work. Snooze is open daily from 6:30AM until 2:30PM. If you live in Colorado, Texas, Arizona, or California, visit their website's Location page to find a location near you! 

(2) California Pizza Kitchen's Spring/Summer Menu. California Pizza Kitchen is one of our favorite upscale casual restaurants to visit -- we love the wide variety in their menu. CPK's innovative menu always strikes a perfect balance between offering customer's iconic menu items -- like their iconic Original BBQ Chicken Pizza -- with adding creative new and seasonal menu items. We recently visited CPK's San Antonio Alamo Quarry Market location to try some of their new and seasonal menu items. There were a few surprises...and we couldn't resist ordering a longtime favorite pizza to accompany the new menu items:

All of the new menu items were flavorful and featured fresh ingredients...but the true surprise of our meal was the cauliflower crust pizza! My party of four was a bit skeptical at first, but one bite was all it took to win us over! The Shrimp Scampi Pizza on gluten free cauliflower crust was AMAZING! The crust was thin and perfectly crisp. We *never* would've guessed the crust contained cauliflower if we hadn't known beforehand! The crust was topped with lemon-garlic shrimp, caramelized onion, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, a bit of red pepper flakes for heat, arugula, and fresh oregano. Truly an amazing pizza!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wewalka Puff Pastry...Featuring Peanut Butter S'mores Puff Pastry Rounds

One of my culinary secret weapons is ready-to-use puff pastry. I always have a package in my freezer ready to create tasty appetizers and other pastry items. One of my favorite brands is Wewalka refrigerated puff pastry -- the first refrigerated puff pastry product available in the U.S.! Wewalka puff pastry is created by layering delicate dough 64 times before rolling onto parchment paper. Simply use the dough directly from fridge as is. No thawing or rolling out is necessary, and you can bake the puff pastry directly on the parchment on top of a baking sheet! Simply cut the dough to your desired size/shape and create airy, flaky pastries. 

Baking isn't really my strong suite, but Wewalka's easy-t0-use puff pastry dough makes my pastries look like they were created by an experienced baker! I used a package of their flaky puff pastry dough to create a fun afternoon snack or weekend brunch pastry that kids of all ages will love! My Peanut Butter S'mores Puff Pastry Rounds are reminiscent of a doughnut...they're stuffed with chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, and flavored peanut butter. After cooling, they're topped with a chocolate-peanut butter icing and sprinkled with graham crackers crumbs. You'll never believe how simple they are to whip up!!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Bean Paste...Featuring Vanilla Bean-Apple Skillet Pancake #vanillabeanpaste #easyentertaining

I am excited to share that The Weekend Gourmet is officially a member of the Nielsen-Massey sampling team! That means I'll be sharing information on Nielsen-Massey's amazing vanilla products and pure flavor extracts -- along with a fun recipe focused on the featured flavoring -- with you from time to time. There will also be some fun giveaways along the way! Nielsen-Massey vanilla products and pure flavor extracts are my go-to for cooking and baking, because of their authentic flavor profiles. Today, I'm sharing a recipe that spotlights one of my personal favorite Nielsen-Massey products: Pure Vanilla Bean Paste! This vanilla flavor bomb is created from Nielsen-Massey's Pure Vanilla Extract. The flavor profile is classic, rich vanilla, with the addition of real bean specks from the vanilla pod. That means the Pure Vanilla Bean tastes *and* looks amazing in you recipes!

I used the Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Bean Paste for our Mother's Day brunch last Sunday. The main dish was a delicious Vanilla Bean-Apple Skillet Pancake that featured the vanilla bean paste in both the pancake and its decadently sweet brown sugar-cinnamon apple topping. This recipe is perfect for weekend entertaining! While the pancake bakes in a skillet in the oven, you have a perfect pocket of time to whip up the warm apple topping. To serve the finished pancake, simply cut it into wedges and serve with a side of crispy bacon and/or breakfast sausage. This recipe was a huge hit with my family last weekend, so I'm very excited to share it today!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Culinaria San Antonio Wine + Food Festival Preview

The annual Culinaria Wine + Food Festival is coming to San Antonio this weekend -- May 17th thru 20th to be exact! This food and spirits-packed weekend is one of the most eagerly anticipated foodie events in the city each Summer, offering a wide range of food- and wine-centric events to attend. This year's Wine + Food Festival is offering a full slate of activities -- whether you're looking for a luncheon with paired wine selections, an upscale champagne and pool party, an elegant Grand Tasting event featuring San Antonio's best-known chefs, or more casual fare like tacos and burgers! 

Here's the complete Wine + Food Festival weekend schedule:
This year, we'll be covering the Texas Taco Showdown and Burgers, BBQ, and Beer festival events! For live event updates -- including pictures and video, be sure to follow our Instagram account (WEEKENDGOURMET)! The Texas Taco Showdown will be held at La Cantera Resort & Spa on Saturday May 19th from noon until 500 p.m. Locations across Texas will battle it out with local San Antonio taco experts to determine who has the best tacos...and who will walk out with bragging rights for the next year! Event attendees will taste our way to the decision. A spicy good time is guaranteed -- the event also includes food seminars and demos; wine, beer, and cocktails; and plenty of shopping at the Culinary District -- along with pop-up restaurants and a variety of experiential hospitality.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Wendy's Great Eight for May 2018 #GreatEight #WendyFaveThings #tryit

The calendar has flipped to May...which means Summer is quickly approaching here in Central Texas. It also means it's time for another edition of Wendy's Great Eight! This month features better-for-you treats and snacks, olive oil infused with butter flavor, ready-to-use flatbread dough that will make you a pizza chef in your kitchen...and more!

(1) Ben & Jerry's Moo-phoria Light Ice Cream. Ice cream lovers rejoice! Ben & Jerry's is offering a new ice cream line called Moo-phoria -- which contains less fat and calories than their traditional ice cream flavors. Each 1/2-cup serving of Moo-phoria contains approximately 60-70% less fat and just 14o to 160 calories. Moo-phoria is made with organic dairy, a reduced amount of natural sugar, and non-GMO sourced ingredients. The line currently has three decadent flavors: Chocolate Milk & Cookies, Caramel Cookie Fix, and P.B. dough. My personal favorite is the Caramel Cookie Fix -- which features low-fat vanilla ice cream, shortbread cookies, and a salted caramel swirl. The one caveat for Moo-phoria is that you need to make sure you limit yourself to one 1/2-cup serving -- and not the entire four-serving pint. Moo-phoria can be found in the freezer section of major retailers nationwide, including Walmart and Target.

(2)  Tillamook Farmstyle Cut Shredded Cheese. Tillamook has long been a favorite cheese brand of mine. The flavor is so rich that I find I can use less of it in my cooking than other cheese brands -- saving me calories and fat. Tillamook recently reformulated their shredded cheese to Farmstyle Cut Shredded Cheese -- which is available in 10 varieties: Sharp Yellow Cheddar, Cheddar Jack, Mexican 4 Cheese, Mexican 2 Cheese, Sharp White Cheddar, Medium Yellow Cheddar, Triple Cheddar, Italian Blend, Mozzarella, and Colby Jack. Farmstyle Cut's thick shreds have a hearty texture that resembles hand-grated cheese. I love the way this cheese melts! I made homemade pizza with the Mozzarella -- it melted evenly and tasted great! Like every Tillamook product, Farmstyle Cut is made with milk from cows that aren't treated with artificial growth hormones. To find this amazing cheese near you, be sure to visit Tillamook's  convenient online store locator.

(3) Wewalka European Style Ready-to-Use Dough. I am the first to admit that I'm not much of a baker, but Wewalka refrigerated ready-to-use doughs help me make great appetizers, homemade pizza, pastries. They always bake evenly and have fantastic flavor and texture. Wewalka doughs are made with premium ingredients and contain zero artificial colors and flavors, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, or bleached flour. I especially like that Wewalka products come conveniently wrapped around parchment paper -- simply place the dough on a cookie sheet, unroll, and top before baking. Wewalka doughs also freeze well -- simply thaw on the counter for about an hour before you're ready to bake. Wewalka carries a variety of doughs -- including Classic Pizza, Bistro Pizza, Puff Pastry, Danish Pastry, Flatbread Dough, and Pizza Crust. I love to use the Flatbread to create pizza at home -- which allows me to control the healthy toppings I use. The thin dough bakes up crispy, without being hard. To find Wewalka doughs near you, visit their handy online store locator -- which can be searched by specific dough product.

(4) Potato Popchips Snacks. I am always on the lookout for healthier alternative to potato chips and other savory snacks. One of my favorite recent finds are Potato Popchips. These crunchy snacks are made from all-natural ingredients and are never fried. Potato Popchips are gluten free, and contain no artificial flavors or preservatives -- each 19-chip serving contains approximately 120 calories and 5 grams of fat. Potato Popchips come in eight great flavors: Sea Salt, Sweet Potato, Salt & Pepper, Sea Salt & Vinegar, Sour Cream & Onion, Barbeque, Crazy Hot, and Zesty Jalapeno Cheddar. Every flavor I've tried has been delicious, but our personal favorite is the Jalapeno Cheddar -- which is cheesy and moderately spicy. I especially love them served alongside a sandwich for lunch! To find Potato Popchips near you, check out their online store locator.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: California Layered Pasta Salad

Warmer weather is slowly returning to Central Texas...which also means we're starting to enjoy lighter, more refreshing foods. In fact, one of the things I love best about longer days and the warm weather is  eating more salads. Today, I'm reaching into The Weekend Gourmet archives to share one of my most requested and popular warm-weather recipes.

One popular salad from my childhood in the 70s is layered salad. It was so pretty to look at, but it's totally retro! I LOVE the concept, I came up with a spin on seven-layer salad that's a bit more modern and healthy. My California Layered Pas1ta Salad features layers of cheese tortellini, healthy veggies, homemade reduced-fat ranch dressing, and a ton of tasty toppings to create a modern spin on this iconic dish. This salad is pretty to look at and full of robust flavors. Even better? You don't have to turn on your oven to make this hearty salad! 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Grilled Cheese and Soup Pairings #SundaySupper Creamy Tomato-Basil Bisque with Garlicky Grilled Cheese Croutons

After a lengthy medical hiatus, I'm excited to officially be back participating in #SundaySupper -- which is one of my favorite blogging activities! I picked a great week to jump back onboard, too. This week, #SundaySupper is sharing Grilled Cheese and Soup Pairing recipes to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Month in April! Grilled cheese is a classic comfort food, going back to childhood. What's not to like about buttery, toasted bread filled with gooey melted cheese?!?!?

There are tons of great soup pairings for grilled cheese, but tomato soup is definitely the best known. Today, I'm sharing a grown-up version of this classic pairing. My Creamy Tomato-Basil Bisque with Garlicky Grilled Cheese Croutons is full of robust flavors...and an over-the-top grilled cheese sandwich is cut into cheesy, bite-size "croutons" that garnish the rich, creamy tomato bisque. The bisque is my tweak on a copycat recipe of La Madeleine's iconic Tomato-Basil Soupe.

My grilled cheese croutons contain four...yes, FOUR!!...types of cheese -- Colby Jack, Swiss, mozzarella, and parmesan -- for an explosion of cheesy goodness! To up the flavor quotient even more, the bread is spread with garlic-infused butter before being toasted in a non-stick pan. 

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 d├ęcor 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®.