The Weekend Gourmet F

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Gearing Up for Halloween...Featuring Ghoulishly Good Red Moscato Punch

Fall is in full swing...and that means Halloween is right around the corner in a few short weeks! Today, I'm sharing a frightfully fun wine-based punch that will help you set the perfect scary mood for any Halloween celebrations you might be planning next month! My Ghoulishly Good Red Moscato Punch is fruity, fizzy...and red like blood. It contains sweet sparkling Moscato, a mixture of fruit juices, and citrus soda. To take this punch display over the top, a ghoulish ice hand floats eerily in the punch bowl. I’ll show you how easy it is to make the icy hand as part of the recipe! 

Ghoulishly Good Red Moscato Punch
a Weekend Gourmet Original
• 1 bottle sweet sparkling Moscato wine, well chilled
• 1/2 cup orange liqueur + 1 cup orange juice
• 2 cups chilled cranberry juice
• 1 cup Concord grape juice (i.e., the purple variety)
• 32 ounces lemon-lime soda [NOTE: I used diet soda, but feel free to substitute one with sugar if you prefer]

For the ice hand:
• 1 non-powdered latex glove -- this is very important! Clean the glove VERY THOROUGHLY with soapy hot water before using.
• Bottled drinking water 

Step 1: Make the ice hand. Use a measuring cup to fill the clean latex glove with water nearly to the top -- make sure the water gets into every finger.  Twist the top of the glove and secure tightly with a rubber band. Place the filled glove in the freezer until frozen solid. This step is best done a day ahead to save you tons of stress the day of your party. 
Step 2: Add the chilled sparkling Moscato, orange liqueur, orange juice, cranberry juice, Concord grape juice, and the lemon-lime soda to a decorative Halloween punch bowl. Just before serving, remove the ice hand from the freezer. Use scissors to cut just below the rubber band and carefully peel the latex glove away. Float the ice hand in the center of the punch bowl. Since my decor theme here is scary spiders, I placed small plastic spiders into my punch to float around the hand!
This wine-based party punch is full of fruity flavors -- and the deep red color is definitely reminiscent of blood! The sweet sparkling Moscato pairs very nicely with the fruit juices -- and the fizz is really fun. I hope that you’ll whip up a batch of this refreshing grown-up punch at your upcoming Halloween parties. With its eerie floating ice hand, it’s sure to be a hit! To make this punch kid-friendly, delete the orange liqueur and wine...and replace with additional cranberry juice and lemon-lime soda.

To ensure I have plenty of sparkling Moscato on hand during the upcoming busy Halloween season, I plan to purchase several bottles and keep them stored in a wine rack in my kitchen. Then, I can simply grab a bottle of wine to chill whenever I host impromptu get-togethers with friends and family during the Halloween season! Even big kids will enjoy this spooky Halloween-themed punch bowl motif. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hatch Chile-Cannellini Bean Turkey Chili...Featuring Bob's Red Mill Cannellini Beans

September is here…the weather is cooling off, school’s starting, and it’s finally football season! At my house, that means lots of hearty one-pot meals that we can enjoy while we watch the big game every weekend. Today, I’m partnering with Bob’s Red Mill to share a spicy turkey and white bean chili recipe! I love Bob’s Red Mill products and use them in my kitchen all the time. This employee-owned Oregon company was founded in 1978 and features a wide range of products, including flours and meals; baking mixes; oats; and grains, beans, and seeds. I used Bob’s Red Mill cannellini beans and corn polenta to create my Hatch Chile-Cannellini Bean Turkey Chili. Cannellini beans are a super nutritious white bean that are fat free AND high in protein, fiber, and iron. Cannellini beans are a traditional white Italian bean originally cultivated in Argentina. Bob’s Red Mill’s delicious cannellini bean variety has a firm, creamy texture and a mellow, nutty flavor. Because they hold their shape better than other white bean varieties, they’re perfect for soups and chili.
There are as many chili recipes as there are chili lovers…each person has their own personal nuance. My Hatch Chile-Cannellini Bean Turkey Chili is flavored with aromatic veggies, spicy Hatch chiles and Hatch chile powder, cumin, lean ground turkey breast, diced tomatoes with green chiles, and Bob’s Red Mill cannellini beans. My secret ingredient? A bit of yellow cornmeal/polenta stirred int0 pot during the last 10 minutes of cooking to achieve the perfect consistency. This chili takes about 30 minutes to prep, then it simmers away on the stove while you tend to other things around the house. I started this chili Sunday around 1100, and it was ready to eat by halftime of the Houston Texans game! When you’re ready to serve, set out bowls of delicious toppings like shredded cheese, pico de gallo, creamy diced avocado, crunchy tortilla strips, and sour cream…and let everyone create their personalized bowl of chili.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Football Party Finger Food #SundaySupper...Featuring Tortilla-Crusted Chicken Fingers with Salsa-Ranch Dipping Sauce #footballfood #homegating

This weekend marks the official return of football season! We're huge Houston Texans fans, so we're eagerly waiting for the game to kickoff at noon Sunday! Of course, football season also means serving lots of tasty homegating appetizers and finger foods for us to munch on while we're cheering for the Texans. This week, #SundaySupper bloggers are sharing Football Party Finger Food that's guaranteed to have your friends and family satisfied from kickoff until the end of the fourth quarter. I'm sharing a simple, tasty finger food that can be made in about 30 minutes. 

My Tortilla-Crusted Chicken Fingers with Salsa-Ranch Dipping Sauce feature a spicy crunchy tortilla chip coating, juicy chicken breast, and a simple homemade salsa-ranch dip. Everyone who tries these chicken strips goes crazy for them. I like to use nacho cheese flavored tortilla chips, but feel free to use any flavor of tortilla chips that your group loves. Taco flavored tortilla chips are also really yummy!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Olivelle and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Giveaway...Featuring Sunshine Salad with Strawberry-Lemon Vinaigrette #salad #giveaway

Fall may be on the horizon, but I'm still making refreshing main dish salads in my kitchen! Here in Texas, it still quite I'm always looking for flavorful new salad combinations. Today, I'm partnering with Olivelle and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese to create my flavorful Sunshine Salad with Strawberry-Lemon Vinaigrette. It's bursting with fun flavors and textures -- including a zingy homemade vinaigrette that features Olivelle's sweetly tart Strawberry Barrel Aged White Balsamic and Sicilian Lemon Olive Oil. Olivelle is based in Boseman, Montana and offers a wide range of flavored balsamic vinegars, oils, and infused olive oils. The flavor of these two products is so fresh and authentic! The sunny lemon-infused olive oil and barrel aged strawberry white balsamic is a natural pairing for my homemade vinaigrette.

My salad also features crumbled Point Reyes Farmstead Original Blue cheese. Made in Point Reyes, California, this blue cheese is produced on their family farm since 2000. This creamy, mild blue cheese is made from raw cows' milk and microbial (i.e., vegetarian rennet), then aged for 3 1/2 months. I'm not typically a blue cheese fan, but fell in love with this delicious cheese when we sampled it when visiting San Francisco last Fall. It's ultra creamy and has just enough blue cheese flavor to be yummy -- without being overwhelming. It paired perfectly with the strawberries, blueberries, and salty proscuitto in my salad. It complemented these flavors without pushing them into the background. Add some creamy avocado and some sliced almonds for crunch, and my Sunshine Salad with Strawberry-Lemon Vinaigrette is a real winner!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Dine Out and Help Texans Recover from Hurricane Harvey #TexasStrong

Thanks to Hurricane Harvey, it's been an emotional, tumultuous few days for my beloved home state of Texas. Most of you know I'm a native Texan who lives in San Antonio. However, Michael and I both grew up in small towns halfway between Houston and Galveston. Simply put: the Houston area is our home. Most of our family -- and many of our close friends -- live there. Thanks to an unexpected movement northward before making landfall last weekend, San Antonio was spared the brunt of Harvey's winds and rain. However, it hit many of our loved ones from Corpus Christi to the Beaumont/Port Arthur region hard. Michael rode the storm out at his parents' house, so he experienced Harvey's rain and high water firsthand. I'm sure you've all seen the devastation on the news...but I hope you've also seen the kindness and generous spirit my fellow Texans have displayed in the face of unimaginable adversity. I'm very blessed to report our parents and most of our immediate family were spared the worst of the devastation -- our parents' homes did not flood, and they never lost power. For that, we are truly grateful! 

If you've been wondering what you can do to help Texans impacted by Harvey's rain and floods, today I'm sharing a few restaurants that are holding fundraisers to raise money for the recovery effort throughout Texas. If you're planning to dine out over the long Labor Day weekend, I hope you'll consider visiting these restaurants so you can enjoy some tasty food and donate to the Harvey recovery effort at the same time!

From now through September 8th, Snooze is hosting a supply drive at its Quarry location here in San Antonio. Guests are encouraged to bring items including non-perishable food, baby food, batteries, and toiletry items to provide to those affected by Harvey in Houston. On September 8th, Snooze is donating 10% of all sales from its 20+ locations in Texas, Colorado, California, and Arizona to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. Established by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, this fund will provide relief services for victims that have been affected by the recent floods. If you haven't tried Snooze's amazing breakfast menu, now is the perfect time to stop by and give them a try. Their food is delicious! We especially love their multi-flavor Pancake Flights, Breakfast Pot Pie, and Chile Verde Benny. 
To find a Snooze location near you, be sure to visit their convenient online restaurant locator.

Houston-based Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille is offering diners a very special three-course dinner menu the entire month of September to benefit Houston relief and recovery in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. For every meal served from this special discounted menu -- which includes special off-the-menu dishes -- $5 will be donated to the Houston Flood Relief Fund organized by Houston Texans player J. J. Watt. Their goals is to raise $200,000. This special three-course dinner menu has been discounted to $49.95 and will be available at five Houston Perry's locations (Baybrook, Katy, Memorial City, Sugar Land, and The Woodlands) -- as well as at locations in Austin, Birmingham, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, and San Antonio.  

The special three-course menu starts with a choice of the Wedge, Caesar, or Kale salads. Then you choose an entree: an 8 oz. Bacon-wrapped Surf and Turf Filet, 14 oz. Prime Ribeye, Perry’s Famous Seven-Finger-High Pork Chop, or Grilled Sea Bass. The menu concludes with either a Dessert Trio or the Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Candy Bar for dessert. The $49.95 menu price does not include tax and gratuity, and reservations are required.

As part of its strong commitment to serve its communities, all locations of the Austin-based Hopdoddy Burger Bar restaurant brand are working together to aid those affected by Hurricane Harvey. With support from all their Goodnight for a Good Cause partners across the country, September’s beneficiary for all Hopdoddy locations will be the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, a Houston organization focused on supporting people affected by the massive destruction of the storm. On September 4th and 5th -- Monday and Tuesday -- all sales from every Goodnight/Good Cause Burger ($8.25-$9.25) sold at all 20 Hopdoddy locations nationwide will be donated to the Harvey recovery effort! This yummy burger features and Angus beef patty, Tillamook cheddar, caramelized onions, jalapenos, hickory BBQ sauce, lettuce and tomato. 
In addition, Austin-based Tito’s Handmade Vodka will donate $1 -- up to $10,000 -- for every drink Hopdoddy Burger Bar sells that is made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka. After this two-day special event, all Hopdoddy Burger Bar locations will donate $1 from every Goodnight/Good Cause burger purchased throughout the entire month of September to the recovery effort!
Love eating ice cream to cool off on these hot Texas afternoons? Lick Honest Ice Creams is donating 100% of proceeds from Texas Sheet Cake ice cream pints sold at their shops to the American Red Cross. This decadent ice cream features chocolate ice cream swirled with chocolate-pecan icing -- just like the iconic Texas dessert! All Lick ice cream is made without any artificial colors or flavors, high fructose corn syrup, or preservatives. For the entire month of September, every time someone buys a pint of Lick Texas Sheet Cake ice cream at any of their scoop shops, 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the Hurricane Harvey recovery effort. For my San Antonio readers, Lick Honest Ice Creams has a scoop shop at The Pearl. There are also three Lick scoop shops in Austin.  
Who doesn't love eating a comforting peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I sure do! During the entire month of September, Which Wich Superior Sandwiches will donate $2 for every $3 Project PB&J sandwich sold to their friends and neighbors in areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Sandwiches feature creamy peanut butter and grape jelly on sliced bread -- an old-school favorite! Open donations will also be accepted from guests at any Which Wich location. Which Wich will match all donations made by guests -- up to $100,000 -- directly to the American Red Cross to aid in Harvey relief efforts. 

There you have it...a way that you can dine out and do good at the same time. I wanted to share dining options in a wide range of prices to fit any budgets. Simply purchase and eat something yummy...and do good for Texans impacted by Hurricane Harvey. As a Texan, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road: Weekend In Dallas Part II #WGTravel #roadtrip #texastravel

Today, I'm sharing the second half of our weekend getaway road trip to Dallas earlier this year. When we only have a weekend to sneak out of town, we tend to focus on one neighborhood in whatever city we're visiting. For this Dallas trip, we spent our weekend exploring Downtown Dallas and the adjacent Uptown neighborhood. We found a ton of fun things to do -- and great places to eat -- within a 15-minute drive from our home base at aloft Dallas Downtown hotel. Our spacious King Ultra Savvy Suite felt more like a high-rise loft apartment than a hotel room.
Our suite featured high ceilings, a comfy King bed, a comfy living room, and a modern bathroom. Talk about a home away from home! After a restful night sleep, we headed out on Sunday for brunch at Saint Ann restaurant. This upscale casual restaurant is located in the Harwood District near American Airlines Center and Klyde Warren Park. Saint Ann is located in an historic school building that was built in 1927, and it boasts the largest garden patio in the city. It's also an ideal brunch location!

We were quickly shown to our table and presented with fabulous mimosas while we looked over the brunch menu. We decided to start out sharing a spicy starter, a refreshing salad, and a fabulous cheese and charcuterie platter. The Heirloom Tomato Salad included burrata, basil pesto, a balsamic reduction, and a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt. This salad was sheer perfection -- bursting with amazing flavors and textures. The spicy Bacon Wrapped Sizzlers were a fun spin on jalapeno poppers -- featuring chunks of marinated chicken, jalapeño, onion, a fabulous housemade ranch dressing. We were literally fighting for the last sizzler -- they were that addicting!!
The beautiful cheese and charcuterie display featured a variety of cheeses, sliced pear, bread, nuts, chutney, pickled vegetables, and smoky meats. It was a great combination of sweet, savory, and salty/smoky. Our brunch was off to a fabulous start! Up next were a duo of brunch entrees. We shared savory Steak & Eggs and sweet "Strawberry Shortcake" French Toast.  
The bistro fillet was cooked perfectly medium rare and paired with over easy eggs, toast, and spicy ranchero potatoes. The French toast was decadent, featuring strawberry whipped cream cheese, maple syrup, strawberries, and vanilla whipped cream. Swoon!! It was so good that it could have been dessert...but the chef surprised us with a duo of decadent desserts to sample.
We thoroughly enjoyed the carrot cake with its tangy cream cheese icing...and the intensely rich chocolate torte. These two desserts were the perfect sweet ending to a fantastic brunch. From brunch, we headed out to explore Dallas from great new heights!

If you've ever visited Dallas, you've likely seen the iconic Reunion Tower that's part of the city's Downtown skyline. When night falls, the sphere on top of the tower is lit up with more than 250 LED lights. What you might not know is that the GeO-Deck observation deck is located inside the globe on top. This observation deck is located 470 feet in the air and offers 360-degree views of the city!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road: Weekend Road Trip to Dallas Part I #WGTravel #dallas #texastravel

The Weekend Gourmet crew loves to travel...visiting a new region of the U.S. and exploring the best attractions and food it has to offer is a total blast! That said, we also love to spotlight quick weekend getaways featuring our amazing state of Texas. My beloved home state is having a rough weekend dealing with Hurricane Harvey, so it seemed like a good time to focus on something happy and share a fabulous weekend road trip getaway that we enjoyed to Dallas earlier this year. Dallas is about 4.5 hours by car from San Antonio, making it a perfect destination for a fun-filled weekend trip. This particular three-day weekend focused on things to see, do...and the Downtown and Uptown areas of Dallas. Our home base for the weekend was the modern aloft Dallas Downtown hotel. As this video shows, aloft is an all-suite hotel that feels more like a loft studio apartment than a traditional hotel. 

Our King Ultra Savvy Suite featured a King bed, spacious bathroom, and a comfy living room area. The hotel conveniently features Re:fuel by Aloft. This spot lets guests get their foodie fix 24/7 with grab & go light meals, snacks, and drinks to store in the convenient in-room fridge. Best of all, aloft Dallas Downtown was no more than a 15-minute drive from any of the attractions and restaurants featured in this article. Talk about convenient! After dropping our bags on Friday night, we headed around the corner for a taste of New Orleans at Nola Brasserie, which features Cajun and Creole seafood.

We enjoyed a wide range of fabulous Louisiana dishes at NOLA Brasserie...starting with a quartet of cocktails and a trio of delicious appetizers.  Our cocktails included the NOLA Rum Punch, Blackberry Mojito, Cucumber Cosmo, and a Sazerac. My four-person team happily sipped our cocktails while we sampled hushpuppy-like Crawfish Fritters, Fried Green Tomatoes, and delicious Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo! All were expertly prepared and full of the big flavors we love.
Next from the kitchen was a huge Fried Seafood Platter with hand-breaded shrimp and catfish...and slaw and fries. This Texas-sized platter was plenty for the four of us to share. The seafood was perfectly fried -- not the least bit greasy!
After stuffing ourselves with amazing New Orleans-style food, we headed back to the aloft to get a good night's sleep in our comfy King beds. We had a busy day the next day, so rest was essential after our drive in from San Antonio.

The next morning, we met our social media team in the lobby and headed out to explore Uptown Dallas. Uptown is located adjacent to and north of  Downtown Dallas. There are tons of great restaurants to choose from, including Hopdoddy Burger Bar. Hopdoddy began in Austin and has expanded across the entire state. They feature locally sourced beers, homemade buns, daily ground meats for their burgers, and killer milkshakes. Before visiting the Perot Museum that afternoon, we started with an early burger lunch. While trying to decide which four burgers we wanted to try, we enjoyed some hand-cut fries Parmesan Truffle Fries with shakes made with their handmade cinnamon vanilla custard. We tried the Caramel Sea Salt and Strawberry...and it was love at first sip! We loved that the thick shakes cake with extra-large straws. Our meal was off to a great start...and we hadn't even ordered our burgers yet. 
Hopdoddy offers delicious, juicy burgers in variety of amazing flavors. We opted for the Buffalo Bill, Continental Club Turkey Burger, Terlingua, and Llano Poblano. The burgers were perfectly cooked, juicy, and bursting with flavor! The Buffalo Bill is a bison burger with hot sauce, bacon, and blue-jack cheese. The Terlingua featured chili, cheddar cheese, and corn chips (!!), and the Llano Poblano was made with bacon, pepperjack cheese, and seared poblano peppers. Thank goodness each table offers a roll of paper towels, because these were some messy burgers -- which I mean as a compliment...not a complaint. Sufficiently full, we headed out to enjoy the rest of our afternoon.

Our next stop was the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, located near Downtown. This modern museum opened in 2012 and features plenty of paid parking across the street. It was very convenient to park and make our way over to the Perot. From there, we spent the afternoon exploring all of the amazing exhibits at the museum -- it's perfect for kids of all ages...even grown-up kids! The exhibit halls feature life science, natural science, space...and more. We all found exhibits that captured our attention.
In the Being Human Hall, I discovered a technology that help medical personnel easily locate veins -- which reduces the need for multiple needle sticks. We also saw dinosaur skeletons in the T. Boone Pickens Life Then and Now Hall. We also spent a good bit of time in the colorful Gems and Minerals Hall. The Perot was a great way to spend an afternoon -- having fun and learning...and working up an appetite!

Lucky for us, legendary Dallas Tex-Mex restaurant El Fenix shares a parking lot with the Perot! That makes it super easy to enjoy a delicious meal or afternoon pick-me-up before or after a visit to the museum. El Fenix margaritas have been named Best in Dallas many times, so we decided to give the original and strawberry versions a try. They definitely desere their accolades -- they're lightly sweet and just potent enough to be fun without giving you a headache!
Be sure to partner your margaritas with El Fenix's Appetizer Combo, which features a generous helping of their creamy homemade guacamole and their lightly spicy fire-roasted queso. It's the perfect accompaniment to your margaritas. After our afternoon snack, we had just enough time to make the last admission at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza.

The Sixth Floor is located within the former Texas School Book Depository building, and it chronicles the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Yes, The Sixth Floor is a somber place to visit, because it details the assassination of JFK where it actually happened. However, it presents a tragic part of the city's -- and the nation's -- history in a thoughtful, reflective way. Visitors learn about the events leading up to President Kennedy and the First Lady's arrival in Dallas, then details about that fateful day and the Warren Commission investigation that followed. It is quite emotional to look down from the building's windows to Dealy Plaza below and see in person a location you've seen on television news coverage so many times. However, we ultimately found The Sixth Floor to be positive and affirming thanks to the final portion in the museum, which details President Kennedy's legacy. It was a quiet ride back to the aloft after visiting this museum.

After resting for a bit and getting dressed up, we met in the lobby for a late dinner at Uptown's Ocean Prime. This upscale restaurant features steaks and seafood. We started our meal with cocktails and yummy appetizers especially selected for us by the restaurant's general manager. The sophisticated Black Orchid cocktail contained Belvedere Wild Berry vodka, elderflower liqueur, hand-squeezed lemon juice, and white cranberry juice. The Berries & Bubbles cocktail featured Belvedere Citrus vodka, marinated berries, house made sour, Domaine Chandon Brut Champagne...and dramatic dry ice smoke. As this video shows, this cocktail is not only tasty...but it also features a truly camera-worthy dramatic presentation when it is assembled table side. 

We don't typically love sushi, but the two rolls that the manager personally selected for us to try were AMAZING!! They were paired with a perfectly prepared crab cake and fried calamari with a sweetly spicy glaze.
The Jumbo Lump Crab Cake featured huge lumps of sweet crab and was paired with a creamy corn mix. I adore crab cakes...and these were superb! The Lobster Roll featured poached chilled lobster tail, kiwi, pickled serrano pepper, and a spicy mango purée. Our other sushi selection was Dynamite Shrimp Roll, which was a California Roll topped with tempura shrimp, spicy mayo, and sesame seeds. Because these two rolls don't contain raw seafood, even non-sushi lovers will go crazy for them! Our final appetizer was flash-fried Point Judith Calamari with a Sweet Chile Sauce. It was downright addictive. Our meal could've ended here and we would've left Ocean Prime happy...but we still had entrees and desserts left to try!
 We sample two seafood entrees and one beef entree to ensure we tried items from all over the varied menu. The two standout menu items were the Sea Scallops with Parmesan Risotto & Asparagus and the broiled rime ribeye grilled topped with Bearnaise sauce and lump crab. Both dishes were amazing! The scallops were perfectly seared -- caramelized exterior and a sweet, moist interior. These entrees were paired with two decadent side dishes: Lobster Mashed Potatoes and Truffle Mac and Cheese. Both were rich and bold flavored...the perfect accompaniment to our entrees.
To round out our amazing dinner at Ocean Prime, we shared two desserts: a dense chocolate cake and their signature Ten Layer Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing and a Pineapple Sauce. If you love carrot cake, THIS is the one you have to try! Thin layers of moist carrot cake form a torte that's topped with tangy-sweet cream cheese icing and a sweetly sour pineapple sauce. It was the perfect ending to a truly special meal. We made our way back to our suites at the aloft and fell into bed full and happy!

Be sure to come back Tuesday for Part II of our Dallas adventure...featuring brunch at St. Ann, a visit to Hypnotic Donuts, an afternoon visit to the Reunion Tower Observation Deck for 360-degree views of Dallas, and dinner at Del Frisco's Grille before we headed back to San Antonio. You wont' want to miss it!

Disclosure: aloft Dallas Downtown provided two evenings of hosted accommodations to facilitate inclusion in this article. The attractions featured provided complimentary admission, and the restaurants featured hosted our meals. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Announcement: I'm a Food Critic for Chef'd Prepared Meal Kits! #GetChefd

Photo provided by Chef'd
If you're like me, you've tried a few of the many subscription meal kit companies on the market. However, none of the other meal kits I tried were a perfect fit for my lifestyle. Until recently, that is! I was recently invited to be a Chef'd Food Critic. After two months of trying Chef'd out in my home, I'm officially hooked! Chefd is a meal kit company that's truly unique. It doesn't require a weekly or monthly subscription, and it gives users the ability to reorder their favorite meals! My favorite thing about Chef'd is that instead of having a few meal options each week, they have literally hundreds of meals to choose from. You'll find everything from breakfast to dinner...and decadent meals to recipes for people with special dietary needs. As the following video I made shows, ordering from Chef'd and cooking the meals is a snap. Bottom line: Chef'd makes it very easy for me to cook up a delicious meal in minutes during the hectic work week!

For my first shipment, I selected New Orleans BBQ Shrimp. It came with rice, herb-butter roasted corn, and baguette for a delicious complete meal. The ingredients for my meal arrived prepped, labeled, and ready to use. The included illustrated recipe card was easy to understand -- even a novice cook should be able to follow the step-by-step instructions. From start to finish, this meal took about 40 minutes to prepare. The shrimp was bursting with the big flavors we love -- and I especially loved how much time I saved by not having to peel the shrimp or chop all of the other ingredients. 

Another great thing about Chef'd is the great companies and chefs they partner with to provide recipes -- including Weight Watchers, New York Times Cooking, and the James Beard Foundation! Later this week, I'm making a Chicken Souvlaki recipe created for Chef'd by chef Michael Psilakis. I've also tried two yummy on-the-go breakfasts from Chef'd so far: Peanut Butter Toast with Strawberries and Honey and Quaker Overnight Oats. Both were simple to make and were perfect for enjoying at my desk during the work week. you've seen exactly how Chef'd works. Would you like to try out Chef'd in your kitchen to see how truly great this meal kit delivery service is? I'm going to provide a little incentive that will save all first-time Chef'd customers a little bit of money! Simply visit the Chef'd website via The Weekend Gourmet's special link. When you do, you'll receive $10 off your first order -- and delivery is absolutely FREE for all orders of $40 or more. recap this special offer: $10 off and free shipping! What are you waiting for?!?!? I hope that my readers will check out Chef'd and see for yourself exactly why I am loving it so much. You can thank me later☺!!

Disclosure: I am a Chef'd Food Critic. In this capacity, Chef'd provides me a credit each month to try out a recipe or two in my kitchen and share the experience with my readers and social media followers. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

SkinnyPop Popcorn Wine Pairings...Featuring Lighter Bacon-Ranch Chile Popper Dip #lightenup #gameday #dipit

Football season is finally getting underway! That means here at Casa Garcia, we're gearing up for Texans games and enjoying fun gameday food. All that indulging in tasty treats can wreak havoc on your waistline...but it definitely doesn't have to! Today, I'm featuring Austin-based SkinnyPop Popcorn to as part of a lighter gameday snack that you don't have to feel guilty about enjoying. I'll also be sharing some fun cocktail pairings for their yummy flavored popcorn and mini popcorn cakes! My Lighter Bacon-Ranch Chile Popper Dip has all the flavor of a decadent, full-fat dip...and it's served with SkinnyPop Popcorn's Sharp Cheddar Mini Cakes for dipping instead of chips. The mini popcorn cakes have a great crunch, and they're sturdy enough to stand up to the hearty warm dip! 

To save calories and fat, I used reduced-fat whipped cream cheese, 2% four-cheese blend, and a reduced amount of bacon from other similar recipes I've seen. The whipped cream cheese is fluffy, which I think results in the dip having a better texture. This dip is flavored with packaged ranch seasoning mix and green onions, and it packs mild heat from a small can of diced green chiles. This dip is a snap to make and can even be prepared up to 24 hours before and chilled in the fridge until 30 minutes before kickoff. Simply place the dip mixture in an oven-safe serving bowl and heat for 15-20 minutes. Touchdown!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Kiolbassa Dry Cured Hickory Bacon...Featuring Easy Maple-Bacon Breakfast Crescent Rollups

Like many of you, I totally love bacon! There's just something special about its smoky goodness. I recently discovered Kiolbassa's delicious Dry Cured Hickory Bacon...and it's become my go-to bacon for creating delicious savory and sweet recipes. You can really taste the difference that dry curing makes! Kiolbassa's dry-cured bacon is slow-crafted, naturally smoked premium bacon. There's no water added, so Kiolbassa's bacon doesn't shrink like bacon typically does. Before the bacon is cured, it's hand rubbed with a secret spice blend. The end result is bacon perfection! It cooks up perfectly, maintaining its shape perfectly.

I recently used Kiolbassa's Dry Cured Hickory Bacon to create a simply delicious breakfast creation that's perfect for the busy back-to-school season! My Easy Bacon-Maple Crescent Rollups are made with refrigerated crescent rolls, crumbled bacon and yummy maple filling flavored with cinnamon and nutmet. After baking, they're topped with a maple-spice glaze and more crumbled bacon. To save time on busy weekday mornings, I cook the bacon and make the filling and glaze the night before -- and store everything in the fridge. A few minutes of prep the night before means these yummy crescent rollups can be ready to enjoy for breakfast in about 15 minutes during the hectic work week!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Preview: Culinaria's San Antonio Restaurant Week! #sarw #diningout

Summer has settled in...and school is starting in a few days. That means it's time for San Antonio's most highly anticipated culinary event of the season: Culinaria's San Antonio Restaurant Week (SARW)! This fun and tasty event is taking place August 12th thru 26th, and it literally offers something that will satisfy every kind of food lover! Restaurants all over the city are offering diners very special three-course lunch and dinner prix fixe menus. Prices come in two pricing tiers to ensure San Antonio food lovers have a range of budget options to fit their pocketbook:
  • Tier 1 Restaurants: $15 lunch and $35 dinner
  • Tier 2 Restaurants: $10 lunch and $25 dinner
If you've never taken part in San Antonio Restaurant Week, this is the perfect time to jump in with both feet! This delicious two-week culinary event is the perfect way to try a new-to-you restaurant...or dine out at one of San Antonio's best restaurants for a much lower price point. There's truly something from everyone -- from casual family-friendly restaurants to high-end gourmet dining. Be sure to visit the San Antonio Restaurant Week website to check out the mouthwatering menus that are being served. You're sure to find something that tempts your taste buds! Check out some of the mouthwatering dishes we've enjoyed at previous SARW meals:

Photo provided by Asado Seafood Grill 
The Weekend Gourmet will be covering a delicious SARW dinner menu at a yet-to-be-determined Tier 1 restaurant courtesy of our friends at Culinaria...I love a culinary surprise! We'll also be returning to Asado Seafood & Grill, one of our favorite restaurants from previous SARW celebrations. To follow along with our Restaurant Week dining adventures live as they happen, be sure to follow The Weekend Gourmet on Instagram (WEEKENDGOURMET) and Twitter (@TheWeekendGourm). In other exciting SARW news...this time Restaurant Week is expanding to include Boerne Restaurant Week and New Braunfels Restaurant WeekWhile reservations are not required to dine out for all three Restaurant Week events, they are strongly encouraged -- especially if you want to dine at the most popular restaurants. All reservations should be booked directly with the restaurant(s) you wish to dine at. As an added bonus...not only will your meal be a delicious dining experience, but it will be a charitable one too! With every meal that is ordered during San Antonio Restaurant Week, each participating restaurant will donate $1 for lunch and $2 for dinner to Culinaria San Antonio and all of the great programs it supports.

Disclosure: Culinaria provided me a pair of dining vouchers for a Tier 1 restaurant, and Asado Seafood & Grill is hosting us for a Restaurant Week dinner, to facilitate coverage of the event. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

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