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Monday, January 26, 2015

Wendy's Favorite Things for January

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 24, 2015

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

NatureSweet SunBursts™ MVP Promotion...Featuring Cherubic Avocado Mousse Bites

I've got some exciting news to share today! NatureSweet® Tomatoes is kicking off the New Year with the return of its popular NatureSweet SunBursts™ MVP promotion. Designed to help busy foodies plan the perfect game day party, NatureSweet is giving away one daily $200 prize and one weekly $1,000 prize between now and February 1 -- for a total of $6,800!! Along with the cash prizes, NatureSweet has created the ultimate MVP Party Playbook. It includes delicious recipes, healthy game day snack ideas, and even some money-saving coupons. Packages of juicy, golden SunBursts tomatoes with unique on-pack codes can be found -- along with the Party Playbook -- at the NatureSweet MVP display in produce sections of participating retailers across the country. 

NatureSweet is based right here in San Antonio, and they're the leading grower of premium fresh tomatoes in the U.S. They also taste really great too! I wasn't able to locate SunBursts™ when I went grocery shopping last weekend, but I did manage to get my hands on some of their deliciously sweet Cherubs grape tomatoes to create my Cherubic Avocado Mousse Bites. If you're looking for a veg-friendly game day snack for the Super Bowl, look no further! These fun appetizers are ready to serve in about 15 minutes and feature creamy lime-infused avocado mousse that's piped into scoop-shaped tortilla chips. Each bite is topped with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, halved Cherub tomatoes, and flakes of coarse sea salt. I love guacamole as much as the next gal, but these little bites are definitely MVP caliber!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pairing Casa Noble Tequila with The Cheeses of Europe...Featuring My Citrus Tequila Smash Cocktail #TequilaFromage

Photograph provided by Casa Noble
Today is National Cheese Lovers Day, a day set aside to celebrate the greatness of cheese. I'm definitely a cheese lover -- it's one of my favorite cooking ingredients, and I love creating flavorful and creative cheese boards. I was recently invited to try a new-to-me pairing to celebrate National Cheese Lovers Day: Casa Noble Tequila and The Cheeses of Europe. Tequila may seem like a bit of an odd pairing for cheese at first. However, my tasting experience has made me a believer -- and I think your tastebuds will love the combination of Casa Noble Tequila with flavorful European cheeses too! I received three different Casa Noble tequilas and a sampling of European cheeses specially selected to pair together. I put together a simple, yet elegant cheese board to pair with the trio of Casa Noble tequilas. My European cheese board included sturdy crackers, glazed pecans, and plump red grapes.
I included labeled cards for each of the cheeses so my guests would easily know which cheese paired with which tequila. I provided glasses, and we began our tasting. We started with the mildest cheese, the Mimolette. We then worked our way around the board clockwise, increasing the strength of flavor as we went, until we ended our tasting with the bold Fourme d'Ambert. We paired the tequilas and cheeses as follows:
  • Casa Noble Crystal paired with Mimolette aka Boule de Lille. I created a fun and fruity cocktail with the Crystal, which paired very nicely with the mild Edam-inspired Mimolette.
  • Casa Noble Reposado paired with semi-soft Époisses. The full-bodied oak barrel-aged reposado paired very nicely with the pungent cheese. This cheese definitely has a very distinctive aroma, but the flavor isn't overly assertive. We were pleasantly surprised. 
  • Casa Noble Anejo paired with Fourme d'Ambert. This extra-aged tequila stood up nicely to the flavor of this creamy, mild blue cheese. I'm not normally a fan of blue cheese, but this cheese was super smooth and very nice spread on a sturdy cracker.
  • Bonus cheese: we also received Comte cheese, which we paired with both the Reposado and Anejo tequilas. The Comte is a firm, nutty cheese that reminded us of Swiss cheese. It was very pleasant to eat, especially with the crackers! 
For me, no cheese tasting is complete without a fun cocktail. For this party, I created my Citrus Tequila Smash. It's reminiscent of a margarita, but a bit more fruity thanks to the addition of a generous amount fresh orange juice.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Assembling a Fun and Easy Snackadium Featuring Red Gold Tomatoes #RedGoldGameDay

With the Super Bowl just around the corner, it's time to start planning your game day menu -- because we all know that the game day food is just as important as the game itself! If you want to impress your friends and family, why not make a fun and easy snackadium as the centerpiece of your game day feast? Red Gold recently sent me a selection of their delicious salsas and diced tomatoes with peppers to create a snackadium for their #RedGoldGameDay blogger contest. If you've never heard of a snackadium, it's basically game day snacks assembled to resemble a football stadium. Snackadiums can be large and very elaborate. I have to admit that seeing pictures of these large snackadiums online was a bit intimidating. I set out to create a simple snackadium that anyone can pull together the morning of the big game! We're huge Houston Texans fans, so that was the decorative theme for my snackadium. Feel free to use decor for your favorite team instead.

To make my snackadium, you'll need the following supplies:
  • Football field: a 12 1/4" x 8 1/4" x 1 3/22" disposable aluminum cake pan
  • Stands: Three-tier plastic spice shelf
  • End zone seats: Two Ortega Fiesta Flats taco shells
  • Goal posts: beef stick snacks
  • Team logo and favorite player cutout: thin cardboard and a glue stick
Once you gather all of your materials, it's time to figure out what snacks to serve before you start assembling. For my football field, I selected a trio of dips featuring Red Gold products. The field is homemade guacamole, and the yard lines are sour cream piped on top of the guacamole. The end zones are a duo of easy-to-make dips. One end zone was cream cheese combined with Red Gold spicy chipotle diced tomatoes and sliced green onion. The other end zone was queso dip flavored with Red Gold medium salsa and cooked Mexican chorizo. To complete the field, I made goal posts using beef stick snacks held together with toothpicks. Hint: to ensure they don't collapse, attach the base of each one to a cube of firm cheese with a toothpick before you add the dip to the end zones. 

Hometown Foods #SundaySupper...Featuring Alamo City Breakfast Tacos

For this week's #SundaySupper, we're sharing regional foods from our hometowns. Our hostess is Coleen from The Redhead Baker, and she asked us to share recipes for regional dishes that are popular in our hometown. I currently live in San Antonio, where Tex Mex food is king. I could have shared any number of Tex Mex dishes, but I ultimately decided to share one of my most favorite regional dishes: Alamo City Breakfast Tacos. Breakfast tacos are found all over Texas, but they seem to be especially popular in the San Antonio-Austin area. Imagine all of your favorite breakfast foods wrapped up in a pillowy soft flour tortilla. Now you're starting to understand why breakfast tacos joints are so popular here!

Breakfast tacos can range from simple to fancy. For today's recipe, I opted to share a taco recipe on the fancier end of the scale. My Alamo City Breakfast Tacos feature refried beans, eggs scrambled with tart and spicy Mexican chorizo, fried potatoes, bacon, and cheese. They make a great on-the-go breakfast or lazy weekend brunch. One of these hearty breakfast tacos is perfect for me -- but Michael can easily eat two or three. The best part about breakfast tacos -- other than how great they taste -- is that they're very easy to customize. Simply add or subtract ingredients to make your ideal version of the perfect breakfast taco!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Culinaria San Antonio to Hold Inaugural Winter Restaurant Week January 19 - 24!

The San Antonio restaurant scene has literally exploded over the past 2-3 years...it's been such fun to see so many great new restaurants popping up all over the city! Culinaria is San Antonio’s premier food and drink non-profit. Their goal is to celebrate, educate, and collaborate with local chefs, winemakers, and bartenders to support the city’s food and drink culture. To help expand San Antonio's culinary reputation on both the regional and national level, Culinaria coordinates and hosts elegant wine dinners, extravagant cocktail tastings, and fun food and wine events throughout the year. They're kicking off 2015 with their first ever Winter San Antonio Restaurant Week January 19th through 24th!! Restaurant Week will highlight many of the best local chefs and restaurants. Summer Restaurant Week is held annually in August and is one of the city's culinary highlights. I know the Winter edition will be very popular as well.
August 2014 -- We enjoyed a three-course gourmet dinner at Bite during Restaurant Week!
In addition to serving local food lovers fabulous food, every participating restaurant will donate a portion of their proceeds to benefit Culinaria and its continued outreach initiatives. For every meal ordered specifically for San Antonio Restaurant Week, participating restaurants will donate $1 from each lunch menu and $2 from each dinner menu ordered to benefit Culinaria. Participating restaurants will offer multi-course prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus in two pricing tiers:
  • Tier 1 establishments will offer a $15 three-course lunch menu and a $35 three-course dinner menu.
  • Tier 2 establishments will offer a $10 three-course lunch menu and a $25 three-course dinner menu.
Reservations are not required, but they are encourage; contact each participating restaurant directly to make reservations. For a complete list of participating restaurants and their Restaurant Week lunch and dinner menus, visit the Restaurant Week website. Also be sure to follow Culinaria on Twitter to learn more about their #eatdrinkgive campaign and events. I'm very excited to share that The Weekend Gourmet will be taking part in next week's Restaurant Week festivities for this month's The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out feature.

Disclosure: The Weekend Gourmet will be partnering with Culinaria to provide media coverage during Restaurant Week. To facilitate coverage, Culinaria is providing us complimentary meal vouchers to participating restaurants. Culinaria is an independent not-for-profit organization committed to promoting San Antonio as a premier wine and food destination while fostering community growth and enrichment. Culinaria is a registered 501 c (3) tax-exempt organization. There is a valued volunteer board of directors who represent the community and guide the organization in its mission. 

 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

January Foodie Recipe Collection: Big-Flavor Casseroles...One-Dish Wonders for Busy Cooks

Check out Big-Flavor Casseroles -- One-Dish Wonders for Busy Cooks!

by Wendy Wofford-Garcia at Foodie.com


For this month's Foodie Contributor Recipe Collection, I'm focusing on a subject that's very near and dear to my heart: casseroles. There's something very comforting about cooking -- and eating -- a hearty meal that's baked in the oven until bubbly. For me, casseroles bring back memories of my childhood. As an adult, casseroles tend to find their way to my dinner menu on a weekly basis. Casseroles are a busy cook's best friend, because they're a filling and complete meal that's baked in one dish. That means less cleanup after dinner -- and leftovers make a delicious lunch the next day!

Casseroles can get a bad rap from those who consider them too retro or old school for modern cooks...but that definitely doesn't have to be the case! The recipes I'm sharing this month have one thing in common: they all feature robust flavors that will temp your tastebuds and warm your stomachs on a chilly Winter evening. I've got everything from Tex-Mex to pasta bakes...and even a couple of casseroles that can be assembled the night before and baked the next morning for a leisurely weekend brunch. I hope you'll give these flavorful one-dish wonders a try in your own kitchen!

Disclosure: This is a compensated post on behalf of Mode Foodie. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Captivating Casseroles #SundaySupper...Featuring King Ranch Mac and Cheese


This week's #SundaySupper theme is near and dear to my heart: Captivating Casseroles. There's so much to love about casseroles: they're a comforting, complete meal -- perfect for chilly Winter evenings. Our host for this week's event is Alice from A Mama, Baby & Shar-pei in the Kitchen. I grew up eating casseroles, and I still love them today...especially when they're as fun and flavorful as the King Ranch Mac and Cheese I'm sharing today. This is my personal spin on a very popular recipe from Southern Living magazine. This dish is a crazy-good mashup of two Southern favorites: King Ranch casserole and gooey macaroni and cheese. It's a keeper, y'all!

I made a few changes to the original recipe to suit our tastes. I omitted the bell pepper and added several cloves of garlic and chopped cilantro. To echo the tortilla flavor of traditional King Ranch casserole and add a bit of texture, I added a topping of crushed tortilla chips and a sprinkle of green onions. You'll also notice two ingredients that I don't often feature: cream of chicken soup and pasteurized prepared cheese product. These two ingredients are key to the overall flavor and texture of the delicious cheese sauce. This is serious comfort food, folks!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: The Perfect Game-Day Snack...Creamy Jalapeno-Cheese Sausage Crescent Cups...

Some things just go perfectly together: peanut butter and jelly…peas and carrots…Lennon and McCartney. Here’s one more that any football fan can agree on: game-day and food! Cheering for your favorite team -- especially if they're in the playoffs  -- requires a lot of energy. That means that a spread of tasty food is a necessity. We’re huge…I mean HUGE…Houston Texans fans! They didn't make the playoffs this year, but we're still tuning in to watch all of the football action. As much as I love to cook, I don’t want to miss a big play! Today's Weekend Gourmet Flashback is sharing of my favorite game-day snacks: Creamy Jalapeno-Cheese Sausage Crescent Cups. 

These appetizers are easy to assemble and are bursting with amazing flavor! They're made with refrigerated crescents, which is a huge time saver...and jalapeno-cheese sausages provide lots of spicy flavor. These little babies are wildly popular with everyone who tries them...so I wanted to share them before this weekend's playoff games. A platter of these appetizers is a welcome site -- feel free to make a double batch as they're pretty addictive!

Monday, January 5, 2015

#AD Game-Day Hot Wings Bar...Featuring Diablo Ranch and Cranberry Honey Mustard Dipping Sauces #GameTimeHero #CollectiveBias

This #GameTimeHero shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions expressed are solely mine.   
It's no big secret that we're huge football fans at Casa Garcia...we never miss a big game! I also love to serve a variety of tasty snacks for us to munch on while we cheer on our favorite team. However, I like to keep my game-day menu as stress-free as possible -- I don't want to miss a big play because I'm in the kitchen cooking. Thanks to my convenient neighborhood Walmart Deli, I was able to purchase a Pick 3 Bucket of pre-cooked Tyson deli wings for an easy and fun game-day hot wings bar. I selected three different flavors: the sweet and spicy Boneless General Tso's, crispy Bone-in Hot Wings, and traditional Buffalo Wing flavors. All I had to do was take the ready-to-serve wings home and set them out for everyone to enjoy! Earlier in the day, I had prepared a duo of tasty dipping sauces to pair with our wings: spicy Diablo Ranch and tangy Cranberry Honey Mustard. Making the sauces ahead saved me lots of time and stress. All I had to do before kickoff was pour some sodas and open a couple of bags of chips -- and we were ready to watch some exciting playoff football.
Our team didn't make the playoffs this year, but we certainly enjoyed our game-day wing bar while watching all of the Wild Card playoff action! Let me show you how simple my duo of flavorful dipping sauces is to prepare -- and how I used brightly colored decor to create a festive mood. You'll be ready to throw a game-day hot wing fiesta of your own in time for the next big game. Because the Pick 3 Bucket has convenient inserts that keep each flavor of wings separate, you can simply serve the warm wings directly from the bucket -- no need to dirty a serving platter! 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Lighter New Year #SundaySupper...Featuring Skinny Chicken-Leek Pot Pie

It's a brand new year...and perhaps your 2015 resolution is to eat a bit healthier after an overindulgent holiday season. If so, then #SundaySupper has just what you're looking for! Our host this week is TR from Gluten Free Crumbley. He asked us to share our favorite lightened-up recipes. I've mentioned in here before that being a food blogger can be hazardous to my waistline...so I'm always looking for ways to reduce fat and calories when I cook. However, I'm not willing to sacrifice flavor in the process! On a chilly evening, a comforting pot pie makes a fabulous dinner -- but the typical pot pie is a fat and calorie bomb. Enter my Skinny Chicken-Leek Pot Pie, which was inspired by a Cooking Light recipe I found online. 

I recently bought some cleaned, sliced leeks at the grocery store, and I wanted to use them in this week's recipe. This Skinny Chicken-Leek Pot Pie tastes creamy and decadent, but there's not a bit of cream to be found! I instead used a bit of flour to make a roux, then I whisked in a mixture of chicken stock and reduced-fat cream cheese. I also used lean chicken breast and made sure to include lots of healthy veggies. My deconstructed take on pot pie is dished into individual serving bowls and topped with a baked round of refrigerated pie crust that's seasoned with herbs and sea salt. No one will ever guess that this pot pie is lower in both fat and calories...it's that good!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Weekend Gourmet Named to the Red Gold Family Table Blog Council!

Happy New Year! To start 2015 on a positive note, I want to officially share that The Weekend Gourmet has been selected by Red Gold Tomatoes as one of 15 bloggers making up the Red Gold Family Table blog council! I honestly can't think of a food company that I'm more excited to be affiliated with. I first met the Reichart family -- who own and operate Red Gold in Indiana -- when I took part in their Taste of the NFL contest during the 2012 Super Bowl week in Indianapolis. Since then, I've continued to work with them on a number of fun recipe promotions. Imagine my excitement when I received an e-mail a few weeks ago asking me to be a part of the Red Gold Family Table blog council!

What does this mean to you as a reader of The Weekend Gourmet? I'll be sharing lots of tasty, family-friendly recipes featuring Red Gold's delicious tomato products. I can honestly say that they're the only brand of canned tomatoes I use in my kitchen! My first official post as part of the Red Gold Family Table is to create a snackadium featuring their salsa and diced tomatoes in time for the Super Bowl. If you've never seen a snackadium, they're a creative way to serve game day snacks that are arranged to resemble a football stadium. Here's an example of a homemade snackadium so you know what Michael and I are  currently in the process of designing together! 
Photo from Pillsbury
As part of the Red Gold Family Table, I'll also be visiting their company headquarters in Indiana during the tomato harvest this Fall...and I'll be doing some live television cooking appearances here in San Antonio. My first cooking segment is scheduled for Friday, February 9th on KABB Fox 29's Daytime at Nine morning show. I'll be showing viewers how to make Red Gold Skinny Lasagna. I can't wait...here's to an exciting 2015!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hamilton Beach 10-Cup Stack & Snap Food Processor #Giveaway...Featuring Creamy Cajun Shrimp Dip

The holidays are winding down...and a new year is very nearly upon us! If you’re like me, you’re probably feeling a bit frazzled by now -- after a solid month of shopping, wrapping, decorating, and cooking. For me, that means our at-home New Year’s Eve celebration will feature a few no-fuss appetizers and a bubbly cocktail or two! Today, I’m sharing a recipe for Creamy Cajun Shrimp Dip that’s ready in a snap thanks to Hamilton Beach's Stack & Snap™ 10 Cup Food Processor. Simply add the ingredients to its large-capacity bowl, and give it a quick pulse. Voila -- you’ve got a luscious and flavorful dip in a matter of minutes! The Stack & Snap™ is quite literally a snap to assemble – it snaps together in seconds. Unlike other food processors I’ve used in the past, I didn’t have to figure out how to line up complicated pieces and to ensure that it’s assembled correctly.

My Creamy Cajun Shrimp Dip features chunks of sweet shrimp in a creamy base that’s flavored with green onions, Cajun seasoning, and a bit of hot sauce. I used fat-free Greek yogurt in place of sour cream to save a few calories without sacrificing any creaminess. This dip works equally well with crackers or sturdy chips. I love that it tastes like you spent time chopping all the ingredients by hand…but it takes about 5 minutes to assemble. That can be our little secret! Get ready for some serious compliments when your guests try this addictive little dip.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Ring In the New Year with Mia Sparkling Moscato...Featuring My Raspberry-Limoncello Moscato Fizz

Christmas is officially over for another year -- and now it's time to turn our attention to planning a relaxed at-home New Year's Eve celebration! We're planning to catch an early movie, then head back home to watch the ball drop on TV from Times Square. We'll also enjoy a few simple, no-fuss appetizers...and a bubbly cocktail. I recently received samples of Freixenet's delicious Mia Fruity & Sweet Moscato -- and I immediately knew that I wanted to create a fun New Year's Eve celebration cocktail with it. Mia sparkling Moscato is perfectly fizzy and sweet -- just like a romantic kiss from your sweetheart at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve! Mia Fruity & Sweet Moscato is easy to drink, and it's delicious on its own paired with desserts or a composed cheese platter. However, I knew that Mia's tasting notes of peach and apricot would match perfectly with tart raspberries and citrusy limoncello liqueur to create my Raspberry-Limoncello Moscato Fizz. This cocktail is my spin on a traditional bellini -- and it's a snap to make! Its hot pink color is festive, and the flavor strikes the perfect balance between sweet and tart. The coarse sugar rim on each cocktail glass is totally optional, but it adds an extra boost of sweetness to each sip -- and the coarse grains of sugar sparkle like diamonds in the light. Tres romantique!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Best of The Weekend Gourmet 2014

The presents are unwrapped...the holiday meal is eaten...and now it's time to turn our attention to saying goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015!! We're home in the Houston area spending time with our families for a few days, so I'm taking a bit of time to share the 10 most popular recipes on The Weekend Gourmet in 2014. In compiling this list, I was happy to find that some of my favorite recipes were also popular with my readers! I was also very happy to see a wide range of recipes represented -- including cocktails, appetizers, easy-to-prepare main dishes, and desserts. I also have to point out that the majority of these recipes were shared as part of my #SundaySupper blogging group. I love being part of such a fabulous and creative group of food writers...and I am thrilled that the recipes I share via #SundaySupper are resonating with you too!! Let's get started with the countdown!

(10) Tropical Breeze Sangria. This sweet and fruity sangria is like a tropical beach vacation in a glass. This Summertime cocktail is made with sweet white wine, coconut water, limoncello, fizzy lemon-lime soda, and a selection of tropical fruits. This sangria is easy to drink...and it pairs especially well with grilled seafood and fish tacos! Because it's served in a pitcher, it also allows guests to serve themselves.
(9) Baked Crab Cakes with Lemongrass-Ginger Mayo. A perfect appetizer or first course for two, this is my spin on traditional crab cakes. They're chock full of sweet jumbo lump crab...and flavored with Asian-inspired lemongrass and ginger. With New Year's Eve coming up next week, these flavorful crab cakes would be an ideal centerpiece for a romantic at-home celebration. Coincidentally, these crunchy crab cakes pair very nicely with champagne!
(8) Streamlined Weeknight Shepherd's Pie. This hearty dish is perfect to serve on chilly Winter evenings. I streamlined the process so these individual shepherd's pies can be on the table in about 45 minutes -- making them easy to whip up after a busy day in the office. The filling is made with lean ground beef and tons of flavorful veggies in a savory sauce. Before going into the oven, the filling is topped with shredded sharp cheddar and a layer of creamy mashed potatoes. This dish is the epitome of comfort food!
(7) Blueberry Balsamic Liqueur. If you've never made your own liqueur at home, you should definitely make that one of your cooking resolutions for 2015. This delicious Blueberry Balsamic Liqueur is the perfect recipe to get you started! The actual prep time takes less than 30 minutes, but you do have to wait 7-10 days while the liqueur does its thing before serving. The flavor of this liqueur is sweetly tart, with a pronounced berry flavor. It's great in cocktails or as a dessert ingredient...and it makes a great gift too!
(6) No-Bake Banana Split Dessert Cups. This is hands down my favorite dessert creation from 2014! This is my spin on a recipe that my Aunt Johnnie used to make for family parties. Layers of creamy filling, banana, pineapple, and strawberries rest on a crunchy base of crushed vanilla wafers and pecans. Just before serving, each serving is topped with whipped cream, a drizzle of chocolate sauce, pecans, and a cherry. I especially love serving this dish in individual trifle cups so the colorful layers are visible. This one's a must make!
Is your mouth watering yet?!?!? Up next is one of my favorite Big-Flavor dishes from the past year...my spicy San Antonio Chunky Chicken Stew. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from The Weekend Gourmet!!

We're home in the Houston area celebrating the holidays with our families...but I wanted to take a moment to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas! I hope you're spending time with family and friends...and that Santa put you on his "Nice List" this year. Whether you're enjoying a quiet celebration at home -- or traveling to spend time with tons of extended family like we are -- I hope it's a joyous day filled with laughter and a lot of delicious food! Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad from The Weekend Gourmet crew! That would be: yours truly (chief cook, dish washer, and writer), Michael (taste tester and an amazing Dining Out and Travel Photographer), and Lucy & Maggie (very cute and very spoiled feline sous chefs)! Our pretty girls even posed for some Christmas pictures this year...so I have to share!
I'll be back in a few days with some great new recipes that are perfect for New Year's Eve celebrations! In the meantime, I'll be spending time making lots holiday memories with our family and friends back home...and eating a cookie (or three).  

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!

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