The Weekend Gourmet F

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Celebrating #BurgerMonth at Max's Wine Dive and The Boiler House

May is National Burger Month, and it's dedicated to celebrating the American classic! What’s not to love about burgers? They’re portable and versatile – you’re only limited by your imagination when it comes to creative toppings and flavors. Like many of you, I love burgers…so I was very excited when two San Antonio restaurants invited me to try their Burger Month menu offerings. Max’s Wine Dive and The Boiler House are both very popular restaurants here in San Antonio…and for good reason. Both restaurants offer fun, upscale casual environments – and amazing food and drinks! I invited a friend to come along for the fun, and we sampled a duo of creative burgers at both locations.

First up was a visit to Max’s Wine Dive, which has six Texas locations in San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and DFW -- as well as locations in Denver and Atlanta. Max's is a great place to meet friends to enjoy their fun atmosphere, upscale casual food, and extensive wine offerings. Max’s Burger Month special is the savory Poutine Burger…topped with juicy pulled pork, crispy fries, savory gravy, and feta cheese. It was a delicious – and messy – burger. Max's juicy burger patties are made with a combination of short rib, brisket, chuck, and beef belly. We loved the flavor combo of pork paired with the beef patty. The freshly fried truffle chips served on the side were warm and delicious.
The second burger we tried was the Signature Blend Burger from Max's year-round menu. This burger is customizable to add your favorite toppings. We selected nutty Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, and roasted mushrooms. This fabulous burger had tons of umami going on…my kind of burger! It was paired with a fabulous glass of smooth, lush Last Judgment Red Wine Blend.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My Glade Scent Transformation...Featuring Black Forest Puff Pastry Turnovers

Scent can help transform your feelings and empower you to feel the way you want to. Think about it…when you bake a batch of cookies, the heavenly smell coming from your kitchen is the first thing you notice. It makes your mouth water and makes you anticipate the delicious treat that’s coming your way! The powerful connection between scent and emotions is exactly why my friends at Glade® offer a range of 37 different scents. Each scent evokes different feelings and empowers you to feel the way you want to. Selecting a scent is a personal signature that reflects how you feel at a given moment…or how you want guests to feel when they enter your home. Bottom line: scent sets the mood! Glade® recently sent me a selection of their seasonal wax melts and an electric burner. The task was for me to heat the wax melts and let the scent empower me to create a complimentary recipe to complete the mood!
I quickly decided their Blooming Peony & Cherry™ was speaking to me! This scent features bright, zesty notes of cherry and red fruit…along with delicate floral notes of pink rose and peony. Relaxing scents of white woods and creamy musk balance the equation and set the mood for relaxation and romance. For me, the fun and flirty scent evoked thoughts of a simple dessert featuring cherry and chocolate. The end result was my fun Black Forest Puff Pastry Turnovers. Imagine flaky pastry surrounding sweetly tart cherries, semisweet chocolate, and a super creamy cocoa cream cheese filling – swoon! Because I used convenient squares frozen puff pastry, these decadent turnovers are a snap to make. So let’s warm some Blooming Peony & Cherry™ wax melts and get baking! Before you know it, your house is going to be smelling heavenly.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out...Featuring Restaurant 3 Double-O Nine

H-E-B is a popular grocery chain in Texas -- especially in its headquarters city of San Antonio. They recently branched out to offer full-service concept restaurants at some of their new locations. I recently 3 Double-O Nine. It's named for its location near Selma, on FM 3009 and Loop 1604. It's a really fun, casual place to grab a bite before or after you do your shopping, but you don't have to be an H-E-B customer to stop by for a tasty bite! The restaurant is located adjacent to the H-E-B and offers everything from small plates and cocktails to tacos, Texas BBQ, and other creative entrees. The atmosphere is casual and fun...and you can dine indoors or al fresco is the weather's nice.

I recently visited 3 Double-O Nine for a Saturday dinner tasting with a friend. I was really impressed with the quality of the food on Chef Randy Evans' menu, as well as the reasonable prices. This definitely is NOT a grocery store food court, people...this food is the real deal! The entrance is separate from H-E-B, so it's really a separate free-standing restaurant. You order and pay for your food at the front register, then take a seat in one of the two dining rooms. When your food is ready, a server brings it to your table. We started with a duo of cocktails, a decadent appetizer, and a refreshing salad.
We shared an order of decadent Fried Green Chile Mac 'n Cheese Bites and a Buffalo Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil Salad. The mac and cheese bites were crispy outside, creamy and spicy inside...and served with ranch for dipping. Talk about total cheesy goodness! The salad was a perfect refreshing counterpart to our rich appetizer, with lots of fresh Buffalo mozzarella. For our cocktails we had the Texas Creamsicle Cocktail, which was sweetly creamy and tasted exactly like a creamsicle ice cream treat! The unique Avocado Martini had a creamy texture from the avocado and citrus notes from pineapple juice...with a bit of chile powder floated on top for a spicy background flavor. Our meal was out off to a great start! Next out of the kitchen was a duo of fun seafood tacos.
We tried the grilled Baja Shrimp Tacos and the fried Fish & Chips Tacos. The Baja tacos were served light and refreshing, with juicy grilled shrimp, crunchy slaw, and a spicy chipotle aioli. They were a nice mixture of flavors and textures. The Fish & Chips tacos featured lots of crunchy beer-battered cod, french fries, and tartar sauce wrapped inside yellow corn tortillas. This was a fun and flavorful fusion taco! We then turned our attention to a duo of 3 Doubl-O Nine's signature entrees.
First up was their unique, boldly flavored Korean Fried Chicken, which featured a generous helping of crispy fried chicken coated in a delicious sweet and spicy glaze. The flavor reminded me of spicy chicken wings, only entree sized. It was served with zesty kimchi mashed potatoes and braised greens for a Korea meets Texas flavor profile. We also shared the comforting and insanely delicious Creole Shrimp and Grits, which featured jumbo shrimp in a spicy Creole sauce and cheddar stone-ground grits. This was comfort food at its good!
We were absolutely stuffed by then, but we just couldn't resist sharing a dessert to end our meal on a sweet note. We decided to sample a comfort classic: Texas Pecan Bread Pudding. It was studded with golden and traditional raisins and topped with a warm rum cream sauce. I'm a huge bread pudding fan, and this was a perfect rendition. We left 3 Double-O Nine with full bellies...and impressed palates...and then I went into the adjacent H-E-B to pick up a few needed items before I headed home. That's a win-win in my book!

Disclosure: Restaurant 3009 provided a complimentary dinner to facilitate inclusion in this article. All opinions expressed are solely mine.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tomato-Zucchini Pesto Flatbread with Chevre and Balsamic Drizzle...Featuring NatureSweet Cherub Tomatoes

The weather is really warming up here in Texas ahead of Memorial Day weekend, so I’m increasingly turning to lighter and meatless quick-cook dinners. Growing up, we always had lots of fresh-grown tomatoes from my grandparent’s garden in the Spring and Summer…so I start to crave tomatoes when the weather turns warm. I especially love small, sweet NatureSweet Cherubs. They’re bite sized and easily portable, making them great for on-the-go snacks and healthy recipes. NatureSweet recently sent me some Cherubs to create a Spring dinner that everyone will enjoy. I wanted to spotlight the Cherubs’ vibrant red color and sweet flavor profile in a veg-friendly meal that even meat lovers will enjoy. Enter my Tomato-Zucchini Pesto Flatbread with Chevre and Balsamic Drizzle. Because I use convenient store-bought garlic naan and basil pesto for my flatbread, it’s assembled and ready to bake in about 10 minutes!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road: A Romantic Overnight New Orleans Getaway

Michael and I recently enjoyed a relaxing overnight trip to New Orleans ahead of our Media Trip to learn all about Gulf Coast Seafood. I’ll be sharing more about our amazing seafood experience next week, but first I want to tell you about our Spring visit to one of our favorite cities. Michael and I were engaged in New Orleans in 2001, so it's a very special city for us! We arrived in New Orleans on a cool Sunday afternoon and settled into the Omni Royal Orleans – our home away from home or the evening. The Omni Royal Orleans is conveniently located in the heart of the French Quarter – making it easy to walk to nearby attractions and restaurants.
We settled into our lovely room and rested for a bit. It featured soothing colors, a comfy King size bed, and a gorgeous wrought-iron balcony overlooking the French Quarter below. Before we knew it, it was time for a late lunch at Tableau – the newest restaurant in the late Dickie Brennans’ restaurant group. Tableau is housed in a historic Creole townhouse on Jackson Square -- a quick 5-minute walk from our home base at the Omni Royal Orleans. We were warmly greeted, quickly seated, and given menus. We started with a pair of appetizers -- the Creole French Onion Soup and the Demi Royal Sampler. 
The Creole French Onion soup was rich and flavorful thanks to the addition of andouille sausage and a melted Gruyere crouton on top. The Demi Royal featured a trio of Creole seafood creations: crabmeat ravigote, shrimp remoulade, and truffled crab fingers. This platter was the perfect way for Michael and I to have a taste of Tableau's fresh Gulf seafood. The seafood was fresh and sweet, the perfect start to our meal! The next items out of the kitchen were our duo of seafood entrees. Michael selected the Gulf Fish St. Roch, and I opted for the BBQ Shrimp & Grits. Both were perfectly cooked and beautifully plated.
Michael's fish was delicate and moist inside and topped with
buttery St. Roch sauce, which featured jumbo shrimp, roasted mushrooms, garlic, and green onion. My BBQ Shrimp & Grits paired huge head-on shrimp served in a pool of spicy New Orleans BBQ sauce that was spiked with local beer. The rich shrimp were paired with creamy and rich grits flavored with chevre. The combination of flavors and textures was amazing. We ended our meal with a duo of shared desserts from their extensive dessert menu. It was a hard choice, but we decided on the decadent Praline Monkey Bread Pudding and Pecan Pie Vol-Au-Vent, both of which were serve a la mode. 
The bread pudding featured brown sugar and pecans baked into a biscuit bread pudding. It was served with a decadent butterscotch sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. It was very rich, but oh-so-good...and perfect for sharing!The vol-au-vent featured classic Southern pecan pie filling baked in a crispy puff pastry shell. It was served with a brown butter ice cream. This dessert was rich, and the brown butter ice cream provided a nuttiness that worked well with the pecans. We were getting full, and twilight was starting in the French Quarter. On our way out, Tableau's manager gave us a tour of the property. The restaurant is located adjacent to The Little Theater, which features popular live performances and plays. Between The Little Theater and the restaurant's main dining area is a lovely Creole courtyard that allows diners to enjoy their meal al fresco, weather permitting. 

It was a drizzly evening in New Orleans, lending an eerie atmosphere to the French Quarter. During our walk back to the Omni, I halfway expected to run into the Vampire Lestat from Anne Rice’s famous novels! We returned to our peaceful oasis at the Omni Royal Orleans to digest a bit and take in the beautiful surroundings. The lobby area is nicely decorated with antiques and fresh flowers, making it a relaxing place to sit and read or enjoy some people watching.
Before we knew it, it was time for our late-evening dinner reservation at the Omni’s Royal Orleans' well-regarded Rib Room restaurant. The Rib Room focuses on perfectly prepared prime rib and other grilled meats, along with tasty side dishes. The Rib Room's impressive dining room features dim lighting and dark wood accents. 
We decided to try a slab of the Rib Room's signature roasted prime rib, which is perfectly cooked on a huge rotisserie grill. The chef told us that the prime rib is seasoned and cooked until it's brown and crusted outside, and tender and juicy inside. It was the best prime rib I've ever had -- so flavoful!
We also decided to sample a fish dish from the Rib Room's menu. Their Gulf fish was grilled over mesquite and topped with a lemon butter sauce. The perfectly cooked fish was moist inside and served on a round of cauliflower with roasted fingerling potatoes. For those who don't prefer to eat beef, the seafood options at the Rib Room are a fabulous option. We ended our dinner with a shared dessert.
Michael and I never met a bread pudding we didn't like, so the traditional bread pudding topped with strawberries was our pick. It was the perfect portion for sharing, and it tasted wonderful. After a filling meal at the Rib Room, it was so nice to simply walk down the hall to the elevator and head back upstairs to our room in less than 10 minutes.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day #SundaySupper...Featuring Deluxe Salted Caramel Turtle Sundae

This week, #SundaySupper is celebrating Mother’s Day! Our hostess is my sweet friend Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla. I quidkly decided that I wanted to feature a special dessert recipe to honor my sweet Mom, Mary Wofford. When it comes to dessert, I know her like the back of my hand: it must have chocolate! The weather here in Texas is starting to really warm up, so I decided to create an over-the-top Deluxe Salted Caramel Turtle Sundae for her. This dessert will be on our Mother's Day celebration ment, and it’s a real winner. If you’ve never had a caramel turtle candy, it features caramel and pecans coated in rich chocolate…it’s a magical combination of flavors and textures!

This rich Mom-worthy sundae features dulce de leche ice cream, a so-simple homemade salted caramel sauce, good-quality store-bought hot fudge sauce, Texas pecans, and a bit of whipped cream for good measure. To truly make it deluxe, I made some cute puff pastry triangles dredged in cinnamon sugar, dipped in chocolate, and sprinkled with more pecans. The salted caramel sauce and puff pastry garnishes can be made a day or two ahead – making this sundae a snap to whip up at a moment’s notice.This sundae is a special dessert for my very special Mom!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Celebrating #CarringtonMayontheMove with Tropical Dreams Flax-Chia Yogurt Parfait

I’m staring down the Big 5-0 later this Summer (eeep!!), so I’m always on the lookout for easy ways to maximize the nutrition and health value of the food I eat. That’s why I was so excited to be invited to take part in the Carrington Farms May on the Move campaign this month! As part of this event, I received a sampling of their convenient single-serve packs of coconut oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds. These individual packets make it super easy for me to add a nutrition boost to my foods – whether I’m home or "on the move." If you’ve been hesitant to try these products, let me assure you: they’re easy to incorporate into your favorite foods…and they taste GREAT! I received boxes of coconut oil paks, flax chia paks, flax hemp paks, and flax paks. I wanted to create a portable breakfast recipe that incorporated two of the items I received from Carrington Farms. I chose the coconut oil paks and the flax chia paks.

I had never tasted chia or flax seeds before taking part in May on the Move, but I was very impressed with their health properties. Each convenient single-serving flax chia pak contains healthy Omega 3's, fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and helpful hormone balancing phytoestrogens called lignans. My Tropical Dreams Flax-Chia Yogurt Parfaits are a snap to put together. Simply combine a few healthy ingredients, spoon everything into a portable container or pretty parfait glass, put in the fridge before you go to bed. Just like that, you've got a delicious and healthy breakfast ready when you wake up in the morning! Not only that -- the colors are so pretty!
Tropical Dreams Flax-Chia Yogurt 
a Weekend Gourmet original
Ingredients (for one parfait):
  • 1 Carrington Farms Flax Chia Pak (approx. 1 tbs.)
  • 1 cup pineapple Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. agave nectar
  • 1 Carrington Farms Coconut Oil Pak (1 tbs.)
  • 1/3 cup mandarin orange segments
  • 1 tbs. toasted coconut strips

Step 1: Spoon the Greek yogurt into a small bowl. Add the Carrington Farms Flax Chia pack, agave, and Carrington Farms Coconut Oil Pak blend and stir well to completely combine. NOTE: the coconut oil combines with the chilled yogurt easier if you warm the pak in your hands for a few minutes first.
Step 2: Spoon the yogurt mixture into your serving container. Arrange the mandarin orange pieces on top of the yogurt mixture, overlapping slightly. Place the toasted coconut strips in the center of the mandarin orange. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours before serving. The chia seeds soften and form a gel-like coating when they are placed in a liquid environment. This is good and makes them even more filling!

This tropical parfait is filling, delicious…and healthy! I loved the tropical flavors – and I especially enjoyed knowing that the coconut oil and flax-chia seed blend provided a health boost. The flax seeds provide a nutty flavor, and the chia seeds brought a great texture to the yogurt. This parfait made a great protein-rich after-work snack, but I can’t wait to take it to work for breakfast at my desk too!
If you want to try Carrington Farms’ products yourself, you’re in luck! Carrington Farms is offering a 20% discount to celebrate May on the Move! To get this great deal, visit the Carrington Farms online store. At checkout, enter the code MAYONTHEMOVE. Carrington is also holding a fun Instagram contest this month as part of the #CarringtonMayontheMove event. It's super easy to enter the contest. All you have to do is follow @carringtonfarms on Instagram, regram #carringtonmayonthemove, and tag three of your friends. Doing that gives you the chance to win a $50 Visa Gift Card plus that Carrington handy on-the-go packs featured in this article!

Disclosure: Carrington provided me with samples of their on-the-go packaged products. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Perfect Mother's Day Cocktail: Pink Lady...Featuring Powell & Mahoney Cocktail Mixers and the Rabbit Electric Cocktail Mixer

Mother's Day is coming up this weekend...and perhaps you're planning a special brunch to celebrate. If so, I've got the perfect feminine, flirty Spring cocktail to get your celebration brunch off on the right foot! This pretty, fruity Pink Lady cocktail features Powell & Mahoney's Pomegranate cocktail mixer, vodka, and tart grapefruit juice. Powell & Mahoney's Vintage Original Cocktail Mixers offers a fun line of artisan cocktail mixers that make creating fun cocktails quick and easy...without a bunch of artificial colors or flavors! Their mixers are made from fruit juices, essential oils, and pure cane sugar. They offer a broad range of flavors -- both classic cocktails and fun modern options. Flavors in the line include Mojito, Cosmopolitan, Mango Passion Fruit Margarita, and Sriracha Bloody Mary. The Pomegranate mixer featured in the Pink Lady recipe I'm sharing today features a bit of orange and lemon, making it very versatile for creating a wide range of cocktails. And its color? It lends a lovely reddish-pink hue! 

Pink Lady Cocktail
from Powell & Mahoney Natural Drink Mixers

For each Pink Lady that you plan to serve, add the following ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice:
  • 2 ounces vodka [NOTE: flavored vodkas are fun too!]
  • 1 ounce Powell & Mahoney Pomegranate mixer
  • 1 ounce pink grapefruit juice
Shake well, then strain the cocktail into a martini glass that's been rimmed with coarse sugar. Top with a lemon wedge or other decorative garnish. Enjoy!

If you're looking for a cocktail shaker that's easy to use and mixes drinks perfectly -- and with no shaking on your part -- look no further than Metrokane's Rabbit Electric Cocktail Mixer! This handy battery-operated device whips up perfect cocktails in 15 seconds or less, and it features a high-power 6500 rpm motor. Each pair of AAA batteries provides enough power to create 100 or more cocktails. If you're planning a party, this convenient electronic cocktail mixer will save you a lot of wear and tear on your arms! This demonstration video shows just how simple the Rabbit Electric Cocktail Mixer is to use.
I've used the Rabbit Electric Cocktail Mixer myself, and I can vouch that they really are that easy to use! The average retail price for one of this cocktail mixer is a very reasonable $20. To purchase one of these amazing Rabbit Electric Cocktail Mixers in time for the Spring and Summer outdoor party season, you can purchase online at Metrokane's website. They can also be purchased from select retail outlets, including Bed Bath & Beyond and Macy's. 

Disclosure: Powell & Mahoney and Metrokane provided me with complimentary products to facilitate this feature. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Wendy's Favorite Things for May

It's time for another monthly roundup of my favorite new foodie finds! This month, I'm sharing everything from healthy meal options to decadent butter. Because life's about moderation, I try to balance eating healthy with an indulgence here and there to keep things fun! Wait until you see the products I'm sharing with you this month...

(1) Urban Accents WAKE UP Your Tastebuds Urban Brunch Collection. Brunch is one of my favorite meals on a relaxing weekend. Urban Accent's WAKE UP Your Tastebuds Urban Brunch set is a collection of their creative culinary blends that helps you whip up a fabulous brunch in a snap! The kit contains their Potato Cheddar Chive and Ginger Carrot Cake Flapjack Mixes; Mediterranean Spinach and Southwest Jalapeno Frittata Mixes; Sea Salted Caramel and Chocolate Cheesecake French Toast Drizzles, and a fun Coffee Topper Trio. No matter what taste profile you're in the mood for, this fun collection has you prepared! With Mother's Day coming next weekend, it's the perfect time to order one of these fabulous brunch kits, whip up a batch of mimosas, and treat Mom to a fabulous meal! Urban Accents products are also available at select retail locations. nationwide. I love these products and will be sharing a recipe feature and giveaway for one of these amazing brunch collections later this month!!

(2) McDonald's New Artisan Grilled Chicken. Last month, McDonald's unveiled a new marinated grilled chicken recipe. Their new formulation is made from 100% chicken breast, and it contains no artificial flavors or colors -- and no preservatives. It's simply seasoned and seared onsite at each location. I recently visited my neighborhood McDonald's to give this new chicken a try. I sampled the new chicken on a Premium Bacon Ranch Salad. It was golden brown on the outside, and tender and juicy on the inside. The warm chicken on the chilled salad was a nice contrast. I really enjoyed the chicken's simple seasonings, because they really let the flavor of the chicken breast shine through. This yummy grilled chicken can now be found in McDonald's grilled chicken salads, sandwiches, and wraps nationwide.

(3) Luvo Healthy Frozen Meals. Frozen meals are certainly convenient...but most don't measure up when it comes to taste or healthy ingredients. Enter Luvo! Their line of great tasting healthy frozen meals are fabulous. Their product line features entrees, breakfasts, flatbreads, and burritos in a variety of unique and tasty flavors. Luvo meals contain no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives -- and no hydrogenated fat or high-fructose corn syrup either. Even the packaging is made from recycled paper and printed with waterless soy-based ink. These products taste great too! My favorites are the Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Quinoa and Mixed Fruits...and the Red Wine Braised Beef with Polenta. It's served with roasted Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and cranberries. Definitely NOT a typical frozen meal. I found both of these meals filling and very flavorful. To find Luvo meals near you, check out their online Store Locator.

(4) Red's Burrito Bowls. Red's have been my favorite frozen burritos for the past year or so. They're made with 100% all-natural non-GMO ingredients and meat raised without antibiotics -- and they taste great! I was excited to find out this Spring that they were introducing a line of Burrito Bowls that feature my favorite burrito flavors in a non-tortilla bowl form! I recently tried the steak burrito bowl, and I really enjoyed it. It features a base of cilantro-lime brown rice, tender steak strips, pinto beans, and a tasty roasted corn and black bean salsa. It was filling, with a nice level of spice. I serve my bowl topped with a bit of light sour cream, a sprinkle of lowfat cheddar blend...and a few crispy tortilla chips. These burrito bowls make a nice work lunch or quick weeknight dinner. Red's Burrito Bowls also come in Chicken, Carnitas (pork), and Veggie flavors. To find Red's Burrito Bowls near you, check out their Store Locator.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with Casa Noble Tequila...Featuring Tequila-Shrimp Confetti Guacamole

Cinco de Mayo is in a few days…and I have a fabulous cocktail and guacamole duo to share with you today courtesy of my friends at Casa Noble tequila. To me, nothing says Cinco de Mayo quite like a fabulous Springtime cocktail…and creamy guacamole! With Casa Noble’s Crystal tequila, you can be ready to party in time for Cinco de Mayo too.

One of my favorite appetizers to enjoy at a local restaurant is a Mexican-style shrimp cocktail. It features a combination of sweet shrimp, cocktail sauce, pico de gallo, and chunks of creamy avocado. This appetizer was the inspiration for my layered Tequila-Shrimp Confetti Guacamole, which features Casa Noble Crystal in every component. Yes, I went there…and you’re going to thank me when you try this adults-only appetizer! My guacamole features a base layer of tequila and lime-infused guacamole spooned into a margarita glass. It's then topped with layers of pico de gallo and shrimp tossed in cocktail sauce. This fun treat is pretty to look at…and even better to eat!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pollo Tropical Spotlight and Family Dinner Giveaway

Last Fall, Pollo Tropical came to San Antonio...and it's quickly become one of my favorite places to eat! Their food is unique, focusing on the fresh tropical flavors of the Caribbean. Pollo Tropical is a fast-casual restaurant chain that offers their signature citrus-marinated flame-grilled chicken, succulent Mojo Roast Pork, and Calypso Beef. These meats are served in a wide variety of ways -- including assembled-to-order TropiChop bowls, wrap sandwiches, and platters served with a variety of tropical-inspired sides. Pollo Tropical offers side dishes you don't typically see here in San Antonio: sweet plantains, fried yucca, Caribbean corn souffle, and addicting crispy cheese empanadas. We were recently invited to our local Pollo Tropical for a dinner tasting of some of their signature items. We were warmly welcomed and selected our menu items at the front register.
Michael decided to try a chicken TropiChop with half brown rice and half lettuce. He opted to top his bowl with roasted peppers and onions, diced tomatoes, and a duo of sauces from Pollo Tropical's popular Saucing Island. He especially liked the robust, creamy Cilantro Garlic sauce. He said that the TropiChop was filling without leaving him overly stuffed. The generous amount of chicken provided plenty of protein to leave him satisfied. The brown rice and romaine lettuce provided filling fiber as well. TropiChops can be customized from a variety of proteins, rice, beans, and veggies -- so everyone can have a personalized combination of flavors! I opted for the 1/4 Chicken Platter, which came with moist flame-grilled chicken and a duo of side dishes and a soft roll. 
The chicken was moist and flavorful to the bone! I paired my chicken with the Caribbean corn souffle and Balsamic Tomato Salad. The corn souffle was a sweet and moist corn pudding. The tangy tomato salad featured red onions and a flavorful balsamic dressing. There was so much flavor going on here!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Asian-Pacific Burgers

You may have noticed that my posting has been a bit less frequent recently. I've been having some issues with my computer, so I've had to be a bit creative the past couple of weeks. I'll be back to my normal posting schedule later this week...but first I want to share one of my most favorite burger recipes with you now that the weather is turning warm and grilling season is underway in most of the country! My flavorful Asian-Pacific burgers are like a tropical vacation, without the expensive plane tickets and crowded beaches! These juicy burgers can be made outdoors on the grill, or they can be whipped up inside using a cast iron grill pan. They're sweet, savory and a little spicy...and all around good!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Celebrating National Garlic Month with Garlicky Baked Shrimp Scampi

April is National Garlic Month, dedicated to appreciation of all things garlic. I'm all for celebrating the goodness of garlic, because it's one of my "go to" ingredients -- I use it nearly every day. The smell of garlic sautéing in butter or olive oil always makes my mouth water! Today, I'm sharing a recipe for Garlicky Baked Shrimp Scampi -- my spin on a delicious Barefoot Contessa Recipe. I doubled the amount of garlic that Ina's original recipe called for to really boost the garlic flavor. This baked scampi makes a perfect starter for a dinner party -- or a great main dish served with pasta. Once the garlic butter-panko mixture is placed on each shrimp, it bakes up golden-brown in a matter of minutes. This recipe's a keeper, folks!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Picnic #SundaySupper...Featuring Layered Mason Jar Pasta Salad for Two

Texas Summers are long...and extremely hot. Luckily, April and May are pretty much perfect for al fresco dining. The weather is already starting to get warm around here, but evenings are still pretty with nice breezes – perfect weather for an impromptu picnic dinner! This week, #SundaySupper bloggers are sharing our favorite picnic foods. Our host is T.R. from Gluten-Free Crumbley. To me, Spring means enjoying lighter foods with fresh seasonal produce. Enter my Layered Mason Jar Pasta Salad for Two. It's a snap to assemble, and it's easily portable!

Simply layer your favorite ingredients in a large Mason jar, then store your personalized creation in the fridge until you’re ready to head outdoors for your picnic. I especially love that this pasta salad can be customized according to your tastes – or to use whatever is on hand in the kitchen on a given day. I layered store-bought lime vinaigrette, high-fiber penne pasta, Spring veggies, cubes of sharp cheddar, and boiled eggs in my jar. Then, I sealed and refrigerated the jar overnight. When ready to serve, simply give it a shake and pour into a serving bowl. As an added bonus, the colorful layers are so pretty to look at. The key is to layer as follows: dressing, veggies, pasta, and protein.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Spicy Thai Peanut Noodle Salad

It's mid-April, and I'm thrilled that Spring has officially come to Texas! The bluebonnets and other wild flowers are in bloom, and the weather is turning noticeably warmer. That means I'm ready to start making lots of lighter warm-weather foods. One of my favorite pasta-based salads is a delicious Spicy Thai Peanut Noodle Salad. It’s perfect for taking to parties and picnics, because it’s delicious served either cold or at room temperature...and it contains no dairy products. I originally shared this dish in 2012, and it's so good that I simply had to share it again today!

As soon as I saw this recipe on the Cook's Country website back then, I immediately knew that I had to make it! I used their peanut-based dressing recipe and prep technique, but I did make a few small ingredient tweaks. I added spicy Asian sriracha to the dressing instead of the suggested Tabasco, and I changed the veggies up just a bit. I used crunchy cucumber and carrot, as well as a double shot of onions. This Asian salad has since become a regular part of my warm-weather menu rotation. Once you taste it, you'll understand why: this salad is knock-your-socks-off good!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Red Gold's Pinterest Spring Shake-Up...Feautring Sassy Chicken Salad

I'm so excited today...after a chilly Winter, Spring is officially here! The bluebonnets are blooming here in Texas, temperatures are warming up, and baseball season started last week. Spring also means that it’s time to put on a pretty sundress, slip on some strappy sandals, and enjoy eating lighter fare. When Spring arrives, I love grilling, refreshing salads, fresh seasonal produce…and light, fizzy drinks. In Texas, we enjoy getting outdoors during Spring – before our long, hot Summer settles in. My friends at Red Gold recently challenged me to create a Pinterest Spring inspiration board. My Red Gold Spring Shake-UP Pinterest board features lots of great ideas for Spring food, drink, décor, and clothes – so be sure to check it out!

After you check out my Pinterest board, I hope you’ll join the fun too! From April 22 to May 20, Red Gold wants you to share your personal inspirations for a Spring Shake-Up at the Red Gold website. The idea is to have fun…and every pin equals an entry to win one of four weekly Red Gold picnic baskets that are valued at $350. To enter, simply go to the Red Gold webpage starting on April 22nd. From there, simply pin any idea from their specially designated landing page that helps inspire you this Springtime. Speaking of Spring…it’s the perfect time to make quick, light meals! Red Gold is sharing a fabulous recipe for sweetly spicy Sassy Chicken Salad. If you start with a pre-cooked deli chicken, this delicious chicken salad can be ready to eat in about 15 minutes! It’s tasty on its own stuffed in an avocado half...but it makes a sassy sandwich too.

Sassy Chicken Salad
from Red Gold Tomatoes

  • 1 10-ounce can RED GOLD® DICED TOMATOES & GREEN CHILIES, drained
  • ½ cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 cups chunked cooked chicken breast
  • 1 cup thinly sliced celery
  • 1 cup grapes, halved
  • ⅓ cup chopped toasted pecans
Step 1: In a medium bowl, combine RED GOLD® DICED TOMATOES & GREEN CHILIES, mayonnaise and honey.  Stir in chicken, celery, grapes and pecans. 
Step 2: Cover and chill.  Maybe served in hollowed out melons, avocados or papayas. Also makes a great sandwich when served on a Croissant.
Cooking Hint: To toast pecans, bake uncovered in ungreased shallow pan in 350 oven for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.  Another option is to toast them in the microwave.  Place a single layer on a microwave safe plate and cook on high for 2 minutes.  Stir and cook for 1 more minute

That's simple to whip up on a busy day! I can't wait to give this sassy chicken salad recipe a try for our next casual al fresco dinner. I think it would be perfect served on a bed of lightly dressed baby field greens, along with sliced avocado and some crispy crackers.

Disclosure: Red Gold provided me with a tomato prize pack to create Sassy Chicken Salad in my kitchen. All opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Guest Post: Hawaiian BBQ Pork Wonton Tacos from The Chunky Chef

While Michael and I are enjoying some amazing food and cultural attractions in New York, I've got a great guest post to share with you today. My friend Amanda from The Chunky Chef is sharing a fabulous recipe that's perfect for warm-weather entertaining. Her fun Hawaiian BBQ Pork Wonton Tacos are exactly the type of Big Flavor food that we love at Casa Garcia. I can't wait to whip up a batch of these tropical-inspired tacos very soon!!!
If you know me, you know that “the other white meat” and I aren’t the best of friends…usually I don’t eat pork. I have no idea why, I’m just weird. But, hubby likes it and I’ve been trying to make an effort lately to break out of the standard beef and chicken routine. So I came upon this little gem on Pinterest (of course lol)… and I just had to try it!! These pork tacos are sweet and saucy with an attitude… absolutely delicious!  Wanna hear the BEST part? And no, it’s not that tantalizing sauce… it’s that the crockpot does most of the work for you! Three ingredients -- who doesn’t love that?!? 
There is a downside… if you’re home all day while that pork is cooking… well, you may want to eat everything in the house, because it’ll smell amazing and make you incredibly hungry! Your pork will cook in your slow cooker for 8 hours on low, or 4 hours on high. About 30 minutes before you want to eat, shred your pork. It will seriously just fall apart, no effort required. You can omit adding a little sauce to the pork at this point, and only drizzle it at the end… but I like the extra boost of flavor!

I added a little of my sauce to the shredded pork, so it had tons of flavor. While it’s resting, go ahead and preheat your oven and gather your ingredients for the tacos. Now the toppings are up to you, but I went with the broccoli slaw, diced red onion and fresh cilantro!
As you can tell, I had some issues with my wontons not coming together too well. To assemble the tacos, lay out your wonton wrappers on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and spoon a little of the pork filling in the center. I did about 1-2 tbs of filling. Now add your toppings on top of the filling. If you’ve worked with wonton wrappers before, you know that you need some water to help them stick together. They can also be a bit finicky. Have a small bowl or glass with some water nearby, wet your fingers, and pinch two opposite sides of the wrappers together (to make a “taco”). Your wet fingers should seal the wonton. As you can see from the picture above, mine didn’t exactly stick together. So I improvised and sort of folded them over in a makeshift wrap. It worked, just didn’t look as pretty.

Tip: If you don’t want to fuss with making the tacos, you can also spray a muffin pan with cooking spray and push the wonton wrappers down into the muffin cups to create a bowl shape. Fill with toppings just like you would for the taco shapes, and bake at 400 for about 15 minutes or so.

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