The Weekend Gourmet F

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.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Celebrating The Weekend Gourmet's 7th Blogiversary with My Most Popular Recipe...Crispy Chicken Tortilla Rollups! #celebrate #blogiversary

The month of August is going to be a celebratory month here at The Weekend Gourmet. That's because it's my officially the SEVENTH anniversary of starting this blog in August 2010! I have all sorts of fun recipes to share...and a couple of fun giveaways planned...to mark this milestone all month long. I originally started The Weekend Gourmet as a place to share my favorite recipe successes with my family and friends. I never dreamed it would grow and evolve since then to encompass product features, restaurant spotlights, and culinary travel. I have simply embraced every fun opportunity that's come my way. Over the past 7 years, I experienced everything from live local television cooking segments to speaking at a prominent blogger conference...to dining at some of the best restaurants in the country and working with some amazing food brands as a Blog Ambassador. I am truly blessed to have this creative outlet!

Today, I want to kick off my anniversary month by sharing the most popular recipe from The Weekend Gourmet's first 7 years: Crispy Chicken Tortilla Rollups. A creamy chicken filling is rolled in flour tortillas, brushed with garlic-infused oil, and baked until crispy. I originally shared this recipe for a Cinco de Mayo celebration...and people have gone absolutely crazy for it. It's been pinned more than 347,000 time so far, and I've received a ton of positive feedback from readers who've made it in their kitchens. It's a winner of a recipe, so I wanted to share it again here today. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Wendy's Great Eight Food and Wine Items for August! #GreatEight #WFThings #TriedItLovedIt

It's time for another edition of Wendy's Great Eight...eight new-to-me food and wine items that I've tried over the past month and loved. I can't wait to share this month's Great Eight...featuring everything from cookies to wine...to a unique nut milk and items that will make weeknight dinner a snap. Let's get started!

(1) Kenny's Krumbs Cookies. I recently discovered Kenny's Krumbs cookies...and now I'm hooked! These delicious, not-too-sweet cookies are based on what Kenny calls "the best part of the crumb cake" -- a New York bakery specialty. These cookies are buttery with a slight cinnamon taste...and they're rolled in a generous amount of powdered sugar. These crunchy cookies are a natural pairing with coffee or hot cocoa. Kenny's Krumbs are can be found at major retailers nationwide via their handy online Store Locator. My Texas-based readers can find Kenny's Crumbs at their local H-E-B location. No store near you? No worries...Kenny sells his delicious cookies via an online store at their website!

(2) B. Nutty Peanut Butter. If you're a peanut butter lover like I am, you're going to literally go nuts for B. Nutty peanut butter! This company uses honey roasted peanuts for the base of their creatively flavored peanut butters. They feature some amazing flavors, including Totally Toffee, Bacon Maple, and S'more Dreams. The base peanut butter flavor is slightly sweet, and the creative flavor add-ins take give each of the 10 flavors their own unique spin. I recently tried their fun Sample Pack, which includes 2-ounce jars of all 10 flavors of B. Nutty! The small size of each jar is perfect for packing for on-the-go eating. I recently took the Perfectly Pretzel flavor on a flight and happily dipped pretzels in it for a perfect in-flight snack. B. Nutty peanut butter is available at select retailers across the country. It can also be ordered directly from the B. Nutty website

(3) Blue Moose of Boulder Basil Pesto. We're huge pesto lovers at my house, but I rarely take time to make it from scratch. Lucky for me, I recently discovered Blue Moose of Boulder's yummy basil pesto! This Colorado-based company has a delicious line of hummus, dips, salsa, and sauces that are preservative free and delicious. They use fresh ingredients and prepare them using a Cold Pressure method. The hummus has an intense basil and olive oil flavor...making it perfect for adding to pasta or other fun uses. We had a pepperoni pizza delivered and drizzled the basil pesto on top for an explosion of flavor! To order Blue Moose of Boulder products, simply visit their handy online store locator. Bonus hint: Blue Moose also makes a fabulous spicy Green Chile Cheddar Spread that is a Costco exclusive -- it's so yummy on crackers!

(4) Kiolbassa Jalapeno Cheddar Sausage. Texans love smoked sausage...and San Antonio-based Kiobassa is especially delicious! All of their flavors are delicious, but we're especially partial to their spicy Jalapeno Cheddar Sausage. It's smoky and has the perfect amount of spice...along with pockets of melted cheddar. We love to slice it, brown it in a pan, and scramble it with eggs. It's a perfect filling for breakfast tacos! The Kiolbassa family has made their smoked sausage, chorizo, and bacon since 1949, using time-honored tradition of hand-crafting them the slow, authentic way. Kiolbassa uses only the best cuts of meats and the freshest spices. Then, they make their smoked meats in small batches over Texas hardwood. Kiolbassa products contain no MSG, fillers, or cereals -- just real meat crafted the old-fashioned Texas way. Kiolbassa products can be found at stores nationwide. Can't locate them near you? You can order a four-flavor Sausage Variety Pack direct from Kiolbassa!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

New Product Spotlight...Featuring a Dave's Naturals Overnight Oats Giveaway #giveaway #overnightoats

I recently discovered a new product that's really helped me up my weekday breakfast game...Dave's Naturals Overnight Oats! My mornings are hectic, so I love that Dave's Naturals Overnight Oats are prepped the night before and refrigerated. All I have to do in the morning is grab the convenient cup out of the fridge and take it with me to work. I enjoy the oatmeal at my desk when I get hungry later in the morning. It's totally easy to prepare...and healthy too! Dave's Naturals Overnight Oats are a blend of organic oats, chia seeds, almonds, and fruit that you soak overnight. Literally one minute of prep work before bed results in yummy oats that are ready to grab and go in the convenient portable cup the next morning. As this video shows, prepping Dave's Naturals Overnight Oats is a snap!



This blend of organic whole grain rolled oats, chia seeds, and fruit is loaded with fiber, protein, antioxidants, and vitamins. It's a fabulous way to get your energy and nutrition...and feel full all morning long. If chilled oatmeal sounds a bit strange, I encourage you to give this product a try -- I really enjoy the chilled oats on a warm Summer morning. The oatmeal is perfectly creamy and lightly sweetened -- a great way to start the day!


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Guest Post from FuriousGrill...Featuring Quick and Easy BBQ Chicken Skewers #BBQ #grilling #chicken

While I'm hanging out in Cooperstown this weekend for Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend, Kendrick C. Kotter is guest posting today. Kendrick is a huge food lover and a part-time barbecue blogger who loves sharing his knowledge and passion about grilling and smoking food with everyone. He tries to provide only the most useful tips, tricks, guides and reviews at FuriousGrill.
Summer is the time for picnics and family reunions. It’s a time for spending an afternoon splashing around in the swimming pool with the children, and finally ending the day with a game of ultimate Frisbee in the park with some friends and neighbors. However, no matter what your other Summer time activities, the day is always made better if you include a BBQ on the menu!
This recipe for Quick and Easy BBQ Chicken Skewers is truly quick and very easy to prepare. It will go from preparation to your plate in about an hour -- maybe even less -- so those who’ve been busy working up an appetite won’t have to wait very long until dinner is served.
For my skewers, I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs that have been cut into cubes). Next, I stir in a few simple ingredients and allow the chicken to soak up some of that flavor for about 30 minutes while it's marinating in the refrigerator. The big difference between these skewers and most others is that I add chunks of thick cut bacon to mine. Grilling the skewers at a lower temperature will keep the bacon drippings from flaring up. Believe me, this will take your BBQ chicken to a completely higher level!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Preview: The Weekend Gourmet's New York Road Trip 2017 #WGTravel #NYRoadTrip2017

I'm very excited to share some fun news about The Weekend Gourmet's next travel adventure with you today! My team is set to hit the road later this week for an epic New York Summer road trip! We'll start out with a quick visit to NYC to visit a few of our essential restaurants and attractions. Then, we'll pick up a rental car Friday evening and drive to Cooperstown for the weekend to see Houston Astros legend Jeff Bagwell inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Finally, we'll head to Niagara Falls and Buffalo to see one of the world's most scenic natural wonders...and sample an iconic American dish. This trip has a bit of everything, and we're really excited to experience this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. We don't have much time in NYC, but we're making it count! Being foodies, we HAVE to sample a few of our favorite NYC treats...including Lombardi's Pizza and Doughnut Plant for our artisan doughnut fix.
Lombardi's -- the FIRST pizza restaurant in America!
Doughnut Plant -- truly to-die-for artisan doughnuts!
We're not just eating our way through NYC, though...at least, not entirely! We also plan to catch some late-night live jazz at Jazz at Lincoln Center's intimate Dizzy's Club Coca Cola club, enjoy a nighttime view of always-buzzing Times Square, and check out the amazing and educational Frank Lloyd Wright at 15o exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art! Then? We hop in a car and head 4 hours north to Cooperstown!
The second leg of our New York adventure will take us to Cooperstown in upstate New York for the annual Baseball Hall of Fame Weekend! A visit to Cooperstown to see this amazing baseball museum is a must for all true baseball fans. Michael and I first visited Cooperstown in 2008 and vowed to come back when Houston Astros players Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell were both inducted into the Hall of Fame. Biggio was inducted in 2015, and Bagwell will be inducted next weekend. We are fortunate to witness this event in person!
Michael and I at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY
We'll be in Cooperstown to enjoy all of the Hall of Fame induction weekend events on Saturday and Sunday -- and we'll be sharing them via our social channels so our social media followers can join us along the way! After the weekend's festivities wrap up, the third leg of our road trip will take us to northwest New York...Niagara Falls and Buffalo. 
Photo provided by Niagara Falls USA

Our overnight visit to the area will find The Weekend Gourmet crew enjoying gorgeous scenic views of Niagara Falls and an up-close-and-personal view of the power of Mother Nature via a Maid of the Mist boat tour of the Falls. We also plan to sample two iconic Buffalo culinary specialties while we're in the area: roast beef on 'weck sandwiches and Buffalo wings. Not just any wings, mind you. We're eating Buffalo wings where they were invented in 1964: Buffalo's Anchor Bar. Boom! We'll sample their legendary wings and learn a bit about the history of how the Buffalo wing was created...and how wings became a staple around the world over the past 50+ years. Doesn't this picture from Anchor Bar make your mouth water?!?!?
What a fun -- and tasty -- way to end a truly epic New York road trip! Be sure to follow The Weekend Gourmet on our Facebook, Instagram (WEEKENDGOURMET), and Twitter (@TheWeekendGourm) feeds starting on July 27th for tons of live video, pictures, etc. from every leg of our journey. It's going to be an adventure you won't want to miss!
Disclosure: Portions of The Weekend Gourmet travels are provided to us by restaurants, hotels, attractions, etc. to facilitate inclusion. However, we only share travel recommendations that we have personally tried ourselves and enjoyed.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for July...Featuring Biggio's Sports Bar Houston #WGDinesOut #HoustonDining

This month's edition of The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out finds us visiting an amazing upscale sports bar in Houston that's named after Astros Baseball legend and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio! Biggio's Sports Bar is located inside Houston's sleek new Marriott Marquis Houston hotel. We're from the Houston area, so we're huge Astros fans. We couldn't wait to give the food and cocktails at Biggio's a try. Earlier this season, we attended an Astros baseball game at Minute Maid Park, then made the short 5-minute walk from the ballpark to Biggio's for a post-game bite. It was the perfect date night for two sports fans like Michael and I. We entered Biggio's and were warmly greeted by a friendly hostess, who showed us to our table. We were very impressed with the spacious sports bar's modern decor -- which featured a huge downstairs bar, 
modern decor -- which features comfy couches and lots of floor to ceiling windows. Biggio's provides plenty of space for sports fans to congregate and enjoy pre- or post-game cocktails and bites. There are tons of HUGE big-screen televisions on the walls that show a variety of sports channels and games. The first thing we noticed as we walked into the restaurant's dining area was the baseball bat-themed decor of the downstairs bar -- very clever! The baseball-centric decor was evident throughout Biggio's Sports Bar. Being long-time Houston Astros fans, we especially enjoyed seeing the Astros and Craig Biggio decor and memorabilia in the restaurant -- including an authentic Biggio #7 jersey in the reception area and a really cool Astros logo lithograph on the wall. 
We hadn't taken a single bite of food, and we were already loving Biggio's Sports Bar! We sat down and looked over the menu...it was really hard to pick from the amazing items on the menu!  We started out with a cocktail from Biggio's expansive drink menu: The Galveston Breeze. This breezy island-inspired cocktail includes tequila, coconut, aperol, lime, and pineapple. The flavor reminded me a bit of a combination of a pina colada and a margarita...it was perfect on a warm early evening. 
Prefer beer? No problem! Biggio's has plenty of beer on tap -- including several local labels. We paired our cocktail with a trio of entrees that we shared: Chicken and Waffles, House Smoked Brisket Street Tacos, and the B G O Sandwich. The Chicken and Waffles were AMAZING...featuring crispy fried chicken tenders, bacon-infused mini waffles, and a fabulous honey-maple sriracha drizzle.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Best Picnic Recipes #SundaySupper...Featuring Italian Layered Portable Picnic Jars #picnic #summer

Summer is in full swing, so it's the perfect time for al fresco dining and relaxing outdoor picnics. This week, the #SundaySupper Tastemakers are sharing our Best Picnic Recipes -- and our event hostess is Christie from A Kitchen Hoor's Adventures. Today, I'm sharing a perfect portable picnic entree! My Italian Layered Portable Picnic Jars feature my favorite robust Italian flavors. Simply assemble up to 24 hours before and store in the fridge. Then, pack everything into a cooler or picnic basket and you're ready for a fabulous complete al fresco meal. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Cooking with Wild Caught American Shrimp...Featuring Spicy Cheese-Stuffed Shrimp with Andouille Rice Pilaf #TasteTheDifference #AmericanShrimp #seafood

Growing up near Houston on the Texas Gulf Coast, my love of shrimp started from an early age. What's not to love? It cooks in minutes and it tastes great! We eat shrimp at least once a week during the Summer months, so I’m always looking for flavorful new ways to cook this versatile crustacean. Did you know that much of the shrimp that you’ll find in supermarkets is imported from overseas? I personally only use wild-caught American shrimp in my recipes. That's because the difference in both flavor and texture is simply way better!  Today, I’m teaming with the American Shrimp Company to share an original recipe featuring their jumbo shrimp. American Shrimp Company shrimp are mostly sourced from the Gulf of Mexico and Southern Atlantic Ocean. These shrimp are prized for their delicate flavor profile and firm texture. 

My Spicy Cheese-Stuffed Shrimp with Andouille Rice Pilaf is perfect for Summer al fresco dining and entertaining. This flavorful dish combines many of my favorite flavors into one bite! Extra large wild caught American shrimp are stuffed with a bit of aged cheddar cheese. Then, they're brushed with a spicy, buttery sauce as they grill. The shrimp are served over an easy rice pilaf that’s flavored with spicy andouille sausage, onion, and garlic. This dish comes to the table assembled on a pretty platter -- it has lots of eye appeal. Trust me…this is a recipe you’re going to make over and over this Summer!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Summer Salads with Stonyfield and Taylor Farms...Featuring Chopped Tex-Mex Salad with Spicy Cilantro-Lime Dressing #salad #summereats

Summer is in high gear here in Texas, which means we’re enjoying more salads – either as a healthy side dish or as a refreshing main course. I’m a huge fan of salads – they’re easy to make, chock full of healthy vegetables and/or fruit, and they are so versatile! This month, Stonyfield Clean Plate Club members are partnering with Taylor Farms bagged salads to share delicious Summer salads with creamy homemade salad dressings made with Stonyfield Greek Yogurt. I'm sharing the recipe for my Chopped Tex-Mex Salad with Spicy Cilantro-Lime Dressing. This salad features Taylor Farms' Southwest Chopped Salad kit and a mildly spicy creamy dressing made with Stonyfield Whole Milk Greek Yogurt.  I make the dressing a few hours ahead (up to overnight) and let the flavors combine in the fridge. Then, assembly is a snap when you're ready to eat! 

The Taylor Farms chopped salad kit contained a combination of cabbage for extra crunch, romaine lettuce, green onion, carrots, and cilantro.  This yummy salad features shredded cheese and black beans for protein, chopped tomatoes and green onions for color and flavor, the salad kit’s package of tortilla strips and pepitas for crunch, and a healthy amount of creamy avocado. This salad is assembled on a pretty platter with a bowl of the homemade dressing in the center. This salad is so pretty that it will be a perfect centerpiece for any Summer get-togethers you have planned. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Celebrating the Fourth of July with Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag...Featuring Red, White, and Blue Pops AND a Giveaway! #InTheRaw

Can you believe that July 4th is next week? This Summer is literally speeding by! We're trying to watch our sugar intake around my house, but we don't want to use lots of artificial sweeteners either. We were so happy to discover Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag recently! This zero-calorie sweetener tastes great, and it's perfect for both baking and cooking. Stevia In The Raw® contains an extract from the sweet leaves of the stevia plant. For added convenience, Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag granulated product measures like sugar cup-for-cup. That means it can easily be used in recipes to cut sugar calories, because 1 cup of Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag = 1 cup of sugar. If you're watching your sugar intake -- but still want to enjoy a sweet, festive treat for your July 4th celebrations -- check out these festive Red, White, and Blue Pops! They're made with fresh berries, coconut milk, and they're sweetened with a bit of Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag. Cooling, festive, and tasty...that's a winning combination! They're also perfect for making ahead this weekend and storing in the freezer until July 4th.

Red, White, and Blue Pops
from the In The Raw® website
PREP TIME: 5 HOURS | MAKES 8 SERVINGS
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups watermelon cubes
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 tbs. + 1 tsp. Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag, divided
  • 1 cup coconut milk
Preparation:
Step 1: In food processor or blender, puree watermelon with 2 tsp. Stevia In The Raw® and divide between popsicle molds, letting mixture come 1/3 of the way up the molds. Place in freezer and freeze until solid -- about 1.5 hours.

Step 2: Stir 1 tbs. of the Stevia In The Raw® into the coconut milk and pour over the frozen watermelon mixture in the popsicle molds, allowing the mixture to come 2/3 of the way up the molds. Place popsicle mold cover on top and insert popsicle sticks. Freeze until firm -- about 1.5 hours.

Step 3: Puree blueberries with 2 tsp. of Stevia In The Raw® and strain through a fine mesh strainer. Divide mixture between popsicle molds, filling them to the top. Freeze until firm, about 2 hours more. To remove popsicles from molds, submerge the mold in lukewarm water for several seconds until the pops easily pull out.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wendy's Favorite Things for June #WendyFaveThings #GreatEight

June is nearly over...Summer is in full swing...and it's time to share another Great Eight with you! This month's Wendy's Favorite Things is featuring everything from a Summer-centric BBQ cookbook...to some amazing artisan ice cream and a unique, savory spin on steel cut oats. Let's get started...

(1) Vosges Haut-Chocolat Alderwood Smoked Salt Caramel Marshmallows. Vosges is one of my favorite artisan chocolate brands -- and I had the good fortune to visit their corporate headquarters in Chicago last week to get a behind-the-scenes look at how their chocolates are created and manufactured. One of the items I sampled during my tasting was their Alderwood Smoked Salt Caramel Marshmallows. Soft homemade marshmallow cream is topped with a square of soft, burnt caramel. Then, each square is covered with Vosges' deep 45% milk chocolate and a sprinkle of Alderwood smoked salt. These sophisticated little bites are a perfect combination of chocolate, sweet marshmallow, and deeply rich caramel. Each package contains five two-bite squares...and retails for just $5.oo via the Vosges website. That's a lot of chocolate bang for your buck!  

(2) Texas BBQ: Platefuls of Legendary Lone Star Flavor Cookbook. Being a native Texan, this cookbook immediately grabbed my attention! My family makes BBQ almost year-round, so we're always on the lookout for new recipes. This cookbook is from the editors at Southern Living, so you know the recipes are legit. From learning how to achieve the caramelized bark and tender pink center of my state's signature smoked brisket...along with recipes for delicious side dishes accented with flavorful influences brought by German, Spanish, and Czech settlers. This fabulous cookbook contains more than 100 authentic recipes from the state of Texas -- including appetizers, side dishes, and indulgent desserts. The book also provides tons of great tips and tricks to help you master the art of Texas BBQ from expert pitmasters. Texas BBQ: Platefuls of Legendary Lone Star Flavor can be purchased from bookstores nationwide -- including Amazon.

(3) Home Chef Meal Delivery Service. Meal kit subscription services are a great option for busy cooks! I recently tried Home Chef Meal Delivery service, and I loved how much time it saved me in the kitchen during my busy work week. Each kit contains prepped, pre-measured ingredients for three recipes. I loved being able to login to my account and select a trio of meals from multiple options for that week. It was very easy to find meals Michael and I would both enjoy eating. Each recipe came packaged separately inside the shipping box, along with clearly labeled and prepped ingredients. Each recipe also included a large recipe card with photographed, step-by-step easy-to-understand directions. Even novice cooks will get great results from Home Chef. All of the dishes I tried were ready in about 30 minutes and tasted great! We especially loved the Tex-Mex Turkey Taco Salad and the Wood-Fired BBQ Chicken Pizza. To sign up for Home Chef, simply visit their website to create an account and get started! 

(4) Honeymoon Ice Cream. I'm all about ice cream during the long, hot Texas Summer. I'm always on the lookout for creative brands to try, so I was really excited to discover California-based Honeymoon ice cream. This delicious artisan ice cream brand is made with fresh, local milk from Jersey cows. Then, they flavor the ice cream with homemade ingredients like jam, oats, biscuits, and toffee. We especially liked that this ice cream isn't sticky sweet like some brands. It's creamy and lightly sweet, with unique flavor combinations. We tried a quartet of flavors, including: Berries & Biscuits (think berry shortcake a la mode!), Southern Pecan (candied pecans + milk steeped in used whiskey barrels), and Strawberry Tarragon. Then, there's my personal favorite: White Chocolate Mint, which is flavored with spearmint and peppermint and contains mini white chocolate chips -- so good sandwiched with chocolate wafer cookies for a fun ice cream sandwich! Honeymoon ice cream can be ordered from their online store. My Texas readers can find glass mason jars of Honeymoon ice cream at their local Central Market.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Celebrating Summer Salads with Litehouse, Fresh Express, and NatureSweet...Featuring Chopped Shrimp Salad with Honey-Lime Vinaigrette

Summer is officially here in Texas -- we hit 100 for the first time this week! That means I'm always on the lookout for dinners that are refreshing and quick to make. For us, that often means a main dish salad. Today, I'm partnering with my friends at Litehouse, NatureSweetand Fresh Express to share a fabulous salad that's bursting with fun flavors and textures. Best of all, it's hearty enough that Michael is plenty satisfied after eating it! Thanks to using Litehouse Red Wine Olive Oil Vinaigrette ready-to-use salad dressing and Fresh Express chopped Hearts of Romaine, and delicious NatureSweet Cherub tomatoes, this salad is ready to eat in about 30 minutes...perfect for busy Summer nights!
My Chopped Shrimp Salad with Honey-Lime Vinaigrette features chopped grilled shrimp, creamy avocado, crumbled goat cheese, chopped sweet cherub tomatoes grilled zucchini, and a couple of fun crunchy components. Just before serving, it's tossed with a sweet-tart vinaigrette. If your family is allergic to – or doesn’t eat – seafood, simply use bite-sized cubes of chicken. To make it veg-friendly, you can add cubed tofu or roasted chickpeas for your protein. You really can’t go wrong!

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Weekend Gourmet Is Heading to Chicago! #WGTravel #Chicago2017

Photo provided by Hamilton Broadway
I've got some exciting news to share with you today. The Weekend Gourmet is heading to Chicago next week for a few days of fun foodie adventures! I wanted to preview our trip for you today --  the activities, attractions, and bites that we have planned. Michael and I have a ton of fun...and tasty...Summer adventures scheduled during our five-day visit. We've been to Chicago several times before, but not for several years. Chicago is one of our favorite cities to visit -- it's super easy to navigate via their convenient L train system. The highlight of our trip is seeing the Chicago residency of the Broadway smash hit musical Hamilton! I gave Michael the tickets for Christmas, so we've been anticipating the show for months. To say we're excited is an understatement.

Photo provided by InterContinental Hotels
Our host hotel partner for this trip is the historic Hotel InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile. This luxury hotel is housed in a historic building from the 1920's. The InterContinental Chicago also features an opulent indoor Jr. Olympic size pool from the building's original Medinah Athletic Club on its 14th-floor. We're so excited to be staying here -- the hotel's location is perfect for all of the adventures we have planned. We are planning to enjoy some of our favorite foods during this trip...like Chicago deep-dish pizza at Giordano's and Garrett Mix from iconic Chicago destination Garrett Popcorn Shops. For the uninitiated, Garrett Mix is an addictive combination of Garrett's sweet CaramelCrisp® and savory CheeseCorn popcorn.® 
Photo provided by Giordano's Pizza
Photo of Chicago Mix provided by Garrett Popcorn Shops
Photo from Glazed and Infused 
Photo Vosges Haut Chocolat
Other restaurants we're featuring during this trip include Michael Jordan's Steak House at Hotel InterContinental, the chic French bistro Brindille, River Roast Social House, Beacon Tavern, Chicago-style hot dogs and yummy Italian beef sandwiches at Portillo'sbrunch at Chef Rick Bayless' iconic Frontera Grill, and artisan doughnuts at Glazed and Infused. We're also planning an informative and tasty visit to Chicago-based Vosge Haut Chocolat's headquarters -- aka the Chocolate Temple. We won't just be eating, though! We also plan to visit the Art Institute of Chicago, Navy Pier, Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, Willis Tower's amazing 103rd story Skydeck observation deck, and Millennium Park's iconic Cloud Gate sculpture...also known as The Bean.
Photograph from the City of Chicago
Chicago truly has it all -- fun attractions, art and culture, and an amazing food scene. There's so much to see and do that it's one of our favorite cities to visit. We can't wait to share the entire experience with you next week via our Instagram account (WEEKENDGOURMET) and our Twitter feed (@TheWeekendGourm).

Disclosure: The Hotel InterContinetal Chicago Magnificent Mile and restaurants mentioned -- other than Frontera Gille -- are providing us with hosted meals and accommodations to facilitate coverage in our Chicago culinary series. The Chicago Convention and Visitors Bureau assisted with trip planning and is providing us CityPASS attraction cards.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Celebrating National Dairy Month with Real California Milk...Featuring Mexican Street Corn Fritters #NationalDairyMonth

Photo provided by California Milk
June is National Dairy Month, so I'm partnering with my friends at Real California Milk to celebrate! Today, I'm sharing a delicious appetizer recipe using delicious California-produced dairy products! Their fun recipe for Mexican Street Corn Fritters transforms the traditional Mexican street food elotes into a fun appetizer that's perfect for any Summer fiestas you have planned.  Lightly spiced pancake-like corn fritters are flavored with grilled corn kernels and spices. They're cooked...then topped with more grilled corn kernels, crumbled queso fresco cheese -- which is similar to feta -- cilantro, green onions, and a cilantro-lime yogurt drizzle. Not only are these corn fritters full of flavor, they're also a perfect meatless veg-friendly appetizer option. Wait until you see how simple these corn fritters are to whip up -- and combination of flavors and textures is absolute big-flavor perfection!

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