The Weekend Gourmet F

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fabulous Fall Foods #SundaySupper...Featuring Streamlined Weeknight Shepherd's Pie

This week, our #SundaySupper group is sharing Fabulous Fall Foods. Our host for this week's event is Coleen of The Redhead Baker, with help from co-host Conni of The Foodie Army Wife. While Fall has already arrived in many parts of the country, Texas hasn't quite gotten the memo. After a brief respite from the Summer-like heat last weekend, we've been in the 90s most of the past week. My hope was that by making a comforting Fall-inspired dinner -- maybe I could hasten Fall's arrival here just a bit! To me, Fall means cooler weather and a return to comfort classics. I've always wanted to make shepherd's pie, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. What's not to like about a hearty beef and veggie base topped with creamy mashed potatoes? 

I wanted to make a streamlined version of shepherd's pie that could be whipped up on busy weeknights. My Streamlined Weeknight Shepherd's Pie tastes like it's been cooking for hours, but it's ready in about 45 minutes -- most of which is hands-off time! I used pre-chopped veggies and refrigerated ready-cooked mashed potatoes from the grocery store. If you prefer, you can also use leftover mashed potatoes -- or even good-quality instant mashed potatoes. Since shepherd's pie reminds me a bit of a pot pie, I cooked my shepherd's pies in four individual 2-cup ramekins. However, you can also layer everything in a 2-quart casserole or 9x9 square baker instead.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Food Lover's Weekend In Ohio, Part I: Akron/Canton and Fallingwater

The Weekend Gourmet enjoyed a fun getaway to Ohio and Pennsylvania this Summer to attend our nephew’s high school graduation. Before and after the ceremony, we enjoyed visits to the Akron/Canton area, Cleveland, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Fallingwater. We enjoyed cooler temps, excellent food, and some fun attractions. We flew into and out of the smaller Akron-Canton airport via Southwest Airlines, so we began our trip with an overnight visit to Akron and Canton. Both towns are located about an hour south of Cleveland, so a visit to both was very easy. Canton is best known for two things: the Pro Football Hall of Fame and DCI’s popular Bluecoats drum corp. When we found out that the Pro Football Hall of Fame was only a 10-minute drive from the airport, we decided to head straight there after picking up our rental car. Michael and I are huge football fans, so we were really excited to visit the Hall of Fame. It's chock-full of NFL history, but it’s easy to see the entire complex in an afternoon.
Each year, nearly two-hundred thousand football fans visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Learning about the history of the game is an amazing and fun learning experience. We first spent some time visiting the Hall of Fame Gallery, which contains bronze busts of all 287 NFL Hall of Fame inductees -- both players and coaches. We immediately looked for a few of our favorite players, and we were very excited to find #34: Texas and Houston Oilers legend Earl “The Tyler Rose” Campbell. 
After spending an hour or so walking through the Hall of Fame Gallery, we decided to spend the rest of our visit checking out some of the exhibits located in the two-level main building. All of the exhibits were educational, and many of them were interactive too. My favorite experience was getting to stand right next to the actual Lombardi Trophy that will be presented to the winner of the 2015 Super Bowl next February! 
Michael had fun creating a computer mockup of a Houston Texans championship ring at one interactive exhibit. A fan can dream…right?!?!? Speaking of the Texans, we were really excited to see a J.J. Watt jersey on display. As you can see, Michael happened to be wearing his favorite J.J. Watt shirt that day. Talk about a perfect photo op! Before leaving, we spent some time in the well-stocked Hall of Fame Store gift shop to pick up a few souvenirs of our visit.
Photograph provided by Sheraton Hotels
From there, we headed to the Sheraton Suites Akron Cuyahoga Falls hotel in nearby Cuyahoga Falls. The picturesque town is located on the scenic Cuyahoga River. In fact, our two-room suite included a lovely view of the river below. The Sheraton Suites also provides a perfect location for travelers – it's right on the river, with easy access to a major freeway. Our suite had a living room, a spacious bedroom, and a large bathroom. The King bed was very comfortable, and the hotel provided free in-room WiFi. We settled in for a bit to relax before our dinner reservation at Dante Bocuzzi Akron -- known as dba -- in nearby Akron. 
For those who don’t know, NBA great LeBron James grew up in Akron -- and he still maintains close ties to his hometown. Akron is also home to the University of Akron, as well as a thriving food scene. Chef Dante Bocuzzi has several restaurants in the Cleveland area, and we had read great things about his Dante Bocuzzi Akron -- known as dba. It's a popular restaurant that also offers a bar and an after-hours ultra lounge. Chef Bocuzzi is also a music lover, which is reflected in dba’s décor and attitude. The restaurant features low lighting, red lighting, and walls that are inscribed with lyrics from famous rock songs. The menu at dba is printed on the back of a vintage LP sleeve, and the bread bowls at each table are handmade by Chef Bocuzzi by melting and reshaping classic vinyl albums -- very fun! 
Chef de Cuisine Ernie Cornelius' dinner menu features creative flavor combinations -- and some of the best food we've eaten in any city this year. We started our memorable meal with a duo of creative cocktail pairings and a shared appetizer. For our starter, we shared the Cola Braised Short Ribs with Asian Slaw and Tempura Shiitake. The ribs were fork tender, and the mushrooms were perfectly fried. The acidity from the slaw worked perfectly with the richness of the beef ribs. So good! 
Our perfectly mixed cocktails were fruity and vibrantly flavored. Michael had a pineapple-based cocktail that came paired with an edible pineapple crisp on top. I opted for the Berry Fizz, which was served with an amuse bouche of panna cotta and dried blueberries. We quickly agreed that our meal was off to a perfect start! After our starter, we shared a Toasted Peanut and Chicken Salad. It was easily one of the best salads we've eaten in ages. It featured perfectly grilled chicken breast, crispy rice noodles, chopped peanuts, and a flavorful spicy peanut dressing. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Red Gold Prize Pack Giveaway...Featuring Slow Cooker Beefy Cilantro-Lime Soup #RGRecipes #SlowCooker

My good friends at Red Gold recently sent me a fun package that contained a variety of their delicious tomatoes -- along with an apron, wooden spoon, and slow cooker recipes. Red Gold is focusing on time-saving slow cooker meals this Fall, encouraging families to have a hot meal ready and waiting when they get back home after a busy day at school or work. They're also hosting a fun promotion starting today -- they're going to give away two slow cookers a day for the next three weeks — that's 44 Crock-Pots in all!! Red Gold also encouraged me to share a fun slow cooker creation featuring one of the tomato products in my prize pack. I love Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes with Lime Juice & Cilantro, so I used it as the starting point for a filling soup that's a complete meal in a bowl.
My Slow Cooker Beefy Cilantro-Lime Soup is very adaptable. You can put it on in the morning before you leave and let it cook on Low for 6 hours; simply program your slow cooker to switch to Warm mode the rest of the day. You can also assemble the dish in the late afternoon/early evening and cook it on High for 3 hours. This spicy soup is perfect for cool Fall evenings. It’s flavored with cilantro, lime juice, corn, potatoes, and mild green chiles. To add a bit of heat and smokiness, I added low-sodium taco seasoning and a spoonful of puree from a can of chipotle peppers. Feel free to adjust the heat level to your preference. For serving, I topped each bowl with a dollop of cooling sour cream and shredded cheese. Your kitchen will smell heavenly while this soup is cooking away!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for September...Featuring Galveston's Number 13

While visiting our families in Houston earlier this Summer, Michael and I were invited to come have dinner at Number 13 Prime Steak and Seafood in Galveston. Galveston is well known for its casual seafood restaurants located on the beach...and its equally casual vibe. Until recently fine-dining options on the island were few and far between. Number 13 is the perfect blend of upscale gourmet food and casually elegant hospitality. The restaurant opened last December and is located inside Pelican Rest Marina. Its location is closer to the causeway linking Galveston to the mainland than the more touristy Seawall beach area. Executive Chef Jason Hanin's menu includes innovative appetizers and delicious cocktails, creatively prepared Gulf seafood, prime steak, and mouthwatering desserts. Add it all up, and you have the makings of a romantic tropical date night!

Michael and I started our dinner with a pair of cocktails and a shared appetizer. I opted for the refreshing Strawberry Basil Lemonade cocktail. Michael chose the Bramble, which contained gin, crème de cassis blackberry, and fresh lemon. Both cocktails were expertly prepared -- intensely flavored and just strong enough. For our appetizer, we quickly agreed on the Maine Lobster & Burrata platter. It arrived looking like a colorful work of art and included proscuitto Americano, grapefruit salad, tarragon-verjus vinaigrette.
The platter was almost too pretty to eat...almost! Sweet chunks of lobster combined with salty prosciutto, tart grapefruit, and the herbal vinaigrette. Add in the rich, creamy burrata and we were loving this appetizer. For our entrees, we decided to order one seafood dish and one steak and create an upscale surf 'n turf for two. Michael loves nothing more than a great steak, so he decided to try Number 13's signature in-house 28-day dry aged US Prime New York Strip. It was cooked perfectly to order, and it was melt-in-your-mouth tender and juicy!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

M&M and Mott's Fall Recipes...Featuring Candy Apple Oatmeal Cookies #FlavorofFall #CollectiveBias #shop

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

Fall is in the air -- even here in Texas! Our first cool front of the season blew through last night, dropping temps into the breezy low 60s. Yes, that qualifies as a cool snap in Texas. Cooler weather makes my thoughts turn to fall recipes, so I decided to whip up a batch of oatmeal cookies flavored with seasonal Candy Apple M&Ms, Mott's apple sauce, and Mott's apple juice. Add some chopped dried apples and a delicious apple-cinnamon glaze, and every bite of my Candy Apple Oatmeal Cookies was bursting with the #FlavorofFall! Even better? By using a store-bought oatmeal cookie mix, my first batch of cookies  was in the oven in about 20 minutes. Oatmeal cookies are Michael's favorite, so he happily ate several of these moist chocolate-studded cookies for dessert last night!

My first step to making these cookies was to head to my neighborhood Walmart on behalf of #Collective Bias to gather all my ingredients. The Mott's apple sauce was located on the Canned Fruit aisle. With the first item in my cart, I headed over to the Juice aisle to pick up a container of Mott's apple juice. Both items were easy to find in a matter of minutes. Then, it was off to find the seasonal Candy Apple M&Ms.
After a bit of searching around  the candy aisle, I located a convenient display of seasonal M&M flavors in a special display very near the checkout. I purchased the Candy Apple flavor M&Ms for my cookies, but I couldn't resist picking up a bag of the Candy Corn white chocolate M&Ms too. They are so good...and the festive Fall colors are really fun! You'll find lots of fun Fall-themed recipe and theme party ideas on the Flavor Of Fall tumblr page. You can also download convenient coupons for $1 off any two (2) Mott’s sauce or Mott’s juice drinks and $1.50 off any two (2) M&M’s brand chocolate candies. Both of these printable coupons will help save you money on all your Fall baking!
Mission accomplished...now, I was ready to bake! My original intention was to make a fun cookie pizza, but my finished cookie dough came out pretty wet and sticky...so changed my plans. I decided to make Candy Apple Oatmeal Cookies drizzled with an apple-cinnamon glaze instead. The end result was just what I was looking for...and my cookies received two enthusiastic thumbs up from Michael!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

125 Best Chocolate Chip Recipes Cookbook #Giveaway...Featuring Chocolate Caramel Sauce

Sometimes, you just want to have fun in the kitchen…enter chocolate chips! These fun bite-sized nuggets of chocolaty goodness are so versatile too. My all-time-favorite cookie is chocolate chip, so I’m a chocolate chip lover from way back! Imagine how excited I was when I received a copy of the 125 Best Chocolate Chip Recipes cookbook in the mail a few weeks ago. I immediately sat down with the book and marveled at the wide variety of ways that Julie Hasson uses chocolate chips in her recipes. This fun cookbook features easy, imaginative recipes for cookies, cakes, pies, breads, puddings, bars and squares, muffins, hot and cold beverages and extraordinary sauces. For breakfast, try the Chocolate Chip Oat Breakfast Biscuits or Chocolate Chip Hotcakes. Kids will go crazy for Chocolate Dipped Pretzels and Chocolate Chip Cherry Bars...and adults will swoon over the Chocolate Espresso Lava Cake that was featured on the Today show.

Trying to select just one recipe from this fabulous cookbook was SO hard! However, I knew I had found just what I was looking for when I spied a simple, quick recipe for Chocolate Caramel Sauce. This quick-cook sauce/dip combines two of my favorite flavors in one delicious bite, so I knew I had to make a batch for dessert that night. I love that this sauce is literally ready in about 5 minutes – talk about instant gratification! That makes this recipe perfect for last-minute dinner guests, a decadent ice cream topping…or even holiday gift giving. Simply make a batch of this decadent sauce, pour it into a decorative serving bowl, and add your favorite dippers on the side. I used strawberries, Gala apple slices, mini palmier cookies, and strawberry flavored marshmallows. Voila – a simple, fun dessert!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fresh Take On Dinner with Green Giant Steamers...Featuring 15-Minute Chicken and Veggie Couscous Skillet

Running out of ideas for quick, tasty dinner options to serve on hectic weeknights? If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do after a busy day at the office is spend loads of time in the kitchen cooking an elaborate multi-course meal. During the work week, my goal is to serve a tasty dinner that's ready to eat in 30 minutes or less. Green Giant Steamers to the rescue! These handy frozen veggie blends make it totally easy to transform hectic weeknights into delicious, quick dinners. With Green Giant Steamers, all you need is a microwave and a few minutes to transform your favorite go-to weeknight dinners!
Take Pasta Night for example. Instead of having plain jarred marinara sauce and pasta, simply add Valley Fresh Steamers Market Blend Vegetables. Voila – you’ll have Spaghetti Veggie Bolognese in no time flat! You have a completely new take on a classic dish by simply adding one healthy new ingredient.

Green Giant Steamers offer a variety of sauces and seasonings, as well as some unique veggie blends. Some varieties even include rice or pasta too! You can enjoy the convenience of steaming vegetables in your microwave in only minutes. With delicious flavors like Broccoli & Cheese Sauce and Honey Roasted Sweet Corn, you can come up with a ton of quick-cook dinner options. For my 15-Minute Chicken and Veggie Couscous Skillet, I used Steamers Healthy Vision blend. It features carrots, green beans, and zucchini in a tasty rosemary butter sauce. Couscous cooks in just 5 minutes while the Steamers packet does its thing in the microwave. Simply add chopped pre-cooked chicken and sprinkle on a bit of feta, and dinner’s ready in about 15 minutes! You read that right...15 minutes!! Wait until you see how simple this flavorful skillet is to make.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Stress-Free Fall Fiesta Entertaining Tips...Featuring Bud Light Lime Apple-Ahhh-Rita #glamfiestaforever

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Anheuser Busch via Mode  Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Anheuser Busch.


September...school is back in session and Fall is on the horizon. Here in Texas, it's still pretty hot outside, but I'm trying to embrace a Fall mentality until Mother Nature decides to cooperate and drop the temperatures a bit. To me, Fall means football...and football means tailgating and football watching parties! Nearly every weekend during the football season, I put together a simple fiesta that includes tasty nibbles and refreshing beverages. One of my favorite beverages to serve is Bud Light Lime Ritas. Bud Light Lime Ritas come in a variety of fun, fruity flavors like raspberry and mango -- they're the perfect way to kick off any Fall Fiesta! This Fall, Bud Light's featured seasonal flavor is Bud Light Lime Apple-Ahh-Rita. Its crisp, refreshing apple flavor makes it ideal for any Fall get-togethers that you're planning. I like to serve chilled Bud Light Lime Apple-Ahhh-Ritas over lots of ice in margarita glasses. There's no mixing necessary...simply pour and sip! That means I can spend my time cheering for the Texans.
I'm a huge football fan, so I don't want to miss all of the big plays because I'm busy in the kitchen the entire game. To keep my Fall Fiestas stress-free and casual, I employ a few key strategies. 

(1) Keep it simple! Limit your menu to an easy appetizer or two, a filling main dish, and a make-ahead dessert. For cocktails, focus on ready-to-drink canned beverages like Bud Light Lime Apple-Ahhh-Rita. Don't dirty your good dishes -- use paper plates and disposable utensils that can be recycled after the party. Finally, if you've invited company over to watch the game, ask them to bring a dish too. Potlucks rule!

(2) Do as much advance prep as possible. I serve items that can be prepared a day ahead or the morning of the game. I might assemble a lasagna on Saturday afternoon and refrigerate it overnight. The next day, I pop it in the oven just before kickoff so it's ready to eat by halftime. Slow cookers are also great for cooking chili and hot dips hours before kickoff. 

(3) Employ strategic use of convenience products. Homemade items are great, but there's nothing wrong with picking up a pre-cut veggie tray or a meat-and-cheese tray from the deli. Doing so will save you tons of time and stress. It will also free you up to focus on one special homemade item like dessert or a big pot of gumbo.

(4) Make sure to offer a range of items. Everyone enjoys different flavors and textures, so I like to put out a variety of snacks. I often put out bowls of mixed nuts and popcorn, savory dips, and some sort of sweet item. It doesn't have to be fancy: cookies and cupcakes from a bakery or packages of frozen ice cream novelties are always popular at my house!
For the first week of the Texans season, my Fall Fiesta menu included a duo of dips, chips, takeout wings, and my easy make-ahead Too-Good-to-Be-Lowfat Chocolate Eclair Icebox Dessert. The dip duo included a simple sour cream-based onion dip and store-bought edamame hummus that I topped with chunky salsa and feta. The dip platter took all of 5 minutes to assemble, and its bold flavors paired perfectly with the fizzy crisp Fall flavor of the Bud Light Lime Apple-Ahhh-Ritas!
The awesome flavors of Bud Light Lime Ritas are so incredibly delicious that wherever they go, a party happens!  For more Fiesta Inspiration, visit https://www.facebook.com/budlightlimeritas

Sunday, September 7, 2014

#SundaySupper Squash Fest...Featuring Zucchini-Corn Pancakes

This week, #SundaySupper is having a Squash Fest! Our hostesses are Alice from A Mama, Baby & Shar-Pei In the Kitchen and Christy from Confessions of a Culinary Diva. They challenged us to come up with recipes featuring squash. While the weather's turning cooler in many parts of the country and thoughts are turning to pumpkin and Winter squashes...we're still "enjoying" Summer-like weather here in Texas. My recipe this week features a duo of Summer veggies: zucchini and sweet corn!

My Zucchini-Corn Pancakes are savory pancakes that make a perfect light Summer lunch, a dinner side dish with grilled meats, or even a weekend brunch entree. I used a recipe that I found at Food Network's website as my jumping off point. To their basic recipe that features both flour and cornmeal, I added green onion, basil, and crumbled goat cheese. I served my pancakes with sour cream and chunky salsa for topping. My batch made 8 pancakes -- plenty for for 2-3 hungry people. For larger crowds, feel free to double the recipe. For fun appetizers, simply make the pancakes smaller. See? This veg-friendly recipe is very versatile!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Posh Pigs In a Blanket...Perfect for Football Season!

This Sunday is one of my favorite times of the year: the start of the Houston Texans football season! Last year was a rough year for us die-hard Texans fans, but things are looking up for our home team this year. We've got a new coach, a new quarterback...and an amazing defense led by my favorite player, JJ Watt!! Football watching also means something else: football food. To me, football food means many things: a great sandwich, spicy wings, and dips. Basically, I love finger foods -- and I've got a doozy to share with you today. I first shared these Posh Pigs In a Blanket at the start of last football season. They're so good that I decided that I had to share them again this season. 

My amped-up version takes this classic finger food to a new level of deliciousness. These spicy bites feature cheddar-studded turkey smoked sausage wrapped in crescent dough. I upped the flavor by adding honey mustard, shredded cheddar, and a mixture of sauteed shallot and Hatch chiles. Before these piggies are baked, I sprinkled a bit of cilantro and Cajun spice on top to add even more spicy flavor. A quick warning in advance: these little piggies are very addicting, so you may want to make a double batch if you have a big crowd gathered for the big game!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

September Recipe Club...Featuring Watermelon & Feta Salad

Where is this year going to...can you believe that it's time for another monthly reveal for Secret Recipe Club? My assigned blog this month is It's Good to Be the Cook. Beth's blog features lots of great waistline-friendly recipes, including some great salad options. Beth and I have two big things in common: we both love to dine out and travel as much as we love cooking good food in our own kitchens! I have the feeling we'd be pretty good friends in real life...especially after I saw her recipe for Watermelon & Feta Salad. Just last week, I enjoyed a salad featuring watermelon and feta at Bite restaurant here in San Antonio for Restaurant Week. It was such an amazing combination of flavors that I wanted to create something similar at home. Enter Beth's recipe...it was fate!

This recipe is a snap to put together for a quick lunch, or as part of a healthy Summer dinner. I picked up chopped watermelon at the grocery store, as well as crumbled feta cheese. I made a quick homemade balsamic vinaigrette in less than 5 minutes, so this salad is ready to eat in a flash! I made one small change to Beth's recipe. I can't eat olives or bell pepper, so I decided to add some chopped hazelnuts for a bit of crunch. This salad is so good and really easy to make!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road: Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas Preview Cruise

Photo provided by Royal Caribbean
Michael and I were lucky enough to be among the first people to preview Royal Caribbean's recently renovated Navigator of the Seas, which sailed from Galveston this Summer! Royal Caribbean kindly included in an invitation-only overnight preview sailing to check out all the ship has to offer! Navigator of the Seas calls Galveston its Summer home port. That makes this fabulous ship an ideal vacation option for families, as well as couples looking for a romantic getaway. Once you board the ship, you'll find every amenity that you need for a good time: pools and a variety of outdoor activities, a skating rink, entertaining shows, a wide variety of restaurants, and a full-service spa. We boarded the ship early on a Saturday morning at the convenient Port of Galveston. Parking was easy and stress-free thanks to convenient shuttle buses that drop you right at the point of embarkation.

The pre-boarding process was very simple, and it took less than an hour. Much like the process at an airport when we fly, we had to go through a security checkpoint. We then checked in with the friendly staff, where we each received a handy card that served as both our room keys and our identification cards. Just like that, we were on our way to Room D22! When we arrived at our room, we were excited to see that we were staying in an Oceanview Stateroom with a small balcony, as well as a large bed and sitting area. It was just the perfect size -- and much larger than we expected. Waiting for us was a handy brochure that laid out all of the ship's onboard activities for our cruise. We took a few minutes to look over the activities and admire the lovely water view from our balcony.
Photo provided by Royal Caribbean
I have to mention one very cool addition to Navigator of the Seas during its recent renovation. They now offer select interior rooms with Virtual Balconies. Virtual Balconies are an 80-inch high-definition screen that spans nearly floor to ceiling. For the first time ever, guests can enjoy real-time views and sounds of the ocean and destinations from the comfort of an interior stateroom. We were able to check out one of these rooms during our visit, and the technology was really impressive!
Photograph provided by Royal Caribbean
After we settled in, we set out to explore the Navigator of the Seas. On the way to the pool area on the 11th deck, we stopped to admire the gorgeous Promenade that's in the center of the ship. The Promenade has shops and restaurants, as well as a casino and performance venue. Navigator of the Seas is huge! It has 15 decks and TEN pools. When we got to the pool level, we grabbed a tropical drink and checked out the area. In addition to numerous pools, there are hot tubs, a gigantic outdoor movie screen, a jogging deck, and even live music. This was a great place to hang out while we waited for the ship to set sail! 
Just before the ship set sail, we took part in a brief required safety training. Then, it was back to our stateroom to change into dinner attire -- but not before we ducked outside to snap a picture of the Gulf of Mexico...once you're a few miles offshore, the water is a lovely shade of blue-green! Navigator of the Seas offers a wide range of dining options, most of which are included in the cost of your cruise ticket. The Main Dining Room serves multi-course menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Other complimentary dining options include the Windjammer Cafe, Cafe Promenade, and room service (a small fee applies for room service ordered between midnight and 5 am). For a small additional fee, Navigator of the Seas offers several upscale dining options. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Family Fun Day in Galveston...Featuring Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Joe's Crab Shack

Growing up in the Houston area, my family spent many Summer getaways in Galveston…sand, surf, and fresh Gulf seafood were all we needed for a great time. My maternal grandparents had a beach house on Galveston during my childhood, so the island was sort of a home-away-from home. As adults, Michael and I still love to visit Galveston! This Summer, we enjoyed a pair of island getaways. Michael and I took part in an invitation-only overnight preview cruise of Royal Caribbean’s refurbished Navigator of the Seas. I’ll tell you about that fun experience tomorrow! Today, I want to share a Galveston Family Fun Day that we enjoyed with our teenage niece and nephews. Lili, Wolf, and Levi live in Ohio...so we don’t get to see them very often. They spent a few weeks at my parents’ house in the Houston area this Summer, so Michael and I put together a fun day trip. Our visit to Galveston included a day at Schlitterbahn Waterpark and a seafood feast at Joe’s Crab ShackSchlitterbahn Galveston is an offshoot of the iconic New Braunfels waterpark of the same name. We had a busy, fun day -- complete with requisite  sunburns!
When Levi was little, we all lived in the Houston area…so Aunt Wendy and Uncle Michael took him on playdates that became known as “adventures.” So, this Galveston trip is the most recent in a long line of adventures that we’ve shared over the years! Our island adventure started in the morning with a quick pit stop to pick up bottled water and snacks. Schlitterbahn has a budget-friendly policy that allows guests to bring coolers inside the park and keep them in a designated covered area filled with communal picnic-style tables. We brought fruit, big bottles of water, and a few other goodies in our cooler. If you prefer to purchase food inside the park, there are 12 different restaurants and snack bars that serve casual food and snacks.
We started our Schlitterbahn visit by dropping our personal items in the convenient, secure locker area. Once we applied copious amounts of sunscreen, we hit the water! We had a blast hanging out in the wave pool...and floating around the extensive river complex that circles the park. The price of admission includes the use of lifejackets and inner tubes. Some inner tubes were for one person, and some were for two people to share. We spent hours floating around on the river...some portions were calm and serene, but there are two offshoots for the more daring.
One section of the mile-long river complex features huge rolling waves that toss you around on your inner tube. Another offshoot features simulated white water rapids. Both of these high-adrenaline sections were really fun – even for the less adventuresome of our group. We spent the bulk of the day until the late afternoon hanging out on the river and riding some of the water slides located around the park. We encountered a few lines, but we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly they moved. The longest time we had to wait for any slide was 15-20 minutes. By late afternoon, our stomachs were growling, and we were ready for a break from the Summer heat. Joe’s Crab Shack to the rescue!

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