The Weekend Gourmet F

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Steviva Blogger Recipe Challenge...Featuring Holiday Candy Cane Cocktail #steviva #nectevia #sweetandeasy #peppermint

I was recently invited to take part in the Steviva Blogger Recipe Challenge using one of the company's natural sweeteners to create an original recipe. Steviva's mission is to safely and healthfully replace artificial sweeteners and table sugar. Their product line includes ingredients like monk fruit, erythritol, coconut sugar, agave nectar, xylitol, inulin, and crystalline fructose. I decided to enter a recipe in the contest's Beverage category that features their Nectevia liquid sweetener -- which contains blue agave nectar and premium 100% pure stevia extract. The end result is a natural syrup sweetener that tastes great and has only a quarter of the calories, carbs, and sugars of regular agave or table sugar -- and just FOUR tiny calories per 1-teaspoon serving. 

My festive Holiday Candy Cane Cocktail is ideal for the upcoming holiday entertaining season! It features a simple homemade peppermint-infused simple syrup made with Nectevia, vanilla-infused vodka, Rum Chata liqueur, and a bit of cream for richness. To up the fun quotient of my cocktail, I rimmed the cocktail glass with melted chocolate and crushed peppermint for an edible peppermint bark effect. This smooth and creamy cocktail features an intense peppermint flavor that's sure to be a hit at any holiday parties on your calendar over the coming weeks. It would be an ideal centerpiece for your Christmas morning brunch!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Wendy's Great Eight for October 2017 #GreatEight #WendyFaveThings #tryit

Fall is's soup weather...and the Houston Astros are leading in the World Series! Life doesn't get much better for us here in central Texas this week. I'm so excited to share this month's Wendy's Great Eight picks with you!! This month, I'm sharing some fun treats, a fabulous appetizer...and even a magical elixir that will help you get a restful night's sleep. Ready? Let's get started!

(1) Angie's Boom Chicka Pop White Chocolate & Peppermint Flavored Kettle Corn. I love popcorn...and I love peppermint anything during the holiday I fell in love with Angie's Book Chicka Pop white chocolate-peppermint kettle corn at first bite! If peppermint bark and salty-sweet kettle corn, it would taste just like this. Even better? It's just 110 calories per cup. That means I can have a sweet treat in the evening that won't wreck my daily calorie budget. Other yummy flavors in Angie's fabulous seasonal lineup include Hot Cocoa Marshmallow and Candy Corn. I also love their year-round White Cheddar popcorn -- so good! Be sure to check out their amazing online Store Locator, which can be searched by specific flavor to easily find your favorite popcorn flavors in a store near you...without the guesswork. How handy is that?!?!?!

(2) Gorton's Potato Crusted Cod Bites Seafood Appetizer. I love serving fun finger foods -- especially during Astros and Texans game days! One of my favorite recent finds is Gorton's new frozen Potato Crusted Cod Bites. These one-bite appetizers are fun mixture of mild flavored wild-caught cod and tater tot. The potato coating cooks up crunchy and golden. You can dip them in tarter or cocktail sauce if you like, but I prefer to sprinkle them with Cajun seasoning before baking to give them a spicy kick. Each 8-piece serving of these baked bites is 180 calories and has 8 grams of fat. Prefer your appetizers on the cheesy side? Gorton's also has a new Mac and Cheese Shrimp Bites appetizer. To find these two new frozen appetizers near you, be sure to check out Gorton's convenient online Find Your Fish feature.

(3) Stock the Crock: 100 Must-Have Slow Cooker Recipes, with 200 Variations for Every Appetite. If you're like me, the cooler weather has you using your slow cooker more. I'm always on the lookout for tasty "set and forget" recipes that I can make in my slow cooker, so I was thrilled to find Phyllis Good's amazing new cookbook! Ms. Good is a New York Times bestselling author whose cookbooks have sold more than 12 million copiesThis handy resource contains 100 must-have slow cooker recipes. Every recipe also includes variations to tailor it for gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, or Paleo diets. Many recipes can also be adjusted to be more kid-friendly or made for two. Some of the delicious recipes that have caught my eye include Beef and Barley Stew, Sausage Barbecue Bean Dip, and Cornbread from the Tropics. This versatile cookbook would definitely be an ideal holiday gift for the cooks on your shopping list. Stock the Crock can be purchased online -- including via Amazon.

(4) Edoughble Edible Cookie Dough Dough-It-Yourself Kit. When I bake cookies, I only wind up with half as many baked cookies as the recipe calls for...because I love eating the raw cookie dough so much. I know it's not that healthy to eat typical raw cookie dough, so I was thrilled to try Edoughble's delish ready-to eat cookie dough! They only use real, natural ingredients like hormone-free butter and vanilla bean extract that's alcohol-free. To make Edoughble 100% safe to eat, each batch of cookie dough has zero eggs, raw flour, or chemical leaveners -- just great cookie dough flavor. The Dough-It-Yourself Kit lets you freestyle to create your own customized flavor. The kit contains two tubs of edible cookie dough in Dough Schmo (original flavor) and sugar (Plain Jane)...along with cookie crumbles, color sprinkles, and mini chocolate chip mix-ins. From there, simple mix and match your favorite mix-ins! My favorite combo was adding sprinkles and cookie pieces to the Plain Jane...positively addictive! This fun kit is perfect for holiday gift giving and can be purchased online from Edoughble's website.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sneak Preview: The 8th Annual Texas Monthly BBQ FEST #tmbbq #bbq #bestintexas

Attention all Texas BBQ lovers! What if I told you that you could sample the very best BBQ from all over the state in one afternoon? This scenario is a dream come true for Texas BBQ fanatics! Texas Monthly magazine's 8th annual TMBBQ FEST is being held Sunday, November 5th at Austin's The Long Center for the Performing Arts. This smoketacular event will take place from 1:00-4:00 p.m. -- and there are still a few tickets available for purchase. This will be our fourth time to attend and cover the TMBBQ FEST, and it’s always a great time. This year, more than 30 of Texas' best BBQ joints are taking part -- including Austin’s beloved Franklin BBQSnow's BBQ from Lexington (currently ranked #1 in the state by Texas Monthly), and longtime favorite Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor. 

Every participating BBQ joint has a booth where hungry BBQ lovers line up to sample their brisket, ribs, sausage…and fun surprises like lamb chops too! As these picture from last year’s TMBBQ FEST show, we had a great time sampling some amazing BBQ.
In addition to fabulous Texas BBQ as far as the eye can see, attendees can also purchase soft drinks, beer, and cocktails to wash it all down. There’s also plenty of great live music to enjoy – the event is in Austin, after all! Bottom line: TMBBQ FEST is a fun afternoon where BBQ lovers of all ages mingle and sample as much smoky Texas BBQ as they can eat in a beautiful location near picturesque Lady Bird Lake. Keep in mind that this is a very popular event, and tickets typically sell out before the day of the event. If you are interested in attending the 2016 TMBBQ Fest, I highly recommend you purchase your tickets online as soon as possible! 
VIP Tickets for this family-friendly event can be purchased online. VIP tickets are $165 and include noon admission, two drink coupons, and a subscription to Texas Monthly. General Admission tickets are $80 each, and discount tickets for children 5 and under are just $10.
The Weekend Gourmet team will be posting lots of fun social shares the day of the 2017 TMBBQ Fest – including live video via Facebook and Instagram! If you’re not already following us on social media, what are you waiting for? Follow us via WEEKENDGOURMET on Instagram and @TheWeekendGourm on Twitter.

Disclosure: TMBBQ Fest has graciously provided The Weekend Gourmet team with media credentials to attend and cover this year's event. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Comfort Food Soup and Stew #SundaySupper...Featuring Slow Cooker Smoky Chicken-Potato Soup #fallfood #comfortfood #soup

It's late October...and Fall is in the air. Here in Texas, it's not terribly cool yet...but the worst of our heat is over for another year and evenings can be cool. That means one thing...soup weather! This week, #SundaySupper is focusing on comforting soup and stew recipes. I'm sharing a comforting Slow Cooker Smoky Chicken-Potato Soup that's hearty, without being overly heavy. It's a perfect weekend meal, because the slow cooker does most of the work. That leaves you time to take care of other stuff around the house...or maybe watch the Astros play World Series baseball!

Boneless skinless chicken thighs, aromatic veggies, and creamy baby potatoes are healthy additions to this chunky soup. This hearty soup is definitely a meal on its own, but I added garlic toast on the side. A simple green salad would be a perfect healthy accompaniment too!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Perfect Halloween Side: Spicy Purple Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Green Goo Dipping Sauce #halloween #spookyfood

Halloween calls for serving fun, creepy food to set a spooky mood! Whether you’re serving dinner before trick-or-treating this year -- or if you're planning a scary movie fest like I am -- today’s fun dish will be a perfect addition to your Halloween menu. My Spicy Purple Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Green Goo Dipping Sauce. The vibrant purple color of the sweet potatoes and the creamy green dipping sauce are really fun…and the flavor is spicy good. All you need are some fun Halloween serving pieces and creepy decor to complete the Halloween mood!
Purple sweet potatoes are similar to traditional sweet potatoes, with a vibrant purple color and a richer flavor. I tossed my sweet potatoes in olive oil seasoned with herbs and spices. Before baking, I sprinkled them with coarse salt and black pepper. While the fries baked, I made the “green goo” dipping sauce. This spicy dipping sauce is ranch dip made green by adding a puree of cilantro, green onion, and seeded jalapeno. The end result is definitely green…and monstrously good! This duo is great paired with burgers for Halloween dinner. Can't find purple sweet potatoes at your local grocery store? No worries! Simply substitute regular orange sweet potatoes.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Make Your Halloween Purposeful with Global Purpose...Featuring a Wickedly Good Halloween Snack Mix Gift Bag #PurposefulHalloween #helponenow

The Halloween season is upon us, which means sharing fun, spooky treats – no tricks allowed! -- to your friends and family. Today, I’m teaming with a great company called Global Purpose to show you how to create a fun Halloween snack mix, then package it in a fun and purposeful way using Global Purpose burlap gift bags! My no-bake Wickedly Good Halloween Snack Mix Gift Bag is a perfect project to make with your kids, grandkids, or nieces and nephews. While you assemble the snack mix, you’ll have a perfect opportunity to talk with them about Global Purpose’s life-changing mission! The company was founded by Kaylynn and Jon Jordan as a social enterprise to connect purchases and positive change in real, sustainable ways. This purposeful giving company provides education and income opportunities for people living in vulnerable communities. 

Through these giving bags, Global Purpose is providing fair wages and training for 50 teachers at four schools across Haiti -- as well as 16 teachers in rural Uganda. Via those teachers, the future of more than 2,000 students each school year are directly affected – talk about truly making a difference! The purchase of these giving bags supports teachers in a way that supports the entire community. Let me show you in a few simple steps how to create my Wickedly Good Halloween Snack Mix Gift Bags, that are presented in a Global Purpose burlap bag. I'm not typically crafty, but I had a fantastic time with this project!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Slow Cooker Comfort Food #SundaySupper...Featuring Slow Cooker Asian Garlic-Ginger Meatballs #meatballs

The hectic Fall season is here...cooler temperatures and hectic schedules are the norm these days. That means I rely on my slow cooker more than ever! I can start a meal early in they day, then take care of errands and other events while dinner cooks away. This week, #SundaySupper is featuring Slow Cooker Comfort Foods that are perfect for cooler temperatures. My contribution to this week's event is Slow Cooker Asian Garlic-Ginger Meatballs. These versatile meatballs can be served over rice or noodles for a delicious and easy dinner...or they can be served as a delicious finger food at your next game day spread!

These meatballs are made with a combination of lean ground turkey and a bit of ground pork. They're flavored with fresh ginger, garlic, green onions, hoisin sauce, and a bit of chile paste. Chopped water chestnuts provide crunch and texture. The meatballs are browned and cooked in a sauce featuring ponzu, more hoisin and chile paste, and a bit of white balsamic. The end result is moist meatballs in a sauce that packs a ton of umami, along with a bit of sweetness and spice. We absolutely loved them!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fall Baking with Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag...Featuring Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake #InTheRaw #giveaway #pumpkinspice #sponsored

October is here...and that means it's time for all things pumpkin! What if I told you that you could enjoy a decadent Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake that is lower in sugar and calories...but doesn't sacrifice flavor or appearance? I know it sounds too good to be true, but it's not...thanks to Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag! Stevia In The Raw® is a zero-calorie sweetener that contains an extract from the sweet leaves of the stevia plant. Convenient Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag measures cup-for-cup like sugar, so it can easily be used in recipes to reduce sugar and calories with no confusing conversions necessary.

The big key for successfully baking with Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag is to replace approximately half of the sugar in a recipe. This ensures browning, rising, and caramelizing that only sugar can provide. However, this simple substitution can save up to 700 calorie for every cup of sugar replaced with Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag. Most importantly, you'll never know that you've replaced half of the sugar in this Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake when you taste it!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Easy Taco Recipes for National Taco Day #SundaySupper...Featuring Surf and Turf Tacos #NationalTacoDay

Welcome to October...the last three months of the year are definitely my favorite. Cooler weather finally arrives here in Texas, football season is full swing...and there's all kinds of fun holidays to celebrate! First up is National Taco Day on October 4th. Tacos are one of my most favorite foods...what's not to like? They're so versatile...and they definitely feature the Big Flavors that we crave at my house! This week, #SundaySupper is celebrating National Taco Day by sharing our favorite taco recipes just in time for your celebration this coming Wednesday. 

I'm sharing a taco today that's perfect for those times when you just can't decide if you're hungry for shrimp or beef. My Surf and Turf Tacos solves that problem perfectly -- it features both! Add in a colorful avocado-corn salsa, a bit of sour cream, and some shredded cheese -- and you've got yourself one fabulous meal. To save time, the shrimp and beef can be added to the simple marinade the night before and refrigerated -- which means these tacos can be on the table in about 30 minutes for dinner the next day!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Wendy's Great Eight for September 2017 #GreatEight #WendyFaveThings

It's time for another fun edition of Wendy's Great Eight. This month, I've got some really fabulous food and kitchen items to share with you! I'm featuring everything from cream cheese-filled bagel bites to a crispy protein bar...and classic Southern biscuits to crispy bite-size cookies. Let's get started!

(1) Callie’s Charleston Biscuits. Callie’s Charleston Biscuits is based in North Carolina…and they produce a delicious line of frozen buttermilk biscuits that are so good my Southern grandma would give them her seal of approval. All the flavors I’ve tried so far have been fabulous – but I’m especially partial to their Sharp Cheddar Biscuits! These yummy two-bite buttermilk biscuits are studded with sharp cheddar before being baked – and cheese always makes food better! I simply heat these frozen biscuits in the oven -- then serve buttered with cheesy scrambled eggs and bacon for a perfect weekend brunch. The biscuits bake up golden on the outside and perfectly tender on the inside – like the perfect biscuit should. This weekend, I’ll be trying Callie’s new Iced Blueberry Biscuits…and I know I’ll flip for them too! To order Callie's Charleston Biscuits, visit their convenient Goldbely online store.

(2) Mrs. Thinster’s Cookie Thins. Do you prefer your cookies thin and crispy? Then you simply must give Mrs. Thinster's Cookie Thins a try! These crispy cookies come in a variety of flavors like Chocolate Chip, Brownie Batter, and Cake Batter. Perfect for Fall, they even have a yummy Pumpkin Spice cookie that pairs great with pumpkin spice latte! Mrs. Thinster's delicious Cookie Thins are made with no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or corn syrup – and they’re non-GMO. That means I don't have to feel nearly as guilty when I eat an entire bag in one sitting :lol:! To me, Mrs. Thinster's Cookie Thins are the closest to homemade of any packaged cookies I’ve tried. They’re buttery and downright addictive! To find Cookie Thins at a store near you, be sure to check out their handy Store Locator.

(3) Bagel Dots. Austin-based Bagel Dots offers a fun line of two-bite bagel rounds that are filled with cream cheese. They're perfect for a quick breakfast or an afternoon snack! Bagel Bites are available in the grocery store’s freezer case, and they come in four fun flavors: Plain Jane (plain bagel with plain cream cheese), Kitchen Sink (everything bagel with veggie cream cheese), Jalapeno Cheddar (cheddar-topped bagel with jalapeno cream cheese – reminiscent of a jalapeno popper), and Cinnamon Raisin (cinnamon raisin bagel with cinnamon cream cheese). Every flavor is fantastic, but I’m especially partial to the Kitchen Sink  -- the flavors and textures are really delicious! My Texas readers can find Bagel Dots at select grocers across the state.

(4) Large Marge Churro Cake. With a fun name like Large Marge, I just knew this cinnamon-infused Churro Cake would be fabulous! Being a big fan of the movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, I immediately understood the reference. The owner of this Los Angeles-based company is originally from Texas, and her Churro Cake is a little slice of heaven! Each cake serves up to 10 people and is handmade with brown butter cinnamon cake layered with Mexican chocolate frosting, cinnamon-sugar churro snaps, Pralinella. Then, each cake is topped with churro snaps for a crispy, crunchy finish. After baking, each cake is packed perfectly and shipped direct to your door – simply sprinkle the cake with the pieces of chopped cinnamon-sugar churros and serve. If you love churros, you’ll go nuts for this creative cake flavor. To order, simply visit Large Marge's Goldbely shop.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

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

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

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

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

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

Friday, September 1, 2017

Dine Out and Help Texans Recover from Hurricane Harvey #TexasStrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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