The Weekend Gourmet F

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Leftovers #SundaySupper...Featuring Italian Mashed Potato Pancakes

I think I'm in denial that Thanksgiving is less than a week away...in my mind, we just celebrated Halloween! However, the calendar definitely tells me otherwise. We're headed home to Houston to spend the long holiday weekend with our families, which is always a good time. Thanksgiving is all about time spent with family and friends...and enjoying lots of good food! If you're like us, we end up with lots of turkey and other dishes left after the big feast. A big plate of Thanksgiving leftovers is great...but they get a little tired after a meal or two. Today, the #SundaySupper group is sharing fantastic recipe ideas to repurpose those Thanksgiving leftovers into tasty treats! Our hostess is Jennie from The Messy Baker Blog

For many people, leftover mashed potatoes are a particular challenge. But...they don't have to be! My tasty Italian Mashed Potato Pancakes transform leftover plain mashed potatoes into a savory Italian delight. Mashed potatoes are the base for these savory pancakes. They're flavored with pancetta, mozzarella cheese, and Italian herbs. After being pan-fried to crispy perfection, they're topped with a homemade quick-cook tomato sauce and Asiago cheese. These versatile potato pancakes can be a side dish, light lunch...or even paired with eggs for a hearty weekend brunch. 


Friday, November 21, 2014

Cooking Light's Mad Delicious Cookbook #Giveaway...Featuring Carnitas de Pollo

I’m a long-time fan of Cooking Light magazine, because their recipes are healthy without sacrificing the big flavors that we crave. Tastes good + healthy for you = a recipe for success in my book! I recently received a copy of Cooking Light’s new Mad Delicious cookbook to try out in my kitchen, and I'm happy to say that it's one of the best cookbooks I've cooked from this year! The focus of the cookbook is the creative use of ingredients and cooking techniques to maximize flavor while reducing sugar, salt, and fat. The end result is food that tastes great and is healthier for you. Author Keith Schroeder has created an informative, fun-to-read cookbook that features a unique format. Mad Delicious contains 126 recipes – both savory and sweet – that even novice cooks can feel confident preparing. Using a detailed and informative chart-style recipe format, Schroeder clearly explains why each ingredient in a recipe enhances its overall flavor and texture. This format helps readers easily understand how a recipe's ingredients interact. 

With a conversational writing style, he walks the reader step-by-step through the preparation of every recipe. When the dish is complete, you have delicious food to enjoy -- as well as insightful knowledge about ingredients and cooking techniques. The photography in the book is gorgeous and colorful too -- every recipe features at least one photograph! This cookbook is a fantastic cooking resource, no matter your skill level in the kitchen. While looking over my copy, several recipes quickly caught my eye! Among them are: Georgia Peanut Fried Chicken -- which includes peanut butter powder in the crispy coating, Twice Cooked Garlic Shrimp, and slow-braised Carnitas de Pollo. As soon as I saw carnitas made with chicken, I knew I had had found my first recipe to try! 

Carnitas are normally made with succulent pork slow cooked in its own fat. It’s delicious – but very high in fat. Schroeder’s version reduces the fat by using boneless, skinless chicken thighs slowly braised in a rich cooking liquid. The end result contains just 7.8 grams of fat per serving, but the tender meat has a rich depth of flavor. The only change I made to the recipe in the cookbook is using skinless bone-in chicken thighs in place of boneless, skinless thighs. That’s what I had in my freezer, but the bones were easily removed at the end of the braising time. This dish is also a winner because it’s economical and uses staple ingredients that I have on hand in my kitchen nearly all the time. This recipe makes enough carnitas de pollo for a dozen tacos. Schroeder recommends topping the finished tacos with a pickled onion recipe from the book. I decided to top our tacos with reduced-fat Monterrey Jack cheese and spicy pico de gallo. This is one amazing recipe!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Holiday Cooking with BAILEYS Seasonal Coffee Creamers...Featuring Pumpkin Pie French Toast Casserole

Thanksgiving is coming up next week, and I’ve got a fabulous make-ahead breakfast casserole featuring pumpkin that you can assemble the night before. Then simply pop the dish into the oven in the morning to make sure your family has a warm, comforting breakfast ahead of the traditional Thanksgiving feast. You’ll appreciate the fact that this breakfast is totally stress-free and basically hands-off. Since you assemble my Pumpkin Pie French Toast Casserole the night before, the oven does all the work for you on Thanksgiving morning! To make sure that you get to maximize your pumpkin quotient, I added pumpkin puree to both the creamy cheesecake-like filling…and the sweet custard. My secret ingredient for ensuring that the finished breakfast casserole is perfectly sweetened and moist, you ask? BAILEYS Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer is the base of this recipe’s rich and flavorful custard!
I don’t drink a cup of coffee every day, but I love to use non-alcoholic BAILEYS Coffee Creamers to add sweetness and a touch of seasonal flavor to my hot chocolate, as well as an ingredient in baked goods. If you’ve never used flavored coffee creamers as a cooking ingredient, I’m about to change your life...starting with my comforting pumpkin-infused breakfast casserole! You can use honey or brown-sugar flavored spreadable cream cheese between the bread layers for this decadent casserole, but I used a new product I recently discovered: Blue Isle Mediterranean Yogurt Spread. The texture and flavor is similar to cream cheese, but it contains healthy probiotic cultures. I used the Honey flavor for this recipe. If you make this Pumpkin Pie French Toast Casserole for Thanksgiving breakfast, your family will definitely be thankful when they awaken to the smell of it baking away in your kitchen!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November Foodie Contributor Program...Featuring Party-Ready Holiday Appetizers

Check out Party-Ready Holiday Appetizers
by Wendy Wofford-Garcia at Foodie.com

November...Thanksgiving is next week (!!), which marks the official kickoff of the holidays season. If you're like me, that means lots of parties between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. It doesn't have to be a reason to panic if you've got a stash of party-ready holiday appetizers at your disposal. Whether you're hosting a party or are asked to bring an appetizer to a potluck, I've got you covered. 

I've got everything from dips to festive red-and-green colored appetizers...and even a veg-friendly option. Many of the appetizers in my collection can be made a day or so ahead, which is a great time saver...and a stress reliever. Check out my collection of Party-Ready Holiday Appetizers...and give them a try!! If you see something you like in the slideshow above, simply click on the picture to access the recipe!

Disclosure: This recipe collection is a compensated post for Mode Foodie. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A #MovieNight4Less with Orville Redenbacher's and M&M's®...Featuring PB-Chocolate Popcorn "Wolf Pack" Snack Mix #CollectiveBias

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.
One of my very favorite things to do on a chilly Fall night is stay inside and put together a creative at-home #MovieNight4Less! It's fun to pop in one of our favorite movies and enjoy some yummy movie-watching treats to munch on during the movie. One advantage to at-home movie nights is the cost savings! To help stretch your budget, Warner Brothers is making movie night more affordable by putting some of their popular DVDs and Blu Ray titles on sale at participating Walmart locations. Through November 24th, you'll find a selection of $5 DVDs and $7.88 Blu Rays. Some of the titles on sale include The Shawshank Redemption, The Notebook, and one of our personal favorites: The Hangover. I recently visited my local Walmart for #CollectiveBias to pick up a copy of The Hangover so we could enjoy an adults-only quote-along movie night! The sale display was easy to locate in the store's Electronics department. Once the movie was selected, it was time to select some yummy snacks to enjoy with our movie. My personal favorite movie munchies include M&M's® and Orville Redenbacher's popcorn!
I could have simply popped up some buttery Orville Redenbacher's popcorn and eaten the M&M's® straight from the box -- but I decided to up my game a bit and create a delicious snack mix incorporating both items! My sweet and salty PB-Chocolate Popcorn "Wolf Pack" Snack Mix features two kinds of M&M's®, Orville Redenbacher's microwave popcorn, salty pretzel bites, sweetly salty honey-roasted peanuts, and a decadent chocolate-peanut butter glaze. This popcorn-based snack mix takes only a few minutes to prepare, and your personal wolf pack will go absolutely NUTS for it!


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Le Creuset Apple Cocotte Baker...Featuring Savory Apple-Italian Sausage Bread Pudding + a Le Creuset Stoneware Bowl Set Giveaway!!



If your Thanksgiving menu planning is in full swing, I've got a fabulous side dish recipe to share with you today! Le Creuset recently sent me a 2-quart Apple Cocotte baker. I wanted to come up with a perfect recipe to showcase its beauty. This apple-shaped baker features Le Creuset's signature enameled cast iron design, and it can go straight from the oven to the table for easy serving. It looks exacly like an apple -- right down to its stem-shaped handle -- making it a perfect serving piece for your Thanksgiving table! The apple cocotte can be used for making baked goods like casseroles or cobblers, but it also makes a great vessel for Fall soups. I found a savory bread pudding recipe designed specifically for cooking in the apple cocotte on the Le Creuset website. I did a little tweaking and created Savory Apple-Italian Sausage Bread Pudding.

I substituted mild Italian sausage for the apple-chicken smoked sausage the original recipe called for. I also used half and half in place of heavy cream and left out the green bell pepper. I also added a bit of poultry seasoning and cinnamon to the mix for a holiday background flavor. Finally, since apple goes so well with cheddar, I added a cup of coarsely shredded sharp cheddar cheese! This bread pudding is savory, with a touch of tart sweetness from chopped apple. It pairs great with roasted chicken, making it a perfect Thanksgiving side dish! If you're looking for a something a bit different this year, I hope you'll give this savory bread pudding some consideration.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wendy's Favorite Things for November

November...where has the year gone to?!?!? So hard to believe that it's nearly Thanksgiving and that Christmas is just a few weeks away. A new month means that it's time for another edition of Wendy's Favorite Things. This month, I've got a lot of fabulous food and kitchen products to share with you, so let's get started!!

(1) Tootie Pie Co. In Central Texas, Tootie Pie Co. mouthwatering pies are widely considered some of the best pies around! Based near San Antonio in Boerne, Tootie Pie Co. offers a wide range of handmade pies. The pie that started it all is Tootie's award-winning "Original" Apple Pie. The inside is piled high with apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon...cradled between two layers of flaky crust. Each Texas-sized pie weighs a whopping 6 pounds and serves 8-10 hungry people. I can run into a local Tootie Pie Co. store when a pie craving hits...but they also offer convenient online ordering for shipment anywhere the U.S. For the holidays, they're offering pumpkin and pecan pies -- and their pies make fabulous holiday presents! Don't like fruit pies? No problem! Tootie Pie Co. also offers key lime, chocolate, and coconut supreme pies too.

(2) Dan's Gourmet Mac 'n Cheese. I recently tried Dan's Gourmet Mac 'n Cheese, a line of frozen artisan mac 'n cheese that will satisfy those comfort food cravings in minutes! Dan's Gourmet Mac 'n Cheese comes in five creative flavors: Dan's Mac Attack (spicy with habanero garlic sausage and a trio of cheeses), Hash Bash (chorizo, cheddar jack, and hash browns), Smoky Chicken Bleu, Krazy Kale (kale, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and parmesan), and I Dream of Creamy (portabella, peas, romano, and provolone). So far, I've tried the Smoky Chicken Bleu and the I Dream of Creamy. Both varieties are rich and decadent, but the portion size isn't overwhelming. The Smoky Chicken Blue features mesquite chicken, green onion, and a trio of cheeses: white cheddar, gorgonzola, and fontina. I loved the homemade flavors! Dan's Gourmet products are located in stores across the country, and they offer online ordering as well.

(3) PASCHA Organic Chocolate. PASCHA was created from a desire to provide the simplest, purest and most delicious chocolate -- without additives or ingredients that might trigger allergic reactions for those with food allergies or intolerances. PASCHA bars contain no peanuts, nuts, dairy, soy, eggs, wheat, or gluten.  Not only is this organic chocolate pure...it tastes fantastic! I recently tried a variety of their chocolate bars and baking chips, and I loved their deep chocolate flavor. PASCHA's line includes eight bars that range from 55% cacao to 85% cacao -- as well as semi-sweet, bittersweet, and unsweetened baking chips. My personal favorite item is the 65% cacao bar with goldenberries. This superfruit is gown in the Andes mountains, and its tartness works great in this semisweet dark chocolate. PASCHA chocolate products can be purchased at select locations, as well as online via their website.
(4) Cluck 'n Moo Burgers. Cluck 'n Moo Burgers are a fantastic new product for burger lovers! They contain a combination of grass-fed beef and chicken -- the best of both worlds. The end result is a burger with the beefy flavor you love...with less fat and calories. In fact, each Cluck 'n Moo patty contains 52% less fat, 34% fewer calories, and 57% less saturated fat than typical beef hamburgers. In addition, these yummy burgers are made with meat that's humanely raised and antibiotic and hormone-free. The burgers cook up juicy and flavorful, ready for whatever creative toppings you prefer. I served ours with cheddar, sliced avocado, and salsa. Cluck 'n Moo burgers can be found at select stores mostly along the East Coast, and they can also be ordered online.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Guest Post: Chocolate Chip Vanilla Bean Meringue Cookies from Desserts Required

I'm out of town for a couple of days, so my sweet #SundaySupper friend Betsy from Desserts Required is guest posting for me today. She's sharing a fabulous chocolate chip meringue cookie that would be a perfect addition to your upcoming holiday cookie trays!
Hello to The Weekend Gourmet! I am so excited that Wendy asked me to guest post for her while she is out of town. I met Wendy through Sunday Supper, and when she spoke at the Food & Wine Conference about making a media kit, I was hooked! Wendy’s fabulous Texan warmth shines through in everything she does. Speaking of shining through, these Chocolate Chip Vanilla Bean Meringue Cookies always bring a ray of sunshine to the table. 

I just love a deliciously, crisp meringue cookie; however, living in South Florida where the humidity is about 5000% during the summer, I know all too well that attempting to make them on a humid day is not a good idea. Chocolate Chip Vanilla Bean Meringue Cookies are great to serve at holiday get-togethers. If you are so inclined, feel free to add a few drops of your favorite food coloring to bring in the festive colors of the holiday season. They also make wonderful, delectable gifts -- assuming you can refrain from eating all of them yourself. For such emergencies, the recipe doubles, beautifully.


Chocolate Chip Vanilla Bean Meringue Cookies
by Desserts Required
Ingredients:
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup miniature chocolate chips
Directions:
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 200°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds out of the bean. Add them to the sugar and set aside.

Step 2: Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl, and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. While the mixer is still running, gradually add the sugar mixture. Scrape the bowl down and continue to beat on high speed until the mixture is stiff and shiny, about 3 minutes. Remove from the mixer and stir in the chocolate chips.  

Step 3: Place a gallon size plastic freezer bag into a tall glass.  Fold down the opening edges away from the glass. Transfer the meringue to the plastic bag. Seal the bag. Cut off a 2” opening from one of the bottom corners of the plastic bag. Squeeze the excess air out of the bag. Squeeze the meringue onto the lined baking pans.  

Step 4: Bake at 200° for 1 hour, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back halfway through. After 1 hour, turn the oven off and leave the cookies in the oven for 2 more hours. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Betsy’s tidbits:
If you prefer, a decorative or plain pastry tip may be put into the plastic bag before adding the meringue. To watch how Chocolate Chip Vanilla Bean Meringue Cookies are made, head over to my YouTube channel.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road: Austin's Lone Start Court Hotel and Dinner at Jasper's


By now, it's no surprise that Austin is one of our favorite overnight getaway destinations. It's only an hour-and-a-half from our San Antonio home base, so it's close enough for us to visit often. Austin has so many fun things to do that we never seem to run out of activities to keep us busy when we visit. Michael and I recently drove up to Austin for an overnight getaway to the far north part of the city. We enjoyed an overnight stay at the Lone Star Court, a fun boutique hotel that's located inside the Domain shopping and entertainment complex. Lone Star Court is designed to evoke the retro style of motor courts commonly seen in the 50s and 60s -- but the amenities offered are thoroughly modern, so you get the best of both worlds! We arrived and checked in on a rainy Fall Saturday, then made our way to our large two-room suite. Our suite featured a brightly decorated living room with a flat-screen television, as well as a large bedroom and bathroom area.

Our room was filled with lots of little fun decorative touches. In lieu of a traditional hotel servi-bar, our suite had a full-size retro refrigerator stocked with plenty of cold beverages. These fun touches continued in the bedroom and bathroom. The Queen size bed featured luxurious sheets with the hotel's logo stitched on them, and the bathroom featured custom Lone Star Court spa toiletries and plush robes.
After we settled in for a bit, we decided to enjoy a late lunch at The Water Trough -- Lone Star Court's onsite casual restaurant. As we walked to the restaurant from our room, we enjoyed viewing the hotel's nicely laid-out grounds. We especially liked the bright color scheme that the hotel featured. All of the hotel's rooms face into the large outdoor common area. The common area features a swimming pool with plenty of colorful chaise lounges, as well as a covered pavilion. The Water Trough was located near the pool and offers guests a full bar, casual Texas-style food, and live music from Wednesday through Saturday.
We started our lunch with a pair of cocktails from The Water Trough's bar menu. Michael had the Spring Garden Party. I opted for the Deep Mimosa, a citrusy champagne cocktail flavored with Austin's Deep Eddy grapefruit vodka. We decided to share a pair of appetizers and a main dish. For our appetizers, we selected the perfectly fried Texas Sized Shiner Bock Onion Rings with Sweet Chili Aioli and the spicy Smoked Chicken Quesadillas with Cheddar & Jalapeno Jack. The onion rings were perfectly fried, and the sweet-spicy dipping sauce paired perfectly with them. The quesadillas were full of gooey melted cheese and house-smoked chicken. We also shared an order of Smoked Brisket Tacos served with Pickles & Fried Shallots and Spicy Cole Slaw. 

The food was excellent -- perfect for sharing. I especially enjoyed the fried shallots that topped the brisket tacos, as well as the sweetly spicy cole slaw that was served on the side. We headed back to our comfy room to rest up a bit before our dinner reservation at Dallas-based Chef Kent Rathburn's Jasper's Austin -- which is also conveniently located at the Domain. We loved that we could leave our room and be at dinner in less than 10 minutes from door to door! 

Friday, November 7, 2014

O Olive Oil Partners with Martha Stewart...Featuring Tomato-Basil Shrimp Bisque

My friends at O Olive Oil recently announced an exciting partnership with PBS's Martha Stewart's Cooking School series. The new season began airing last month and will re-air several times through 2016. Each informative 30-minute episode features Martha demonstrating classic cooking techniques using her signature step-by-step, how-to teaching process. If you’ve never tried O Olive Oil, you should definitely check out their artisinal products! California-based O is the award-winning maker of specialty finishing olive oils and oak-aged wine vinegars. To celebrate its partnership with Martha Stewart, O sent me a collection of their flavored olive oils and vinegars to create a recipe to share with today. I instantly fell in love with their new Fresh Basil Olive Oil, which is made with fresh basil crushed with California Mission olives. decided to feature this aromatic olive oil in a comforting Fall soup. My Tomato-Basil Shrimp Bisque features a double dose of basil, fire-roasted tomatoes, and sweet shrimp in a creamy base. This bisque is ready to eat in less than an hour, and it tastes fabulous. To reduce the fat and calories in this bisque, heavy cream is replaced with a combination of reduced-fat cream cheese and 2% milk. I promise that the end result is a decadent and full of flavor!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes...Featuring Apple-Blackberry Crumble #DiabeticFriendly #LowSugarDessert


Each Fall, the company where I work for my day job holds a month-long fundraising campaign on behalf of the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Our efforts coincide with San Antonio’s annual Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes. We form teams and hold lots of fun events to raise money for the ADA – my five-person team is Team Glucose Patrol. We've held a Silent Auction of high-end prizes, as well as a Yogurt Parfait Breakfast that was sponsored by Stonyfield Organic Yogurt. We're also taking part in a pair of company-wide food contests: a Get Fit Smoothie Contest and a Get Fit Dessert Contest. Our entry was a low-sugar Apple-Blackberry Crumble. This dessert is perfect for those who need to watch their sugar intake. Fresh apples and blackberries are tossed with warm Fall spices and a bit of vanilla. The fruit is  then topped with an oat streusel and baked until bubbly. This good-for-you dessert relies on the natural sweetness of the fruits, so it only needs a minimal amount of sugar. This crumble is delicious as is, but a scoop of sugar-free vanilla ice cream on top works great too!
Apple-Blackberry Crumble
adapted from The Ultimate Book of Diabetic Cooking
Ingredients:
For the fruit layer:
  • 2 lb. Granny Smith apples
  • 4 cups blackberries
  • 1 tbs. sugar
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
    For the crumble layer:
    • ½ cup butter
    • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
    • ½ cup oatmeal
    • 2 tbs. light brown sugar
    • Grated lemon zest to taste (optional)
    • Pinch of salt
    For serving: sugar-free vanilla ice cream OR light whipped cream


    Directions:
    Step 1: Preheat oven to 400. Make the crumble topping by cutting the butter into the  whole wheat flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the oatmeal, brown sugar, salt, and lemon zest (if using). Continue to mix with a fork until the mixture forms a crumbly consistency.

    Step 2: Peel, core, and slice the apples into thin wedges. Place the apples, blackberries, sugar, spices, vanilla, salt, and 2 tbs. water in a large mixing bowl. Stir until combined. Place the fruit in a shallow ovenproof 9x13 baking dish.

    Step 3: Cover the fruit with the topping mixture. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375. Bake for 15-20 minutes longer, until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly. Serve the crumble warm, with sugar-free ice cream and light whipped cream on the side.
    This comforting cobbler-like dessert is perfect for a Fall evening! The warm spices work very nicely with the sweetly tart fruit, and the crumb topping is crunchy and slightly sweet. This dish allows the natural flavors of the apples and blackberries to take center stage, and the sugar-free vanilla ice cream provides the perfect amount of sweetness to each bite. If you have a diabetic family member or friend, this dessert would make a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving dessert table.


    I can literally proclaim that this yummy dessert is a winner! Team Glucose Patrol's Apple-Blackberry Crumble was awarded First Place in our company's Get Fit Dessert Contest -- earning our team an extra $150 toward our ADA fundraising efforts!! Special thanks to my teammate and baker extraordinaire Victoria for baking this fantastic dessert. The ADA works to prevent and cure diabetes and improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. If you would like to donate to Team Glucose Patrol’s fundraising efforts on behalf of the ADA, it's easy! Simply click this link to be directed to our team's designated page. All money that our team collects will be used by the ADA to fund its mission to prevent and cure diabetes.

    Monday, November 3, 2014

    The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road: Austin's Lakeway Resort and Spa...and Chuy's Tex Mex

    Located on Lake Travis in far west Austin, you’ll find the peaceful and beautiful Lakeway Resort and Spa. This AAA Four Diamond resort features 168 rooms and lots of great amenities. Visitors can enjoy the San Saba Spa, a 24-hour Fitness Center, four championship golf courses, onsite food and beverages, and a lakeside marina. Lakeway's location ensures plenty of water-based activities and scenic views! Michael and I recently spent a relaxing weekend at Lakeway Resort and Spa…where we took time to unwind, enjoy some tasty food, and hang out at the resort’s expansive pool complex. A relaxing getaway for two was just what we needed after a hectic and stressful Summer. We arrived on a Friday evening after dark – and we knew we were outside of the city when we saw a couple of deer hanging out by the resort’s entrance! We quickly checked in and made our way to our beautiful room. The Queen size bed was decorated with towel swans, and some soothing music was playing on our room’s clock radio.
    We quickly settled in for the evening – the bed was super comfy, and the we really appreciated the complimentary WiFi. The next morning, we woke up and enjoyed coffee from the convenient, complimentary in-room beverage bar. We enjoyed a leisurely morning wearing our complimentary in-room robes and trying out some of the upgraded spa toiletries -- enjoying our room's view of Lake Travis below. 
    Mid morning, we walked up the path from Lakeway's main building for brunch at Masterson’s – the resort’s onsite restaurant. They offer a fabulous buffet breakfast/brunch on weekends that includes made-to-order omelets and a variety of hot and cold food. We started with fresh fruit and yogurt parfaits, then Michael ordered a custom omelet. I opted for some fluffy scrambled eggs topped with cheese and house-made salsa. We paired our eggs with bacon, sausage, and home fries from the buffet. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with picturesque views of the resort grounds. To finish our hearty brunch, we opted for customized oatmeal and more fresh fruit. This filling brunch stayed with us all day! 
    After brunch, we took some time to walk around the property and snap a few more pictures. Then, we spent the rest of the afternoon napping in our room and enjoying a pre-dinner dip in the pool! Lakeway Resort and Spa's large pool area features a kid-friendly Family Pool and Kid Zonecomplete with a water slide. They also offer an adults-only area with a three-tier pool and hot tub. The area features plenty of chaise lounges with umbrellas, a swim-up bar, and a snack bar. I really like that they offer both options to meet the needs of all their guests! Near the resort's main entrance, a handy chalkboard tells about some of the events being offered that day -- along with a weather forecast.
    Before we knew it, it was time to go grab some delicious Tex Mex food at Chuy’s original location in Austin. Chuy’s has several locations in Texas, but we had never been to the original location -- which opened in 1982. Chuy’s is known for their large portions of delicious Tex Mex food and eclectic, funky décor. Like all Chuy's locations, the original locations features lots of fun décor -- including an Elvis Shrine!

    Sunday, November 2, 2014

    Lighten Up the Holidays #SundaySupper...Featuring Healthier Potluck Broccoli-Cauliflower Salad

    It's officially November – which means that the two most calorie-dense months are now upon us. Between now and New Year’s Eve, it seems like there are non-stop parties and potlucks to attend…which are fun, but can lead to unwanted pounds if we’re not careful! To help you in your quest to fit into your jeans come January 1st, #SundaySupper is sharing a collection of healthy recipes that can be served at upcoming holiday parties -- or enjoyed between the high-calorie parties. Our hostess this week is Kathia from Basic n Delicious, and she asked us to share our favorite light dishes. My recipe is a lightened-up version of a Southern potluck staple: Healthier Potluck Broccoli-Cauliflower Salad.

    This salad was served at nearly every potluck I attended growing up. There are many variations of this popular salad, but all feature broccoli and a tangy-sweet dressing. Most versions have bacon, onion, raisins, and sunflower seeds...and a few include cheddar cheese. I took my favorite components to create my ultimate version of this recipe, then I lightened it up. I used both broccoli and cauliflower for a color and flavor contrast. I also added dried cranberries and cashews. Because bacon, cheese, and cashews are higher in fat, I reduced their amounts by about half. That let me keep their essential flavor while saving fat and calories. To further shave fat and calories, I used fat-free Greek yogurt in place of mayo in the creamy dressing and sweetened it with no-calorie sweetener. The end result is a delicious salad that you can feel good about enjoying. 

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

    Halloween #Spookyfood with Frieda's Produce...Featuring Spicy Purple Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Green Goo Dipping Sauce

    Halloween definitely calls for serving up fun #Spookyfood to set a spooky mood! Whether you’re serving dinner before or after trick-or-treating -- or if you're planning a scary movie fest like I am -- today’s fun dish is a perfect addition to your Halloween menu. My friends at Frieda’s recently sent me some vibrant Stoke’s purple sweet potatoes to create some #Spookyfood to serve this Halloween. My mind immediately went to oven fries…served with a fun dipping sauce. The end result is my Spicy Purple Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Green Goo Dipping Sauce. The vibrant colors of the sweet potatoes and the 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!
    If you’ve never had Stoke’s purple sweet potatoes, you’re in for a real treat. They taste similar to regular sweet potatoes, but they have a vibrant purple color and a richer flavor. I tossed the purple sweet potatoes in olive oil seasoned with herbs and spices. Just before going into the oven, I sprinkled them with coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper. While the fries baked, I whipped up the “green goo” dipping sauce to go on the side. 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 combo makes a great side dish paired with burgers or other sandwiches for your Halloween dinner.

    Monday, October 27, 2014

    My Favorite Workout Tunes + Staying Hydrated with Crystal Light Drink Mixes #PlatinumPoints #CollectiveBias

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

    I've been a fan of Crystal Light drink mixes for years! They contain no sugar, and they come in a wide variety of yummy fruit flavors. I've always got one or two of their convenient on-the-go powdered drink mix packets in my purse...and a bottle of the liquid drops at my desk. Both varieties are great for making flavorful low calorie drinks -- especially after a workout! I recently started back at the gym, so I understand the importance of staying hydrated during and after working out. Water is the best way to stay hydrated, but sometimes the taste of plain water gets a bit...boring. Enter Crystal Light! I simply add a few drops to a bottle of water, and I get all the benefits of water...along with a burst of yummy no-calorie flavor. 

    Most of the time, I purchase my Crystal Light from the Drink Mixes aisle at the Walmart nearest my office. They offer a good selection of both liquid and powdered flavor packs, which I love to combine to create customized flavored waters! I especially love tropical flavors. My current post-workout favorite combines equal amounts of Tropical Coconut and Mango Passionfruit Crystal Light liquid in a 16-ounce bottle of water. It's sweetly tart, with a perfect coconut background flavor...and the vibrant orange color is gorgeous too!

    Sunday, October 26, 2014

    Frightfully Fun Entertaining with Gallo Family Vineyards...Featuring Ghoulishly Good Red Moscato Punch #SundaySupper

    Halloween is almost here, and #SundaySupper is teaming up with our good friends at Gallo Family Vineyards to bring you a collection of frightfully fun food and beverages that will help you set the perfect scary mood! All of the recipes that are being featured today either have Gallo Family Vineyards Merlot or Red Moscato as an ingredient in the recipe OR they're paired with one of these two featured wines. Since Halloween falls on a Friday this year, I decided to create a spooky cocktail!

    I opted to make a fun adults-only punch that features Gallo Family Vineyards’ Red Moscato. Moscato is one of my favorite wines, so I wanted to showcase its lovely sweetness. My Ghoulishly Good Red Moscato Punch is fruity...and a bit fizzy! It contains Gallo's sweet and refreshing Red Moscato, orange liqueur, a duo of fruit juices, and citrus soda. A ghoulish ice hand floats eerily in the punch bowl. I’ll even show you how easy it is to make the icy hand as part of the recipe!

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for October: Viola's Ventanas

    This month's edition of The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out is featuring Viola's Ventanas, the newest addition to the Barrios Family group of restaurants. We're already big fans of the authentic Mexican food served at their flagship restaurant Los Barrios and La Hacienda de los Barrios, so we were excited to visit Viola's Ventanas earlier this month. The spacious, light-filled restaurant is located on a few minutes from our home, so it's a convenient neighborhood location for us! Viola's Ventanas is named after the Barrios family's matriarch Viola Barrios, who was a well-known San Antonio restauranteur. The restaurant is dedicated to honoring her memory and serving some of her favorite homestyle Mexican dishes.

    We arrived on a Sunday evening and were warmly greeted by the staff. We were shown to our table, where we looked over the cocktail menu while we waited for the kitchen to send out a couple of signature starters for us. Michael opted for the El Jefe Top Shelf Margarita served on the rocks, while I chose the fruity Strawberry Lemon Drop Martini. Both cocktails were well made -- not too strong, not too weak! As we sipped our cocktails, a duo of flavorful starters appeared at our table.
    We each tried a small bowl of house-made Sopa de Fideo. It contained fideo noodles, a spicy tomato-based broth, tender chicken, and vegetables. The soup's slow-simmered taste was lick-the-bowl good! We also shared rich and spicy Mama's Queso. It's made from a blend of white Mexican cheeses and flavored with chopped tomato, onion, and spicy Serrano peppers. It had quite a kick and was fabulous rolled inside house-made flour tortillas. Dinner was off to a fabulous start! Owner Diana Barrios-Trevino came by our table to sit and visit with us for a while. She's such a warm and welcoming hostess, and she made us feel like part of the family.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2014

    #Homegating with Applegate Natural & Organic Meats...Featuring Baked Layered Chicken Enchilada Dip

    This month’s football food menu is a dude-friendly #Homegating menu featuring Applegate's line of natural, organic meat products. I first tried their products this Summer for their fun Weinervention promotion, and I fell in love with the taste of their products. The fact that their meats are natural and organic makes me feel even better about serving them to my family and guests! Applegate recently sent me a package containing their uncured smoky cocktail pork franks, natural uncured mini turkey pepperoni, and natural grilled chicken breast strips. I used all three products to create a no-fuss game day menu. Everything is a snap to assemble – some items can even be made ahead – and they're guaranteed to be a hit at your next #Homegating party!

    For the flavorful uncured turkey pepperoni, I made one of my very favorite appetizers from last football season: my spin on Hip Foodie Mom's yummy So Simple Pizza Puffs. Like the name says, they're indeed SO simple to make! You start off by spreading your favorite pizza sauce on a puff pastry square. Then add six pepperoni slices, three rounds of fresh mozzarella, sliced mushrooms and fresh basil down the center. Finally, fold in the sides, secure with toothpicks, and bake until golden brown. These fun pizza bites are always a huge hit when I serve them at parties -- and I really liked that the Applegate turkey pepperoni wasn't as greasy as traditional pork pepperoni!
    I used the organic uncured smoky cocktail pork franks to make a football party staple: saucy cocktail sausages. The sauce combination that I used is one of my favorites that a co-worker taught me years ago: ½ cup apricot preserves, ¼ cup spicy brown mustard, and 1 tbs. of your favorite hot sauce. This time, I used Tabasco's Sweet and Spicy hot sauce, but feel free to use what you have on hand. Simply add the sauce ingredients and cocktail sausages to a bowl and microwave for 3 minutes until they're heated through. Then give it a stir and place in a serving platter. You can also put all of the ingredients in a slow cooker on Low 2 hours before kickoff.
    I decided to use the convenient pre-cooked grilled chicken breast strips in a fun new dip creation. We love Mexican food, so I knew that my Baked Layered Chicken Enchilada Dip would be a huge hit! This amazing hot dip features a layer of seasoned cream cheese, a layer of the diced chicken tossed in spicy enchilada sauce, and a layer of melted Colby-jack cheese.
    Before serving, a chopped avocado confetti made from lime-infused avocado, tomato, and green onion is sprinkled on top. This dip is positively addictive – if you love enchiladas, you’ll go absolutely crazy for this dip!

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