Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Look Back at 2011: The Weekend Gourmet's Kitchen Adventures

It's here: New Year's Eve. The last day of 2011. What a year it's been for us...mostly very good, thankfully!! On the positive side, we saw U2's amazing 360 concert at Soldier Field in Chicago and spent time there visiting with some of Michael's family over July 4th. We celebrated my in-laws' 50th Anniversary with a small family brunch in September. Then? We won a pair of tickets to Saturday Night Live and spent a fantastic three-day weekend in New York in October. To top it off, Michael attended the World Series with one of his cousins. On the not-so-fun side, we said goodbye to Michael's brother and his wife when they moved from San Antonio to Portland, Oregon, this fall. I'm really excited to see what 2012 has in store for us!

I've been having so much fun reading everyone's end-of-the-year "best of" I decided that I want to get in on the fun too! Rather than count down my ten most popular posts or my ten favorite recipes, I decided to pick my favorite post or recipe from each month and share the links with you. If you're new to my blog, you might have missed these the first time around. If you've been around for awhile, maybe some of these will jog your memory.

January: Comforting Apple Upside-Down Spice Cake. This cake give a lot of bang for the buck: easy to prepare, but lots of eye appeal. It's so pretty with the rings of caramelized apples on top when you flip it out of the pan. And the taste? Spicy, fruity, and moist. 

February: PB&J Puff Pastry Doughnuts.  Puff pastry rounds filled with honey-sweetened peanut butter and raspberry jelly...then baked and dusted with powdered sugar. It doesn't get much easier than that. The variations on basic recipe are endless too!

March: Mardi Gras Crispy Fish Sandwiches. These sandwiches are perfect for Fridays during Lent, but are fantastic all year long. Crispy pan-fried tilapia, a homemade spicy remoulade sauce, toasted French bread, and cheese combine for a fantastic sandwich!

April: White Chocolate-Strawberry Easter Cake. This was my first-ever attempt at decorating a cake, and I was very proud at how cute it came out. Luckily, it tasted good too! I doctored up a cake mix and filled it with strawberries, then frosted it with white chocolate-cream cheese icing. And the bunny? Godiva Chocolate sent him to me, so I wanted to feature him in a recipe worthy of his cuteness!!

May: Lickety Split Artisan Bread. Until this post, I had always been intimidated by yeast. Lucky for me, my best friend isn't. We spent a girls weekend together, and she walked me through my first loaf of homemade bread. Using this recipe, it was so easy...and it came out so delicious! Another baking fear conquered!!

June: Lemon-Thyme Roasted Chicken Breasts. One of the most popular posts in the history of my blog. This was my spin on a fantastic Ina Garten recipe that was featured for my Foodbuzz Dinner Party in June. This chicken is fantastic: moist and full of flavor. The pan juices are divine spooned over rice on the side!

July: Mesquite Chicken Tacos with Creamy Corn Salsa. I received a review copy of the wonderful 300 Best Taco Recipes cookbook this summer and discovered this recipe. It was SO yummy -- especially the unique creamy corn salsa. The basic flavor profile of this taco is familiar, but it's this salsa that makes this taco so special!

August: East-West Chicken Tacos. Another winner from 300 Best Taco Recipes. This taco reminds me of an Asian Lettuce Wrap inside of a soft flour tortilla. Chicken, water chestnuts, a sweet-spicy Asian sauce, lettuce, carrots, and honey-toasted peanuts combine for a unique twist on the usual taco.

September: Fiery Chicken Shawarma. This dish is very special to me...not only is it AMAZING, it was also my very first Foodbuzz Top 9 post! I never dreamed that this dish would capture the attention of so many readers, but it did. Spicy yogurt-marinated chicken, cooling yogurt sauce, and fetta-studded salad combine with pita triangles to make a dish that's way better than takeout!

October: Beecher's "World's Best" Mac and Cheese. It takes a lot to live up to hype like that. Luckily, this mac and cheese more than earns this title...with cheese in the sauce and  sprinkled on top! Creamy, rich, and full of cheese...a little goes a long way. I paired this amazing mac and cheese with mini meat loaves and salad for one amped-up comfort food meal.

November: Sausage-White Bean Minestrone. This is one of my favorite soups, because it's hearty and delicious. Italian sausage, veggies, white beans, and pasta simmer and become a fantastic dinner. It's a hearty meal-in-a-bowl...just add some garlic bread and you're ready to eat. 

December: Baked Blackberry Oatmeal. What happens when you combine a few basic pantry staples with blackberries and bake it in the oven? Magic. This baked oatmeal is light and fluffy, and just sweet enough thanks to the addition of a bit of brown sugar. It makes a fantastic breakfast, but it's also a great snack or light dessert. This recipe proves that simple can be totally delicious!

However you choose to ring in 2012 this evening, I hope that it's wonderful...and safe! We're grabbing a bit of dinner, then coming back home to watch the Times Square ball drop on TV...and have a bit of bubbly and some chocolate cake my Dad brought us yesterday. It'll be a pretty low-key celebration, which sounds totally perfect to me!! Here's to a fantastic year ahead...a year full of surprises and good food!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Easy Decadence: Creamy Meyer Lemon-Shrimp Penne

It happens every year about this time, like clockwork. Between Michael's birthday, Christmas prep, and then our anniversary? I don't get to spend much time in my kitchen cooking in late December. However, once things begin to wind down a bit, I'm chomping at the bit to get back in my the familiar routine of chopping and stirring. That's exactly what I did last night. I knew that I wanted something comforting and just a bit decadent...but I also wanted to be in and out of the kitchen in about 45 minutes.

I started thumbing through cookbooks and came up with just the thing: a creamy pasta dish with shrimp and lemon. Then, I worked some Weekend Gourmet magic on it and made it my own. The original recipe calls for making a quick cream sauce with chicken broth and cream cheese.  Which sounded really good...but I decided some garlic, shallots, and bacon would make it that much better. I also subbed less-tart Meyer lemon since I had one on hand. This dish was creamy, comforting, and full interesting flavors. And two kinds of cheese: parmesan and mozzarella.

Creamy Meyer Lemon-Shrimp Penne
adapted from Spread a Little Joy

Step 1:  Heat a pot of generously salted water to boil and add 2 cups penne pasta. While it cooks, assemble the sauce. Add 1 tbs. olive oil to a deep saute pan over medium heat. Add 1 chopped shallot, 2 finely minced cloves of garlic, and two slices crumbled bacon. Saute for about five minutes, until the bacon has crisped and the shallot is soft.

Note: You can use leftovers from breakfast if you want, but I keep a package of pre-cooked bacon in my fridge for just this type of recipe.

Step 2:  Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and 4 ounces softened cream cheese to the pan. Whisk until completely combined; it will be nice and smooth. Add the zest of one Meyer lemon and the juice of 1/2 the lemon. Stir to combine, then add 1 lb. medium shrimp and 1-2 tbs. chopped flat-leaf parsley. Combine and reduce heat to med-low. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through.

Note: If you've a bit of time to spare, I find that my shrimp always have the best flavor and texture if I brine them in salted water for 15-30 minutes after peeling.

Step 3:  Add the drained cooked penne and 1/3 cup grated parmesan to the pan. Toss to combine and top with 1 cup shredded mozzarella. Turn off the heat and let the dish set for a few minutes...this gives the penne time to soak up some of the sauce and lets the mozzarella melt just a bit.

Dish into bowls to serve...feel free to sprinkle with a bit more parmesan or parsley if you like. I served this pasta with a simple salad and hot garlic bread. We really enjoyed this dish. For something so simple to whip up, it was really flavorful. 

The creamy sauce was just a bit smoky from the bacon, and the shallots were a nice compliment as well. The lemon flavor was very subtle. If you're a bit citrus fan, feel free to add the juice of an entire Meyer lemon. Or just do what we did: squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the top of each serving for a little extra zing.

Hope y'all have a fantastic New Year!! We're planning a low-key celebration. We plan to grab some dinner using some of the many restaurant gift cards we received for Christmas. Then we'll come back to Casa Garcia to ring in 2012 with a champagne toast and watching the ball drop in Times Square. I'll be back on Sunday to share a couple of fun appetizers that are suitable for game watching, Oscar parties, etc. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Holiday Recap...and Spicy Shrimp and Rice Bake Featuring Red Gold Tomatoes

Christmas is over for another year. Part of me is sad, because I adore the holiday season. But, another part of me is a bit glad that the hustle and bustle is nearly over...and we'll soon be back into our normal routine. I hope you had a FANTASTIC holiday spent with loved ones...eating lots of great food! We spent Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas day celebrating with Michael's family. There was lots of laughter and good food. As usual, everyone was very generous. I added several cookbooks to my collection, including Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics and Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table. Michael surprised me with a gift card to Sur la Table to take one of their fab cooking classes in January. I was totally surprised, and can't WAIT to take the class and share the details and pictures in here!!!

Michael's aunt gave me two cookbooks featuring Cajun recipes from a well-known cook from Groves, Texas...near the Louisiana border. Her name is Maw Maw Judice, and her books contain recipes that she's been cooking since she was a young bride in the 40s! I thumbed through the cookbooks and was impressed with how simple and yummy her recipes are. After a hectic week of Christmas prep, simple and tasty was the order of the day. So? I decided to try Maw Maw's recipe for a spicy baked shrimp and rice casserole. It takes about 15 minutes to assemble, then the oven does all the work.

This simple casserole packs a spicy punch thanks to a bit of Cajun seasoning in the veggie mixture and a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles. Each bowl is comforting, spicy, and delicious!! You can't ask for more than that on a lazy post-holiday evening! I used Red Gold Tomatoes for this recipe. They're consistently fresh tasting and have a bright red color...eye appeal is just as important as taste, in my opinion!!

Spicy Shrimp and Rice Bake
adapted from Cajun Cookin' with Maw Maw Judice

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 400. Melt half a stick of butter in a non-stick pan on med-high heat. Add 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion, 2 sliced stalks celery, 3 sliced green onions, and 1/3 cup bell pepper. Top with 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning, and stir to combine. Cook until the veggies are tender...about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 2:  Add the following ingredients to a large mixing bowl: 2 cups rice, 1 can Red Gold diced tomatoes with green chilies, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 cup chicken stock, 1 lb. medium shrimp (peeled and deveined), and the sauteed veggies. Stir well to combine and pour the rice mixture into a 13x9 pan.

Step 3:  Cover the pan with aluminum foil and secure it tightly on the top and sides of the pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, stir, recover, and cook for 30 more minutes. Then lower the heat to 300. Remove the foil, give the rice another good stir, and bake uncovered for 15 minutes. The rice should be cooked and very fluffy, with no liquid remaining.

Step 4:  To serve, scoop the rice into bowls. This is meant to be a meal-in-one-dish casserole, so I served it with a simple salad on the side. This dish is pretty spicy, but feel free to serve Tabasco on the side for those who like their food extra spicy!

Well...I have to say that Maw Maw Judice didn't steer me wrong. This rice is really's plenty spicy, and the cream of mushroom soup gives it a rich flavor. You can't really tell it's there, but it does provide a nice richness. The more I ate, the more I wanted to's pretty addictive! The fact that this dish is made in one pan and is so simple to whip up makes it a winner in my book.

The December festivities continue here at Casa Garcia tomorrow...Michael and I will celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary! Hard to believe that it's been that long, but time flies when you're having fun. I can't think of anyone else I'd rather cook for, travel with, or just sit on the couch and watch TV with. He's my best friend and an all-around good guy. I'll leave you with a couple of pictures of us on our wedding day. be that skinny again!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Peppermint Hot White Cocoa

I don't know about you, but the days leading up to Christmas have been absolutely crazy-hectic for me! Between work, shopping, wrapping presents, and trying to decide what to cook to share at our families' holiday celebrations in Houston this weekend? I haven't had time to do much cooking, let alone food blogging. So...I'm going to cheat a little bit. I'm looking back to last year for one of my all-time favorite treats to sip in front of the fire. By now, we've firmly established that one of my favorite holiday flavors is PEPPERMINT!! Last year, I found a recipe online for hot white chocolate, so my Peppermint Hot White Cocoa was born. This one's so good that I had to share it again. Yes, the holidays are hectic, but it's important to take time to slow down and savor some quiet reflection. This cocoa is perfect for doing just that! As you can see, my Lucy has NO PROBLEM chilling out under the Christmas tree. Thank goodness, she doesn't really play with the ornaments that much.

This warm and tasty treat is super-simple to whip up with a few basic ingredients, and it literally tastes like a liquid form of my favorite holiday candy! It's been chilly here in San Antonio this week, so this white cocoa is a fantastic way to warm up and wind down after dinner. I poured my cocoa into a festive holiday mug and topped it with whipped cream and crushed peppermint. Don't worry...drinking this only makes you FEEL naughty. I promise you can drink it and still stay on the Nice List!!

Peppermint Hot White Cocoa
adapted from Epicurious

Step 1:  Add 2 cups 2% milk and 1 cup half and half to a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Whisk in 3/4 cup of white chocolate chips until they’re melted evenly into the milk. Add ½ tsp. peppermint extract and stir to combine.

Step 2: Ladle the cocoa into three coffee mugs. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle some crushed peppermint on top. If you're not into white chocolate, or you prefer old-school cocoa...simply sub in your favorite chocolate chip. I won't tell!

That’s it…it only takes about 10 minutes to put this tasty holiday treat together! This stuff is so freaking good...I especially love to have this minty white cocoa with buttered toast. To me, there's nothing more comforting after a stressful day to fire up a favorite Christmas cartoon -- Charlie Brown Christmas, anyone? -- and have a mug of this cocoa and buttered toast. I'm going to try to get by here on Saturday to post once more before Christmas. Just in case, though? I'm going to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays now...

Monday, December 19, 2011

December Secret Recipe Club: Baked Blackberry Oatmeal from Inquiring Chef

It's that time again...time to reveal my blog assignment and spotlight recipe from the Secret Recipe Club. My blog this month is Inquiring Chef. One of the the things I love most about Secret Recipe Club is finding new food blogs and blogger friends...and new recipes to try. I really loved discovering Jessica's blog. She's an American living in Thailand, and she has a zillion fab recipes...and fantastic, mouth-watering pictures. It was so hard to pick just one recipe to try...but I think I made a great decision. I ultimately chose her new spin on a breakfast classic: baked oatmeal.

I like oatmeal perfectly fine...but Michael absolutely loves it! In fact, it's one of his favorite breakfasts. But? He doesn't take the time to make it most mornings. So, I decided to surprise him with a batch of this fruity baked oatmeal this weekend. I figure each batch will make enough for four breakfasts...or after-work snacks. This recipe is healthy comfort food at its best: fiber-rich oatmeal, spices, nuts, and fruit. All the ingredients come together in less than 10 minutes and are baked into a fluffy concoction that's so good that you can't stop eating it.

I made a few modifications to the recipe, because I was missing a few ingredients from Jessica's original recipe. I didn't have blueberries on hand, but I did have a package of blackberries in the fridge. I simply cut them in half to make them about the same size as blueberries. I used pomegranate juice instead of apple juice and a mixture of 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup pomegranate juice for the liquid portion of the dish. I subbed in brown sugar for honey, and I used pumpkin pie spice instead of cinnamon...just because I had some leftover from Thanksgiving that I didn't want to go to waste.

Baked Blackberry Oatmeal
adapted from Inquiring Chef

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350. Add the following ingredients to a mixing bowl: 1.5 cups rolled oats, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, and 1.5 cups chopped blackberries. Give the ingredients a stir to combine and pour into a 8x8 pan. 

Step 2:  Whisk the following ingredients together in a large measuring cup: 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup pomegranate juice, 1 egg, and 2 tbs. packed brown sugar. Pour the liquid ingredients over the oatmeal mixture, but you don't have to stir.

Step 3:  Bake until the oatmeal is golden and the berries are bubbly. This took about 45 minutes in my oven. I rotated the pan around in the oven halfway through to make sure it cooked evenly. Let the cooked oatmeal cool for about five minutes, then spoon into individual serving bowls. I like my oatmeal on the sweet side, so I sprinkled about 1 tsp. of brown sugar on top just before eating.

Wow, is this oatmeal fabulous...I can actually see myself whipping up a double batch in a 13x9 pan every weekend! The texture is light and fluffy...and the combination of pecans, brown sugar, spices, and berries is fantastic. The oatmeal is sweet, but not overly so. It's fantastic spooned right our the pan into a small bowl...but I'm betting that it's also great with a bit of milk and butter on top. This would be a very versatile dish using seasonal fruit...I'm thinking that apples or peaches would be fantastic in this oatmeal -- or even dried cranberries or raisins.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Birthday Cake for My Hubby: Raspberry-Champagne Cake With White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing

Ponder this for a minute: Raspberry-Champagne Cake With White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing. How does that grab ya? I thought so. Now…what If I told you that this cake is a cinch to make, totally gorgeous, and tastes AMAZING?!?!? Michael’s birthday falls 12 days ahead of Christmas…which makes it easy for his special day to get lost in the holiday shuffle. I try very hard to make his birthday the star attraction on December 13th, so I asked him if he wanted me to make him a cake this year. He asked for a white cake filled with berries and topped with cream cheese icing. I asked myself what would take this flavor combo over the top...and champagne, raspberries, and white chocolate is what I came up with. Then I started baking.

Michael’s parents came up from Houston to celebrate with us. We had a yummy seafood dinner at Pappadeaux, then we came home and cut TWO cakes and opened presents! Michael is now the proud owner of an iPhone 4S…and he proclaimed my cake delicious! I have to agree that it was pretty darn good...the cake is a doctored-up white cake mix, but the rest of the cake is 100% from scratch. I substituted champagne for the water that the cake mix directions called for. After the layers baked and cooled, I spread strawberry preserves and fresh raspberries in the middle of the layers. Then, I made a fantastic cream cheese buttercream icing…and added 4 ounces of melted white chocolate for good measure. Yeah…that’s how The Weekend Gourmet rolls!

Raspberry-Champagne Cake With White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing
a Weekend Gourmet Original

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350. Add the following ingredients to a mixing bowl: one package pudding-in-the-mix white cake mix, 1 1/3 cups champagne, 3 egg whites, and 1/2 cup oil. Beat on low to combine, then on medium for two minutes. Divide the batter between two non-stick 9" cake pans that have been sprayed with spray and floured. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Step 2:  While the cake bakes, make the icing. Cream 2 sticks butter and 8 ounces softened cream cheese with a mixer. Add 1 box powdered sugar (3 cups) and 6 ounces melted white chocolate. Combine until all the sugar and white chocolate are thoroughly combined with the butter-cream cheese mixture. Set in the fridge until you're ready to frost the cake.

Step 3:  After the cake bakes, completely cool it before assembling and frosting the cake. When you're ready to assemble, place the first layer on your serving tray. Evenly spread a small jar of strawberry preserves over the cake, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the sides. Top the preserves with a small container of raspberries. Carefully place the top cake layer on top and ice with the reserved frosting.

Since this cake has fresh fruit and a dairy product in the icing, I suggest storing the cake, covered, in the fridge until you're ready to serve. Simply remove about 30 minutes before you're ready to slice. It slices perfectly...and that red layer of berries and jam really pops against the white cake and icing!

This cake is good…like REALLY good! You can't taste the champagne per se, but it really gives the cake a great texture. It was firm and easy to cut, but very moist! The fresh raspberries and strawberry jam filling gave the cake an incredible sweet-sour berry flavor…and the icing? Holy moly…it was fab!! The white chocolate provides an incredible richness and depth of flavor. This cake has a lot of eye appeal too: the scarlet-red layer in the middle of white icing and cake is festive and pretty. For the holidays, you could totally decorate the top of the cake with artificial holly or poinsettias…please make sure they’re artificial, though! I don’t you to have to call Poison Control as part of your holiday festivities!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Ghost of Weekend Gourmet's Christmas Past: Peppermint Surprise Truffles

Sorry I haven't made it back in here to post since the weekend. Between holiday shopping and Michael's birthday yesterday, I've had one busy week. I baked him a Champagne-Berry Cake With White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing, and it was a big hit! I promise to post the recipe in here this weekend. But first? I want to share one of my all-time favorite holiday recipes. I originally shared it here last Christmas season, but this one's so good I'm sure no one will mind me repeating it!!  One of the goodies that I make every Christmas season are luscious peppermint-infused truffles. 

When people taste these amazing truffles, they literally go nuts for them...then they beg for the recipe. Every single time. I call them Peppermint Surprise Truffles, because people are always surprised to hear that the secret ingredient is...Oreo cookies! I'm not sure where the recipe originated...I have tons of friends who also make these truffles. However, I have a few fun twists that I've added as I've tinkered with the recipe during the past few holiday seasons. I'm a peppermint fiend, so I add peppermint candy and peppermint extract to the well as a generous sprinkle of peppermint on top of each truffle. 

These truffles are rich and fudgy, with a very pronounced peppermint flavor. If you're not a peppermint fiend like me, you can delete the candy canes and substitute any extract of your choice to the base recipe. Two nice variations are Grand Marnier and orange peel and almond extract and almonds sprinkled on top. If you make a batch of these truffles, I promise your friends and family will beg you to make them again and again! Luckily, they're as simple to make as they are to eat...

Peppermint Surprise Truffles
a Weekend Gourmet Original

Step 1:  Add a 16-ounce package of Oreos and approximately 3 broken candy canes to a food processor. Process until the cookies and candy canes are fine crumbs. Don't use Double Stuff or lowfat Oreos...I learned the hard way that this will negatively impact the consistency of the filling.

Step 2:  Add the Oreo-peppermint crumbs, an 8-ounce package softened cream cheese, and 1 tsp. peppermint extract to a mixing bowl. Mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes, until everything is combined. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice. You'll know it's ready when it looks like mud.

Step 3:  Roll the mixture into balls and place on a cookie sheet. I usually get between 32 and 36 truffles per batch. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for about 30 minutes. The truffles are MUCH easier to coat and set up better if I do this! 

Step 4:  Melt a 16-ounce package of chocolate chips in the 30-second increments. Stir until melted. Stick a toothpick into a chilled truffle and dip in the melted chocolate to coat. Place truffles on a cutting board covered with foil. Remove the truffle from the toothpick with a second toothpick...cover the hole with a bit more melted chocolate. Sprinkle more chopped peppermint on top of each truffle and put the pan in the fridge to set.

Boy...are these truffles fudgy and full of peppermint flavor! I never can resist having a sample...just to make sure they're perfect. 

No one EVER guesses that the filling is made from Oreo cookies...but they ALWAYS ask for seconds (and thirds) of these fantastic truffles. I hope you'll whip up a batch before the holidays are over! By the way, white chocolate works really nicely as well...the crushed peppermint on top of the white coating just screams holiday. I can't wait to whip up a batch of these for my family's Christmas Eve party next week!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gameday Fiesta Tortilla Spirals...Featuring Red Gold Tomatoes

Happy many other households around the country, it's gameday at Casa Garcia. Our Houston Texans will make the playoffs for the first time ever if they win today (and the Saints beat the Titans). We'll hang out in front of the TV cheering for the team...and eating some yummy gameday snacks. The Weekend Gourmet is currently taking part in a cool contest sponsored by Red Gold Tomatoes...they're going to pick seven food bloggers from around the country to fly to Indianapolis Super Bowl weekend to attend Taste of the NFL. That's a charity food and wine tasting event featuring NFL players, celebrity chefs, and lots of fun entertainment! The funds raised at the event will provide money to food banks in all 32 football markets.

I wanted to use Red Gold Mexican Fiesta diced tomatoes with cilantro and lime in a yummy, fun finger food...and it had to be something quick and easy to boot! I combined cream cheese, the tomatoes, spices, cheese, and jalapeno...then spread the mixture on spinach tortillas/wraps, rolled up, and sliced. The entire dish comes together in less than 15 minutes a few hours before your party. I found that hanging out in the fridge for a bit not only lets the flavors combine well, but it also makes for much easier slicing when you're ready to serve.

Gameday Fiesta Tortilla Spirals
adapted from the Red Gold website

Step 1:  Combine the following ingredients in a mixing bowl: 1 packaged softened cream cheese, 1 cup Red Gold Mexican Fiesta petite diced tomatoes (drained), 1 finely chopped seeded jalapeno, 1 cup shredded co-jack cheese, the juice of half a lime, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. garlic powder, and 1 tsp. dried cilantro.

Step 2:  Stir well to combine...if your cream cheese is soft enough, a sturdy spoon works great! Spread 1/3 of the mixture onto three spinach tortillas/wraps. Roll up tightly and place on a plate. Cover and put in the fridge for at least 3 hours...overnight is best if you have the time.

Step 3:  When you're ready to serve, use a sharp serrated knife to cut each roll into 1/2-inch spirals. You should be able to get between 7-8 spirals from each roll. A serrated knife and well-chilled rolls are essential to getting the prettiest spirals. Place the spirals on a serving plate...and watch them disappear. By the way? Then end pieces make great "quality control" samples!

These little bites are really good...they're creamy and a bit spicy thanks to the cilantro and jalapeno! The lime in the tomatoes plus the added lime juice give it a bright flavor boost as well. As an added bonus, these are good to have on hand for any vegetarians who might be attending your party. The red and green color scheme also makes this appetizer holiday-friendly to boot. To shave a bit of fat and calories, feel free to sub in low-fat cream cheese and co-jack.