The Weekend Gourmet: 9/4/11 - 9/11/11 F

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Popcorn Snack Mix, Round 2: Apple Pie Delight Popcorn Snack Mix

What do you do when you live in central Texas and the calendar clearly says SEPTEMBER, but it's still nearly 100 degrees outside in the afternoons? Well, if you're me: you PRETEND that it's crank up the a/c and make something yummy to eat that reminds you that one day -- eventually -- it will actually cool off in San Antonio! Until then, I vow to eat things that let me pretend that fall is here already. It's still nowhere near cool enough to make gumbo or clam chowder, but I did whip up a fall-inspired treat: popcorn snack mix that has all the flavors of one of my favorite fall pie! Since my S'mores Popcorn Snack Mix was such a big hit last weekend, I decided to come up with another popcorn snack mix -- this one inspired by apple pie. 

I popped up another batch of Kernel Season's popcorn and tossed up a fun snack that tastes very much like apple pie -- without having to peel a single apple OR turn on the oven!! This snack mix started with a base of popcorn spritzed with butter-flavored spray and tossed in Kernel Season's Apple Cinnamon seasoning. Next came a drizzle of white chocolate with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice added before melting. Then I sprinkled diced dried apples (think chewy, not crunchy!), mini Teddy Grahams, and a few mini marshmallows on top...just because I had some left from the S'mores Mix! Finally, another drizzle of the spiced-up white chocolate was added on top. That's pie flavor in a fun, popcorn form.

Apple Pie Delight Popcorn Snack Mix
a Weekend Gourmet original

Step 1:  Pop 8 cups of popcorn and spread evenly on a large cookie sheet or sheet pan that's been topped with parchment paper. Spritz with butter-flavored spray and generously sprinkle with Kernel Season's Apple Cinnamon seasoning...toss and spritz to make sure you get the flavor on all of the popcorn!

Step 2:  Melt 2 ounces white chocolate, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. allspice, and 1/2 tsp. nutmeg in the microwave in 30-second intervals until melted. Drizzle half of the spiced white chocolate on top of the popcorn. Top with 1 cup diced dried apples, 1/2 cup mini Teddy Grahams, and 1/2 cup mini marshmallows.

Step 3: Drizzle the remaining half of the spiced white chocolate on top of the entire pan and refrigerate for 15 minutes, until set. Break the snack mix into bite-size pieces and store in an air-tight container. 

This snack mix really DOES remind me of apple pie: the grahams remind me of crunchy crust, the dried apples provide a burst of apple flavor, and the spiced white chocolate brings it all together. All these flavors combine very nicely with fluffy popcorn sprinkled with apple-spice flavor. And the marshmallows? I admit it: they're just for fun!! 

I hope you'll whip up a batch of this fall treat one afternoon soon. If it's already cooler in your corner of the world, it'll be the perfect fall snack. And if not? You can do like I'm doing today and just pretend while you wait for cooler weather to finally make it your way!! Here's a sneak peek at my next post: Root Beer Bundt Cake...I'm making it for our Texans-Colts gameday dessert, and I promise to share the recipe in here on Monday. Until then, my friends...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Kernel Season's Popcorn Gift Pack Review and Giveaway...Featuring S'mores Popcorn Snack Mix

It’s that time of year…the weather is cooling off – only to the low 90s in Texas…but we take what we can get! Football season is underway, and school’s back in session. That means yummy snacks are on the agenda these days…and the recipe I’m sharing today works perfectly for both gameday noshing and after-school pick-me-ups!! I combined the taste of s’mores with the crunch and healthy fiber of popcorn to create a snack that everyone will love, from kids to the grownups. 

This snack mix is positively addictive and super-easy to whip up in about 20 minutes. Kernel Seasons recently sent me a product pack containing their popcorn oil, popcorn kernels, butter-flavored popcorn spritzer, and several of their lowfat flavored popcorn seasonings. I told them that I'd play around with their products in my kitchen, share my opinions with you…and create an original recipe using the goodies they sent. My package contained several fun sprinkle seasonings, including Kettle Corn, Ranch, White Cheddar, Nacho Cheddar, Chile Lime, Butter, Apple Cinnamon and Chocolate Marshmallow. What’s really cool about their versatile seasonings is that they have other uses than sprinkling on popcorn. 

They can be used to flavor pasta, steamed veggies, and baked potatoes…and that’s just for starters! I’ve been having fun trying the seasonings out in my kitchen. The White Cheddar is really yummy on cooked, buttered orzo…and the Ranch was really good sprinkled on oven-roasted red potatoes for a quick weeknight side dish. But…when I saw the Chocolate Marshmallow flavor, I immediately had one thing on my mind: s’mores. I started thinking about how I could turn that idea into something fun to munch on while we watched the Texans pre-season game last weekend.

What I came up with was simple and over-the-top delicious: fluffy, tender popcorn sprinkled with the Chocolate Marshmallow seasoning was the foundation of the snack mix. I added mini marshmallows and mini Teddy Grahams on top, but that wasn’t needed something more. So, I drizzled layers of white chocolate AND dark chocolate on top. Once it set in the fridge for about 15 minutes, I broke the snack mix into pieces and stored it in a air-tight container until kickoff. To say this snack mix was addictive is an understatement…it’s SO GOOD, I know that you’ll want to make a batch of your own ASAP!!!

S'mores Popcorn Snack Mix
a Weekend Gourmet Original Recipe

Step 1:  Pop 8 cups Kernel Seasons popcorn. I used 2 tbs. Kernel Season's popping oil and about 1/2 cup Kernel Season's popcorn kernels and popped over medium heat according to package directions.

Step 2:  Place parchment paper on top of a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Spread the popped popcorn on top of the parchment and spray with Kernel Season's butter-flavored popcorn spritzer. This helps the seasoning stick to the popcorn. Generously sprinkle the popcorn with Kernel Season's Chocolate Marshmallow seasoning, tossing and spraying to coat the popcorn evenly on all sides.

Step 3:  Melt 1/2 cup white chocolate chips and 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips in two small bowls. I melted the chips in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring between to ensure they don't scorch. Drizzle the white chocolate over the popcorn, then drizzle half of the semi-sweet chocolate on top of the popcorn.

Step 4:  Evenly sprinkle 1 cup miniature marshmallows and 1 cup mini Teddy Graham crackers on top of the popcorn base. Drizzle the remaining half of the semi-sweet chocolate on top of the entire pan. Place the pan in the fridge for about 15 minutes to set the chocolate, then break into bite-size pieces.

Each piece should have a bit of each flavor: chocolate, marshmallow, and crunch graham...all resting on a base of fluffy chocolate-marshmallow flavored popcorn! Look how pretty this looks...don't you just want to grab this piece and eat it?!?!?

I decided to try a fall-themed snack mix for this weekend’s Texans-Colts game. This mix will feature popcorn with Apple Cinnamon seasoning, bits of chewy dehydrated apples, mini Teddy Grahams, and a drizzle of melted white chocolate flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg. My idea is that this will taste a bit like apple pie…I’ll share that recipe in a post this weekend. In the meantime, want to win a Kernel Seasons popcorn prize pack? One of my readers will receive a package containing the following goodies: a bottle of their popping oil, a 1-pound bag of Kernel Season’s popcorn, butter-flavor popcorn spritzer, and a variety of their popcorn seasonings...including Chocolate Marshmallow so you can make my yummy S'mores Popcorn Snack Mix for yourself! 

To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment below telling me how you would use these seasoning to flavor popcorn. For a second comment, you can follow The Weekend Gourmet…or let me know that you’re already a follower. Entries will be accepted until 1159 p.m. this Sunday, and I’ll contact the winner early next week. Please be sure to include your e-mail on your comment so I can easily find you if you’re the winner, ok?

Monday, September 5, 2011

This One's Good...and Good FOR You: Citrus-Spice Seared Salmon Over Parm-Goat Cheese Grits

Happy Labor Day! Hope you're all enjoying a fantastic three-day weekend. It's been so nice to sleep in a bit the past few mornings and do a bit of cooking. I'm celebrating the holiday by letting my good friends at Macaroni Grill do the cooking for dinner tonight. We'll wrap up the long weekend with dinner out and a quick stop at Barnes & Noble to pick up a U2 DVD that we ordered. I hope whatever you do to celebrate, it's fun and relaxing!! My weekend has consisted mainly of resting, laundry, and cooking -- including the recipe I'm sharing today.

Until last year, I had never cooked salmon at home. We love the taste of salmon, and we especially love that it's chock-full of healthy Omega-3 fish oils...something important at Casa Garcia, since we have some cholesterol issues to deal with! I was excited that my local grocery store had salmon on sale this week, so I bought a fillet and decided to make us a nice dinner over the weekend. For inspiration, I went to one of my go-to recipe resources: Cooking Light's website. Every recipe printed in that fantastic magazine is located in one easy-to-navigate search tool. I can always find a fantastic recipe never steers me wrong!

For this dinner, I once again took the mix-and-match approach: I tweaked the salmon from one recipe and served it over the creamy, cheesy grits from another recipe. The two paired beautifully, and you'd never guess this was a lightened-up dish! After about 20 minutes of prep time to make the spice rub and marinade early in the afternoon, this meal cooked in about 20 minutes when it was time to eat. Goodness, was this dish ever yummy...definitely worthy of serving to guests at a dinner party. But it's also perfect for eating in your jammies in front of the TV...with a big-eyed cat staring you down, hoping for a bite of salmon!!

Citrus-Spiced Seared Salmon Over Parm-Goat Cheese Grits
adapted from Cooking Light

Step 1:  Combine the following ingredients in a glass measuring cup: 1/4 cup orange juice, the juice from one lime, 1 tbs. canola oil, 2 tbs. soy sauce, a few grinds black pepper, and 1 tsp. salt. Whisk to combine. Place 2 salmon pieces (3/4 lb. total) into a ziplock bag and pour the marinade over. Put the salmon in the fridge and let marinate for 2-4 hours.

Step 2:  Make the spice rub by combining the following ingredients in a small bowl: 2 tbs. brown sugar, 1 tbs. chili powder, 1 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. allspice, and the zest of one lime. Stir well to combine and set aside.

Step 3:  When you're ready to cook the salmon, heat 1 tbs. olive oil in a non-stick skillet over med-high heat. To get a good sear, it's important to give the pan a few minutes to get hot. While the skillet is heating, take the fish out of the marinade. Rub the top side of the fish with the spice mixture. When the skillet is hot, place the salmon spice-side-down in the pan. Let the salmon sear for 2-3 minutes, then flip over and cook for another five minutes or so. Place the cooked salmon on a plate and cover with foil while you make the grits.

Step 4:  Bring 2 cups of chicken stock to boil in a large saucepan. Add 1/4 cup finely diced onion and cook for 5 minutes to soften. Add 1 cup grits to the pan, whisking to keep them from getting lumpy. Reduce heat to low and cook for five minutes. Add 1/3 cup parm-reggiano, 1-2 tbs. butter, and 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese. Stir until the goat cheese melts into the grits, and they are creamy. If the consistency seems a bit stiff, add 1/2 cup skim milk and whisk until smooth. I did this extra step, and the grits were the PERFECT consistency...similar to mashed potatoes!

To serve, place about 1/3 of the grits on a plate. Top with a piece of the salmon and serve with a healthy salad on the side to complete this casual gourmet meal. Note that the original recipe called for roasting the salmon in a 400F oven for 10 minutes instead of searing. With it being so hot that evening, I wasn't turning the oven I decided to sear it instead. It was a good call, because the brown sugar in the rub gave the salmon a fantastic caramelized sear!

The salmon was very moist, with a nice mixture of spice and citrus flavor. And the grits? The pictures don't do them justice. They look sort of...well, like a plain white blob sitting on the plate. However, the flavor is sublime...the tangy, creamy goat cheese and the onion gave them fantastic flavor and texture. I ate the leftover grits for breakfast the next morning, and I'm already planning to make them as a side dish for dinner tomorrow night. I can't stop thinking about them. Yeah...they're that good!!

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