Monday, February 27, 2012

Caramel Corn on Steroids: Spicy Nutty Maple-Bacon Caramel Corn

I want you to ponder something for just a moment: Spicy Nutty Maple-Bacon Caramel Corn. Are you drooling yet? This popcorn is some seriously good stuff, and it has a habit of disappearing very quickly once people take a bite! My friend Janet brought some of this addictive popcorn to the office for me to try on Valentines, and it was love at first bite!! I knew I had to make a batch for a work lunch last Friday…and share the recipe with y'all. This popcorn is a little spicy, a little salty, and a little smoky from the bacon.  If you’re a skeptic and think that bacon seems out of place in caramel corn, think again. It’s a huge part of what makes this caramel popcorn so yummy…trust me! I tweaked the original recipe just a bit, because that’s what food bloggers tend to do! I added a bit of pumpkin pie spice and maple syrup to the caramel mixture…and I upped the salt since I adore salted caramel. The only other tweak I made was to add pecans to the roasted peanuts the original recipe called for. the spirit of full disclosure, this isn’t exactly the healthiest snack you could eat. The calorie and fat content is way higher than the recipes I usually share -- mainly because you pop the popcorn in the bacon grease that’s left when you cook the bacon. I know, I know...just do what I did: enjoy a moderate portion and share the popcorn with a group of friends to spread the calories around a bit. Then eat a green salad (or two…) for lunch the next couple of days. Balance, my friends -- balance!

Spicy Nutty Maple-Bacon Caramel Corn
adapted from Texas Co-op Power (via Janet)

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 200. Slice 8 strips of bacon into bite-sized pieces and cook until crispy in a large pot or Dutch oven (at least 5 quarts). Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Add 1/2 cup popcorn kernels to the bacon grease, cover, and pop. I found that it helps to shake the pan as the kernels pop so you get even popping. You'll have about 8-9 cups of popcorn when you're done. Put the popped corn into a large mixing bowl -- make sure to remove any unpopped kernels. Top with 1/2 cup pecan pieces, 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, and the bacon pieces.

Step 2:  Make the caramel by adding the following ingredients to a non-stick pan over med-high heat: 1 stick butter, 1 cup light brown sugar, 1/3 cup light corn syrup, 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, 1 tsp. black pepper, and 1 tsp. salt. Stir until the butter melts and all the ingredients are combined. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from heat and add 1/2 tsp. baking soda. The caramel will foam, but that's ok...don't panic!

Step 3:  Slowly pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn-bacon-nut mixture, stirring constantly to combine. Keep stirring until all of the popcorn mixture is evenly coated with the caramel. Spread the caramel corn on a large nonstick rimmed jelly roll pan that's been sprayed with cooking spray. If you have a Silpat, you can use that; parchment is also good to prevent sticking. Spread the caramel corn in an even layer on the pan. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden, giving it a stir every 5 minutes to ensure that it cooks evenly. 

Step 4: Let the caramel corn cool for about 30 minutes, then break it into bite-sized pieces. Store it in an airtight container. Since it does contain bacon, I kept the container in the fridge until I shortly before I was ready to serve it the next day. I let Michael sample some the night I made it, and he gave it an enthusiastic thumps up...and then he asked me to make a batch for him to munch on this weekend!

I can’t tell you how delicious this popcorn is! The first thing you taste is the salty sweetness of the caramel and the smokiness of the bacon, then you notice the heat from the pepper in the background. It’s not overwhelming, but it’s a nice counterbalance to the sweetness. The maple flavor is very subtle, but it pairs well with the bacon. Maple and bacon are two of my favorite breakfast flavors, and they work well here too. My suggestion is to make this caramel-corn-on-steroids for a party so you don’t have to eat the entire batch yourself…although you may want to. Once you try this popcorn, it’s very tempting to eat it by the handful. If you do give in to temptation? Enjoy…and then follow up with a Lipitor chaser!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Indianapolis Weekend, Part 3: Taste of the NFL...Plus Decadent White Chocolate Lemon-Lime Truffles

It's hard to believe that February is nearly seems like I was just planning my trip to Indianapolis to attend Taste of the NFL thanks to the kind folks at Red Gold Tomatoes. Before I turn the page on my calendar to March, I wanted to make sure to share some fun details and pictures of my experience at Taste of the NFL. After a wonderful welcome dinner at Bonge's Tavern on Friday and tour of the Red Gold facilities on Saturday morning, our last official activity was to attend the Taste of the NFL fundraiser with about 3,000 other lucky people! After getting glammed up, we jumped into our waiting limo for the hour-long drive to Gleaner's Food Bank, the site of the event.

Our first order of business was to pop the cork on some celebratory champagne to get the celebration started! We laughed, took pictures, drank champagne, and enjoyed the truffles that we had been given by the nice people at Concannon's Pastries. Sigh...I'm telling you...I could get used to being driven around while I enjoy bubbly and chocolates!! Before we knew it, we were being dropped at the entrance to the event...we felt a bit like celebrities as we emerged from our limo. We met up with our hosts from Red Gold and entered the on the "green carpet" with 3,000 other people who were attending the event. Our first stop was at a table to register and pick up our programs and logo plate/wine glass combo. We paired off with one of our Red Gold hosts and set out to sample some amazing food and wine!

Once I had my program, plate, and wine glass? I was ready to taste some amazing food and wine pairings!!

We spent the next two hours visiting as many of the booths as we could. Each NFL city had a booth with gourmet food cooked by one of the city's best chefs, wine pairings to sample, and a current or former NFL player from that city's team. Of course, I was excited to visit the Houston booth...being a huge Houston Texans fan!! We sampled so many fabulous dishes, including a wonderful pork belly with over white beans...and a fantastic shrimp and gnocchi dish. Unfortunately, I didn't take that many pictures of the food. Between juggling a small clutch purse and my plate/wine glass combo...I only took my camera out a few times. The one dish that I did take a picture of was a fabulous chicken osso buco with purple potato puree. It was gorgeous and tasted AMAZING!

Bryan Braman of the Houston Texans...what a nice guy! I chatted with him for a few minutes, and he was so genuinely friendly and appreciative of the Texans' fans!

Amazing Chicken Osso Bucco with Purple Potato of the many gourmet dishes that I sampled at Taste of the NFL. Almost too pretty to eat...almost being the key word!

We met a few celebrities along the way...some of the girls met up with Ted Allen from Food Network's Chopped and got a picture with him. I was just on the other side of the table and talked with him, but was unable to get in the picture. But? I did manage to get in the picture with Mauro and Joey from Cake Boss. By the way? I sampled some of the cake that they brought...and I can vouch that their cakes are DELICIOUS!!

By the end of the night, were were stuffed! We had an amazing time...we thanked our generous hosts and they told us goodbye since we were heading to the airport the next morning. I can't say it enough: our Red Gold hosts were the friendliest, most wonderful people!! They made us feel so welcome...truly like we were part of their extended family. We watched a few songs of Sara Evans's set, then we jumped back into our waiting limo for the ride back to the hotel. But not before snapping a few last pictures to remember our amazing evening!

Two very lovely ladies: Monica from Red Gold's Marketing Department and Linda, Red Gold's Home Economist.

Seven super-hot food bloggers out on the town! From left: Heather of Basilmomma, Deb from Just Short of Crazy , Lisa from Jersey Girl Cooks, ME (in my sparkly red top), Cathy from The Dutch Baker's Daughter, Renee from The Great Foodini, and Sherry from Superexhausted.

All in all, it was a wonderful night was truly a Party for a Purpose: 7,000,000 meals were produced for families in need. We had a great time...and the money raised would truly make a difference in people's lives! For this Texan, the icing on the cake was seeing snow flurries on the way back to hotel. I'm sure the rest of the ladies...who are from colder climates...thought it was hilarious that I was so intrigued by snowflakes! It's not a common sight for me, so it really was the perfect ending to an elegant evening.

And speaking of elegant? I want to share a recipe that has nothing to do with Taste of the NFL...other than the fact that it's quite elegant. One of my fellow Secret Recipe Club Group C members is Louise from Lick the Spoon. She has so many really great recipes, and I decided to make a slight variation of her White Chocolate Lemon Truffles for our Oscar-viewing treats tonight. They're so amazing that I had to share them with you! They're super simple to make...I had some fun key lime sugar crystals that I've been dying to use, so I tweaked her recipe to include a bit of lemon and lime juice and zest.

White Chocolate Lemon-Lime Truffles
adapted from Lick the Spoon

Step 1:  Add a package of white chocolate chips to a mixing bowl. Place 1/3 cup whipping cream and the zest of one small lemon and one small lime in a small non-stick pot. Heat the cream mixture over medium heat until it's hot...but not to boiling. Stir it every few seconds to avoid scorching.

Step 2:  Pour the hot cream mixture over the white chocolate and whisk until combined. Add 1/4 cup of a combo of lemon juice and lime juice. For me, that was one small lemon and one small lime. Whisk well to combine. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until the truffle mixture is solid enough to roll into balls. This took about 2 hours in my fridge.

Step 3:  Roll the chilled truffle mixture into bite-sized balls. Roll them in cocoa, powdered sugar, or sugar crystals. I rolled half of my truffles in powdered sugar and half of them in key lime flavored sugar crystals. I like the way the two presentations looked on my green serving platter. Both versions taste great, but the lime-green sugar crystals are REALLY pretty and provide a nice bit of crunch on the outside!

Wowza...are these simple three-ingredient truffles fantastic! They have just enough citrus flavor to cut the richness of the white chocolate and cream...without making you pucker when you eat them. These are soft like ganache, so do store them in the fridge until serving time. I think next time I make these, I will dip half of them in melted white chocolate and roll half in the sugar crystals. Next time you have company coming, whip up a batch of these truffles. They're so simple to make, but they are so elegant that everyone will think you spent all day making them. 

Disclosure: Red Gold Tomatoes provided me with an expenses-paid trip to Indianapolis over Super Bowl Weekend as part of a contest. However, all opinions express in this post are my own.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Cure for the Winter Blahs: Field Greens with Cara Cara Orange, Avocado, Feta & Spiced Pepitas

By now, most of my regular readers know how much I adore citrus…its refreshing, bright flavor is the perfect accent in so many of my favorite recipes. Citrus adds freshness and zing to everything from seafood to desserts. Today, I’m going to introduce you to a variety of orange that you might not have heard of before: the cara cara orange. Gosh…even the name sounds exotic! Frieda’s, a California-based specialty produce company, sent me some of these fantastic oranges to sample, share my thoughts with you, and feature in a recipe. I totally loved this seedless naval orange!! Their flavor is tart-sweet, with subtle berry undertones…but they're not overly acidic. Cara cara oranges are gorgeous inside as well…the flesh is a pink-orange color similar to grapefruit.

I initially considered juicing my cara cara oranges to make a fun weekend cocktail. Then? I decided to make a salad that would showcase the beautiful pink-orange color of these oranges. I found a fantastic recipe online that combines some of my favorite flavors and textures, and I tweaked it a bit to make it my own. This salad combines baby field greens, cara cara orange segments, avocado, feta, and spiced pepitas. It's tossed with a light vinaigrette that incorporates cara cara juice. This salad would make a fantastic light Lenten meal on its own, but I paired it with pan-seared fish. You could easily sear a few jumbo shrimp in some olive oil and add them on top just before serving for a yummy main dish salad!

Field Greens with Cara Cara Orange, Avocado, Feta & Spiced Peptitas
adapted from O Magazine

Step 1:  Add 1/4 cup salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), a few drops of vegetable oil, and 1 tsp. of Cajun spice to a small non-stick skillet. Toast the pepitas over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are golden brown. This takes about 5 minutes, but make sure to stir every few minutes so they don't burn. Turn off heat and set aside until you assemble the salad.

Step 2:  Make the vinaigrette by combining the following ingredients in a measuring cup: 1/4 cup canola oil, the juice of half a cara cara orange, 1 tbs. red wine vinegar, 1 tbs. honey, 1 tbs. finely minced shallot, 1/2 tsp. grainy mustard, 1/2 tsp. sea salt, and 1 tsp. dried parsley. Whisk well to combine.

Step 3:  Assemble the salad. Put 4 cups baby field greens in a large bowl and toss with most of the vinaigrette. Arrange the dressed greens on a serving platter. Top with the segments from one cara orange, half of a diced avocado, 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, and the pepitas. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette on top just before serving.

This salad is really fantastic…the combination of cara cara orange, creamy avocado, and salty feta was fabulous! The lightly spiced pepitas gave each bite the perfect amount of heat and crunch. The homemade cara cara vinaigrette brought all the flavors together very nicely. It’s a very light dressing that allows the flavors of the other ingredients shine through. This salad is as pretty to look at as it is to eat.

I can see myself making this salad over and over again as we head into warmer months. Cara cara oranges are available from December through April, so try to pick some up while they’re in season. I think you’ll love them as much as I do! For my Texas readers, Frieda’s cara cara oranges are currently available in the produce department of your local HEB grocery go out and buy some of these delicious oranges before they go away in a few weeks!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Weekend Gourmet's TV Debut: Cooking Jambalaya for Mardi Gras on Great Day SA!

I wanted to share some exciting news with all my fantastic readers today. I’m friends with some of you on Facebook, so forgive me if this is a repeat for you! However, many of my readers don’t follow me on Facebook…so I wanted to share all the details about my television debut yesterday. In conjunction with the Red Gold Tomatoes Blogger Contest, I was asked to appear on Great Day SA…a local television morning show. One of the dishes I cooked as part of the contest was my Kitchen Sink Jambalaya, so they asked me to come cook it live on their show for Mardi Gras! I was so honored…and really excited to have the opportunity to share my blog with even more people! I thought I’d give y’all a chance to learn a bit more about how it went “behind the scenes.” I’ll also share a couple of pictures that Michael snapped, as well as the finished result as it aired yesterday.

Me in the Great Day SA kitchen set...all decorated and waiting for the show to start. Pardon the un-smile on my face. I was talking to Michael when he snapped the pic, but it's the only one I have of me in the kitchen :)!

When this opportunity presented itself to me, I immediately jumped at the chance! Most of you don’t know this, but my college major was Broadcast Journalism. I have radio experience from high school through college and into my early career…and even some appearances on my college TV station back in the day. I always loved the thrill of the spotlight and the camera, and I discovered yesterday that it’s a lot like riding a bike: you get out of practice, but that training is always there lying dormant. I was excited about this appearance, but I secretly hoped I didn’t make a fool out of myself on live TV!! I spent last week answering questions from the show’s producer and reading the prep sheets they sent me. I felt like I was as prepared as I could possibly be.

I was off on Monday for President’s Day and spent the day doing a bit of shopping for display/décor items…and shopping for the groceries I needed to make two batches of jambalaya. One batch had to be cooked for display on the set while I cooked the second batch live during the show. I spent a good chunk of Monday evening chopping veggies and meats, measuring spices, and making sure I had all the cooking supplies that I needed packed up. The station has a lovely kitchen set, but I had to bring all my own pots/pans and cooking utensils. I also cooked one complete batch of jambalaya that night, part of which was our dinner. A full batch makes 10-12 servings, so there was still a LOT of jambalaya left in my beloved blue Le Creuset Dutch oven for display the next morning. After everything was chopped, measured, bagged, and packed? Then it was time to get some sleep so I would look camera-fresh the next morning.

I made a large pot of my Kitchen Sink Jambalaya (featuring Red Gold tomatoes) to take to the show so I'd have one batch cooked and ready to sample while I was cooking the other batch!

The show airs at 900 each morning, so the producer asked me to arrive at the station (KENS 5, the local CBS affiliate) by 800 so I had plenty of time to get set up in the kitchen studio. That meant I was up by 600 so I could get do full hair and makeup, load the car, and drive to the studio. Michael came with me – for moral support AND to help me carry three bags + a cooler full of supplies inside! An associate producer welcomed me in the lobby and escorted me to the studio. 

Setting up my ingredients in the studio's kitchen set...and getting some pre-show advice from some of the Great Day SA crew!

As I unpacked all my supplies and ingredients, a production assistant and an intern helped me set up a visually appealing display using veggies, colorful plates, Mardi Gras beads, and flowers. I set up my ingredients and started reheating the pre-cooked jambalaya as the crew started prepping for the show. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming to me! I felt some jitters when I first arrived, but once everything was set up? I realized that I wasn’t so much nervous as I was ANTSY…I was ready to do my thing!

About 15 minutes before show time, I was introduced to Paul Mireles, who would be interviewing me for my segment. Turns out we had both attended the University of North Texas around the same time…and both had taken Radio/Television classes, though not together. That gave us a nice rapport from the get-go. I had a quick meeting with the show’s Producer in the control room to verify the spelling of my name, blog address, etc. Then, the opening credits started...the show was on! I was slated to be the first segment after the “sit and chat” opening between the hosts. I got the veggies sautéing during that time so that the food was already smelling good before my segment started.

Before I knew it, my segment was up! I spent 5 minutes chatting with Paul about my blog, my jambalaya recipe, and my Red Gold blogger weekend in Indianapolis. I honestly wasn’t the least bit nervous once the segment started…Michael was in the front row of the audience giving me a thumbs up, and there were no kitchen mishaps as I cooked. The time went by really quickly! We left the jambalaya simmering for the rest of the show, and everyone in the crew kept telling me how great it smelled. When the show was over, I left the finished product for the cast and crew to enjoy.

I packed up my stuff, left the studio, and went to my regular job…several of my co-workers had gone to the café to watch the segment, and they were all very sweet with their compliments. Michael was a very proud husband and shared the link and a few still shots that he took on Facebook. My friends and family have been generous with their praise, but they’re a bit biased! When I started this blog, I had no idea what it would bring my way. I feel so very blessed that what started as a creative outlet is growing into something I’m so proud of! This TV appearance was truly a dream come true for me. I’m still pinching myself!! For those who haven’t seen it yet, I leave you with my TV debut:

Monday, February 20, 2012

February Secret Recipe Club: Shrimp Penne with Creamy Garlic Sauce

After a month-long hiatus, one of my favorite blogger events is finally back: Secret Recipe Club!! Each month, each of us is given a blog to secretly visit and feature a recipe from. Then, on Reveal Day, we all share our posts. It's so much fun to finally get to introduce yourself to the blogger who you've gotten to know...AND it's great fun to see who had your blog and what dish they chose!! My blog this month was Julie's Eats & Treats. Her tag line is "Simple, Easy but Delicious Food!" Her recipes are easy to make...and they are truly delish. Stop by and give her some love. The recipe that I chose was her Shrimp Penne with Garlic Sauce

I had some lovely jumbo shrimp in the freezer...and penne in the, I knew this was the perfect recipe for me to feature! Who doesn't love pasta and shrimp with a lovely creamy sauce? I made a few adjustments to suit our tastes, but stayed true to her original recipe. I added shallot, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and green onions to the sauce...and I subbed in half and half for evaporated milk since I had that on hand. The only other adjustment I made was to sear the shrimp in a separate pan and serve them on top of the pasta rather than mixing them in. They were huge shrimp, so I wanted them to be front and center when I served the pasta!

Shrimp Penne with Creamy Garlic Sauce
adapted from Julie's Eats & Treats

Step 1:  Peel and devein 1 lb. jumbo shrimp and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with seafood seasoning and put in the fridge while you make the rest of the recipe. Next, bring a pot of salted water to boil; add 8 ounces of penne pasta and cook per package directions. While the pasta cooks, make the creamy garlic sauce.

Step 2:  Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 finely chopped shallot, 2 grated (or minced) garlic cloves, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, until the garlic and shallot are tender. Add 1/4 cup flour to the pan and whisk to combine; cook for 1-2 minutes. Add 1 3/4 cup chicken stock and 1/2 cup half and half. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let the sauce cook until thickened...about 2-3 minutes.

Step 3:  Add 2/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese, the zest of one lemon, and 1 tbs. seafood seasoning to the sauce and stir to combine. I used Chef Paul Prudhomme's Seafood Magic. When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the pan. Give a quick stir to combine and add 2 sliced green onions and 2 tbs. chopped parsley. Stir well to combine; turn off heat.

Step 4:  Melt 2 tbs. butter in a non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Add the reserved spiced shrimp to the pan in one layer, and sear on both sides. This will take about 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the size of your shrimp. To serve, spoon some of the creamy pasta into bowls. Top each serving with several seared shrimp and additional lemon zest and parmesan cheese.

This pasta is fabulous! The sauce is creamy and full of flavor...a bit reminiscent of alfredo. The sweet shrimp cut a bit of the richness, and the parsley-green onion combo gives it a nice pop of green color. We enjoyed the addition of lemon brightened up the flavor and is a natural pairing with seafood. I served Julie's delicious pasta dish with the Tomato-Pesto Pinwheels that I featured over the weekend. You could also add a green salad, but I wanted to save all my room for the pinwheels and pasta this time!!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Red Gold Blogger Contest Part I...Featuring Tomato-Pesto Pinwheels

Now that I’ve sorted through all the pictures and gathered my notes, it’s time to share more details from my fabulous weekend in Indianapolis as part of Red Gold Tomato’s Taste of the NFL food blogger contest. It was an amazing weekend from the moment I came down the escalator in the airport on Friday and met up with the other food blogger winners, until I boarded the plane back to Texas on Sunday! I Many of us had been chatting via Facebook and Twitter in the weeks prior to the trip, so it was like meeting friends. 

We were greeted by Monica, who works in Red Gold’s Marketing Department. We posed for a few quick pictures and were off to jump in the Texas-sized limo that would be transporting us for the weekend. We chatted and got to know each other while taking a quick spin through downtown Indianapolis to see some of the Super Bowl-related excitement.

From left is Heather from Basilmomma, Me, Renee from Great Foodini, Lisa from Jersey Girl Cooks, Deb from Just Short of Crazy, Sherry from Superexhausted, and Cathy from The Dutch Baker's Daughter.

Super Bowl mural on the side of the JW Mariott in Indianapolis.

Our next stop was our hotel to meet up with Theresa from Red Gold to have some lunch and go over our weekend itinerary with her and Monica. After lunch, we had a couple of hours to relax and get cleaned up...then we all met in the lobby to head to dinner at Bonge Tavern with several members of the Red Gold staff…including the Reichart family, who owns the company. 

The restaurant is rustic and casual on the outside, and the food served is best described as upscale comfort food. Everything from appetizers to dessert was amazing!! We had a great time getting to know our Red Gold hosts. The Reichart family, who owns Red Gold, were such welcoming hosts…they made us all feel like part of their family. 

Our amazing Red Gold hosts, including: Theresa from Marketing, Colt Reichart, Selita Reichart, Monica from Marketing, Brian Reichart, and Linda (aka Red Gold Lady).

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel…it had been a very early morning for me (up at 400 to catch my plane…), so it was an early night. The next morning, we headed to the Red Gold's nearby Elwood facility for Tomato School. What a fun, educational morning!! We learned how Red Gold Tomatoes are grown and processed into their wide variety of products. I was very impressed to learn that most of the farmers who grow their tomatoes have been connected to the company for many years…over multiple generations in many instances. 

Learning about Red Gold's tomato operations at Tomato School.

The company’s pride in their products is evident in every aspect that we saw that day. After a yummy breakfast featuring Red Gold products, we donned super-chic hairnets and were given a fascinating tour of their production facility. That day, ketchup was being produced, and we received bottles of ketchup to remember our visit by!

Red Gold's ketchup production line in Elwood, Indiana.

The customized stamp on the bottle of ketchup we were given to remember our visit by!

After our plant tour, we had a taste test to compare Red Gold products to their competitors...based on both sight and flavor. Then we drove a short distance to the brand-new Red Gold corporate headquarters. We were their first official visitors, which was a great honor! 

Red Gold's brand-new headquarters...we were their very first official visitors to the this new facility -- what an honor!!

Our special welcome on the crawl on the in-house TV system at Red Gold's headquarters...nice touch!!

We were given the grand tour of the building…which happens to also be where Red Gold President Brian Reichart attended elementary school as a child growing up  in the area. We ate a fabulous lunch prepared by Linda…aka Red Gold Lady…that featured Red Gold products. We were treated to a visit from Stewie, the Red Gold mascot…of course, that was a great photo op!

Group shot with Red Gold mascot Stewie in the foyer of the Red Gold that tomato mural!!

We made it back to our hotel mid-afternoon...after a quick pit stop at the amazing Concannon's Bakery, which is very popular with the locals. When the owner found out we were visiting food bloggers, she sent us back to our hotel with a box of her amazing pastris to sample. After a brief rest, it was time to get glammed-up Taste of the NFL. I'll pick up the story here later this week...

I want to share the recipe for a fantastic, simple dish that was served at our Red Gold luncheon: Tomato-Pesto Pinwheels. There little bites are a snap to whip up, and they are positively delicious!! My only changes to the original recipe were to use garlic crescent rolls instead of plain ones...and I added a sprinkle of shredded parmesan cheese that I had in the fridge. 

Tomato-Pesto Pinwheels
adapted from Red Gold

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350. Unroll a package of garlic-flavor refrigerated crescent rolls onto a cutting board sprinkled with flour. Press at the perforations so you have one sheet of pastry. Spread with 1/3-1/2 cup of your favorite pesto. Top the pesto with a 14-ounce can of well-drained Red Gold diced tomatoes with garlic, basil, and oregano. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese on top of the tomatoes.

Step 2:  Carefully roll the dough toward you so you have a long roll. I found it easier to slice into rounds by placing the cutting board with the dough into the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up. Use a serrated knife to cut the dough into 16 slices. Place each slice on a non-stick baking sheet.

Step 3:  Bake the pinwheels until golden-brown, approximately 15 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking to ensure even baking and browning. Let the pinwheels cool for a couple of minutes before removing them to a serving plate. 

These little bites are so good...the combination of basil pesto, juicy tomatoes, and melted parmesan combine with the crescent rolls to make one yummy pastry. At our luncheon, they were served with a couple of salads. I'm going to serve them with a shrimp and pasta dish for dinner tonight, so you can see that they are very versatile!