Thursday, May 31, 2012

May Foodie Penpals...Featuring Creamy Maple-Blueberry Parfaits

This month, I signed up to take part in a really fun monthly group called Foodie Penpals. The group was started by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean. Each month, participants are paired with another member of the group...then we send them a box of food goodies to enjoy. My foodie friend this month is Samantha from the blog Vegetarian stop by and give her some love!

Before picking out our goodies, we're encouraged to e-mail our recipient to find out about any food dislikes, allergies, etc. I told Samantha that I especially enjoy trying regional specialties from around the country. She lives in Michigan, so she made sure to include a few foods from her state. When I received my box, it felt like Christmas...I couldn't wait to see what goodies were inside. My box contained some wonderful treats: a large bottle of Michigan maple syrup, a yummy orange-dark chocolate bar, red wheat berries, a tasty spice blend that's perfect for seasoning grilled meats...and even treats and a hand-knit catnip mouse for my Lucy! 

Anybody who includes my sweet Lucy-cat in the bounty is aces in my book. Needless to say, Lucy LOVES her "mousie." She's very protective of it...I actually found her sleeping next to the mouse one morning with one paw draped over it to make sure than nobody took it from her as she slept. As you can see from this picture, she's quite smitten with it!

I was particularly drawn to the maple syrup...I wanted to find a wonderful recipe using it to show Samantha just how much I loved it! I found blueberries on sale for .99 at Sprouts, so I went looking for the perfect maple-blueberry recipe. I hit the jackpot at Epicurious...making a few tweaks to a parfait that features blueberries, maple syrup, a creamy base, and tart lemon. I subbed lime for lemon...zest and juice, used crushed cinnamon shortbread in place of gingersnaps, and used a combo of maple-infused whipped cream and blueberry Greek yogurt for the cream portion of the parfait.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tangy Bacon-Onion Fingerling Potato Salad...Featuring Frieda's Fingerling Potato Assortment

One of my favorite side dishes to serve during warmer months is potato's such a classic! But, sometimes I want something different from the typical American favorite. I love serving my Bright and Sunny Potato Salad, which is a riff on my mother-in-law’s famous potato salad. But...I also like to shake things up a bit now and then. I’m always looking for new ways to serve this classic dish. My friends at Frieda’s Specialty Produce sent me a package of their assorted fingerling potatoes to try out in my kitchen, so I decided to make a potato salad without any mayo that can be served warm or at room temperature. This makes this potato salad ideal for potlucks and outdoor entertaining! What I came up with was Tangy Bacon-Onion Fingerling Potato Salad.

I tweaked a Jacques Pepin recipe, making a few simple changes. I subbed red wine vinegar for white wine in the tangy vinaigrette, used parsley instead of the recommended tarragon, and I added bacon to the mix. I thought that bacon would take this dish to the next level, and I was right! I loved how quickly this dish was to make...and that I could serve it immediately after tossing everything together. The fingerling potatoes worked perfectly...I boiled them in salted water until tender, then sliced them into bite-size chunks. I especially loved the visual contrast between the purple-pink Ruby Crescent and the Russian banana and French Fingerlings. This recipe makes enough for four servings, so double up if you’re serving a bigger crowd.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Refreshing, Tart, and Sweet: Sparkling Watermelon Sangria for #SundaySupper

I hope that everyone's having a fabulous Memorial Day weekend so far...mine sure is! I recently joined a really fun food blog group called #SundaySupper. The group's mission is to bring Bring Back Sunday Supper Around the Family Table. In the fast-paced world we live in, that's something I can really support! Isabel from Family Foodie shares the week's theme with the group...and we create a food or beverage to go with that theme. This week's theme is Favorite Memorial Day Recipes, so I decided to contribute a fun drink: Sparkling Watermelon Sangria. You'll NEVER guess my secret ingredient to give it the perfect sweet-tart flavor!

Since Memorial Day is the unofficial official kickoff to the Summer Eating Season, watermelon is front and center at many food celebrations this weekend. Using that idea as a starting point, I created an original sangria recipe using this quintessential summer fruit. Sangria's an ideal drink for entertaining: since it fills a pitcher, it allows everyone to serve themselves while you're in the kitchen or mingling. This cocktail is easy to whip up, and it is so yummy: a little fizzy, a little sweet, and a little tart...and all-together delicious! Let me show you how to create this pitcher of yumminess...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Just In Time for Memorial Day: Nuevo Latino Layered Dip...Featuring Wholly Guacamole Products

The long Memorial Day is officially here, so it’s time to celebrate with friends and family...and make some yummy foods to share with them. I’ve got a fun and flavorful appetizer to share with y'all today. Since the holiday weekend is as much about spending time with the people we love as it is about the food that's served, it’s important to save time in the kitchen where you can. To help accomplish that, Wholly Guacamole  (a Texas-based product, by the way...) recently sent me a package with some goodies...and some free product coupons to create an easy and delicious appetizer for you! I hope you enjoy The Weekend Gourmet’s modern update take on a classic party appetizer: Nuevo Latino Layered Dip.

By using their ready-made Red Pepper Mango Salsa and vacuum-sealed chunky avocados, I was able to assemble this tasty dip in about 20 minutes! You’ve most likely eaten classic seven-layer dip with crispy tortilla chips before. It’s a classic because it’s portable, yummy, and nearly everyone loves it.  I wanted to put a fresh spin on it....but keep it familiar enough that you recognize it origins I kept the base of refried beans, as well as a simple guacamole layer. In place of traditional sour cream, I flavored fat-free Greek yogurt with lime and chili powder. I used the fruity salsa to bring a sweet-spicy flavor to my dip. I also added layers of smoky bacon and salty feta, which is very similar to Mexican cotija cheese. If you can find cotija, feel free to use it. I had feta in the fridge, so I just used that.

Simply assemble this appetizer in a pretty pie plate a few hours before your party and refrigerate until serving time. When your guests arrive, open up a big bag of  sturdy tortilla chips, and let everyone dig in! This dip is also perfect for transporting to a potluck if you're a guest instead of the host. I was really impressed with how much time the Wholly products saved me. The salsa was fresh and chunky...and the avocados were creamy and perfectly ripe. Sometimes I think an avocado is ripe when I buy it, then I bring it home and it’s not the right consistency inside when I go to use it. This pre-packaged avocado was the perfect chunky consistency for the guacamole layer of this dip.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Summer Breeze Corn Salad...and a Green Giant BlogSpark Prize Pack Giveaway

For many people, the upcoming Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer! Here in Texas, we start warming up in April…so we’re already wearing our capris and getting pedis so we can wear sandals. And? We’re also eating lighter food. Being a food blogger has had one unintended side effect: a "few" extra unwanted pounds! As a result, I’m making an effort to cook and share more light options with y'all. To help make eating healthier easier, the folks at MyBlogSpark teamed up with Green Giant and Weight Watchers to send me a prize pack that helps make eating light on-the-go much easier. 

The kit contains a VIP coupon for a free package of Weight Watchers-endorsed Green Giant vegetables, a water bottle,  a insulated lunch bag, a lunch-to-go kit and mini ice pack, a mini nutrition tracker, and a solar-powered pedometer. It's pretty much everything you need to pack a healthy lunch...and track all those steps you take during the day. And one of YOU is going to win a prize pack just like this one too!! 

Veggies are an important part of a healthy lifestyle, so I make an effort to eat my recommended five servings of  fruits and veggies each day. It’s not always easy, but Green Giant Steamers are really convenient for me. I just pop ‘em in the microwave, and they’re ready to eat in a matter of minutes. FYI...Green Giant is the only frozen vegetable brand to be endorsed by Weight Watchers, and most of their 30 varieties are only 1 or 2 PointsPlus per serving. You can even visit to download a printable coupon for $.60 off the purchase price of two boxes of Weight Watchers endorsed Green Giant Boxed Vegetables.

Monday, May 21, 2012

May Secret Recipe Club: Chicken and Pineapple Skewers with Kecap Manis Sauce from The Cafe Sucre Farine

It's that time again...time for another fun and exciting Secret Recipe Club reveal! Taking part in this group is one of my most-favorite blogging events each month, because I get to visit a fantastic blog and share a fabulous recipe from it with you...and the rest of my SRC participants. This month, I was assigned a fantastic blog that I always enjoy reading: The Cafe Sucre Farine!! I have to say that I feel like Chris and I might be long-lost foodie soul sisters. She cooks with layers of big flavors and likes to feature unique ingredient combinations, which is a cooking approach that is near and dear to my heart. To say I had a hard time picking just one recipe to feature this month would be an understatement.

After nearly two weeks of looking over every yummy recipe on this blog, I had finally decided to make a batch of some yummy Salted Toffee Pecan Squares to share with my officemates. And then? I saw a post earlier this week that immediately grabbed my attention: Chris used kecap manis -- a new-to-me ingredient -- in an Asian sauce that was brushed over simple chicken and pineapple skewers and grilled. For the uninitiated, kecap manis is a sweet-thick Indonesian soy sauce that's reminiscent of teriyaki...but more savory. Based on her glowing review of this magical ingredient, I knew that I had to change my plans and make these Kecap Manis Grilled Chicken & Fresh Pineapple Kabobs. I immediately ran out to my local Asian market during my lunch break to pick up a bottle so I could make this recipe. Where has this ingredient been all my life? 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Perfect for Summer Entertaining! Fruit 'n Feta Israeli Couscous Salad with Meyer Lemon-Maple Vinaigrette...Featuring Rice Select Pearl Couscous

Happy is crazy-busy for a few more days, so I'm off to work in just a bit. But...I have a fantastic recipe to share with y'all first!! As most of you know, I live in San Antonio...but I grew up in Alvin, a small town between Houston and Galveston. It was a great place to grow up, and most of my family still lives there. Alvin’s main claim to fame is that baseball legend Nolan Ryan grew up there...and graduated from the same high school that I did. Alvin is also known for being the home base of Rice Select. I’m a huge fan of their Texmati rice...similar to basmati, this nutty rice smells like popcorn when it cooks. They were nice enough to send a hometown girl a box full of their products to create some fun recipes over the coming weeks. Today is my first recipe that will feature their products.

Between now and Memorial Day, I’ll be sharing recipes that are perfect additions to your summer outdoor celebrations. I’m going to kick off this series of posts with an Israeli couscous salad that’s ideal for potlucks or picnics. It’s a bit different from the usual side dishes like potato salad, and it features on of Rice Select’s non-rice products: tri-color pearl couscous. This Fruit ‘n Feta Israeli Couscous Salad with Meyer Lemon-Maple Vinaigrette is unique and totally delish. If you've never had pearl couscous...also know as Israeli couscous. I hope that you'll love this versatile grain as much as I do. The pasta pearls are larger than regular couscous and cook up into tiny pearls of pasta.

This colorful salad is my riff on a Giada de Laurentiis recipe...I loved the original recipe, but decided to play around with it a bit. I subbed tri-color couscous for regular, for starters. Then, to the original recipe’s Granny Smith apple, craisins, and toasted almonds...I added some plump golden raisins and creamy-salty feta. I love feta in my strawberry-field green salad, so I thought it would match really well here too! I modified the flavorful vinaigrette by using Meyer lemon juice in place of balsamic vinegar to echo the fruity flavors in the salad. This dish comes together in minutes, and is best prepared the night before or morning of when you plan to serve it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Pollo Confetti Chef Salad with Chipotle-Ranch Dressing

Well...I had originally planned to share a fun post with y'all today about what it’s like "behind the scenes" prepping for a television cooking appearance. I had also planned to share the finished segment as it aired on Great Day SA yesterday. But...that will have to wait a few more weeks. I found out Monday that due to a technical glitch with my pre-taped segment, it would not be airing. To say I was bummed is an understatement...but, there is a silver lining: I’ll be cooking live on the show on June 6th. I’m going with a fun new theme: Summer Picnic...ideas for foods that travel well in the summer heat. So, I’ll be sharing my behind-the-scenes exclusive with y'all then. 

But...what to do today? I’ve been literally slammed at work this week...lots of OT and little cooking, so I don’t have anything new ready to share with you. Instead, I’m going to announce the winner of the Top Hat dessert sauce giveaway from the weekend. Then I’m going to reach back into The Weekend Gourmet archives and share one of my favorite recipes from last summer. That should hold you a few days while my day job demands some of my time that's normally devoted to this blog!

Per the random number generator, the winner of the Top Hat dessert sauces is:

Gina from SPCookieQueen

Congrats...can't wait to see what fun goodies you decide to make with your two favorite sauces! I'll be in touch to get your shipping info so I can forward it to Top Hat...

Now about today's recipe...warmer weather means eating lighter foods. I love making entree salads as summer approaches. They're healthy, light, and cooling...and they can be full of flavor and texture too. I created this Pollo Confetti Chef Salad last May, and it quickly became one of my favorite go-to meals during our hot Texas summer. It's full of Tex-Mex flavors and textures, and it's as pretty to look at as it is to eat!

Monday, May 14, 2012

May Daring Cooks Challenge: No-Sweat Beef Bourguignon

 My friends, have I got a bona fide AMAZING recipe to share with you today. It's seriously one of the best things that I've cooked this entire year! I'm part of a really fun food blogger group called The Daring Kitchen. Our May 2012 Daring Cooks' hostess was Fabi of fabsfood. Fabi challenged us to make Boeuf Bourguignon, a classic French stew from the Burgundy region of France. Flavored with beef, red wine, herbs, and aromatic's truly the ultimate comfort food!

I’ve made Julia Child’s iconic version of beef bourguignon before. Once. I found all of the steps...and the dirty dishes...that it required quite exhausting. The dish was indeed worthy of the accolades that it’s received over the years, but I never made it again because of all the work that went into preparing it. My goal with this challenge was to come up with a streamlined version of bourguignon that didn’t skimp on the complex layers of flavor that this dish is known for. I'm happy to report that my No-Sweat Beef Bourguignon met this challenge with flying colors!

By combining two recipes and tweaking them slightly for our tastes, I ended up with beef bourguignon that was full of complex, rich flavor using only my beloved Le Creuset Dutch oven...and eliminating a few of the extra steps! My starting point was a recipe that I found online via The New York Times. The recipe was from a French chef named Ginette Mathiot. She shared a streamlined method of making bourguignon that she says is typical of one that a French home cook would use. I also borrowed two ideas from Jacques Pepin: I used hangar steak for the meat...and added baby carrots to bypass the need for extra chopping. The initial prep work takes 30-45 minutes, then your oven does the rest of the work while you watch a movie, do laundry...or whatever around the house. It smells heavenly while it cooks, so you know you’re in for a treat when it’s ready to eat.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mini Chocolate-Raspberry Cakes...Featuring Top Hat Premium Dessert Sauces

Me with my Daddy and Mama (on my left)...
and my Uncle Gerry and Aunt Therese (on my right). Anybody
from Austin will recognize where we ate!
Happy weekend...and an early Happy Mother's Day to my mom, Mary! We're not able to be together in person to celebrate this year, so I hope that letting the entire blogosphere know how much I love her makes up for least a little. I love you, Mama! One of her all-time favorite foods is I knew that I wanted to share a decadent chocolate dessert today. A fantastic gourmet food company called Top Hat recently sent me a few jars from their collection of premium dessert sauces. I'm saving their super-fudgy Mayan Legacy that's flavored with a hint of orange and coffee to make Mama and I some hot fudge sundaes to enjoy the next time that I'm home for a visit.

Top Hat has been in business since 1982 and prides itself on using only top-quality ingredients including: imported cocoa, Madagascar vanilla, cream, and butter. They use no artificial ingredients in their products, which have received rave reviews from Chocolatier. I  received two other yummy dessert sauces to try and share with you: Raspberry Fudge and Southern Sin (isn't that name great?!?!?). Raspberry Fudge is dark chocolate fudge flavored with raspberry puree. Neither flavor overpowers the other, but they work amazingly well together. I could have eaten the entire by the spoonful...but I stopped after one taste so I could create a recipe for y'all! The Southern Sin is a rich caramel-pecan sauce that does indeed taste downright sinful. I'll be sharing a fantastic sundae featuring homemade ice cream and this sauce over Memorial Day weekend, so be on the lookout for that!!

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Night On the Town...San Antonio Bloggers Event with La Madeleine

One of my favorite places to grab lunch with friends or a delicious French pastry to go is La Madeleine...the food is homey and delicious, but the prices are reasonable. I was surprised and very excited when I received an e-mail last week inviting me to attend a VIP blogger event at a local La Madeleine that had recently undergone an extensive remodel. The event was last night, and I had a fantastic time!! I had a chance to see my friend Stephanie from The Chickpea Chickadee...and I met another local food blogger named Lauren from Oh My Puddin. Go check out their blogs if you haven’t...they’re great reads with lots of fun recipes.

I met Stephanie outside the restaurant, and we walked in together. As soon as we entered the restaurant, we were welcomed warmly by a friendly staff member and escorted to a lovely private dining room in the back. We were served wine and had a chance to mingle with some of the other bloggers in attendance. It was really fun to meet some fellow San Antonio bloggers and get to know them and hear a bit about their blogs! I also met Patrick Esquerre, the founder of La Madeleine. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Introducing Kernel Season's Three New Savory Flavors...Featuring Smoky Bacon-Cheddar Popcorn Snack Mix

Hello from rainy San Antonio...where we’re likely experiencing a late visit from spring before the hot weather settles in for good this summer! Do you ever get the munchies? What a silly question...of course you do. But if you’re like me, you get bored with your standby crave something new and fun! I’ve got you covered today, thanks to my friends at Kernel Season's popcorn seasoning. They’re introducing three new savory flavors, and I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to sample them! The new additions to their fantastic lineup are: Pizza, Buffalo Wing, and Bacon Cheddar. These are bold flavors that just beg to be used to flavor a crunchy popcorn snack mix. I was happy to oblige!

I first sampled all three of these big-flavor seasonings with popcorn to try them out before creating a snack mix in honor of the NBA playoffs. Sadly, my Rockets aren’t in the playoffs this year (again...), but the Spurs are. This snack mix is perfect to munch on while cheering for your favorite team...or even when watching a movie with your family. I made sure to include lots of fun ingredients and flavored them with a mixture of the Bacon Cheddar seasoning and melted butter. After a quick cook in the microwave, this snack mix was ready to eat in about 30 minutes. I let my imagination guide me...I chose my ingredients based on what was crunchy, cheesy, and smoky.  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Celebrate with Crispy Chicken Tortilla Rollups & Spicy Avocado Crema + a Chobani Yogurt Giveaway!!

NOTE: This popular recipe has been updated to provide a separate ingredient list and clearer preparation instructions. To get to the recipe, simply GO HERE!!

Crispy Chicken Tortilla Rollups & Spicy Avocado Crema
a Weekend Gourmet Original

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for May: RoMo's Cafe

I didn’t have to travel more than a few miles from home to get to May's featured restaurant for The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out series! Little did I know that one of San Antonio’s best new restaurants is located right in my neighborhood...lucky me! I’m so glad that I had a chance to visit RoMo’s Cafe and sample some of their signature menu items. For local readers, RoMo’s Cafe opened on Culebra, not far from Ingram Park Mall, last fall. Since then they’ve steadily built a loyal following of regular customers...and they’ve received tons of local accolades for their fantastic food.

RoMo is a combination of the names of chef-owner Rob Yoas and his wife and business partner Monica. Chef Rob attended the Culinary Institute of America branch here in San Antonio following a stint in the military. After graduation, he decided to open his own restaurant...focusing on local ingredients and a mix of items that ranges from sandwiches and salads to upscale gourmet fare. Let me tell you -- this place is legit: the meats are all cured onsite, and the bread and desserts are baked fresh on premises too. There’s a menu of core items that are offered daily, but Chef Rob is rightly proud of the creative daily specials that he offers. This is where he has a chance to really let his creativity take center stage.

Michael and I recently were Chef Rob’s guests for a multi-course tasting of some of his menu items. We were treated to an appetizer, a salad, a sampling of their house-cured meats, entrees, and dessert. As usual when I visit a restaurant for this series, I put myself in Chef Rob’s hands and let him share his favorite items with us. I like to conduct my reviews this way, because I always enjoy seeing what surprises come my way...and it usually results in me trying something I normally might not order. Michael snapped a few interior pictures while we waited for the food to arrive. The restaurant’s walls are decorated with colorful art, and there's a lot of natural light in the dining room. 

Then...our appetizer arrived: Arancini with Red Pepper Coulis. If you’ve never had arancini, it's cooked risotto surrounding a piece of mozzarella cheese that’s rolled into a ball, breaded, and fried. 

The arancini was crispy, but not the least bit greasy. This was our first indicator that we were in for a fantastic meal. Frying is one of those things that’s heavenly when done right, but a greasy hot mess if it’s done wrong. This little bite was fried perfection!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Mesquite Chicken Tacos with Creamy Corn Salsa

Hey there, friends! I've been up to my elbows prepping for my second TV cooking appearance on Great Day SA tomorrow. Between prepping ingredients and trying to figure out the best makeup and clothes to wear, I haven't had much time to cook this week. I found out earlier today that I've been bumped from tomorrow's live I'll be taping my segment, which will air later this month. I promise to share the video here as soon as it airs, and I'm hoping that I can share a few behind-the-scenes pictures later this week to hold you over until then. 

I'll be back on Thursday with this month's The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out feature. But, today I want to share one of my very favorite recipes from last summer: Mesquite Chicken Tacos with Creamy Corn Salsa. With Cinco de Mayo coming up this weekend, these yummy tacos would be perfect to serve with margaritas for any parties you might be hosting. The grilled chicken is smoky and juicy, and the corn salsa is definitely not your average topping. It's so good, and it pairs really nicely with the other ingredients in the tacos.