Saturday, June 30, 2012

June Foodie Pen Pal Reveal...


It’s the end of another month...which means it’s also time for another fun Foodie Pen Pal reveal! This is such a great monthly event that was started by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean. Come on...what’s not to like about receiving a box full of yummy food that’s been hand-picked for you by a fellow food lover?!?!? This month, I received a fantastic box of goodies from Calee. This is one lucky gal...she lives and works in Napa Valley. If you haven’t been there before, trust me: this place is pretty much heaven on earth. We were lucky enough to spend a few days in Napa in 2009...and views like this had us tempted to quit our day jobs and seek out work as professional wine tasters!


When we arrived home from our Oregon trip, a big box of goodies was waiting for me. A present sure makes coming home from a lovely vacation so much easier!! Being a kid at heart, I tore into the box immediately! Take a look at all of the fun goodies that were inside: 


There's individual packets of flavored nut butters, an 18 Rabbits bar, spicy pickled garlic, smoked chipotles, some very spicy habanera sea salt, VERY yummy homemade granola bars, and...? She also sent me a bottle of her homemade vanilla extract...which smelled absolutely heavenly. I immediately grabbed a bite of the granola to sample -- it is SO good! The bar made an excellent breakfast one morning with some yogurt, and that spicy salt really upped the heat level in some grilled chicken that I made one evening! I immediatly started thinking about how I could showcase her homemade vanilla in a fun recipe for y’all.

I knew that I had found something unique and special when a Facebook friend posted a picture and link to a recipe for Vanilla Ice from the blog Oh My Veggies. Vanilla-flavored ice cubes that won’t water down your favorite drink...but will enhance it instead? That’s totally genius, as is the name (...ice ice, baby...)! You can get the recipe for these intensely vanilla ice cubes by visiting Kiersten at Oh My Veggies. I added my vanilla ice cubes to glasses of chai-flavored tea for a refreshing Friday evening pick-me-up. As the cubes melted into the iced tea, it added a creamy vanilla flavor to spicy chai. Trust me, folks: you REALLY want to make a batch of these off-the-charts ice cubes ASAP...you can thank me later!

If you want to join the Foodie Pen Pal fun for July and receive your very own totally cool food box, here’s the scoop:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa.
If you’re interested in participating for July, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions. You must submit your information by July 4th as pairings will be emailed on July 5th!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Spicy Thai Peanut Noodle Salad...A Perfect Summer Potluck Dish


Hard to believe, but it’s just under a week until July 4th! Between now and then, I’ll be sharing recipes that are perfect for celebrating with family and friends! I’ve got a fun twist on potato salad to share for this week’s #SundaySupper...as well as a firecracker of a burger recipe and a fun vanilla treat...coming up in the next few days. Today, I’m kicking things off with a flavorful Spicy Thai Peanut Noodle Salad. It’s perfect for taking to summer potlucks, because it’s delicious both cold and at room temperature...and it contains no dairy products. 

As soon as I saw this recipe on the Cook's Country website last week, I immediately added it to this week's menu! Cook’s Country is part of the America’s Test Kitchen family, and their recipes never disappoint! What’s not to like? They do all the trial-and-error work for you. All you have to do is make the final kitchen-tested, no-fail recipe and enjoy the compliments! I used their peanut-based dressing recipe and prep technique, but I did make a few small tweaks. I added sriracha to the dressing instead of the suggested Tabasco, and I changed the veggies up just a bit. I used crunchy cucumber and carrot, as well as a double shot of onions This salad is knock-your-socks-off good!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Perfect Summer Side Dish: Corn Maque Choux...Featuring Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes


Today is the first in an ongoing series of posts featuring Red Gold tomato products. As many of you know, I visited Red Gold’s corporate headquarters in Indiana this past February as one of the winners in their Taste of the NFL food blogger contest. I was already a fan of their products before that trip, but I left Indiana with a deep appreciation of their commitment to their products. On top of that, the Reichart family and their employees are basically the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. That’s why I was so thrilled when they asked me to continue partnering with them to feature some of their tomato products and recipes for you!

I would never steer my readers wrong, so you can believe me when I say that Red Gold is the only brand of canned tomatoes that I use in my kitchen. I witnessed first-hand the enthusiasm that they have for their products...and the passion that they have to create high-quality products. They recently sent me two cans of their petite diced tomatoes to cook with and share the results with you. I visited their website to check out their recipes...and one side dish immediately jumped out at me: Corn Maque Choux (pronounced mock shoo). It’s a Cajun dish that features fresh-from the-cob sweet corn and Red Gold petite diced tomatoes. Oh, did I mention that it has bacon too?!?!? 

I made a few tweaks to Red Gold’s recipe since we like our food on the spicy side. I subbed half of a poblano pepper in place of bell pepper, and I added some of my favorite Cajun spice blend to up the spice factor even more. To save a bit of time in the kitchen, you can use frozen corn kernels in this dish. That said, fresh sweet corn is at its peak right about now, and it only takes a few minutes to cut the kernels fresh from the cob. It's worth it to enjoy fresh-from-the-cob summer corn while it's at its peak!!


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Portable Dishes from The Mom 100 Cookbook for #SundaySupper...Featuring Honey Ginger Soy Chicken


One of the things I missed most during vacation was not being able to take part in last week’s #SundaySupper posting! This weekly blogging event is the idea of Isabel at Family Foodie. Her mission is to bring back Sunday Supper around the family table. That’s something I appreciate...in today’s fast-paced world, it’s nice to unplug and enjoy a meal together! This week, we're featuring a great new cookbook from Katie Workman called The Mom 100 Cookbook, which features 100 family-friendly recipes. I know...I’m not technically a mom: my only “kid” has four paws, orange fur, and whiskers! But...I work full time and have a blog to tend to, so I love her recipes! They're perfect for quick, flavorful weeknight dinners. The theme we're featuring is Portable Dishes for Getting Together with Friends. The recipe I chose is from the Potluck section of her book: Honey Ginger Soy Chicken.

The prep work for this dish was incredibly simple: make a flavorful marinade and pour it over chicken, then cover with foil and let it rest overnight in the fridge. The next day, pop the dish into the oven and let it do the rest of the work for you! To show how easily this chicken can be transported...I cooked it in a disposable foil pan that came with a lid. Talk about the ultimate in easy cleanup -- cook and toss!

This Asian-flavored chicken is Katie’s riff on an Ina Garten recipe, so that immediately caught my attention...as did the simple ingredients list that used foods I already had in my fridge and pantry. The only item I had to run out and buy was the fresh ginger. The only minor tweaks I made to the original recipe were to:  (1) divide the recipe in half since I was making it for two, and (2) use bone-in chicken breasts and thighs instead of a cut-up whole chicken since those are our favorite pieces.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Casa Garcia's Fabulous Oregon Adventure, Part II: Willamette Valley Winery Day

This may be a food blog, but I'm starting out this post with a non-food picture...so you can truly appreciate the beauty of the place I'm going to tell you about today: Oregon's wine region in the Willamette Valley, located just south of Portland.

A beautiful view as seen from the tasting pavilion at White Rose Estate. Everywhere we looked, there were
farmhouses, barns, and even some grazing animals!

A map of the Willamette Valley wine region. We were mainly
in the area between Dundee and Carlton for our wine
adventure.
Do I have your attention?!?!? The Willamette Valley has a reputation for its delicious and reasonably priced wines...especially pinot noir. We were told that the climate of the area is very similar to Burgundy, France, which is one factor that makes them well-suited for growing grapes. Good wine, lovely weather...and scenic views? Sounds like the PERFECT way to spend a vacation day to me! That’s exactly what Michael and I did for one day of our trip. There are more than 200 wineries in the area, so it was difficult to pick only a few to visit. Our first stop was Duck Pond on the recommendation of my brother. Once there, we asked their suggestions for a couple of other wineries that featured scenic views of the valley so we could snap pictures while we enjoyed more wine. That day, we visited three wineries, sampled about 15 different wines, saw some GORGEOUS scenery like the picture above, and enjoyed a fabulous casual post-winery meal.

Right off the bat, you need to know this: I’m not a wine expert...I grew up in a southern Baptist family, so we never had any alcohol in the house. I first learned to appreciate white wine as an adult, but I’ve developed an appreciation for full-bodied red wines over time. Our trip to Napa Valley in 2009 (pre-blogging days), was so much fun. We tasted several different wines, learned a lot, ate some amazing food, and enjoyed fresh air and lush landscapes! Since then, we’ve continued to educate ourselves about wine tasting and food pairings. In all honesty, I tend to go by what appeals to me...if I taste it and like it? I’ll buy a bottle. Is it bad to admit that sometimes I buy a bottle of wine just because I like the pretty label? But I digress...

Wine aging in oak barrels at Duck Pond Cellars.
Our first stop was Duck Pond Cellars in Dundee, south of Portland. This winery is easily accessible, located right off a major road. The grounds are lovely, and the tasting room has a very nice gourmet foods area. They have one tasting flight that is free, which we discovered isn’t that common. I misunderstood when I reserved our tasting online and thought it included a tour...which it didn’t. However, a lovely employee named Jackie poured us the first offering...and graciously offered to give us a quick tour of the facilities and tell us more about Oregon wines and the winemaking process. She was very nice and extremely knowledgeable. After our tour, we continued our tasting. We purchased a food plate that included three kinds of cheese, sliced baguette, fig jam, and Oregon hazelnuts. The food paired really nice with the wine...especially their lovely pinot noir, which was recently awarded 91 points at the 2012 Ultimate Wine Challenge. 

Of all the wines we sampled during our winery day, this Duck Pond 2009
pinot noir was our favorite. It was a nice balance: not too sweet, not too dry.
Notice the duck stopper on top? When wine is poured, it comes out of the
duck's bill. Too cute!
We enjoyed the pinot noir so much that we bought a bottle to take back to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law to thank them for their hospitality. The price was very reasonable: only $20. After our tasting, Jackie encouraged us to take our time and enjoy the rest of our goodies on their outdoor patio area.  

The yummy spread of gourmet treats that we munched on while we had our wine tasting: three kinds of cheese, Oregon
hazelnuts, fig jam, and sourdough baguette slices. The perfect accompaniment to the wine we sampled!
A gorgeous landscaped pond on the grounds of Duck Pond...no ducks, but there were LOTS of fish!

It was 65 degrees and sunny, so it was nice to chill out and plan the rest of our day while we finished eating our goodies. We snapped a few pictures of the grounds and chatted about the wine. To me, the wines we tasted in Oregon are as good as any that we’ve had from California...and the prices are generally lower as well. Before we knew it, it was nearly noon...so it was time to head to the next winery. We asked for recommendations for wineries with nice views...and were told to check out White Rose and Anne Amie. Both were a quick drive from Dundee.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Casa Garcia's Fabulous Oregon Adventure Part I: The Food


We enjoyed a wonderful vacation in Oregon last week, visiting Portland and several other destinations throughout the area. There was beautiful scenery literally around every corner! Thanks to a great deal on a rental car with unlimited mileage, we saw quite a bit of the Pacific Coast, as well as Tillamook National Forest and the Willamette Valley wine region! We also ate some really delicious meals along the way...from Portland to Dundee...and from Astoria to Cannon Beach. For between-meal food adventures, we visited a fantastic artisan bakery, a gourmet chocolate shop, and Voodoo Doughnut...which is a must for anyone visiting Portland! I made sure to take lots of pictures so I could share our adventures with you. So, come along...and remember: there are zero calories in pictures of food!

Our first official day exploring Portland started off with lunch at Pine State Biscuits. This restaurant specializes in sandwiches made with southern-style scratch biscuits. They’ve been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, so we were excited to check it out. It’s small inside, with only a few tables...we lucked out and snagged one while we waited for our food. I had the Chatfield, which has fried chicken breast, bacon, cheddar cheese, and apple butter. 


The combo of sweet and savory in this yummy sandwich was unreal! Michael had the Reggie Deluxe: fried chicken breast, bacon, cheese, a fried egg, and sausage gravy. It was so stacked with stuff that he had to eat it with a  knife and fork! We shared a side of their awesome loaded hash browns with country ham, cheese, onions, and mushrooms. Oh yeah...a spicy-good andouille corn dog too, which you can just see in the background in the picture above! 


Not surprisingly, we left Pine State completely stuffed. Luckily, we spent the rest of the afternoon walking off some of the calories by strolling through the lovely International Rose Test Garden. We snapped tons of pictures of roses. This place was so peaceful and beautiful...and free to visit! Imagine several acres of roses on three tiered levels...a new photo op every few seconds. I took a ton of pictures there, but this rose is my favorite: such vibrant, gorgeous colors!! During our pre-trip research, we had read great things about Apizza Scholls in the Hawthorne District of Portland. It’s consistently ranked as one of the best pizza restaurants in the entire country, so we wanted to see how it compared with our favorite pizza joints in New York and Chicago. 

It was indeed some amazing pizza that totally lived up to its hype. We ordered the Apizza Amore, which is margherita pizza with the addition of their spicy house-cured capicollo. I had never tasted this meat before, but it's a spicy cured pork shoulder. Wow, was it full of flavor!!


The crust of this pizza was truly amazing -- crispy in some spots and chewy in others. The sauce was robust and spicy...and that capicollo took the flavor over the top.  Apizza Scholls takes their artisan crust very seriously, fermenting it at room temperature for 24 hours before using. This is some legit pizza, y’all! I would rank this pizza with the best I’ve tasted anywhere. Michael calls it "labor of love pizza," which pretty much sums it up.

Monday, June 18, 2012

June Secret Recipe Club...Featuring Cinnamon Banana Muffins

Hi, friends! I'm back home in San Antonio (and the summer temps) after a weeklong vacation in Portland and the surrounding area. We saw so many wonderful sites, had a great visit with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and sampled some of the area's best food and wine!! I'll be sharing a two-part blog series about my trip this Wednesday and Friday. But first? It's time for one of my favorite monthly blog events: Secret Recipe Club!! My assigned blog this month is The Pink Apron. What a fun blog...so full of amazing recipes to choose from. Kelly is my kind of gal! She lives in Chicago, one of my most favorite cities to visit...and she loves artisan cheese. I think she would be a great foodie friend to grab a margarita at Frontera Grill the next time we're in Chicago!!

With vacation looming on the horizon, I was looking for something quick and easy to make this month. I had two VERY ripe bananas in my kitchen, so her Cinnamon Banana Muffins immediately caught my eye!! Then, I came across some super-cute muffin liners with monkeys and bananas later that day. I took it as a sign...so I ran home and whipped up a batch of these yummy muffins to take to the office the next morning. They were simple to whip up, and my kitchen smelled wonderful while they baked. The only changes I made to the recipe were to add some Vietnamese cinnamon and some vanilla bean paste to the batter...and I used white chocolate chips and some chopped pecans instead of the suggested cinnamon chips. I looked in two stores and couldn't find the cinnamon chips, so I opted to use white chocolate instead. The nuts were a last-minute inspiration when I found them in my baking stash.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Guest Post by Juanita's Cocina...Featuring Chicken Avocado Ranch Enchiladas

I'm still enjoying the sights and tastes of Portland...so I asked my friend Jen from the fabulous blog Juanita's Cocina to share one of her favorite recipes with you! Jen is a fellow Texas blogger, and we have become friends the past couple of months via our shared love  of great food. She's sharing a fabulous big-flavor enchilada dish with you today...so check it out! I'll be back next week with all sorts of pictures of our Oregon adventures -- food and otherwise. In the meantime, make a dish of these enchiladas to keep you company...I plan to when I get back home to Texas!!
-----------------------------------------
Hi! I'm Jen from Juanita's Cocina! I was so excited when Wendy asked me to do a guest post for her while she is on vacation! Wendy and I met and bonded over the fact that we're both food bloggers from Texas. Can you believe that she's on vacation right now and I'm stuck in hotter than hades Texas? Wendy lives in one of my favorite cities, not only in Texas, but anywhere! San Antonio! And I know that means she has access to great food. So, when she asked if I would do a guest post on her blog, I knew it had to be something delicious and worthy of the great food she eats and makes!

I originally found these Chicken Avocado Ranch Enchiladas on Pinterest and a friend of mine commented and told me she'd made them for her family and that they were a HUGE hit. I'd been waiting for the perfect excuse to make them, and when I found out I'd be posting for Wendy, I knew it was time! These were amazing. There are so many layers of flavor in these enchiladas. They're easy, but delicious. And they're sure to please a crowd.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Guest Post...Roasted Poblano Soup from The Chickpea Chickadee

While I'm enjoying a much-anticipated break from the Texas heat in Portland this week, I asked a couple of my food blog friends to guest post for me. Today, my friend Stephanie from The Chickpea Chickadee is sharing a fabulous recipe for Roasted Poblano Soup. Stephanie lives in San Antonio too, and she has a fantastic food blog with WONDERFUL pictures!! She's a doll, so please make sure to stop by her blog and say hello!! Now...about that flavorful soup...
------------------------------------------
Hi, I'm The Chickpea Chickadeeand I'm so excited to be guest posting on Wendy's fantastic food blog. It has been a pleasure following her blog and getting to know her. The recipe I'm sharing today is Roasted Poblano Soup. The first time I had this soup was at a neighborhood soup and salad place. I was hooked immediately. It is creamy, with a hint of heat from the peppers. 

The grilled corn and cherry tomato garnish gives it some texture and makes the flavors pop. We tend to like our food HOT down here in Texas, so you may want to check the level of heat in the peppers before you add them to the soup. Usually, I will make a generous portion of this soup and then have it for lunches during the week. It pairs nicely with some quesadillas or a nice green salad.

Roasted Poblano Soup 
from the Chickpea Chickadea


Ingredients:
  • 2 medium poblano peppers 
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled, diced and boiled until fork tender
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small head of fresh spinach, washed and well drained 
  •  ( you could also 1 cup of frozen spinach, thawed and well drained)
  • 1 cup of cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 4 small fresh corn cobs, grilled and kernels removed from the cob
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper
  • Fresh cherry tomatoes, roasted corn and Queso Panella for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash poblano peppers and rub them with olive oil. Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately place them in a brown paper bag. Let them sit for 10-15 minutes. Once peppers have cooled, remove skins and set aside. 


In a large soup pot, add onions and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Add in spinach and cook until wilted. Add cooked potatoes, roasted poblano peppers, cilantro, half-and-half and puree in a food processor or with a hand held mixer. Season with salt and pepper. 


Garnish soup with fresh grilled corn kernels, cherry tomatoes and cheese.


Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Recipe Do-Over Courtesy of Foodbuzz and Frigidaire...Featuring Cinnamon-Apple Crepes with Maple-Vanilla Whipped Cream


 I was so excited when I found out that I had been selected to take part in a special recipe do-over post sponsored by Foodbuzz and Frigidaire. Entrants were asked to share a recipe that didn’t quite work out as planned...and those chosen receive a stipend to re-create that recipe and redeem their foodie credentials! I’m the first to admit that not every kitchen experience of mine is a hit. Today, I’m going to share my story with you...and show you the results when I had a chance to re-do my recipe! Last year, I had planned to share a lovely crepe recipe with you. There was one problem: my crepes were soggy and not at all photogennic...nothing like the gorgeous, golden-brown crepes I had eaten in the past. I chalked it up to inexperience and used the apple filling in a Dutch baby pancake instead. Score: crepes 1, Wendy 0.

Luckily, I have a sense of humor about kitchen fails...I’m not a professional cook, so cooking is always a learning experience. I asked for a second chance to make Cinnamon-Apple Crepes with Maple-Vanilla Whipped Cream so I can finally share them with y’all! I researched crepe recipes to figure out what could have gone wrong the first time. I decided to go with Alton Brown’s crepe batter recipe after reading rave reviews...and because I respect the science behind the recipes he develops. I made one modification, adding cinnamon and nutmeg to the batter. The filling and topping are a Weekend Gourmet original: apples cooked in butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and maple syrup until soft and caramelized. I topped the crepes with maple-vanilla whipped cream and drizzled some of the sauce from the apples on top just before serving. If crepes intimidate you, let me show you step-by-step how to make to conquer your fears!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

#SundaySupper Simple and Fresh Recipes with Land O Lakes Butter with Olive Oil & Sea Salt...Featuring Crusty French Bread with Sun-Dried Tomato and Parmesan Herb Butter

For this week's edition of #SundaySupper, we're partnering with LAND O LAKES® to create Simple and Fresh Summer Recipes. To me, Summer is about spending time with the people I care about...which means that I want to prepare foods that taste fabulous but are simple...and quick...to make. I received a pacoupon for a free package of their new Butter with Olive Oil & Sea Salt so I could try it out in my kitchen. The company is expanding its line of half-stick butter with the introduction of this great product. LAND O LAKES®Butter with Olive Oil & Sea Salt contains wholesome ingredients: sweet cream butter, olive oil, and sea salt. It's an easy and convenient way to simply enhance the flavor of your favorite foods. Available in a pre-measured half-stick size, this new product can be used for topping or cooking a wide variety of foods. The delicious taste of butter and olive oil will add delicious flavor to any dish.

I tossed around several ideas for how to best showcase this delicious product, but ultimately decided to go with a fresh spin on classic garlic bread. Not that there is anything wrong with toasty bread topped with garlicky butter, but I wanted to take this classic to a new level. 
I was originally going to make a recipe from their website for Italian Grilled Corn, but opted to move in the direction of garlic bread instead using a similar flavor profile. I made a flavorful compound butter and spread it on a bakery-fresh loaf of French bread. The butter is seasoned with parmesan cheese, basil infused sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and seasonings. A food processor evenly combines the ingredients in seconds, and the bread is ready for the oven in less than 10 minutes start to finish!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Behind the Scenes of a Television Cooking Segment...The Weekend Gourmet Cooks on Great Day SA!

It's 15 minutes until the show goes live, so I'm busily putting the finishing
touches on my prep work in the KENS 5 kitchen set.
The Weekend Gourmet started as a creative outlet for me to write about the foods that I create in my kitchen. Cooking is my passion, and sharing it with my readers is one the biggest joys in my life. Thanks to this blog, I've been fortunate to experience some wonderful and unexpected benefits...including cooking twice now on Great Day SA, a local television morning show here in San Antonio. My first appearance featured me making my Kitchen Sink Jambalaya on Mardi Gras in connection with participating in Red Gold Tomato's Taste of the NFL contest earlier this year. I had a ball, and I was beyond thrilled when they asked me to come back and cook again!

Most of y'all don't know this, but I have a background in broadcasting. During college, my undergrad degree was in Radio, Television, and Film. I've worked for a variety of radio stations...and I dabbled in a bit of TV back in the day as well. I also love public speaking, so it's a dream come true to appear on a professional television broadcast!! This time, they asked me to focus on a light and healthy summer meal...so I shared my yummy Pollo Confetti Chef Salad. I thought it might be fun to share some behind-the-scenes pictures that Michael snapped, along with some information about everything that goes into preparing for a 4-to-5-minute television cooking segment.


Five minutes before the show starts, the ingredients are laid out...the decor
is set up, and a finished salad is on display.
The prep work begins the evening before the show. I'm responsible for bringing all of the decorations/props and cooking utensils, serving platters, and prepped ingredients that I will need. The KENS 5 kitchen set has a working stove, oven, fridge, and microwave. I spent most of the night before chopping veggies and making black bean-corn salsa, seasoned chicken breast chunks, and flour tortilla croutons. I have to make sure to prep enough ingredients so I can assemble one complete salad when I arrive on set...to show viewers what the finished product looks like. Each ingredient is placed in baggies or containers and packed into a cooler before bed. I also make an inventory list of all ingredients and serving pieces that I need to take with me...I go over it twice: the night before AND the morning of the show! If I forget something, it can cause major stress leading up to airtime. Case in point: I forgot to pack a knife to chop my avocados this time. Luckily, a resourceful production intern located a plastic knife for me, which worked well in a pinch. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out in June: Featuring The Cove


One-stop convenience at The Cove...wash your car, do your laundry,
and eat some fabulous food!
This month’s featured restaurant in The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out series is The Cove, a fantastic casual eatery that’s been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives and Texas Monthly magazine. What started out as a small snack bar in a combo car wash and laundromat has evolved to become one of San Antonio’s best local, organic, sustainable (LOS) restaurants. The food is casual -- burgers, sandwiches, and creative sides -- all made with pristine ingredients by a dedicated staff! Michael and I were the guests of owner Lisa Asvestas for a tasting of some of the restaurant’s signature items this past weekend. We were both very impressed with the food AND the relaxed vibe of the place! One thing hasn’t changed at The Cove over the years: you can still wash your car or your clothes while you nosh on some of the tastiest food in San Antonio.

The casual outdoor area at The Cove, including a covered
play area to keep the kiddos occupied!
The Cove opened in 2001 as a car wash and laundromat. Lisa told me that she started out with a hotplate, serving simple sandwiches. Over the years, it has morphed into a full-scale kitchen, outdoor beer garden, and larg play area for kids. As Lisa became involved with Ayurveda, a holistic form of medicine in India, she began to focus more on food as a source of health and healing...which is reflected in the restaurant's menu. The food is locally sourced, perfectly executed, and very well regarded. Guy Fieri proclaimed their lamb burger the best ever, and their Texas Burger was named the #1 burger in San Antonio by Texas Monthly a couple of years ago.

The Cove is popular with both locals and tourists...Lisa told me that the ratio varies according to the time of year, but she estimates the mix of locals and out-of-town visitors is somewhere around 50/50. The day we were there, a wide range of people were eating: families, college-age groups, and couples. It was a warm, humid Texas afternoon, so we opted to sit inside. Lisa greeted us with a warm smile and chatted with Michael and I about the restaurant and her approach to food and cooking. Ingredients are procured from local ranchers and farmers...most of it organic. Sodas are can sweetened as well. After chatting with Lisa for a bit, it was time to EAT!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Celebrate Your Heritage #SundaySupper...Featuring Chicken Enchiladas Suizas


I'm so happy to be a member of #SundaySupper, a fabulous group of food bloggers who share Isabel from Family Foodie's mission to Bring Back Sunday Supper Around the Family Table. This week's theme is Celebrate Your Heritage. My half of Casa Garcia is sort of a mixed bag -- a little Scots-Irish, a little English...and even some Native American on my Daddy’s side. We didn’t celebrate any one heritage growing up...unless you count Texan! But, Michael’s half of Casa Garcia is Spanish and Mexican. So, it was a no-brainer that I’d ride his coattails for this week’s theme. 

I adore Mexican food...as you can probably guess from searching my recipe archives. If it's spicy and cheesy, I'm likely going to love it!! I wanted to try something new to me, so I decided to share Chicken Enchiladas Suizas this week...including homemade sauce. I toyed with the idea of making homemade corn tortillas, but I quickly changed my mind. I live in San Antonio, so I can buy fresh corn tortillas just up the street from my home.

I immediately knew who to turn to find the perfect enchilada recipe! One of my favorite chefs is Rick Bayless...I really appreciate his dedication to traditional Mexican ingredients and cooking techniques. We’ve been fortunate enough to dine at his Frontera Grill in Chicago several times the past few years, and it’s one of our favorite restaurants. I own every Rick Bayless cookbook, so I just knew that he’d be able to walk me through making these enchiladas. 

I made two very slight tweaks to his recipe: I used one jalapeno and one serrano pepper in my sauce to make sure the heat level wasn’t too over-the-top. I also mixed some of the cheese into the chicken filling in addition to melting it on top...in my book, a double shot of cheese is never a bad thing! Other than that, I followed his recipe to the letter. Chicken, spicy-tangy enchilada sauce, melty cheese, and earthy corn tortillas. What else do you need, really?!?!? Come see just how easy it is to make fantastic chicken enchiladas suiza from scratch!