Friday, December 28, 2012

A Look Back at The Best of The Weekend Gourmet...2012 Edition!

Hard to believe it, but 2012 is very nearly over! That means it’s time for a look back at the goings on here at The Weekend Gourmet over the past year. This little blog constantly amazes me! What started as a simple and fun creative outlet has morphed into something unexpectedly…much, much more! It’s brought me some great perks, and I’ve made some amazing new food-loving friends in the process. Before we turn the calendar to 2013, I wanted to take a few moments to revisit some of the high points of 2012. The year was off to a great start when I found out I had been selected as one of seven loggers around the country as a winner in Red Gold Tomato’s Taste of the NFL contest. I received a trip to Indianapolis over Super Bowl weekend to visit Red Gold headquarters and attend the Taste of the NFL charity event. I met some fabulous bloggers and received the warmest welcome you could ever imagine from the Reichart family, who own and operate Red Gold.

With my fellow Red Gold Tomato Taste of the NFL blog winners...all dressed up and ready for good eats!

Prepping for my first live cooking segment on San Antonio's
Great Day SA morning show.
Winning the Red Gold contest opened the door to one of my most amazing opportunities for 2012. I appeared in my first live television cooking segment on Great Day SA this past February to cook the jambalaya for Mardi Gras. I had a blast interacting with the host and cooking in front of the camera! The segment went so well that I was invited back this Summer to cook a light and easy salad live on the air again! A television cooking segment was an opportunity that I have always dreamed of. My undergrad degree is in Journalism/Broadcast News, so being in front of the camera is second nature to me. I was a bit rusty after so many years, but I loved every second of it! It truly was a highlight of my year.

The blog received a bit of a facelift this Spring…to make it prettier and a bit more user-friendly. The new look gave me the confidence to branch out and add two new blog features that morphed this blog from solely a cooking blog to incorporate a monthly restaurant spotlight and food & wine travelogues. I started my The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out feature last February, and we’ve had a great time visiting local – and destination – restaurants since then. Since San Antonio is such a great tourist destination, my hope is that this feature provides local residents AND those who might visit our city with lots of great dining options.

After much thought about combining my love of travel with my love of good food, I took a leap of faith and branched out into writing travelogues this Fall. This new ongoing series is titled A Food Lover’s Weekend In…. The angle is to visit a great food city and find the best in dining and entertainment…all in one three-day weekend. We’ve done two travelogues so far, New Orleans in August and Las Vegas in November. The experience has been fabulous so far! 

Ms. Brenda Prudhomme and Executive Chef Paul Miller of K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen.
They treated us like family and served us a fabulous lunch in New Orleans' French Quarter!
Pre-show appetizers and drinks at FIRST Food & Bar, located on The Strip in Las Vegas.
The perfect way to kick off an evening of fun!

During these sponsored food and wine-based trips, we dined at some of the best casual and fine-dining spots in both cities. We also visited attractions, saw some shows, and stayed in lovely accommodations. This allows us to show readers nice places to stay...and activities to take part in between meals. This ongoing series of travelogues is the ideal way for Michael and I to combine our love of travel with our passion for good food and wine. It's the best of both worlds that lets The Weekend Gourmet reflect my love of cooking...and my appreciation for dining out. 

I made sure to stay true to my roots, and I cooked a ton of delicious recipes this year. I took part in Secret Recipe Club, which is a great way to meet new food bloggers and try some of their fabulous recipes. I also met a fabulous group of bloggers when I joined the #SundaySupper movement this Summer. I love the concept of serving meals that are eaten and savored with the ones you love ! I’ve made some wonderful food blog friends via this supportive and friendly group. 

Hands down, my most popular post -- of not only 2012, but in the entire history of my blog --  was an original recipe that I created for Cinco de Mayo featuring Chobani 0% plain yogurt: my Crispy Chicken Tortilla Rollups & Spicy Avocado Crema. We loved them, but I never expected them to explode via Pinterest the way they did. So far, this recipe has been pinned 55,000 times and received more than 78,000 total pageviews. That’s not a typo…I’m totally floored by this statistic! I receive e-mails all the time from people who have tried these crispy finger foods and enjoy them as much as we do. It’s the little things like this that tell me I’m on the right track with this blog.
Here are my personal favorite recipes from 2012, in no particular order:

(1) Asian Chicken Meatballs with Sweet & Tangy Dipping Sauce. Flavored with cashews, cream cheese, green onion, and water chestnuts. The meatballs are dusted with flour and pan-fried...then served with a sweet-tangy sauce on the side. This is one of my very favorite appetizers!
(2) Texas-Creole Crawfish Potato Salad. This is my spin on a recipe from Brennan's Houston restaurant. This takes July 4th potato salad to a whole new dimension. The dressing is flavored with mayo and grainy Creole mustard. 
(3) No-Stress Lemon Panna Cotta with Honey-Balsamic Berries. This is the perfect Summer dessert: light and full of flavor. The panna cotta is made with lemon Greek yogurt and vanilla beans, and the sweet-tart fresh berry compote compliment it perfectly.
(4) Goat Cheese-Stuffed Pork Chops with Maple-Balsamic Parsnips, Apples & Potatoes. I created this original dish as part of a Chopped-themed Daring Cooks challenge. This is one-dish cooking at its best: roasted vegetables and apples topped with thick-cut pork chops that have been stuffed withlocally sourced goat cheese and sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary. Perfect for cool evenings!
(5) Down-Home Comforting Shrimp and Grits. I made this recipe for a #SundaySupper comfort food theme this Fall, and it was a HUGE hit. Creamy, cheesy roasted corn grits topped with spicy bacon-infused shrimp. This is true Southern comfort food!
(6) Shirred Eggs with Gruyere and Prosciutto. This is an old-school classic that Michael found online and asked me to make. It's now one of our most favorite brunch dishes. What's not to like? Prosciutto, eggs, half and half, shallots, gruyere cheese, and fresh thyme...all baked until bubbly and delicious!


What’s in store for The Weekend Gourmet in 2013? I never know exactly where this blog will take me, but I sure do enjoy the ride! I know this much for sure: there will definitely be more television cooking appearances, I’ll continue to partner with great food companies for product reviews and giveaways, and The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out and my A Food Lover’s Weekend In… series will continue. I am hoping to research and write 3-4 travelogues per year, and I have the first two in the works already: Austin in February…and New York in late April! Other than that? I’m just going to see what other opportunities come my way and keep having fun in the kitchen!

1 comment:

  1. It's been wonderful reading your blog. I find it quite impressive, interesting, pretty, wonderful and fun. Hard to believe it's been a year since you took your Red Gold trip and appeared on local tv for Mardi Gras. Continued success, Wendi, and may you always enjoy what you're doing!

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