Friday, May 31, 2013

Pesto Flatbread with Shrimp and Fennel for #FennelFriday Pizza...Featuring Pollen Ranch Fennel Pollen

I recently joined a new blogging group called Fennel Friday Cooking Club. The last Friday of each month, we’re going to be sharing recipes that feature a fennel pollen product from Pollen Ranch. The group is the idea of Kimberly from The Hungry Goddess blog. This month’s featured product is fennel pollen, and our theme is pizza or flatbread. Using raw or cooked fennel bulb is totally optional, but I recently tried fennel. Now I'm hooked on the mellow, sweet flavor of roasted fennel! I had never tasted fennel pollen before, so I was immediately intrigued. As soon as my package arrived from Pollen Ranch, I had to open the tin and sample the fennel pollen right away.

Fennel pollen is lightly sweet, with a slight hint of anise…and it’s unlike any other spice I’ve ever tried. I immediately thought that the fennel pollen would pair perfectly with sweet Texas Gulf shrimp. That was my jumping off point for my simple Pesto Flatbread with Shrimp and Fennel. Rather than make one large pizza, I opted to make individual flatbreads using pita bread and a good-quality pre-made pesto from my favorite local gourmet grocery. Feel free to use homemade pizza dough and from-scratch pesto if you prefer. I decided to use both roasted fennel and the fennel pollen on my flatbreads, along with fontina cheese and shallot. This isn't your average pizza, but it's totally tasty!

By using pita bread and purchased pesto, I was able to have these flatbreads on the table in under and hour -- including the roasting time for the fresh fennel! These flatbreads are  simple enough for a weeknight dinner, but nice enough to serve guests with a glass of white wine and a chilled green salad. These flatbreads are what I like to refer to as "casual gourmet" cooking.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Celebrating Mediterranean Diet Month...Featuring Mediterranean Labne-Dukkah Dip

May is Mediterranean Diet Month, which pairs perfectly with Healthy Eating Month here at The Weekend Gourmet. The Mediterranean Diet is a nutritional recommendation inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of southern Italy, Greece and Spain. The key components of this way of eating include focusing on eating more olive oil, legumes, fruits and vegetables, fish, lowfat cheese and yogurt -- along with moderate wine consumption. These are great building blocks for any healthy eating plan! California-based Karoun Dairies recently sent me a variety of their lowfat yogurt, cheeses, and labne to create a healthy Mediterranean recipe for you.

I received olive and thyme feta, grilling cheese (aka haloumi), yogurt, and labne (lab-neh). If you’ve never tried labne, chances are you will soon! Labne was recently announced as one of the hottest new food products by Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru. It’s basically a delicious strained yogurt spread. It’s thick and tangy…and very versatile. The probiotic bacteria in Karoun labne offers support for the immune system and aids in the digestion of food. We enjoyed the grilling cheese very simply, grilling it in a non-stick pan and wrapping it in pita bread. I was so simple and so delicious! It gets a nice golden crust on the outside, and it's gooey on the inside. 
For the labne and feta, I decided to make a dip that's full of chunky veggies and a Mediterranean spice mix called dukkah. If you’ve never had dukkah before, you’re in for a treat! This spice blend contains crushed almonds, seeds, and spices. I found my dukkah at Trader Joe’s this week, but you should be able to find it at any international grocery or large spice company. My Mediterranean Labne-Dukkah Dip is super quick to make and unbelievably good. As an added bonus, it's low in fat and healthy to boot!

This versatile dip is thick enough to servevwith pita chips, but it can also be used as a topping for grilled chicken kabobs -- similar to tzatziki. If you can’t get your hands on the dukkah spice blend, I’ll give you suggestions to replicate it from easy-to-find spices you probably already have in your kitchen.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Celebrating National Burger Month...Featuring Thanksgiving-in-May Turkey Sliders and an Alexia Prize Pack Giveaway!

Today’s challenge: celebrate National Burger Month while focusing on my May Healthy Eating Month goals. Believe it or not, it wasn’t difficult at all…thanks in part to Alexia Foods. I’ve been a fan of their healthier frozen potato and bread products for years, so I was very excited when they offered to send me a package of their new Sweet Potato Rolls and Sweet Potato Puffs to play around with in my kitchen! I immediately earmarked the rolls to make a healthy slider for National Burger Month. I had planned to serve the Sweet Potato Puffs with my sliders, but we ate them one evening when we needed snacks to enjoy while watching a basketball playoff game. The Sweet Potato Puffs are fantastic if you’re a sweet potato fan…crispy outside and sweet inside! I sprinkled them with a bit of Cajun seasoning before baking, because we love the sweet-spicy combo. These puffs were recently given a 2013 Better Homes and Gardens Best New Product award for a good reason: they’re fabulous!
When I was creating my sliders, I did a bit of brainstorming...and ultimately decided that sweet potato reminded me of Thanksgiving. That was the jumping-off point for my quirky little Thanksgiving-in-May Turkey Sliders. They bring my favorite Thanksgiving flavors to a Summer-perfect burger. I flavored lean ground turkey with dried cranberries and green onion...and savory seasonings like sage, rosemary, thyme, and garlic. I topped the sliders with 2% jack cheese and caramelized purple onion. To continue the Thanksgiving flavors theme, I made a yummy sweetly savory sauce with cream cheese, cranberry sauce, and green onions. Each bite of these turkey sliders contained all of my favorite holiday flavors in a fun burger form. These little babies were a big hit at my Memorial Day dinner!

This recipe makes 7 sliders, which is plenty to feed 3-4 hungry people; for a larger crowd, just double the recipe. To save time, make the burger mixture ahead…it can actually be refrigerated overnight. While the onions are cooking, make the sauce. Then form and grill the burgers and assemble. These unique turkey sliders are full of flavor and really fun…proving that sometimes, different is good!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Fruity Summertime Sangria...Featuring Ogio Tuscan Red and Prosecco

Happy Memorial Day! I want to give a special thank you today to all U.S. military members -- past and present -- who bravely fight to keep our country safe! Memorial Day is also the unofficial start of Summer. I know some parts of the country are still dealing with cool temperatures, but it's already warm here in Central Texas. That means it's sangria season too! Sangria is basically the perfect Summer cocktail: light, fruity, and refreshing. It's also perfect for entertaining, because you can make it up to a day ahead and let it chill in a pitcher in the fridge. When your guests arrive, they can pour themselves a glass of fruity goodness...leaving you to tend to appetizers or dinner. 

Ogio, a fantastic brand of Italian wines, recently sent me a bottle of their Tuscan Red and Prosecco to share a refreshing fizzy sangria to kick off the Summer season today! Before I created my Fruity Summertime Sangria, I tasted the wines to check out their flavor profiles. The Tuscan Red is a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Merlot. It's a deep ruby-red color with an intense palate and good body. It's nicely balanced with a touch of acidity that makes it an exceptionally food-friendly wine. The fizzy Prosecco is light yellow in color with fruity notes of peach and green apple, followed by hints of acacia and lilac. Fresh and light on the palate, the Prosecco has a balanced acidity. Together, both wines gave my sangria a well-balanced flavor.

My Fruity Summertime Sangria features lime, orange, green apple, blackberries, and white nectarine. The citrus pairs well with the Prosecco, and the blackberries paired nicely with the Tuscan Red in the mix. The longer you let the sangria chill in the fridge, the more pronounced fruit flavor it will have. I like to make it either the night before or morning of the day I plan to serve it. this allows the fruits to release their juice. My secret ingredient in this sangria is a Meyer lemon simple syrup that infuses a bright citrus flavor in every sip!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Avocados from Mexico...Featuring Baked Crab Cakes with Avocado Crema and Mango-Avocado Salsa

One of my all-time favorite foods is avocado...I mean, what’s not to love?!?!? They’re rich and buttery on their own…and they’re versatile as well. I love guacamole as much as the next gal, but avocados can be used in so many other ways! My favorite avocados come from Mexico...I find that they’re consistently buttery and flavorful. I was delighted when the nice folks at Avocados from Mexico sent me a gift basket with avocados, a t-shirt, a cookbook, and a handy OXO avocado slicer. You may be wondering why I’m featuring avocados for Healthy Eating Month…avocados are fattening, right?!?!? Wrong! Not only do avocados taste fabulous, they’re a nutritional powerhouse!! Just check out these facts:
  • One ounce of a Haas avocado has 50 calories, 3 grams monounsaturated fat (that’s the good stuff!), ZERO cholesterol and sodium, and 1 gram of dietary fiber. 
  • Avocados provide 20 essential vitamins and minerals, including: potassium, folic acid and other B vitamins, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
  • Avocados are a great source of lutein, which is essential to maintaining good eyesight.
Did I mention that they taste great too?!?!? I wanted to showcase my Avocados from Mexico in a healthy main dish, so I did a bit of online research for inspiration. I found a couple of great recipes at the Food Network website. I played around with them to lighten them up a bit and came up with a hybrid that I call Baked Crab Cakes with Avocado Crema and Mango-Avocado Salsa. Imagine a bed of creamy, tangy avocado crema topped with an oven-crisped crab cake…and the crab cake is  topped with a sweet-spicy mango-avocado salsa. Each bite is bursting with vibrant flavor, and you don’t have to feel the least bit guilty for this splurge-worthy meal.
The crema is made with avocado and fat-free Greek yogurt, flavored with lime, cilantro, and a bit of spice. The crab cakes are topped with a sprinkle of panko and baked, which saves calories and fat compared to frying. The sweetly spicy salsa is flavored with honey, cilantro, and jalapenos for a bit of heat. Add it all up, and you’ve got a dish that rivals any restaurant. One note: the formed crab cakes need to hang out in the fridge for an hour or two to firm up before baking, so make sure to figure in time for that. That gives you plenty of time to assemble the crema and salsa, so it’s all good!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

May Pass the Cook Book Club...Featuring Low-Cal Cuba Libre Granita from Slushed!

A couple of months ago, I signed up to take part in a monthly blogging group called Pass the Cook Book Club. The lovely Kita from Pass the Sushi selects a three or four recipes from one of the many cookbooks in her collection, and participants pick one to cook and share on their blogs on the assigned day. Fun, right?!?!? After two months of last-minute issues that kept me from participating, I was determined to take place this month. We’re featuring Slushed!, which is full of fun, boozy desserts. Since this is Healthy Eating Month around here, I was able to take part by making a couple of tweaks to the Cuba Libre Granita. Instead of regular soda, I used Coke Zero. As the name says, it has zero calories...but it has -- to me -- a more true Coke flavor than Diet Coke.

The only tweaks I made were to add the juice of one key lime to the simple granita mixture. I also added the zest from a lemon to augment the lime zest from the smaller key limes. This slushy dessert couldn’t have been easier to make: mix up a few ingredients in about 5 minutes, pour into a pan, and put it in the freezer. Then, give it a scrape with a fork every so often until it’s frozen. That’s about it. What you’re left with is sort of like a grown-up snow cone. We’re already in the 90s most afternoons here in Texas, so this is just the kind of refreshing treat I enjoy. Let me show you how insanely easy this is to whip up.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Kitchen Sink Frittata...Featuring Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes with Onion, Celery, and Green Pepper

My friends at Red Gold Tomatoes recently sent me two cans of their Petite Diced Tomatoes flavored with Onion, Celery, and Green Peppers so I could share an easy weeknight dinner recipe with you. I decided to use the tomatoes to play a game of what I like to call Chopped: Home Edition, my personal spin on my favorite Food Network show. That’s where I create a dinner using only the ingredients I have on hand in my kitchen. It was hot, my sprained ankle was sore after work, and I was tired. Bottom line: I just didn’t feel like stopping at the store on my way home to pick anything up. Instead, I looked at what was in the pantry and fridge that would pair well with the tomatoes. I created my breakfast-for-dinner Kitchen Sink Frittata using eggs, potatoes, onion, flat-leaf parsley, prosciutto, and cheese  that I had on hand. After it came out of the oven, I topped it with a mixture of the petite diced tomatoes, a bit of my favorite marinara sauce, and some grated parmesan. It was a complete meal in one skillet!
I love frittatas, because they’re so much easier to make than an omelet…to me at least. There’s no stressing out over trying to perfectly fold it…simply sauté your ingredients, pour the egg custard over the top, and pop it into the oven. That gives you a pocket of time to whip up a nice side dish, then all you do is cut into wedges and serve! For this frittata, I served a combination of berries topped with a mixture of strawberry Greek yogurt and strawberry preserves and a sprinkle of granola. It was a simple and healthy dinner that I had ready in just over 30 minutes start to finish.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Swinging New York Date Night: Palm One Dinner, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and Dessert Tasting at per se

This month's The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out spotlight finds us outside of our San Antonio home base. For this Special Edition, I'm sharing A Swinging New York Date Night from our recent New York trip. Our date started with dinner at one of the most famous steak restaurants in the country. From there, we attended an amazing live jazz performance by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra...and we ended the evening with a memorable post-show dessert tasting. New York is one of our favorite cities to visit, and this date night included all of the things that we love best: time together enjoying delicious food, swinging jazz music, and a sweet ending in a gorgeous setting! 
Photograph provided by Palm One
We started our date night with an early dinner at Palm One, the legendary flagship location of the popular Palm Restaurant Group. Palm One is still housed in the original location, where they've been serving up amazing food since 1926 -- that's more than 80 years, people! We were warmly welcomed and quickly seated by the manager, who introduced us to our server. Our friendly server knew a lot about Palm One's fascinating history, which he shared with us during our meal. Michael and I were enthralled by all of the fantastic caricatures and murals that cover the restaurant's walls. We saw many familiar faces -- including Dagwood and Blondie, Popeye, and Beetle Bailey. Many of the caricatures date back to the early days of the restaurant, when local cartoonists would draw on the wall as "payment" for their meals. The tradition has continued this colorful mural commemorating the restaurant's 80th anniversary demonstrates.
We enjoyed a cocktail and a glass of wine while we waited for our shared appetizer to arrive. Since we're seafood lovers, we opted for the Jumbo Shrimp Bruno. This appetizer consisted of three huge fried shrimp served in a pool of rich dijon mustard sauce. The shrimp were perfectly fried. They were plump and sweet, and the sauce was savory and rich. It had just enough mustard to give it a nice kick. We loved this dish...and we may have even dipped our bread in the excess sauce so we didn't miss a drop!
Next came our entrees...Michael chose the 18-ounce Prime New York Strip, while I opted for the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Chipotle Tartar Sauce and Mango Salsa. We both enjoyed a bit of each entree to create a personalized upscale surf and turf. The steak was cooked perfectly, and was it was so juicy! When a steak is this good, all it needs is a bit of salt and pepper...and a fork and knife. The crab cakes were full of lump crab and very little filler -- the hallmark of a superb crab cake. The zesty chipotle tartar sauce it was served with reminded me of Louisiana remoulade, and the mango salsa provided a bit of sweet heat. 
We shared a side dish of the best hash brown potatoes that I've ever eaten. They were golden and crispy outside, and moist and tender inside...and so unbelievably good that I broke my cardinal rule and dug in without snapping a picture! Classic restaurants like Palm One achieve that status for a reason: they use top-notch ingredients and cook them to perfection...and they do it consistently over the years. Before we knew it, it was time to jump in a cab and head over to the Time-Warner Center for our show. I have to give special kudos to Palm One's General Manager. He personally escorted us two blocks up from the restaurant, where it would be easier to hail an open cab during rush hour...and he even hailed the cab for us. That was an extra measure of customer service that we didn't expect, but were grateful to receive! 

After a short cab ride, we arrived at Time-Warner Center, which is located at Columbus Circle near Central Park South. Inside are tons of great shops and restaurants, as well as Jazz at Lincoln Center. We had tickets to see Wynton Marsalis & The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra's perform the music of the legendary Duke Ellington. Marsalis is one of Michael's favorite musicians, so I gave him tickets to this show last Christmas. We've had been eagerly awaiting the show since then...and now it was finally here! We hopped into the elevator and headed to the 5th floor. Jazz at Lincoln Center complex includes Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, the Ertegun Jazz Museum, and several performance halls. Our show was inside the beautiful Frederick P. Rose Hall, known as The House of Swing. It was definitely swinging that night! Rose Hall was specifically designed for jazz performances, and the acoustics blew us away. The show was absolutely amazing -- talented performers who love jazz playing their hearts out for a grateful audience. It doesn't get much better than that...but our date night wasn't quite over yet!
We had reservations for a post-show dessert tasting at Thomas Keller's per se, which was also conveniently located inside Time-Warner Center. All we had to do after the show was finished was take the escalator outside Rose Hall down one level. That made it a really convenient to enjoy the show and a sweet nightcap afterward. I highly recommend per se's five-course dessert tasting as a fantastic way to enjoy this amazing restaurant at a much lower price point. We received the same stellar service and atmosphere at a price that didn't break our budget. Our dessert tasting included two sweet amuse bouche, five desserts, and mignardises at the end. Just wait until you see how beautiful each course was!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Wrapping Up Driscoll's Berry Week with Baked Blueberry-Lemon Doughnuts...and a Giveaway for TWO FREE Driscoll's Berry Coupons!!

It's time to wrap up Driscoll's Berry Week with a sweet finale! Sunday is also World Baking Day, so the first thing that came to mind to celebrate both of these fun events was to make a batch of baked doughnuts using Driscoll's sweet and juicy blueberries! I love my doughnut pan, so I'm always looking for fun new ways to use it. When I thought about making blueberry doughnuts, lemon immediately came to mind. It's a perfect combination in my book! I looked around for a recipe that featured light, healthy ingredients and found a great recipe to tweak that features yogurt to keep the doughnuts nice and moist. The glaze combines crushed blueberries, lemon juice, and lemon zest for a pronounced fruit flavor. These doughnuts were love at first bite for me!

To amp up the blueberry flavor even more, I used Chobani blueberry Greek yogurt. The batter is flavored with both lemon extract and vanilla bean paste from Nielsen-Massey. These gems were literally ready for the oven in about 10 minutes. While they baked, I whipped up the sweet-tart glaze. These can be ready -- start to finish -- in just over 30 minutes. They make a great dessert or evening snack...and they're also great for a leisurely weekend brunch. If you love blueberries, you'll go nuts for these doughnuts. My recipe makes 6 doughnuts, but feel free to double the ingredients to feed a larger crowd.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Driscoll's Berry Week Continues...Featuring Spicy Seared Tilapia with Strawberry-Avocado Salsa

Driscoll's Berry Week continues with a healthy entree that's as colorful as it is tasty! I love fruit, but if someone made me pick one favorite? It would have to be is my favorite color, and nothing beats a sweet and juicy strawberry in my book! Driscoll's organic strawberries are my personal favorite, because they're consistently juicy and sweet. I wanted to feature a fun entree that could be whipped up after a busy day in the office, but was fancy enough to serve to company for a nice dinner party. I found just what I was looking for with my Spicy Seared Tilapia with Strawberry-Avocado Salsa!

Seriously, what's not to love about a slightly spicy salsa made with sweet, juicy strawberries and creamy avocado? That's right...nothing! This refreshing salsa could easily be served over grilled chicken breast, but I thought it would pair especially nicely with quick-cook tilapia that's been sprinkled with spicy Cajun rub. I was right! While I cooked up some garlic-flavored rice, it gave me just enough time to make the salsa and sear the tilapia. This gorgeous dinner was assembled and on the table in just over 30 minutes.

This dish definitely has a lot of the "wow factor" that I love! Gorgeous to look at, bursting with flavor, healthy AND quick to make? That's a winning combination for busy cooks, my friends!  You're going to want to make this one...and soon! Let me show you how quick and simple this dinner is to whip up.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Driscoll's Berry Week: Berry-Pistachio Phyllo Cups with Honeyed Goat Cheese

It's Driscoll's Berry Week here at The Weekend Gourmet! I’m a huge fan of Driscoll’s Berries. Their blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are always gorgeous and full of vibrant berry flavor. I’m going to be spotlighting their sweet, juicy berries this week in appetizer, entrée, and dessert recipes. The dishes can be served as a cohesive berry-centric meal if you like. You can also pick a course to feature during the peak berry season this Spring and Summer! At the end of the week, one of you is going to receive coupons for two free Driscoll's items so you can create some of my featured recipes in your own kitchen. More details on that in just a bit…first, let’s talk appetizers!

I wanted to feature an appetizer that’s easy to whip up, but fancy enough to serve company. The kind where all you need is a glass of sangria for your free hand! I found two great appetizer recipes at the Driscoll’s website…and combined the two into a hybrid that I call Berry-Pistachio Phyllo Cups with Honeyed Goat Cheese. Using frozen mini phyllo shells makes the prep and assembly a snap, and the bite-size portions  make it easy to control calories and fat as part of my Healthy Eating Month goals. While the phyllo cups briefly heat in the oven, you have a pocket of time to make the creamy goat cheese filling. Simply add a Driscoll’s blackberry or raspberry, some crushed pistachios, and a drizzle of honey...and you’re ready to serve these lovely bites in less than 30 minutes.

Not only are these phyllo bites pretty to look at, they’re healthy and delicious to boot! I alternated raspberries and blackberries for a nice color contrast, but you can use one berry if you prefer. Both the blackberry and the raspberry versions taste wonderful, so just have fun with it!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Too-Good-to-Be-Lowfat Chocolate Eclair Icebox Dessert...for Mother's Day #SundaySupper

Today's #SundaySupper is all about celebrating Mother's Day. Our hostess is Heather from Hezzi D's Books and Cooks. I'm not able to celebrate with my sweet Mama in person today, but I wanted to dedicate this post to her so she knows just how special she is to me! This post is my way of thanking her for always being there for me! My Mama is Mary Wofford...she's the pretty lady in the black and white shirt next to me in the picture. When I thought about what dish I would share today that reminded me of her, two things came to mind: chocolate and eclairs! Her favorite pastry is a chocolate eclair, and she's never been known to turn down chocolate. It's a trait we both share, actually! I knew that choux wasn't something I was ready to tackle, then I remembered trying an icebox cake version of eclairs at a party a few years back. Eureka!

Since this is Healthy Eating Month here at The Weekend Gourmet, I lightened it up a bit. I used lowfat and sugar-free ingredients to make it less of a splurge thanks to finding a great Cooking Light recipe. The good news is that my Too-Good-to-Be-Lowfat Chocolate Eclair Icebox Dessert tastes so decadent, you'd never know it has much fewer calories and fat than the original!

This dessert does take a bit of forethought. It needs to rest in the fridge for at least 4 hours...overnight is allow the graham crackers to soften to an eclair-like  consistency. Don't worry, though...your patience will be rewarded with a dessert that tastes so close to a bakery eclair that you won't believe it!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Caprese Turkey Meatloaf...Featuring Rao's Garden Vegetable Sauce

Hands down, my favorite jarred tomato sauce is Rao's. Rao's, the impossible-to-get-reservations New York Italian restaurant, has a fabulous line of home products! I tried their marinara sauce on the advice of my friend Andie a few years ago, and I was instantly hooked. Yes, it's more pricy than most store brands...but I promise that it's worth every single penny. Sure, I can make a pretty mean homemade amatricianna sauce. But, it's time consuming...which means it's something I only do a few times a year. The rest of the time? Rao's all the way. It's the only brand of pasta sauce I use in my kitchen, and we always have a jar or two in our cupboard for whipping up a quick weeknight meal. I was thrilled when Rao's Specialty Foods offered to send me a couple of jars of their Garden Vegetable Sauce to create an original weeknight meal for you!

I had never seen this flavor on my store shelves, and we really liked it. It's full of chunky veggies like tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and peppers. It's so hearty on its own that you could easily add some penne and grated parmesan cheese for a simple dinner. I decided to use it to flavor a new spin on meatloaf: Caprese Turkey Meatloaf. Imagine all your favorite caprese salad flavors in an individual-sized turkey meatloaf. Since this is Healthy Eating Month, I used 93% lean ground turkey and lots of healthy add-ins to flavor this meatloaf. 

The individual meatloaves were ready for the oven in about 20 minutes. While they cooked, I tossed up a salad and some potatoes to serve on the side. By the time the sides were done 30 minutes later, the meatloaves were just about ready to come out of the oven. I had a company-worthy meal ready in less than an hour start to finish. With Rao's Garden Vegetable Sauce in the meatloaf mixture and on top, it was a double dose of deliciousness!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Jade Monk Matcha Tea Giveaway...Featuring Matcha-Key Lime Yogurt Mousse

Healthy Eating Month continues with a spotlight on Austin-based Jade Monk powdered matcha green tea. If you're like me, matcha always sounded a bit exotic...and the bright-green color gave me pause. Then I had the good fortune to meet the guys behind Jade Monk when I was at TECHmunch a few weeks ago. All it took was one sip, and I was immediately a matcha convert! Jade Monk matcha comes in a variety of fun flavors...all in convenient single-serving packets. You add it to hot or cold water, and it dissolves instantly. Check out the awesome flavors: Palau Peach, Chai Spice, Cranberry Blood Orange, and Lime Blossom. They even have a cool variety pack if you're like me and just can't decide which flavor to try. I was thrilled when Jade Monk offered to send me a box of the variety pack to try out at home. 

We sipped each flavor, either cold or hot...and I even experimented with it in the kitchen. Just wait until you see the amazing mousse I made with the Lime Blossom flavor! But first, I want to tell you about some of the health benefits of matcha. It has 2x the antioxidants of red wine, 15x the antioxidants of blueberries, and 137x the antioxidants of non-matcha green teas.'s an antioxidant machine flavored with natural ingredients and sweetened with a small amount of organic evaporated cane juice. Each packet is only 20 calories, and it will give you a great energy boost. I love to drink it when I get up in the morning to increase my alertness. Low in calories, an antioxidant powerhouse, and great flavor? Sign me up!

I played around with some of the packets, making smoothies and shakes. Then, I had the idea to create a tangy and not-too-sweet dessert. What I came up with was Matcha-Key Lime Yogurt Mousse. All this mousse takes is a few simple ingredients that come together in about five minutes.

This mousse reminded me of key lime pie filling, but without any guilt thanks to a base of fat-free Greek yogurt and Jade Monk matcha in every bite! You could even eat this versatile mousse for breakfast or an after-work snack to tide you over until dinner.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

May Secret Recipe Club...Featuring Perfect Pasta Salad From Barbara Bakes

It's time for another fun Secret Recipe Club reveal...and the blog I was assigned this month is amazing. Barbara Bakes is full of amazing baked goods...if only it wasn't Healthy Eating Month here at The Weekend Gourmet, I would've tackled one of her amazing desserts. Thankfully, she also features savory dishes...and I found a recipe that works perfectly. I was going to a family potluck this weekend, so I was thrilled when I found her recipe for Perfect Pasta Salad. I admit that I love pasta salad, but it can be bland. Thanks to the technique that Barbara featured, my version of Perfect Pasta Salad lived up to its name!

This is more of a technique than a recipe per's totally adaptable for your tastes of dietary guidelines. It makes a huge batch, and it got rave reviews from everyone who tasted it at the party. If that's not a great endorsement, I don't know what is! With Summer parties and picnics coming up, everyone should have this knowledge in their repertoire. 
This recipe allows you to use whatever odds and ends you might have in your kitchen. If you want, you can even make it veg-friendly by using egg or tofu for your protein. Tasty and versatile is always a winning combo in my book!

Cinco de Mayo #SundaySupper...Featuring Festive Tex-Mex Chopped Chicken Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing

This week's #SundaySupper theme is Cinco de we're sharing all of our favorite Mexican-inspired foods and drinks to get your fiesta celebration started! Our hostess this week is my friend and fellow Texan Jen, from Juanita's Cocina...and she knows a thing of two about the big-flavor, spicy foods that I love! Since May is officially Healthy Eating Month here at The Weekend Gourmet, I decided to take a slightly different approach to today's recipe. I wanted my dish to be colorful, flavorful...and also healthy. I think I accomplished all three objectives with my Tex-Mex Chopped Chicken Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing. This salad is a cinch to whip up, it looks gorgeous on the plate, it tastes AMAZING...and it's chock full of healthy ingredients! Who says healthy food is boring?!?!?
The great thing about this salad is that it's pretty adaptable. To make it veg-friendly, simply sub in a can of rinsed and drained black or pinto beans in place of the chicken. Don't like avocado? Swap in some sliced olives in their place. The key is to have fun and adjust for your family's tastebuds. The homemade vinaigrette takes a few minutes to make, but it really gives a great flavor to the finished salad. Let me show you how quick and easy this main dish salad is to make!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Sneak Peek....A Few of Our Favorite New York Eats!

I'm slowly easing my way back into the kitchen again after last week's trip to New York, but I promise to have tons of great new recipes for you starting this weekend! First, I want to share a few of the best food items that we experienced during our trip. We visited casual eateries...and fine dining establishments -- and everything in between. When we weren't eating, we enjoyed the gorgeous Spring temperatures and took in some amazing live music performances. All the foods we enjoyed were delicious, but a few really stood out. I'll share all the details later this month, but I wanted to share a few teasers with you now.

Sweet Treats
We sampled a lot of special treats...and I'll tell you all about them in my upcoming article The Sweet Side of New York. For now, let me whet your appetite! Our first day in town, we visited Laduree to sample their flown-in-from-Paris macarons. I had heard they're the very best macarons money can buy, and I believe that after our tasting. The shop owner hand-selected a few flavors for us to sample. Swoon! Let me say that the rose macaron was one of the most uniquely delicious cookies that I've ever tasted. These macarons are the real deal!
We also visited a long-time favorite this trip -- Doughnut Plant. These are the doughnuts by which Michael and I measure all doughnuts...and for good reason. All of their ingredients are made by hand, including the jams and other fillings. Quality really makes a difference! We met with the manager for a tasting of some of their signature and seasonal doughnuts...and their amazing chai latte. The carrot cake (bottom left) was the surprise of this was moist and filled with a rich cream cheese filling. Paired with the spicy sweet chai, it got our day off to a perfect start!

We visited Thomas Keller's per se after the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra Show. Both venues are located inside the Time-Warner Center, making it very convenient for a special date night! The $295/person dinner was a bit out of our price range, but they also offer an amazing five-course dessert tasting for $65 in their Salon that overlooks Columbus Circle. That price includes two sweet amuse bouche, five very creative dessert courses, and a selection of house-made chocolates at the end. The portions were perfect for Michael and I to share. It was an unforgettable experience that I can't wait to tell you about. For now, I'll share my favorite course: Poached Vanilla Meringue with Champagne Mango and Rice Pudding. It was gorgeous and outrageously delicious!

As you can see, it looks like an egg. The "yolk" is a tart mango-champagne coulis, the "white" is a meringue-like cookie, and it rests on a bed of creamy vanilla bean-flecked rice pudding. We didn't just indulge in over-the-top sweets, though...we also enjoyed some great savory dishes as well.