Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pillsbury Grilled Pizza BlogSpark...Featuring Aye Carumba! Mexican Grilled Chicken Pizza

If you’re like us, Pizza Night is a common occurrence in your house! Sometimes – especially on Fridays – we chill out and have pizza delivered, but I love making pizzas at home too! I love to use my creativity to come up with unique flavor combinations. I have never made homemade pizza dough, so I rely on a variety of ready-made dough options…including Pillsbury’s artisan whole-wheat pizza dough. Have you ever thought about keeping your kitchen cool and cooking your pizza on the grill? With Summer here, Pillsbury knows you and your family want to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. So at your next BBQ, why not grill pizza using one of their tasty recipes ideas, including Pillsbury Barbecue Chicken Pizza or Pillsbury Grilled Pepper & Sausage Pizza?
If you’ve never grilled pizza before, Pillsbury make its easy. They demonstrate the proper technique for grilling pizza.  What if you don’t own an outdoor grill? No worries! You can also grill your pizza indoors using your stovetop and a cast-iron grill pan! I’ll show you how simple method this is by sharing my spicy-good Aye Carumba! Grilled Mexican Chicken Pizza.

This pizza has all our favorite Tex-Mex flavors: spicy sauce, gooey cheese, fajita-spiced chicken, veggies and a cilantro-lime crema drizzle! If you like your food spicy, you’ll definitely love this one! The key to making this pizza is to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go so you can keep an eye on the pizza as it grills to prevent over-browning!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sneak Peek: The Weekend Gourmet Is Taking Part in H-E-B's 2013 Meal Maker Challenge!

I’m thrilled to share some really fun and exciting news with y'all today: The Weekend Gourmet has been selected as one of 10 Texas food blogs to participate in this year’s 4th annual Meal Maker Challenge, sponsored by H-E-B grocery stores and ConAgra Foods. The challenge is to create fast and delicious meals to help combat the back-to-school rush. For the next five Sundays, I’m going to be sharing a big-flavor family-friendly dish that’s centered around a theme ingredient. Each recipe contains only 7 ingredients and can be ready to serve a family of four in 30 minutes or less. I’m delighted to share the recipes that I’ve come up with for this fun contest! Here’s a sneak peek of each of my recipes to whet your appetite.

The weekly featured products include:
·            Week 1: H-E-B Salsas
·            Week 2: Hunts Tomatoes
·            Week 3: H-E-B Natural Chicken Breasts
·            Week 4: Egg Beaters
·            Week 5: Peter Pan Peanut Butter

Make sure to come back each week to get all these great recipes...starting this Sunday with my Salsarific Taco Skillet, featuring H-E-B Smoky Citrus Salsa. My Texas-based readers can visit their local H-E-B store weekly to receive a Combo Loco coupon to purchase that week’s theme ingredient and try my recipe out in their kitchens. Since this is a contest, I’ll also tell you how you can vote for and Pin my recipes each week. At the end of the contest, the two bloggers with the most votes will receive some pretty cool prizes! Honestly, just being selected to take part in this event is a huge honor…but winning would be pretty cool too!

Disclosure: I am being compensated for participating in this program. However, all opinions expressed are solely mine.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Strawberry Doughnut Shortcake...Featuring Driscoll's Strawberries

By now, we’ve firmly established that my favorite fruit is strawberries…red, ripe, juicy strawberries! Driscoll’s Berries recently asked me to create a fun strawberry shortcake recipe to share with you. I never met a strawberry shortcake that I didn’t like, so I was definitely up for this challenge. I knew that I wanted to do something a little bit different, but still retain the feel of traditional strawberry shortcake…it’s a classic for a reason! I pondered this for a bit, then remembered how much we enjoyed my Baked Blueberry-Lemon Doughnuts. I decided to make a strawberry version of the doughnut to serve as the base for my shortcakes. I couldn’t wait to give this a try for my Strawberry Doughnut Shortcake.

With a double helping of Driscoll’s strawberries inside the baked cake-like doughnut and heaped on top, I knew I had a great recipe on my hands. While the doughnuts baked and cooled, I let the sliced strawberries hang out in some Meyer lemon juice and sugar. The key to any good shortcake is homemade whipped cream…it only takes 5 minutes to make, and it provides pillows of creamy goodness to your finished shortcakes. It’s worth the time…trust me!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Watermelon-Feta Salad with Pomegranate Drizzle...Farmers Market/Local Food #SundaySupper

This week, #SundaySupper is focused on local and farmers market items. Our host, T.R. Crumbley from No One Likes Crumbley Cookies challenged us to select a locally sourced item or a farmers market item and showcase the item in a Summer recipe. Here in Texas, we're known for our juicy and sweet I knew that was going to be my key ingredient. Here in San Antonio, the largest weekend farmers market is the Pearl Farmers Market at The Pearl Brewery complex. I headed there in search of a watermelon to make my Watermelon-Feta Salad with Pomegranate Drizzle.

I found several versions of watermelon-feta salad online, so I tweaked them and made a couple of changes. I opted to add a bit of basil and finely chopped shallot to the watermelon-feta combo, and I drizzled a sweet-tart pomegranate reduction over the top just before serving. This is an ideal Summer salad...refreshing and unique!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for July...Featuring Luke San Antonio

This month’s The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out feature restaurant is Luke San Antonio, the only restaurant by acclaimed New Orleans Chef John Besh that is located outside of Louisiana. This is definitely our good fortune! Luke San Antonio is located on a quiet stretch of the River Walk on Houston Street, a location that works great for both locals and visitors to our city. Chef John Russ serves food that is comforting, yet refined…and the atmosphere what I like to call upscale casual. We were recently invited to come for a dinner tasting of some of their signature men items. We left our car with the valet, entered the restaurant, and were quickly seated at a table with lots of windows and natural light overlooking the River Walk view outside. 

We started with a duo  of cocktails, including the classic champagne-based French 75. With the cocktails came a flavorful oyster amuse bouche…also known as a lagniappe in New Orleans. We don’t normally seek out fried oysters, but this starter was amazing and bursting with flavors. The oysters were light and crispy and paired with pickled papaya,  as well as local tomatoes and blackberries. It was a perfect start to a memorable meal!

Chef Russ came out of the kitchen to present us with an assortment of Luke's House-Made Charcuterie, Pickles, Mustard, and Marmalade. These tasty bites were served with light and crispy baguette slices. Chef Russ is proud of his in-house cured meats and pickles, and rightfully so. They are delicious and so very creative! We enjoyed an assortment of items that included lamb ham, squirrel terrine (rich and delicious, by the way...), tangy pickles, pickled cauliflower and green beans, and pate. All of the items were expertly prepared, but the lamb ham and the cauliflower were our personal favorites. 

Just about the time we finished with the charcuterie, our salads came out. I had the Jumbo Blue Crab and Avocado Salad with Seasonal Farmers Lettuces and local Pedernales Farms Cherry Tomatoes. This was one fabulous salad! It was creamy and delicious, and the rich avocado matched perfectly with large pieces of sweet blue crab. Michael had the Shrimp Remoulade with Pickled Quail Eggs, Petite Greens, Radishes and Herbs. This was a colorful dish that took one of our favorite New Orleans dishes and elevated it to an elegant salad. All of the elements worked really nicely together, providing layers of flavors and textures.

As we enjoyed our salads, we agreed that Luke is just the kind of restaurant we like. They serve gorgeous food that features many local ingredients, and it tastes fabulous. We love big-flavor dishes, and Luke certainly delivers on that! We couldn't wait to enjoy our main courses.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Liberty Creek Vineyards and Operation Gratitude Team Up for Tunes for Troops...

I have a fabulous military appreciation program to share with my fellow wine lovers today! California-based Liberty Creek Vineyards is bringing country music and a reminder of the comforts of home to US military members serving overseas via their Tunes for Troops promotion. This program is being held in conjunction with Operation Gratitude, which sends more than 100K care packages and letters each year to US Service Members and wounded warriors. The donations sent from Liberty Creek will enable Operation Gratitude to include a country music compilation CD in their care packages...and you can take part!  You can show your support for this fantastic program by buying a bottle of Liberty Creek wine before the end of June. Then, visit the Tunes for Troops page and enter the unique code found on specially tagged bottles of Liberty Creek Wine. Liberty Creek will donate $1.00 per code to Operation Gratitude, up to $10,000. Operation Gratitude will use these donations to provide special country music compilation CDs for our troops. “At Liberty Creek Vineyards, we are very proud of our American roots, and we are privileged to be able to honor the troops who are out there defending our country,” says Michael Shastid, Brand Marketing Specialist, Liberty Creek Vineyards. “Operation Gratitude’s unending support for US troops over the years has been remarkable, and this partnership has provided the perfect opportunity for us to express our thanks.”  
In conjunction with this music-for-the troops promotion, Liberty Creek recently sent me a bottle of their sparkling moscato and pink moscato to try out and share my thoughts with you. Weimmediately chilled the bottle overnight in the fridge. The pink moscato is a great Summertime wine option: fizzy, light and refreshing, slightly sweet...and very drinkable. It pairs nicely with cheese and crackers, and I think it would be nice with dessert as well. We detected hints of citrus and berry and other fruity notes. For more information about Liberty Creek Wine and their program to support Operation Gratitude, please visit the Liberty Creek website. You’ll also find a store locator so you can find the nearest location to purchase a bottle of their affordable and delicious wine this month and take part in the Tunes for Troops program! Talk about a win-win for wine lovers: get a fabulous and affordable bottle of wine AND show your support for our troops overseas! 
Disclaimer: Liberty Creek sent me two bottles of moscato to review as part of this story. The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Restaurant Spotlight: Johnny Carino's Introduces Their Expanded Gluten-Free Menu...

Johnny Carino's Italian restaurants recently expanded its gluten-free menu to a whopping 23 items, including items from their kid’s menu. With demand for gluten-free food options on the rise, they're introducing gluten-free versions of fan favorites like the Skilletini and Spicy Shrimp and Chicken. The new gluten-free menu has been confirmed by Analytical Food Laboratories as meeting FDA guidelines to be considered gluten-free. This extensive process took place under the guidance of Vice President of Culinary Development Chris Peitersen. “I developed the new recipes by utilizing gluten-free ingredients, consulting nutritional experts and working in conjunction with Analytical Food Laboratories to conduct the actual scientific testing of the menu items,” says Peitersen, who started with the company as a line cook at the very first Johnny Carino’s in 1995. 
Creating gluten-free zones in their kitchens and using separate utensils for handling gluten-free dishes are just some of the steps the Texas-based chain has taken to prepare their new gluten-free menu items. The new menu items are now available at all participating restaurants nationwide, and Johnny Carino's recently invited us out to try out some items from the menu. 

Michael and don't have issues with gluten, but we were very curious to see how the gluten-free items stacked up against their traditional menu items. We were pleasantly surprised! We ordered three items from the gluten-free menu, a shared bowl of soup and two salads.  We opted to try a bowl of their Italian Chili. It was zesty, flavored with Italian sausage, diced tomatoes, kidney beans, diced onions, and select herbs. It came to the table garnished with parmesan cheese and fresh parsley. We really enjoyed this was just spicy enough and very hearty. As great as this was on a warm Summer evening, I can't wait to try it as the weather turns cooler in a few months.

Michael opted to try the beautiful and tasty Italian Wedge Salad. This creative salad features a generous iceberg lettuce wedge topped with applewood smoked bacon, candied pecans, gorgonzola, Roma tomatoes and green apple. It came drizzled with roasted garlic ranch dressing. This salad was bursting with flavors and textures. We absolutely loved it!

I selected a main dish salad from the gluten-free menu for my entree, the Honey-Pecan Crusted Salmon Salad. This salad features a wood-fired salmon fillet topped with a sweet honey-pecan topping. The salmon was served on a bed of romaine, with sun-dried tomatoes, tomato wedges, purple onion and a refreshing lemon vinaigrette. 

I really enjoyed the sweet-savory flavor of this salad! It was the perfect dinner for a warm Texas evening. The salmon provided a generous portion of lean protein, and the big-flavor toppings brought a great mix of flavors and textures.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Wholly Kitchen Recipe Videos...and a Wholly Prize Pack Giveaway!!

During the busy workweek, I am always on the lookout for ingredients that let me get a quick and delicious meal on the table. Two of my go-to products are Wholly Guacamole and Wholly Salsa...they taste great, and they help me save a lot of time on my dinner prep on hectic evenings. They recently told me about their series of Wholly Kitchen recipe videos, which are available via You Tube. These short videos feature fast and easy family-friendly meals using Wholly products. One of my favorites is this video for their fantastic Guacamole Chicken Salad. Pick up a roasted deli chicken on the way home, and this meal can be ready to eat in about 20 minutes. If you're a guacamole lover like I am, you're going to flip for this easy dish.

See? Totally can even get the kiddos involved with assembling the sandwiches. Make sure to click the link above to find the entire series of Wholly Kitchen recipe videos, which feature everything from breakfast ideas to main dishes. The Guac Squad recently sent me a cooler full of Wholly products to enjoy! I thought I'd share some of my favorite ways to enjoy their products. My favorite product from their line is the 100-Calorie Avocado Ranch Snack Packs. Imagine the perfect combination of avocado and ranch's basically my dream come true! I love to use this as a spread on burgers and sandwiches in place of mayo. I also love knowing that it's fresh and portion-controlled. It also makes a fabulous after-work snack. I love to squeeze a bit into a handful of scoop-shaped tortilla chips. It's the perfect little bite to tide me over until dinner. 

My other favorite product from this package is the addictive Red Pepper Mango Salsa. It's a little sweet, a little spicy...and all good! I love to sprinkle salmon with Cajun spices and give it a nice sear in some olive oil. Then I serve the fish over rice and top it with a generous spoon of this salsa. It's a company-worthy meal that's ready in 30 minutes or less. I also skewered some shrimp, onions and pineapple and grilled them. As they cooked, I brushed this salsa on top of the skewers. The salsa provided just enough spice, and the combination of mango with the pineapple on my skewers gave the dish a distinctly tropical feel. This versatile salsa is also good with chips...especially sweet plantain chips. The idea is to have fun and be creative. The entire line of Wholly Salsas come refrigerated and can be used as a recipe ingredient or enjoyed on their own. I don't know about you, but I've been known to make an entire meal of chips, guacamole and salsa. Add an icy beverage, and you're set!

So...who wants to win a cooler full of Wholly Guacamole and Wholly Salsa?!?!? That's right...they're giving one of my readers a cooler full of their amazing products. It's my birthday weekend, so I wanted to share some of the fun with you. To enter, simply visit the Wholly website. Take a look at their products, then come back here and leave a comment. Tell me which item you'd most like to try...and how you would use it in your kitchen. Make sure to leave your e-mail address so I can find you. I'll accept entries until Monday 7/22 at 1159 p.m. CST. I'll pick the winner via a random number generator and contact them via e-mail next Tuesday. It's that simple...good luck!

Disclosure: Wholly Kitchens provided me with a sampler of their guacamole and salsas to facilitate this post. The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Introducing Totally Bamboo's New United States of Bamboo Cutting Board Line!

One of the most important tools that any serious cook needs to have in their kitchen is a good-quality cutting board. A necessity in the preparation of almost any meal, this lowly rectangular slab of plastic or wood went about its job with little fanfare or style for years. Until now, that is. Totally Bamboo has changed all that, elevating a mundane kitchen utensil into something fun and functional. They recently Introduced their “United States of Bamboo,” featuring 50 different cutting boards representing each state. “We designed these cutting boards to be both fun and practical,” said Tom Sullivan, co-owner of Totally Bamboo. “On the practical side it is a very functional cutting board that will serve the kitchen well. On the fun side, well that’s pretty obvious." In keeping with Totally Bamboo’s mission to use only sustainable natural materials, each of these state-inspired cutting boards is made from 100% renewable bamboo.  

Totally Bamboo introduced the first bamboo cutting boards more 12 years ago. Bamboo is a lightweight, tough and sustainable product that is an excellent alternative to the world’s dwindling supply of hardwoods from which traditional cutting boards are made. Each of their cutting boards is full of natural rich wood colors brought out by the natural caramelization of the sugars found in bamboo.

Totally Bamboo recently sent me a fun Texas-shaped cutting board from the line, and I am absolutely loving it! Not only does it work great as a cutting board for chopping veggies…it’s also perfect for entertaining. I recently used mine as a serving board for cheese and crackers at a party, and my guests went nuts for it. Let’s face it, us Texans love our state…and this cutting board lets me display my Texas Pride! These bamboo cutting boards also make great gifts for family and friends who love to display their state pride. Whether you’re from big Texas or tiny Rhode Island, these cutting boards are scaled to the same generous size. The States line of bamboo cutting boards has an MSRP of $19.99.  For more information, visit Totally Bamboo’s website.

Disclosure: Totally Bamboo sent me a Texas bamboo cutting board to try out in my kitchen. The opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Creamy Bananas Foster Crepes...Featuring Frieda's French-Style Crepes

I love crepes. What's not to love about paper-thin sweet pancakes filled with sweet or even savory delights? The problem is I very rarely take the time to make crepes...and when I do, I'm always nervous that they won't come out right. Who needs stress when crepes are a magical dish? My friends at Frieda's came to my rescue with their delicious pre-made French-style crepes. They come with 10 perfectly formed crepes sandwiched between non-stick sheets, which means no stress for me. They're a huge time saver as well. I can have a gorgeous dessert ready to serve in about 15 minutes by using these convenient crepes! I was trying to decide what to make with my package of crepes when I spied a pair of very ripe bananas in my kitchen yesterday. Then it hit me: Bananas Foster!! From that inspiration, I came up with my Creamy Bananas Foster Crepes.

The crepes are spread with a thin layer of flavored cream cheese. Then, they're topped with bananas cooked in butter and brown sugar...and some chopped glazed pecans. If you love Bananas Foster, you'll flip for these crepes. Even better, they're ready to eat in about 15 minutes!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

#The Salad Bar for July: Potluck Salads...Featuring Updated Asian Ramen Slaw

This month’s theme for The Salad Bar blogging group roundup is…Potluck Salads! It seems that during the warmer Summer months, there are tons of BBQs and other big parties and get-togethers to attend. So, I challenged #TheSaladBar bloggers to share their favorite salads to take to BBQs or other large parties. Boy, did they come through! Their salad creations run the gamut from potato salads, to pasta salads…and beyond. When I was making my selection for this month, I thought back to the kinds of cold salads that I’ve enjoyed at family parties and Summertime events. One dish immediately came to mind: an easy-to-make Asian-inspired slaw that features crunchy veggies and a package of inexpensive ramen noodles. I love this salad, but I wanted to update it a bit for the way we eat today. There are many variations on this salad, which I combined and tweaked to create my addictive and healthy Updated Asian Ramen Slaw.

In place of cabbage, I used a chopped veggie slaw that contains cauliflower, baby broccoli florets, carrots and purple cabbage. I added sliced almonds for taste and texture, and I modernized the dressing a bit. Some recipes I saw online called for a full cup of vegetable oil…yikes! I reduced the amount of oil in half and used lime juice, lime zest and agave nectar to impart a subtle sweet-and-sour flavor to the dressing. I also added some sliced green onion to add a mild onion flavor in the background. This slaw is perfect for a potluck, because you can make it a day ahead. In fact, I think it tastes best after chilling in the fridge overnight!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mixed Berry-Almond Baked Steel Cut Oats...Featuring Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats

I have some fun news to share with y'all today. Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods is looking to crown a United States Porridge Making Champion to represent the company at the international competition in Scotland. They're calling on oatmeal lovers across the country to enter their best oatmeal recipe in their third annual Spar for the Spurtle United States Porridge Making Championship. Oatmeal lovers are being asked to submit a video showing an original recipe that makes use of Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats. Bob's will select three finalists and fly them to Portland, Oregon (an amazing city, by the way!) to compete in a live cook-off. The winner of the cookoff will travel with the Bob's Red Mill team to compete in the 20th annual Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship in Scotland in October! 
Bob’s Red Mill first competed in the World Championship in 2009, becoming the first American contenders to do so. That year, Bob’s won the World Championship and the highly coveted Golden Spurtle trophy. A spurtle is a Scottish kitchen tool dating back to the 15th century that is traditionally used to stir porridge and prevent it from becoming lumpy. Anyone interested in entering the third annual Spar for the Spurtle should visit the Spar for the Spurtle official website to submit a video demonstration of an original recipe that makes use of Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats OR Gluten Free Steel Cut Oats. Videos can be no longer than three minutes and should demonstrate a creative use of the oats. Dishes can be sweet or savory – they just need to be cooked on the stovetop and able to be created from start to finish within 30 minutes.

Bob's Red Mill sent me some of their Steel Cut Oats to share a recipe with you. I had never tasted or cooked them before, but now I'm hooked. They're nutting and chewy...and full of healthy fiber! I normally associate oatmeal with cold weather, but I found a great recipe for Strawberry Baked Steel Cut Oatmeal at Family Fresh Cooking. Marla's dish looked so amazing that I fired up my oven to bake some steel cut oats. I made a few tweaks to her recipe for my Mixed Berry-Almond Baked Steel Cut Oats.

Marla's dish is vegan-friendly and absolutely gorgeous. In addition to halving her recipe, I made a few tweaks to suit our tastes. We like our oatmeal pretty sweet, so I added a bit of brown sugar and maple syrup to my mixture. I also added vanilla bean paste, cinnamon and fresh nutmeg. This one's a keeper...and it works just as well for dessert as it does for breakfast!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Linguini with Lemon Cream Sauce & Lemon Pepper Shrimp...Featuring California Lemons from Limoneira

One of my favorite cooking ingredients is lemon…there’s just something about lemons that works so well in a wide range of recipes! They bring a tart finish to mild seafood, a sunny brightness to veggies, and they cut through the sugary sweetness in all sorts of baked goods. Along with garlic, you’ll never find my kitchen without a couple of lemons waiting to be used! Limoneira, a California-based agribusiness, recently sent me a huge box of lemons in three varieties: California yellow lemons, Meyer lemons, and Variegated Pink lemons – striped on the outside and pretty pink flesh on the the inside! They sent the lemons in conjunction with their new Unleash the Power of Lemons campaign. 

The goal of the campaign is to show how lemons can be used in a variety of ways: forhealth, beauty, cleaning, and food and drink. According to Limoneira's COO Alex Teague, “Lemons are one of the most versatile items in the produce department.” I have to agree! When I cook with lemons, I always put the rinds in the disposal afterward to freshen and clean the inside. But…my favorite thing to do with lemons is use them to create fantastic food and drinks! A few weeks ago, I shared my recipe for delicious Sugar-Free Strawberry Meyer Lemonade using some of the Meyer lemons that I received. The lemonade was perfectly tart-sweet and very refreshing on a warm Texas evening. I also used some of the California yellow lemons to create a fantastic quick pasta dish for our dinner: Linguini with Lemon Cream Sauce & Lemon Pepper Shrimp. By using lemon in both the pasta and the shrimp, its sunny brightness was able to shine through in every bite.

To make this recipe weeknight-friendly, I used Buitoni refrigerated quick-cook pasta and easy-peel shrimp. The sauce came together while the water for the pasta came to a boil. Then, while the pasta cooked, I gave my seasoned shrimp a quick sear in a hot pan. This dish took about 45 minutes to make, start to finish…including the time it took to peel the shrimp. Although cream sauces can be very rich, I opted to use half and half. My sauce was rich and creamy, with less fat and calories than if I had used cream.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

July Secret Recipe Club...Featuring Mixed Berry Cobbler from Dancing Veggies

It's that time again...time to share another fabulous recipe for Secret Recipe Club. For July, I was assigned Dancing Veggies...a blog with a great mix of veg-friendly recipes and baked goods. I had a great time reading through Amanda's blog and looking over her wide array of recipes. Since Michael is an avowed carnivore, I decided that a sweet treat would be the best way to go this month. Since berries are in season...and we've never met a cobbler that we didn't like? I knew I found just what I was looking for with her gorgeous Mixed Berry Cobbler. Chock full of Summer berries and featuring a cake-like cobber layer, this dessert was right up my alley.

I made a few tweaks to Amanda's recipe to suit our tastes. First off, I halved the recipe since there's just two of us at Casa Garcia. I also added a bit of vanilla bean paste to the berries, vanilla bean paste and a dash of cinnamon to the cobbler base, and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar to the top of the cobbler during the last 5 minutes of baking. I love the flavor that cinnamon and vanilla add to most baked goods. This cobbler was assembled and ready for the oven in about 20 minutes, then the over did the rest of the work. Aren't the colors of this cobbler gorgeous?!?!?

Zesty Summer Corn Salad...Featuring Amaize Sweet Corn

One of my very favorite foods to eat during Summer is in-season me, corn's crunchy sweetness is the epitome of Summertime eating! I especially love sweet corn, so I was excited to receive samples of Amaize Sweet Corn this week so I could try it and share my thoughts with you! Amaize creators George Crookham and Bruce Hobdey are bringing their sweet white corn to selected cities this Summer, including San Antonio! This rare breed of sweet white corn is grown in limited supply throughout the United States. It is noted for its delicious taste, unique texture and incredible sweetness. I just loved its sweet flavor, so I knew I had to create an incredible Summer side dish that would truly showcase its awesome flavor.

Twenty years in the making, Amaize Sweet Corn has been called “the sweetest corn you’ll ever taste.” In fact, it's said to be sweet enough to eat right off of the stalk. This delicious corn is ideal for BBQs, parties or family gatherings. In addition to tasting great, Amaize Sweet Corn is packed with natural health benefits such as antioxidants, fiber and phytochemicals. Additionally, it is created using traditional, natural breeding methods through hybridization. This means that Amaize Sweet Corn is never genetically modified. I can tell you one thing: this corn is tender and sweet, with a slight crunch when you bite down. We really loved it! I decided to remove my kernels from the cob and use the kernels in a colorful Zesty Summer Corn Salad. 

This salad has many of my favorite Summer flavors in one bowl: sweet corn kernels, vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh mozzarella pearls, a double shot of onion...and a zesty dressing that features lime and olive oil. The flavors all work so well together, but make no mistake. The star of this show is the corn!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Biscoff's "Spread the Love Challenge"...Featuring Biscoff Ice Cream Sandwiches

Lotus Bakeries, the makers of deliciously addictive Biscoff Spread is inviting its fans to take part in their "Spread the Love Challenge" between now and July 28th.  All you have to do is get creative with your Biscoff Spread snacks by uploading photos that show their favorite ways to “spread the love.” Whether it’s a spin on a classic snack or a more creative twist, the makers of Biscoff Spread are asking their fans to submit photos showing how they enjoy Biscoff Spread. If you've never tried Biscoff, it's an irresistible, spreadable treat made from Biscoff Cookies. Some people enjoy it on toast, with apples, as a secret ingredient in recipes...or even straight out of the jar (Ahem...have they installed cameras in my kitchen?)! Biscoff is all natural and contain no nuts, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

Here's how the contest works: at the end of this month, Lotus Bakeries will narrow down the photo entries to the Top 30. Facebook users will then vote for the final Grand Prize winners via the Biscoff fan page. By the way, all entrants will be automatically entered in a sweepstakes to win a year’s supply of Biscoff products. Facebook fans also have the option of playing daily Instant Win games on the Facebook page for a chance to win 7,000 prizes, including Biscoff Spread and Biscoff Cookie coupons. The top three winners of Biscoff’s Spread the Love Challenge, to be announced on August 30, 2013, will receive the following prizes:
  • First place – A trip to Belgium for two and a tour of the Biscoff factory where the world famous cookies are made
  • Second place – $1,500 cash
  • Third place – $1,000 cash
To enter, visit Biscoff’s Facebook page. “Like” Biscoff on Facebook and upload a Biscoff Spread photo with a title and description. Entrants may submit one additional photo for each referred friend. Please note, all qualified entrants must submit their photos between July 1 (12 a.m. EST) and July 28 (11:59 p.m. EST). Facebook fans will vote for the grand prize winners between August 5 (12 a.m. EST) - August 25 (11:59 p.m. EST). The top three winners will be announced on Facebook on August 30.
I'm going to join the fun, and I hope you will too! I'm entering the "Spread the Love Challenge" with the following photograph of my easy and delicious 4-ingredient Biscoff Ice Cream Sandwiches.

You won't believe how easy these fun Summer treats are to whip up! You can even get the kiddies involved. The hardest part of making these is being patient enough to let the softened ice cream firm up in the freezer for a couple of hours before digging in!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Announcing A Food Lover's Weekend in Dallas...and a Dallas BIG Family Fun Prize Package Giveaway!!

It's time to announce the next city in our continuing A Food Lover's Weekend In... travelogue series. This time, we're sticking close to home to spotlight Dallas! We went to college in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, so we're very  excited to check out some of the area's best food and attractions later this month. For those not familiar with Texas geography, Dallas is located in North Texas. Fort Worth is located nearby, and there are lots of smaller communities between these two large cities. Collectively, this area is known as the Metroplex. Dallas is a large city that has a thriving food scene that we're excited to explore! I have received lots of planning assistance for this trip from the helpful staff of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, and we have a great lineup of restaurants and attractions that we plan to share with you! When we were in college, we passed this view of the Dallas skyline many times...and it's especially pretty at night!

Our hotel accommodations for this trip are being provided by the NYLO Dallas South Side Hotel. This ultramodern boutique property is part of the 4-hotel NYLO Hotels group. They have three locations in Dallas and one location in New York. The South Side location features 76 loft-style eco-friendly rooms  and 8 suites. The property incorporates unique urban design elements including: polished concrete floors, 10+ foot-high ceilings, large windows that allow lots of natural light and afford city views, locally-sourced artwork and custom furnishings. They also offer upscale amenities, including: a 42-inch flat screen HDTV and WiFi in all rooms. The property also features a rooftop pool that features sweeping city views and a popular adjacent bar named Soda Bar.

We're still finalizing our dining-out partners, but I can share a couple of our confirmed restaurants. We will be having dinner at Stephen Pyles, the flagship restaurant of the Dallas chef of the same name. This restaurant is widely considered one of the best in the city, and its menu features New Millenium Southwestern Cuisine. We are also having Sunday Brunch at The Mansion. We enjoyed a special-occasion dinner at this fabulous fine-dining restaurant a few years back, so we're very excited to try their popular brunch. If you prefer more casual food, no worries...we've got that covered too! We will be having lunch at Twisted Root Burger Company. They've been named one of the Top 15 Burgers in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine...and they've been featured on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. We love few things more than a truly great burger, so we're looking forward to this one! This is just a few of the
restaurants we'll be spotlighting.