Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dixie Crystals’ Springtime Sweets #SundaySupper...Featuring No-Bake Banana Split Dessert Cups

When I was selected to take part in this week’s sponsored event, I put on my thinking cap to decide what to make. I knew I wanted my Springtime Sweet to have fruit...and showcase at least two kinds of our sponsor Dixie Crystals’ sugar products. Then, I remembered a dessert my Aunt Johnnie used to make for family gatherings years ago. It was a no-bake banana split layered dessert, and Michael used to ask me to make it all the time. I haven’t made it in several years, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity to surprise him! The original dessert has raw eggs in the filling, so I tinkered around with a filling that had the same sweet taste without using raw eggs. I used a combination of butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar thinned to a spreading consistency with a bit of half and half. I also added some pecans to the crust base and subbed vanilla wafers for graham crackers. The last major change I made was to make homemade vanilla whipped cream instead of using non-dairy topping. I also chose to serve the desserts in individual clear trifle cups rather than a pan. If you love eating banana splits, you’ll "go bananas" for this sweet and fruity dessert!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cookbook Spotlight: Waters Fine Coastal Cuisine...Featuring New Orleans-Style Barbecue Shrimp

I grew up less than an hour from Galveston on the Texas Gulf Coast, so fresh seafood is something that I learned to appreciate from a very young age. My Grandpa Wofford was also an avid fisherman, and my Grandma Wofford would often fry up the fish that he brought home! To this day, seafood is among my favorite foods…I especially love shrimp and fish cooked just about any way.  I was very excited to receive a copy of Waters Fine Coastal Cuisine cookbook recently to read and share a recipe with you! The cookbook is written by Forth Worth Chef Jon Bonnell, and it features a wide range of seafood cooked in a variety of methods. Chapters in the book include Chilled and Raw and Sautéed or Pan Seared. 

Chef Bonnell pairs his native Texas heritage with classic culinary training to create inventive, delicious dishes that have a definite Texas accent! Distinguished as one of the foremost experts on fine wild game and Texas Cuisine, he’s now turning his attention to seafood.  With a passion for sharing knowledge with others, there’s never a technique or recipe he won’t share. Waters Fine Coastal Cuisine contains so many mouth-watering recipes, and the photographs are gorgeous. What I especially appreciate about this cookbook is that the recipes are very approachable. Chef Bonnell’s writing style makes every recipe seem totally doable for the home chef of all skill levels. Recipes that caught my eye include decadent Lobster Mac and Cheese, Crawpuppies (i.e., crawfish hushpuppies), and the recipe I’m sharing today: New Orleans-Style Barbequed Shrimp. What I really love about this dish is that it packs a ton of robust flavor using ingredients that I have in my kitchen at all times…and it’s so quick to make. Once the shrimp are peeled, the dish can be cooked and on the table in about 15 minutes! This recipe features sweet jumbo Gulf shrimp cooked in a buttery spicy-tangy sauce. It can be served as a starter…or doubled for a complete meal for two. Hint: don’t forget to pair these shrimp with lots of crusty bread for dipping into the flavorful sauce…trust me! We had a big pot of seafood and andouille gumbo for dinner earlier this week, and these shrimp made a fabulous starter paired with bowls of steaming gumbo.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

April Foodie by Glam Contributor Program...Featuring Comfort Classics for Sunday Dinner!

I'm so excited to be taking part in Foodie by Glam's April Contributor Program! We were tasked with creating a collection of Sunday Dinner recipes. To me, Sunday Dinner is all about being relaxed and casual...and spending time with family and friends. Most of the time? That means Michael and I...along with our feline sidekicks, Lucy and Maggie. It's the end of the weekend, so I tend to focus on dinners that are quick and comforting. That's how I chose Comfort Classics as the theme for my Sunday Dinner collection. To me, the dishes that I selected epitomize comfort food. 

My collection features burgers, spicy Mexican food, chili dogs, soups, and homey casseroles. Let's face the time Sunday night rolls around, you start to realize that another Monday is right around the corner. Spending time with Michael and "our girls" watching TV and enjoying a nice dinner is the perfect bridge between the weekend that was and the new week that's ahead. The recipes in my collection are the perfect way to cap off a weekend in style! I hope you'll find some Comfort Classics to add to your Sunday Dinners in the weeks and months ahead. I can't wait to give these fabulous recipes in my kitchen!

Disclosure: This is a compensated post sponsored by Foodie by Glam. All opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gallo’s “Every Recipe Tells a Story” #SundaySupper...Featuring Tropical Breeze Sangria

The theme for this week’s Gallo-sponsored  #SundaySupper is “Every Recipe Tells a Story.” The cocktail recipe I’m sharing today takes me back to Summers spent vacationing in Cancun with Michael. For three straight years in the mid-to-late 90s, we vacationed in Cancun with our closest couple friends. The days were full of adventures like visiting Mayan ruins, dancing the Macarena (it was the 90s…cut me some slack!), snorkeling in turquoise-blue water, and shopping. Our evenings featured lots of great seafood, hearty laughs with dear friends, and warm breezes…all paired with fruity tropical drinks. Sitting on the edge of the Caribbean under the stars, without a care in the world…those are some really great memories! It’s been a particularly chilly Winter in Texas, so I wanted to create a tropical sangria that would take us back to the beach in Cancun from the first sip. I believe I succeeded with my Tropical Breeze Sangria, made with delicious Gallo Sweet White Blend wine 
During our Cancun vacations, we enjoyed lots of fresh tropical fruits…including pineapple and mango…so I made sure to include both of them in my sangria. The Gallo Sweet White Blend wine was the perfect base for this refreshing sangria. During one of our trips, we bought fresh coconuts from a vendor on the side of the road and drank the sweet coconut milk inside. Inspired by this experience, I added some flavorful coconut water too. One sip of this fizzy island-inspired sangria, and you’ll be immediately transported to a tropical beach paradise – even if it’s still cold and snowy in your backyard right now! Come…let me whisk you away to the tropics…even if it’s only in your mind!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wendy's Favorite Things for March

Just wait until you see this month's Great Eight...I've got some fabulous products to share with you. I love trying new cooking and kitchen products out, them coming here and sharing the best of the best with you. You can be guaranteed that if I share a product in Wendy's Favorite Things, I've tried it out in my own kitchen...and I love it! Let's get started on this month's picks, shall we?

(1) Jen & Joe’s Cookie DoughThere’s nothing better than fresh-baked cookies…am I right? If you’re like me and flip for warm-from-the-oven cookies -- but are usually short on time to whip up a batch of homemade cookies -- I’ve got the perfect solution for you. Jen & Joe’s Cookie Dough is made from high-quality, natural ingredients and flash frozen in individual disks. Simply bake them up, and you’ve got a dozen cookies ready to enjoy in less than 15 minutes! They come in lots of great flavors, including Chocolate Chunk, Oatmeal Toffee, and the creative White Chocolate Wasabi. I have to admit being extra partial to the Oatmeal Toffee. It’s chewy and full of melted toffee pieces, oatmeal, and crisped rice. These boxes of frozen cookie dough perfect to keep on hand for last-minute guests…or late-night cravings. Jen & Joe’s can be ordered online…or found at select grocers across the country. My Texas readers can find Jen & Joe’s cookie dough at their local Central Market.
(2) Besh Box. It’s no secret that New Orleans Chef John Besh is one of my favorites. I’ve been lucky enough to dine at his amazing Luke San Antonio restaurant on the Riverwalk a few times, and I love his cookbooks. He recently launched a monthly Besh Box program that I just love. Each monthly Besh Box is based around a theme, and it contains recipes, local/gourmet ingredients, kitchen tools, and all kinds of fun goodies. Last month, I received the Mardi Gras Box to preview, and it was so fun! It contained fun goodies that included a logo cocktail glass, spicy Cajun seasoning, organic brown rice, a cotton kitchen utility towel, and tons of Mardi Gras-inspired recipes. I used the rice from my Besh Box to create my Bayou Seafood Jambalaya for the Fat Sunday #SundaySupper. It cooked up nice and nutty…and it worked great with my jambalaya. Besh Box can be ordered individually each month, and they also offer convenient multi-month subscriptions.
(3) Cascade Ice Sparkling Water. Cascade Ice Sparkling Water meets two of my key beverage requirements: it contains no sugar, and it’s nice and fizzy. This refreshing water comes in all sorts of fun fruity flavors, and each bottle has zero calories and no caffeine…score! I’ve tried a ton of their fruity flavors so far, and my favorites are the Blueberry Watermelon, Orange Mango, and Pomegranate Berry. They also make a zero-calorie Margarita Sparkling Cocktail Mixer that lets you make a lower-calorie margarita that doesn’t skimp on sweet-tart flavor. Simply add a bit of tequila, and pour over ice…you’ve got a margarita with less than 100 calories that’s ready in about 2 minutes! Cascade Ice Sparkling Water can be found at major grocers around the country.
(4) Garlic Gold. Are you a garlic lover like me? If so, you likely add garlic to your dinner entree nearly every night…I certainly do! I was recently introduced to a fabulous company called Garlic Gold. This California-based company offer a full line of delicious organic garlic-infused condiments that bring that garlicky flavor I love to dishes like pasta, salads, and soups. My two favorite products in their line are the Garlic Gold Oil and the Garlic Gold Nuggets. The Garlic Gold Oil and the Garlic Gold Nuggets. The Garlic Gold 
Nuggets are crunchy, with a mild garlic taste. They’re so versatile! I enjoy them sprinkled on top of a salad…and on top of garlic bread before it goes into the oven. The Garlic Gold Oil has a mellow garlic flavor that’s perfect for dipping fresh baked bread…and I also love to sear seafood and chicken breasts in it to provide a nice garlic flavor. Garlic Gold products can be ordered via their convenient online store. They're currently offering free shipping on all orders of $45 or more, so now's a great time to go check them out!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Slow Cooker Spotlight: Kitchen Sink Potato Chowder

This month's Slow Cooker Spotlight is featuring a hearty potato chowder that's a filling meal-in-a-bowl. Last weekend when I was visiting home, my Dad sent a big bag of gold petite potatoes back to San Antonio with me. I wanted to whip up something special with these potatoes to share with my readers...and I found the perfect inspiration when I also managed to bring my brother's cold back to San Antonio with me! A warm, filling bowl of chunky chowder was just what I was hungry out came my handy Cuisinart 3-in-1 Multicooker to make this Kitchen Sink Potato Chowder. It's chock full of healthy veggies, lean turkey smoked sausage, and cheese. After about 20 minutes of chopping and assembling everything, the Multicooker did the rest of the work for me! 

Six hours later, Michael and I enjoyed heaping crocks of this hearty chowder for dinner. To add a bit of spice, each bowl of chowder is topped with a generous sprinkling of pepper jack cheese, which can be stirred into the chowder. This chowder was definitely a comforting dinner on a cool, breezy Texas evening. If you don't have any turkey sausage on hand, feel free to substitute diced lean ham...or even some crispy bacon. Any of these will bring a nice smoky flavor to the finished chowder.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Eat Your Greens #SundaySupper...Featuring Indulgent Pesto Risotto

This week's #SundaySupper theme is Eat Your Greens...since Monday is St. Patrick's Day and next week is the official start of Spring! Our host this week is Foodie Stuntman from Crazy Foodie Stunts, and he asked us to share our favorite green foods. My favorite food is's bursting with flavor and texture, and it's so versatile. I thought about making a pasta dish, but I was in the mood for risotto this week. What I'm sharing today is my Indulgent Pesto Risotto. With half-and-half, butter, and a generous helping of purchased's indeed indulgent. We eat risotto about once every month or two, so it's a special treat for us. This one's a keeper, with shaved parmesan and pecans on top for a bit of extra flavor and texture.

Since we're all friends, I have a risotto secret to share with you today: carnaroli rice. Did you know that there arborio isn't the only rice you can use to make risotto? I read about Italian carnaroli rice in a Thomas Keller cookbook a few years back and gave it a it's my preferred risotto rice. I find that it results in a creamier risotto texture, and I think the grains cook up plumper. I buy it at my local gourmet grocery, so seek it out and give it a try for this risotto if at all possible. However, you can certainly use arborio and still have a fabulous risotto.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Baked Confetti Chicken Taquitos with Cilantro-Lime Ranch...Featuring Heart Healthy Mazola Corn Oil

As part of the Foodie by Glam featured author program, I’m sharing a recipe today featuring Mazola Corn Oil. Did you know that corn oil can be part of a sensible, heart-healthy diet? It can, and Mazola makes it easy by sharing tons of mouth-watering, heart healthy recipes on its website. Being from the South, I grew up eating lots of fried foods…so they’re some of my favorite comfort foods to this day. As an adult I still like to enjoy crispy, crunchy fried foods…but I try to do so as healthfully as possible. One of my favorite techniques to save fat and calories – but still enjoy the crunchy texture I crave – is to oven fry. This method allows me to use less oil and still enjoy my favorite fried foods, with less guilt. My Baked Confetti Chicken Taquitos with Cilantro-Lime Ranch are a perfect example of this method.
Rather than deep frying my taquitos in oil, I simply brush them with a bit of Mazola Corn Oil and then bake them in a hot oven until they’re crispy and golden. Other heart-healthy ingredients I used in this recipe include fresh pico de gallo, fat-free Greek yogurt, and 2% pepper jack cheese. These ingredients saved both fat and calories, but they didn’t skimp on flavor or texture. The filling for my taquitos is moist and bursting with spicy flavor. This recipe makes enough filling for a dozen taquitos – plenty for a family of four. However, I made 8 taquitos since it’s just Michael and I. Bonus: I had enough of the flavorful filing left to make quesadillas the next evening. If you prefer your Mexican food on the milder side, simply use shredded cheddar or Colby-jack in place of the spicier pepper jack.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for March...Featuring Bakery Lorraine

This month, The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out is featuring my favorite San Antonio discovery of 2014 – Bakery Lorraine. This gem of a bakery is located in a cute little house on Grayson St., just off Broadway, near the Pearl Brewery complex. I recently stopped by to sample a couple of their lunchtime sandwiches and a few of their amazing artisan pastries. I was blown away by the baked goods – they taste great, and they’re absolutely gorgeous! Looking in the display case, I couldn’t decide what to select. There was a wide range of colorful tarts, macarons, croissants, sweet rolls, and cookies to choose from. Luckily, Chef Anne came to my rescue and selected a perfect sampling of the day’s offerings for me to try.
Photo courtesy of Bakery Lorraine
Bakery Lorraine owners and chefs Jeremy Mandrell and Anne Ng met while working at Thomas Keller’s well-regarded Bouchon Bakery in Napa Valley,  and they’ve been baking together ever since. Since their stint at Bouchon Bakery, they refined their baking skills in different kitchens around California’s Bay Area. They opened Bakery Lorraine in 2011, and it’s quickly become one of the most popular bakeries in San Antonio...and one of the most respected in the entire country. In fact, Travel + Leisure named Bakery Lorraine as one of America's Best Bakeries last year. All it took was one taste of their fabulous macarons to understand why...they're some of the very best that I've tasted anywhere. Every item that they put in their display case is handmade with extreme care and attention to detail. This dedication to quality is evident from the first bite – whether you’re enjoying one of their creative macarons or a hot-from-the-press paninis for lunch – made with fresh house-made bread! I enjoyed several items during my visit, and all of them were fresh and tasty.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

March Secret Recipe Club....Featuring Spiced Chai Concentrate

Time for another fun Secret Recipe Club reveal! This month, my assigned blog is the lovely Chef in Disguise. Sawsan lives in Jordan, and her blog features amazing recipes and gorgeous photos! I loved learning more about her country's rich culture -- food and otherwise -- as I read through posts looking for a recipe to share. That's one of the best things about blogging -- learning about how people eat and live in other parts of the country...and the world. I found many great recipes that I can't wait to try out in my kitchen here in Texas. However, I couldn't wait another day to get in the kitchen to make her Spice Tea Chai Concentrate. The only change I made to her recipe was to omit star anise, because I'm not crazy about the licorice flavor. We absolutely love chai, so having a jar of this delicious homemade concentrate in the fridge allows us to indulge whenever the mood strikes.

We first tried chai while on vacation in New York a few years back. Doughnut Plant is famous for its amazing artisan doughnuts, but they also make a rich and spicy chai latte that we went nuts for! We tried to recreate it at home, but it was never quite the same. This concentrate is the real deal! Aromatic spices, orange peel, and brown sugar are steeped with black tea bags and allowed to reduce. What's left is a versatile concentrate. Add milk and additional sweetener to make a chai latte...or maybe add a bit of water to make a cup of morning tea. It stores easily in the fridge in a jar or plastic container. If you have a bulk spice section in a store near you, you can pick up just what you need of the whole spices...I made this container of concentrate for about $6, including a box a tea bags! 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Guest Post: Delicious Desserts While Traveling

March is here...which means that it's Spring Break season! For many people, that means hitting the road for a little trip. Maybe a quick roadtrip...or perhaps someplace a bit further away. If you're a foodie, you're probably going to be seeking out some of the local specialties to sample -- whether you're traveling near or far. Today's guest post shares some of the best regional sweet treats to be on the lookout for as you travel the globe. 
Traveling requires you to get comfortable stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying new foods. Dessert is no exception. When you are looking for that perfect food to soothe your sweet tooth, it doesn’t matter whether you are enjoying Florida and beach vacation destinations or Europe.
1. Beignets in New Orleans. You do not have to leave the US to enjoy a delicious treat. Beignets consist of deep-fried dough, usually topped with powdered sugar. The most famous beignet stop in New Orleans is Café du Monde. Regulars typically eat beignets alongside café au lait. 
2. Churros in Spain. Churros are often served at theme parks and fairs throughout the US; however, authentic churros are served in Spain. Spanish shepherds originally created these cylinders of deep-fried dough, typically coated in sugar and cinnamon. In Madrid, these treats are usually dipped in hot chocolate.
3. Baklava in Turkey. If you are traveling to Turkey, specifically Istanbul, the baklava is a must-try. The variety of textures layered together culminates in a crispy and gooey treat. The layers include nuts, honey, pistachios, and other sweet ingredients.
4. Dulce de Leche in South America. This sweet treat, made mostly of carmelized milk, is served throughout South America. Paraguay, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, El Salvador, and Brazil. All serve variations of this delectable candy. Some countries serve it soft, while others prepare a sweeter version smothered in chocolate.
5. Bibingka in the Philippines. This rice cake is typically served in the Philippines during the Winter holidays. This spongy dessert is served warm, usually charred on the sides. Bibingka is often topped with chocolate or fruit.
6. Petit Fours in France. This confection is iced and decorated, and typically wrapped in fondant. Several types of petit fours are served in France. Glazed petit fours include éclairs and tartlets, whereas salted ones are savory and casual.
7. Trifles in the United Kingdom. No trip to the UK is complete without a trifle, typically served during the holidays. This layered dish typically includes custard, fresh fruit, jelly, sponge cake, and occasionally alcohol.

Even if you have tried some of these dishes at a local restaurant, nothing beats authenticity. Consider taking a vacation that allows you to explore culinary delights, treating yourself to a variety of new dishes you never would have tried otherwise.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

LongHorn Steakhouse Food for the Senses Experience Box Challenge...Featuring Creamy Brie Grits with Pico de Gallo Seafood Sauce

Last week, I shared our experience enjoying the Seasonal Winter Menu at LongHorn Steakhouse, and I introduced the amazing Seasonal Food for the Senses Experience Box that they sent for me as well. This amazing box contained many of the key ingredients that LongHorn’s chefs used to inspire their latest culinary creations. The box included grits, candied pecans, brie, butternut squash, steak and grill seasoning, fresh sage, Meyer lemon, and a bottle of Carnivor -- this season’s featured wine. LongHorn encouraged me to use the ingredients to create my own recipe featuring these peak-season ingredients. My original creation is Creamy Brie Grits with Pico de Gallo Seafood Sauce. I used the sage, grits, brie, grill seasoning, and Meyer lemon from the box to create this comforting dish. If you’re a fan of shrimp and grits, this dish will knock your socks off. Rich, cheesy grits are topped with a creamy sauce that features pico de gallo, crawfish, and shrimp. With Lent coming, this will be a great addition to your Friday dinners!
I had never used brie in my cheese grits, but it worked perfectly. They came out creamy and rich after being cooked in a combination of half and half and chicken stock. Store-bought pico de gallo saves time, letting me whip up the seafood sauce while the grits cook. Once the shrimp were peeled, I was able to complete this dish in just over 30 minutes. If you don’t have access to crawfish tail meat where you live, you can certainly use all shrimp in this recipe. I added the sage and Meyer lemon to the seafood sauce, along with a bit of fresh thyme and garlic. The sauce is lightly spicy, but you could add a finely diced seeded jalapeno if you want to up the spice factor even more. I won’t tell. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Red Beans & Rice-Sausage Soup for Mardi Gras...Featuring Zatarains Red Beans and Rice Mix

I hope that you've got some fabulous Mardi Gras plans tomorrow, including a tasty New Orleans-inspired meal! All you need to add to this hearty Read Beans & Rice-Sausage Soup is some Louisiana zydeco music and hot buttered cornbread. If you're like me and your weeknights are hectic, this easy-to-make soup is a perfect celebration dinner. This soup is built around a package of Zatarains delicious red beans and rice mix, and it's ready in under and hour. With the addition of two kinds of sausage, it cooks up thick and rich, with a smoky-spicy flavor that will knock your socks off! Zatarains recently sent me a Mardi Gras party kit with beads and masks and several boxes of their packaged mixes. I love quick meals during the work week, so I was thrilled to find a recipe for Andouille Red Bean Soup on the Zatarains website. 

I tweaked the recipe slightly and whipped up a pot of the soup last week. I used a combination of smoked sausage and some browned bulk pork sausage, subbed low-sodium chicken stock for water, and added a can of petite diced tomatoes instead of corn since that's what I had on hand. This recipe made enough for four large bowls of soup, with a container leftover to freeze for us to enjoy for dinner one evening this week. That makes this recipe a sure-fire winner.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

#SundaySupper Fat Sunday Mardi Gras Kickoff...Featuring Bayou Seafood and Andouille Jambalaya

This week, the #SundaySupper krewe is celebrating Mardi Gras a few days earlyvia today's Fat Sunday Celebration! Our hostess this week is Leslie from La Cocina de Leslie. Have we got a celebration feast for you, my friends! We've got it all. Everything from cocktails to get the party desserts to end your celebration on a sweet note. I was so excited to take part in this week's event, because Michael and I absolutely love New Orleans. The food is fabulous...and the people are friendly and welcoming. Michael also proposed to me there, so The Big Easy also some great sentimental memories attached to it for us. Growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast, we were close enough to Louisiana to have lots of exposure to amazing Creole and Cajun dishes. I couldn't decide what to make this week -- did I want to make gumbo...or maybe even try my hand at a homemade King Cake? In the end, jambalaya won out over everything else. I love jambalaya for lots of reasons. 

First off, jambalaya is a complete meal in a bowl: rice, aromatic veggies, spices and some kind of protein. One pot = less cleanup and a happier me! I also love to make jambalaya because it's great for feeding a crowd. Simply bring the finished pot to the table, and everyone gathers around to serve themselves a bowl. It's also a very versatile dish. Whether you choose to make it with seafood, chicken, sausage...or any's going to be delicious. I normally make my jambalaya with chicken and andouillle (ahn-doo-ee), a spicy Cajun smoked sausage. For today's event, however, I decided to make Bayou Seafood and Andouille Jambalaya. It features fresh Gulf shrimp and Louisiana crawfish tails...with a bit of andouille to bring some smokiness to the finished dish. This hearty jambalaya packs a ton of great flavor.