Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Peppermint Bark Brookies #holidaycookies #peppermint #holidaybaking

Hi, everyone...miss me?!?!? I apologize for being a bit scarce around here this month. Between a hectic time a my day job, our amazing blog trip to California, and the Thanksgiving holiday? This entire month whooshed right by me! The good news is that I'm back and ready to get in the kitchen to whip up lots of great holiday treats to share with you in the coming weeks. I want to kick things off by flashing back to one of my most popular holiday cookies, as selected by my readers. My Peppermint Bark Brookies combine two of my favorite holiday flavors -- peppermint and chocolate -- into one irresistible treat. 

These easy-to-make cookies are made using a convenient boxed brownie mix that includes chocolate chips. These yummy brownie cookies (aka brookies) bake up chewy and fudgy...and my addition of peppermint mini marshmallows adds a dash of fun. After cooling, the brookies are dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with crushed peppermint for a fun peppermint bark accent. For peppermint lovers like me, these are the ultimate holiday cookie!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road: Texas Monthly BBQ Fest 2016 in Austin #tmbbq

A few weeks back, Michael and I had a fantastic time eating some of the very best BBQ in Texas - and beyond- at this year's Texas Monthly BBQ Fest in Austin. Texas Monthly magazine's annual TMBBQ Fest is an afternoon festival that showcases the Texas' best BBQ joints all in one convenient location. Eager Texas BBQ lovers line up to enjoy a wide range of BBQ specialties! It's always a great time, and the 2016 TMBBQ Fest was no exception. This year 27 BBQ joints took part in the event, which was held at Austin's Long Center. The TMBBQ Fest is quite simply the best way to enjoy delicious BBQ from the state's best BBQ joints in the span of a few hours. Rather than drive all over this vast state, BBQ lovers simply line up at each BBQ joint's booth to taste their smoked meat offerings. No wonder it's one of our favorite foodie events every year!!

We headed to Austin on a warm Sunday morning and met our cousins -- and chief travel and social media partners -- Mark and Crystal to get our BBQ groove on. Because we had media passes, Michael and I were able to enter the Fest an hour before the general public. That meant one thing: make an immediate beeline for Franklin BBQ's booth to beat the inevitable long lines! Austin-based Franklin BBQ is the consensus #1 BBQ in Texas, so its very popular. Weekend lines can exceed 3 hours at the restaurant, but we only had to wait about 45 minutes to get our hands on some of Franklin's amazing BBQ via the Fest!! Owner Aaron Franklin was on hand and amazingly friendly, taking time to chat with everyone and pose for pictures. 
Franklin's offered Fest attendees generous samples of their luscious smoked brisket, tender pulled pork, and juicy sausage. Franklin's brisket is hands down our favorite of all time - fall-apart tender and incredibly juicy! While we waited in the comparatively short line for our Franklin's BBQ, we purchased one of Aaron Franklin's BBQ cookbooks Aaron Franklin graciously agreed to autograph the book for us. Naturally, I had to commemorate the moment with a picture of him and Michael -- and the signed cookbook.

There are so many great BBQ joints in Texas, and we had a blast checking out all of their offerings. From lamb chops to smoked pork ribs...and even a few fun surprises...we had a great foodie adventure sampling the wide variety of smoked meats available at the Fest. With gorgeous afternoon views of downtown Austin as a backdrop, hungry attendees lined up to sample some amazing Texas BBQ! Two of our favorite offerings came from Austin's Stiles Switch BBQ and Killen's BBQ in Pearland -- just outside Houston.
Stile's Switch offered something we don't commonly see here in Texas: smoked chicken legs topped with yummy Alabama white BBQ sauce. This tangy mayo-based sauce is totally different than what we typically see here in Texas, but it was an unexpected surprise we all enjoyed! Killen's offered generous portions of their delicious brisket and pork ribs. The ribs were especially delicious -- lightly sauced and falling off the bone. That is true BBQ nirvana, folks!!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Best Holiday Side Dishes #SundaySupper...Featuring Southern Praline Sweet Potato Casserole

I think I'm in a bit of denial that the holiday season is fast approaching...Thanksgiving is somehow literally around the corner! If you're looking for some fresh new side dishes to serve at your upcoming holiday feast, the #SundaySupper family is coming to your rescue today. Our hostess for today's Best Holiday Side Dishes is Caroline from Caroline’s Cooking. I love Thanksgiving...growing up, we always had a big Southern-style meal at my grandparents' house with all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sweet potatoes topped with gooey melted marshmallows were usually on the menu back then. To this day, I love sweet potatoes...but I make mine a little bit different.

My Southern Praline Sweet Potato Casserole is easy to make and bursting with the signature flavors of the South. A creamy, vibrant orange sweet potato base is flavored with maple syrup, orange liqueur, and pumpkin pie spice. Then, it's topped with a crumbly praline-flavored streusel that's flavored with more pumpkin pie spice and pecans. I've been making this casserole for years -- it's my personal riff on a recipe I first saw in Cooking Light magazine. Everyone who tries it goes totally nuts for it! As a bonus, it can be assembled a day ahead and refrigerated overnight -- saving you valuable time during the hectic holidays.