Monday, February 27, 2017

Mardi Gras BBQ Shrimp...Featuring Groomer's Seafood

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras…one last big celebration before the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday. Michael and I grew up in the Houston area, with family on the Texas-Louisiana border. We love New Orleans food, music, and spirit of celebration…so we love to celebrate Mardi Gras here in San Antonio. I like to put on some zydeco music and cook up a special Cajun or Creole dish to celebrate. I had a pound of jumbo Texas Gulf shrimp from San Antonio's Groomer's Seafood in the freezer just waiting for me to make a special recipe. These Mardi Gras BBQ Shrimp are perfect for any celebrations you might have planned for tomorrow. They’re full of the big flavors that we love, and they’re not at all complicated to make. Contrary to their name, they’re not actually BBQ’ed in the typical sense.

Traditionally, this New Orleans specialty requires head-on, unpeeled shrimp simmered in a spicy “BBQ” sauce. However, I recently found a refined version of this dish from Brennan’s of Houston that uses headless shrimp that are peeled and butterflied. This dish definitely delivers on flavor – with a robustly flavored sauce that includes lemon, Worcestershire sauce, and spicy Cajun seasoning. These BBQ shrimp can be certainly be served as an appetizer, but we made a meal from them by eating the shrimp and then dipping toasted French bread in the addictive, flavorful sauce!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for February...Featuring The Melting Pot's

Michael and I recently enjoyed a delicious and fun date night dining experience at The Melting Pot's San Antonio location. We enjoyed their signature four-course San Antonio Big Night Out experience that was a truly over-the-top dining experience! From the moment we were seated until we left completely stuffed a couple of hours later, everything tasted great. I can't wait to share the entire experience with you!!
The Melting Pot has locations nationwide and features cheese, entree, and chocolate dessert fondues -- as well as delicious cocktails and salads to round out your dining experience. Whether your're celebrating something special, looking for a romantic date night destination...or even a fun girls night out...The Melting Pot has you covered! When we arrived, we were warmly greeted and shown to our booth table. In the center was a heated insert where our fondue would be cooked. While we looked over the menu, a duo of delicious cocktails selected especially for us arrived for us to enjoy -- their classic Love Martini and the creative new The Melting Pot Mule. 
The Love Martini features Malibu Rum, peach Schnapps, cranberry juice, and fresh strawberries. It was sweetly tart, with a gorgeous red color...I definitely loved this martini. The Melting Pot Mule is a modern spin on a classic Moscow Mule that features classic mule Stolichnaya Vodka and Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur muddled with fresh mint, then shaken with lime and topped with ginger beer. It was refreshing and totally delicious. Then, it was time for us to enjoy tour San Antonio Big Night Out!

This four-course dining included a cheese fondue of our choice, salad, an elevated entree fondue experience, and a chocolate dessert fondue. We loved how personalized the entire experience was! For our cheese fondue course, we selected the delicious Italian-inspired Quattro Formaggio. It featured four different cheeses -- Butterkäse, Fontina, fresh mozzerella, and Parmesan -- melted with white wine, garlic, and basil pesto, and sun-dried tomato pesto. It was served with small chunks of different breads for dipping...and it was absolutely delicious. We loved how the flavors of garlic and pesto combined with the cheese. Our fondue experience for two was off to a great start!
Our second course was a refreshing salad. We opted for The Melting Pot House Salad, which featured crisp Romaine and iceberg lettuces, cheddar cheese, juicy diced tomato, crunchy housemade croutons, and slices of boiled egg. It was served with a delicious creamy peppercorn ranch dressing. 
This was such a great salad -- perfectly chilled and made with pristinely fresh ingredients. I especially loved the creamy ranch dressing, which is made in-house daily. We were having such a good time...and then our over-the-top entree fondue was set up for us!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Easy Pork Chop Recipes #SundaySupper...Featuring Spicy Maple-Glazed Pork Chops with Jalapeno Cheese Grits

One of my favorite quick-cook weeknight dinners is lean, boneless butterflied pork chops. They can be grilled or seared in about 10 minutes, and they're so versatile! This week, #SundaySupper is featuring Easy Pork Chop recipes. Our hostess is Shelby from Grumpy’s Honeybunch, who asked us to share our favorite easy-to-make pork chop recipes. My Spicy Maple-Glazed Pork Chops with Jalapeno Cheese Grits are a snap to make -- easy enough for a simple weeknight dinner, but fancy enough to serve to company.

This is my personal spin on a recipe that I saw in Southern Living awhile back. Lean boneless pork chops are sprinkled with an easy homemade spice rub, then seared and glazed with a spicy maple-infused BBQ sauce. These spicy-sweet pork chops cook up juicy and tender and are served over a base of creamy jalapeno cheese grits. This comforting dish is ready to eat in about 30 minutes, and it's so tasty. The spice level is moderate, but it can easily be adjusted to suit your family's preference.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Spotlight on Groomer's Seafood...Featuring Texas Crab Cakes with Cilantro-Lime Remoulad

Michael and I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast, so we've been seafood lovers our entire lives. My favorite food -- hand's down -- is seafood! Whether it's fish, crab, or wild-caught Gulf shrimp...seafood is always my first choice when planning a special meal. Here in San Antonio, the best place to purchase fresh seafood is Groomer's Seafood. Since the late 1800's, Groomer’s has been offering local cooks the best in fresh seafood. Through the generations, Groomer’s Seafood has stellar reputation. In fact, every month they move 250+ tons of fresh fish and seafood -- making them one of the largest fresh seafood suppliers in the entire country! Three generations of the Groomer family currently run the business, providing loyal customers a wide range of pristinely fresh in-season seafood. 

Groomer's recently provided me with a sampler of seafood items to do a bit of recipe development. Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing a trio of recipes featuring extra-large wild Gulf shrimp and scallops. First up are my decadent Texas Crab Cakes with Cilantro-Lime Remoulade. These crab cakes feature huge chunks of sweet jumbo lump crab and very little binder -- I wanted this high-end crab to be the star of the show! To accompany my crab cakes, I made a quick remoulade sauce flavored with cilantro and lime. I'm not kidding when I say these crab cakes are over-the-top good...and perfect for any at-home Valentine's celebrations you might have planned!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Fancy Appetizer #SundaySupper...Featuring Easy Caprese Puff Pastry Bites

With Valentine's Day in a couple of days...and awards season in full's the ideal time to add a few fancy appetizers to your culinary bag of tricks! For this week's #SundaySupper event, our hostess Wendy from Wholistic Woman asked us to share our favorite upscale appetizers. My go-to ingredient for easy, elegant appetizers is frozen puff pastry. Whether you use sheets, shells, or bite-size mini cups, they help make fancy appetizers truly effortless. 

My Easy Caprese Puff Pastry Bites are a snap to make, full of flavor...and veg-friendly to boot! Seasoned puff pastry cups are filled with a fresh mozzarella pearl, then topped with a pesto-cream cheese filling and a halved grape tomato. If you love caprese salad, you'll flip for these bite-sized appetizers. Simply add a nice bottle of wine, and you're ready to celebrate...the Grammy's, Valentine's Day, or the Oscars! Wait until you see how simple this appetizer is to make.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Crunchies Freeze Dried Fruit...Featuring Berry Colada Snack Mix #TheCrunchiesLife

Last year, I was introduced to a delicious and healthy food product that has been in heavy rotation on my grocery list ever since: Crunchies freeze-dried fruit. They have a line of 10 delicious varieties of freeze dried fruits -- and beets too! -- from farmers they know and trust. In fact, Crunchies is the only freeze dried fruit company that owns its entire supply chain, from field to fork. They directly source their produce directly from the farmers who grow it. I love that Crunchies tastes great…and it’s made from pure fruits and veggies! Their produce is harvested when it’s at the peak of ripeness, then quickly frozen. The frozen fruit or vegetable is then freeze dried with via a process that combines temperature and pressure. The majority of the frozen water turns directly to water vapor, resulting in a light and crispy snack! 

Even better, this process ensures most of the fruit or veggie’s color, flavor, and nutrients remain. Crunchies aren’t chewy like dried fruit…and they’re not hard like a chip. Instead, they’re light and crispy, with natural sweetness and no added sugar. I especially love the mango and banana varieties…and the freeze dried berries. I recently used Crunchies sweetly tart raspberries and strawberries to create a simple trail mix. My Berry Colada Snack Mix combines Crunchies strawberries and raspberries with nuts, dried pineapple, coconut chips…and some white chocolate chips for fun…to make a delicious on-the-go snack.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Wendy's Favorite Things...Valentine's Gift Guide Edition! #WendyFaveThings #GreatEight #valentines

February is here...which means Valentine's Day is just around the corner. For this month's Wendy's Favorite Things, my Great Eight is featuring romantic and delicious Valentine's gift ideas for the special food and wine lovers in your life. There's something priced for every budget...and every type of Valentine. I love all of these items, and I'm so excited to share them with you today!

(1) Vosges Haute-Chocolat Valentine's Collection. An elegant heart-shaped box filled with beautiful chocolates is a classic Valentine’s Day gift. One of my favorite chocolate brands is Chicago's Vosges Haute-Chocolat. Vosges founder Katrina Markoff is known for her wildly creative flavor combinations that combine premium chocolate with a variety of delicious spices, flowers, roots, herbs, and liqueurs. This year’s Valentine’s collection features products in a range of prices for every budget. For just $10, you can buy your special someone their five-piece Dulce de Leche within Strawberry Hibiscus White Chocolate Hearts. Their delicate pink color is so feminine, and the flavors are perfectly balanced. If an upscale heart-shaped treat is your preference, Vosges has got you covered with a trio of creative offerings. 
The $15 petite purple heart contains 4 ounces of buttery Bapchi's Caramel Toffee topped with deep milk chocolate and chopped nuts. The Collection du Coeur heart boxes are filled with truffles, bonbons, and bites. The white heart box contains 17 pieces, including a delicious Rose Raspberry Truffle and a white chocolate Lemon Verbena Heart topped with red peppercorns. This beautiful Valentine’s gift is priced at $55. Priced slightly lower, at $35, is the nine-piece purple heart box. As a special Valentine treat, my friends at Vosges have provided The Weekend Gourmet readers an exclusive discount code to save 15% off online orders for the entire month of February -- and there's no minimum purchase required!! To redeem this special code, visit their online store and enter the code TWG15 at checkout. 

(2) Bissinger’s Chocolate Covered Valentine Cookies. Is your honey a cookie lover? Then, Bissinger’s chocolate has the perfect Valentine gift idea for you! Their Valentine's line features an elegant gift box filled with a dozen chocolate sandwich cookies that are dipped in creamy milk chocolate and embellished with seasonal Valentine décor. These yummy cookies are pretty to look at -- and they’re downright addictive. We had a hard time stopping at just one cookie! Creamy milk chocolate gives way to a crunchy chocolate cookie filled with cream filling. These cookies come ready to give in a pretty box, so you’re good to go! The 12-cookie box costs $32 and can be ordered directly from Bissinger’s via their online store.

(3) Papyrus Truly Madly Deeply Stemless Wine GlassIf your special Valentine is a wine lover, this pretty and sentimental stemless wine glass from Papyrus is a perfect gift idea! This stemless wine glass is decorated with pretty red and gold hearts, and it has the words “truly, madly, deeply” inscribed on it. It’s like a romantic Valentine card they can use all year round! It comes paired with a matching gift box, so it arrives ready to present to your sweetie. Priced at just $14.95, you can pair this adorable wine glass with a bottle of your sweetheart’s favorite wine for the perfect combo gift to celebrate this special day. This -- and other fun Valentine wineglasses can be purchased at the Papyrus website.
(4) JARDESCA Apertif. Speaking of wine…why not give your sweetheart a little something different this year? JARDESCA aperitif is definitely refreshingly different! Aperitifs are intended to be enjoyed as a prelude to a meal, to stimulate the appetite without overwhelming the senses like some cocktails or heavier wines can do. Made in Sonoma, JARDESCA is a blend of three different white wines that's fortified with grape brandy (eau de vie) and 10 different botanicals. JARDESCA is meant to be served chilled over ice to best enjoy its light flavor profile -- and it can be used as a mixer for a range of wine spritzers! JARDESCA retails for $30 and can be ordered online for Valentine gift-giving. For my Texas readers, JARDESCA will be available at all Texas Whole Foods locations starting in March.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Stonyfield Clean Plate Club: NEW Double Cream Plain Yogurt and Simply Organic Spices...Featuring Adobo Chicken Fiesta Flatbread

I love luscious, creamy dishes...but I try my best to enjoy them responsibly. For this month’s Stonyfield Clean Plate Club event, I was very excited to receive some of their new Double Cream plain yogurt and a sampler of Simply Organic spices and dip mixes. We were asked to use the Double Cream and Simply Organic products to create a delicious savory dip or entrée. Specifically designed for cooking, Double Cream has a higher fat content than Stonyfield's other whole milk yogurts. It’s thick and creamy, but it still offers all of the nutritional benefits of yogurt! This decadent product is a perfect way to cut vegetable oils and sour cream in your favorite recipes. Simply Organic included a pair of zesty Mexican-themed spices: earthy Cumin and flavorful Adobo. I decided to create a big-flavor flatbread featuring both items.

My mildly spicy Adobo Chicken Fiesta Flatbread features tons of great flavors and textures! Juicy chicken tenders marinates in a robust yogurt marinade that's flavored wtih lime, adobo and cumin. A trio of colorful, confetti-like veggies round out the toppings. Just before serving, an adobo-lime yogurt sauce reminiscent of the marinade is drizzled on top of the flatbread. We loved how simple this recipe is to make...and how flavorful! To save time after work, I assembled the marinade and let the chicken chicken hang out in the fridge while I was at work. With that step out of the way before work, the flatbread was assembled and ready to eat in about 30 minutes at dinner time. Can't decide between pizza or Mexican food for dinner? With this fusion flatbread, you can enjoy the best of both worlds!