Sunday, April 30, 2017

2017 CFE Saltfish Blogger Challenge...Feature Salt Cod-Corn Fritters with Spicy Lemon Aioli #saltfish #bacalao #Cristobal

Have you ever cooked with salted cod...also known as bacalao? Until this weekend, I had not tasted or cooked with salted, preserved cod fish. I'm taking part in the 2017 CFE Saltfish Blogger Recipe Challenge, where I decided to create a fantastic appetizer using this new-to-me ingredient. As part of the contest, I received three packages of Cristobal salted cod fillets to facilitate recipe development. Salted cod is -- as the name indicates -- salted to preserve freshness. It must be soaked in water in your fridge for 24 hours before using, with the water being changed ever 4-6 hours. This reduces most of the saltiness, leaving just enough to salt to ensure the cod is seasoned all the way through. Once soaked, the salt code is poached in a bit of water to cook it through. Then, it can be used in a wide range of seafood-based recipes. 

I used the tasty Cristobal salt cod I received to create my Salt Cod-Corn Fritters with Spicy Lemon Aioli. They're made with convenient packaged cornbread mix that's flavored with kernel corn, green onion, spices, and a generous helping of flaked salt cod. They're fried up similar to hush puppies and sprinkled with your favorite spicy Cajun seasoning. Then, they're served with quick-to-make spicy lemon aioli on the side for dipping. These hearty appetizers are a perfect finger food to enjoy as you watch the NBA playoffs in the coming weeks. They'd also work great as a delicious accompaniment the next time you fry up some shrimp or fish. Remember that you'll need to prep the salt cod 24 hours in advance, so be sure to plan ahead for that extra time. However, once that initial step is complete? The actual time to prepare the fritters and aioli is only about 30 minutes. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Cheese from The French Cheese Board...Featuring Shrimp Scampi Grilled Cheese #makeitmagnifique #GrilledCheese #comte

April is National Grilled Cheese Month, and I'm excited to partner with the French Cheese Board to feature a duo of amazing French cheeses in an upscale grilled cheese sandwich that seafood lovers are guaranteed to go crazy for! I used nutty Comté and smooth-melting Raclette cheeses to create my Shrimp Scampi Grilled Cheese. My inspiration was two of my favorite dishes: cheesy garlic bread and buttery, garlic-infused shrimp scampi. This decadent grilled cheese sandwich is gooey goodness. The best news? From start to finish, you can enjoy this sandwich is about 30 minutes!

The French Cheese Board is an ambassador of the French cheese experience, and they sent me a selection of French cheeses to play around with in my kitchen. Comté reminds me a bit of Gruyere, and it melts like a dream. Raclette melts smoothly and pairs nicely with bread. These two cheeses were meant to be sandwiched between big slices of French boule bread! The addition of shrimp scampi and a spread of garlic compound butter takes this sandwich over the top. Wait until you see how easy this flavorful grilled cheese is to whip up!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Spotlight on the Sea World San Antonio Seven Seas Food & Wine Festival #SevenSeasTX

Sea World San Antonio is current hosting its annual Seven Seas Food & Wine Festival. The event will take place on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays...and on Memorial Day too...through May 29th! More than 40 dishes from ten different countries located across the seven seas are served every weekend. The Seven Seas Food & Wine Festival activities, entertainment and tastings kick off at 11:00 a.m. each event day until the park closes. Food lovers can sample a range of authentic food, wine and beer, and cocktails from the following regions located around the globe: 
  • Mediterranean (Spain, Italy, and Greece)
  • Gulf of Mexico (Mexico and Cuba)
  • North Atlantic (France)
  • South Atlantic (Argentina and Brazil)
  • Pacific Ocean (Japan and Korea)
  • Caribbean (Jamaica)
This weekend, I attended a fun...and preview of the Seven Seas Food & Wine Festival. I sampled a range of delicious food and cocktails -- including paella and sangria in Spain and a gyros with tzatziki sauce in Greece. I also saw the new Baby Orca that was born just three days earlier...and spent some time hanging out in the Penguin Encounter area! As this video slideshow shows, there's literally something for everyone at the Seven Seas Food & Wine Festival!

In addition to offering lots of delicious international food and drinks, the Seven Seas Food & Wine Festival also features some amazing live family-friendly performances -- including Spanish flamenco dancers...and these very talented Japanese Taiko Drummers. 

It's so much fun to walk all around the park at your own pace, stopping off to sample the food and beverages at all of the different country-specific food kiosks located throughout the Sea World grounds! The cooking food smells great, and you'll also hear music from each country playing to set the festive mood. Food and beverages can be purchased a la carte with cash or credit cards at each country's booth if you wish. However, there are also a variety of Seven Seas Food & Wine Festival sampler packages available to fit a wide range of budgets! The following food and beverage sampler packages are available for purchase at a Food & Wine Festival Booth after you pay the Sea World park ticket fee and enter the park:



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Disclosure: Sea World San Antonio provided me with complimentary admission to their Seven Seas Food & Wine Festival media preview -- including park admission after the event. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wendy's Favorite Things for April 2017 #WendyFaveThings #GreatEight

It's time for another edition of Wendy's Favorite Things...and this month, I've got some really amazing items to share with you! This month's Great Eight features everything from frozen treats to a pair of cheese-infused items...and cream cheese-stuffed bagels to a pair of items to help streamline your weeknight dinner prep!

(1) JC's Pie Pops. I love eating creamy no-bake pies, so I flipped when I found JC's Pie Pops in the freezer aisle at my local grocery store. Unlike ice cream -- which can melt -- these frozen treats are a yummy mess-free snack! The creamy base is frozen on a stick and covered with a crust-like coating. JC's Pie Pops come in fun flavors like Banana Cream, Caramel Turtle, and Chocolate Silk. My personal favorite is Key Lime. A sweetly tart creamy center is covered in a coating of meringue, key lime, and graham cracker. It's a fun frozen spin on one of my favorite pies! JC's Pie Pops average 200 calories per pop, making them an indulgence I don't have to feel guilty about enjoying. As the weather turns warmer in Texas, I can't wait to try more flavors...especially their new Coconut Cream flavor! To find JC's Pie Pops at a store near you, check out their online Store Locator.

(2) Brazi Bites Brazilian Cheese Bread. If you've dine at a Brazilian steakhouse, you've probably tasted the Brazilian cheese bread called pão de queijo. Thanks to Brazi Bites, I can enjoy this cheesy treat anytime the craving hits! Brazi Bites are from the creator's family recipe in Brazil. They come pre-formed and frozen, so all you have to do is bake them until the outside is toasted and the cheese inside is melted and gooey. Based in Portland, Oregon, the creators of Brazi Bites were featured on Shark Tank in 2015. These cheesy treats come in four great flavors: Cheddar Parmesan, Garlic Asiago, Zesty Pepperjack, and 3 Cheese Pizza. My favorite is the Garlic Asiago, which pair nicely with a glass of chilled white wine. They're also a great dinner side dish. To find Brazi Bites near you, visit their Store Finder. No store near you? No problem! They also sell Brazi Bites via the Healthy Goodness website.

(3) Graeter's French Pot Ice Cream. My latest ice cream fine is Graeter's French Pot Ice Cream. Graeter's has been making their handcrafted ice cream in Cincinnati, Ohio since 1874! Their unique French pot process is what gives Graeter’s ice cream its ultra-creamy texture. They use 2.5-gallon French Pot freezers, using the same small-batch process they've using for nearly 150 years -- then each pint is hand packed. I recently tried their Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip and their signature Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip flavors, and I was blown away by the creamy ice cream and the large pieces of creamy dark chocolate. The Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip in particular is so decadent! To find Graeter's French Pot Ice Cream near you, visit their searchable online Store Locator. You can also purchase their ice cream via their convenient online shop.

(4) Michael Angelo's Lasagna with Meat Sauce. I love lasagna, but I rarely have time to make it from scratch. Most frozen lasagna is a pale imitation of homemade. However, I recently tried Michael Angelo's frozen Lasagna with Meat Sauce and was so impressed with its flavor. The lasagna features fresh beef, vine-ripened tomatoes, and al dente delicious! Michael Angelo products are made from family recipes -- and they taste authentic and delicious. Michael Angelo products are made in Austin, Texas, and contain no fillers, dyes, or preservatives. That leaves room for real ingredients like imported cheeses, heirloom garlic, and specially selected tomatoes. The Lasagna with Meat Sauce comes in several sizes, including single serving and Family Size. To find Michael Angelo's products at a store near you, check out their handy Where to Buy page.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road...Three Days in Napa Valley #WGTravel

Photo provided by the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa
Late last year, The Weekend Gourmet team spent a few days exploring the gorgeous Napa Valley. After leaving Sonoma, we made the quick 40-minute drive across the Mayacamas mountain range to Napa on the other side. If you’ve never been to Napa Valley, it’s anchored in the South by the town of Napa and in the North by Calistoga. There are two main roads that run the length of the valley – Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail. All along the way, there are small towns with amazing wineries, gorgeous views, and world-class restaurants. Our home base for this leg of our trip was the conveniently located Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa. The Marriott is conveniently located just off Highway 29, and it offers a lot of great amenities. Plentiful on-site parking is free, the newly remodeled rooms are spacious and comfortable, and the staff is welcoming and friendly. 
This 275-room property features a pool, fitness center, and the onsite Preserve Spa. Our room included admission to the Marriott’s fabulous first-floor Concierge Lounge, which provided complimentary continental breakfast each morning, pre-dinner appetizers, and an evening dessert option. It was so nice to grab a quick bite to eat before heading out for a day of visiting wineries…and a pre- and post-dinner bite to enjoy in our room. Speaking of our room, we shot a video that shows you how spacious the Marriott Napa Valley's bedroom and bathroom areas are:

As the video shows, the room décor is soothing and peaceful – with tones of the wine the Napa Valley is known for. The spacious bathroom was decorated with white tile and grey granite, and it featured spa toiletries. Every room comes with a modern entertainment system that offers Bluetooth® connectivity and the ability for guests to access their personal Netflix ®, YouTube®, Pandora®, and Hulu® accounts directly from the room’s television. That’s a fabulous touch for bringing a bit of home on vacation with you!
After dropping our bags at the Marriott, we headed out for lunch at Gott’s Roadside in nearby St. Helena. Gott's is a James Beard Award-winning roadside burger stand formerly known as Taylor’s Automatic Refresher! Gott's prides itself on serving 100% Angus beef, locally baked bread, wild-caught seafood, and vegetarian-fed chicken. The food here is definitely elevated fast food! We found plenty of parking and lined up at the order window with other hungry guests. We ordered a range of signature menu items – including the Blue Cheese Burger, Green Chili Cheese Burger, Chicken Tenders, and a California Chicken Sandwich. We paired our entrees with handmade onion rings and Gott’s signature Garlic Fries -- hand-cut fries tossed in garlic butter and parsley. 
Gott's Roadside offers guests a wide range of burgers, hot dogs, and even freshly prepared salads. There's truly something for everybody to enjoy on their menu -- including wine! Everything was perfectly prepared and amazingly fresh – we ate at one of Gott’s picnic tables while we enjoyed the gorgeous California weather. Gott’s is a must for anybody visiting Napa Valley. The food is amazing, and the prices are easy on your travel budget!

After lunch, we made our way to Far Niente winery for a private tour and tasting. The tasting included five wines -- including current releases and library vintages -- along with a seasonal cheese plate. The grounds of this Oakville winery were absolutely stunning, making for a beautiful drive in! We soaked in the gorgeous scenery as we made our way to Far Niente’s charming tasting room and met our tour guide. It was such a beautiful drive in that we couldn't resist shooting a bit of video of our drive in.

We were given a 30-minute private tour of Far Niente’s extensive underground wine caves and beautiful grounds before our guided wine and cheese tasting. All five of the wines we sampled were delicious, but our personal favorite was Far Niente's limited-edition sweet Dolce wine. This late harvest dessert wine -- similar in flavor to ice wine -- knocked our socks off so much that we purchased a bottle to bring home to Texas with us.
After our visit to Far Niente, we made our way to Markham Vineyard’s tasting room in St. Helena for their sweetly fun Cupcake & Wine Pairing experience. Markham makes some of our favorite red wine -- including a wonderful Cabernet Franc -- so we were very excited to see how they would pair their wines with a wine-infused cupcake.  
The cupcake from Sift Dessert Bar was a dark chocolate cake flavored with Markham Merlot, filled with blackberry jam, and frosted with buttercream infused with Markham Cabernet Sauvignon. This amazing little cupcake was paired with a quartet of Markham wines. If you've never paired desserts with wine, this is a great tasting to try out. One of our favorite things about visiting Markham's tasting room is checking out its music-inspired art gallery and admiring the photography and paintings on display.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the Marriott to rest up a bit and get cleaned up for our dinner at Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin' BBQ in Downtown Napa that night. Bounty Hunter is a wine bar that features tons of great wines, delicious made-on-site BBQ, and flavorful side dishes. Bounty Hunter has more than 400 wines on their shelves -- including 40 wines that are available by-the-glass. 
We loved the casual vibe at the Bounty well as their delicious BBQ. The Smokin' BBQ Platter is served family style, and it was plenty for the four of us to sample a bit of everything. This platter included pulled pork, smoked brisket, and slow-smoked ribs. We especially loved their signature fall-off-the-bone tender Beer Can Chicken. The presentation is fun -- and the chicken was juicy and full of flavor! For sides, we enjoyed cole slaw, potato salad, decadent baked mac and cheese, and half-sour pickles. Everything was cooked to perfection! 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Bunny-Approved Baked Easter Doughnuts

It's time for Easter! I'm headed to the Houston area to celebrate with my family...but not before I share one of my favorite fun and easy Easter treats. My Bunny-Approved Baked Easter Doughnuts would make a perfect addition to your Easter breakfast table -- such a festive and special treat! These baked buttermilk cake doughnuts are similar in texture to a muffin, and they bake up in about 10 minutes. That gives you just enough time to whip up the sweet glaze and assemble your decor. Feel free to tint the glaze if you want, but I stuck with white since I was using colorful Easter and Spring-colored sprinkles. The main thing is to have fun and let your creativity go wild! 

Decorating these doughnuts is a bit like coloring Easter eggs -- only you'll have half a dozen delicious doughnuts to enjoy when you're done. I made two minor tweaks to a simple baked doughnut recipe from Sur le Table. I subbed cinnamon for the nutmeg called for, and I added 1 tbs. of vanilla extract with the wet ingredients. Feel free to double the recipe if you want to make a dozen'll have plenty of icing!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Celebrate Easter with Vosges Haut-Chocolat...Featuring No-Bake Easter Egg Mini Cakes

I’ve got a super fun Easter treat to share with you today -- one that’s no-bake and so simple that you can even make them with your little ones ahead of your Easter celebrations this weekend! My festive No-Bake Easter Egg Mini Cakes were inspired by a petite four recipe I recently found at Woman’s Day website. My mini cakes come in two different flavors: peanut butter and chocolate-hazelnut. To up the chocolate factor on these Easter treats, they’re also topped with delicious Organic Peanut Butter Bonbon Eggs and chocolate-hazelnut Enchanted Toadstools from my friends at Vosges Haut-Chocolat! These chocolates are part of their amazing Ensemble Printemps Extraordinaire Easter Collection, which also includes Clementine Ginger Toffee and four different flavors of filled mini chocolate rabbits. 

What makes these cute little two-serving Easter egg mini cakes no-bake? The secret is frozen pound cake that's cut with an egg-shaped cookie cutter. The peanut butter version is filled with a silky peanut butter buttercream, and the chocolate version is filled with a decadent chocolate-hazelnut buttercream. The filled mini cakes are glazed with a simple ganache made from candy melts and whipping cream. I used pastel-flecked white glaze for the peanut butter cakes, as well as milk chocolate and sprinkles for the chocolate-hazelnut cakes. These little cakes are a blast to make and decorate. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather hunt for these tasty Easter eggs this weekend! Wait until you see how fun these easy treats are to create.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Best #SundaySupper Seafood Recipes...Featuring Mediterranean Shrimp Bruschetta

I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast, so I've had a love for seafood my entire life. Whether it's fish, shellfish, or crab...I love it all! That's why I was so excited for this week's #SundaySupper seafood event! Our hostess is Claire of the blog Sprinkles and Sprouts, and she asked us to share our favorite seafood recipes. With warmer Spring temperatures, we're eating lighter, so I wanted to make a refreshing seafood appetizer. 
My Mediterranean Shrimp Bruschetta features a chilled topping that contains all my favorite flavors from a Greek salad with chopped Gulf shrimp. Just before serving, the chilled shrimp mixture is spooned on top of French bread flavored with a garlic- and parsley-infused butter and toasted. Simply add chilled white wine, and you've got a perfect starter...or a light weekend lunch. This recipe is quick enough to serve anytime, but special enough to serve company. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for April...Featuring San Antonio's Restaurant Gwendolyn #WGDinesOut

This month, The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out featured restaurant is Restaurant Gwendolyn, which is located on a quiet corner of the Riverwalk in Downtown San Antonio. Restaurant Gwendolyn has consistently been named one of the city’s very best – and most innovative – restaurants since its opening in 2010. It's also the only restaurant in San Antonio that is 100% local and sustainable. Chef Michael Sohocki’s approach to food and cooking is definitely old school – as in before the industrial revolution occurred around 1850! This food philosophy means Restaurant Gwendolyn’s kitchen has no blenders, mixers, choppers, deep fryers, or anything else with a motor. Additionally, all perishable ingredients are sourced within 150 miles of the restaurant. Chef Sohocki personally knows the ranchers and farmers who supply the kitchen's ingredients, and he buys directly from them to ensure their supply chain remains small and visible.

Restaurant Gwendolyn's menu changes nearly daily and features fresh seasonal ingredients. The food that comes out of its small kitchen is pure magic! Michael and I enjoyed a fabulous multi-course dinner tasting at the restaurant that was a very special culinary experience. The food was creative, but approachable…and the wine pairings selected for us were spot on. We were seated at the restaurant’s Chef’s Kitchen Table, which was an unexpected surprise. It was amazing to watch Chef Sohocki and his team work in synergy to create the menu items we enjoyed. We arrived and were warmly greeted by the restaurant’s general manager, who showed us to our seats in front of a large glass window looking directly into the kitchen.
This was our first time to dine at a Chef’s Table, and it was a fun and educational experience – a show to go with our dinner, you might say! We were brought flutes of chilled champagne to enjoy while we settled in and looked at the evening's menu. We were there to feature Restaurant Gwendolyn’s San Antonio Restaurant Week menu...but they had a few surprises up their sleeves for us too. Not only did we enjoy the Restaurant Week menu – we were served additional menu items with wine pairings AND a selection of delicious house-made charcuterie and cheeses! The entire dining Restaurant Gwendolyn dining experience lasted nearly 3 hours from start to finish. The food was delicious to eat and gorgeous to look at  and the kitchen's creative presentations included a touch of theatrics! We enjoyed our champagne – my personal favorite – while we watched the organized activity going on in front of us in the kitchen. Our first culinary surprise was a display of house made charcuterie, cheeses, and accompaniments – including delicious bread and butter. 
Everything on the charcuterie platter was creative, delicious, and artfully displayed. However, we especially enjoyed the unique amberjack bacon, tart lime marmalade, and mild fresh blue cheese. Even better? Miles Davis music was playing in the we took our time and savored our food. After our charcuterie and champagne starter, a lovely amuse bouche made its way to our table: two shooters of Smoked Ham and Egg Custard. It was rich and flavorful – a perfect little bite! Our First Course dishes included the wildly creative Potted Plants and Consommé with Gougeres. The Potted Plants included a variety of roasted root vegetables topped with a edible “soil” made from charred black olives and quinoa. 
The presentation was amazing – and the depth of flavors was earthy, with a slight sweetness from the roasted vegetables. Michael’s consommé may look deceptively simple – but it was crystal clear and intensely flavored. The cheese gougeres floating on top were perfectly executed. Our meal was off to an amazing start!

Monday, April 3, 2017

San Antonio Book Festival Preview...Featuring Praline-Pecan Rolls from the Breakfast in Texas Cookbook #SABookFest

The 5th annual San Antonio Book Festival (SABF) is this Saturday, April 8th, from 9:00 am-5:00 pm at the Southwest School of Art and the Central Library. This year’s festival lineup includes 100 authors for a day filled with interesting conversations, cooking demonstrations, and lots of other fun activities. SABF celebrates both national and local authors and their contributions to the culture of literacy, ideas, and imagination. SABF’s founding partners are the Central Library, the Southwest School of Art, and the Texas Book Festival. For San Antonio-area foodies, the SABF will feature a cooking tent sponsored by Central Market, where cookbook authors will showcase some of their delicious recipes and answer questions from the audience. Just check out this mouthwatering schedule!

Central Market Cooking Tent (Southwest School of Art, Ursuline Campus parking lot)
  • 10:00am: Breakfast in Texas with Terry Thompson-Anderson demonstrating recipes from her new cookbook
  • 11:30am - 12:30pm: The Tacos of Texas with Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece
  • 1:00pm - 2:00pm: Better Baking with Genevieve Ko
  • 2:30pm - 3:30pm: Eat Mexico with Lesley Téllez
  • 4:00pm - 5:00pm: One Pan & Done: Hassle-Free Meals with Molly Gilbert 
I received an advance copy of Breakfast in Texas, and I absolutely love it! This fantastic cookbook contains breakfast recipes from all over Texas featuring the big flavors I love – and tons of drool-worthy photographs. Terry Thompson-Anderson is the author of nine previous cookbooks, including Texas on the Table: People, Places, and Recipes Celebrating the Flavors of the Lone Star State -- which was a finalist for the 2015 James Beard Book Award for American Cooking. There were so recipes I wanted to try, but I decided to step outside my comfort zone for this feature. I don’t bake from scratch very often, so I decided to treat my parents and brother to some Praline-Pecan Rolls from Breakfast in Texas while visiting my parents this weekend. My Mom is a great baker, so I was sure she’d be able to give me pointers and assistance along the way if necessary – which it was. These easy-to-make no-yeast rolls feature a biscuit-like dough, plenty of Texas pecans and cinnamon…and a splash of liqueur in the perfectly smooth glaze. Trust me…if I can make these rolls, you can too!