Friday, November 16, 2018

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road...24 Hours in Fort Worth #WGTravel #texastravel #roadtrip

One of the best things about living in a huge state like Texas is having an abundance of great places to visit for a quick road trip. We love being able to jump in the car and hit the road for a quick getaway whenever the mood strikes! Earlier this year, we spent a weekend getaway visiting the DFW Metroplex. Today, I'm sharing our experience visiting Fort Worth for 24 hours. Fort Worth is located west of Dallas and has a totally different vibe. According to Visit Fort Worth: "The City of Cowboys & Culture is the 15th-largest city in the United States [874,000 residents] and part of the No. 1 tourist destination in Texas, welcoming 9.1 million visitors annually." We headed to Fort Worth from San Antonio -- a quick 4.5-hour drive -- excited to see what excitement the city had to offer!

En route to Fort Worth, we stopped in Desoto for a late lunch at Top 5 BBQ -- one of Texas Monthly magazine's Top 50 BBQ Joints in Texas. That designation always guarantees a fabulous BBQ experience. As this video shows, the smoked meat at family-owned Top 5 BBQ definitely did NOT disappoint! 

We were warmly greeted by owner Kendon Greene and brought his hand-selected sampler of Top 5's  delicious menu items -- including smoky pulled pork, juicy smoked chicken, tender prime brisket, meaty ribs, and sausage. We also sampled their creative -- and delicious -- signature BBQ Nachos. Imagine crispy house-made tortilla chips topped with chopped brisket, cheddar and queso, BBQ sauce, green onion, and jalapeno. They're a perfect mix of Texas BBQ and Tex-Mex!!

Our meal also included a variety of well-prepared sides. We especially loved their smoked beans and creamy potato salad. In Texas, BBQ meals are commonly capped off with fruit cobbler for dessert -- and Top 5's peach cobbler is a winner! The cobbler was the perfect ending to a fabulous meal. If you find yourself visiting the Dallas-Fort Worth area, a pit stop at Top 5 BBQ is a definite must!!

Photo provided by Sheraton 
We left Top 5 BBQ stuffed with delicious BBQ, put on some tunes, and drove the final 30 minutes of our road trip to Sheraton Fort Worth Downtown Hotel, our home base for our stay. We dropped our car with the valet and quickly checked in, taking note of the spacious lobby -- which had lots of great nooks for sitting and relaxing. This pet-friendly hotel has 425 rooms and four suites. Rooms feature the comfortable Sheraton Signature Bed, mini-refrigerators, flat-screen TVs, and Wi-Fi. Upgrade Club Lounge rooms also include guest access to Club Lounge perks -- including complimentary breakfast and afternoon snacks, wine, and appetizers. 

We stayed in a Club Lounge Junior Suite -- which featured a bedroom with a King four-poster bed, a separate living area with sofa and chairs, and a spacious bathroom. The suite was HUGE (615 sq. ft.) and decorated in soothing shades of blue and gray. We settled in and decided to check out the Club Lounge. It featured panoramic Downtown Fort Worth views and a range of early evening snacks -- including wine and other beverages, fruit, cheese, and quesadillas. There was even sodas, granola bars, and chips that we could take back to our room for any late-night munchies!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Holiday Side Dish Week...Featuring French Onion Pulll-Apart Rolls #HolidaySideDishes #perfectsides

Welcome to Holiday Side Dish Week! A talented group of food bloggers -- including The Weekend Gourmet -- are sharing our favorite holiday side dish recipes this week. There’s a broad range of recipes, and you can be sure to find tons of creative side dish options to up your holiday side dish game. Today, I'm sharing the recipe for my over-the-top French Onion Pull-Apart Rolls...they're *definitely* a step up from typical holiday dinner rolls!
If you love French onion soup, you'll go crazy for these rolls -- which feature all the flavors of the classic soup. They're easy to make and oh-so-delicious! Even better, these savory dinner rolls can be assembled up to four hours ahead. Simply store covered, in the refrigerator until you're ready to bake. The smell in your kitchen while these rolls bake is amazing! Expecting a large holiday crowd? This recipe is easily doubled.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Recipe Re-Do: Savory Apple-Italian Sausage Bread Pudding -- Perfect for Thanksgiving! #lightenup #turkeyday #savorysides

Can you believe Thanksgiving is coming up in just TWO WEEKS?!?!? If you're looking for a delicious new side dish to add to your menu, I've got a perfect suggestion for you today! I originally featured this Savory Apple-Italian Sausage Bread Pudding recipe in 2014 -- and it was a definite reader favorite. I've made a few adjustments this time to make it a bit healthier, but it still features all of the Fall flavors that make the original recipe reminiscent of dressing/stuffing. It pairs perfectly with roasted turkey or chicken, so it's a perfect addition to any holiday table!

For this lighter version, I used mild Italian turkey sausage and tart Granny Smith apple, used half and half in place of heavy cream, and added a reduced amount of flavorful extra sharp cheddar cheese. I also used less butter and olive oil, and I subbed two egg white for one of the eggs used in the original recipe. This savory bread pudding might be lower in fat and calories than the original recipe...but there's no sacrifice in decadent flavor!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Spooky Good Popcorn for Halloween...a Perfect Halloween Treat! #alltreatnotrick #popcorn #caramel #HalloweenTreat

Halloween is tomorrow -- eek! If the date has snuck up on you this year, you need to act quickly. Today, I'm sharing a quick and easy popcorn-based snack mix that's perfect for Halloween munching. My Spooky Good Popcorn Snack Mix makes feeds a hungry group if you're planning an at-home Scary Movie Night celebration. This versatile, sweetly crunchy treat can also be bagged up in small portions and handed out when trick-or-treaters ring your doorbell tomorrow night. Make a batch tonight, and you're good to go for tomorrow!

I really like snack mixes like this, because they're easily customized to include your favorite flavors! To make your unique spin on this Spooky Good Popcorn Snack Mix, simply substitute your favorite Halloween candy. This time, I added Reese's Pieces and gummy candy corn...along with a drizzle of orange Candy Melts and semisweet chocolate. The idea is to have fun and let your imagination run wild. Easy to make, yummy to eat, and colorful? That's a winning trifecta to me, folks!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Wendy's Great Eight for October 2018 #GreatEight #TryIt #BestNewProducts

The holiday season is nearly upon us again -- with Halloween next week being the official kickoff. How it got to be October already is a mystery to me...but a new month means a new batch of eight great new food and kitchen items to share with you today! This month, I'm sharing items that will make mealtime easier, a delicious spin on marshmallow crispy treats, and a delicious cold-brew for coffee lovers. Let's get started!
(1) thinThin Protein & Probiotic Oatmeal. When the weather turns cooler, our breakfast often includes fiber-rich oatmeal  -- often from a handy on-the-go container! Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I prefer my oatmeal to maximize its healthy offerings...while still tasting great. I was really excited to discover thinkThin's Protein & Probiotic oatmeal cups -- which are ready to eat in less than 5 minutes! Each 200-calorie microwaveable bowl provides 6 grams of fiber, 10 grams of protein, and more than 1 BILLION CFUs of live probiotic for a healthy gut. Best of all, this oatmeal cooks up perfectly creamy in the microwave and comes in a trio of yummy flavors: Cinnamon Almond, Maple Pecan, and Blueberry Harvest (my personal favorite!). thinkThin products can be found at most major U.S. grocery chains. The Protein & Probiotics Oatmeal can also be purchased direct from thinkThin.

(2) Hip Chick Farms Organic Chicken Fingers. Kids of all ages -- including us big kids -- love chicken fingers! There's something about the combination of crispy breading and juicy chicken that has a universal appeal. However, typical fried chicken fingers can be a greasy, caloric roadblock to eating healthy. That's why I was so happy to find Hip Chick Farms' Organic Chicken Fingers! Each frozen, fully cooked chicken finger is cut from humanely raised chicken breast, dipped in buttermilk, and coated in crunchy Panko crumbs. Give them a bake in the oven for 10 minutes, and you have a yummy entrée that you can feel good about eating: no added hormones, no antibiotics, and zero preservatives or fillers. Each 3-ounce serving contains 230 calories, 12 grams fat, and 20 grams of protein. I like to serve these chicken fingers with lowfat ranch, oven-baked sweet potato fries, and a green salad on the side. To find Hip Chick Farms products near you, check out their convenient online store locator.

(3) Smashmallow Smashcrispy Marshmallow Rice Treats. What could be more fun for snacking than a marshmallow rice treat? Not much, that's for sure! Making them from scratch is messy and takes more time than I have most of the time. Good thing Smashmallow has introduced a line of individually wrapped Smashcrispy marshmallow rice treats for instant gratification any time! Smashmallow makes a line of yummy gourmet marshmallows in fun flavors like Cookie Dough and Strawberries & Cream. They use these artisan marshmallows in a line of kicked-up marshmallow crispy treats! Each 130-calorie Smashcrispy bar is non-GMO and made with organic cane sugar...with zero corn syrup, artificial flavors/colors, or preservatives. Smashcrispy is currently available in a trio of fun flavors: Mint Chocolate Chip, Strawberries & Cream, and Cinnamon Churro (my fave!!). To find Smashmallow or Smashcrispy near you, check out the store locator on their website.

. (4) MasterPan Divided Skillet Collection. After receiving positive feedback from users of its original five-section MasterPan, its creator introduced a trio of smaller, convenient, and versatile 2- and 3-section MasterPan versions earlier this year via a Kickstarter campaign. These innovative skillets allow users to prepare full meals using a single pan -- including a full breakfast of eggs, pancakes, and sausage! The collection of safe non-stick pans features a full grill, a two-section pan that features flat skillet and raised grill sections, and a three-section skillet that's ideal for making pancakes or burger patties. I use the two-section grill in my kitchen at least twice a week to grill fish or chicken while I saute veggies on the flat skillet -- it's perfect for cooking for the two of us! All MasterPans feature a detachable handle for use in the oven -- up 360°, an induction steel plate for even heat distribution on any type of stove top, and a handy optional Universal glass lid that fits all MasterPans. To order, visit the MasterPan Kickstarter page.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Weekend Gourmet Flashback: Halloween Crunch Truffles #boorific #halloweensnacks #familyfriendly

It's time to cue the ghosts and goblins...and fire up your favorite scary movies. That's right...Halloween is NEXT WEEK!! Today, I'm reaching way back into The Weekend Gourmet archives to re-share one of my most popular Halloween goodies: Halloween Crunch Truffles! The filling for these UNscary truffles is flavored with a duo of crunchy goodies. After being coated with colorful candy melts, they're decorated with fun seasonal Halloween sprinkles. The key is to have fun and let your creativity flow. Bonus: because an oven or stove isn't required to make these no-bake goodies, it's a perfect kid-friendly kitchen project!

These truffles get their crunch from a combination of crispy rice cereal and crushed Biscoff cookies. They're also flavored with cookie butter, marshmallow fluff, and a bit of powdered sugar to hold the filling together. The filling is rolled into bite-size balls and chilled before being dipped and decorated. The flavors are perfect for Fall, with hints of gingerbread and other warm spices. Watch out, though...these Halloween treats are wickedly addictive!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Preview: 2018 Texas Monthly BBQ Fest Weekend November 3-4 #TMBBQ #BestInTexas #WGTravel

Attention Texas BBQ lovers! What if I told you that you could sample BBQ from select Texas Monthly Top 50 Barbecue Joints in Texas in one place during one delicious afternoon? This scenario is a dream come true for all Texas BBQ fanatics! Texas Monthly magazine's 9th annual Texas Monthly BBQ Fest Weekend is being held November 3-4 in Austin. Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew will host its 'Cue Course event on Saturday, November 3rd, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm -- tickets are $95/person. From 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. that day, Franklin Barbecue will host the Franklin & Friends event -- tickets are $125/person. The weekend's marquee event -- The Texas Monthly BBQ Fest -- will take place at the Long Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, November 4th. This smoketacular event will take place from 1:00-4:00 p.m. VIP Tickets are $165 (includes early entry to the event at noon), and General Admission tickets are $80. 

This will be our fifth time to attend and cover the BBQ Fest, and it’s always a great time! We always have a great time visiting with the pitmasters and sampling their smoky specialties -- from both long-time favorite BBQ joints and new discoveries! This year, 30 of Texas' best BBQ joints from all regions of the state are taking part in the event. Be sure to click on each link below to visit participating BBQ joints' websites and check them out ahead of the BBQ Fest!!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Lang's Chocolates Keystone Pantry Allulose Blogger Recipe Challenge...Featuring Decadent Carb-Friendly Pumpkin-Pecan Salted Caramel Sauce #Keystonepantry #Alluloserecipe

Photo provided by Keystone Pantry
  • I was recently invited to participate in Lang's Chocolates Keystone Pantry Allulose Blogger Recipe Challenge! Keystone Pantry Allulose is a natural rare sugar, which means it naturally occurs in natural products --  and it has only 1 calorie per teaspoon (!!). Here's some handy facts about Allulose:
  • Allulose has the same bulk and browning characteristics as higher-calorie white sugar -- with almost none of the calories. 
  • Allulose is gluten-free, vegan, Kosher, diabetic-friendly, and free of sugar alcohols.
  • Allulose doesn't have an impact on blood sugar levels -- which sounds good to me! 
I was very excited to enter this contest, because we've been trying to reduce our consumption of white sugar and chemical-laden sugar substitutes. This recipe contest has three categories: Dessert and Baked Goods; Sauce, Marinade, or BBQ; and Entrée. My recipe entry is for the Sauce, Marinade, or BBQ category...I hope it's a winner!

My Carb-Friendly Pumpkin-Pecan Salted Caramel Sauce is decadent and sweet...but it has fewer calories and carbs because I used Allulose instead of white sugar! The addition of seasonal cinnamon, nutmeg, a touch of pumpkin puree, and chopped pecans takes this versatile salted caramel sauce truly over the top! You'll need to give this caramel sauce about 15 minutes of your undivided attention once you start making it. Caramel can go from golden perfection to burnt and ruined very quickly. However, your patience will be rewarded with four 8-ounce jars of delicious Fall-inspired salted caramel sauce -- enough to share! If you're intimidated by making a homemade caramel sauce, don't be! This recipe is very simple, and the final results are versatile and delicious. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road: UNT Mini Reunion at Fairmont Dallas #lifetimefrends #celebration

Earlier this year, Michael and I took part in a very special overnight mini reunion with a trio of my University of North Texas (UNT) roommates/sorority sisters in Dallas. We've been friends since living in Maple Hall dorm in 1986 -- that's more than THREE DECADES of friendship, folks! These days, the three of us live all over the globe...literally! Two of us are here in Central Texas, one lives in northern California, and one is across the globe in Singapore. Opportunities for all three of us to spend time together take a bit of coordinating. We all coordinated our schedules this Summer to meet for one very special evening at the elegant Fairmont Dallas hotel.
This mini reunion was extra special for Michael and I in the aftermath of my stroke last November. I'm very blessed to still be here to make new memories with these amazing lifelong friends! These three ladies organized and hosted a YouCaring fundraiser for us last year to help pay medical expenses while I was recovering from my stroke. This mini reunion was the perfect opportunity for us to thank them in person!

The Fairmont Dallas is conveniently located in the heart of Downtown Dallas -- near tons of great restaurants and popular local attractions. The hotel was a perfect home base for our evening together! From a convenient, onsite Starbucks to a fabulous outdoor pool surrounded by picturesque view of Downtown Dallas, this 545-room luxury hotel is ideal for getaway -- both romantic weekends for two AND fun Girls Getaways. As this video shows, Fairmont Dallas offers everything you need for a memorable stay!

Michael and I arrived at the Fairmont first, along with our teenage niece Lili. Our room was spacious, with two Queen beds and a large marble bathroom. The first thing we noticed was a lovely welcome card and amenity from the Fairmont Dallas' management team -- a sampler of macarons and a bottle of chilled champagne! We settled in and shared the cookies while we waited for two of my girls to arrive. Stephanie and Debbie were staying in the room right next to us. How fitting that we were rooming side by side...just like we did at UNT's Maple Hall dorm in the 80's. The significant difference is that the Fairmont Dallas is a bit more posh than a college dorm...and no sharing one bathroom! After tons of hugs, we spent some time visiting and catching up. Before we knew it, it was time to meet our friend Liz and her son for a fun, casual dinner at Easy Slider Deep Ellum. The restaurant is located in the nearby funky Deep Ellum Historic District -- a quick 10-minute drive from the Fairmont.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Best Road Trip Snacks and Beverages #WGTravel #roadtrip

Today, The Weekend Gourmet is embarking on a weeklong road trip from our home in Texas to Santa Fe, New Mexico! En route to Santa Fe, we'll stop at Big Spring and Pecos here in well as Las Cruces, White Sands, and Albuquerque in New Mexico. During our return trip, we'll also spend the night in Midland here in Texas. Being able to travel again for this website was one of my primary goals during my stroke rehab. I love to explore new places...and their regional being able to travel and eat were huge motivating factors during my healing process! Planning this weeklong road trip involved multitasking and organization, so it actually served as part of my ongoing outpatient occupational therapy. One important component of a road trip is making sure you have plenty of yummy snacks and drinks to enjoy along your route. Typically, we stop along the way and purchase snacks. Our route for this trip includes long stretches of road with few -- if any -- places to I assembled a collection of snacks and beverages! They're also great to have in our room for late-night munchies. The companies and products I selected for this trip include a few standby favorites -- as well as plenty of new-to-me items. 
  • Bohana Popped Water Lily Seed Snack. Popped water lily seeds have been eaten in India for thousands of years. Bohana flavors these grain-free puffs with Himalayan sea salt, mild cheddar cheese, or a combination of soulful spices. The flavor of the popped water lily snacks is mild and slightly nutty. The texture is less fluffy than popcorn, but not as crunchy as a chip. Once your start, it's hard to stop eating them! As an added plus, each 60-pop serving is just 120 calories.
  • IncrediPuffs. These delicious plant-based snack puffs are baked instead of fried, gluten free, and have 30% less fat than traditional potato chips. With fun flavors like Cheesy Cheddar, spicy Sizzlin' Sriracha, and robust Sicilian Pizza, these healthier plant-based puffs have zero artificial flavors and trans fat. Each 1-ounce serving contains approximately 140 calories.
  • Popchip Nutter Puffs. This crunch puff is an ideal snack for peanut butter lovers! Popchips created this salty-sweet puff, which combines the creaminess of real peanut butter with the crispiness of a snack puff. Each serving provides 5 grams of protein from real peanut butter...and just 120 calories. Flavors include Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter & Honey, and Peanut Butter & Chocolate. All three are totally delish. Happy snacking!
  • Moon Cheese Crunchy Snacks. Moon Cheese has one simple ingredient: cheese! They use a patented technique to remove all of the moisture from bite-sized pieces of cheese. The result is an all-natural crunchy snack that's high protein and calcium...and very low in carbs. It's downright addictive! Flavors include Cheddar, Gouda, and spicy Pepper Jack. A six-piece serving averages 70 calories, 5 grams of fat, and zero carbs.
  • Bissinger's Gummy Pandas...and a Chocolate Bar for Fun! Bissinger's is known for its decadent chocolate, but they also have a fabulous line of gourmet Gummy Pandas in creative flavors like Blueberry Acai and Blackberry Hibiscus. These aren't the gummies of your youth! These tasty treats are made with organic sweeteners and genuine fruit extracts. Speaking of sure to try Bissinger's creative European chocolate bars for a bit of decadence. I especially love their Dulce de Leche bar, which features buttery caramel flavored with a bit of cinnamon and fleur de sel. The caramel is inside a shell of deep milk chocolate
  • Holly Baking Cookie Brittle. This award-winning cookie brittle is crispy, perfectly buttery, and indeed crunchy (without being hard on your teeth). If you love crunchy cookies, this cookie brittle will definitely bring a huge smile to your face! It comes in seven delicious flavors, including: Butter Rich, Sweet Ginger, and Chocolate Chip. 
  • TCHO Chocolate. California-based TCHO chocolate partners with cacao farmers, cooperatives, and cocoa research institutes around the globe with one overriding goal: to produce the best cacao beans possible. They use these beans to create their Fair Trade organic chocolates. TCHO's line of eating chocolate ranges from milk to ultra dark. My personal favorite is their signature Mokaccino bar -- deep milk chocolate flavored with Blue Bottle Coffee. It tastes like a mashup of hot cocoa and cappuccino...swoon.
  • Goodie Girl Cookies Snack Packs. New York-based Goodie Girl offers a line of great tasting gluten free cookies. These cookies taste fabulous even if you're *not* gluten sensitive. Even better? Goodie Girl offers several all-natural flavors in convenient grab-and-go snack packs of eight cookies. These snack packs are perfect for road trips! We've tried the Chocolate Chunk (made with quinoa flour), Vanilla Cream, and Chocolate Cream and really enjoyed them. Very goodie, indeed
  • Frooze Balls Plant Powered Energy Balls. Frooze Balls were created in New Zealand and are now available in the U.S. These dairy free energy balls contain no refined sugar...and they're non-GMO, gluten-free, and vegan friendly! Each packet contains a single serving of five energy balls made from dates and/or raisins, nuts, and natural flavors. My personal favorite is the Salted Maple, which is similar to salted caramel...but healthier. Each single-serve bag contains less than 300 calories and about 6 grams of protein.
  • Siren Protein Bites. Siren's tag line is, "Innocent indulgence powered by plants." The protein in these delicious protein-based bites comes from peas. Each single serve pack contains less than 200 calories and provides 12 grams of filling plant-based protein. Siren snacks are free from grain, dairy, and soy.  They come in one of four flavors: Snickerdoodle, Lemon Poppy Seed, Cookie Dough, and Dark Chocolate Brownie.
  • thinkTHIN Protein Cakes. Talk about a win-win situation: satisfy your snack cravings in a healthier way that's also a great source of protein!  thinkTHIN's fun Protein Cakes come in a trio of classic cake flavors: Birthday Cake, Chocolate Cake, and Red Velvet. Each gluten-free two-pack has just 170 calories and provides 12 grams of protein...with just 1 gram of sugar. What a fun, healthy way to slay your sweet cravings!
  • B. Nutty Peanut Butter. I'm a peanut butter lover from way back, so I'm nutty for B. Nutty's creative line of flavored peanut butters! They use US-grown peanuts to create the honey-roasted peanut butter base for all of their creative flavors. We're bringing two jars of B. Nutty on our trip: Blissful Blueberry and seasonal Pumpkin Spice. The blueberry is flavored with dried blueberries and milk chocolate (!!), and the pumpkin variety is flavored with pumpkin flakes and pumpkin pie spice. Both flavors will be perfect spread on crackers for a delicious on-the-go breakfast or snack
  • Base Culture Paleo Brownies. Whether you follow a paleo lifestyle or not, you'll love Base Culture's amazing brownies and bars! They're preservative free and made with simple, clean ingredients -- including bananas, almond butter, honey, and eggs. Base Culture sweet treats include Almond Butter Paleo Brownies, Raspberry Cocoa Brownies, and the lightly sweet new Cashew Butter Blondie.
  • Fairytale Brownies Fairytale Medley. Phoenix-based Fairytale Brownies creates a line of decadent, fudgy brownies in a wide range of delicious flavors -- and sizes. These brownies are truly an indulgence! They're made with natural ingredients like Callebaut Belgian dark chocolate, creamery butter, fine cake flour, and fresh eggs. Further, they don't use trans fats, preservatives, or artificial colors. The Fairytale Medley box contains three full-size brownies, six Fairytale Sprites (3-4 bites), and a dozen Magic Morsel bite-size brownies -- which are perfect when you just want "a little something sweet!"  Fairytale Brownies come in a dozen flavors, including: Toffee Crunch, Cream Cheese, and Pecan.