Sunday, May 31, 2009

Time for this week's Recipe of the Week! As promised a few days ago, today I'm sharing a super recipe for Grand Marnier French Toast that comes from 1801 First Bed and Breakfast in Napa, California! Michael and I stayed at this lovely inn for three nights in late April. Every morning, we started the day with a three-course gourmet breakfast. This was one the dishes we were served. 

The chef at the inn was kind enough to share the recipe with me so we can enjoy it at home!! Now I'm sharing it with all of YOU!! It takes a bit of time to get everything assembled and cooked, but I promise that it's well worth the end result! This is the perfect dish to serve for a lazy weekend breakfast...

1801 First's Grand Marnier French Toast 

1 1/2 cups milk
3 large eggs
Juice of 1 medium orange
2 tbs. vanilla
2 tbs. Grand Marnier
1 tbs. sugar
1 tbs. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch salt
Brioche (8 slices per loaf)
Maple pecan granola, crushed to medium coarse (I bought this in the bulk section at Central Market)

- Whisk together eggs, milk, juice, vanilla, Grand Marnier, sugar, zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a bowl.
- Soak bread slices in egg mixture for about 30 seconds.
- Pat granola on presentation side.
- Cook in mixture of butter and canola oil 3-5 minutes/side until crisp and browned. 
- Finish in a 350 oven for about 15 minutes...just enough time to make a smoothie and some bacon or sausage on the side...

- Slice each piece of french toast on a bias and set across each other.
- Serve with warm maple syrup.  I doctored mine by adding a bit of cinnamon, Grand Marnier, and vanilla to match the flavors of the toast...mmmm!
- You can also sprinkle with a bit of powdered sugar.
- The chef at 1801 First recommends serving with chicken apple sausages. I couldn't find those, but the butcher at Central Market recommended a yummy maple pork and blueberry sausage that was DELISH!

This morning we served the french toast with a simple smoothie on the side. The smoothie was made from a cup of frozen pineapple chunks, an organic banana, 1/3 cup fresh blackberries, six organic strawberries, 1/2 cup orange juice, and a container of blueberry yogurt. Healthy and so yummy...

Bon appetite, my friends :)!!!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

...a few thoughts

Saturday is officially wildcard day…when anything goes! So...what’s on my mind today? What it means to be a foodie. You hear the word thrown around a lot these's sort of a catch-all buzzword to describe anyone who enjoys food or cooking. Today, I want to talk about what being a foodie means to ME.

To me, a foodie is someone who is truly passionate about food: trying new foods and recipes, discovering how foods taste - alone and in different combinations, and cooking for the people who they care about. In my case, this can mean food that I make myself at home or food that I discover on one of the many "foodie adventures" I go on. A big part of the joy in discovering a new food, recipe, or restaurant is in the journey. There's always something new to discover and add to my "bag of tricks"!

I personally try to be responsible with my eating…meaning, I try to keep my foodie splurges to once or twice a week. I'm always fighting two opposite desires: the desire to eat lots of yummy food with the desire to still fit into my clothes :)!! Treadmill time helps a great deal in this quest! Besides, I think that I savor my splurges just a little more when I look forward to them as a special treat.

The rest of the time I try to eat pretty healthy: whole grains, lean protein, and fresh fruit and veggies. We’ve been eating a lot of organic strawberries the past couple of weeks because they’re in season: which means they’re ripe, juicy…and also budget-friendly! Healthy doesn’t have to mean bland and boring, though. I’m a HUGE fan of the recipes that can be found in the searchable database at Cooking Light magazine’s Web site: Their recipes feature healthy food that is still full of flavor.

What I try very hard NOT to be is a food snob, but I know that I can be at times. I love good cheese, organic produce, and expensive chocolate because I've found that you usually get what you pay for. I also love going to a four-star restaurant for a fancy multi-course meal. But I'm also a big fan of the Southern comfort foods that I grew up with: mashed potatoes, chicken and dumplings, fried seafood, etc. Food doesn't necessarily HAVE to be expensive or stuffy to be both tasty and soul-satisfying. My bottom line is pretty basic: If it tastes good, then I'll eat it!!

So that's what being a foodie means to ME. Now it's your turn to tell me what being a foodie...or an aspiring foodie...means to YOU!!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Foodie Hall of Fame

The first inductee into my Foodie Hall of Fame is Beecher’s Flagship Reserve cheese, which was named Best Cheddar Cheese in America in 2007. Michael and I first tasted this cheese on our recent trip to San Francisco. While there, we visited the out-of-this-world farmer’s market at the Ferry Building Marketplace. After wandering around the stalls outside for a bit, we headed inside the actual marketplace. One of the merchants is a cheese market called Cowgirl Creamery:

They were sampling Beecher’s Flagship Reserve, which is actually made in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. It’s not cheap at $22.95/lb., but we enjoyed it so much that we bought two small pieces. In fact, we loved this cheese so much that we were determined to get our hands on more of it when we got back home! As luck would have it, my beloved Central Market sells this cheese in its fantastic cheese shop…so we can easily buy more anytime we need a fix!

According to the Beecher’s Cheese website, Flagship Reserve is a special version of their signature Flagship cheese. It’s made only on days when the milk composition is just right. The last curds are used to produce this cheese. This allows for slightly lower moisture, a higher salt content, and a richer taste and texture…while still maintaining a clean, creamy finish. Flagship Reserve is traditionally cloth-bound and open-air aged. This allows a 14 to 16% moisture loss during aging, which concentrates its already rich flavor.

All I know is that this stuff is FANTASTIC!! You can eat it by itself, but I have also served it with some good-quality crackers and grapes. Beecher’s Flagship Reserve also pairs nicely with a Syrah or even with brown ale. I really want to encourage all of my cheese-loving friends to give this phenomenal cheese a try!!

P.S. Cowgirl Creamery makes superb cheeses as well. My favorite is Mt. Tam, a creamy triple-cream cheese. It’s firm, yet buttery…a bit similar to brie. By the way…Mt. Tam won 1st Prize in the soft-ripened category at this year’s American Cheese Society competition.

Thursday, May 28, 2009 now that I've actually started this little foodie blog, I figured that I should come up with some kind of organized format so this blog doesn't turn into a rambling, jumbled mess :)! So...starting with tomorrow's post, here's the kinds of things you can expect to see here on a daily basis:

Mondays – Kitchen Spotlight. I’ll share my favorite kitchen tools, gadgets, etc. The little (and not so little) things that make being a foodie so much easier and simpler.

Tuesdays – Restaurant Adventures. I’ll share restaurant news that I come across…and share dining experiences from some of my favorite restaurant meals, complete with pictures! What? YOU don’t take pictures of your food when you go out to eat?!?!?

– Lighten Up. I’ll take a high-calorie/high-fat recipe and show you how I lighten it up to make it healthier, but still delicious! Let’s face it…even if it’s healthy, you don’t want to eat it if it’s bland and boring!

 – Cookbook Corner. There are literally a bazillion cookbooks out there. I have amassed quite a collection over the years. I’ll share my favorites with you…and why I like them so much.

Fridays – Wendy’s Foodie Hall of Fame. The foods, places, and gadgets that are the cream of the crop!

– Wendy’s Wildcard. I’ll talk about whatever foodie stuff is on my mind that day. You never know what might show up: an iTunes playlist for a themed dinner party, a special party menu, or just random foodie thoughts ;)!!

Sundays – Recipe of the Week. I’ll share a recipe every Sunday…either a standby from my files OR something new that I tried and liked. Either way, I’ll try to include a picture. Sneak peek for this Sunday: Grand Marnier French Toast. I know…you’re drooling already. Trust me…it’s ok. This one is indeed drool-worthy!!

Now to get this blog officially christened!! As with most things in life, food and cooking are very subjective. What I love you might not…and vice versa. For instance, I simply can’t STAND olives…ick! But…since this is my little corner of cyberspace, I’ll be sharing my personal opinions and thoughts ;)! My first official task is to list 10 items that I always like to have on hand in my kitchen. These are the items that are always in my pantry, fridge, or freezer. With these items on hand, I can whip up a quick meal in no time flat! These aren’t in any particular order, by the way.

1. Extra virgin olive oil. For everyday use, I buy Colavita in the bulk section of my local grocery store. For special occasions, I recently discovered an amazing artisinal olive oil in Napa Valley. Round Pond produces a line of four AWESOME small-batch olive oils: Italian, Spanish, meyer lemon, and blood orange. All of them are fantastic, but I really love the meyer lemon!! They sell their products online…so check them out:

2. Parmigiano reggiano. Sure, it costs more than that grated Kraft stuff…but you get what you pay for, my friends! I buy it grated in small containers so it’s always fresh. I keep it in the fridge once I get it home.

3. Canned San Marzano tomatoes. Is there REALLY a difference? Yep…I’ve tried lots of canned tomatoes, but San Marzanos are just plain tastier. Why? According to my research, they come from a small town near Naples and were first grown in volcanic soil in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. The soil is thought to serve as a filter for water impurities. Compared to a roma tomato, San Marzanos are thinner and pointier. They also have fewer seeds, and taste much stronger and less acidic. Here's what one of the more commonly found cans looks like:

4. Rao’s basil marinara sauce. Yes, it’s pricy for a jarred sauce, but it really does taste homemade!! A good friend recommended it to me last year (thanks, Andie!), and now it’s the only sauce Michael will let into the kitchen!

5. Feta. Good old Athenos is ok in a pinch, but I prefer to buy sheep’s milk feta at Central Market, a Texas-based upscale grocery store, when I can. The difference in both texture and taste is very noticeable. Any grocery store with a good cheese section should sell fresh feta, though.

6. Rustichella D’abruzzo organic penne. Michael brought this home from Whole Foods a few months ago.One try and we were hooked. Nice taste and texture. The only pasta we’ll buy now.

7. Organic baby field greens. I keep these on hand all the time so I can whip up a salad at a moment’s notice. Didn’t your Mom tell you to “Eat your greens!” when you were growing up? She should have.

8. Rotisserie chicken. I prefer the ones at Costco…they’re bigger and cost less! This is a MUST in my kitchen for busy weeknight meals. I get two meals out of one chicken…we eat half of it plain roasted one night, then I use the other half in a pot of soup, a salad, or a casserole the next night!

9. Salsa. I live in San Antonio…where salsa is the condiment of choice. Sure, it’s great as a dip, but it has so many uses! It’s great on eggs…and you can make a killer southwest dressing by mixing it 50/50 with your favorite light Ranch dressing! My preference is Pace Thick and Chunky Medium.

1o. Newman’s Own Lighten Up dressings. Light Italian con Limon and Light Raspberry Walnut are my favorites. I try to eat healthy, but I don’t ever like to sacrifice taste. With these two dressings, I don’t have to!! They taste just as good as their full-fat counterparts, with much less fat. One is tart, the other sweet…so I have all my salad bases covered with these two bottles. It’s a crisis if we run out of either ;)!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Hello from San Antonio, Texas!! This place is home to some of the best Mexican food and margaritas to be found anywhere! I grew up in the Houston area and have lived in Texas my entire life. I am known among my circle of friends and family as a die-hard foodie...and a pretty good cook. I just know that cooking (and eating what I create) are two of the things that I enjoy most in life. So...I thought I'd start a blog to share fun finds that I come across on my foodie journey!! I'll share recipes I try and like, new foods I find...and who knows what else this will evolve into?

I also love to create playlists on iTunes to play in the background while I cook...and while we eat. It just sort of sets the right "atmosphere" so to speak. So...I might share some of those playlists along the way as well. My husband Michael and I just took a trip to San Francisco and Napa Valley last month. We're trying to learn more about wine and wine pairings, so the Napa leg of the trip was very informative. I love to incorporate my love of travel with my love of food, so I'm sure I'll be sharing more of that along the way too.

I just wanted to introduce myself today. Tomorrow's first "official" post will tell you my Top 10 favorite "essential" foodie necessities!!! See you tomorrow!!!