Sunday, April 15, 2018

Four-day pot of beans and beverages with Mom

 
            Four-day pot of beans: The beans didn't even smell that good, but I'd become intimate with them over several days, and I couldn't bear to throw them out. The bean mix and been in a beautiful display jar and it was time for them to go from d├ęcor to dinner. I soaked them a day then put them in a big pot on day two, even though I knew I wouldn't be eating them that day. When I took them out on day three, they were still tough so they went back on to simmer. I got a better offer for dinner so they came out on day four and they were still a bit hard. In the mean time there was a bit of scorching so I transferred them to a smaller pot and started scrubbing the first one, and I had a bright idea to drain them so they'd be more of a soup one night and then more of a side dish later. A strainer and more spoons went into the sink. Finally, it was time to eat those little guys. They were simply a big pot of failure. Bean there?


                  Spicy Skittles?
                             Skittles are so not my thing. But my daughter wanted me to try their Sweet Heat version, promising fruity flavors with a spicy kick. So hey, Blazin Mango, Flamin' Orange and Lemon Spark are pretty kicky and addictive. I think someone before me ate all the Fiery Watermelon and Sizzlin' Strawberries out of the pack.


Purity Vodka is certified organic and gluten free, so you might want to share it with your mom. Whoever got together to propose this pitch for Mother’s Day refreshments also noted the bottle’s diamond shape, which fits right in with honoring Mom.
            Makers want you to know that while most vodka brands are distilled “only a handful of times, Purity Vodka has an unprecedented 34 times distillation process and utilizes the finest organic ingredients for an exceptionally smooth, non-burning yet complex tasting vodka.”
            I will vouch for this smoothness, reflected in craftsmanship, and will share their concoctions with readers:  
Rosemary Hound
Ingredients:
  • 1 part simple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • one half part ruby red grapefruit juice
  • 2 slices ruby red grapefruit, for garnish
Directions:
  1. Place the grapefruit juice, Purity Vodka and 1 ounce rosemary and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice.
  1. Shake well to mix.
  1. Serve on the rocks, garnished with grapefruit slice. 
Cucumber Gimlet
Ingredients:
  • three fourths parts fresh squeezed lime juice
  • three fourths part simple syrup
  • 4 slices cucumber
  • 1 lime wheel
Directions:
  1. Add all ingredients into cocktail shaker filled with ice.
  1. Shake well and double strain into a large cocktail glass.

  1. Garnish with a lime wheel
  2.  


     

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Cajun flavors fan festival fun

 Wayne Toups can pack a house in Port Arthur and he proved it again at Cajun Heritage Fest this past weekend at the Carl A. Parker Center.
                             Big Doobie’s Boudin & Cracklins was another hit. Big batches of these hot, fatty, salty little pillows of Cajun heaven came out all day. People carried little brown paper bags of them around and crunched as they chatted, listened to music and decided when they’d hit the dance floor again.
                             Big Doobie’s isn’t a store, yet, but they’re on face book touting traditional Cajun meats made fresh per order. Big Doobie, Sis and June Bug were busy filling orders all day at the festival. Call Joshua Rodrigues at 409-548-3075 for more information.
                             The Knights of Peter Claver Council 3491 set up with selections including catfish and shrimp courtbouillon, my dinner choice. Boudain and crawfish vendors cooked all day and the aromas were as enjoyable as the music.
                             Meaux’s  Gumbo food truck made food lovers smile with their creations such as Cajun Dog and Split Decision. I’m not going to spill the red beans on what some of those dishes are. Enjoy for yourself.
                             Louisiana visitors to the Elite Redfish Series event, part of Cajun Heritage Festival, said Meaux’s gumbo looked, smelled and tasted authentic. The cook said he’s very aware about keeping his chicken at just the right temperature so that it doesn’t “break down.” If you find this yellow food truck in action, say hi and place your order.
                           
                 
                            “Fermentation Revolution”
                             How ironic that I accidentally spilled my mother’s glass of Easter wine on the cookbook I was so excited to show here, “Fermentation Revolution: 70 Easy, Healthy Recipes for Sauerkraut, Kombucha, Kimchi and More.”
                             Photos of Sebastien Bureau and David Cote, authors, look like these guys had an extreme amount of fun concocting these blends such as Ginger Bug, for making your own ginger beer; Fermented Garlic Scape and Brazil Nut Bruschetta Tapenade, 
pen            a Sunday cocktail called Your Sister on a Skateboard; and Lactofermented Fiddleheads.
                             The spill thing is funny, because colorful ink blots that look like the kind of good, fun, messy cooking these authors enjoy, are part of the book’s design. The real-life blotch blended right in. You’ve got to get a little loose to create flavors this explosive.
                             They literally had me at  Lactofermented Grape Leaves because I was keeping an eye on the vines growing on my patio that I gathered in the urban wild. I wanted to eat them with something, but what? These author’s note that ideally, one should use “grape leaves that were picked from a garden or plucked surreptitiously from the back alley lane of your neighbor… who isn’t using them anyway.”
                             So you can brine these leaves to use in sorghum and honey rolls, recipe included, and pair them with a glass of wine and…. Here they suggest a lax dress code, but add that you can wear your bathing suit if it makes you more comfortable. I willing to prepare and taste all these recipes, but it sure would be more fun to eat it with these two guys. Here’s more of their pairing suggestions:

                             * Fermented Banana Bread – To eat with warm thoughts of  your grandmother.
                             * Bajan Hot Pepper Sauce -  Use on any food that’s short on personality and, while eating it, try your best to add the fact that you’ve added a bit too much.
                             * Mustard – Use without skimping on anything that goes nicely with the color yellow.
                             darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Olive this dip


                            The Easter season is just right for dipping bread in to olive oil and home-grown herbs give your blend a visual and culinary boost. My latest batch kept red pepper on the side in case any guests had spice issues. Canned olives and fresh oregano and rosemary enhanced the flavor of oil drizzled into a dish. It’s an appetizing appetizer.


                            

                             Rotarygrams making history
                             History talk, April 23: Marilyn Manson-Hayes will present 1930s Beaumont Voices at a free multi-media event. Period essays will be accompanied by a historically-pertinent commentary enhanced with radio, movie clips, music and pictures.
                             Essays are from Chester A. Easley – a Baptist Texas-born owner of Seaport Coal Company, and Samuel Rosinger, a Hungarian immigrant and rabbi of Temple Emanuel, who wrote essays for Rotarygrams newsletters for about seven years. The event will be from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Student Lecture Landes Auditorium, Galloway Building at Lamar University in Beaumont and from 5 to 7 p.m. at the public performance University Theatre at Lamar. The Center for History & Culture of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast at Lamar University will present the program. Manson-Hayes told me she hopes Culinary Thrill Seeking readers will come and enjoy the evening reception. For information, call Mary L. Scheer at 409-880-8518.


                            Cajun Heritage Festival reminder
                             Wayne Toups is the still hot with Port Arthur fans and he’s expected to be a big hit at Cajun Heritage Festival on April 7 in Port Arthur at the Carl A. Parker Multipurpose Center. The Elite Redfish Series will be in town with free weigh-in shows April 5-7 at the center.
                             For information on festival tickets, go to www.CajunHeritageFest.com and get your mouth set for some Cajun cuisine. Here’s the scoop: “The Cajun Heritage Fest is back with more music and food than you can shake a stick at! This year Wayne Toups and Royal BluGarou head the festival. Returning for their third year in a row, Jamie Bergeron and the Kickin' Cajuns will be in the house. Travis Matte and the Kingpins and Donovan Bourque & Friends! So come on! Dance to that foot-tapping music, chow down on the rich, delicious Cajun cuisine and have some fun!”


                   
                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Palms and Passover


                            A pre-Passover meal, a post-Christmas party and Palm Sunday were weekend highlights.
                             The Passover, or Pesach, observance was at a family home with guests from several faith backgrounds. We all read parts from the ceremony as the hosts explained our actions. We all leaned to the left as we partook of wine or grape juice because it was historically thought that this position of reclining at table aided digestion.
                             Other tidbits I learned were that the man of the house traditionally shreds the spicy horseradish and the act represents tears he may have caused his wife. Homemade matzo should be prepared in less than 17 minutes to signify the haste with which the original meal was made.
                             This experience, with singing and guitar as part of it, was emotional and lovely as new friends were introduced to new traditions.
                             The Christmas affair was at the home of a friend who missed celebrating the holiday, because of Harvey. She’s back in her home and couldn’t pass on setting up a tree. Christmas music, Tex-Mex flavors and a white elephant exchange made spirits bright. The funny part is, beach bags and towels were fought-for prizes at this Christmas party. Hey, it was snowing to our north, but we Texans are ready for the shore.



                             “A Taste of Pesach 2”
                             Pesach If you know how to plate gourmet, you don’t have to cook gourmet. That’s purpose of the spread in “A Taste of Pesach 2,” picturing how slices gefiltefish becomes artwork beside a row of sliced cucumbers, spiralized beets and a clear dish of pink condiment. Stacked plates go high, brushstrokes of sauces are background for ribs, fruit cups are layered like stained glass and cakes get a swipe of puree on the side. All these nuances transform a meal into a celebration. I’m getting useful ideas for plating leftovers. Potato-stuffed chicken capons, doughless potato knishes, spinach nests jalapeno sole, apple-apricot kugel and matzo kugel are some tastes cooks can create from this book. The photographs and recipes make this book stand out. It’s a project of Yeshiva Me’on HaTorah, a dormitory Mesivta High School and Beis Medrash, founced in 2005 in Roosevelt New Jersey. The group strives to help young boys develop into budding Torah scholars. Pesach, or Passover, is from March 30 to April 7 of this year.
                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Monday, March 5, 2018

Joy goes green and Karrie stays frozen

     


                  Joy goes green for St. Pat’s
                            I had the pleasure of being invited for some original live music at a spiritual community. The Rev. Joy Walker, minister, invites everybody, every week. When I heard there are sometimes potlucks, and the one in March would be comprised of green foods, I had to get there.
                             The music, hospitality and message all combined for a lovely morning at Unity of Southeast Texas. Walker’s Easter season message comes from Paul: “ Be ye transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
                             After the program everyone gathered at a long table covered with shamrocks and gold coins after helping themselves to the spread. Greens with bacon, cabbage, guacamole, salad with kiwi and a stunning green gelatin with grapes that shimmered like emeralds kept the fellowship going.This potluck was like a pot of gold on St. Patrick's Day.
                             The community features a labyrinth open to the public from sunup to sundown. Joy Walker invites everyone to learn more by emailing unitystex@yahoo.com

                         

 Let it go... frozen 
        Karrie Truman is chill. Frozen, actually. Truman, of happymoneysaver.com gives us “Seriously Good Freezer Meals,” which is a totally different take on what ‘80s mamas cooked up. Not knocking casseroles here. Truman has modern takes on those and a tempting array that goes way beyond.
                             I was taken by a photograph showing colorful, flat bags of prepped vegetables and sauces all stacked up for freezing. It brings out the best of OCD cooks. She begins with myths of make-ahead meals (they don’t have to be bland and mushy and she’ll show you how). Remember to label and date your creations and consider meal swaps with other creative cooks. Truman assures you can freeze chocolate, avocado with no skins, raw eggs with no shells and tortillas. Don’t try it with mayonnaise (it separates), radishes or cucumbers. What’s for dinner?
                                         Cauliflower Crave Soup, with bacon bits and fresh herbs sprinkled on top, sounds satisfying. Want to make a batch? Or five batches? Easy. Seriously Good Chili, Cashew Basil Chicken, Chicken Pesto Parmesan Shells and Peanut Perfection Pad Thai photo spreads definitely do not look like the freeze ahead meals you may be conjuring from past experiences.
                             The Island Pork page shows an aerial view of what looks like a pineapple with “skin” on lovingly flavoring the top layer of your future dinner(s). And there’s Bacon Carbonara Pasta Pie. Should I go on? Recipes are marked with a cent symbol when they are of great economic value and easy-to-read charts show how to make a large quantity or an even larger quantity. She’ll take you through breakfast, “meatless mains” and desserts in this Robert Rose book.
                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Full of Sass and Vinegar?


                            
                             Years ago I heard a celebrity downed vinegar shots to boost metabolism. I tried it, but that stuff is tart. Now apple cider vinegar is all the rage. It’s still strong, but it grows on you.
                                         I’m a sucker for blue glass at resale shops and spied a fancy shot glass for 50 cents. I chatted with the gentleman at checkout, telling him this would be my new vinegar glass and he took over the conversation sharing how he believes a daily ACV dose has healed him of a heap of ailments.
                             Now Vermont Village, the super-creative and organic souls they are, have come up with flavors to delight, including blueberries and honey, cranberries and honey and ginger and honey. It’s sooooo much more palatable.
                             Turmeric & Honey also comes “With the ‘Mother’ ” and the labels read “Yes, shake it! The best stuff is on the bottom.”
            Vermont Village’s Raw Apple Cider Sipping Vinegar is meant to take you through the cold and flu season. Makers will tell you why:
·        Raw apple cider vinegar helps to alkalinize the body, which creates an environment that kills bacteria and viruses
·        It boosts the immune system to help your body fight off any unwanted viruses and provide more energy
·        Vermont Village’s Raw Apple Cider Sipping Vinegar contains raw honey, which is full of natural anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals, and is known to be anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal
·        It’s also particularly good for gut health and the naturally occurring potassium found in it helps with thinning mucus.
Sold in individual 8 oz. bottles for $4.99, Vermont Village’s Raw Apple Cider Sipping Vinegars are available at Walmart locations across the United States and can be ordered and shipped directly to consumers via www.vermontvillage.com.
 
                 
                             From the shelves
                             Here’s a treat from another book reviewed here years ago. It sounds like it was ahead of its time:
                  “Secrets of Fat-Free Chinese Cooking” by Ying Chang Compestine:
                  This book has a Library of Congress date of 1997 and dishes such as Baked Yogurt Fish and tofu creations are still appealing to our healthy hearts today. Recipes are based on methods and flavor combos developed thousands of years ago. In this age were’ all about blender drinks, so the following sounds ultra contemporary:
                             Melon-Lemon-Ginger Shake
                             2 cups cantaloupe cubes
                             2 cups honeydew cubes
                             one fourth cup minced fresh ginger
                             5 ice cubes
                             Place all of the ingredients in a blender. Blend at high speed until smooth and frosty.
                             Pour into glasses and serve immediately for best color and taste.
                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Friday, February 16, 2018

Foodie titles, new and old



                                         “The Healthy Jewish Kitchen”
                                         A glamour shot of roasted carrots with little stems and grill marks, and a smear of green cream looks so appealing on the cover Paula Shoyer’s  new cookbook, the notion the tasteless carrot squares and peas we used to eat in the ‘70s never crossed my mind. These peas and carrots are her fresh take and a vision of how eating better can be an adventure.
                                         The very first recipe is a  salad for breakfast. Israeli herb and almond salad, with dill, parsley and cherry tomatoes has a lemon dressing and apparently appears in some version on every Israeli hotel breakfast buffet, goes with yogurt or eggs for breakfast and alongside any grilled fish, chicken or steak for lunch or dinner. To make your salad a meal, add chickpeas, feta or tuna.  Flip through for Japanese lamb chops with jalapeno, tamari soy and ginger. Grilled corn with cilantro pesto, chocolate quinoa cake and watermelon, peach and mint gazpacho  are some other flavors to make at home and feel like you’re dining at a trending restaurant.
                             This book’s subtitle is “Fresh, Contemporary Recipes for Every Occasion.” Shoyer writes that the opportunity to create this book came after a time of loss and grieving for her. I’d say she turned her outlook around by focusing on healthy flavors and how they can join people together at the table. It’s a long-lasting approach to wellness.


                             From the shelves
                             Have you been reading this column for 15 plus years? I still recall some lessons learned from some of the books on my shelves, but this Lent, I’m paring down and will share some joy from books I reviewed long, long ago. Here are two “wordy” tidbits from Webb Garrison:


                             Bring home the bacon
                             Biscuits as we southerners know them were once twice-cooked dry rounds of bread designed to not go moldy on a ship. To “make no bones” is a phrase stemming from the hesitant caution of choking on bones found in one’s food and bringing home the bacon was the prize in a 1445 newlywed game.
                             In England, a flitch of bacon was given to a couple, questioned by six bachelors and six maidens, determined to have the best first year of marriage living in the greatest harmony and fidelity. These tidbits are from the foodie section of “What’s in a Word?” Webb Garrison’s stories of 350 everyday words and phrases.
                              If you’ve lived high off the hog or jumped aboard the gravy train, you may wonder who did those things before you. In Garrison’s book “Why You Say It,” phrases such as this are explained. This may be a rehash, as we’re going over it again. This phrase evolved from English squires who couldn’t afford to waste meat. Landlords served a hash of shoulder meat after the best parts were removed. If boarders complained, they may find leftovers the next day, in some other form, according to the book.
                 
                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com