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



Sunday, February 11, 2018

Fish and chocolate for Wednesday

   Wednesday will be double busy as some Port Arthur-area observe St. Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday.
                             Sweethearts indulge in chocolate and Champaign on a typical Feb. 14, but this season it falls on the day where some are abstaining from meat and treats at the beginning of Lent.
                             While it may seem  to those who don’t follow the tradition that Lent is all about eating more fish, but it’s actually about not eating meat on Fridays (and so many more reflective though processes). These days we are as likely to make meals from kale and quinoa salads as fish filet sandwiches from a drive through. I think it’s more fun to experiment with different flavors and learn about different cultures during the season.
                             That said, I have collected tins of seafood that are easy to pop into a lunch bag. We’ve come a long way from the cans of sardines on pantry shelves in the ‘70s. I’m partial to braised eel, smoked oysters and several varieties of seafood packed in those little tins.
                             Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve also got my eye on projects I can attempt to “upcycle” those tins. Planting succulents is an easy one. Gluing on jewels to make a 3-D photo frame is a bit more challenging. I’ll likely never get to fashioning one of those little sleeping beds for tiny stuffed critters from a sardine can, but will just say, there sure are some clever crafters out there.

                              The remedy
                             Kitchen odor removal got stylish with “remodeez,” which are non-toxic, odor and moisture removers inviting you to outsmart smell. The green plastic package that looks like a bowtie fits into sneakers and other shapes in purple and blues do their work in your car, closet, luggage, backpack, camping gear, garbage pails and refrigerators. These look like some trendy gadgets you could get at The Container Store or Target. What? The remodeez publicists say you can.
                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Get ready to Mardi Gras


                             Let’s cover everything in green, purple and gold sugar. King cakes are popping up and the babies signal it’s time for the next party. Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas will spread the spirit in downtown Port Arthur from Feb. 8-11 and I’m ready to throw as many beads as I want to catch.
                             On the grounds and around town, I’m ready for flavors of crawfish, gumbo and boudain. See you out there!

                             On that note
                                         While Mardi Gras may be a season of  indulgences, the leaner times of Lent are soon to come. This is a time I remind myself that a little can go a long way. To some, it’s all or nothing, but I’ve learned that measuring spoons can actually help you be mindful of portions, such as pure maple syrup on your French toast. You don’t need to have it all, but enjoying what you do have is what it’s all about.


                            
                             The Collection
                             One of the most fun gift shops in Groves, The Collection, also features a shop at 4036 Dowlen Road, in Beaumont. I noticed the sign as I headed to Sweet Basil for some tofu and noodles. They’re nearly neighbors in the strip mall, with Madison’s on Dowlen. The Pandora posters, and my asking, confirmed the Groves connection to this The Collection.
                             So Culinary Thrill Seekers who enjoy shopping for fun trinkets for themselves, or seek a hostess gift for when they’re invited to a girls’ lunch, can pick up some trendy finds.

                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Friday, January 26, 2018

Fresh tastes from a book and a bison bar

 “Fresh Tastes from a Well-Seasoned Kitchen” is Lee Clayton Roper’s beautiful, big book of stories and more than 170 recipes and tips to “spark inspiration in your kitchen.”
                             Read this and you could be inspired to create a Mardi Gras brunch before heading out to the grounds in downtown Port Arthur. There’s enough menus to get you through the festivities, Feb. 8-11.
                             Spiced bacon twists, hearts of palm dip, Champaign cocktail and Cajun meatloaf are a few bites I’d love to try.
                             This book takes a diner throughout the year and makes things seem very doable, and edible.
                             “Well-Seasoned Inspirations” placed throughout the book are photos of friends and family whose ideas and methods have formed her experience. Several are noted to cook to taste instead of using precise measurements. That’s how I do it. Her husband, Robert, works backwards by imagining the outcome and adjusting for flavors and textures.
                             His quote: “If you know where you want to end up, it’s a lot easier to get there.”
                             Here’s a quickie sample from this book that is sure to inspire. The Pecan Shortbread Bars recipe is in the book. 
Butter-Rum Glaze for Pecan Shortbread Bars
                  2 tablespoons butter, melted
                  1 tablespoon rum
                  1 cup powdered sugar
                  Stir together.


                            A dough ball of ice cream
                             My/mo is Mochi ice cream that invites you to pinch, poke, roll, stack and share it. The green tea, chocolate and sweet mango flavors of premium ice cream I tried pop out of what looks like an ice tray.
                             Let them thaw a minute or two and start playing. The deal is, each ball of delicious ice cream is surrounded by sweet dough.
                             Unusual, to say the least. Can you get used to it? I sure want more of the premium ice cream part.


                             Epic
                             When I got a coupon for an Epic bar, I thought I’d pick a chocolate one for a quick breakfast. On the shelf, I saw bars with pictures of animals. What? I chose bison and unwrapped a snack of 100 percent bison, uncured bacon, cranberry. It was sweet and filling and certainly a conversation piece. Check around the nutritional bars for other selections of animals.

                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Flavor combos popping up, oiled to energize


                             If  you keep in the news, you know it was recently National Popcorn Day. Okay, it was the lavish popcorn bar that greeted me at my credit union that filled me in. At Neches Federal Credit Union, they filled a table with an array of usual suspects in the toppings department. A buttery spray, a shaker of cheese flavoring and little chocolate-coated candies were popular choices. I was intrigued with the crushed Oreos. I chose that and a shake of red pepper. A head-turner at first, my conversation about it inspired others to investigate the combination.


                             Oiled up to energize
                             Pure essentials are an investment, and Karin Parramore’s book helps explain the labor and costs behind the gathering. I already enjoy using oils for calming and energizing fragrances that keep headaches away and elevate the mood.
                             “Aromatherapy with Essential Oil Diffusers: For Everyday Health & Wellness” is a guide for using oils to combat everything from sinus pain and coughs to wrinkles and pests. Everyone’s looking for more natural remedies and these oils are much more available than the were just a short time ago. The author will help you choose diffuser methods and blend up a little something for what’s bothering you. I enjoyed background about fragrance history from around the world. Imagine dipping your pen in scented ink to inscribe on floral-infused papers. Here are a few tips from the book:
                             To reduce the urge to eat, blend sweet orange, vanilla and cinnamon oils and sniff it when you are full, for about a week. After a week of training, sniff it when you think you want to eat, to help reduce cravings.
                             To curb coffee or sugar cravings, blend three drops back spruce or fir essential oil with 1 drop cacao or Peru blossom and 1 drop vetiver. Diffuse onto a terra cotta disc and place it in a sunny window to get the scent throughout the day.
                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Another cocktail (sauce) please


                            Sometimes dinner inspiration evolves from what I’m trying to “move” from the fridge. When I spied the jar of horseradish in the fridge, I thought it was time for seafood, so I started with cocktail sauce and went from there.
                            It was also a good way to use up some ketchup packets. I added lime juice and enjoyed with a packaged tray of boiled shrimp. I don’t know why I didn’t notice the tray came with a portion of sauce already.
                             So I saved the sauce and had to get more seafood for another meal. I came home with a bag of mixed seafood to boil and mentioned to my mother I would serve it with cocktail sauce. She offered me a bottle of ketchup she was eager to move from her pantry. I took it, even though I would have rather used up more packets. Then on the way out the door, she offered me her jar of horseradish. I was still trying to use up my jar.
                             So now we’re looking for more seafood and have enough stock for at least three more batches of sauce.
                             Here are some things I add when mixing and matching:
                             Ketchup
                             Horseradish, liberally     
                             Lime or lemon juice                                                                                                          Worchestershire sauce   
                             Vinegar slash. I promise, a crawfish vendor taught me this trick.
                             Any readers have more ideas? Send them this way and we can share.





                  Easy cooking, compared with 1800s
                             When history books come my way, I go looking for a food reference. I just got reminded how laborious it was to preserve your butchered hog, cook bent over to fuel your fire and keep ash out of your food that offered little variety. Then along came cast iron stoves, recipe books with actual measurements, appliances and methods that opened up the cook’s world, but still involved countless hours that we avoid today with coffee makers and microwaves.
                              “Cooking with Gas: The Quiet Revolution,” is Charles Williams’ contribution to “Legends and Life in Texas: Folklore from the Lone Star State in Stories and Song.” History lovers, get your copy from University of North Texas Press.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Get your soup on in January


                             The concept of a steaming bowl of hot soup is interchangeable with a bowl of “hot gumbo” around these parts. At Christmas Eve church services a number of families noted they were headed home for their traditional holiday gumbo.
                             January as National Soup Month should be celebrated by more than retailers. It’s a time to branch out into creamy delicacies, hearty stews and fortifying broths.
                             I’ve dropped some boullion cubes into a carafe of bean mix to serve as decorating until I have time to soak and simmer those beans into a soup to last all week.
                             Something I love about soup is that it revives leftovers, transforming those little containers of this and that into something new.
                             Some add-in or topping tips:
                             * Greek yogurt
                             * Cheese
                             * Chopped onions
                            * Sprig of oregano
                             * Nuts
                             Readers, feel free to share your favorite soups, recipes or tips with us via the e mail below. We love talking soup.
                             Celebrate the soup this month by trying a flavor from a different culture. It seems we all have a soup to identify ourselves.
                            
                            


                  Zatarain’s gets you seasoned for Mardi Gras
                              Zatarain’s has a box of Cinaltro Lime rice mix that’s a quick fix and history lesson, with the label noting that the Spanish introduced this crop to the Mexican culture centuries ago. The box notes this rice dish is an ideal complment to fajitas, tacos, enchiladas and burritos. I will add tamales. That’s what I serve another January birthday girl. This quiet meal turned into “the birthday that ended in a frantic search for Allen wrenches," but that is another story.
                             Zatarain’s jambalaya mix boxes suggest you add meat for a one-pot dinner. That’s the sort of  thing you need for Mardi Gras season when you’re headed to ball fittings, krewe meetings, etc. Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas is Feb. 8-11 this year. See you on the grounds in downtown Port Arthur.