Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bacon on the brain

My mom tried a recipe for this Dijon mustard spread that you bake onto a head of cauliflower. She added a bacon weave, so the finished work looked like a brain with a bacon cap. We called it Bacon on the Brain. The spread had seemingly-flavorful ingredients, but didn’t taste like anything, so the bacon did become the star. In thinking about people who love vegetables, we thought this would make a great presentation for vegetarians, before remembering that of course, they don’t eat bacon. This is like trying to turn on the lights to find the candles because the electricity is out.

Hominy salads are there?
My husband needed a covered dish for work so I thought about what I had on hand: Rice and hominy. How about a salad with that? I Googled it, it’s a thing. Closer to the event, I didn’t have the time to make the rice, so it became a straight up hominy salad. I snagged some for my lunch and found my mixture of red and green onions, chipotle seasoning and fresh oregano leaves with vinegar and oil to be quite refreshing.
When the subject of hominy grits comes up, my husband invariably  asks “I don’t know? How many grits are there?”
There was apparently only one hominy salad at the covered dish.

The all-day tea bag
There’s something beyond my frugal nature (thanks, Dad) that drives me to employ the all-day tea bag technique. We’re supposed to drink lots of water, and I genuinely feel better when I do. So when I pull out one of my favorites, Tazo’s Passion flavor with hibiscus, I drop it in a pitcher of warm water and let it do its thing. So the first glasses are a deep red, and I keep adding water throughout the day until it’s a still-tasty light pink and I have drunk as much as I should to stay rehydrated in a Southeast Texas summer. I don’t consider that I’m drinking tea so much as delightfully flavored water.
Readers, do you have any tricks for flavored water? Send to me at:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lunch with Lucy at Kirby-Hill House

I’m guilty. I have heard about about this “treasure of the Big Thicket waiting to be discovered,” and I have not discovered it myself. I have met people who represent the Kountze spread and they are persuasive. One of them gave me “The Kirby-Hill House”cookbook, one of those spirals where the community shares their favorites. There’s a lot of soup offerings under the Lunch with Lucy section, and I think the lemon soup sounds like a great summer offering, It actually is written to add three teaspoons of rice. That seems miniscule, so I assume it’s a thickener. The other one I’m sharing is Love Soup. It sounds more like fall fare, but I just liked the name.

Lemon Soup
4 12-ounce cans chicken broth
3 teaspoons uncooked rice
3 eggs, beaten
3 teaspoons lemon juice
Cook the broth and rice until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Beat the eggs until light and gradually add lemon juice, beating until blended. Pour part of the hot soup slowly into the egg mixture, then return to the remainder of the soup. Do not heat further and if it should begin to curdle, beat with a rotary beater. Serve at once with lemon zest and curl on top. Serves six.

Love Soup
One third cup beef bouillon granules
One fourth cup dried minced onion
One half cup dried split peas
One half cup macaroni
One fourth cup barley
One half cup lentils
One third cup long grain white rice
1 cup tri-colored spiral pasta
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
Place all the ingredients except the pasta in a large soup pot. Add 12 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Add pasta and simmer 15 minutes more. Put cooked pasta into a bowl and add soup.

No. 23
For months I’ve kept No. 23 in my head for the date I return to Pho Ha on Nederland Avenue. Some one took me to lunch there and I saw two other culinary thrill seekers on my way in the door for the first time. They told me I’d love No. 23, but it was a Friday in Lent and I was going meatless. I enjoyed the meal I did have, but vowed to return for a bowl of vermicelli noodles topped with char-grilled meat, crispy bits, chopped nuts and fresh vegetables.
That day came and I also had the pleasure of introducing my mom to this aspect of Vietnamese food. She also succumbed to the No. 23 and, since she had phoned a friend for advice, asked for a side of spicy chicken sauce to go with it. While my husband enjoyed his lemon chicken over rice, he also kept his eyes on our No. 23 orders.
Our waiter must get asked how to pronounce the restaurant’s name daily. I’m still working on the concept that “pho,” the soup, is pronounced something like “fuh,” as in “fuhget about it.” The “Ha” comes from the owner’s wife’s name, he said.

Nuts about it
Taking my cue from Asian restaurants I have loved, I often use peanuts and other nuts as “croutons” on my salads. Nuts are good fats, the only problem is many of us can’t eat just a few. If you’re taking a salad to work, measure out a portion and that’s all you get. Add them at the last minute, after your simple-yet-complex vinegar and oil dressing you’ve created. Now you salad is healthy, classy and different from the usual fare.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The flavors of Southern Summer Night

Last year I danced with a priest. I might do that again, but I’ll also be into the beef teriyaki satays with honey sriracha dipping sauce and cheddar crab-stuffed jalapeno poppers with ranch cream cheese.
It’s time for Southern Summer Night, the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce night of food and music that will also benefit the Port Arthur International Seafarers’ Center. If you know about their good works, you can probably guess which priest and I cut a rug.
J.A.G. will return to the stage and Longneck Road will also play at the Carl A. Parker Multipurpose Center, with the fun going on from 8 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, July 19.
The heavy hor’ dourves menu has more surprises from Golden Triangle Chef’s Association and Christus St. Mary.
Some of the night’s proceeds will benefit the Port Arthur International Seafarers’ Center, an outreach for mariners calling on Port Arthur area docks. The Center hires drivers and provides a welcoming “home away from home” for mariners who can shop; get to church, hotels, airports and doctors; and communicate with their families.
Visit or call 409-963-1107 for your tickets.

One-stop yummy shop

Phoenicia Specialty Foods of Houston has received my summer business and admiration again. I returned to the big one at 12141 (way out) on Westheimer and took my husband to experience huge warehouse displays of jams, pickles, beans, tins of fish, oils, crackers and other staples from around the globe. There’s also the bread that comes from the sky, or at least the conveyor belt from the second floor. We ate lasagna and octopus salad at the deli and left with a cart full of culinary adventure. The store management posts the phrase “one stop yummy shop,” but I won’t disagree.

Frigidaire means professional
To have so much power in your hands is heady. Be careful where you point the Tri-Blade Immersion Blender/Mixer because you’re in business, now. The 10-inch wand is extra long and the dual-whisk mixing attachment is going to town for you and your dinner. Summer is the time to play with this very powerful package that will crush ice, turn your garden bounty into soups and transform fruits into cool beverages for the family. Frigidaire has rights to brag on this Velouté knife with vortex power. They’re also proud of the “extra large chopper with no mess.”
Right before I wrote this, I just silently buzzed some fresh jalapenos and red onions into a pico de gallo for my Tex-Mex breakfast. I’m planning to keep this beauty on my counter all summer. Best Buy and Lowes are among listed providers.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Do you need Southern cooking lessons?

Say yes, and you’re in for some temptations by studying Johnnie Gabriel’s latest book, “ How to Cook Like a Southerner: Classic Recipes from the South’s Best Down-Home Cooks.
Gabriel’s bakery and restaurant in Marietta, Ga. Is where you can just show up and enjoy the food, but this book is where she shares her family’s ways.
Along the way pick up four tips for cleaning mushrooms, some ways to enjoy a bounty of zucchini, how a tad of sugar brings out the best in roasted broccoli and a method for cutting corn from the cob. You are saving your bacon grease, right? You know how to make fried green tomatoes?
Southern cooks need to know these things. And by the way, Texas gets some good publicity in this book.
Gabriel is also author of “Second Helpings.”
Many of the recipes are very quick and/or easy to assemble. Here’s one that combines cheese and bacon in a very Southern way:

Hot Pimento Cheese Dip
This goes on sandwiches and is sold by the pound at Gabriel’s:
Three fourths cup mayonnaise
1 pound sugar
 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mild cheddar cheese (grate your own as pre-shredded will change consistency)
1 2-ounce jar diced pimentos, well drained
6 to 8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
1 to 2 Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
Pita chips for serving
In a medium bowl whisk the mayonnaise and the sugar. Add the cheese and the pimento, combining well.
Preheat the oven broiler on low setting.
Spread the desired amount of pimento cheese one half to 3 fourths of an inch deep onto an ovenproof serving plate. Sprinkle chopped bacon and tomato to taste over the top of the pimento cheese and plae under the broiler until the mixture is hot and beginning to bubble. Serve hot with pita chips.
* Try substituting carmelized nuts for the bacon and tomato

Breaking the rules cooking
Did you get to enjoy the Rotary fish fry? The slaw was good by itself, but I ended up with more little containers than I could eat at once. I minced fresh jalapenos, shredded lettuce and halved cherry tomatoes, then mixed in a container of slaw. It made an new salad that was creamy, with lots of textures, colors and crunch.

July is National Ice Cream Month
Ironicaly,  I’m observing this with DF MAVENS, dairy-free ice cream.
You’d never know that soy, coconut and almond makes this rich, gluten-free and kosher goodness. They may be in New York City, but I’m here to say they got New Orleans Salted Praline just right. Alphonso Mango and Key Lime Crème are other really amazing flavors I’ve tried.
I remember an aunt who topped her ice cream with a little banana. These days I go for a big bowl of healthy fruit with a dab of the frozen stuff on top. This is the best way to make sure your cartons of DF MAVENS last as long as possible. Also, you may want to tuck it in the freezer way behind the spinach so no one else knows it is there.

Coconut and what?
When Carrington Farms sent me two samples of flavored liquid coconut oil, in rosemary and garlic, all I could think about was breakfast for the next two days. I wanted to cook an egg in each flavor and had a tough time deciding which to try first. I won’t even try to decide which was more delicious. I wouldn’t have thought of these combos, but I’m glad Carrington Farms did.
Here’s why makers say coconut oil is trending:
Great for Sautéing - Coconut Oil has a higher smoke point than traditional olive oil
Chock Full of Nutrients - Rich in Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT's) which promote an increased calorie burn
Heart Health Benefits: Can improve cholesterol levels
   Brain Power: Fatty acids found in coconut oil can boost brain function
There’s a spray, too:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hug a tree? Hug an avocado

I can’t wait to eat half an avocado. Then I can use a Food Hugger for the leftover half. Seriously, Food Huggers are the deal. The round silicon disks go over and grip your partially-eaten lemons, tomatoes, etc. Different sizes do the job and I plan to be using the biggest one for purple onions. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you why, but purple onion halves are always coming into my life.
The avocado food hugger is a work of art because it even has space for the pit. It’ s like sculpture that keeps your food fresh.
I love eating even more than I hate wasting food, so this is a win-win situation. You can also cover opened cans and jars with this, so go be a Food Hugger.

CoolBrew can get hot
Toasted almond, mocha, vanilla and other CoolBrew Coffee Concentrate flavors are designed for hot and cold enjoyment, but this summer I’m running cool with the New-Orleans based fresh coffee fast concept. CoolBrew comes in a plastic container you squeeze and a space on top fills with your flavor. It’s up to you how you want to go with the rest. Make it hot (like the logo’s wisps of smoke that form a fleur de lis) or enjoy it over ice. This season, the iced coffee is where it’s at for me. For more adventures, use the coffee to make a barbecue sauce or go traditional with a fizzy brunch punch of CoolBrew Coffee Concentrate, vanilla ice cream, sparkling water, simple syrup or sugar and a garnish of cinnamon, nutmeg or cocoa powder.
This stuff is very easy to use and very delicious. Store your containers in the fridge and you’re good to go.

Power Snacks
Does Coffee Cacao and Lemon Goldenberry do it for you as a power snack? Navitas Naturals introduces these two new flavors of “bite sized goodness” in a line that the gluten and dairy free and organic raw superfood crowd with love.
Beware: You may fall into the “it’s good for me and I’m willing to try new things” category or the group of those who head to the vending machine for junk food. I know some health seekers who will love these browning-looking bites, but I served them to a bunch who recognized “those grainy things.” Three tasters skipped these in favor of a bowl of sugary snacks. One wouldn’t even try.
Even people who straddle should be culinary thrill seekers in the quest for food that nourishes and helps you become the person you want to be. Navitas Naturals is a company that those folks want to be associate with. Makers say:
“In addition to the raw Cacao Powder that Navitas Naturals is renowned for, the Coffee-Cacao Power Snack features these organic superfoods: Maca, Chia, Camu, Cashews, Green Coffee Powder and Lucuma. The superfoods in this energizing mocha snack are combined with other wholesome organic raw foods including date paste, raw almonds, fig paste and sunflower seeds. Along with Goldenberries from Colombia, the tart and sweet Lemon-Goldenberry Power Snack contains Maca, Chia, Camu, Cashews and Hemp superfoods, combined with date paste, fig paste, sunflower seeds, lemon juice, dried cranberries and orange peel powder.”

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Summer flavors to savor

I have uncluttered my pantry leaving just the good stuff. Here’s some of what is in there:

McCormick has been on top of the grilling scene for years with trends and flavors. I might as well keep the bottle of the new Chipotle & Roasted Garlic spice in my purse.
Packets you can grab in stores help you season your ground beef for burgers. Look for McCormick Grill Mates Steakhouse Burger Seasoning mixes in Smoky Applewood, Mushroom and Classic; McCormick Grill Mates Island Woodfire Grill Marinade; and Lawry’s Marinades in Cajun and Sweet Southern BBQ. Go ahead and make it easy in the kitchen, and spend more time with your guests. has more temptations.

The bread thing
The amazing aroma of fresh bread is as appealing on a summer day as it is come fall. Krusteaz has no knead mixes for Italian Herb, Cracked Wheat, Honey Wheat, Country White Bread and Sourdough that I’m working my way through. Those great smells will weaken any knees. So this all came about because my husband says he could eat pizza every day. When Krusteaz promoted a pizza made from the sourdough mix, I was all in, adding mushrooms, onions, sausage and tomato sauce. It was a beauty and gone in one sitting. This is how they do:

Pizza Variation

Prepare dough using one package Krusteaz Sourdough Bread Mix as directed. Transfer to lightly floured surface. Press dough into 14-inch circle. Place on lightly greased pizza pan. Let rest 10 minutes. Press again to edge of pan. Prick with fork tines at 1-inch intervals. Bake at 400ºF 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Top with your favorite ingredients. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes.

Taste the mango
Read the labels. A well-known brand is getting noticed in a not good way for not having as much of a natural ingredient as consumers may think. Enter Santa Cruz Organic®  making the good stuff you can taste. My mother enjoyed the pure flavor of mango lemonade as she sipped it on her patio and we also enjoyed the lemonade that would be a flavorful mix for adult beverages with a summery feel.
The company has tips for incorporating the organic lifestyle into your family’s habits:

1.       Take small steps – Take the first step with your staple shopping ingredients. Consider replacing conventional products one-by-one with organic alternatives. Make foods like fruits, vegetables, milk and meat your first priority.
2.       Plan an organic picnic – Enjoy the summer weather with an organic lunch, including Santa Cruz Organic Peanut Butters and Fruit Spreads. To help round it out, Santa Cruz Organic Fruit Sauces are a tasty, organic treat with each 4-ounce sauce cup providing 100% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of Vitamin C.
3.       Grow an organic garden – Why not grow your own organic vegetables and herbs? Plants like tomatoes, peppers, onions, potatoes and cucumbers are easy to grow and can be easily maintained on a rooftop or patio garden. Plus, it’s a great way to teach kids where food comes from and how it grows!
4.       Read the labels – Look for products with the “Certified USDA Organic” seal and read labels carefully to check out the main ingredients and any additives that may be included. The first ingredients listed should be common names and easy to pronounce.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

You don't need a stinking recipe

The opening story about a woman who was shopping and simply could not prepare a new recipe for cream of cauliflower soup without the brand of Mellow White Miso she could not find struck me. It haunts me. In “The No Recipe Cookbook: A beginner’s Guide to Cooking,” Susan Crowther recalls trying to help this women consider substitutes to no avail. The soup would not be made. I could never figure people not willing to be adventurous in the kitchen, but I do get a sense that some are not comfortable with their intuitions. Crowther teaches how to develop those feelings, and have fun with it.
If you can make a mud pie, you can cook, she insists. The basic recipe for anything is:
1.   Necessary ( main) ingredients
2.   Accessory ingredients
3.   Sauce
Here’s examples of how this comes into play:
Salad: The main is lettuce; accessories are onions, peppers and tomatoes and sauce is oil and vinegar.
Cheese sandwich: Main is bread and cheese; accessories are tomato, avocado and sprouts and sauce is mayonnaise.
Fritta: eggs; then mushrooms, spinach, herbs and cheese; them milk.
Get the idea? Then you can go nuts with her ideas, then you can get crazy with your own. By the way, she’s kind of a healthfood nut and is for sure an entertaining writer.
Infused water is so tempting
Of course you need to drink more water, especially in the summer. Contigo will help you do it. It’s an Autoseal Pitcher Set with an infuser stick, where you put your lemons, oranges, citrus, mint, cucumbers or whatever of nature’s bounty you want to show off, and the flavor comes through in this clear, pitcher. I wanted to keep raving about the sleek shape of the pitcher and the green and white lid that curves into a handle, but that sentence was getting long. You can fill the ice core with water and freeze to keep your creation chilled. One more thing: The tritan Body is shatter and odor resistant of BPA-free material. It’s a useful beauty.
Crazy pretzels pair with Humdinger honeys
I called it. I let the promoters of Henry’s Humdingers family of hot honey know that I think I’d like to meet Naughty Nana the most. She is a spicy pepper and ginger raw honey who wakes you up with toast in the morning. Diabolical Dad is my second new best friend, mixing habanero and lime raw honey. This family also includes Phoebe’s Fireball of Chipotle Chile and Cinnamon and Grumpy Grandpa with spicy red pepper and garlic. What do you do with these combos? Breakfast breads, toasty tortillas, chicken and beef can all get a glaze. My husband reminds me to stir it, because that top layer gets the most heat. Get your own recipes at I’m addicted.
The flavors pair well with Mary’s Gone Crackers Sticks & Twigs Sea Salt Pretzels  which are whole grain and gluten free rods that you can dip with what have you. These two brands can bring some conversation starters to your summer gatherings. Thanks Mary and Henry.