Sunday, May 21, 2017

Twist on the peach


                  So apparently Laura Sorkin is a mixer as well as a sugaring expert. She is co-founder of Runamok Maple and responsible for an idea sure to sweep across patios as the weather warms. This line of organic pure, infused, barrel-aged and smoked maple syrups is fancy from conception to packaging in beautiful bottles. Today I’m not even going into recipe cards featuring curried maple cashews with sausage crumbles or maple syrup and cheese paring ideas (try it on sturdy crackers). But I’m closer to the Tears of Joy idea for butter pecan ice cream with Rye Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup over sliced bananas.
                             It would be worth a Texas road trip to Fredericksburg for a peach to play with Sorkin’s Peach Sangria idea. It’s sure to pair well with the Cambridge, Vermont syrups. I tried the cardamom syrup over fruit and cheese and French toast crisped in coconut oil. Even though the sample was provided to me for the following, I’ve yet to find the perfect peach it deserves. The sample will be closely guarded in my pantry while I seek, but y’all go ahead and try the following:



1 cup red wine
1 peach or nectarine, sliced, pit removed
Juice of half an orange
1 tablespoon of Cardamom or Cinnamon + Vanilla Infused Maple Syrup (or to taste)
Add all ingredients together and stir. Let the mixture sit in the fridge for an hour to blend the flavors. Serve in a large glass over ice with orange rind garnish.


                      Clean it up
                      Austin residents are proud of their “greenness” and I’m sure they’re loving that Austin-based Lemi Shine is boasting “Clean Freak Approved” powerful formulas and safer products. They’re making cleaning a kitchen as fun as creating a gourmet mess. New to me, they’ve been at it since 1994. I’m loving the concept, the way my countertops look clean and the pleasant aromas. Look for dish soap and dishwasher pods as well.
                        According to the Austin-based company, which makes products powered by 100 percent natural citric extracts and no harsh chemicals, these are the top five cleaning fails:

  • Appliances: The insides of the dishwasher and the washing machine see a lot of dirt and germs – but people rarely clean the appliances themselves. Lemi Shine’s Appliance Cleaners for laundry and kitchen handle the problem with powerful citrus extracts.
  • Knobs, handles and faucets: Clean them once, but they’ll be dirty again as soon as they’re used again – probably about two minutes later. Lemi Shine’s new Everyday Cleaner with GunkGuard™ features a natural polymer that creates an invisible protective layer that actually prevents buildup for a long-lasting clean, plus citrus extracts that add polish and shine.
  • Toothbrush holders: These can collect high levels of bacteria over time. Hot water and a few drops of Lemi Shine Concentrated Dish Soap are strong enough to tackle the area with no harsh chemical residue that can be transferred to brushes.  
  • Laundry hamper liner: All the funk that’s on laundry – especially that workout wear with wicking technology that makes clothing retain sweat – is on the oft-overlooked hamper too. Lemi Shine’s new Laundry Booster with FunkGuard™ not only removes the odor, but also prevents it between washings.
  • Sponges: When used in tandem with the heat dry cycle, the top rack of the dishwasher is ideal for sanitizing dirty sponges. Lemi Shine’s safe, powerful dual-chamber Dishwashing Detergent pods have no toxic chemicals that could soak in and spread throughout your house every time you clean.
 Lemi Shine’s line of nontoxic household cleaning products, including kitchen and bathroom cleaners, appliance cleaners, detergent boosters and more, can be purchased at grocery stores and mass retailers nationwide or online at Walmart, Target, Lowes and Home Depot.
 
Other goodies
SinkShroom is new, since TubShroom. This is a smaller version bathroom sink version of the flexible drain insert that collects hair and jewelry from clogging your sink. Just take it out and use a paper towel to collect all the hair that’s wrapped around the sink. Just imagine how this tool eases the burden and adds to the efficiency of no one’s favorite task.

A “Toast”
Servers have come to instinctively help diners photograph their meals before digging in. It’s a thing. You want to look stylish while making style at Toast Tech Covers is offering wood veneers from the Pacific Northwest that “cover” you. It’s a peel-and-stick package that puts me in the mind of the “wood” strip on ‘70s station wagons. That’s a compliment, young techies. I stuck a wooden peacock feather onto my phone and I’ve had several inquiries. Toast is available in all manner of personal styles.
Toast Tech Covers is offering wood veneers from the Pacific Northwest that “cover” you. It’s a peel-and-stick package that puts me in the mind of the “wood” strip on ‘70s station wagons. That’s a compliment, young techies. I stuck a wooden peacock feather onto my phone and I’ve had several inquiries. Toast is available in all manner of personal styles.




Sunday, April 30, 2017

Gulf Coast Gala and JuJu's Crawfish Shak

Gulf Coast Gala

                      Frontmen of Country gave a professional, intimate perfume at Gulf Coast Gala with enough Texas and southern references to get the crowd engaged. I spied Carl Parker himself at the Carl A. Parker Multipourpose Center and tables full of the people who back Port Arthur. Ann Boutte elaborated on atmospheric decor that had already caught my attention. Glass centerpieces were filled with locally-sourced sea shells and colored class bits from the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant. Red ginger blooms and yellow carnation toppers emerged from the centerpieces making this a very "gulf coast" vision. Boutte said she herself had taken a hammer to recycle the discarded windows into workable pieces. What we do for art!

T




                  JuJu’s Cajun Crawfish Shak
                             JuJu’s was as fun as I’d imagined it would be all these years. I’ve been hearing JuJu’s offers especially good boiled crawfish and I finally got to experience it for myself. Don’t tell the rest of my family. They’re still waiting.
                             The original “shak” became too small, so I got the “new” shak on FM 365 in what you’d want to call the Fannette area. The menu is boiled crawfish and what comes with that, so that’s not hard. But there are plenty of  hand-lettered signs fashioned from cardboard boxes to help speed the ordering process.
                             You need to know how many pounds you want and there’s a two-pound minimum. That’s the hardest think you’ll be asked, unless it’s deciding your dipping sauce. I tried melted butter and imagined I was dunking tiny, spicy lobsters. They were actually very large and succulent crawfish. I loved that you get to order as many potatoes, corn cobbs and Zummo sausages as you see fit for yourself. I’ll be back.
               
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spices, smoothies and the right tools


                     

              Pho Vien Dong
                      There was just one other table at this “Far East Restaurant Vietnamese Cuisine” stop at 2523 Jefferson Drive, but as soon as I got seated the to-go crowd grew.
                      I enjoyed my vermicelli with grilled pork, shrimp and egg roll in a leisurely way. I loved hearing a woman order “those kind of chicken wings that you have that are so good.” There were a few chicken choices, but the order taker knew exactly what the woman was requesting.

                      The Activator
                      Nederland’s Smoothie King was hopping the other morning and I wonder if everybody had worked out, grabbed The Activator and headed off to a productive day at the office.
         I make banana smoothies all the time at home but they don’t have ingredients that Smoothie King reports are “specifically blended with optimal protein and key electrolytes.” This “re-launch” is geared to those looking to activate their tone. It’s blended as a post-workout smoothie to help repair and promote lean muscle, help guests stay hydrated, and keep them feeling fuller longer. They are blended with at least 23g of new, high-performance Gladiator® Complete Protein and will come in four different flavors: 

Strawberry Banana
Coconut Water, Strawberries, Bananas, Vanilla Gladiator® Protein

Blueberry Strawberry
Coconut Water, Strawberries, Blueberry Juice Blend, Strawberry Gladiator® Protein

Pineapple
Coconut Water, Bananas, Apple Juice, Pineapple, Vanilla Gladiator® Protein

Chocolate
Coconut Water, Bananas, Chocolate Gladiator® Protein, Protein Blend, 100 percent Cocoa
         My chocolate version was $7.69. I suppose that if a cool, creamy treat is what activates you, the promise of a post-workout treat will get you where you need to be.
         www.SmoothieKing.com






            All the right tools
                      I don’t gravitate to the self-checkout, but with only three items, I headed to the touch screen late on a Friday night. My first item drew the summons for assistance. A can of spray paint got me “carded.” Actually, I confirmed verbally that I was over 18 and there were no further probes. I asked the woman to stick around because the machine my question my other purchases: a super-strong glue and a box cutter.
                      I felt like I was gathering equipment for a West Side Story rumble. Some tough chick. The spray paint was not for grafitti, but to freshen up garden planters. The glue was to mend my herb pot and the blade was to better get into kitchen pantry stock.
          darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Amber Sunrise and an onion habit

 

         Amber Sunrise 
Make your own forecast for an Amber Sunrise by getting Community Coffee Company’s newest coffee item—the Amber Sunrise™ Blend, into your cup.
            In Southeast Texas, coffee lovers get excited when they see this red label from our Baton Rouge neighbors. It truly is a “community” thing. Since April in our area, we’ve had access to this “rich and vibrant blend” with a “lighter roast with a smooth finish.” I’ve tried it and liked it. Here’s another bonus: For every dollar redeemed on specially-marked coupons, Community Coffee Co. will donate a matching dollar to land preservation efforts along the gulf coast. Isn’t that enough to put some amber in your sunrise?
            Just the aroma of opening up a package of this family-owned product transports me back to family gatherings. The company is keeping up with modern trends of development and giving-back. I’m sharing Private Reserve Exclusive Coffee, marked “exclusive coffee availale through our long-standing relationships with the communities of Toledo and Labateca, for when my mom visits. We sat for coffee with the open package between us, just to inhale some more. Then it’s bak to another of the red labels, CafĂ© Special, a medium-dark roast marked smooth & full flavored. C’est bon!



Vid

              My onion habit
                      Onions and peppers are both a food group to me. I’d have them at every meal if possible. Vidalia Chop Wizard makes this more possible. It’s the tool that chops vegetables and fruits into salsas and salads. The hinged case with has two sizes of stainless steel grids of blades for chopping and dicing. Place your cut produce on top of them and snap the lid to collect cubes of onion, zucchini, tomato carrots, apples, mushrooms, boiled egg and other delights. It’s easy and by your third or fourth “closing” you’ll be chopping like a pro, or As Seen on TV, people, who bring us this Wizard. The case is well made – not flimsy at all – and I love how your produce collects in the bottom for to me measured or stored. So if you crave fresh salsa for a breakfast taco, you can have some extra later.
                      If you have a garden with an abundance of zucchini, get one of these to make easy cutting for side dishes. Also, call me to take some zucchini off your hands.


                      All about Disney?
                      Know any Disney fanatics? Quiz them from “The Disneyland Encyclopedia: The Unofficial, Authorized, and Precedented History of Every Land, Attraction, Restaurant, Shop and Major Event in the Original Magic Kingdom.” Christ Strodder’s book hits something of interest for every fan. I’d have loved to see the James Bond double jet packing his way over Tomorrowland or young Steve Martin selling programs in period costume. The book reports a Disney co-worker inspired his trademark “Excuuuuuuuse me!!!” line.
                      So foodies may go for the restaurant notes. Strodder mentions the  Troubadour Tavern, aka Yumz; aka Louie’s, aka Meeko’s; aka Fantasyland Theatre Snacks; aka Troubadour Treats; aka Enchanted Cottage Sweets & Treats. Through good marketing, the restaurant themes and menu items have changed based on nearby attractions and recent releases.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A quickie with jasmine rice


             
I seasoned some jasmine rice cooking water with seafood “juice” leftover from a boil. When it was done I folded in some greens from the garden, including kale, green onions, grape leaves and sweet potato leaves. Then I opened a can of octopus and poured the “meat” and oil over two servings. This meal was conceived, executed, appreciated and devoured in no time at all.

             

                      Harvest Natural Market
                      My aunt was driving us around the Katy area and I spied the Harvest Natural Market sign. We love visiting new grocery stores and this little shop was bunches of fun. Stevia and lemon balm plants were in the produce section, natural weave blankets and crafts were scattered about and a cafeteria with lamb and seating called our name. We didn’t answer as we had other plans, but thankfully enjoyed the bread and olive oil samples.


                      Hay Max
         Lavender and aloe are two "edibles" that go into Hay Max, little pots of "allergen barrier balms" that will make my spring more pleasant. This soft balm traps allegens before they get into you body. Rub some around the rim of both nostrils and the "bones of the eyes" and reapply after blowing your nose. It's very soft and soothing. I love the method, because I'm the type who figures if a llittle is good then a is better. For years I've been rubbing mentholatum much mroe near the nostrils than recommended, so this balm is a welcome change. Apparently those in the UK who suffer from allegies to grass, trees, ragweed, pollen, dust and pets have been trusting Hay Max for a decade and it's new to us here. It's a drug-free, non-drowsy option.
Whipped honey: Do you already enjoy the handiness of mixing peanutbutter and honey? Try your whipped honey with another nut's butter, say almond or cashew. It will go straight to gourmet. Add something crunchy like walnut crumbles or sunflower seeds, or maybe chocolote nibs and you've hit the top. I accidentally got some red pepper flakes mixed in with my walnuts and that worked, too.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Where to eat this weekend



                    We've already discussed Cajun Heritage Festival, April 8, at the Carl A. Parker Center in Port Arthur. Besides all the music, check out the crawfish eating contest which will include a prize of a Sea Rim State Park kayak package. What a way to work off the calories.
                       It’s fair time and the Young Men’s Business League will present the South Texas State Fair through Sunday, April 9 at Fair Park in Beaumont. What makes people lose their minds over corn dogs? This is the place to hit the carnival rides in hopes of working off your funnel cake calories.
               

Moroccan Magic
Argan oil has been a thing in cosmetics. I’m just hearing you can drizzle it on your couscous and the traditional harvesting method has focused on tree-climbing goats and their dietary habits. Moroccan Magic USDA Organic Argan & Essential Oil Lip Balm has listed benefits of “repairing, protective, anti-aging, cooling and deep moisturizing.” I don’t know how they can possibly measure this, but “sophisticated” is listed. I will tell you this, both coconut almond and peppermint eucalyptus are $3.99 and they’re the most luxurious lip balms I’ve ever tried. The brown tubes actually do look sophisticated and the product feel is light, silky and fresh. So of course you don’t actually eat this stuff, but it’s a fine example of how “culinary” products are used for the greater good of the earth, and soft lips. Organic sunflower oil, rosemary extract, beeswax, calendula blend and argan oils are used in these little babies, which makers say can be found at CVS stores.





                    Stylin’
          Stick out your tongue for beauty. Look at your tongue, stuck out between your teeth and match that shade in a lipstick with your clarity and brightness. What could look more natural? I assume Janna Beatty means the shade, not the act, in “Quintessential Style: Cultivate and Communicate your Signature Look. Look your holiday best with tips from this book written with Sharon White, like “creams set powder,” so appy eyeliner before shadow.
          Your closet should be like a river that flows, not like the dead sea, Beatty wrights. That’s how this style book got into my culinary column. I love this advice that goes for most everything. I love to clean out “move” things out of the house with the new year. It makes rooms for more blessings. Clean out that clothing closet, hall closet and pantry. Weed out clothes that you have “just because” but never wear, donate rarely used items to charity and round up “tired” seasonings and make a chili. Then you’ll have more space, or what I like to call, more room for more blessings. Thanks, Janna Beatty, for preaching it.
         Atlas of Mini Adventures
         As you travel the world with your young foodies, pack “Atlas of Miniature Adventures: A Pocket-Sized Collection of Small-Scale Wonders.” Follow the boy and girl characters to Vienna to the snow globe museum to learn how Perzy Snow put a model of the Mariazell Bascilica in a globe after playing with water globes and white grains of powder to increase the brightness of a lightbulb. They’ll find wee Desert Goby fish in Austrailia and bee hummingbirds who lay pea-sized eggs in Cuba.
darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Appalachian Appetite


                      It could have been a spicy radish her dad pulled from the earth that made Susi Gott Seguret fall in love with cooking. Her hippie kind of parents moved to North Carolina to build a cabin, grow food and create art and music in the ‘60s. The mountains limited travel in days of old, so this family also learned to feed themselves from wild nuts and mushrooms, pumpkins, beans, squirrel, turkey feet and pokeweed.
                      I would have loved to be down-the-road neighbors with this family, trading home-grown bounty.
                      The photos of landscapes and foodscapes are beautiful in her book, “Appalachian Appetite: Recipes from the Heart of America.” She shares methods for pickled ramps, grits with morels, Tennessee Ham-Wrapped Peaches, Possum Pate and Susi’s Jack Daniels-infused collards (with bacon fat).
                      I’ll have some fiddle playing while enjoying Leeky Smashed Potatoes and beer bread. Apparently Dolly Parton referred to sweet tea as the house wine of the south. This book explains that in the 1900s sweet tea was a luxury as not everyone could afford tea, sugar and ice. It was also a power boost for working in the field all day.
                      Here’s a recipe for something good on biscuits or pancakes:
              Imogene’s Chocolate Gravy
              Sugar
              Cocoa
              Milk
              Combine ingredients in a saucepan (more sugar and cocoa, in ration to taste, than milk). Boil until it reaches the consistency desired and pour over freshly baked biscuits or pancakes.



                             Olive Love

                      Are you thinking of olives as snacks? Why aren’t you? Gaea is putting almond-shaped Halkidiki variety olives, removing the pits, marinating them with olive oil, oregano, garlic, coriander and lemon peel and packing that Greek flavor into a liquid-free pouch. Come on. If they've done all that for you, you could at least rip open a bag and enjoy. I even shared my fragrant lovelies, which included four servings at 15 calories each. This should be your snack.

         Open & Eat Quinoa
 Few of my foodie friends have played with cooking quinoa, so I wonder if I could convince them to experience Carrington Farms’ bag of toasted quinoa. It’s an “open & eat” bag, no cooking required, and labled “Healthy Foods for a Healthy Soul.” Bold claim and bold flavor. Those toasty nuggets are super healthy and very crunchy and flavorful. If you can’t imagine just getting a spoonful during a busy work day, sprinkle them over Greek yogurt or use them as salad toppers. I’m enjoying them over a bowl full of baba ghanouj. If you don’t know about that, I’ll save it for another column.

         Nuts for Viki’s Granola
         I’d love to have breakfast with Viki. Gluten-free oats, unsweetened coconut, sunflower seeds and pecans would come with the experience. Vicki’s Granola is the good stuff and the healthy stuff mixed together. I tried banana walnut with milk and I managed to save some blueberry almond for yogurt topping. This is so much more “real” than the granola I had as a kid in the ‘70s. Viki has gone back to the natural stuff that granola was born to be.


              This shroom helps you clean
                      So you love cooking and entertaining, but then there’s the cleaning. A sample TubShroom is designed for the shower, but it arrived the very week my bathroom sink drain stopper conked out, so that’s where I tried it. TubShroom is flexible and fits into the drain. Hair warps around the cylinder where you can’t see it. When you pull it out you can clean it off with a paper towel and you’re done. It prevents clogged drains and prevents you from having to use harsh chemicals. You don’t have to install a thing and it works with animal hair, too. This is a product that does what it says it will.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com