Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mom goes down by the river for birthday

Both my mother and I can be shy about attention on birthdays, but I think her coolness merits attention. She confirmed what she’d like to do just hours before we did it. We picked up Hamburger Depot burgers and onion rings in downtown Beaumont and headed down to Riverftont Park.
       The thick patties were so good and we enjoyed pleasure boats, such as the “Stewpot” going by.
A man from another bench shouted out “beef or chicken” to “Stewpot’s” captain. Beef ragout or maybe a fish stew if they were lucky, he replied.
       Mom reminded us that her mother equated a by-the-river experience to pleasant times. If she was eating something good, she’d say “that on a river bend” to imply such a location could only make it better.
       After Saturday night Mass we wanted to treat her to another day of festivities, and again, we were in the parking lot with the engine running before she revealed that a fish taco from Tia Juanita’s in Beaumont would be a fine treat. She has really taken to chatting with the owner there.
       She was right, the tacos did hit the spot. I think we hit on two winners to celebrate her birthday. Maybe that’s three, because we started Thursday night with different tacos. Read on”

Tacos La Bamba
       History and tacos can become habit. The McFaddin-Ward House offers amazing free programs, often with lovely receptions to follow. But sometimes you want a taco to follow. Tacos La Bamba is right down the street and offers little spicy bites like my onion, cilantro and spicy pork taco, with filling centered on two little corn tortillas. My mom was bragging about her recent breakfast burrito and how spicy she found the habanero sauce. I asked for some and also got another, darker red/brown sauce.
       The woman at the counter went to the back when I asked about ingredients and came out with a list that included: cascabel, de harbol, ancho, cebolla, chipotle and ajo. I learned the first pepper is called a rattler, so imagine the seeds rattling in this ball of a pepper. There’s also a snake with that name. The second ingredient is sometimes called a rat’s tail pepper. Still, it was more of a great flavor and not searing hot. I managed to take enough home in that little container to serve it over a cheesy egg for breakfast. Now that’s how to start the morning.
       An upcoming McFaddin-Ward program is “Born on the Kitchen Floor in Bois Mallet,” the story of one African-American family in a book by Lovey Marie Guillory. It will begin at 6 p.m., Aug. 6 at the home’s visitor center on Calder Avenue in Beaumont. Call 409-832-1906 for information.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Oh, fig, monkey business and summer gumbo

Oh, fig.
Should I even be discussing the fresh figs that are ripening on trees, or should I gather them all for myself?
My afternoon nourishment was juicy figs and peanut butter. Never heard of this combo before, but it sounded right and it was. That sounds a teeny bit odd to some, I suspect, so now wrap your head around this: I also had peanut butter and fresh banana peppers a friend grew and shared with me.
Go ahead. You can do it.

Monkey business
I hear monkeys get a clean peel by stripping a banana down from the tip end, while we humans tend to peel down from the stalk end. I’ve just tried it their way and they are on to something.

Gumbo update
I did ask you guys what you put in your summer gumbos, so I’d love to hear from you. I had a craving like you wouldn’t believe and concocted from what I had, including a bratwurst, leftover shrimp and a can of smoked oysters. Hit the spot.
Still want to hear if you do anything different for your Southeast Texas must-have in the summer. Share your gumbo stories at:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

On the road with Southern Living and summer gumbos

Morgan Murphy starts with corn salad from Tin Top café in Grady Alabama and ends with the Ranch Burger from Jim's Drive Inn in Lewisburg in West Virginia.
It’s enough that traditional state plates make the section art in this Southern Living romp through the south. This new book is "Off the Eaten Path:On the Road Again." 
I remember Murphy’s great friendly style of writing, his making friends of people who want to feed him and even his napkin notes of great music to listen to as you take a road trip toward these great restaurants and meals.
Sweet Tea brined pork chops? It’s how they do in Florida. Caramel cake in Georgia, a sorghum bacon cookie in Kentucky…. It’s all too good!
“Dallas,” by our own Johnny Winter, is on the Texas Soundtrack list.
Something exciting to me is that I met Mimi Montgomery Irwin, whose dad kicked off the kolache craze at The Village Bakery in Texas. The family recipe for Kolache dough is in this book. There’s a bit of definition in the book, but go ahead and get with Mimi in West (West, comma, Texas as the locals say) for the whole story. Kolaches are supposed to have fruit, like apricots. The same dough, filled with sausage, can be called klobasniki, but not a sausage kolache.
Morgan Murgphy, give me a call before your next book. I’ll come with.

Summertime gumbo
January is National Soup Month. The first feeling of fall in the air sets my mouth watering for chili. But when do you crave gumbo?
In Southeast Texas it’s a year-round thing.
It’s my comfort food, hands down and it wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without it.
Seafood, chicken, sausage or okra make me happy, and I bet it does most of you all, too.
Readers, do you have a favorite summer version of gumbo?
Let me share your stories. Share them at:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Purple onion haze, your Tombstone

Purple onion haze
Salsa every day? Different every day? Keep a mini food processor on the counter for inspiration. Purple onions, orange slices (some with a little peel still on it) and banana peppers made a sweet blend to which I spiced up with pepper sauce.
Make it thicker to use as a side salad or salad topper. That will keep you from enjoying your healthy blend with too many tortilla chips.
The next day you could switch orange for tomato or onion for carrots or chop in grapes…. Shall I go on?

Your Tombstone
Since my ‘70s youth, my mom taught me to view a frozen pizza as a canvas. She’d add onions, peppers, olives and less conventional toppings to the basic ready-to-bake pizza and we’d have our own creation.
Here’s what Tombstone is doing, for a limited time, for people who like to play around with their food. I’ve tried both of these and I promise the Diablo is not too hot (for me!). Here’s how they describe their new blends, and believe me, I don’t think even I would have thought of adding brown mustard to a  pizza. I found these in local stores:

·         Tombstone Limited Edition Diablo Pizza: features spicy chorizo, jalapenos and sweet red peppers with real Wisconsin mozzarella cheese and fiery Sriracha tomato sauce on a preservative-free crust.
·         Tombstone Limited Edition Bratwurst Pizza: features slices of premium bratwurst, green bell peppers, onions, a blend of real Wisconsin cheddar and mozzarella cheeses and our zesty tomato sauce with a hint of spicy brown mustard on a preservative-free crust.

Summer’s Bounty
Not tired of your veggies, are you? Try these tips and find more at
      Grilled Romaine & Vegetable Salad with Balsamic Herb Vinaigrette: Up the flavor without adding fat by firing up the grill and infusing the flavors of garlic and basil to bell peppers, Romaine lettuce, asparagus, tomatoes and mushrooms for a smoky rendition of a classic salad.
      Greek Squash Ribbon Salad:  Slice squash into paper-thin “ribbons” using a vegetable peeler or mandoline. Mix with tomatoes, onion, feta and olives in Greek vinaigrette made with oregano, basil, mint and pepper for an appealing summertime salad.
      Penne Pasta Salad with Spinach and Tomatoes: Tomatoes add juicy, rich flavor to pasta salads. Try adding them to penne pasta along with spinach, mozzarella and Italian spices to create a Tuscan-inspired pasta salad.
      Kale Salad with Asian Vinaigrette: Save on sodium by making a salad dressing with sesame, ginger and garlic. Pair with kale, sweet mandarin oranges and sliced almonds for a deliciously hearty salad.
      Herbed Green Beans: Simply steam green beans until tender-crisp, season with rosemary and thyme and add a tangy sweetness with balsamic vinegar for a simple crowd pleaser.
      Edamame and Sweet Corn Salad:  Edamame pairs beautifully with summer corn and bell peppers. Toss with olive oil, black pepper and sea salt for a light salad.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Corn or flour? I used to say flour until my calculations show corn as being slightly in my weight loss favor.
My husband still picks flour tortillas.
I would have thought that H-E-B Mixta would work in our favor. They’re fluffy and have speckles of corn and look old world and taste great. He still picks flour, so more Mixta for me.
One of the treats I made up is lightly frying the tortilla in oil, try coconut oil, and adding a measured spoonful of raspberry jam. It’s a breakfast or a dessert delight. 

Frozen Asparagus
If you haven’t tried asparagus since the mushy canned varieties from your youth, check out the frozen foods section. I found different thicknesses that were not too-pricey and firm to the bite. Just add a little olive oil and heat to serve with eggs, or thaw for a summer vegetable plate.

Wiener skewers
Really don’t remember how those wieners got in the fridge. I’m not a fan. But they are a summer kind of thing. So I threaded some on fancy skewers with cherry tomato, purple onion and mushrooms. I broiled them in the oven until they were crispy and served with a homemade honey-mustard dipping sauce.
I enjoyed it, but won’t need to eat another wiener for at least a year.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mediterranean Diet: What a way to live

Living it up Mediterranean style
            If honey-fig jam, steamed mussels and avocado in my deviled eggs is the healthy way to go, count me in.
“Living the Mediterranean Diet: Proven Principles & Modern Recipes for Staying Healthy” offers tips on how to enjoy these great flavors with friends and family. Did you need any help to thing seared scallops over spinach would work?
            Recipes are easy, because your just dealing with real food and real flavors. Remember to eat real food, make plants the star and slow down to enjoy your meal and visit. It’s easy stuff and Nick Nigro, Bay Ewald and Rea Frey will walk you through it. I hope the walk ends with these chocolates:

Dark Chocolate Tangerine Slices
Author’s note:  We find a simple, juicy tangerine to be one of the great pleasures of life. They are the perfect endto a meal, especially topped with a little dark chocolate and a sprinkle of se salt.
8 tangerines (clementines are best)
3 an one half to 4 ounces dark chocolate (with at least 70 percent cocoa)
Sea salt
How we create
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel the tangerines. Using a double broiler, melt the dark chocolate. Dip each tangerine slice halfway into the melted chocolate and place on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and repeat with all the slices. Refrigerate for 10 to15 minutes, or until the chocolate has hardened.

Boiled Peanuts?
         Maybe you’ve heard of  boiled peanut stands or seen them in cans of brine. What is that? I met a woman with Georgia ties who was thrilled to find a bag at a Vietnamese market in the area, so I tried some, too. Not bad at all. So you remove the wet shell and get to the wet nut, which you can pinch flat with your finger.  It’s got a savory, seasoned taste. There’s a little juice inside. Kind of like peeling crawfish.
         That just doesn’t sound right to someone used to the aroma of a flat pan of nuts roasting in the kitchen oven.  Then you take your toasted goodness outside and get all dusty peeling to get to the crunchy nuts.
         But go ahead and get into the boil. The nuts came from the market featuring Saigon Sandwich, 1020 Ninth Avenue in Port Arthur.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

BBQ purists welcome to play

Purists can experiment
         A Southern Living cookbook is going to give you some good background, technique and style. Think you know how to barbecue? I don’t care how long you’ve been at it, I’ll bet their new “Ulitimate Book of BBQ: The Complete Year-Round Guide to Grilling & Smoking,” will give you some ideas. Pitmaster Christopher Prieto helped put this book full of recipes, photos and inspiration together.
         So barbecue brings out the purists. I’m all into that. But hey, does one have to have the same beans, same one-color glob of slaw every time one fires up the pit?
         If your brood fears experimentation, go slow. They probably would not object to potato salad. Soon you can add a colorful grilled peach and avocado salad. Then anything goes when they start appearing with somoky pimento cheese deviled eggs. The combinations are limitless. And if one of these side dishes for some reason doesn’t get rave reviews, there are pages and pages of more ideas. Here are a couple of very easy variations to begin your summer over the fire:

Drizzles for grilled chicken wings:
Cider Vinegar-Brown Butter Honey Drizzle
One half cup butter
One half cup honey
1 tablespoon cider vinegar.
1.Cook  butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until brown and fragrant. Transfer to a small bowl and cook 5 minutes.
2. cook honey and vinegar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Horseradish-Honey Mustard Drizzle
One half cup honey
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons coarse-grained mustard
Cook honey, horseradish and mustard ina small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Cracked Pepper-Rosemary Honey Drizzle
One half  cup honey
1 tablespoon cracked blaked pepper
1 three-inch fresh rosemary sprig
Cook honey, two tablespoons water, pepper and rosemary sprig in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Discard rosemary.

Chili-Lemon Honey Drizzle
One half cup honey
One half cup bottled chili sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Cook honey, chili sauce and lemon juice over medium heat, stirring often, 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

It’s not even January
Now that it’s summer you’ll want to stock your freezer with…
Did you say soup? Tabatchnick hopes you did, because they’ve come out with very low-calories frozen soups to shape you up for beach season. Microwave a pouch of cream of mushroom for 100 calories and stay in that range for flavors like barley & Mushroom to Wilderness wild Rice.  They were created to offer flavor and make you feel satisfied, especially when paired with leafy green salads. These frozen offerings also tend toward lower sodium canned options, makers say. It’s an easy work lunch.
            Barley & Mushroom Soup reminded me how filling a handful of barley can be in your meal. They cooked up just right.
       New York Style Chicken Broth with Noodles & Vegetables – They do it a little differently in New York, with wider noodles, I learn. I have to respect.

Prince of Peace
Tea can fill you up and fortify you and it doesn’t have to be full of sugar, or even honey for that matter. Someone has shared with me a few bags of Prince of Peace 100 percent oolong tea and one bag makes a pretty strong pitcher. I’m calling it full-on tea. It’s full of flavor and keeps the energy up.