Sunday, October 15, 2017

Do you have to hide the cottage cheese?

 


                             Hidden Cottage Cheese
                             My husband says he won’t eat lumpy cottage cheese, so I sneaked some into a blender and creamed it to perfection. I’d tell you his reaction, but I ate it all myself. I blended a fresh jalapeno into one batch, and this light green spread was cool and spicy and just the right dip for chips and crackers.

                             It was much, much lower in calories than sour cream and a very good substitute.
                                         Pretzel Pieces
                             Are Synyder’s of Hanover Pretzel Pieces simply packaged crumbles of the whole? I don’t care. I’m all into the little bag of Hot Buffalo Wing Sourdough Hard Pretzel, “bursting with flavor” bag my sister introduced me to.
                             They’re artificially flavored, but again, I don’t care. There’s a health food nut next to me and between the two of us we may be about to finish the 3.5 servings that this bag contains.
                             They’re crunchy and the flavor pops.
           
            Halo Top
            I avoid keeping ice cream in the house but who could resist a coupon for a free pint? Halo Top all-natural light ice cream features a low calorie count featured into the label design.
            A coupon came on the back of my check-out receipt so I returned to the store to nab the pistachio. In a conversational way, I asked the checker if she had tried it.
            “Yep,” was her strongly-delivered, succinct, no-follow-up reply. It made me laugh.
            “Is that your review?” I asked.
            She had tried another flavor and for her money, she’d prefer her favorite Blue Bell.
            I get how she feels, but as a Weight Watcher, I truly appreciated Halo’s flavor, texture, “mouth feel’ and even appearance. I found it refreshing and the low calorie component was a welcome bonus. Here’s a tip: tasters are confirming its best to let it soften on the counter as opposed to gobbling it up straight from the freezer. Give it a minute, folks. Check out a label for other more-healthy aspects to this brand.

                             Hummus overload?
                             So this happened before Harvey and I’m still amused. A pool-party hostess specifically requested ‘finger foods” be brought. I asked about a curry rice salad I make and still got the vibe of “more fingery.”
                        I had all the ingredients for hummus and decided it would hit the spot. Then I started thinking about the people invited to this party tended to be healthy-minded people who gravitated toward natural foods. I began thinking “what if everyone brings hummus?” Turns out, nearly everyone did. They were all different and all enjoyed.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Is your dog in on the pumpkin spice trend?




            The pumpkin spice trend is hotter than ever. After  shopping at gourmet grocers in Houston and snapping photos of pumpkin biscotti, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin spice seeds, pumpkin granola bark, pumpkin soup crackers and actual pumpkins, I put the camera away. 
      I brought home pumpkin spice coffee and a wee pumpkin for decor.   
    Did you realize that to be totally on trend, you will be feeding  pumpkin to your dog this season?
     I spotted a box of pumpkin dog treats. That was the day after I saw a Rachel Ray magazine spread on feeding fresh or canned pumpkin to your dogs.
    It's a thing. 
    What else to dogs get? In Houston's Central Market I was near the grind-your-own nut butter station. As I was considering whether to splurge on the calories and money for almond butter for my breakfast toast, a couple was discussing what sort of specially nut butters they would get to trick their dog into taking his pills. 
    As usual for the past several years, I invite readers to send me pumpkin updates this fall.
            Here’s my tip: Keep a shaker full of pumpkin spice to sprinkle on toast, into coffee and swirl into oatmeal. Keep it handy just for a whiff of fall flavor.
            Also, you can still send me your  contact if you would like to be in the pot for a 2018 Farmer's Almanac. Email me by Oct. 13 and I will share the issues that the makers sent to me, while supplies last.
            Happy harvest!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Boots and Bulls with the Cajun Army


                             Diana LaBorde called from the Nederland Chamber of Commerce and invited me to be a celebrity Boots and Bulls waiter. Finally, a chance to brush off my old Bennigan’s skills!
                             This packed event at Sevenne Hall drew out some fancy folk willing to socialize and bid on tempting silent auction items and eat barbecue. What we won’t do to support our chambers. . . . Serving was bunches of fun.
                             I noticed some guests wearing Cajun Army t-shirts. These are Louisiana people who have come to “muck out homes” after Harvey. They were heartily welcomed. Sandra Keuhn was checking to see if there were more Rao’s sugar cookies. They had been served to tables in upturned cowboy hats. There were no more cookies in the back, but I told her no one would deny a woman wearing the Cajun Army shirt. We went from table to table asking for an extra cookie or two. What happened was, tables gave her whole hats full of cookies to share with the rest of the Army.
                             I asked Revonda Kirby, also with the Army, how I could get her a copy of this column. She said the group expected to be in our area for about six months to help Southeast Texans.
                             “We help others. That’s what we do,” she said.


                      Farmers, your almanac is ready
                             Your grandfather’s copy of “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” may not have had mention of yoga huts, but those culinary, weather, planting and general interest tidbits fill the pages of the 2018 edition, and the makers have sent me a few to share with readers.
                             Are you familiar with walking stick kale that grows up to 10 feet high? Did you know mushrooms, not sugar, may be added to reduce the bitterness of cacao beans in chocolate? Small-scale out buildings are being used for yoga and other spaces in some urban backyards. Slow cooker chicken tacos sound good on your fall table. The recipe is on page 256.
                            Almanac.com/media has more details. Readers, about those few copies I’ve been given the opportunity to distribute, e-mail me at darraghcastillo@icloud.com and I’ll put your name in a hat and draw out the winners until the copies run out. Don’t worry. The stores will have more.

                             Darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Slow Cooker helps after Harvey; no time for pests


                                         Sometimes the gift of feeding is all we have. It’s most necessary.
                                         I heard second hand of a woman with a generator who collected all the slow cooker pots in a neighborhood that lost power after Harvey. She then collected food from their freezers and kept those neighbors fed as they cleaned their homes.
                                         One tip on “how to help” to help those cleaning their flooded homes is to offer to bring cooked food to a home at a specified time. Bring paper plates, etc. and serve it to the exhausted family. Then leave the leftovers or pick it all up so everyone can rest, or get back to work.


                             One Egg
                             A single egg meal has been another thing appreciated of late. Recently, the floods made finding even the most basic of foods difficult.
                             My one egg breakfast is often augmented by festive “leftovers.” We’ve whipped up an egg each for my husband and me and folded in the likes of guacamole, queso, and fruity cream cheese spreads. Leftovers are never wasted around my house. May this idea inspire you for all the rest of the mornings of 2017.
Version:
Pesky
                     Pesky pests
H                 Harvey waters have made us prep for insects, even as concerns regarding West Nile already caught our attention.  Some southeast Texans may be in need of DynaTrap offering a green, pesticide-free solution to pest relief as we rebuild. We’ve all been outdoors a lot. IInterested? Here’s what the makers say: “DynaTrap is a technology-driven indoor/outdoor insect trap that protections against mosquitoes, biting flies, moths, wasps, and more. DynaTrap relies on UV light and CO2 to mimic human beings and maximize predatory insect attraction, rather than pesticides or harmful sprays. Its strong yet silent fan then vacuums the insects into a retaining cage. Safe and simple, just plug-and-hang the DynaTrap 24/7 to stop the mosquito life-cycle. With no pesticides, chemicals, odors, noise, or hassle; it’s perfect for your backyard.” darraghcastillo@icloud.com


                           

Monday, September 25, 2017

Don't Mess with Class of '67, or their Amuny's


                             Port Arthur’s Amuny’s  famous sandwiches were recognizable amid crystal and fanfare on the buffet at Brentwood Country Club. The occasion: Monsignior Kelly High School class reunion.
                             Frank Messina, an Amuny’s owner and reunion organizer brought the PA delights that were a hot topic as guests caught up with one another. The gang also attended the Kelly Homecoming the night before with fajitas. I was the date of my sister Debbie Doiron Madisetty, who traveled from Alabama for festivities.
                             The Class of ’67 got down to “Ride, Sally Ride” and other hits of the era while flipping through the yearbook and photos. The Brentwood menu also included pork stuffed with boudain and my first sweet potatoes of the season.
                             Meanwhile, downstairs was another Port Arthur tie. The Beaumont country club houses Boudain Hut North at Brentwood, which features some of the goodies that the Port Arthur Boudain Hut made so popular.
                             At the homecoming, I chatted with a classmate who now lives in Boston. I made it a point to present her with a “Don’t Mess With Texas” sticker to take home. Her reaction took me by surprise. She said she had that stuff all over her house. Her sister was instrumental in turning this anti-litter campaign into a household term.
                             I’ve always loved the “Don’t Mess with Texas” phenomenon. Little did I know one of the people who brought it to life used to play in my house with my sister.
                             I’m just going to point out that I attended high school in a different school and in a different era. I’m part of the French High School Class of 1983, and I’m ready to jam with those guys any time.
                             darraghcatillo@icloud.com



Friday, September 8, 2017


Port Arthur gets fed after Harvey

                      Stores in our area ran way, way low as Harvey’s flood waters filled Mid-County and emotions ran high. Those who could help, did.
                      I distributed water, cleaned out an office, cleaned up a house and volunteered at a tent helping sort everything from diapers and rice mixes to formula and rabbit food.
                      Those who received were grateful and there was a good feeling from being able to serve.
                      The term “bless you” was flowing.
                        Here’s some thanks for a couple of Port Arthur eateries:

              Dylan’s
                    “Open” is a sign we’ve all been seeking lately. After a heated morning in a tent, someone noted that Dylan’s was serving and I took a respite in the cool air. That was a treat in itself. Then fantastic cheeseburger on sourdough bread arrived at my table. The fries were crispy perfection. After such a harried week of remnants, this feast will be remembered. Thanks to all those workers!
                  Sake
                     Did you hear how Sake Sushi Bar in Port Arthur was giving out sandwiches to those affected by Harvey? They made bunches and I saw them walking around and giving them out by hand. That’s some love for Port Arthur.
              Keep those good stories coming.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Harvey herbal nachos


                      Still riding high from our total eclipse viewing in Tennessee, we came home to Harvey, the top Texas news.
                      My mom, recalling long power outages after Rita, was hoping we’d take her out of the flash flood path and all the way to Sherman, but alas, plans come and go so quickly in a time of potential crisis. We had seven plans and ended up pretty safe at home on Sunday.
                      Thank goodness she didn’t look out the window when our street was flooded. 
                      She mentioned cleaning our her freezer before we left, as we recall how trashed, stinky ice boxes lined the streets before. I hadn’t realize that she was thinking we’d take an ice chest full of food to our host’s home so we could cook it there. That was too much, I thought, for the willing host family to deal with. As it became clear we were staying, we started defrosting and eating up the best stuff first.
                      Where had she been hiding all that chicken, roast and Italian sausage? I got crazy with her seasonings and sauces. The best, part, it was all pretty low carb.
                      I saw on a Weight Watchers Facebook page people discussing doing some heavy Harvey snack binging, but I stayed on track with meats and veggies. Low carb and all.
                      I saw other Facebook pages people kind of freaking about where to get food at restaurants, but thanks to my mad creative cooking skills, I stayed more than nourished.
                      My colorful pitchers of drawn tap water for emergencies could have made a Pinterest post.        
                      Readers, I hope you all can get Harvey behind you soon. The rain is picking up again a I write this.
                      Here’s one of the use-it-up bites I came up with:

                      Herbal Nachos
                      Cut corn tortillas into strips and sautee in butter. (Normally I’d use olive oil, but I was trying to use up butter if the power went out.)
                      Work in any dry herbs you have and melt cheese on top. Top with chopped onions if you are lucky enough to have them.
                      Mom’s bacon crumbles, a sprinkling, a dusting of crushed red pepper and a bed of sugar snap peas made this a feast.
                      Enjoy as finger food or eat with a fork if you added lots of cheese.
                      Readers, feel free to share you culinary Harvey experiences with me at darraghcastillo@icloud.com