Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fair foods beyond the sticks



                      There’s a photo of Triple Cheeseburger Doughnuts on the cover of “Fair Foods,” Thank you, Iowa State Fair.

                      “Fried Everything” is a chapter title, going all out on Deep Fried Butter and Fried Coca-Cola. Thank you, Texas State Fair.
                      Sure I’ve heard of crazy fair food, but I’ve never been to a fair with pesto coleslaw, Violet Soda (made with flowers) and I don’t know who thought of a dill dipping sauce for fried oysters.
                      George Geary tells us how to make all these delights in “Fair Foods: The Most Popular and Offbeat Recipes from America’s State & County Fairs.” Thank you, Mr. Geary. He’s also responsible for “The Cheesecake Bible.”
                      If you need to know how to deep fry a Snickers bar, assemble a doughnut sandwich or fry something else, like butter, this is the place. The chocolate bacon recipe below is one on which I’m willing to splurge on calories.

                      Chocolate-Encased Bacon
                      (Most fair vendors serve this bacon frozen, since the chocolate melts fast in the heat of the day.)
                      12 strips applewood bacon
                      1 pound chocolate candy coating
                      sea salt
1.   Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.   Thread bacon strips onto skewers and place on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes, turning bacon strips halfway through.
3.   Drain and pat excess oil away with paper towels. Meanwhile, melt chocolate coating in a bowl over a double broiler.
4.   Using a pastry brush, coat bacon strips evenly with chocolate on both sides. Place strips on a clean baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
5.   Refrigerate until ready to serve.

                     
                      Meaux’s Gumbo
                      I’d been hearing about Meaux’s Gumbo and I finally got to try what the family served up at the State Fair of Texas. It was as dark and rich as I expected. I loved it.
                      Leah Ambrose is the woman behind the recipe. This is a traveling “food truck” affair caught around Port Arthur.
                      Seafood nachos is also a good bet, and I heard good talk about their beans and rice. If you find them and get to try their food, make sure you strike up a conversation with these friendly folk.
                      darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Did someone say chocolate?


                      Chocolate tasting party? Who wouldn’t give a quick and positive R.S.V.P. to that?
                      Blocks and rounds and rubs and sauces are in the pages of The Cocoa Exchange order catalog. A table spread out with nibbles of dips and spreads and for bread and chicken all paired well with chicken salad croissants and wine the hostess served at a party I attended.
                      Debbie Henagan of Suphur, La., represented the products that spoke for themselves. She gave a few sentences on how she became involved, the perks of being in control and then the guests were on their own to browse the pages of her book. Women kept dashing back to the serving table to check what was that little bite of heaven called. Did I mention the evening began with a chocolate martini, topped with chocolate shavings?
                      I’ve attended parties for candles, baskets, stamps and jewelry. This was the most low-pressure and pleasant experience of all. I mingled with women happy to discuss the pleasures of cocoa beyond the popular bags at the grocery store checkout line.
                      I’m anticipating delivery of a jar of white chocolate raspberry honey mustard for dips with pretzels, braised vegetables, glazing chicken or pork or used as a marinade.
                      I expect my bottle of fig balsamic vinaigrette with white chocolate will be with me a long time, as a little bit goes a long, luxurious way.    Why have  a party? Micha Katherine Leigh, a Port Arthur hostess, shares her motivation:   "When I first met Debbie at the LiveWell conference, I was intrigued about her in-home chocolate experience. I signed on immediately! It was great fun and the products are delicious!"

                      Get in touch with Henegan at debbiehenagan@me.com or www.mytcesite.com/Debbie Henagan to organize one of these fetes.

              The Little Kernel

                      Little Kernel looks is an adventurer who popped to toe top of his class because of his insatiable desire for exploration.
                      Like snack foods to have a back story? Little Kernel is also into altruism, and makers of this character's popcorn support Generation Rescue, for families affected by Autism spectrum disorders.
                      Snacking is the kernel's first order, so let me tell you, these tiny, flavorful pops are made with olive oil and you just kind of feel good after eating them. They are very tiny and perhaps a bit more crunchy than your typical popcorn. And light.
                      It's a kinder, gentler snack in the sense that I consider popcorn as a good-for-you food that could be taken to the extreme. The Little Kernel keeps everything in healthy balance. Follow his orders.
                      darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Mom's yellow production


                      I had it made when a friend dropped off garden gleanings and my mom offered to come up with a meal with it all.
                      Yellow corn and yellow squash were the stars, with shrimp nearly taking the background in a buttery, seasoned presentation. Some potatoes were in the supporting cast.
                      I support this situation happening again. Readers, share what you’re doing with your garden goodies.

                      How does your inner priestess kitchen look?
                      Your kitchen is the heart of your home and connected to your health, well-being and even your sensuality, writes Asa Soltan. I was into her book and didn’t even realize Bravo’s hit show “Shas of Sunset” is about her family. I like the way she thinks and writes, with a “babe” and “lover” thrown in when she’s relating to the reader. She shares some hard times her family has been through, including losing everything a couple of times. That’s made her a fighter who wants to represent her art and style and help others get their groove. Her book is “Golden: Empowering Rituals to Conjure Your Inner Priestess.”        
                      So that’s why you need to clean out rotting food and replace it with what nourishes your body. That kitchen clutter could be blocking the flow of love into your life, she writes. Example: If you have salad dressing that entered your home when you moved from your last apartment, it’s time to let it go.
                      Soltan wants to help you love your self more and clean out the “junk” of your life.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com



Sunday, June 18, 2017

Al T's calls with cracklings.

 
    
  Winnie was a halfway point when my daughter wanted to meet us for Father’s Day. Al-T’s was suggested and I immediately began planning for cracklings.
                      These Southern bites of heaven are both crispy and soft, fat with fat and a true indulgence. They’re pricy but worth it.
                      Sometimes when I know I’m going to drive through Winnie, I lament that my source will be closed when I’m nearby.
                      Since it was Father’s Day, my husband agreed to this plan: I’d buy them and kind of hide them. Then I’d dole out a few pieces in the mornings to eat with eggs. Maybe there’d be a few for a snack now and then.
                      It was to be a don’t ask/don’t tell situation, so we wouldn’t eat the whole bag at once. He agreed. No contracts necessary.
                      It’s a good plan that hasn’t failed yet.
                      Remember, if you heat them slightly, they get even more soft and tempting.
                      As for the rest of the meal, we shared an “oinker,” which was meat with a blend of crawfish, corn and sausage on top. My daughter had a shrimp poboy and son-in-law ordered fried shrimp. Boudain balls all around preceded this feast.
                      Al-T’s has a new look and new management. If you haven’t been in a while, try it out and then head to the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge for an afternoon of birding, etc.
                      When we arrived at Al-T’s, I was tickled to see a beautiful brown horse in a trailer in the parking lot. We went over to talk to the horse. But we could not get it to respond to our conversation. We were sincerely hoping this horse would give a little winnie, in Winnie.

              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Whipped honey for brekfast, hemp pesto for lunch



          Whipped honey: Do you already enjoy the handiness of mixing peanut butter 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.

                     
                      Hemp pesto
              Haven’t tried hemp? Here’s a new reason, inspired by a recipe on the back of Carrington Farms’ Ready to Eat Organic Flax Hemp Blend. While the health benefits are printed all over the package (rich in proteins and omega 3’s, easy to digest, etc.) you may be stumped as to how to use it.
                      Everybody does smoothies, what else? I amended the pesto recipe to use the seeds, olive oil and Parmesan cheese, with a friend’s dried basil, to make a thick paste for a bread and egg meal. The seeds replace your pine nuts or walnuts to make a very nice new thing. You can call it a substitute, or simply an new and wonderful thing. Of course, it’s a natural for pasta dishes, too.



             
                      Good Fortune
                      “In loving one another through our works we bring an increase of grace and growth in divine love.”
                      Where did I get this message? In a bag of popcorn at my credit union. Free snack and free advice. I love the unexpected.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Boudain all day long


                     
Has boudain always been a breakfast food in my mind.
                      My Aunt Mono in Lafayette had a pan of it in little links served on the kitchen table. Of course there was sweet coffee milk for me. I don’t remember other items, besides homemade fig preserves from the giant fig tree out in the yard. I’m sure that fig production area covered an area the size of a New York apartment. I don’t even recall what we put the figs on at that breakfast table.
                      One of my earliest memories of realizing I really liked to eat was as a small child at this table. I took my mom aside and mentioned that the boudain on this visit tasted different than the kind usually served, and I didn’t care for it as much. Mom pointed out that I’d had several servings of this “lesser” boudain anyway.
                      In the ‘80s I noticed boudain being sold more often on a bun, at festivals and other types of events. So boudain became a later-in-the-day treat food.
                      I’m told some people must have their boudain with crackers and I think it’s pretty handy to serve it in a tortilla that just naturally folds around the contours of a link.
                      Then some smart somebody started smoking boudain, producing a crispy skin that I just can’t resist. More festival flair.
                      When my sister comes from Alabama, she arranges to buy boudain in large quantities and get it back home. She bought some and put it in my freezer and reminded everyone to not eat it. Repeatedly!
                      We got a text that she made it home safe, and a message that she had forgotten some of the boudain in my freezer.
                      She told us to enjoy, and my mom said she’d serve it up for our dinner. I understood her to say boudain omelet, meaning boudain folded into the eggs. But she presented boudain and omlet. Just as good.
                      It made a great meal, which we referred to as “breakfast for dinner.”
                      Readers, if you have a passion for how your boudain is best enjoyed, let me know at:
                      darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Monday, May 29, 2017

Shrimp boils are easy with Zatarain's in the kitchen


                      The Port Arthur area offers an opportunity for seafood everywhere. We love it. Out. But we never think of a shrimp boil at our house. It looks complicated.
                      Zatarain’s, your secret is out. The company sent an array of spices that demonstrate how easy it is to get your shrimp, crab and crawfish on at home. You basically rip open a box or screw off the lid to the liquid stuff and you’re set.
                      It was almost embarrassing how many compliments I got from boiling a pot of water and dumping in corn, potatoes, shrimp and spices. Almost embarrassing. I could handle it.
                      I loved spreading newspaper all over the table and wrapping up the shells and cobs. Cleanup was done, except for shrimp leftovers that my sister and daughter peeled and worked into rice. I got shrimp fried rice for breakfast the next day.
                      And about the rice. I seasoned it with some of the liquid flavoring. It didn’t change the color of the rice much, but that flavor made it pop. My mom has heard of seasoning green beans with the liquid boil. I’m keeping some at the ready.
                      Zatarain’s offerings include Fish Fri; crawfish, shrimp & crab boil with nothing to add; the boil in bag version of the boil; and liquid shrimp & crab boil in a bottle with variations of lemon and garlic. Find at www.zatarains.com such as zesty bacon-wrapped shrimp and slow cooker chicken and shrimp jambalaya.
                             Gather friends and share that Southeast Texas Cajun culture flavor.
                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com