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

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Parker’s passion for Lions Club; group meets at Courtyard Café


Debby Parker has made it personal. The president of the Port Arthur Founders Lions Club wants new members to carry on the “rich tradition” of this club and she’s passionate about spreading the good works this club and Lions Clubs International does for the world.
It’s a “We Serve” attitude that has helped people overcome “river blindness” from unclean water sources, supported eye banks and corneal  transplants and helped residents recover from earthquakes in Haiti and flooding in Deweyville.
“The more members we have, the more service we can give,” Parker said.
Parker is so passionate about educating Mid-County about her club that she barely looked up as a tempting croissant sandwich and soup of the day was placed before her at Courtyard Café in Groves. This is where the group meets each second and fourth Friday of the month to dine, hear a speaker and just have fun getting together. It’s informal, efficiently run from noon to 1 p.m. (Parker said she’s a stickler for time) and the dues are minimal for all you get.
This March Parker will visit businesses and do anything she can to encourage new membership.
“You have to have a heart for this work,” Parker said. “Once you’re involved in Lions, it gets in your heart.”
“We do a lot of things people don’t hear about,” Parker said, but she’d love to tell you.
Lions is turning 100 years old, functions in 220 countries and includes 1.4 million members. This club is one of the first 25 clubs formed, Parker said. She’s been through the scrapbooks and seen the evolution.
“That makes me really proud we have been around so long and I don’t want that history to go away,” she said.
The club offers family memberships to encourage spousal togetherness as all those good works get done
“Once you’re involved in Lions, it gets in your heart,” Parker said.
Call her at 409-363-4092 to get in on all this Lions Club passion.
Lunch at Courtyard Café is what I’d call another perk. When I visited with Parker, I enjoyed gumbo with shrimp and sausage with potato salad on the side.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Mardi Gras festivities merge into Lenten season


                   
   February has been full of jambalaya, boudain balls and gumbo, and I ate one thing on a stick at Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas.
                      The Jumbo Gumbo tasting featured all sorts of blends and surprises. One team seems to have taken all the skin off their chicken, perhaps in an attempt to make the gumbo more healthy. But they offered a bowl of fried chicken skins on the table. I ate two of those. Another team showed off shirts reading “Get Roux’d.” (Sounds like “get rude,” get it?)
                      Some other festive experiences around Port Arthur this Mardi Gras season:
                      * Worried about losing your baby in the king cake? Place him in a cloud of frosting atop a cupcake.
                      * My mom likes her boudain free from skin. I’ve discovered if your flatten your skinless link with a spatula, you can brown a sort of patty into crispy perfection.
                      * Zatarain’s sent me boxes of Dirty Rice Dinner Mix and Jambalaya Rice Dinner Mix that are both gluten free with no MSG added and have no colors from artificial sources. I’ve playing around with dirty rice omelette and rice salad with a mayo and vinaigrette dressing.
             


              Lenten list
              Mindful eating is a priority during my Lenten season and I focus on being grateful for every bite. I keep a small grocery budget and seek to donate to causes that feed the hungry in this time. So I try to stock up with bounty, to share with family and friends. My shopping list includes the basics, which can be transformed into creative blessings:
              Greek Yogurt
              Eggs
              Cottage Cheese
              Fruits and vegetables, fresh and frozen
              Beans, dry and canned
              Canned oysters
              Grains


              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mardi Gras all weekend
                      Port Arthur is observing the big “25” of Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas and the festival will be Feb. 23-26 in downtown Port Arthur with Budweiser Clydesdales, laser shows, parades, a Jumbo Gumbo Cookoff and all the fun you can have. Ready for that?
                      I got to attend the Majestic Krewe of Aurora ball this year and it was a knock-out as usual. Amazing costumes and throws excited attendees who danced the night away.
                      And here’s my foodie observation. It seems like a lot, and I mean a lot, of tables featured trays of Amuny’s sandwiches. I say, those bites are one of my favorite things about Port Arthur and I love to see them so closely associated with one of my favorite seasons, Mardi Gras.



              Homesick for Texas?
                      If you’ve come back “home” for Mardi Gras because you’re “homesick,” there’s a candle for you. It smells like you never left, and I’m late to this trend.
                      When I fired up this beautiful small-batch soy, my friend said, “That’s the candle I’ve been hearing about. It smells like Texas!”
                      Come again? Makers of the “Homesick” line offer this promotional copy: “ Head back to Texas with this fragrance reminiscent of dark leather, fresh pine, and thick lemon slices. A floral note of cyclamen and a touch of sage help balance the big bold scents of the Lone Star State.”
                             Have you ever before associated cyclamen with Texas? Have you ever heard of cyclamen at all? Don’t worry. I’m not aware that bluebonnets have much of an aroma. This stuff is fresh and subtle, so not all of Texas is bold and loud. It’s not bragging if it’s true.
                             Now, have you considered what our neighbors in Louisiana smell like? They’re going with magnolia, honeysuckle, jasmine and sweet potato. I haven’t smelled the “Homesick” version of Louisiana, but I think they’ve picked a good “southern bouquet.”  There are state-associated limited edition “Homesick” chocolates as well.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Books guide us toward better selves


               
               


                     "Sneaky Blends and other books: 
 “Sn            "Sneaky Blends” will get you from a base of white beans blended with filtered water to a replacement for butter and cream in recipe, butter and oil in baked goods and  dinners like those on Tuscany tables.
                      You’ll want some for Missy Chase Lapine’s Crunchy Kale-Crust Pizza, and even the 4 p.m. Protien Cookie. The carrot and sweet potato blend goes into single serve mac and cheese and and broccoli pea spinach bases will make you want a Broccoli-Cheddar Mini Fritatta right now. It’s a tempting bite in a corn tortilla.
                      So there’s the word “sneaky” in the title. I’d be proud of figuring out a lifestyle where you do a little blending and have health and delicious ideas at your fingertips, but we all live in a world where some people we feed won’t get that mixed berry-baby kale base blend could work in a brownie. So, you gotta be sneaky sometimes. Maybe it’s science, but I think it’s a culinary miracle. 
Road Trip?
                      People still want to drive Route 66. They should get the new book of memories and post cards by T. Lindsay Baker, “Portrait of Route 66.” Of all the images of pristine tourist courts boasting central air and scenic bridges, I gravitated to the Texas section.
                      In 1946 people were planning their travel to arrive at The Aristocrat Restaurant in Amarillo. The image shows tables set along a western panorama mural with cowboy, mountains and cactus. In the middle are two rows of booths with a planter division. I can’t tell what they’re eating, but everyone looks well dressed and relaxed, not like they were driving all day in the heat or cold! If you’ve done this route, or just want to dream you did, back in the day, sit back and enjoy this collection.

 Eating Disorder grief diaries
                      Some of the women sharing their true stories of anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating mention the late singer Karen Carpenter, who died from anorexia. That was the first time I’d heard of the eating disorder that seemed so strange: starving yourself on purpose. Now days young boys and girls can link, via computers, with others who have these problems both for support to avoid the behavior or to cover up one’s tracks and hide problems from family and friends.
                      Women in “Grief Diaries: Through the Eyes of an Eating Disorder: True Stories About Living with Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia and Binge Eating” share what instigated their behaviors, how they compensated, how they were obsessed and in some cases, how they overcame. Lynda Cheldelin Fell and others share powerful stories that hopefully help

Eatio   others realize what sufferers are feeling and how intense the struggle can be. I couldn’t put it down. These addictions are real and dangerous, because we all need to eat to survive. Instead of “case studies,” we get to hear from these women themselves.   darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Friday, January 13, 2017

Pass a good time at Rodair Roadhouse



Rodair Roadhouse:  You can pass a good time Rodair Roadhouse just on the food. But wait, sometimes
there's a bunch of live music and dancing. Wonder how many calories a good
Cajun waltz will burn off.
 
"Where Bayou Country Meets Gulf Coast" is the motto which sums up a relaxed
attitude at Rodair Roadhouse, on Jade Avenue in Port Arthur. Even the
fishing lures that adorn the place tell the owners' stories. Richard Hudson and
Shawn Skinner are good talkers with good stories and John Dingle is keeping
the good stuff coming out of the kitchen.
Hush puppies with Steen's Syrup as a dip? Fried green tomatoes that make you
want to slap your mama? Hot and crunchy shrimp bites like none other? Rodair
Roadhouse has been paying attention to flavorful little details.
The proof may be in the pudding, as in the bread pudding that Skinner
reveals is buttery to the max. Some if their "secrets" are sharable and some
will remain in the family. If Skinner starts talking about that butter
content and you don't want to hear, cover your ears until he's moved on to
the banana or key lime pie.
I haven't even touched on the main dishes, so go see for yourself. They're
practicing in the back on crawfish, but promise that when they're bigger
and better, they'll be on the menu for fans.

                      Orange food
          A houseguest mentioned she wasn’t keen on orange foods. What? Around this season? Pumpkin and yams cooking are unpleasant, she said. No worries. I’m adaptable. But those sweet potatoes I’d planned to roast and serve with olive oil and curry powder were looking at me. I awoke extra early and cooked them for my breakfast while she was still asleep. Potato discs, crispy from grilling in coconut oil and topped with a bit of fruity jam went well with eggs for a cheerful morning meal. That’s thinking outside the orange box.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Langrty DUCK Farm is a 'maze'ing


                     
Duck Farm is a ‘maze’ing
                      Did I see ducks at Langry Duck Farm? People keep asking. There was a meditation labyrinth, a patio where we roasted marshmallows, friendly cats and dogs and a breakfast casserole spread with juice in long-stemmed glasses. What a way to interact with nature.
                      The “duck” stands for Discovering, Understanding, Creativity & Knowledge for a Farm Alternative Restoration Model. Barbara Lange has this spread in Liberty and I was lucky enough to “win”  a stay in the Breakfast with the Bishop silent auction fundraiser. My friends and husband spent an evening on the patio, retired to our lovely second-floor rooms and arose with the sun to walk the labyrinth. Then, breakfast was served.
                      Ms. Lange saw I was interested in her plants and herbs and took me for a walk around plantings surrounded by a fence made from bicycles. You read that right. Herbs and aloe was planted in every sort of vessel, including a retired coffee maker. This woman was a delight and told how she works with young people, veterans and other groups.
                      Want to know more about Langtree Duck Farm Retreat & Eco Center? Call 936-587-4325.

                      Resolution corner
                      I’ve hardly heard any talk of resolutions this year, but my January birthday gets me off to a later start. I do actually enjoy easing that stuffed feeling by experimenting with lovely vegetables after holiday excess.
              Ever heard of “tight junction function?” Makers of RESTORE liquid supplement sent me a bottle and I started using it before the heavier eating of the Thanksgiving season began. It works by “increasing tight junctions to promote a healthy internal firewall, which helps create a more resilient system by supporting gut health, respiratory wellness, balance immune function and enhanced mental clarity in the face of environmental factors.” Okay, the layman’s copy also says that herbicides we come in contact with can damage tight junctions, the Velcro-like proteins that allow the body to absorb the nutrients it needs and block the toxins it doesn’t. I don’t usually buy any extra supplements, but did try this one, available at GNC. My experience: I certainly think daily use kept me on track. Just seeing the bottle every morning reminded me to make more healthy choices as the temptations reigned down. RESTORE is about your “gut health.”
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com