Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Crown Pizza offers a slice of showmanship

 Crown Pizza
              “Love at first bite” is the motto at Crown Pizza, with a funky vintage crown sign as a calling card. I argue that you could be in love with dining in a box car even before youorder something like gnocchi pasta or kale salad and sit where you can watch the kitchen make thin crust canvases.
              Vodka Pie, The Meat Wagon, Pork Love and Boogie on the Bayou are among choices that make you want to fall in love again and again. It’s tiny, it’s fun and it tastes good. It’s on Calder Avenue in Beaumont, by Willie Burger and Tia Juanita’s.

“Nourishing Your Whole Self”

I just had spaghetti squash and decided to have it again soon. I’ll want to try mixing in artichoke hearts, feta and olives, like Marci Izard does. Her book is “Nourishing Your Whole Self,” and it comes with fabulous recipes and photos and inspirational quotes. You’ll just feel good about reading and planning and dining.
Would you prefer zucchini or black beans in your brownies? The zucchini adds moisture and lightness while the bean version replaces flour. What’s hidden in the apple pie? Why nothing that you wouldn’t expect in a pie full of natural goodness. She say it is “a piece of cake” to prepare. 
The author wants us to eat mindfully and eat well. She says she’s not at all perfect in her choices, and shares a chicken wing hoarding incident from her youth. Of course, she always aims for the nourishing stuff.

Just so you know that it’s not all kale and sesame salad (not that there’s anything wrong with that) here’s a recipe for something Tex-Mex, which we down here know to be rejuvenating, as she puts it:
Tex-Mex Chicken Soup
12 cups chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
one half cup chopped carrots
1 green, yellow or red bell pepper, diced
1 cooked rotisserie chicken
1 can corn, rinsed and drained
1 and one half cups chopped cilantro, divided
5 tomatoes, diced
2 limes
one half teaspoon cumin
2 to 3 avocados, peeled and chopped
shredded jack cheese
In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a light boil.
Add the garlic, onion , carrots and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the meat from the chicken, corn, one half cup cilantro, diced tomatoes, juice from one lime, cumin and salt to taste. Continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Top each serving with extra cilantro, avocado, Jack cheese and a slice of lime.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Louisiana long-way road trip

 Louisiana long-way road trip
                      A late-Friday request for a Lake Charles pick up lead to a glorious October road trip. With a chill in the air we set out through Pleasure Island with sunny skies above.
                      My husband and I took a brief walk along the beach and I found a tinted shell I refer to as “pumpkin spice.” Louisiana’s state birds were in abundance doing their pelican thing on those breakers that head up to Holly Beach. The Cameron Parish library can point you to regional adventures.
                      I brought scraps to feed the seagulls but it had been so long since I took the ferry in Cameron that I didn’t recall you they ask you to stay in your vehicle for the brief passage. We were the hungry ones after docking and focused on the sign for Anchors Up, a fun roadside seafood place where we shared an order of soft-shelled crab. A sea-themed covered seating area lets the breeze flow until you climb back up the stairs to get your order at the window. Families, locals, tourists and bikers seemed to be in to the kickin’ shrimp and burgers.
                      Follow signage to Cameron Parish National Wildlife Refuge to Pintail Drive and Boardwalk. Here’s where I thanked the great state of Louisiana, Sportsman’s Paradise, for my first gator glimpse on the side of the road. The Pintail Drive boardwalk offered a peaceful area for birding and foliage. The dragonflies enjoyed it as much as we did. The visitors center is across the way with another whopper of a gator, another boardwalk and some very entertaining automated Cajuns in a display.
                      My daughter had called to request a ride home from a baby shower, and that’s where we got some neighborly hospitality. Carrots in a pitcher full of water highlighted a Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit theme with carrot cupcakes, hummus and pasta salad. Guests kindly gave us their picks for further culinary adventures, so we stopped at Peking Garden in Lake Charles, where the mom-to-be, whom we call “Cool Amy,” had her bridal rehearsal dinner some time ago. Get the egg rolls, they said, and we found them huge and flavorful and addictive. That’s all we ordered, as we then headed for the Blue Dog Café in downtown Lake Charles.
                      The Blue Dog features Rodrigue paintings, of course. Live music enhanced our a meal of Whiskey Bay Flounder with seafood wontons and duck quesadilla.
                      Homecoming weekend meant downtown areas were full of fancy-dressed young people, their double sets of parents and their personal photographers. We enjoyed the lake area full of photo ops and people playing Pokémon Go. We even tried some of those cool poses as the sun set on the water.
                      Then we hit both L’auberge du Lac and Golden Nugget for walk throughs. Talk about all night action with concerts and families and reunions and beach volleyball. I confess we didn’t play one game, but we thanked Lake Charles for a lot of fun.

Can Banana leaves top pumpkin trend?

Can banana leaves and apple cider top pumpkin?
Banana leaves used for steaming and flavoring are catching my eye on menus as much as the pumpkin everything we’ve been seeing for a few years.
San Antonio Magazine featured a map on “Houston’s thriving Asian-infused culinary district” that I’ll keep in my files until I’ve tried every one.
I went to a section of Bellaire that seemed to feature endless restaurants, tea houses, bakeries and markets. I love shopping for little cans and jars of spices and sauces to try. I love the ducks in hanging up and the crab in tanks and the vegetables that I wouldn’t even know how to get into.
The magazine mentioned Indika on Westheimer for goat brains sautéed in a chickpea crepe and saffron yogurt. But I asked the hostess her favorite and she steered me to Patra fish. It was steamed in banana leaf with cilantro mint and coconut chutney with tomato brith, karela stuffed with corn peanut masala. I meant to ask if the brith on the menu was a typo from broth, but got distracted by this great dish. I fiddled about when the cardamom cookies came until my husband suggested I get them while they were still warm. They were warm? I hadn’t realized. Similar to Mexican wedding cookies, the sandy texture melted in my mouth.

Pumpkin update
For the third year, readers and I are pumpkin spotting as this flavor and sent is showing up everywhere. I just saw pumpkin as a hair coloring. Not kidding. I think apple cider may be trying to creep up on pumpkin. I saw several candles out for fall. One in a copper mug could be used for a Moscow Mule after the scent is gone.
Readers, keep us posted by e-mailing me at

Cobblestones of Corsicana and Southwest style

               Looking for antiques? Nesting Pyrex bowls like grandma had? Check and check. I saw two sets at Corsicana shops. I left them there, because I have my own intact vintage set. I chatted with Darrell Raines of Grave Creek Mercantile, who says many of his drop-ins are friends who know they’ll find him there on weekends. He’s more untrackable when taking care of his property the rest of the week. He was nestled in the rear, past typewriters, blue and green glassware and Piggly Wiggly coasters. There’s more out back, he assured, and I opened the door to collectibles that can live in your outdoors.
                  If you mention on Facebook you’re in the Corsicana area, folks will steer you toward the Russell Stover candy outlet and the Collin Street Bakery, noted for fruitcake. Both are right on the highway and legitimate stops. I went to the old Collin Street Bakery, downtown, just like when I traveled with my parents. I did not realize it was so easy to get a sample cookie from the colorful temptations behind the glass. That, paired with 10 cent coffee, is why their tradition lives on. I really didn’t need more than one cookie, and I hated to leave them with only a dime for their trouble, so I was  thrilled to find the day-old bread bin featuring a loaf of jalapeno. There went one more dollar to fuel the Corsicana ecomony.

Pumpkin update: Southwest style
         Pumpkin is no trend for Angelina LaRue. It goes in cornbread, candy and a muffin crumble topping in her world. She lets us visit in “The Whole Enchilada: Fresh and Nutritious Southwestern Cuisine.”
         Pickled peppers, amazing salads, Christmas style burritos ( with strips of both red and green sauce), egg-topped enchiladas and serious cocoa is what this raised-in-West-Texas woman brings to the table. There are dishes we know, such as migas, and twists. We wrap bacon around jalapenos. She does it with serannos, cream cheese and piloncillo sugar that we see in wrapped in a cone on store shelves. Brown sugar will work if you have that instead.
         Fall is the perfect time of year to play with the colors and flavors. Of all the hearty dishes to share, I picked this one, in honor of the Groves Pecan Festival. Think what great holiday gifts they’d make.

Sweet Spicy Pecans
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons grated piloncillo sugar, or brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
one half teaspoon Mexican vanilla or other vanilla extract
one half teaspoon salt
one fourth teaspoon cayenne
1 pound pecan halves
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
         In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the corn syrup, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, salt and cayenne. Continue cooking for one to two minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Then remove from the heat.
         Add the pecans to the saucepan, stirring to coat, and pour the mixture out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
         Bake in a preheated oven for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spicy Sweet Pecans may be refrigerated in an airtight container for three to four weeks (if they last that long). 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Bettie Jean's is home style; It's time for pumpkins

Bettie       Bettie Jean’s
                      It pays to have connections. Bettina Evans invited French High Class of ’83 classmates to a get together at her new restaurant Bettie Jean’s Homestyle Cooking. She served us chicken spaghetti for dinner, even though she’s usually just open at lunch. A few of us got shrimp and grits and one stuck to her diet and got shrimp over salad greens. Several of us got tiny pies to take home. My sweet potato pie made a great breakfast the next day, though some of the coconut pies were devoured on site, at 2604 Dowlen Road in Beaumont.
                      I’m seeing on Facebook that Bettie Jean’s is getting well known and getting good reviews for a variety of soul foods that I’m looking forward to check out for lunch. French folks are wishing you well, Bettina!

              Sounds Good: Pumpkin

                      The pumpkin has begun. Before the white went away for Labor Day, I stepped into a supermarket and pumpkin snack cakes, pumpkin soup, pumpkin coffee and the like popped from every aisle.  I drove home to find pumpkin décor dotting several yards. For two or three years, this column has recorded pumpkin alerts. Readers, share your favorite pumpkin discoveries.

              Sounds Good: Seasonal color
                      Want to look as good and rich as Fall tastes? Keratin protein peptide is for strengthening nails, and Deremect has crafted the “ME’ Unearthed Collection with hues such as Verdure, a lush hunter green; Diggin’ You, a crème burnt umber that puts me in the mind of coffee beans; Nobody’s Fool, a chrome marigold; and To the Core, a russet copper. Check into and you’ll look fabulous this season and help Trees for the Future plant something like 10,000 trees.

A world of adventure
                      I’d love to blend my culinary global tour with cultures of the world. A new atlas designed for children fuels my desires. The great sardine run of South Africa? Never heard of it before this book. The fact that peahens choose mates on the size and quality of the peacock’s tail feathers, entertaining and not surprising. November and December in Zambia’s Kasanka National Park is the time when mangos and waterberries are at their best, so that’s when 8 million straw-colored fruit bats head gather for the largest mammal migration anywhere on earth. Did not know that before. You don’t need a kid to enjoy “Atlas of Animal Adventures: A Collection of Nature’s Most Unmissable Events, Epic Migrations and Extraordinary Behaviors,” but it sure would make a great afternoon to enjoy learning with one. Lucy Letherland illustrated this oversized book and Rachel Williams and Emily Hawkins wrote it. I’ve always loved a good Atlas. This one will hold interest for years.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Apple Sandwich; Shamrock memories

Apple Sandwich
              My grandmother always made a sandwich with a lettuce leaf topper, instead of the second slice of bread. Less filling, she’d say.
              Sometimes I go with no bread, making apple slices the top and bottom with something like ham and Dijon mustard as the insides. For breakfast, try a peanut butter and apple sandwich.
              The deal is, the apple actually makes for a very filling snack or meal.

              Shamrock Hotel memories

                    I was just reading about “The After Party,” Anton Disclafani’s novel set in 1950s Houston, when I saw it on a shelf at the Port Arthur Public Library. I read it in a weekend. I love that Google has afforded me the opportunity to have images of the Shamrock Hotel’s enormous lyre-shaped pool and other images of vintage River Oaks pop up. The story and setting are compelling, and I can now picture the girls’ monthly rare steak dinner at The Petrolium Club, cocktails at the Cork Club, luncheon at Sonny Look’s steak house and picking up groceries at Jamail’s on the maid’s day off. Funny, that with all the fashion, furnishings and emotions of this book, I’m recalling all the food references.

              Igloo Road
              Ever drive past 777 Igloo Road in Katy? There’s a giant Igloo Playmate at the welcome gate. It’s an office/gateway, of sorts, to guide you to the company store, which is packed with lunch bags, coolers and drink holders. If you didn’t know about this little place, it’s a fun adventure. Visit for more information.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Going seaside and packing lunch

Even though we are lucky enough to be on the water, it’s fun to visit the coastline down the road. Kemah gets a lot of press, and its neighbors are lovely, too. My daughter booked us in to South Shore Harbour in League City with a great view of the marina.  We walked down a hall with prom kids and I heard there was a formal military affair upstairs.
The morning walk and drive was the best part, with boats, pelicans, scenic views and tempting dining options everywhere you look.
When she was little, we had spent some weekend in the area, and now she lives right in the heart of these communities.
It’s always great when you grown kids are not too far from home.
Are you packing? Lunch?
Even grownups with no kids can get into the back-to-school lunch spirit. We played with a light-up, sound making R2-D2 lunch carrier that brought back all kinds of memories. That 0-Calorie wonder drink called Sparkling Ice comes in all kinds of fruity flavors and helps keep your lunch cool until it’s time to crack open that cap. I just shared strawberry lemonade with someone who liked it as much as I did.
If you can get to a microwave or a kettle, pack Explore Cuisine’s Soybean Noodle Soup, which is packaged with a separate salt packet and a little utensil. I loved the texture of these noodles, the vegetarian chicken flavor and the convenience. Here are some more packing tips:

Go Organically® Fruit Snacks: Tiny gummy drops can last all day. If you one who savors, like me, you can make a little bag of these last all day. Others of you may be go-for-broke gobblers. Enjoy your 70 calories any way you choose with these guys. I liked the flavor as they slow-dissolved on my tongue. You get a snack that’s: USDA-certified organic, made with real fruit purées and real fruit juices; a treat with 100 percent of the daily recommended value of Vitamin C; and a source of Vitamins A and E. They are  are GMO-free, gluten-free, preservative-free and made with natural flavors and colors from natural sources.
Love Olives - Gaea Organic Snack Packs: Times have changed. When I was a kid olives were pretty much of a gourmet grown-up food. Gaea's Olive Snack Packs are pitched as a healthy, low-calorie and 100% natural snack for your child to stay fueled throughout the school day, with zero additives or preservatives and very low salinity. How about sending kids to lunch with a re=sealable package of them: I’ve been savoring vPitted Green Olives Marinated with Chili and Black Pepper for days. Maybe your young ones prefer Pitted Green Olives Marinated with Lemon and Oregano or Pitted Kalamata Olives, 100% Natural and Sun Ripened. I love that they are 67 or 150 calories a pack. Please remember, parents, that you are entitled to this very gourmet snack for your own lunch. $2.49, available at retailers nationwide and