Monday, February 1, 2016

Good eats, good cause at Port Arthur Seafarer's Center


Supporters and volunteers of the Port Arthur International Seafarers’ Center are doing good works and eating well in the process.
Tom Broussard and Capt. and Mrs. Wesley and Stephanie Moore presented a gathering for special supporters that included a jazz ensemble and nibbles.
Chef Carly Andrews of Chic Chef Catering laid out a spread with chicken and goat cheese stuffed dates with crispy hot mustard chicken skin garnish as just one offering. My favorite thing on the tower of goodies was creamy crawfish dip with pistolette bread crostinis.
But the complex at the end of Procter Street features a meeting room, pool table and more where ship crew members get company and support. There’s good food getting served there all the time.
Lorraine Blanchard does some cooking for the frequent lunch benefits that Janet Vestel says are offer bang for the buck.
“I try very hard to put out a decent meal on the table,” Blanchard said. “And I’m kind of famous for my bread pudding.”
Vestel supports the claim.
“You need to come. You’d freak out over her bread pudding,” Vestel said.
Tammy Domingue works at the center and says anyone interested in volunteering could find themselves driving a sailor to anything from a church service to the shopping center.
For more information on how to volunteer, or buy a lunch to support the center, call Domingue at 409-982-4504.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Now that's a knife! Greek nachos for Super Bowl


I keep hearing that much of America finds it easier to grab a package of junk food than to have healthy snacks handy.
Could a perky knife change everything?
If you must have junk food in the house, hide it behind something so you don’t see it in the pantry and crave it. Keep clear boxes of colorful fruits and vegetables in clear boxes in the fridge, all ready and cut up.
I finally wore out a bright yellow ceramic knife that was my handy go-to. I could not resist a new one with a bright paisley design right on the blade. It’s cheerful and sharp and makes me want to slice through some nutritious produce.
My little knife was just under $4 and it will keep me motivated to eat better every day. Look for your own kitchen motivation.


Greek nachos for Super Bowl?

I’d never heard of Greek nachos, or Gaea brand, but they sent this recipe as a suggestion for Super Bowl parties, and I’m in. Here goes:

Greek-Style Nachos – Courtesy of Gaea 
Serves 3

Ingredients
    one fourth Cup Roasted Red Peppers
    1 Teaspoon Garlic (Minced)
    Pinch Kosher Salt
    1 and one half Teaspoons Fresh Oregano (Minced)
    1 and one half Teaspoons Gaea's Sitia, Crete D.O.P. Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Kalamata D.O.P. Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    12 ounces pita chips
     2 cups pepper jack cheese, shredded
     8 ounces mild feta cheese, crumbled
     one half Cup Gaea's Green Greek Olives (Sliced)
     one half Cup Gaea's Kalamata Olives (Sliced)
     one half  Cup Cherry Tomatoes (Quartered)
     one half Cup Non-fat Greek-style Yogurt
Directions
For the Roasted Red Pepper Salsa:
Cut the red peppers into a medium dice and mix in a bowl with the garlic, salt, and oregano. Stir in the olive oil. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. 
For the Nachos:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Take the roasted red pepper salsa out of the fridge and set it aside. Spread the pita chips in a single layer on a baking sheet or a large heatproof platter. Sprinkle both cheeses evenly over the chips. Scatter the pepperoncini over the cheese. Bake the chips just until the cheese is melted, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the chips from the oven and scatter olives and cherry tomato quarters over the top. Spoon some of the red pepper salsa on the nachos and then dab on small dollops of Greek yogurt. Place the remaining salsa into a bowl so folks can dip while they eat. Serve the nachos right away with the remaining salsa on the side for folks to dip. 
Twist It:
Make the salsa into a smooth, creamy sauce in your food processor. Just add the roasted pepper, garlic, salt, and oregano to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until ingredients are pureed. You don't need to mince the garlic and oregano but just chop them roughly and let the processor do the work. (If your food processor is larger than a 1-quart model you may need to double the salsa recipe; serve any leftover salsa with eggs the next day.) With the motor running, pour in the olive oil until the mixture is completely smooth. Scrape the puree into a small bowl and mix in the yogurt until blended. Taste and add more salt if necessary. This gives you a creamy, bright red sauce that's a complete flavor blast. As soon as you pull the warm nachos from the oven, drizzle this sauce over the top in a lattice pattern. Cut the red peppers into a medium dice and mix in a bowl with the garlic, salt, and oregano. Stir in the olive oil. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
If you have Super Bowl ideas I need to know about,  send them to the contact below. Remember, this year you can hear Wayne Toups perform at Margi Gras of Southeast Texas right before the game on Feb. 7.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sweet and spicky pickles


I don’t know why a home cook would get tired of making something people always ask her for.
I kind of got out of the fire and ice
pickle business, even though it was an easy, popular gift for friends.
My husband was just reminding me of how a neighbor would barter citrus from her yard for these pickles.
All you had to do was take a jar of store-bought dill chips, drain the liquid, and pack the jar with layers of pickles, sugar and Tabasco. Soon the pickles were crunchy, richly colored and addictive.
My mom shared a jar of baby dills with me, so I’m trying the process with them. Here they are a few minutes after seasoning. I’ll try not to eat them for a week or two so they can do their sweet thing.

McCormick’s new flavors
This company is always putting out something new and here’s some things out for your experimentation:
* McCormick Pure Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend extract with warm notes of ginger, nutmeg and allspice. This liquid is for baking and flavoring beverages
* McCormick Slow Cooker Sauces: Grab a flavor like Smoky Bourbon BBQ Pulled Pork for a quick January warm-up meal.
* McCormick Gluten-Free Recipe Mixes: I’ve been hearing from a lot of people who are finding the gluten-free route helpful. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has approved four new mixes including meat loaf and beef stew.
* Thai Kitchen Coconut Cream goes in everything from cakes to curries.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Going 90 percent


My friend spread out high-end chocolate bars like they were a deck of cards. She had a Lindt Excellence with 90 percent cocoa and kind of challenged me to take it and see what I was made of.
 I told her I probably would not appreciate it as much as she would, but she convinced me it would be a good advance on my birthday present. I told her I’d share it.
I recall years and years ago she was doing dark chocolate when I was still at milk. I eventually got a taste for the darker stuff. You hear it is more healthy, has an air of luxury and a small portion satisfies much more than the cheaper stuff. Still, I typically go 75 percent cocoa, tops.
So I broke open the 90 percent and had to say, it was all too much. I call something that bitter, like coffee, motor oil. My friend likened it to baking chocolate. I tried it another day by dipping a bit into hot coffee and it became melty and much more palatable.
I shared presented the bar at several occasions, inviting people around me to partake. Some acted like they were afraid of it and others were familiar with it and enjoyed their taste.
A little 90 percent goes a long, long way. This chocolate bar could last until my next birthday.


Stripes
My husband has people in The Valley in Texas. When we head that way we always ask where locals get good Mexican food.
Last time I was there, more than one person said their office workers love to go to Laredo Taco Company, which is in Stripes Convenience Stores.
A gas station? Turns out I stopped at one when it was not time to eat and it all looked pretty good. Smelled great, too.
When I heard Port Arthur was getting a Stripes, I was hoping the food would come, too. It has. I attended the ribbon cutting and sampled some enchiladas and a pork dish. The tortillas are made fresh daily, I was told.
These guys will be serving breakfast, lunch and dinner and I’ll be back. Stripes is on FM 365 on the Medical Center of Southeast Texas side.
darraghcastillo@icloud.com 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Holiday highlights include mix of flavors, friends


In the spirit of friendship and new experiences, I always try to attend a holiday event I’ve never tried and entertain someone who has never been over. I made goal, and made new friends.
Culinary highlights over this stretch have included:
* 90 percent cocoa chocolate (more on that later)
* Not one, but two versions of biscotti
* Popcorn in myriad flavors
* Not one, but two high-quality steaks from Jack’s Pak-It
* Chicharrones with lime my mom served with a green salsa over cream cheese
* Traditional New Year’s caviar, with the leftovers topping an omelet
* Not one, but three kinds of  tamales



TexJoy
Those Texas-shaped boxes of Tex-Joy products packaged right down the street in Beaumont and enjoyed all over the place are a hot ticket.
I won one at a church event that included some coffee and an array of jars of seasoning, including Tex-Joy Butt and Rib Tickler Pork Rub. I put that all over some nice steaks I seared, then baked, according to Jack’s Pak-It meat market instructions.
As guests visited my home over the holidays, I felt a little generous and shared. Now I’m down to Old West Mesquite Shake and Special Bar-B-Q Seasoning Rub. These products of the Texas Coffee Company are a way to flavorfully support local business. Shake some around.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Get in gear for 2016


Get in gear for 2016
Look at the date! Timing shows a cusp of topic: Plan ahead for a healthy new year/indulge in festivities.
I say both. I love the extra rich flavors of the season from buttery seafood sauces to chocolates and fried bites of heaven. And I also love the way it feels to eat real foods from the earth that aren’t over-processed into a box on the market shelf.
My plan is to indulge and merge right into the healthy stuff. With you guys . . . next week.
The good news is, there’s always another celebration around the corner. Christmas and New Year’s pave the way for Mardi Gras, which will be celebrated Feb. 4-7 in downtown Port Arthur. Get ready for the Sweet Soiree theme.

New Year’s Eve
The fresh, salty brine of an oyster says New Year’s Eve to me and I’m again sharing a super-easy recipe that’s just right for festivities.
Oyster Spread: Mash up the contents of a can of smoked oysters and mix it  in to cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese. Form into a ball or block and spread on crackers.
You’re done.

Now for something healthy:
As I write this in advance I’m anticipating some good

sales on cabbage, because we southerners have to have our cabbage on New Year’s Day.
Stock up and shred it into all manner of salads, use it in fish tacos and sauté it as a side dish.

Cause for celebration:
“Celebrate: Food, Family, Shabbos” - What didn't I learn from this book?
Elizabeth Kurtz shares Jewish culture in the pages of this beautiful cookbook that is heavy with ideas, good stock paper, and beautiful photographs.
Can you imagine horseradish meringue-topped salmon? It's a real thing and it looks delicious.
My takeaways from this book:
* Something thank you, expensive, or which looks elegant when served in a stand glance. Example from the book: Skewered Gefilte Fish with Zesty a Ratatouille.
* Liver can work with cherries.
* Gingersnap cookies can go into a sauce for sweet and sour cabbage.
Great opening paragraphs come with recipes. I want to be at this author’s table.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Gumbo for Christmas Eve


Thank goodness my mother agreed to make gumbo for Christmas eve. It’s a tradition that I have treasured for as much as my life as I can remember.
A few years ago she did not make the gumbo. We all reminded her that that year did not go as well as it could.
She promptly agreed to get a pot going this time around.
Thanks, Mom.
Hope everyone in the Port Arthur area gets their holiday gumbo. If for some reason I can’t imagine, your family has another favorite, I hope y’all get that.

Pecans are a treat/health food
This week pecans are showing up  all sugared and buttered and baked into pies. We love it.
In a short while I’ll be back on salads and pecans and other nuts will be my health food, topping salads to add crunch, protein and flavor.
I’ve purchased nuts from sales to benefit three worthy causes this season and I’m planning to enjoy them, a controlled portion at a time.
It’s dangerous to get too nuts over nuts.