Saturday, January 23, 2021

Still Resolved to keep well fed and fit in 2021

If my birthday weren’t in January, I’d be as fit as all The News readers have been since 2021 hit us, right? It’s a Capricorn bump I have to face, but I’m back to plant-based options and I haven’t missed my 10,000 steps goals. Read on for tips on healthy ways that may serve you well:
When seedy is good Top Seedz could be the best cracker I’ve ever eaten. Dense with seeds, they’re baked in a sheet so we get the “cracked” pieces. No sleeves of uniformity here. Each bite is a treasure, just like the sporty New Zealand mum who conceived of them imagined. There’s a sea salt version, another with cumin and more options. One of the things that makes them memorable is that different seeds create a pattern resembling an edible mosaic. Artsy huh? They’re crunchy, gourmet, on the healthy side and delish. The 6-Seed version could be my favorite weighing in with sunflower, sesame, flax, pumpkin, chia and hemp. I had them as a birthday treat with wine and I believe I could feel their health benefits with each crisp bite. I had to say “mmmm” after each sample and I kept holding them up to the light to enjoy the seedy designs. Rosemary with sunflower, sesame, flax and pumpkin was a top pick. Top Seedz does just seeds, too, but they’re “just” roasted with Maple Magic to give a sweet and nutty crunch. There’s more for your lunch, yogurt topping snacks, etc. at topseedz.com “Whole Person Integrative Eating” You may be consuming “foodish” substances instead of the fresh, real food your body deserves. Ditch the preservatives, slow down and enjoy, authors Deborah Kesten, M.P.H. and Larry Scherwitz, Ph.D., write in this book, offering “A Breakthrough Dietary Lifestyle to Treat the Root Causes of Overeating, Overweight and Obesity.” Easy to read and follow advices includes the “raisin meditation,” where you pause to ponder the feel and flavor of your food and also appreciate how it got to you. What’s your best meal memory? Probably not a cold bite over the sink or a burger while stuck in traffic. The WPIE method asks us to enjoy food with family, collect relatives’ recipes, experiment with cultural traditions and even include your pets in dining time. Some of us don’t even know how to eat real food so recipes for wild spinach omelet, Thai basil rice, and fig fruit salad can help in a journey that should change us for the better. ISOPURE Think beyond smoothies with this zero carb protein powder you can cook, blend and bake with. Unflavored powder can give you an oatmeal boost, but think about game day with recipes such as Protein Boneless Chicken Bites. It’s a food supplement (not for weight reduction) that comes in many forms, as well as flavored infusions. Here’s a double tip: I put some powder in a tea strainer and sprinkled over French toast. It looked like powdered sugar but my husband got a breakfast boost instead. Learn more about this 100 percent whey protein isolate at www.theisopurecompany.com Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie resolved to keep well fed and fit in 2021. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, January 17, 2021

January is Soup Month. Can that mean gumbo?

My family thinks I don’t like soup. It’s because I told them I don’t like soup and have avoided certain soups from them. But I actually mean I tend to really hate vegetable soup or bland and salty canned soups. Bring on a good French onion, potato or gourmet cream version. In January, when one craves a bowl of warm comfort, I’m all about gumbo. I’m about gumbo in steamy summer months as well. My husband loves gumbo, but he always brings up his musings of if gumbo is really a soup. This is tedious, as he’s still going on about it as he dishes his second bowl. Readers, let me know what you think. Do you consider gumbo as soup? Or is it a special category of Cajun elixer?
Moocho Fiesta “Let’s YUM this thing,” the shreds say. “Mmm-oo-cho.” If every night was taco night, except when it is enchilada night, you might need to examine your cheese habits. You might need to go non-dairy, into Moocho’s world of Fiesta, Mozzarella and Cheddar shreds plant-based, non-dairy shreds. HEB has added plant-based options including Moocho. They work like cheese for me and the aged Fiesta Blend melted into a skillet full of refried beans on my last Taco Tuesday. If cheese should not be an everyday thing in your life, yum up with Moocho shreds. Circle B Ranch, Rogersville, Mo. Do Texans treat themselves to pork chops? We smoke our brisket and grill our steaks, but pork chops don’t pop into my mind until I see a beauty packed up at the store. And I sure didn’t realize there’s a think called Big John’s Chop and Steak Sauce that is tomato-based, molasses spiked ease for dipping, marinating, pouring on pork steak or poultry or, as makers say, great on fresh garden tomatoes. Big John’s Uncured Hickory Smoked Pork Pineapple Snack Stick is thicker in more moist than most options, in my opinion. Uncured Bacon Pork and a jalapeno version of that are great hiking snacks to tuck into a backpack. www.circlebranchpork.com The Paleo Sheet Pan Cookbook Jennifer Bumb challenges us to get our sheet together. Pumpkin update: Pumpkin Spice Pancakes is the first recipe to greet readers. You slice them into squares. Sweet Potato Bennies, using the potatoes instead of bread for a benedict, is the second breakfast option and the rest of the section makes eggs look artistic. Then you’ve get to stuffed poppers, salmon, meats and nuggets in the main dishes. I can hardly stand it. Bumb is founder of “Pretend it’s a Donut” and her writings are popular and funny. I noted a sheet pan in the tempting photos looks like it has been around, then I noted her observation that kitchens ought to have real, dog-eared cookbooks with blotched pages. I like her. And I like her dishes. Spaghetti Squash Pork Chow Mein and Buttermilk-Drenched Caveman Pops, what I used to call turkey legs, are calling my name. A sheet pan is an easy way to get dinner in the oven and to the table and it helps with cleanup, too. I’ll bet you’ve got one that you haven’t touched in a while. Have you ever jerked your carrots? Roasted your mini sweet potatoes Reuben style? Invited an avocado into your brownie mix? If you by into the sheet pan ease idea, don’t think there are just a few recipes to try. These come from all over the world and they have varied textures. Don’t worry. The sheet pan is still good to make dessert. How about fruit roll ups? Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie who’d love to hear how you have already changed your habits in January. Let her know if you consider gumbo as soup. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Turns out, turnips are tops

Turns out… I truly like nearly any food, or at least like trying it. For decades, if someone asked a food I don’t like, and I’d shout out “turnips” quick. Truth is I probably had one dull, bland bite as a kid and they never came up again. I didn’t even realize people grew them around here. A local gardener gave me some and I didn’t hesitate to try it. He suggested a method that involved bacon but I happened to have some chicken fat at hand so I tried that with great results. He doesn’t peel them, so I didn’t either. Just pretty much roasted them, with great results. The greens were also surprisingly easy and good and did have the promised spicy “bite.” This is a guilt-free addition to my diet, so not worried about finding a new food to enjoy. But what will I say when people ask what I don’t like? Turns out, turnips are terrific.
And here’s some of that January health roundup I promised: Tofurky Plant-Based Roast & Gravy When all your plant-based friends are hanging on the patio, roast up a Tofurky. My friend said he’d had something like this about 10 years ago and imagined the process had improved. This time around, he complimented the texture several times and said it was filling, too. On my end, I have to say the round ball looked like a big mound of modeling clay. There was also a gravy pouch. I roasted it with cabbage, turnips and onions and guess what? People liked Tofurky. It sliced well, revealing stuffing and just like that, Tofurky was the talk of the day. If you are doing plants, check into this easy-to-handle roast. Cart Safe Did you assume grocery carts were “icky” even before the pandemic? Studies show they have more saliva, bacteria, etc. than public telephones and bathrooms. Did you ever want to put like a giant shower cap around your hold cart while you’re loading up on fresh produce and the rest of your necessities? Thank a mom who invented Cart Safe for the times of Covid. Gonna say, of when you push your cart around the market that’s lined with this blue protective layering you’ll get notice from other shoppers who will likely want to order, too. Get a look at Safe Cart at www.cartsafe.com Keto Beam Are you trying to maintain ketosis? Some of you know just what I mean but I don’t have much experience with this lifestyle. Keto-BEAM.com will hook you up with Electrolyze, Micro-Boost and Insta-Lytes. I received samples and will agree that they taste like water, which is a welcome sensation when compared to some supplements. I’m most interested in the Insta-Lytes Electrolyte Misting Spray you can spray on your face and elsewhere to soften cramps, sooth aches and recharge electrolytes. I do like this sensation. Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie committed to a new year of healthy resolutions. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Saturday, January 2, 2021

January offers time for new year of reading

“Texas Place Names” Fort Spunky? Not Familiar. Port Arthur? Of course I knew about railroad magnate Arthur Stilwell. But now everyone can, in if they proudly display Edward Callary’s big red book done with Jean K. Callary. Premise? The book cosists of just a blurb about how each city in the great state of Texas got its name. Dime Box? Raisin? Our own Sour Lake? Read all about it, and then plan some good-eatin’ road trips. This is fun stuff and I love that Texas is so big this hefty book clocks in at 400 plus pages. See round. Maybe in China.
“Freddie Mercury: An Illustrated Life” Drawing Queen’s front man Freddie Mercury brings iconic images to mind: a mustache, crown, shades, a floral mike and athletic shoes. Queen is my go-to music when feeling a range of emotions and Alfonso Casas was onto Freddie’s appeal before he even realized it, because he heard a cover song and thus learned about the real Queen. His drawings and story are fascinating as they trace the singer’s paths and “rebirths.” The flamboyant singer was quieter offstage, preferring the company of his cats and Liza Minnelli albums. A take-away for me: The video of “I Want to Break Free” shows the band in drag. With the rest of America, I didn’t know they were making a parody of the soap opera characters of Brit hit “Coronation Street.” While I couldn’t put it down at times, I also put it aside purposefully to prolong enjoyment. University of Texas Press publishes this one. “Improbable Metropolis: Houston’s Architectural Urban History” Do you live in Space City, H-Town, The Bayou City? Have you cheered at the Astrodome’s Skydome Club, craned your neck toward skyscrapers on the rise or savored quiet time with art at The Menil Collection? From dirt streets to steel beams Houston has produced business deals, politics, music and more while going by nicknames including Magnolia City and Golden Buckle of the Sunbelt. From oil to space and swamps to sprawl, Barrie Scardino Bradley book collects these personalities with words and pictures that will inform and entertain, even if “think you know Houston.” There’s a reason this University of Texas Press book is so beautifully bound and so heavy. It’s full of history. “Making Houston Modern: The Life and Architecture of Howard Barnstone” You’ve driven by these classic buildings and maybe you’ve attended lavish events there. This book with photos features Rothko Chapel on the cover and includes stories of how private homes, office buildings, places of worship, etc. came to be. Many of these structures look as fresh now as they ever did. It’s a pleasure to go back in time and know you can still come back to 2021 and visit some of these enduring structures. “Mark Klett Seeing Time: Forty Years of Photographs” Ever been out west and gazed upon a rocky landscape, waterfall or forest and wonder how it looked about 100 years ago? Mark Klett did it for us in The Rephotographic Survey Project, 1977-1979. After you catch your breath back from these side-by-side images, with the first set taken by photographers long ago who had to pack enormous camera gear on mules, you can study his family portraits over time, tribute to human-like cactus and basically get lost in nature. It took me months to fully enjoy this collection and I’ll feel good just looking at this hefty book when I pass it on a table. University of Texas Press puts out this art book of Klett’s works that made me feel both as small as a sand speck and timelessly powerful. “Happy Soul. Hungry Mind: A Modern-Day Parable About Spirituality” Be peace. Sound easy? Let’s do it. Spoiler: It may take some work. After all, we have hungry minds, writes Ravi Kathuria. Our own Janis Joplin said you can destroy your now by worrying about tomorrow. Here’s how this author puts it: Greatest irony of life : Our pursuit of temporary happiness steals our permanent happiness. The story has Ravi meeting up with Travis, in a fancy Vegas hotel and catching up on their work days in Houston. Both have been through a lot, but Ravi is handling it through meditation, etc. and chats with Travis about tapping into bliss, etc. Each little chapter is somewhat of a cliffhanger and you want to know more. This book is Volume 1, called Tribulations. Kathuria’s messages are easy to digest but it’s not always easy to slow down and search for the best in yourself. Make time, he writes. Here’s a few thoughts he highlights in boxes: * Our minds are restless and hungry. * Enjoy the world, engage in it, just don’t’ be addicted to it. * Obsessing about outcomes will exhaust you mentally. * Quiet your hungry mind, let your happy soul shine. Editor’s note: Is this SH? I hope to have a continued great relationship with The News and Culinary Thrill Seeking. I typically send Sunday mornings and have been sending to panews@panews.com and a personal address at editors’ request incase it gets lost in the shuffle. I used to send a cut and paste and have included the word doc format I.C. had requested so let me know if there is a change, or if I should add someone to the e mail. This one may be kind of long, so cut if you need to. THANKS! Darragh Cutline: A new year and new releases. Read to feed your soul. Darragh Doiron/Special to The News A joyful January and 2021 to you! I like this month because the 9th is my birthday; sunny and crisp days are like none other in the calendar and it’s National Soup Month, which means more gumbo for me. Thanks for supporting Culinary Thrill Seeking, readers. I love hearing your ideas and questions. I’ll bet you thought I’d start out with a health roundup. Surprise. It’s books. The weather makes for cozy reading with hot tea. Don’t worry. Healthy stuff is coming. Got to keep you all on resolutions track. Enjoy these recent releases to enhance your journey into the new year. “Texas Place Names” Fort Spunky? Not Familiar. Port Arthur? Of course I knew about railroad magnate Arthur Stilwell. But now everyone can, in if they proudly display Edward Callary’s big red book done with Jean K. Callary. Premise? The book cosists of just a blurb about how each city in the great state of Texas got its name. Dime Box? Raisin? Our own Sour Lake? Read all about it, and then plan some good-eatin’ road trips. This is fun stuff and I love that Texas is so big this hefty book clocks in at 400 plus pages. See round. Maybe in China. “Freddie Mercury: An Illustrated Life” Drawing Queen’s front man Freddie Mercury brings iconic images to mind: a mustache, crown, shades, a floral mike and athletic shoes. Queen is my go-to music when feeling a range of emotions and Alfonso Casas was onto Freddie’s appeal before he even realized it, because he heard a cover song and thus learned about the real Queen. His drawings and story are fascinating as they trace the singer’s paths and “rebirths.” The flamboyant singer was quieter offstage, preferring the company of his cats and Liza Minnelli albums. A take-away for me: The video of “I Want to Break Free” shows the band in drag. With the rest of America, I didn’t know they were making a parody of the soap opera characters of Brit hit “Coronation Street.” While I couldn’t put it down at times, I also put it aside purposefully to prolong enjoyment. University of Texas Press publishes this one. “Improbable Metropolis: Houston’s Architectural Urban History” Do you live in Space City, H-Town, The Bayou City? Have you cheered at the Astrodome’s Skydome Club, craned your neck toward skyscrapers on the rise or savored quiet time with art at The Menil Collection? From dirt streets to steel beams Houston has produced business deals, politics, music and more while going by nicknames including Magnolia City and Golden Buckle of the Sunbelt. From oil to space and swamps to sprawl, Barrie Scardino Bradley book collects these personalities with words and pictures that will inform and entertain, even if “think you know Houston.” There’s a reason this University of Texas Press book is so beautifully bound and so heavy. It’s full of history. “Making Houston Modern: The Life and Architecture of Howard Barnstone” You’ve driven by these classic buildings and maybe you’ve attended lavish events there. This book with photos features Rothko Chapel on the cover and includes stories of how private homes, office buildings, places of worship, etc. came to be. Many of these structures look as fresh now as they ever did. It’s a pleasure to go back in time and know you can still come back to 2021 and visit some of these enduring structures. “Mark Klett Seeing Time: Forty Years of Photographs” Ever been out west and gazed upon a rocky landscape, waterfall or forest and wonder how it looked about 100 years ago? Mark Klett did it for us in The Rephotographic Survey Project, 1977-1979. After you catch your breath back from these side-by-side images, with the first set taken by photographers long ago who had to pack enormous camera gear on mules, you can study his family portraits over time, tribute to human-like cactus and basically get lost in nature. It took me months to fully enjoy this collection and I’ll feel good just looking at this hefty book when I pass it on a table. University of Texas Press puts out this art book of Klett’s works that made me feel both as small as a sand speck and timelessly powerful. “Happy Soul. Hungry Mind: A Modern-Day Parable About Spirituality” Be peace. Sound easy? Let’s do it. Spoiler: It may take some work. After all, we have hungry minds, writes Ravi Kathuria. Our own Janis Joplin said you can destroy your now by worrying about tomorrow. Here’s how this author puts it: Greatest irony of life : Our pursuit of temporary happiness steals our permanent happiness. The story has Ravi meeting up with Travis, in a fancy Vegas hotel and catching up on their work days in Houston. Both have been through a lot, but Ravi is handling it through meditation, etc. and chats with Travis about tapping into bliss, etc. Each little chapter is somewhat of a cliffhanger and you want to know more. This book is Volume 1, called Tribulations. Kathuria’s messages are easy to digest but it’s not always easy to slow down and search for the best in yourself. Make time, he writes. Here’s a few thoughts he highlights in boxes: * Our minds are restless and hungry. * Enjoy the world, engage in it, just don’t’ be addicted to it. * Obsessing about outcomes will exhaust you mentally. * Quiet your hungry mind, let your happy soul shine. “Elevate Your Career” What’s with all the questions? Helen Horyza offers a code for a free assessment via her book, which challenges readers to live a life of which they can be proud. Examine your talent package. Now that’s a cool phrase. Client anecdotes help this read flow with questions that are just right to ask oneself as 2021 kicks off: * What is giving me strength right now? * What am I doing to support my health? * How can I become my own biggest champion during this transition? Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie enjoying some page-turners. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Black-eyed peas, and chickpeas, too. Please eat your black-eyed peas, but try some roasted chickpeas, too. We southerners need to eat extra black-eyed peas for some 2021 luck. That’s understood. But save room for something I finally tried: roasted chickpeas. I suppose I tried to roast some from a can many years ago and they weren’t crunchy. This time I succeeded. Crispy and sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom, they were a satisfying snack. I ate the whole can’s worth, which I do not recommend. I certainly do not suggest that you open another can, roast some more and eat that, too. That was a bit too filling. So the process is simply to drain the liquid and pat them dry and roast them in olive oil for about 350 degrees for roughly 20 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with your spices after they are baked. You may shake the pan every 10 minutes and they will pop. I’ll be doing this again. Churros. Say it again… If even saying the word “churros” gives you a comforting feeling, you’re not alone. In Southeast Texas we puff our dough and cover it in powdered sugar like the Cajuns do in New Orleans. We also love our Mexican flavors and they shape their dough into churros with sugar then add cinnamon for extra spice. San Diablo does churros of Utah and ships them everywhere. Scott Porter got his artisan flair in Mexico City while on mission work, so don’t be alarmed by the little devil logo and the red plastic pokey pitchfork that comes with an order. There’s an angel on there, too and she’s probably trying to tell you to not eat so many and save some for your husband. A batch arrived and it was easy as churros for me to heat them up 6 minutes and serve with included sauces. Their big news is they can ship you a churro maker, so you have the power to create in your own home. Are you and the angel ready for this power? I’m also considering La Muerte, a cinnamon sugar blend with ghoste pepper. Now that will spice up your day. Sandiablochurros.com
For ‘Starters’ Have you wondered how to get your sourdough more sour? Felt your batard was less than perfect? Craved homemade oat crackers? Elaine Boddy is there for you with confidence your loaves will look as rustic, hearty and tempting as hers pictured in “Whole Grain Sourdough at Home: The Simple Way to Bake Artisan Bread with Whole Wheat, Einkorn, Spelt, Rye and Other Ancient Grains.” It’s doable, Boddy, founder of “foodbod Sourdough” blog says. You can learn to score your ovals (batards) and sprinkle them with raw pumpkin seeds to make them photo worthy. Sure, snap photos to make folks jealous, but these ancient grain breads of for eating. The author is funny and talented and also makes this process easy to understand. Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie who will join everyone else in resolving to eat more healthy in the new year. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Dreams Aren’t This Good has Port Neches Ties Is branding Dreams Aren’t This Good a tad arrogant? Is it “the most addicting salsa in the world” that makes me ask myself questions I can’t answer? I was attracted to Just Dance Jalapeno Salsa before I connected Matt Bennet, founder, to Port Neches. He dreamed the Mexican and Cajun spice blended into his youth could go New York City style, combine with energetic branding and hit the bigtime. First, it’s really, really good, with a kicking original another fave being Now or Never, the avocado pepper blend and Girls Girls Girls with blueberry and coconut. then the marketing is fantasy/funny and to top it off, you can wear the DATG fashion line and know you’re helping makers support good causes. No wonder it’s billed as “The World’s First Lifestyle Salsa Brand.” But wait, there’s over-the-top chips in the line, too. Bennett has ties to Bogalusa, La., the “super small town of Port Neches” that’s “pretty much almost Louisiana,” and LSU. He makes salsa. Give yourself a treat and go to dreamsarentthisgood.com to get the story better than I can tell you. I have to go cultivate my salsa lifestyle. * * * Inspired by DATG, I’ve woven an American Dream Theme into the following reports on holiday indulgences below: Cranberries go chutney I wouldn’t dream of holidays without cranberries and my family always went above the squeezed out of a can model. Mom made a tangy relish that makes a turkey feel naked without it. Circle B Ranch of Missouri came to my rescue now that Mom’s gone. They’re in the humane pork business, so it’s no wonder they suggest their fruit chutneys, such as Pear Ginger, served with their quality chops. But this is the season for Cranberry Apple Jalapeno Chutney and Cranberry Chutney to shine. Once my husband tasted one jar, he asked that all three be put out at each meal until they were done. Circlebranchpork.com will set you up with all this and more. Gluten-free bloody Mary mix anyone? Sparkle What’s a unicorn’s dream breakfast? Waffles or whatever, it would come topped with Runamok Maple’s limited Sparkle Syrup, glimmering with pearlescent mica, a mineral that will also create radiant cocktails. Eye-catching and creative flavors are this Vermont-based company’s specialty and they’re always packaged in memorable bottles. As the sun comes up, light is catching my Sugarmaker’s Cut filling my workspace with amber glow. Mini bottles of Markut Lime-Leaf Infused and Cinnamon + Vanilla Infused versions look like the big mama bottle’s babies. Runamokmaple.com offers gift ideas and recipes tap your creativity, so remember to gift yourself. Cashews can be “buttered” The humble peanut does not need my promotion. Americans are in love with peanut butter and I encourage them to expand their horizons with awareness that there are other nut butters. The cute little Once Again raccoon mascot knows it. A family’s “dream” business model has come to fruition here. The little rascal adorns bottles of Creamy Cashew butter, which also comes in an organic blend. Copper, folate, protein and fiber are some of the “shiny things” inside what is a super-creamy and rich experience. I already consider cashews one of the more “elite” nuts. Once Again is proud of their nut source and the product is has a similar but different mouth feel to peanut butter. I consider it a more special/subtle brunch thing, but hey, cashew butter can certainly glam up an everyday lunch. Of course onceagainnutbutter.com has the line’s many nut options and recipes, which include pumpkin pairings. My batch will probably go down by the spoonful, straight from the jar. Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie dreaming everyone can have the option of eating better and actually choosing that path. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Salt, Vanilla, Tea & Coffee

Basic pantry stock gets elevated with these picks. Each have a proud backstory that’s worth looking up. SALTVERK Salt of the earth? As rarely as I use it, I can go for the good stuff. Saltverk is the good, good stuff, hand-harvested from Iceland. Did you know that was a thing? The umami comes from pristine sea water of Iceland’s remote Westfjords. Saltverks refived a 17th-century process powered by geothermal energy, leaving zero carbon footprint. So I did Google saltverk.com and those people are sure having fun leaving zero carbon footprints. Flaky Sea Salt is one of the sustainable varieties and it just tastes pure. Lava Salt is a sparkly black and Birch Smoked Salt is my favorite of those I tried. There’s a body in it and the pleasure of knowing where your food came from. If my eye catches the jar, I’ve been known to stop and take a little transporting whiff of the stuff. I also looked up images of the area and the beauty is breathtaking. I have a great sense of pleasure imagining all this when I pinch a bit of salt to sprinkle over a simple meal.
Native Vanilla I’m sure your baking deserves ethically sourced, naturally gown Native Vanilla in extract or powder form. Or mixed with sugar. Into DIY? Order some whole beans, submerge them in vodka or rum, and check in on those pods chilling in a beautiful glass jar. They’ll become homemade elixir over time. Micro-farmers in New Guinea are sorting through premium beans for this company and a little tour at nativevanilla.com will help bakers understand the wonder of how these pods get from nature to our kitchens. Try a tiny spoonful of that dark, crystallized sugar with specks of bean. It’s aromatic and heavenly. Let me know your top uses for vanilla in Southeast Texas. I might say bread pudding gets my vote. I’ve got big plans for the “pet” jar aging in my pantry. Tea Drunk Tea Drunk is in New Jersey and of course, online. You can stay home with a red packet of Qui Hong #3, because they’ve already “done” the elevated provinces of China to bring you the best of loose teas. A little brown paper packet of Bai Mu Dan (or Fu Ding, or white peony, silver needle) is at my side with hints of sun-soaked cotton, mead and herbaceous is at my side. I’m watching the leaves unfold in a clear vessel like a little live-action ballet. This is one more site that makes a product come alive: tea-drunk.com helps a body understand how the many names for teas came about and shares images of collection and presentation. Some folks already “get” tea. Others “oolong” to. In these quiet times of winter, accept this opportunity to slow down and get Tea Drunk. Biodynamic Coffee “Great coffee comes from healthy soil” is a trademarked thought on the Biodynamic Coffee by Holistic Roasters site. Just because they proudly show you a handful of soil on their website, don’t think they don’t use state-of-the art farming and machinery to bring you a back-to-basics experience. The French Roast note asks why anyone would mess with a classic, so you get smoky, bitter chocolate and “comforting” notes in whole beans that come in a package that goes with that “brown paper packages tied up in string” favorite things theme that’s hot this season. Rise & Shine is called balanced, bold and straight to the point. Get yours from biodynamic.coffee, a site that informed me that we’re hard-wired through DNA to assess nutritional value through flavor. So that’s why it’s good. The soil helped make it so. Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie getting her holiday vibe. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com