Saturday, June 23, 2018

It's the little things


                             I love little things that come in small packages. You can carry so many of them at once!
                             But don’t hoard them. Spread joy with them.
                             When I approached a rose bush, the most delicate pea-sized buds and blooms caught my eye and I had to gather a tiny bouquet. I collected them and searched for a “vase” small enough to display them. Then I spied a vintage blue glass salt cellar. There was just enough room for a couple of teaspoons of water and the roses.
                             When I showed my mother, she suggested I take a photo and share the presentation. May it inspire you to spark joy in your home.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Runamok mocktails and a slow-motion melon rescue


                  Runamok
                             It’s not enough to have a beautiful bottle and uber-cool names for your concoctions. You’ve got to have quality backing your name. Let me pause to have you imagine a tequila/guava cocktail with ginger-infused maple syrup dubbed Wardrobe Malfunction.
                             Your name, here, is Runamok Maple, a Vermont-based organic syrup company.
                              These “sweet” people have pure-joy ideas for blending their many flavors into foodie-worthy meals. Yes, I’d love some broiled salmon with mustard and smoked maple syrup. Sure, I’ll pair hibiscus flower-infused maple syrup with blue cheese, smoked gouda and baked feta.
                             Have you ever uttered the phrase “They had me at cole slaw?”  Maybe not. This “side” often blends into the background. But with red cabbage, apple and corn, try aa Merquen infusion in a vinaigrette.
                        Today I want to talk to you about Romamok’s elderberry, which is simply superb on warm tortilla and French toast.  Runamok Maple’s Elderberry Infused Maple Syrup features what makers call a mix of wild berries and figs with a hint of woodsy-ness. Visit www.runamokmaple.com and try this:

Kafka’s Mocktail

·  30 grapes
·  1 oz Runamok Elderberry Infused Maple Syrup
·  ½ oz fresh lime juice
·  Seltzer
·  Ice
·  fresh tarragon (optional)

Place the grapes in a tumbler and crush them (citrus reamer).  Add the Elderberry Infused Maple Syrup and lime juice and continue to mash the grapes until you have rendered all of the juice you can from them.  Alternatively, you can put all of the ingredients into a blender and pulse.  Strain the liquid into a glass filled with ice, pressing out as much from the solids as possible.  Top with seltzer and a sprig of tarragon (optional) and serve.


                             Watermelon resue
                             An audience of bystanders gasped allowed at a slow-motion watermelon rescue.
                             Eyes turned as a  rounded, basketball-sized melon jumped a cart at the grocer’s parking lot, hesitated, then negotiated a path toward oncoming traffic. We gasped as it paused beneath wheels of an upcoming SUV which caught it, skidded it a few feet, then bumped it under the vehicle and out toward the truck coming the opposite direction.
                             Cheers emerged as an employee stopped traffic and retrieved the errant melon. It was a tiny real-life drama for shoppers.

                             Micro mask is macro luxuriant           
                             Avocado, sweet orange oils , coconut oil and bergamot selections sound like you peeked into a health food nut’s pantry. Dermelect researchers weren’t playing with their food when they created a new Microfacial Exfoliating Masque. They were perfecting a natural blend with the trending kaolin clay and THD ascorbate, which they call the gold standard form of Vitamin C to fight the look of dark spots. The delicious-sounding ingredients in the first paragraph are blended to make skin appear supple, smooth, glowing, healthy and hydrated.
                             So there, keep kitchen ingredients in this handy red tube of Dermelect in your bath area. In the summer especially, an exfoliation is a treat to refresh the face at the end of an adventurous day. In fact, after one of these scrubs, I’m refreshed enough for another round of excitement.

                             Darragh Doiron is up for foodie adventures in the Port Arthur area. Let her know if you’ve tasted something she needs to try by contacting her at: darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, June 3, 2018

How's your melon?


                  How do you have your melon?
                             The various methods of serving watermelon and utensils of choice for consuming it have always intrigued me.
                             Picking the perfect melon, hauling it home, clearing space for it in the fridge and wrestling it into storage containers is slightly less of an ordeal now than when I was a kid. I used to cringe when one came home because I knew it would stress out one or more adults in the house who had to contend with it.
                             They were long and heavy and had so many seeds and what if you went through all that trouble and it wasn’t any good? Someone could hold that against the person who thought it was a good idea to take one home. Just sayin.’
                             These days watermelons are commonly smaller and seedless. I don’t think I’ve dealt with significant seed count in years.
                             My vision is that if I get one on the weekend, thick, sweet and juicy slices will be the focal point of evening meals and water down any other food choices that sent the scale numbers climbing. But then you get that “I feel like I ate a watermelon” sensation, which comes from eating pretty much all of a watermelon.
                             My mom used a dinner knife to stab her portions on her plate and now I use a very sharp knife to do the same. She’d probably tell me that was dangerous, like running with scissors. I’ve always wondered, who was in such a hurry for scissors that you’d be running. Anyway, my husband prefers a spoon. But that’s because I serve him the rounded end, so I can get that out of the way and fit whatever’s left over into the fridge.
                             A few summers ago, a produce manager suggested I look for yellow bottoms and stem “tails” that suggested the melon had been in the field for a while.
                             Readers, let me know your melon selecting and recipe tricks.
                             Darragh Doiron is a local foodie who is not ashamed to sometimes make a meal from one food group, such as melon or popcorn. Write to her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Monday, May 28, 2018

HIt the road, and the dinner table



I’ve seen miles and miles of Texas, and I challenge everyone to do the same. This is National Travel and Tourism Week and time to recognize the dollars tourism brings to all of Texas and beyond.
Hit the road and thank a hotel desk clerk, a server and attraction worker for adding to your travel pleasure.
The Lone Star State has so much to offer and I’m still processing my memorable Big Bend adventure from more than a year ago.
Here’s a taste, literally, of some Texas cities and meals I’ve recently enjoyed.

Victoria
As a plus one for my husband, I watched birds, deer and other critters at the Spiritual Renewal Center in Victoria. There’s an oak said to be 2,000 years old (really!). An armadillo joined me in walking the labyrinth. The skies were dark and I when I woke up at 4:15 a.m. I thought it would be amazing to walk outside the cabin and gaze at the stars.
Instead an unseen something was gazing at me and making an hissing sound followed by what sounded like a big, big kitty. I got back inside that cabin in a flash. The next day a worker said it sounded like a mountain lion. Thanks Google sound bites, for confirming that.
I wanted to see the Texas Historical Marker in the cemetery, but I was told that there was a new bull in with the cattle, and they’d all made themselves at ease right by the gate. As advised, I kept driving.
In Victoria I sought out Mumphord’s Place, a barbecue place of merit. Not only was Bum Phillips’ autographed photo on the wall, there was an array of sports jerseys hanging from the ceiling. They were all in plastic bags, to protect them from a rich, smoky mist about the place.


Sherman/Denison
A wedding got me to North Texas on Cinco de Mayo, and there was no way to escape Mexican food. Who would want to? The wedding’s actual theme was “Fiesta like there’s no manana.” The menu was traditional, but as guests left, they picked up souvenir bags of churros and Mexican wedding cookies. The rehearsal dinner was furnished by a food truck in the church parking lot.
If you find yourself this close to the border, of Oklahoma, explore Sherman’s downtown square, with fun vintage and trendy shopping opportunities and tempting bites.

Galveston
Shrimp ‘N Stuff on Avenue 0 is known as a little place the locals love, and I do, too. My daughter often has business in Galveston and asked around to find this fun place that truly puts me in mind of a New Orleans neighborhood gathering place. Walk up to the counter to order fried seafood and grab a high-top table to get a good view of everyone else’s food and fun. It’s super casual and there’s outside seating, too.

Centerville
There’s a left and right Woody’s Smokehouse in Centerville, on either side of Interstate 45 between Houston and Dallas. The first thing you notice is the smoky aroma and from the meats, then your eyes can feast on jars and jars of pepper jelly and other southern fare. I got a good deal on a half of a smoked chicken, that was enhanced by a pile of purple onions, peppers and free beans. While most folk consider Woody’s a mandatory highway stop, I have to let you know what you’ve been missing if you haven’t ventured in. It’s fun to see visitors who may not be from Texas taking it all in.

Darragh Doiron has her bag packed for the next adventure. If you have food thoughts to share, contact her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Coffee tricks and summer spice


                             Coffee tricks for those willing to play with their brews
                             If you can secure your little chocolate square with a toothpick or cocktail fork, you can dip it into steaming coffee and pull it out before it dissolves to savor a warm, bite that melts in your mouth.
                             I’d hate to lose mine into the coffee, though what’s the worst? It dissolves and you get a mocha coffee.
                             One of those fun-sized or bite-sized chocolates are perfect for this job.
                             My mother has fond memories of traveling with my dad. They’d drop  a hard candy into their travel mugs. It flavored the coffee as it melted.
                             I just read that if you need to make a gravy and have some leftover coffee, you can add that into your pan instead of water. I had a chance to try it the very week I read it and my only regret is that my husband spied me doing it and questioned my motives. He needed more convincing and the finished dish did that trick.   


            Here’s some other new foodie releases to try:
            *McCormick Grill Mates Rubs and Lowry’s Liquid Marinades are here just in time for summer grilling.
            I sampled some rubs in the line on everything from meats to eggs. I even boiled shrimp in the Sweet & Smoky rub. We southerners will try anything to get seafood into us. You can play, play, play with these rubs all season. Besides Barbecue and Applewood, there’s also Honey Hickory, Maple BBQ and Mesquite.
            With the marinades, I grabbed Chipotle Molasses first and Honey Bourbon next. These also made quick dips for wraps and veggies.
            Get to grilling.
            * TOPBiT is a slim packet of filling product that fits into your pocket so can do something crazy, like sprinkle savory herb crunchies onto avocado on toast or eggs or mixed berry onto your fruit and yogurt at lunch.
            I like the nutty flavor with a pop of something extra. The term "protein food topping" could take some getting used to, but it’s good stuff.              Bits of organic hemp seed, pea protein isolate, lentils, organic brown rice protein, and the stuff of chia seed, dehydrated fruit, etc. come into play. It's handy and fun and you'll be getting 10 grams of protein, all 9 essential amino acids and antioxidants. It's real food and real fun.
                             Darragh Castillo loves pepper heat on her food and experimenting with new things. If you’ve run into something fun, food-wise, contact her at:
                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Going green, greens and activism



                  Cooking a meal to show love for a friend can be an act of activism.

                  “When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.
                  When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” – Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb

                             These two notions crossed my path in the same week I was invited to a gathering where guests brought all that “health” food kind of stuff, from quinoa and avocado salads to hummus.
                             The part about cooking came from “Love Activism,” Stacy Russo’s book calling readers to approach everything they do with hope, empathy, non-violence and creativity. She asks us to be mindful during our meals and appreciate the food, the workers who brought it to us and the natural world that grew it.
                             Consider a silent meal to be truly mindful, and make a proper setting for your repast, even if you must dine in a space of cleared papers on your desk. This is another example of how my tiny fork helps me consider each bite.
                             Russo shares her conversion from vegetarian to vegan in a thoughtful way and discusses Love Activism in several aspects. Some ideas: Visit the sick; mail someone a surprise post card; and truly listen and be present when someone is speaking to you.
                             She asked readers to consider the beverage they may be drinking while reading her book.  If it was something other than safe tap water, they have options they may not realize. If someone has access to clean water at no extra charge and still has money to buy coffee, tea, bottled water, etc., then he or she has money that could be used in the service of others.


                             Going very green
                             A “restaurants near me” search in Houston steered me to The Green Seed, a vegan restaurant on Almeda Road. It had a modern, yet classic neighborhood feel with a variety of patrons lining up for lunch.
                             After perusing the menu above the counter, I chose a Solburger: Raw hemp nut patty topped with microgreens, spinach, tomato, red onion and spirulina aioli on a collard wrap.
                             I wanted to see how they got a collard to stay folded over a wrap. I waited with my number, which featured the proverb about good diet. I thought I’d love to get two paper menus to give to two friends who have interest in food in general, and specifically these types of offerings. Well, this restaurant was so “green” that they didn’t have any sort of menu. Staff suggested I take a photo of the posted menu.  Come to think of it, I didn’t actually see any big sign stating the name of the place on the outside building. My phone got me there. Maybe they were trying to save paint.
                             This place was an experience, and I’m pleased to say my collard wrap stayed wrapped and was completely delicious.
                             Darragh Castillo loves trying new things and wants to hear what you’ve been tasting lately. Contact her at:
                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com
                

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Taco Hugh's Day


                             London and a movie?
                             My husband was sharing a story of a mutual friend who went to London and it was snowing and she was having trouble getting in to see “The Greatest Showman.” 
                             Clarisa Chavarria overcame several multiple snags to getting inside the theater and I was thinking “why was she all the way across the pond in  London watching a movie?” It must have been to cold to ride the London Eye.
                             Then I thought that this story is going to end with Hugh Jackman being in the theater, live. Guess what? It did.
                             The theater stopped the movie and the audience thought it was a tech problem and that Australian charmer danced in. My front-of-the-rows friend even showed up in the background of Hugh’s Instagram.
                             Everybody and my Mom is talking about this show, so I decided to host a theme night for her. Mom has great memories of the excitement when the big tops came to town and set up, and that made me crave peanuts and popcorn, but more substantial fare was in order.
                             Then it came to me. It was a Sunday, so we had not a Taco Tuesday, but a Taco Hugh’s Day showing of “The Greatest Showman.”
                             Let me say it once more: Taco Hugh’s Day. It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue with the same grace as the acrobat flipping through the air in the movie, but we weren’t “clowing” around.
                             It got us to thinking of how the classic image of a “taco” has changed over the years, even in this Tex-Mex stronghold.
                            I’ve always been partial to a crunchy taco and loved the innovation of wrapping a soft flour tortilla around a hard shell so as to keep your toppings from crumbling out from your first mouthful. And who wants all those extra calories?
                             Then there’s always the flour vs. corn tortilla issue and within that my house there’s a  white flour vs. whole wheat flour side debate. Who wins? Eventually we all did.
                             We served coriander-heavy beans and ground meat and I ended up with a loose taco salad over shredded lettuce, scooping it all up with tortilla chips.            
                             While Hugh Jackman won’t be invited every time, I could see how a regular Taco Tuesday is becoming an American favorite, because there’s a never-ending variety of ways to get your Tex-Mex.
                             Let me know yours via darraghcastillo@icloud.com