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 www.dermelect.com 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.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Apple Sandwich; Shamrock memories

 
Apple   
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 Igloocoolers.com for more information.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

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. www.GoOrganicallySnacks.com.
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 www.gaeaus.com.

An "eye" for pizza

Istanbul
              We couldn’t get over our pizza being shaped like an eye, kind of oval with pointed ends. Istanbul Grill in Houston’s Rice Village had outdoor seating and available parking, so that was our quick pick for a culinary adventure to tide us over for a luncheon appointment at an undetermined time. We chose wisely. “Hospitality is our nature,” the card reads. The pizza was cheesy and rich with perfect crust. Everyone else’s choices on the patio looked just as tempting.

              “The Great Big Body Book”
              Little ones may love sweets, but later we may prefer olives or coffee. We should keep fit and also look for the big-eared cat on each page of “The Great Big Body Book.” With reminders that even the Queen was a baby, mums, spelling of the word “colour” and references to dreaded teen spots (facial interruptions), grownups can pick up that Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith have British ties. They wrote and illustrated this colorful, educational and politically correct book for wee ones. The cat was a super-cute touch I’d say. It’s a good one for foodie parents to have on hand to remind us that food is fuel for our wonderful bodies. I’ll close with the book’s opening joke:
              “Why didn’t the skeleton go to the disco?”
              “He had NO BODY to dance with!”

              Not going back for that Jack
              You know that commercial for the Jack in the Box Brewhouse Bacon Burger? Where Jack is in disguise by wearing a big hipster moustache? My husband and I think that commercial is hilarious. It seduced me to try one of those burgers. The commercial was immensely better, we thought.  About a year ago we tried a Buttery Jack and liked that pretty good. This new one reminds me why I avoid fast food restaurants. 
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Nourising Noodles and Tamale Company support

 

Nourishing Noodles
         Fancy a zoodle pizza? A zucchini noodle topping is the gateway ribbon to ginger coconut soup,  Japanese sweet potato noodles with two sauces, polenta and garlic hemp sauce and carmelized noodles. Chris Anca, creator of “Tales of a Kitchen,” leads the way with “Nourishing Noodles: Spiralize Nearly 100 Plant-based Recipes for Zoodles, Ribbons and Vegetable Spirals.”
         It’s easy, colorful, adventurous and most importantly, delicious and healthy to create dishes that look so amazing and have so much texture. I don’t have a spiralizer, but I’m starting with my knife skills and mandolin and getting carrots and cucumbers into quick and flavorful dishes that go Asian, Italian and to all parts of the globe.
         Of course you think of salads for this technique, but Anca has drawn my attention to smoothie bowls, which have vegetable and fruit liquids topped with bits of granola, oats, blood orange, berries, nuts, etc. It’s breakfast art. Once you see the recipes and photos, you may be inspired to improvise with what you have in your kitchen (or garden).  I love this book and could eat from one page each day. Just think how healthy I’d be at the end, even though that’s where desserts are, like sweet potato brownies.
         One tip I got was for coconut bacon, shavings that are crispy and sweet that vegetarians go for. Here’s another:
Dressing for Cucumber and Sprouts Thai Noodle Salad
1 tablespoon tamari
Juice and pulp of one half lime
1 tablespoon coconut nectar
one half teaspoon grated ginger
one fourth tablespoon cold-pressed sesame oil
one half teaspoon chia seeds
1 pinch chili flakes

Great tamales; customer service
         Texas Tamale Co. is billed as The Mexican Deli with Texas sampler mail orders that bring the flavor to your door. I received a gift card a couple of years ago that I carried with me every time I hit Houston, which was typically for a big holiday meal. But I kept track of that card.
         When I arrived at the little restaurant on Fountainview, I scanned the menu imagining all the barbacoa/taco combos I could get. Then, the card would not scan. I scaled back my luncheon order and workers, who even tried wrapping the card in a plastic grocery card for a better scan, asked me to call the company.
         I’m not a mail-order kind of woman, but I am a tamale woman. Diana in customer service has my thanks for friendly, efficient service in getting tamales to my door. They came in little cloth bags that I’m sure Pinterest fans could turn into amazing things. And, those tamales were worth the wait.



              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Nourising Noodles and Tamale Company support

 

Nourishing Noodles
         Fancy a zoodle pizza? A zucchini noodle topping is the gateway ribbon to ginger coconut soup,  Japanese sweet potato noodles with two sauces, polenta and garlic hemp sauce and carmelized noodles. Chris Anca, creator of “Tales of a Kitchen,” leads the way with “Nourishing Noodles: Spiralize Nearly 100 Plant-based Recipes for Zoodles, Ribbons and Vegetable Spirals.”
         It’s easy, colorful, adventurous and most importantly, delicious and healthy to create dishes that look so amazing and have so much texture. I don’t have a spiralizer, but I’m starting with my knife skills and mandolin and getting carrots and cucumbers into quick and flavorful dishes that go Asian, Italian and to all parts of the globe.
         Of course you think of salads for this technique, but Anca has drawn my attention to smoothie bowls, which have vegetable and fruit liquits topped with bits of granola, oats, blood orange, berries, nuts, etc. It’s breakfast art. Once you see the recipes and photos, you may be inspired to improvise with what you have in your kitchen (or garden).  I love this book and could eat from one page each day. Just think how healthy I’d be at the end, even though that’s where desserts are, like sweet potato brownies.
         One tip I got was for coconut bacon, shavings that are crispy and sweet that vegetarians go for. Here’s another:
Dressing for Cucumber and Sprouts Thai Noodle Salad
1 tablespoon tamari
Juice and pulp of one half lime
1 tablespoon coconut nectar
one half teaspoon grated ginger
one fourth tableslpoon cold-pressed sesame oil
one half teaspoon chia seeds
1 pinch chili flakes

Great tamales; customer service
         Texas Tamale Co. is billed as The Mexican Deli with Texas sampler mail orders that bring the flavor to your door. I received a gift card a couple of years ago that I carried with me every time I hit Houston, which was typically for a big holiday meal. But I kept track of that card.
         When I arrived at the little restaurant on Fountainview, I scanned the menu imagining all the barbacoa/taco combos I could get. Then, the card would not scan. I scaled back my luncheon order and workers, who even tried wrapping the card in a plastic grocery card for a better scan, asked me to call the company.
         I’m not a mail-order kind of woman, but I am a tamale woman. Diana in customer service has my thanks for friendly, efficient service in getting tamales to my door. They came in little cloth bags that I’m sure Pinterest fans could turn into amazing things. And, those tamales were worth the wait.



              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Daddi0's, the big batch and stressed wine

 
Daddi     DaddiO’s
              Before my flavorful goat cheese burger arrived to my table at DaddiO’s, on Calder Avenue in Beaumont, much of our attention went to the parade of Waitr App orders going out the door. This delivery system has hit the ground running. Lauren Bebeau would be proud.  After my burger came, I concentrated on that.


              Large-batch cooking?
                      If you didn’t need a big old IMUSA stock pot with steamer insert for loads of corn on the cob and seafood this summer, think ahead to all the tamales you’ll need for Christmas.
                      I sampled one with cool-touch handles to try some of it’s options for beans, soups, pasta, etc. Down here, everybody needs a gumbo pot, or an extra one. Target.com can connect you. IMUSA reports it is the leading Hispanic & International cookware company with innovative, authentic & affordable products which perfect for whipping up delicious meals in a pinch. I used to walk by grocery store displays of this brand, and after reading up I notice the options more. Their big-batch pitch includes an electric double burner for cooking outdoors, an electric pressure cooker that speeds cook time and a set of caldero, or caldrons. Hopefully you’ll see this particular pot as part of an upcoming silent auction.

                  Go ahead and stress
         Holman Ranch “stresses the vines” of the fruit with emphasis on reproduction. That stops growth and ripens fruit, makers say, as morning fog and proximity to the ocean are also perks. What that means to Virgin Chardonnay of 2013 is a bright, crisp sparkle that lightened my mood. Always read up on your label and you’re sure to have a better experience. But this background all goes to promote new wines from Holman Ranch and Jarman Wines, two of Central California's most-celebrated wineries.

Vintners  introduce two estate-grown wines from the 2015 growing season .5 Degrees Brix and Rose of Pinot Noir  as the newest additions to a menu that already includes 2013 Chardonnay, Unoaked Virgin Chardonnay, Kelly's Press Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Sweet Love Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc,  2012 Heather's Hill 12HH and Pinot Noir, 2011 Hunter's Cuvee Pinot Noir and Big Daddy Fortified Late Harvest Pinot Noir.
darraghcastillo@icloud.com