Thursday, August 14, 2014

Deep Eddy is a taste of Austin in New York

A taste of Austin has arrived in New York state
I finally got some tastes of the Austin-based Deep Eddy Vodka products everyone has been raving about. New York is one of 48 states that now can enjoy the flavors of sweet tea, cranberry and – the one I was eager to experience – Ruby Red, of Texas grapefruit fame. You’re welcome America, from Texas.  Other Lone Star residents need to get on the ball and give it a try.
The vintage-looking bathing beauty on the label is beckoning from ads in Texas Monthly and other publications.
I hope to soon get myself to Dripping Springs, where Deep Eddy Vodka will be opening a distillery and tasting room. The company makes the flavors with real ingredients. They are gluten-free and are handcrafted in small batches in its distillery in Austin, since 2010. That Ruby Red is my favorite blend of this quality, refreshment. Here’s a little recipe:
Ruby Fizz
Presecco or Champagne
1 ounce Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka, chilled
Serve in a Champagne flute
A Quest for chips
Quest Protein Chips boast 21 grams of protein in a 120-calorie serving of cheddar and sour cream chips. They’re baked, never fried, the label proclaims, but what exactly is it being baked? These “chips, evolved” are a mix of dried potatoes, corn starch, milk derived ingredients and whey powder with colorings like paprika extract and turmeric. Verdict? I glanced at the tempting package all morning in anticipation of using them as the crunch over my salad and… enjoyed every bite.
I shared some sea salt and barbecue versions of these chips with a person who loves healthy foods, and she was very excited, too.
Walk the flock
Diestel Turkey Ranch of Sonora, Calif., invites you to taste the difference of its not-rushed, range-grown turkey. I did and I do. Smoked, peppered and otherwise seasoned deli meats have the convenience you want without that super-salty “fake” taste. Here’s why: The Non-GMO slices have no gluten, phosphates, MSG, nitrates, antibiotics and other unpleasant additions. It tastes real because it is whole meat with no fillers. I’ve been chopping it into salads and stuffing it into mushroom caps. Look at their web site to learn more about how they walk the flock and take care of those turkeys before you get to eat them.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

It's Willie, Willy good!

The Hee Haw at Willie Burger is a Texas Bucket List best burger pick, and I’m also raving at the concoction featuring pimento cheese, bacon and a fried green tomato. It’s a fine experience. 

My aunt recently had one and claimed it was the first burger she’d ever had with bacon. A skeptical table mate asked to see receipts to prove this claim.
So Willy Burger in Beaumont, with its adorable diner theme, is “Willy, W

illy good” as promised. I’m very much wanting to try its neighbor, Crown Pizza, featuring a tiny space with gourmet blends. It’s so popular, I’m going to have to wait a while to experience this.

Blue Bell’s flavors
A friend gave me half a carton of Blue Bell Italian Cream Cake so she wouldn’t have it in her house to tempt her any more. I was not aware this product existed. It is a very nice thing.

The BerryBreeze Revolution
I’m so into not wasting food that I protect fresh produce in particular containers to keep them fresh. I know you don’t all do this and are disappointed to keep heading to fridge and finding your healthy foods in plastic bags of soupy mush you must discard. Then you buy more and the same thing happens.
BerryBreeze says it can keep foods in your fridge from spoiling two to three times longer while maintaining freshness and nutritional value. The sleek white machine produces activated oxygen  that is like cool mountain air to your veggies and herbs. It oxygenates and reinvigorates fruits as well, so you can save, like tons of money and reduce your carbon footprint.
I got permission to put the little contraption in a relative’s refrigerator. This woman said she doesn’t have a problem with food spoilage, but as the person who goes regularly cleans her fridge just for kicks, I wonder if she has a grip on what mushy things leave that cold, dark place. I looked inside after a while and determined I’d eat what I saw, so BerryBreeze passed that test.
Then I took it to my fridge and we are getting along fine. Since I’m already a fan of Market Basket’s dollar bags of produce that should be eaten very soon, I’m pleased with the notion of hanging onto the food even a little longer. Sometimes it seems odd to buy something that in the long run helps you save money, but the benefits are very high.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Drinking your beets and other new flavors

Can’t beet it
I thought I hated beets. Must have been turnips, because the ruby-red beauty of a packet of BeetElite tasted refreshing and nourishing. It was like a cocktail, but you’re actually supposed to mix it up with water and take it like a shot. And, I walked that track, tackled the grocery store and mowed the back yard in good spirits.
Neogenis Sport of Austin Texas is a leader in Nitric Oxide research and cardiovascular products and Olympic, professional and collegiate athletes globally are already using it. The single shot delivers the Nitric Oxide Power of 6 beets or two half-liter bottles of beet juice; is consumed 30 minutes before exercise;  and is designed to allow one to work out longer and harder with improved ability to breathe and better energy, give better energy throughout the day, improve recovery times due to improved blood flow and lessen soreness and stiffness. Okay, I know some of you exercise nuts will be all over this. Go to for all this technical stuff. Though I’m thinking people who read this column will be satisfied to know that to this foodie, it tasted good and I felt great. Really great. And accomplished.

Getting Zest-Tea
Samples of Zest-Tea came at exactly the right time: Summer in Southeast Texas. It’s hot as blazes but the yard work still needs to be done and you have errands involving a hot car. Cool down and fuel up with Zest-Tea Energy Blends. I got a morning full of chores done while refreshing myself with Earl Grey Black, Nilgiri Indian Black Tea & Bergamot. The floral scent is strong, emitting from mesh bags that show your cup of herbs floating around and transforming your water into something powerful, and it offers more caffeine per cup than any other tea brand. The label on the sleek tin refers you to a graph noting your Zest Black offers more caffeine than a cup of coffee. And it tells a story on how you can thank Charles “Chaz” Gray for his tea love in the 1830s. The Apple Cinnamon Black and Blue Lady Black offer 155 mg. caffeine a cup, equal to a coffee or three cups of “normal” tea. Both taste full and “important,” as does the Pomegranate Mojito Green “high-octane” tea. You will notice the difference in flavor. will fill you in.

A 60-calorie black cherry real-fruit ice bar made my day. I sampled the Fruttare bar I got from Walmart with great joy. A coconut milk bar with slightly more calories put my family in a tropical sensation. Of course, everyone likened it to a pina colada, without the alcohol. Sustainable products make you feel good about buying it, too. I wouldn’t mind trying all the fruit and milk fruity flavors.

Cow Wow
Jimmy Kimmel says Cow Wow tastes like heaven, according to makers of this naturally flavored organic lowfat milk. What makes him a culinary authority? He’s as much one as I am for a product that claims to be “The best part of the bowl” and flavored like the bottom of a bowl of cereal. That’s right, this box and straw combo is filled with flavors like Cinny Minny, Chocolate Chip Cathy and Fruity Trudy. Labels feature a cow very much enjoying a bowl of cereal. Follow? It’s all good. Really, it’s quite smooth and refreshing going down. And you don’t get that cereal aftertaste. Lunch boxes, make room for Cow Wow Cereal Milk.

Get Popping
Is it easy, healthy and fun to pop your own corn? Yes!
Is someone else’s flavorful work delivered to your door sounding good? Yeah. Capital Corn & Confections offers all-natural popcorn in 12 crazy varieties including Red Velvet and Cookies and Cream. Need you corn to from their place to whoever is having a celebration? Try sending some Cinnamon Bun, which is gooey and sweet and crispy and I’ve spoiled my dinner. Never mind. That was dinner. Vinegar and Salt also packs a punch. Pick your flavor (good luck with that) and pick your size at

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bacon on the brain

My mom tried a recipe for this Dijon mustard spread that you bake onto a head of cauliflower. She added a bacon weave, so the finished work looked like a brain with a bacon cap. We called it Bacon on the Brain. The spread had seemingly-flavorful ingredients, but didn’t taste like anything, so the bacon did become the star. In thinking about people who love vegetables, we thought this would make a great presentation for vegetarians, before remembering that of course, they don’t eat bacon. This is like trying to turn on the lights to find the candles because the electricity is out.

Hominy salads are there?
My husband needed a covered dish for work so I thought about what I had on hand: Rice and hominy. How about a salad with that? I Googled it, it’s a thing. Closer to the event, I didn’t have the time to make the rice, so it became a straight up hominy salad. I snagged some for my lunch and found my mixture of red and green onions, chipotle seasoning and fresh oregano leaves with vinegar and oil to be quite refreshing.
When the subject of hominy grits comes up, my husband invariably  asks “I don’t know? How many grits are there?”
There was apparently only one hominy salad at the covered dish.

The all-day tea bag
There’s something beyond my frugal nature (thanks, Dad) that drives me to employ the all-day tea bag technique. We’re supposed to drink lots of water, and I genuinely feel better when I do. So when I pull out one of my favorites, Tazo’s Passion flavor with hibiscus, I drop it in a pitcher of warm water and let it do its thing. So the first glasses are a deep red, and I keep adding water throughout the day until it’s a still-tasty light pink and I have drunk as much as I should to stay rehydrated in a Southeast Texas summer. I don’t consider that I’m drinking tea so much as delightfully flavored water.
Readers, do you have any tricks for flavored water? Send to me at:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lunch with Lucy at Kirby-Hill House

I’m guilty. I have heard about about this “treasure of the Big Thicket waiting to be discovered,” and I have not discovered it myself. I have met people who represent the Kountze spread and they are persuasive. One of them gave me “The Kirby-Hill House”cookbook, one of those spirals where the community shares their favorites. There’s a lot of soup offerings under the Lunch with Lucy section, and I think the lemon soup sounds like a great summer offering, It actually is written to add three teaspoons of rice. That seems miniscule, so I assume it’s a thickener. The other one I’m sharing is Love Soup. It sounds more like fall fare, but I just liked the name.

Lemon Soup
4 12-ounce cans chicken broth
3 teaspoons uncooked rice
3 eggs, beaten
3 teaspoons lemon juice
Cook the broth and rice until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Beat the eggs until light and gradually add lemon juice, beating until blended. Pour part of the hot soup slowly into the egg mixture, then return to the remainder of the soup. Do not heat further and if it should begin to curdle, beat with a rotary beater. Serve at once with lemon zest and curl on top. Serves six.

Love Soup
One third cup beef bouillon granules
One fourth cup dried minced onion
One half cup dried split peas
One half cup macaroni
One fourth cup barley
One half cup lentils
One third cup long grain white rice
1 cup tri-colored spiral pasta
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
Place all the ingredients except the pasta in a large soup pot. Add 12 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Add pasta and simmer 15 minutes more. Put cooked pasta into a bowl and add soup.

No. 23
For months I’ve kept No. 23 in my head for the date I return to Pho Ha on Nederland Avenue. Some one took me to lunch there and I saw two other culinary thrill seekers on my way in the door for the first time. They told me I’d love No. 23, but it was a Friday in Lent and I was going meatless. I enjoyed the meal I did have, but vowed to return for a bowl of vermicelli noodles topped with char-grilled meat, crispy bits, chopped nuts and fresh vegetables.
That day came and I also had the pleasure of introducing my mom to this aspect of Vietnamese food. She also succumbed to the No. 23 and, since she had phoned a friend for advice, asked for a side of spicy chicken sauce to go with it. While my husband enjoyed his lemon chicken over rice, he also kept his eyes on our No. 23 orders.
Our waiter must get asked how to pronounce the restaurant’s name daily. I’m still working on the concept that “pho,” the soup, is pronounced something like “fuh,” as in “fuhget about it.” The “Ha” comes from the owner’s wife’s name, he said.

Nuts about it
Taking my cue from Asian restaurants I have loved, I often use peanuts and other nuts as “croutons” on my salads. Nuts are good fats, the only problem is many of us can’t eat just a few. If you’re taking a salad to work, measure out a portion and that’s all you get. Add them at the last minute, after your simple-yet-complex vinegar and oil dressing you’ve created. Now you salad is healthy, classy and different from the usual fare.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The flavors of Southern Summer Night

Last year I danced with a priest. I might do that again, but I’ll also be into the beef teriyaki satays with honey sriracha dipping sauce and cheddar crab-stuffed jalapeno poppers with ranch cream cheese.
It’s time for Southern Summer Night, the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce night of food and music that will also benefit the Port Arthur International Seafarers’ Center. If you know about their good works, you can probably guess which priest and I cut a rug.
J.A.G. will return to the stage and Longneck Road will also play at the Carl A. Parker Multipurpose Center, with the fun going on from 8 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, July 19.
The heavy hor’ dourves menu has more surprises from Golden Triangle Chef’s Association and Christus St. Mary.
Some of the night’s proceeds will benefit the Port Arthur International Seafarers’ Center, an outreach for mariners calling on Port Arthur area docks. The Center hires drivers and provides a welcoming “home away from home” for mariners who can shop; get to church, hotels, airports and doctors; and communicate with their families.
Visit or call 409-963-1107 for your tickets.

One-stop yummy shop

Phoenicia Specialty Foods of Houston has received my summer business and admiration again. I returned to the big one at 12141 (way out) on Westheimer and took my husband to experience huge warehouse displays of jams, pickles, beans, tins of fish, oils, crackers and other staples from around the globe. There’s also the bread that comes from the sky, or at least the conveyor belt from the second floor. We ate lasagna and octopus salad at the deli and left with a cart full of culinary adventure. The store management posts the phrase “one stop yummy shop,” but I won’t disagree.

Frigidaire means professional
To have so much power in your hands is heady. Be careful where you point the Tri-Blade Immersion Blender/Mixer because you’re in business, now. The 10-inch wand is extra long and the dual-whisk mixing attachment is going to town for you and your dinner. Summer is the time to play with this very powerful package that will crush ice, turn your garden bounty into soups and transform fruits into cool beverages for the family. Frigidaire has rights to brag on this Velouté knife with vortex power. They’re also proud of the “extra large chopper with no mess.”
Right before I wrote this, I just silently buzzed some fresh jalapenos and red onions into a pico de gallo for my Tex-Mex breakfast. I’m planning to keep this beauty on my counter all summer. Best Buy and Lowes are among listed providers.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Do you need Southern cooking lessons?

Say yes, and you’re in for some temptations by studying Johnnie Gabriel’s latest book, “ How to Cook Like a Southerner: Classic Recipes from the South’s Best Down-Home Cooks.
Gabriel’s bakery and restaurant in Marietta, Ga. Is where you can just show up and enjoy the food, but this book is where she shares her family’s ways.
Along the way pick up four tips for cleaning mushrooms, some ways to enjoy a bounty of zucchini, how a tad of sugar brings out the best in roasted broccoli and a method for cutting corn from the cob. You are saving your bacon grease, right? You know how to make fried green tomatoes?
Southern cooks need to know these things. And by the way, Texas gets some good publicity in this book.
Gabriel is also author of “Second Helpings.”
Many of the recipes are very quick and/or easy to assemble. Here’s one that combines cheese and bacon in a very Southern way:

Hot Pimento Cheese Dip
This goes on sandwiches and is sold by the pound at Gabriel’s:
Three fourths cup mayonnaise
1 pound sugar
 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mild cheddar cheese (grate your own as pre-shredded will change consistency)
1 2-ounce jar diced pimentos, well drained
6 to 8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
1 to 2 Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
Pita chips for serving
In a medium bowl whisk the mayonnaise and the sugar. Add the cheese and the pimento, combining well.
Preheat the oven broiler on low setting.
Spread the desired amount of pimento cheese one half to 3 fourths of an inch deep onto an ovenproof serving plate. Sprinkle chopped bacon and tomato to taste over the top of the pimento cheese and plae under the broiler until the mixture is hot and beginning to bubble. Serve hot with pita chips.
* Try substituting carmelized nuts for the bacon and tomato

Breaking the rules cooking
Did you get to enjoy the Rotary fish fry? The slaw was good by itself, but I ended up with more little containers than I could eat at once. I minced fresh jalapenos, shredded lettuce and halved cherry tomatoes, then mixed in a container of slaw. It made an new salad that was creamy, with lots of textures, colors and crunch.

July is National Ice Cream Month
Ironicaly,  I’m observing this with DF MAVENS, dairy-free ice cream.
You’d never know that soy, coconut and almond makes this rich, gluten-free and kosher goodness. They may be in New York City, but I’m here to say they got New Orleans Salted Praline just right. Alphonso Mango and Key Lime Crème are other really amazing flavors I’ve tried.
I remember an aunt who topped her ice cream with a little banana. These days I go for a big bowl of healthy fruit with a dab of the frozen stuff on top. This is the best way to make sure your cartons of DF MAVENS last as long as possible. Also, you may want to tuck it in the freezer way behind the spinach so no one else knows it is there.

Coconut and what?
When Carrington Farms sent me two samples of flavored liquid coconut oil, in rosemary and garlic, all I could think about was breakfast for the next two days. I wanted to cook an egg in each flavor and had a tough time deciding which to try first. I won’t even try to decide which was more delicious. I wouldn’t have thought of these combos, but I’m glad Carrington Farms did.
Here’s why makers say coconut oil is trending:
Great for Sautéing - Coconut Oil has a higher smoke point than traditional olive oil
Chock Full of Nutrients - Rich in Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT's) which promote an increased calorie burn
Heart Health Benefits: Can improve cholesterol levels
   Brain Power: Fatty acids found in coconut oil can boost brain function
There’s a spray, too: