Monday, September 15, 2014

Had me at "Bourbon & Bacon"

 “Bourbon & Bacon”
The title is enough. The publisher, Southern Living, gives it a respectable boost. The book, small, hard cover and thick, just feels good in your hand, like a chunk of salt pork with just the right amount of fat, feels heft on your fork on a morning with the nip of fall in the air.
Morgan Murphy fills us in on “The Ultimate guide to the South’s Favorite Food Groups,” the subtitle of the missive “Bourbon & Bacon.”
My mother saw the book before I’d perused it and immediately marked pages with amazing photos for her to try. Sure hope I’m invited that day.
I’m already a fan of Morgan Murphy’s writing. We think the same way about good food and the adventure of finding it. Readers, look forward to instruction on the likes of:
Cornbread Dressing with Smoked Bacon and Pecans; Bourbon Candied Bacon; Tennessee Bacon-Cheddar-Ale Soup; and Loaded Baked Potato Dip.
Here’s something unexpected:
Butterscotch-Bourbon Sauce
Author’s note:  Now this may look a tad fattening, and ok, it is. But think on it; It’s an all-natural, easy-to-make dessert sauce that would be killer over some homemade vanilla ice cream ( if you want to go whole hog).
1 and one half cups firmly-packed light brown sugar
one half cup butter
three fourths cup whipping cream
three tablespoons bourbon
Cook brown sugar and butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, three to four minutes or until butter melts and mixture is smooth
Gradually stir in whipping cream. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly three minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in bourbon. Cool 20 minutes.

Chocolate Tea
Numi Organic Tea’s Indulgent Tea line features four kinds of chocolate that is your chance to enjoy in a warm or cool serving of liquid that will transport your mind while saving you calories and cash. Well, you can add honey or milk if you like, but I find little room for improvement with fair trade blends such as chocolate mint. Opening a box full of tea bags smelled like a chocolate pie was in the oven.
With temperatures about to drop – please, fall, come on – these are the kinds of flavors that you sip, inhale for aroma, and feel the warm mug in your hands. Numi is working all my senses. Chocolate Earl Grey includes organic orange peel, vanilla bean and bergamot oil, all organic. Rooibos has honeybush. Chocolate Spice offers a depth that merits exploration.
Look for these in stores this fall or visit While tea often goes with sweets, these flavors are the treat in itself.
Fall smells like apple pie
Studies show it’s as American as apple pie to eat pie for breakfast, according to those who promote Thomas’ Limited Edition products. Guilty. So now that we’re looking for a touch of fall in the air, consider Thomas’ Apple Pie English Muffins and Bagels. I paired gourmet peanut butter one day and a spiced butter the next, while my husband fashioned them into pepperoni sandwiches after late meetings. We’re big into playing with our food here. He noted a good texture on both makes. I like my toasted crisp and enjoyed the flavor of real apples. Get yours through October.
Thomas’ is offering some apple pie trivia to go with your meal:

·         36 Million Americans identify apple as their favorite pie flavor
·         Pie was not always only America’s favorite dessert – in the 19th Century, fruit pies were actually a common breakfast food eaten before the start of a long day
      ·         35% of Americans say they’ve eaten pie for breakfast

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Mason jars pack your salad

Oh sure the Mason jar salads look beautiful. But are they practical? Everybody’s talking about the layered Mason jar salads, with levels of red radish, dark green spinach, purple onion.. whatever you like. What’s the best source for how to really pack that Mason jar salad tight, with dressing on the bottom and little air for it to settle?
How about “Mason Jar Salads and More,” by Julia Mirabella. This illustrated book will make you long for Sunday evenings, when you can pack your spinach/radish/quinoa; or tortellini with basil pesto, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella in beautiful jars for all next week. Or maybe those handy jars will hold your smoothies, or fried rice or squash risotto. The main thing is, you have a cure for “sad desk lunch.” I’m in. These recipes are clever and unexpected. Blueberry and corn? Never would have thought of it. But I read this book cover to cover and went in the kitchen to play with what I had. Experimentation is, after all, encouraged. I layered tomato vinaigrette, then canned fave beans, iceberg lettuce, some blueberries (why not?) and a boiled egg. Two wide-mouth jars of this will go with me to work this week. Can’t wait to fill more jars.
Update on the above: Regarding the blueberries here, I chose poorly. The rest fared well.

More on Masons
Mason Jar Cookie Company makes layered master pieces you must commit to disassemble to create more masterpieces, like Berries ‘n Chocolate oatmeal bake. Gosh, food looks so good in Mason jars that this company even puts their pancake mixes in pouches that look like jars. This past weekend I whipped up buttermilk chocolate chip as well as cranberry orange pancake mixes to appreciative audiences. They turned out beautifully, and these are not things I normally make well. Thank you MJCC.
Thumbs up here. I regret that I ate so many pancakes I have to hold on sampling the baked goods, but at least I get to look at the layers in the beautiful jar for a while.
Other temptations in the line are Chai Cappuccino, Salted Caramel, and Triple Chocolate. Want yours vegan or dairy-free or gluten free? They can make it for you.
now available in gluten–free blends as well. Add your own fresh dairy and eggs, or substitute. You can tricks). Available in the Signature Glass Jars or Iconic Jar-Shaped Pouch OR customize and design your own blend and even name it on the label. Its like having your name linked to Mason. Go for it this holiday. It’s designer gifts you can eat.

The Protein Bakery
Blondies with walnuts; cookies with peanut butter, chocolate chips and oatmeal; brownies thick with goodness… I sampled some of these outrageously healthy options from The Protein Bakery and then took a long walk. Boy, did I feel smug walking past drive-thru windows and hearing people order calorie-laden breakfasts.
The Protein Bakery, 20 W. 20th Street in New York City, has been around 10 years, baking dietary fiber into tasting treats and impressing the likes of Oprah. Me, too, now. Here’s why makers say you ought to try them:

·      High in muscle-building protein
·      All treats are individually handmade in small batches
·      High dietary fiber to satisfy hunger
·      No wheat flour, which means very low in gluten
·      Trans-fat free
Visit to learn more about why and how they were developed, and how popping them in the microwave yields new layers of enjoyment.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dinner at home is changing flavors

Dinner at home is changing

We never were the family who had meatloaf Mondays, spaghetti on Tuesdays, etc. My mom was always experimenting, and this was the ‘70s, sans food TV.
Now, McCormick reports, America’s diverse families are catching up with that attitude and eating together again, but Sunday roast could be tamale casserole, or spaghetti night might be tortellini with shrimp.
Flavor and homemade matters, and these are some trends:

Grilled Asian Orange Ginger Chicken – This versatile Asian marinade is great on chicken as well as flank steak or pork chops.  A 5-minute marinating technique gives meat maximum flavor before tossing on the grill.
Southwest Chicken and Black Bean Salad – Tossed with a sweet ‘n smoky vinaigrette, this entrĂ©e salad is a great balance of meat, veggies and beans.
Shrimp Scampi Tortellini – You’ll love this easy-to-prepare cheese tortellini made with shrimp and tomatoes in a simple scampi sauce.
Globally Infused – The number of Americans who report to be of multiple races grew 32 percent between 2000 and 2010, this press release reports. No wonder we are expanding our tastes. Explore new flavors with these combos:
Beef and Broccoli Pizza – This mash-up combines two take-out favorites in one delicious homemade dish.
Greek Turkey Burgers with Spiced Yogurt Sauce – Enjoy bold Greek flavor in these easy and healthful turkey burgers with Mediterranean spices and feta cheese.  Use the yogurt topping for grilled fish, too.
Chicken Tostadas – Get south-of-the-border flavor in about 20 minutes. Place the chicken, beans and an assortment of toppings in bowls so your family can assemble their own tostadas.
What’s your homemade story? McCormick wants to share the dish your family loves and why they love it. Visit to submit your story, tip or recipe.

Serious Matcha
Ever tried Matcha tea? It’s the one-of-a-kind ultra-fine jade green powder that, according to, Zen Buddhist monks have been enjoying as a meditational drink for more than 800 years. While the Japanese typically make a ceremony of whipping up this powder and sipping it – imagine tiny clay bowls and a garden with a clacking bamboo fountain -  you can run around with Matcha To Go. Billed as Japanese Matcha remade for the Modern World, it’s a something that has to be experienced at least once. The box shows a packet going into a water bottle. I brought a packet to my friend who always has glasses chilling in her freezer for a big glass of water. She wouldn’t try this green concoction that looked a little like the green, murky waters of Taylor Bayou. Go figure. You can shake up that powder in a bottle, but I just stirred. I downed a large glass of green stuff, and concentrated on the health benefits as opposed to the flavor. There was a fair amount of powder left, so I filled the glass with water again and repeated. At the end of this glass, there was still powder, so I had a third round. I’m going to say, like many healthy things, it grows on you. For Southeast Texans accustomed to sweet tea, Matcha To Go, hot or cold, is a cultural adjustment to look into. I’m already kind of craving it.
After sampling some green tea ice cream, I hit upon my best use for this tea powder: I blended into milk and banana smoothies for a delicate flavor that’s doing my body good. I had some every morning this week.

Croissants at will
I’ve never been to Verona, Italy, so I had never heard of Bauli, the leading creator of authentic Italian cakes and pastries. Since 1922 they’ve been all about homemade recipes and high technology. I tried the new mini Authentic Italian Croissants, ready to eat from pouches and found the chocolate flavor as good as the vanilla custard. Now my husband has been asking for them warmed, since he caught me warming mine. He says they remind him of the kind of creamy-centered pastries we so enjoy at parties. Now you can keep the party in your pantry.

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Mom's Bloody Mary

My Mom’s Bloody Mary
Here’s just a reminder you don’t need liquor at all to make a memorable Bloody Mary. My mom mixed up a batch of tomato juice with some herbs and spices. With basil and skewers of olives adorning the pitcher, it made an elegant presentation. I don’t know exactly what she put in there, but I’d go with Worcestershire sauce, lime and garlic for starters.
Tay’s Gourmet
I invited my mom over for a granola bar. We’re not talking about a bar of crunchy stuff. I let her sample Tay’s Gourmet Power Granola with big chunks of pumpkin seeds, toasted flax seeds, pecans, almonds and other really good stuff. Everyone who has tasted these flavors from resealable pouches have pronounced them much better than granola they have become used to. My mom asked if I remembered when she made her own blend in the ‘70s. It’s good like that.
I told my daughter what we were doing and she reminded me her birthday was coming and to save some of the Cranberry Nutty Crunch for her.
Power Berry is what I’m sharing with my healthy friend at work. I’m keeping Banana Pecan Crunch and Blueberry Coconut Crunch largely to myself. It’s good alone in a bowl or as a dessert topping. Of course, you can add milk to your bowl, if you like. Traditional and amazing.
“Tay” manufactures this in Mansfield, Texas and it has a Go Texan stamp.Tay’s Gourmet is by Tamara Hext Hilliard, former Miss Texas and Miss America runner-up. Hilliard originally created her own unique mix of roasted nuts, dried fruits and flax seed to give to family and friends as holiday gifts. Look for it at area Walmart stores.

What’s new in  yogurt
While attending a big event, I saw countless people walking around with Chobani Greek Yogurt bowls. I was very impressed that so many people were picking this healthy treat over other snack options. I later realized a big yogurt truck had free samples. Fortunately, I was not too late to try some new twists, with grapefruit being my favorite. This flavor seems to be trending. Watermelon, pineapple and fruit with oatmeal are other twists. Yep, the steel-cut oats and blueberries were right in the cup of yogurt. It worked.

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