Sunday, June 18, 2017

Al T's calls with cracklings.

  Winnie was a halfway point when my daughter wanted to meet us for Father’s Day. Al-T’s was suggested and I immediately began planning for cracklings.
                      These Southern bites of heaven are both crispy and soft, fat with fat and a true indulgence. They’re pricy but worth it.
                      Sometimes when I know I’m going to drive through Winnie, I lament that my source will be closed when I’m nearby.
                      Since it was Father’s Day, my husband agreed to this plan: I’d buy them and kind of hide them. Then I’d dole out a few pieces in the mornings to eat with eggs. Maybe there’d be a few for a snack now and then.
                      It was to be a don’t ask/don’t tell situation, so we wouldn’t eat the whole bag at once. He agreed. No contracts necessary.
                      It’s a good plan that hasn’t failed yet.
                      Remember, if you heat them slightly, they get even more soft and tempting.
                      As for the rest of the meal, we shared an “oinker,” which was meat with a blend of crawfish, corn and sausage on top. My daughter had a shrimp poboy and son-in-law ordered fried shrimp. Boudain balls all around preceded this feast.
                      Al-T’s has a new look and new management. If you haven’t been in a while, try it out and then head to the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge for an afternoon of birding, etc.
                      When we arrived at Al-T’s, I was tickled to see a beautiful brown horse in a trailer in the parking lot. We went over to talk to the horse. But we could not get it to respond to our conversation. We were sincerely hoping this horse would give a little winnie, in Winnie.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Whipped honey for brekfast, hemp pesto for lunch

          Whipped honey: Do you already enjoy the handiness of mixing peanut butter and honey? Try your whipped honey with another nut's butter, say almond or cashew. It will go straight to gourmet. Add something crunchy like walnut crumbles or sunflower seeds, or maybe chocolote nibs and you've hit the top. I accidentally got some red pepper flakes mixed in with my walnuts and that worked, too.

                      Hemp pesto
              Haven’t tried hemp? Here’s a new reason, inspired by a recipe on the back of Carrington Farms’ Ready to Eat Organic Flax Hemp Blend. While the health benefits are printed all over the package (rich in proteins and omega 3’s, easy to digest, etc.) you may be stumped as to how to use it.
                      Everybody does smoothies, what else? I amended the pesto recipe to use the seeds, olive oil and Parmesan cheese, with a friend’s dried basil, to make a thick paste for a bread and egg meal. The seeds replace your pine nuts or walnuts to make a very nice new thing. You can call it a substitute, or simply an new and wonderful thing. Of course, it’s a natural for pasta dishes, too.

                      Good Fortune
                      “In loving one another through our works we bring an increase of grace and growth in divine love.”
                      Where did I get this message? In a bag of popcorn at my credit union. Free snack and free advice. I love the unexpected.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Boudain all day long

Has boudain always been a breakfast food in my mind.
                      My Aunt Mono in Lafayette had a pan of it in little links served on the kitchen table. Of course there was sweet coffee milk for me. I don’t remember other items, besides homemade fig preserves from the giant fig tree out in the yard. I’m sure that fig production area covered an area the size of a New York apartment. I don’t even recall what we put the figs on at that breakfast table.
                      One of my earliest memories of realizing I really liked to eat was as a small child at this table. I took my mom aside and mentioned that the boudain on this visit tasted different than the kind usually served, and I didn’t care for it as much. Mom pointed out that I’d had several servings of this “lesser” boudain anyway.
                      In the ‘80s I noticed boudain being sold more often on a bun, at festivals and other types of events. So boudain became a later-in-the-day treat food.
                      I’m told some people must have their boudain with crackers and I think it’s pretty handy to serve it in a tortilla that just naturally folds around the contours of a link.
                      Then some smart somebody started smoking boudain, producing a crispy skin that I just can’t resist. More festival flair.
                      When my sister comes from Alabama, she arranges to buy boudain in large quantities and get it back home. She bought some and put it in my freezer and reminded everyone to not eat it. Repeatedly!
                      We got a text that she made it home safe, and a message that she had forgotten some of the boudain in my freezer.
                      She told us to enjoy, and my mom said she’d serve it up for our dinner. I understood her to say boudain omelet, meaning boudain folded into the eggs. But she presented boudain and omlet. Just as good.
                      It made a great meal, which we referred to as “breakfast for dinner.”
                      Readers, if you have a passion for how your boudain is best enjoyed, let me know at:

Monday, May 29, 2017

Shrimp boils are easy with Zatarain's in the kitchen

                      The Port Arthur area offers an opportunity for seafood everywhere. We love it. Out. But we never think of a shrimp boil at our house. It looks complicated.
                      Zatarain’s, your secret is out. The company sent an array of spices that demonstrate how easy it is to get your shrimp, crab and crawfish on at home. You basically rip open a box or screw off the lid to the liquid stuff and you’re set.
                      It was almost embarrassing how many compliments I got from boiling a pot of water and dumping in corn, potatoes, shrimp and spices. Almost embarrassing. I could handle it.
                      I loved spreading newspaper all over the table and wrapping up the shells and cobs. Cleanup was done, except for shrimp leftovers that my sister and daughter peeled and worked into rice. I got shrimp fried rice for breakfast the next day.
                      And about the rice. I seasoned it with some of the liquid flavoring. It didn’t change the color of the rice much, but that flavor made it pop. My mom has heard of seasoning green beans with the liquid boil. I’m keeping some at the ready.
                      Zatarain’s offerings include Fish Fri; crawfish, shrimp & crab boil with nothing to add; the boil in bag version of the boil; and liquid shrimp & crab boil in a bottle with variations of lemon and garlic. Find at such as zesty bacon-wrapped shrimp and slow cooker chicken and shrimp jambalaya.
                             Gather friends and share that Southeast Texas Cajun culture flavor.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Twist on the peach

                  So apparently Laura Sorkin is a mixer as well as a sugaring expert. She is co-founder of Runamok Maple and responsible for an idea sure to sweep across patios as the weather warms. This line of organic pure, infused, barrel-aged and smoked maple syrups is fancy from conception to packaging in beautiful bottles. Today I’m not even going into recipe cards featuring curried maple cashews with sausage crumbles or maple syrup and cheese paring ideas (try it on sturdy crackers). But I’m closer to the Tears of Joy idea for butter pecan ice cream with Rye Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup over sliced bananas.
                             It would be worth a Texas road trip to Fredericksburg for a peach to play with Sorkin’s Peach Sangria idea. It’s sure to pair well with the Cambridge, Vermont syrups. I tried the cardamom syrup over fruit and cheese and French toast crisped in coconut oil. Even though the sample was provided to me for the following, I’ve yet to find the perfect peach it deserves. The sample will be closely guarded in my pantry while I seek, but y’all go ahead and try the following:

1 cup red wine
1 peach or nectarine, sliced, pit removed
Juice of half an orange
1 tablespoon of Cardamom or Cinnamon + Vanilla Infused Maple Syrup (or to taste)
Add all ingredients together and stir. Let the mixture sit in the fridge for an hour to blend the flavors. Serve in a large glass over ice with orange rind garnish.

                      Clean it up
                      Austin residents are proud of their “greenness” and I’m sure they’re loving that Austin-based Lemi Shine is boasting “Clean Freak Approved” powerful formulas and safer products. They’re making cleaning a kitchen as fun as creating a gourmet mess. New to me, they’ve been at it since 1994. I’m loving the concept, the way my countertops look clean and the pleasant aromas. Look for dish soap and dishwasher pods as well.
                        According to the Austin-based company, which makes products powered by 100 percent natural citric extracts and no harsh chemicals, these are the top five cleaning fails:

  • Appliances: The insides of the dishwasher and the washing machine see a lot of dirt and germs – but people rarely clean the appliances themselves. Lemi Shine’s Appliance Cleaners for laundry and kitchen handle the problem with powerful citrus extracts.
  • Knobs, handles and faucets: Clean them once, but they’ll be dirty again as soon as they’re used again – probably about two minutes later. Lemi Shine’s new Everyday Cleaner with GunkGuard™ features a natural polymer that creates an invisible protective layer that actually prevents buildup for a long-lasting clean, plus citrus extracts that add polish and shine.
  • Toothbrush holders: These can collect high levels of bacteria over time. Hot water and a few drops of Lemi Shine Concentrated Dish Soap are strong enough to tackle the area with no harsh chemical residue that can be transferred to brushes.  
  • Laundry hamper liner: All the funk that’s on laundry – especially that workout wear with wicking technology that makes clothing retain sweat – is on the oft-overlooked hamper too. Lemi Shine’s new Laundry Booster with FunkGuard™ not only removes the odor, but also prevents it between washings.
  • Sponges: When used in tandem with the heat dry cycle, the top rack of the dishwasher is ideal for sanitizing dirty sponges. Lemi Shine’s safe, powerful dual-chamber Dishwashing Detergent pods have no toxic chemicals that could soak in and spread throughout your house every time you clean.
 Lemi Shine’s line of nontoxic household cleaning products, including kitchen and bathroom cleaners, appliance cleaners, detergent boosters and more, can be purchased at grocery stores and mass retailers nationwide or online at Walmart, Target, Lowes and Home Depot.
Other goodies
SinkShroom is new, since TubShroom. This is a smaller version bathroom sink version of the flexible drain insert that collects hair and jewelry from clogging your sink. Just take it out and use a paper towel to collect all the hair that’s wrapped around the sink. Just imagine how this tool eases the burden and adds to the efficiency of no one’s favorite task.

A “Toast”
Servers have come to instinctively help diners photograph their meals before digging in. It’s a thing. You want to look stylish while making style at Toast Tech Covers is offering wood veneers from the Pacific Northwest that “cover” you. It’s a peel-and-stick package that puts me in the mind of the “wood” strip on ‘70s station wagons. That’s a compliment, young techies. I stuck a wooden peacock feather onto my phone and I’ve had several inquiries. Toast is available in all manner of personal styles.
Toast Tech Covers is offering wood veneers from the Pacific Northwest that “cover” you. It’s a peel-and-stick package that puts me in the mind of the “wood” strip on ‘70s station wagons. That’s a compliment, young techies. I stuck a wooden peacock feather onto my phone and I’ve had several inquiries. Toast is available in all manner of personal styles.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Gulf Coast Gala and JuJu's Crawfish Shak

Gulf Coast Gala

                      Frontmen of Country gave a professional, intimate perfume at Gulf Coast Gala with enough Texas and southern references to get the crowd engaged. I spied Carl Parker himself at the Carl A. Parker Multipourpose Center and tables full of the people who back Port Arthur. Ann Boutte elaborated on atmospheric decor that had already caught my attention. Glass centerpieces were filled with locally-sourced sea shells and colored class bits from the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant. Red ginger blooms and yellow carnation toppers emerged from the centerpieces making this a very "gulf coast" vision. Boutte said she herself had taken a hammer to recycle the discarded windows into workable pieces. What we do for art!


                  JuJu’s Cajun Crawfish Shak
                             JuJu’s was as fun as I’d imagined it would be all these years. I’ve been hearing JuJu’s offers especially good boiled crawfish and I finally got to experience it for myself. Don’t tell the rest of my family. They’re still waiting.
                             The original “shak” became too small, so I got the “new” shak on FM 365 in what you’d want to call the Fannette area. The menu is boiled crawfish and what comes with that, so that’s not hard. But there are plenty of  hand-lettered signs fashioned from cardboard boxes to help speed the ordering process.
                             You need to know how many pounds you want and there’s a two-pound minimum. That’s the hardest think you’ll be asked, unless it’s deciding your dipping sauce. I tried melted butter and imagined I was dunking tiny, spicy lobsters. They were actually very large and succulent crawfish. I loved that you get to order as many potatoes, corn cobbs and Zummo sausages as you see fit for yourself. I’ll be back.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spices, smoothies and the right tools


              Pho Vien Dong
                      There was just one other table at this “Far East Restaurant Vietnamese Cuisine” stop at 2523 Jefferson Drive, but as soon as I got seated the to-go crowd grew.
                      I enjoyed my vermicelli with grilled pork, shrimp and egg roll in a leisurely way. I loved hearing a woman order “those kind of chicken wings that you have that are so good.” There were a few chicken choices, but the order taker knew exactly what the woman was requesting.

                      The Activator
                      Nederland’s Smoothie King was hopping the other morning and I wonder if everybody had worked out, grabbed The Activator and headed off to a productive day at the office.
         I make banana smoothies all the time at home but they don’t have ingredients that Smoothie King reports are “specifically blended with optimal protein and key electrolytes.” This “re-launch” is geared to those looking to activate their tone. It’s blended as a post-workout smoothie to help repair and promote lean muscle, help guests stay hydrated, and keep them feeling fuller longer. They are blended with at least 23g of new, high-performance Gladiator® Complete Protein and will come in four different flavors: 

Strawberry Banana
Coconut Water, Strawberries, Bananas, Vanilla Gladiator® Protein

Blueberry Strawberry
Coconut Water, Strawberries, Blueberry Juice Blend, Strawberry Gladiator® Protein

Coconut Water, Bananas, Apple Juice, Pineapple, Vanilla Gladiator® Protein

Coconut Water, Bananas, Chocolate Gladiator® Protein, Protein Blend, 100 percent Cocoa
         My chocolate version was $7.69. I suppose that if a cool, creamy treat is what activates you, the promise of a post-workout treat will get you where you need to be.

            All the right tools
                      I don’t gravitate to the self-checkout, but with only three items, I headed to the touch screen late on a Friday night. My first item drew the summons for assistance. A can of spray paint got me “carded.” Actually, I confirmed verbally that I was over 18 and there were no further probes. I asked the woman to stick around because the machine my question my other purchases: a super-strong glue and a box cutter.
                      I felt like I was gathering equipment for a West Side Story rumble. Some tough chick. The spray paint was not for grafitti, but to freshen up garden planters. The glue was to mend my herb pot and the blade was to better get into kitchen pantry stock.