Monday, November 28, 2016

What's your most-used Tex-Joy?


                  What’s your most-used TexJoy?
Mine’s garlic, with file at No. 2. I have lots more yellow labels, packaged in Beaumont, Texas. I had the pleasure of visiting the Texas Coffee Company store and warehouse at 3279 Martin Luther King Parkway in Beaumont. Never been? Why, it’s a good-smelling little museum that gives you the background behind the joy in TexJoy. The store is a little space with a wooden cabinet filled with vintage packaging. Remember little glass bottles of TexJoy Fruit-Ade flavoring? I don’t, actually. But I have some of the root beer mix. From little cans to plastic jars, this lobby shares the spicy history along with photos and missives from folks who have a TexJoy story to share.
          Foodie news is that the company continues to experiment. I’ve told y’all about Rooster Booster and Butt and Rib Tickler. Here’s something even more new: single serve coffee cups for your fancy machines. Good morning, from Texas Coffee Company. Look for their saltless herb seasoning. Your relatives who have somehow found themselves living far from Southeast Texas could use a holiday lift via one of their Texas-shaped gift packages.

                      Spices are ancient, yet McCormick is always on top of new trends. This season try new Asian flavor blends from McCormick Gourmet: Japanese Seven Spice, Korean Style Red Pepper and Thai Basil. Start off by experiencing these flavors on breakfast eggs, then popcorn. Then go crazy with vegetables and meats.
                      I’m sending the organic taco seasoning mix to my niece for her Taco Tuesdays. When we tried the chili mix, my husband asked me to add more of my own hot pepper, etc. There’s a roasted cinnamon and gingerbread spice plus colorings from nature that ought to play well with holiday desserts.
                      Bone broth, sold in a little box, can be heated and sipped. I tried that in a mug but decided I’d rather use it as a base for a pot of beans. I’ve begun playing with green-topped Gourmet Seasoning Blends in Citrus Chili with Chia Seasoning, Cinnamon & Nutmeg with Chia Seasoning, Italian Seasoning with Flaxseed and Matcha Green Tea with Ginger Seasoning. By instinct and by suggestion, you can start by trying many new seasonings on egg. The matcha can go on anything from ice  cream and latte to cake, chicken and seafood.
            Talkin’ turmeric
            Were you talkin’ turmeric? McCormick Kitchens says everybody is, and I’m always on board with their tips. Corporate Dietitian and cookbook author Dr. Wendy Bazilian developed recipes with the McCormick Kitchens. "I like to balance its earthy flavor profile with other spices and herbs. Try pairing turmeric with honey and pumpkin pie spice in a warm golden milk or sprinkle it on roasted sweet potato wedges along with black pepper and a pinch of salt,” she said.
             I have some in the spice rack now. Let’s see what else McCormick says we can do with it.
            Wake-Up Call
  • Smoothies: Take everything you love about autumn and put it in a blender. Try a Pumpkin Apple Smoothie using pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup and turmeric.
  • Avocado toast:  Add a squeeze of lemon and a few dashes of turmeric to mashed avocado, then sprinkle crushed red pepper on top for a tasty breakfast or snack.
  • Warm muffins: Stir 1 to 2 teaspoons of turmeric into pumpkin, zucchini or banana muffin batter, either a homemade version or packaged mix.
  • Eggs: Whisk turmeric into scrambled eggs or frittatas, or blend into the yolk mixture for deviled eggs at weekend brunch.
  • Golden milk: Combine coconut milk, turmeric, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice to make the ‘it’ pick-me-up beverage: Golden Turmeric Milk.
Mid-day Boost
  • Salad dressing: Include turmeric in a simple homemade dressing for a kick of sweet, tangy flavor atop salads and grain bowls.
  • Veggie dip: Mix turmeric, sea salt, cinnamon and lemon juice with low-fat yogurt for a tasty Creamy Turmeric Dip that’s ready in just five minutes. Pack with vegetables and pita chips and take to work for a midafternoon snack.
  • Chicken and tuna salad:  Add a pinch of turmeric and chopped apple or sliced grapes to classic chicken or tuna salad.
            Golden Spiced Supper
  • Chicken: Stir turmeric into your favorite chicken marinade for an easy weeknight meal. Or, try  Honey Mustard Turmeric Chicken, which uses honey, Dijon mustard, turmeric and thyme.
  • Soup: Stir turmeric into a tablespoon of low-fat plain or Greek-style yogurt and swirl into warm soups like lentil, tomato or split pea.
  • Orange Sides: Turmeric pairs well with orange foods like sweet potatoes, butternut and acorn squash, pumpkin and carrots. Try dusting on sweet potato wedges with sea salt and black pepper before roasting.
  • Sauces: Add a sprinkle or two of turmeric to your favorite jarred marinara or spaghetti sauce. 
For more turmeric tips and recipes, visit
            Hummus Made Easy
            Bush’s Best  has different flavored packets labeled Hummus Made Easy. Let’s first pretend blending beans and seasonings isn’t already an easy, healthy crowd pleaser. But go ahead and try what I did. The Roasted Red Pepper, designed to blend in with a can of Bush’s Garbanzo Beans, was welcomed at the Port Arthur News holiday covered dish. Unless an empty dish says otherwise.
            Another secret, I used white beans, because that’s what I had. Then I garnished the bowl with olive oil and a dusting of herbs. The mix made it super easy and I enjoyed that packaging offered suggestions and that I found plenty of room to play around with my own designs.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Fleur Fine Books opens page in Port Neches


Fleur Fine Books opens a page in Port Neches
            Dale L. LaFleur Jr. is partial to science fiction, but Fleur Fine Books offers a bit of everything, from a reception area full of cookbooks  to shelves of mysteries, romances and spiritual writings. It’s a fun, new stop at 1720 Magnolia Ave. Book lovers, you’ll be impressed by how many books they fit on those shelves.
             Now, here are some books that have come across my desk as publishers promote holiday offerings:
                  “Cajuns and Other Characters”
                      Journalist Jim Bradshaw keeps history fun with pecan-throwing ghosts, soaped up hangings and tales of crawfish-eating, dance-loving, politicking people of Louisiana. “Cajuns and Other Characters” is his latest Pelican Press release, which is peppered with Port Arthur references. These are column-style quick reads to keep by your nightstand. You might read about your cousins! You’re for sure gonna laugh, cher. Bradshaw was an editor of the Lafayette (La.) Advertiser and writes C’est Vrai columns for your entertainment, and no doubt his own.

                      “Poke a Stick at it: Unexpected True Stories”
                      Accordions, air-dried laundry and Oklahoma spiders are some topics on which Connie Cronley claims knowledge. I imagine she comes home with a column from every venture, no matter if it’s the tattoos she’s seen on a grocery run to the ruffles a mess of painters endured as she portrait posed. This woman is funny. I say again, she is funny. Her collection of musings will have you wanting to read “one more” before you get up from your chair.
                      What else would one expect from a woman who collected so many little black dresses they became an art exhibit?

              Whole Cooking and Nutrition: An Everyday Superfoods Approach to Planning, cooking and eating with Diabetes
                      That title is just about longer than some of the amazing recipes. Try this on yogurt, cereal, salad or the book’s oven-roasted figs:
                      Everyday Cinnamon Walnut Crumble
                      1 cup chopped walnuts
                      2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
              Combine the ingredients in a food processor, pulsing to form a ‘crumble’ texture.
              Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
                  Recipe credited to  “©2016 by the American Diabetes Association, Inc.® To order this book, please call 1-800-232-6733 or order online at”
                      Katie Cavuto may still have to convince the newly-diagnosed that cooking up healthy super foods like grilled lamb chops and lemony barley pilaf is easy and worth it. This one is another example where the title seems nearly as long as the easy instructions. She doesn’t have to convince me. This book is gourmet all the way and I’m with her: once you have the good stuff you won’t know why you ever went for the “fake” supermarket stuff. Natural versions of real food are appealing, fragrant, flavorful and much better for you than salty, sugary packaged “stuff.”

                      “I Modify Ikea”
                      I’d heard about Ikea years before I got to the one in the Katy area, and now it’s a regular stop for a warehouse full of ideas. The first opened in Sweden in 1958. This book reports it’s the world’s largest store now, offering “flatpack” furniture, meaning, you assemble it yourself. The lines are basic and functional and you can imagine worldwide residents connecting because they organize their kitchen ware and socks in similar formats.
                      Elyse Major and Charlotte Rivers turn Ikea shelving on its side, add pipe legs and adapt a custom look to stylish storage. Make it your own with these ideas from attaching napkin holders to the wall to keep your mail handy to painting on those basic white pillows. It’s easy to make something good even better. Way better. These women have turn spice racks into bathroom shelving and used straws – drinking straws – to brighten a child’s room. Get going.

                      “Fly Dogs”
                      Oh, the moment you know that mouth grab for the flying disc will set just right, the victory of clearing the ladder, the beach sand kicking up from your paws… It’s a dog’s life, and Todd Berger is watching you. These dogs in air are “euphoric,” as the book of photographs promotes. Viewers can’t help but smile with them. I passed this book around a dinner party and everybody had their favorites. So many breeds, so many jumps. I love the looks of pure joy the pups mastered and the skill with which Berger captured it all. Hope he got a treat after all that running around with his camera.

                      Activity Books: “Just Imagine and Play”
              On the Farm and On the Site are books with press outs and stickers that take children from chick hatching and a corn maze to traffic cones and brick piles. One has tractors and horses and the other has dirt piles and wrenches. It’s fun and fresh and plays just as well with your grandkids as these sort of books did when you were young. Visit for more.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Get the Karbach tour and prep turkey leftovers for gumbo

                      Karbach Brewing Co.
                      Look for Love Street in Houston. It’s an actual address, and a Kolsch style blonde from Karbach Brewing Co. When I got a postcard invite to a marriage reception, I thought the Love Street can was designed by the artist groom. But it’s a thing. There’s also a Karbach Street where a groovy brewery is available for tours. Best yet, there’s a hip restaurant and upstairs reception area and the food and beverages were all of the best. The blend of informal and thoughtful creativity was seamless, beginning with appetizers in the hall that, simply put, was an artful mountain of cheese with grapes, nuts and sundries studding the landscape. It was a delicious conversation starter.
                      Our tour guide let us taste the barley, which I noted would be a fiber-filled crunchy topping for Greek yogurt. Later he proclaimed us the most adventurous group he’d guided per our willingness to sample the barley.
                      Thanks C&E, for the invite.

              Zatarain’s saves the turkey
                      They make turkey hash after Thanksgiving in some regions. We make gumbo in Southeast Texas. We look forward to it, plan for it and fight over the carcass as much as the drumstick.
                      Zatarain’s  suggests a box of their gumbo or jambalaya mix would make it even more easy to keep the flow of leftover turkey from fridge to table. Look on their web site for ideas. We hardly need a recipe down here, so pick some up when you do your seasonal, seasoned shopping.
                      Makers sent me some to play with so I asked my mom what she had in her freezer to mix in. She usually is meticulous about labeling, but we had to wait for this package to defrost to discover its contents. Crawfish! Bingo. Zatarain’s blessed another Sunday dinner.

                      T-fal PerformaPro Cookware
                  This September foodies got another taste of what T-fal can do with the new PerfromaPro Cookware featuring their new Techno Release™
technology, which means the textured interior, little indentions in regular folk talk, create “soft contact zones for easier food release and clean up. Stainless steel pans look so gleaming and clean well. Surely you know someone who loves to cook this holiday. A set of 14 is $99.99. I didn’t have some of these pot sizes. As I write this for you, I’m simmering a pot of giant Peruvian lima beans in the perfect pot.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Creative holiday ideas with walnuts, Creoles and Ashore beach adventures

              Tradition is tops. A little creativity just adds to the memories. This week’s Culinary Thrill Seeking features a trio of creative inspirations.

               “Our Table”
                      Renee Muller writes that friendships were tested when she brought basi-infused olives to Purim instead of her usual “Irresistible Toffee.” But now you, too can create a batch that will make you legendary.
                      Raised in Switzerland, taught in traditional Northern Italian Style, Muller moved to the United States and on a whim won a contest that landed her a column in a weekly Jewish magazine. Her family loves kettle corn, she loves lemon meringue pie so much she deconstructed it into art work of lemony curd and crunchy pillows and serves in stemmed glasses and her main dishes are amazing, too. She has the passion and she encourages creativity.
                      A photo of walnut honey brittle caught my attention, as did her story of how she had to make multiple batches for the photo shoot as it kept getting eaten up. This recipe looked so easy, I hopped out of my chair and headed to the kitchen. I found both walnuts and pumpkin seeds, some local honey passed on to me because the owner knew I’d take the time melt the crystals out of it and packets of brown sugar. In no time I was toasting nuts, stirring them into the melted sweetness and pouring it out on parchment paper. I didn’t “stick” to her proportions (see what I did there?) so I got a chewy, not brittle, concoction that was still irresistible. I also kept returning for more and ate it for breakfast, lunch and snack. It will be easy to make it again to with her true recipe.

         Be Creative. Be Creole.
         The above is a motto at Southern Creole Foods ( I Creole Bistro), where Caribbean Oxtail Stew is what I want to try next. “A Culinary Haven” what’s printed on the menu at this restaurant, 3485 Washington Boulevard. Everybody was friendly. I had a business meeting there and eyeballed orders full of red beans and rice, sausage and chicken and waffles going by. Chef Sean M. Perrodin personally brought by samples of gumbo and seafood cornbread. I approved both. This menu has a lot of style and the promise of Creole style paella is something else that will draw me back for another meal.

                      Creative woman
                      Debbie Borel Ploeger invited neighbors to a “Haughty Pauty” where guests dressed in formal attire to distribute goodies to Halloween trick-or-treaters. Little ones were offered punch cocktails by an elegant butler and served candies on a silver platter. The driveway featured a glowing party table set with ghastly surprises. Very clever.
                      Her creativity is at work on Bolivar Peninsula. See where she’ll help plan time in the Crystal Beach area with guided beachcomber “hunts,” a workshop on art from found treasures, kayaking or shrimp boat excursions, bonfires, crabbing, etc. Sounds intense. Call her at 409-926-2914.

              * That walnut recipe put me in the mind of Martha Troxell, an area creative cook and foodie. Readers, share your creative ideas with me at

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The oil business and foodie gifts


The O   
                     Oil Business
                      What were you doing in 2014? The olive oil I just sniffed, tasted and couldn’t resist dabbing onto my cheeks was getting bottled into Holman Ranch Estate Grown Olive Oil. Twenty years before that, Jarman was cycling through Tuscany dreaming of a select olive oil business. The Holman Ranch, famous for everything from a Mediterranean climate, visiting movie stars of yesteryear, mountain lions and wine, was established in 1928. Perhaps I could tour this Carmel Valley, California legendary estate some day. I’m currently getting a taste via drizzles of good, good olive oil. This is the stuff that brings to mind Biblical references of something sacred. Fruity oil this flavorful fills in to soothe the “cracks” of life, healing the body.
                      Getting poetic? Maybe. But just uncork some of this stuff and transform your morning toast into a fortifying, flavorful meal. I cook with olive oil daily. As we enter the Thanksgiving season, and the giving mode of the rest of 2016, I’ll be timing the rest of this bottle of olive oil to go out with the year, both reserving and indulging as necessary.

                      I’ve always though it was “hip to be square, or rectangle, when you can stack and consolidate space. Is my OCD showing? T-fal Ingenio Lever-Lock storage containers are an investment in beauty, food longevity and sanity. Just loo at their Lever-Lock lids that fold up for release and tuck in for sealing. Thick clear plastic lets you see colorful lentils, tempting candies, nourishing grains, etc. The locking lids black on top with a red lining for flourish. BPA free, of course. If you get a couple, you’ll want a couple more.
                      The T-fal Ingenio manual chopper truly worked for me to make an onion-based salsa, a condiment I could eat three times a day. It’s a simple container with a blade and pull string and the cleanup is easy, too. It worked even better than I could have ever anticipated. Basil  leaves were ready for pesto in a few pulls.
                      Both of these are billed as holiday gifts for foodies. Make sure you get one for yourself as well. More on T-fal PerferformaPro Techno Release pots and pans later. Get ready to cook for crowds.


            Pumpkin update from Rao’s
            You don’t even have to work hard in  your own kitchen to get trending with pumpkin. Rao’s Bakery has a selection of Pumpkin Pie Lattes. I enjoyed one with a toasted marshmallow flavor on one of our cooler days.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Crown Pizza offers a slice of showmanship

 Crown Pizza
              “Love at first bite” is the motto at Crown Pizza, with a funky vintage crown sign as a calling card. I argue that you could be in love with dining in a box car even before youorder something like gnocchi pasta or kale salad and sit where you can watch the kitchen make thin crust canvases.
              Vodka Pie, The Meat Wagon, Pork Love and Boogie on the Bayou are among choices that make you want to fall in love again and again. It’s tiny, it’s fun and it tastes good. It’s on Calder Avenue in Beaumont, by Willie Burger and Tia Juanita’s.

“Nourishing Your Whole Self”

I just had spaghetti squash and decided to have it again soon. I’ll want to try mixing in artichoke hearts, feta and olives, like Marci Izard does. Her book is “Nourishing Your Whole Self,” and it comes with fabulous recipes and photos and inspirational quotes. You’ll just feel good about reading and planning and dining.
Would you prefer zucchini or black beans in your brownies? The zucchini adds moisture and lightness while the bean version replaces flour. What’s hidden in the apple pie? Why nothing that you wouldn’t expect in a pie full of natural goodness. She say it is “a piece of cake” to prepare. 
The author wants us to eat mindfully and eat well. She says she’s not at all perfect in her choices, and shares a chicken wing hoarding incident from her youth. Of course, she always aims for the nourishing stuff.

Just so you know that it’s not all kale and sesame salad (not that there’s anything wrong with that) here’s a recipe for something Tex-Mex, which we down here know to be rejuvenating, as she puts it:
Tex-Mex Chicken Soup
12 cups chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
one half cup chopped carrots
1 green, yellow or red bell pepper, diced
1 cooked rotisserie chicken
1 can corn, rinsed and drained
1 and one half cups chopped cilantro, divided
5 tomatoes, diced
2 limes
one half teaspoon cumin
2 to 3 avocados, peeled and chopped
shredded jack cheese
In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a light boil.
Add the garlic, onion , carrots and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the meat from the chicken, corn, one half cup cilantro, diced tomatoes, juice from one lime, cumin and salt to taste. Continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Top each serving with extra cilantro, avocado, Jack cheese and a slice of lime.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Louisiana long-way road trip

 Louisiana long-way road trip
                      A late-Friday request for a Lake Charles pick up lead to a glorious October road trip. With a chill in the air we set out through Pleasure Island with sunny skies above.
                      My husband and I took a brief walk along the beach and I found a tinted shell I refer to as “pumpkin spice.” Louisiana’s state birds were in abundance doing their pelican thing on those breakers that head up to Holly Beach. The Cameron Parish library can point you to regional adventures.
                      I brought scraps to feed the seagulls but it had been so long since I took the ferry in Cameron that I didn’t recall you they ask you to stay in your vehicle for the brief passage. We were the hungry ones after docking and focused on the sign for Anchors Up, a fun roadside seafood place where we shared an order of soft-shelled crab. A sea-themed covered seating area lets the breeze flow until you climb back up the stairs to get your order at the window. Families, locals, tourists and bikers seemed to be in to the kickin’ shrimp and burgers.
                      Follow signage to Cameron Parish National Wildlife Refuge to Pintail Drive and Boardwalk. Here’s where I thanked the great state of Louisiana, Sportsman’s Paradise, for my first gator glimpse on the side of the road. The Pintail Drive boardwalk offered a peaceful area for birding and foliage. The dragonflies enjoyed it as much as we did. The visitors center is across the way with another whopper of a gator, another boardwalk and some very entertaining automated Cajuns in a display.
                      My daughter had called to request a ride home from a baby shower, and that’s where we got some neighborly hospitality. Carrots in a pitcher full of water highlighted a Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit theme with carrot cupcakes, hummus and pasta salad. Guests kindly gave us their picks for further culinary adventures, so we stopped at Peking Garden in Lake Charles, where the mom-to-be, whom we call “Cool Amy,” had her bridal rehearsal dinner some time ago. Get the egg rolls, they said, and we found them huge and flavorful and addictive. That’s all we ordered, as we then headed for the Blue Dog Café in downtown Lake Charles.
                      The Blue Dog features Rodrigue paintings, of course. Live music enhanced our a meal of Whiskey Bay Flounder with seafood wontons and duck quesadilla.
                      Homecoming weekend meant downtown areas were full of fancy-dressed young people, their double sets of parents and their personal photographers. We enjoyed the lake area full of photo ops and people playing Pokémon Go. We even tried some of those cool poses as the sun set on the water.
                      Then we hit both L’auberge du Lac and Golden Nugget for walk throughs. Talk about all night action with concerts and families and reunions and beach volleyball. I confess we didn’t play one game, but we thanked Lake Charles for a lot of fun.