Monday, March 5, 2018

Joy goes green and Karrie stays frozen


                  Joy goes green for St. Pat’s
                            I had the pleasure of being invited for some original live music at a spiritual community. The Rev. Joy Walker, minister, invites everybody, every week. When I heard there are sometimes potlucks, and the one in March would be comprised of green foods, I had to get there.
                             The music, hospitality and message all combined for a lovely morning at Unity of Southeast Texas. Walker’s Easter season message comes from Paul: “ Be ye transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
                             After the program everyone gathered at a long table covered with shamrocks and gold coins after helping themselves to the spread. Greens with bacon, cabbage, guacamole, salad with kiwi and a stunning green gelatin with grapes that shimmered like emeralds kept the fellowship going.This potluck was like a pot of gold on St. Patrick's Day.
                             The community features a labyrinth open to the public from sunup to sundown. Joy Walker invites everyone to learn more by emailing


 Let it go... frozen 
        Karrie Truman is chill. Frozen, actually. Truman, of gives us “Seriously Good Freezer Meals,” which is a totally different take on what ‘80s mamas cooked up. Not knocking casseroles here. Truman has modern takes on those and a tempting array that goes way beyond.
                             I was taken by a photograph showing colorful, flat bags of prepped vegetables and sauces all stacked up for freezing. It brings out the best of OCD cooks. She begins with myths of make-ahead meals (they don’t have to be bland and mushy and she’ll show you how). Remember to label and date your creations and consider meal swaps with other creative cooks. Truman assures you can freeze chocolate, avocado with no skins, raw eggs with no shells and tortillas. Don’t try it with mayonnaise (it separates), radishes or cucumbers. What’s for dinner?
                                         Cauliflower Crave Soup, with bacon bits and fresh herbs sprinkled on top, sounds satisfying. Want to make a batch? Or five batches? Easy. Seriously Good Chili, Cashew Basil Chicken, Chicken Pesto Parmesan Shells and Peanut Perfection Pad Thai photo spreads definitely do not look like the freeze ahead meals you may be conjuring from past experiences.
                             The Island Pork page shows an aerial view of what looks like a pineapple with “skin” on lovingly flavoring the top layer of your future dinner(s). And there’s Bacon Carbonara Pasta Pie. Should I go on? Recipes are marked with a cent symbol when they are of great economic value and easy-to-read charts show how to make a large quantity or an even larger quantity. She’ll take you through breakfast, “meatless mains” and desserts in this Robert Rose book.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Full of Sass and Vinegar?

                             Years ago I heard a celebrity downed vinegar shots to boost metabolism. I tried it, but that stuff is tart. Now apple cider vinegar is all the rage. It’s still strong, but it grows on you.
                                         I’m a sucker for blue glass at resale shops and spied a fancy shot glass for 50 cents. I chatted with the gentleman at checkout, telling him this would be my new vinegar glass and he took over the conversation sharing how he believes a daily ACV dose has healed him of a heap of ailments.
                             Now Vermont Village, the super-creative and organic souls they are, have come up with flavors to delight, including blueberries and honey, cranberries and honey and ginger and honey. It’s sooooo much more palatable.
                             Turmeric & Honey also comes “With the ‘Mother’ ” and the labels read “Yes, shake it! The best stuff is on the bottom.”
            Vermont Village’s Raw Apple Cider Sipping Vinegar is meant to take you through the cold and flu season. Makers will tell you why:
·        Raw apple cider vinegar helps to alkalinize the body, which creates an environment that kills bacteria and viruses
·        It boosts the immune system to help your body fight off any unwanted viruses and provide more energy
·        Vermont Village’s Raw Apple Cider Sipping Vinegar contains raw honey, which is full of natural anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals, and is known to be anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal
·        It’s also particularly good for gut health and the naturally occurring potassium found in it helps with thinning mucus.
Sold in individual 8 oz. bottles for $4.99, Vermont Village’s Raw Apple Cider Sipping Vinegars are available at Walmart locations across the United States and can be ordered and shipped directly to consumers via
                             From the shelves
                             Here’s a treat from another book reviewed here years ago. It sounds like it was ahead of its time:
                  “Secrets of Fat-Free Chinese Cooking” by Ying Chang Compestine:
                  This book has a Library of Congress date of 1997 and dishes such as Baked Yogurt Fish and tofu creations are still appealing to our healthy hearts today. Recipes are based on methods and flavor combos developed thousands of years ago. In this age were’ all about blender drinks, so the following sounds ultra contemporary:
                             Melon-Lemon-Ginger Shake
                             2 cups cantaloupe cubes
                             2 cups honeydew cubes
                             one fourth cup minced fresh ginger
                             5 ice cubes
                             Place all of the ingredients in a blender. Blend at high speed until smooth and frosty.
                             Pour into glasses and serve immediately for best color and taste.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Foodie titles, new and old

                                         “The Healthy Jewish Kitchen”
                                         A glamour shot of roasted carrots with little stems and grill marks, and a smear of green cream looks so appealing on the cover Paula Shoyer’s  new cookbook, the notion the tasteless carrot squares and peas we used to eat in the ‘70s never crossed my mind. These peas and carrots are her fresh take and a vision of how eating better can be an adventure.
                                         The very first recipe is a  salad for breakfast. Israeli herb and almond salad, with dill, parsley and cherry tomatoes has a lemon dressing and apparently appears in some version on every Israeli hotel breakfast buffet, goes with yogurt or eggs for breakfast and alongside any grilled fish, chicken or steak for lunch or dinner. To make your salad a meal, add chickpeas, feta or tuna.  Flip through for Japanese lamb chops with jalapeno, tamari soy and ginger. Grilled corn with cilantro pesto, chocolate quinoa cake and watermelon, peach and mint gazpacho  are some other flavors to make at home and feel like you’re dining at a trending restaurant.
                             This book’s subtitle is “Fresh, Contemporary Recipes for Every Occasion.” Shoyer writes that the opportunity to create this book came after a time of loss and grieving for her. I’d say she turned her outlook around by focusing on healthy flavors and how they can join people together at the table. It’s a long-lasting approach to wellness.

                             From the shelves
                             Have you been reading this column for 15 plus years? I still recall some lessons learned from some of the books on my shelves, but this Lent, I’m paring down and will share some joy from books I reviewed long, long ago. Here are two “wordy” tidbits from Webb Garrison:

                             Bring home the bacon
                             Biscuits as we southerners know them were once twice-cooked dry rounds of bread designed to not go moldy on a ship. To “make no bones” is a phrase stemming from the hesitant caution of choking on bones found in one’s food and bringing home the bacon was the prize in a 1445 newlywed game.
                             In England, a flitch of bacon was given to a couple, questioned by six bachelors and six maidens, determined to have the best first year of marriage living in the greatest harmony and fidelity. These tidbits are from the foodie section of “What’s in a Word?” Webb Garrison’s stories of 350 everyday words and phrases.
                              If you’ve lived high off the hog or jumped aboard the gravy train, you may wonder who did those things before you. In Garrison’s book “Why You Say It,” phrases such as this are explained. This may be a rehash, as we’re going over it again. This phrase evolved from English squires who couldn’t afford to waste meat. Landlords served a hash of shoulder meat after the best parts were removed. If boarders complained, they may find leftovers the next day, in some other form, according to the book.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Fish and chocolate for Wednesday

   Wednesday will be double busy as some Port Arthur-area observe St. Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday.
                             Sweethearts indulge in chocolate and Champaign on a typical Feb. 14, but this season it falls on the day where some are abstaining from meat and treats at the beginning of Lent.
                             While it may seem  to those who don’t follow the tradition that Lent is all about eating more fish, but it’s actually about not eating meat on Fridays (and so many more reflective though processes). These days we are as likely to make meals from kale and quinoa salads as fish filet sandwiches from a drive through. I think it’s more fun to experiment with different flavors and learn about different cultures during the season.
                             That said, I have collected tins of seafood that are easy to pop into a lunch bag. We’ve come a long way from the cans of sardines on pantry shelves in the ‘70s. I’m partial to braised eel, smoked oysters and several varieties of seafood packed in those little tins.
                             Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve also got my eye on projects I can attempt to “upcycle” those tins. Planting succulents is an easy one. Gluing on jewels to make a 3-D photo frame is a bit more challenging. I’ll likely never get to fashioning one of those little sleeping beds for tiny stuffed critters from a sardine can, but will just say, there sure are some clever crafters out there.

                              The remedy
                             Kitchen odor removal got stylish with “remodeez,” which are non-toxic, odor and moisture removers inviting you to outsmart smell. The green plastic package that looks like a bowtie fits into sneakers and other shapes in purple and blues do their work in your car, closet, luggage, backpack, camping gear, garbage pails and refrigerators. These look like some trendy gadgets you could get at The Container Store or Target. What? The remodeez publicists say you can.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Get ready to Mardi Gras

                             Let’s cover everything in green, purple and gold sugar. King cakes are popping up and the babies signal it’s time for the next party. Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas will spread the spirit in downtown Port Arthur from Feb. 8-11 and I’m ready to throw as many beads as I want to catch.
                             On the grounds and around town, I’m ready for flavors of crawfish, gumbo and boudain. See you out there!

                             On that note
                                         While Mardi Gras may be a season of  indulgences, the leaner times of Lent are soon to come. This is a time I remind myself that a little can go a long way. To some, it’s all or nothing, but I’ve learned that measuring spoons can actually help you be mindful of portions, such as pure maple syrup on your French toast. You don’t need to have it all, but enjoying what you do have is what it’s all about.

                             The Collection
                             One of the most fun gift shops in Groves, The Collection, also features a shop at 4036 Dowlen Road, in Beaumont. I noticed the sign as I headed to Sweet Basil for some tofu and noodles. They’re nearly neighbors in the strip mall, with Madison’s on Dowlen. The Pandora posters, and my asking, confirmed the Groves connection to this The Collection.
                             So Culinary Thrill Seekers who enjoy shopping for fun trinkets for themselves, or seek a hostess gift for when they’re invited to a girls’ lunch, can pick up some trendy finds.


Friday, January 26, 2018

Fresh tastes from a book and a bison bar

 “Fresh Tastes from a Well-Seasoned Kitchen” is Lee Clayton Roper’s beautiful, big book of stories and more than 170 recipes and tips to “spark inspiration in your kitchen.”
                             Read this and you could be inspired to create a Mardi Gras brunch before heading out to the grounds in downtown Port Arthur. There’s enough menus to get you through the festivities, Feb. 8-11.
                             Spiced bacon twists, hearts of palm dip, Champaign cocktail and Cajun meatloaf are a few bites I’d love to try.
                             This book takes a diner throughout the year and makes things seem very doable, and edible.
                             “Well-Seasoned Inspirations” placed throughout the book are photos of friends and family whose ideas and methods have formed her experience. Several are noted to cook to taste instead of using precise measurements. That’s how I do it. Her husband, Robert, works backwards by imagining the outcome and adjusting for flavors and textures.
                             His quote: “If you know where you want to end up, it’s a lot easier to get there.”
                             Here’s a quickie sample from this book that is sure to inspire. The Pecan Shortbread Bars recipe is in the book. 
Butter-Rum Glaze for Pecan Shortbread Bars
                  2 tablespoons butter, melted
                  1 tablespoon rum
                  1 cup powdered sugar
                  Stir together.

                            A dough ball of ice cream
                             My/mo is Mochi ice cream that invites you to pinch, poke, roll, stack and share it. The green tea, chocolate and sweet mango flavors of premium ice cream I tried pop out of what looks like an ice tray.
                             Let them thaw a minute or two and start playing. The deal is, each ball of delicious ice cream is surrounded by sweet dough.
                             Unusual, to say the least. Can you get used to it? I sure want more of the premium ice cream part.

                             When I got a coupon for an Epic bar, I thought I’d pick a chocolate one for a quick breakfast. On the shelf, I saw bars with pictures of animals. What? I chose bison and unwrapped a snack of 100 percent bison, uncured bacon, cranberry. It was sweet and filling and certainly a conversation piece. Check around the nutritional bars for other selections of animals.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Flavor combos popping up, oiled to energize

                             If  you keep in the news, you know it was recently National Popcorn Day. Okay, it was the lavish popcorn bar that greeted me at my credit union that filled me in. At Neches Federal Credit Union, they filled a table with an array of usual suspects in the toppings department. A buttery spray, a shaker of cheese flavoring and little chocolate-coated candies were popular choices. I was intrigued with the crushed Oreos. I chose that and a shake of red pepper. A head-turner at first, my conversation about it inspired others to investigate the combination.

                             Oiled up to energize
                             Pure essentials are an investment, and Karin Parramore’s book helps explain the labor and costs behind the gathering. I already enjoy using oils for calming and energizing fragrances that keep headaches away and elevate the mood.
                             “Aromatherapy with Essential Oil Diffusers: For Everyday Health & Wellness” is a guide for using oils to combat everything from sinus pain and coughs to wrinkles and pests. Everyone’s looking for more natural remedies and these oils are much more available than the were just a short time ago. The author will help you choose diffuser methods and blend up a little something for what’s bothering you. I enjoyed background about fragrance history from around the world. Imagine dipping your pen in scented ink to inscribe on floral-infused papers. Here are a few tips from the book:
                             To reduce the urge to eat, blend sweet orange, vanilla and cinnamon oils and sniff it when you are full, for about a week. After a week of training, sniff it when you think you want to eat, to help reduce cravings.
                             To curb coffee or sugar cravings, blend three drops back spruce or fir essential oil with 1 drop cacao or Peru blossom and 1 drop vetiver. Diffuse onto a terra cotta disc and place it in a sunny window to get the scent throughout the day.