Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mardi Gras all weekend
                      Port Arthur is observing the big “25” of Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas and the festival will be Feb. 23-26 in downtown Port Arthur with Budweiser Clydesdales, laser shows, parades, a Jumbo Gumbo Cookoff and all the fun you can have. Ready for that?
                      I got to attend the Majestic Krewe of Aurora ball this year and it was a knock-out as usual. Amazing costumes and throws excited attendees who danced the night away.
                      And here’s my foodie observation. It seems like a lot, and I mean a lot, of tables featured trays of Amuny’s sandwiches. I say, those bites are one of my favorite things about Port Arthur and I love to see them so closely associated with one of my favorite seasons, Mardi Gras.



              Homesick for Texas?
                      If you’ve come back “home” for Mardi Gras because you’re “homesick,” there’s a candle for you. It smells like you never left, and I’m late to this trend.
                      When I fired up this beautiful small-batch soy, my friend said, “That’s the candle I’ve been hearing about. It smells like Texas!”
                      Come again? Makers of the “Homesick” line offer this promotional copy: “ Head back to Texas with this fragrance reminiscent of dark leather, fresh pine, and thick lemon slices. A floral note of cyclamen and a touch of sage help balance the big bold scents of the Lone Star State.”
                             Have you ever before associated cyclamen with Texas? Have you ever heard of cyclamen at all? Don’t worry. I’m not aware that bluebonnets have much of an aroma. This stuff is fresh and subtle, so not all of Texas is bold and loud. It’s not bragging if it’s true.
                             Now, have you considered what our neighbors in Louisiana smell like? They’re going with magnolia, honeysuckle, jasmine and sweet potato. I haven’t smelled the “Homesick” version of Louisiana, but I think they’ve picked a good “southern bouquet.”  There are state-associated limited edition “Homesick” chocolates as well.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Books guide us toward better selves


               
               


                     "Sneaky Blends and other books: 
 “Sn            "Sneaky Blends” will get you from a base of white beans blended with filtered water to a replacement for butter and cream in recipe, butter and oil in baked goods and  dinners like those on Tuscany tables.
                      You’ll want some for Missy Chase Lapine’s Crunchy Kale-Crust Pizza, and even the 4 p.m. Protien Cookie. The carrot and sweet potato blend goes into single serve mac and cheese and and broccoli pea spinach bases will make you want a Broccoli-Cheddar Mini Fritatta right now. It’s a tempting bite in a corn tortilla.
                      So there’s the word “sneaky” in the title. I’d be proud of figuring out a lifestyle where you do a little blending and have health and delicious ideas at your fingertips, but we all live in a world where some people we feed won’t get that mixed berry-baby kale base blend could work in a brownie. So, you gotta be sneaky sometimes. Maybe it’s science, but I think it’s a culinary miracle. 
Road Trip?
                      People still want to drive Route 66. They should get the new book of memories and post cards by T. Lindsay Baker, “Portrait of Route 66.” Of all the images of pristine tourist courts boasting central air and scenic bridges, I gravitated to the Texas section.
                      In 1946 people were planning their travel to arrive at The Aristocrat Restaurant in Amarillo. The image shows tables set along a western panorama mural with cowboy, mountains and cactus. In the middle are two rows of booths with a planter division. I can’t tell what they’re eating, but everyone looks well dressed and relaxed, not like they were driving all day in the heat or cold! If you’ve done this route, or just want to dream you did, back in the day, sit back and enjoy this collection.

 Eating Disorder grief diaries
                      Some of the women sharing their true stories of anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating mention the late singer Karen Carpenter, who died from anorexia. That was the first time I’d heard of the eating disorder that seemed so strange: starving yourself on purpose. Now days young boys and girls can link, via computers, with others who have these problems both for support to avoid the behavior or to cover up one’s tracks and hide problems from family and friends.
                      Women in “Grief Diaries: Through the Eyes of an Eating Disorder: True Stories About Living with Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia and Binge Eating” share what instigated their behaviors, how they compensated, how they were obsessed and in some cases, how they overcame. Lynda Cheldelin Fell and others share powerful stories that hopefully help

Eatio   others realize what sufferers are feeling and how intense the struggle can be. I couldn’t put it down. These addictions are real and dangerous, because we all need to eat to survive. Instead of “case studies,” we get to hear from these women themselves.   darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Friday, January 13, 2017

Pass a good time at Rodair Roadhouse



Rodair Roadhouse:  You can pass a good time Rodair Roadhouse just on the food. But wait, sometimes
there's a bunch of live music and dancing. Wonder how many calories a good
Cajun waltz will burn off.
 
"Where Bayou Country Meets Gulf Coast" is the motto which sums up a relaxed
attitude at Rodair Roadhouse, on Jade Avenue in Port Arthur. Even the
fishing lures that adorn the place tell the owners' stories. Richard Hudson and
Shawn Skinner are good talkers with good stories and John Dingle is keeping
the good stuff coming out of the kitchen.
Hush puppies with Steen's Syrup as a dip? Fried green tomatoes that make you
want to slap your mama? Hot and crunchy shrimp bites like none other? Rodair
Roadhouse has been paying attention to flavorful little details.
The proof may be in the pudding, as in the bread pudding that Skinner
reveals is buttery to the max. Some if their "secrets" are sharable and some
will remain in the family. If Skinner starts talking about that butter
content and you don't want to hear, cover your ears until he's moved on to
the banana or key lime pie.
I haven't even touched on the main dishes, so go see for yourself. They're
practicing in the back on crawfish, but promise that when they're bigger
and better, they'll be on the menu for fans.

                      Orange food
          A houseguest mentioned she wasn’t keen on orange foods. What? Around this season? Pumpkin and yams cooking are unpleasant, she said. No worries. I’m adaptable. But those sweet potatoes I’d planned to roast and serve with olive oil and curry powder were looking at me. I awoke extra early and cooked them for my breakfast while she was still asleep. Potato discs, crispy from grilling in coconut oil and topped with a bit of fruity jam went well with eggs for a cheerful morning meal. That’s thinking outside the orange box.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Langrty DUCK Farm is a 'maze'ing


                     
Duck Farm is a ‘maze’ing
                      Did I see ducks at Langry Duck Farm? People keep asking. There was a meditation labyrinth, a patio where we roasted marshmallows, friendly cats and dogs and a breakfast casserole spread with juice in long-stemmed glasses. What a way to interact with nature.
                      The “duck” stands for Discovering, Understanding, Creativity & Knowledge for a Farm Alternative Restoration Model. Barbara Lange has this spread in Liberty and I was lucky enough to “win”  a stay in the Breakfast with the Bishop silent auction fundraiser. My friends and husband spent an evening on the patio, retired to our lovely second-floor rooms and arose with the sun to walk the labyrinth. Then, breakfast was served.
                      Ms. Lange saw I was interested in her plants and herbs and took me for a walk around plantings surrounded by a fence made from bicycles. You read that right. Herbs and aloe was planted in every sort of vessel, including a retired coffee maker. This woman was a delight and told how she works with young people, veterans and other groups.
                      Want to know more about Langtree Duck Farm Retreat & Eco Center? Call 936-587-4325.

                      Resolution corner
                      I’ve hardly heard any talk of resolutions this year, but my January birthday gets me off to a later start. I do actually enjoy easing that stuffed feeling by experimenting with lovely vegetables after holiday excess.
              Ever heard of “tight junction function?” Makers of RESTORE liquid supplement sent me a bottle and I started using it before the heavier eating of the Thanksgiving season began. It works by “increasing tight junctions to promote a healthy internal firewall, which helps create a more resilient system by supporting gut health, respiratory wellness, balance immune function and enhanced mental clarity in the face of environmental factors.” Okay, the layman’s copy also says that herbicides we come in contact with can damage tight junctions, the Velcro-like proteins that allow the body to absorb the nutrients it needs and block the toxins it doesn’t. I don’t usually buy any extra supplements, but did try this one, available at GNC. My experience: I certainly think daily use kept me on track. Just seeing the bottle every morning reminded me to make more healthy choices as the temptations reigned down. RESTORE is about your “gut health.”
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Monday, January 2, 2017

Culinary adventures of 2016

       
             
Hope you’ve resolved to try new flavors this year and focus on the healthy stuff. Over the holidays I received more challenges that I could handle, and now I have a waiting list of things I want to try, like cottage cheese stuffed in an avocado half for a light meal. At a crowded event I think someone asked me to look into acorn stuffing, and people were talking about acorns from trees. I’m now thinking that people were all thinking about acorn squash stuffing.
                      Here’s something I heard of and maybe don’t want to try: 

                      Squirel-possum-raccoon – Maybe I’m saying it wrong. I didn’t even bring it up but an esteemed college mentioned seeing a program about three animals stuffed into one for an East Texas version of the tur-duck-hen. That’s a hen inside a duck inside a hen, and it’s long been a thing around here. But this “squir-poss-coon” sounded truly strange. When a third woman overheard she asked where you get one. The answer is that you’d have to hunt it down yourself. We figured Tex-Joy would season that meal of critters up right. I did  a scant amount of research and have not found such a beast. Texas lore?
                     



              Chaba Thai Bistro
                      Sorry Chef Monica Cobb of Monica’s, 2016 was not the year I got to try your Beaumont restaurant, but it wasn’t from lack of trying. My Mom, a big fan and follower, tried to get me there but there was a closed-for-the-holidays situation. Hey, everyone needs a rest!
                      No worries, Chaba Thai Bistro was across the way at 6434 Phelan Blvd. in Beaumont. My spicy eggplant dish was a hit, so thanks, Mom.
                      Chaba for a quiet lunch was a treat, and just as fun as the two pull-tables-together birthday celebrations I’d attended recently. Heat lovers, they don’t have the chili oil upon request, but the little plastic dish of dry pepper flakes will get you to the spice you crave.

                      The Big Cheese
                      Back on National Cheese Curd Day, Farm Rich, wanted me to help spread the word on their new Breaded Cheddar Cheese Curds, but I never did find it down here, so far from Wisconsin cheese. I did use that introductory coupon for breaded cheese sticks, which guests at my house ate up. I made a marinara sauce with tomato paste, olive oil, herbs and juice from a jar of olives. Spicy, and good, was one critic’s summation.
                             Maybe 2017 will bring me the whole curd.
                             darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas luxury


I’m thrilled I raised a daughter who identifies with the “great comfort” part of the definition of luxury  more than the “extravagant living” part.
            A warm cup of cocoa on a chilly night, quiet time with friends and an early bedtime could be luxurious for us. We both hear stories of people not quite satisfied with the size of their diamond earrings or bummed about toting last year’s designer handbag.                                                                                                                                                            
             She called to say a giant bag of crushed red pepper would be a luxury item for her gourmet Christmas basket and I ran out to a Vietnamese store for one. Guess we ran through the bag we shared two years ago. Neither of us can go without hot pepper too long, say three meals in a row.
            The next day I texted her to ask if she agreed that Dawn dishwashing liquid, noted for grease-cutting power and cleaning oily birds, was to be considered a luxury item. She sent back a yes and a smiley face, so I sent her a photo of Dawn in New Zealand scent, which is where she would have liked to go on her honeymoon. We decided to share a bottle. I refilled my pump bottle and handed her the rest when I saw her. She suggested I put it in the gourmet goodie basket, still under the tree. Crazy, but I like living in a world where two women can be happy with a half bottle of dishwashing detergent.
 Korean pepper shreds
My plan was to fill little jars of Korean pepper shreds I found at a Houston market and give them to foodies I know. Pepper power is subjective, but I didn’t find these hot at all. I did love how the thin red strands formed a little nest when sprinkled over a dish. They’re an edible conversation starter.
When a friend gave me jars of every combination of orange, lemon, pineapple and ginger marmalades I could imagine, I wanted to share pepper shreds with her. The next day she texted me an image of her strands over an omelet and how they added a sweet, smoky flavor.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Christmas luxury

 
Luxury
I’m thrilled I raised a daughter who identifies with the “great comfort” part of the definition of luxury  more than the “extravagant living” part.
            A warm cup of cocoa on a chilly night, quiet time with friends and an early bedtime could be luxurious for us. We both hear stories of people not quite satisfied with the size of their diamond earrings or bummed about toting last year’s designer handbag.                                                                                                                                                            
             She called to say a giant bag of crushed red pepper would be a luxury item for her gourmet Christmas basket and I ran out to a Vietnamese store for one. Guess we ran through the bag we shared two years ago. Neither of us can go without hot pepper too long, say three meals in a row.
            The next day I texted her to ask if she agreed that Dawn dishwashing liquid, noted for grease-cutting power and cleaning oily birds, was to be considered a luxury item. She sent back a yes and a smiley face, so I sent her a photo of Dawn in New Zealand scent, which is where she would have liked to go on her honeymoon. We decided to share a bottle. I refilled my pump bottle and handed her the rest when I saw her. She suggested I put it in the gourmet goodie basket, still under the tree. Crazy, but I like living in a world where two women can be happy with a half bottle of dishwashing detergent.

 Korean pepper shreds
My plan was to fill little jars of Korean pepper shreds I found at a Houston market and give them to foodies I know. Pepper power is subjective, but I didn’t find these hot at all. I did love how the thin red strands formed a little nest when sprinkled over a dish. They’re an edible conversation starter.
When a friend gave me jars of every combination of orange, lemon, pineapple and ginger marmalades I could imagine, I wanted to share pepper shreds with her. The next day she texted me an image of her strands over an omelet and how they added a sweet, smoky flavor.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com