Sunday, April 16, 2017

Amber Sunrise and an onion habit

 

         Amber Sunrise 
Make your own forecast for an Amber Sunrise by getting Community Coffee Company’s newest coffee item—the Amber Sunrise™ Blend, into your cup.
            In Southeast Texas, coffee lovers get excited when they see this red label from our Baton Rouge neighbors. It truly is a “community” thing. Since April in our area, we’ve had access to this “rich and vibrant blend” with a “lighter roast with a smooth finish.” I’ve tried it and liked it. Here’s another bonus: For every dollar redeemed on specially-marked coupons, Community Coffee Co. will donate a matching dollar to land preservation efforts along the gulf coast. Isn’t that enough to put some amber in your sunrise?
            Just the aroma of opening up a package of this family-owned product transports me back to family gatherings. The company is keeping up with modern trends of development and giving-back. I’m sharing Private Reserve Exclusive Coffee, marked “exclusive coffee availale through our long-standing relationships with the communities of Toledo and Labateca, for when my mom visits. We sat for coffee with the open package between us, just to inhale some more. Then it’s bak to another of the red labels, Café Special, a medium-dark roast marked smooth & full flavored. C’est bon!



Vid

              My onion habit
                      Onions and peppers are both a food group to me. I’d have them at every meal if possible. Vidalia Chop Wizard makes this more possible. It’s the tool that chops vegetables and fruits into salsas and salads. The hinged case with has two sizes of stainless steel grids of blades for chopping and dicing. Place your cut produce on top of them and snap the lid to collect cubes of onion, zucchini, tomato carrots, apples, mushrooms, boiled egg and other delights. It’s easy and by your third or fourth “closing” you’ll be chopping like a pro, or As Seen on TV, people, who bring us this Wizard. The case is well made – not flimsy at all – and I love how your produce collects in the bottom for to me measured or stored. So if you crave fresh salsa for a breakfast taco, you can have some extra later.
                      If you have a garden with an abundance of zucchini, get one of these to make easy cutting for side dishes. Also, call me to take some zucchini off your hands.


                      All about Disney?
                      Know any Disney fanatics? Quiz them from “The Disneyland Encyclopedia: The Unofficial, Authorized, and Precedented History of Every Land, Attraction, Restaurant, Shop and Major Event in the Original Magic Kingdom.” Christ Strodder’s book hits something of interest for every fan. I’d have loved to see the James Bond double jet packing his way over Tomorrowland or young Steve Martin selling programs in period costume. The book reports a Disney co-worker inspired his trademark “Excuuuuuuuse me!!!” line.
                      So foodies may go for the restaurant notes. Strodder mentions the  Troubadour Tavern, aka Yumz; aka Louie’s, aka Meeko’s; aka Fantasyland Theatre Snacks; aka Troubadour Treats; aka Enchanted Cottage Sweets & Treats. Through good marketing, the restaurant themes and menu items have changed based on nearby attractions and recent releases.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A quickie with jasmine rice


             
I seasoned some jasmine rice cooking water with seafood “juice” leftover from a boil. When it was done I folded in some greens from the garden, including kale, green onions, grape leaves and sweet potato leaves. Then I opened a can of octopus and poured the “meat” and oil over two servings. This meal was conceived, executed, appreciated and devoured in no time at all.

             

                      Harvest Natural Market
                      My aunt was driving us around the Katy area and I spied the Harvest Natural Market sign. We love visiting new grocery stores and this little shop was bunches of fun. Stevia and lemon balm plants were in the produce section, natural weave blankets and crafts were scattered about and a cafeteria with lamb and seating called our name. We didn’t answer as we had other plans, but thankfully enjoyed the bread and olive oil samples.


                      Hay Max
         Lavender and aloe are two "edibles" that go into Hay Max, little pots of "allergen barrier balms" that will make my spring more pleasant. This soft balm traps allegens before they get into you body. Rub some around the rim of both nostrils and the "bones of the eyes" and reapply after blowing your nose. It's very soft and soothing. I love the method, because I'm the type who figures if a llittle is good then a is better. For years I've been rubbing mentholatum much mroe near the nostrils than recommended, so this balm is a welcome change. Apparently those in the UK who suffer from allegies to grass, trees, ragweed, pollen, dust and pets have been trusting Hay Max for a decade and it's new to us here. It's a drug-free, non-drowsy option.
Whipped honey: Do you already enjoy the handiness of mixing peanutbutter 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.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Where to eat this weekend



                    We've already discussed Cajun Heritage Festival, April 8, at the Carl A. Parker Center in Port Arthur. Besides all the music, check out the crawfish eating contest which will include a prize of a Sea Rim State Park kayak package. What a way to work off the calories.
                       It’s fair time and the Young Men’s Business League will present the South Texas State Fair through Sunday, April 9 at Fair Park in Beaumont. What makes people lose their minds over corn dogs? This is the place to hit the carnival rides in hopes of working off your funnel cake calories.
               

Moroccan Magic
Argan oil has been a thing in cosmetics. I’m just hearing you can drizzle it on your couscous and the traditional harvesting method has focused on tree-climbing goats and their dietary habits. Moroccan Magic USDA Organic Argan & Essential Oil Lip Balm has listed benefits of “repairing, protective, anti-aging, cooling and deep moisturizing.” I don’t know how they can possibly measure this, but “sophisticated” is listed. I will tell you this, both coconut almond and peppermint eucalyptus are $3.99 and they’re the most luxurious lip balms I’ve ever tried. The brown tubes actually do look sophisticated and the product feel is light, silky and fresh. So of course you don’t actually eat this stuff, but it’s a fine example of how “culinary” products are used for the greater good of the earth, and soft lips. Organic sunflower oil, rosemary extract, beeswax, calendula blend and argan oils are used in these little babies, which makers say can be found at CVS stores.





                    Stylin’
          Stick out your tongue for beauty. Look at your tongue, stuck out between your teeth and match that shade in a lipstick with your clarity and brightness. What could look more natural? I assume Janna Beatty means the shade, not the act, in “Quintessential Style: Cultivate and Communicate your Signature Look. Look your holiday best with tips from this book written with Sharon White, like “creams set powder,” so appy eyeliner before shadow.
          Your closet should be like a river that flows, not like the dead sea, Beatty wrights. That’s how this style book got into my culinary column. I love this advice that goes for most everything. I love to clean out “move” things out of the house with the new year. It makes rooms for more blessings. Clean out that clothing closet, hall closet and pantry. Weed out clothes that you have “just because” but never wear, donate rarely used items to charity and round up “tired” seasonings and make a chili. Then you’ll have more space, or what I like to call, more room for more blessings. Thanks, Janna Beatty, for preaching it.
         Atlas of Mini Adventures
         As you travel the world with your young foodies, pack “Atlas of Miniature Adventures: A Pocket-Sized Collection of Small-Scale Wonders.” Follow the boy and girl characters to Vienna to the snow globe museum to learn how Perzy Snow put a model of the Mariazell Bascilica in a globe after playing with water globes and white grains of powder to increase the brightness of a lightbulb. They’ll find wee Desert Goby fish in Austrailia and bee hummingbirds who lay pea-sized eggs in Cuba.
darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Appalachian Appetite


                      It could have been a spicy radish her dad pulled from the earth that made Susi Gott Seguret fall in love with cooking. Her hippie kind of parents moved to North Carolina to build a cabin, grow food and create art and music in the ‘60s. The mountains limited travel in days of old, so this family also learned to feed themselves from wild nuts and mushrooms, pumpkins, beans, squirrel, turkey feet and pokeweed.
                      I would have loved to be down-the-road neighbors with this family, trading home-grown bounty.
                      The photos of landscapes and foodscapes are beautiful in her book, “Appalachian Appetite: Recipes from the Heart of America.” She shares methods for pickled ramps, grits with morels, Tennessee Ham-Wrapped Peaches, Possum Pate and Susi’s Jack Daniels-infused collards (with bacon fat).
                      I’ll have some fiddle playing while enjoying Leeky Smashed Potatoes and beer bread. Apparently Dolly Parton referred to sweet tea as the house wine of the south. This book explains that in the 1900s sweet tea was a luxury as not everyone could afford tea, sugar and ice. It was also a power boost for working in the field all day.
                      Here’s a recipe for something good on biscuits or pancakes:
              Imogene’s Chocolate Gravy
              Sugar
              Cocoa
              Milk
              Combine ingredients in a saucepan (more sugar and cocoa, in ration to taste, than milk). Boil until it reaches the consistency desired and pour over freshly baked biscuits or pancakes.



                             Olive Love

                      Are you thinking of olives as snacks? Why aren’t you? Gaea is putting almond-shaped Halkidiki variety olives, removing the pits, marinating them with olive oil, oregano, garlic, coriander and lemon peel and packing that Greek flavor into a liquid-free pouch. Come on. If they've done all that for you, you could at least rip open a bag and enjoy. I even shared my fragrant lovelies, which included four servings at 15 calories each. This should be your snack.

         Open & Eat Quinoa
 Few of my foodie friends have played with cooking quinoa, so I wonder if I could convince them to experience Carrington Farms’ bag of toasted quinoa. It’s an “open & eat” bag, no cooking required, and labled “Healthy Foods for a Healthy Soul.” Bold claim and bold flavor. Those toasty nuggets are super healthy and very crunchy and flavorful. If you can’t imagine just getting a spoonful during a busy work day, sprinkle them over Greek yogurt or use them as salad toppers. I’m enjoying them over a bowl full of baba ghanouj. If you don’t know about that, I’ll save it for another column.

         Nuts for Viki’s Granola
         I’d love to have breakfast with Viki. Gluten-free oats, unsweetened coconut, sunflower seeds and pecans would come with the experience. Vicki’s Granola is the good stuff and the healthy stuff mixed together. I tried banana walnut with milk and I managed to save some blueberry almond for yogurt topping. This is so much more “real” than the granola I had as a kid in the ‘70s. Viki has gone back to the natural stuff that granola was born to be.


              This shroom helps you clean
                      So you love cooking and entertaining, but then there’s the cleaning. A sample TubShroom is designed for the shower, but it arrived the very week my bathroom sink drain stopper conked out, so that’s where I tried it. TubShroom is flexible and fits into the drain. Hair warps around the cylinder where you can’t see it. When you pull it out you can clean it off with a paper towel and you’re done. It prevents clogged drains and prevents you from having to use harsh chemicals. You don’t have to install a thing and it works with animal hair, too. This is a product that does what it says it will.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Parker’s passion for Lions Club; group meets at Courtyard Café


Debby Parker has made it personal. The president of the Port Arthur Founders Lions Club wants new members to carry on the “rich tradition” of this club and she’s passionate about spreading the good works this club and Lions Clubs International does for the world.
It’s a “We Serve” attitude that has helped people overcome “river blindness” from unclean water sources, supported eye banks and corneal  transplants and helped residents recover from earthquakes in Haiti and flooding in Deweyville.
“The more members we have, the more service we can give,” Parker said.
Parker is so passionate about educating Mid-County about her club that she barely looked up as a tempting croissant sandwich and soup of the day was placed before her at Courtyard Café in Groves. This is where the group meets each second and fourth Friday of the month to dine, hear a speaker and just have fun getting together. It’s informal, efficiently run from noon to 1 p.m. (Parker said she’s a stickler for time) and the dues are minimal for all you get.
This March Parker will visit businesses and do anything she can to encourage new membership.
“You have to have a heart for this work,” Parker said. “Once you’re involved in Lions, it gets in your heart.”
“We do a lot of things people don’t hear about,” Parker said, but she’d love to tell you.
Lions is turning 100 years old, functions in 220 countries and includes 1.4 million members. This club is one of the first 25 clubs formed, Parker said. She’s been through the scrapbooks and seen the evolution.
“That makes me really proud we have been around so long and I don’t want that history to go away,” she said.
The club offers family memberships to encourage spousal togetherness as all those good works get done
“Once you’re involved in Lions, it gets in your heart,” Parker said.
Call her at 409-363-4092 to get in on all this Lions Club passion.
Lunch at Courtyard Café is what I’d call another perk. When I visited with Parker, I enjoyed gumbo with shrimp and sausage with potato salad on the side.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Mardi Gras festivities merge into Lenten season


                   
   February has been full of jambalaya, boudain balls and gumbo, and I ate one thing on a stick at Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas.
                      The Jumbo Gumbo tasting featured all sorts of blends and surprises. One team seems to have taken all the skin off their chicken, perhaps in an attempt to make the gumbo more healthy. But they offered a bowl of fried chicken skins on the table. I ate two of those. Another team showed off shirts reading “Get Roux’d.” (Sounds like “get rude,” get it?)
                      Some other festive experiences around Port Arthur this Mardi Gras season:
                      * Worried about losing your baby in the king cake? Place him in a cloud of frosting atop a cupcake.
                      * My mom likes her boudain free from skin. I’ve discovered if your flatten your skinless link with a spatula, you can brown a sort of patty into crispy perfection.
                      * Zatarain’s sent me boxes of Dirty Rice Dinner Mix and Jambalaya Rice Dinner Mix that are both gluten free with no MSG added and have no colors from artificial sources. I’ve playing around with dirty rice omelette and rice salad with a mayo and vinaigrette dressing.
             


              Lenten list
              Mindful eating is a priority during my Lenten season and I focus on being grateful for every bite. I keep a small grocery budget and seek to donate to causes that feed the hungry in this time. So I try to stock up with bounty, to share with family and friends. My shopping list includes the basics, which can be transformed into creative blessings:
              Greek Yogurt
              Eggs
              Cottage Cheese
              Fruits and vegetables, fresh and frozen
              Beans, dry and canned
              Canned oysters
              Grains


              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

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