Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pack my Insanewich, I’m ready for school
Even as a child my lunches never included the bland white-bread sandwich. Whatever unique filling it contained would be on Roman Meal bread. Adrian Fioring must have grown up experimental to create “Insanewiches: 101 Ways to think outside the lunchbox. Imagining opening your brown bag to find something like these:
* The Rubix Cubewich
* The Pancake Popwich — an irresistible breakfast on a stick

* The Sumo Sandwich — a heavyweight that’s overstuffed with steak, chicken, salmon, assorted mushrooms, radish and scallions

Maybe you’d like to wake up a golfer with a Toad in the Hole in one. It features a golf ball garnish. The Soulwich is a chicken waffle sandwich topped by an olive. What the Breadwich? is bound with a mushroom “bun.” The Cordless Mousewich with USB Cheestick is modern marvel to get kids from the computer room to the kitchen. What fun.
• The photos are amazing. Everyone in the house will want to join in to create faces, architecture and tom foolery that will nourish you. It’s not just for kids. Grownups can assemble the Cosmo Martini Sandwich, made with a cranberry muffin and orange slices, just for the girls.
 Go from Sunrisewiches to Dessertwiches; Eventwiches are for occasions; Gamewiches are sporting; and meals for every personality.

• Wear an Icy Diamond to lunch
• A diabetic chocolate distributor mom invented Icy Diamond’s totes with an insulated silver lining. Maybe the silver lining is that you can look so cool while keeping up with your insulin, healthy snacks, teething rings, cosmetics and other goodies you must ice. Adorable little bags with an ID pocket can hook on your belt loop, drape crossbody or loop into a fanny pack. This mom invented a backpack for bigger, icier situations. Wee little ice cold packs slip into the pockets and you’re ready to hit the road. I love it.

More for the lunch box
Oroweat’s Healthfull in 10-grain and Nuttygrain has protein fiber and flavor. It’s beautiful bread and makes the difference between a quick bite and a meal. I’m enjoying it with new Planter’s peanut butter that I got with a coupon at Kroger and Earth Balance coconut spread I found at Basic Foods in Beaumont. A BF employee said coconut anything is a big mover, because of proclaimed health benefits. I loved the spread on Oroweat toast, sprinkled with cinnamon. My racy red toaster has been busy. I’m still seeking Earth Balance “Mindful Mayo.”

Breakfast blues
Bagel thins made it into my house and I dug out some pesto to make breakfast. A powerful aroma of blueberry hit me when I opened the package, so I scanned the label longer: New Thomas’ Blueberry Bagel Thins are made with whole grain with 110 calories a serving. I traded pesto for butter and had a splurge with far fewer calories, thanks to Thomas cutting out the middle of the bagel. My daughter and I were happy to get good bagel flavor without that heavy feeling that you over did it. Because of all the fiber, they satisfy your palate and bring a boost of flavor to your morning. Where was Thomas when I needed school-morning breakfasts?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Iced coffee on top of the beverage trend
My mom thinks she was among the first to start the iced coffee trend around here, back in the ‘80s. She ordered it at a restaurant and the waitress said they didn’t have it. My mother had to convince her that if they had ice, and coffee, they could make her a batch.
Now The Food Channel lists it among the Top Ten Beverage Trends for 2011. By partnering with CultureWaves® ( ), the International Food Futurists®, and Mintel International (, The Food Channel has been able to identify the most significant beverage trends in dessert for 2011, from adding flavors to water, to new adult beverages, to drinking for enhanced nutritional benefits, The Food Channel reports. The year’s not over, so consider raising your glass to some of this:
The Food Channel Top Ten Dessert Trends in 2011
1. D.I.Y. Flavor— Many of us are taking flavor matters into our own hands.
2. Parental Discretion Advised— We’re still seeing lots of buzz around beverages and kids.
3. Iced Coffee Is Scalding Hot— Consumption of this cold caffeinated beverage has heated up.
4. For Medicinal Purposes Only— There’s certainly no shortage of ways to “drink to your health.”
5. Sipping Seasonally and Simply— In much the same way we’re eating local and choosing foods when they’re in season, we’re making a more conscious effort to drink that way, too.
6. Fast Food Beyond the Fizz—T here are changes happening here, too, with specialty drinks getting as much play as burgers and fries.
7. Craft Beers: The Buzz Is Back— While overall beer sales are flat these days, sales of craft brews are seeing double-digit increases.
8. Bourbon Booming —The retro revival of the classic cocktail has hip young consumers bellying up to the bar for whiskey.
9. Show Biz— While the food generally takes center stage in restaurant exhibitionism, beverages are being offered more starring roles.
10. Drinking Ourselves Thin—We want to enjoy our drinks without drinking in the extra calories.

Put the lime in the coconut
For zero calories, I – as the song goes – put the lime in the coconut and drank it all up. Thank you to R. W. Knudsen Family for giving me the opportunity to write that headline and giving everyone the chance to enjoy a lightly-flavored, fizzy drink on the go. It was a real treat with no guilt. Organic Lime and Organic Coconut are two new flavors in the Sparkling Essence line. They put the infused organic ingredients in the sparkling spring water and put it in cans, so all that’s left for you is to drink it. Makers say it fits in well on the MyPlate food guide, and with the other organic flavors of lemon, cucumber, blueberry and mint.

Sharpie love in the kitchen
Here I go again in praise of Sharpie. While the original permanent marker is a must-have for marking freezer items, try out a new creation in the pantry. Gel highlighters have a unique head for bright yellow, orange and other colors to squeeze out the perfect amount of bright color onto you boxes of packaged food so you can quickly note amounts, fiber content, etc. I love how the writing has the edges of a crayon, so you your work looks creative. Of course, they rock you office papers, and even magazine pages, too.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Where’s my travel show?

My best road trips have a theme, like the one to Arkansas where I found a single Goldfish cracker under not one, but two different hotel beds. What are the odds?

This trip it was new cars. Paper plates rustled in the Texas wind in numbers like I’d never seen. That must be good news for the economy.

I spent my dollars in restaurants, and didn’t regret it.

I don’t know how it happened, but I’ve become an Anthony Bourdain fan from Travel Channel’s “No Reservations.” He’s eaten intestines from around the globe, and I want some, too. In Houston, I made do with octopus from the Yori Yori Korean Soft Tofu & Grill.

It’s in the 99 Ranch Market near Katy, a grocery store that is nearly all noodles, exotic produce and all things Asian. The grill featured stone bowls set in wooden squares with hot, hot, hot food in the bowl. I moved vegetables and octopus around to reveal what looked like bright yellow sauce resting on rice. It was apparently a cracked egg, that soon cooked up into the food. Some crazy rice paper rolls that were sweet like dessert sealed the deal.

At 9:30 p.m. this market was packed with families and the bakery in particular was doing amazing business with two-for-one deals. Customers got a tray lined with paper and grabbed tongs to select beautiful, colorful pastries. Even thought the confections were moving fast, it seems the laden tables were like the loaves and fishes, and never go bare.

Phone it in

Because I love finding places on my own, I’m not sure how much I liked that Urban Spoon, something you can get on a smart phone, helped me find 369 Oriental Bistro by a favorite book store on Westheimer in Houston. Regulars give it great reviews and I enjoyed every bite. I didn’t get to try the crispy spicy asparagus appetizers that are much discussed.

Triple Delight

Kim Son restaurant, just about across from the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, is a family favorite. There, Triple Delight is a dish with Vietnamese Fajitas, Honey-Glazed Shrimp and Chicken. The phrase also represented the three delighted diners – me, my mother and my husband – who left a table with nary a grain of rice left. We shared dishes including Sugar Cane Shrimp, which was a paste molded around a soft “stick” of sugar cane which you could kind of munch and get some sweet juice. A bowl of warm water was placed at my side with no explanation, so we wondered if it was for cleaning up. Alas, we saw diners at the next table using the water to soften rice paper and roll their own spring rolls tableside. I make those at home, in the kitchen, so I didn’t figure that out. Mini faux pas aside, we can’t wait to get back to Kim Son.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The leftovers needed an Asian kick
My run with Azuki beans isn’t over. I loved them in this past week’s Culinary Thrill Seeking. I tried to make my own bean paste in a blender with beans, yogurt and mung beans I was planning to sprout, but decided to eat early. My husband realized I made this double bean mixture to use as a dip for green beans. I tried to make it Asian with ginger and pepper, but it needed an extra kick that could come from something like sesame seed oil.

Delight in every bite
Many healthy snacks have a Fig Newton composition, and I’m beginning to really crave that as a signal the bar will be fulfilling and nutritious. Navitas Naturals is packaging bags of Power Snack in Superfood form of: Cacao Goji; Blueberry Hemp; and Citrus Chia. I love the chewy cubes that pack a nutty bite. Maybe you can’t eat just one, but two will fill you up. I tried the cacao and citrus and love them.

Presto: It’s pesto
Not everyone can step out by the front porch and glean fresh basil to whir up a pesto. Those who can’t can try Romarsi Pesto to Go and drizzle it on pasta, chicken, pizza, vegetables and crusty bread or mozzarella.
Makers have more ideas: Spread it over Panini’s or mix it into wraps; make a marinade for chicken, pork chops or steak; and liven up a party dip.
While I actually do have a friend who keeps her homemade stash in small containers in her freezer, Romarsi is a flavorful alternative for those without those skills. My husband and I just knew we would like the thick, green basil flavor best, but we both tried to nudge the Kalamata Olive blend closer to our plates. Our first try was on a baked potato. Pasta, here we come.
Mama Mia! Dine with the underbosses at Sertoma
Moe Green salad is on the menu at a Godfather/gangster themed Mama Mia Italian dinner to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network and American Cancer Society.
A $25 ticket will help good causes and promote a good time with the Golden Triangle Sertoma Club Inc. The event will be at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at The Courtyard Café in Groves.
“This is so much fun,” Emily Sonier, president, said.
Debbie Neef has donated a black Coach Bag that someone will go home with. It’s valued at $268. For information, call Linda Hebert at 963-4882.

Fisher on the small screen
Frances Fisher, formerly of Orange, appears in “The Lincoln Lawyer,” a 2011 now-on-DVD selection starring Matthew McConaughey as “ a sleazy defense attorney who has a crisis of conscience when he represents a wealthy client who has a foolproof plan to beat the system.”
I can’t say any more about her role, but I did enjoy the movie, which features several other major stars.
Independent Movie Data Base has this in Fisher’s bio:
“Her father worked in oil refinery construction, so she moved regularly. She was born in England and moved about every year until she was in 7th grade, when the family settled in Orange, Texas.”

Big Thicket: Read All About It
Maxine Johnston, editor of The Big Thicket Reporter,” helped edit Lorraine G. Bonney’s “The Big Thicket Guidebook: Exploring the Backroads and History of Southeast Texas.” Look for it this fall. For more information, contact

Monday, August 1, 2011

Azuki takes beans and rice Far East
The red azuki beans looked so pretty in a Mason jar in my pantry that I didn’t think about cooking them. Their time had come, so I put them on to boil before researching their origin. I did know there are several ways to spell this bean. Once I realized they were grown in East Asian and the Himalayas, and make up “bean paste” in dishes I love, it was easy to find an Asian bean salad recipe. I didn’t even finish the ingredient list before deciding I’d play with my own, and dress it with fish powder, garlic, red pepper, vinegar and sesame oil.
That did the trick, but then I made the bean salad into a new dish, adding bean sprouts and rice and wrapping in spring roll paper from one of Port Arthur’s Vietnamese markets. Fresh mint growing by my front porch sealed the deal.

Going gluten-free no sacrifice with cupcakes, waffles, pizza
Quit whining if your doctor ordered you to go gluten-free. Just pick up “Gluten-Free Made Simple: Easy Everyday Meals that Everyone Can Enjoy” and it’ll make a believer out of you. A couple of ideas made me drop my jaw. I had my husband flip through amazing food photos and then I had to shut his mouth. We both eyed cupcakes that were split, filled with lemon curd and topped with meringue. We have omelets and fried rice all the time, but not together! With fish in the mix, too! It’s all too much. They made a thin crepe and rolled it up, then sliced the roll into the fried rice for a distinct look. Can you handle sweet potato fries, cookie crunch cheesecake and feta basil bread? I thought so.
Thank Carol Field Dahlstrom, Elizabeth Dahlstrom Burnley and Marcia Schultz Dahlstrom for their know-how.

Candy news
I just slowly, carefully, analytically sampled four distinct candies, discovering their nuances, so as to share the news with readers. Now, I’m going to gobble them up. Not really, I think I’ll be able to portion Natural Vines All Natural Licorice in black and strawberry. They’re intense, and don’t have the shocking artificial flavor that has become the norm. Just one of these 17-calorie twists will get whatever taste you wanted out of your mouth and satisfy with a new, fresh taste. If you think you aren’t a licorice fan, you haven’t had this good stuff.
Goody Good Stuff impressed me just as much in Summer Peaches and Cola Breeze. I agree with the koala bear on the bags who is excited about these “gummy” treats having no fat, gluten, gelatin or dairy. They are also naturally flavored for a more “real” taste than bulk candies. These were in my hot car all day and still stayed intact and refreshing. Again a little dab’ll do you.