Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sweet stuff for about 60 cents

Frugality is more than a hobby these days. In “Beyond Couponing” Carol Scudere shares how to save up to 60 percent on groceries. I always like to get a glimpse of how the pantries of folks who do this are set up and this book offers a peek. If you’re willing to saw a roll of paper towels in half to make your own baby wipes and scan your (Port Arthur News) newspaper for coupons, then you, too, can save big. She’s got a plan, lists, menus and recipes. My mother makes a version of this recipe below and it’s mighty tasty:

Maple Flavored Syrup

Yields about 12 2-ounce servings; Approximate cost to make: 60 cents

2 cups sugar

½ cup water

½ cup corn syrup

1 teaspoon maple extract

1 teaspoon butter flavoring

Bring water, sugar and corn syrup to a slow boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat before it comes to a rolling boil in order to keep crystals from forming. Add flavorings as it is cooking. Store in refrigerator. Great over pancakes and corn fritters.

Ready for Asian new year

My daughter got her annual Christmas request of a run from Port Arthur’s Asian markets. Now our pantry is stocked full of spring roll wrappers, Peking vegetarian roast duck (braised gluten), crab paste, shredded squid and some kind of unusual items, too. Spicy blends over rice are low-cal New Year’s resolution options.

Christmas gumbo

Timing, décor, placement and just about everything I hold traditional to Christmas left me discombobulated this season. Thank goodness my mother prepared the necessity, a holiday gumbo. This year’s had shrimp and crab and we were mighty grateful for it.

We amused ourselves with wondering how many displaced Texans and Cajuns were having Christmas gumbo in the other states across America. We’d love to see a map connecting the dots of all the steaming pots.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Fun with boudain and toasting Barefoot

So my mom heard a restaurant offered a boudain breakfast pizza and set out to make her own. When my aunt came for brunch, she toted a crust, boudain, mozzarella cheese, eggs, green onions and olives to my house and we played with it to great success. We still don’t know how the restaurant does it, but we ate all of ours.

Toasting Barefoot

Ten bucks could make your new year Barefoot Bubbly good. It made a couple of my December nights quite festive already. Barefoot has six varietals of bubbly in this price range. And to think, years ago I didn’t even care for Champagne. (I was in the $6 range back then). But I wasn’t looking for tasting notes like these:

Brut Cuvée, is crisp with hints of green apple and jasmine. They’ve’ also got a new Pink Moscato, with fruity aromas of fresh berries, candied cherries and sweet citrus leading to a creamy finish. My fave was the Brut and my husband picked the Pink. Try toasting 2012 with some of these: Extra Dry, Pinot Grigio, Rose Cuvée and Moscato Spumante.

Mamma Chia

A lovely woman’s silhouette graces sexy curved bottles of Mamma Chia filled with berry-shaded blends of cherry lime, blackberry hibiscus, raspberry passion and cranberry lemonade. What’s the star of these organic, vegan and gluten-free drinks? The same chia seeds we grew on clay “pets” in the ‘70s. If you’ve ever had bubble tea, you can relate to what a first-time may refer to as a thick slime. Culinary Thrill Seekers can move beyond that sensation to try something new. While I did enjoy experimenting with these drinks, I’d consider them again for health more than craving. I felt full and healthy after drinking just half a bottle of the beautiful stuff. By the way, the seeds are whole and suspended in the red juice. Seeds offer omega-3, antioxidants, protein, calcium and more.


Here’s a little plastic gadget that works better than I even expected. Billed as an extra set of hands, the green plastic BagWel arms swing open to hold a cuffed food bag so the bag sands open and you can fill it with food for the freezer. This helps you avoid spills that get zipped up in the seal and make everything messy. It’s so easy, that’s all I have to say about it.

Clean green

My guests commented on the fresh scent they whiffed while I was cleaning the table and I told them it was parsley. Earth Friendly Proucts offers a pump spray with good stuff that works and plant-based Wave, high-efficiency auto dishwasher gel that smells of organic lavender and removes coffee and tea stains. I’ve been using Eco Breeze fabric freshener with lemongrass and washing clothes in the detergent. It’s good to find a company that cares.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Butter up your holidays with recipes, gifts
First I’d like to thank lots and lots of readers who contacted me with cornmeal hints for my mom. She’s seeking a coarser ground and I’ve been put on the track of stone ground, Lamb’s brand and reminded of cornbread with milk and sugar, a dish my Cajun grandma called cush cush. Thanks readers, it’s great to know you’re out there. Now, here’s some thoughts on more good eataing:

I was going to read ”Gooseberry Patch Big Book of Home Cooking” on the couch, then type up my thoughts. Great ideas kept flying from the pages, so I had to move to the computer to capture them for you, readers. Between recipes for mint or banana punch and sweet and cinnamon bacon, “Vickie” and “Jo Ann” offer sketches of how cute it would be to wrap up utensils in napkins and a flower and have them sticking out of a flower pot, or bundle them in a vintage pitcher from an antique shop. Have a tired, old quilt? Sew patches of it into pot holders for serving something like cinnamon-pumpkin pancakes. This book is designed for cooks who love company. Make guests feel special by bundling herbs with jute to make a little brush. Place it by a dish of melted butter for vegetables. If was their company, I’d request this:

Bacon & Greens Salsa
8 slices bacon
16-ounce package frozen mixed greens, thawed and drained
½ of a sweet onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 ½ cup frozen corn, thawed
1 serrano chile pepper, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
pork rinds, sweet potato chips
hot pepper sauce
Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat 7 to 9 minutes until crisp, remove bacon and drain on paper towels, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings in a skillet. Crumble bacon, set aside.
Saute greens, onion and garlic in hot drippings 7 to 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in corn and next three ingredients and cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. Sprinkle with bacon. Serve warm with pork rinds, sweet potato chips and hot pepper sauce. Makes 4 cups.

All buttered up
Butter Bell is billed as a gift for foodies. L. Tremain offers a range of selections and I’ve got a splash of color in maraschino red. Butter Bell keeps a stick of butter spreadable, on your counter. There’s no need for refrigeration because you spread the butter in a well and invert it into the base, in which you add cool water. That forms an airtight seal. Just change water every three days. I had to be convinced when I first read this, but there is an absolute difference in the taste, texture and enjoyment quality of using butter stored in the crock than pulled from the fridge. I had an honest-to-gosh Butter Bell from this company years ago, but when my Aunt, just returned from France, admired the Le Bistro Bell, reading “buerre,” with royal blue banding, I gave it to her. Years later my friend, a butter aficionado, passed me one fashioned as a glass block, and not of this company’s making, I foolishly tried to melt some butter for a popcorn fix in the microwave, and busted it. Now that I’ve got a real Butter Bell in the house, I’m taking care of it, displaying it next to my flashy red Oster toaster. http://www.butterbell.com/product/54

WineTime Bar
This sounds like a joke, or a dream. WineTime Bar by Resvez is a gourmet nutrition bar infused with reservatrol than 50 glasses of red wine. This could be one of my shortest reviews ever, but the flavor titles are so long. Chocolate-Rasberry, with dates and almonds, tastes wonderful and is good for you, ditto to Rich Dark Chocolate with dates and almonds. So many bars have natural ingredients but still taste like cardboard. This is more like candy. I had mine with Champagne.

Grandy Oats
Makers of Grandy Oats Organic Granola talk up how their “natural” standards are much higher than name brands’ we may know and enjoy. They aren’t as expensive, either. But the proof is the taste, which is nut-and oat-filled goodness. The cranberry option, packaged in a plastic tub, is so rich that instead of a bowl full, I’m sprinkling it on Greek yogurt and dotting it with honey for dessert. A little will last a long time.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cake mix up some cookies for Santa

Holiday stores of pumpkin puree and cranberries can get mixed into cookies and bars with some very quick ides from Camilla V. Saulsbury. “The Ultimate Cake Mix Cookie Book” has multiple temptations on every page. A white mix will get you Crushed Peppermint Snowballs or Salty-Sweet Nutty Chippers. A chocolate mix makes Cookies and Cream Gooey Bars. Cornmeal and lemon goes into another blend. This is easy, brilliant stuff and young kitchen fans can get in on the act. For those in the bake-sale stage of life, this book will win fans. Here’s a quickie:

Cappuccino Crinkles
1 18.25-ounce package white cake mix
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix cake mix, shortening, butter, brown sugar, egg, coffee powder and vanilla in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed, 1 minute until blended.
Place cocoa powder in a small, shallow bowl. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets. A note suggests lining sheets with parchment paper.
Bake 9 to12 minutes or until centers are just set. Cool 1 minute on sheets, then remove cookies with spatula to wire racks to cool completely. Makes three dozen.

Serving guests low cal vodka
We’ll come round to vodka in this discussion, so read on:
Invite your honey to the holidays with Honeydrop, a line of natural teas and juices with a spoon full of honey. Green Tea, Lemon Tea and Lemon Ginger Tea are new in the low-calorie line. I like the Blood Orange. I love how these natural companies have causes. Buy a Bottle - Save a Bee helps beehives get built around the country.
Hint Water takes it down a notch with a no-calorie unsweetened essence water in 10 flavors including Blackberry, Watermelon, Pomegranate-Tangerine, Strawberry-Kiwi, Mango-Grapefruit, and Raspberry-Lime. I’ve had some in the past and just tried another round, adding watermelon to vodka. Hint and Honeydrop are great ways for children to cut back on sugary drinks, and adults can work on their figures by mixing cocktails with them.

Voli Light Vodka makers say it is the first low calorie fruit and fusion flavored vodka in the world. Voli Light Vodkas are on average 25 to 40 percent lower in calorie than leading brands with natural ingredients. I got a great flavor and aroma from Lemon, Lyte and Raspberry Cocoa. Bottles look sleek, but don’t think this is all too girly. My husband liked the refreshing flavor combos you can concoct. The Orange Vanilla goes with apple cider and cinnamon stick; Lemon meets pomegranate and flamed orange zest to get Sympathy for the Devil; and Lyte, jalapeno and pineapple get you a spicy kick. The Voil Vamp, below, cuts calories big time:

Voil Vamp
1 1/2 ounce Voli Lemon (or Lyte)

1/4 ounce Chambord (Raspberry Liqueur)

2 ounce Cranberry juice

Top with club soda

Build over ice and stir

Serve in a “rocks” glass with lemon or lime twist. Calories: 135 (100 calories if made with diet cranberry)

Caveman treats
A cookie company gives you a brownie recipe that will no doubt satisfy cave men as well as your brood. Caveman Cookies are based on the back-to-basics principles of the Paleolithic Diet of natural stuff. I’ve tried and enjoyed the slightly sweet and chewing sensation of cookies in original, alpine and tropical. It wasn’t just me, my testers went for seconds, too.
The company goes for dairy and gluten-free ingredients, to satisfy the caveman inside us all is craving a simpler time when food was not processed and was free of additives with only all-natural ingredients that the body can easily digest. Visit cavemancookies.com to learn more, and try these:

Paleo* Pumpkin Pecan Brownies
(*Paleolithic except for the chocolate… so enjoy it as a treat.)
2 eggs
4 ounces dark chocolate
½ cup honey
16 ounce unsalted almond butter
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, divided
3/4 cup pumpkin

1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, lightly whisk eggs; set aside. Break chocolate bar into pieces and combine with honey in saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat once chocolate is melted.

Add half the chopped pecans and all other remaining ingredients in bowl with eggs; pour in chocolate-honey mixture. Mix well. Pour batter into parchment-lined or lightly greased baking pan (9- by 13-inches) and sprinkle with remaining chopped pecans. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes until firm to the touch.