Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ms. Klienpeter says “Paint that chicken!”

Ann Kleinpeter of Groves told me she bets I like fried chicken, but not the fat. So she told me to peel back the skin on some chicken, “paint that chicken” with mustard and make a coating of crushed crispy rice cereal. Then you bake it. Now she kept telling me to try it out before I shared this tip, but I can’t imagine it could be anything but interesting and good. She says you can hardly taste the mustard, but I wouldn’t mind if you could. The cereal came into my life the very next day, but I still haven’t rounded up the chicken.


My mother remembered Bookbinder’s as an “up north” restaurant (Philadelphia) that she experienced through the World’s Fair in New Orleans.

I’ve got jars of heat and serve soup from The Old Original Bookbinder’s, established in 1865. I know you’ve got to get past the first thought of book binding “glue,” but do it.

The four new gourmet flavors are:

* Irish Potato-Leek Soup -- A modern version on an old family recipe from the Emerald Isle. I made it my lunch and the first bowl tasted fine. The second bowl tasted even better with a little Slap Ya Mama spices from Ville Platte, La. I found the spices by the microwave I borrowed and it was a Cajun-meets-Irish delight.

* Cuban Black Bean Soup -- Pureed Black beans accented with corn, red peppers, onions, carrots, and garlic, cumin and proprietary spices. Fiber with good taste, they say, and over rice it was a great winter fill-you-up.

* Tuscan Minestrone Soup and Sicilian Tomato-Zucchini are still on my shelf. I’ve also made a breakfast of a flavor from the original line, Zesty Tomato, mixed with rice. Brandywine Mushroom became a sauce for a head of cabbage my diners ate up. January is soup month, but these will work in February and beyond.

A scented kitchen

A friend gave me a box of Alessi then breadsticks made with extra virgin olive oil. The long sticks look great arranged in a glass on the table, but this story isn’t about them. The next day I tried Aircraft Infused Scent Sticks, which aren’t to eat, but sure looked like the other sticks. Sunrise Citrus, billed on the container as “just pure fragrance,” interests me because there’s no flame or plugs. The scent seems real, not like all the artificial stuff that gives me a headache. You can mix and match with Crisp Apple and Forest Berries. The coolest part is the holder, a white ceramic “O” that holds the sticks into a stylish, minimalist “bouquet. My mixing, you can create more than 1,000 scent combos.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Shopping adventures tie in with good choices

Hubble & Hudson

A post birthday trip to The Woodlands finally brought me to the much-talked-about Hubble & Hudson gourmet grocery store. It’s one of those small, trendy places with fare from all over, and abundant samples. There’s wine, a bistro, cooking school, flowers, book signings and something colorful at every corner. We treated my aunt to an upscale burger and she treated us to fancy desserts. She also brought home cheese crackers (see mention below). Get there if you can.

Priestly question

At Mass, the priest threw out a question: Are we still as passionate about our New Year’s resolution as we were just a few short weeks ago? Because so many goals focus on a healthy diet and exercise, it’s important to remind ourselves that every day of better choices keeps us moving toward our goal. Eating real food makes me feel better, too. Stay passionate.

Cheese fat?

Keeping in mind the note above on health, I made an appealing breakfast that may sound iffy, but with portion control, was a pretty good “real food” choice. When Aunt Anne purchased cheese crackers, I told her how I made my own version my simply crisping up a little square of cheese in a skillet on the stove. It melts into a lacy round of crunchy goodness, and leaves behind some of the oils in the cheese. I made a big round and rolled it up like a tortilla and noticed enough oil to cook an egg, so I did. Amazing. The next day I melted cheese in the bottom of the skillet and cracked a single egg on top. After cooking it a bit I rolled it up and made two servings that satisfied until lunch.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

H20 is flavoring Port Arthur; spices season rest of the world

Even if fried shrimp and sautéed scallops aren’t your thing (and why wouldn’t they be in Southeast Texas?), the new H20 Seafood Restaurant can wine and dine you with their cheeseburger, portobello Monterrey Jack sandwich or bruschetta chicken pasta. I made a new friend in waiter Timothy J. Babino who says “Everything is fresh. It’s delivered daily.” He won’t commit to a favorite of his own.

“Anything fried. Anything that comes out of the grease, cher,” Babino told guests at the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting. Port Arthur Mayor Delores “Bobbie” Prince announced her feelings on the establishment: “The food is good. Take it from me,” Prince said.

It’s an attractive place with a curved water wall and separate bar fitted with flat screens. The current menu offers a daily lunch special at $5.99. H20 is at 7675 Memorial Boulevard by King Buffet and Sertinos Café.

Flavor forecast goes global:

I had always considered the exotic pairings in McCormick & Company’s annual forecast as a trip around the world, but this year it’s a big deal that “This year, for the first time ever, it’s taking a global view. The McCormick® Flavor Forecast 2012 pinpoints common trends and flavors driving culinary innovation around the world.”

The report goes on to say that an international team of McCormick chefs, sensory scientists, trend trackers, marketing experts and food technologists spanning Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa, Latin America and North America crafted the forecast. Before, trends were specific to parts of the world. I ready to experience all their findings:

6 Trends of Global Flavor & 12 Leading Flavor Combinations:

Honoring Roots – Honoring traditional ingredients and techniques is a celebration of the heritage of cuisine. Chefs are preserving these roots by applying a fresh perspective that balances modern tastes and cultural authenticity.

Korean Pepper Paste with Sesame, Asian Pear & Garlic – BBQ with a global twist.

Cumin with Sofrito – Authentic Hispanic foundational flavors.

Quest for the Ultimate – For flavor fanatics, what satisfied yesterday will not do for tomorrow. Those searching for the pinnacle of satisfaction are on a quest to achieve the ultimate taste experience.

Meyer Lemon with Lemon Thyme, Limoncello & Lemon Peel – The ultimate lemon.

Dill with Mint, Melon & Cucumber – The ultimate refresher.

Veggies in Vogue – Veggies have long been saddled with second-class citizen status. Now, thanks to the enthusiasm of chefs, the quality of seasonal produce and the unstoppable growth of fresh markets, it’s finally the veggie’s time to shine.

Eggplant with Honey & Harissa – Worldly veggie with sweet heat.

Squash with Red Curry & Pancetta – Versatile veggie with a touch of Thai.

Simplicity Shines – The most memorable food is often the simplest. Cooks are focusing on highlighting quality ingredients with unpretentious preparations, without the clutter of flashy techniques and complex presentations.

Ginger with Coconut – Warm spice joins tropical favorite.

Vanilla with Butter – Pure essentials for real goodness.

Flavorful Swaps – On the journey for personal well-being, small changes add up to big results. Balancing an appetite for bold flavor with a hunger for good health is key to achieving wellness goals, one delicious taste at a time.

Red Tea with Cinnamon & Plum – Better-for-you beverage meets fruit and spice.

Grapefruit with Red Pepper – A new take on lemon pepper.

No Boundaries - Culinary trailblazers are cooking outside the lines by discovering, reinventing and even playing with food. We now have the freedom to explore, shedding the confines of traditional “rules.”

Blueberry with Cardamom & Corn Masa – From everyday to extraordinary.

Sweet Soy with Tamarind & Black Pepper – Steak sauce with an Asian flair.

To explore the future of global flavor with inspired recipes, mouthwatering photos and videos, visit

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chocolate popcorn: What’s the verdict?

My friend is a popcorn purist and is known for presenting a mean batch of butter-soaked stuff from a Whirley Pop. As decadent as that is, I try to stick to air-popped corn with olive oil. Every month or so I make it an evening meal.

For my birthday, she gave me something she considered an “abomination:” chocolate-covered, salted popcorn. The thought of it makes her shudder, but she knows I have even experimented with a dandelion salad made from “weeds” in my back yard. I knew a salty/sweet blend would be good. I’m just glad I didn’t eat all that richness in one sitting. I still have some for later.

Every time she mentions the chocolate popcorn to someone, that someone will rave on about how my friend should try the stuff. I’m glad she didn’t break the seal on the bucket she gave me. I might not have received the gift.

Try a different bean

I’ve been hearing a lot about hummus in connection with people who haven’t tried chickpeas. Hummus is a taste I learned to acquire and it’s a healthy alternative to lots of snacks. The authentic blend has lots of history, but I’m always willing to play. I made extra black-eyed peas when they were everywhere for New Year’s, with plans to modify a hummus recipe. I’ll blend the beans into spread and season it with olive oil, lemon and salt. I predict it will be great on lettuce leaves or pita.

Cooking from inside the box?

Fabulous photos make a cookbook exciting. I’m picturing herb-covered meats heaped on platters and bowls of greens on a beautiful table. “The Diet Detective’s All American Diet” book, with Dr. Charles Platkin, is full of photos in a different way. Pictures are of boxes of foods. While experts are usually asking Americans to steer clear of processed and packaged foods, this book goes with the concept that plenty of us depend on canned soups and frozen dinners to make it through the week. A good starting point would be to know how many calories are in your favorite fish fillets or breakfast sandwich. This is not my favorite way to eat, but I certainly have seen it done. Ideally people will get to where they can cook their own foods in just a short time and reap the benefits. Lots of people don’t know where to start, and the Diet Detective can get those who have pledged to eat better rolling down the grocery aisle armed with better choices.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New habits and old classics

I started New Year’s Eve with a just right Weight Watchers weigh in, earning my coveted key chain charm. As 1212 approached, I was surrounded by empty chocolate wrappers, but I’m confident I will stay on a healthy track.

Hey, it was “free” food, because a friend of mine orders fancy chocolates each year, then passes the bulk to me so she won’t eat so many.

New Year’s evening found me overindulging in homemade egg rolls, as per a family tradition of making them while enjoying the “Twilight Zone Marathon.” I ate enough of them to feel horrid the next day, and that sent me to the internet to seek Jewish Chicken Soup recipes. Yogurt, ginger ale, soup and the last of the Christmas gumbo made my light menu Monday.

I ran across the BRAT diet, suggesting bananas, rice, applesauce and toast for troubled digestive systems, and focused on the R.

A simmering pot of classic chicken soup filled my house with a comforting aroma, much needed after one of my only out-of-bed ventures of the day, to help my husband move dusty, heavy boxes out of the attic on a deadline.

Here’s the rice I had with the gumbo and soup: Texmati Rice, long grain American basmati, in one of those plastic jars and labeled as coming out of Alvin, Texas. This particular box was dressed in pink, announcing support for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Greek yogurt eased my distress at home, then I joined my husband for more “free” food. He had a gift card for The Yogurt Spot in Beaumont, and we enjoyed some coffee-flavored cool stuff.

It was one of those rare days I wasn’t too interested in food, yet still managed to look up a recipe for vinegar-based barbecue sauce. And, it’s almost time for Mardi Gras food.