Saturday, March 30, 2013

Falafel spices up the gathering

I got a falafel lesson from a wonderful family with ties to Egypt. They prepare it yearly for a Good Friday viewing of “The Passion of the Christ.” For all these years I’d thought falafel was grain, but mixture is prepared from seasoned, ground fava beans, scooped into a little press and plopped into oil. The piping hot little guys got tucked into thin pita pockets spread with tahini paste. Accents included carrots and guacamole and blue corn chips and salsa. All this amazing flavor and hospitality preceded this family’s annual ritual of inviting young people over to view this emotional movie. The gathering put people in the mood for observing the Easter weekend.

Chips and yolks
Someone gave me the rest of her bag of potato chips so she wouldn’t eat them all. I kept them in the pantry while I considered how to re-invent them. I crushed them into dust and fried an egg on top and bottom. It was a low-budget potato “panko” that came out gourmet.

Too salty? What about diabetics?
I recently asked readers to share their thoughts on dining out and receiving food that’s too salty. Just a few got back to me with their agreement, but Mark Hanlon of Trinity Hearing and Balance Center asked me another question:
“Where can diabetics go to eat out?”
Got me. Readers, what have you experienced from our local fare? E-mail me at the address below with “Diabetic” in the subject line if you have some tips.
Meanwhile, here’s a recipe I found with that topic in mind. If you had plenty of Easter eggs, try this no-egg option from
“Healthy & Hearty Diabetic Cooking.” It’s the cookbook of the Canadian Diabetes Association, copyrighted in 1993. I got it off my Mom’s shelf.

No-Egg Salad
1 can, about 15 ounces, chick peas, rinsed and drained
¼ cup cider vinegar dressing
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ teaspoon curry powder or  more to taste
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and process, pulsing on and off, until coarsely chopped (or mash by hand). Do not overprocess; a coarse mixture is more like a real egg salad.

Cider Vinegar Dressing
1 cup cider vinegar
3 eggs
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons margarine
Artificial sweetener equivalent to ½ cup sugar (optional)
In a heavy saucepan, whisk together the vinegar, eggs, flour, salt, pepper and 2 cups water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened, about 6 minutes.
Remove from heat, stir in the margarine and artificial sweetener. Whisk until smooth. Pour into clean jars. Cover and refrigerate up to 3 months.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Taste of Gumbo packs the house

Taste of Gumbo packs the house
 It was kind of like hearing "Elvis is in the building."
I kept hearing Esther Benoit was at Taste of Gumbo long before I found her and got my hug. In Port Arthur, her name is associated with gumbo now so is her son, Kurt's. They chatted at his Benoit's Cajun Cuisine booth.
DeQueen Elementary’s gumbo full of big chunks of chicken kept me coming back to their Taste of Gumbo booth. The Medical Center of Southeast Texas always has a popular pot and again people were talking it up. The Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center was full of friends for Saturday’s Rotary Club of Port Arthur Taste of Gumbo, Etc. My family was among happy diners. We are glad we stuck around to the end, when they announced the city of Port Arthur booth had crawfish boudain. Soooo good.. As Mark Porterie, King Gumbo, said, “Everybody’s happy.” We also appreciated Sweet Pea the D.J. for a crowd-pleasing mix of tunes.

Fair time
The Y.M.B.L.’s South Texas State Fair is in full swing at Ford Park in Beaumont, through Easter. I sampled some sausage there, and my other food tale is about the animals. I fed carrots to alpaca and other furry creatures I haven’t seen in every petting zoo. At first I wanted the goats to nibble, so I wouldn’t have to touch them too much. But it was so fun I let the others “slime” me with their thick tongues. I didn’t even have a kid with me for all this excitement.

Egg purse?
Egg-Tainer is designed to transport whole or deviled eggs, and I’ve made it my new salad purse. I love Snapware and this new Snap ‘N Stack two-level tote keeps your eggs from arriving in a a mess. The BPA-free stackable design with two removable egg holders  can go right to the table for serving. It’s dishwasher, microwave and freezer safe and even offers a lifetime warranty.
The first box, with a handle, can carry your greens and the bottom can hold a container of dressing, croutons and other toppings. I can think of a dozen ways to use Egg-Tainer, even if you don’t have a dozen eggs.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Seasonal flavors come all at once

Yogurt and fish are what I craved after watching a program on life in Biblical times.
What I had was shrimp someone gave me that should be eaten soon. I made that with preserved lemons and served it over jasmine rice while burning candles in the shamrock-covered holders my mother-in-law got on her journey to Ireland. I put them out each St. Patrick’s Day. I’m already thinking ahead to the Italian food put out on St. Joseph altars and looking forward to the bread and olive oil meal I celebrate while watching “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the Easter season.
I’m thankful for all these meals and hope that everyone can enjoy such bounty.

Let’s cook
Texas Women, infants, and Children encourage eating the rainbow of healthy, colorful foods in a beautiful cookbook that should make anyone want to get in the kitchen. “Let’s Cook with Fruits & Vegetables shows ways everyone in the family will enjoy eating the right way. Melon boats with frozen yogurt are one attractive example.
Mango-tomato salsa and spicy pea dip with lime juice and garlic are two other appetizer selections. Here’s a quickie dip that sounds tempting:

Tofu Dip
1 14-ounce package silken tofu, rinsed and drained
1 packet ranch dressing seasoning mix
In a blender, combine tofu and seasoning mix. Puree until smooth. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend.

Too salty?
Okay, is it just me? Does anyone else seem to gain about 5 pounds after one restaurant meal? I rarely cook with salt or add any at the table, so I’m nearly always affected by a weekend treat. My husband and I each woke up in the middle of the night to down water after a fried seafood dinner.
I tasted gumbo out recently that stung my tongue with saltiness. I’d love to hear from readers if you have stories on this. Contact me at the address below and put SALTY in the subject line:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ready for Taste of Gumbo?

Ready for Taste of Gumbo, Etc.?
Who isn’t?
This is one event Port Arthur folks support spoons at the ready. The Rotary Club of Port Arthur is rounding up restaurants and other groups for the 26th annual Taste of Gumbo. Dr. Mark Porterie is King Gumbo and he says he loves to eat it, but doesn’t make it. He did serve time at his mother’s side stirring the roux until it was just the right brown, he said.
Steve Megas of The Schooner said the Nederland restaurant team loves dishing out gumbo to their regulars, who always show up at Taste. They also love that the $8 ticket helps Rotary give to good causes, he said.
Serving  will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 23, at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur.
Remember, the Etc., part means that groups who aren’t necessarily famous for their gumbo will be serving up some other treats. I guess that’s for those who don’t care for gumbo, but I just don’t know any of those people. Get your tickets at the door. Children 5 and younger will be admitted at no charge.
Floyd’s, Holiday Inn Park Central, Chick-fil-A and Medical Center of Southeast Texas will be among participants, Porterie said.

It’s easy being Super Green
Some people aren’t hiding their healthy habits or trying to make good-for-you food taste like something else, but sometimes a sweet boost can sure dress up something simple like . . . grass. Wheat grass, for instance. Amazing Grass has put out Green Superfood whole energy bars that have earned their oats, barley, etc. I like the sweet and savory almond, though chocolate chip coconut is no slouch. They’re not unlike a green, figgy type candy you know you like. If you want your bars to read cold processed, soy free and vegan on the label, you’ll feel real good about the tasty boost Amazing Grass is offering.

United Way gets barbecue bonus
The Golden Triangle Chef’s Association is gearing up for the 2013 Bar BQ Cookoff to benefit United Way of Mid & South Jefferson County. It will be May 3-4 at Port Neches Park. To cook or eat, contact or call (409)363-9529 or (409) 988-3355.