Sunday, June 30, 2013

No meat southerner?

The no-meat southerner?
It’s not a contradiction. Chicken and waffles, bacon, boudain and other things we are proud of can be simulated and modernized and still demonstrate how creative we southern cooks are. Why? Don’t waste time asking why some people don’t eat meat. Just hurry up and get to a table prepared with recipes from Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence.
Artichoke hearts and succotash over smoked cheddar grits, crispy eggplant sandwiches and roasted garlic and ricotta spread and okra fritters with Creole mustard sauce should convince you to give meatless a chance. You sure won’t go hungry. These creators of The Chubby Vegetarian Blog have collected the recipes in “The Southern Vegetarian: 100 Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Table.”
We’re all proud of our black-eyed peas, which some Yankees once considered fit only for cattle. Look what we can do with them:

Hoppin’ John Black-Eyed Pea Butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
½ teaspoon coriander
¼ teaspoon cumin
1 ½ cups prepared black-eyed peas (or one can, drained)
½ teaspoon hot sauce
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon tahini
½ teaspoon hickory-smoked sea salt
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
IN a medium pan over medium-low heat add hteolive oil, garlic, coriander and cumin. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the garlic has softened. Add the contents of the pan to the work bowl of your food processor along with the black-eyed peas, hot sauce, lemon juice, tahini, hickory-smoked sea salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Serve with toasted baguette or pita chips.

Liberty Chips
Red, white and blue tortilla chips will dress up your patriotic party with delicious flair. I have tried and enjoyed Liberty Chips from RW Garcia, a family owned and operated artisan tortilla chip maker based in San Jose, California. My future son-in-law ate all the white and red chips first, leaving blue chips in a green glass dish. The presentation was still beautiful. Try these for your Fourth of July celebration and guests will take note. They have that thick, natural flavor, through stone ground, verified non-GMO corn. These chips contain no trans fats, additives or preservatives and are certified gluten free. Find them at Whole Foods and crunch on, for America.

High on Thai
Mellow Mushroom is a chain pizza place, but that doesn’t take away any of its charm. There’s a wall of beer bottles embedded in concrete. How’s that for artistic? High on Thai is a limited edition menu that includes the Thai Dye pizza: Olive oil and garlic base, all natural grilled curry chicken, mozzarella cheese, Roma tomatoes, onions. Topped with fresh basil, cucumbers and a sweet swirl of Thai chili sauce.
I can’t imagine in my youth that I’d have ever thought cucumbers were good on pizza. I would have been wrong. This wasn’t mellow to me, it charged me up!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Vegetables on a stick? Ice pops like you wouldn't believe

Vegetables on a stick? Ice pops like you wouldn’t believe

When I was a kid, the thought of a gazpacho ice pop would have terrified me. Now, I’ll give it a shot. With peach daiquiri or white Russian pops, you can literally “give it a shot.”
You can hardly go wrong with fudge and sweetened-condensed milk, but where Andrew Chase will truly surprise you is his takes on tea, coffee and vegetable variations. He’s apparently tried even more combos than beet and cucumber, avocado and chocolate chile, because in this Robert Rose book, he offers “200 Best Ice Pop Recipes.”
Creamed corn with brown butter and nutmeg or sweet potato pie sound adventurous, but you can sure shake a little wooden stick at something with lemon, all manner of fruits and honey and caramel. Adults will have fun with these, but he’s got a whole section on less-drip blends for the youngest of pop lovers. Gelatin powder is the secret. Here’s one of the 200 that is very easy and should prove very popular this summer:

Peanut Butter Ice Pops
2 ripe bananas, sliced
½ cup smooth peanut butter
½ cup water
¼ cup sweetened condensed milk
Pinch salt
1.   In blender at medium-high speed, puree bananas, peanut butter, water, condensed milk and salt.
2.   Pour into molds and freeze until slushy, then insert sticks and freeze until solid, for at least 4 hours. If you are using an ice pop kit, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Moon Shine’s done right on left coast
Fog’s End Distillery makes spirits distilled from corn that pack a powerful punch. California Moon Shine boasts it is “made right on the left coast.” While this “no-cook, traditional sour-mash whiskey” white corn concoction is nearly clear and comes in a narrow-necked bottle, it serves beautifully in Mason jars.
I just mixed up a couple of jars and sat on the stoop and turned on the radio to hear Port Arthur’s own Janis Joplin singing her heart out. I think she would have enjoyed that southern summer night.
Fog’s End Primo Agua Ardienteis is a spirit distilled from corn and cane sugar with chili pepper added. I’m hearing its’ great with an equal amount of horchata.
But here’s what I did: I snipped a stalk of lemon grass from my doorway garden, pounded the root and steeped it in hot water with brown sugar. When it cooled I gave it a shot of corn liquor and served it iced in the Mason jar. It took on a pale yellow-green hue with an ever-so-light kiss of spice. Here’s another idea for corn spirits:

Moonshine Mojito
2 oz California Moonshine
2 oz lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
6 whole mint leaves
                  2 oz. soda water
Put juice and sugar into a highball glass and stir until dissolved.
Rub mint leaves on inside of the glass and discard.
Fill with crushed ice, MoonShine, and then stir. Top with soda water and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Licorice and dairy
I really thought I needed to change my eye wear when I read the label on some nice Virgen del las Nieves Artesones Tempranillo 2011 Red. “Intense cherry color….fully ripened fruit such as blackberry…. Nice fruity finish,” it all made since. I thought I saw the tasting notes to read licorice and dairy. They actually did. I’m I really becoming an expert, because when I breathed in the aroma, I thought I got a sense of the dairy. At any rate, it paired really well with a Christopher Walken movie. Here’s why: It’s from Castilla-La Mancha, said to be the most expansive wine-producing region in the world. The limestone clay and a variety of subsoils is good for the grape vines.
Wine lovers, if you try this one, please let me know if you picked up on the dairy.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Farmer's Market, peppercorn tea and what a condiment

Beaumont Farmers Market
It opens at 8 a.m. and my mother and I got there by 8:13 a.m., but it took me a while to park. This place was packed with people picking peaches, beans, eggplant, tomatoes, “corn picked this morning” and local honeys.
The fun is set for 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays through Nov. 16, rain or shine, between Langham and Dowlen on the south side of College on the basketball court at the Athletic Complex in Beaumont.
I met a dog named Velcro and a woman with a spicy tomatillo recipe. I got radishes and I hope my mother invites me over for her peppers. One sign touted produce from a Port Neches farm and Beau-tanicals offered natural soap and bath products.
As I walked up, I loved the Austin feel, because everybody brought recycled bags for their haul. Some shoppers made friends because of conversations about their eco-friendly totes.

Re-think this summer’s iced tea
Pink peppercorns, ground cinnamon, dried fruits and lavender can spice up your tea blends. Try stashing a few extras in  your loose tea stash. Someone sent me an article about a woman who puts a spring of chocolate mint in her tea tin for a “Girl Scout Cookie” flavor.
I just followed someone else’s advice to simply pour hot, not boiling, water over herbs such as lemongrass or chocolate mint. Both yielded amazing flavors hot or cold, without added calories. I can’t believe I haven’t been making the most of my lemongrass. I pounded the stalk a bit before adding the water.

Whataburger condiments
What’s the big deal? I met a traveling couple that was advised to eat at as many Whataburger establishments as they could when they hit Texas. They wanted to find the last one out before they hit Louisiana. I get that. I still recall my childhood the blast of spicy white onion chunks that distinguished this Texas classic. But the ketchup and mustard? Who knew?  H-E-B has been carrying Whataburger’s Spicy Ketchup, Fancy Ketchup and Original Mustard in 16-ounce bottles since Memorial Day weekend, and the crowds are going wild. It’s a thing. I
Always in on a trend, I tried the spicy stuff and what do you know? It did pack a punch for breakfast. I’m in.
Whatafries, a potato chip version of the French fry, ready to eat, should hit H-E-B stores around the end of June.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Built your bowl and grill your veggies

Built my bowl
What’s more fun than building your own bowl at Genghis Grill? Enjoying the finished product. The new restaurant at 8425 Memorial Blvd. in Port Arthur is packing them in. Diners are packing selections like raw shrimp, sprouts, peas and sauces into bowls cooked in front of your eyes. After the protein station, season your choices from labeled bowls, then proceed to dish up your own veggies. The sauce bar is next and I picked honey soy. Then it’s time to pick brown rice, noodles or some other starch. Line up your bowl for one of several chefs to stir fry on a big, circular hub. It’s dinner and a show for all ages. Everyone has been waiting for this new eatery to open and now patrons can get their fill.

Grill your vegetables

Make Uncle Sam proud: Grill fruits and veggies in June.
Okay readers, it should come as no surprise that June is June is National Fruits and Veggies Month and National Grilling Month. The Mushroom Council conducted a survey and found that the vegetables that Americans most often throw on the grill are corn, potatoes, onions and peppers.
My friend makes me mushroom pizzas in the oven all the time, but they’d like her and other gourmets to consider other ideas:

1.       Build a better burger. Finely chop mushrooms and add them to the meat in the patty to make a healthier, craveable backyard burger with added veggies. Top burgers with grilled mushrooms and onions for extra flavor enhancements.
2.       Packet up. Fold veggies like asparagus, squash, green beans, potatoes and mushrooms into foil packets and grill for rich, roasted flavors. Serve these as individual sides or mix together with a light vinaigrette for a warm veggie salad.
3.       Go direct. Larger vegetables like corn on the cob, summer squash, eggplant and portabella mushrooms cook well when placed directly on the grill. Make them the star of the plate as hearty meatless mains. Plus, research shows that swapping mushrooms for meat is an easy way to cut calories while still feeling full and satisfied.
4.       Skewer an assortment. Use marinated and grilled peppers, onions and mushrooms to add savory flavors to pizza, pasta and warm grain salads. Try pineapple, peaches and mangoes for a taste of the sweeter side. 
5.       Pile on the pizza. Load up the veggies on pizza – try grilled mushrooms and peppers and fresh spinach and tomatoes – but trade the oven for the grill to cook it over the flame.
Look for the “Swap It or Top It” Recipe Contest to showcase how cooks are transforming their meals with mushrooms for a chance to win $8,500 in prizes. For official rules and contest details, visit

Komplete treat
I’ll start with the flavors: Cocoa FudgeVanilla Bliss and Jav’a Latte.  I love what pours out of little boxes of Komplete by Kate Farms. Now I’ll break it to you: It’s a meal replacement shake. Boring, right? If that’s what you need, these are the ones to get. They are billed as “the world's first dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free ready to drink meal replacement shake™ that brings you everything your body needs and leaves out unwanted ingredients.” Makers say this shake is Non-GMO, made with organic ingredients and also allergen-free. With 24 fruits & vegetables, a high-level of plant-based proteins and 21 superfoods (like acai, mangosteen, black currants, raspberries, green tea extract). It’s so rich that just some of the serving, over ice in a little glass, seemed like a decadent dessert drink. That’s not the original intent, but the good taste lasts longer that way.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bacon, fennel tea and no-mayo trick


Capland, Quota and the bacon
The appetizer looked a bit like chocolate bites, but upon closer inspection, it was bacon. Just as good or even better. Jane Nielson created caramelized bacon by spreading a mixture of ground pecans, maple syrup and black pepper onto short strips of thick bacon, then crisped. She was among a bunch of smiling Quota International of Southeast Texas representatives supporting the Capland Speech Therapy Center’s open house.
Doris R. Hale is the executive director of this place of good works.

It’s real green tea.
Fun with fennel
Sweet gardener Jody Perricone Holton passed a bouquet of feathery fennel to me, because she is growing it for the bulbs. She suggested I make tea with some of the tops. Just a pinch flavored my hot water into an anise/licorice sensation. I left the fronds in water overnight and came back to find a pitcher full of water as green as mouthwash. I liked it, but my daughter said it was like drinking a glass of Italian sausage.
By the way, Holton is seeking bees for her garden. Anyone?

Hold the mayo
I’m not even a fan of the fast food breakfast sandwich, but I had all the ingredients, so made a version at home. Instead of adding extra calories of a spread, I sprinkled chili powder inside. It melded into the cheese and egg and tasted like a gourmet version of a drive-through selection.

Barbecue for diabetics
Trinity Hill Farms offers this all natural no-sugar added, low glycemic, diabetic-safe sauce that is just 10 calories a serving.  My future son-in-law says the bottle looks like bottle of Stubb’s sauce, but it doesn’t taste like it. I used this sauce in a ham and onion breakfast sandwich. If you have health reasons that make you seek a sauce like this, look them up.