Sunday, December 29, 2013

What's up 2014? Let's "hear it" for silent meal trend

What’s up 2014? Let’s “hear it” for silent meal trend

Happy New Year to Culinary Thrill Seekers. I love hearing from you and together, we can “keep the flavor” of Southeast Texas. Here’s some news on the trends that will feed and inspire us in 2014:
Ugly produce is fine with me. Southeast Texans make salsa out of that. But now, it’s trending for the rest of the country.

JWT, marketing communications brand, has released its ninth annual forecast of key category trends that will drive or significantly impact consumer mindset and behavior in 2014:
Some topics of interests include:
·  Edible Packaging: A tool being used by marketers that utilizes new technologies to create edible wrappers.
·  Infused Ice Cubes: Concoctions are created with infused ice that enhances the look of the beverage while adding complimentary flavors as it melts, rather than diluting the drink.
·  Silent Meals: Restaurants are starting to hold silent meals, asking patrons to remain quiet and focus on the taste of the food, sounds of the food prep and details of the room.
                     ·  Ugly Produce: Imperfect produce is gaining more appeal as         retailers start selling “nonconformist” produce and embracing imperfection as a good thing.

McCormick announces Chilies Obsession
I heard it from my mom first: Carolina Reaper from South Carolina is currently the world’s hottest pepper. I thought it was the ghost pepper from India, but that’s old news from just a few years ago. I think my mom still thought the habanero, but a couple more have become “hotter.”
This goes in with McCormick & Company’s Flavor Forecast of 2014. This125th Anniversary Edition leads with chilies: Their global menu news:
5 TOP TRENDS                       
Chilies Obsession: Food lovers everywhere are seeking out their next big chile thrill.
Modern Masala: Indian food is finally having its moment, breaking free of its traditional confines with modern interpretations.
Clever Compact Cooking: Proving that big flavors can come from small spaces, cooks in urban kitchens are making the most of what’s available.
Mexican World Tour: Mexican flavors are making their way around the globe, with people everywhere discovering new aspects of this bright, casual cuisine.
Charmed by Brazil: The world’s attraction to Brazilian cuisine is heating up, thanks to its seductive mix of global and native I nfluences.
Aji Amarillo: A hot Peruvian yellow chile with bold, fruity flavor.
Kashmiri Masala: An often homemade blend of spices from northern India featuring cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves and ginger.
Tea: Not just for sipping anymore, this natural ingredient is making its way into rubs, broths and marinades.
Chamoy Sauce: A unique Mexican condiment—made from apricot, lime, chilies and spices—just beginning to gain a following in the U.S.
Cassava Flour: Also known as manioc or tapioca flour, this gluten-free alternative is a Brazilian staple prized for its versatility.
Visit for 12 more flavors to watch in 2014 and beyond.

Best Brownies at the bake sale
We’re on a trend with the lists here. McCormick offers these flavor twits for head-of-the-class bake sale ideas:
         Raspberry BrowniesAdd 4 teaspoons Raspberry Extract to brownie mix and 2 teaspoons to chocolate frosting for a fruity alternative to this bake sale staple. Garnish with a raspberry.
Orange Kissed Brownies For citrus-infused delights, add 1 tablespoon Orange Extract and chocolate chips to brownie mix and 1 teaspoon of the extract to chocolate frosting. Top with an orange slice.
Almond Brownies – For a nutty flavor, use 1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract in the brownie mix and 1/4 teaspoon in the chocolate frosting. Add colorful sprinkles on top.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pie and coffee Christmas

Happy Christmas to all. I hope you all are feeling great about the good things in your life and help others feel some joy. Being well fed is a good feeling and here’s some ways to get that going:

Pumpkin Trending Update
The American Pie Council, (great place to work?) features recipes for Real Pumpkin Pie, Octoberfest and Tasty Pumpkin Pies, some with maple and raisin and walnuts and other combos.

America’s Best Harvest Pies: Apple, Pumpkin, Berry, and More! (Skyhorse Publishing)  offers 70 recipes that have won awards at National Pie Championships in Celebration, Fla.  Linda Hoskins, who has this “sweet” job, spreads the word about this competition. These pies of all flavors look amazing, and have “real people” ingredients like Cool Whip and Jell-o brands.
A fun one that caught my eye is The Engagement Ring, a pile of blueberries surrounded by candy jewels covered in diamond dust. Guess who’s ring it a nod toward: Kate Middleton’s, also worn by Lady Diana.

SteamBrew and iCoffee make the cut

Consumer Reports has beat me to bragging about the Remington iCoffee, listing it as a “best product.” It has a big, maybe giant, basket on top that reminds me of a space alien head from the movies. Don’t worry, I’m not the first reviewer to mention the “big” basket. Instead of dripping, this method uses SteamBrew to allow hot water jets to soak and stir grounds, like a French press (which I already love). This is serious news to those who love, need coffee. Another cool aspect is that the machine is so efficient, you can often cut down on the amount of coffee you put in, so your most expensive beans can last a little longer. I usually avoid talking technology, but this is a steamy case of success. iCoffee made my ordinary beans taste markedly more smooth and gourmet. Turns out ilike iCoffee.

It has to be good
Smucker’s got a little fancy on us, and I’m happy to invite them to holiday spreads. I’m trying these ideas and making up my own, and maybe there will be a tad left in the jar to enjoy on an “ordinary” day’s breakfast. I have started in on Orchard’s Finest Lakeside Raspberry, Cranberry Preserves. What’s below is easy, but if you’re still at the “spread preserves over a block of cream cheese” level, you’ll still be good. The flavor, texture and color of these preserves is a cut above. I’m even drizzling it on yogurt.
These pairings use just a few ingredients and are ready in about 15 minutes. That’s my kind of entertaining:
·         Fresh Cranberry Orange Pecan Relish Try out NEW Smucker’s Natural Fruit spreads by adding some seasonal flavor to your cheese board.  Pair relish made with cranberries, pecans with Smucker's Natural Orange Marmalade.
·         Cherry Filled CamembertCamembert’s rustic flavor pairs beautifully with tart cherries, creating a unique, creamy holiday appetizer spread.
·         Fruit Fondue- For a decadent dessert, serve chocolate fondue infused with sweet orange marmalade or red raspberry preserves.

Coconut in your kitchen
LouAna puts Cajun in their press release, noting its 100 plus-year history which began with Cajun settlers in Opelousas, La. It is now the nation’s largest independent cooking oil refinery, so wonder what those founders would have thought of its latest release, LouAna All Natural Pure Coconut Oil. Made by extracting oil from the meat of the “ripest, most mature coconuts, freshly fallen from the coconut palm tree plant.” It’s not a neutral taste for sweet and savory baking and can make your popcorn and pies taste heavenly. I warmed some of those Matlaw’s fish sticks I was telling y’all about in the oil and loves a brown egg over-easy cooked in a drizzle of this oil. Coconut oil has proven to raise HDL levels in the body, makers say. I think the original Cajuns would have been as excited about pure coconut oil as I am. I can’t help thinking how well it pairs with the Island Fever theme of our 2014 Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Turnip souffle rescue

When reader Peg asked for a shout out  on a turnip soufflĂ© from the contry club, we got some responses. She said she wanted to surpise her husband for a family meal, so I’ve been holding on to them. I’m told the Trotter version went over well at her hose. Here is what we got:
Glenda Durkay sent Turnip Souffle made by Mary Trotter at the Port Arthur Country Club
10  turnips (white)
2 carrots
1 egg
1 and one fourth to 1 and one half cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk

Boil turnips and carrots together until tender; mash and add other ingredients. Bake 30 minutes at
at 350 degrees.
“I am sure this is the recipe. Mary worked for PACC for 32  years and was known for her Turnip Souffle.
This is simple but wonderful. I had her make an extra one for my family for Christmas Dinner for many years.
 By the way the picture is not her dish, I copied it from She did not have chunks of carrots in hers...everything was mashed.”
Glenda Durkay

Joyce Philen sent two recipes from her files and she says both are delicious:
TURNIP SOUFFLE by Jewel Carruth
10 small turnips  
2 tablespoons butter or oleo
2 carrots 
1 teaspoon bacon fat
1 egg                     
Salt and pepper to taste            
2 tablespoons milk         
Bread crumbs
1 teaspoon sugar 
Boil turnips & carrots together until tender. 
Drain, mash and add other ingredients. 
Pile into greased casserole and top with bread crumbs. 
Bake for 30 min in a 350 degree oven.

TURNIP CASSEROLE (Clipped from a newspaper...PA News I think)
6 cups turnips and/or carrots  (Boiled, drained and mashed)
One 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
One fourth cup sugar
One half cup margarine
Bread crumbs

Combine ingredients.  Pour in buttered casserole. 
Top with bread crumbs.
Bake at 350 degrees about 25 min until lightly browned.
Hope these are helpful.  Enjoy!

Turnip Fluff
This one is from Norma BeDaw, who says it is a family favorite they used to order from The Brisket Room in Port Arthur:
Equal volume of turnips (5 large) and carrots
Olive oil
2 or 3 packages of Splenda or sugar to desired taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil peeled turnips or carrots
Pour off water after cooked.
Mash until no lumps or process.
Add butter & oil.
Add Splenda or sugar
Add salt and pepper to taste.
(That’s all that was written down on the paper, but of course you bake it.)

Turnip Souffle
This one came in the mail with no name:
Boil peeled turnips in salted water. Whencooked drain and mash. Add shredded carrots, 1 tablespoon butter and a pinch of sugar. Beat egg in small amount of milk. Stir into turnip mixture. Place in greased casserole. Top with bread crumbs. Bake at 325 degrees until firm.

Have a Dolly Parton
Did you ever drink some tea out of a canning jar and have someone tease you that it was moonshine? Here’s the stuff they must have been talking about:
 Ole Smokey Tennessee Moonshine comes in those jars full of a 100-year-old recipe. They say Ole Smoky Apple Pie Moonshine is like drinking dessert out of the jar, with hints of pure apple juice, ground cinnamon and other spices blended with homemade moonshine to for an authentic Appalachian recipe. It’s 40 proof. When I brought some to a family’s house, they hauled out some of their own family recipe. Everybody thought the apple was a nice twist and some experimentations went on with lemonade and lemon-lime soda. Here’s some takes makers suggest:

Southern Hooch
Equal parts Ole Smoky Apple Pie Moonshine and sweet or unsweetened tea

The Dolly Parton
Equal parts Ole Smoky Apple Pie Moonshine and ginger ale, splash of lime juice, garnish with 2 Ole Smoky Moonshine CherriesTM

Candied Apple
2 parts Ole Smoky Apple Pie Moonshine and 1 part butterscotch schnapps

Monday, December 9, 2013

Condiments for Christmas

Did you realize there were once outspoken activists against condiments? Dietary reformer Sylvester Graham accused them of being “highly exciting and exhausting” while physician and temperance leader Dio Lewis encouraged followers to shun mustard, ketchup and other flavor enhancers railing “Everything which inflames one appetite is likely to arouse the other also.” I had to stop reading Jessica Harlan’s new book, Homemade Condiments, for a minute after that, out of reverence to freedom of choice we now have in America. But Harlan is set to make our mouths water and make us aware we can make fresh choices and avoid chemicals found in mass-produced products. Ready?
For fig-infused vinegar? That’s the whole ingredient list. How about lemon-infused oil for dips, salad dressing, pound cake or grilled salmon?
I want to make lime-cumin dressing, but not before Cilantro-Almond pesto. This book is all about keeping it fresh.

Cookie confessions:
The press release for Hannah Max Cookie Chips is a confession, as in Dear Santa, I cheat with these cookies because people think I made them. My daughter texted me a confession she had opened and tasted the chocolate chip and salted peanut butter versions of these crispy cookies from a bag and deemed them the best things ever. When I finally got my share, I tasted the hoopla. No hype. They’re as crispy and good as promised. But I pick dark chocolate chip as my fave in this all-natural line that “Tastes like a cookie, Eats like a chip.”  Don’t judge, Santa.

Seafood season
 "Matlaw's All-Natural Fish Sticks" celebrated October as National Seafood Month (did you know there was such a thing?) by spreading the world in their Stuffed Clams, new , All-Natural Crunchy Fish Sticks and Crunchy Fish Squares, Breaded Shrimp, Wild Salmon and more. Whole Foods is one of the nationwide suppliers. I  tried the clams, which look glamorous in their own shells, dressed for the holiday season. The Texas and Louisiana coast is famous for oysters on our shells, so the clams were a visual treat. The fish sticks and squares came out crunchy in a jiffy, just like the directions promised. A microwaved quick meal also delivered results. Next, I want to play with chopping up a square and making it really crisp as a topping for some sort of Tex-Mex taco. Think of the colors involved.  These are handy deals for your freezer stock.

Pumpkin update
I found green tea pumpkin seeds at an Asian store. They were not crispy. So I put Cajun seasoning on them, toasted them and put them in Chex mix. Still not so good.