Monday, December 29, 2014

Oysters ring in new year

Oysters ring in new year
Oysters can mean living dangerously. You’ve read the health warnings on menus. But to me they represent clean, fresh sweeps, accompanied by some New Year’s Eve bubbly. Oysters on the half shell sparkle, with the ice and the lemon. Ever had any oyster shot? They put me in the mind of  New Orleans, or an image I saw in a book. I’ll probably never half them at a dockside brunch, but I can imagine.
I’ve often shared this quickie appetizer that fits the season:

Oyster Pate
Grab a can or two of smoked oysters, which are easy to stock in your pantry
Mash the oysters and mix in with a block of cream cheese.
Spread on French bread toasts or crackers.

Oyster Pasta
The contents of the smoked oysters and their rich oil are an instant topping for linguine or other pastas. You could add spinach and must add crushed red pepper.

Dining out in Houston
One of the best parts of having a hostess prepare food with love for you at her home is that you often get to treat the hostess to a restaurant for a thank you.
Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar: There’s a giant sign that says EAT in The Heights, but the tiny neon sign spells out Liberty Kitchen in blue at only a few inches tall. If you drive by it the first time, keep looking. I enjoyed oysters on the half shell for brunch while others around me got hash, fried oyster omelets, salmon omelets and other hipster offerings. No one at the table was brave enough to order something called “Now, Bitter than you’re a** breakfast,” which includes chicken fried steak, or red velvet pancake tacos with mapely bacon inside. It’s a fun stop for sure, and great antique and boutique shopping is all around.
Alicia’s Mexican Grille in Katy is a huge spread off the highway and I appreciate the bathroom is done in Frida Kahlo artworks. The salsa is something special and I love the cheesy, meaty bites people shared with me. I had a salad that featured uncut fajita meat that was thin and pungent with lime. It’s probably rare to offer a sweet mustard dressing and bleu cheese with that combo, but it worked very well.
Star Pizza No. 2 at 77 Harvard in Houston: You’ve got to pick your flour, crust size, toppings and more, but all that work is worth it. Please be a cheese lover when you go in. Even the powdered cheese in the shaker is above par. I love that most of the tables are those wooden ones designed for home use, with leaves you slide out to expand.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A guide to the pig

A guide to the pig
I’m already a Chris Chamberlain fan and I just wish my daddy was still here to taste the lima bean casserole he’s sharing in “The Southern Foodie’s Guide to the Pig” This cover bills it as a culintary tour of the South’s best restaurants and the recipes that made them famous, and says this book will offer how to select, prepare, cook and enjoy everything but the oink. Chamberlain writes about food in Nashville and the book takes readers around the south in photos and imagined parties where dishes such as fried green tomato blts, sweet potato hush puppies, Tennessee whisky sauce and maple bacon muffins are served. The pig is celebrated even in the dessert section. Who’s up for bacon peanut butter cookies. Bacon is a thing, and I can’t imagine candied bacon from Chef’s Market Café would be turned down at most holiday parties in Southeast Texas. Every page brings a new temptation.  Here’s a couple of ideas to enhance your pig fests:

Jalapeno soda from Stella’s Kentucky Deli
2 ounces of Jalapeno Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
12 ounces club soda
Jalapeno Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 to 3 medium jalapeno peppers, sliced and stem discarded (do not seed)
Mix the water and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the jalapenos and turn off the heat Let steep for 10 minutes and strain.

Pickled Mustard Seeds
1 cup white vinegar
2 tableslpoons kosher salt
one half cup waster
one half cup sugar
4 tablespoons dried yellow mustard seeds
Combine the vinegar, salt, water and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer on medium heat to dissolve the salt and sugar Add the mustard seeds. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the seeds soften and nearly double in size, about 30 minutes. Pour into a container and refrigerate. This will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.

Newk’s Eatery:  It may look like just another chain, but I’m now a big supporter of  Newk’s in Katy. Everyone makes the joke that it sounds like Nuke’s, like what they used to call microwave cooking, like nuclear power. But just make your joke and start enjoying. After some shopping my aunt took me to this new place in Katy for a salad. I wanted to eat light, but these salads are way more than a meal. I thought I ordered the Greek, but actually agreed to the Newk’s Favorite and had cranberries and nuts in that big mix of greens. I thought I saw packaged chopsticks on the condiment area but they were skinny little bread sticks. Did you ever dream of all-you-could-eat capers? Help yourself. But my dream was the unattended roasted garlic cloves. I had many, then went back for many more. They were sweet and soft and satisfying.
Darragh Doiron doesn’t mind eating another feast to share with Port Arthur News readers.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Janis Joplin's thoughts to ponder

Janis Joplin’s thoughts to ponder
I’m spreading out the leopard, polka dot and reindeer patterns of FreshTape, and these words come to view, that I recognize:
“Don’t Compromise Yourself. You’re all you’ve got.”
This quote belongs to Port Arthur’s own Janis Joplin. 
They’re one of the thoughts on this pretty amazing new product that perks you up as you peel off the tape to seal packages of  food for your pantry, like chips or spice packets, as well as frozen food, like spinach you should be sneaking or blatantly adding to just about everything. Happy organizing, from, me, and I guess, Janis.

Chestnuts not roasting
My mom had whole chestnuts one time and each year when the nut comes up in popular song, she never fails to mention how difficult they are to peel.  So, I’ve never bothered.
Italy is now doing it for us.  Chestnut Hill Tree Farm of Alachua, Florida, has spent the last 30 years leading the way to re-establishing the Chestnut Tree in the United States, after blight had wiped most trees out by 1950. And now they’re bringing artisanal products from Northern Italy, sold at select Whole Foods Markets.  I’ve tried Chestnut Sweet Cream, which is kind of a Nutella-like experience for toast and Chestnut Flakes, which make an interesting crispy topping for sweet and savory treats. There’s also a flour. 
So Mom’s going to try chestnuts again. Here’s a kind of weird thing I made from experimenting in someone else’s kitchen: A ramekin full of lightly cooked egg, topped with blue cheese and cranberry relish, then topped with chestnut flakes. Just crazy enough to work.  

Southern Christmas
“Christmas All Through the South”  is from Southern Living, so that there says it all. From a Hearty Picnic in the Pines with skillet-fried chicken to lucky New Year’s oyster spreads, is a big, thick book showing how it’s done. Laden tables, lighted landscapes and our mossy, waterside, outdoor vistas we love fill this book. Besides the photos, there’s the writing, then there’s the recipes. If you can’t be with family, you’ll read this and make a new family of friends so you can make one of these parties. It’s not all about showing off, it’s just how hospitality is done down here. This book takes you across the south and across time with memories of how we all used to slow down and appreciate this season.
I’m a huge rosemary fan, so this virgin drink popped off the pages for me:
Rosemary-Scented Cold Cider
Pick up a jug of fresh-pressed cider for optimum results with this refreshing drink.
5 cups apple cider
4 fresh rosemary sprigs, 4- to 5-inches
2 cups cranberry-apple drink, chilled
2 12-ounce cans ginger ale, chilled
1. Bring cider and four rosemary springs to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool to room temperature. Cover and chill 8 to 24 hours. Remove and discard rosemary sprigs.
2. Combine cider and cranberry-apple drink in a pitcher or thermos. Add ginger ale just before serving.
Darragh Doiron proudly shares her Culinary Thrill Seeking adventures with Port Arthur News readers.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ease the Thanksgiving stress

Taste of Home has a new cookbook and its magazine is always good for ideas. I’m  loving these easy tips for a great gathering:
            * Gravy Glitches: If your gravy is runny, slowly stir cold turkey or chicken stock into a bit of cornstarch until it’s dissolved. Then gradually whisk it into the simmering gravy. Lumpy gravy can be poured into a blender for 20-30 seconds. You can also whisk in turkey or chicken stock—just a little at a time—until you get the right consistency
*      Crank up the Cranberry: Make whole berry cranberry sauce according to the directions on the bag of fresh cranberries—it’s just berries, sugar and water. Whomp up the flavor when you take it off heat by stirring in a little orange marmalade or jalapeño jelly.
*   Give the Kids’ Table VIP Status: Use place cards for each kid. Ask a fun uncle or aunt to eat at the kids’ table, then enjoy as they all giggle through the meal. You’ll wish you’d sat there, too!
*     Revive Soggy Stuffing: Spread it on a cookie sheet and bake at 350° for 10 minutes. If the stuffing is still mushy, then stir and bake it for an additional 5 minutes.
*     Disguise a Cracked Pie: Chocolate! The solution to many of life’s problems. Melt together 1 cup chocolate chips and 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, stirring until smooth. Pour over cooled pie and chill until set. Hint: You really should try this even if your pie doesn’t have cracks. 
*    Make the Fluffiest Potatoes: The key to super-fluffy mashed potatoes is to make sure they’re dry before mashing. Once the potatoes are cooked and drained, put them back in the pot, cover it up, and let them dry for 1 to 2 minutes. The drier the potato, the fluffier the mash.
 galore! You can even put gravy in a smaller, 2-quart slow cooker. It holds beautifully for up to an hour on the warm setting.

Oh the flavors
The UV Vodka flavor concoctors have got it going on. I’m going to try UV Salty Caramel Apple ASAP. But now I’m enjoying a little something they call Sugar Crush. It’s a sweet, sweet mix-in for the holiday season.
UV Vodka is made with all-natural ingredients and now there’s some limited-time-only seasonal treats. Look for UV Salty Caramel Apple, the sought-after UV Sriracha and the topical UV Sugar Crush. So they may sound a little “girly.” I did a taste testing with “girls” over 60 and the four of them were very impressed with their Sugar Crush shots. Play with the following and create your own:

Not Your Mama’s Bloody Mary:
1 part UV Sriracha Vodka
3 parts Bloody Mary mix

Stir and serve with your favorite Bloody Mary garnishes.

Haute Hot Toddy
1 part UV Salty Caramel Apple Vodka
1 cup hot Apple Cider

Stir and garnish with a lemon, cinnamon stick and / or cloves.

Tropi-Candy Cosmo
1 part UV Sugar Crush
1 part cranberry juice
1 part Peach Schnapps
1 part orange juice

Rim glass with sugar. Shake ingredients with ice and streak into a martini glass.
Garnish with an orange slice.

Pools and more
Even if you don’t have a pool, visit Larry Tyson, who just hosted an opening of Achtwoo Pool & Spa Pros on East Parkway in Groves. They’ve expanded from Bridge City and Galveston, bringing a wall of very interesting barbecue tools, like flexible skewers. Can you envision a sort of necklace of meat and mushrooms on your grill? I was partial to torches and bird feeders fashioned into oversized, colorful metal flowers.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Let's begin with Pumpkin trending

The scent of burning leaves and baking pies have always accented the fall season for me. I didn’t mean to combine those two and scent my kitchen with the aroma of burning pecans. I love them toasted, and these got a little over done.
Oh well, I still have the pumpkin vodka to smell.
My sampler’s gave a hearty round of praise for Crop’s Organic Spiced Pumpkin Vodka, dubbed “The Essence of Autumn.” If you’ve missed this second year of intense pumpkin marketing, you may want to jump in with this one, which puts the imbiber in the mind of roasted pumpkin and baking spices. Makers have employed professionals to mix up some ideas. In my humble experience, I’m going to say these blends should be able to cure what ails you. It may sound like an unusual paring at first. But listen to what Top of the Hub’s head bartender, Arley Howard does with it for New Englanders with his Pumpkin Ginger Cooler. He notes how well this seasonal vodka pairs with most fall-style dishes.
  In Florida, which has a milder season, like we do in Texas, mixologist Nick Nistico appreciates the combination of Crop’s exquisitely spiced vodka and spicy rye with a seasonal twist on a julep and even tries it in a piña colada. Here’s what they do:

Crop Organic Pumpkin Ginger Cooler
(Arley Howard)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 lemon slice
2 parts Crop Organic Spiced Pumpkin Vodka
1 part ginger liqueur
1 part sour mix
Ginger ale
In a highball glass, muddle brown sugar with lemon and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Add ice, Crop Organic Spiced Pumpkin Vodka, ginger liqueur, and sour mix. Shake contents and then top with ginger ale.

Plymouth Rock Julep
(Nick Nistico)
2 parts Rye whiskey
1 part Crop Organic Spiced Pumpkin Vodka
½ part cinnamon syrup
5 dashes Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters
Swizzle all ingredients with ice and then top with crushed ice.  Garnish with a candy-corn pumpkin and grated cinnamon.

Pumpkin Cocktail
(Nick Nistico)
1 part Crop Organic Spiced Pumpkin Vodka
5 dashes bitters
Top with pumpkin ale.

Pumpkin Collins
(Nick Nistico)
2 parts Crop Organic Spiced Pumpkin Vodka
1 part fresh lemon juice
1/2 part simple syrup
Shake with ice and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon wheel dusted with cinnamon.

Dessert Mash-Ups
Dorothy Kern has a blog called Crazy For Crust. She must be always thinking of new things to do with that, and now we can all enjoy “Dessert Mash-Ups: Tastey Two-in-One Treats including Sconuts, S’morescake and Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie.”
The names, the photos, the concepts. These are amazing ideas. She’s has a fun way of writing and sharing her ideas. Here’s some of what comes out of her head:
* She makes “dippers”  for sweet things by stamping shapes from pre-made pie crusts and sprinkling them with sugar.
* Pair with Tiramisu Dip
* Next time you make your own peanut butter, whip some Oreos into it.
* Cake Batter Blondie Bars, because the author thinks sprinkles should make your day.
* Chocolate Chip Cookie Toffee Bark. I have to stop here.

Tuna in the outdoors
StarKist Tuna Creations has Outdoors Pouches now. They’re done up in camouflage print, so you know they can be eaten outdoors. They worked just fine indoors in my lunchbox. Keep them in a drawer and you can rip open the pouch and enjoy seasoned tuna with one more friend and a half of a friend. That’s right. There are 2.5 servings in this pouch, but at 60 calories a serving, I sure downed the whole lot of the Sweet and Spicy version featurings onions and peppers. I liked the lemon version even more. It’s quick and easy and good. Thanks, Charlie. Meet you for lunch next week.

Cookies ease addiction?
Here’s why Nothin But Foods  reports they’ve launched a new cookie. Loyal customers report that the traditional granola bars are SO addictive they’ve wanted something smaller and lower in calories to get their fix.
So here come Nothin' But Two Pack Cookie with half the calories of the  traditional granola bars. I’ve been tasting as many varieties from this line as I can and have a tough time picking fave flavors from peanut butter banana chocolate and cocolate coconut almond.
I made a breakfast sandwich of cherry cranberry almond and Canadian bacon and took ginger lemon cashew for a walk.
The labels show the tempting product and let you know this company is 100 percent natural and goes wheat, gluten and GMO free on products. They’re all delicious, even if you don’t require these dietary needs.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Butter in your coffee and turmeric in your tea

Southern Living community has your back in the kitchen
I can’t describe “The Southern Living Community Cookbook: Celebrating Food & Fellowship” better that its own press release.
It’s billed as “the equivalent of a brimming recipe box plus the scribbled notes and whispered secrets of over 200 treasured dishes.” It brings readers the best hometown cooks, recipes and stories to the table. I’ll add that the images of vintage cookbook covers, including ones that were on my shelf, will help bind the generations. Read this with grandma, and cook for each other.
A book for all seasons, try  Candied Bacon Bites for snacks with bourbon or Champaign, Herbed Lemon Egg Soup, Green Tomato Sandwich Spread and Milk Punch sprinkled with nutmeg. Mini Pecan Pies and Spiced Pecans are a few offerings for you Texas Pecan Festival lovers. Here’s a super-easy one that is sure to get a conversation going.

Margarita Olives
From the kitchen of Park Kerr, El Paso
1 pound pitted kalamata olives, drained
3 ounces pimento-stuffed green olives, drained
3 ounces pickled Serrano or jalapeno peppers, drained
One fourth cup tequila
One fourth cup lime juice
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
One fourth cup finely chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
Stir together all ingredients in a large bowl or glass jar. Cover and chill 8 hours. Return to room temperature before serving.

Sur La Table
My Aunt Stella Belle’s turkey salt and pepper shakers have been my sole Thanksgiving décor for years. This year I’ve added two small glass leaf dishes from Sur La Table. They can hold everything from your morning vitamins to a taste of dessert with colorful flair. A mini marble and glass cloche will be a year-round focal point to keep cheeses and other edibles fresh and stylish. The domed lid adds a vintage touch to your holiday table. But please, use these accents even if dining alone. They will lift spirits and aid digestion. Sur La Table has classes, temptations and something like 600  products geared to coffee lovers. Visit stores as close as Houston.  

Pumpkin Update
Oreo cookies have jumped on the pumpkin bandwagon with a spiced pumpkin filling between two pie crust-colored cookies. I couldn’t help but notice a woman at restaurant bar with a package sitting beside her. The Oreos weren’t on the menu. It seems one of the employees had them and shared with a regular. I approached the woman in a friendly manner and expressed surprise at the product. Well, she offered me one and I accepted. The three of us deem this cookie delicious. They didn’t mind me sharing this experience so readers would know about pumpkin Oreos, but they got shy about sharing their names.

Test tube and turmeric teas
What better way to experiment with teas than from test tubes? The Spice Lab Gourmet Spices offers a rack of 11 or 12 tube sets including British Teas, Asian Teas or Infused Teas, showcased in a handcrafted wooden base of reclaimed Colorado pine or sustainable bamboo. Each tube holds enough for 2 to 3 pots of tea. I just keep pulling off the cork from Smokey Maple to inhale. Of course, they are delicious, too. This is the best season for a hot pot. Enjoy these treats on days when you aren’t scheduled for the upcoming holiday gatherings.

How many of  you already have turmeric in your pantry? (I did!) How many of you were putting it in tea? Not me. Numi Oganic tea’s non-GMO and Fair Trade Certified Teas presents the first full line of this sort of premium turmeric-focused blends, which are earthy, robust and, of course, golden orange.
Kin to the ginger root, the powder is a favorite in curries. It’s used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and now people are talking about curcumin, the medicinal compound in turmeric, associated with relieving pain and arthritis, decreasing blood clots, preventing cancer, strengthening digestion, detoxifying the liver and healing skin wounds.  Turns out it’s a superfood and I’ve enjoyed this admittedly acquired taste in a tea that makes me feel like a world traveler. I imagine myself in cool cafes, gathered around family tables and relaxing in exotic gardens as I enjoy these flavors:

Three Roots
Blending earthy turmeric, spicy ginger, and sweet licorice, Three Roots transports your senses to an exotic Indian Bazaar.

Golden Tonic
This uplifting blend of turmeric, lemon verbena and dried lime mingle for an exhilarating dance.  Golden hues of turmeric have an earthy sweetness as the zesty citrus notes soar and enliven the senses.

Fields of Gold
The mellow richness of turmeric, the sweet calming notes of chamomile, and the lively zest of lemon myrtle reside in Fields of Gold.

Amber Sun
With a radiating, smooth richness, this blend of turmeric, rooibos, vanilla beans and a hint of cinnamon offers mellow apple notes with a sweet peppery zest.

Coffee Blocks
All you coffee-dependent folks passing Facebook memes about how you couldn’t do without your coffee, have you tried it with butter? I’m speaking of adding butter to your coffee to bring out the flavors. No, you don’t have to do it yourself, Coffee Blocks has done it for you. Keep the little cups in your freezer and dissolve them, nay, froth them, in hot water. I put mine in the blender and my mother loved it. It’s best with a sweet pairing. We paired with berry and white chocolate cookies I whipped up from Mason Jar Cookie Company,
That was breakfast. Now, back to this coffee deal. Butter. It works. Go to and try it, then take your own photo of your experience and tag it @coffeeblocks.
Oh yes, bet it would be good with something pumpkin.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

'Dishing Up New Mexico' offers enchanting ideas

‘Dishing up New Mexico’ offers enchanting ideas
Due respect to peppers — which can be stuffed with lamb, flavor Café Diablo or perk up a cucumber frozen pop — are given in a picture-recipe book that will have you headed west.
“Dishing Up New Mexico: 145 Recipes from The Land of Enchantment” is Dave DeWitt’s love letter to the state’s land, people and the food they create together. Chickpea and chorizo stew, blue corn chicken taquitos and Lusty Mustard-Slathered Chicken Breasts sound as good as photos of farmers’ markets, grazing livestock and panoramic sunsets look. This book even offers our weekly Pumpkin Update, with a recipe for curry pumpkin soup (rum optional).  The following recipe is versatile:

Double  Pepper-Infused Strawberries
One fourth cup tequila
2 piquin chiles, crushed
4 pints of strawberries, hulled and halved (about six cups)
2 teaspoons freshly-ground black pepper
one half cup orange juice
 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Fresh mint springs, for garnish
Pour the tequila over the chiles in a small bow Soak for 1 to 4 hours before straining. The longer you leave the chiles, the stronger the flavor will be.
Combine the strawberries, pepper, orange juice, vinegar and infused tequila in a bowl and toss well. Cover and chill for at least three hours, stirring occasionally.
Spoon the mixture into 6 small glass bowls and garnish with mint springs before serving.

Cluck ‘nMoo
With a name like that above, can you guess what you’re getting into? How about a very nice frozen burger that’s perfect for celebrating National Kale Day. Yes, that’s a thing. Look it up.
Cluck ‘nMoo combines grass fed beef and chicken with Kale for a burger that has 52 percent less fat than USDA data for ground beef. I tried my first one with great success, serving creamed corn as a dip for blue corn tortilla chips and chopped white onions. It was a quick and delicious meal. So it’s easy, and good and I suppose that could get me crowing and kicking.

Chipotle Bloody Marys
Organic ginger puree, shitake mushrooms and tamarind go into Powell & Mahoney’s handcrafted cocktail mixes. Sip ‘em slow to pick up on the subtle flavors. I’ve told you I eat peppers for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so Chipotle Bloody Mary Mix is perfect for another meal: Brunch. There’s a sriracha and a “regular,” and suggestions for garnish include celery stalk, slice of lemon, pickled long beans, olives, salami, grilled shrimp or a slice of crispy bacon.
Here’s the deal. Makers suggest these make great tailgate beverages. If you know anybody tailgating like this, please call me. This stuff is very nice. I didn’t know they like it so spicy in Vermont.

McCormick has your gluten-free back
Gluten-free turkey gravy and chili mixes, three-spice packs including flavors fo Rosemary Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Carrots and skillet sauces (how about Taco with Chopotle?) are among some new packets. McCormick must have had Southeast Texas in mind with Zesty Garlic Shrimp as a flavor option.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Some fall flavors and fantasies

Some fall flavors and fantasies
Did you know you can pour, powder and paste on your vanilla this fall?
Nielsen-Massey  has amazing options for icing, beverages and main dishes. Start with a sprinkle in your morning coffee. If you like to play with your food, explore all their options. Their fine powder must be inhaled first every time you open the jar. Then it goes in all kinds of goodies. Here’s one:

Chewy Macadamia Nut Cookies

6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened

2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder

2 eggs

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

one half  teaspoon baking soda

one half teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Cream the butter, brown sugar and vanilla powder in a mixing bowl using an electric mixer on a medium speed until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, cream of tartar and cinnamon and mix well. Stir in the macadamia nuts. Chill for 2 hours. 

Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Coat an insulated cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. 

Shape the dough into 1 inch balls and place on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. 

Makes 3 dozen 

When preparing bakery items such as cookies, here's at tip to enhance the flavor intensity of your product: cream the vanilla into the butter or shortening and sugar first. This step encapsulates the vanilla and helps prevent flavor loss in low mass/low moisture/high heat cookies.

Menu tease
My mother passed me a menu card from a friend’s travels because she thought you Culinary Thrill Seekers would enjoy hearing about it. We don’t know the year or the place, but we would like to sit down to The Royal Marriage: black mushroom consommé accompanied with dumpling delicacies. Later there’s The Willow’s Melody: a delightful lotus seed pudding in strawberry sauce. 

Pumpkin update:
Krusteaz has a new Pumpkin Pie Bar mix that was ready in just a few minutes. The skill required to fashion this yummy crowd-pleaser was minimal and the payoff was huge. When warm, people were convinced there was chocolate in there. The flavor actually comes from a gingerbread crust. Amazingly, there was still some left when it had cooled properly and it was still a hit. My favorite was the crispy corners, so I paired with a soft-center lover.

Sandwich Mondays
Get on board. It’s a thing. Do you crave the convenience of lunch meat but shy away from preservatives? Hillshire Farm is making it pretty easy on us with the new Naturals line: Slow Roasted Turkey Breast, Honey Roasted Ham, Hardwood Smoked Turkey Breast and Black Forest Ham. What I got was quick meals of salads, wraps and omelets without artificial ingredients, preservatives, colors or added nitrates, They come in reusable plastic boxes that are easily stacked to keep your fridge orderly. That makes it a triple hit with me for taste, health and ease of use.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Bring on the hummus

Bring on the hummus

I was literally in the kitchen prepping some homemade pumpkin hummus when my husband was in the next room telling me had containers of lemon, garlic and traditional versions of Cat Cora’s new product. I love each and every one of them. It’s not hard to make hummus, but go ahead and let Cora do what she knows. Cat Cora’s Kitchen by Grecian Delight Foods has given us three winners. Here’s what she says about it:

“My hummus recipes draw inspiration from my Greek heritage, with flavor twist I’ve picked up throughout my culinary career,” said Cora. “I’m so excited they will be available via grocer giant HEB in the Lone Star state.”
They’re all so good, but I think lemon will remain my favorite.
You can get Traditional, Smooth & Creamy Garlic, and Smooth & Creamy Lemon, a version that’s topped with jalapeno peppers. I’ve been using it as salad dressing, dipping sugar snap peas in it and doing the cracker thing.

Celebrity Chef Cat Cora is best-known for her role as the first female Iron Chef on Iron Chef America and since has co-hosted Food Network’s Melting Pot and America’s Best Cook as well as Bravo’s Around the World in 80 Plates. Her namesake Cat Cora’s Kitchen operates at the Houston Intercontinental, the Salt Lake City and San Francisco Airport Terminals.

Pumpkin alert
Remember last year, readers, when there was a new pumpkin story every week? Retailers want us to play that again, because pumpkin abounds. Krusteaz has new flavors out including a pumpkin spice muffin mix. I played with that, adding flax seed, subbing banana for the egg and adding Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder, a luxury any baker can afford. In just a few minutes the reward of pumpkin made my breakfast.

The easiest way to go from plain to flavored is Kickers, packets of natural favors with real fruit. Got cottage cheese or yogurt? Make them chocolate peanut butter or strawberry banana. Oatmeal gets apple cinnamon and pancakes can go for maple banana cream. Mix and match to flavor oatmeal, cereal and smoothies.

125th anniversary
McCormick has an anniversary edition of pure vanilla extract and suggests you may want to play with that and Thai a Kitchen Coconut Milk, subbing a can for the oil and water of your favorite cake mix. Let's do it. Get to for ideas, like "naked birthday cake."