Saturday, January 25, 2014

Turn your cereal into power balls

Montgomery J has plate lunches
Corine Jones sent word about something good at 824 W. Gulfway Drive. Montgomery J is offering home-style plate lunches like smothered ox tails, turkey wings with rice and King Ranch chicken.
“The place is my mom's old home. Her wish was to help in the community.  During the summer we used the place to mentor children that live in the area. Now we have a small restaurant with the goal of serving up home style cooking in an area where the nearest restaurant is 8 miles down the road,” Jones writes. “Please stop by if you get an opportunity and meet Jonathan Dixxon who mixes his home style cooking with techniques he has learned in New York and Houston before returning home to the West Side.”
 Call (409) 982-9513 for “the dish.”

Morning, honey
Did you know there are 16 flavors of Honey Bunches of Oats? Chocolatey Almont Crunch, with what amounts to Barbie-sized candy bars in it and Cinnamon Crunch in the Morning Energy line are new finds that address an unspoken situation. These blends, promoting protein, whole grain and fiber for energy that lasts and adding touches like wildflower honey and nuts, provide what the box says: morning energy. It takes a lot to get me excited about cereal and this is one to look forward to. Look up the Post brand online for recipes like this one, which is pretty enough for party spreads:

Morning Energy Mocha Power Balls
1 and one fourth cups Honey Bunches of Oats Morning Energy Chocolatey Almond Crunch cereal
Half cup cup walnut halves
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1 teaspoon flax seeds
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
4 tablespoons almond butter
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons espresso powder
One fourth teaspoon coarse sea salt
One fourth cup toasted unsweetened coconut for rolling (optional)

Place the cereal in bowl of food processor.  Process until finely ground.  Add walnut halves, chia seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, almond butter, honey, maple syrup, cranberries, vanilla, espresso powder, and sea salt to bowl and process until well blended and mixture forms a stiff dough.  Remove dough and form into a compact ball with your hands.  Form dough into 1-inch balls and roll in toasted coconut, if desired.  Place balls on a wax-paper lined sheet and let stand for an hour or so, then transfer to a tin or container with a tight lid.  The power balls will keep for at least a week at room temperature, or they can be chilled.  This recipe will make around 20 balls.

Indian and gluten-free
No names here, but a woman I know recently told me she ate a whole can of chickpeas for breakfast. Perhaps she’d enjoy chickpeas in a ginger and mango sauce. I hadn’t thought of that, or having them for breakfast at all.
“Indian Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking” has your back if you want to experiment and eat both for your health and for adventure. Try eggplant curry with green peas and turkey and quinoa burgers. Alamelu Vairavan and Margaret Pfeiffer assembled this book, by popular demand. Indian food lends itself natural to gluten-free cooking because vegetable dishes are enhanced with spices and legumes, they say. Viewers of the PBS program “Healthful Indian Flavors with Alamelu” have asked for these recipes and we have all received. It’s a beautiful book and I want one of everything. How about this one for fall tables?

Seasoned Apple Relish
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 Granny Smith apple, shredded
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, more or less to taste
¼ teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat (the oil should be hot but not smoking) Ad mustard seeds and cook and stiru until seeds start to pop.
Add apple, turmeric, cumin, cayenne pepper and salt. Cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes.
Scrape into a dish and serve warm or cold.
Variation: To make Creamy Apple Chutney Dip, add plain low-fat yogurt. Use an equal measure of yogurt to relish. This can be used as a dip with vegetables.

Peanut and Coconut Chutney
A sure hit when spread on sandwiches, this chutney is also delicious served as a dip for fresh vegetables.
1 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
¼ cup grated fresh coconut or unsweetened shredded dried coconut
3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
1 whole dried red chili pepper, more or less to taste
¾ teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
¾ to 1 cup warm water
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor; blend or process until smooth.
If the chutney seems too thick, add additional warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time
Scrape into a dish and serve.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Woman's Club tips go with entertaining

The Woman’s Club of Beaumont
My mom’s club in Beaumont has been hosting plays Ramona Young has been staging. She has been in several Port Arthur Little Theatre productions over the years. I caught “An Unexpected Christmas” and loved it.
I have enjoyed speaking about Port Arthur and food at the club and have made sure to tell members how much we love Amuny’s sandwiches and Judice’s boudain.
We got to talking about tips, like how Myrlene Clark of the Port Arthur Woman’s Club added ginger ale to “cheap punch” to give it a little zing. I told members that I thought I’d made up banana and “old coffee” smoothies, but it’s apparently “a thing.” I found recipes all over the internet. Grinding up pecans or other nuts with carrots makes a great spread for crackers.
I then asked club members to share tips with me for Culinary Thrill Seeking readers, and here’s what they brought:
* Fruit Salad – Mary Taylor mixes Greek yogurt, honey and ginger powder as a dressing for a fruit mix of fresh mangos, grapes and berries.
* Coating – Instead of egg flour coating under breadcrumbs, Fran Biggin uses a sour cream spread on chicken, fish, etc., then coats with panko or breadcrumbs.
* Coffee tip – Sandi Davidson adds cinnamon to coffee “before it drips.”
Snap to Southern
“In a Snap! Tasty Southern Recipes You can Make in 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes”  is from a talented, funny lady named Tammy Algood who has come up with some shortcuts to southern hospitality.
She has a version of Elvis sandwiches, dips bacon in chocolate and nuts, adds pecans to pimento cheese and claims a bowl of salted peanuts mixed with candy corn will be a hit at your holiday hoedown. Classics like chicken fried steak are mixed in with gouda and buttermilk grits. New and old, that’s how we southerners roll. Pumpkins are trending and mixes the flavor with pancakes and pecans. I love what she does with another seasonal favorite, cranberry:

The author says this is good for leftover turkey or chicken strips. The sauce freezes extremely well, she notes, Use it within six months.
Spiced Cranberry Dipping Sauce
1 cup cranberry sauce
1 half cup taco sauce
1 canned chipotle pepper, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 half teaspoon ground cumin
1 fourth teaspoon salt
1 fourth teaspoon white pepper
Place the cranberry sauce, taco sauce, pepper, chili powder, cumin, salt and white pepper ina glass bowl and microwave on high power for 1 minute. Stir and microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir again and serve warm or at room temperature.

It’s the best “candy bar” you’d ever want with dark chocolate and multi-grain pretzel or banana oatmeal. Skinnygirl Daily On-the-Go Bars can fall to the bottom of your bag, but you won’t forget they’re there. It will make your afternoon go faster when you contemplate this break for what makers call a “guilt-free indulgence bar.” At 180 calories, you’ll be enjoying some natural, Kosher, high-fiber goodness.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Is your chicken and dumpling gravy brown?

Is your chicken and dumpling gravy brown?

So Callie Summerlin mentioned her family had been enjoying a batch of chicken and dumplings, and that they serve it with a scoop of white rice. While that was blowing my mind, she said they cook it in a brown roux sauce.
I’d never heard of either deal, but I was intrigued. I mentioned to someone else that these methods were new to me and she said I must not have people from Louisiana. Excuse me? Grandma came from Breaux Bridge and my mamma said her mamma never did that.
Anyways, Callie was kind enough to supply me with a taste and I loved that brown sauce full of chicken. It was so rich, like a gumbo. Which makes me wonder, how does this family with duck hunting and Sabine Pass ties fix their actual gumbo? I’ve heard tell it’s good. Maybe I’ll know for myself some of these days.
While meeting new people at holiday parties, I threw out that brown gravy chicken and dumplings. People told me their folks’ dumplings were served in a yellow sauce without rice. Two people  said the Summerlin way I was describing was what their family called “wild rice casserole.” Now I want to try that.
Readers, if you are familiar with brown sauce for chicken and dumplings, of if you put your rice in it, tell me about it in an e-mail to

“Y’all Come Over”
I just love the word “y’all” and a couple of cooks have turned the concept into an invitation, a fun read and a Southern cookbook.
Ever have the new pastor over to dinner while fretting that some other woman was ahead of you in serving something memorable? Ever booked an appointment at the Scarlet Oh-Hair A Salon or been the one whose daughter thinks your clothes are too “loud” for a Foruth of July picnic? Patsy Caldwell and Amy Lyles Wilson have written “Y’all Come Over,” which embodies our ways. I mean The South and what we love about it. College football loyalties, debutante parties and foods with bacon and pecans. What they’ve done is created a community of townsfolk we can all relate to. We for sure want their recipes.
Elbert might be running for town council, so Evelyn may be entertaining more. Her section includes Chocolate Punch, Bacon Cheddar Deviled Eggs, Bacon Tomato Jam and Chili Creole Shrimp.

Chocolate Punch
1 cup chocolate syrup
5 cups milk
1 and three fourths quarts vanilla ice cream
1 quart ginger ale, chilled
Combine the chocolate syrup and milk in a punch bowl, stirring to mix. Add ice cream, stirring until partially melted. Add the ginger ale and serve. Makes 24 servings.

Chili Creole Shrimp
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon crole mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce
half cup chili sauce
one fourth teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika
half cup finely chopped red onion
2 and one half pounds shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined
In a large bowl whisk together the vinegar, oil, Creole mustard, hot sauce, chili sauce, salt and paprika. Add the onion and shrimp, stirring to evenly coat. Cover and refrigerate four hours. Makes  8 to 10 servings.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Is 2014 year of 'squirrely' resolutions and napa cabbage?

Squirrel resolutions?
Sometimes I take the last doughnut no one wants and put it in the bird feeder… I mean squirrel feeder. So I see this one guy going to town on it and I tapped on the window. He just kept circling around to see if someone was going to take that snack from him. I passed by later and it was gone. What does an entire doughnut do to a squirrel’s cholesterol level? I don’t know why, but I was expecting a flock of birds would share that whole doughnut. I wonder if animals at the feeder make New Year’s health resolutions.
Here’s some ideas to work on your own good health resolutions:

Easing being green
My mom declared 2014 to be the year she purchased and experimented with a napa cabbage. She became inspired while perusing Green Smoothies for Every Season: A Year of Farmer’s Market-Fresh Super Drinks. I will say right here  she was not inspired enough to try a green smoothie. While author Kristine Miles, who also wrote “The Green Smoothie Bible,” is going on about what greens are in season and the nuances of color they create to make your freshest drink, most people seem to be at that “ewww, cabbage in your drink?” stage.
Miles suggests fresh spinach to start out with, because it is so mild.
Because it is winter, she suggests a Heart Starter with tangelos, fennel juice and tops and chia seeds or a bone builder with bananas, kiwifruit, tangelo, water and radish tops.
I actually do know a couple of people who are already into green smoothies and juicer drinks. This book full of creative combos is bound to inspire someone who is on the verge of going green.
I like the following recipe, which is actually from the spring collection. Here are ingredients for:

Rock Me, Baby
1 and one half cups diced cantaloupe
1 cup unhulled strawberries
1 cup water
3 to 4 leaves napa cabbage

Sparkle, Baby
Voga is offering Baby Sparkling Wine in half-sized bottles at 155 calories. I’m in. I very much enjoyed this satisfying serving of  flavor, and knowing the choice kept portion control in mind, it tasted all the better. You know alcohol adds hundreds of calories and often seems to make people eat more. One of these bottles is the answer to several dilemmas. Makers also point out that red wine adds about 10 calories a glass, so those really, really counting may opt for a rose or white. ( has more info on the sparkling libations’ “golden color and fine effervescence” that gives way to “aromas of white blossoms and ripe fruit.”

You don’t have the follow the 5:2 plan to enjoy the quick, healthy and adventurous (for some) recipes in “The 5:2 Fast Diet Cookbook: 150 Easy Fat-Burning Recipes Under 300 Calories.”
But Samantha Logan will explain “the secret of intermittent fasting” and give a pretty good case for eating healthy five days of the week and cutting back on calories for two other days of the week that you choose. The idea is to metabolize your intake and stay steady. Nutrition and flavor are not missing from this book with recipes like Not So Shabby Crabby Bisque, Cheesy Spinach Portabellos, and Pecan-Chipotle Chicken Fingers. Remember, these are for the low-cal days. Choices for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are designed so you won’t feel deprived. In some cases, these “diet” foods could be more creative that what you’d gorge on before you were getting fit. I will be craving the sweet potato curry this fall and honey chicken will sweeten my lifestyle. Here’s an example of on-hand flavors I would not have thought of on my own:

Lemon Dijon Pasta
8 ounces pasta, rotini or penne work best
8 ounces haricot vert, roughly chopped (French-style string beans)
2 tablespoons oive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
The zest of one lemon
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved
Cook pasta in large stock pot according ot package directions. Drain and rinse and pour into a large bowl, tossing with haricot vert
In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic, lemon juice and lemon zest. Toss with pasta. Shave cheese into pasta. Toss lightly together and serve.