Sunday, March 30, 2014

Master Gardeners host plant sale and Market Day

Master Gardeners Plant Sale and Market Day
The Jefferson County Master Gardeners Plant Sale and Market Day is when you can stock up on what grows good right here. Go for colorful annual and perennial bedding plants, shrubs, tropicals, bulbs and corms, citrus, avocado, olive and landscape trees, herbs, vegetables and more. Y’all know I want the herbs.
If plants aren’t your thing (why aren’t they?) go for handmade crafts, jewelry, etc., including locally-grown honey. There’s a kid’s corner with face painting.
The event will be from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 5, at the Jack Brooks Regional Airport Hanger #4. Admission and parking are free. For more information, call 409-835-8461.
Jane McBride, publicity chair, assembled some herb tips:
·         Among the easiest to grow is basil, which loves our summer heat. Plant in well-drained, rich soil. Harvest often and pinching flower buds before they emerge. Prune by a third every three weeks.
·         While we can’t grow tarragon here, we can grow Mexican Mint Marigold, which has a similar flavor. It takes heat well and produces fragrant yellow flowers on long stalks that brighten a bed.
·          Rosemary should be in every garden. It’s beautiful, provides strong fragrance and is a must for Italian cuisine.
·         Oregano and thyme also do well here, providing low, trailing mounds of fragrant green leaves.
·         Enjoy your herbs year-round by making butters, herb-infused vinegars and pestos.
·         and Melissa Starr, Out in the Yard columnist for Port Arthur News.
Tony Lucenti is president of Jefferson County Master Gardeners. Stellina Reed and Phyllis Smith are event chairs. And Melissa Star is editor of the newsletter The Latest Dirt, found on their web site. Star also writes the Out in the Yard column for Port Arthur News and may be reached at the AgriLIfe Ext. office at (409)-835-8461.

Taste of Gumbo, Etc.
The Port Arthur Rotary Club packed the house again and everyone seemed happy and full. One of my non-gumbo favorites included chicken salad from Courtyard Café. I wasn’t shy about asking for my third sample on a slice of  French bread instead of a cracker, and they obliged. Christus St. Mary offered boudain-jambalaya in a cup and Texas Roadhouse gave out bags of nuts that my family enjoyed on the patio to relive what we liked best about the gumbos. Catching up with old friends is just about the best part of the whole deal, plus knowing how Rotary will help area charities with the funds raised.
Queen Gumbo Libby Arnold rounded up a great krewe.

Spring greetings from candy
Tulips butterflies and cartoon chicks must still need help, because there’s also a “Happy Spring” message on the package. Anastasia Confections offers Coconut Patties, which are heavy little squares laden with rich, sweet tastes from your youth. They call it a creamy coconut confection dipped in a rich dark chocolatey coating. I did spell “chocolately” right? The Orlando, Florida company makes other fruity flavors dubbed a “souvenir from the Sunshine State.” I enjoyed my Easter basket-ready bite tremendously, and promise to eat no more than one a day. There’s a reason it’s suggested you bring a box as gifts. You don’t want to be tempted. It’s a coconut and palm oil-infused flavor from your past.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Alarm means dinner is ready

Bold & Orange
I just had a meal featuring six orange items, served on a pink Fiesta plate. I thought the baked sweet potato would be the star, and a little pumpkin cream cheese would top it well. Then Since the oven was going I grilled an orange in there, too and put carrot sticks out for crunch. The SAAS hot sauce was orange, too.
Bolds Cracker Sandwiches from Lance brought it all together. They’re new, in Buffalo Wing Blue Cheese. Good crunch, good flavor and good for on-the-go snacking. It’s a new “extreme” flavor with izza and Bacon Cheddar in the line. Look for a 6-count box exclusively at Walmart stores.

Alarm means dinner is ready
The smoke alarm is like a dinner bell at my house. Sensitive is an understatement. It goes off when you turn the oven on. It actually says “Fire, Fire, Fire.”
Anyone else have this problem? If you do, don’t let that alarm cry wolf. Don’t ignore an alarm. Check everything all the time and be safe.

I may have passed by Pasha many times, but that night I was hungry in Houston the tiny house was lighted up and called my name. Award-winning Turkish-Mediterranean foods and intimate service await those who can navigate the unusual parking.
You have to wait for one car to leave before you get in the drive to go in the back. Tricky, but worth it.
I had the good food karma to get seated quickly and platters of things like lamb kebab and eggplant began to arrive to me and other diners. I’d love to go back and go down the reasonalbly-priced menu. The staff treated us like family.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Succulent display

Succulent display
While I love shopping at Whole Foods in downtown Austin, I was willing to skip it on my most recent trip. Turns out I stopped in, because their underground lot was the only place I could park. No worries. I enjoyed  a samples of cucumber and apple salad with a dill and mustard vinaigrette, popcorn with red hot candies melted into it and chocolate pita chips.
I snapped a photo of the café table centerpieces. Sea salt and peppercorn grinders flanked succulents which were growing out of Mason jars. Silver rims were screwed on, but the flat part of lids were off to allow the fresh greenery to flourish. It was an inviting breath of spring.

Energy trend
Energems offer edible energy made from real milk chocolate that you can look forward to every day. Afternoon is my preference.
Energems, are made to allow your body to absorb its B-vitamin blend faster and come in a little box for on-the-go action. I don’t know how to take the makers’ press release pointing out that you can keep them on the bedside table because “they will make sure you enjoy your night, too.” At any rate, they come in flavors and I like the mint. I guess I’ll come out and say it: They do pretty much look like a giant m&m what with the hard shell and all. Oh, and celebs are eating them up at red carpet swag situations.

Roll with the rum balls
Is chocolate rum balls the gift for every 30th anniversary? Or is it just Tortuga Rum Cake Comanpy? We are the ones who get to celebrate, with a coating of crispy sprinkles around a soft, fudgy center that packs rum flavor. Those balls are like “medicine” for those who long for a Caribbean beach break. Yep, those little rum cakes are still around with the galleon pirate ship label. Port Arthur folks with Cayman ties are probably familiar.
I’ve never had a rum ball I didn’t like, but I’m saying, these rum balls are my new standard of what I do like.
 If you’re not headed to the beach, visit

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lenten and bacon thoughts

Bacon S’mores
My Fat Tuesday breakfast followed in the spirit of feasting and “getting rid” of all the fat in the house. My daughter had a few marshmallows left over from a project and I heated them over graham crackers and spread Jif Hazelnut Mocha Cappuccino on them. I figured a little Canadian bacon couldn’t hurt. It didn’t.

Lent in a can
Those who eat more fish in this season may now replace sensations like the fragrant aroma of extra virgin olive oil and lemon dill; the ease of pulling the tab on a can and the flavor of fresh and firm chunks of fish with the mess and smell of opening a can of tuna. Starkist Gourmet Selects elevates the experience of a quick and light meal. Look for packages flavored with roasted garlic, or pick solid light tuna fillet in oil or solid albacore fillet in water. While there are suggested recipes, I could mix and match these cans with lettuce, crackers, fruit and cheese for 40 days or more.  Even though I wrapped up my cans in the pantry and labeled them “No!,” they caused a rather spirited disagreement until she convinced me to share one willingly. The cans do offer two servings, though the calorie count made me feel no guilt about consuming the entire contents on other days. Gourmet Selects do deserve to be served on a fancy plate and savored by candlelight.

Bacon Jam 
I actually got in a bacon jam over Better Than Bacon Jam. My aunt picked it up for us as a gift, and I followed her example by sampling it on a biscuit. I wasn’t impressed. Tried it again later with the same story and even brought it over to a party for other culinary thrill seekers I know to try. Then, I read the label.
Sugar-cured bacon jam is labeled as a topping flavored with real bacon. On the back it says it’s not your grandma’s jam for spreading on scones at tea parties. It’s grandpa’s jam for slathering on juicy burgers, potatoes and vegetables.
Upon reading that, I turned on the skillet and dropped a spoonful in to try on the first thing I could find, which was a tortilla. Success. Once heated, all that flavor comes out to get you.
You now how people say things like, “You had me at bacon,” and they’re in? This is a lesson on reading a little further for the best experience. The same goes for the opposite. If you hear about something and turn your nose up, learn a little bit more and the story might evolve.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Queen Gumbo has crafty ideas

Queen Gumbo “Libby” has crafty ideas
Libby Arnold of Community Care Prayer Outreach said it loud and proud, the Rotary Taste of Gumbo, Etc. will have a “woman’s touch” this year.
It’s already one of the most popular events of the year with a chance to eat until the food runs out, visit old friends and support great community causes.
Arnold said a craft show and voting for the People’s Choice are talking points this year.
Doris’ Famous Gumbo The Schooner, Seafarer’s Center, Christus St. Mary Hospital, Southeast Texas Medical Center, Max Bowl, Finch Hutton, Billy Joe’s BBQ and other restaurants and service groups will be cooking up shrimp, sausage and chicken gumbo. If for some reason gumbo is not your thing, there will be other foods, too.
Crystal Young of Senior Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Center, said her group is cooking up seafood gumbo.
“Oh my gosh, it’s delicious,” Young said.

Taste of Gumbo will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at the Robert A. "Bob" Bowers Civic Center. Tickets are $10 and craft show entry is included in the price. Bring your money for a silent auction.
Proceeds help with scholarships for Lamar State College-Port Arthur and go to a variety of local groups including Capland Center for Communication.
The bottom line, Queen Gumbo says, is that the $10 tickets go toward helping services to low-income people in our community.

Yogurt on a stick
Foods on a stick are a big deal. Just look around the Nederland Heritage Festival’s Cuisine Walk.
I found Yasso frozen Greek yogurt on a stick at H-E-B. She wanted mango and I wanted coconut, so we compromised on strawberry. It’s light and refreshing and boasts 6 grams of protein, natural ingredients and a calorie check of 80. That’s a lot of fun for a stick. Makers are launching five new flavors: Raspberry, and Sea Salt Caramel. I’m going to be all over the Sea Salt Caramel.  

Flat pretzels full of flavor
Snack Factory asks us to “Rethink Your Pretzel.” Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper, deli style honey mustard & onion, and now minis in original and cheddar are flat Pretzel Crisps that perk up everything from snacks to salads. You’re lunch won’t be boring and a serving will satisfy without breaking the calorie break. I showed these to a woman who said she’d never seen flat pretzels before. I think they look like little masks. The minis could fit on a quarter. I loved every variety.