Sunday, December 27, 2015

Get in gear for 2016

Get in gear for 2016
Look at the date! Timing shows a cusp of topic: Plan ahead for a healthy new year/indulge in festivities.
I say both. I love the extra rich flavors of the season from buttery seafood sauces to chocolates and fried bites of heaven. And I also love the way it feels to eat real foods from the earth that aren’t over-processed into a box on the market shelf.
My plan is to indulge and merge right into the healthy stuff. With you guys . . . next week.
The good news is, there’s always another celebration around the corner. Christmas and New Year’s pave the way for Mardi Gras, which will be celebrated Feb. 4-7 in downtown Port Arthur. Get ready for the Sweet Soiree theme.

New Year’s Eve
The fresh, salty brine of an oyster says New Year’s Eve to me and I’m again sharing a super-easy recipe that’s just right for festivities.
Oyster Spread: Mash up the contents of a can of smoked oysters and mix it  in to cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese. Form into a ball or block and spread on crackers.
You’re done.

Now for something healthy:
As I write this in advance I’m anticipating some good

sales on cabbage, because we southerners have to have our cabbage on New Year’s Day.
Stock up and shred it into all manner of salads, use it in fish tacos and sauté it as a side dish.

Cause for celebration:
“Celebrate: Food, Family, Shabbos” - What didn't I learn from this book?
Elizabeth Kurtz shares Jewish culture in the pages of this beautiful cookbook that is heavy with ideas, good stock paper, and beautiful photographs.
Can you imagine horseradish meringue-topped salmon? It's a real thing and it looks delicious.
My takeaways from this book:
* Something thank you, expensive, or which looks elegant when served in a stand glance. Example from the book: Skewered Gefilte Fish with Zesty a Ratatouille.
* Liver can work with cherries.
* Gingersnap cookies can go into a sauce for sweet and sour cabbage.
Great opening paragraphs come with recipes. I want to be at this author’s table.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Gumbo for Christmas Eve

Thank goodness my mother agreed to make gumbo for Christmas eve. It’s a tradition that I have treasured for as much as my life as I can remember.
A few years ago she did not make the gumbo. We all reminded her that that year did not go as well as it could.
She promptly agreed to get a pot going this time around.
Thanks, Mom.
Hope everyone in the Port Arthur area gets their holiday gumbo. If for some reason I can’t imagine, your family has another favorite, I hope y’all get that.

Pecans are a treat/health food
This week pecans are showing up  all sugared and buttered and baked into pies. We love it.
In a short while I’ll be back on salads and pecans and other nuts will be my health food, topping salads to add crunch, protein and flavor.
I’ve purchased nuts from sales to benefit three worthy causes this season and I’m planning to enjoy them, a controlled portion at a time.
It’s dangerous to get too nuts over nuts.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Pralines, beans and corn fill holiday tables

You’ve got to be confident about what you’re bringing to the table when you carry little strips of paper with the recipe, because you know people will want it.
Martha Troxell spied me going back to sample her Presto Pralines at a holiday table. The crispy, pecan brown candy was baked into graham crackers. So good. So portable. Guess I wasn’t sneaky enough.
She and her husband, Bob, shared the story of how their daughter, Donna Oberle, was just a young little thing when this recipe won her an air conditioner in the Port Arthur News Cooking contest.
The family has been making it ever since, and they said I could share it with readers. When you see the Troxells, thank them.

Presto Pralines
20 to 24 graham crackers
1 cup (two sticks) butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup pecan pieces
Line a 15 by 10 inch by 1 inch jelly roll pan with whole graham crackers. Bring the butter and sugar to a rolling boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; when bubbling has stopped, add the chopped pecans. Spoon evenly over the graham crackers. Bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into squares.

Solid salads
I’m grateful I work beside a health nut. Bonus: Callie Summerlin is as into trying new, international flavors as she is eating clean and healthy on a regular basis.
We were both invited to a covered dish and I put down that I was making a garbanzo bean salad.
She said she’d bring a quinoa salad.
Neither of us mentioned that corn, black beans and lime dressing would be featured players in both our creations.
So both salads looked pretty much alike next to each other on the table. It was like we each showed up wearing the same dress. I think I know who would win in a “who wore it best” vote between us.
But other guests seemed genuinely interested in both our salads. Hers was resplendent in quinoa, the South American super grain that, we pronounce KEEN wa, and cilantro.
Mine also featured cranberries, feta cheese and black olives.
I don’t know if she had an original recipe, but mine kept evolving because I wanted to carry it in my clear glass bowl with a cover. When everything I had imagined was in the bowl, it still looked a bit empty, so I kept adding more.
Don’t you love a good potluck party?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Affairs and ghost pepper

Think you could be a hero by adding bacon to your oatmeal raisin cookies? I do. But who thinks of these things?
Affairs to Remember catered the grand opening of Saks Fifth Avenue at the Gardens Mall and other spectaculars over 18 years. Chef Sandy Axelrod, her husband, Steve and their son, Brian have lived in Florida more than 30 years and have been making it flavorful and beautiful.
The anecdotes in this book can inspire you to cater your own affairs and have lots more of them.
This book has both ideas and recipes and beautiful photos to guide readers along.

Fig seems like it’s destined to be the next big think since pumpkin everything. Ever considered cooking shrimp with fig jam and preserved lemon?

Gingered carrots, cinnamon nut coffee cake, veal with mushroom sauce and Drunken Orange Pork Salad with Sauteed Mushrooms are other ideas in these pages.
Every good affair has appetizers, and here’s one so easy it doesn’t even need cooking. Try all these “Affairs” this holiday.

Genoa and Provolone Cornets with Hot Pickled Okra
Makes 36
Author’s note: This can hardly be called a recipe. No cooking involved.
36 thin slices Genoa salami
36 thin slices sharp provolone cheese
36 hot pickled okra from a jar, drained
Top each slice of Genoa salami with a slice of provolone cheese and place an okra in the center of each. Roll into a horn shape. Place seam side down on serving platter, cover and chill until ready to serve.

Ghoste Peppers in the house
My friend is a great cook, great gardener and great hostess. I went to a party and left with a box of pecans to shell, her fig preserves, banana peppers and oranges from the yard and salsa made from ghost peppers she grew.
I haven’t had a lot of experience with ghost pepper, but I love heat. Peppers are a routine part of my day, from breakfast to dessert.
She pulled some salsa out of the refrigerator that she said had been made a while ago. It smelled hot and very fresh, because the ghost peppers were acting as their own preservative.
I started with just less than a tablespoon on a Frito. I respected the ghost pepper.
It wasn’t like I was eating just a bite of pepper. There was other stuff in the salsa. It wasn’t soooo hot. I could take it.
I sat there, and let the experience soak in. Literally. The heat sneaked in and warmed me all around. I was ready for it. I let it in. I didn’t cough or gasp or tear up.
I enjoyed it. But, I also didn’t need a second sample. The one satisfied.
Thankfully, she let me leave with a jar full, so I can enjoy the rest over time.