Sunday, October 30, 2016

The oil business and foodie gifts


The O   
                     Oil Business
                      What were you doing in 2014? The olive oil I just sniffed, tasted and couldn’t resist dabbing onto my cheeks was getting bottled into Holman Ranch Estate Grown Olive Oil. Twenty years before that, Jarman was cycling through Tuscany dreaming of a select olive oil business. The Holman Ranch, famous for everything from a Mediterranean climate, visiting movie stars of yesteryear, mountain lions and wine, was established in 1928. Perhaps I could tour this Carmel Valley, California legendary estate some day. I’m currently getting a taste via drizzles of good, good olive oil. This is the stuff that brings to mind Biblical references of something sacred. Fruity oil this flavorful fills in to soothe the “cracks” of life, healing the body.
                      Getting poetic? Maybe. But just uncork some of this stuff and transform your morning toast into a fortifying, flavorful meal. I cook with olive oil daily. As we enter the Thanksgiving season, and the giving mode of the rest of 2016, I’ll be timing the rest of this bottle of olive oil to go out with the year, both reserving and indulging as necessary.

                      I’ve always though it was “hip to be square, or rectangle, when you can stack and consolidate space. Is my OCD showing? T-fal Ingenio Lever-Lock storage containers are an investment in beauty, food longevity and sanity. Just loo at their Lever-Lock lids that fold up for release and tuck in for sealing. Thick clear plastic lets you see colorful lentils, tempting candies, nourishing grains, etc. The locking lids black on top with a red lining for flourish. BPA free, of course. If you get a couple, you’ll want a couple more.
                      The T-fal Ingenio manual chopper truly worked for me to make an onion-based salsa, a condiment I could eat three times a day. It’s a simple container with a blade and pull string and the cleanup is easy, too. It worked even better than I could have ever anticipated. Basil  leaves were ready for pesto in a few pulls.
                      Both of these are billed as holiday gifts for foodies. Make sure you get one for yourself as well. More on T-fal PerferformaPro Techno Release pots and pans later. Get ready to cook for crowds.


            Pumpkin update from Rao’s
            You don’t even have to work hard in  your own kitchen to get trending with pumpkin. Rao’s Bakery has a selection of Pumpkin Pie Lattes. I enjoyed one with a toasted marshmallow flavor on one of our cooler days.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Crown Pizza offers a slice of showmanship

 Crown Pizza
              “Love at first bite” is the motto at Crown Pizza, with a funky vintage crown sign as a calling card. I argue that you could be in love with dining in a box car even before youorder something like gnocchi pasta or kale salad and sit where you can watch the kitchen make thin crust canvases.
              Vodka Pie, The Meat Wagon, Pork Love and Boogie on the Bayou are among choices that make you want to fall in love again and again. It’s tiny, it’s fun and it tastes good. It’s on Calder Avenue in Beaumont, by Willie Burger and Tia Juanita’s.

“Nourishing Your Whole Self”

I just had spaghetti squash and decided to have it again soon. I’ll want to try mixing in artichoke hearts, feta and olives, like Marci Izard does. Her book is “Nourishing Your Whole Self,” and it comes with fabulous recipes and photos and inspirational quotes. You’ll just feel good about reading and planning and dining.
Would you prefer zucchini or black beans in your brownies? The zucchini adds moisture and lightness while the bean version replaces flour. What’s hidden in the apple pie? Why nothing that you wouldn’t expect in a pie full of natural goodness. She say it is “a piece of cake” to prepare. 
The author wants us to eat mindfully and eat well. She says she’s not at all perfect in her choices, and shares a chicken wing hoarding incident from her youth. Of course, she always aims for the nourishing stuff.

Just so you know that it’s not all kale and sesame salad (not that there’s anything wrong with that) here’s a recipe for something Tex-Mex, which we down here know to be rejuvenating, as she puts it:
Tex-Mex Chicken Soup
12 cups chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
one half cup chopped carrots
1 green, yellow or red bell pepper, diced
1 cooked rotisserie chicken
1 can corn, rinsed and drained
1 and one half cups chopped cilantro, divided
5 tomatoes, diced
2 limes
one half teaspoon cumin
2 to 3 avocados, peeled and chopped
shredded jack cheese
In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a light boil.
Add the garlic, onion , carrots and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the meat from the chicken, corn, one half cup cilantro, diced tomatoes, juice from one lime, cumin and salt to taste. Continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Top each serving with extra cilantro, avocado, Jack cheese and a slice of lime.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Louisiana long-way road trip

 Louisiana long-way road trip
                      A late-Friday request for a Lake Charles pick up lead to a glorious October road trip. With a chill in the air we set out through Pleasure Island with sunny skies above.
                      My husband and I took a brief walk along the beach and I found a tinted shell I refer to as “pumpkin spice.” Louisiana’s state birds were in abundance doing their pelican thing on those breakers that head up to Holly Beach. The Cameron Parish library can point you to regional adventures.
                      I brought scraps to feed the seagulls but it had been so long since I took the ferry in Cameron that I didn’t recall you they ask you to stay in your vehicle for the brief passage. We were the hungry ones after docking and focused on the sign for Anchors Up, a fun roadside seafood place where we shared an order of soft-shelled crab. A sea-themed covered seating area lets the breeze flow until you climb back up the stairs to get your order at the window. Families, locals, tourists and bikers seemed to be in to the kickin’ shrimp and burgers.
                      Follow signage to Cameron Parish National Wildlife Refuge to Pintail Drive and Boardwalk. Here’s where I thanked the great state of Louisiana, Sportsman’s Paradise, for my first gator glimpse on the side of the road. The Pintail Drive boardwalk offered a peaceful area for birding and foliage. The dragonflies enjoyed it as much as we did. The visitors center is across the way with another whopper of a gator, another boardwalk and some very entertaining automated Cajuns in a display.
                      My daughter had called to request a ride home from a baby shower, and that’s where we got some neighborly hospitality. Carrots in a pitcher full of water highlighted a Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit theme with carrot cupcakes, hummus and pasta salad. Guests kindly gave us their picks for further culinary adventures, so we stopped at Peking Garden in Lake Charles, where the mom-to-be, whom we call “Cool Amy,” had her bridal rehearsal dinner some time ago. Get the egg rolls, they said, and we found them huge and flavorful and addictive. That’s all we ordered, as we then headed for the Blue Dog Café in downtown Lake Charles.
                      The Blue Dog features Rodrigue paintings, of course. Live music enhanced our a meal of Whiskey Bay Flounder with seafood wontons and duck quesadilla.
                      Homecoming weekend meant downtown areas were full of fancy-dressed young people, their double sets of parents and their personal photographers. We enjoyed the lake area full of photo ops and people playing Pokémon Go. We even tried some of those cool poses as the sun set on the water.
                      Then we hit both L’auberge du Lac and Golden Nugget for walk throughs. Talk about all night action with concerts and families and reunions and beach volleyball. I confess we didn’t play one game, but we thanked Lake Charles for a lot of fun.

Can Banana leaves top pumpkin trend?

Can banana leaves and apple cider top pumpkin?
Banana leaves used for steaming and flavoring are catching my eye on menus as much as the pumpkin everything we’ve been seeing for a few years.
San Antonio Magazine featured a map on “Houston’s thriving Asian-infused culinary district” that I’ll keep in my files until I’ve tried every one.
I went to a section of Bellaire that seemed to feature endless restaurants, tea houses, bakeries and markets. I love shopping for little cans and jars of spices and sauces to try. I love the ducks in hanging up and the crab in tanks and the vegetables that I wouldn’t even know how to get into.
The magazine mentioned Indika on Westheimer for goat brains sautéed in a chickpea crepe and saffron yogurt. But I asked the hostess her favorite and she steered me to Patra fish. It was steamed in banana leaf with cilantro mint and coconut chutney with tomato brith, karela stuffed with corn peanut masala. I meant to ask if the brith on the menu was a typo from broth, but got distracted by this great dish. I fiddled about when the cardamom cookies came until my husband suggested I get them while they were still warm. They were warm? I hadn’t realized. Similar to Mexican wedding cookies, the sandy texture melted in my mouth.

Pumpkin update
For the third year, readers and I are pumpkin spotting as this flavor and sent is showing up everywhere. I just saw pumpkin as a hair coloring. Not kidding. I think apple cider may be trying to creep up on pumpkin. I saw several candles out for fall. One in a copper mug could be used for a Moscow Mule after the scent is gone.
Readers, keep us posted by e-mailing me at

Cobblestones of Corsicana and Southwest style

               Looking for antiques? Nesting Pyrex bowls like grandma had? Check and check. I saw two sets at Corsicana shops. I left them there, because I have my own intact vintage set. I chatted with Darrell Raines of Grave Creek Mercantile, who says many of his drop-ins are friends who know they’ll find him there on weekends. He’s more untrackable when taking care of his property the rest of the week. He was nestled in the rear, past typewriters, blue and green glassware and Piggly Wiggly coasters. There’s more out back, he assured, and I opened the door to collectibles that can live in your outdoors.
                  If you mention on Facebook you’re in the Corsicana area, folks will steer you toward the Russell Stover candy outlet and the Collin Street Bakery, noted for fruitcake. Both are right on the highway and legitimate stops. I went to the old Collin Street Bakery, downtown, just like when I traveled with my parents. I did not realize it was so easy to get a sample cookie from the colorful temptations behind the glass. That, paired with 10 cent coffee, is why their tradition lives on. I really didn’t need more than one cookie, and I hated to leave them with only a dime for their trouble, so I was  thrilled to find the day-old bread bin featuring a loaf of jalapeno. There went one more dollar to fuel the Corsicana ecomony.

Pumpkin update: Southwest style
         Pumpkin is no trend for Angelina LaRue. It goes in cornbread, candy and a muffin crumble topping in her world. She lets us visit in “The Whole Enchilada: Fresh and Nutritious Southwestern Cuisine.”
         Pickled peppers, amazing salads, Christmas style burritos ( with strips of both red and green sauce), egg-topped enchiladas and serious cocoa is what this raised-in-West-Texas woman brings to the table. There are dishes we know, such as migas, and twists. We wrap bacon around jalapenos. She does it with serannos, cream cheese and piloncillo sugar that we see in wrapped in a cone on store shelves. Brown sugar will work if you have that instead.
         Fall is the perfect time of year to play with the colors and flavors. Of all the hearty dishes to share, I picked this one, in honor of the Groves Pecan Festival. Think what great holiday gifts they’d make.

Sweet Spicy Pecans
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons grated piloncillo sugar, or brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
one half teaspoon Mexican vanilla or other vanilla extract
one half teaspoon salt
one fourth teaspoon cayenne
1 pound pecan halves
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
         In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the corn syrup, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, salt and cayenne. Continue cooking for one to two minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Then remove from the heat.
         Add the pecans to the saucepan, stirring to coat, and pour the mixture out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
         Bake in a preheated oven for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spicy Sweet Pecans may be refrigerated in an airtight container for three to four weeks (if they last that long).