Sunday, October 15, 2017

Do you have to hide the cottage cheese?

 


                             Hidden Cottage Cheese
                             My husband says he won’t eat lumpy cottage cheese, so I sneaked some into a blender and creamed it to perfection. I’d tell you his reaction, but I ate it all myself. I blended a fresh jalapeno into one batch, and this light green spread was cool and spicy and just the right dip for chips and crackers.

                             It was much, much lower in calories than sour cream and a very good substitute.
                                         Pretzel Pieces
                             Are Synyder’s of Hanover Pretzel Pieces simply packaged crumbles of the whole? I don’t care. I’m all into the little bag of Hot Buffalo Wing Sourdough Hard Pretzel, “bursting with flavor” bag my sister introduced me to.
                             They’re artificially flavored, but again, I don’t care. There’s a health food nut next to me and between the two of us we may be about to finish the 3.5 servings that this bag contains.
                             They’re crunchy and the flavor pops.
           
            Halo Top
            I avoid keeping ice cream in the house but who could resist a coupon for a free pint? Halo Top all-natural light ice cream features a low calorie count featured into the label design.
            A coupon came on the back of my check-out receipt so I returned to the store to nab the pistachio. In a conversational way, I asked the checker if she had tried it.
            “Yep,” was her strongly-delivered, succinct, no-follow-up reply. It made me laugh.
            “Is that your review?” I asked.
            She had tried another flavor and for her money, she’d prefer her favorite Blue Bell.
            I get how she feels, but as a Weight Watcher, I truly appreciated Halo’s flavor, texture, “mouth feel’ and even appearance. I found it refreshing and the low calorie component was a welcome bonus. Here’s a tip: tasters are confirming its best to let it soften on the counter as opposed to gobbling it up straight from the freezer. Give it a minute, folks. Check out a label for other more-healthy aspects to this brand.

                             Hummus overload?
                             So this happened before Harvey and I’m still amused. A pool-party hostess specifically requested ‘finger foods” be brought. I asked about a curry rice salad I make and still got the vibe of “more fingery.”
                        I had all the ingredients for hummus and decided it would hit the spot. Then I started thinking about the people invited to this party tended to be healthy-minded people who gravitated toward natural foods. I began thinking “what if everyone brings hummus?” Turns out, nearly everyone did. They were all different and all enjoyed.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Is your dog in on the pumpkin spice trend?




            The pumpkin spice trend is hotter than ever. After  shopping at gourmet grocers in Houston and snapping photos of pumpkin biscotti, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin spice seeds, pumpkin granola bark, pumpkin soup crackers and actual pumpkins, I put the camera away. 
      I brought home pumpkin spice coffee and a wee pumpkin for decor.   
    Did you realize that to be totally on trend, you will be feeding  pumpkin to your dog this season?
     I spotted a box of pumpkin dog treats. That was the day after I saw a Rachel Ray magazine spread on feeding fresh or canned pumpkin to your dogs.
    It's a thing. 
    What else to dogs get? In Houston's Central Market I was near the grind-your-own nut butter station. As I was considering whether to splurge on the calories and money for almond butter for my breakfast toast, a couple was discussing what sort of specially nut butters they would get to trick their dog into taking his pills. 
    As usual for the past several years, I invite readers to send me pumpkin updates this fall.
            Here’s my tip: Keep a shaker full of pumpkin spice to sprinkle on toast, into coffee and swirl into oatmeal. Keep it handy just for a whiff of fall flavor.
            Also, you can still send me your  contact if you would like to be in the pot for a 2018 Farmer's Almanac. Email me by Oct. 13 and I will share the issues that the makers sent to me, while supplies last.
            Happy harvest!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Boots and Bulls with the Cajun Army


                             Diana LaBorde called from the Nederland Chamber of Commerce and invited me to be a celebrity Boots and Bulls waiter. Finally, a chance to brush off my old Bennigan’s skills!
                             This packed event at Sevenne Hall drew out some fancy folk willing to socialize and bid on tempting silent auction items and eat barbecue. What we won’t do to support our chambers. . . . Serving was bunches of fun.
                             I noticed some guests wearing Cajun Army t-shirts. These are Louisiana people who have come to “muck out homes” after Harvey. They were heartily welcomed. Sandra Keuhn was checking to see if there were more Rao’s sugar cookies. They had been served to tables in upturned cowboy hats. There were no more cookies in the back, but I told her no one would deny a woman wearing the Cajun Army shirt. We went from table to table asking for an extra cookie or two. What happened was, tables gave her whole hats full of cookies to share with the rest of the Army.
                             I asked Revonda Kirby, also with the Army, how I could get her a copy of this column. She said the group expected to be in our area for about six months to help Southeast Texans.
                             “We help others. That’s what we do,” she said.


                      Farmers, your almanac is ready
                             Your grandfather’s copy of “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” may not have had mention of yoga huts, but those culinary, weather, planting and general interest tidbits fill the pages of the 2018 edition, and the makers have sent me a few to share with readers.
                             Are you familiar with walking stick kale that grows up to 10 feet high? Did you know mushrooms, not sugar, may be added to reduce the bitterness of cacao beans in chocolate? Small-scale out buildings are being used for yoga and other spaces in some urban backyards. Slow cooker chicken tacos sound good on your fall table. The recipe is on page 256.
                            Almanac.com/media has more details. Readers, about those few copies I’ve been given the opportunity to distribute, e-mail me at darraghcastillo@icloud.com and I’ll put your name in a hat and draw out the winners until the copies run out. Don’t worry. The stores will have more.

                             Darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Slow Cooker helps after Harvey; no time for pests


                                         Sometimes the gift of feeding is all we have. It’s most necessary.
                                         I heard second hand of a woman with a generator who collected all the slow cooker pots in a neighborhood that lost power after Harvey. She then collected food from their freezers and kept those neighbors fed as they cleaned their homes.
                                         One tip on “how to help” to help those cleaning their flooded homes is to offer to bring cooked food to a home at a specified time. Bring paper plates, etc. and serve it to the exhausted family. Then leave the leftovers or pick it all up so everyone can rest, or get back to work.


                             One Egg
                             A single egg meal has been another thing appreciated of late. Recently, the floods made finding even the most basic of foods difficult.
                             My one egg breakfast is often augmented by festive “leftovers.” We’ve whipped up an egg each for my husband and me and folded in the likes of guacamole, queso, and fruity cream cheese spreads. Leftovers are never wasted around my house. May this idea inspire you for all the rest of the mornings of 2017.
Version:
Pesky
                     Pesky pests
H                 Harvey waters have made us prep for insects, even as concerns regarding West Nile already caught our attention.  Some southeast Texans may be in need of DynaTrap offering a green, pesticide-free solution to pest relief as we rebuild. We’ve all been outdoors a lot. IInterested? Here’s what the makers say: “DynaTrap is a technology-driven indoor/outdoor insect trap that protections against mosquitoes, biting flies, moths, wasps, and more. DynaTrap relies on UV light and CO2 to mimic human beings and maximize predatory insect attraction, rather than pesticides or harmful sprays. Its strong yet silent fan then vacuums the insects into a retaining cage. Safe and simple, just plug-and-hang the DynaTrap 24/7 to stop the mosquito life-cycle. With no pesticides, chemicals, odors, noise, or hassle; it’s perfect for your backyard.” darraghcastillo@icloud.com


                           

Monday, September 25, 2017

Don't Mess with Class of '67, or their Amuny's


                             Port Arthur’s Amuny’s  famous sandwiches were recognizable amid crystal and fanfare on the buffet at Brentwood Country Club. The occasion: Monsignior Kelly High School class reunion.
                             Frank Messina, an Amuny’s owner and reunion organizer brought the PA delights that were a hot topic as guests caught up with one another. The gang also attended the Kelly Homecoming the night before with fajitas. I was the date of my sister Debbie Doiron Madisetty, who traveled from Alabama for festivities.
                             The Class of ’67 got down to “Ride, Sally Ride” and other hits of the era while flipping through the yearbook and photos. The Brentwood menu also included pork stuffed with boudain and my first sweet potatoes of the season.
                             Meanwhile, downstairs was another Port Arthur tie. The Beaumont country club houses Boudain Hut North at Brentwood, which features some of the goodies that the Port Arthur Boudain Hut made so popular.
                             At the homecoming, I chatted with a classmate who now lives in Boston. I made it a point to present her with a “Don’t Mess With Texas” sticker to take home. Her reaction took me by surprise. She said she had that stuff all over her house. Her sister was instrumental in turning this anti-litter campaign into a household term.
                             I’ve always loved the “Don’t Mess with Texas” phenomenon. Little did I know one of the people who brought it to life used to play in my house with my sister.
                             I’m just going to point out that I attended high school in a different school and in a different era. I’m part of the French High School Class of 1983, and I’m ready to jam with those guys any time.
                             darraghcatillo@icloud.com



Friday, September 8, 2017


Port Arthur gets fed after Harvey

                      Stores in our area ran way, way low as Harvey’s flood waters filled Mid-County and emotions ran high. Those who could help, did.
                      I distributed water, cleaned out an office, cleaned up a house and volunteered at a tent helping sort everything from diapers and rice mixes to formula and rabbit food.
                      Those who received were grateful and there was a good feeling from being able to serve.
                      The term “bless you” was flowing.
                        Here’s some thanks for a couple of Port Arthur eateries:

              Dylan’s
                    “Open” is a sign we’ve all been seeking lately. After a heated morning in a tent, someone noted that Dylan’s was serving and I took a respite in the cool air. That was a treat in itself. Then fantastic cheeseburger on sourdough bread arrived at my table. The fries were crispy perfection. After such a harried week of remnants, this feast will be remembered. Thanks to all those workers!
                  Sake
                     Did you hear how Sake Sushi Bar in Port Arthur was giving out sandwiches to those affected by Harvey? They made bunches and I saw them walking around and giving them out by hand. That’s some love for Port Arthur.
              Keep those good stories coming.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Harvey herbal nachos


                      Still riding high from our total eclipse viewing in Tennessee, we came home to Harvey, the top Texas news.
                      My mom, recalling long power outages after Rita, was hoping we’d take her out of the flash flood path and all the way to Sherman, but alas, plans come and go so quickly in a time of potential crisis. We had seven plans and ended up pretty safe at home on Sunday.
                      Thank goodness she didn’t look out the window when our street was flooded. 
                      She mentioned cleaning our her freezer before we left, as we recall how trashed, stinky ice boxes lined the streets before. I hadn’t realize that she was thinking we’d take an ice chest full of food to our host’s home so we could cook it there. That was too much, I thought, for the willing host family to deal with. As it became clear we were staying, we started defrosting and eating up the best stuff first.
                      Where had she been hiding all that chicken, roast and Italian sausage? I got crazy with her seasonings and sauces. The best, part, it was all pretty low carb.
                      I saw on a Weight Watchers Facebook page people discussing doing some heavy Harvey snack binging, but I stayed on track with meats and veggies. Low carb and all.
                      I saw other Facebook pages people kind of freaking about where to get food at restaurants, but thanks to my mad creative cooking skills, I stayed more than nourished.
                      My colorful pitchers of drawn tap water for emergencies could have made a Pinterest post.        
                      Readers, I hope you all can get Harvey behind you soon. The rain is picking up again a I write this.
                      Here’s one of the use-it-up bites I came up with:

                      Herbal Nachos
                      Cut corn tortillas into strips and sautee in butter. (Normally I’d use olive oil, but I was trying to use up butter if the power went out.)
                      Work in any dry herbs you have and melt cheese on top. Top with chopped onions if you are lucky enough to have them.
                      Mom’s bacon crumbles, a sprinkling, a dusting of crushed red pepper and a bed of sugar snap peas made this a feast.
                      Enjoy as finger food or eat with a fork if you added lots of cheese.
                      Readers, feel free to share you culinary Harvey experiences with me at darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Crazy Cajun patio experience and hummus overload


                     
Shona Chesterman gave me a hug when I left Crazy Cajun. Maybe everybody gets such great attention. Maybe everybody was extra congenial due to a sunny day, live band and grand opening samples of bread pudding, boudain balls, fried pickles, catfish and more.
                      My cup runneth over.
                      I’d been hearing about this new place at 2310 North 11th Street in Beaumont, where most recently Starvin’ Marvin’s was. A Facebook post caught my eye and I showed up for Saturday’s grand opening and took home a door prize of Crazy Cajun hot sauce, with “A Product of Louisiana” branding.
                       I behaved as I would in Louisiana and ordered an oyster poor boy, a very favorite of mine. On my second bite I was still raving about how lovely it was that the bread was toasted and I’m thinking that the insides are so big I wonder if I hadn’t received fried chicken nuggets. But those fried oysters were that big and soft and savory. The fries were golden brown like I love them and while I normally just taste the tartar sauce to save calories, I dipped all those fries in this good sauce.
                      A Mr. Worthington from the Cajun band outside recognized me from Knights of Columbus dealings in the Port Arthur area and I’m pretty sure he said his band just started calling themselves the Recyclables. They dished up some Beatles and rock classics between their Cajun sounds making a relaxing Saturday by the patio my new favorite thing.
                      It was just luck that all the free samples were circulating. I also loved the praline chicken. I saw eggplant on the menu but I’ll have to get back to Crazy Cajun to sample that one and take advantage of the free hamburger card I also won.
             
              Hummus overload?
                      A pool-party hostess specifically requested ‘finger foods” be brought. I asked about a curry rice salad I make and still got the vibe of “more fingery.”
                      I had all the ingredients for hummus and decided it would hit the spot. Then I started thinking about the people invited to this party tended to be healthy-minded people who gravitated toward natural foods. I began thinking “what if everyone brings hummus?” Turns out, nearly everyone did. They were all different and all enjoyed.
              darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Try it with cucumbers; fruit with a secret


                      I got my culinary thrill seeking from my mom, who read up on foods from other lands way before the Internet made it a daily hobby.
                      I was not into tabouli when she first introduced it. This Lebanese salad fashioned from bulgur wheat seemed grainy, and the parsley was too sharp. Decades later it seems like a healthy taste of adventure.
                      Still, tabouli was maybe something we crossed every three years or so. Mom just heard of adding cucumbers to it, but it sounded like a natural to me. I suggested, perhaps not too subtly, that she make a batch for us and try it out.
                      The plan and the recipe worked, and she served up a refreshing salad with bits of cheese and drizzles of olive oil. To go with that were rounds of sweet potato that melted in one’s mouth, but also came with a crunchy topping.
                      Mom is in her 80s and I thank her for still for taking culinary adventures.
                 

                             Do your peaches have a secret?
                      In “Fruit,” Nancie McDermott” takes a serious look at fruit as we Southerners do, sharing recipes for pies, preserves and pickles.                
                      I learned about cantaloupe pickles and actually made and enjoyed watermelon rind pickles. It was easy. Hauling the big old melon home was the hardest part.       The author writes  that she was “brand new” to mayhaws as she set out to write this book, but was now ready to have a gathering-from-a-boat adventure. We’re all about the jelly, but try it in Mayhaw Jelly-Glazed Shrimp with Zucchini or in meatballs served with potatoes or egg noodles.
                      I was amused that mayhaws were new to her, but what do I know of scuppernong grapes? The drunken chicken recipe flavored with these fruits sounds appealing.
                      One pie in the book looks like a custard, but has a surprise layer of peaches. Rather than the traditional title of hypocrite pie, McDermott prefers to call it peaches with a secret.
                      Here’s one from the book:
                      Sherri Brooks Vinton’s Cantaloupe Pickles
                      1 cantaloupe, to yield 4 cups of 1-inch chunks
                      2 cups apple cider vinegar
                      1 cup sugar
                      2 tablespoons peeled and grated or very finely chopped fresh ginger
                      2 cinnamon sticks, broken into halves
                      1 bay leaf, torn in half
                      3 whole cloves
                      Wash the cantaloupe well, and then peel it, removing all the rind and seeds. Cut it into 1-inch chunks - you want about 4 cups. In a large non-reactive saucepan, combine all the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and stir well to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and stir in the cantaloupe chunks. Cover and let stand for 1 hour.
                      Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook gently, simmering for 1 hour. The fruit will be come translucent. Transfer the pickles and their cooking liquid to a bowl to cool to room temperature. Then scoop the pickles into jars and add enough cooking liquid to cover them. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Habanero hits the spot

 
Habanero hits the spot
         I'm told Habanero Bar & Grill serves a more Mexican style of Mexican food. That is to say, less Tex-Mex. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
         My mom has been bragging about the restaurant at 6685 Eastex Freeway in Beaumont and now I can vouch for it myself. I enjoyed my grilled chicken and sides and scooped up every bite with chips and salsa. And more chips and salsa. I even eyeballed dishes arriving at other tables and got jealous of their orders. So, we'll have to head back.
         Habanero is in the sit of the old J&J Steakhouse. Remember that? Apparently a lot of people do, because this info is printed right on the the business card of Neno Chavez. 

  Com     Community  Coffee and the Big Game
                      Does Community Coffee put you in the mind of football, brisket sliders with spicy slaw, sweet and spicy chicken wings and cream cheese swirled mocha brownies?
                      Want to win a trip to Minneapolis for the Big Game? Get  a specially-marked bag of Community Coffee from our friends in Baton Rouge and enter Tailgate Traditions. Also look for Community® Porch Breeze™ tea at participating locations where Community, while supplies last. Specially-marked bags or boxes contain Code on the package. More information here: www.tailgatetraditions.com
                            My mornings have been starting off smooth with Private Reserve Brazil Santos Bourbon, that smells very, very exotic. Study up on the contest rules with Signature Blend Dark Roast and  Extra Bold French Roast, the stuff that fuels offices from Louisiana to Southeast Texas. We love those red labels. Now look for the ones with Tailgate Traditions markings. The link features game day recipes, like Smokey Maple-Glazed Nut Mix, with coffee, rosemary and pepper. What a wake up!

                             Krups
                            
                             The Savoy Turbo sounds like an English race car. But Krups, the trusted name in coffee appliances, is behind this sleek, programmable coffee maker that brews up to 35 percent faster. Need 12 cups of your favorite? You’re ready for the day. It’s easy to work and looks good in the kitchen. This model will rev you up. There are so many choices out there these days. If you want a dependable product, get a trusted name that will last a good, long while. I expect to work with this Krups for the long stretch.


                             Just a little schmear
                        Did you ever hear a friend say she didn’t want to hit the grocery store because she didn’t want to put on makeup? A little Dermelect is all she needs to brighten her look. It’s my favorite pick-me-up. America just celebrated National Lipstick Day (you did, right?) and Dermelect Cosmeceuticals4-in-1 Smooth Lip Solution and Smooth + Plump Lipstick was on the scene. The 4-in-1 combines the luminous properties of lipstick, lip stain, lip balm, and lip gloss, all in one, so just one step for a great look. I tried Smooth + Plump Lipstick with peptide-infused pigments and a plumping technology for smoothing. You get what you pay for in lipstick, so I’m taking good care of a tube of Adorned, pinkish coral full of keartin peptide, vitamins A, C  & E, hyaluronic acid and shea butter. www.dermelect.com.


              darraghcastillo@icloud.com
 


 
Co
                     

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The 'usual suspects' at Monica's

 
              The ‘usual suspects’ at Monica’s
                      Chef Monica Cobb is famous for pop-ups, Vietnamese sandwiches and the freshest of produce to create meals to be enjoyed and remembered.
                      Other than standard hours had prevented me from experiencing Monica’s Restaurant, 6385 Calder Ave. in Beaumont. But some time off and an invite from my mother rectified that. I was thrilled to get to the counter and choose Blackstrap Molasses Pork Loin and The Elvis. But it was tough to pick those over other selections such as Ghandi and Lemongrass Chicken.
                      Mom pointed out that these options can come as a banh mon sandwich or a salad, so we did the pork as a sandwich and The Elvis as a salad that came with almond-hoisin glaze, fried plantains and “the usual suspects.” We traded off so we could share all the flavors.
                      The suspects are on several dishes and are grouped as soy aioli, cucumber, seedless jalapeno, Asian slaw, pickled carrot-daikon, chili-mango vinaigrette and sriracha with red curry honey glaze. I’m all about it.
                      There’s art on the wall and diners who love to experiment and I can’t wait to try more. As we waited for a nut bread dessert, I heard others arriving and some noting “I’ve never been here before!”
                      I’ll bet their introduction to Monica’s was as fun as mine was. Thanks, Mom.

                      Gaea does EVOO
                      Gaea’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil with a dash of lemon seems a natural for fish and salad. But my first thought was to drizzle some onto popcorn. Now that was a fresh taste.  
                      Subtle flavors in high quality olive oil delight me more as I learn more. I never pass up the opportunity to dip my bread at sampling stations and I know how just a little makes such a great difference in your meal.
                      Gaea’s Estate Grown Sitia is from Crete and the label is a work of art, explaining a fruity and slightly peppery aroma. An egg breakfast comes out as tasteful art with a drizzle of this “100 percent natural & authentic” EVOO.
                      One more surprise, the top comes off and pouring spout pops out to direct your flow.

         darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fair foods beyond the sticks



                      There’s a photo of Triple Cheeseburger Doughnuts on the cover of “Fair Foods,” Thank you, Iowa State Fair.

                      “Fried Everything” is a chapter title, going all out on Deep Fried Butter and Fried Coca-Cola. Thank you, Texas State Fair.
                      Sure I’ve heard of crazy fair food, but I’ve never been to a fair with pesto coleslaw, Violet Soda (made with flowers) and I don’t know who thought of a dill dipping sauce for fried oysters.
                      George Geary tells us how to make all these delights in “Fair Foods: The Most Popular and Offbeat Recipes from America’s State & County Fairs.” Thank you, Mr. Geary. He’s also responsible for “The Cheesecake Bible.”
                      If you need to know how to deep fry a Snickers bar, assemble a doughnut sandwich or fry something else, like butter, this is the place. The chocolate bacon recipe below is one on which I’m willing to splurge on calories.

                      Chocolate-Encased Bacon
                      (Most fair vendors serve this bacon frozen, since the chocolate melts fast in the heat of the day.)
                      12 strips applewood bacon
                      1 pound chocolate candy coating
                      sea salt
1.   Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.   Thread bacon strips onto skewers and place on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes, turning bacon strips halfway through.
3.   Drain and pat excess oil away with paper towels. Meanwhile, melt chocolate coating in a bowl over a double broiler.
4.   Using a pastry brush, coat bacon strips evenly with chocolate on both sides. Place strips on a clean baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
5.   Refrigerate until ready to serve.

                     
                      Meaux’s Gumbo
                      I’d been hearing about Meaux’s Gumbo and I finally got to try what the family served up at the State Fair of Texas. It was as dark and rich as I expected. I loved it.
                      Leah Ambrose is the woman behind the recipe. This is a traveling “food truck” affair caught around Port Arthur.
                      Seafood nachos is also a good bet, and I heard good talk about their beans and rice. If you find them and get to try their food, make sure you strike up a conversation with these friendly folk.
                      darraghcastillo@icloud.com