Sunday, October 22, 2017

Fall flavors and looks from pecans to popcorn, hot syrup to high brow

If D or     If D is for Dr Pepper and A is for Alamo, “This is Texas, Y’all!” is the book for all of us. Misha Mayerick Blaise offers the Lone Star State from A to Z in a fun book that’s fun for all ages. She’s got our flavors, cultures and holidays down. This week, let’s flip to P for Pecan in honor of the Groves Pecan Festival.
                             We learn that there are more than 1,000 varieties of pecans, which is Algonquian for ‘hard-shelled nut.” Many are named for Native American tribes such as the Apache, Chayenne, Shawnee and Mohawk. Hardly like a true Texan, a pecan tree canlive to be more than 1,000 years old and grow more than 100 feet tall. Of  course, y’all knew the pecan tree is the state tree of Texas.
                            Hot news in syrup
What do you know about Merquén chili peppers? Perhaps not much if  you’re in Texas, the land of jalapenos. Here’s a quick lesson about  Runamok Maple’s experiment, which I say is a success.  These folks in Vermpont barrel age syrups with exotic flavors and this, as predicted, has been my favorite of those I tried. Smoked Merquén Chili Pepper Infused maple syrup is available from
  The syrup, in a beautiful bottle, uses a spice blend centered on chili peppers from the Mapuche region of Chile, which are first ripened to a dark red color in order to develop a rich flavor, then slowly smoked over a fire., is what makers say.
“We trialed many different chili peppers to find one that would result in a unique, superior product,” said Eric Sorkin, Co-Founder of Runamok Maple. “When we infuse the Merquén into our maple syrup it adds a balanced amount of richness, heat and smokiness that is enhanced by the natural caramel tones of the maple. I recommend using this new variety over cheddar cheese, on BBQ, roasted vegetables and meats, and even eggs. It also lends an exotic and sweet element to cocktails.”
Now, here’s how I first tired it. I toasted oatmeal bread, fried an egg and heated a banana. I dipped banana and toast into this lovely colored syrup and the experience was something that people would pay big money for in a restaurant. I was relaxed in my own house, making yummy sounds.

Popcornopolis!       There comes a time in October where I’m ready to eat popcorn for dinner a couple of times a week. It could be with butter, or olive oil and curry, or white chocolate bark or something akin to Chex mix. I’m all about it.
                             Popcornopolis is a place, on the web at least, where someone else will pop for you, and you will thank them.        
                             The Red Snowflake gift basket is something that will get you in the door of parties, or create a party right where you are. Look for this 5-cone gift basket with Caramel Corn, Kettle Corn, Cheddar Cheese, Cinnamon Toast and Zebra. Thee are listed in no particular order of yumminess, but come on, the Zebra is black and white drizzles of chocolate.
                             I was actually able to share a sample with two taste testers and one proclaimed joy through the fluffiness. The other one just kept his mouth full of popcorn. It’s five kinds of good for $41.99 in an eye-popping package.
                             Visit this magical pop place at

                            Sounds Good: High Brow
                              It’s amusing to see Halloween makeup featured when cobalt mascara and neon purple lips are the fashion year-round.
                              I grew up in an era where thick eyebrows were downplayed and now “bold” brows are the thing. Remember “The Good Wife” TV series? Everyone wanted the look those actresses carried and Dermelect Cosmeceuticals has the tools to make it easy. You may be surprised that there are multiple steps, but they’re all easy.
                             Brow Transformer & Revitalite Brow Lift are attractively-packaged double-ended tools to enhance sparse or thinning brows. The lift is a defining and highlighting crayon. One side gets swept, dabbed and blended above the brow arch and the other tip goes below. I love the feel of the Transformer with an angled tip to fill in Oak Brown or Ashe Blonde colors, you order your preference. The brush of the “spooley” to sculpture your work feels soft and feathery. Now you’re good to go for the office, dinner, the Groves Pecan Festival or even Halloween. Be “The Good Wife!”

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!