Friday, January 26, 2018

Fresh tastes from a book and a bison bar

 “Fresh Tastes from a Well-Seasoned Kitchen” is Lee Clayton Roper’s beautiful, big book of stories and more than 170 recipes and tips to “spark inspiration in your kitchen.”
                             Read this and you could be inspired to create a Mardi Gras brunch before heading out to the grounds in downtown Port Arthur. There’s enough menus to get you through the festivities, Feb. 8-11.
                             Spiced bacon twists, hearts of palm dip, Champaign cocktail and Cajun meatloaf are a few bites I’d love to try.
                             This book takes a diner throughout the year and makes things seem very doable, and edible.
                             “Well-Seasoned Inspirations” placed throughout the book are photos of friends and family whose ideas and methods have formed her experience. Several are noted to cook to taste instead of using precise measurements. That’s how I do it. Her husband, Robert, works backwards by imagining the outcome and adjusting for flavors and textures.
                             His quote: “If you know where you want to end up, it’s a lot easier to get there.”
                             Here’s a quickie sample from this book that is sure to inspire. The Pecan Shortbread Bars recipe is in the book. 
Butter-Rum Glaze for Pecan Shortbread Bars
                  2 tablespoons butter, melted
                  1 tablespoon rum
                  1 cup powdered sugar
                  Stir together.

                            A dough ball of ice cream
                             My/mo is Mochi ice cream that invites you to pinch, poke, roll, stack and share it. The green tea, chocolate and sweet mango flavors of premium ice cream I tried pop out of what looks like an ice tray.
                             Let them thaw a minute or two and start playing. The deal is, each ball of delicious ice cream is surrounded by sweet dough.
                             Unusual, to say the least. Can you get used to it? I sure want more of the premium ice cream part.

                             When I got a coupon for an Epic bar, I thought I’d pick a chocolate one for a quick breakfast. On the shelf, I saw bars with pictures of animals. What? I chose bison and unwrapped a snack of 100 percent bison, uncured bacon, cranberry. It was sweet and filling and certainly a conversation piece. Check around the nutritional bars for other selections of animals.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Flavor combos popping up, oiled to energize

                             If  you keep in the news, you know it was recently National Popcorn Day. Okay, it was the lavish popcorn bar that greeted me at my credit union that filled me in. At Neches Federal Credit Union, they filled a table with an array of usual suspects in the toppings department. A buttery spray, a shaker of cheese flavoring and little chocolate-coated candies were popular choices. I was intrigued with the crushed Oreos. I chose that and a shake of red pepper. A head-turner at first, my conversation about it inspired others to investigate the combination.

                             Oiled up to energize
                             Pure essentials are an investment, and Karin Parramore’s book helps explain the labor and costs behind the gathering. I already enjoy using oils for calming and energizing fragrances that keep headaches away and elevate the mood.
                             “Aromatherapy with Essential Oil Diffusers: For Everyday Health & Wellness” is a guide for using oils to combat everything from sinus pain and coughs to wrinkles and pests. Everyone’s looking for more natural remedies and these oils are much more available than the were just a short time ago. The author will help you choose diffuser methods and blend up a little something for what’s bothering you. I enjoyed background about fragrance history from around the world. Imagine dipping your pen in scented ink to inscribe on floral-infused papers. Here are a few tips from the book:
                             To reduce the urge to eat, blend sweet orange, vanilla and cinnamon oils and sniff it when you are full, for about a week. After a week of training, sniff it when you think you want to eat, to help reduce cravings.
                             To curb coffee or sugar cravings, blend three drops back spruce or fir essential oil with 1 drop cacao or Peru blossom and 1 drop vetiver. Diffuse onto a terra cotta disc and place it in a sunny window to get the scent throughout the day.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Another cocktail (sauce) please

                            Sometimes dinner inspiration evolves from what I’m trying to “move” from the fridge. When I spied the jar of horseradish in the fridge, I thought it was time for seafood, so I started with cocktail sauce and went from there.
                            It was also a good way to use up some ketchup packets. I added lime juice and enjoyed with a packaged tray of boiled shrimp. I don’t know why I didn’t notice the tray came with a portion of sauce already.
                             So I saved the sauce and had to get more seafood for another meal. I came home with a bag of mixed seafood to boil and mentioned to my mother I would serve it with cocktail sauce. She offered me a bottle of ketchup she was eager to move from her pantry. I took it, even though I would have rather used up more packets. Then on the way out the door, she offered me her jar of horseradish. I was still trying to use up my jar.
                             So now we’re looking for more seafood and have enough stock for at least three more batches of sauce.
                             Here are some things I add when mixing and matching:
                             Horseradish, liberally     
                             Lime or lemon juice                                                                                                          Worchestershire sauce   
                             Vinegar slash. I promise, a crawfish vendor taught me this trick.
                             Any readers have more ideas? Send them this way and we can share.

                  Easy cooking, compared with 1800s
                             When history books come my way, I go looking for a food reference. I just got reminded how laborious it was to preserve your butchered hog, cook bent over to fuel your fire and keep ash out of your food that offered little variety. Then along came cast iron stoves, recipe books with actual measurements, appliances and methods that opened up the cook’s world, but still involved countless hours that we avoid today with coffee makers and microwaves.
                              “Cooking with Gas: The Quiet Revolution,” is Charles Williams’ contribution to “Legends and Life in Texas: Folklore from the Lone Star State in Stories and Song.” History lovers, get your copy from University of North Texas Press.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Get your soup on in January

                             The concept of a steaming bowl of hot soup is interchangeable with a bowl of “hot gumbo” around these parts. At Christmas Eve church services a number of families noted they were headed home for their traditional holiday gumbo.
                             January as National Soup Month should be celebrated by more than retailers. It’s a time to branch out into creamy delicacies, hearty stews and fortifying broths.
                             I’ve dropped some boullion cubes into a carafe of bean mix to serve as decorating until I have time to soak and simmer those beans into a soup to last all week.
                             Something I love about soup is that it revives leftovers, transforming those little containers of this and that into something new.
                             Some add-in or topping tips:
                             * Greek yogurt
                             * Cheese
                             * Chopped onions
                            * Sprig of oregano
                             * Nuts
                             Readers, feel free to share your favorite soups, recipes or tips with us via the e mail below. We love talking soup.
                             Celebrate the soup this month by trying a flavor from a different culture. It seems we all have a soup to identify ourselves.

                  Zatarain’s gets you seasoned for Mardi Gras
                              Zatarain’s has a box of Cinaltro Lime rice mix that’s a quick fix and history lesson, with the label noting that the Spanish introduced this crop to the Mexican culture centuries ago. The box notes this rice dish is an ideal complment to fajitas, tacos, enchiladas and burritos. I will add tamales. That’s what I serve another January birthday girl. This quiet meal turned into “the birthday that ended in a frantic search for Allen wrenches," but that is another story.
                             Zatarain’s jambalaya mix boxes suggest you add meat for a one-pot dinner. That’s the sort of  thing you need for Mardi Gras season when you’re headed to ball fittings, krewe meetings, etc. Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas is Feb. 8-11 this year. See you on the grounds in downtown Port Arthur.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Asian flavors get the qi flowing

                             Our Vietnamese community will celebrate Tet, the new year, on Feb. 16 to welcome the year of the dog. This is a good time to explore Port Arthur’s markets brimming with spices, noodles and vegetables to enjoy.
                             My Mexican-American mother-in-law became known for New Year’s egg rolls and we enjoyed those flavors this year in her memory. This season always gets me in the mood to organize my pantry and I brought pickled ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce and canned seafood front and center to combine with rice and vegetables over the next few weeks.
                             Ellen Goldsmith’s Robert Rose book, “Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine” is aiding me on this culinary adventure.  I’m reading up on foods that are considered warming, drying, etc. and how they have been used over centuries to treat ailments and get your qi, something like your life force, in balance.
                             For instance, heartburn can be treated with cooling foods such as mushrooms and avocado, and fortunately for us southerners, okra.
                             If your digestion is poor, go to ginger tea and carrots and slow down your eating.
                             The winter foods recipe section includes Brothy Salmon and Ginger Soup, as salmon nourishes the nervous system; Trout Steamed with Green Peas and Lemony Herbed Rice, for people who often have cold hands and feet; and creamy cabbage salad. Tofu helps make that salad creamy and the cabbage is good for the stomach and spleen.
                             Cabbage is something we southerners have on hand now because of our New Year’s Day tradition that eating more cabbage means more money in the next year. Here’s something new to do with your greens.