Monday, May 28, 2018

HIt the road, and the dinner table

I’ve seen miles and miles of Texas, and I challenge everyone to do the same. This is National Travel and Tourism Week and time to recognize the dollars tourism brings to all of Texas and beyond.
Hit the road and thank a hotel desk clerk, a server and attraction worker for adding to your travel pleasure.
The Lone Star State has so much to offer and I’m still processing my memorable Big Bend adventure from more than a year ago.
Here’s a taste, literally, of some Texas cities and meals I’ve recently enjoyed.

As a plus one for my husband, I watched birds, deer and other critters at the Spiritual Renewal Center in Victoria. There’s an oak said to be 2,000 years old (really!). An armadillo joined me in walking the labyrinth. The skies were dark and I when I woke up at 4:15 a.m. I thought it would be amazing to walk outside the cabin and gaze at the stars.
Instead an unseen something was gazing at me and making an hissing sound followed by what sounded like a big, big kitty. I got back inside that cabin in a flash. The next day a worker said it sounded like a mountain lion. Thanks Google sound bites, for confirming that.
I wanted to see the Texas Historical Marker in the cemetery, but I was told that there was a new bull in with the cattle, and they’d all made themselves at ease right by the gate. As advised, I kept driving.
In Victoria I sought out Mumphord’s Place, a barbecue place of merit. Not only was Bum Phillips’ autographed photo on the wall, there was an array of sports jerseys hanging from the ceiling. They were all in plastic bags, to protect them from a rich, smoky mist about the place.

A wedding got me to North Texas on Cinco de Mayo, and there was no way to escape Mexican food. Who would want to? The wedding’s actual theme was “Fiesta like there’s no manana.” The menu was traditional, but as guests left, they picked up souvenir bags of churros and Mexican wedding cookies. The rehearsal dinner was furnished by a food truck in the church parking lot.
If you find yourself this close to the border, of Oklahoma, explore Sherman’s downtown square, with fun vintage and trendy shopping opportunities and tempting bites.

Shrimp ‘N Stuff on Avenue 0 is known as a little place the locals love, and I do, too. My daughter often has business in Galveston and asked around to find this fun place that truly puts me in mind of a New Orleans neighborhood gathering place. Walk up to the counter to order fried seafood and grab a high-top table to get a good view of everyone else’s food and fun. It’s super casual and there’s outside seating, too.

There’s a left and right Woody’s Smokehouse in Centerville, on either side of Interstate 45 between Houston and Dallas. The first thing you notice is the smoky aroma and from the meats, then your eyes can feast on jars and jars of pepper jelly and other southern fare. I got a good deal on a half of a smoked chicken, that was enhanced by a pile of purple onions, peppers and free beans. While most folk consider Woody’s a mandatory highway stop, I have to let you know what you’ve been missing if you haven’t ventured in. It’s fun to see visitors who may not be from Texas taking it all in.

Darragh Doiron has her bag packed for the next adventure. If you have food thoughts to share, contact her at

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Coffee tricks and summer spice

                             Coffee tricks for those willing to play with their brews
                             If you can secure your little chocolate square with a toothpick or cocktail fork, you can dip it into steaming coffee and pull it out before it dissolves to savor a warm, bite that melts in your mouth.
                             I’d hate to lose mine into the coffee, though what’s the worst? It dissolves and you get a mocha coffee.
                             One of those fun-sized or bite-sized chocolates are perfect for this job.
                             My mother has fond memories of traveling with my dad. They’d drop  a hard candy into their travel mugs. It flavored the coffee as it melted.
                             I just read that if you need to make a gravy and have some leftover coffee, you can add that into your pan instead of water. I had a chance to try it the very week I read it and my only regret is that my husband spied me doing it and questioned my motives. He needed more convincing and the finished dish did that trick.   

            Here’s some other new foodie releases to try:
            *McCormick Grill Mates Rubs and Lowry’s Liquid Marinades are here just in time for summer grilling.
            I sampled some rubs in the line on everything from meats to eggs. I even boiled shrimp in the Sweet & Smoky rub. We southerners will try anything to get seafood into us. You can play, play, play with these rubs all season. Besides Barbecue and Applewood, there’s also Honey Hickory, Maple BBQ and Mesquite.
            With the marinades, I grabbed Chipotle Molasses first and Honey Bourbon next. These also made quick dips for wraps and veggies.
            Get to grilling.
            * TOPBiT is a slim packet of filling product that fits into your pocket so can do something crazy, like sprinkle savory herb crunchies onto avocado on toast or eggs or mixed berry onto your fruit and yogurt at lunch.
            I like the nutty flavor with a pop of something extra. The term "protein food topping" could take some getting used to, but it’s good stuff.              Bits of organic hemp seed, pea protein isolate, lentils, organic brown rice protein, and the stuff of chia seed, dehydrated fruit, etc. come into play. It's handy and fun and you'll be getting 10 grams of protein, all 9 essential amino acids and antioxidants. It's real food and real fun.
                             Darragh Castillo loves pepper heat on her food and experimenting with new things. If you’ve run into something fun, food-wise, contact her at:

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Going green, greens and activism

                  Cooking a meal to show love for a friend can be an act of activism.

                  “When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.
                  When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” – Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb

                             These two notions crossed my path in the same week I was invited to a gathering where guests brought all that “health” food kind of stuff, from quinoa and avocado salads to hummus.
                             The part about cooking came from “Love Activism,” Stacy Russo’s book calling readers to approach everything they do with hope, empathy, non-violence and creativity. She asks us to be mindful during our meals and appreciate the food, the workers who brought it to us and the natural world that grew it.
                             Consider a silent meal to be truly mindful, and make a proper setting for your repast, even if you must dine in a space of cleared papers on your desk. This is another example of how my tiny fork helps me consider each bite.
                             Russo shares her conversion from vegetarian to vegan in a thoughtful way and discusses Love Activism in several aspects. Some ideas: Visit the sick; mail someone a surprise post card; and truly listen and be present when someone is speaking to you.
                             She asked readers to consider the beverage they may be drinking while reading her book.  If it was something other than safe tap water, they have options they may not realize. If someone has access to clean water at no extra charge and still has money to buy coffee, tea, bottled water, etc., then he or she has money that could be used in the service of others.

                             Going very green
                             A “restaurants near me” search in Houston steered me to The Green Seed, a vegan restaurant on Almeda Road. It had a modern, yet classic neighborhood feel with a variety of patrons lining up for lunch.
                             After perusing the menu above the counter, I chose a Solburger: Raw hemp nut patty topped with microgreens, spinach, tomato, red onion and spirulina aioli on a collard wrap.
                             I wanted to see how they got a collard to stay folded over a wrap. I waited with my number, which featured the proverb about good diet. I thought I’d love to get two paper menus to give to two friends who have interest in food in general, and specifically these types of offerings. Well, this restaurant was so “green” that they didn’t have any sort of menu. Staff suggested I take a photo of the posted menu.  Come to think of it, I didn’t actually see any big sign stating the name of the place on the outside building. My phone got me there. Maybe they were trying to save paint.
                             This place was an experience, and I’m pleased to say my collard wrap stayed wrapped and was completely delicious.
                             Darragh Castillo loves trying new things and wants to hear what you’ve been tasting lately. Contact her at:

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Taco Hugh's Day

                             London and a movie?
                             My husband was sharing a story of a mutual friend who went to London and it was snowing and she was having trouble getting in to see “The Greatest Showman.” 
                             Clarisa Chavarria overcame several multiple snags to getting inside the theater and I was thinking “why was she all the way across the pond in  London watching a movie?” It must have been to cold to ride the London Eye.
                             Then I thought that this story is going to end with Hugh Jackman being in the theater, live. Guess what? It did.
                             The theater stopped the movie and the audience thought it was a tech problem and that Australian charmer danced in. My front-of-the-rows friend even showed up in the background of Hugh’s Instagram.
                             Everybody and my Mom is talking about this show, so I decided to host a theme night for her. Mom has great memories of the excitement when the big tops came to town and set up, and that made me crave peanuts and popcorn, but more substantial fare was in order.
                             Then it came to me. It was a Sunday, so we had not a Taco Tuesday, but a Taco Hugh’s Day showing of “The Greatest Showman.”
                             Let me say it once more: Taco Hugh’s Day. It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue with the same grace as the acrobat flipping through the air in the movie, but we weren’t “clowing” around.
                             It got us to thinking of how the classic image of a “taco” has changed over the years, even in this Tex-Mex stronghold.
                            I’ve always been partial to a crunchy taco and loved the innovation of wrapping a soft flour tortilla around a hard shell so as to keep your toppings from crumbling out from your first mouthful. And who wants all those extra calories?
                             Then there’s always the flour vs. corn tortilla issue and within that my house there’s a  white flour vs. whole wheat flour side debate. Who wins? Eventually we all did.
                             We served coriander-heavy beans and ground meat and I ended up with a loose taco salad over shredded lettuce, scooping it all up with tortilla chips.            
                             While Hugh Jackman won’t be invited every time, I could see how a regular Taco Tuesday is becoming an American favorite, because there’s a never-ending variety of ways to get your Tex-Mex.
                             Let me know yours via