Sunday, November 25, 2018

Always thankful, ready for joy

  Joy is one of my favorite sentiments of the season. A run by Missions Attic in Port Arthur can help you quickly furnish your table and home for guests. Bowls, serving wear, dishes and trees greet shoppers. It’s all sold for a good cause to help your neighbors.           
                             “Thanksgiving” should be an all-year sentiment for us. I have a silver Avon ring that scrolls out the word  “grateful” that’s everyday wear. The pointy letters often get caught in fabric, so that reminds me to be grateful for clothing and every little thing. So here I’ll mention I was grateful to begin Thanksgiving day with a small turkey sandwich breakfast that included za’atar from Ruth, jam from Jody, bread my church gifted to parishioners, coffee blended from two friends and a napkin from my mother. It takes a village. Give back more than you get.

                  Try something new
                             Tried-and-true favorites are as important as innovation as we gather for the holidays. It’s easier if the “something new” appears as a sample from another cooks’ table.
                             It’s amazing what they do with Brussels sprouts these days. My hosts cut them in half and charred them and the sauce included grapes. From childhood on, this vegetable was something I avoided. They were only boiled back in my day. Even the woman who made the dish agreed, she did not used to like them as a kid, when serve bland and boiled. These “modern” sprouts had me going back for more. Today I love them raw and shredded and sautéed with bacon. Give speouts a chance.

                             Vegan Holiday
                             Just to prove my point above, the recipe for Caramel Apple Brussels begins with a question: “ Have you been a Brussels sprouts hater all your life?” Tommy McDonald writes. He notes you can’t really blame kids for hating them boiled or steamed.
                             McDonald is head chef at Field Roast Grain Meat Co. He lives with his family in Seattle and shares memories of growing up with all the fresh flavors of the region. These are good stories in a book filled with beautiful photos and fresh vegan ideas. “Field Roast: 101 Artisan Vegan Meat Recipes to Cook, Share & Savor” is about the “meat” of the grain. You know those jokes about not watching sausage being made? It’s a bit different when you’re kneading and cooking with grains, apples, etc. to make a roast or stuff a sausage. Field Roast makes products and this book helps with ideas on their usage. Flavors can take you around the world with Little Saigon Meatloaf, Cornmeal-Crusted Oyster Mushroom Po-Boy, Whitebean and Eggplant Crostini and Picadillo Empanadas.
                             Field Roast sent me a Hazelnut Cranberry Roast ‘en croute” with rosemary, candied ginger and sausage stuffing. It was so good my mom decided she was going to acquire another to share with some friends. I had double portions that night. The roast gets baked and is ready to serve in about an hour. More good news:  I was invited to bring a vegan or vegetarian covered dish to an event and I have a Celebration Roast with traditional stuffing and mushroom gravy still in the freezer to look forward to.
                             Darragh Casitillo is a Port Arthur area foodie who is loving how the community comes together to show off their cultural flavors for the holidays. Reach her at

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Pour Les Enfants

                             Cabo or Vegas? A children’s museum party? Celebrity chefs at your home?
                             Tough choices, but they all are Pour Les Enfants. This 28th annual benefit for Garth House, Mickey Mehaffy Children’s Advocacy Program, Inc., featured a catalogue of auction packages meant to entice big spending. Generous donors are needed to keep this important program going.
                             If you don’t have a luxury vacation home to offer up, how about your time? Marion Tanner, executive director, said more than 800 young clients were interviewed in 2018. The need has been rising for this program’s services to support children who have been abused. Volunteers are needed to help these children, Tanner said.
                             Their mission: To prevent child abuse and neglect and to lessen the trauma to child victims of sexual and severe physical abuse during the investigative, prosecutorial and healing process.
                             Love and dollars are needed. This benefit included a silent and live auction with a pirate theme, dinner under a stylishly festooned tent featuring Robert Louis Stevenson Grilled Veggies and Buried Treasure Shrimp Paella and the live auction. This was a seriously good time for a serious cause. 


                             Perfect Pumpkin Update
                             Naomi Nachman grew up in Australia and started a personal kosher chef business. Flipping through her book, I could have stopped at the crazy easy avocado and chickpea salad, but I’m glad I didn’t. Not only can she help limited-space dorm students whip up fish with honey mustard and crunchy chip topping, she brings us our seasonal Pumpkin Update.
                             Pumpkin has been everywhere these past few years. Have you baked up a Pumpkin Challah topped with mini marshmallows? It’s beautiful. Her cooks’ tip: After applying egg wash to her classic challah, that’s when you can add various toppings, including sesame seeds, poppy seeds, minced onion, za’atar, pumpkin seeds and streusel crumbs.
                             The book is “Perfect Flavors: Creative, easy-to-prepare recipes inspired by my family and friends,” from Artscroll/Shaar Press. I love the way she writes about how she created dishes such as Quizza, so her daughter could enjoy pizza and quiche at once.
                             Radish Dill Tomato salad is easy, and the chickpea and avocado
                  Delight involves 2 avocados, 2 cans of the peas, scallions, garlic, kosher salt, olive oil, lime juice and za’atar seasoning. Can you manage that? Count me in.
                             Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie who loves to travel the world via a cookbook. Contact her via

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Big Bend is big now


Big Bend is big now

I considered myself a “real” Texan when I drove a rented car into an epic movie horizon.
My heart stopped at every big bend in the area and I marveled at reach-the-clouds mountains as well as tiny insects, pebbles and plants on an unforgettable road trip.
Anthony Bourdain’s recently-aired “Parts Unknown” featured many stops I’d made, including some in search of the Texas Monthly best burger listings. Later, I found out the mayor of Lajitas was a goat.
But I did get to stay in the Indian Lodge in the Davis Mountains State Park, built by Civilian Conservation Corps. In that mode:

I’m thrilled to have an image of Big Bend’s Santa Elena Canyon done in Work Projects Administration Style. Old school lettering, coloring and view for the oldest-of-schools scenery. These National Park Posters are created by Rob Decker, a Colorado-based photographer and graphic artist who studied under Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park when he was 19. How lucky could he be? And how lucky could you be to own one. Decker is still traveling for iconic shots. If you’ve ever been to one of these parks, or want a bucket list collection, here’s your chance. National Park Posters are printed on “Conservation,” a 100 percent recycled paper stock with soy-based inks, are $35 each and available for purchase at Every poster is dated, numbered and signed by the artist. The artist donates a percentage of annual profits to organizations that support America's National Parks.

And now for Texas State Parks
You know the kind of book with dozens of sticky markers guiding you back to reference pages? “Official Guide to Texas State Parks & Historic Sites” will be one of them, from the moment you tear off the wrapping.
Freelance photographer Laurence Parent of Wimberly got to take all these photos and tell these stories that bring Texas to your living room.

Sea Rim State Park, our own span of natural beauty, is featured with two images.

Memories of my great adventure to the Big Bend area are captured with images of Indian Lodge at Davis Mountains State Park, spiny octillo plants designed to ward off hungry deer, the vast pools of Balmorhea State Park and mountains that cast shadows upon other towering mountains.
Hill Country? Who doesn’t want to retire there? Maybe not near the Devil’s Sinkhole, if you’re a sleepwalker, but I’m still hoping to hike up Enchanted Hill after my drive-past a decade ago. I’m more fit, now. I can do it.
Turns out there are many, many state parks in Texas. Pack your picnic and go Culinary Thrill Seeking.

Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie ready to pack a basket and head out for adventure. Contact her at

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Runamok with your cheese, and a pumpkin update

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     Don't you love when you can pair with pears? Runamok Maple is making it even more tempting to upgrade your syrup collection. There's a set for ice cream pairing, featuring Rum and Rye Barrel-Aged; tea pairing with Makrut Lime-Leaf infused maple (have you ever heard of such a thing?); Day + Night with Sugarmaker's Cut; and what I got for cheese.          
                             For cheese you have my already-fave  creation from this company, Hibiscus Flower-infused Maple, Elderberry Infused Maple, Pecan Wood Smoked Maple and Bourbon Barrel-Aged Maple. Did you think your cheese game could get any better? Go with hard cheeses such as cheddar or gouda for the barrel-aged and smoked and get soft with brie or camembert for the infused goodies.          
                             This pairing collection would be a great gift and recipients could think about the larger version of the beautiful bottles thee elixirs come in. Also, consider Runamok Maple recipes that will at least make you think you've been to Vermont.
                             We love salmon and Dijon mustard, but would we Cajun-style lovers have thought to season that blend with a bit of Runamok Smoked Maple Syrup as well? I took a photo of  my family’s “sweet” cheese party featuring a pair dish a guest whipped up. Get creative.
            Pumpkin update: You have to plan for lunch at my friend B's house. It's not like we hadn't already had our fill of fajitas and assorted salsas. There was Butterscotch Bomb puddings with heaps of freshly-whipped cream. Someone brought in a sopapilla cheesecake.
            Festive Hershey's chocolate bites adorned the dessert table. Then my friend pops up like a light bulb goes off over her head. "Do you like Pumpkin?" she asks. Now, what was I supposed to say?
            That's how I found out about Blue Bell's Spiced Pumpkin Pecan ice cream. It's everything you love about pumpkin pie, but cool and creamy. That's this week's update for the flavor that has dominated the season for the past several years.

            Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie ready for adventure in travel and on the plate. Reach her at