Sunday, February 18, 2024

Get green and eat the rewards

 


The greening of the neighborhood is a miracle to me every year. I especially love it when pretty plantings yield edible prizes. Check out these books to inspire you to make everything from a living Zoom meeting background to the freshest salads around.

“Verdura: Living a Garden of Life” – I thought Wonder Bowl Garden would be my project. Plant creeping, carpet-like plants in a wide bowl and place your treasures inside. I’m thinking shells, coins and broken jewelry I find and cool rocks. It’s a natural, textural display. Then I saw the baker’s rack kind of deal, “Propagation Wall Station.” Display jars of cuttings and follow them as they mature. Is a beautiful display that will ongoingly supply you with plants. Or, fashion a standing candelabra into a planter. Upcycle a tire into a planter. Hang a basket from a banana hook. Growing something is half the fun. Making it look amazing is the rest. Perla Sofia Curbelo-Santiago of Agrochic.com gives us “Verdura: Living a Garden of Life: 30 Projects to Nurture Your Passion for Plants & Find Your Bliss.”

 

A Keeping Track Journal – Linda Vater created “The Garden Journal: A 5-Year Record of Your Home Garden,” a beautiful hard-cover book designed for daily notes on garden victories, hopes and chores. Some garden diva you know needs this. Perhaps it is you. Maybe it’s that generous soul who shares her zucchini. There’s space for contractors and services provided, tips on forcing branches, etc. lovely illustrations and seasonal checklists. Here’s what we can be doing now:

 

Winter checklist:

·        Plant dormant trees and shrubs

·        Feed the birds and keep birdbaths full

·        Prune dead branches and crossed limbs in trees

·        Look for topiaries and get supplies for seed starting

·        Enjoy fresh-cut bouquets of blooming bulbs

·        Sharpen and oil tools

·        Clean out potting shed on a mild day

“The Complete Guide to Vegetable Gardening: Create, Cultivate, and Care for Your Perfect Edible Garden” - Of all the helpful advice in this one, I’m focusing on finding companions. As in friends of cabbage include bush beans, beets, celery, chamomile, dill, mint, onion, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme. Plant them together and they help each other out. (Cabbage foes include pole beans, mustard, strawberry and tomato.) Photos help tell the story in an easy way for novices. This is from the editors of GardeningKnowHow.com, said to be the world’s most visited gardening resource.

"Growing an Edible Landscape" -  I'd love to step into a colorful yard full of bok choi, sage and walking onions. Eat your plants from a salad, herb, tea or greens garden? Yes. Raised beds, containers, spirals and keyholes can dot your space. Homeowners association keeping you in check? This book offers ways to hide your edibles in plain sight, with more flowering edibles. Sneaky huh? You rulebreaker, you. Gary Pilarchik of the Rusted Garden and Chiara D'Amore of The Community Ecology Institute, say out with the lawn and in with the food. Compost now, even before you plan.

 "The Cut Flower Handbook" - Basil. It's not just for Italian food anymore. Let's get that herb into floral arrangements. Step into you yard to cut colorful snapdragons, sunflowers and cornflowers to arrange to your heart's content... and maybe even make some cash. If you're into pinching, mulching and blooming, Lisa Mason Ziegler of The Gardener's Workshop gets you. Consider flowers for long vase life and tall stems, those that hold petals and boast strong necks and are productive and pollenless. Discover cleverly-named beauties such as winged everlasting. I agree, big showy cabbages and kale pop in an arrangement. 

 “The Layered Edible Garden” – Are you counting oak and redbuds in your edible garden? They fall into the canopy and subcanopy layers from Christina Chung of Fluent Garden. A beginners guide from ground covers to trees, it’s amazing to discover how so many influencers a garden can boast. Theres a surprise on every page. I had a favorite low redubud that was just my size as a kid. If I knew then I could eat those pinky buds, I’d have put them on cupcakes instead of just mud pies.

Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie whose ideal garden would be mainly edible, entirely colorful and seasonally aromatic. Share ideas with her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Rainbows right here

 


This year when the calendar says Feb. 14, it’s time to think of your sweetheart, being a sweetheart to someone else and for me, the Lenten season. Some chocolate maybe, but a move toward the best health.

I heard a leader suggest having a word of the season, as opposed to a “resolution,” which can maybe not go like you planned. “Shift” is my Lenten word. I’m ready to move around a bit.

Now here’s a little roundup that could come under two words: “Love Yourself.”  

Jessica Swift creates rainbow art and says trying new things is good. I know she’s not just referring to new flavors, but a new life outlook. “Radiant Rainbows: 80 Heart Healing Meditations” is a colorful “deck of cards” with messages and art on the front and thought-provoking questions (and more art) on the back. I’d just put them on a table and flip one over to consider for the day. Gibbs Smith distributes this box of healing. Some notions:

·       Trying new things might be good for me.

·       Tiny miracles are happening all around me.

·       My healing journey doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

·       Some days are just extra hard.

·       I can offer the same love to myself that I would give to someone I hold dear.

Would you feel better about kale if Chuck Norris was into it? Do you connect the phrases roundhouse and kick with this masculine legend? Need a Morning Kick? I’ve been kicking with Roundhouse Provisions, a green powder to add to a morning drink “designed to aid healthy digestion, support overall nutrient absorption…” Now hear this one, “help you manage stress.” This ritual is not something I’d seek, but it found me and I’m glad. I feel good! This is a Chuck Norris product is also designed to prep you for emergency situations. Get ready with other items in the line including Gut Strike and Three Hit Combo. www.roundhouseprovisions.com

 Medical professionals have their own style, based on being on their feet all day. I’m making my 10,000 steps a day in Infinity Footwear stretchy, sporty shoes and the compliments are coming. They look sleek and feel great with a feather-light AERON™ EVA midsole. An oil- and slip-resistant rubber outer sole means they don’t skip on a flat floor like other shoes I’ve had. There’s good support, many colors and an antimicrobial treated insole and lining to reduce odor-causing bacteria. Get moving. https://medicalscrubscollection.com/infinity-footwear-infinity-footwear-womens-infinite-infinite

     AHA! – That’s Alpha Hydroxy Acid and I’m a believer. Alpha Skin has been around for 30 years and offers AHA products that don’t cost and arm and a leg, but keep them looking and feeling great. Look for bundles, the way the lotion makes you feel just right and the way the sea mist body wash takes you to the shore. Lent is my season to exfoliate in many ways.

 I guess everyone in Brazil has great hair? Pure Brazilian Daily Anti-Frizz Shampoo, Conditioner, Serum and Deep Conditioning Masque is derived from the creator’s love-at-first-try reaction to some keratin protein, cocoa seed butter, bamboo, amino acids and Acai. So if loving yourself means embracing your frizz, that’s cool. But I think you’ll love the way this line makes you feel a little more sleek, fragrant and healthy.

Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie who knows taking care of oneself helps you take care of others. darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Hey Valentine!


Hey Valentine! I’m talking to you. Don’t let Cupid tell you this is a for-lovers-only holiday. Send a paper heart and hug to neighbors, shop people, teachers, etc. Who doesn’t need a sweet thought and perhaps a sweet treat. I often like to buck trends, but I’m pretty sure flowers and chocolates will be a hit with anyone you want to gift with joy. Here are some edible sweeties:

Sugar Plum - Janis Joplin fans here in her home town of Port Arthur may choose Piece of My Heart shapes. Very unique. Others may be feeling smashing a chocolate pizza heart with enclosed mallet is more their style. Pops? They got ‘em. I’m relishing a box of truffles in a classic heart box. Don’t break you heart if you’re out of time…. Sugar Plum is prepared for an array of holidays and celebrations. www.sugar-plum.com

Whose Your Oat Boss? – How to describe the Oat Boss mascot? He’s a big-eyed oat with a rolling pin and chef’s hat. A friendly sort. How to describe Oat Boss Granola Butter in flavors such as chocolate chip, donut, original and blueberry? A crunchy, creamy version of nut butter? A sweet pick-me-up to make a great day even better? Snack time manna for people with certain food allergies? Could call it a Valentine for those who must avoid nuts, gluten, soy and dairy. A dad designed it for his daughter and we are thanking this family for Granola Butter coming proudly out of Denver, Colorado. Oats, coconut oil and honey create jars of creamy heaven that could become addictive. Directions: Spread, blend or drizzle, and save some for me.

Old School? – If you like granola the old-fashioned way, I’d still consider Jessica’s Natural Foods version as a modern twist, because these amazing gluten-free are made with attention to today’s health needs. There’s no trans fat, or cholesterol. I’m hopelessly addicted to variations topping yogurt, blended banana, apples and more. I can personally vouch for the flavor, crunchiness, wholesomeness and yummy factor of Almond Cherry, Vanilla Maple, Pecan Almond and Chocolate Chip. You know, I haven’t tried it in milk, but I bet that would work, too! www.jessicasnaturalfoods.com

 

Darragh Doiron is a Port Athur area foodie sweet on spreading joy this Valentine’s Day. Share how you do it at darraghcastillo@icloud.com


Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Recycle some joy this spring

 

 


 

Bottled Up and Bottled Out – Flowers make people happy, and recycling makes me happy. I found someone who mirrors my sentiments. I got into the habit saving empty jars that once held everything from yogurt to pasta sauce. They’re handy to snip garden blooms and brighten someone’s day. Neighbors, friends, bank tellers, dry cleaner clerks and estate sale organizers have received these bouquets. Since they often include shrimp plants stems that can be replanted, they are conversation starters as well. Some jars are lovely on their own and others get a decorative band to go over a label that just won’t be removed. So, recently I received a bouquet from someone who does the exact same thing. My gift in a long-necked syrup bottle showed off yellow blooms of a mustard plant. What a perfect gardener-to-foodie presentation. Culinary Thrill Seekers, share some of your stories like that with us!

Flippin’ – Just in time for January’s self-improvement motivations, Rob Cross of Sugar Land offers “Flip Your Thinking: Ignite Your World.” I must read this over time, as there are useful quips on every page. Your house would be covered in sticky notes if you jotted them all down. His topics can boost your harmony in career, marriage, relationships and life purpose. Here’s a taste from the beginning pages:

·       Life happens for you, not to you.

·       Life’s not out to getcha. It’s out to enricha!

·       Go within or you’ll go without.

Mr. Cross, I’m flipping over your book.




Cut Cord Clutter – Snap, Wrap, Trap & Release  is Cord Brick Nick’s steel-weighted, yet squeezy solution to problems you may have not realized you had. Colorful bricks keep your charger cords organized and in place near your desk, bed, etc. OCD much? Kitchen drawers can be cleared of tangles when you wrap cords around this brick and you can even prop up your phone with it. Carry with confidence from www.cordbrick.com

 

Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie anticipating turnings of new leaves this spring. darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Nothing corny about loving this

 


Corny – Southeast Texas is rice country, but I also have a long love affair with corn. When I “found” a box of Jiffy cornbread mix in the pantry, a corn pudding became the basis of a friend’s birthday meal. I used Green yogurt for sour cream and we all loved the tang. My latest discovery is corn cobs done up in a West Bend air fryer drawer. I simply can’t get over how easy this is. You can flavor with Cajun, Mexican or Italian spices, and go from there. It’s crunchy and sweet and I can’t get enough. So here’s a tip: When I first realized how mayo-heavy Mexican street corn can be, I balked. I found that a smear of mayo from those packets we all collect will cover many mini cobs for a little flavor that goes a long way. Then pop them in the air fryer.

 

Once Again – Once Again just came out with sunflower or PB graham cracker sandwiches that are great for break time, breakfast or with, one reviewer’s pick, wine. The PB is simply the best I’ve had and I would not be surprised if the sunflower version was even better, as it is “different.” But this line with the racoon mascot will open up your eyes to various nut butters. www.oanb.com

 

                            Keep Going First Aid -  The Pepper family is making safety cool with stylish first aid kits with rainbows, playground and sports aesthetics. In addition to this wrist-band, zipper bag simply feeling good to grasp, imagine the confidence of knowing it’s jam-packed with animal character bandages, packets of balm, burn gel and antibiotic plus little tools. So this goes in cars, diaper and sports bags and bathrooms to help with little boo boos. Getting a scraped knee when I was a kid seemed like a mini doctor visit. We didn’t have cool packs of just-what-you-need-when-you-need it that were so darned cute. I think kids will be happy knowing a Keep Going product is within reach. Check out www.keepgoingfirstaid.com to survey this impressive selection. Totally giftable, too.

 

Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie headed into all the flavors of February. Did someone say chocolate? darraghcastillo@cloud.com

Saturday, January 13, 2024

How to love Brussels sprouts

 


 

Soup Month Faux Pas -  I’m not afraid to share a culinary mishap. January is National Soup Month, so maybe anything goes. This mess-up was a Culinary Thrill Seeking experience. It was Taco Tuesday and I was going to transform some leftover beans into a soup by adding some Tex-Mex spices. And some spinach, just for good health. A little rice was going to make this a warm meal. While stirring, I realized the brown liquid was my leftover gumbo, not the beans. By this time I’d added the other seasonings! Guess what. It was not horrible. It was just not what I’d expected. Yet, I won’t repeat it. Don’t try this at home.

Frying High – Words I’d never thought I’d utter: “I love Brussels sprouts.” To be clear, I love them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar from my new West Bend 5 quart air fryer with a drawer that delivers crispy goodness. This little investment of dollars – and counter space – can improve your veggie game. As a kid, I hid from boiled vegetables, but with this appliance, I can gobble them up as if they were party appetizers.  If you’re the frugal sort, know that I’ve also used it to bring new crispy life to faded chips, nuts, etc. I’m late to this trend and totally on board.

New Pepper In Town – This pepper fiend has discovered a new-to-me pepper and it’s only January. Marupi Pepper is from the Amazon Rainforest. Amazontella offers it in a blend with habanero, salt, dried garlic and (something else rather unusual) chicory. It’s spicy and savory and a bit sweet. So far I’ve savored it over boiled egg, avocado and popcorn. This company also makes Cupacu Pepper fruit spread that’s perfect for boards, pairing with Manchego, warm toast and even cheesecake. Now that’s a culinary adventure. Take it.

 

Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie ready for new words, new flavors and new challenges. darraghacastillo@icloud.com


Friday, January 5, 2024

Sort through those spices for National Soup Month



Spiced – The holidays is when I organize the spice supply. No kidding. It’s all good for January, National Soup Month. Any little dabs go into the Cajun, Tex-Mex or other categories and go into soups, or even yogurt tips. Estate sales find headed to kitchens for vintage jars and shakers. It will surprise you every time when you start processing what you’ve collected in a year. The spice cabinet should be an appealing source of inspiration. If one place in my home looks like a magazine, it’s the spice area in my kitchen.

 

 

Serving Your Gut: Food as fuel and positive self talk may not be radical new topics, but January’s resolutions often remind us to take care of ourselves. “Why Am I Eating This” has Sandy Robertson updating her book with a focus on nourishment. Remember to eat slowly, show gratitude, consider if you are really hungry and if a smaller portion would do.  These reminders have been serving me well as I serve myself fresh veggies.

 

 

Nuts to Baking – PB Fit has a multipurpose peanut flour baking blend that’s a 1 to 1 swap for white AP flour that has 80 percent less fat than almond flour. I’m not a baker, but I sure wanted to try this stuff. It cranked out one of my most attractive pancakes ever. People maybe have an expected taste for pancakes, so I think the cookie and muffins made from this stuff will be the best format for experimenting. www.pbfit.com

 

Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie serving the soup in January, National Soup Month. Share your tips at darraghcastillo@icloud.com