Here come the pumpkins and cookbooks
If a dusting of chai, nutmeg or pumpkin spice signals Autumn in steamy Southeast Texas, bring it on. Readers have been sharing pumpkin spice alerts here for years, so let’s make the rest of 2020 a fragrant one. It’s also cookbook season, so keep checking here for holiday gift-giving ideas and festive spreads.
Pumpkin Spice Alert
The demands of 2020 are surely to up the pumpkin spice factor this year. Sugar Plum Chocolates is doing its part by releasing Pumpkin Spice Almonds coated in comforting cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. Simple as that and much better for you than other seasonal treats. Keep some in your bag through the season. Just a few will be really satisfying. Sugar Plum Chocolates has a white chocolate option that is unwrapping an artwork of culinary angularity. Each corner you snap offers a melt-in-your-mouth Pumpkin Spice Latte experience with natural pumpkin spice and espresso flavors. It’s packaged for fall fun with little leaves, boots, acorns, etc. adorning the package. Try to make it last all week long. I dare you. www.sugar-plum.com
“Wowza” is a word I saw on Red, one of those seductive big gourmet bars sold away from the regular candies. You deserve good chocolate, and Red was a welcome taste in my week. Labeling of 50 percent less calories in the dark chocolate and 40 percent less in the extra dark chocolate are other lures to these no-sugar added recipes. A diamond is part of branding and the finest Cote d’Ivoire cocoa beans shine in facets as you break off scores made with a company mission to “guiltlessly deliver perfectly sweet moments to those who strive to live an active, healthy lifestyle as well as those who appreciate losing themselves within decadent moments.” See, you don’t have to sign a contract or anything to go to the gym afterwards, though we may not all resemble the shapely silhouette stamped among the gluten-free/no-GMO announcements. It’s commendable to check our your chocolate’s stance and firstname.lastname@example.org tells of “Earth-happy processes.” There’s milk chocolate, too and I crave every level of cocoa these makers offer.
CHRISTMAS COOKBOOK IDEA: Forks Over Knives Family
Health has got to be a family affair these days. No more Moms nibbling on rabbit food while appeasing everyone else with greasy fare. If everyone can’t come together with joy for the slicing and dicing of meal prep, then let them simply rejoice when served Chinese Noodles in Ginger Garlic Sauce and Avocado Toast-ada.
Times have changed and they are delicious. The Forks Over Knives movement is plant based and believers would prefer to lift their forks for healthy foods over surgeons lifting scalpels over sick bodies. Learn to nourish everyone you love from pregnancy on with this book subtitled “Every Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy Kinds on a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet.” Alona Pulde, MD and Matthew Lederman, MD have complied research, tips and really fun recipes I wouldn’t hesitate to order on a menu. Now I can make them myself.
Savoy Cabbage with Mushrooms and Sesame Seeds, Polenta Tempeh Casserole and much ado about lentils are within these pages. Also, much dessert. Chocolate Bliss Balls is one of many uses for date paste, so here’s the recipe for that:
Some cooks use dates as a main sweetener and it saves time to have it ready as a paste. Keep half of the batch in the fridge and freeze the other half in a mason jar to keep it at the ready:
1 pound pitted dates (about 4 cups)
1 and one half cups boiling water
Place the dates in a wide, flat-bottomed container such as a saucepan and add the water (the dates should be partially to completely submerged). Cover the container and soak for at least 3 hours and up to 8 hours.
Transfer the dates and the soaking water to a food processor and blend into a smooth paste.
Storage: Transfer the paste to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month or in the freezer for 4 to 5 months.
Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie pumpkin spicing everything within reach. Reach her at email@example.com
The great outdoors has been our refuge in this season of distancing. We crave connections and our porches, patios and backyard spreads have enabled us to visit friends and relatives, a few at a time. Have you styled your outside this season? One beach-loving woman I visited has a name for her poolside space: Kathy’s Mermaid Lounge. This covered area is surrounded by vines and comfy seating and artwork depicting alluring mermaids. I have no doubt that once a guest has experienced this hospitable lounge, Kathy receives sea-themed décor that goes right into the mix. Kathy’s beach scene fairy garden for a friend made a big hit. Mermaids obviously attract other mermaids.
My mother hung up two souvenir signs proclaiming our patio French Quarter/Bourbon Street. Passersby sometimes wave and ask how things are in the Quarter. Maybe we’ll refer to it as Jeannette on the Quarter.
One more thing: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos were served at the lounge, with tasters weighing in on how hot these actually are. That spicy orange dust covers one of my favorite snacks in a bag, but they’re mild on the heat for me. Others steered away, recalling past attempts. If you have a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos experience, please share it with other Culinary Thrill Seekers.
I barely lost a bag of green beans over Laura’s power outage, but Delta took most of us by surprise. “Sweet Chaos“ is handmade kettle corn and a fitting title for the trepidation of our outer-rim Delta experience. This was my first time to eat my way through the wind, visible from the window. We ate through losing power and forced ourselves to stop and go to bed at night fall, lest we begin to trip over our empty bags and bowls. We felt we were going to be pretty OK in the end and like so many, we knew we would be trying to save food from the freezer to eat later. Here’s some of what went down, from the freezer and otherwise:
When bags of Sweet Chaos, kettle corn arrived, I had literally planned to budget the calories of each bag as a meal. That’s how much I love popcorn. Vanilla Chai and Maple Brown Sugar were the flavors and they were good as you can imagine with their real cane sugar background and popped in coconut oil. Delta had me eating these in public so I did have to share with my husband. He claims he doesn’t go for popcorn like I do, but no one could refuse these. www.sweetchaos.com
Mushroom Jerky by VEGKY “Vegan ain’t boring!!” reads the label on mushroom jerky flavored with wasabi, curry, etc., and I’m loving what they call a “minimally processed and bursting with flavor” product. It does have a meaty texture but is easier on the teeth than beef. It’s called an umami-rich snack high in fiber. I would for sure buy these again. www.vegky.com
Pop Bitties are like thin little rice cakes but with actual flavor. Air popped ancient grains such as whole grain sorghum and brown rice are corn and gluten-free. I was supposed to share them with my gluten-free friend. I saved a few for her the bag though so give me a little credit. They came in flavors such as vegan white cheddar and they certainly satisfy you as a snack and a base for something more substantial, like a yogurt dip.
Absolutely Gluten Free gives us Raw Coconut Chews in time to give all your nutty friends holiday pleasure. Are chocolate and cacao nibs my fave, or is it the cranberry option? I’ll have to finish both bags before making a decision. My gluten-free friend did get to sample these and got back to me with thumbs up. www.Absolutelygf.com
We weren’t hinting at all when a friend posted that he had power but we wound up on his patio to charge phones and he made us avocado toast and another family brought muffins. It was kind of a stone soup sharing that we can all use at times like this.
I ended up at Kathy’s Mermaid lounge for the third time wish salmon from my freezer that she was going to cook on the grill. We couldn’t start the grill, but we ended up full of good vegetables anyway. The top mermaid requested we bring a little something to mix with strawberry flavor and duplicate a beverage she enjoyed in Myrtle Beach. Mionetto Prosecco was a good choice bringing a welcome, bubbly atmosphere to the gathering. It seems endless summer here – perhaps because of hurricane season? – but note that Mionetto Prestige Brut and Mionetto Prestige Rose Extra Dry are also light but fancy and festive choices that will carry you through the holidays. Mix it up or enjoy it from the bottle. Just promise to enjoy the rest of 2020. https://usa.mionetto.com/us
My faithful childhood friend offered carport pasta in Delta’s aftermath and ice packs to-go, in addition to a friendly face.
Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie who wonders what else 2020 will bring. Share your Flamin’ Hot Cheetos experience with her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy 31st Anniversary, Chris.
Share your blessings
While “the times” have made gatherings difficult, celebrations should continue. Friends have “distantly” made my husband’s birthday special, like when the religious study group showed up on the patio with a basket of wine. We had been on video meetings for weeks, but Linda and Bryan Reising’s hospitality goes beyond the screen. They also set up asparagus tart, eggplant/basil bites and a blueberry crumble with a hint of cardamom. The weekend also included a veggie burger on Ezekial sprouted bread and gin with ginger concoction on another patio that I call “An Evening with Paul Thomas.” The musician concluded with a classical guitar bit of “messing around.” Friends are a blessing, and culinary/musical friends can’t be beat. If you have any of these skills, please share them with friends and multiply the blessings!
If kale could marry anyone, it would be bacon, Kelsey Preciado writes in the cookbook she wants you to love. Garlic-Bacon-Kale Bowl is how she sees these soul mates in the book she basically asks us to fall in love with. I have obliged. “Unbeliveabowl Paleo: 60 Wholesome One-Dish Recipes You Won’t Believe Are Dairy- and Gluten-Free gives us Chicken Egg Roll Meatball Bowl and plenty of stuff she says makes her husband’s eyes roll back in his head because they are soooo good. If we can’t sit at her table, we can duplicate the dishes from her fun book. She’s founder of “Little Bits of Real Food” and her book is “Unbelievabowl.” Here’s a colorful quickie:
Creamy Sweet Potato & Cauliflower Hummus
1 large sweet potato peeled and chopped
2 cups cauliflower florets
one fourth cup tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes and cauliflower florets to the pot and cook for 8 minutes, or until both are fork tender. Drain the veggies , then add them to a food processor.
Add the tahini, oil, lemon juice and garlic to the food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt to taste. Scoop the dip into a bowl. Serve with veggies and Paleo crackers.
Prep ahead: Make this dip up to 5 days ahead of time and store it in the fridge.
PBFIT Chocolate Peanut Powder
I know you can get beyond smoothies and French toast batter with PBFit Chocolate. But it’s just so easy to get in a delicious “rut.” This powder has less fat and fewer calories than peanut butter straight up. When you look at the pbfit.com for recipes with oatmeal and pancakes, you’ll mosey over to sections using the original version in dishes such as Crunchy Thai Quinoa Salad, jar lunches, cobblers and even a bacon and cheese burger. You can go through a few jars without ever duplicating an idea and coming up with your own in the process. This week: Overnight oats; pb balls.
Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie chilling out at a social distance. Reach her at email@example.com
Products to help you “get over” 2020
Gray Whale Gin
Remember the time we went to Big Sur and the gray whale’s 12,000-mile journey inspired us so much we developed a gin perfected with six Californian botanicals to celebrate its journey?
No? Oh, that was Marsh and Jan, who are out wild harvesting Mendocino Coast sea kelp to enhance this fabulous gin in a beautiful sea blue bottle. Mint from Santa Cruz and Almonds from Central Valley are mixed in and even the lines of the whale tale are a tracking map on this lovely bottle. There’s quite a whale’s tale at graywhalegin.com and I sure want to recreate that trip in the whale van pictured on the site. A gin aficionado I know gave this a nod at a distanced patio tasting and I’m all about the flavor as well as the story. Now, are you ready for the other three botanicals? Give it up for Juniper from Big Sur, limes from Temecula and fir tree from Sonoma. Those whales don’t know what they’re missing. They’re in the water and not dealing with the no-funness of 2020.
If I’d been out more this social distancing season, I know I’d have received even more compliments/inquiries on my Komuso necklace. But if ever there was a time when a beautiful necklace could foster your well being, it’s time to put it on. The Shift looks like a little golden whistle, but it’s a nearly silent tube designed to let you exhale a long breath, and oh, what that can do for calming anxiety, releasing lung toxins, loosening muscles and decreasing blood pressure. That’s a lot for tiny gold/silver/slate tubes, but I formed an instant impression of this item when it started showing up on my Pinterest feed. I imagined the weight of it around my neck and just glancing at it all day putting me in a slow-down frame and recalling what it feels like to breathe better. And you know, the night I stayed up reading hundreds of customer reviews, all those folks thought the same thing.
I ordered, it arrived and I breathed. I was just-right about it all. And the critics were right on as well, praising the superior packaging, loving the tale of the couple who met a flute guy who told them about Japanese Komuso monks who breathed through their instruments and how everybody feels better when they pay attention to the most simple detail of breathing. If you wish everything was this simple, shift to a deep breath. www.komusodesign.com
A Feast of Serendib: Recipes from Sri Lanka
Family gatherings, even over Zoom, relax us with flavors, aromas and stories. When people ask Mary Ann Mohanraj the difference between Indian food and Sri Lanka’s food, it’s difficult, because she figures we’ve probably had Americanized versions of Indian food. Her land’s curries tend to have more vinegar, though. I’d easily try everything in her book, an achingly beautiful tribute to her family with photos and illustrations and even poetry. Each page even feels good in your fingers as you turn to the next treat. Ribbon sandwiches are layers of color for parties, deviled shrimp gets black mustard seed and many other things you find in your pantry, but it sure doesn’t turn out Cajun!
Seasonal Pumpkin alert: You can add it to your curry.
I love the discussion on Bombay Toast/Bombatoast, which is much like a more sugary version of French Toast with lots of butter. Here’s a quickie to spice up just bout anything:
Chili Onion Sambol
This classic Sri Lankan Sambol is a simple way to add heat and tang to any meal. The author says it goes with “whatever you like” and is great on sandwiches.
1 onion, chopped coarslely
3 dried red chilies
1-2 teaspoons cayenne
1-2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
Combine ingredients in a food processor (alternatively, mince onions fine and then combine ingredients with mortar and pestle).
The Happy Labs
The Chill Pill is a real thing with passionflower and valerian root. Read up on The Happy Labs’ description of the sense of relaxation and calmness desgined for letting one “enjoy the moment.” It’s another one of those CBD deals that people of all walks are trying and these come in a tin with a customer 5-star rating. I’d advise getting all sorts of advice before trying these and then, proceeding with calm caution. I tried a sample as instructed and “got over” what was taking up some brain space pretty quickly. The company’s myriad products are at thehappylabs.com
Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie chilling out at a social distance. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fischer & Wieser
I sure regretted leaving behind some Fischer & Wieser grilling products when I left for Laura. The Sweet & Savory Onion Glaze with super-sweet onions and jalapenos is designed for grilled meats and seafoods. I was sousing it on sheet pan vegetables every night for a week. Peaches & Whiskey BBQ Sauce went on my husband’s favorite weekend treat lunch, ribs. Smoky Plum Chipotle Sauce is a personal favorite of mine because I associate this very F&W line for convincing me that sweet berries and sweet heat are an entirely compatible taste sensation before the rest of America got hold of it. I love everything they make nearly just as much. Grill up, Texans.
Take a “Bourbon Bath” with Adam’s Apple’s best seller, a bold and tad spicy marinade and grilling sauce from Adam’s Apple. I never met a sauce I didn’t like, but this one I love. But let’s go on to Spicy Blackberry Pepper Jam. A big yes to follow Apple Pie Jam. They’ve got a catalogue of stuff we like down south, like chow chow and cider slaw and salad dressing. Don’t worry that Theresa Adams grew up in Illinois cooking apple butter, which is something we don’t often see, but we can get hers. I even mixed that pepper jam into some fried rice as the sweet of sweet and sour. Here are more ideas for Adams Apple Gourmet Jams:
• Top vanilla ice cream with a few tablespoons of hot jam (My Aunt Stella Belle did this!)
• Top a plain cheesecake
• Pour over cream cheese and serve with salty crackers (an easy appetizer for those who think they can’t cook)
• Fill pastry with jam and make turnovers
• Grilled cheese with sharp white cheddar and gourmet jam.
• Top toast rounds with goat cheese and jam
• Get creative with turkey, croissant and brie sandwiches and a spread of jam
• Hot biscuits anyone?
Let’s tell Theresa to come join us for some of our own creations with her products. Adamsappleco.com
Been out there tending your vegetable garden? Fishing Port Arthur? Golfing? It’s Southeast Texas hot and we’re used to it, but maybe we didn’t realize No Sweat was out there. Now that we’ve added masks to our everyday wear, check out this American-made thin hat liner that reduces sweat stains, keeps it out of your eyes, promotes healthy skin hygiene and locks in odor and face oils, keeping your hat looking good. Learn about their patented Dri-Lid technology at www.NoSweatCo.com
Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie always looking for something new. Reach her at email@example.com
What did you save from the freezer on your run from Laura?
I can’t be the only one who worries about saving the fridge/freezer contents when it’s time for an all-too-familiar evacuation. With all the decisions that must be made quickly, I was pondering a fresh zucchini in my hand and imagining how I could use it on the road.
We were headed to a North Texas relative’s home and the owners would not even be there. What a blessing to be offered this in the midst of pandemic. I packed what I could with frozen bags of spinach acting like ice packs. This season makes me nervous so I didn’t have a full freezer, but some of that food was sentimental. There were items my mother had prepared. She recently died and I was saving them to share when my sister could visit.
Halfway there I took out some gyros meat and set it to warm on the dashboard. I thought I was pretty clever, but my daughter told me to enjoy my food poisoning. It was NOT there long and it was very good in a similarly-warmed tortilla.
Strawberry yogurt became frozen yogurt with fruit and it was also good. A variety of unusual combinations, such as a hamburger patty “short stack” came from our stock we stashed in the cousin’s outside freezer. She repeatedly texted we were welcome to their stock, but we simply could not let this food go.
Glued to Weather Channel updates, we prayed and saw what our neighbors in Louisiana will be dealing with for months. Now’s a time for me to amp up the gratitude and pay good things forward.
Some of those still-frozen vegetables came home and were added to a soup that my daughter made with chicken and vegetables her mother-in-law brought from Buna when she left for Laura.
I’ve heard stories of families who hauled frozen shrimp across Texas when they were evacuating. What is the craziest thing you’ve taken, eaten or heard of when running from a storm?
I’m grateful to all those working to help the area recover. It’s a 2020 heartache, but I’m confident we will all come out fine. That’s my prayer.
My evacuation refuge had a fig tree and the hosts were not around so I indulged in some fruit so good it is mentioned in the Bible. Better I enjoy them than the birds, and I love birds. This bush was not very old and laden with fruits. Harvesting a few of these in North Texas was very different than my memories of picking with my grandma in Texas and Louisiana. Those trees covered more space than a small house, or so it seemed to little me. I was sent in under the canopy to harvest and I remember this “chore” to be scratchy, sticky and very hot. But, it was worth grandma’s fig preserves on her homemade biscuits. I didn’t know then you could eat them fresh. They probably didn’t tell me so there would be more in the bucket at the end of picking.
Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie who may have seen you on the road while evacuating. Hey, Genie. Share your crazy evacuation stores with her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fish You Were Here, to try some of these fun new spice blends and other new foods with me. Keep your social distance and keep bonding however you can as these new flavors and products roll out:
Build Your Own Edible Playlist
Hit the Roast Jack, You’re so Spain, Moroccan ‘Round the clock and Lavender Fields Forever should get you cooking. Healthy On You’s sustainable keepsake bamboo box of blends with an olive wood spoon just “spice” things up even more for those who didn’t think they could play kitchen.
Samantha Binkley is into flavor as much as she’s into health and humor. Organic spices season your world and you can crank up the volume as you create themed dinners. I love the fragrance of Middle Eastern Spice dubbed while My Za’atar Gently Weeps” and how it elevated my rice salad with sesame seeds, oregano, coriander, etc. Let the Good Thymes Roll made the whole house smell like an Italian restaurant. Fish You Were Here, trying this flavor. You’ve got to love it when you can combine so many senses at once: taste, hearing, smell…. Thanks Ms. Binkley! Healthyonyou.com
This brand is so focused on leaving out stuff such as gluten and GMO, that they’ve even left out some letters from their globally-inspired BLND and Sprd spices and blends. Living on the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast, I’d say they got Bayou Catch Seafood Seasoning good enough to make you want to cast a pole, but the Sriracha Lime Spice has been my top pick of a batch of samples. It’s a breakfast-to-dinner spice for me. I like their story and 8 signature flavors that include Chimichurri Seasoning (a fan fave) and Kansas City Smoker BBQ Rub. These are flavors are in their new category and are Kosher-certified. We love to play with our spices here and I’ve enjoyed the company of these versatile bottles. Kitchencrafted.com
A Couple of Outlaws
Did you ever have a crush on the couple who makes your soaps? I want to hang out with Russ and Danielle Vincent, who pose with guitars and cooking utensils, wear funky glasses and make cowboy boots look a little punk. They live in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I bet you thought I was gonna say Austin, because they are keeping it weird. They actually do have ties to Austin and have noted the city’s favorite scent of their line is The Mountain Hideout. Their soaps come in packaging both masculine and humorous, with hidden John Wayne quotes. The products are very fine and have components such as whiskey and leather and sage. I feel as though their soaps, handwashes and colognes will just naturally make you feel better from seeing them online at LiveOutlaw.com and holding them in your hand once they arrive and that’s all before you put them on your body. Their giant campfire mug has the call to “Wake up. Kick Ass. Repeat.” You can even get a car scent that shows you are living Outlaw. Hey Russ and Danielle, call me! Liveoutlaw.com
When you puff something and it crunches and the calorie count is conceivable, you feel pretty smart. “The Smartest Way to Keto” is actually how Shrewd Keto markets such 90-calorie packets of balls that keep in the flavor of much more junkier food. But in this case, Baked Cheddar, Brick Oven Pizza, and Nacho Cheese Protein Puffs will leave you with crunch, 2 grams of carbs and 14 grams of protein. You doing this? Then your later reward can be Shrewd Keto Dippers in both dark and milk chocolate. It’s snack, dessert and a shot of protein as well. I love crunching my chocolate. Shrewdfood.com will get through crunch time. Shrewdfood.com
Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie always looking for something new. Reach her at email@example.com