Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year’s is optimists’ favorite season
My glass is always at least half full, and I’m still shopping for the most stylish set of rose-colored glasses.
I never realized I was such an optimist until people kept telling me so.
“Oh, Darragh’s so cheerful in the morning,” they’d say. Or, “You’re always smiling.”
I thought everyone was like that. But even grumpy folks like wishing people a Happy New Year. They say it all week, and I’m sure they mean it. I wish they’d carry on those happy thoughts a little longer.
In Port Arthur, we do have the Mardi Gras season on its way that promotes lots of goodwill toward masked men and costumed ladies.
I have to think of columnist and grand dame Martha “Toodlum” Ferguson and how she’d write “I love you, Port Arthur, and everyone in it.”
I feel the same way, and I meet more Mid-County residents every week. After 20 years here, you’d think I’d have met them all, but it is my privilege every week to meet more.
Happy New Year to you all.

Good eats
My family has a holiday tradition of meeting me for an Asian lunch during the holidays. We tried and loved the new Ichiban Japanese hibachi and sushi bar at Jefferson City.
It has been remodeled since it was Moon Palace. It looks nice, you can watch sushi being made and you don’t have to eat sushi. There are plenty of kitchen dishes such as beef, chicken, salmon or shrimp teriyaki.
We were adventurous with lunch bento boxes and loved it. The only thing is, my daughter and I really, really want to eat all our meals out of lovely sectional red boxes. We especially loved the tiny area in the middle for wasabi and pickled ginger.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

By Darragh Doiron
Port Arthur News
Bacon, cilantro kicks up your New Year’s black-eyed peas
I am not thinking barbecue for New Year’s celebrations, but I am thinking black eyed peas. Chef Wally, also known as John Lopez, adds a kick to the seasonal must-have by cooking them with bacon and adding cilantro.
Inauguration is coming up, and Lopez includes a recipe for eating like a former president in his handy little pocket spiral, “Texas Barbecue.” LBJ All the Way is a recipe for the sauce that’s supposed to be the kind he liked on his ranch in Johnson City. Chef Wally is also kind enough to list his favorite brews, such as St. Arnold Elissa India Pale Ale and some of his fave barbecue joints, such as Smitty’s in Lockhart.

LBJ All the Way
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 cup beer or water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon black pepper
1/4 stick unsalted butter
Bring all ingredients to boil in saucepan; reduce heat. Simmer 30 minutes. Strain and serve. Keeps 5 to 7 days in fridge.

Eat like an Aztec
I’m no fortune teller, but I can predict you’re going to make New Year’s resolutions to eat more healthy, and probably not know how to do it. Here’s word on a new line I love. Salba Smart makers call salba “the oldest grain you’ve never heard of.” A lot of products are designed for sprinkling on salads and soups, but this tiny grain really stays crunchy and fills you up on Omega-3 fatty acids, so you might just lose weight by feeling more full. Aztecs used to eat it, and Canadians dig it now, Salba Smart makers say. Diabetics should climb aboard the Salba wagon, they add. Listen to the following quote:
“Salba is really a superfood,” said Rally Ralston, managing partner at Salba Smart. “Gram for gram, it has six times more calcium than whole milk, three times more iron than spinach, and 15 times more magnesium than broccoli. Most importantly, Salba makes it easy for Americans to make small but very important changes to their everyday nutrition by adding a tablespoon or two to foods they are already eating.”
Coworkers gobbled up Salba Smart blue corn tortillas and salsa and the 100-calorie bite-sized tortilla chips are just the ticket for lunch boxes. Pretzels were my very favorite in the line.

Take a hint
Hint Essence Water is what you can carry around your New Year’s party. I’m much in love with these flavored waters with no carbs, sugars calories and artificial flavors. Mint is fashionably fine and in the label’s Hinterland notes, it’s reported that, “We all live in a bright-red tangerine.” More delicious than a yellow submarine, this pomegranate-tangerine blend will make you festive. Here’s a recipe:
“Hint of Mint”
Mint, a good source of vitamins A and C, and a great reliever of stomach discomfort, is the base of this drink.
1/4 cup of ice
3 whole mint leaves
1 lime wedge
2 ounces of vodka
4 ounces Peppermint HINT Essence Water
Instructions: Fill cocktail shaker with ice, add vodka and Peppermint HINT Essence Water, shake for 10 seconds, and pour into glass. Garnish with mint leaves and lime wedge.
Nutrition Content: 130 calories, 0g carbohydrates

Shaman has the stuff
You might not think to add Hawaiian pink sea salt to milk chocolate, but Shaman Chocolates thought “yeah, and add macadamia nuts, too.”
I want to thank them for bringing me this organic milk chocolate, their 82 percent extra dark and everything else they do with raspberries, coconut, etc. The product is very, very fine by my standards and the company supports the Huichol Indian tradition of the Sierra Madre region of Mexico. This chocolate helps sends people to college. Even the labels are beautiful.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sounds Good: Kyler says 'There ought to be a movie'

By Darragh Doiron
Port Arthur News staff writer

Kyler says ‘there ought to be a movie’
Bob Kyler of Port Arthur called The News excited about a documentary he saw about Old 666, a B-24 in the World War II era that survived an air skirmish with 17 Japanese fighter planes.
“Somebody ought to make a movie about this thing,” Kyler said.
In fact, he said he’d love people to call him at 985-6270 if they want to get in on this. He asked for a straight Internet connection to Hollywood.
Kyler said he saw all this on the History Channel.
“Everything on the History Channel is the truth and nothing but the truth,” Kyler said.

Spelling Bee a hit
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is different every night, because audience members can “audition” to be part of the bee and the jokes are written around them. When I saw this touching, funny musical this past week at the Lutcher Theater in Orange, I was thrilled that they picked a woman from my church to get up there and spell. They announced her as wanting to be a Marie Osmond look-alike when she grew up. Another audience member-turned-cast-member was described as a prematurely gray 12 year old and the next face of Orville Redenbacher popcorn. When these extras finally misspell a word, the comfort coach gives them a juice box and they get the “Goodbye” song as they’re escorted off stage.
This show would be great with the real cast alone, including the character of Mr. Leaf Coneybear, who makes his own clothes and sings about being not that smart and liking his hair. William Barfee spells with his magic foot and Marcy Park speaks six languages, but realizes it’s OK to not live up to expectations. Also look for Asian Jesus.
The Lutcher will host “Drumline Live” on Jan. 14 and 15.

Wild Neches
Port Arthur News readers got word on a 200-mile canoe ride when “Paddling the Wild Neches” first came out.
Texas A&M University Press has just shipped copies of Richard M. Donovan’s books to local libraries, thanks to a donation from the T.L.L. Temple Foundation.
The book’s content takes readers canoeing down a two-hundred mile stretch of the upper Neches. Donovan shares his experience of the river’s natural and cultural history, its animals and recounts stories of early settlers and East Texas hunting traditions. He also supports the river’s recreational potential for paddle fans and others.

New book tells local oil history
Museum of the Gulf Coast is selling copies of the new book “Water, Rails & Oil: Historic Mid and South Jefferson County.”
The book is $39.95. For information, call the museum at 982-7000.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sounds Good: Daughter begs for bok choy

Our society has become so instant that I “devoured” a book at 3 a.m. and have time to share my thoughts with readers, wrap it up and present it to my daughter for Christmas Eve excitement.
My daughter begs for bok choy at the grocery store.
The New Year season is when we crave Asian food even more than usual. I’ve already weirded out my co-worker David Ball by dragging him to Port Arthur’s Vietnamese markets for squid, pho seasoning, and ginger. It all goes in the gift bag Jasmine always expects to find under the tree.
“Quick & Easy Chinese: 70 Everyday Recipes” is how Nancie McDermott can transform your home into a mini restaurant. I love to look at trend books and health books, but this is one with recipes that sound and look like what you want to order off the menu. Tea eggs, five-spice roast chicken, pork with black bean sauce and nappa cabbage stir-fried with ginger and green onion are dishes I could eat for a month straight. Here are two quick sauces that will give even your American leftovers some Asian flair.

Ginger-Soy Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk or stir well to dissolve the sugar and salt and mix everything together into a thin, smooth sauce.

Chili-Vinegar Sauce
The author says this simple condiment provides a satisfying sharp contrast to the rich, dark flavors of soy sauce noodles with beef and greens.
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons chopped or thinly sliced fresh hot green chilies
Combine the vinegar, soy sauce and chilies in a small bowl and stir well. Cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chocolate lovers talking about mug cake

By Darragh Doiron
Port Arthur News
When I was on assignment, readers were chatting up the mug cake featured in Monday’s News.
It’s alled The Most Dangerous Chocolate Cake in the World, because this recipe for baking a cake in a coffee mug and the microwave puts you just five minutes away from heaven.
Nederland bakers Stacy Gentile and her 8-year-old daughter, Grace, are the Sweet Girls. They loved the project, and my family did, too. Make some for gifts.
The Most Dangerous Chocolate Cake Recipe in the World
Five-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

1 coffee mug
4 tablespoons flour (plain flour, not self-rising)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
Nuts (optional)
Small splash of vanilla
Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well. Add the egg and mix
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla and mix again.
Put the mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes on high.
The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed.
Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.
This will serve two, if you want to share.

Tips from Stacy and Grace Gentile:
Stacy Gentile says it’s okay to fling flour and dribble oil on the counter, especially when working with young bakers. In her book, it’s required.
“You always have to make a mess if you want something good,” she said.
She and Grace, a third grader at Helena Park Elementary, found this recipe easy and fun, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t think of variations. One is to give the recipe and dry ingredients in a mug, so the recipient can bake it up and enjoy it warm.
“It’s very good and those are wonderful teacher gifts,” Gentile said.

Add a tad of
• coconut
• Almond Joy or other candy bar
• toffee
• caramel
• peanut butter
• crushed peppermint
“It’s endless. Whatever you really like with chocolate, you could do,” Gentile said.

Favorite holiday oyster spread is writer’s gift to readers
I’m an oyster lover who craves them even more around the holidays.
I found a recipe using smoked canned oysters, which generally end up in my daughter’s Christmas stocking.
Try mashing some into cream cheese for a quick holiday spread to go on sturdy wheat crackers. It may be just the thing for a holiday hostess table.

Flavor Forecast
I’ve already teased readers with some picks from the McCormick Flavor Forecast 2009 top 10 flavor pairings. Here’s the whole list. Ask your holiday guests who will experiment and invite you over for a meal.
1. Toasted Sesame and Root Beer: An iconic soda is rediscovered for its versatility as a cooking ingredient, paired with the bold nuttiness of toasted sesame seed.
2. Cayenne and Tart Cherry: The flavors of two superfoods — the heat of cayenne and sweet-sour tang of tart cherry — pack a multi-layered punch.
3. Tarragon and Beetroot: This hip pair creates a sensory feast that is anything other than predictable or restrained.
4. Peppercorn Mélange and Sake: Japan’s notable rice wine finds a new partner in the quintessentially French unison of multicolored peppercorns.
5. Chinese Five Spice and Artisan-cured Pork: Hand crafted artistry merges with a harmonious Asian blend to create an innovative taste sensation.
6. Dill and Avocado Oil: Mild avocado oil finds an elegant partner in clean, minty dill – reflecting the healthy goodness that comes from pure, natural ingredients.
7. Rosemary and Fruit Preserves: Fresh-picked fruit flavors fuse with aromatic rosemary for a progressive interpretation of sweet and savory.
8. Garam Masala and Pepitas: A beautifully matched global combination of an intoxicating spice blend from India and a prized seed popular in Latin America.
9. Mint and Quinoa: Nutritious, whole-grain quinoa is taken to new heights when paired with the exhilarating, cool taste of mint.
10. Smoked Paprika and Agave Nectar: Smoky sweetness from the purity of nature celebrates a union of Spanish and Mexican ingredients.

Drink up
Some say the holidays shouldn’t be a time to consider healthy food and drink options. I say if you can sneak in the good stuff, now’s the time. Open up a can of something different with Hank’s Gourmet Infusions line of all-natural sparkling beverages with vitamins B12, C and E, calcium and antioxidants. It’s got real sugar, skim milk and cream, so it’s like a sparkling cream soda. If you want to add liquor, Hank has tips. I tried berry and green apple straight up, but here’s Hank’s recipe for something new:
Hank’s Very Berry Cocktail
1 ounce chocolate liqueur
1 ounce raspberry liqueur
4 ounces Hanks Gourmet Infusions – Berry flavor
Pour liqueurs over ice, and top off with Hank's Gourmet Infusions. Serve garnished with a fresh raspberry.

Sister Schubert
I’d hoped to surprise my mother with Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls, but her club ladies had already tipped her off to their quality. So I served them to a friend who bakes and she’d also heard of them. Maybe she felt a little threatened when she said, “They’re okay.” Just okay? She sure did eat a bunch of them. But hey, I ate the rest.
If you are the reader who is hearing from me that the sister can make some rolls, great. Yeasty rolls and cinnamon rolls are in the frozen section of the store and I love that you can cook a few at a time and don’t have to wait for them to rise. A mom in Troy, Alabama developed this company and apparently people weren’t waiting for me to introduce them. It’s a multi-million dollar company.

To your health
Sambucus nigra L, or black elderberry, is the new health rage. Toast your New Year’s health with spoonfulls of Sambucol Black Elderberry Immune System Support. I’m trying to get my whole sick office involved. It’s like the good kind of cough syrup you never used to mind getting. Native to most of Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia, these berries got tame. Makers share data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reporting elderberries have twice the antioxidant capacity of blueberries and significantly more than the capacity of cranberries. Throughout history black elderberry people have used it to treat colds, flu, fever,
burns, cuts and more. Sambucol makes tablets, but I like the syrup.