Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New ‘nilla notions broaden flavor range
Vanilla, with more than 300 flavor components, is native to Mexico along with chocolate, chiles and corn.
There’s lots more you man not know about this bean. “A Century of Flavor” is a cookbook that tells the story of Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, based in Waukegan, Il. You may not have known that vanilla goes well with duck breast, salmon and crab cake. But once you are empowered with this knowledge, it is up to you to make frequent use of it. Here’s a quickie to start you off.
Vanilla Oil
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
Combine the canola oil and vanilla extract in a bowl an whisk to blend. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Brush over grilled vegetables or fruits such as pineapple or papaya.

Tex Mex-terrific
When I see a home with a beautiful Spanish-style balcony, I imagine myself enjoying coffee and breakfast tacos, rancho huevos or migas. Gloria Chadwick must think like me, because she suggests Breakfast Chile Relleno served on the patio in her new book, “Foods and Flavors of San Antonio.”
As a Tex-Mex food lover in Southeast Texas, you may think you know all you need to about queso dip and enchiladas. This book can broaden your skills with cilantro, chorizo, serrano and tomatillo ideas. Here’s a super-easy fun-with-fish idea:
Orange Roughy, Southwestern Style
4 orange roughy fillets
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 cup salsa
Lightly spray each fillet with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle each side of each fillet with cumin and oregano.
Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the fillets and cook for 3 minutes on the first side. Flip each fillet and top the cooked side with salsa.
Reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for 6 minutes. Serves four.

Sweet release
Control is a beautiful thing when it comes to chocolate. I have the chocolate — new 3 Musketeers Raspberry limited edition — and I have the power to eat just one (or possibly just two) of the brightly-wrapped little guys after a nice salad lunch. Mars calls them fluffy raspberry nougat dipped in lucious dark chocolate, with 45 pecent less fat that the average leading chocolate brand. A cherry limited edition came out for the Valentine season. Make your Easter berry fluffy with 3 Musketeers.

Still the TOPS
I recently shared tips from TOPS, and the group has a few more.
Take Off Pounds Sensibly, billed as the nation’s original weight-loss support group. There is a local group. Visit or call (800) 932-8677 for more information. These ideas are for party snacking:
• Pop low-fat microwave popcorn and set it out in bowls.
• Include apple halves or carrot sticks as finger food.
• Replace sour cream in dips with plain yogurt.
• Eat baked pretzels rather than fried chips.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tour the new gem/gym at the Groves Activity Building
I’ve seen it, and I was impressed.
The city of Groves Parks and Recreation Department will host an open house so everyone else can tour the newly-renovated Groves Activity Building.
See the new flooring, leather couches and party rooms from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, at 6150 39th Street.
Refreshments will be served.

Frantz to sign books
Christian book writer Melissa Frantz will sign her children’s book, “The Mighty Chihuahuas, at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, at The Living Word, 3316 FM 365 in Nederland.
Frantz said she incorporates writes character building lessons of honesty, integrity, loyalty, courage, friendship and love through “intriguing situations and delightful characterizations.”
"The Mighty Chihuahuas are such small little creatures, although they are mighty in so many ways, just as children. Children are small, but mighty, in the eyes of our heavenly Father,” Frantz said.
Her book tells of four not-so ordinary Chihuahuas who run a farm in Chihuahua, Mexico. Their adventure begins when they receive a letter from Precious, their cousin, asking to be rescued from evil "dognapper," El Magnifico, in New York City.
Frantz has also written "Blessed From a Boxcar,” about a rescued child.

Alter’s Gem Jewelry makes Red Cross donation
Alter’s Gem Jewelry made its first donation of $2,500 to the American Red Cross with the proceeds from sales of the “Gems to Enjoy” cookbook.
“We are so thrilled that we have been able to contribute to our community which has suffered from not only Rita, but Hurricane Ike as well,” Brain Alter, managing owner, said.
Cookbook contributors include Jimmy Carter, Barbara Bush, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Mario Batali, Kate Bosworth, Jeff Foxworthy and Rob Reiner.
The second edition’s contributors include James Earl Jones, Rene Auberjonois, and more than 30 American governors. For details, call 861-3005 or visit 3155 Dowlen Road in Beaumont.

Southeast Texas Reads ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’
Southeast Texas Reads is encouraging everyone in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana to read Harper Lee’s ”To Kill a Mockingbird” and discuss it with your friends, neighbors and family in March.
The Lutcher Theater in Orange announces a kick-off reception from 5 to 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27, with readings. Get a copy of the book for $5 and “I’m Reading To Kill A Mockingbird” buttons.
At noon on Wednesday, March 4, the Stark Museum of Art hosts “Spotlight on the Mockingbird in Art,” featuring a reading and a gallery talk on “The First Pictures of the Mockingbird.” Mark Catesby’s hand-colored engraving of the bird in his book “The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, 1731” and the engravings of the mockingbird by Alexander Wilson and John James Audubon will be on display. Bring brown bag lunches for the free program.
Through out the day on Thursday, March 5, an interview with Gregory Peck about the movie will be shown onscreen at the Lamar State College Orange Library; At 6 p.m., the LSC-O library will have a reading of the book on the lawn. Bring lawn chairs or quilts and an appetite for ice cream and lemonade while listening to the readings. Call 745-5535 for information on several more events.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bolivar residents in the mood to Mardi Gras
Anne Willis of the Bolivar Peninsula Lighthouse Krewe says Hurricane Ike hasn’t stopped them from celebrating.
The annual Mardi Gras parade will go on as scheduled at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, in Crystal Beach starting at Jacks Road and going to Gregory Park.
“Even though the Lighthouse Krewe lost everything they owned, float — krewe barn and thousands of dollars worth of decorations and beads — the parade will be held. The krewe will have a borrowed float, a few hundred dollars worth of beads and many wonderful people who are building floats, even people who have lost their houses,” Willis said. “The parade has about 25 entries and will be a great thing for the Bolivar Peninsula.”

Make new friends
A representative of the Mid-County Newcomers & Friends Club stopped by The News to note members participated in a Birthright project at the home of Sharon Doiron. Chassity Metts lead games for this baby shower and the gifts went to Birthright to help those who need it.
The group welcomes newcomers and includes friends who have lived here a while. Members meet the first Thursday of each month at private homes. Then there’s a lunch bunch and crafts day. The fourth meeting is for bunco.
Members also sent “G.I. Joe packages” and has a Garth House project in the works. For information, call Shirley Doucet at 540-6602.

Twogether in Texas offers free marriage workshops, conflict management and communication skills. A 2-1-1 call will link you up to some free advice for a long marriage. Remember your Valentine.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Make a motion for Mardi Gras; get ready for fish on Fridays

Zatarain’s of the boxed gumbo and beans and rice mixes is pushing, where you can learn more about making Mardi Gras a national holiday and how to host a jazzy party.
Reporter Mary Meaux just tried Zatarain’s yellow rice and blackened seasoning and deemed them “amazing.”

Fish on Fridays
Those who get fishy on Fridays in Lent get a wider selection than the frozen fish sticks of yesteryear. Look for these:
A very nice grilled salmon is a healthy option from Gorton’s. The convenient servings are portioned just as health advisors suggest, the size of a deck of cards. I really enjoyed some on a salad.
A saucy shrimp scampi is another Gorton’s offering. There was so much creamy garlic butter sauce that I skimmed some off to put on pasta another day.
A new frilled shrimp is out on Texas shelves.
Gorton’s reports their “grilled shrimp is carefully inspected three times and the process is more stringent than the voluntary U.S. Department of Commerce’s Seafood Inspection Program. The government’s program requires just 10 quality checkpoints, Gorton’s insists on more than 50.”

Is it really good news?
I love when readers give me feedback that they also enjoyed a new product as much as I enjoyed sharing it with them. Sometimes I wonder how good it is to know about more delicious stuff on the shelves. I’m pleased to give you a guilt-free, sugar-free pleasure in new Jell-O gelatin in raspberry goji and strawberry acai. Its got antioxidants, flavor, convenience and a mere 10 calories.
New pudding packs also come in cinnamon roll and Boston cream pie. I really, really liked all these.

Wine for the winner
I had the pleasure of tasting Durbanville Hills, the official wine of the Pan-African Inaugural Celebration Ball of President Barack Obama in Arlington, Va. Cool winds from False Bay and Cape Flats cool down the South African vineyards. I loved the sauvignon blanc, pinotage and shiraz. Some of my tasters were surprised it had a screw top, but I’ve been hearing there’s a reverse trend away from cork. I especially loved the shiraz and appreciated the label noting why it was so good: rich berry and smoky plum palate with pepper and spice aromas.

A thing to do with chocolate
I’m not one to write in cookbooks, but I love to note the occasions for and successes from a particular spiral series. Stephanie Ashcraft has come out with “101 Things to Do with Chocolate,” which is divided into cakes, bars, cookies, etc. Here’s an easy one (there are 100 more):
Peanut Butter Cup Brownies
20 miniature peanut butter cups
1 9- by 13-inch brownie mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Unwrap and cut peanut butter cups in half.
In a bowl, mix together brownie mix, eggs, oil and water. Stir in peanut butter cups. Pour batter into a greased 9- by 13-inch pan. Bake 28 to 30 minutes. Makes 24 brownies.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Get moon pied over your Valentine
If you can’t take your Valentine to Dallas, you can serve Dallas to your sweetie.
From green tea ice cream cake at Asian Mint and Godiva Chocolate Bombe from 2900 to Santiago’s Ruby-Red Grapefruit Cake at Food Company, author Helen Thompson offers “Dallas Classic Desserts: Recipes from Favorite Restaurants.”
Photos, restaurant profiles and recipes are soothing to the senses. One of the simpler concoctions is White Chocolate Banana Moon Pie from Hector’s on Henderson. Pudding, chocolate chips, whipping cream, strawberries, blueberries, honey and chocolate sauce are some of what goes under and over simple moon pies.
Oh my, my sweet.

Grab and go toward the sea wall
Here’s a quick grab for your Mardi Gras float parties: Cheez-It has a new flavor. My samplers loved pepper jack baked snack crackers and I’ll be you will too.
I love the commercial where a woman bakes up new Pillsbury Savorings flaky pastry bites and the man acts like he’s at a trendy restaurant. I tried them in mozzarella and pepperoni flavor, without the date-like atmosphere.

Simple stuff
Do you really need another book to tell you to eat better, get more sleep and drink more water? If you haven’t actually followed that advice, you do. Jeannette Bessinger’s “Simple Food for Busy Families” is a good one. It’s not so much a recipe book as a mix and match. This “whole life nutrition approach” lets you add sweet or savory goodies to your grains and gives a primer for veggies, spices, etc. She wants to keep us from SAD: the standard American diet. I learned about the water sauté. Use stock or water instead of oil to wilt those veggies. Here are her ideas for savory snacks:
• Baby carrots poked into green or black olives.
• Smoked fish with horseradish or whole grain crackers.
• Brown rice cakes with hummus or nut butter.

You’re the TOPS
Here’s some light tips the Groves area TOPS members may be incorporating into upcoming Mardi Gras and Valentine celebrations. TOPS Club, Inc. Take Off Pounds Sensibly is billed as the nation’s original weight-loss support group. Visit or call (800) 932-8677 for more information.
Tops says the following diversionary tactics provide the “feel” of snacking, but cut down on the penalties suffered later.
• Lighten nachos with reduced-fat cheese and baked chips.
• Replace a cheese tray with a fruit tray or with pita bread and hummus.
• Make a pot of vegetarian chili or use ground turkey instead of ground beef.
• Order pizza without the cheese and pile on extra veggies.
• Offer diet soda and non-alcoholic beer and, of course, have a designated driver available.
• Pop low-fat microwave popcorn and set it out in bowls.
• Include apple halves or carrot sticks as finger food.
• Replace sour cream in dips with plain yogurt.
• Eat baked pretzels rather than fried chips.

Cost Cutters Alliance to Save Energy calls on Americans to be more energy-efficient to reduce soaring summer electricity bills, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and potential for blackouts or brownouts simultaneously while also helping our nation's energy security.
• One easy tip is to clean or replace filters monthly.
• Listen to your mother. ("What do you think—we own the electric company?!") Turn off everything not in use: lights, TVs, computers.
For more tips, visit
• I love the smell of coffee more than the taste. I wrapped some grounds in a filter to use as a sachet in my car. My daughter calls it Starbuck’s on wheels.
• Socks are not just for keeping feet warm, they also work well for dusting and cleaning. Slip the sock over your hand, dampen with polish or window cleaner and wipe away fingerprints and dust.
• Coffee filters do more than filtering grounds to make great coffee; they also leave a lint-free shine when used instead of a cloth to wipe down mirrors and windows.
• Vacuums are not just for carpets anymore. With their wide array of attachments, the vacuum can be used to remove dust and dirt from ceiling fans, ornate wood furniture, hard-to-reach banisters, and inside drawers and cupboards.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Go glammy for the Grammys … or Mardi Gras

Even if your Grammy party is on the couch of your living room with no red carpet in sight, it’s fun to glam up and glitter. Some of these products will help you glow right into Mardi Gras weekend.
Good product and branding for L'Oreal always made me feel worth it. A new batch of goodies, such as EverPure sulfate-free color care system smell of rosemary, mint and juniper. I've skipped the new Feria shimmering hair color, but enjoy the shampoo, conditioner and frizz-free serum that goes with it. You know how that wind blows the hair around on the sea wall.
It took time for me to adjust to the "lip-gripping polymers" in Infallible Never Fail Lipstick Compact, but I do appreciate how long they stay on. Bare Natural has an all-in-one mineral eyeliner and brush package designed made for on-the-go style. I love the rich color.

Eyes have it with Renew eyelash and eyebrow revitalizer, products I never imagined I'd use. I had a Brooke Shields thing going on in high school, but now people are aware they can become victims of the over tweeze. Ask me to bat my lashes for you at Mardi Gras. I'll be nearly through with the sleek bottle of eyelash "paint" that's making them strong.
This is the only time I generally go wild for color and I’m enjoying Kiss Me, a tube of blue mascara and the particularly fluffy brush from Colorescience thick and curly mascara. It’s float-worthy.
Try Renewing pomegranate blackberry Vitamin Shampoo and conditioner for more aromatic, healthy glow. These fruits are tres' trendy. There’s a noni berry and lemongrass combo. Michelle Obama is making lemongrass the rage with the color of her inauguration ensemble.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The following Culinary Thrill Seeking column ran 2-4 in the Port Arthur (TX) News. And is being posted at and on a Sounds Good blog. THANKS!
Darragh Doiron

Poems and recipes for a princess
My lontime fan Seabourne Stokes Jr. sent recipes for meat loaf with a French bread filling and rump roast. This Groves man has extreme attention to detail. He addresses mail to me as Princess Darragh and this time included the poem with instructions that I could laminate it in clear plastic at places like Office Depot at the counter while I wait for about $2 plus sales tax and put it on the wall at home with four push pins, my choice of colors, or on a refrigerator door with magnets.
In “Mother-Madres” he writes that mothers make at least 25 major decisions each and every day, yet the Supreme Court issues just a few a week.
“A mother is love in action,” he writes. “Mothers are angels on special assignment.”

Be mine
I have a crush, and a crunch, on Sweet Cacao Nibs, from Navitas Naturals. Billed as a new superfood snack, the organic 'raw chocolate' nibs have been a Myan fave for centuries. Food of the Gods, they call the crunch bean nibs from rainforests of Peru straight to my bowl of fruit. I don’t even want to think how good they’d be over ice cream, but I did enjoy them over a slaw with orange vinaigrette. Crazy … like a fox.
I want all my readers to try this stuff. Navitas has all kinds of healthy stuff in its catalogue. Try a Brain-Food Shake with their mesquite powder and chia seed. This may be adventurous for you, but trust me on the nibs.

Glass flippers
Just so you don’t loose the recipe, Lolita Party Shots prints it right on the snazzy little glasses. A pink fluffy “garter” rims one frosted with red hearts and the following:
I Love You
1 part vodka
1 part raspberry liqueur
1 part lemon lime soda
A secret bit of bling is hiding under the fluff.
Girly, but good.
Breast cancer is also a girl thing and Lolita, dubbed the “nation’s hottest selling hand-painted barware” has a “Pink Ribbon”-tini and wine glass. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each glass will be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Don’t “turn-down” a treat
I like to make my chocolate count. I’d rather eat one great piece than a box full of lesser quality. Allison’s Gourmet’s online gift shop has a new 2-Piece Chocolates Box with vegan truffles and caramels designed as turn-down treats for Bed & Breakfast owners. Don’t you love that touch?
You may wonder why it’s important that your chocolate is vegan. Allison’s Gourmet are free from animal ingredients, cholesterol and highly-refined sweeteners. If you are sensitive to those things, Allison’s is sensitive to your needs, in a sweet, sweet cocoa powder way. If you don’t have a B&B, consider them for wedding favors.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Mardi Gras must-haves and a Super Bowl snack

I’m collecting my throws for Mardi Gras, and I’m ready to party on the seawall.
Before I share some cool tips that could make your Mardi Gras even more festive, I have a Super Bowl announcement.
I’m not ashamed to say that I have snacks planned, though as of this writing, I don’t know who is playing. I want to have something to talk about with the rest of America on Monday morning, and that’s the cool commercials. I watch it through half-time.
Eva Aguirre stopped by my desk to show me what she will not be snacking on during her Super Bowl time. She’s pretty appalled that Little Debbie can make a lovely gingerbread man and perfect Christmas tree, but these so-called football-shaped brownies are a mess, she said. It’s just a cookie bar with the ends chopped up, Aguirre said. My coworkers and I still want to thank her for being so miffed as to leave the box at my desk.

Mardi Gras must-haves
At a crawfish boil, I always take the time to get that tiny dab of claw meat out. It’s worth the effort.
Phillips Crab Claw folks have gone to the trouble for you. While we live in crab country, most of us can’t run out and drop a line as often as we’d like. This product costs less than colossal or jumbo lump crab meat and you can keep the container in the fridge for a year. Trust me, it won’t last that long. I had a couple of omelets with spinach and crab, then toasted some crab onto corn tortilla. I had to hold back on my tendency to overseason. I wanted the delicate crab flavor to shine. You can really get imaginative with a tub of this stuff.

Clean up
I made someone’s day with a moist towelette. She opened the Giovanni organic Refresh in lavender and just kept smelling it all day.
For germ freaks, riding a Mardi Gras float must have been gross before hand sanitizer became hip. These towelettes, also in peppermint and grapefruit splash, make clean even more appealing.

Buggin’ on yogurt
You probably weren’t thinking of packing yogurt-like substances for a Mardi Gras parade, but ProBugs is totally portable. From the parent view, you get a clean pouch of whole milk kefir with 10 live and active cultures. Kids will see the cool twisty top and colorful bug theme touting Goo-Berry Pie or Sublime Slime Lime. It tastes like smoothies and I hooked a couple of adults on it all. Lifeway Foods distributes these bugs.