Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Name is right: Food Should Taste Good
At least two people in Port Arthur love a new kind of chocolate chip. It’s a chocolate flavored tortilla chip with semi sweet chocolate, Dutch cocoa and sea salt. It has dimensions. It’s from Food Should Taste Good and I think you’ll like it, too. Those with whom I shared loved the simple name of the product.
More of their stuff that tastes good: Buffalo chips with vinegar, garlic and cayenne (still, not too spicy) … The Works and olive are masterful. I’m saving jalapeno for last because I like it hot, and food should taste good.

Color me experimental
McCormick’s food colorings, including neon, is a fun way to get children into the kitchen. Some folks use them just once a year, and this is it. Here are some of their ideas to color eggs.

• Sponge — In separate bowls, add food color to a few drops of vinegar Dip different sponges into each bowl and lightly pat the colors on the egg for a speckled look.
• Crackle color — Lightly crack the shell of a hard-boiled egg with the back of a spoon. Place the eggs into a bowl of salted water tinted with food color and let stand for at least one hour. Peel and you’ll have a beautiful crackle of color all over the eggs.
• Tie-dyeing — Place a hard-boiled egg in a colander in the kitchen sink. Splash it with some vinegar and then drop some food color onto it. Shake it in the colander gently for a few seconds to help spread the color. After 30 seconds, do the same thing with either one or two more food colors, depending on the look you want. Then splash the egg with some water to soften the colors and carefully let it dry.

Multi tasking
Pure African shea nut butter isn’t for sandwiches, but when Vermont Soap Organics mixes it with rosemary extract, the stuff inside the round tin is good for sunburn, cuts, bites, rashes, chapped lips, burns and simply soft skin. I love how it covers all that, and I love how Vermont Soap products clean and beautify. I am still using a good-smelling bottle of liquid soap that cleans everything from counters to wood to carpet that I started spraying a year ago. I’m late getting into shea butter, but I appreciate it.

Need some neem
DoshaCare is customized ayurvedic skincare that is not edible, but I’m fascinated that the cleansing bath for sensitive skin has turmeric. Aloe vera and neem are also in the mix. Neem is also in DoshaCare hydrating moisturizer, which I love to the third power. Jojoba, sweet almond, avocado, cabbage and rose hip are in this elegant pump. It’s designed to “support a lifestyle of inner peace, outer health and ageless living.” That’s a bold statement, but I’m on board.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Go on a ‘clutter diet for Lent: New books look at self improvement
The Lenten season is when I look to self-improvement books, and I’ve found a few that offer tips on everything from organization to loving the “porcupines” in your life. Check these out:

Clutter Diet
A moment on the lips, forever on the hips is a warning to dieters and symbolizes how Lorie Marrero looks at clutter. Her book, “The Clutter Diet,” compares getting organized and in control to taking charge of one’s diet and health. Heavy people got that way over time, just as a crazy lifestyle creeps up on you. This diet asks clutters to examine how they got that way, stop procrastinating and get a plan of action in order.
I’ve used the party plan to get my simple housecleaning in gear. Schedule guests to come for dinner and you must have a clean house by that date. Tips abound throughout the book and on Some easy ideas for multi-tasking are:
While you are:
• Pumping gasoline, clean out your car.
• Taking out the trash on trash day, clean out the fridge to prevent smells from spoiled food.
• Paying bills, clean out your purse and find receipts you may need.
• Celebrating your birthday, schedule physical exams.
• Making breakfast, take laundry to its next step (washer to dryer, folding, etc.)

Got porcupines?
We’ve all got porcupines at home, school and the rest of the world. They have quills and they hurt. Debbie Ellis has a quick-read book called “How to Hug a Porcupine” that gives simple advice on learning to be less defensive and letting go of needing to win everything. Let your porcupine rant, listen well and be attentive. If you’re trying to win, you’re sure to lose, the book cautions. We should all be on a winning team and a better understanding is always a victory. In reading this we could discover how we are porcupines ourselves. I love the advice to set a good example for the both of you.

You’re worth it
Find a voice in the world’s conversation, Cheryl Saban urges in “What is Your Self-Worth? A Woman’s Guide to Validation.” Allow yourself to take up space, breathe and know your voice is beautiful, she writes in a book that advises journaling and challenging boundaries. I love this simple affirming statement: “I choose harmony.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Community ready for a Taste of Gumbo
“Gumbo… gumbo… gumbo…”
We are practically chanting it as our editor, Roger Cowles, shares daily updates on the 22nd annual Taste of Gumbo he’s helping organize for the Rotary Club of Port Arthur.
You’ll probably see us, and half the town, there from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur. Area restaurants and groups will cook up their best gumbo and other goodies for your tasting pleasure. A few other organizations are considering participating and the list could grow by the time gumbo day arrives, Cowles said. To be a part of it all, call him at 721-2431.
The silent auction will be back this year and the tradition of giving door prizes at a furious pace through the event will continue, Cowles said.
Tickets, priced at $8, are available from members of the Port Arthur Rotary Club and at The Port Arthur News, 3501 Turtle Creek Drive. Tickets will also be available at the door.

Nederland Little League Challengers to open
The Nederland Little League Challenger Division will be conducting opening ceremonies at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 21 at the Nederland Little League Baseball Park, FM 366.
Challenger Baseball is for children with mental and physical disablities. This year Nederland Little League has 97 children registered to play this weekend, making it the largest Challenger Baseball program in Texas, Scott Ferguson, division manager, said.. The Nederland High School Varsity Boys and Girls baseball teams will be volunteering their time to be buddies for these wonderful children, he said. For information, call him at 988-3561.

Master and student
Cheryl Carson sends this word to readers:
“Original artwork by Lamar art professor Jerry Newman and local wildlife artist, Albert Faggard, Jr. will be highlighted together on the “Jerry Newman Wall” during the upcoming La Grand Bal silent art auction and reception in the Dishman Art Museum, from 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, March 21. Faggard studied under Newman in the mid 1970s and then earned his master of arts in 2003 under Newman’s guidance. The two remained friends until Newman’s death in 2008. 
The “Jerry Newman Wall” had for years been totally reserved for Newman’s art until illness forced another artist’s work to occupy this prestigious location at the Dishman. Albert Faggard, Jr.’s artwork will be featured in this location along with Jerry Newman’s art work at this year’s La Grand Bal,” Carson reports.
For information, call Faggard at 350-1048.

Help us go green
Reader Yvonne Sutherlin wants to know where she can recycle used batteries, especially the little ones. If you know, e-mail me and we’ll all know.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

March is noodle month, so slurp ‘em up

March is noodle month. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Go beyond pre-fab ramen and experiment.
Frieda’s has fresh ones, like yakisoba. The noodles came in a two-serving package, but shredded cabbage helped stretch it to three when my daughter came home from work and caught me cooking. The family agreed Frieda’s Yakisoba Pre-Cooked Noodles, in teriyaki flavor, were simple and simply amazing.
We’d already fetched a pot out to boil them, then read the directions they were to stir-fry. No wonder they’re ready in five minutes. It took a fifth of that time to dig the pot out and put it back. The flavor packet made them taste like a dish from a trendy restaurant.
The family was also thrilled with Frieda’s chow mein noodles, also sold in a refrigerated block of freshness. I boiled these and tossed them with sesame oil and ginger.
I added strips of orange peel I keep in the freezer. Just seeing the baggie full of bright orange peels of vitamin C makes my mood sunny when I open the freezer door.

Passion fruit
As per instruction, I waited until Frieda’s passion fruit looked like something from a horror movie: little purple orbs of wrinkly leather. This is when the South American fruit, a key flavoring in Hawaiian Punch, delivers the sweetest golden pulp, accented by edible black seeds. Inside the flesh, it looked like an alien movie, but everyone loved it so much we ate it plain, leaving no leftovers to play at making passion fruit drinks, dressings and ice cream toppings. Use this spring as a time to try new things. You’ll likely like them, or at least have an anecdote at your next party.

Crepe easy
Those who make crepes claim they’re easy, those who watch think not. While I have sometimes made a perfectly thin pancake without even trying, I’ve never made a perfect crèpe when I meant to. Frieda’s Specialty Produce Co. comes to the rescue again with Frieda’s French Style Crepes in a resealable bag. Only 50 calories make up these rounds you can fill with egg and spinach or something sweet. I’ve tried lots of stuff and it’s great to have the bag ready with more for the next day. I simply toasted one and broke off the thin, crispy pieces to dip into an almond syrup. I was on my couch, but pretended I was at a Paris sidewalk café.

Chef’s Coffee
When students and entrepreneurs brewed up the idea to make a better coffee, they devoted the same precision that goes into making a fine wine. Chef’s Coffee Company got help from Cornell University School of Hotel Administration students and produced something they say changes with the environment. Environment counts, so the same cup will taste different at the beach, on a mountain top or at a horse race, Chef Craig Shelton of Ryland Inn in New Jersey, says. That’s the first time I’ve heard someone say what I’ve long thought. It sure tastes good at home on a Sunday morning. My theory is that you can taste more levels when you can relax more. Beans in this blend come from Africa, Asia and Central and South America.

The above word is Greek for “to lead one’s life,” and is the concept for our “dirty word,” diet. Ancient Greeks included a love of sports, theater, sculpture, wine, philosophy and health care into this concept. “The Park Avenue Diet” shares a concept that grooming, self confidence, fashion and fitness all play a role in what makes the so-called idle rich successful. Stuart Fischer’s book points out that these rich folk can afford great food, but they can control overdoing the bad stuff to keep up an image. We can do the same because it helps us lead a healthier, happier life. Experts offer advice and self-assessment questions and lots of recipes inspire readers toward culinary improvements. Here’s an easy one:
Spinach with Walnuts and Balsamic Vinegar
6 cups fresh spinach
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the three tablespoons of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and nutmeg in a large bowl. Season to taste and set aside.
Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half of the spinach and quickly sauté until barely wilted. Transfer the spinach to a platter. Heat the remaining oil and spinach and sauté until barely wilted. Add the first batch to ht e pan and blend in the vinaigrette. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with the walnuts and serve immediately.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Well, I’ll be ‘shamrocked’ for St. Pat’s
My friends lived in Dublin and offer a ‘Sláinte!’ at the drop of a clover.
My Mexican-American mother-in-law loved a tall glass of green beer. The glass was 2 feet tall, I think.
I’ve already practiced for the holiday with something Victoria D'amato-Moran created for Midori, the Shamrocked. The cocktail is supposed to put you mind of heather, golf, rough weather and “all that blarney.” It sounds like an odd combination, but by golly, it works. Just don’t make it in one of my mother-in-law’s glasses:
1-ounce Midori Melon Liqueur
1-ounce of Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey
1-ounce of Carolans Irish cream liqueur 
Shake incredibly well, serve in 3 oz. shot glass

Greening of the mustard
Think you know how to make mustard green for St. Pat’s Day? You don’t add green coloring. It’s a bit of a thinker; read on for the method. French’s sent this idea for a St. Pat’s sandwich:
Corned Beef Sandwiches
4 slices rye bread
4 tablespoons French’s Spicy Brown Mustard or French’s St. Patty’s Day “Green” Mustard (see recipe below) 
1 pound sliced corned beef
1/2 cup sauerkraut, drained
Spread mustard on bread slices.
Arrange corned beef and sauerkraut on two slices bread, dividing evenly. Cover each with second slice of bread, mustard side down.
Cut in half to make two servings.
French’s St. Patty's Day “Green” Mustard
1/3 cup French’s Classic Yellow Mustard
Few drops blue paste or liquid food coloring
Mix mustard and food coloring together. Add enough food coloring to make mustard turn 'St. Patty's Day' green.
Makes 1/3 cup.

Tamale King/Tamale Fiend
Reporter David Ball hasn’t made this space since he offered me some lunch from Tamale King in Nederland and end up eating the whole order with a “couldn’t resist” explanation. We called him the Tamale Fiend.
I have since enjoyed my own dozen from Tamale King, and especially enjoyed the cheesy sauces. My family, who has helped seasoned relatives make the family recipe of tamales, noticed how beautifully the King wraps and ties his bundles.
I’m thinking I’ll be back for tacos.

Refreshing fermentation
Kefir is a fermented, yogurt-like drink that should make a hit with American palates. Evolve bottles up nice strawberry and peach flavors my co-workers liked, probably because the bottle calls it a smoothie. I left off the other part on the label, “probiotic” smoothie. I didn’t make a big deal to the adults that it was “healthy.” These days, younger people are more attracted to that aspect. Thumbs up to Evolve.