Cruise Cuisine – Supper in Sapphire

On our third day of the cruise, we were back in Sapphire for dinner. Things were pretty relaxed, and while there was a dress code, no one was really enforcing it.

We were getting more into the swing of things and finally noticed this little addition to the menu that featured an unusual appetizer: “Rare Finds”. My partner in food was much more willing and able to take advantage of this particular little gem. While I returned to the shrimp cocktail, he adventurously ordered the Escargots Bourgignonne (snails in Burgandy). They were not presented in shell, but on a special plate with numerous cups around the rim, each holding a snail. The flavor of the sauce they had been cooked in was outstanding, the heartiness of wine mixed with spices and butter. I was at least brave enough to try that, if not the gastropods themselves.

Sadly, in our excitement, neither of us remembered to take photos of the appetizers.

Our main courses were more mainstream, being beef and chicken, but were as delicious as everything else we had been served to date.

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Chicken Milanese with charred lemon, sautéed green beans, and steamed vegetables.

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Flat Iron Steak with au jus, a baked potato and steamed veggies.

On we went, after a measured pause, to dessert. One of the selections truly surprised me, being lower calorie and having no added sugar. Of course I had to try it and I was not disappointed.

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Chocolate Panna Cotta. A deliciously chocolate dessert with lowered calories and no added sugars.

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Cheese Plate with whole grain bread, blueberries and strawberries, A Swiss-type cheese, a bleu cheese, a Gouda, a Cheddar and a Brie.

If for nothing else, time spent together with excellent food readily available made this trip more than worth the price.

— Ann Cathey

Candy Cane Snack Mix

There are tons of variations on the home-made holiday treat known as Chex Mix or Texas Trash. Most of them are a salty collection of cereals, nuts, pretzels, and spices. Have you ever considered a sweet version of this snacking treat?

Candy Cane Snack Mix
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes, plus refrigeration
Servings: Approximately 8

Ingredients:
5 cups rice cereal
1 cup mini pretzels
1 cup crushed candy canes
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2-1/2 cups white chocolate morsels (cookie chips)
2 cups popcorn
1/2 cup dark chocolate morsels (cookie chips)
1/2 cup mini marshmallows (any color)
1/2 cup shelled pistachios

Place cereal and pretzels into a large bowl.

Melt white chocolate morsels in microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring between rounds, until completely melted.

Pour melted chocolate over cereal. Stir and fold until lightly coated.

Fold in crushed candy canes.

Place confestioner’s sugar into a large zip-top bag.Add cereal mixture to bag, seal and shake until the mixture is coated with the sugar.

Refrigerate contents of bag until the chocolate hardens.

Turn out content of the bag into a large bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Place the mix in a serving bowl for immediate use, or measure into airtight containers as gifts.

Store at room temperature for up to two weeks.
Obviously, there are a lot of variations for this tasty treat, just as with the salty versions.

  • Mini marshmallows now come in different colors and flavors. Mint and pumpkin spice have been spotted locally.
  • Pistachios are not the only nut out there, though the greenish tint does add a bit of holiday color to this type of mix. Try different nuts for different flavors. Crushed hazelnuts or chopped pecans will lend themselves to exciting flavor variations.
  • Cookie chips also come in a wide variety of flavors. Dark, semi-sweet, white and milk chocolate, butterscotch, pumpkin spice, peppermint and others are available in my area at local chain grocery stores.
  • Candy canes are also available in a lot of flavors! From the traditional peppermint though a range of modern candy flavors, all the way to dill pickle falvored, you can find just about any flavor base you desire.

 

For the coffee lovers in your family, you might try this:

  • Hazelnuts or almonds in stead of pistachios
  • Chocolate flavored candy canes
  • Add a quarter cup of instant coffee to the confectioner’s sugar

 

For the pumpkin spice crowd, you migth try this:

  • Pecans instead of pistachios
  • Pumpkin spice, clove, or coffee flavored candy canes
  • Add a touch of pumpkin pie soice or cinnamon to the confectioner’s sugar
  • Butterscotch or pumpkin spice cookie chips in place of the white chocolate morsels

 

For the lovers of fruity flavors:

  • Small jelly beans instead of nuts
  • Crushed hard candy of a fruity flavor (or several) instead of candy canes
  • Add lime salt (a dry powder) to the confectioner’s sugar for some zing
  • Add a bit of shredded coconut
  • Colorful mini marshmallows

Any way you put it together, this recipe is bound to be a crowd pleaser over the holidays!

— Ann Cathey

Gypsy Joynt – Galveston, Texas

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In a building that has survived multiple hurricanes, a little hippie restaurant opened that’s a definite winner. Gypsy Joynt is an eclectic mix of atmosphere, food, coffees, and desserts that’s sure to grab your attention. Don’t be fooled by the exterior where the flagpoles proudly bear bandannas, t-shirts and jeans, this place rocks.

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From the time we walked in to the time we left, we were treated to an array of Rolling Stones music. Seemed to be the sound of the day and we didn’t mind in the slightest. The dj booth is built of what looks like scavenged wood, with racks of LPs, and a command station presided over by a computer that rules the sound system. I didn’t get too good a look at the rest of the goodies in the booth, as there was so much more to see.

There’s a lot of dark wood, including the tables and mismatched chairs, that helps to give a comfortably cave-like feel to the interior, Shawls hung over the windows, scarves and beads from the ceiling, with a scattered mix of period posters, toys, and other implementada ranging from the late 50’s to the mid 70’s along the walls. The bar top (they do serve beer) where you place your order, is cut from an old pool table. The slab still has it’s felt jacket, and the pockets their leather baskets.

Pick up a menu and be prepared for a wild ride!

From pizza to focacia sandwiches and wraps, to salads to a truly decadent dessert bar, this place seems to have a little bit of everything.

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Smoretella – Nutella, toasted marshmallow, Graham cracker.

Autumn Cocoa – fudge, pumpkin spice, homemade pumpkin marshmallow.

 

 

Rocco Rocks – mac-n-cheese and brisket pizza. Think what you will, but one of our tablemates called it “possibly the perfect pizza”.

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dsc_0021Big & Sloppy – a chili cheeseburger that might best be served on a plate instead of a burger basket! I ordered bunless and was not disappointed. The grilled sirloin patty was served up beneath sliced cheddar and a ton of house-made chili. The chili wasn’t hot, which was a very pleasant change from today’s trend toward scorching your face off, though it usually comes with hot onions and jalapenos. Yes, those are sweet potato waffle fries.

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I Love Lucy – This lovely combo sandwich was ordered as a wrap. Stuffed with ham, pulled pork, Swiss cheese, house-made pickles and mustard, it was a tasty and filling meal when coupled with the sweet potato waffle fries.

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House-made pickles – What a pleasant surprise! With a firm crunch, these thick wavy slices come in somewhere between hamburger dills and kosher, with a sweet afterglow on the back of the tongue.

 

When next you are on Galveston Island and feeling a bit peckish, skip the Strand and give this Joynt a try.

On the 1-5 scale, Gypsy Joynt gets:
Cleanliness – 4.5
Service – 3
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 3.5
Overall experience – 4.2

Gypsy Joynt
2711 Market Street
Galveston, Texas 77550
409-497-2069

 

— Ann Cathey

Crock Pot Desserts

I was amazed to find quite a number of warm dessert dishes that can be cooked in a crock pot or other slow cooker. I bet you didn’t know that brownies and cobblers can be prepared in a slow cooker rather than in a conventional oven. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

These recipes are written more like concepts than with the usual ingredients list due to the many variations that are available for each.

BREAD PUDDING
Nothing is a better dessert on a cool fall evening than a warm gooey bread pudding – and it will make your house smell absolutely wonderful. Into a buttered slow cooker put eight cups of cubed day-old bread. In a separate bowl, combine four eggs, 1 1/2 cups of milk, 1/2 cup of cream, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of Nutella, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Whisk until smooth, pour over bread cubes, and press cubes until all liquid is absorbed. Cook on low for three hours and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

BROWNIES
The best part about brownies made in a slow cooker is you can cook them without the panic of leaving your oven on – and, of course, how gooey and delicious they get. Spray your slow cooker with cooking spray and pour in your favorite brownie recipe. Cook on low for three hours. Drop crumbled chocolate or other candies across the top of the brownie batter and cook normally. Serve with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s seriously decadent.

COBBLER
Peach cobbler is an amazing dessert, and this slow cooked cobbler will delight you. In a buttered crock pot, put four cups of sliced peaches mixed with 1/4 cup of sugar. In another bowl, mix one cup of yellow cake mix, 1/2 cup of sugar and one cup of milk until just blended. Pour the mixture over peaches. Cook on low for three hours or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Spoon it into bowls and dust lightly with cinnamon sugar for an added treat.

Apples, pears, and all kinds of berries may be used instead of peaches for this recipe. You might even use several at one time for a great mix of flavors and textures. You might also use a different flavor of cake mix, such as lemon or orange, to create even more tasty treats.

PUDDING CAKE
Set this to cook in the morning and have an amazing dessert waiting for you when you get home from a long day at work. Mix together one box of chocolate cake mix, one package of chocolate instant pudding, two cups of sour cream, four eggs, 3/4 cups of oil, one cup of hot water and two teaspoons of vanilla extract. Coat the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray and pour in the batter. Cook on low for five to six hours. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Give these warm desserts a try and let us know how you enjoyed them. See if you don’t agree that the crock pot method is a time-saving twist on these home-made favorites.

–Ann Cathey

La King’s – Galveston, Texas

“Meet me at La King’s Confectionery.”

La King’s is an old fashioned ice cream parlour and candy factory on the historic Strand. Old time fountain delights, coffee, salt water taffy, lollipops, and so many chocolates! There’s even a case full of sugar-free (isomalt) chocolates for those of us who need an alternative to sugar.

The ambiance is definitely a bit of history, with huge wooden bars and barbacks serving as soda fountain, ice cream service, coffee shop, decorated with antique machines and containers of ingredients once used by La King’s. These fabulous antiques run down one side of the shop. The other side is covered in displays of candies, on tables and in refrigerated cabinets. Down the middle of the space are the nut roaster and popcorn machine, silly coin operated games, and white wireworks ice cream parlour tables and chairs. At the far end is the candy making demonstration area, only it’s not just a demonstration. La King’s prides itself in showing you how it’s done while they are actually making their products.DSC_0490According to their marketing material:

La King’s is your connection to a by-gone era. La King’s Confectionery goes back tot he 1920’s when James. H. King began his apprenticeship in candy making at the St. Regis Confectionery in Houston, Texas. He learned his craft well under the watchful eyes of “old-world masters”. Jimmy established his own business and eventually supplied stores throughout the south. He inspired his sons to learn the candy business with the sme pride and attention to detail.

In 1976, Jimmy’s oldest son, Jack, moved his family to the historic Strand in Galveston to recreate an old fashioned confectionery. With the help of his family, Jack created La King’s Confectionery. He has continued to use 19th century formulas and methods handed down to him, making confections using traditional equipment and procedures.

La King’s features a 1920’s soda fountain, serving malts, shakes, ice cream sodas, sundaes, splits, floats and your favorite fountain treats.

Our master candymaker will delight you with his old time specialties made right before your eyes on antique equipment. We make more than 50 candies from traditional recipes.

La King’s ice cream parlour makes and serves “Purity” ice cream. Purity was the first ice cream manufacturer in Texas, The company was founded in 1889 on Galveston Island.

In addition to all the wonderful sweets, La King’s also offers a full service coffee bar serving Duncan coffees. They also carry a full line of roasted Duncan beans in case you want to take some home. The Texas Pecan is a nice treat on a cold day!

The complete array of La King’s goodies may be ordered online and shipped to your home, or to others as a gift. Sweeten your day by visiting their website for more information on La King’s candies and other treats.

DSC_0118On the 1-5 scale, La King’s gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 4
Overall experience – 4.8

La King’s Confectionery
2323 The Strand
Galveston Island, Texas
409-762-6100

— Ann Cathey

Pillsbury has Gluten-Free Products!

Realizing that gluten free does not mean carb free, I still keep my eyes out for products that might serve well on both dietary lists: the gluten free and the diabetic.

A few months ago I stumbled upon a gluten free product that actually managed to lower the carb count for some foods I adore. Pillsbury offers a line of gluten free doughs for cookies and pie crusts. They are in the refrigerated section of the grocery, near the other cookie, pastry, and biscuit offerings.

Pillsbury has been kind enough to share some recipes that make use of these products. I recently stumbled across one that sounds quite tasty, and I plan to try it out.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cups
Ingredients:
1 container Pillsbury TM Gluten Free refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough

24 miniature chocolate-covered peanut butter cup candies, preferably also gluten free, unwrapped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350F.

Place mini paper baking cups in each of 24 mini muffin cups. Spray paper baking cups with cooking spray.

Place 1 level measuring tablespoonful of cookie dough in each paper baking cup.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until dark golden brown. Immediately press one peanut butter candy into the center of each cookie cup.

Cool 10 minutes. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

Bon appetite!

–Ann Cathey

Holiday Advance Prep

Save yourself some time and stress by preparing as much in advance as possible. Here are some suggestions from our kitchen to yours for simplifying your holiday cooking.

Cookie Dough
Cookies are a great treat! Most cookies can be mixed up in advance, rolled into logs and frozen. When needed, they may be pulled out and sliced, baked, and served warm to your guests. Any type of cookie that doesn’t require a little something extra like a sugar crystal dusting or toppings is great for this preparation. Frozen cookie dough can also be used as an activity for kids or adults. Get together in the kitchen and make cookies together with family chats and a glass of wine or juice.

Stuffing Suggestions
Stuffing isn’t always cooked inside the bird. It is often baked alongside the bird so there’s plenty for everyone. The dry ingredients for stuffing can be mixed up to 2 days ahead of time and refrigerated until needed. Mix in the wet ingredients just before baking the dish.

For an extra layer of flavor in your stuffing, add pre-cooked and crumbled sausage or bacon. The sausage can be spicy or mild, sage or Italian spiced. Use whatever suits your meal plan and give your stuffing a boost. Diced apple, apricot or pear will also add an extra dimension to stuffing.

Sweet Treats
Unless it’s something that you want to serve hot out of the oven, many desserts can be made up a day or two in advance. Pumpkin or sweet potato pies refrigerate well. Filling for fruit pies and tarts can be mixed up in advance, stored in an airtight container and refrigerated until it’s time to build the pie and bake it. Dry ingredients for gingerbread, brownies, and cakes can be mixed up and stored in airtight containers without refrigeration. Simply add the wet ingredients and bake when you are ready.

Thawing The Bird
Frozen turkey, duck, goose, or whatever flavor of bird you desire for your holiday feast may be purchased weeks in advance and kept frozen until it’s time for the thaw. Remember to reserve space for thawing your turkey or other fowl. These meats should never be thawed at room temperature to avoid bacterial infection. Always thaw your bird at 40F or below, and allow 12 hours to thaw per four pounds of bird. Place the bird in a pan to avoid leaking into your refrigerator.

May your holidays begin and end with love!

–Ann Cathey

Amazeballs! is Amazing!

I wrote about a cottage industry business on Galveston Island a couple of months ago: Amazeballs! I’m writing about them again because they pulled a rabbit out of the proverbial hat this last weekend for the birthday of my partner in crime, Christopher.

Allow me to introduce you to their idea of a birthday cake, in five taste-bud pleasing versions of chocolate.

11693828_926019154123770_3760396705015053560_n 11705186_926019267457092_2726921586160241547_nThe top center cakeball is a cool and luscious lemon. The next layers down in order are Mocha Brownie (a requested experiment), Roxy’s Mahem (chili lime), and Chocolate Chocolate, with some test subjects thrown in with alternating colors. I can’t spill the beans on those yet, as they are not part of the official flavor lineup just yet.

Yes, there is a cake beneath all those cakeballs! It is also chocolate, as requested, topped with chocolate fondant and a chocolate glaze. Can you tell the birthday boy likes chocolate?

While this cake may not look terribly large, there are about 20 small servings of the cake along with 29 regular sized cakeballs (about 2 ounces each?) and 10 half size balls. That’s 35-40 small serving of extremely rich sweetness.

If you need an original design, or just want a chocolate mountain like this one for any occasion, give Amazeballs a call and get your order in today!

–Ann Cathey

Amazeballs! Bakery – Galveston, Texas

10569105_881233748602311_3466077686341332385_nAmazeballs! Bakery out of Galveston, Texas, is a cottage industry offering handmade confections in the form of cake-balls, cake-pops, cookie truffles and brownie bonbons.
While there seem to be a gazillion flavor options offered by these ladies, I had the privilege of trying four recently.
Everything Nice (spice cake w/ cream cheese frosting)
The spice in this cake is fairly high, calmed by the coating to a delightful combination reminiscent of Gramma’s spice cake from an old European recipe. Nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon are the predominant flavors that strike the palate in a smooth combination with the cream cheese frosting.

Duval Dreamin’ (key lime)
A lovely spring cake ball with a very delicate key lime flavor. It offers a good mix of textures between the candy coating and the the cake itself. Rather than being cloying, it leaves the palate more refreshed than many other types of confections. It is also available with a stronger key lime flavor, more like a key lime pie. Be sure to state your preference when ordering this one.

Chuck, Where’s My Blender? (non-alcoholic margarita)
This is a surprise of the tastebuds: cake that tastes like a lime margarita! It even has that mildly limey aftertaste that lingers on the back of your tongue. This bite of flavor is a little taste of summer from south of the border.

Rapture (maple blondie)
A blondie is a non-chocolate brownie, and this little ball has a true brownie texture with a striking maple flavor without being overpowering.

Check out the current flavor list and see what tickles your fancy. The folks at Amazeballs! Bakery will also work on suggested flavors for special orders.

Because all Amazeballs! Bakery products are made in a home kitchen they are not inspected by the Department of State Health Services or a local health department. The items reviewed herein contain the following allergens: EGGS, WHEAT, and MILK. Gluten free, sugar-free, wheat free, egg free, and milk free products are either already available or in development to accommodate special dietary requirements.

Pops and balls are available in minimum orders of 1/2 dozen, including stickless, bouquets, and trays for birthday parties, holidays, baby showers, corporate parties or any other event you may require. Be advised that because this business
is a cottage industry, payment must be made at the bakery’s home location.

For more information, feel free to drop by their website or contact them via FaceBook.

— Ann Cathey

Tasty Treats for the Holidays (or anytime)

Around November every year, my thoughts turn to holiday baking. Visions of cookies, cupcakes, pies, and candy dance in my head. Sometimes, I even manage to turn those visions into reality.

This year, my accomplice and I made a limited selection of goodies for work parties and gifts. We chose peanut butter cookies, peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, cake balls, and cookie truffles. All of them were very tasty, but I was especially impressed by the cake balls and truffles. So, it seems, was everyone else.
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For the cake balls, we decided to go with a devil’s food cake and a maple bacon frosting. We opted to use a cake mix and canned frosting, the cake mix because it made the process more simple and the canned frosting for stability as we wanted cake balls that didn’t need to be refrigerated.  For the truffles, we decided to forego the traditional addition of cream cheese in favor of cream cheese frosting (again, for stability).

Here’s the lowdown:

For the cake balls — we made a 9″x13″ cake according to the directions on the cake mix package.  Once the cake cooled, we crumbled the cake into small, coarse crumbs and then stirred in about 3/4 of the frosting. I recommend starting with a little more than half and then adding more as needed. The final mixture should be moist enough to form balls, but not moist enough to be squishy. Once the mixture was ready, we used a small cookie scoop to portion out the mix. Those portions were rolled into balls and placed on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet.  Once the sheet was full of cake balls (which you can place very, very close together if necessary), we stuck the cake balls in the freezer for about twenty minutes.  (During those twenty minutes, we stirred up the peanut butter cookies and started baking them. What you do with your twenty minutes is, of course, entirely up to you). Once the time had passed, the cake balls were ready to dip. I highly recommend using candy melts or chocolate bark instead of chocolate chips; it melts and coats far better that way. We used a two-spoon method for dipping the balls (one spoon to dip, the other to transfer to yet more wax paper). The coating set up almost immediately, and the cake balls were ready for tasting. And they tasted awesome!

The method for making the cookie truffles is almost exactly the same as for the cake balls. instead of the baked cake, we used Oreos. In fact, we made a batch each of Birthday Cake Oreo Truffles and Cookie Dough Oreo Truffles; both were delicious. Simply throw the Oreos (or other cookies) into a food processor or food chopper and chop them into crumbs. Mix the crumbs with cream cheese frosting, portion, roll, stuff them in the freezer for about twenty minutes, take them out, and dip in chocolate or almond bark (I prefer the chocolate, personally).

You can decorate your truffles or cake balls with drizzled white chocolate, candy sprinkles, crushed nuts, etc. If you’re using something other than a drizzle, just make sure to add the decoration to the truffle before the coating has time to set.

The best part of these treats (other than devouring them) is that they are incredibly simple to make but people will still think you’re a baking genius!

–LB