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CULINARY THRILL SEEKING — PieCaken, pasta make holidays bright

PieCaken at Rao’s Bakery is a slice of indulgence that is the talk of holiday tables.

The local bakery gets both a pumpkin and pecan pie between layers of spice cake and tops it with cream cheese icing and a sprinkle of pecans. Can you handle it?

The billboards made me inquire and yes, you can get this all-in-one by the slice. Mine was over-the-top fun with plenty to share. Be a part of one of the better trends of 2020.


When Italy comes in a box

Trying to pronounce “gnocchi” was the trickiest part of the meal. Cooking the Pastene brand for the first time was super easy. Boil the little potato dumplings until they float to the top and douse them with Pastene’s thick Kitchen Ready Spaghetti Sauce. A first-time gnocchi maker acquired skill with a dish we couldn’t pronounce. Mafaldine and Trivella are other new-to-me pasta cuts that come in gift boxes such as tonno (fancy solid light tuna in olive oil), tomato basil sauce, roasted peppers, Kalamata olives, etc. I made my own rules as I enjoyed this company’s Ultimate Foodie Pasta Lover Specialty Gift Box. For years I’ve just kept one pasta shape on the shelves because it was so easy to prepare. Turns out, there’s a lot to love that is just as easy. Pastene has been importing since 1874 and I’m catching up with their times. — www.pastene.com


Euphonious results

Wrap up a winter’s evening with serious chamber music by and for accomplished musicians, “Three Tributes.” Brothers James and Robert Freeman released this CD and booklet to honor parents Henry and Florence. Three commissioned works from award-winning composers and world-class musicians fill the air with music. I’m immersed in the family story, beginning in England with a failed tavern, debtor’s prison and seafaring exile to Australia, with three of five children buried at sea. Then there is success in Boston for Bob on bass and Florence on violin, and much success for their sons. Texas ties include Jack Brannon’s poem to the red snapper – shimmering vermilion orb – and recording at UT in Austin. All this to absorb, then the music…


Sunshine Energy Water

A can of Sunshine could be just what you need. It’s not just that it was the first cool thing I tasted after the no-power days of Hurricane Delta. As the label indicates, I got “good energy” from a can of Ginger Berry. But Clementine Twist was my fave over Blueberry Lemonade and my go-to, Citrus Lime. Vitamins, electrolytes and 70 mg of natural caffeine are in these tall cans that  are just 60 calories a can and are full of B12 and other “good” stuff. Lotus Pear and Pomegranate Acai are also in the Sunshine line that I’ll be looking for. — www.drinkthesunshine.com


Hydration ROAR

They had me at 10 calories. Big bottles of ROAR Organics come in Cucumber Watermelon, Mango Clementine, Georgia Peach and Blueberry Acai and taste great. They support stay-safe advice from “get a flu shot” to “wear a mask” and come with electrolytes, antioxidants and vitamins. I truly like this one, found at — www.drinkroar.com.


Snickerdoodle for the health conscience

You can eat better all-year round, but Good Dee’s low-carb and vegan-friendly baking mixes have seasonal options. I’m not known for baking, so hear this success story. Saturday morning I quickly mixed up Snickerdoodle Cookie with almond flour and followed Sunday with Chocolate Brownie with sunflower seeds. It was, as Mompreneur Texan-turned-New Yorker Deana Karim says, “easy as pie” to mix up and bake. I’ll wager Double Chocolate Chip Cookie and Butter Pecan Cookie are just as tempting. My mixes had no grain, sugar, gluten or wheat, which are things people watch for these days. You don’t have to avoid anything but a third helping with these babies that came together in no time. — www.gooddees.com


Lehi Mills

The eggless brownie is here, Lehi Mills of Lehi, Utah announces, and its first ingredient is quality, the back of the box reads.

Plant-based brownie mix with High Mountain flour mixed and baked easily for a holiday season breakfast with plenty left over to gift a newly-plant based friend. My batch resulted in the best combo of moist and crispy. I just added water to Lehi Mills plant-based Pancake Mix and again successfully created cakes that looked like the ones on the box.

I confess I’m not usually to good at this so I was pretty proud of my flavorful presentation. Both of these are whole grain, dairy free and vegan and behave as you intended. Lehimills.com was established in 1906 and boxes mixes for muffins (raspberry, yes! Also easy and good), waffles and desserts.

Pumpkin alert: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie sounds like a winner.


Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie getting her holiday vibe. Reach her at darraghcastillo@icloud.com