Saturday, February 12, 2011

closet break!...the return of betty and umberto

Lots has happened since Betty and I got trapped in the closet but I won't bear you with the details. As we head into the second month of the year Betty and I changed up our new years resolution game. No real year long resolutions except I would like to try and read a book a month and get this bearlog back up and quasi running. Ultimately the goal was to moderate with no OCD militant resolutions. Betty met me half way and started a monthly resolution strategy. In January Betty swore off milk and sugar -- the turbearnado variety of course. As we concluded the first month of resolutions I decided to sit down with the bearl of my dreamz for an interview and to learn what her febearary resolution was going to be:

U: So we got outta the closet.
B: We did. Not sure how you got us out but I'm happy to be back.
U: Fur realz. So I'm dying to know how was the first month with no sugar and milk?
B: No sugar and milk made my morning coffee less enjoyable. The taste was harsher and kinda made my stomach feel funny.
U: Will you stick with your coffee resolution?
B: No. Now that the month is over I'll return to milk & turbearnado unless I'm having something sweet. I'd rather cut back the sugar some place else.
U: What did you learn about yourself this month?
B: It was worth a try to see if I could develop a taste for black coffee but after a month I realize it's not my thing but it was worth expanding my flavor palette if even only temporbearily.
U: Do you have any advice for cubs struggling with their year long resolutions?
B: Good luck. Don't give up everything you enjoy. Take it in moderation.
U: What's your goal for this month?
B: To reduce my sweets consumption through simple less calorie options...ultimately just saying no to junkie sweets and hopefully avoiding eating anything after 8PM.
U: Bearendous. I wish you luck. Let's get outta here.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

trapped in the closet...chapter 1

he says "it might be saturday evening not sure what time it is these days..."
she says "not sure how long it's been we've been outta the game..."
he follows with "my crown is awol and can't remember when we last ate..."
she agrees "for sure...and the folks don't seem to get out much these days..."
he exclaims "and who's that little person who's taken over our place!!!"
she concurs "he yells and cries and stinks alot...and is chubby in the face..."
he warns "but we gotsa's just a matter of time...we gots this..."
she says "really think you can get us outta this closet?"

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Planning for the bean...

In an effort to evaluate cost-saving measures, potentially avoid any BPA traces in canned foods and truly explore the nature of one our favorite foods I decided to try out homemade refried beans. I bought a huge bag of pinto beans from WholeFoods for ~$2.00. I soaked them in a bowl of water overnight, drained them, and then boiled them for 2 hours with some water, garlic, bay leaves and kosher salt. Once the beans were tender I drained them and kept the bean stock. In order to "re-fry" the beans I placed the beans in a pot and added some oil and heated them up while smashing them. I also added some bean stock back to the pot to smoothen them out. Concerning the preservation of bean stock -- I read recently about ways to multipurpose cooking elements like re-using cooking waters for various purposes -- including pasta water, water used for boiling veggies and the like -- and incorporating the water into recipes instead of plain water. The seasoned water is a natural thickener and flavor enhancer. So with no further ado I present my bean stock:

strained bean stock with hints of garlic and bay leaves in stock container from Penzey's

Betty was grossed out by the two unappealing jars of stock that were in the fridge but I was excited to use them in some future recipe.

The refried beans turned out pretty good. They were a little bland -- but i do have a bad habit of not adding too much salt to my food. What I noticed most was the texture of the beans. Definitely more substance and hence filling which was a good thing. So most our meals that week consisted of classic CK staples including...

bean burritos with trader joe's whole wheat wrappers, shredded ched, lazily chopped onions and the retun of the el yucateco paso doble

surprise remix. same burritos as before but with cilantro.

nachos. i know big surprise. diced jalapenos to boot.

So...Beans...and I used them for bean burritos and nachos which is a good portion of what we typically eat...but what about the yucky looking bean stock?

Well I decided to make jambalaya and utilized the remaining pinto beans and my bean stock along with the following:
  • ground turkey from Trader Joes
  • potatoes
  • zuccini
  • squash
  • onions
  • bay leaves
  • chili con carne powder from Penzey's
  • chipotle salsa from Trader Joes
  • andouille sausage from Trader Joes
  • corn

jambalaya. boom.

For plating I decided to cook up some grits that I purchased when Betty and I were down in Louisville earlier this year and added a fried egg on top for kicks.

CK's extreme jambalaya. boom.

The jambalaya was the jam. The grits absorbed and inherited the smoky flavor of the jambalaya and were surprisingly smooth and creamy. The sausage and veggies provided additional texture which made each bite very hearty. The tang of the egg yolk took each lucky bite to the moon. I've cooked jambalaya twice this year. That's twice more than I ever have before and am looking for ways to remix this dish.

So the bean has come full circle for CK. I am aware of the health concerns of purchasing canned foods as previously mentioned for BPA concerns and sodium concerns -- but I do have trouble resisting canned refried beans for the convenience factor since we eat them often. There are healthier brands that have less sodium and are organic but those also cost twice-to-three-times as much. This cooking experience has been fun and revealing. It definitely takes more time to make beans from scratch -- but you get more beans for your buck for sure and of course you get the bean stock as an added enhancer for other meals. In the end it's all about planning. Planning for the bean...and that is something this bear will just have to do...Plan for the bean. Be the Bean. Eat the bean.

There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpy.

Betty and I decided to carve a pumpkin despite the fact that Halloween had come and gone. We wanted to name our pumpkin pumpy cause that's a cool name. Betty took the lead since I hadn't carved a pumpkin since I was in kin-bear-garten.

Betty drawing up potential faces for pumpy. Her fur sure looks strange.

Betty opening up pumpy's head. I didn't know she was gonna kill him!

Pumpy's seeds. We toasted these with oil, salt and pepper and they were delicious.

Pumpy has a face...

Pumpy all done.

Pumpy sleeping.

Making pumpy was a lot of fun and I got to learn more about pumpkins along the way. I sure hope pumpy rises out of the chateau again next year flying through the air bringing toys to all the bears of the world!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

cholesterolking lives...

Don't count Betty and me out just yet!

this is a scary picture of pumpy the pumpkin.

see he's not that scary with the lights on.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Charlotte, North Bear-alina...this one's for you...this one's for us us...

Betty and I took a last minute trip to Hilton Head last month and stopped in to visit some fam and friends in Charlotte, NC on the way. We had some good eats and the highlight of the trip was getting some quality time with our friends and family whom we don't get to visit with often. We kicked off opening night at a Mexican restaurant which of course I was eager to try. Our friend took us to Azteca. I must admit the location of the restaurant was slightly seedy as it was connected to a hotel but there was a warm vibe in the air which included a Mariachi band and folks who would stop by your table and make fresh guacamole.

chips & salsa w/ an interesting cabbage salad/salsa/slaw?

$8 guacamole made fresh in front of you

carnitas de puerca aka pork tacos.

sopapilla-esque dessert with fruit topping

Overall I was pleased with the meal, the vibe and the great conversation during dinner. There was perhaps slightly a bit of ADD in the air with all the music and action happening in the restaurant but it was fun none-the-less. The chips and salsa were standard. The cabbage dip was intriguing though not my favorite. I asked for hot sauce and hot salsa and was underwhelmed with both options that were brought out. The $8 guac tasted more like $5.75 guac but was still decent. The highlight of my meal was my carnitas taco dinner. The pork was extremely delicious and cooked tender topped with my favorite veggie red onions. Does it really get any better than this? I thoroughly enjoyed my tacos. Dessert was very delicious and a palette cleanser to change up everything we had been eating all evening.

The next morning I noted there was a Bojangles nearby our friend's place so I had to let Betty experience the guilty fried indulgence that is Bojangles.

biscuits & gravy to the left to the left & a spicy chicken biscuit with taters to the right to the right...

The biscuits and gravy were sinfully delicious. I really need to find a recipe for biscuits and gravy because I really love and crave them. I know Bojangles is fast food -- but their biscuit and gravy gives all the other dine-in joints up north a run for their money. The chicken biscuit was very good too. The potato wedges were a'ight but not anything too exciting. We also ordered a blue berry biscuit from them which was excessively rich and buttery but also delicious. It was fun to share this Southern fast food tradition with Betty though you really only need to eat Bojangles once every 2-3 years.

Betty and her bear-friend went to get their paws done at the bear-lon so I decided to stop by and visit my aunt and uncle. I was treated to some fantastic-ly fresh and tasty Indian food.

my aunt's Indian falafel

These were great. The meal was a take on Greek falafel but consisted of chick peas and lentils in the batter. The balls were rolled, deep fried and then served with a pita with some very tasty cilantro cream chutney. Talking to my aunt about how she made the Indian falafel made me want to revisit the process of deep frying foods. Betty got me a fry daddy when we still lived in the Short North but I was always scared to use it.

Up next was my aunt's golgappa a true Indian delicacy:

golgappa covered with seasoned yogurt, tamarind chutney, cilantro and chick peas

When I ate this yummy dish I couldn't help but reflect on how my tastebuds have evolved since I was a bitty bear. I never liked this dish as a cub -- i think mostly because the sweet and sourness confused me -- but now being somewhat older my taste buds have matured or something and this dish hit the spot. For those not familiar with golgappa -- it is essentially deep-fried mini crispy bread shells topped with chick peas, onions and usually a mix of yogurt and sweet-and-spicy chutneys.

In the evening Betty and I visited my cousin and her husband in the heart of downtown Charlotte. My cousin prepared for us an organic vegetarian Mexican dish of chili verde enchiladas. Not pictured were some tasty appetizers of guacamole and a cheesy bean dip.

chili verde vegetable enchilada stack

The enchiladas were fresh, simple and pretty tasty. A little light on the spice for my tastes but all in all a good meal. During dinner Betty and I had great discussion with my cousin and her hubs about the China Study, the challenges of maintaining an organic lifestyle and bear-ituality. Good times indeed.

The next day we caught up with more fam and hit up Big Daddy's Burger Bar which is a burger joint that prides itself on grass-fed hormone free burgers. Since I was down in the South I figured I should try their Classic Southern Burger:

Classic Southern Burger: burger topped with chili, American cheese, relish, mustard and slaw along & french fries fried in duck fat.

This burger was fresh and tasty but a bit of a mess. I suppose you get what you order right? The duck fat fries were good but I couldn't really distinguish the taste of the duck fat from the usual french fry preparation except for the fact they tasted firmer and were a little on the salty side. No worries because this place specialized in soft serve for dessert which was the perfect way to end the meal.

ultra sweet-soft serve with sprinkles

I forgot to take a picture of our last home cooked meal with my cousins and aunt but it was a delicious meal of cholay and dal. Betty and I had a lot of fun in Charlotte. I was impressed with all the yummy home cooked meals my family shared with us and really the best part was getting to visit with everyone and seeing our family and friends. I was happy to learn of similar cooking and diet interests with my cousins -- and hopefully next time we visit I'll get to share with them some of my ck freestylings in the kitchen. Word is bear-log!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

the best taco-sense is a good b-fense...Mexican style tacos in the house

During my 2 month hiatus of not blogging -- I was still busy in the kitchen with the thoughts of Mexican style tacos on my mind. My trip to Los Potosinos definitely impacted my taste palette and since then I can't get enough of corn tortillas, onions, cilantro and limes with any assortment of meats or legumes. The bear-fense aka b-fense wishes to present the following evidence of such obsession with all things Mexican style.

Exhibit 1: Mexican style tacos with ground turkey & homemade black bean salsa with the El Yucataco pasa doble bringing up the rear

This meal was delicious though unfortunately we were short of limes -- so I soaked the onions in vinegar to emulate the acidic clean taste of missing limes. Despite it's deliciousness I think I prefer non-ground meats in my tacos. There's more substance and diversity of texture. See Exhibit 2:

Exhibit 2: Mexican style tacos with grilled chicken with guacamole salad and Traders Joes Chimichurri rice with the El Yucataco pasa doble bringing up the rear again...

Holy bear-ito. These tacos were on-point. I grilled the chicken on the stove with this Buckeye Rub that I got from Hill's market -- and it gave the chicken a fantastical smokey sweet flavor that really enhanced the taco. Though not pictured we had fresh squeezed lime juice. This meal was replete -- the true gem was the improvisational guacamole salad that I free styled after noticing how Los Potosinos and most other taco reviews revealed that radishes were common with your taco truck experience. This was also my first time making guacamole since Betty makes one that will blow your paws off. The guacamole salad consisted of:
  • 3 avocados
  • juice from 1.5 limes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 jalapenos diced with membrane removed
  • defrosted frozen organic corn from WholeFoods
  • a bunch of radishes sliced chunky
  • some diced tomatoes
  • diced onions
  • splash of El Yucateco green sauce
For the guac -- I placed everything in a covered bowl and shaked it up like a polaroid picture to let the ingredients combine naturally at first -- then went through with a fork and did some slight smashing. The guac has become a mainstay at our cave these days and Betty finally realized the true unleashed flavor of Mexican style tacos.

Exhibit 3: Mexican style tacos with grilled mahi mahi + radishes and said Trader Joes Chimichurri sauce

You thought I was kiddin'...nope. I kept remixing these tacos I tell you. Exhibit 3 brought out the fish in all of us. I know humans stereotype bears to eat only salmon -- but this bear likes to get his fish on with mahi mahi. I grilled up some mahi mahi -- frozen from WholeFoods -- with seasoned salt, lemon and then splashed it with some vinegar. Then topped it with all the usual fixins but also added diced radishes. This was my first time EVER cooking with fish and it seemed too easy. Ultimately this meal was simply outstanding.

For our final exhibit -- Betty and I decided to hit up La Casita for only our second time as I was craving some authentic Mexican food. After having success at Cazuelas and Don Patron 3 I was amped to see how La Casita fared with their taco offerings. I ordered their taco platter that came with beans and rice.

Exhibit 4A: from La Casita: Mexican style taco trifecta featuring: carnitas, pastor and chorizo

Exibit 4B: refried beans and Mexican rice from La Casita

Well...go figure my taco bear-ble was busted at La Casita. I had a bite of the first taco which was a carnitas taco and it was very tasty though a bit fatty for my tastes. I then had the pastor taco which was greasy and showed no semblance of the sweet tasting pork I had learned to savor. The same greasiness also showed up again when I ate the chorizo sausage. No real smoky kick -just salty greasy strangeness. The highlight of this meal was the beans and rice and I suppose the first taco. This is the first time that I would say I did not like the food at a Mexican restaurant. I felt a little queazy in the post-meal discussion with Betty thinking about the fattiness and greasiness of the meats. Her meal was so so as well. She had a chicken dish with a tangy sour cream sauce. Perhaps this meal was a sign telling us that we are long overdue to hit up El Vaquero? Who knows.

What the b-fense has hoped to show and offer up today is that
  1. I love Mexican style tacos which generally utilize corn tortillas sometimes 2 for the base then topped with some form of protein, diced onions, cilantro and a lime wedge.
  2. They are pretty easy to make at home using a variety of different proteins.
  3. Don't be afraid of radishes. They taste very good in guacamole and on top of fish tacos.
  4. Similar to the Dew's Pizza post -- while restaurants & taco trucks can serve up tasty authentic tacos -- sometimes there's no taco like home-made...which is why I say the best taco-sense is a good b-fense...
  5. Word is bear-log.