Let's eat!

Hi. My name's Carol, and I love food. No, you don't understand. I love food. If I were on the Titanic, I'd be in the galley (kitchen) eating up the chocolate pudding and the roasted quail. I go to most events, activities and parties just for the food. The company and the conversation are secondary. Here, I'll try to document everything that goes into my mouth. Aren't we excited? Oh, hey, are you gonna eat that?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Post-Op Treat

For after my surgery -- a Uterine Artery Embolization (to shrink three Mandarin-sized fibroids) -- I requested two of my favorite comfort foods, foods I either love but can't have too much of too often or foods I haven't had in ages. The first was my husband's own recipe for soft-boiled eggs. He invented this dish, which is a hybrid of poached eggs and toast. You always dip pieces of toast into the broken yolks anyway, right? Why not blend them all together? He soft boils (three minutes) the egg, butters and cuts the toast into bite-sized squares, tosses them together with salt and pepper to taste. Boom! Best breakfast ever. I had a bowl of this for my first meal back at home. I may request it as a standing order until my 10-day convalescence is over.

The second food I requested was my husband's pot roast. I don't know what he does to it. I think he uses a Food Network chef's recipe as a base, and added potatoes and extra carrots per my request. But it's great over buttered noodles. This one I had for a late-lunch today.

Otherwise, I'm getting by on smaller meals, mostly turkey sandwiches with basil leaves (the basil really makes this sandwich pop, it's much more preferable than the grotesque iceberg), slices of tomato, and red onion, and homemade turkey (mine from Christmas) and chicken noodle soups (from my gourmand friend Christina). I also received flowers from other friends and constant inquiries into my health. I'm a very lucky girl.

Bucket List Lobster Rolls

I never expected to find lobster rolls, and good ones, at Red Lobster. And not right after posting on Facebook that included on the Bucket List is to have a lobster roll in Maine or Boston. It was off a Hwy 99 in big-hair Lynnwood, WA, but the flavor could've been on the East Cost: real, fresh lobster meat, very limited amount of mayo, a hint of celery, lightly buttered and toasted hot dog bun-like rolls.

The rest of the menu is always oversalted and commercially dreadful (we went because it's my son, the birthday boy's favorite celebration restaurant), but I hope they keep this new menu item. I can sort of cross off lobster rolls from the list. Sort of, because I'd still like to travel to the East Coast for it, and have it seaside.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mucho Burrito

I have a new obsession: Mucho Burrito. It's a new (as of two months ago) fast food Mexican joint we spotted in the fairly new Bartell's shopping plaza off Hwy 99 in Lynnwood, WA at the intersection of the gas station and Safeway.

After sending my husband in to taste-test yesterday (he loved him the tacos), I joined him for lunch today. The place was packed with regulars already, including a young mom with her toddler son in his pjs (her husband worked behind the counter, they practically live there). And no wonder. As soon as you walk in, the smells come at you with intoxicating fervor.

At first glance, it reminds me of a Mexican Subway, only better. You can make a burrito out of just about anything on their menu, from breakfast (huevos rancheros, chorizo and egg) to soup (they start with a basic vegetable broth). There are also taco salads, quesadillas, and a kids' menu to work with.

The options are fresh, deeply, fully flavored, and healthful. After feeling overwhelmed by the smell, I went with a smothered burrito: whole wheat tortilla, Pequeno (small) size, marinated, charbroiled chicken, black beans, bell pepper and onion fry, chopped jalapenos and cilantro so green they almost look supernatural, sour cream, cheese, hot salsa, pico de gallo, this awesome light long-grained rice with bits of green herbs that reminded me of Indian Basmati... You pick everything out as the server goes along with you. Before smothering with this spicy red, corn and bean sauce, they put the tightly wrapped burrito under a big, heavy panini-like press.

I haven't had deeply flavored black beans like these in ages. I'll be back to try everything else on the menu. You walk away feeling like you did your stomach and your heart some good. It's good-for-you food but it's good too.

The owner spoke with us a little about starting this store up here in the middle of Lynnwood proper. He started off with a Subway, then branched into the Canadian Mucho Burrito chain. I think this is the first store outside of Canada, lucky us. He liked the heavy traffic of this area, the sturdy service of a Bartell's, the newness of the building complex, and has high hopes for future sales.

Everything is clean, neat, and everybody there is nice, friendly, and professional. Service is quick, efficient, nobody forgets your order, everybody smiles. Except maybe the new customers who immediately act like someone is out to steal their tortillas or something. Calm down. Go back for something else. Relax.

Next time, I'm getting the fish tacos.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hallelujah Beef Bell Pepper

I just wish they had a chicken version of this beef bell pepper my husband (and previously, his mom) creates. Otherwise, it's been the best meal -- rivaling that of the Christmas Day turkey and New Year's Day boneless prime rib dinners -- I've had in ages, since I came down with that weird, random stomach bug last Friday.

Maybe it's because my stomach finally leveled out today and I felt hungry for the first time. Maybe it's my not having eaten since breakfast (our son's basketball practice goes on longer than an hour now).

Most of it is this fully satiating dish, a hybrid of Chinese beef bell pepper. Eddie's used leftover rib eye, flank steak, London Broil, and now, prime rib, for the meat. Here's the recipe. It really warms the stomach on a cold winter's night.

Eddie's Beef Bell Pepper
Get a large Dutch Oven or stock pot blazing hot on the stove. Add enough oil to fry up chopped onion and garlic (about three cloves). Fry until translucent, maybe even golden. Add sliced leftover beef, fry the slices until browned. Add beef stock, three tablespoons of soy sauce, pepper, and stir up bits on the bottom of the pot. When gently simmering, mix in enough cornstarch to thicken the sauce. My husband didn't have beef stock, so he used water and beef bouillon cubes, and added a flour and canola oil roux to thicken. I suppose you could get away with water alone too.

Then, sliced onion and sliced green bell pepper. Cook on low until green bell pepper almost falls apart. Serve over bowls of steaming, hot rice. Thank me later.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Melting Pot

We finally made it to the Melting Pot in Bellevue for dinner tonight. It's my mom's last day visiting here. Tomorrow morning, she's back in Hawaii. Since she came from the '60s/'70s fondue period, I figured she might enjoy a flashback. She did. We all did. My friend Sheila joined us.

You really need to bring a ton of people to something like the Melting Pot. There's too much to cook and eat for just one or two of us. Even with five, we were stuffed before the dessert even arrived.

Truth be told, I'd only go back with a group of friends for the pure chocolate dessert fondue. Or really, rent a chocolate fountain and host a fondue party in my home.

I arrived only really wanting the cheese and chocolate fondues. I've had really good cheese fondues in the most oddest of places, one of which was at a business after hours cocktail party outside the airport in the middle of nowhere, catered. Otherwise, these fondue restaurants put way too much uncooked alcohol in there for my liking. All I end up tasting is the wine.

Because my husband isn't a big fan of cheese fondue, we went with one pot of a mild traditional swiss. It contained Gruyère and Emmenthaler Swiss cheeses, white wine, garlic, nutmeg, lemon and Kirschwasser. Way too much alcohol. The other one was an even milder form in the cheddar cheese fondue: aged, medium-sharp cheddar and Emmenthaler Swiss cheeses, lager beer, garlic and seasonings.

While the cheddar was milder and less alcohol-y, it was still alcohol over cheese. Cheese fondue came with bread cubes, green apple chunks, raw carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. More bread cubes than veggies. The veggies weren't par-boiled or anything, so they didn't really cook in the fondue. The bread cubes, a mixture of regular and rosemary, were okay but not cut from any outstanding artisan breads.

A lot of people complain that Melting Pot doesn't offer more variety in its dippers, especially for the cheese fondue. I think they're right. The carrots were these dinky little hard nuggets that some of us were eating out of the little bowls without fonduing.

If it were up to me, I'd have skipped over to the chocolate fondue. But it was company and my mom should get the full fondue experience. So we ordered up main entrees with the Bourguignonne European cooking style fondue/fondue cooked in frying oil, with or without two different batters, served with dipping sauces.

Trying to cook raw chicken thoroughly with hot oil and hot forks scares the heck out of me. I even undercooked a piece of chicken and almost freaked out. Luckily, my mom took over toward the end, because we had so much leftover. She fondue-cooked everything to take home.

Me and Sheila ordered the Land and Sea, which offered us chicken, beef, and shrimp. We agreed the shrimp, especially with the batter, was like shrimp tempura and a favorite. I hated waiting for the stuff to cook though. Our fondue pot needed a little more time to fry up than the other one.

The time for dessert was here and we were excited. It didn't disappoint. There's something in that milk chocolate that made it very velvety and full-flavored. Butter and cream, maybe, but blissfully no alcohol. They didn't give me enough poundcake or banana slices to dip with. Everybody else loved themselves the Rice Krispies treats, chocolate and vanilla marshmallows, cheesecake, and strawberries (not in season). But me, give me the poundcake and the pot of milk chocolate, and I'm happy.

The surprise is my picky eater son, 8, partook of the cheese and main entree fondues. He even ate broccoli. I didn't think he'd like the strong taste of the fondue but he was loving himself. What a weird child. I think he liked the cheese fondues better than I did.

Even better, I got my birthday dinner. We were originally scheduled to go to Melting Pot for my birthday back in November, but it snowstormed and we had to cancel last minute. A month later, and I finally get redemption, and my own mini-birthday plate, with candle, for the chocolate fondue. It was nice. Nobody sang "Happy Birthday" to me either, another plus.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Melona Ice Bars

I was debating whether to buy my usual green tea mochi ice cream in the freezer section of H-Mart (a Korean/Asian supermarket across from Lynnwood, WA's Alderwood Mall) when I spotted the words on another brand of ice cream treat entirely: "ice bars." Something about ice bars jarred a hidden childhood memory of myself walking the streets somewhere in South Korea with my mom, grandma, and little baby brother. I vaguely remember having the best (vanilla) ice cream cones and ice cream bars of my life there -- similar to the feeling I get when I glimpse Mexican ice cream bars.

My mom was with me, visiting from Hawaii. We were at H-Mart last weekend to do our usual stocking up of Korean ingredients, so my mom could make me my usual childhood meals. She came over and told me she loved the Melona melon ice bar, the green box. I wasn't sure about honeydew melon ice cream, so I added the mango ones (in the orange box).

OMG, Melona ice bars -- both mango and melon, and probably strawberry and banana, the other flavors -- are the best. They're better and more addictive than gelato. They're ice bars but they taste like the creamiest yet lightest, fruitiest ice cream. I glanced at the ingredients, catching skim milk. I don't think they're too fattening for you, either.

For some reason Koreans are into melon flavors. My mom says Melona ice bars are stocked in the gas station stores in Hawaii and are almost always out of stock, they're so popular.

They're real popular with me. My husband prefers the mango ones over the melons. I don't care, I could have the entire box of whatever Melona offers. Try some. You won't need to eat any other ice cream treat, I promise.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year (I think)

Normally, we do not eat anything special on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. But we didn't get a chance to make turkey for Thanksgiving, so we pushed turkey to Christmas, and well, prime rib to New Year's Day.

I hadn't planned on getting deathly ill the day before. All of my plans went out the window. I still don't know what is wrong with me. It could've been some stomach bug. I didn't vomit all day, but the diarrhea has been killing me. I did vomit once earlier yesterday, but honestly, this whole thing felt like I'd eaten wrong and too late the night before. An accumulation factor.

What happens with me if I don't eat all day, which I had to do because of the vomiting/diarrhea, is my stomach starts eating itself and the diarrhea worsens. So I decided to risk it and eat the feast my husband cooked up. At least this way my stomach has something substantial to work on and I can go back to regulating.

It's a shame I couldn't truly enjoy the moment. I couldn't even help him in the kitchen.

He went to so much trouble to do everything. The prime rib was his standard Tyler Florence recipe. Always a flavorful hit. Then he and my mom (thank God she's here from Hawaii to help) prepared the side dishes, way too many vegetables.

Instead of mashed potatoes, Eddie made the best roast potatoes ever which went perfectly with the boneless roast. Then, he had carrots leftover from the mirepoix he needed to flavor the roast in the oven, so he simply cooked chunks of those up with salt and pepper. His family recipe of cucumber salad and asparagus finished his end of the sides. He always thinks they're classic with beef.

My mom and I are the only ones who love brussel sprouts. She made them from the fresh ones we bought at Pike Place Market two days ago. So good. I daresay they almost overshadowed the other dishes. I could've had a mound of those with the roast potatoes and cucumber salad, and called it a night.

My mom loved it all so much she went back for thirds. And my mom doesn't eat a lot in one sitting. She admitted that she preferred this kind of holiday meal to the turkey. Food for thought for the future.

Eddie didn't have much sour cream left. He'd forgotten to check for availability the night before when stores would be open. But what we had left worked fine for the spicy horseradish sauce which kind of out-glammed the mushroom beef sauce for me.

With slight trepidation, I attacked my plate of food, ravenous from not eating a thing the day before. I am still full and okay and it's been almost an hour. We'll see. I don't expect 100 percent recovery right now. But I'm hoping--as in the past with these sorts of illnesses I've had to endure--the food in my system will recalibrate. Probably by tomorrow, I'll have righted myself.

Big lesson learned in case this wasn't stomach flu (I didn't have a fever, chills or nausea). Never eat before sleeping. If I'm hungry, only eat fruit.

It really sucks to feel unwell during the holidays, while everybody else in the world is out freely celebrating and indulging and getting things done. I hate it, really. I can't even relax enough to watch my shows on TV in bed like I look forward to.

I hope your New Year's was much better. If you hear of anyone you care about getting sick, please care more than the average self-centered idiot out there does. Do something for them. Listen to them talk about their symptoms. Bake them a cake for later. Bring them food. Take them to a doctor. Be a nurse. Something. Don't just sit there in your own little world acting like it won't happen to you, because it will and then where will you be?

Eddie's Cucumber Salad
Thinly slice peeled cucumbers. Place in big bowl. Thinly slice a red onion. Add to cucumbers. In a separate bowl, mix mayo together with a little milk, garlic powder, salt, pepper, oregano. Add mix to the onion and cucumber slices, stir together and chill in fridge.