Saturday, November 13, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
This week I want to talk more about practice and repetition. Though I’m still in the beginning stages of what I hope is a thorough transformation, I recognize the importance of developing and implementing a quality routine.
I’ve started to do that by trying to stick to eating certain things for breakfast every day, normally low fat Pop Tarts or a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee. I try to follow that with a snack around 10am, usually a Kashi granola bar, some natural almonds or a piece of fruit. Lunch used to be a sandwich, but I’m doing my best to stay away from excess bread if I can help it. I’ve been eating a lot of Vietnamese food lately, usually sticking with a bowl of Pho Ga, which is essentially just chicken soup. The cilantro and bean sprouts I add to it give it more substance and keep the meal healthy, except for the sodium in the broth.
After going back over my food journal for the past month, it looks like my biggest challenge is controlling what I eat for lunch. It’s no surprise either, since I go out for lunch about 90% of the time. The key is to make sure I go places where I can track my calories, like Chipotle, Chick-Fil-A and other places where nutritional information is readily available.
Now, this week I did allow myself to splurge one morning for breakfast. I’m from Texas, so I have to get my Whataburger fix every now and then. Two taquitos always hit the spot…
The only negative to my routine so far is that I really haven’t developed a consistent enough workout plan. I’ll be honest, it’s been way too sporadic for my liking. The only thing that’s been a constant is soccer practice on Monday, softball games on Wednesday (which are killing me; I’m getting too old to recover quick enough) and soccer games on Saturday. Now that my son’s soccer season is winding down (for those that don’t know, I’m the player wrangler, er, coach), I’m going to have to find something else to drive me crazy, I mean, some other worthy cause to devote my time and energy to.
Another thing I’ve decided to do is weigh myself monthly rather than weekly. I don’t want to get discouraged if I do happen to gain a pound a two during a given week. I’m trying to stay in this for the long haul, so I figure once a month should suffice.
What do you do to exercise, other than the standard walking/running/weight lifting combination?
Thursday, November 11, 2010
NOTE: CHECK OUT THE NEW SITE:
You can find this recipe and so many others!
What happens when you take a scoop of this and dump it in this? You get the picture above. You also get a great drink. I used a little creativity on this one. Plus, I had a ton of leftover cranberry granita and wanted to put it to good use. Boy, did I. The tartness of the cranberry was perfect with the lime and mint of the mojito. This is a great drink for the holidays that's different from the heavy, creamy cocktails associated with this time of year. I highly recommend this Cranberry Mojito (Kevin style). It also makes for a wonderful presentation, and your guests will think you're an expert mixologist. If you're throwing a holiday party, this is a great drink to make ahead of time, throw in a punch bowl and top with the cranberry granita.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
- The time change always f’s me up, but not in the way you might think. I can deal with the short days and temporary messed up sleeping. What I can’t stand is driving to work with that d@mn sun in my eyes. I’m practically blind. I know, poor me.
- Don’t you just love the battle of the insurance commercials? I do. Progressive has Flo. Farmer’s has the dude from Juno. And State Farm has that guy I just want to punch through the screen. I know Flo is very annoying. Love the Juno guy in everything, and these commercials are no different. But for the life of me, I just can’t figure out what annoys me so much about the State Farm guy.
- I watched some the of Breeders’ Cup while treadmilling the other day. Favorite horse name: Unzip Me. I wanted to pick him, but figured he was too much of a long shot. Hey oh!!!
- Speaking of horse racing…name another sport that is so captivating when it comes on, but you could care less about when it’s not on?
- Began the purge with a garage sale last weekend. I love to haggle. It’s really not about the money to me, it’s about the game.
- My stages of every Pink song, ever: Stage 1: Denial-It’s just on the radio for the kids. Stage 2: Acceptance-I kind of like the beat and catchy lyrics. Stage 3: Glee-D@mn I like this song. Stage 4: Shame-What the f was I thinking? And they play it all the time. Stage 5: Intollerance-Turn the song off in the first three seconds. Stage 6: Further Denial-I never listen to that Pink crap.
- We watched Date Night the other night. It had a few funny moments. Just a few. Overall, it was terrible. Mr. Carell, you are on thin ice.
- Sports in Houston really suck right now.
- I got another good report on Heights West. If you live in Houston, you should check this hidden gem out.
- Another tough one...who is that in the picture?
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Molly gives us a peek at a restaurant through the eyes of a vegetarian.
Overall Vegetarian Selection: (2) Stars
Black Walnut Cafe’s menu is very typical of my standard dining experience. It’s one of those places where the vegetarian selection is not great and I feel like they only threw in a sparse handful of meat free dishes to shut us herbivores up.
I didn’t order an appetizer, but their selection had four vegetarian options out of eight. Not too horrible, but the four items were nothing to turn my head at. They were spinach and artichoke dip, garlic cheese bread, toasted ravioli and chips and salsa with guacamole. Kinda boring.
BWC’s salad selection of 13 items only had two vegetarian options. I mean come on…this is a no brainer where a restaurant can easily win a vegetarian over. I really expected more here. And to add insult to injury their extra salad additions consisted of seven meat/seafood items and no tofu. At this point I am picturing the Twitter fail whale in my mind.
Now onto the “Signature Entrees” portion of BWC’s menu where not one meat free item is listed out of nine entrees. By now I am getting pretty upset at the menu creator but am not surprised in the least, because remember BWC is a standard sample of my dining experience unless I purposely visit a vegetarian friendly restaurant.
No time for ranting, it’s time to visit the pasta selection where again, it is easy for a restaurant to please a vegetarian. Pasta, like lettuce in a salad, is diverse and almost anything can be added to it. Out of 14 items to choose from BWC has a whopping two meat free pastas and one of them is blatantly named “Vegetarian Pasta,” which I will expand more on later.
The “Burgers and Sandwiches” section has 12 items and only one is meat free. That item is…drum roll please….a grilled cheese sandwich. Please keep in mind a grilled cheese sandwich is also on the kids menu here too.
There is a glass display case near the cashier with various gelatos, cannolis and other desserts. Maybe I should have gotten something here to brighten my dining experience at BWC.
BWC also serves breakfast with omelets, eggs benedicts etc. but this vegetarian doesn’t eat eggs by themselves so I won’t even go there.
Ordered Dish: (3) Stars
Since my choices were limited, I was able to quickly pick the Vegetarian Pasta for my lunch. (Thanks for spelling it out to me BWC.) My bowtie pasta dish was priced at $9.50 (a little expensive for lunch I think) and consisted of pesto, extra virgin olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, artichokes, garlic and shredded parmesan cheese. The meal was decent but nothing memorable. Since Mediterranean is my favorite cuisine I liked the theme of olives, artichokes etc. in the dish. I thought the ingredients and flavors went well together and the pasta was cooked just right for a cold pasta dish. My meal was a little salty because of all the marinated ingredients and pesto always leaves me running for the water fountain.
Healthy Rating: (3) Stars
My pasta meal was pretty healthy but certainly did not help me in my protein grams consumed for the day. I try to keep my protein at 50 grams a day and this dish probably brought me to probably ten. (The cheese was not abundant in the dish.) I will say the meal was low fat, but high in carbohydrates which bothers some people but I happily accept because of my running.
Overall Opinion: (2.5) Stars
Black Walnut Cafe’s décor is really quaint. There are a lot of different sized couches paired with tables to choose from. For the non-couch eaters BWC does have some regular tables. The interior is kind of dark but that adds to the cozy, sofa atmosphere. Plus they have a spacious patio in the front of the restaurant when the Houston weathers plays nice. Too bad BWC’s menu isn’t vegetarian friendly because I really liked their comforting and relaxed décor. The BWC I visited is located in the Village Arcade so parking can be a problem during peak hours. The service was quick and the restaurant seemed pretty clean. I gave BWC an overall score of 2.5 because even though they have a heavenly dessert case and unique dining room set up, I just cannot forgive the lack of vegetarian dishes. (And what they did offer was very boring.)
5510 Morningside Drive
Houston, Texas 77005
Sunday, November 7, 2010
What is it?
I'm back with another coffee find. Sorry, I just can't help myself when it comes to coffee. Found this one while strolling in a little place I like to call Costco. Two things struck me--price and name. It was under $20 for a pound of Kona coffee. I know my Kona prices, and that's rare. I checked the label to make sure it was 100% Kona, not some f'd up blend. It claims to be 100%, but I didn't see the official seal (look for it). Now to the name. This might be my favorite name of any product I have ever seen--Mountain Thunder! I know you're not suppose to give yourself nicknames, but d@mn if I don't like Mountain Thunder.
Can't you just feel the power through your monitor?
Why it’s so great?
To be honest, this product wasn't great, but it was good. And given that it's from Kona and reasonably priced, I consider it a Food Find. Most Kona coffees run in the late $20's a pound and can run up to $50 for reserves. I knew this would be on the lower end of the Kona coffee chain when I broke the seal. It just didn't have that strong, unique Kona scent. But still pretty good. Smooth and low acidity.
What’s the price?
Like I said, under $20 at Costco....think it's $28 on the web site.
Where can I buy some?
Well, again...at Costco (Whole Bean French Roast). But they also have a pretty good web site to order from (http://www.mountainthunder.com/).
Saturday, November 6, 2010
King Ranch Chicken is one of those dishes that seems to work its way into the mix every now and then. The last time I had some great KRC was at a bed and breakfast place outside San Antonio. Think of KRC as very chicken pot pie-ish, but with the spices and corn tortillas, it certainly can have more of a Mexican food flavor.
For full disclosure, I didn't cook this. Sara did. That still counts because we are two hearts beating as one. Sorry, just messing with you. Actually, I had to go out, and wanted to make sure something was posted. So she was kind enough to make the King Ranch. I don't think it was difficult. When you see the word "casserole" in the dish's name, that's code for "we know you have kids, have no life, and have no time--so this dish will be easy".
I only had a bite but it was good. The corn tortillas and the spices really made the dish stand out. Another example of a great dish to make on the weekend--for a the week. It yields plenty of leftovers and contains enough veggies to make it fairly healthy. And remember, this is the type of recipe you can add just about any veggie you want. Oh, one more thing. Sara used leftover turkey, so technically this was King Ranch Turkey. Didn't matter, still turned out great.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Get ready advanced cooks. Vivek brings the knowledge up a notch with Higher Learning!
Filet Mignon is luxury when it comes to steak. Its melt in your mouth tenderness is unmatched in the world of meat. It’s likely the first steak you get when you go to a steakhouse, and it’s also the likely steak you order when someone else is getting the tab! What I love about filet, as opposed to some other cuts like NY Strip and Ribeye, is that you can really use a lot of flavors to act as a supporting cast. Because filet does not have a lot of fat, it can use some help in the flavor department. So when I cook filet, I make this great sauce with spicy and fruity ancho chiles and sweet roasted red bell peppers – a perfect complement to the beef.
Like with all steak, I prefer mine medium rare – an internal temperature of about 125 degrees. I achieve that here by doing something counter intuitive – cook it low and slow. You almost want to cook the tenderloin roast as a prime rib, slowly, in order to achieve an even doneness throughout the meat. If the oven is cranked up to 400 degrees, it won’t be a good medium rare. Served with some roasted potatoes, this dish will take any ordinary steak menu and elevate it up to the level of Higher Learning!
Roasted Filet Mignon with Ancho-Red Pepper Sauce (serves 4)
(Recipe adapted from Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook)
For the filet:
1 2 lb tenderloin roast, left whole
2 T fresh chopped rosemary
2 T fresh chopped thyme
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 T prepared horseradish
2 T dijon mustard
For the sauce:
5 tablespoons canola oil
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 (14.5 oz) cans plum tomatoes and juices
3 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 ancho chiles, soaked, seeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup fresh cilantro
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
Get started on the filet first. Combine the rosemary, thyme, garlic, horseradish, mustard, and a few cranks of black pepper. Rub all over the filet and then season the filet with salt. Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the roast and cook in the oven until the roast hits an internal temperature of 120 degrees. Take the roast out of the oven and let rest, covered in foil, for about 15 minutes. This ensures the juices redistribute in the meat and keep it moist. At this time, the roast will continue to cook and get to that perfect 125 temperature we are looking for.
In the meantime, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, red peppers, and anchos and cook until the tomatoes soften and break down and the liquid thickens, 20 to 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender and process until smooth. Add the vinegar, honey, and chopped cilantro, season with salt and pepper and pulse a few times just to combine. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning as necessary.
If your roast still needs to get that great crust (and it might because we cooked it at such a low temperature), get a really heavy cast iron pan over high heat. Add some butter and when it is almost smoking, sear the filet. Since you are just searing, you aren’t going to cook it past it’s perfect temperature. Cook it for about 30 seconds on each side until it gets that great crust and carve away.
When ready to serve, put some sauce on the plate. Carve the roast into slices and give everyone as much as they want! Garnish with chives and some extra virgin olive oil.
*Note: If you want those fancy cubes I have, I just the roast into 4 steaks. Then I made the “circle” into a “square” by cutting off a little bit of each side. Those scraps are great for a sandwich the next day!
Hope you all enjoy this installment of Higher Learning! I look forward to bringing you some great recipes that will both challenge your culinary curiosity and take you on some amazing epicurean adventures!
As someone who has always been fairly athletic, I’m used to the idea of practice and training. You practice to get better, you repeat the processes so that they become second nature. And the old adage really is true – practice makes perfect (or at least better). The same holds true in my quest to lose weight and get in shape.
“Practicing” smart eating habits will help me make decisions without having to think about whether they are the right decisions. To me, practice is the physical aspect of growth or transformation, while training is the mental part. We have to train our brains to make the decision to practice healthy habits by doing them repetitively. Have I lost you yet? ‘Cause I’ve almost lost myself…but bear with me.
The thing I really need to focus on is the training. Staying strong mentally, forcing myself to be accountable (through this blog) and persevering when I want to give up are the challenges I’ve been facing.
Those of you who have kept up with this column know what my philosophy is – balance and moderation. Sometimes it’s easier said than done. This week has been a definite challenge. I had wings and fries on Monday night – smaller portions, yes, but still not the smartest choice. I also had lunch at a Chinese buffet this week. However, I tried to stay away from the fried things and focused on eating some soup before hand and tried to work in more vegetables. All in all, it’s only 2 meals out of 12 so far this week, but I have to train myself to be better at blocking those urges.
Basically, I have to remember to put my philosophy into action. I can continue to eat many of the things I enjoy most, but in moderation. Make smart choices and balance the bad with the good (exercise) – that’s my mantra. Now I have to live it.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
This one is for all my gin lovers out there. Can't stand the stuff myself. Had a bad experience(s) with it many moons ago. I made the Chelsea Sidecar in shot form. This recipe is enough for two shots. Think of this drink as a way to take the edge off straight-shooting gin. Not sure there's people out there who imbibe on just gin, but if there are, this one's for you. The lime takes the edge off just a bit. But make no mistake, a couple of these will knock you down a few pegs. Also, be sure to use good gin with this one. This is not best suited for the cheap stuff.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
- I was at a Halloween party for six-year-olds on Saturday night. Great party, great hosts, great kids…head-scratching costumes. And I’m not talking about the kids.
- I was waaaaay off with my Texans’ predictions. How’s life without steroids treating you Mr. Cushing?
- The answer to last week’s question: President Andrew Jackson
- Pet Peeves: Have you had this verbal exchange before?: “Hey, how’s your day going?” Response: “I can’t complain.” Response back: “Not that it would do you any good.” D@mn, that annoys me.
- It pained me to write this about Octane, but the truth is the truth.
- It’s absolutely official after last week: my new favorite show is Bored to Death. Zach Galifianakis has that ability to make me laugh without saying anything. The last person to do that was Chris Farley.
- I have 223 friends on facebook. I think 100 of them told me to vote yesterday.
- I have 223 friends on facebook. I think 100 of them posted pictures of their kids in Halloween costumes.
- I’m good with both those things.
- If you’re wondering where all the birds in Houston went, they’re on the corner of Ella and 43rd…or as I like to call it…Bird Sh*t Alley. Eat your heart out Alfred Hitchcock.
- I’m getting very close to organizing a rib crawl…very close. Let me know if you want in.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Temperatures have finally fallen here in Houston. That always gets me to thinking about crock pot recipes. I'm a firm believer that you should have a good tortilla soup recipe in the arsenal. This one won't beat out your favorite Mexican restaurant's version, but for a easy alternative at home--it's tough to top. This is a perfect recipe to make the night before and just put on low the next day. Your home will smell great. Make things easy on yourself and buy a $5 rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. Take off all the meat and throw in the pot. Also, feel free to add healthy veggies like zuchini or cabbage.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Caffe Bello, the Vallone’s latest culinary venture, has been written about a lot of late. I had read theses reviews and was very excited to check it out—plus, it was a chance to meet some fellow food bloggers at a media dinner organized by Htownchowdown. CB (located on Westheimer near Montrose) has a very modern and classy feel. The semi-circular bar, brick walls, exposed (yet painted) duct work, and modern art all help contribute to a cozy dining experience.
I walked in, gave a quick scan of the establishment, and was told to head to the back. Times have definitely changed in the world when you meet someone and the conversation goes like this:
“Hi, I’m Kevin.”
Other person: “Hi Kevin, I’m John.”
We both look at each other cluelessly.
“I’m sorry…I’m The Mighty Rib.”
Other person: “Oh yeah, I’m John123Cooks-A-Lot.”
Get the drift? Thank you, Twitter. Anyway, I got a glass of wine and sat my butt down. The food had arrived.
I won’t go into every course, because writing long, comprehensive reviews just isn’t my style. I’ll give you the gist of how things went—the highs and lows. We started out with some pizzetas. They were made well, with a flat and crispy crust, and unique toppings, but when I’m at a place like Caffe Bello, I could care less about eating little pizzas. If this type of thing floats your boat, they have several to choose from, although I would stay away from the pumpkin one—all others are good. The rigatoni bolognese and pappardello al telefono came out next (on the same plate). The bolognese was average (just had better at Giacomo’s), but I loved the telefono. The flat noodles and sweet sauce made me want another portion.
Next came the burrata with shiitake, butternut, and balsamic caviar. This too was excellent. The texture of the mushrooms, along with the sharp bite of the balsamic, provided for a flavorful dish. Out came the red snapper on top of a tomato-shrimp ragu. The snapper was mild, under-seasoned, but perfectly cooked—crispy skin. I thought the somewhat bland fish worked well in this case, because the ragu was the best thing I had that night. The hint of sweetness worked so well with the fish. My lone shrimp was overcooked, tasteless, and not needed. This dish was fine without it. By the time the veal shank with creamy, cheesy polenta came out—I was just about done. Just about—I took a few bites and was quite pleased. Very tender, well-seasoned, and I thought a great value (even at its $27 menu price). They handed out straws to suck out the bone marrow. I gave it a shot (so I wouldn’t look like a douche). I acted like I got some, but didn’t. Oh well.
The desserts were forgettable. Although, it certainly didn’t help that I was stuffed. I took a bite of the cheesecake. I didn’t take a second. I’ll leave it at that. The mixed berry tart was not good. I enjoyed the mixed berries, but the cream was too runny, and the little crust barrel was too thick.
Caffe Bello had some misses, but all and all, served some excellent dishes in a beautiful and relaxed atmosphere. Hopefully, they can get their desserts straightened out to match the high quality of entrees.
Check out these other reviews: