Category Archives: Cooking

Steak and dieting

We inaugurated the new grill last night. I must say I think it was a wild success. Lorena and I split the steak in the picture (3 oz. each) so I even stayed on track with the diet. Jon and I have both been in stasis on our diet for the last month due to (speaking for myself, not for Jon) a total lack of discipline in the face of ham dinners with scalloped potatoes and angel food cake with whipped cream and strawberries for dessert. Nevertheless, we are both back in the saddle and ready to engage the battle one more time.

I am seventy percent of the way to where I need to be and it is actually getting easier because I have upped my calorie intake to something a little more reasonable (600/day to 1100/day) and I am still losing weight. The thing I have at the forefront of my mind is that when I actually get to a weight I want to sustain, I can kick my calories up a few hundred more per day.

I committed to Jon to stick out our tracking plan through at least the end of this year, but I think the thing to do might be to just start a new graph when we get to the end of the year.

Not the grill I was expecting

After all the hullabaloo yesterday about getting the exact same grill as we had when we were in Albany, Lorena shows up with one that is half the size (and, thankfully, half the price)–the mind of a woman. Her thinking is that we need a smaller grill for the porch and if we need something bigger, we can run a gas line and put in an actual outdoor kitchen. And rightly so. It is a really nice grill by KitchenAid with only two burners. The reality is 99% of the time we are cooking for 6-7 people or less. Maybe we can talk Tio Lauro into building us one of those really nice mesquite asadores out of block when he come up to visit.

The new (old) grill

Lorena sent me this photo today. It is the same grill we had when we lived in Albany. Well, I am sure it has some revisions and upgrades. We loved that grill. We got one in North Carolina that was nice, but we did not like it nearly as much. This is kind of a big deal for us. We (and I am using the royal “we” in this case because I am really talking about just Lorena) LOVE to cook on the grill–even in the dead of winter when it is snowing. This is the grill that has five burners–four main burners and a side burner she used mostly to cook corn on the cob while grilling carne asada.

The back story is that she went to Costco because we are having company over on Sunday for lunch. The thing is on sale for around $200 off. I don’t know if I quite have the budget for it, but we will tighten our belts for a month or so to assure we have room. This will be great for future invites to the house. Hope we can get Bob, Gena, and Bonnie over to inaugurate the thing.

Kiwi after Thanksgiving

All the guests are gone, Kelly has driven back up to Washington and Christian is set to fly out tomorrow. Thanksgiving was a great success. We had different groups over for meals and dessert on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. It was really nice. I got to cook the turkey and make the turkey soup. Both of those are a 50/50 proposition for me, but we hit the lottery this year so we had a moist turkey that was cooked enough and soup that was neither too greasy nor too bland. I guess the stars were aligned. Even Kiwi got hit with that tryptophan snooze button this year. Here are a few more photos of the weekend (sorry we had none from Friday night).

A harvest moon and our first apple harvest

Centralia Harvest Moon 2017The picture to the right was taken last night and the moon looks even bigger today. There is a special feeling in the fall when homeschool starts up again, the weather starts cooling down, and there are tons of amazing local food stuffs on the grocery store shelves. Thanks to our friend Bob, we even had our own special harvest. Our apple trees have not been pruned properly for what looks like several years, but Bob brought over a apple picker on the end of a long pole so we did not get completely skunked. Lorena made up some apple sauce. Wonderful stuff. We are going to prune in January or February and hope for a much more bountiful harvest next year.

An added benefit is that Christian arrives shortly after midnight tonight for his fall break. That coupled with the fact I get Columbus Day off with my new company (it is also Canadian Thanksgiving Day), means life is quite good right now.

Lorena picks blueberries again

Lorena picks blueberries in Rochester, WA 2017It gets no better than this. They were very, very sweet and there were many of them. She got a good batch, but she really needs to get two to three times more. If she gets enough we will plug in the freezer before the kitchen is finished and there should be good progress in the kitchen again this week. Mark has promised we will be done by mid-August. We appreciate his great work and are looking forward to it. The name of the U-Pick farm is Black River Blues in Rochester, Washington. She is going to try to go again in the next few days before the season is over.

El Sabor de Mexico Restaurant, Chehalis, WA

Tacos El Sabor de MexicoLorena and I were a little discouraged with the taco scene in the Twin Cities of Centralia and Chehalis even though we have only been here now for a couple of weeks. That has all been remedied now that we have been to El Sabor de Mexico in Chehalis to have some lunchtime tacos. Without reservation we believe the quality of the tacos was every bit as good as the ones at the one true best taco shop, Tacos Regio Monterrey, in Lewisville, Texas. That being said, we would have to give the edge to Tacos Regio because they have more of that street tacos feel that we really like. Nevertheless, that is a matter of personal taste and we truly love the home style tacos of El Sabor which are almost certainly the healthiest of the two. The tortillas are hand made, soft, corn tortillas.

We got a tip from the guys who installed the granite in our kitchen, two from Mexico, one from Puerto Rico, that this was the go-to, authentic taco house in the Twin Cities. The Mexican guys rolled their eyes when the Puerto Rican gave his advice on which Mexican food was the best even though all three agreed on El Sabor. As for those other places we tried, they, too, were irritated with the pushy, much more famous place that sells mediocre (in our opinion) tacos and makes a big deal out of the fact they do not serve chips before the meal like there is something authentically Mexican about that–there is not. Some restaurants in Mexico serve chips, some do not, and none make a big deal out of it. It surely seems they have been away from Mexico long enough to forget both what is good and what is authentic. The other place we tried in Centralia would have been a very mediocre Tex-Mex style place if it were in Dallas and we are not big Tex-Mex fans even when it is good Tex-Mex, not that there is anything wrong with that.

El Sabor de Mexico is an older building, but it was very, very clean during our first visit. We talked with the owner who is from a beautiful colonial city, not to far from Monterrey name Zacatecas. We also met her son and daughter who work at the restaurant and a couple of loyal patrons of the place from Guadalajara. It is a very friendly place and is now, just like with our granite installation buddies, our go-to taco house. It is good enough we doubt it will be displaced from that perch anytime soon.

How we celebrate in Texas

It does not get much better than this. Our friends, Phil D. and Eric P. went to our Sunday morning church meeting this meeting. Afterward, out little home church had a going away party for us. I can not tell you how much we appreciate and love these people. We have met with them only for a year, but it has been a joy. The party was Mexican themed and, boy howdy, they know how to do it. Here are a few pictures to give you a flavor of how it went. Please note that the last picture was absolutely a result of the first two.

Mexican food at our going away party
Exhibit A

Virgin margaritas at our going away party
Exhibit B

Sleeping it off with Kiwi
Exhibit C

Lorena and cultural enrichment

Lorena at Anytime Fitness in Lewisville, TXWe had dear friends over for dinner last night. Whenever that happens Lorena instigates a conversation in person or on the phone that takes almost exactly the same form every time. It happened again yesterday. I love this.

I was sitting at my desk in my office in Lewisville programming and the phone rings.

I pick up and Lorena asks me “Should I do A or should I do B?” about some cooking thing.

So I ask, “What do you think would be best?”

She says, “A.”

I say, “Ok, do A.”

She says “Ok! Thanks!” and hangs up.

Some time in the following day or two she will say something to the effect that it is really good that I tell her what to cook because she can never think of the right thing.

The dinner, as always, was brilliant. Lorena talked the people down at the one true taco shop in Lewisville, Texas into giving her a couple dozen of their very thin corn tortillas when, in reality, they don’t sell tortillas. They sell tacos. But she has that Mexican Mafia thing going and is comadre with the owner of the shop. She grilled sirloin steak in strips, onions and chile morron, made her hand made salsa, sliced up avocado and mango, chopped some raw onions and cilantro, etc.

Today, she is down at the gym working off all those extra calories while I sit and type (writing this blog post and programming on the sickle cell disease project). Don’t ever try to tell me I didn’t hit the lottery when I married her.

The one true best Chinese food take-out

The one true Chinese food restaurant in Lewisville, TXRight after Lorena and I got married, we lived in a condo in Boynton Beach, Florida so I could work on machine vision systems at Motorola’s now-extinct pager manufacturing facility there. Lorena had really not eaten a lot of Chinese food growing up in Monterrey, Mexico–why would she when she lives in the Mecca of all great Mexican food (I know that is a religious discussion). Nevertheless, even though there was pretty good Mexican food in Florida, it did not rise to the level of that available in Monterrey. So, every now and then, when I got a yearning for Chinese food, Lorena would grudgingly indulge me and go to one after another of a string of truly mediocre Chinese food restaurants (mostly buffets of relatively bland offerings in the retirement haven that is South Florida). She convinced herself that she really did not like Chinese food. I cannot say I can blame her given the fare.

That all changed when we saw a Chinese food drive-through place on the side of one of the main thorough-fares that had once been a Checkers hamburger place. It was drive-through only with no place to sit and eat. I remember it was not situated so well–if we did not go there in the F150 pickup, we had to get out of the car because the window was out of reach of our SHO Taurus sedan. That changed everything. They made the food as spicy (hot) as she wanted, the vegetables were fresh and the place was clean. From then on, we went there once per week until we left South Florida. We searched in vain for something that equaled that Chinese food in Oregon, Texas, North Carolina and just about everywhere in-between. We were unable to find anything like it until I walked by it on my way to work one day. The place we found is called the Rice Pot Express, located on the State Highway 121 Bypass and, in our opinion, fits into that category of food so good we believe (for us anyway), it is the one true best Chinese food take-out restaurant. Of course it is run by some really nice Korean people with Mexican cooks. Just like when we were able to find the one true best Mexican taco shop in Lewisville, this one is going to make us even sadder to be leaving Texas.

Kelly’s cooking log

Kelly's food logKelly texted me this a couple of days ago. It is hear food and cooking log. She has always been a big cooking buff what with her gourmet Grandpa Milo and the eclectic by unsurpassed everyday cooking of her Mother. Now though, she is taking it to another level. In the meantime, her redheaded Mexican Dayanita is definitely entering the cooking fray. She is currently taking culinary classes in Mexico and, based on recent Instagram posts, is investing some effort upping her confectionery sills. Kelly, for her part, has added some pretty amazing finger foods suitable for potlucks and other assorted get-togethers. This does not bode well for my waist line.

Confitería de Dayanita

 Baking by Dayanita #1

Pastel de Dayanita #2

Kelly’s Crudités

Kelly's crudités plate

Kelly channeling Grandpa Milo’s cooking

Presentation is everything. Kelly, channeling Grandpa Milo's cookingGrandpa Milo was an amazing cook. He always said presentation of food is often more important that even taste. He said that to everyone who ever cooked with him. Every time Grandpa Milo and Grandma Sarah came to visit us, Kelly and Christian cooked with him so they heard that mantra a lot. Christian is a good cook, but does not have a lot of time to spend on food. It is so bad, he usually keeps a case of Soylent in his refrigerator for when he just runs out of time, but needs some energy. That is a story for another time.

Kelly, on the other hand, takes the time to cook and has gotten very, very good. She takes Grandpa Milo’s maxim to heart, so her stuff often looks quite amazing. She has been doing this now for years. There are some areas where she needs to broaden out her repertoire, but by and large, she has the fundamentals nailed and, with the all important presentation aspect she is a savant.

Christmas 2016: Prime rib, guitars, Kiwi, Christian and my beautiful chef bride

Prime rib for Christmas 2016We missed Kelly dearly during her first Christmas ever away from family. It is all good, though. The Hormans were very kind to invite her to spend the holiday with them in beautiful Leavenworth, Washington. It looks like she cross-country skied and did something with horses. That is the best we can tell that went on because we saw some pictures on Instagram. She was obviously having to good a time to communicate much so we are grateful for that.

As for us, we felt pretty adventurous for choosing something other than our go-to (turkey) for Christmas dinner. Lorena cooked up prime rib with lots of fixin’s an then added (from scratch) Lemon Creme Puffs for dessert. We are never going back. I cannot believe how good it came out and I have to admit that prime rib left-over sandwiches are at least equal to turkey left-over sandwiches. The only thing we did wrong was not make enough.

Christmas 2016 picture of Dad and LorenaThe very best part of this holiday season is that Christian came in for a few day so we would not be alone. That would have been more than we could handle. Lorena and I were ecstatic to have him here. He is working on the next phase of his dissertation work, playing his guitar (one of the strings was broken so we had to wait a day and a half until a store was open so we could buy some new ones), eating good food and discussing life with us. This is the thing for which we live. He got a new Fuji camera and has been taking pictures, all of which are shown here. The one at the bottom of this post if of Christian stringing his guitar with Kiwi the remaining twin cat sister giving very pointed advice.

Today, we were able to take Christian to The One True Taco Shop here in Lewisville. He concurred that the tacos were great. That was the only possible right response to eating there.
Christian restringing his guitar - Christmas 2016

The one true best taco shop in Lewisville, TX: Tacos Regio Monterrey

Tacos from MonterreyIn the great “who makes the best tacos and tamales in the world” religious war, Lorena and I are decidedly on the side of those whose culinary skills emanate from Monterrey, Mexico. We had been very disappointed with what passed for Mexican food in the restaurants in the suburbs of Dallas where we currently reside. We got advice from all kinds of people including our Mexican family who lives in the area (originally from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon), people from work, people from church, people on the street we begged to help us–but we came to the very sad conclusion that no good Mexican food was available within driving distance of our house. There is lots of Tex-Mex, but we really do not count that is Mexican food anymore than the stuff that was available from Louie’s Chinese Restaurant (the early 1960’s Cottage Grove, Oregon restaurant of my youth) counted as something that had anything more than a passing resemblance to real Chinese food. That does not mean we do not like it. We like both Tex-Mex and Americanized Chinese food. But no one would mistake what we thought was the only Mexican food available in our area with the “one true Mexican food.”

WE WERE WRONG! So wrong. We found a place in Lewisville, TX that we believe is the very best Mexican food we have ever eaten in America. Here it is:

Tacos Regio Monterrey
502 S Old Orchard Ln
Lewisville, TX 75067

The reality is the only thing we have had there are the tacos de carne asada with a side of sautéed onions and the pork tamales. They probably make some other good stuff, but I doubt we will ever find out because we really, really love the way they make their tacos and their tamales. We have ordered up a couple of dozen tamales (18 pork and 6 chicken–to try them out) for Christian’s upcoming visit for Christmas. We need to see if we can get some of their salsa, too. Make that both of their salsas, red and green. They serve their tacos with two tortillas, carne asada, chopped onion and cilantro. They are those small corn tortillas that they coat with cooking oil and heat on the grill before they put the meat in them. Just wow.

We promise to never denigrate the tacos in Texas ever again although it should be noted the owners and cooks at Tacos Regio Monterrey are all proud Regiomontanos.

Update: I should note that the best (and possibly most gracious) way to describe this place is as a “hole in the wall” restaurant. That being said it is quite clean and the people are, as expected of people from Monterrey, gracious and welcoming.

Update II: I would be negligent to not note that this place is downright cheap inexpensive. We were stunned and felt a little guilty the first time we were there when we got such a reasonable bill. Maybe it was what we ordered.

Update III: Amazing. I got on to google maps and found an image of what used to be the Louie’s I was talking about from the 1960’s. I used to go to elementary school with the Louie twins who were just my age. The last I heard of them was a long time ago when I went to my cousin Karin’s high school graduation and the Louie twins both got the award for never missing a day of high school. Kind of impressive actually. Here is the picture from google maps in Cottage Grove Oregon–ovbviously under new management:

What I remember as Louie's Cantonese Food Restaurant from my youth

More Thanksgiving (in Texas)

Tom Thumb turkey pan and flan for ThanksgivingLorena has been earning points for shopping at the Tom Thumb supermarket near where we live. She used all her points to buy a new turkey cooking pan and rack because our old pan started to rust. She is giving it double duty to cook the flan. It does not get much better than that–flan and a turkey in a free pan! Lots of reasons, big and small to be thankful.

Grandpa Milo called this morning, too. His Thanksgiving with my siblings and all the kids’ cousins will be tomorrow afternoon just because of how all the timing worked out. The reason he called is because he remembered a hymn he thinks might be good for Grandma Sarah’s funeral. We have to look up–we know the hymn really, really well, but do not know the number off the top of our heads. He sang “…we’ll gather round the throne, a victor throng” and a few more lines we could not quite make out. He is obviously very sad, but much better than a week ago. These are more things for which to be thankful–a recently passed Mother/Grandmother in a good place and Grandpa Milo who stays optimistic in the face of a very difficult time.

Mexican food in Texas?

We always try as hard as we can to find nice things to say about the place where we are. Really, it is easy to find nice things to say about our part of the Metroplex here in the Dallas area, but I have to say that we have struggled when it comes to authentic Mexican food in our neighborhood. Friends, acquaintances, food reviewers and total strangers on the street , bless their hearts, have universally pointed us to Tex-Mex which, in our humble, but sincerely held religious conviction, is , at its very best, and I am trying to be gracious when I say this, Americanized Mexican food. Some people actually like Americanized Mexican food.

With that said, we have new hope. Our good friend John S. has invited us to meet him at a little place outside of the rarefied air where we live–thirty minutes away (almost the same as across the street in Texas-speak)–called Cuquita’s Restaurant advertising Comida Mexicana. It got rave reviews in the Texas press. We shall see what we shall see and taste what we shall taste sometime this weekend. We have hope that it will not be Tex-Mex.

Kelly gets her kitchen knives

We bought Christian a really nice set of kitchen knives for his birthday last year. This year, Kelly flew out to see us in Texas for her birthday and we did not do much else. She is working on her qualification exams, finals and research so hard she does not have time for much anything else than to do that cook, exercise and go to meeting. So we decided to send her something that might help her with her cooking. There are no better tools for the kitchen than like a good set of cooking knives. She really is a very good cook and beside the staple things she does, she loves to experiment. We got Kelly the exact same set we got for Christian before. This just made Lorena and I realize how much we cannot wait to get back into a house so Lorena can start cooking with gas again!

Avocation and life skills as part of homeschool

Christian and I talked last night about avocation. There were lots of things we tried when the kids were growing up as part of our homeschool and just as part of life. We focused hard on specific academic paths that gave the kids as many options as possible when it came to career choices. The reality is we did not do so bad at that part–the kids are now in a place they can go virtually any direction they want career-wise. At the other end of the spectrum were things that would be characterized as life skills and or avocations. We had varying degrees of success with things that were not the central focus of our homeschool academics, but at which we invested time, effort and a fairly large amount of our resources. I thought I might make a list of some of that stuff. I say only some of it because there was so much that I know I will miss a bunch of it. So what am I talking about:

  • Music–Lorena and I are actually very limited in our musical ability. The kids are a lot better than us, but not exceptional. Kelly can play the piano and sing very well. Christian is much better at classical guitar than he thinks he is. All in all, we did not do so bad. Both the kids got ten years of music/instrument lessons and both still love to play. I would put this in the joyful avocation category.
  • Art–We did well in art. Of course there is the drawing (e.g. here and here) and all the crafts we did, but the thing that surprises me most is that we all like to go to Art Museums when we are together. We know some artists we like and enjoy art appreciation as much or more as we enjoy making art.
  • Cooking–Lorena is amazing and deserves a post all by itself. She has followed a pretty incredible culinary path that is wildly eclectic. Kelly is going down that same path, but with here own twist that is heavily influenced, I think, by the fact that she lives in the amazing food culture of the Pacific Northwest. Christian is more utilitarian, but goes on a baking or cooking binge that pushes the envelope on a semi-regular basis. As for me, I make an OK omelet which is also the entire cooking legacy I leave to my children. Well that and how to cook a turkey.
  • Sports and exercise–This deserves a post all by itself because we made a decision very early on to assure that exercise become a normal part of life, but sports, especially football, basketball, soccer and baseball were given very, very low priorities on the list we wanted the kids to do or watch. Part of that is because I had seen this so up close and personal, but part of it was because those sports are a time and resource drain that have negative value as either life skills, avocations or activities that engendered positive values. We tended more toward swimming, running and a little bit of hiking. Both the kids are active as weight lifters and runners these days.

The thing that was great about all that stuff is we got into all of it and got excited about it at the same time we did not over emphasize it. We wanted this all to be something for which the kids could have lifelong enjoyment without it consuming their lives. We will have to wait awhile longer to see if we had any level of success at that goal.