Just a lil’ update…

Sorry about the lack of posts lately!  I seem to be saying that a lot, haven’t I?  I’ve been tied up working on several side projects and so haven’t spent much time on this blog or experimenting with new dishes.  These past few weeks, I’ve been learning about web design and web hosting, in the hopes of moving Little Bear’s Kitchen from WordPress.com to its own domain name.  Its a little slow-going.  I have zero background in html, css, and all that mumbo jumbo, so I’m slowly figuring things out.  One of the big things is figuring out how to move all the posts on this site to the new site and do it so that the incoming links don’t get lost.  It is exciting and fun, but definitely a work in progress.  Will keep you posted on that one.

This upcoming weekend is not only Chinese New Year’s and Valentine’s Day, but also President’s Day!  Holiday weekend, woo hoo!  Unfortunately, I’m working through most of it, with the exception of Sunday, so the celebrations will be kept to a minimum.

Hubs and I will most likely celebrate Valentine’s with a quiet dinner at home.  Our second year of dating, he took me out to eat at a nice Italian restaurant.  As expected, service was slow, the prices were inflated, we could hardly hear each other over the din, and the tables were so close together, I kept knocking elbows with the person seated at the next table over.  To top things off, I got food poisoning.  After that year, we’ve always celebrated at home and cooked our own meal.

Chinese New Year’s officially begins on February 14 and commences two weeks of celebrations.  Its the year of the tiger this year.  Supposedly not a lucky year for monkeys, according to this site.  Hubs says I shouldn’t be superstitious and believe in those things, but 2010 has gotten off to a rocky start already….

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Korean food and summer fruits

Apart from the chili, these past couple of months have truly been about cooking old favorites.  I’ve been making lots and lots of Korean food, including dukbokki, bulgogi bibimbap, kimchi jigae, and Korean pancakes.  In fact, Christmas lunch was at the Korean plaza down in Santa Clara…I had soondobu and Hubs had chicken katsu from the nearby Japanese restaurant.  Can you tell my favorite cuisine is Korean?  Haha.  We’re not Korean but Hubs looks like he is.  It always cracks me up when even Chinese people think he’s Korean and Korean people give him discounts because they think he’s one of them.  😉

Anyway, I just wanted to post up some pics from last summer that I just hadn’t gotten around to.  I love fresh fruit!  As much as I love the rainy weather, I’m looking forward to summer…

Cherries and blueberries

Sweet white nectarines ,white peaches, and Fuji apples

Seattle, second day

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Day two began with breakfast in Pike’s Market at The Crumpet Shop.  Its as good as all the reviews say it is, if not better.  Crumpets are a British food, kind of like an English muffin but hundreds of times tastier.  The outside is crisp while the inner portion is softer, denser and slightly doughy.  Hubs and I both had the smoked salmon crumpet, which was sooo good.  I hear the lines go out the door during peak hours at The Crumpet Shop and I can see why.  If only we had crumpet shops in the Bay Area…I’m craving one right now.

I had to take a picture of this restaurant sign.  It pretty much sums up my life, haha.

Of course, we stopped by the original Starbucks and the Flying Fish Market.  Can you see the flying fish?  (Hint, its by one of the hanging lights.)

Loved all the sights at Pike’s Market, as well as the wealth of fresh-caught seafood and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Lunch at Pike’s Place Chowder (again).  Yes, it was that good.  We split a Dungeness crab sandwich roll and a cup of New England clam chowder.  The crab was light and sweet…perfect…

After lunch, we headed over to the Seattle Center and the Space Needle.  The Olympic Sculpture Garden was nearby so we took a little detour over there.  For some reason, I think I liked it more than Hubs.  I think he was bored.

I really like this picture…been trying to take more silhouette pictures.  Would you believe this tree is actually made of metal?  It was the first sculpture we came across and the tree against the cloudy horizon was beautiful.

Reflection of the Space Needle against the EMP building.  We’re not big classic rock fans so we didn’t go inside, but I have to say, the EMP building is striking.  I read somewhere that the building’s sheet-metal exterior changes colors as the day goes on.

The Space Needle.  I didn’t feel like paying the $17/person admission fee to the top, so we didn’t go.  Maybe next time.  I kind of felt that the awesome city views from our hotel room were good enough.  Hubs didn’t mind not going either, so we went back downtown for some more last minute shopping before packing and catching our flight home.  So long Seattle!

Seattle, first day

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Hubs and I flew up to Seattle this past weekend, just to relax and have a change of scenery.  It was a very short trip–we arrived on Saturday morning and left on Sunday evening–but it was long enough to refresh us and feed our travel bug.  We stayed at the Westin Seattle, which is located in downtown and is ideal for its close proximity to Pike’s Market and the Westlake Station.  The Seattle Center, International District and Pioneer Square were just a hop, skip and jump away on the metro system.

We got a room on the 35th floor of the hotel’s North Towers with floor-to-ceiling windows on one side of the room, affording us awesome views of the city such as this:

The hotel staff let us check in early, so after we dropped off our luggage, we began exploring Seattle.  We’ve both been to Seattle before, but that was years ago and this was our first time together.

First stop, Pioneer Square.  Its definitely a seedier part of town–lots of vagrants and unsavory looking characters roaming the streets.  It reminded me a little of the Tenderloin or Civic Center area of San Francisco.  Even though we were lost, I was a little scared of pulling out the map for fear of being targeted as a tourist and then being mugged.  However, it is the historic part of Seattle and we were able to check out some of the sites in our guidebook.  We also stumbled upon the QWest football stadium, which Hubs loved, and we had to get some pictures with it in the background.

Even though it was only 50 degrees outside, I had to try the gelato at Cafe Umbria.  The pistachio gelato is insanely delicious!!

The Glasshouse Studio is a little shop in Pioneer Square that reminded me of Italy, primarily because of the glass-blowing section of the shop.  Customers can watch the glass artists at work, as they pull white-hot glass from the furnace and mold and shape it into vases and other types of art.  There were even glass frogs!  I wanted to buy something from this shop, but was too afraid it would break on the return flight back, even if it was carried-on.

Next was Chinatown and the International District, which isn’t nearly as impressive as SF’s Chinatown or even NYC’s Chinatown.  My favorite shop was Uwajimaya, a huge (clean!) Asian supermarket that was more than a market.  It also had a multi-restaurant food court, a Kinokuniya bookstore, and more.  Much nicer than the Ranch 99s and Nijiyas down here.

Seattle becomes pretty dead at night so after the Int’l District, we headed back to the hotel room to catch the sunset.  We went out again for dinner and were on a street corner near the hotel looking at a map when a couple stopped us, asked us if we were looking for something, and then invited us to dinner with them.  They were quite nice.  The dinner invitation came about when Hubs asked them for restaurant recommendations.  Since they were on their way to dinner, they invited us along.  We walked with them for a little bit, maybe a few blocks, then parted ways.  It was only 5pm and we weren’t very hungry yet.

Dinner ended up being at Pike Place Chowder at Pacific Place.  Very low-key and delicious.  We ordered the four-chowder sampler and the large cod and chips.  Way too much food, but all of it was very good.  My fav chowder was the seafood bisque with the New England clam chowder close behind.  They’ve won awards for their chowder and its not hard to see why…the chowder was savory, chock full of potatoes, seafood and clams and well-seasoned with herbs and spices.  However, I wasn’t able to take good pictures as we were in a mall food-court setting with poor lighting.  😦

To be continued…

Flatlander Chili

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Its been cold and rainy lately, which makes it perfect weather for a hearty bowl of chili.  The original recipe is by a guy named George Couch and can be found here.  I’ve made this chili several times before, sometimes following the recipe, sometimes improvising.  Last night, I improvised, using George’s recipe as a base, and here is my version.

I have to warn you, if you can’t handle the heat of spicy foods, you may want to cut down the chili powder or red pepper powder even more.  I used 1/8 cup of red pepper powder (half of what the original recipe called for) and it was pretty spicy.  It was just right for Hubs and I, but be warned.

This also makes a *huge* pot of chili…about a good 10 servings.  Perfect for tail-gate parties or get-togethers.  🙂

Little Bear’s version of Flatlander Chili

1  1/3 lbs lean ground beef
2  15-oz cans of tomato sauce
1  15 oz can of diced, no-salt added can of tomatoes, liquid reserved
2  15 oz cans of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
3 green onions, diced
1/8 c. red pepper powder
2 t. ground cumin
1 1/2 t. garlic powder
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. white sugar
1/8 t. ground cayenne pepper

Heat a large, deep skillet or pot over medium-high heat.  Add the ground beef and cook until evenly brown.  Drain and crumble the ground beef.

In a small bowl, combine all the spices (red pepper powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, salt, pepper, oregano, sugar, and cayenne pepper).  Blend well.

Add all the remaining ingredients (vegetables and spices) to the skillet or pot containing the ground beef.  Stir and combine well.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Top with more diced green onions or shredded cheese, as desired.

Serves 10.

Merry Christmas!

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Found on google images

Merry Christmas everyone!  I’ve been on break this past month (break from blogging, that is, not from work), but hopefully that will change in January.  I’ve been making meals using recipes already posted on this blog…tonight I’m making bibimbap.   Thanks R for the inspiration.  🙂  No Christmas dinner for us this year…preparing Thanksgiving dinner for eight people wiped me out.  Hubs and I are just going to take it easy today and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”  –-Isaiah 9:6 (NASB)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Found on google images

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  This is the second Thanksgiving Hubs and I have celebrated together as a married couple, but unlike last year, we’re doing a combined Thanksgiving dinner this year.  Last year, we drove to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving, spent a couple days there, and then drove back to the Bay Area to go out for a belated Thanksgiving dinner with his family.  This year, since I didn’t have much time off of work, we’re staying local.  My mom and my brother are arriving into town this morning and later tonight, his family is coming over.  Should be interesting.  The only other time that our families got together was our wedding.  But they’re all okay with it, so…okay.

As for the Thanksgiving spirit, at this particular second in time, I’m not feeling particular thankful for the neighbors next door.  Construction has been running overtime these past few days, beginning at 8am and ending around 10:30pm.  Last night, I could hear the workers giving high fives and congratulating each other in Mandarin for finishing the job.  I was happy too because I thought they were done.  Not so.  A little before 7am this Thanksgiving morning, another white work van pulled up outside our bedroom window and work began again.  This time I actually went next door to talk to the owner about it.  All the other stuff I can tolerate, but I draw the line at hammering and loud construction noises at 7am on a national holiday.

What I am thankful for, however, is our lovely family of two (Hubby and me), that our parents still have their health, that we have food and shelter and clothing, and that we both still have jobs in these scary economic times.  Very basic stuff, but you know, its the basics that matter. Happy Thanksgiving.  🙂

Construction next door sucks.

You wouldn’t think it would be the case, but the construction work going on next door is actually influencing Little Bear’s Kitchen.  Someone bought the condo right next to ours and for the last two weeks, workers have been coming on a daily basis to renovate the place.  Aside from the usual renovation annoyances like the hammering and banging on our shared walls, the workers have also set up camp in front of our condo, since it is incredibly convenient for them.

Outside our bedroom window, they’ve placed their work table, where they cut lumber, granite and steel pipes.  The noise for the latter is like fingernails on the chalkboard, ack!  Outside our office window is their van, all their equipment and supplies, and their hang out place when they are not working.

How does this affect Little Bear’s Kitchen?  I use the office for my food photography.  I love the natural lighting the office receives…the best in the whole apartment.  I set up the food on a table next to the windows and always open the drapes wide open when taking pictures.  Obviously I can’t do that with a bunch of strangers loitering around just a couple feet away, on the other side of those windows.  And they are always here, from early morning to dinner time.

Hopefully they finish up soon and leave.  I’m all for employment and people working, but its starting to get ridiculous just how much the renovations next door have affected our day to day life.  Water to our unit has been shut off by the workers (without any notice), our windows and drapes have to be closed at all times, and most annoyingly (besides the noise), those guys are parking in my parking space.  Thanksgiving is coming up soon.  I’m quite excited about the menu I’ve come up with and want to take some pictures of the food.  My mother-in-law is bringing the turkey, but I’ll prepare the sides and dessert.  My brother is also coming in from out of town, so it will be a joint family dinner.

Pumpkin Pancakes…

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…were what we had for breakfast this morning.  A nice change from the usual instant oatmeal, cold cereal and frozen waffles that usually grace our breakfast plates.  I picked up some pumpkin pancake and waffle mix from Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago, but didn’t get around to making some until today.  The verdict?  Yummy.  Fluffy, light pancakes with just a hint of pumpkin and spice.  Much much better than the Bisquick mixes I remember.  Sometimes I’ll get stuff from TJ’s just to try out and regret it, but I’m definitely liking this pumpkin pancake mix.  I’m even looking forward to making some again in a couple of days.

Shaking Beef

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Lazy Saturday today…I love these days of being able to sleep in late and leisurely spend the rest of the day with Hubs.  We must be becoming a boring old married couple because the highlight of our day was having lunch together at Quickly.  That and visiting the newly renovated, newly opened Target in downtown Sunnyvale, which was packed full of people.  Its really nice inside and even has a sizable grocery section, complete with fresh fruits, milk, cheese, etc.  We had intended to just go browse, but we ended up buying a few bags of candy, haha.  I also bought some shredded coconut.  I found a recipe for Jamaican Banana Bread that has a rum and coconut topping, which sounds yummy.  Anything with rum has to be good right?  I’m hoping to try that recipe later this week.

A couple years ago, when I was still living in San Francisco, I heard a lot about The Slanted Door, a hip Vietnamese fusion restaurant located downtown.  The reviews on Yelp praised The Slanted Door for its innovative, delicious dishes, and it seemed like a “must-try” restaurant.

Then last year, through the wonders of Google, I found Charles Phan’s recipe for Shaking Beef.  Shaking beef is quite possibly the most popular dish at The Slanted Door, or at least its very high up on the list.  Charles Phan is the restaurant’s chef and has published his shaking beef recipe several times.  I believe I got this recipe from the SF Chronicle.

The recipe below is very straight-forward and the shaking beef is delicious.  I made this for the in-laws once and my mother-in-law loved it.  Cooking the beef to medium-rare (or medium-well if you so desire) results in tender, juicy, flavorful meat.  I cut back on the amount of soy sauce used in the original recipe, but otherwise, kept everything else the same.

I’ve also made this dish with and without the dipping sauce, which I feel is entirely optional.  The meat is so flavorful on its own that I feel the dipping sauce is not needed.

Shaking Beef

The picture above doesn’t do the food justice (photographing brown meat and making the picture drool-worthy isn’t easy!) but trust me, this Shaking Beef is really good.

Shaking Beef, by Charles Phan of The Slanted Door

Marinade:
2 T. chopped garlic
1 t. sugar
1-1/2 t. salt
3/4 t. coarsely ground black pepper
2 T. vegetable oil
1-1/2 lbs. filet mignon, cut into 1″ cubes

The Vinaigrette:
1/4 c. rice vinegar
1 T. sugar
1/4 c. rice wine
3 T. light soy sauce
1 T. dark soy sauce
1 T. fish sauce

Stir-fry:
4 T. vegetable oil
3 stalks green onion, cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 t. butter

Dipping Sauce:
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. coarsely ground black pepper

Prepare the marinade by combining garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and oil in a large glass bowl.  Add the filet mignon cubes to the marinade, tossing well.  Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for two hours.

Make the vinaigrette by combining the rice vinegar, sugar, rice wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and fish sauce.  Whisk together well and set aside.

Heat a wok over high heat.  Divide the beef, green onions and red onions in half, so that you can cook these in two batches.

Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the wok.  When the oil starts to smoke, add the first portion of beef in an even layer.  Let it sit undisturbed until the beef forms a brown crust on the bottom, about 2 minutes.  Using a spatula, flip the beef over to brown the other side, about 1 minute.

Add half of the green onions and red onions to the wok and cook for 1 more minute.  Pour half of the vinaigrette down the side of the wok, then shake the pan to release the beef and toss with the vinaigrette.  Add 1 teaspoon of butter and continue to shake the pan until the butter melts.  Remove the beef and onions from the wok.  Keep warm.

Repeat the last few steps with the second portion of beef, green onions and red onions.  Transfer to a serving platter.

Prepare dipping sauce by putting salt and pepper in a small bowl and squeeze lime juice over it.  Serve alongside the beef.

Serves 4.