Archive for August, 2009

$5 Dinner Challenge: Olive Oil & Rosemary Chicken with Pearled Barley & Green Beans

August 31, 2009


“We are a one income family living in a two income world!” Erin, $5 Dinners

That quote really resonated with me and so I decided to challenge myself to three Mondays of $5 Dinner Challenges.  This means, each Monday I will cook a meal for 2 adults and 2 children for around $5.  Here’s the real challenge, though:  I will do it while maintaining my commitment to eat mostly local and organic vegetables and humanely raised meats.  For my inaugural meal, I made Olive Oil & Rosemary Chicken with Pearled Barley & Green Beans for $5.61.

The great thing about this meal is that it is one of the tastiest I’ve made lately.  The chicken was crispy and not over seasoned with a hint of rosemary.  The green beans were flavorful and crisp and since the barley was simmered in chicken stock, it complemented the meal perfectly.  Here’s how made this fantastic meal for just over five bucks:

Prices and Products

  • 1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary from my garden:  free
  • 1/2 tbsp. organic, cold pressed, Extra Virgin Olive Oil: $0.10
  • 1.09 lbs. chicken thighs (no animal byproducts or antibiotics in the animal’s feed or added hormones): $2.99
  • 1 cup dry organic pearled barley (each serving has 30% of your daily dietary fiber requirement): $0.69
  • 1 cup home-made organic, free range chicken stock with local veggies, good wine and home-grown herbs $0.76
  • 0.75 lb. local, pesticide-free green beans from farmer’s market: $1.07
  • Couple dashes of salt and pepper:  negligible

How I got these great deals:

  • I’d heard from my friend Elisa that the end of the day at the farmer’s market is a good time to bargain with the farmers, so I went ten minutes to closing and talked the farmer down from $2/lb to $1/lb on the green beans.
  • I told the butcher at Whole Foods about this really cool dinner challenge I was doing and he helped me pick out the pieces of chicken that were the best value and (don’t tell anyone!) did a little rounding down on the price.
  • I made the chicken stock from the left over carcass and offal from last week’s roast chicken, tasty wine that hubby found a great deal on, left over veggies from last week and herbs from my garden.


Rosemary and Olive Oil Chicken Thighs

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Combine 1/2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary and a dash each of sea salt and fresh ground pepper in a small bowl.
  • Wash and pat dry 1 lb bone-in, skin on chicken thighs.
  • Rub thighs with olive oil mix
  • Bake at 400 for about 45 minutes (until skin is golden brown and temp. is 165)

Barley Cooked in Chicken Stock

  • Cook 1 cup pearled barley according to instructions on package, replacing 1 cup of water with 1 cup of chicken stock (usually 1 cup dried barley for 3 cups liquid, simmer, covered for 1 hr 15 min.)

Steamed Green Beans

  • Cook 3/4 lb. green beans in steamer basket over one inch of water in covered pot on medium heat for about 5 minutes or until desired tenderness is reached, but color is still bright green.

Just in time for the weekend: Mojito Sorbet with a Dash of Rum

August 28, 2009

Inspired by the refreshing mojitos at Tilth Restaurant in Seattle last Sunday, I created a mojito sorbet yesterday.  I couldn’t believe how quick it is to make sorbet.  Once I had the ingredients prepped, only 25 minutes in the ice cream maker and it was done!

Mojito Sorbet with a Dash of Rum

You will need:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 bunch mint, rough chopped (1 oz.)
  • 2 cups San Pellegrino
  • 2 tbsp. white rum
  • 1/2 tbsp. finely grated lime zest (2-3 limes)
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (2-3 limes)
  • 6 mint leaves very finely chopped
  • Extra whole mint leaves for serving

Put it together:

  • Put water in a small saucepan
  • Add sugar
  • Turn on heat to medium to med-high and bring just to a boil, stir once, then add rough-chopped mint and turn down and simmer for 4-5 minutes.  You do not need to stir again.  The result is called simple syrup.
  • Cool in an ice water bath
  • Once simple syrup is cool, pour into a mixing bowl and add all other ingredients
  • Pour mixture into ice cream maker and follow manufacturers instructions for making
  • Freeze for 2 hours
  • Serve with lots of fresh mint leaves


  • Simple syrup can be kept in the refrigerator a couple of weeks (the higher sugar to water ratio, the longer it keeps).
  • Alcohol raises the freezing temperature, use more if you want a slushy consistency or none if you want it hard.


Support Building Blocks Show and purchase the Cuisinart Classic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker that I used for this recipe from our Amazon store:

In white:

Cuisinart ICE-25 Classic Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker

or in brushed chrome:

Cuisinart ICE-25BC Classic Frozen-Yogurt, Ice-Cream, and Sorbet Maker, Brushed Chrome

I found vegan heaven at Tilth, but don't worry, they serve steak too

August 28, 2009

Doing research for my Skagit River Ranch Farm Day post, I heard about this James Beard Award winning local chef, Maria Hines.  She has an organic cuisine restaurant in Seattle called Tilth.  Of course I made reservations right away.

We sat in the outside dining area and it was quite charming.  Despite being right on a busy road, Chef Hines has done a beautiful job of creating a city get-away garden feel.  I’d read on their website that there was a vegan menu.  Even before I figured out I had a dairy allergy I loved vegan food for the freshness and creativity.  Tilth did not disappoint on either of these facets.  The other neat thing about this restaurant is that you can order a half portion of any dish.  Since three of the items on the vegan menu looked good to me, I ordered all three!

Before dinner came, hubby ordered a mojito and the waitress said, “I just have to go out back and pick the mint for it.”  I knew we were in for a treat then.  This take on the Cuban classic was so refreshing and much crisper than any I’d had before.  Apparently they should be made with Pellegrino, not club soda.

Next came a delightful amuse-bouche:  red pepper soup on a porcelain spoon.  Hubby’s had creme fraiche.  Without my prompting, they thoughtfully didn’t include any creme on my portion since I’d ordered off the vegan menu.

My appetizer was a chilled bowl of cucumber soup.  My, how I love a good cucumber soup in summer.

For my first main, they served the pea risotto with pine nuts and basil chiffonade.  It was light, balanced, fresh and probably the best risotto I’ve had yet.  I ordered a second half portion.

The second main was pot au feau with local summer squash, beans, peas and other veggies.  Rodger loved this one.  He ate most of it.

Now, if I haven’t lost the meat eaters yet, don’t think Tilth forgot about you.  For appetizer, we had pork which was cured for three weeks and sliced thin served with a berry coulee and pistachios.  Then duck burgers with a spicy aioli that was anything but lacking in flavor.  Hubby would like me to note that he was upset that the aioli wasn’t mentioned on the menu.  This is one of his pet peeves.  Finally, he had a steak, of course, which was good, but the portion small for hearty eaters (and that was the full portion).

To top off this delectable parade was Theo’s Chocolate Sorbet made with hazelnut and lemon marmalade served over strawberries.  A perfectly rich ending to a rejuvenating culinary experience.

Tilth on Urbanspoon

Sandy's Granola and Photo Practice

August 26, 2009

I promise, my loyal readers, that I am working daily on many recipes, but they seem to need a little extra work lately.  In the meantime, enjoy these photos of Sandy’s famous granola from our favorite retreat, the Cabin at Spring Bay on Oracas Island.  I’m practicing my photography diligently these days, so if you have any suggestions or feedback, please leave it in the comments.  I can use all the help I can get. These photos were taken with a Canon G9.

A Second Installment of Orcas Cuisine: The Inn at Ship Bay

August 25, 2009

The second place that my husband and I go every year on Orcas Island – and our hands down favorite – is the Inn at Ship Bay.  As you can see by the photos below, the food is amazing, but what we love is the staff.  The servers are all experienced and know every detail of the food off the top of their heads.

We sat outside with a gorgeous view of East Sound.  My husband thought the meal was absolutely perfect.  He ordered a steak (just like he does at every restaurant).  I thought it was almost perfect…

Salad of Duck Confit, Roast Sweet Onion, Local, Greens, Shaved Reggiano, Peach Vinaigrette and Toasted Almonds

The greens, vinaigrette and toasted almond blended so well in this salad.  I’m not an expert on duck confit, but the texture and taste didn’t seem different from roast duck.

Yes, I am a duck-oholic and ordered duck for my main as well:

Seared and Roasted Duck Breast, Yukon Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables and Local Shiro Plums

I ordered the breast medium-well was worried it would come out over cooked, but I it was cooked exactly and was crispy on the outside and juicy inside.  The veggies, especially the beets, were all delicious.  It was missing a little something and I quickly figured out it was the black cherries on my husband’s steak and stole them – every last one!

And I never go without dessert…

Lemon Baked Alaska

Hands down the prettiest dessert I’ve had in a long time.  I just wish the meringue was crunchier.  I haven’t made Baked Alaska before, but I imagine that is not an easy task in an ice cream dessert.

Geeky Mushroom Photo

August 24, 2009

I didn’t realize you could do this on Flickr.  Scroll over the mushrooms to see the type.  I knew 5 out of 6.  How many can you name?

Intertwining Julie & Julia

August 21, 2009

“French people eat French food every single day! I can’t get over it!”       Meryl Streep as Julia Child in Julie & Julia

Last week I made my pilgrimage to see Julie & Julia.  This film intertwines the lives of Julia Child who brought French cooking to Americans and Julie Powell who brought Julia Child to the blogosphere.  It is oozing with beautiful shots of French cuisine intermingled with French cityscape.  Amy Adams plays the dreary New Yorker who livens up her nights cooking her way through The Art of French Cooking and Meryl Streep plays the original foodie and lover, Julia Child.

The humorous spirit of Julia Child is captured so beautifully by Streep.  She had me in stitches the whole time.  It was amazing to hear the letters that told the story of her life and vividly see the passion that she had for French cuisine.  I can’t wait for the “making of” to see how they made 5’6″ Streep appear 6’2″.

Although my favorite parts of the movie were of Julia Child’s life, I really enjoyed the way that the Julie/Julia Project was woven in the film.  It’s not often we get to see blogging portrayed on the big screen.  (Blogging is not exactly a glamorous endeavor.)  It was fun to see the lobster boiling antics alongside the excitement of Julie’s first blog comment only to find out it was just her nagging mom.

This is the type of movie that moves me to run out and start cooking, blogging or simply eating.  I’m going to buy it on DVD when it’s released so I can watch it whenever I need inspiration.


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Christina's: True Northwest Cuisine

August 20, 2009

It’s my last night on Orcas Island.  I’m sitting at the computer trying to decide if I should call Christina’s white gazpacho creamy.  It was smooth, but light in the way a vinaigrette becomes emulsified as you whisk in the oil.  Pure olive oil was drizzled over the green grapes in the summery puree.  It was surprising, refreshing and cool.

The first time I ate at Christina’s, it was still owned by Christina.  I can still remember what I ate:  A single ravioli… two sheets of pasta measuring three inches by three inches filled with caramelized onion and smothered in a sauce of soft French cheeses, garnished with crispy sage.  Perfect in every way.  It’s different now.  Owner Maureen Mullen has a little way to go to reach the level of service and cuisine that Christina had built, but I can see glimmers of hope in her gazpacho.

This time I ordered an empanada with local greens.  The empanada pastry was filled with cannelloni beans and summer squash served with house-made tomatillo sauce and cojita cheese.  The greens stole the show though.  They had a fruity or citrus-like quality.  The waitress said they were sauteed in oil, shallots, white wine and vegetable stock.  There was kale, red cabbage and kohlrabi (green turnip) picked young, so they weren’t too bitter.

A non-cheesy mint risotto transformed roast chicken into Arroz con Pollo.  I’m not sure if that was intentional.  There were some of the tiniest carrots I’d ever seen in orange, purple, white and green.  Hubby’s medium steak came out still mooing, but they quickly fixed that and brought it back out lightly charred on top, rich brown on the sides with pink running through.

The service… We couldn’t decide between four of the wines, so they brought out four glasses and gave us a taste of each.  I was impressed with their effort.  The waiters were attentive.  They smiled at the baby.  Something was a little off though.  My suspicion was that they were tired.  It was the last seating of the day.  My husband thought they might be having trouble with his accent or having a culture clash.  Either way, the overall experience was relaxing and delicious and we’ll return next time we’re on the island.

Carving Roast Chicken

August 19, 2009

Once again I find myself saying that maybe we should just change the name of this blog to “Alton Brown Fan Club.”

A couple nights ago I roasted a beautiful herb and chili flake buttered chicken. After I was tired from spending hours in the kitchen chopping, dicing and baking, I asked if anyone would like to “do the honors” of slicing the bird. The room went silent. And so, I went to work. To be honest, I was glad it was me carving it. Even though it wasn’t my best work, I was glad it was done properly.  It breaks my heart to see a perfectly roasted chicken get butchered haplessly.

I certainly wasn’t born with a knack for butchering – I was actually born with an affinity for vegetarianism. But one day I watched this episode of Good Eats with a creative explanation of chicken carving utilizing a model dinosaur (minute 4:30 in the video):

Then, I wanted to practice. I just happened to have signed up to cook a meal for Tent City 4 with my church that week and we had 15 chickens to butcher. I learned that repetition is the key to confidence. I shall never fear carving again.

Make-Ahead Cooking

August 17, 2009

Guest Post: Malissa is guest posting today as Kim is off on vacation celebrating her anniversary!

I’m bringing a meal to a friend that just had a baby. It used to cause me a bit of stress to figure out a good meal for these situations. Since discovering The Best Make-Ahead Recipe cookbook, I have a handful of recipes that work really well.

This cookbook is from the editors at “Cook’s Illustrated” and they have a prominent place in my kitchen. I’m not a “natural cook” but can follow a recipe. I test Kim’s recipes to make sure any idiot (uh, me) can follow them, so I appreciate the detail in their recipe instructions. Another thing I like about “Cook’s Illustrated” is that they look for shortcuts in recipes, but not at the expense of taste. Also, they thoroughly test ingredient brands and equipment to let you know when it’s worth spending top dollar.

Ok, so that’s why I love anything “Cook’s Illustrated” publishes, but the specific reason I love this cookbook is because of all the instructions for serving right away, assembling for storage in the refrigerator or freezer, baking half/freezing half, and supersizing the dish. The tips are so useful if you want to prepare something ahead of time, cook the same dish for your family and another family, take a hot dish to a family and bring an extra meal for the freezer, etc. I think these make-ahead recipes are perfect for the once-a-month cooking trend or to take a little stress out of a dinner party or holiday meal.

I’m off to enjoy our Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole with Peas, Carrots, and Cheddar (homemade bread crumbs on top, HALLELUJAH). Check out this recipe and so many more: