Author Archive

My Favorite Harvest Baked Beans Recipe

November 12, 2009

These are my favorite baked beans… actually, they’re the only baked beans I eat.   I searched and searched for a recipe like this.  You would not believe how many “recipes” said called for “1 can of baked beans.”  How is that a recipe?  Instructions for heating up canned beans?   When I came across this Three-Bean Baked Beans recipe from Simply Recipes, I knew it was the one I was looking for.

The texture of my favorites: kidney, garbanzo and butter beans make it far superior to any white bean recipe and the sauce is a smoky, not-too-sweet base.  It calls for kidney, black and cannellini beans, but sub in your favorites like I do for a perfect harvest side dish.  Finish with a tablespoon of cognac or bourbon to enhance the flavors.

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Foodportunity a Delicious Success

November 5, 2009

Monday evening my family and I attend Foodportunity in Seattle at the Palace Ballroom.  We had sooo much fun as we sampled, schmoozed and snapped our way around the ballroom!  And now I have sooo much to blog about!  

Of course I started with the spirits.  Here’s Mark Newton of DiStefano:

I tasted Domenica, a Bordeaux style Merlot-Cab blend.  I’m not usually one for strong reds, but this well-balanced red wasn’t overly tannic (as Washington wines usually are) and it’s full-bodied taste was matched by an alcohol content that didn’t pull its punches either.

Next was the highlight of the event, for me, anyway.  Cupcakes from Wink!

This red velvet with cream cheese was the. best. cupcake. i’ve. ever. had.

Did I mention Tom Douglas was there?  It is his palace, after all:

My son and husband’s favorite food of the night was Farro Fries with Duck Egg Aioli at the Bluebird Grain Farms and Emmer and Rye booth.  Farro, also known as emmer, is a type of wheat mainly grown in mountainous areas.  It was prepared polenta style and then toasted on the grill.  I have some emmer to try and some notes on this preparation, so I’ll let you all know how it turns out when I try it myself. 

Beecher’s Cheese also had a really interesting dish they were serving.  It was hominy and poblano smothered in their flagship cheese sauce.  I found the recipe for flagship cheese sauce  and their signature mac ‘n cheese on the Seattle PI website.  The texture of the hominy was very similar to potatoes, so I didn’t believe it at first and had to go back for seconds.  : )

Foodportunity had such a diversity of people from the food industry.  There were food photographers and videographers, restaurant owners, grocers, farmers, makers of food products and accesories and bloggers.  I even got to meet Robin Leventhal from this season of Top Chef!  I have some crackers from Fieri (same makers as Croccantini) I’ll be reviewing soon as well as restaurants and spirits to try out.  If you’re really into food and didn’t make this event, I highly suggest you mark your calendar for the next Foodportunity!

Product Reviews and Amazon Store Policy

October 5, 2009

I thought it was about time that I post our Product Reviews and Amazon Store Policy, so here it is:

Building Blocks Show (BBS) is the project of two stay-at-home moms who love food and want to share their passion for food with you.  This is the spirit with which we approach all business decisions.  That being said, we don’t mind making money and getting free stuff and here’s our policy on that:

Book and product reviews:  We will accept books and products directly related to our cooking philosophy for review.  If we choose to review these items, it will be done on the BBS Blog and clearly stated that the product/book was a gift.  We will be honest in our evaluation.   We do not do pay-per-post.

Amazon Store:  BBS receives a portion of all sales from Amazon in our BBS Store.  Because we can choose any of Amazon’s millions of products, we only select items that we personally use and love or are totally lusting after ourselves.  Product links in the blog posts are part of the Amazon store. 

If you are interested in advertising on our website or have a book or cooking related product you would like to send us for review please email kim AT buildingblocksshow DOT com.

Writing Under the Influence: Monsoon East Review (Bellevue, WA)

September 30, 2009

Blogging platforms should come with a warning:  Do not write reviews of tasty Vietnamese restaurants while under the influence of hunger!  My belly is telling me to get back in my car and drive to Monsoon East.  No, belly, no. 

Here’s the scene:  It’s lunchtime on one of the last sunny days for Western Washington.  After driving around the block four times looking for any parking spot, I find one right in front of the restaurant.  My baby, Rodger, and I stumble in and take a look around the swanky, contemporary restaurant.  No hostess, but smiling cooks behind the open-view kitchen. 

Finally the hostess appears from the back and seats us promptly with the menus and a high chair.  Ah, the menus.  Everything sounded so enticing, it took me forever to order.  Luckily I had a cheerful waitress who recommended the organic chicken in the vermicelli bowl.  Sounded good to me, but first a salad.   

The salad was Green Papaya with Grilled Prawns and Caramelized Pineapple.  It was tangy and bright with really well-balanced flavors, despite the sad looking pineapple.  Although, it couldn’t be too sad, because afterall, it was caramelized pineapple.  I think the prawns were good.  I’d love to be more descriptive, but Rodger only let me have one bite!

Then the vermicelli bowl came, filled to the brim with lemongrass chicken, crispy imperial roll, cucumber, mint, and a sauce that carried a real kick.  Wow, when the menu said “crispy” roll, I was expecting something along the lines of a deep-fried spring roll, but the Vietnamese apparently don’t use the word “crispy” lightly.  It had a serious crunch factor.  Delicious.  The only thing about the meal that left me wanting was the dry chicken.  Very unfortunate because if it weren’t for a little too long of a kiss on the grill this would be a gripe-less review. 

All of this came at a very reasonable price for such flavorful fare.  The vermicelli bowl was only 9.50 and if you don’t have a monkey stealing all your prawns and chicken, this would probably be more than enough for lunch, but I spent an extra 8.00 to get the salad too.  There were so many cool things on the menu I didn’t order, like Idaho catfish claypot, bo la lot beef and the raw bar.  I’m going to have to go back and try each of them! 

Tilth on Urbanspoon
 

 

Coconut Curry Chicken and Baked Coconut Brown Rice

September 28, 2009

This is my third successful installment of 3 Mondays of $5 Dinner Challenges.  This means, each Monday I’ve been cooking a meal for 2 adults and 2 children for around $5.  Here’s the real challenge, though:  I do it while maintaining my commitment to eat mostly local and organic vegetables and humanely raised meats.  For this final meal, I made Coconut Curry Chicken and Baked Brown Rice for $6.96.

This meal was really fun to do because we don’t often do curries in our house.  It is a super simple recipe for the new-to-curry crowd that will impress your family.  The sweet coconut milk is perfectly suited to these warm savory spices.  Baking the rice assures a perfect result every time that doesn’t stick to the pan and is done without a rice cooker.  I used leeks, but it would be even easier and just as tasty made with onions and you can throw them in with the rest of the vegetables instead of having to cook separately like I did with the leeks.  Here’s how made this fantastic meal for just under seven dollars:

Prices and Products

  • 1 tbsp. expeller pressed canola oil: $0.10
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) organic coconut milk: $0.50
  • 4 white mushrooms (0.15 lb.) : $0.47 (10% off)
  • 1/2 of an organic leek (0.275 lb.): $0.44
  • 1/2 of an organic carrot: $0.20 (10% off)
  • handful of organic snow peas: $0.45 (10% off)
  • small organic green bell pepper: $0.67 (10% off)
  • 2 tbsp. curry powder: $0.50
  • 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar: $0.01
  • 14.74 oz. organic, sustainably raised chicken: $2.81 (10% off)
  • 1 cup (uncooked) brown basmati:  $0.81
  • 1/2 tsp. salt: negligible

How I got these great deals:

  • The best deal of the day was the organic coconut milk which is normally more than two bucks a can.  Whole Foods was having a sale for $1.50 a can plus I had a dollar off coupon for any Thai Kitchen brand product (you can print this coupon from Yahoo Deals too – expires at the end of the year.)
  • I used my monthly 10% off coupon at PCC for all the groceries marked as “10% off” above.  It really does add up to some savings.  I would have done better on the veggies to go to the farmer’s market though.  Unfortunately there’s not time for that every week.

Recipes

Coconut Curry Chicken and Vegetables

You will need:

  • 1/2 can coconut milk (about 7 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3/4 lb skinless, boneless chicken thigh meat (about 15 ounces before skinning and deboning), cut into large bite-size pieces 
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 of a leek (lengthwise half), sliced crosswise every 1/2 inch
  • 2 1/2 cups bite-sized pieces of vegetables (ex. mushrooms, carrot, bell pepper, snow peas)
  • 2 tbsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh Thair basil (optional), rough chopped

Put it together:

  • Heat 1/2 tbsp. oil in wok (or large skillet) on medium heat.  When hot, add leeks and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Transfer leeks to bowl and set aside.
  • Add 1/2 tbsp. oil to wok, still on medium heat.  When hot, add chicken and cook until no longer pink in the middle, stirring occasionally.  Transfer chicken to a bowl and set aside.
  • Bring coconut milk and water to simmer in wok on medium heat
  • Add brown sugar and curry powder and stir until well blended.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes.
  • Add in chicken and all vegetables except for the leeks.  Cook about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender-crisp.  Toss in leeks and serve.  Optional:  garnish with Thai basil

Baked Coconut Rice (Serves 4). 

You will need:

  • 2 T oil (e.g. Canola)
  • 1/2 can coconut milk (about 7 ounces)
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup long grain brown rice (ex. basmati)

Put it together:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a saucepan, combine the coconut milk, water, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil.
  • Wash rice. Lightly brown the rice in oil in a fry pan.  Transfer to a 1 1/2 quart ovenproof dish. 
  • Pour coconut milk mixture over the rice, take caution because this can create a lot of hot steam.
  • Bake covered for 50 to 60 minutes, until rice is tender and fluffy and moisture has been absorbed.

Minty Watermelon Sorbet

September 24, 2009

This sorbet is a true treat and my favorite frozen dessert so far. The yin and yang of mint and watermelon are churned and chilled  into a cheery concoction.  You can make it less sugary for a palate cleanser or as written below for a sweet sensation.

Mint Watermelon Sorbet brown backdrop in cup with mint leaves

Minty Watermelon Sorbet

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 oz. mint leaves, rough chopped
  • 1 tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3 cups pureed watermelon (pulse 1/4 to 1/3 of a watermelon, cubed, in food processor 2 to 3 times for 2 to 3 seconds each time, leaving some texture)

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
  • Chill in freezer 20 minutes
  • Pour mixture into ice cream maker and follow manufacturers instructions for making
  • Freeze for 2 hours

Tips:

  • Simple syrup can be kept in the refrigerator a couple of weeks (the higher sugar to water ratio, the longer it keeps).
  • To change the consistency for easier scooping, add 1-2 tablespoons alcohol, such as vodka or rum.  Alcohol raises the freezing temperature.

Grocery Store Wars

September 21, 2009

While I head out shopping for inspiration for my $5 dinner, please enjoy this entertaining video I found over at Good Food & Bad Food:

Skirt Steak, Layer by Layer

September 19, 2009

A bit of food porn to start your weekend off courtesy of my husband’s dinner:

Baby Arugula

Caramelized onion sautéed in lard

Young Mahon Cheese (Spanish cow’s milk cheese from island of Menorca; sharp, lemony, salty)

Skirt Steak pan seared with Tom Douglas Rub With Love (Steak Rub)

New Episode: Vegan White Sauce

September 18, 2009

In this episode of Building Blocks Show, I show you how to make two versions of Vegan White Sauce, one plain and one with onion and garlic.  This was a really fun episode for me to put together because I’ve learned so much about dairy free cooking over the past few years and was excited to put that knowledge into some creative dishes.

In the video you can see we paired these sauces with fresh ingredients to make Creemy Shroomy Veggies on Crusty Bread* and Phyllo Wrapped Cod.  I also created two other recipes with Vegan White Sauce included on the recipe page for this show:  Vegan Creemed Spinach and Dairy Free Biscuits and Gravy, which uses the dairy free biscuit recipe found in the Making Lard episode.

Vegan White Sauce Part I:
http://www.youtube.com/v/PwlsJxJ5tNI&hl=en&fs=1&

Vegan White Sauce Part II:
http://www.youtube.com/v/X5Rrpyu0N8I&hl=en&fs=1&

Below are the white sauce recipes and you can find the recipes for the rest of the dishes listed above on the Vegan White Sauce Episode Page.

Vegan White Sauce (Makes 1 cup)

You will need:

  • 2 tbsp. vegan margarine
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup rice milk
  • Salt, fresh ground white pepper
  • Spices (depending on final recipe)

Put it together:

  • Melt butter in small pot over medium heat
  • Whisk in flour
  • Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly until light brown (roux should come together)
  • Add rice milk a few tablespoons at a time, mixing in between additions until it starts to look creamy, then add in ¼ cup at a time. You can add more or less milk depending on how thick you need the sauce for your recipe.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Add spices

Wrapped in crispy phyllo, the cod in this dish comes out flaky and moist every time:

Vegan White Sauce with Onion (Makes 1 cup)

You will need:

  • 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tbsp. vegan margarine
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup rice milk
  • Salt, fresh ground white pepper
  • Spices (depending on final recipe)

Put it together:

  • Heat olive oil in small saucepan over medium heat
  • Sauté onion until soft
  • Add garlic to onion and sauté a couple of minutes
  • Melt margarine into onion
  • Add flour and stir to combiner
  • Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly until light brown (roux should come together)
  • Add rice milk a few tablespoons at a time, mixing in between additions until it starts to look creamy, then add in ¼ cup at a time. You can add more or less milk depending on how thick you need the sauce for your recipe.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Add spices

Versatile and summery Creemy Shroomy Veggies on Crusty Bread:

* No, this is not a misspelling, I’m told “creem” is the way vegans spell fake “cream.”

Time for Lunch

September 17, 2009

Do you remember school lunch?  I do.  Limp, green hot dogs.  Napoleon Dynamite-worthy tater tots.  It was not a pretty sight.

For many children in the United States, though, this meal provided through the National School Lunch Program is their only guaranteed meal of the day.  Schools struggle to provide balanced meals on $2.68 per student, relying on surplus agricultural stock and USDA “entitlement” foods (Source: USDA Fact Sheet).  To make matters worse, children avoid this lunch by purchasing sodas and junk through vending machines and in-house fast food joints.

Wouldn’t it be great if the food the children received in this program constituted a healthy and tasty meal full of fruits and vegetables and quality meats?  Well, there is a campaign right now to do just that and you can voice your opinion to make it happen.  Simply take a few minutes to read the Time for Lunch Platform (pdf).  Then take 30 more seconds to sign the petition for real food in schools.