Posts Tagged ‘Dairy Free’

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.


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.

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:

Vegan White Sauce Part II:

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.”

Herb and Chili Flake Buttered Chicken

September 14, 2009

Recently Malissa and her family were generous enough to host my family for a couple of nights while our townhome association was making a clusterfrack of our little community. I thanked them the only way I knew how: with a bounty of savory foods.  They enjoyed the roast chicken so much Malissa asked for the recipe and so I thought I’d share it all with you as well.

Please don’t be scared off by the word “chili” if you have a sensitive palate.  The chilli flakes aren’t enough to add heat, just a savory flavor that complements the herbs wonderfully.   This recipe calls for one lemon, but it’s not the star of the show – it just brightens the herbs a bit.  Yes, you see it’s all about the herbs here, so make sure you have some lovely fresh herbs on hand.  Turning the chicken halfway through cooking keeps it nice and moist, so the lean breasts don’t get dried out baking under the element for two hours.

You will need:

  • 1 chicken (approx. 5 lbs)
  • 5 tbsp. butter (of course I used vegan margarine)
  • 1 tbsp. chili flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • couple sprigs fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped (reserve rest of bunch for stuffing cavity)
  • couple sprigs fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped (reserve rest of bunch for stuffing cavity)
  • 1 lemon

Here’s how I put it together:

First, I mixed with a fork the butter, chili flakes, garlic powder, salt, thyme and sage.

To put the butter on the flesh, I pulled up the skin covering the breasts and spread it under the skin.

If you look closely here, you can see the chili flakes and herbs under the skin:

Then I made a few slits in the skin of the thighs and wings and rubbed the butter mixture up under the skin.  Next I sliced open a lemon, squeezed and rubbed the juice of 1/2 the lemon over the skin of the chicken, tossed the rest of the thyme sprigs and sage leaves with the lemon halves in the cavity and it was ready to bake.

Up until this point I had been winging it (no pun intended), but I needed a little guidance on cooking times and temps.  I did a Food Blog Search and came up with this Honey Glazed Lemon Roast Chicken recipe from Simply Recipes.  The temps and times worked great for my chili buttered chicken.  The skin was perfectly crispy and the meat was visibly juicy as I carved it.

I served the chicken with pearled cous cous cooked in half chicken drippings/half water (a hit with the kids); green and yellow roasted zucchini; and mache and avocado salad with balsamic fig vinegarette.

$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.

Restaurant Review: Watercress Asian Bistro

August 4, 2009

Why is it that most Chinese restaurants are stuck in the seventies?  They are covered floor to ceiling in black lacquer with orange flourishes and menus that haven’t been updated since 1972 either.  Well, lucky for Redmond, this is not the experience at Watercress Asian Bistro.  It has a very contemporary feel, friendly and attentive staff and a fusion menu with modern takes on classic Chinese dishes.

I’ve been meaning to get over to Watercress since they opened a few years ago.  I have friends who are regulars there since they have a gluten free menu.  They were very careful to help me find a dish without dairy too.  I was able to overhear the waitress talking with the chef about the ingredients of the specific dish I wanted, so I know they weren’t just telling me what I wanted to hear (you’d be surprised how often this happens).

As far as taste goes, I can’t say it’s in my top 5 of Redmond restaurants, but at least the food wasn’t deep fried and coated in msg and sugar.  I had a very fresh mango chicken dish with sticky brown rice.  The rice was cooked perfectly (brown seems hard for even Asian restaurants to get right) and there were lots of nice veggies in the dish.  Best of all, they didn’t skimp on the mango.  My only criticism is that something in the flavors didn’t quite go.  I’m not sure if it was the curry spices or just too many bell peppers.  Overall, though, the peas were crisp, the chicken tender and the mangoes sweet.

Most dishes at Watercress will set you back $11 to $15.  In my opinion, if they’re going to keep people coming in the door during the recession they may need to offer some dinner deals.  It’s not that I felt ripped off, I just think it’s getting hard to justify spending that kind of money when Redmond has so many other restaurants of the same quality with mains closer to $10.

Nicole's Apple Snacks with Walnut Butter

August 2, 2009

When I first realized I couldn’t eat dairy anymore all I could think of was brie wrapped in filo dough with fig jam and almond steamed milk on a cold Seattle morning.  I’m getting teary-eyed right now just thinking about it.  But then I was introduced to Nicole and her adventurous style of cooking for our health.  She made these dairy-free crispy apple snacks for me and I realized how tasty and easy allergen-free cooking could be.  There isn’t any soy, citrus, gluten or peanuts in them either.

These little apple and walnut sandwiches make a perfect lunch box food.  The ginger keeps the apples from turning brown without the use of lemon juice and you don’t have to worry if your kid’s school doesn’t allow peanuts, since they’re made with walnut butter.  Also try walnut butter in crepes drizzled with maple syrup for a real treat.

Nicole’s Apple Snacks

You will need:

  • Ginger root (about 2 oz)
  • 2 granny smith apples
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1-2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla
  • A pinch of fresh grated cardamom (more if jarred)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Put the Filling Together (walnut butter):

  • In a coffee grinder or food processor, blend the walnuts a little at a time.  They will get a thick butter-like consistency.
  • Add a 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup to the walnuts (to taste).
  • Add salt, vanilla, and a little cardamom.  Add in small doses and taste.

Make the Apple Slices:

  • Grate the ginger root using a microplanar (so it’s really finely grated).
  • Grab the ginger in your hand, and squeeze over a small bowl.  You will be surprised by how much juice you collect.
  • Add about as much water as ginger juice (more water if it’s particularly spicy ginger).
  • Slice the apples into thin slices, top to bottom.  When they are all sliced, toss them in the bowl with the ginger juice.  Try to get the surfaces of the apple coated.  This will slow down the process of turning the apple brown (you can store it in the fridge this way for a while).
  • Now spread walnut butter on the apple slices and put together to make sandwiches.  That’s it.

Cool Salad for Hot Days: Black Bean and Mango Salad

July 30, 2009

Mango Salad

We are having record heat here in Seattle and I can’t bring myself to turn on the oven or even a burner, so here is a refreshing salad I created yesterday and have been living off of for two days now.  The base is my home-made mango salsa, then I added hearty beans for protein and tomatoes for juiciness.  It is great by itself or wrapped in whole wheat tortillas to make a balanced meal – perfect for vegans and the dairy free crowd too.  For a neat trick to peeling mangoes, check out this video from Steamy Kitchen’s Jaden Hair.

Black Bean and Mango Salad

You will need:

  • Flesh of 2 large mangoes, diced
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 pint of yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • Black pepper to taste

Put it together:

  • Combine all ingredients
  • Chill for 30 minutes
  • Enjoy as a cool salad or warm or cold in tortillas

Jordan's Potato Salad

July 27, 2009

potato salad

One of the reasons I love visiting Australia is the skillfully prepared classic and fusion foods.  I don’t think they’re ever overly complex, just fresh ingredients cooked well.  This potato salad is a perfect example. 

One evening we were BBQ-ing with our friends and Jordan made this potato salad with crispy and sweetly spicy red onions and bite-sized red potatoes.  I am not a huge fan of mayonnaise, so I was very surprised I liked it so much.  When I asked him what was in it, he said potatoes, red onions and mayo, but that the trick was to buy “whole egg” mayo.  I’d never heard of that.  Apparently, it’s made by S&W, but not easy to find in the states.  I brought a jar back with me, but now that it’s gone, I make my own.  I’ll share the mayo recipes with you all once I have them fool-proofed.  In the meantime, buy or make your favorite mayo (blender mayonnaise recipes usually use whole eggs) and try out this delicious recipe from down under.

Jordan’s Potato Salad

You will need:

  •  2 lbs red potatoes
  • 3/4 cup whole egg mayonnaise
  • 1/2 a red onion, quartered and sliced thinly
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • paprika (optional)

Put it together:

  • Salt water and place potatoes in cold water
  • Turn the heat on to high and bring water and potatoes to a boil
  • Turn heat down and simmer until fork tender, 20 to 25 minutes
  • Drain potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces and add rest of the ingredients while still warm
  • Toss and season with salt, fresh ground pepper and, if desired, paprika

Sunshine Lemon Cake

June 22, 2009

Sunshine Cake 1

Sunshine Cake 2

Here is a sunny dairy-free cake I made for my friend’s birthday.  I used Bob’s Red Mill lemon poppy seed cake mix, the icing recipe from the back of the packet, and garnished with fresh lemon slices in the shape of a sunshine.  It’s a whole-grain mix, but still lighter in texture than most from-scratch recipes.  Here’s the lemon glaze recipe (I subbed Earth Balance DF Margarine for the butter):

“Whisk together 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 3 Tbsp. melted butter, and 3 Tbsp. lemon juice.  Pour glaze over cake immediately.”

What’s the filling?  Ha, ha.  Well, I thought I could use a vanilla pudding mix with rice milk and just add some lemon juice and zest.  I use rice milk with this brand (Dr. Oetker’s) of chocolate pudding all the time and it comes out fine, but the vanilla pudding wouldn’t set.  Not having enough time to run to the store for ingredients for another filling, I just added gelatin.  It worked  out okay – although I wouldn’t do it again – and made for a very jiggly cake!