Monday, February 8, 2016

What's For Breakfast: Easy Roasted Breakfast Potatoes

Easy Roasted Breakfast Potatoes || A Less Processed Life

After a long hiatus, our ladies are finally laying again. Yes, I'm talking about our lady chickens, aka, our hens. They seem to be enjoying their new winter digs (a fully enclosed coop filled with straw and a heating lamp for the really cold days). Last week we collected 13 eggs in one day! A marked difference from the paltry two or three we were collecting all summer and autumn long. Not quite sure what the difference is, but if they're happy and laying, I'm happy, too.

Easy Roasted Breakfast Potatoes || A Less Processed Life

Which means, of course, we now have a lot of eggs on our hands! So eggs are in heavy rotation on our breakfast menu – scrambled, over easy, sunny-side up, poached ... good thing there are plenty of different ways to cook eggs!

Easy Roasted Breakfast Potatoes || A Less Processed Life

This past weekend, I made a batch of these easy roasted breakfast potatoes to serve alongside a plateful of scrambled eggs. I love this recipe because it takes less than 30 minutes to make and the potatoes turn out perfectly roasted every time. I've kept it simple with just salt and pepper as the seasonings, but you can fancify this dish any way you want – a handful of fresh herbs tossed over the potatoes once they've been pulled from the oven would be an excellent starting place.

Easy Roasted Breakfast Potatoes (printer-friendly version)
makes 2-4 servings

1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed and diced into 1" pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
coarse sea salt

1. Set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray or oil.
2. Place the diced potatoes into a large bowl and toss with the olive oil. Turn the potatoes out onto the prepped baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
3. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and use a spatula to flip the potatoes over.
4. Roast for an additional 15 minutes, or until fork tender and golden brown. Serve immediately.

Easy Roasted Breakfast Potatoes || A Less Processed Life

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Friday, February 5, 2016

What's Baking: Meyer Lemon Cookies

Meyer Lemon Cookies || A Less Processed Life

I am still on a Meyer lemon kick ... i.e., I still have a couple of Meyer lemons hanging out on my countertop begging to be used.

Meyer Lemon Cookies || A Less Processed Life

So, of course, cookies it is! Though when I look out the window, the scene is covered with snow, all I have to do is take a bite of one of these cookies and I'm transported immediately to Spring. The fresh lemon taste, accented with the floral notes of cardamom and the gentle spice of a pinch of black pepper, makes these cookies a perfect accompaniment to that second cup of morning coffee or a steaming mug of afternoon tea. Or, well, yeah, they work as a sweet snack at any time of the day, too.

Meyer Lemon Cookies (printer-friendly version)
makes 20 cookies

1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fresh Meyer lemon zest (from ~ one lemon)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice (~ one lemon)
1/4 cup powdered sugar

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, ground cardamom, and black pepper. Set aside.
2. Add the brown and granulated sugars and lemon zest to the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir together for about 1 minute to help release the oils in the zest. Add the softened butter and beat until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
3. One at a time, beat in the vanilla extract, egg, and lemon juice, beating thoroughly between additions to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.
4. Place the powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. Form the dough into 1-inch balls (a small (1 tablespoon) scoop is helpful here) and roll in the powdered sugar. Place the balls about 2 inches apart on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet.
5. Bake in the oven for 9-11 minutes, or until golden on the bottom and the top has just set. Let cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then remove to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Store any leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

(lightly adapted from this White on Rice Couple recipe)

Meyer Lemon Cookies || A Less Processed Life

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Made From Scratch: Meyer Lemon Hummus

Meyer Lemon Hummus || A Less Processed Life

There's a Big Game coming up next Sunday, and since my team isn't in the mix (go Pack go!), my focus will be more on the food than the game itself. Okay, well, really, my focus is always more on the food than the game. I am what one would call a fickle football fan, and my allegiance shifts with my changing state of residence. As a former Cincinnatian (ish), I was a Bengals fan until they broke my 10-year-old heart in 1989 when they lost against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIII.  

Meyer Lemons || A Less Processed Life

As a resident of Chicago in the mid-2000s, I was a fan of da Bears, particularly of Tank Johnson, solely for his first name, if I'm being honest. (I might own a homemade "I ♥ Tank" sweatshirt that I wore at a Super Bowl party back in the day.) When we moved to Laramie, our closest team was the Denver Broncos. I remained a Bears fan. As was the case when we moved to Philly, where I suppose I should've been an Eagles fan, but, meh, that was when infamous Michael Vick was in the mix.

Meyer Lemon Hummus || A Less Processed Life

And then we moved to Wisconsin, where the Green Bay Packers rule the land. I have probably watched more football games since moving here in 2012 than I have in all my previous years of existence. And, yes, I have a custom Packers jersey with my last name on it. And this past fall we made it to a pre-season game at Lambeau Field. A few of my Chicago friends have yet to forgive me for changing my allegiance to their team's sworn enemy. What can I say? I love cheese. And Aaron Rodgers.

But ... back to this Sunday's game. While I might not care what the outcome is (and, um, I might rather change the channel over to Downton Abbey...), I'm still down for an excuse to eat lots of yummy food and hang out with friends. And since there is sure to be plenty of not-so-healthy foods in the mix, I better plan on bringing something nutritious (and tasty) to the table. Meyer lemons – which have a sweet floral flavor that lands somewhere between a lemon and an orange – add a slight twist to this classic hummus recipe. The tart flavor of ground sumac adds a counterbalance to the lemon's sweetness and gives this hummus a little something extra. Serve it up with pita wedges or veggies, and you've got a delicious dip ready for kick-off.

Meyer Lemon Hummus (printer-friendly version)
makes about 1 1/2 cups

2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 16-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons tahini
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (~1 lemon)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground sumac
1 teaspoon fresh Meyer lemon zest

1. Add the garlic cloves to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until minced.
2. Add the chickpeas, salt, tahini, and lemon juice to the food processor. Process until coarsely pureed, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
3. Add in the olive oil and process until smooth. Sprinkle in the ground sumac and lemon zest and process until well combined.
4. Season with additional salt if necessary. Spoon the hummus into a serving bowl and drizzle with about one tablespoon of olive oil and add a sprinkle of ground sumac before serving, if desired. Serve alongside pita bread, toasted bread slices, or fresh veggies.

Meyer Lemon Hummus || A Less Processed Life

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Baked From Scratch: English Muffins

English Muffins || A Less Processed Life

"There's just one thing that I love most, and that's toast. Yeeeeeeaaaah, toast."

English Muffins || A Less Processed Life

For the most part, I am an equal-opportunity bread lover. Wheat bread, pita bread, naan, sweet bread, savory bread. Bring it on. Well, maybe except for white bread, unless we're talking grilled cheese or French toast. And even then, I'd rather use brioche or challah. No Wonder Bread for me, thankyouverymuch.

English Muffins || A Less Processed Life

I am also a huge fan of the English muffin. I'll pretty much always choose an English muffin as my "toast" option when breakfasting at a restaurant (unless, of course cinnamon raisin bread is also on offer). Depending on my hunger level, at home I'll just eat one toasted and then slathered with plenty of butter and jam, or I'll make a whole meal of it with the addition of a scrambled egg, cheese, and some greens. 

English Muffins || A Less Processed Life

Making English muffins is fairly easy, but to get a more sophisticated flavor, you'll need to allot plenty of time to make the dough and let it rise. I made my English muffins over a period of three days (one day for the dough starter, a second day for the rise, and a third day to cook the muffins.) However, the extra effort is totally worth it: the resulting English muffins rival any of the store-bought variety. And there's just something a little extra special when you bake them from scratch.

English Muffins (printer-friendly version)
makes 12 muffins

For the dough starter:
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

For the English muffin dough:
1 cup organic 1% milk
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
cornmeal for dusting
unsalted butter for the skillet

1. Make the starter: Mix the flour, water, and yeast for the starter in a small mixing bowl. Beat with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the batter is smooth. Cover the starter and let it sit for 1-12 hours at room temperature.
2. Make the dough: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the milk and yeast. Add the starter into the bowl and whisk to dissolve and incorporate it into the milk-yeast mixture.
3. Add the sugar, melted butter, and salt to the bowl and whisk to combine. Stir in 3 cups of flour and stir until a shaggy dough forms.
4. Lightly flour a work surface. Knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball. Add flour as necessary, but do not add too much. The dough will feel slightly tacky to the touch, but not overly sticky.
5. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight, or for up to three days.
6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 12 equal-sized pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth, round ball.
7. Scatter cornmeal over top a rimmed baking sheet and then place the dough balls on top. Sprinkle the tops of the dough balls with additional cornmeal. Let the dough balls rise for
1 ½ to 2 hours.
8. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt about 1 teaspoon of butter in the skillet to evenly coat the bottom of the pan and prevent sticking.
9. Place 3-4 dough balls on the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Press the tops gently with a spatula to flatten the muffins out slightly. Then carefully flip the muffins and cook for an additional 5-6 minutes on the other side. Place the cooked English muffins on a wire rack to cool.
10. Repeat steps 8 and 9 with the remaining balls of dough until all of the English muffins are cooked.
11. To serve, split the English muffin in half with a fork and toast. Any leftover English muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and placed in a freezer bag and kept frozen for up to
three months.

(adapted from this recipe from The Kitchn)


English Muffins || A Less Processed Life

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Monday, January 25, 2016

What's For Dinner: Slow-cooked Hasenpfeffer Stew

Slow-cooked Rabbit Stew || A Less Processed Life

Does it sound more appealing if I call this "hasenpfeffer stew" rather than "rabbit stew"? I think we can all agree that bunnies are super-cute, but, turns out, they are also an excellent source of lean protein. Rabbit meat has recently gained popularity among the local and slow food crowds and it is becoming a more common sight on restaurant menus around the country.

Slow-cooked Rabbit Stew || A Less Processed Life

Still, I totally understand that rabbit is not for everyone. (Particularly if you have a pet bunny!) But since D brought home a snowshoe hare after a day of hunting in the field with our Deutsch langhaar Franka, I had to give it a go.

Because wild rabbit can be a bit tough, it is best suited for braising or slow-cooking. Rabbit is a fairly popular European dish, so I looked to the British for a recipe to try. The following recipe is lightly adapted from the BBC's Good Food magazine. The resulting dish is delightfully boozy (with both brandy and red wine!) and flavorful.

Slow-cooked Hasenpfeffer Stew (printer-friendly version)
makes 4-6 servings

16 whole prunes
1/4 cup brandy
1 rabbit, jointed
unbleached all-purpose flour, for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 strips of bacon, sliced into thin strips horizontally
2 carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 thyme sprigs
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
few tablespoons fresh parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
2. Place the prunes in a bowl with the brandy, stir, and let soak.
3. Lightly dust the rabbit with flour. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat and brown each piece on all sides. Set the browned meat on a platter.
4. Add the thinly sliced bacon to the skillet along with the carrots, onion, celery, crushed garlic, and thyme sprigs. Fry until the bacon is browned, about 5 minutes.
5. Pour in the red wine and chicken broth. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the rabbit pieces back into the dish along with the prunes. Cover the Dutch oven with the lid and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the rabbit is tender. Scatter with fresh parsley before serving.

(adapted from this Good Food magazine recipe)



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Friday, January 22, 2016

Baked From Scratch: Pita Bread

Pita Bread || A Less Processed Life

Making yeast breads typically gives me heart palpitations. All that kneading and rising, who has time for that? And then I came upon this rather simple recipe for pita bread.

Pita Bread || A Less Processed Life

Of course, given my track record with baking yeast breads, my first batch of dough was a complete #failure. I left the dough in the bottom warming drawer of my oven to rise and then proceeded to bake other things at 475 degrees. Long story short, by the time I pulled my dough out of the warming drawer, I basically had a layer of baked pita bread atop some sticky dough. Whoops.

So, yeah, when the recipe says place the dough in a "warm, not hot" place to rise ... take heed! The second time I made the dough, though, everything went swimmingly, and it was actually quite a breeze to bake.

Pita bread is quite versatile. These breads bake up hollow in the center, so you can use them as pocket breads to fill with your favorite sandwich fixings (I'm partial to greens, lentils, and roasted vegetables). Or, you can go the lazy route and use the pita as a base for a flatbread pizza or sandwich. Or, you could cut the pita into wedges and serve alongside hummus. The options are endless, really!

Pita Bread (printer-friendly version)
makes 8 six-inch breads

1 cup lukewarm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 whole-wheat flour
2 cups unbleached unbleached all-purposed flour, divided (plus up to 1/4 cup more for dusting)
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Pour the lukewarm water into a medium mixing bowl. Add the active dry yeast and sugar and whisk to combine. Add the whole-wheat flour and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and whisk to combine. Put the bowl in a warm place (uncovered) until mixture is frothy and bubbling, about 15 minutes.
2. Add the remaining 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour, salt, and olive oil. Stir with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Sprinkle with a little flour and knead in the bowl, adding in any dough bits stuck to the side of the bowl.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead for 2 minutes until smooth. Cover with a light towel and let rest for 10 minutes. Then knead again for 2 more minutes. The dough will be soft and slightly moist. Clean and lightly oil the mixing bowl with olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, then cover with the light towel. Put the dough in a warm location and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
4. Place a heavy baking sheet or baking stone on the bottom rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Punch down the dough and then divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover the dough balls with a damp towel and let sit for 10 minutes.
5. Remove one ball (keeping the rest covered) and roll out into a circle 8-inches in diameter (it should be between 1/4- and 1/8-inch thick.) Carefully place the dough round on the prepped baking stone and bake for 2 minutes, or until puffed and lightly speckled brown. Flip with a spatula or tongs and bake for an additional minute. Place in a towel-lined bowl and cover to keep warm.
6. Repeat with the remaining rounds of dough.
7. Store any leftover pita bread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days.

(adapted from this recipe from The New York Times)

Pita Bread || A Less Processed Life

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What's For Breakfast: Oatmeal Pancakes

Oatmeal Pancakes || A Less Processed Life

Oatmeal is a common sight on our breakfast table. In fact, one of the resounding refrains in our household is "It's oatmeal or no meal!"

Oatmeal Pancakes || A Less Processed Life

However, following multiple days of oatmeal in a row, I'm ready to change things up a bit. Over the weekend, I was in the mood for pancakes.

Oatmeal Pancakes || A Less Processed Life

But ... I happened to have some leftover oatmeal in the fridge. And a few days earlier Deb of Smitten Kitchen had posted a photo of oatmeal pancakes from her blog, so I knew immediately what I would be having for breakfast.

Oatmeal Pancakes || A Less Processed Life

These pancakes are surprisingly tender and super filling. I made my batch entirely gluten-free by using a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix, but you could use regular all-purpose flour if that's what you normally use. Be sure to melt plenty of butter in the skillet when you bake them; it makes the pancakes perfectly crispy on the outside. And of course, each serving will be just that much better with a little more melted butter and a generous drenching pour of pure maple syrup over top each pancake.

Oatmeal Pancakes (printer-friendly version)
makes 12 pancakes

3/4 cup oat flour (~1 cup rolled oats ground in the food processor)
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (regular unbleached all-purpose flour is fine if gluten isn't an issue)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup cooked oatmeal
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (plus extra for the skillet)
1 tablespoon maple syrup

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the oat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, cooked oatmeal, eggs, melted butter, and maple syrup.
3. Use a rubber spatula to carefully fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, until just combined.
4. Melt about a tablespoon of butter in an electric griddle or skillet over medium-high heat (375 degrees). Add about 1/4 cup of batter in rounds to the skillet. Flip the pancakes when bubbles form and the batter looks matte in appearance. Cook for an additional minute or two. Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

(adapted from this Smitten Kitchen recipe)

Oatmeal Pancakes || A Less Processed Life

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