Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What Made the List: A Less Processed Life's Top 5 Posts of 2017

The middle of January seems to be the ideal time to post the Top 5 Posts of 2017. Better late than never, right? You may have noticed that my posting schedule went a little silent over the past year. To be perfectly honest, it just seemed frivolous to post about a new cocktail recipe or the like when it seemed like we were (and continue to) live in the Upside Down.

Add that to the fact that my work schedule (the work that, uh, actually helps to pay the bills around here, unlike this little food blog) went from crazy to super-crazy last year, well, something had to give. And as we can see by this post occuring when January is already half-over, well, I think we can see how this year might go as well.

However, this past weekend I spent some time catching up with a large pile of magazines that were gathering dust in the corner (or, whatever the digital equivalent of that is, given that the majority of my subscriptions are delivered on my Kindle). And as you may have guessed, a lot of those magazines revolve around food. And I pinned a ton of new recipes. Inspiration I have aplenty; the time to cook them up (and more importantly, the time and wherewithal to take a photo of the results to post on the blog) is TBD.

All that to say, my presence on this little corner of the web may remain a little spotty at best in 2018, too. (Apologies to my two readers, ha ha.) But I'll try to pop in here when I can and share some delicious new recipes as the year progresses.

But in the meantime, let's take a look at the Best of 2017:


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

What's Baking: Sugar Cookies with Eggnog Icing

Why serve eggnog with your cookies when you can serve eggnog on your cookies?

Sugar Cookies with Eggnog Icing || A Less Processed Life

A friend of mine recently hosted a cookie exchange and I opted to try something new. Rather than a standard simple vanilla icing, I replaced the milk with eggnog, and voila! Instant holiday flavor.

This sugar cookie recipe, flavored with a hint of almond, hits it out of the ballpark. This recipe is easily doubled, if you plan to bake up cookies for a crowd. I find that a single batch (made with the recipe below) provides plenty of cookies for sharing and still enough to keep around the house. There's nothing more depressing than baking a bunch of cookies to share, and not leaving enough for yourself!

Sugar Cookies with Eggnog Icing || A Less Processed Life

Cutout sugar cookies are definitely a holiday classic – what's your favorite type of cookie to bake this season?

Sugar Cookies with Eggnog Icing (printer-friendly version)
makes about 3 dozen, depending on size of cookie cutters

For the cookies:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon almond extract

For the icing: 
2 cups powdered sugar
2-4 tablespoons eggnog

sprinkles for decorating, optional

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attached, cream together the softened butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between additions. Stir in the almond extract. Using low speed, stir in the flour mixture in batches. Stir until just combined.
3. Divide the dough in half. Place one half of the dough on a square of plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Cover with the plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining dough. Chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
5. Remove one disc of dough from the fridge. Roll the dough out on a lightly-floured surface until 1/8" to 1/4" thick. Cut with cookie cutters and place on an ungreased baking sheet (I like to line mine with a silpat). Bake for 6-8 minutes, or just lightly browned around the edges. Remove immediately from the baking sheet and set on a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
6. While the cookies cool, make the icing: in a medium bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and eggnog. Use more nog for a thinner icing or more for a thicker icing.
7. Pipe, dip, or spread the icing onto your cookies however you like. Decorate with sprinkles. Icing will set to a soft, but not completely dry, consistency.

Monday, November 27, 2017

What's Baking: Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread

Holiday brunch on your calendar? This flavorful Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread is a real crowd-pleaser.

Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread  || A Less Processed Life

Cranberries are not just for Thanksgiving. Or adorning Christmas trees. (Popcorn and cranberry garland anyone?) Fresh cranberries also make for a delicious quick bread. But you probably already knew that.

Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread  || A Less Processed Life

I was at the grocery store the other day and was instantly enamored by a bin of locally-grown organic cranberries. I couldn't help but scoop some into a bag. Perhaps a few too many. But that's why there's always a quick bread recipe up my sleeve!

Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread  || A Less Processed Life

This recipe features the classic flavor combination of cranberry and orange; a tart and sweet pairing that can't be beat. I added pecans, but you could sub in walnuts if you'd prefer. All of the recipes I looked at were sugar bombs, which really isn't my jam. I decreased the sugar to just a half-cup–which is still quite a bit, I do realize. But when most recipes call for at least a cup, I feel pretty good about the change. And it's still plenty sweet!

Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread  || A Less Processed Life

This bread would be perfect for a holiday brunch. I also love bringing a freshly-baked loaf of bread to a party as a gift for the host/hostess to enjoy the following morning for breakfast. Wrap it in parchment paper and tie with string, and you've got an easy impromptu present to give to anyone.

Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread (printer-friendly version)
makes 1 large loaf

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange zest

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 8"x4" loaf pan and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and sea salt. Stir in the chopped cranberries and chopped pecans.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the orange juice, sugar, buttermilk, melted butter, and egg. Stir in the vanilla and orange zest.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepped loaf pan. Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and let cool completely.


Monday, November 20, 2017

What I'm Baking: Butternut Squash Gingerbread

Capture the flavors of fall with this fantastic recipe for Butternut Squash Gingerbread.

Butternut Squash Gingerbread || A Less Processed Life

It's still full-steam ahead aboard the butternut squash train in my house. I mean, pumpkin's great and all, but as I've said before, if you want some real depth of flavor, you gotta go with butternut squash.

Butternut Squash Gingerbread || A Less Processed Life

This quick bread recipe is no exception. Butternut squash pairs beautifully with the spicy, sweet, and pungent flavor of ginger. 

Butternut Squash Gingerbread || A Less Processed Life

And speaking of ginger, this recipe is rife with it. Ground ginger, minced fresh ginger, and sweet crystallized ginger pack this bread with a flavorful punch.

Butternut Squash Gingerbread || A Less Processed Life

Although I left my loaf unadorned, I think a cream cheese icing on top would be a super-delicious option. And maybe even a sprinkle of more minced crystallized ginger on top of that? Oh yum, I think I need to bake another loaf immediately.

Butternut Squash Gingerbread || A Less Processed Life

Butternut Squash Gingerbread (printer-friendly version)
makes one loaf

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup butternut squash puree (or use pumpkin puree)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 tablespoon finely minced crystallized (candied) ginger
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
2 eggs, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray or butter and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the butternut squash puree, melted butter, sugar, molasses, minced candied ginger, minced fresh ginger, and eggs.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepped loaf pan. Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn the bread out onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
6. Wrap any leftover bread in aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to five days.


Monday, October 23, 2017

What I'm Bringing to the Party: Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus

I know 'tis the season for pumpkin, but butternut squash is really where it's at, and this recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus will make you a convert, too.

Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus || A Less Processed Life

It's nearly the end of October, and dare I say it, I've only had one pumpkin spice latte so far this season. (The one they serve at Contrast Coffee in Ironwood, Michigan is top-notch.) But, truth be told, while I love pumpkins for fall decorations, when it comes to cooking, I actually prefer the flavor of butternut squash. I find that pumpkin can be a little bland, but butternut squash always seems to deliver a rich, nutty, almost sweet-potato-like flavor. A few years ago I read somewhere that butternut squash makes for a better-flavored "pumpkin" pie, and I haven't looked back since.

Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus || A Less Processed Life

So when I came across this recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus on a recent episode of Barefoot Contessa, I knew it would be a winner. (Particularly since the recipe's origins come from famed London chef Yotam Ottolenghi.) I've made this hummus for a few gatherings already this fall, and it always gets rave reviews. I'd highly recommend it for any fall get-together. I know the joke that everyone brings hummus to a party (I'm totally that girl), but there's something about the unusual combination of sweet, savory, and spicy flavors in this hummus that really sets it apart from the crowd.

Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus (printer-friendly version)
makes 10-12 servings

1 1/4 pounds butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or freshly ground black pepper)
1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained with liquid reserved
1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup tahini
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Sriracha

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place the chopped butternut squash in a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Toss gently to combine. Turn the butternut squash out onto a rimmed baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes, or until fork-tender and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool while combining the remaining ingredients.
3. Set aside 1/4 cup of the roasted squash for garnish. Place the rest of the squash in the bowl of a food processor with the blade attached and add the chickpeas, yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and Sriracha. Pulse until coarsely pureed. Add in the reserved chickpea liquid, 1/4 cup at a time, until the hummus reaches a smooth consistency. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into a serving bowl. Garnish with the reserved roasted butternut squash pieces.
4. Serve immediately with pita wedges, pita chips, or fresh-cut vegetables.

(lightly adapted from this Ina Garten recipe)


Thursday, September 7, 2017

What's For Dessert: Cannoli Dip

No time to make cannoli from scratch? Make this (unbelievably delicious) cannoli dip instead.

Cannoli Dip || A Less Processed Life

Truthfully? I think I've only had an authentic cannoli once or twice in my life. If I'm at an Italian restaurant, it goes without saying that I'll be ordering tiramisu for dessert.

Cannoli Dip || A Less Processed Life

And while making full-on cannoli sounds like a bit of a ... situation, what with making the crispy cornet shells and all, ricotta dip is kind of ridiculously simple to make. Also, how could you go wrong with a mixture of ricotta, mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest? Oh, and plenty of chocolate chips. Yum!

Cannoli Dip || A Less Processed Life

The dip is served with broken waffle cones–although graham crackers, shortbread, or other thin cookies would be delicious, too.

This recipe is definitely meant for a crowd ... and let's just say it's a little dangerous when you have leftovers lingering in the fridge. I may have been eating it by the spoonful over the past couple of days. No judgement, right?

Cannoli Dip (printer-friendly version)
makes about 3 cups

1 16-ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, plus additional for garnish
1 box waffle cones or bowls, broken into large pieces

1. Add the ricotta cheese to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth with the paddle attachment. Add the mascarpone cheese and beat until well combined. Stir in the vanilla extract.
2. Use a spatula to stir in the lemon zest and chocolate chips. Spoon the dip into a serving dish and garnish with a few more chocolate chips. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
3. Serve with broken waffle cones, graham crackers, or thin cookies for dipping.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What I'm Drinking: Strawberry-Basil Moscow Mule

Summer is not over yet! Let's toast to the remaining days of warm weather with this refreshing
Strawberry-Basil Moscow Mule.

The upcoming Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of Summer, and while I am not sad about settling into the fall season and unboxing my sweaters and scarves, we do have a few things left on our Summer Bucket List to cross off before autumn really settles in.

At the top of that list is going kayaking at one of our local lakes before the season is out. Given that the wild rice season starts soon, we may have to also add a canoeing excursion to our list, as harvesting rice is really a two-person job. We still have some wild rice on hand from a harvest a few years ago, but our supply is quickly dwindling. Plus harvesting our own rice is kind of a fun perk of living in the Northwoods.

And after a long day on the lake (or, okay, more likely just a few hours), what better refreshment is there to be had than a Strawberry-Basil Moscow Mule made with the season's freshest berries and herbs straight from the garden?

This recipe for a Strawberry-Basil Moscow Mule was inspired by a drink I had this summer at a local restaurant. The sweetness of the strawberries and the peppery flavor of the basil leaves make for an excellent pair with the ginger and lime flavors of a Moscow Mule.

Strawbery-Basil Moscow Mule
makes one cocktail

3 strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (about 3 leaves)
1 ounce fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
2 ounces vodka
ginger beer
lime slice or whole strawberry, for garnish [optional]

Add the strawberries and chopped to the bottom of a copper mug. Use a muddler to release the juices. Add the lime juice and vodka to the mug, then fill with ice. Top with ginger beer. Garnish with a lime slice or strawberry if desired before serving.
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