Friday, April 29, 2016

What's On the Side: Indian-spiced Roasted Sweet Potatoes

These Indian-spiced roasted sweet potatoes, tossed in coconut oil and flavored with garam masala, will add an exotic flair to any meal. 

Indian-spiced Roasted Sweet Potatoes || A Less Processed Life

Fine, fine, I'll admit it. I think I might need a vegetable-roasting intervention. How many roasted vegetable recipes are too many roasted vegetable recipes? Don't answer that.

Indian-spiced Roasted Sweet Potatoes || A Less Processed Life

But I have been trying to do more meal prep on the weekends, and roasting a huge pile of veggies is a simple way to make sure there are ready-to-use ingredients on hand all week long. I've jumped on the veggie bowl trend of late, and these Indian-spiced roasted sweet potatoes served alongside baked tofu, microgreens, roasted broccoli, and quinoa make for a super-hearty and filling mid-day meal.

Indian-spiced Roasted Sweet Potatoes (printer-friendly version)
makes 2-4 servings

1 ½ tablespoons melted virgin coconut oil
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 teaspoons garam masala
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking oil and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, toss together the sweet potatoes, coconut oil, and garam masala. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.
4. Spread the potatoes into an even layer on the prepped baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, stirring halfway through the cooking time, until caramelized and fork tender.

Monday, April 25, 2016

What's For Dinner: Cauliflower Buffalo Bites

These Cauliflower Buffalo Bites are a guilt-free – and tasty – option that are perfect for a party or a fun weeknight meal. 

Cauliflower Buffalo Bites || A Less Processed Life

When I first heard about the concept of replacing chicken with cauliflower to make buffalo wings, I was skeptical.

Cauliflower Buffalo Bites || A Less Processed Life

Of course, I'm pretty sure I've never actually had legit buffalo wings – the one time I recall being in a BW3s (aka B-Dubs, aka Buffalo Wild Wings; I have no idea where the "3" comes from) was during my college vegetarian days.

Cauliflower Buffalo Bites || A Less Processed Life

So, yeah, fine, I may not be the best judge of authenticity when it comes to this unusual ingredient swap. However, I first made this recipe for our little Super Bowl party-for-two earlier this year, and D has been clamoring for me to make them again ever since.

Cauliflower Buffalo Bites || A Less Processed Life

This weekend I finally got my act together (and stopped myself from making yet another batch of curry roasted cauliflower) and baked up a batch of Cauliflower Buffalo Bites for dinner. And of course, it wouldn't be a legit wings experience without celery sticks and a bleu cheese dipping sauce served on the side.

Cauliflower Buffalo Bites || A Less Processed Life

These Buffalo Bites are spicy, toothsome, and entirely satisfying. And, okay, they don't taste exactly like authentic Buffalo Wings (or so I assume). But that doesn't make them any less delicious.

Cauliflower Buffalo Bites (printer-friendly version)
makes 2-4 servings

1 cup garbanzo bean flour (you can also use unbleached all-purpose flour)
1 cup water
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup red hot sauce
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, add together the flour, water, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Stir until smooth. Add the cauliflower and stir gently until the florets are coated evenly with batter.
3. Use a slotted spoon to turn the florets out onto the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.
4. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.
5. While the cauliflower is baking, heat the red hot sauce and butter together in a small sauce pot. Stir until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat.
6. Pour the red hot sauce mixture over top the cauliflower and gently toss to coat.
7. Bake the florets for 10 minutes, or until crisp.
8. Serve immediately with celery sticks and bleu cheese dressing (see below).

Bleu Cheese Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon milk or buttermilk
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic, milk, and lemon juice. Stir in the crumbled bleu cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How To Make: Baked Tofu

Baked tofu is the perfect addition to stir-frys, noodle or rice bowls, or as a topping on your favorite salad. 

Baked Tofu || A Less Processed Life

I've been trying to get better at spending some time on the weekends prepping food for the week. I recently set aside some time on Sunday to make big batches of roasted broccoli and cauliflower. One of our favorite ways to eat roasted vegetables is in a rice bowl with greens, some sort of sauce (such as this tahini dressing), and a protein.

Baked Tofu || A Less Processed Life

These veggie and rice bowls are great with shredded leftover chicken, but for a vegetarian version I like to add tofu cubes.

Baked Tofu || A Less Processed Life

On weeknights I'll simply pan-fry the tofu with a little bit of oil (olive oil, sesame oil, or coconut oil are my usual go-tos). But, for the ultimate convenience, I recently baked up two packages of tofu to have on hand all week long. Baking the tofu in the oven takes a little bit longer than cooking it on the stovetop, but I think it's the best way to cook up a large amount of tofu at one time. A little toss with cornstarch helps to crisp up the tofu cubes, but you can skip that step if you'd prefer.

Another option would be to marinate the tofu cubes in your favorite sauce for about 30 minutes before baking them; since I'm never sure what I want to use them for during the week, I find plain is the way to go.

Baked Tofu (printer-friendly version)
makes 4+ servings

1 or more (16-ounce) containers extra-firm tofu
1 tablespoon cornstarch (per 16-ounces of tofu)

1. Drain the tofu and set onto a towel. Cut the tofu into 1" squares and set in an even layer on one half of the towel. Flip the other half of the towel over top of the tofu squares and set a heavy object (such as a cast-iron skillet) on top. Press for at least 30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Set aside.
3. Toss the tofu with cornstarch. This will help to make it crispier.
4. Transfer the tofu onto the prepped baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 30-40 minutes, flipping the tofu over every 10 minutes or so to evenly cook on each side. Bake until golden and slightly puffed. Remove from the oven and use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

(lightly adapted from this recipe from The Kitchn)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Made From Scratch: Ginger Syrup and Ginger Ale

Love ginger? Then you'll really love this homemade ginger ale made from fresh ginger syrup and club soda.

Homemade Ginger Ale || A Less Processed Life

I don't drink a lot of soda -- although I'm from the Midwest and I think I'm supposed to call it 'pop'? I dunno, I always just asked for a drink by its brand name. However, I always get something sparkly to drink when I'm on a plane, and my typical go-to is ginger ale. (Although a fellow passenger once called me out on my "old lady" drink choice. Whatever.)

Homemade Ginger Syrup || A Less Processed Life

D is a bit of a ginger-ale aficionado and given his Michigan roots is a die-hard Vernor's fan. In fact, one time when we drove to Michigan for a visit with his family, we filled the backseat of our car with case upon case of Vernor's to bring back with us to Philadelphia. (Vernor's is way less exotic and easily purchased here in Wisconsin.)

I recently got a hankering for some ginger ale, but figured I could probably make some of my own, and skip all the preservatives and other junk found in the canned stuff.

Step one to making ginger ale is making ginger syrup. And all that takes is some fresh ginger root, water, and sugar. You can opt to peel the ginger or skip that step. If you do peel the ginger, you can reserve the ginger slices after the mixture has steeped and let dry on a wire rack. Voila -- sweet ginger candy! (Oh, so good!) But, if you'd rather save time, you can just leave the peel on.

Ginger Syrup
makes one cup

1 cup sliced (1/4-inch thick) ginger
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup filtered water

1. In a medium sauce pot, bring the ginger, sugar, and water mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes.
2. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool. Pour the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the ginger solids. Store the ginger syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The syrup should keep for at least two weeks.

Homemade Ginger Syrup || A Less Processed Life

A glass of ginger ale just calls for some ginger syrup and club soda. I like to add in a bit of fresh lime juice for additional flavor, and you can't go wrong with a lime wheel garnish.

Ginger Ale
makes one serving

1 ounce ginger syrup
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
club soda
lime wheel, for garnish

1. Add the ginger syrup and fresh lime juice to a rocks glass. Stir to combine.
2. Fill the glass with ice, then top with club soda. Garnish with a lime wheel and serve.

Homemade Ginger Ale || A Less Processed Life


Friday, April 15, 2016

What's For Dinner: Korean Beef Bowls

This Korean beef bowl is crazy-quick to make and packed full of spicy flavor. 

Korean Beef Bowls || A Less Processed Life

Dare I say it? I think it's quite possible that spring has actually sprung 'round these parts. (Knock on wood.) Yesterday we reached highs in the 60s and the forecast has us staying well above freezing for at least the next week or so. Hoorah!

Korean Beef Bowls || A Less Processed Life

I guess that means it's time to get serious about getting our little farm ready to roll for the summer. Our laying hens are already in on the action -- after months of little to no egg production, they've been ramping it up since mid-February, and yesterday I collected 24 eggs! I think we might need to invest in a separate refrigerator for our eggs soon; yikes!

Korean Beef Bowls || A Less Processed Life

Over the winter we parked the girls' coop near to our house in a small fenced in area. This morning we towed their coop onto our bigger field. I'm super excited to get them back out on pasture in their larger electric netting fenced-in area. I think they'll be happy to have a bit more space, too.

Korean Beef Bowls || A Less Processed Life

We just put in our order for new chicks and I think they are set to arrive around the first week of May. I'm hoping to add a few Araucana (blue-egg layers) to our flock later this summer, too.

Korean Beef Bowls || A Less Processed Life

So, with farm activities about to take up more of our time, quick meals are going to become even more important. This recipe for Korean Beef Bowls has become one of my favorites. It's super flavorful and crazy-easy to throw together. I've been playing around with different garnishes; fresh herbs are an excellent choice, but I'm even more excited about these nutrient-packed microgreens from our friends at Pine Grove Pastures. The mix I used here is called "Taste Trip" and includes lemon basil, cilantro, kale, peas, and sunflowers – a perfectly-matched flavor profile for this Korean beef bowl. Locals can find Pine Grove Pastures microgreens at Golden Harvest in Rhinelander and Nelson's County Market in Tomahawk. 

Korean Beef Bowls (printer-friendly version)
makes 3-4 servings

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 heaping teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
small bunch (4-6) green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground grass-fed beef (or ground venison)
4-6 fresh basil leaves
cooked rice, for serving
black sesame seeds [optional]
microgreens [optional]

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and ground ginger. Set aside.
2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until browned, 5-7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set on a plate lined with a paper towel. Set aside.
3. Add the green onions and mushrooms to the skillet and sauté until tender, 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the ground beef and soy sauce mixture. Simmer until heated through, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil and cook until wilted, about 1 minute.
4. Serve immediately over rice. Garnish with black sesame seeds and/or microgreens if desired.

(lightly adapted from this Damn Delicious recipe)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Made From Scratch: Tahini Dressing

Tahini Dressing || A Less Processed Life

As the days grow longer (it was light until nearly 8 the other night!) and the temperatures rise (or at least theoretically they rise, though I did spy 70 degrees on tap for this weekend, aaaaah!), I'm leaning away from the heavier meals of winter to the lighter flavors of spring.

Tahini Dressing || A Less Processed Life

That, and, uh, warmer temperatures also mean fewer layers, and it's probably time that I shed my personal layer of winter insulation as well. So! Salads and fresh greens it is. While I've never been one to push away a fresh salad, for me, the key is a delicious dressing that brings it all together.

If you like the flavors of hummus, you'll love this creamy tahini dressing. It is tangy and vibrant and gives a little zing to what might otherwise be a boring bowl of greens. You can season the dressing with just salt and pepper, or add the same flavors from your favorite hummus recipe -- ground sumac, cumin, or roasted red peppers would be a great place to start.

Tahini Dressing (printer-friendly version)
makes about 1/2 cup

2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon water
4 tablespoons tahini
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Add the garlic cloves to the bowl of a food processor with the metal blade attached and process until finely minced. Add in the lemon juice, olive oil, water, and tahini and process until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
2. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Store any leftover dressing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Tahini Dressing || A Less Processed Life

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What's On the Side: Curry Roasted Cauliflower

Add a little spice to your life (and your dinner table) with this delicious recipe for curry roasted cauliflower. 

Curry Roasted Cauliflower || A Less Processed Life

A couple of weeks ago, D and I were trying to figure out where to go for dinner. Now, when you live in a big city, heck, even a medium-sized city, your options are nearly endless. But when you live in a small town, your options are a bit more limited. Particularly when, let's just say, it seems like many of the restaurants have the same standing order at Sysco. And, to further complicate the matter, a number of restaurants in the area shut down for "spring break" during the mud season of late March through mid-April. (At least, it would be mud season if it would stop snowing already.)

Curry Roasted Cauliflower || A Less Processed Life

Given our location, we don't bat an eye if it takes 30-45 minutes to get to a restaurant; that's basically standard practice. D ran through a list of nearby towns and I took to Yelp to look for somewhere new to try.

Curry Roasted Cauliflower || A Less Processed Life

When he listed St. Germain (just over 30 minutes from us by car), my eye was caught by the reviews for Sisters Saloon. After checking out their menu, I was hooked. And I have to say that an out-of-towner complaint that "everyone turned around when we entered the door" totally made me want to go there even more. That's just kind of how it is in the Northwoods.

Curry Roasted Cauliflower || A Less Processed Life

We were there on a Friday night, which means Fish Fry here in Wisconsin. I wasn't quite in the mood for fish, so I opted for a dish of farro risotto and roasted cauliflower. Both of which are unusual options for a menu 'round these parts. The roasted cauliflower was cooked in curry butter, and that isn't a flavor profile you normally find up here. I loved it.

And when I came home, I knew I'd have to make a batch of curry roasted cauliflower of my own. This roasted cauliflower is oh-so-good. It reminds me of the kind of dish you'd find on a hot bar at Whole Foods. It tastes great crisp from the oven, but it can also be eaten at room temperature or even cold. I've served it on the side and also incorporated it into a main entree with other veggies, tofu, and a curry sauce. Long story short, if you want exotic flavors Up North, you need to make it yourself. But I'm so glad to see that there are some inventive chefs up here; you just have to seek them out.

Curry Roasted Cauliflower (printer-friendly version)
makes 2-4 servings

2 cups cauliflower florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
2. Add the cauliflower florets to a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and stir to evenly coat the florets in the oil. Add in the curry powder and ground cumin and toss to combine.
3. Spread the florets out onto the prepped baking sheet in an even layer. Roast for 30-35 minutes, or until the cauliflower is lightly browned and fork-tender. Remove from the oven and let cool a few minutes before serving.
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