Friday, August 28, 2015

What I'm Drinking: Boulevardier Cocktail

Boulevardier Cocktail || A Less Processed Life

It's almost 5 o'clock (hooray), and I'm (SO) ready to toast the arrival of the weekend. 

Boulevardier Cocktail || A Less Processed Life

Today I'm pairing my "TGIF!" with a Boulevardier cocktail. This cocktail dates back to the 1920s. Harry McElhone, owner of the New York Bar in Paris, is credited with its creation. It was included in McElhone's book Barflies and Cocktails, published in 1927. The Boulevardier takes its name from a Parisian literary magazine.

Earlier this summer, I finally got around to trying a Negroni, but, try as I might,  I'm just not a gin girl. Enter the Boulevardier. It's the darker, more robust cousin to the Negroni and swaps the gin with bourbon. And, while a Negroni might be the quintessential summertime drink, the more complex flavors of the bourbon-based Boulevardier make it the ideal cocktail to transition into the cooler autumn months, which are right around the corner.

makes one cocktail

1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Campari
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
orange wedge for garnish

Add the sweet vermouth, Campari, and bourbon to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir to combine. Strain the cocktail into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange wedge and serve.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What's On the Side: Farro Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Zucchini

Farro Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Zucchini || A Less Processed Life

It has been chilly the last couple of days up here in Northern Wisconsin, and I have to admit, I kind of love it. Truth be told, my ideal temperature is somewhere in the mid-60s. Bring on jeans, boots, and a big ol' sweater. Just hold off on the snow for awhile longer, will you please, Mother Nature? But, oh my, there is no doubt, winter is coming.

Farro Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Zucchini || A Less Processed Life

Before that first frost arrives, however, I am going to eat as much fresh summer produce as I can. As I was paging through The Italian Vegetable Cookbook by Michele Scicolone the other day, I came upon a recipe for farro, zucchini, and sun-dried tomato salad, and I immediately bookmarked the page. This recipe was just one of many that I've bookmarked to make. While there are of course plenty of the requisite Italian pasta dishes among its pages, this cookbook also features a wide-range of veggie-centric main dishes and sides to tempt your palate. The accompanying photos make you want to break out a fork (or spoon) and dive right in.

Farro Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Zucchini || A Less Processed Life

This farro salad definitely does not disappoint. The farro gives it a tender crunch (is that an oxymoron?), the lemon and red wine vinegar give it a bit of brightness, the herbs provide some bite and fresh flavor, and the sun-dried tomatoes and zucchini provide just the right amount of summery flair.

Farro Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Zucchini || A Less Processed Life

This dish is perfect to share at a picnic or potluck and tastes just as good (maybe even better?) as leftovers the next day.

Farro Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Zucchini (printer-friendly version)
makes 4-6 servings

1 1/2 cups pearled farro
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped (a scant 1/2 cup)
1 cup fresh herbs (I used a mix of basil, oregano, and parsley), chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
juice from 1 lemon (about 2-3 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
1 medium (or 2 small) zucchini, trimmed and chopped into small dice

1. Add 6 cups of water to a medium sauce pot and bring to a boil. Add the farro and salt and cook until the farro is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the farro and place in a serving bowl.
2. While the farro is cooking, drain the sun-dried tomatoes, lightly pat dry and chop into small pieces.
3. Add the chopped onion, herbs, oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vinegar to the serving bowl with the farro. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes and zucchini, toss to combine, and serve.

(adapted from a recipe in The Italian Vegetable Cookbook by Michele Scicolone)


Monday, August 24, 2015

What's Baking: Baked Coconut Donuts

Baked coconut donuts || A Less Processed Life

Mmmmm, donuts. Paired with a hot cup of coffee, eating a donut is one of my favorite ways to start the day. Well, maybe not every day. But you get my point.

Baked coconut donuts || A Less Processed Life

Unfortunately, my town doesn't have a great donut bakery. (Any donut bakers want to relocate to the Northwoods?) So, if I want a donut, I've got to bake my own. Don't have a donut pan? You should totally get one. Gotta love the ability to bake (relatively) healthy donuts at the drop of a dime!

Baked coconut donuts || A Less Processed Life

Although when I'm at a bakery, I most often go for chocolate donuts with chocolate icing and rainbow sprinkles, one of my other favorite donuts is a vanilla cake donut topped with toasted coconut. My version of a coconut donut takes the coconut flavor one step further with the addition of both coconut milk and coconut oil. If you have coconut extract on hand, a little dash of that wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

Topped with toasted coconut flakes, this baked coconut donut brings a little taste of the tropics to your morning breakfast. Or second breakfast. Which is something I need on this cool morning in Northern Wisconsin.

Baked Coconut Donuts (printer-friendly version)
makes six donuts

For the donuts:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup coconut milk ('lite' is fine)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
3 tablespoons melted coconut oil

For the coconut glaze:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons coconut milk (again, 'lite' is fine)

toasted coconut chips, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a donut pan with coconut oil and set aside.
2. Whisk together the dry ingredients.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, vanilla extract, egg, and oil. Stir until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well-combined.
4. Carefully spoon the donut batter into the prepared baking pan. Fill each cavity about 3/4 full.
5. Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until the donuts just spring back when touched.
6. Allow the donuts to cool in the pan for five minutes. Then remove donuts from the pan and let cool completely.
7. While the donuts are cooling, make the glaze: Add the powdered sugar to a small bowl. Stir in the coconut milk, one tablespoon at a time, until the glaze is slightly thickened.
8. Dip the top of each donut into the glaze twice (this works best if you do the dunking in two rounds to allow the glaze to set slightly before the second dip), and then sprinkle each donut with toasted coconut chips. Set the donuts on a wire rack placed over parchment paper to allow the glaze to set completely.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What's On the Side: Deconstructed Three-Bean Salad with a Basil Vinaigrette

Three-Bean Deconstructed Salad || A Less Processed Life

This year we planted green, purple, and yellow beans in our garden and they are currently growing like crazy. This is a good thing, as I needed a simple dish to share at a dinner with friends this past weekend. And given it was crazy-hot (mid-80s with a dash of humidity, which is quite warm up here in the Northwoods), I wanted to make something that would require little to no stove time. Steaming beans for less than 5 minutes on the stovetop easily fit those requirements.

Three-Bean Deconstructed Salad || A Less Processed Life

I had found this recipe earlier in the day while perusing a recent issue of Eating Well on my Kindle. I am totally that person who reads a magazine on one device, and has a second device handy to search for and pin recipes from the online version of the article that I'm reading. Perhaps an unwieldy process, but I love the ability to quickly save recipes that I want to try before I turn (or swipe) the page and forget about them.

Three-Bean Deconstructed Salad || A Less Processed Life

My bean salad is a little simpler than the Composed Bean Salad in the magazine; I used three beans rather than five and opted to skip the radishes and tomatoes (mainly because I didn't have any on hand), but I think it still makes for a stunning presentation and the vinaigrette is bright, tangy, and full of fresh-basil flavor (and also received quite a few compliments come dinnertime).

Three-Bean Deconstructed Salad || A Less Processed Life

To add a just a bit more flavor and visual interest, I dusted the cannellini and kidney beans with a pinch of herbes de Provence and a little salt and pepper. A garnish of chopped fresh herbs wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

Three-Bean Deconstructed Salad || A Less Processed Life

Since I made such a large portion, I've been enjoying leftovers this week for lunch. The beans make for a tasty, filling, and super-simple lunch when topped with a lightly salt-and-peppered poached egg.

Deconstructed Three-Bean Salad (printer-friendly version)
makes 8-10 servings

For the vinaigrette:
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped scallions (about 3 medium scallions, ends removed)
1/4 cup chopped garlic scapes
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons agave syrup
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

For the three-bean salad:
2 cups green beans (about 8 ounces), trimmed
1 15-ounce can dark red kidney beans, rinsed
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed
herbes de Provence, for garnish

1. Add the green beans to a steamer basket and steam for 4 minutes, until just tender. Remove from the steamer and let cool.
2. While the green beans are cooling, make the vinaigrette. Add the basil, chopped scallions, chopped garlic scapes, olive oil, red-wine vinegar, agave syrup, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper to a blender. Puree until smooth. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Pour into a small serving container.
3. Place the cooled green beans onto a serving platter. Arrange the kidney beans and cannellini beans around the green beans. Sprinkle the kidney beans and cannellini beans with herbes de Provence and salt and pepper. Serve with the dressing.

(adapted from this Eating Well recipe)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What's For Breakfast: Wildberry Baked Oatmeal

This past weekend D and I headed north to Bayfield, Wisconsin to meet up with some of his dog-training friends. After a filling breakfast at Black Cat Cafe in Ashland, we continued our drive to Bayfield with the goal of picking blueberries before meeting his friends for a late lunch.

Alas, blueberries are not faring too well this summer. Our favorite organic orchards have been hit hard by a new fruit fly pest called the Spotted Wing Drosophila. One orchard's harvest was down 80 percent! Definitely a bummer for us, but more importantly, it's super-devastating for those whose livelihoods depend on bountiful fruit harvests. Fingers crossed they are able to get this pest under control.

With no blueberries to pick, we headed into town to grab some of our favorite locally-roasted coffee beans at Big Water Coffee Roasters. I couldn't help but also pick up an iced sugarbush (sweetened with maple syrup) latte. So refreshing on a warm day! 

While I was hoping to make up another batch of blueberry baked oatmeal for breakfast this week, with no fresh (or frozen, for that matter) blueberries to be had in Bayfield, I made do with the blackberries and raspberries I already had on hand in the fridge. 

This baked oatmeal is, in one word, DELICIOUS. Warm out of the oven, it tastes like a wholesome (in a good way!) berry muffin. And given the healthy ingredients, there's no guilt in going for seconds! (Which, I must admit, I did in no time flat this morning. Yum!)

Wildberry Baked Oatmeal (printer-friendly version)
makes 6-8 servings

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup coconut chips (also called coconut flakes)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups berries (fresh or frozen; I used 1 cup blackberries and 1/2 cup raspberries)
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk ("lite" or regular)
1 cups organic skim (or 1 percent) milk
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
dash of ground nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, chopped walnuts, coconut chips, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add the oat mixture to bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish or 10-inch cast iron skillet. Scatter the berries evenly over top the oat mixture.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, milk, maple syrup, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the melted butter.
4. Pour the milk mixture over top the oat mixture, ensuring that it is covered evenly. Sprinkle with a dash of ground nutmeg.
5. Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the oatmeal is set and it is golden in color. Serve immediately. Leftovers should be covered and refrigerated.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What's For Dinner: Panzanella Salad

I've always been a little wary of anchovies. On a pizza? No thanks. In my Caesar salad dressing? I'd rather not. So, when I came upon a panzanella salad recipe that called for anchovies in the vinaigrette, I decided it was about time I took the tinned fish plunge.

I'm not entirely sure what I was scared of -- perhaps what I assumed would be a super-pungent odor? Turns out, anchovies are quite inoffensive. Anchovies add a wonderful depth of flavor to a dish -- and it's much more of a salty and savory flavor than a fishy one.

Look for flat anchovy fillets for this dish; when finely chopped they will very nearly dissolve in the vinaigrette. In addition to adding a little je ne sais quoi to a dish, anchovies also pack an excellent punch of omega-3 fatty acids and protein.

Of course, if you're vegetarian or unapologetically anchovy-averse, you can skip them in the vinaigrette, but check your seasonings and add more salt if necessary to balance the flavors.

Panzanella Salad (printer-friendly version)
makes 6-8 entree-sized servings

For the lemon-garlic vinaigrette:
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 medium to large lemon)
6 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper pinch ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/4 teaspoon ground sumac
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil  

For the salad:
8 ounces (about half a loaf) day-old French baguette, torn into large pieces
2 pints (about 2 pounds) cherry and grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 medium red onion, cut into thin half-moons (about 1 cup), soaked in ice water for 10 minutes, then drained
1 large English cucumber, quartered lengthwise and chopped
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. For the vinaigrette: Add of the ingredients except the olive oil into a medium glass bowl. Stir to combine, then let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Next, add the olive oil in a steady stream while whisking briskly until the oil is fully integrated.
2. For the salad: Add the bread to a large bowl and pour half of the vinaigrette (about 1 cup) over top. Toss to evenly coat, then let sit for 10 minutes. In a separate bowl, add together the tomatoes, onion, and cucumber. Add the remaining vinaigrette and toss to coat. Let sit for 10 minutes.
3. Combine the vegetables and bread in a large serving dish. Add the basil and toss to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

(adapted from this Aida Mollenkamp recipe)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What's On the Side: Summer Pasta Salad

This past weekend, D and I were invited to a Barn Party at our friend's farm down in Milladore, Wisconsin. Along with my prize-winning chocolate chip cookies, I also brought along this savory pasta dish to share at the potluck.

The inspiration for this recipe comes from the cookbook Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant, who is also the creator of the blog How Sweet It Is. The cookbook is gorgeous and features accessible recipes covering breakfast, lunch, dinner, and nearly everything in between.

Summer Pasta Salad || A Less Processed Life

Along with engaging -- sometimes irreverent, often hilarious -- headnotes, each recipe features a full-color image, which I love -- particularly as I am someone who likes to see what the resulting dish is supposed to look like at the end. I had to stop bookmarking recipes to try as nearly every page was earmarked.

Since I was making the salad for a crowd, I doubled the proportions of the ingredients. And of course, I couldn't help but tweak a few other things. Rather than peeling the asparagus into ribbons as called for by the recipe, I chopped it into bite-size pieces instead. I also added sliced black olives to the mix and switched honey with maple syrup for the sweetener in the dressing. This pasta salad is filling, zesty, and a great way to use those zucchini and tomatoes that are growing like crazy in the garden this time of year.

Summer Pasta Salad (printer-friendly version)
makes 16-18 servings

For the dressing:
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the asparagus and zucchini:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound asparagus, ends removed and cut on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces
4 small zucchinis, ends removed, halved lengthwise and sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced

24 ounces (1 1/2 boxes) fusilli pasta, cooked (Note, if you prefer a higher veg:pasta ratio, use just one 16 ounce box of pasta)
2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered or halved, depending on size
1 8-ounce can sliced black olives
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, and maple syrup until well-combined. Stir in the chopped basil, chopped oregano, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and zucchini and cook until just softened, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.
3. Add the cooked pasta to a large serving bowl. Add the asparagus mixture, tomatoes, sliced olives, and feta and gently stir to combine. Then pour the dressing over the pasta mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate the salad for at least 30 minutes. Toss once more and season with additional salt and pepper to taste just before serving.

(adapted from a recipe in the cookbook Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant)
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