Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How To Make: Poached Whole Chicken

Poaching is a simple way to cook a flavorful and moist whole chicken.

How to Poach Chicken || A Less Processed Life

My go-to recipe for a whole chicken is to roast it in the oven. And more often than not, the results are super-tasty. However, I am not such a fun of all the clean-up involved afterward.

How to Poach Chicken || A Less Processed Life

Enter poached chicken. It's not much of a timesaver, but the clean up is WAY easier. And, this recipe is a bit of a two-fer. Not only do you get moist, flavorful chicken meat, but you also end up with plenty of chicken broth ready to be jarred up and placed in the fridge. 

Once poached, the chicken is ready to eat as-is or you can use the shredded meat throughout the week for BBQ shredded chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, or any number of other preparations. 

Poached Chicken

1 3-5 pound whole chicken
1 teaspoon whole mixed or black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup peeled and chopped carrots
1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery 
1/2 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1/2 lemon, sliced
bundle of fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme, tied together

1. Place the chicken in a very large stockpot. Add the peppercorns, crushed garlic, bay leaf, carrots, celery, onion, lemon, and herb bundle. Sprinkle with salt. 
2. Cover the chicken completely with water. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, or a temperature that maintains a rolling simmer. Simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let the chicken cool in the broth for 15 minutes, then strain the stock. You can reserve the stock and pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a jar to use in another recipe. (I reserved about 96 ounces, or 3 large (32-ounce) mason jars of broth.)
3. Carefully remove the skin and bones from the chicken and use a fork to shred the meat into bite-size pieces. 

(adapted from this Rachael Ray recipe)

Friday, May 20, 2016

What's Baking: Quinoa-Cacao Blondies

Browned butter and raw cacao nibs take these gluten-free quinoa blondies to a whole new level of deliciousness.

Quinoa-Cacao Blondies || A Less Processed Life

Last weekend, Dustin and I headed to Wausau to run a few errands. While in town I made a quick stop at the Downtown Grocery, which is currently temporarily located in the Wausau Mall while they rebuild after a fire at their old location last fall. My main goal was to stock back up on Condor Coffee, our favorite locally-roasted small-batch coffee company. (We're partial to the Guatemala light roast.)

Quinoa-Cacao Blondies || A Less Processed Life

I was also in desperate need of a snack for the ride home. I decided to eschew the delicious-looking cookies for the healthier-sounding quinoa-almond blondie. 

Quinoa-Cacao Blondies || A Less Processed Life

I was instantly intrigued by its taste – the blondie had a slightly crunchy texture from the quinoa and almonds. And then the cacao nibs that studded the blondie added just the right amount of chocolate flavor. I'm always looking for healthier treats to make at home – could I make this bar in my own kitchen?

Quinoa-Cacao Blondies || A Less Processed Life

Turns out, why yes, yes I can bake my own quinoa blondies at home. And dare I say, these blondies are even better than Downtown Grocery's? (Them there's fightin' words!)

Quinoa-Cacao Blondies || A Less Processed Life

I based my blondie recipe off the ingredients list printed on the bar's packaging. In addition to quinoa flour, I also added in some quinoa flakes to add in even more crunchy texture to the blondie. Though the ingredients listed both butter and vegetable oil, I only used unsalted butter. I browned the butter to bring out a deeper, nutty and caramel flavor. I also added a bit of flaky sea salt to counterbalance the sweetness of the bars.

Quinoa-Cacao Blondies || A Less Processed Life

The end result? An out-of-this-world blondie bar experience. Seriously! Okay, fine, so maybe I'm just really proud of myself for figuring out how to make these blondies in my own kitchen. But they really are tasty, I promise!

Quinoa-Cacao Blondies (printer-friendly version)
makes 12 blondies

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and browned
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon flaky salt, plus additional for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup quinoa flakes
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup cacao nibs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 baking pan with cooking spray, line with parchment paper, and then spray the paper with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, add the browned butter to the brown sugar and stir until smooth. Add in the egg and vanilla and stir to combine. Stir in the salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Then stir in the quinoa flour and quinoa flakes. Mix in the sliced almonds and cacao nibs. 
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the blondies are set in the center and light brown along the edges. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.


Monday, May 16, 2016

What's Baking: Tahini Cookies

Take your cookie craving to the Mediterranean with these tantalizing tahini cookies. 

Tahini Cookies || A Less Processed Life

I've been making a lot of hummus from scratch lately, which means that I almost always have a jar of tahini in the fridge. And that got me to wondering ... what else can I make with tahini?

Tahini Cookies || A Less Processed Life

Tahini is a staple of the Mediterranean pantry – it is a paste made from sesame seeds and has a slightly bitter nutty flavor. It gives these cookies a flavor similar to that of peanut butter cookies, but with a little extra something at the end that make your tastebuds go "hmmm...what is that?" – in a good way. I found that the delicate floral flavor of cardamom in the sugar mixture helped to balance out the slightly bitter notes of the tahini. 

Tahini Cookies || A Less Processed Life

If you find the tahini flavor in the cookies to be a bit too overwhelming, wait a day or two. I found that after a couple of days in the cookie jar, the flavor of these cookies mellows out and makes for an excellent mid-afternoon snack. Or second breakfast with a cup of coffee. Or after-dinner dessert. You get the picture.

Tahini Cookies
makes 2 dozen 3-inch cookies

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons cup coarse-grain sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. 
2. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attached, cream together the butter, tahini, and brown and granulated sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and mix until completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides as needed to fully incorporate all of the wet ingredients together.
3. Using low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in several batches. Once the flour is almost completely incorporated, turn off the mixer and use a rubber spatula for the final stirring. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or until the dough has begun to firm up. 
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. Place the sugar and cardamom in a shallow bowl and stir together. 
5. Scoop the dough in 1 1/2 tablespoon portions and roll into balls. Roll each ball in the sugar mixture to lightly coat. Place the dough balls on the prepped baking sheet about 2 inches apart, fitting 12 cookies at a time. Use the back of a fork to flatten each cookie 1/2-inch thick with a criss-cross pattern.
6. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the cookies are light golden brown in color. Remove from the oven and let cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet before moving the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

(lightly adapted from this recipe from The Kitchn)


Friday, May 13, 2016

What's For Dinner: Coconut Curry Ramen Noodle Soup

This coconut curry ramen noodle soup is simple to make but complex in flavor. 

Coconut Curry Ramen Noodle Soup || A Less Processed Life

When I run out of ideas for dinner my go-to is ramen noodle soup. This ramen noodle soup recipe has been in heavy rotation lately, but last night I was looking for a new flavor profile to try.

Coconut Curry Ramen Noodle Soup || A Less Processed Life

I had a hankering for coconut curry (you know, as one does), so I riffed off my original recipe by switching out the savory flavor of miso with coconut milk and red curry paste. The addition of fresh lime juice, soy sauce, and fish sauce rounded out this soup's sweet and sour flavor.

Coconut Curry Ramen Noodle Soup || A Less Processed Life

There's something about this soup's bright orange color that just makes me happy. Is that weird? Quite possibly. But even better than this soup's fun color is its super-tasty flavor. And the best part is this soup comes together in less than 30 minutes. And it would be even quicker if you already had baked tofu cubes on hand. Oh, I am so looking forward to leftovers for lunch this afternoon!

Coconut Curry Ramen Noodle Soup (printer-friendly version)
makes 4-6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil (or coconut, vegetable, or sesame oil)
 tablespoon red curry paste
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
small bunch (3-5) green onions, chopped (reserve the chopped greens)
1 medium garlic clove, pressed
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 15-ounce can light coconut milk
2 tablespoons brown sugar
juice from half a lime
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 cup sliced mushrooms (I used a mixture of shiitake and cremini mushrooms)
pinch red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into cubes
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 packages (2 bricks) ramen noodles

1. Heat the oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the red curry paste, ground ginger, and garam masala. Cook while stirring until fragrant, about one minute. Add the green onions and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds.
2. Add the vegetable broth, coconut milk, and brown sugar, lime juice, soy sauce, and fish sauce and whisk to combine. Stir in the sliced mushrooms and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low and simmer uncovered.
3. While the soup is simmering, prepare the tofu. Spray a large non-stick pan with olive oil spray and heat over medium heat. Add the tofu and lightly fry on all sides until golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the hoisin sauce. Gently stir to evenly coat the tofu in the sauce.
4. Increase the heat under the soup to medium high and bring to a rolling boil. Add the ramen noodles and cook until tender, 4-5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Spoon the soup into individual serving bowls. Add the tofu and garnish with the remaining scallion greens.

Monday, May 9, 2016

What's For Dinner: Red Curry Lentils

Black beluga lentils get a spicy treatment with the flavors of red curry, coriander, and cumin in this healthy red curry lentil dish.

Red Curry Lentils  || A Less Processed Life

A lentil dish might not necessarily be the most photogenic of foods, but man oh man, is this red curry lentil delicious.

Red Curry Lentils  || A Less Processed Life

Lentils are a nutritional powerhouse. One cup of fiber-rich lentils contains 18 grams of protein and is an excellent source of iron, vitamin B-6, and magnesium. I used black beluga lentils for this dish, which retain their shape during cooking. For a softer texture (and quicker cooking time), you could use red lentils instead.

Red Curry Lentils  || A Less Processed Life

This dish gets its spicy flavor from red curry paste, cumin, and coriander. Toasting the curry paste with the spices is key to enhancing and intensifying the taste of the spices. Don't skip this step!

This dish pairs perfectly with cilantro-lime rice or a hearty piece of naan. Like many curry dishes, this one gets better with time, so make sure there's plenty of leftovers!

Red Curry Lentils (printer-friendly version)
makes 4-6 servings

1 cup dry lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced white onion
1 tablespoon red curry paste
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
15-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
cooked rice, for serving

1. Add the lentils to a large sauce pan and cover with water by two inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Drain the lentils and set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the red curry paste, ground coriander, and ground cumin and cook until fragrant, about one minutes.
3. Add the cooked lentils, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, and water to the stock pot. Stir in the butter, salt, and pepper. Cook for one hour over low heat. Stir in the cream just before serving. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.
4. Garnish the lentils with the chopped cilantro and serve over rice.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

What's On the Side: Cilantro-Lime Rice

Amp up your #TacoTuesday (or Wednesday, or Thursday ... you get the picture) with this cilantro-lime rice.

Cilantro-Lime Rice || A Less Processed Life

One of our favorite go-to meals is the burrito bowl. A staple of the fast-casual Mexican restaurant menu (I think you know who I'm talking about), these bowls typically feature a base of rice and beans, then your choice of fajita vegetables and/or meat, salsa, and all the other fixings. (Ugh, and I hate how guac costs extra ... but I always get it anyway. And since they tend to dollop a giant scoop on my bowl, there's plenty to share with others).

Cilantro-Lime Rice || A Less Processed Life

But let's face it, plain rice is Boring with a capital B. That's where cilantro and lime come in. I am firmly in the camp of cilantro lover, but if you're not (and it's not your fault, it's probably just your genetics), this recipe is probably not for you.

Cilantro-Lime Rice || A Less Processed Life

This recipe really couldn't be easier. First, cook up a batch of rice in your rice cooker or on the stovetop (I've included instructions for both). Then let it rest, fluff with a fork, and stir in the lime juice and chopped cilantro. See, I told you – easy!

Cilantro-Lime Rice || A Less Processed Life

So the next time Taco Tuesday rolls around, you should definitely serve this on the side. Or, you know, any night of the week when a Mexican meal is on the menu.

Cilantro-Lime Rice (printer-friendly version)
makes 2-4 servings

1 cup jasmine rice
1 3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Rice Cooker Instructions:
1. Add the rice, water, salt, and olive oil to the bowl of your rice cooker. Cook on the "white rice" setting.
2. After the cooking cycle is complete, let the rice sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. Then fluff the rice with the paddle or a fork, and stir in the lime juice and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

Stovetop Instructions:
1. Add the water, salt, and olive oil to a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. 2. Add the rice and return to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the water has cooked off and the rice is beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan.
3. Remove from the heat and let stand uncovered for 5-10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and stir in the lime juice and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

What I'm Drinking: Grapefruit-Ginger Soda

This grapefruit-ginger soda is a refreshing way to cool down on a warm spring day. 

Grapefruit-Ginger Soda || A Less Processed Life

Unless I'm in the middle of a hard workout, I am terrible at remembering to drink water throughout the day. But add in a touch of bubbles with some carbonation, and I'm in.

Grapefruit-Ginger Soda || A Less Processed Life

Even with a little effervescence, however, a glass of club soda is kind of, well, boring. This spring I've set a goal to try a bunch of different sparkling water flavor combinations to help me increase my daily hydration.

Grapefruit-Ginger Soda || A Less Processed Life

Since I still have a bit of ginger syrup on hand (have you made some yet? Oh, you definitely should!), I figured that would be a great place to start. I combined the ginger syrup with freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice (yeah, I'm still a regular rider on the grapefruit train) and topped it off with club soda. The result? So refreshing. And I think a perfect mocktail to serve at a spring party, especially when garnished with a sprig of fresh rosemary. And, uh, a shot of vodka to make a Moscow-mule inspired cocktail wouldn't be a terrible idea, either. 

Grapefruit-Ginger Soda
makes one mocktail

2 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
1 ounce ginger syrup
club soda
rosemary sprig, for garnish [optional]

1. Add the grapefruit juice and ginger syrup to the bottom of a rocks or old fashioned glass. Stir to combine.
2. Fill the glass 2/3 full of ice.
3. Top with club soda and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
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