Thursday, March 9, 2017

What's Baking: Cinnamon-Swirl Banana Bread

Banana bread gets an upgrade with a little cinnamon swirl in the center.

It has been 140 days since I last posted a banana bread recipe. Clearly, I am long past due in giving you another one.

This recipe for cinnamon-swirl banana bread is a riff on my recipe for cinnamon-sugar crusted banana bread, which has quickly become my go-to recipe.

The other day I thought to myself, you know what would make this bread better? A little cinnamon swirl in the center.

Turns out, I was right. The cinnamon swirl was a great idea. I added a little unsweetened cocoa powder to the cinnamon swirl mixture to give it a little darker color; it adds just the tiniest cocoa flavor, so if you don't have any cocoa powder on hand, feel free to leave it out.

Truth be told, more often than not, I buy bananas solely for the purpose of leaving them on the counter to get overripe. It is a happy day when the grocery store is selling overripe bananas on a deep discount. Sometimes it's the little things, no?

Is there anything better than the aroma of freshly-baked banana bread? Served warm from the oven with a cup of tea or hot coffee, it's my favorite mid-morning snack.

Cinnamon-Swirl Banana Bread (printer-friendly version)
makes one 8-inch loaf

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 very ripe medium bananas, mashed
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and browned

For the cinnamon swirl:
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8" x 4" loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the syrup, sugar, egg, and vanilla extract. Stir in the mashed bananas and then stir in the melted coconut oil.
4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.
5. In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, ground cinnamon, and cocoa powder. Set aside.
6. Spoon half of the batter into the prepped loaf pan. Sprinkle evenly with half the cinnamon sugar mixture. Top with the remaining batter, then sprinkle evenly with the remaining cinnamon sugar.
7. 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 for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Wrap any leftovers in foil and store at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to five days.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What's On the Side: Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower, roasted with fresh thyme, onions, and garlic, and covered with a generous blanket of freshly-grated Parmesan, will be your new favorite side dish.

Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower || A Less Processed Life

Confession time: I'm not particularly a fan of raw cauliflower. Stick it on a platter with veggie dip, and I will steer clear.

Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower || A Less Processed Life

But put that cauliflower in the oven and roast it until it is caramelized, but still has a tender bite? I am in it to win it.

Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower || A Less Processed Life

And when you roast it with onion wedges, fresh thyme, whole garlic cloves, and cover it with a generous blanket of freshly-grated Parmesan? It's quite likely I'll eat the whole platter myself. #nojudgment

Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower || A Less Processed Life

Think you don't like cauliflower? Give this recipe a try. I'm pretty sure you'll be a cauliflower convert in no time, too.

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

1 medium head cauliflower
1 medium onion, sliced into thick wedges
4 fresh thyme sprigs
4 unpeeled garlic cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 426 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Cut the head of cauliflower into florets; cut each floret in half. Place the florets in a large bowl. Add the sliced onion, thyme, garlic cloves, and olive oil. Gently toss to combine.
3. Spread the mixture onto the prepped baking sheet. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
4. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, carefully flipping the cauliflower with a spatula about halfway through the cooking time.
5. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, and continue roasting for 10 minutes more. Serve warm.

(adapted from this Bon App├ętit recipe)

Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower || A Less Processed Life


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What's For Dinner: One-Skillet Lasagna

You just need one skillet to cook up this delicious lasagna dish.

One-Skillet Lasagna || A Less Processed Life

I love lasagna, but I don't love that most recipes take over an hour to bake and make enough servings to feed a small army. As much as I love leftovers, I don't want to eat the same thing that many times in a row.

One-Skillet Lasagna || A Less Processed Life

That's where this recipe for skillet lasagna from America's Test Kitchen comes in. It totally fit the bill for my ideal recipe – around 30 minutes to make and just enough extra servings for a few lunchtime leftovers during the week.

One-Skillet Lasagna || A Less Processed Life

I've been watching my dairy intake (urgh, spring is coming!), so I went a little light with the cheese, but it would be even better smothered in even larger scoops of ricotta cheese. (When does cheese not make things even better?)

One-Skillet Lasagna || A Less Processed Life

And, at only 30 minutes, this recipe is completely compatible with weeknight cooking, and a hearty dinner will be on the table in no time.

One-Skillet Lasagna (printer-friendly version)
makes 4-6 servings 

28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1⁄8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound 90% lean ground beef (I used ground venison, you could also use half ground beef and half pork)
5 curly-edged lasagna noodles (not no-boil), broken into 2-inch lengths
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons part-skim ricotta cheese, divided
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

1. Add the whole peeled tomatoes and their juices to a food processor and process until no large pieces remain; about 12 pulses. Set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the minced onion and salt and saute until golden; 5-7 minutes. Stir in the pressed garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink, breaking it apart into small pieces with a spoon as it cooks, about 5 minutes.
3. Place the broken lasagna pieces over top the meat, making a single or double layer. Pour the processed tomatoes over top the noodles. Cover, and increase the heat to medium-high. Simmer vigorously for about 20 minutes, or until the pasta is tender.
4. Turn off the heat and stir in half of the shredded mozzarella cheese and half of the grated Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add heaping tablespoons of ricotta cheese over the noodles, then sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Cover and let stand until the cheese has melted, about 3 minutes. Scatter with minced fresh basil before serving.

(adapted from this America's Test Kitchen recipe)

One-Skillet Lasagna || A Less Processed Life


Friday, February 3, 2017

Friday Five: Game Day Food

Get ready for game day with these cheering-from-the-couch friendly recipes.

Rumor has it there's a big game on Sunday? Truth be told, my interest quickly waned when the Packers lost in the NFC Championship game; although I guess if I had to choose I'd root for the Falcons.

But, really? I'm just in it for the food. Here are a few recipe ideas to amp up your game-day feast.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What's Baking: Buttermilk Cornbread Muffins

Trying times call for comforting food, and these Buttermilk Cornbread Muffins fit the bill perfectly. 

Buttermilk Cornbread Muffins || A Less Processed Life

It typically takes me a little longer to get back into the blogging groove after the holidays, but this year it's been harder than usual.

Buttermilk Cornbread Muffins || A Less Processed Life

Let's just say that when you're worried about the potential end of democracy in your country, whether or not you should be stockpiling food, and the general loss of decency and civility in both politics and everyday life, writing a little post about something I cooked seems just a tad inconsequential.

Buttermilk Cornbread Muffins || A Less Processed Life

I spent the day after the inauguration at the Women's March On Chicago. It felt good to be part of such a large group of like-minded people. I nearly cried at the sight of so many people streaming in to gather together to fight the disastrous policies of this administration. Some signs were funny; others were poignant. I left the march feeling uplifted that we were not alone, and there are plenty of decent people left in this world who care about the future of this country.

And then Monday happened.
And Tuesday.
And fast forward to Friday.

It seriously frightens me to think where this country is headed and who is pulling all the strings. I prefer the America that is inclusive. That cares about the environment. That has empathy. That is open to immigrants and the diversity of experience they bring to this country. That supports the marriages of my gay and lesbian friends. That doesn't discriminate based on religion or ethnicity or gender identity or sexual orientation. That doesn't mock others. That gives a woman the right to control her own reproductive organs. That makes everyone's ability to exercise their right to vote easier, not harder. That worries over gun violence in this country. That wants to help people rather than hurt people. That upholds the separation between church and state. That doesn't value money over human life. That provides healthcare to those who need it. That values science. That values public education. That rewards people for the skills they have, not the people they know. That thinks for the future and not just the present. I want the America I grew up in and has provided me with so much.

Buttermilk Cornbread Muffins || A Less Processed Life

The long and short of it is, I'm worried. And I'm not sure what to do about it, other than resist and protest in whatever way I can, whether small or large. 

And in the meantime, I can't let myself drown in fear. And that's where I hope this blog can come in this year. I've always retreated to the kitchen when I need a break from the stresses of life. The meditation of baking is often my solace when I'm overcome with emotion or feeling stagnated. So, today, I return to the kitchen to bake. And roast. And mix. And stir. And find a way to have hope for the future.

Buttermilk Cornbread Muffins (printer-friendly version)
makes 12 muffins

1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners or spray each cup generously with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, add together the cornmeal and buttermilk. Let sit for 5 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, and sugar. 
4. Add the egg and olive oil to the bowl with the cornmeal and buttermilk. Stir to combine. 
5. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and stir until just combined. Gently stir in the frozen corn kernels. Distribute the batter evenly into the 12 prepped muffin cups. (Each cup should be about 3/4 full.)
6. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes in the tin. Serve warm or re-heat before serving.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What's For Dinner: Tomato Orzo Soup

In less than an hour, you can take this hearty Tomato Orzo Soup from the stovetop to your dinner table. Grilled cheese sandwiches optional. (But highly recommended.)

Tomato Orzo Soup || A Less Processed Life

It always seems to take me a couple of weeks to get back into my normal blogging schedule once the calendar rolls over to January. Perhaps it's burnout from all the baking and cooking that goes into celebrating back-to-back holidays in November and December. That or all the indulgent food I've likely ingested over the same time period. Or maybe it's the perfect-for-hibernation weather that typically hits at the beginning of the year. Whatever the case, I like to take my Januarys slow.

Tomato Orzo Soup || A Less Processed Life

But, I finally found some inspiration this past weekend and made a large pot of soup to enjoy for a few days during the week. This recipe comes from the inimitable Ina Garten, so of course it's a keeper. I made a few changes here and there, and in lieu of making grilled cheese croutons (which sound oh-so-good, and I'll have to make someday), we instead enjoyed our soup with a perfectly-melty grilled cheese sandwich on the side.

Tomato Orzo Soup || A Less Processed Life

While Ina seasons her soup with saffron, I went the slightly less expensive route and flavored my version with smoked paprika. Just a pinch will do, and it lends the soup a delicious smoky sweet flavor. And the addition of orzo gives is just the right amount of heartiness and bite. The soup is finished with heavy cream which helps to smooth out the flavor and texture and adds the perfect amount of decadence to what is otherwise a rather humble soup.

Tomato Orzo Soup (printer-friendly version)
makes 6-8 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 14-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 14-ounce can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
large pinch smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup orzo
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium low heat. Add the onions and saute until very soft and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add the minced garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
2. Stir in the vegetable stock, both cans of fire-roasted tomatoes, paprika, salt, and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Increase the heat to medium, add the orzo and cook at a low boil for seven minutes. Then reduce the heat back to low, stir in the heavy cream, and simmer for 10 minutes more, stirring frequently to prevent the orzo from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Serve immediately.

(adapted from this Barefoot Contessa recipe)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What's For Dinner: Slow Cooker Honey Soy Chicken

A few minutes of prep time and a couple of hours in the slow cooker is all it takes to make this delicious recipe for Honey Soy Chicken. 

Slow Cooker Honey Soy Chicken || A Less Processed LifeSlow Cooker Honey Soy Chicken

And then it was 2017. Oof! Question: Am I the only person in the world that didn't start a Whole 30 on January 2nd? Because by the looks of my instagram and blog feeds, I appear to be the only one.

I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to start the year off with a post about healthy salads or green juices, but I'm more of an ease-into-the-healthy-eating-in-the-new-year kind of girl. Even if I'm totally in the oy-I-ate-too-much-over-the-holidays camp. After a week spent out of town visiting family in Georgia and Michigan, I was definitely ready to hit up large plates of greens for several meals upon our return to Northern Wisconsin. (I may not have been as excited to trade Georgia's 65+ degree temperatures for our sub-freezing weather, though there's a chance I also may have complained about it being too hot the entire time we were down south.)

Slow Cooker Honey Soy Chicken || A Less Processed Life

That's not to say this recipe for slow cooker honey soy chicken is an unhealthy choice ... it's actually quite wholesome and delicious. And perfect for eating on a cold winter's night ... which appears to be in our forecast as I think I spied a high of -2 for this Thursday. Urgh.

Slow Cooker Honey Soy Chicken (printer-friendly version)
makes four servings

1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 green onion, thinly sliced for garnish
sesame seeds, for garnish
1 cup cooked rice, for serving

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the diced onion, minced garlic, honey, soy sauce, ketchup, toasted sesame oil, and red pepper flakes.
2. Pat the chicken thighs dry and place in the slow cooker. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Add the honey-soy mixture and gently stir to combine. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour and 30 minutes or cook on low for 3 hours and 30 minutes. After the chicken is cooked, remove from the slow cooker and shred. Add the water to the cornstarch and stir to make a slurry. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the slow cooker and stir to combine. Place the shredded chicken back into the slow cooker and cook on the low setting for 20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.
3. Serve over rice. Garnish the chicken with sesame seeds and sliced green onion.

(adapted from this Damn Delicious recipe)
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