Thursday, June 22, 2017

What's For Dinner: Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken Wings

Chicken wings aren't just bar food – you can easily make these Sweet and Sour Chicken Wings in your own kitchen, and in the slow cooker, no less. The resulting wings are tasty and fall-off-the-bone tender. 


Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken Wings || A Less Processed Life

Though chicken wings are perhaps the quintessential bar food (heck, there are several restaurants in which "wings" features prominently in their name!), I have never actually eaten them in a bar. Though my college town did have a BW3s (aka, B-dubs), I think the only time I ever went there was with a group of friends during my senior year, and by that time I was two years into what would become a decade-long stint as a vegetarian. Ergo, no hot and spicy wings for me.

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken Wings || A Less Processed Life

And even after I broke my vegetarian diet back around 2005, I rarely order meat at a restaurant, and bar wings are not particularly a draw for me. But I have made wings at home. Several years' back when we lived in Philly, I baked up some Buffalo wings for Dustin to enjoy during the Super Bowl.

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken Wings || A Less Processed Life

However, I spied a package of organic chicken wings at the grocery store yesterday, and seeing as it was the only thawed chicken available, I decided to go for it. Rather than just wing it (ha ha!), I searched the Internet for a few options and came across a couple of recipes for slow cooker chicken wings. I switched a few things around, including significantly decreasing the sugar content, and the resulting recipe is quite delicious. After two hours in the slow cooker, these chicken wings are incredibly tender. A couple of minutes under the broiler crisps up the skin and caramelizes the sauce. Serve alongside extra sauce (and plenty of napkins), and you've got a winner of a meal. 

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken Wings (printer-friendly version)
makes 2-4 servings

For the sauce:
1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Sriracha, or more to taste
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground aleppo pepper (or 1 teaspoon ground black pepper)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

2 pounds chicken wings

2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water

1. Lightly coat the bottom of a slow cooker with cooking spray. Add the chicken wings in a single layer.
2. In a bowl, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients. Pour the sauce over the chicken wings and spoon over the chicken to evenly coat both sides.
3. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4 hours.
4. After the cooking time is complete, mix together 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in 1/4 cup water. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on high for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.
5. Set the oven to broil. Carefully transfer the chicken wings to a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Broil for 2-3 minutes, or until the chicken begins to caramelize and lightly char.
6. Serve immediately with extra sauce on the side. And don't forget extra napkins!
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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What's For Dinner: Maple-Glazed Pork Chops

These Maple-Glazed Pork Chops are perfect for grilling out.


Maple-Glazed Pork Chops || A Less Processed Life

The return of summer also means a return to grilling. Of course, you can totally grill out any time of the year, but here in Northern Wisconsin it's not quite that fun to grill out when the temperature outside is subzero and there is a foot of snow on the ground. (Well, at least I am admittedly not hardy enough to withstand such temperatures; tailgating Green Bay Packers fans do so on a regular basis.)

Maple-Glazed Pork Chops || A Less Processed Life

Pork chops are a great option for grilling out. The key to delicious pork chops is a good marinade. And don't shortchange the marination period. I suggest marinating the meat for at least an hour, and up to overnight. If you like, prep extra marinade for brushing the meat while grilling; for food safety reasons, do not re-use the liquid the meat was marinating in.

Maple-Glazed Pork Chops || A Less Processed Life

These pork chops get a tasty sweet and savory flavor from a maple syrup-balsamic vinegar marinade. The marinade is super-simple, and as such, is open to as much embellishment as you'd like to add: fresh herbs or garlic would be a perfect place to start.

Maple-Glazed Pork Chops (printer-friendly version)
makes 4 servings

6 tablespoons maple syrup
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 bone-in pork chops (about 3/4-inch thick)

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.
2. Pour the marinade into a gallon-size plastic zippered bag. Add the pork chops, seal the bag closed, and gently turn to coat. Place the bag in the fridge and let the pork chops marinate for at least one hour, up to overnight.
3. Remove the pork chops from the bag and discard the marinade. Cook the pork chops on an oiled grill over medium heat for 13-17 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove the chops from the grill when they reach 145 degrees. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

(adapted from this Taste of Home recipe)

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What I'm Bringing to the Picnic: Browned Butter and Miso Crispy Rice Treats

Think crispy rice treats are boring? They don't have to be! These treats get a sophisticated makeover with the sweet and savory flavor combination of browned butter and miso.


Browned Butter and Miso Crispy Rice Treats || A Less Processed Life

We are well into June and summer is just a few short weeks away. And that means it's picnic season!

Browned Butter and Miso Crispy Rice Treats || A Less Processed Life

When it comes to picnics, my favorite meals to pack are simple ones. Give me a loaf of crusty bread (don't forget a knife!, although rusticly-torn bread also adds a little bit of charm), some cheese, and freshly sliced tomatoes, and I'm a happy girl indeed.

Browned Butter and Miso Crispy Rice Treats || A Less Processed Life


But if you know me at all, you know that I am a big fan of dessert. Nothing bums me out more than a special meal that doesn't end with some sort of sweet treat. (Perhaps I should schedule a sugar intervention? Hmmm ... Nah.)

Now, I don't expect (or even most times want) something elaborate. Heck, even just a delicious morsel of chocolate often does just fine. But for a picnic, finger-friendly bars are the way to go. These Browned Butter and Miso Crispy Rice treats definitely check all the boxes. They are sweet, of course, but also have a deepened flavor from the nuttiness of the browned butter and umami savoriness from the miso. While they might be a little fancier than the recipe straight from the cereal box, they are just as easy to make.

And let me tell you, they are deliciously addictive. You will be the star of the picnic or potluck if you bring these to the table.

Browned Butter and Miso Crispy Rice Treats (printer-friendly version)
makes twelve 2-inch squares

8 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white or yellow miso
1 10-ounce package mini marshmallows
6 cups crispy rice cereal

1. Coat an 8-inch square cake pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Continue cooking as the butter begins to foam, then turn clear and golden, and then light brown bits start to form on the bottom and the butter gives off a nutty aroma. (I like to gently swirl the pot by hand to help the butter brown evenly.)
3. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla and miso paste. The mixture will foam slightly on the addition of the liquids.
4. Then stir in the mini marshmallows and continue stirring until completely melted. If the mixture is not hot enough to melt the marshmallows, turn the heat on low and stir until the mixture is smooth.
5. Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the crispy rice cereal. Once evenly coated, quickly spread the mixture into the prepped cake pan, using a spatula to press it evenly into the pan. Let cool completely before cutting into bars with a sharp knife. Store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.
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Thursday, May 18, 2017

What's For Dinner: Ham, Broccoli, and Cheddar Frittata

This Ham, Broccoli, and Cheddar Frittata is a crowd-pleaser and perfect for sharing at a weekend brunch or summertime picnic. 



Our hens are laying eggs like whoa lately. As in more than a dozen a day. As in, I have a fridge full of eggs and plenty more waiting in queue on our countertop.


Basically, we need to eat a lot of eggs. Quiches and frittatas are an easy way to use up a bunch of eggs in one go, and make for easy-to-reheat leftovers. Plus, the flavor combinations are endless, which means we don't have to eat the same thing day in and day out. (Not that we eat quiche every day, but we probably do eat it at least once a week.)


This frittata recipe features diced cooked ham, broccoli, and cheddar cheese along with the aforementioned eggs. To make it slightly healthier, for about half of the eggs I just use egg whites. Our dogs get to snack on the extra yolks, or I'll pop them in the freezer for later use in a different recipe. (Custard, anyone?)

Ham, Broccoli, and Cheddar Frittata (printer-friendly version)
makes 4-6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 cup chopped cremini mushrooms
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup small diced cooked ham
5 whole eggs
4 egg whites
1/4 cup 1% milk
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
dash of red pepper flakes
pinch ground oregano
1/2 cup shredded aged white cheddar
Hungarian paprika

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9- or 10-inch pie dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Add the olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and mushrooms and saute until softened and the onion is golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Add the chopped broccoli and continue cooking until the broccoli turns bright green and is just tender, about 2-3 minutes more.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, and milk. Stir in the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and oregano. 
4. Spread the cooked vegetables onto the bottom of the prepped pie dish. Then carefully pour the egg mixture over the vegetable mixture. Spread the shredded cheddar cheese evenly over top. Sprinkle with Hungarian paprika.
5. Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the center of the frittata has just set. 
6. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

What's For Dinner: The Easiest (Seriously!) Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Chicken

Dinnertime doesn't get easier (or tastier) than this recipe for The Easiest Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Chicken. 


The Easiest (Seriously!) Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Chicken || A Less Processed Life

This slow cooker BBQ shredded chicken is one of our weekly go-to dinner recipes. It couldn't be simpler to make and takes less than 5 minutes to prep the ingredients for the slow cooker.

The Easiest (Seriously!) Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Chicken || A Less Processed Life

If I were feeling particularly ambitious, I could make the barbecue sauce from scratch (see the bottom of this post for a sample recipe), but on a weeknight, I'd much rather throw a couple of ingredients together and call it a day. So, obviously, choose your favorite barbecue sauce to use in this recipe, as it is a feature flavor, and you don't want to skimp here.

For a simple dinner, we'll serve the BBQ chicken over rice, but it can also just as easily be made into slider sandwiches served with coleslaw and a little extra slather of barbecue sauce. For best results, use a slow cooker with an automatic warm option after the cook time is up; too long in the slow cooker, even on the low setting, and you could end up with less-than-appetizing dried out chicken. And no one wants that for dinner.

Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Chicken (printer-friendly version)
makes 4-6 servings

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce (reserve a few tablespoons for serving)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
water
1 cup cooked rice, for serving

1. Pat the chicken thighs dry and place in the slow cooker. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Cover the chicken with barbecue sauce and gently stir to combine. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour and 30 minutes or cook on low for 3 hours.
2. After the chicken is cooked (it should reach a temperature of 165 degrees), remove from the slow cooker and shred with two forks. 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 alongside extra barbecue sauce, if desired.

The Easiest (Seriously!) Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Chicken || A Less Processed Life

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What's For Dinner: Asparagus, Ham, and Goat Cheese Frittata

This Asparagus, Ham, and Goat Cheese Frittata is a springtime favorite for the whole family.


Asparagus, Ham, and Goat Cheese Frittata || A Less Processed Life

As I mentioned last week, the downside of baking a whole bone-in ham is that, if you're not cooking it to feed a crowd, there's a good chance you're going to have leftovers for days. As in, many days. Many many days.

Asparagus, Ham, and Goat Cheese Frittata || A Less Processed Life

While of course repeating the ham dinner for a night or two is not a terrible thing, nor is ham sandwiches for lunch. But after awhile, you might run out of ideas. And let me just say, if you're in a super time crunch, there's nothing wrong with chopping some of the leftover ham into bite-size pieces and stirring it into a big ol' pot of macaroni and cheese. (I call that a Scout dinner, as it reminds me of a traditional Girl Scout camp meal of cut up hot dogs in mac & cheese. Very classy.)

Asparagus, Ham, and Goat Cheese Frittata || A Less Processed Life

However, one of the easiest (and tastiest) ways to use up leftover ham is in a frittata or quiche. This recipe for Asparagus, Ham, and Goat Cheese Frittata is no exception. It's like the epitome of springtime in one simple dish.

Asparagus, Ham, and Goat Cheese Frittata || A Less Processed Life

And while it may look like you sweated over the stove for hours to make it, it actually only takes less than 30 minutes to make it. That makes this meal a perfect option for any night of the week.

Asparagus, Ham, and Goat Cheese Frittata
makes 4-6 servings

4 large eggs
4 large egg whites
2 tablespoons 1% milk
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound asparagus, rinsed and ends removed, then chopped into 1" segments
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup diced cooked ham
2 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, milk, salt, and pepper. Set aside. Place a rack at the top setting in your oven and set the oven to broiler.
2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped asparagus and sliced scallions. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the cooked ham. Continue until warmed through, 2-3 minutes. Remove most of the asparagus tops and set aside.
3. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetable mixture and cook gently for 5 minutes until the edges are set, but the center is still loose. Place the asparagus tops onto the top of the frittata in whatever pattern you choose.
4. Place the frittata in the oven and broil until the eggs are just set (watch it closely!), 1-3 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.



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Thursday, April 13, 2017

What's On the Side: Potatoes Au Gratin

You can't go wrong with the cheesy goodness of Potatoes Au Gratin hot from the oven. 


Potatoes Au Gratin || A Less Processed Life

If you're going to serve ham for Easter dinner, you're going to need to also serve something delicious on the side. This recipe for potatoes au gratin definitely fits the bill.

Potatoes Au Gratin || A Less Processed Life

I'm a huge fan of potatoes any day of the week, but slather them in a decadent cheese sauce, and I am all in.

Potatoes Au Gratin || A Less Processed Life

This au gratin dish is made with Swiss and Parmesan cheeses, but feel free to play around with what you have on hand. I think a sharp cheddar or a gruyere would also make for a tasty dish. You can make it even more decadent by subbing in whole milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream for the 1% milk I used. Once put together, bake it in the oven until the sauce is bubbling away and the tops of the potatoes are lightly browned. And then just try to resist the urge to dig right in ... but you wouldn't be the first person to burn their tongue with a too-early taste. :)

Potatoes Au Gratin
makes 6-8 servings

6 cups peeled, sliced russet potatoes (1/4-inch slices)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups 1% milk
1 1/4 cups shredded Swiss cheese, divided
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
paprika

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch deep pie dish with butter or cooking spray and set aside.
2. Cook the sliced potatoes in boiling water for 5-7 minutes or until tender, then drain.
3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour until absorbed. Whisk in the milk. Continue cooking (and whisking) until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove the the heat and stir in 3/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, salt, pepper, and garlic.
4. Arrange half of the potatoes in overlapping layers in the pie dish. Pour half of the sauce over the potatoes. Repeat with the remaining potatoes and sauce. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 cup Swiss cheese and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with paprika.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until browned on top. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

(adapted from a recipe in 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles)
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