Thursday, September 29, 2016

What's For Dinner: Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Chicken Sliders

Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Chicken Sliders are a delicious way to end the day. 

Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Chicken Sliders || A Less Processed Life

While I have used a manual slow cooker for eons, this past Christmas Dustin gifted me with a programmable one. And while I still use my manual one a lot, a programmable slow cooker is super-handy to have when you aren't around during the day, especially when a recipe calls for a shorter cooking time period. With a programmable slow cooker, you can preset the cook time and then it automatically switches to warm mode once the cook time is complete. Brilliant!

Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Chicken Sliders || A Less Processed Life

This past weekend I had both my slow cookers going; one held a batch of applesauce from some apples we picked at an orchard, and the other held a batch of this delicious recipe for BBQ shredded chicken sliders. Served on top of a bed of coleslaw and served with a side of roasted fingerling potatoes, these little sandwiches really hit the spot.

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

1-2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup barbecue sauce, plus more for serving if desired
1 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the smoked paprika, salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Stir in the barbecue sauce and let simmer for 2 minutes.
2. Add the chicken to the bowl of your slow cooker. Carefully pour the onion mixture over the chicken. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 5-7 hours. Once the cook time is up, remove the chicken from the slow cooker and use two forks to shred the chicken into bite-size pieces. If you prefer a thicker sauce, pour the sauce into a saucepan and reduce over high heat. Pour the sauce over the shredded chicken and stir.
3. Serve the chicken with buns, coleslaw, and extra barbecue sauce.

Slow Cooker BBQ Shredded Chicken Sliders || A Less Processed Life

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Monday, September 26, 2016

What's On the Side: Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Roasted fingerling potatoes are a simple and versatile side dish that make a healthy alternative to french fries.


Roasted Fingerling Potatoes || A Less Processed Life

I am a total sucker for colorful produce. Little fingerling potatoes that are purple, gold, and red? I'll take two bags, please.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes || A Less Processed Life

The other day we had BBQ chicken sliders for dinner (recipe to come later this week), and I really wanted to serve fries on the side. Alas, french fries aren't exactly the healthiest of side dishes, so I brought out a bag of fingerling potatoes and opted for a more-healthy roasted potato dish instead.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes || A Less Processed Life

It really couldn't be simpler to roast fingerling potatoes. I usually cut them in half lengthwise, put them all in a bowl, drizzle with a few teaspoons to a tablespoon of olive oil and toss to coat. Then I spread the potatoes into a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet (cut-side up first), and season generously with salt and pepper. You could also add a sprinkle or two of your favorite dried herbs at this point, too. Then roast for 10 minutes, flip the potatoes over, and roast for another 10-15 minutes. I then place the potatoes in a serving dish and pop them in my oven's warming drawer so that they stay nice and warm until the rest of dinner is ready. Easy peasy!

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes (printer-friendly version)
makes 4-6 servings

1-2 pounds fingerling potatoes, rinsed and halved
olive oil
freshly cracked black pepper
sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Add the halved potatoes to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat evenly. Spread the potatoes into an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Season generously with salt and pepper.
3. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Then remove from the oven and carefully flip each of the potatoes over. Return to the oven and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until tender and golden-brown.
4. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes || A Less Processed Life

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Made From Scratch: Pico de Gallo

Don't let the season end without making a batch of fresh pico de gallo from summer's last harvest. 


Pico de Gallo || A Less Processed Life

The official arrival of autumn is just two days away, and while I am a major fan of the fall season, I do shed a tear at the loss of all of summer's wonderful fresh and local produce. I'm looking at you in particular, delicious ripe tomatoes.

Pico de Gallo || A Less Processed Life

Before the season comes to an end, I am celebrating all things fresh and tasty with a batch of pico de gallo. Also known as salsa fresco, pico de gallo is a type of fresh, uncooked salsa. It invariably contains chopped tomatoes and onions, cilantro, fresh chiles, lime juice, and salt. It typically has a chunkier and drier consistency than other types of salsa.

This pico de gallo pairs nicely with tortilla chips as an appetizer or as a condiment with tacos. It is fairly mild in flavor, though you can play with the spice level by adding in more chopped jalapeño or subbing in hotter peppers.

Pico de Gallo (printer-friendly version)
makes about 3 cups

5 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 small red onion, chopped fine
1 jalapeño, deribbed and deseeded
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
pinch sea salt

1. Place the chopped red onion in a bowl of cold water and let soak for at least five minutes. Doing so will help remove the "bite" from the onion flavor.
2. In a serving bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes, red onion, jalapeño, and cilantro. Add the lime juice and salt and toss to combine. Season with additional salt if necessary.
3. The pico de gallo can be kept in the fridge in an airtight container for up to three days.


Pico de Gallo || A Less Processed Life


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Thursday, September 15, 2016

What's For Dinner: Slow Cooker Barbecue Pork Ribs

These no-muss, no-fuss Slow Cooker Barbecue Pork Ribs are full of flavor and get a delicious just-grilled-like flavor with a short stay under the broiler before serving.


Slow Cooker Barbecue Pork Ribs || A Less Processed Life

When I was growing up, I never imagined that I would find myself someday living on a farm and raising a whole bunch of chickens and hogs.

Slow Cooker Barbecue Pork Ribs || A Less Processed Life

But here I am, a regular ol' pig farmer. And truth be told, as much as it messes with my summer vacation (or lack thereof) I kind of love it. We are about as small-scale as you can get, as we raise just four pigs a year (up from three last year), but we like to keep things small and manageable. Our hogs are Tamworths, a heritage breed, and are meant to live outdoors, forage, and do all the things pigs naturally like to do. (Like wallow in big ol' mud puddles when they get the chance.) We supplement their diet with organic feed purchased from a Wisconsin feed supply company. To paraphrase the famous agrarian Joel Salatin, our pigs "live a very good life, and then have one bad day."

Slow Cooker Barbecue Pork Ribs || A Less Processed Life

We sell our pork as half-shares and keep one share for ourselves. We're almost through our half-share from last year, and this past week we enjoyed pork ribs for dinner. I made them in the slow cooker and then finished them under the broiler to get a bit of a caramelized grilled flavor in them. Long story short, they were delicious. And they made me appreciate all the hard work that goes into raising our pigs and giving them a good life on our farm.

Slow Cooker Barbecue Pork Ribs (printer-friendly version)
makes 4 servings

4 half-racks of pork spareribs
1 tablespoon all-purpose spice rub
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups Maple-Bourbon Barbecue Sauce (or a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce)

1. Remove the ribs from their packaging and blot dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle each rack with the spice rub and massage in. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
2. Generously brush barbecue sauce onto the ribs and set into the slow cooker. Make sure to evenly coat both sides of each rack of ribs.
3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Once they are cooked through and tender, carefully remove from the slow cooker and lay in a single layer on a baking sheet line with aluminum foil. Brush more barbecue sauce onto the top of each rack of ribs.
4. Set the oven to broil and broil the ribs under the broiler until the sauce begins to bubble and caramelize. Serve immediately.


Slow Cooker Barbecue Pork Ribs || A Less Processed Life
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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Made From Scratch: Maple-Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

This versatile sweet-and-tangy flavored Maple-Bourbon Barbecue Sauce will knock your socks off. 

Maple-Bourbon Barbecue Sauce || A Less Processed LIfe

You can't have barbecue without barbecue sauce. It's just that simple. While more often than not I tend to purchase my favorite barbecue sauce from the store, when I have the time, I like to make my own batch from scratch. Don't be scared off by the laundry list of ingredients – they are all there for a reason, and honestly, you probably have everything you need in your pantry already.

Maple-Bourbon Barbecue Sauce || A Less Processed LIfe

Making your own barbecue sauce gives you way more control over the ingredients and the flavor profile. I tend to like a sweet and vinegary sauce, and this Maple-Bourbon Barbecue Sauce hits my tastebuds just right. You can play with the heat by adding in more crushed red pepper or a dash (or more) of hot sauce to make it a bit spicier.

Maple-Bourbon Barbecue Sauce (printer-friendly version)
makes about 3 cups

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
fine sea salt
1/4 cup bourbon (I used Maker's Mark)
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup water
1 cup Simply Heinz ketchup
1/4 cup organic molasses
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add in the chopped onion and garlic along with a pinch of salt. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
2. Pour in the whiskey, and simmer for two minutes.
3. Add in the chili pepper, black pepper, allspice, and cloves. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the spices become fragrant.
4. Stir in the maple syrup, water, ketchup, molasses, mustard, cider vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Reduce the heat to low/medium-low and simmer for about 30 - 45 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.
5. After the sauce has thickened, use an immersion blender to puree the sauce. (Alternately, use a blender, but allow the sauce to cool a bit first before pureeing.)
6. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to two weeks.

Maple-Bourbon Barbecue Sauce || A Less Processed LIfe

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

What's For Dessert: Peach Crisp

You will savor the sweet flavor of summertime peaches in this easy to make (and gluten-free!) Peach Crisp.


Peach Crisp || A Less Processed Life

Ok, so yes, I am totally pining for the arrival of autumn. But when it finally arrives, I will definitely lament the loss of all that fresh summertime produce.

Peach Crisp || A Less Processed Life

Stone fruit is having its heyday in the market right now, and you can't let the summer season end without eating a juicy peach at the height of its ripeness – just make sure you have a napkin or two in close range.

Peach Crisp || A Less Processed Life

This peach crisp is the perfect recipe to make when you need a dessert to feed a small crowd but don't have the desire to commit to making a full pie. (Ha, that's me most of the time...)

Peach Crisp || A Less Processed Life

The crisp topping is gluten-free (although you can use all-purpose flour in place of the almond meal if gluten isn't an issue for you), and it's just lightly spiced with cinnamon and ginger. The subtleness of all the other flavors really let the peaches shine in this dessert.

Peach Crisp (printer-friendly version)
makes 6-8 servings

For the topping:
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons almond meal
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch fine sea salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into small cubes

For the filling:
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch fine sea salt
2 pounds ripe peaches (about 4 medium peaches), halved, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together the brown sugar, oats, almond meal, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Add in the cubed butter and use a pastry blender or your fingers to fully incorporate the butter, forming pea-sized to bean-sized clumps. Place the bowl with the topping in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the brown sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, vanilla, and salt. Add in the peach slices and stir to fully coat the peaches with the sugar mixture.
4. Place the peaches in an 8 x 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking dish. (You can do it haphazardly or place in a concentric circle pattern.)
5. Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the peaches.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and topping is crisp. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

(adapted from this Chowhound recipe)


Peach Crisp || A Less Processed Life

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Made From Scratch: Spiced Pear-Applesauce

Welcome in the crisp days of autumn with this delicious and easy to make Spiced Pear-Applesauce.


Spiced Pear-Applesauce || A Less Processed Life

Labor Day signals the unofficial end of Summer, and I for one, am totally ready for crisp autumn weather. Truth be told, my preferred temperature range is somewhere between 57 and 64 degrees – something I like to call boots-n-sweater weather – and when that one week arrives, I am a happy girl indeed.

Spiced Pear-Applesauce || A Less Processed Life

The arrival of Fall also means the arrival of apple-picking season. Our favorite local orchard is Helene's Hilltop Orchard in Merrill, where, if I'm honest, although the pumpkin and apple picking is top-notch, the main draw is their freshly-baked apple cider donuts. And we never leave without at least a half-gallon of apple cider.

Spiced Pear-Applesauce || A Less Processed Life

Although we haven't yet done any apple-picking this season, I couldn't help but pick up a few apples (along with a couple of pears) at the market to make a quick batch of spiced pear-applesauce this past weekend. The pears break down almost completely in this sauce, while the apples retain their shape. I prefer a more rustic sauce, but if you like yours with a smooth consistency, use a blender or food processor to puree the sauce to your desired texture.

This pear-applesauce gets an additional dose of flavor with Chai spices including ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and allspice. Feel free to play around with the ratio of spices to match your tastebuds. If you don't have all of these spices on hand, at the very least I'd recommend adding cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

Spiced Pear-Applesauce (printer-friendly version)
makes about 4 cups

2 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and quartered
4 ginger gold apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Add the quartered pears and apples to the bowl of a slow cooker. (I used my small 2-quart bowl.)
2. Stir in the lemon juice, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, allspice, and vanilla.
3. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours. If you prefer a chunkier sauce, it should be good to go. If you prefer a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender or puree in batches using a regular blender until the sauce reaches your preferred consistency.
4. Spoon the sauce into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week.


Spiced Pear-Applesauce || A Less Processed Life

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