Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What's For Breakfast: Almond-Vanilla Granola

Almond-Vanilla Granola || A Less Processed Life

Another day, another granola recipe. But, I really do eat granola just about every day (I'm looking at you, lunchtime bowl of Greek yogurt, fruit, and granola), and I get bored with the same flavors. "Necessity is the mother of invention" and all that jazz. :)

This granola recipe doesn't fall all that far from my favorite chai-inspired flavor profile. However, I've amped up the almond flavor with the addition of both chopped whole almonds and a bit of almond extract. Full disclosure: If you're looking for a super-clumpy granola, this isn't the one. (Although you could always add in a frothy egg white to increase the clump-factor.) But, if you're looking for a super-tasty granola to add a little crunch to your yogurt or smoothie bowl, I highly recommend giving this recipe a whirl.

Almond-Vanilla Granola (printer-friendly version)
makes about 4 cups

3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup whole almonds, chopped
1/2 cup coconut chips (or flakes)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon Maldon flaky sea salt
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, chopped almonds, coconut chips, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and almond extract.
4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Spread the granola onto the prepped baking sheet in an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and dry to the touch. Stir about halfway through the baking period.
5. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Monday, July 27, 2015

What's Baking: Not Your Grandmother's Zucchini Bread

'Tis the season when zucchinis are growing like bonkers in the garden and, if you aren't growing your own, huge mounds of them can be found in the produce aisle.

One of my favorite ways to use zucchini is to bake zucchini bread. The recipe I've used for a long time came from a friend's grandmother, and the resulting loaf of bread is absolutely delicious. But ... truth be told, given that the recipe contains a cup of oil and just as much, if not more, sugar, the  "bread" is not exactly the healthiest snack and probably should be reclassified as a cake and put on the dessert table.

Though this bread gets some sweetness from brown sugar, the rest of the sweetener typically found in a zucchini bread recipe is replaced with maple syrup and mashed super-ripe banana. Rather than a cup of vegetable oil, this recipe gets its moistness from Greek yogurt and a relatively small amount of coconut oil.

While the ingredients might be different, this zucchini bread is just as moist and sweet (without being cloyingly so) as the original. Looks like I might go for a second slice when it comes time for today's second breakfast...

Not Your Grandmother's Zucchini Bread (printer-friendly version)
makes one 8" loaf

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used non-fat)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons mashed (very ripe) banana
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup grated zucchini

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly coat an 8-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, vanilla, egg, coconut oil, and maple syrup. Stir in the mashed banana and brown sugar.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Do not overstir.
5. Wrap the grated zucchini in a towel and squeeze to wring out as much moisture as you can. Then carefully unwrap the towel and add the zucchini to the batter and stir to combine.
6. Spoon the batter into the prepped loaf pan. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the bread from the pan and let cool completely.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What's For Dessert: Coconut-Lime Paletas

Paletas are Mexican ice-pops that are typically flavored with fresh fruit or fresh fruit juice. The name paleta comes from the Spanish word palo, which means stick, and the diminutive ending -eta, or "little stick," a reference to the wooden stick that are frozen within these icy treats.

The recipe for these coconut-lime paletas popped into my email inbox a couple of months ago, and I immediately bookmarked the recipe to make once summer arrived for real here in the Northwoods.

Well, summer officially arrived a couple of weeks ago and so too have toasty temperatures. (Okay, well, "hot" is a relative term, of course. But when you're used to temps in the low 70s, anything over the mid-80s is a little too warm for my taste.) But, the upside of hot weather is icy cool treats. These refreshing coconut-lime paletas definitely hit the spot after a long day working (or playing) in the sun.

Coconut-Lime Paletas (printer-friendly version)
makes 10-12 ice pops

2 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk ("lite" is okay)
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 large limes)
1 heaping teaspoon lime zest (from 1 lime)

1. Add the coconut milk, sugar, lime juice, and lime zest to a blender. Puree until well-blended. Pour the coconut-lime mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup.
2. Carefully pour the mixture into ice-pop molds; it should fill at least 10, depending on the size of your molds. If you have any leftover coconut-lime mixture, it makes a refreshing beverage.
3. Freeze until set, at least 2 hours. Run warm water over the molds to help the ice pops to release when ready to serve.

(from this Rick Bayless recipe)

Monday, July 13, 2015

What I'm Drinking: Homemade Limeade

Homemade Limeade || A Less Processed Life

I bought way too many limes over the weekend. Turns out, rather than the 15 I bought (yay 3 for $1), I only needed two for another recipe I'll be sharing later this week. So, what do you do when life gives you limes? You make limeade. I'm pretty sure that's how the saying goes, right? :)

Homemade Limeade || A Less Processed Life

I tend to not go too sweet with my drinks, so I only added a half cup of sugar to my limeade. Limes are sweeter than lemons, so you can definitely go a little lighter with the sweetener, but make sure you taste it before serving to make sure it's sweet enough for you. If you're planning to serve immediately to a large group, I would add some lime slices to the serving container itself, or you can add thin slices of lime to each glass just before serving.

Homemade Limeade
makes about 8 cups

1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
6 cups water, divided
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1. Add the lime juice and 5 cups of water to a large serving bottle or pitcher.
2. To make the simple syrup, combine the remaining cup of water, sugar, and lime zest in a small sauce pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and pour into a heat-safe container. Set the simple syrup in the refrigerator to cool for at least 30 minutes.
3. After the simple syrup has cooled, pour into the container with the lime juice and water. Stir to combine. Add additional sugar if you prefer a sweeter drink.
4. Serve over ice with thin slices of lime.

Friday, July 10, 2015

What I'm Drinking: Raspberry-Lemon Bourbon Smash

Is it just me, or are work weeks after a three-day weekend just, like, the longest ever? Long story short, I'm so glad that it is Friday. This week, I'm making a toast to the weekend with a raspberry-lemon bourbon smash.

Like last week's strawberry bourbon smash, this cocktail gets a boost of flavor by muddling fresh berries with mint. Simple syrup gives the cocktail some additional sweetness while a touch of lemon juice gives it just a tiny bit of sour flavor. Garnish with fresh raspberries and a sprig of mint and you've got a lovely cocktail to celebrate the beginning of another wonderful summer weekend.

Raspberry-Lemon Bourbon Smash
makes one cocktail

2 tablespoons fresh raspberries
4 fresh mint leaves
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces bourbon
ice cubes

To garnish:
3 raspberries
mint sprig

1. Muddle the raspberries and mint leaves with the lemon juice and simple syrup in the bottom of a bar glass or cocktail shaker. Add the bourbon and shake with ice.
2. Strain into an old fashioned glass filled with ice cubes.
3. Garnish with raspberries and mint sprig.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

What's For Dinner: Ramen Noodle Soup with Crispy Tofu

This ramen noodle soup with crispy tofu is a quick and super-satisfying meal.

"I would order this in a restaurant." If that isn't a rave review, I don't know what is. Those were D's exact words upon finishing his bowl of ramen noodle soup with crispy tofu. I've been meaning to make ramen noodles for a long time now, but I just haven't gotten around to it. You know, it being so difficult to pick up a package of ramen noodles at the store, and all. Okay, yeah, really, that's not difficult at all.

But I digress ... I've been intrigued with ramen noodles since they became a darling in foodie circles in recent years. Of course, while always popular in Japan, it seems like ramen noodle shops are popping up everywhere these days. Now, these bowls of ramen noodle soup aren't made from those 3 for $1 ramen noodle packages that contain a questionable "flavor" packet. Instead, these ramen noodle bowls feature top-quality ingredients, and, if you can find them, fresh ramen noodles.

The ramen noodle soup I'm featuring today is flavored with miso paste and soy sauce. While this soup is vegetarian, it gets plenty of umami (savory) flavor from the generous addition of thinly sliced mushrooms. Crispy tofu covered in hoisin sauce adds just a touch of spiciness.

While I have yet to source fresh ramen noodles up here in the Northwoods, I did upgrade my ramen noodle soup bowl just a tad by using noodles made from forbidden rice, which gives the noodles their dark purple-black color. If you can't find fresh ramen noodles, a traditional dried noodle brick would do in a pinch, just be sure to toss away that little flavor packet before dropping the noodles into your boiling soup.

Ramen Noodle Soup (printer-friendly version)
makes two hearty servings

1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup chopped garlic scapes
3 scallions (green onions), chopped (white and green parts, separated)
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth1 tablespoon white miso paste
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
4 ounces (about 3 loosely-packed cups) thinly sliced baby bella mushrooms
olive oil spray
1 14 oz. package extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into small cube
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 packages (2 bricks) ramen noodles (I used a variety made with forbidden rice)
2 cups spinach leaves

1. Heat the toasted sesame oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the garlic scapes and green onions and saute until softened, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the vegetable broth, miso paste, and soy sauce and whisk to combine. Stir in the sliced mushrooms. 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. During the last minute of cooking, stir in the spinach leaves.
5. Spoon the soup into individual serving bowls. Add the tofu and garnish with the remaining scallion greens.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Made From Scratch: Marshmallows

We have a big group of friends coming to visit next weekend, and inevitably, at some point, there will be a bonfire and s'mores will be made. I thought I'd up our s'mores game this year by making a batch of marshmallows from scratch.

For some reason, I thought making marshmallows would be a long, drawn-out process, but honestly, it really couldn't be easier. I used Alton Brown's recipe, which was super-simple to follow.

I took the classic vanilla route with this batch of marshmallows, but the flavor options are really endless. For my next batch, I'm thinking of adding a little bourbon or amaretto to the mix. Or maybe a dusting of cocoa powder? Yeah, I think our s'mores are going to be out of this world.

Homemade Marshmallows (printer-friendly version)

makes about 4 dozen large marshmallows

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch

1. Add the gelatin to the bowl of an electric mixer along with 1/2 cup of ice cold water.
2. In a small saucepan, add together the remaining 1/2 cup of ice cold water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Turn the heat to medium high, cover, and let cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove the lid and clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue cooking until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, 8-15 minutes. Once the mixture reaches 240 degrees, remove immediately from the heat.
3. With the whisk attached, turn the mixer on low speed, and while running, slowly (and carefully!) pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl. Once all of the syrup has been added, increase the speed to high and whip until very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping.
4. While the mixture is whipping, prepare the pan: spray a 9" x 13" metal baking pan with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, sift together the powdered sugar and cornstarch. Sift some of the powdered sugar mixture onto the bottom of the pan, then carefully shake to evenly coat the bottom and sides of the pan. 
5. Once the marshmallow mixture is ready, pour it into the prepared pan, using a spatula to spread the mixture evenly into the pan. Dust the top of the marshmallows with the sugar-cornstarch mixture to lightly cover, reserved the rest for later. Let the marshmallows sit uncovered for at least 4 hours or overnight. 
6. After the marshmallows have set, use an offset spatula to carefully loosen the edges of the marshmallow around the pan. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board. Cut the marshmallows into 1-2" squares using a sharp knife or pizza cutter lightly coated in the powdered sugar mixture. Dust all sides of the marshmallows with the powdered sugar mixture to prevent them from sticking together. Marshmallows can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

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