Monday, July 21, 2014

What's Baking: Blueberry-Lemon Scones

I am a total sucker for a fresh-baked pastry chosen straight from the bakery case. The one thing (okay, one of the things) our small Northwoods town is missing is a bakery. There's nowhere in town that I know of where I can pick up a truly-delicious fresh-baked donut. (The donuts for sale at our local chain grocery store leave a lot to be desired.) A Dunkin' Donuts is opening in town soon, but, truth be told, I'm much more of a fan of small ma-and-pa type donut shops. 

Long story short, if I want a fresh-baked treat in the morning, my best option is to just bake it myself. Hence I recently baked up a batch of these delicious blueberry-lemon scones. While scones are typically a rich, buttery treat, I wanted to make a more healthful option (since I knew most of them would be consumed by me...) so I found a recipe that subbed in Greek yogurt for some of the butter. While these scones may be a little healthier than others, they are just as flavorful as their bakery-made brethren. 

Blueberry-Lemon Scones
makes 8 scones

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons raw cane sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup plain low- or non-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup organic buttermilk
zest of one lemon
1 cup fresh blueberries (frozen also work)
1 tablespoon organic heavy cream
1-2 teaspoons turbinado sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
3. Use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter cubes into the flour mixture.
4. Add the yogurt and buttermilk to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Gently stir in the lemon zest and blueberries.
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured work surface. Gently pat the dough into a circle about 1" thick. Use a sharp knife or pizza roller to cut the round into 8 slices. Place the slices onto the prepped baking sheet. (Carefully use the knife to lift the slices from the work surface, if you find they are sticking.)
6. Brush the top of each scone with heavy cream and then sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to let cool completely.

(adapted from this Cookie+Kate recipe)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What's For Dinner: Savory Mushroom Casserole

A savory casserole is probably best-suited for dinner on a chilly autumn or winter evening. However, seeing as our highs of late up here in Northern Wisconsin have been in the mid-50s and low-60s, there has definitely been a feeling of fall in the air. (Though I'm sure we'll be back to warmer temperatures soon enough -- summer isn't over yet!) So I felt perfectly justified in spending a recent evening cooking up this savory and satisfying mushroom casserole.

Savory Mushroom Casserole
makes 8 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces brown mushrooms, cleaned and chopped (tops and stalks)
pinch of fine sea salt
1 large white onion, well chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cups cooked brown rice, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (nonfat, 2%, or whole)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish, if desired)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8x8 square baking dish with butter, olive oil, or cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Add the olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and salt and cook until most of the liquid has released and the mushrooms have softened and browned, 5-8 minutes. Add in the chopped onion and cook until golden brown, an additional 5-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute until fragrant, about one minute. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cooked brown rice.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and salt.
4. In a large bowl, stir together the egg mixture and the rice mixture until well combined. Spoon the casserole mixture into the prepped baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling and brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and top with the chopped thyme and additional Parmesan if desired.

(adapted from this 101 Cookbooks recipe)

Monday, July 14, 2014

What's For Dinner: Chicken Gyro Salad

Now that we've made tzatziki sauce, let's use it in a chicken gyro salad, shall we? I'm not sure where I first came across the recipe for chicken gyro salad, which originated on goop, Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle website, but it's definitely a winner. I made several changes (as I am wont to do) from the original recipe, which included switching up some of the spices used in the chicken marinade, cooking the chicken in the oven rather than on the stovetop, and making a tzatziki sauce that melded together two different recipes. The resulting salad is filling, fresh, and full of delicious Mediterranean flavor.

Chicken Gyro Salad
makes 4 servings

For the tzatziki dressing:
1 small cucumber, seeded and grated
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground pepper

For the chicken:
1 1/2 pounds organic boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground sumac [optional]
dash smoked paprika
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
4 large garlic cloves, crushed

For the salad:
4 cups spring green mix
1/2 large red onion, chopped
2 medium ripe red tomatoes, chopped
1 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 pitas, quartered

1. Make the tzatziki dressing: Place the grated cucumber in a colander and toss with the sea salt. Set the colander over a bowl and place in the refrigerator to let the excess water drain from the cucumber (at least one hour).
2. Carefully press any excess water out of the cucumber with the back of a spoon.
3. Place the cucumber into a serving bowl. Stir in the grated garlic, Greek yogurt, and lemon juice. Stir in the olive oil. Then stir in the chopped parsley. Season to taste with black pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.
4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
5. Place the chicken thighs in an 8x8-inch baking dish. Add the lemon juice, dried oregano, ground sumac, paprika, and olive oil. Gently rub the chicken with your clean hands. (And then wash your hands thoroughly!) Top with the crushed garlic cloves, and then season generously with salt and pepper. Cover and marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
6. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.
4. Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.
5. After the chicken has cooled, chop into large chunks.
6. Place one (or more) cups of spring greens onto each plate. Add the chopped onion, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Then top with the roasted chicken and drizzle with the tzatziki dressing. Garnish with pita wedges.

(adapted from this goop recipe)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What's On the Side: Tzatziki Sauce

Friends of ours were heading out of town last week, so they gifted us with some of the bounty from their CSA share. Among the vegetables we received were a couple of cucumbers, and my first thought was to put them to use in a tzatziki sauce. Tzatziki is a cold sauce made from thickened yogurt mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, lemon juice, and fresh herbs. It is common to Greek, Bulgarian, Turkish, Armenian, and Middle Eastern cuisine and is often served as a dipping sauce or as an accompaniment to grilled meats.

I used fresh parsley from my herb garden in this recipe; other commonly used herbs include dill, mint, or thyme.

Tzatziki Sauce
makes about 2 cups

1 small cucumber, seeded and grated
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large clove garlic, grated
2 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

1. Place the grated cucumber in a colander and toss with the sea salt. Set the colander over a bowl and place in the refrigerator to let the excess water drain from the cucumber (at least one hour).
2. Carefully press any excess water out of the cucumber with the back of a spoon.
3. Place the cucumber into a serving bowl. Stir in the grated garlic, Greek yogurt, and lemon juice. Stir in the olive oil. Then stir in the chopped parsley. Season to taste with black pepper.

(adapted from this Ina Garten and this goop recipe)

Friday, July 4, 2014

What's For Dessert: Lazy Girl Patriotic Crispy Rice Treats

This recipe is exactly why this blog is called "a less processed life" and not "an unprocessed life." Sometimes you just gotta go with the processed ingredients to make a quick treat to share with friends. Of course, I could have chosen to make my own marshmallows from scratch, but let's face it, it's just a lot easier to buy the pre-packaged products when you're crunched for time. 

And really ... these crispy rice treats are seriously yummy. D and I shared them with friends last night, and we nearly demolished the entire pan ... I saved just enough for photography (and, uh, afternoon snacking) purposes today.

And of course, to help celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, I opted to take them up a (tiny) notch with the addition of red, white, and blue sprinkles. (You'll notice I also added in some leftover red and white hearts from a Valentine's set of sprinkles, as my mixture seemed to be heavy on the color blue.) With the addition of sprinkles, you could customize these treats for any holiday -- brown and orange for Halloween, red and green for Christmas, pink, white, and red for Valentine's Day, multicolored confetti for birthday celebrations ... you get the picture.

And the best part? These crispy rice treats come together in mere minutes. Meaning, if, say, you've forgotten that you promised to bring something to the July 4th picnic, you can whip these together in no-time flat. You're welcome in advance. :)

Lazy Girl Patriotic Crispy Rice Treats
makes about 32 squares

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 package (10 ounces) miniature marshmallows
6 cups crispy rice cereal
2 tablespoons red, white, and blue sprinkles (plus additional for sprinkling on top)

1. Melt the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl (30-45 seconds).
2. Add the marshmallows to the bowl and toss to coat in the butter. Microwave for 45 seconds, then stir. Microwave for an additional 30-45 minutes, or until melted. Stir until the mixture is smooth.
3. Stir in the crispy rice cereal and sprinkles.
4. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray (or grease with butter). Press the marshmallow-rice mixture into the dish, forming an even layer. Top with a few more sprinkles, and then lightly press to help them adhere. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.

(lightly adapted from this Kraft recipe)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What's For Dinner: Cilantro Noodles with Broccoli and Tofu

Cilantro is definitely a "love it" or "hate it" kind of flavor. I stand firmly in the "love it" category. But, while I think it tastes delicious, those who align themselves on the "hate it" side of things often think it tastes like soap. Recent research indicates that your genetics has a lot to do with your predisposition to love or hate cilantro. (In fact, I wrote an article about this research for my day job.)

All that to say, if you don't like cilantro, this recipe is not for you. But if you do like cilantro, oh man, is this noodle dish delicious. I love the cilantro dressing so much, I would totally whip up a separate serving just to drizzle all over salads, freshly sliced bread ... you get the idea.

Cilantro Noodles with Broccoli and Tofu
makes 4-6 servings

8 ounces dried soba noodles
2 - 3 cups broccoli florets
zest of one lemon
2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 package extra-firm tofu

1. Drain the tofu and cut it into 1" cubes. Place the cubes on a towel and cover them with the towel's free ends. Place a heavy book or weight on top of the cubes to press the excess moisture out of the tofu. (Press the tofu for at least 20 minutes.)
2. Spray or wipe a large saute pan with a light coating of olive oil. Heat over medium-high heat. Add about half the tofu cubes. Brown on each side (about 1-2 minutes per side). Repeat with the remaining cubes. Remove from the heat. Place the cooked tofu cubes in an oven-safe dish in a warming drawer or in an oven set to 200 degrees to keep warm.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the soba noodles and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions. About 2 minutes before the cooking time is complete, add the broccoli florets.
4. Drain the noodles and broccoli. Place into a large serving bowl and sprinkle with the lemon zest. Set aside.
5. While the noodles are cooking, make the dressing. In the bowl of a food processor, combine together the cilantro, garlic cloves, cayenne pepper, salt, and olive oil. Process until well-combined. Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.
6. Add the cilantro dressing to the bowl with the noodles and broccoli and gently toss to combine. Add in the tofu cubes and gently toss again. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

(adapted from this 101 Cookbooks recipe)

Friday, June 27, 2014

What's Baking: Samoa Cookie Bars

When I traveled down to Chicago last weekend, I of course could not arrive empty-handed. So, the night before I left (and before I started packing, albeit for me, that's usually a 10-minutes-before-departure activity) I headed into the kitchen to bake up a treat.

I'm not sure exactly how I settled on making samoa bars -- although it was probably a Pinterest-related decision. I knew I wanted to make some sort of cookie bar, as they are typically much easier to deal with than baking individual cookies. I'm not really a crazy samoa Girl Scout cookie fan (if I had to choose, I'm more of a thin mint kind of girl), but I do like the combination of toasted coconut, chocolate, and caramel. Since I had all of the ingredients on hand, samoa cookie bars seemed like the right way to go.

And, oh man, it's kind of dumb how delicious these bars are. They are perfect for sharing with friends (or eating in the car on a five-hour road trip...), and really are a breeze to make.

Samoa Cookie Bars
makes 32 bars

For the bars:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the topping:
2 cups coconut flakes (sweetened or unsweetened)
10-12 ounces chewy caramels, unwrapped (or you could use 1-2 cups of homemade caramel sauce)
3 tablespoons low-fat organic milk
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
6-8 ounces dark chocolate melting wafers (you could also use bittersweet chocolate chips)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet or 9x13 baking dish with parchment paper.
2. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
4. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. The dough will have a crumbly texture.
5. Turn the dough out onto the baking sheet or baking dish. Use your fingers or a rubber spatula to spread the dough into an even layer. (If using a baking sheet, the dough will likely not fill the sheet completely; form the dough into a roughly rectangular shape about 1/2" thick.)
6. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the dough is set and golden-brown in color. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
7. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Spread the coconut flakes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
8. Place the dark chocolate melting wafers (or chocolate chips) in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave in 30-45 second increments until melted. Stir until smooth. Carefully flip the cookie crust over and "paint" the melted chocolate onto the cookie with a pastry brush. Once evenly coated, place the cookie crust in the freezer for 10 minutes to help the chocolate to set.
9. Place the caramels, milk, and salt into a microwave-safe bowl. Cook for 2-4 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes, until completely melted. Stir until smooth. Fold in the toasted coconut.
Dollop the coconut mixture on top of the cookies. Use an offset spatula to spread the coconut mixture evenly overtop the cookie layer. Drizzle with the remaining melted chocolate.
10. Place in the refrigerator to set, then cut into bars with a sharp knife. The cookie bars can be refrigerated or frozen, or kept at room temperature in an airtight container.

(adapted from this Baking Bites recipe)


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