Friday, December 31, 2010

A Less Processed Life: A Year in Review

Clearing out the cupboards on New Years Eve 2009

One year ago today I was prepping for a year-long experiment – to see if I could remove processed foods from my diet and rely on a more natural diet based on whole foods. The initial goal was to completely remove processed foods during the month of January, and then see what happened from there. As I recall, I made it through January with flying colors, though D jumped ship early on, mainly due to a multiple-week work trip in New Mexico. Another goal was to document all of my meals; in reality this was just way too much work and um, I'm pretty sure no one wants to see that I eat the same thing a lot of the time, particularly when it comes to lunches during the work week.

After January I loosened up my restrictions a bit and returned a few processed foods back into my diet; admittedly this was partially due to a laziness factor – it’s kind of hard work to make everything from scratch all the time! I did try to continue to stay away from some items, such as those containing high-fructose corn syrup (regardless of whether or not it is bad for you; I just chose to opt out) and particularly highly-processed foods (I'm looking at you, super-convenient box of Mac and Cheese!).

Along the way, I tried new things, such as steel-cut oats, agave nectar, Greek yogurt, and Brussels sprouts. I also added new tools to my kitchen, including an immersion blender and my beloved rice cooker. I purchased new cookbooks and made several dishes from scratch for the first time, including tiramisu, pad thai, and palak paneer.

Through this experiment, I developed a new interest in the local food movement, particularly in terms of restaurants that feature menus with locally-grown and/or sustainably-raised ingredients. Along the way I became a bit of a Whole Foods junkie, even if that meant bi-weekly trips to our "local" store in Fort Collins. As a result of this obsession, I bought organically-raised chicken, pork, and beef for the first time. Admittedly, I am still a bit conflicted about the addition of farm animals back into my diet, even if organically and sustainably raised. This is an issue I hope to return to sometime in the upcoming year.

Overall, I think the experiment was a success, though I definitely fell far from my goal of maintaining a clean diet across the entire year. But, I suppose that's the reason I consciously chose to call this website "A Less Processed Life" rather than "An Unprocessed Life"! I think one of the biggest lessons that I learned is that it takes a bit of work and preparation to eat fewer processed foods, and that it can a particular pain when you are hungry RIGHT NOW. Meal planning and grocery lists became a routine part of my week. But let's face it, sometimes you just gotta get the frozen pizza (albeit with as few ingredients as possible) and call it a night.

The new year promises big changes. As I type this, we are in the car on our way across the country to a new home in Philadelphia, PA. Though I will definitely miss Laramie, in terms of food options, I am very much looking forward to living in the big city again. I have heard many good things about Philly's farmers markets (hooray for the Amish!) and I am also quite excited to try out the city's restaurant scene.

The blog (and my goal to eat fewer processed foods) will live on into 2011. In the upcoming year, the plan is to also document my adventures in the city and trips elsewhere (including our recent trip to Nepal). I hope that you will continue to share in my journey!

Best wishes for a Happy (and perhaps less processed?) New Year!

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday Cocktail Hour: Pomegranate Citrus Martini


Pomegranate Citrus Martini
makes one cocktail

ice cubes
1 oz Grey Goose vodka
1 oz Pom 100% pomegranate juice
2 oz Simply Lemonade
sparkling water

1. Chill a martini glass in the freezer.
2. Add ice cubes to a cocktail shaker. Add in the vodka, pomegranate juice, and lemonade. Shake together.
3. Pour into the chilled glass. Add in a "glug" of sparkling water.
4. Serve.

(From the archives)
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Cocktail Hour: Passionfruit Mango Martini


Passionfruit Mango Martini
makes one cocktail

2 oz Stoli raspberry vodka
1 oz mango nectar
2 oz passionfruit juice
fresh raspberry to garnish

1. Chill a martini glass.
2. Pour together the vodka, mango nectar, and passionfruit juice in a cocktail shaker with a few pieces of ice.
3. Shake to mix.
4. Pour into the chilled martini glass.
5. Garnish the rim with a raspberry.

(From the archives)
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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday Cocktail Hour: Chocolate Martini

Chocolate Martini
makes one cocktail

2 oz Grey Goose vodka
1 oz creme de cacao
1 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
Ghiardelli Luxe Milk Hazelnut chocolate bar

1. Place a martini glass in the freezer to chill.
2. Add ice cubes to a cocktail shaker.
3. Pour in the vodka, creme de cacao, and Bailey's Irish Cream.
4. Shake, shake, shake!
5. Pour into the chilled martini glass.
6. Finely grate the hazelnut chocolate bar over top (about 1/2 t) as a garnish.

(From the archives)
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Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Cocktail Hour: Pomegranate Rum Punch


Pomegranate Rum Punch
makes one cocktail

2 oz POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice
1 oz lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 1/2 oz Bacardi rum
seltzer water
ice cubes
lime wedge

1. Rub the edge of a pint glass with a lime wedge. Cover the glass edge with raw sugar.
2. Add the pomegranate juice, lime juice, and rum to the glass.
3. Add ice cubes.
4. Pour in the seltzer water to fill the glass.
5. Garnish with the lime wedge.

(From the archives)
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Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Cocktail Hour: Christmas Lights Martini



Christmas Lights Martini (printer-friendly version)
makes one cocktail

2 oz 100% cranberry juice
1 oz vodka
1 oz triple sec
ice cubes
colored sugar

1. Place a martini glass in the freezer to chill.
2. Once cold, remove from the freezer and rub a tiny bit of water around the rim.
3. Sprinkle the edge of the glass with colored sugar. Set aside.
4. Pour together the cranberry juice, vodka, and triple sec in a cocktail shaker. Add in a couple ice cubes.
5. Shake, shake, shake!
6. Pour into the prepared martini glass.
7. Drink!
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Cocktail Hour: Spiked Eggnog


Spiked Eggnog
makes one cocktail

3 oz organic eggnog
1 oz Maker's Mark Bourbon
ground nutmeg

1. Pour the bourbon into a small glass.
2. Add in the eggnog. Stir to combine.
3. Top with a generous sprinkle of nutmeg.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Cocktail Hour: Candy Cane Martini



Candy Cane Martini (printer-friendly version)
makes one cocktail

1 oz vodka
2 oz creme de cacao
1 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
teeny tiny bit of peppermint extract, or 1/2 oz peppermint schnapps
ice cubes
crushed candy cane

1. Put a martini glass in the freezer to chill.
2. Add ice cubes to a cocktail shaker. Add in the vodka, creme de cacao, Bailey's, and teeny tiny amount of peppermint extract.
3. Shake, shake, shake!
4. Crush a candy cane with a rolling pin or heavy pot. Remove the martini glass from the freezer and rub the edge with water. Use the candy cane bits to rim the martini glass.
5. Pour and serve.
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Cocktail Hour: Cosmopolitan


Cosmopolitan
makes one cocktail

1/2 oz triple sec
1 oz vodka
juice from 1/2 a lime
splash of 100% cranberry juice
ice cubes

1. Put a martini glass in the freezer to chill.
2. Add the ice cubes to a cocktail shaker. Pour in the triple sec, vodka, lime juice, and cranberry juice.
3. Shake!
4. Pour into the chilled martini glass.
5. Drink!
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Warm-Up: Hot Toddy


Hot Toddy
makes one mugful

1 oz Macallan Whisky (don't tell D I used the good stuff!)
1 T honey
juice from 1/2 lemon (reserve one lemon slice for garnish)
1 C hot water
1 tea bag

1. Add a shot of whiskey, honey, and lemon juice to a mug.
2. Bring a small saucepot of water to a gentle boil.
3. Pour the hot water into the mug. Add the teabag and steep per directions.
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Cocktail Hour: Eggnogtini


Eggnogtini (printer-friendly version)
makes one cocktail

3 oz organic eggnog
1 oz creme de cacao
1 oz brandy
ice cubes

1. Place a martini glass in the freezer to chill.
2. Once cold, remove from the freezer and rub a tiny bit of water around the rim.
3. Sprinkle the edge of the glass with ground nutmeg. Set aside.
4. Pour together the eggnog, creme de cacao, and brandy in a cocktail shaker. Add in a couple ice cubes.
5. Shake, shake, shake!
6. Pour into the prepared martini glass.
7. Sprinkle with nutmeg.
8. Drink!

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Cocktail Hour: Rudolph's Nose


Rudolph's Nose
makes one cocktail

1 oz raspberry vodka
1 oz amaretto
1/2 oz triple sec
1 oz 100% cranberry juice
ice cubes

1. Place a martini glass in the freezer to chill.
2. Put the ice cubes in the bottom of a cocktail shaker.
3. Add in the vodka, amaretto, triple sec, and cranberry juice.
4. Shake, shake, shake!
5. Pour into the chilled glass.
6. Serve!
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Mocktail Hour: Sparkling Cranberry Spritzer


Sparkling Cranberry Spritzer
makes one mocktail

3 oz 100% cranberry juice
2 oz orange juice
club soda

1. In a tall glass, pour in the cranberry and orange juices.
2. Top the glass with club soda.
3. Serve.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Warm-Up: Hot Cocoa


Hot Cocoa
makes one mugful

1 C organic skim milk
1 heaping teaspoon of Dagoba cacao powder
1 not-so-heaping teaspoon of raw sugar
whipped cream
cacao powder for dusting

1. Heat the milk over medium heat.
2. Add the cacao powder and raw sugar to the bottom of a mug.
3. Pour the warmed milk into the mug.
4. Stir!
5. Top with a generous heaping of whipped cream and a light sprinkle of cacao powder.
[Optional 6. Add in a shot of Bailey's for a delicious adult version!]
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Cocktail Hour: Spiked Hot Apple Cider


Spiked Hot Apple Cider
makes two cocktails

1 1/2 C organic apple cider
2 oz rum
ground nutmeg
cinnamon stick

1. Heat the apple cider in a small saucepot over medium heat.
2. Add one shot of rum to each glass.
3. Pour the hot apple cider into each glass.
4. Stir each cocktail with a cinnamon stick and sprinkle with ground nutmeg.
5. Serve.
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Warm-Up: Hot Buttered Rum


Hot Buttered Rum
makes one mugful

1 oz rum
1 t raw sugar
1/2 t unsalted butter

1. Boil a small sauce pot of water over high heat.
2. Add the rum, sugar, and butter to the bottom of a mug.
3. Pour the boiling water into the mug.
4. Stir to combine.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday Cocktail Hour: Ginger Lime Soda


Ginger Lime Soda
makes one cocktail

1 can (diet) ginger ale
juice of one lime (reserve a slice of lime for garnish)
2 oz Grey Goose vodka

1. Pour the ginger ale into a tall glass.
2. Squeeze in the juice of one lime.
3. Pour in 2 ounces of vodka. (Or it's perfectly delish as a mocktail with just lime juice!)
4. Stir.
5. Garnish with a lime slice.
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Cocktail Hour: Cranberry Vodka and Soda



Cranberry Vodka and Soda (printer-friendly version)
makes one cocktail

2 ice cubes
1 oz raspberry vodka
club soda
splash of 100% cranberry juice.

1. Add the ice cubes to a small cocktail glass.
2. Pour in the raspberry vodka.
3. Fill the glass with club soda.
4. Add in a splash of cranberry juice.
5. Serve.
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday Cocktail Hour: The Katerina

This cocktail is a sort of lighter riff on the white Russian --so I named it The Katerina. Instead of cream, I've substituted in some skim milk. Same delicious taste with a lot less guilt. My kinda cocktail.

The Katerina
makes one cocktail

2 oz Grey Goose vodka
1 oz kahlua
organic skim milk
ice cubes

1. Add a couple of ice cubes to a small glass. Pour in the vodka and kahlua. Fill the glass the skim milk and serve.
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Cocktail Hour: Apple Cider Sidecar


Apple Cider Sidecar
makes one cocktail

1 oz brandy
3/4 oz triple sec
1 oz organic apple cider
ice cubes

1. Add a few ice cubes to a small glass.
2. Pour together the brandy, triple sec, and apple cider over the ice.
2. Stir with a spoon.
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Friday, December 3, 2010

Introducing the Holiday Cocktail Hour

As of late tomorrow afternoon, D and I will be on a plane on what will be the first of several flights that will take us from Denver to London to New Delhi to Kathmandu. Yup, it's December and we're headed to the Himalayas in Nepal. To say I'm excited would be quite the understatement -- even if it will be really (really!) cold in the mountains. I have a feeling the views will make up for it.

Though we will be out of the country for three weeks (and likely not near to many, if any, Internet connections), no worries, as the blog will still continue to have new posts each weekday during our absence. Since it's the holiday season and thus also the season of holiday parties, I've dedicated the month of December on the blog to holiday cocktails and other fun concoctions to make and drink!

So, happy holidays to you and yours -- and I'll see you back here sometime during the last week of December. And, to start it off, let's begin with a classic -- The Manhattan.


Manhattan
makes one cocktail

3/4 oz sweet vermouth
2 1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 dash bitters
1 sweet (or maraschino) cherry

1. Add ice cubes to a cocktail shaker.
2. Pour in the sweet vermouth, bourbon, and bitters. Shake gently to combine.
3. Place a sweet cherry (or maraschino cherry, but, gah! the ingredients!) in the bottom of a small cocktail glass.
4. Pour the bourbon mixture into the glass.
5. Serve!
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

What's Baking: Milk-Chocolate Cookies with Malted Cream


If you're looking for a new cookie to add to your holiday repertoire, consider these milk-chocolate cookies with malted cream from the February 2009 issue of Food & Wine magazine. Making the cookies is a bit labor-intensive, but the result is SO worth it.
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Snacktime: Baked Flatbread Chips

I served these baked flatbread chips along with the spinach and artichoke dip I made last week. You can season these however you like; I opted to go with my ol' standard of sea salt and dried rosemary.

Baked Flatbread Chips (printer-friendly version)
makes about 24 chips

6 flatbread rounds
1/2 t coarse sea salt
1/2 t dried rosemary
1 T olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cut each flatbread round in half, then cut each half in half again, and then in half again -- cutting each flatbread round should result in eight wedges.
3. Place the wedges into a bowl.
4. Drizzle with the olive oil, then season with salt and dried rosemary.
5. Turn the seasoned wedges out onto a rimmed baking sheet. Spread them out so that they aren't touching.
6. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until crisp and lightly browned.
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