Tuesday, June 5, 2018

What's For Dessert: Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Mint chocolate chip is my favorite flavor of ice cream, and this recipe using fresh mint leaves and semisweet chocolate has taken my love for this flavor combination to a whole new level. 

An automatic ice cream maker is a dangerous appliance to own. (I have this Cuisinart one.)  Especially after you make ice cream for the first time and realize just how dang easy it really is. Looks like I'm going to need to amp up my summertime workout schedule to combat my love for freshly made ice cream.

I have always been a fan of mint chocolate chip ice cream, or "toothpaste" ice cream, as my Dad likes to call it. Whether bright green or white in color, if it has a minty flavor and a plethora of chocolate chips, I am in.

Prior to purchasing an automatic ice cream maker, we had a hand-crank one. So, while I am no stranger to homemade ice cream, I have to admit we never veered from my favorite vanilla ice cream recipe. I figured my favorite flavor was a good place to start in my foray into "exotic" flavors of ice cream. And seriously, this recipe does not disappoint.

This recipe is for a Philadelphia-style ice cream, meaning the recipe contains no eggs. There's no tempering, no extra straining, no setting up of an ice bath. Truthfully, this recipe is very easy. The worst part is waiting the requisite amount of chilling time (three hours or up to overnight) before churning the ice cream. 

If you like mint chip ice cream, I think you'll like this. Its refreshing flavor is the perfect complement to a hot summer's day.

Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
makes 2 pints

2 cups heavy cream,
1 cup whole milk
¾ cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 teaspoons coconut oil

1. Pour 1 cup heavy cream into a medium heavy-bottomed pan. Stir in the sugar, pinch of salt, and fresh mint leaves. Stir over medium heat until all of the sugar has dissolved in the cream.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream and 1 cup of whole milk. Stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight. The longer the mixture steeps, the greater the mint flavor.
3. When ready to churn the ice cream, strain the custard to remove the mint leaves. Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
4. While the ice cream is churning, melt the chocolate with the coconut oil using the microwave or a double-boiler. Stir until smooth. When the ice cream is nearly finished churning, pour the melted chocolate in a slow stream into the ice cream maker.
4. Serve immediately (the ice cream will be soft) or scoop the ice cream into a freezer-safe container and chill until firm. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

What's On the Side: Easy Coleslaw for a Crowd

The arrival of the summer season calls for picnics, barbecues, and cookouts. And you can't have a cookout without coleslaw. This recipe for Easy Coleslaw is a real crowdpleaser.

The arrival of Memorial Day means that summer is (unofficially) here. This fact can also be verified by the quantity of out-of-state license plates now seen throughout town.

Truth be told, we kind of missed spring this year up here in the Northwoods. We went straight from the depths of winter (and ice-covered lakes) into the heat of summer. And by heat of summer, I mean record-breaking high temperatures. There's a good chance I might melt before the heat breaks. TBD.

But I have to admit I love a good summertime cookout and eating al fresco. (Particularly if my chair is in the shade, ha ha.) And a cookout wouldn't be a cookout without a little coleslaw on the side. This recipe is super-easy, very tasty (the aleppo pepper gives it the tiniest amount of heat), and makes enough to feed a crowd. What's not to like about that?

Easy Coleslaw for a Crowd
makes 12 servings

For the dressing: 
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I use fat-free)
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper (or you can use plain freshly-ground black pepper)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 16-ounce packages of prepackaged coleslaw mix

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients until well-blended. If necessary, season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
2. Add the coleslaw mix to a large serving bowl. Stir in the dressing as desired; toss to coat. Use more or less dressing depending on how you like your coleslaw; you can refrigerate extra dressing for up to a week. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


Monday, April 2, 2018

What's For Brunch: Blueberry Baked French Toast

This blueberry baked French toast is decadent, delicious, and a perfect match for brunch-time mimosas.

Blueberry Baked French Toast || A Less Processed Life

Although I can't quite relate to the Hamptons lifestyle, there's something about Ina Garten that I just love. Perhaps it's her down-to-Earthness or her simple-to-follow recipes ("What's not to love?"), but whatever it is, if Ina is making it, I want to try it.

Blueberry Baked French Toast || A Less Processed Life

And so it goes with this recipe for baked French toast that was featured recently on one of her shows. Dustin's parents were in town for the Easter holiday, making it the perfect time to try out a recipe that feeds a crowd. And let me tell you, this baked French toast did not disappoint.

It has 10 eggs – yes, 10 whole eggs, by god! And this recipe also calls for a mixture of heavy cream and milk (although you could sub in all half-n-half, as Ina uses). So, yeah, this recipe definitely doesn't scream "health food," but it does scream "delicious."

Blueberry Baked French Toast || A Less Processed Life

Everything comes together in the blink of an eye the night before, so all you have to do is pop it in the oven in the morning. (Just remember it takes about an hour to cook, so roll out of bed, pop it in the oven, set the timer, and then roll back into bed if you'd like!)

The custard is delightfully decadent, the blueberries add a burst of fresh flavor, and you can never go wrong with a little powdered sugar on top. And don't forget a drizzle of maple syrup on top! Ha, who am I kidding ... drench it in the good stuff!

Blueberry Baked French Toast 
makes 6-8 servings

unsalted butter, at room temperature
10 cups (1-inch-diced) day-old challah bread
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
10 eggs
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups 1% milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, for topping
powdered sugar, for serving
pure maple syrup, for serving

1. Grease a 9" x 13" x 2" baking dish with the unsalted butter. Place 5 cups of diced bread into the baking dish in an even layer. Top with an even layer of the blueberries. Top with the remaining diced bread.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, heavy cream, milk, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, orange zest, and salt.
3. Pour the egg mixture over the bread layers. Lightly press down the bread cubes to ensure they are evenly moistened. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 45 minutes. Check to see if the top is becoming too browned; if so, lightly cover with foil. Bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the custard is set and the fruit is bubbling.
5. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm with pure maple syrup.

(adapted from this Ina Garten recipe)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What Made the List: A Less Processed Life's Top 5 Posts of 2017

The middle of January seems to be the ideal time to post the Top 5 Posts of 2017. Better late than never, right? You may have noticed that my posting schedule went a little silent over the past year. To be perfectly honest, it just seemed frivolous to post about a new cocktail recipe or the like when it seemed like we were (and continue to) live in the Upside Down.

Add that to the fact that my work schedule (the work that, uh, actually helps to pay the bills around here, unlike this little food blog) went from crazy to super-crazy last year, well, something had to give. And as we can see by this post occuring when January is already half-over, well, I think we can see how this year might go as well.

However, this past weekend I spent some time catching up with a large pile of magazines that were gathering dust in the corner (or, whatever the digital equivalent of that is, given that the majority of my subscriptions are delivered on my Kindle). And as you may have guessed, a lot of those magazines revolve around food. And I pinned a ton of new recipes. Inspiration I have aplenty; the time to cook them up (and more importantly, the time and wherewithal to take a photo of the results to post on the blog) is TBD.

All that to say, my presence on this little corner of the web may remain a little spotty at best in 2018, too. (Apologies to my two readers, ha ha.) But I'll try to pop in here when I can and share some delicious new recipes as the year progresses.

But in the meantime, let's take a look at the Best of 2017:


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

What's Baking: Sugar Cookies with Eggnog Icing

Why serve eggnog with your cookies when you can serve eggnog on your cookies?

Sugar Cookies with Eggnog Icing || A Less Processed Life

A friend of mine recently hosted a cookie exchange and I opted to try something new. Rather than a standard simple vanilla icing, I replaced the milk with eggnog, and voila! Instant holiday flavor.

This sugar cookie recipe, flavored with a hint of almond, hits it out of the ballpark. This recipe is easily doubled, if you plan to bake up cookies for a crowd. I find that a single batch (made with the recipe below) provides plenty of cookies for sharing and still enough to keep around the house. There's nothing more depressing than baking a bunch of cookies to share, and not leaving enough for yourself!

Sugar Cookies with Eggnog Icing || A Less Processed Life

Cutout sugar cookies are definitely a holiday classic – what's your favorite type of cookie to bake this season?

Sugar Cookies with Eggnog Icing (printer-friendly version)
makes about 3 dozen, depending on size of cookie cutters

For the cookies:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon almond extract

For the icing: 
2 cups powdered sugar
2-4 tablespoons eggnog

sprinkles for decorating, optional

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attached, cream together the softened butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between additions. Stir in the almond extract. Using low speed, stir in the flour mixture in batches. Stir until just combined.
3. Divide the dough in half. Place one half of the dough on a square of plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Cover with the plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining dough. Chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
5. Remove one disc of dough from the fridge. Roll the dough out on a lightly-floured surface until 1/8" to 1/4" thick. Cut with cookie cutters and place on an ungreased baking sheet (I like to line mine with a silpat). Bake for 6-8 minutes, or just lightly browned around the edges. Remove immediately from the baking sheet and set on a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
6. While the cookies cool, make the icing: in a medium bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and eggnog. Use more nog for a thinner icing or more for a thicker icing.
7. Pipe, dip, or spread the icing onto your cookies however you like. Decorate with sprinkles. Icing will set to a soft, but not completely dry, consistency.

Monday, November 27, 2017

What's Baking: Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread

Holiday brunch on your calendar? This flavorful Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread is a real crowd-pleaser.

Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread  || A Less Processed Life

Cranberries are not just for Thanksgiving. Or adorning Christmas trees. (Popcorn and cranberry garland anyone?) Fresh cranberries also make for a delicious quick bread. But you probably already knew that.

Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread  || A Less Processed Life

I was at the grocery store the other day and was instantly enamored by a bin of locally-grown organic cranberries. I couldn't help but scoop some into a bag. Perhaps a few too many. But that's why there's always a quick bread recipe up my sleeve!

Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread  || A Less Processed Life

This recipe features the classic flavor combination of cranberry and orange; a tart and sweet pairing that can't be beat. I added pecans, but you could sub in walnuts if you'd prefer. All of the recipes I looked at were sugar bombs, which really isn't my jam. I decreased the sugar to just a half-cup–which is still quite a bit, I do realize. But when most recipes call for at least a cup, I feel pretty good about the change. And it's still plenty sweet!

Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread  || A Less Processed Life

This bread would be perfect for a holiday brunch. I also love bringing a freshly-baked loaf of bread to a party as a gift for the host/hostess to enjoy the following morning for breakfast. Wrap it in parchment paper and tie with string, and you've got an easy impromptu present to give to anyone.

Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread (printer-friendly version)
makes 1 large loaf

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange zest

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 8"x4" loaf pan and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and sea salt. Stir in the chopped cranberries and chopped pecans.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the orange juice, sugar, buttermilk, melted butter, and egg. Stir in the vanilla and orange zest.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepped loaf pan. Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and let cool completely.


Monday, November 20, 2017

What I'm Baking: Butternut Squash Gingerbread

Capture the flavors of fall with this fantastic recipe for Butternut Squash Gingerbread.

Butternut Squash Gingerbread || A Less Processed Life

It's still full-steam ahead aboard the butternut squash train in my house. I mean, pumpkin's great and all, but as I've said before, if you want some real depth of flavor, you gotta go with butternut squash.

Butternut Squash Gingerbread || A Less Processed Life

This quick bread recipe is no exception. Butternut squash pairs beautifully with the spicy, sweet, and pungent flavor of ginger. 

Butternut Squash Gingerbread || A Less Processed Life

And speaking of ginger, this recipe is rife with it. Ground ginger, minced fresh ginger, and sweet crystallized ginger pack this bread with a flavorful punch.

Butternut Squash Gingerbread || A Less Processed Life

Although I left my loaf unadorned, I think a cream cheese icing on top would be a super-delicious option. And maybe even a sprinkle of more minced crystallized ginger on top of that? Oh yum, I think I need to bake another loaf immediately.

Butternut Squash Gingerbread || A Less Processed Life

Butternut Squash Gingerbread (printer-friendly version)
makes one loaf

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup butternut squash puree (or use pumpkin puree)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 tablespoon finely minced crystallized (candied) ginger
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
2 eggs, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray or butter and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the butternut squash puree, melted butter, sugar, molasses, minced candied ginger, minced fresh ginger, and eggs.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepped loaf pan. Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn the bread out onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
6. Wrap any leftover bread in aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to five days.

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