Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Baked poutine spring rolls

While I have been compensated for this poutine spring roll recipe by #CollectiveBias and its advertisers, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support me!  #SpringIntoFlavor

poutine spring rolls - a unique appetizer or light meal

Baked poutine spring rolls, filled with sweet potato fries, grilled chicken and cheddar cheese, with mushroom gravy dipping sauce. Comfort food done light.

Regular readers know I'm a huge fan of poutine, that Quebecois comfort-food favorite of crispy french fries smothered with rich beef gravy and melty cheese curds. Talk about comfort!

But, in the same breath, I have talk about how not-so-healthy poutine can be -- which is why we don't eat it very often.

Leave it to The Ninj to figure out a way to get all the comfort-food flavor of poutine in a lighter, fresher package: poutine spring rolls, filled with sweet potato fries, grilled chicken and sharp cheddar cheese and served with a mushroom gravy dipping sauce.

While these poutine spring rolls may look complicated and decadent, I swear they're neither. For one, they're baked, not fried, which makes them that much healthier -- as well as easy to make. Plus, I've swapped the heavy cheese curds for just a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese and the thick gravy for a much lighter mushroom dipping sauce. They're comfort food done light.
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Friday, February 27, 2015

Chocolate beet brownie bites (gluten-free)

Chocolate beet brownie bites are a low-guilt, rich treat but also naturally sweetened, gluten-free and loaded with healthy veggies.

chocolate beet brownie bites {gluten-free!}

If you're going to eat a rich, chocolately treat, it might as well be loaded with vegetables, right? Think that's not possible? Think again, my friends.

Behold: Rich, dark chocolate brownie bites, finished with crunchy sea salt -- but also loaded with beets, as well as naturally sweetened (zero refined sugar, thanks to sweet dried dates) and gluten-free.

Too good to be true? Nah -- just another stealthy way The Ninj has discovered to get Mr. Ninj to eat his vegetables ... because he's my equivalent of your picky 5-year-old eater, but worse, since I can't threaten to take away his screen time or anything.

Beets. What a seriously misunderstood vegetable! They don't have to be relegated to the roasting pan or pickling jar. They're perfect for baking, too. Beets come in beautiful colors, are naturally sweet and are the key ingredient that makes real red velvet cake red.

You know, if you like cake. (insert snort laugh)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mediterranean meatloaf sliders with yogurt sauce

While I have been compensated for my Mediterranean meatloaf slider recipe by Laura's Lean Beef, all thoughts and opinions are mine. Thanks for supporting the brands that support The Ninj!

Mediterranean meatloaf sliders with mint yogurt sauce

Mediterranean meatloaf sliders with mint yogurt sauce: comfort-food meatloaf gets a lean, modern makeover. 

Putting a healthy, delicious dinner on the table quickly night after night is a challenge for all of us – really, all of us: Food bloggers are no exception.

While I can often solve the weeknight dinner dilemma with quick-and-easy dishes like rice bowls, soups or salads, I'm still pretty old-school about wanting to eat some protein for dinner. And by protein, I really mean meat. And by meat, I really mean beef (I have been known to refer to myself as The Meatasaurus).

However, this presents me with a dilemma because one of my favorite beef dinners is meatloaf – and meatloaf is not a quick-cooking, get-it-on-the-table-fast kind of meal. And yet I do so love my meatloaf recipe, which is the one I grew up on, torn by my mother from the pages of some 1970s magazine and then customized over the years.

So what's a girl to do when she wants her meatloaf but she also wants it fast?

One word: sliders. Yep, because, when it comes right down to it, what is meatloaf, really, but a big burger without the bun?!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Crunchy bok choy salad

Crunchy bok choy salad, with a clever ramen noodle topping and a sweet-and-spicy peanut dressing: an easy, healthy weeknight meal.

crunchy bok choy salad

This is one of those recipes that I've been making for years -- one of my go-to, healthy and easy weeknight meals that I really should have shared with you long ago.

Maybe it's fate. Maybe the universe wanted me to be ready to photograph it really, really well so that you'll be convinced to try it and spread the good news of the bok choy salad. And its three secret weapons.

Secret Weapon #1: Ramen noodles.

Yes, ramen freaking noodles. Yes, the kind that you buy in the little cellophane packages for 22 cents or some ridiculous pittance like that. But just the noodles, mind you, not the nasty little packet of "flavor."

And you don't even need to cook the noodles. Just put the package on a hard surface, smash it all up with your fist, then open the bag and throw out the flavor package.

Voila: Instant crunchy salad topper.

(I know, right?)

But wait: There's more.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Slow cooker soy and citrus chicken

Sweet and tangy slow cooker soy and citrus chicken, flavored with warm spices, soy, ginger and orange: a simple, healthy, one-pot meal.

slow cooker soy and citrus chicken

What is it about cold weather that turns me into a slow cooker junkie?

I swear, it's a good thing I own more than one slow cooker because when the weather turns chilly, I've been know to have them cooking round the clock: I start one with overnight oatmeal for breakfast before I go to sleep and then immediately fire up another as soon I get up with a batch of chicken stew or butternut chili.

I also like my slow cooker for busy weeknight meals. What a treat to have a whole meal ready to go, nearly effortlessly, at the end of a long day.

If that's the way you use your slow cooker, too, you're going to be completely jazzed about this slow cooker soy and citrus chicken. This sweet and tangy chicken takes only a few minutes of prep and is so flavorful you only need to serve it on a bed of fresh greens for a healthy, delicious, one-pot meal.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Bourbon fig jam

Enjoy easy, versatile bourbon fig jam on a charcuterie platter, paired with cheese, swirled into morning yogurt or slathered on warm toast. 

bourbon fig jam

So, I guess you knew it was inevitable that I'd hit the bourbon, once I moved to Kentucky.

But, in true Ninj fashion, I'm not just drinking it or soaking holiday fruitcake in it -- I'm also cooking with it (not that the two don't go hand-in-hand at Casa de Ninj, mind you). Behold, this sweet and smoky bourbon fig jam, one of two recipes I created recently for the readers of Edible Green Mountains magazine.

(In case you didn't realize, in addition to being The Ninj on this blog, I'm also a freelance writer for a variety of other publications, both print and online.)

My article is an homage to bourbon as a winter warmer -- because boat drinks and icy glasses of white wine just don't cut it in wintertime, no matter on which side of the Mason-Dixon line you find yourself.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Black bean sweet potato burgers

You won't miss the meat in this flavorful, hearty veggie burger, loaded with healthy sweet potato, black beans and sharp cheddar cheese.

black bean sweet potato burgers

In your efforts to eat healthier, have you embraced more meatless meals?

We try to, but it's hard when you love bacon and sausage -- and only half-jokingly refer to yourself as The Meatasaurus.

One way we've successfully enjoyed more meatless dinners is with veggie burgers. If your only experience with veggie burgers are those frozen, cardboard-like discs that come four-to-a-box in your grocer's freezer, it's time to put down the processed food and make your own.

A good, homemade veggie burger can truly be a delicious substitute for a traditional grilled burger (not all the time, mind you -- clearly I'm not that cray cray). I love to make big batches of them to keep on hand in the freezer for times when I need a quick lunch or I'm at a loss as to what to make for dinner. They can go from freezer to table in less than 15 minutes.

To keep the freezer back-up meals interesting, I've added this new black bean and sweet potato burger to the stash. It was inspired by a recipe from the brand-new Cabot Creamery Cookbook, which is officially available online or at your favorite bookstore as of today! If you're a fan of cheese (lordy, I do not want to meet the person who isn't a fan of cheese), do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this cookbook. The recipes -- for everything from entrees to desserts -- are delish, the photos are gorgeous: it's a real treat.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Chocolate and goat cheese pastries {+ a giveaway}

Enjoy these easy yet elegant pastries, filled with dark chocolate and creamy goat cheese, for breakfast, at tea time or as a light dessert.

chocolate and goat cheese pastry

We regularly -- and without question -- pair cheese with wine, right? Similarly, we know how good a glass of red wine and some dark chocolate can taste.

So why is it that we don't often think of pairing cheese and chocolate together?

Clearly we've been missing the boat. In a big way.

In honor of Valentine's Day (which, frankly, is not a big deal around Casa de Ninj) and, perhaps more importantly, the end of Detox January (which I vow will not simply become Retox February), I've created a little treat -- dark chocolate and goat cheese pastries -- that you can enjoy for breakfast, with afternoon tea or as a light dessert.

Or, if you're Mr. Ninj, all three.

Regular readers know I'm a big fan of sweet and savory combinations, like my salted cardamom oatmeal cookies or the holiday favorite bourbon-salted peanut butter chocolate truffles. So when my friends at Vermont Creamery and Lake Champlain Chocolates suggested pairing chocolate and cheese for Valentine's Day, my interest was a little more than piqued.

At first I was a little stumped as to how best to mix the creamy, savory goat cheese with the richer, sweeter chocolate -- other than just snarfing them down separately, of course. I tried to think classier. Which made me realize that both since both cheese and chocolate get melty and even more awesome when warm, why not tuck all that awesomeness inside a pastry?


As with many of my recipes, this one is easy peasy, even though it makes quite an elegant impression. The pastry puffs up like you wouldn't believe, and while the goat cheese and rich chocolate does indeed, as I had hoped, get all melty and awesome in the center, there's not so much of it as to overwhelm the whole pastry effect. It's very less-is-more.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Green power smoothie (to share with your dog!)

Love your dogs? Then share this kale, spinach, peanut butter and banana green power smoothie with them for breakfast.

green power smoothie with peanut butter you can share with your dog

Yesssssss! I'm so excited to share this smoothie post with you because I assume that you, like me, are a crazy dog person. In a good way. Meaning you love dogs. So much so that you may have been known to cook for them.

Chicken jerky, sweet potato chips, doggie meatloaf -- all part of my cook-for-dogs-repertoire. But now I've got a doggie breakfast specialty as well, to round out Smoothie Week: a kale and spinach peanut butter smoothie that is not only for them, it's also for you!

This easy-to-make smoothie is loaded with healthy ingredients that are good for you but also good (and perfectly safe) for your favorite poochie. And the slightly larger portion size accommodates you both: pour a little bit (start with 1/4 cup for a medium-sized dog) into a bowl for your pal and save the rest for yourself.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Oatmeal breakfast smoothie

Swap your favorite morning oatmeal for a delicious, filling oatmeal breakfast smoothie, loaded with fruit and naturally sweetened.

healthy oatmeal breakfast smoothie

Smoothie Week continues with this super-filling and delicious oatmeal breakfast smoothie.

Earlier this week, I got you prepped with all my best tips and tricks. Did you make some nut milk? And then turn it into ice? Freeze some bananas? Great: You're all set to whip up one of the yummiest, healthiest smoothies around.

If you're like me, breakfast can get to be a little boring after a while. It's tough to keep it creative every single morning, isn't it? And as much as I love love LOVE my morning oatmeal (especially when it cooks overnight in the slow cooker), I need to change things up so I don't get into a rut and grow weary of my faves.

Which is why I love that this oatmeal breakfast smoothie. It's basically my favorite morning oatmeal -- complete with a whole heap of good-for-you fruits, some natural protein and no refined sugar -- in a delicious, drinkable form.

Perhaps the best thing about this oatmeal breakfast smoothie is that it is incredibly filling. When I have one for breakfast, I never get the eleven o'clock munchies; it keeps me full and energized until it's time for lunch.