Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Broccoli and Brussels sprout slaw with olives

Broccoli and Brussels sprouts slaw with olives and almonds: a healthy, easy, make-ahead side dish for Thanksgiving or any festive dinner.

Broccoli and Brussels sprout slaw with olives and almonds

If you saw my homemade "canned" cranberry sauce recipe last week, you'll understand that we often celebrate a little something I call "Fakesgiving" around Casa de Ninj. This year, we had our Fakesgiving last weekend, just before The Big Day, as we'll be traveling to a relative's house to spend the actual holiday.

But I love our annual Thanksgiving dishes (and the legendary leftovers!) so much that I couldn't bear to miss them this year. So I had my own pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving: Fakesgiving.

(I'll note, it sounds better than a friend's alternative -- "Freaksgiving" -- which, scarily, I think just means dinner with her family.)

Each year, I try to add one new or modified dish to the line up to keep things fresh. Last year, it was apple and herb stuffing muffins. For this year's Fakesgiving, I forwent the traditional green beans almandine for something a little fresher and crunchier: broccoli and Brussels sprout slaw with olives and almonds.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Homemade canned cranberry sauce

Add some kitsch to Thanksgiving this year with homemade "canned" cranberry sauce using an upcycled empty can for the mold.

Homemade canned cranberry sauce made in a can mold

My sister and I have this thing.

Well, to be honest, my sister and have about eight million things. We're like those twins that have their own language that no one else can understand ... but we're not twins. She's two years older than I, but we've always been best friends. (In fact, I told her recently, "You'd better never die because, if you do, there will be no one to understand me!")

So, anyway, one of our things is canned cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving. My first "adult" Thanksgiving was when I was in graduate school. I was attending school in the South, too far away from my parents' home in New England for me to afford to make a quick trip home for the Thanksgiving holiday. And my sister was living not that far away, so we decided to throw our own little Thanksgiving dinner for two.

Even though I had almost no idea how to cook anything and she was only slightly more talented, we went all out in a little apartment kitchen: turkey, stuffing, green beans and cranberry sauce.

In all fairness, let's clarify. We roasted a turkey (poorly), steamed some green beans, mixed up a box of Stove Top stuffing and opened a can of jellied cranberry sauce.

But we were both in agreement that the cranberry sauce was a must-have. You know, because of the the "ssssllluuuupp" noise it makes when released from the can. And, frankly, because it's freakin' shaped like the can.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Smoked trout salad with arugula and fennel

This smoked trout salad with peppery arugula, crunchy fennel and horseradish dressing is the perfect light meal or elegant salad course.

smoked trout salad with arugula and fennel

So last week I showed you how to smoke trout -- or salmon or salt or lots of other stuff -- easily at home, either on the grill or your stovetop. (Yes, right on the stovetop!) And I promised that I'd show you some great ways to enjoy that smoked trout -- you know, other than just eating it with your fingers.

Today's that day.

This smoked trout salad gets some extra peppery flavor from fresh arugula, as well as a little complimentary crunch from sliced fennel. Drizzled with a horseradish dressing, it's an amazing blend of flavors that will have you wishing for seconds.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

DIY smoked trout

Learn how to smoke trout, salmon, veggies, salt or just about anything else quickly, easily and with no mess on the grill or even on the stovetop.

Learn how to smoke trout, salmon, salt and more quickly and easily at home

Let's talk about smoked trout. Or smoked salmon. Or any kind of smoked fish. Do you love it? I do. Whether I enjoy it as part of a charcuterie board or a cheese plate at a cocktail party or added to a pasta dish or salad (like my bagels and lox pasta salad!), I'm a smoked fish junkie.

So the "I can do that!" DIY side of my brain kicked into high gear when I discovered an affordable little stove-top smoker a few years ago.

Yes, a few years ago. Believe it or not, I got this stovetop smoker, made by Camerons Products, for Christmas more than two years ago and just never got around to using it.

(To be fair, we wound up beginning a big cross-country move just after Christmas that year, so smoking fish for fun wasn't really my top priority.)

But I dusted off the box earlier this year and smoked some fish. And then some more fish. And then some salt. And now, since it's so easy, there's pretty much no stopping the smoking train around Casa de Ninj.

If you do nothing else this year that I've told you to do, do this: buy this stovetop smoker -- or give one to someone as a gift. It's the coolest thing ever, I swear. Not to mention that it's crazy easy to use and you can smoke all sorts of stuff with zero mess.

Here's exactly how it works:

Friday, October 30, 2015

Slow cooker chai apple butter

Easy slow cooker chai apple butter: Use it as a flavorful spread or swirl it into your morning yogurt, oatmeal or cottage cheese.

Easy slow cooker chai apple butter

Last day to talk about apples, I swear. But that doesn't mean I'll start talking about pumpkin. Heck no -- that ship sailed this year and I can't say I missed it.

No, we'll move directly into preparations for this food blogger's high holy day: Thanksgiving! And then we'll talk about all the blow-your-mind things you can make with those tons of Thanksgiving leftovers.

But before we start talking all about the Thanksgiving sides and Mr. Ninj's famous deep fried turkey, let's have one last hurrah for apples. Which I've doctored into a chai-spiced apple butter that is super easy, because it calls for ground chai tea and is made in the slow cooker.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Slow cooker sweet potato and cheddar soup

Effortless low cooker sweet potato and cheddar soup: easy, healthy and with just a bit of kick from smoky chipotle peppers. Effortless fall comfort food!

Easy and healthy slow cooker sweet potato and cheddar soup

As we near the end of October, I'm happy to say that I still haven't made or eaten anything with pumpkin in it -- AND I HAVE SURVIVED! Seriously, I'm not a pumpkin hater. Not at all. You'll find lots of pumpkin recipes here on the blog. But this year, pumpkin-spice everything has made me feel like taking a pumpkin holiday and focusing on enjoying the other fruits and veggies of fall.

Which is how I got hooked on this slow cooker sweet potato and cheddar soup. It's got a couple of canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce cooked into it, which gives the soup just the right amount of smoky spiciness.

It's like taking all the best flavors and smells of fall and immersion blending them into a warming, comforting bowl of soup.

Makes me want to snuggle in front of a fire with a cozy chenille throw.

Which I could do if it would stop being 78 degrees outside every damned day! Jeez louise, enough already with the summertime: I am so ready for fall.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Best fall recipes without pumpkin

Give pumpkin a rest and celebrate the other flavors of fall -- apples, pears, butternut squash -- with nine easy and delicious recipes.

Best recipes of fall that don't include pumpkin

I didn't mean for this to turn into the pumpkin-less fall. Really. I'm not a hater of pumpkin, as evidenced by all the pumpkin recipes I've posted in the past.

But this year? Can we please just give pumpkin-spice-whatevs a rest?

For just once, let's celebrate all the other stars of fall, too -- apples, pears, butternut squash, acorn squash -- and give pumpkin a day off.

Check out my favorite no pumpkin fall recipes below, with everything from breakfast muffins to crunchy salads and creamy comfort food weeknight dinners to chewy cookie bars.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Maple ginger chicken and apples

Tender and saucy maple ginger chicken and apples: perfect fall comfort food that's healthy and super easy to prepare.

healthy and easy maple ginger chicken and apples

Given that it's finally starting to feel like fall, I seem to be eating a lot of cold-weather comfort foods. Gone are my insatiable cravings for cool summer salads or still-warm sun tea. Now, I'm all about slow roasting and crockpotting.

But still no pumpkin. I'm just not feeling the pumpkin love this year for some reason. No, I know the reason: too much pumpkin-spice this and pumpkin-laden that all over my social media feeds. I just can't do it. Not when there are so many other way more delicious fall fruits and veg out there, just waiting to be featured in a comfort food recipe. Like apples.

Clearly my awesome blogging friend Katie Webster of Healthy Seasonal Recipes agrees with me, as the recipe I'm sharing today for maple ginger chicken and apples comes directly from her new cookbook, Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Maple Syrup. Peeps: I am over-the-moon excited about this book -- and not just because Katie is super-talented and one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. Like me, Katie is all about real-food recipes, made with fresh, healthy and seasonal ingredients that everyone in your family will go cray cray for. I have little post-it flags on more recipe pages than I can count in this cookbook. I'm a little bit in love with it and plan to give a copy to everyone I know for the holidays.

But you don't have to wait for the holidays because I'm going to give away a copy of Katie's cookbook to one of you this week! Simply follow the instructions in the widget following the recipe for your chance to win a copy.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Butternut mac and cheese

Butternut mac and cheese is a hearty, meatless dish that even the pickiest eater will love; so good, they'll never suspect it's healthy!

Healthy butternut mac and cheese

This recipe originally appeared in 2013 on the Kitchen Apparel blog, as part of a blog swap. Since that blog is no longer active, Sandra, its owner, graciously gave permission for me to repost it here at Yankee Kitchen Ninja. We'll miss Sandra's gorgeous photography and healthy recipes but wish her much luck and success in her new endeavors.

As part of the blog swap, given that we planned it for October, we considered making something with pumpkin. Then, as now, we realized that we were already completely sick of pumpkin (and assumed you probably were, too) so instead opened our topic up to all fall squash.

And, out of “all fall squash”, we both ended up making a pasta dish using butternut squash.

But come on, who can blame us? It's the squash that, with a little butter and maple syrup, can nearly taste like candy.

(Not quite like candy, I realize. But more like candy than, say, a paper bag though, right? Bear with me, I tend to be dramatic when it comes to trying to get you to make a recipe I like.)

Sandra's recipe (which I'm happy will live on as part of Yankee Kitchen Ninja!) was a gorgeous, delicious pasta with butternut squash, broccoli and cranberry beans. I urge you to try it. But I also urge you to try this butternut mac and cheese recipe -- it's freakin' awesome, and only partly due to the fact that Mr. Ninj actually ate it.

Little back story: Mr. Ninj is not a fan of vegetables and claims that it's not often the taste but the texture that turns him off (he is genuinely afraid of asparagus in any form). It's sort of like having a 3-year-old picky eater, to which I'm sure many of you can relate. So when he saw the roasted butternut squash sitting on the kitchen counter as I pulled this dish together, he freaked. I assured him that, because it was being incorporated into the cheesy sauce, he'd never even know it was there.

I was lying, of course -- but, holy smokes, it turned out to be true!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ginger spiced plum sauce

Spread this easy ginger spiced plum sauce on grilled chicken or pork, turn it into a jammy vinaigrette or swap it for fruit puree when baking.

ginger spiced plum sauce -- perfect on grilled meat or in a jam vinaigrette

Yep -- it's happened once again. It isn't even October yet, but every yoga-pants-clad food blogger is waxing poetic about all the pumpkin-spiced things that bring her joy. Except The Ninj. I may be wearing the ubiquitous yoga-pants uniform of the work-from-home writer, but I'm still refusing to talk about pumpkin. I'm still hung up on end-of-summer / beginning-of-fall fruit.

Plums to be exact, which you'll recall featured prominently in my recent fresh plum breakfast cake. Good lordy, y'all, I haven't even gotten started on apples yet, let alone pumpkin!

(And, frankly, when the heck did fall become all about pumpkin of all things? Not apples, not butternut squash, but pumpkin? I blame Starbucks.)

Plus, I realized, much to my chagrin that, given my lack of a real garden this year, I haven't canned or preserved very much. And that, my friends, is more than a little TRAGIC.

The lack of canning and abundance of fresh plums brought me to this ginger spiced plum sauce. ERMERGAHD, this stuff is so heavenly spread on freshly grilled chicken or pork -- just the right amount of earthy spice, tartness and sweetness. Shred the chicken and mix in the plum sauce and you've got the basis for an Asian-inspired taco that will blow your mind.

I have even mixed this plum sauce with a little oil and vinegar to make a jammy vinaigrette for a peppery arugula salad. And I also think it would be lovely baked into some marmalade muffins or my favorite homemade granola.