Friday, May 1, 2015

Maple date scones

Maple date scones are an easy-to-make, healthier, less-sweet treat for breakfast, dessert or an afternoon snack.

Healthier maple date scones


While I like sweet snacks and desserts as much as the next ninja, I generally prefer my baked goods to be a little less on the sweet side.

Which is why I'll choose a scone over a cupcake any day.

(True story: My sister used to love sitting next to me at family birthday celebrations when we were young because I didn't like to eat the frosting. I would eat the cake part of my piece and give the frosting to her -- that's how much I prefer my sweets less sweet!)

And any time I can sweeten a sweet more naturally than simply using refined sugar, I'm all over it.

As their name implies, these maple date scones are sweetened with pure maple syrup, chewy dates and almost no added sugar.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pan-roasted cauliflower pasta

A better way to eat cauliflower: healthy and easy pan-roasted cauliflower pasta with spicy sausage, arugula and olives.

pan roasted cauliflower pasta with sausage and arugula

I think I may have mentioned a few hundred times that I'm a pasta addict. In fact, I always say that if you really wanted to punish me, you wouldn't have to send me to prison -- just make me give up carbs.

Yet I don't do your standard American spaghetti and meatballs. I like my pasta to be interesting. Like when it includes healthy, yummy ingredients like butternut squash, pumpkin, olives, beets, broccoli and even sardines.

And sometimes bacon. (Who am I kidding? Often bacon.)

No bacon in this cauliflower pasta but there is spicy Italian sausage, another one of my pasta add-in faves. The spiciness pairs really well with the pan-roasted flavor of the cauliflower and the peppery arugula.

Yep, you pan-roast the cauliflower in this stove-top meal. It comes out tender with just the right amount of cruciferous crunchiness left. And who couldn't benefit from a better way to eat lots of cauliflower than drowning it in cheese sauce or picking it off a crudite platter, am I right?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Shrimp burgers

Healthy baked shrimp burgers are an easy way to get that summery, eating-at-the-beach feeling without leaving home.

healthy baked shrimp burgers

Are you familiar with shrimp burgers? If not, be prepared to become a fan.

My obsession with shrimp burgers started during a family beach vacation on the North Carolina Outer Banks. Based on a local's recommendation, we got some shrimp burgers from the famous Big Oak Drive In in Salter Path, adjacent to Emerald Isle.

Oh boy. Talk about summer on a bun.

Being The Ninj, of course, I decided I needed to try to recreate these beauties at home. After years of trying lots of recipes and variations both by me and my mother-in-law, who is a much better cook than I am, we gave up. Somehow, neither of us could find the right mix that would give us the flavor we wanted yet still hold together well enough to be eaten as a burger in a bun.

Until now, that is.

Now, mind you, the flavor of these shrimp burgers is a little different than those of Big Oak fame, but I don't care. Not so long as I can have a beloved shrimp burger that won't crumble into a mound of individual shrimp pieces after the first bite. Plus, mine are just a wee bit healthier.

The funny thing is, the original recipe that inspired my shrimp burgers wasn't really intended to be a burger at all but a shrimp cake. Plus, it called for frying the cakes in quite a bit of oil. And you know I'll never fry when I can bake or roast to make a recipe healthier while also keeping my stovetop clean.

Win win.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cabot Creamery cookbook giveaway


Cabot Creamery cookbook giveaway


Normally this blog is all about me, right? Sure, I'm sharing it with you, but the recipes are all mine and the stories generally only involve me and Mr. Ninj.

Today, however, it's all about you.

I wanted to take a moment to thank you for supporting The Ninj and this blog. Every time you view one of my recipes or leave a comment or check out the books I've read (yeah, I need to update it with my 2014 list, don't I?), you make this blog successful.

And, given that I gave up my "real" job five years ago to focus on this hobby-turned-lifestyle, that means the world to me.

So I thank you.

And, frankly, what better way for me to show you my appreciation than by giving you cheese?!! Who loves ya, baby?!

Thanks to my friends at the Cabot Creamery back home in New England, I've got a copy of the new Cabot Creamery Cookbook and a $25 gift box of delicious Cabot cheese to give away to one of you lucky readers.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Pimento cheese hummus

All the creamy, spicy flavor of pimento cheese in a better-for-you hummus: great as a dip or spread it on sandwiches and pizza.

Easy 6 ingredient pimento cheese hummus


You've tried my roasted red pepper cheese spread (aka pimento cheese), right? So you know how good it is -- albeit slightly decadent. It falls into the category I call H-and-H -- limited to holidays and houseguests.

Well, you're in luck. Now you don't have to be a houseguest or be celebrating a holiday: The Ninj has managed to turn all that awesome pimento cheese flavor into a better-for-you hummus.

Yes, it's hummus with cheese. Sounds a little quirky, I know, but you know I wouldn't steer you wrong.

This pimento cheese hummus is a real treat. In addition to using it like traditional hummus as a dip for pita wedges or veggies, I've also been spreading it on sandwiches and -- perhaps the best of all -- as the base layer on pizza.

Any way you like to eat hummus.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Naan fattoush with yogurt dressing

Healthy and easy meatless fattoush salad made with whole-wheat naan, protein-rich white beans and a tangy Greek yogurt dressing. 

healthy, easy naan fattoush salad with yogurt dressing

My immediate need for fast and easy meals does not seem to be going away, given our slow local move.

Why so slow? Well, in addition to the fact that The Ninj is "the movers" this time, what started as a couple of paint touch-ups on a couple of walls has turned into a repainting of almost all the interior walls and ceilings. Done solely by me and Mr. Ninj.

(Have you ever painted a ceiling? No? Take my advice: Don't. Not if you like living without a stiff neck.)

So, needless to say, I don't have as much time for dinner prep as I'd like. Which means I've been turning quite a bit to salads -- because one cannot eat from the slow cooker every day, right?

However, at this time of year, before farm- and garden-fresh produce is plentiful, tasty salads can be a challenge.  I love bread salads because they're hearty and not totally dependent solely on vegetables for their awesomeness; they're like croutons turned up to 11. And I'm practically addicted to naan, so I decided to use it in a riff on fattoush, a meatless Mediterranean salad traditionally made with pita.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Blueberry quinoa protein smoothie

Skinny blueberry and banana quinoa protein smoothie: made with soymilk, it's dairy-free, gluten-free and refined sugar-free.

blueberry and banana quinoa protein smoothie

I never get tired of smoothies. How about you?

I swear there are an infinite number of good-for-you ingredients that can be combined to make smoothies so that you rarely need to drink the same flavor twice. Which is great, because I love drinking them both for breakfast or as an afternoon "snack", and usually what my taste buds are craving are pretty different at those two different times of the day.

This blueberry quinoa quinoa smoothie fits the bill for either time of day, as it's super-simple to make, with only five ingredients. Also, it's easy to create new flavor variations simply by changing up the kind of frozen fruit you use in this smoothie recipe. I've swapped out the blueberries for peaches, mangoes, strawberries, grapes -- you name it, I've tried it.

In addition to tasting great, this skinny smoothie is also loaded with energy-boosting protein. I work in all that good protein by first substituting Silk soymilk -- with 8 grams of plant-based protein per serving and no cholesterol -- for dairy milk. I like to use organic unsweetened Silk soymilk, but be sure to check out the full offering of Silk soy products.  Then I also add cooked quinoamuch the same way that I like to use old-fashioned oats in my favorite breakfast smoothie.

Plus, this smoothie is dairy-free, refined sugar-free and gluten-free, making it a great no-guilt, good-for-you snack in that long stretch after lunch but before dinner. Just say no to sugary snacks and say yes to this blueberry banana quinoa protein smoothie instead!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Light broccoli slaw pasta salad

Light broccoli slaw pasta salad: Two of everyone's favorite summer sides and pot-luck staples combined into one healthy meatless meal salad.

lightened broccoli slaw pasta salad


Spring is in the air, peeps: We've finally had some warmer weather, the flowering trees are tinged with green buds and I'm preparing to plant my garden. Squeeeeee!

I cannot wait for fresh summer veggies. As much as I love cold-weather squash and root vegetables, I'm once again really ready for some leafy greens, crunchy brassicas and sun-ripened tomatoes.

Booyah.

To get you psyched for the bountiful days that are coming (complete with all those gorgeous CSA veggies for which I happily supply you with delicious, good-for-you recipes), I made this lightened broccoli slaw pasta salad.

Yes, slaw and pasta salad in one. This dish combines two of everyone's favorite summer sides and pot-luck staples -- broccoli slaw and pasta salad -- into one lightened, meatless meal salad.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The perfect gimlet

Learn how to easily shake up a perfect gimlet with your choice of gin or vodka.

classic gimlet cocktail recipe

Are you ready for some Mad Men? And do you have your cocktail shaker locked and loaded?

I'm torn about this final season premiere. I'm excited that the show is back but I'm also sad that the whole shebang is coming to end. However, I'm a firm believer that when a show is good, it should end gracefully, on a high, rather than continuing on ad infinitum until it jumps the shark.

(Are you listening, Shonda Rhimes? Grey's Anatomy should have ended about two seasons ago. Just sayin'.)

One of my favorite things about Mad Men (me and about a gajillion other people, I know) is the authentic mid-century feel of the sets and the costumes, as well as the characters' behaviors. And while those behaviors are not all admirable (e.g., smoking like chimneys), I think they did a lot of things right in the 50s and 60s.

Like cocktails.

Ah, classic vintage cocktails. No frou frou wine spritzers or pink umbrella drinks for the Mad Men, no sirreebob. (Can you imagine Don Draper ordering a skinny margarita?) And while Roger may have a weakness for a martini (or six) and Don his Old Fashioneds or Manhattans, mine is the same as moody ice queen Betty Draper Francis': the gimlet.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Slow cooker chicken pho

Easy spicy and aromatic chicken pho, made simply and effortlessly (and gluten-free) in the slow cooker.

Easy crockpot chicken pho noodle soup


Guess what? We're moving again! Don't panic -- this is merely a cross-town move, not another relocation (OMG, even mentioning the word "relocation" makes me break out in a sweat.)

Just moving across town should be easy, right? No packing bags of rice in 14 pounds of packing paper to protect it as it crosses state lines, right?

Well, yes and no. Yes in that things can be packed more haphazardly and quickly. No in that I AM THE PACKER AND MOVER -- and yes, I'm screaming.

(I'm also doing my most epic I-told-you-so dance for Mr. Ninj, who basically accused me of being a hoarder when I decided to save all the boxes and packing paper from our move last August. HA!)

I'm telling you all of this because you will see the influence of the added packing and moving workload in my posts over the next few weeks: Get ready for lots of quick-and-easy dishes and treats! Starting today, with this slow cooker chicken pho.

The slow cooker is going to be my new BFF during this transition, I can tell.