Friday, July 31, 2015

Blueberry peach crumble

Super-easy blueberry peach crumble with juicy summer fruit and a toasty oat crumble topping. Enjoy it for breakfast or dessert -- or both!

Easy blueberry peach crumble

It's pretty much the perfect storm of summer fruit out there right now, isn't it? Everything I love is happening all at once: the strawberries and cherries are winding down, while the blueberries and peaches are totally kickin' it.

My freezer is a sea of vacuum-sealed bags of frozen summer fruit, ready to make the best winter smoothies (I don't know where I'd be without my FoodSaver vacuum sealer!).

But I'm not just freezing all my summer fruit: heck no! I'm eating it like there's no tomorrow and I'm also cooking with it.

One way I've used fresh peaches and blueberries (they are just THE BEST partners, aren't they??!!) is in this super-easy blueberry peach crumble.

Now, little known fact: a lot of people misuse the words "crumble" and "crisp" when describing their baked fruit desserts. I grew up on apple crisp that included oats in the topping. Apparently, that was a crumble, not a crisp. By definition, a crumble is just a crisp with oats in its topping -- or maybe it's that a crisp is just a crumble without oats.

(What the ... ?)

Regardless, this blueberry peach crumble is ridiculously easy to make and is so good and fresh that I almost enjoy it more for breakfast than I do for dessert.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mediterranean pasta with no cook olive sauce

Mediterranean pasta with no-cook olive sauce: an easy weeknight meal featuring key ingredients from the Mediterranean diet to support health and longevity.

Mediterranean pasta with no cook olive sauce

You've probably heard about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet (namely living longer -- yay for living longer!) -- the diet that's rich in good-for-you foods like whole grains, seeds, legumes, veggies, fish, olives and olive oil. Couldn't we all use more of these healthy ingredients in our diets? You betcha. So, just for you, I've created a pasta dish, featuring California Black Ripe Olives, that pays homage to the healthy Mediterranean diet.

I have never met anyone who doesn't love black olives. And, if you're like me, you almost always have a can of them on hand in the pantry, right? Which makes them totally handy for creating quick, weeknight meals. Plus, black olives contain a variety of vitamins and fiber -- and, of course, you can wear them on your fingers.

For all of these reasons (not the least of which is the finger-wearing, if we're being honest), California Black Ripe Olives were the perfect choice to star in my new Mediterranean pasta dish. I paired the olives in a no-cook sauce with tangy capers, lots of fresh herbs from my garden, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some mashed anchovies (trust me -- they add an awesome yet subtle umami flavor that you will love!), then tossed them all with healthy whole-wheat pasta: it's an easy weeknight meal that's not only delicious, reminiscent of an olive tapenade, but also incorporates many key components of the Mediterranean diet.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Avocado goddess dressing

Jazz up your next meal salad or roast chicken dinner with this 5-minute, herb-filled, healthy avocado goddess dressing.

easy 5 minute avocado goddess dressing

Sometimes it's the little things that can make or break your meal.

Am I right? Can I get an amen?

Like salad dressing. I've been in a simple balsamic vinaigrette rut lately. Not that the vinaigrette isn't good, it's just that I feel I should be whipping up batches of shallot dressing or sushi-restaurant-inspired ginger dressing or even classic buttermilk ranch dressing ... but I just haven't. And it's bumming out my salads.

Until recently.

And it's because of herbs. My "garden" this year, post-relocation, consists of a couple of planters of vegetables on our back patio. Given the end-of-days, seemingly non-stop rain storms we've had nearly all summer long, coupled with the 30,000 crafty, tomato-stealing squirrels and deer, my supply of homegrown veggies so far has been two half-sized cucumbers and four measly Sun Gold cherry tomatoes.

It's a pathetic situation. Thankfully, I've got plenty of farmers' markets around to make up the difference.

But my little in-ground herb garden, on the other hand, has been doing quite well. (Apparently the wildlife prefer their meals to be heartier.) So I've been trying to come up with herb-filled recipe ideas that aren't simply pesto, although a good (or unique) pesto is nothing to scoff at, that's for sure. Trust me, my freezer will be full of it come September!

Enter this avocado goddess salad dressing. Chockful of fresh herbs, this healthier riff on traditional green goddess dressing gets its rich creaminess from avocado and yogurt. And it's the most delightfully cheery green color you could ever hope to add to a salad.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Chef Jeff chocolate chip cookies

Chef Jeff chocolate chip cookies are a favorite of Mount Holyoke College students and alumnae -- and perhaps the best chocolate chip cookie EVER. 

Chef Jeff chocolate chip cookies

Heads up, peeps: This is not really one of my usual healthy recipes. But, as a firm believer in moderation rather than denial, I'm sharing it anyway.

Because cookies.

Wicked. Awesome. Cookies. With a story.

Some of you may know that I am an alumna of Mount Holyoke College in Western Massachusetts. As a nearly 200-year-old college for women, my alma mater has quite a few traditions that we alumnae hold dear.

Apparently the Chef Jeff cookie is one of them.

I say "apparently" because these cookies didn't exist during my tenure at Mount Holyoke. When I was an undergrad, we were fortunate enough to not have to endure typical university-style centralized dining. No, my friends, we took each of our meals in the common dining room of our residence halls, eating and socializing like a family. Dining regularly with those with whom you lived built an indescribable sense of community, the reaches of which I still feel on a daily basis, no matter how far away from the campus I move.

Alas, due to some questionable decisions on the part of administrators and trustees over the years since I graduated, that community dining experience has become a thing of the past. While it breaks my heart to see current students waiting in line in the campus center for burgers and pizza instead of sitting in a communal dining room, sharing dorm-home-cooked meals family style, I have found small consolation in the one bright spot born of this campus center dining experience:

Chef Jeff chocolate chip cookies.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bagels and lox pasta salad

Turn your favorite breakfast into your new favorite dinner with this unique bagels and lox pasta salad.

Bagels and lox pasta salad

I have this theory -- which I put into action every Friday night -- that you can turn almost anything into a pizza.

Whatever leftovers I have lurking around in the fridge at the end of the week generally get turned into pizza toppings for Friday Pizza Night. Totally true. Even things like my pan-roasted cauliflower pasta -- minus the pasta itself -- ended up on some pizza dough, topped with cheese. And it's (almost) always a success. Hence my theory.

Now, seeing as how I swear I eat pasta at least twice a week -- I know, at my age I do not need this kind of carbo-loading but I can't help it: I just love the stuff -- I'm working on a similar theory that
lots of your favorite flavor combinations can also be turned into pasta dishes.

And I'm proving my theory today with this bagels and lox salad.

Bagels and lox -- IN A PASTA SALAD. I know, right?!!! Double the carbs, double the fun.

I'm in love with this salad. We've eaten it too many times to count and I'm not tired of it yet -- and Mr. Ninj doesn't have a choice unless he wants to cook for himself. (Yeah, like that's going to happen.)

But seriously, this salad really has got it all going on: crunchy veggies, crunchy-chewy toasted bagel bites, salty smoked salmon and soft mozzarella, all in balsamic-and-onion dressing. Really, it's not so different from a summery panzanella salad ... but with some pasta.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Chicken sliders with spicy slaw

Bake these chicken sliders topped with crunchy, spicy slaw for an easy weeknight meal or grill them as a fun addition to a backyard BBQ.

Easy baked or grilled chicken sliders topped with spicy slaw

Even thought it's summertime, I still like to use my oven for weeknight meals. While the grill is great (largely because it gets Mr. Ninj involved in preparing the meal!), sometimes it's easier for me to throw dinner in the oven and not have to monitor it as closely as when we grill outdoors.

One thing I love about these cute chicken sliders with spicy slaw is that they are perfect for either cooking method, baking or grilling, based largely on the little bit of mayo that's part of the burger mixture to ensure they stay nice and moist while cooking.

But whichever way you prefer to prepare them, please don't skip the spicy slaw on top.

Slaw on burgers: is this new to you? Since I love creamy chopped coleslaw on a pulled pork sandwich, I figured adding slaw to a chicken slider isn't much different. Maybe a little messy (definitely a recipe I would add to my "Don't Eat on a First Date or Job Interview" list), but I love the extra crunch that the slaw adds.

Plus, putting the slaw on rather than next to the chicken sliders means no additional condiments are necessary, keeping it a little bit lighter.

And we're all about lighter around here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Best BBQ sides

Wow the crowd at your next BBQ or cookout with these six easy and delicious sides: choose from salads, appetizers and salsas.

Six easy and delicious sides for your next BBQ or cookout

With Independence Day just around the corner, I've been fixated lately on the summer BBQ.

Or cookout. Is this a regional thing? Growing up in New England, we called them cookouts. I had to learn to refer to them as "barbecues" when I moved down south.

Whatever the nomenclature, I love those parties held outside that involve grilled meat.

But, more than the meaty main course, I'm all about the sides: salads, dips, appetizers, chips. Those little unsung heroes are often what makes the meal. And while anyone can bring some ice cream or cookies or a flag cake made with berries and Cool Whip, I highly prefer the guest who brings an amazing side.

So here's a roundup of some of my favorite BBQ (or cookout) side dish recipes, all of which are easy to make, easy to transport and guaranteed to wow the crowd.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Strawberry avocado salsa

Fresh, fast and summery, scoop up this strawberry avocado salsa with crunchy tortilla chips or serve it alongside grilled chicken or pork.

Fresh and fast strawberry avocado salsa

Fresh summer fruits and vegetables -- there really is nothing better in my book. They just make you feel like you're eating healthier (because you are!) while also totally winning because of all the amazing, practically-warm-from-the-sun flavor.

Seriously. I go crazy over summer fruit: strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, apricots, nectarines. Gaaaaaaaaaaah!! I'm already freaking out just thinking of all the ways I can eat them. And preserve them for the fruitless (literally), tasteless winter months.

One awesome way to eat some of your pick-your-own strawberry haul is this strawberry avocado salsa. I'm torn about how to recommend it to you: while we eat it as a condiment alongside grilled chicken, it's really just as good as an appetizer or snack, scooped up with crunchy tortilla chips.

So, as you can see from the-cheese-stands-alone photos, I'm not going to influence you. I'm letting you decide how you want to eat it. Or just serve a bowl at your next BBQ and let your guests decide.

But you are going to want to eat it, trust me. Especially since it's so simple -- only five ingredients and about five minutes to prepare.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

No cook raw vegetable salad { plus a giveaway }

This no-cook raw vegetable salad is the perfect meal salad for hot summer nights or crowd-pleasing side at your next summer BBQ. 

No cook raw vegetable salad, with or without chicken

You know The Ninj is all about healthy, real-food recipes that are easy to make, right? So what could be healthier and easier than a raw vegetable salad?

Pretty much nothing, peeps. No cooking. Just chopping. Good eating.

I've adapted this raw vegetable salad recipe from one by London chef Yotam Ottolenghi (he of the gorgeous Plenty cookbook fame), so you know it's bound to be super fresh and healthy, loaded with good-for-you veggies readily available at your local grocery or -- better yet -- farmers market.

Plus, it's packed with grated cauliflower. Yes, grated, which it turns out in awesome way to overcome Mr. Ninj's texture aversion to cauliflower (and dupe him initially into thinking it was grated cheese!).

Now, being The Meatasaurus, I chose to add some grilled chicken to this salad -- which probably makes the vegetarian Chef Ottolenghi cringe, but that's how I roll. It's completely optional if you prefer the meatless route or want to use this salad as a side rather than a main dish salad. Chicken or not, you're going to dig the light but tangy vinaigrette plus how super-fast it is to whip up this salad.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Wasabi pea chocolate bark

Part salty, part sweet and part spicy: wasabi pea chocolate bark with nuts is a totally addictive snack treat that's easy to make.

Wasabi pea chocolate bark with almonds and cashews

I think you're going to be pretty darned happy that I'm taking a break from all my summer salad posts today.

(Seriously, peeps, it must be the heat. Every new recipe I'm coming up with is a meal salad!)

Put down your forks because today's feature is a tasty little snack that's part salty, part sweet and part spicy: wasabi pea and nut chocolate bark.

I know, right? It's a crazy combo. I love those fiery little wasabi peas: totally addictive little snack crack. And it's like a game every time you put them in your mouth, because you never know which one is going to be extra fiery and shoot that quick flash of heat right up your nose and into your brain. BAM!

So it stands to reason that, as much as I looooooove combining salty and sweet tidbits together, wasabi peas would be the perfect addition to chocolate bark.

And GUESS WHAT? They are!