Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Lately, I've been getting a hankering for cookies in the late afternoon. I know, this is the time of day when a better snack choice would be a piece of fruit or some cheese, but sometimes you need to acknowledge your cravings.
Being The Ninj, I don't keep cookies around the house unless I have made them myself. So nine time out of ten, I'll have to bake a batch of cookies if I have a cookie craving at four in the afternoon and want to satisfy it.
Now, the great thing about being a food blogger is that, when I get said craving for cookies and must bake a batch, it's still considered working, not screwing around in the kitchen to satisfy a craving. And when it's work, it gets shared with you.
Really, we all win when I have a cookie craving.
Another part of being The Ninj, as you know, is keeping my recipes on the healthier side -- even the indulgent, four-o'clock-craving-satisfying kind.
(Yeah, you're welcome.)
I'm not going to tell you that these are healthy chocolate cookies. But I have made the effort to make them a bit lighter and they are awfully rich and chocolatey, so you're not likely to scarf down all of them in one sitting, which helps. Although, if you are a crisp cookie fan, they are pretty darned addictive.
Friday, March 7, 2014
Today I'm going to start with a little math equation. But this is food math, so you're going to love it.
If a = I love me some mac and cheese and b = I am lazy, then a + b = slow cooker mac and cheese.
See? Food math is awesome!
The problem with some crockpot mac and cheese recipes is that they get all burned around the edges, which, frankly, is a huge letdown. This one is the exception. The texture and consistency is the same as oven-baked mac and cheese, plus the edges get nicely browned but don't char.
Plus, there's no pre-cooking of sauce or anything like that. I generally shun crockpot recipes that require you to pre-cook ingredients (read: dirty a bunch of other pans and defeat the throw-it-all-in-and-walk-out-the-door simplicity of the crockpot).
(Aside: You may notice that I use the terms "crockpot" and "slow cooker" interchangeably -- this is because, based on an informal survey I conducted on my Facebook page, so do you and I want to make sure all of you are happy. Because that's the kind of Ninj I am.)
Being the Ninj, I just had to mess around with the recipe a bit, though. You know, by throwing some bacon into it, for which I am developing a bit of a reputation. But I also added some tomatoes, which cooked down beautifully and added a little extra zing, while also making it a great one-pot dinner.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
I came upon this recipe for artichoke hummus in an unusual way. Knowing that The Ninj enjoys cooking and living in a generally healthy way, a college friend of mine asked me if I'd like to review a lifestyle book to which she had contributed. Since she herself is an awesome writer, of course I agreed to check it out.
So what does this have to do with hummus, you may be asking? Don't worry, I'll get there.
The book turned out to be Vibrant Living by Molly Shattuck, a health and fitness advocate and philanthropist from Baltimore who has designed a program to help people embrace a healthier lifestyle in 21 days.
Now, bear with me – I, too, was skeptical. I'm not an advocate of fad diets or “fix your life in 3 easy steps” kind of crap. You know me by now. My motto is everything in moderation: I think we often sabotage our efforts to be healthier and fitter by shunning every single “bad” food or by only eating restrictive, special diets that are too difficult to maintain, as well as setting unrealistic fitness goals.
I'm happy to report that Molly's ideals are quite similar (good thing, or it would have made for some awkward email exchanges with my college pal). She, too, embraces the idea that being fitter and eating better involves a fundamental lifestyle change but that need not be difficult or require you to subscribe to a packaged meal plan or to eat crazy-ass food. Her program emphasizes taking 21 days to establish a new routine of daily exercise (she includes easy-to-follow workout plans that don't require more than a pair of sneakers) and, my favorite part, eating “real”, unprocessed food.
Hellz yeah, Molly! High five from The Ninj.
Which brings us, at long last, to the artichoke hummus (See? I told you I would get here).
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Mr. Ninj is a huge fan of rice pudding. Back in the days when we were dating and not eating as healthfully as we are today, he was known to buy a tub of Cozy Shack rice pudding from the grocery store and eat the whole thing.
Yeah, I'd say that makes him a huge fan.
Up until now, I hadn't really made rice pudding because it seemed like too much of a pain in the ass, frankly, and you know The Ninj is all about easy when it comes to recipes. (I know, that's not very loving of me, but hey, I'm honest.)
But brown rice pudding? That uses leftover or instant-cook rice and involves minimal prep? Now you're speaking my language!
I love this recipe because it's super easy and, because of the individual portions, you can pull one out of the fridge anytime you want a snack. Or, let's face it, breakfast -- this rice pudding makes a seriously delicious and filling quick breakfast. The custard is thick but smooth, and the rice adds just a hint of chewiness.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Even though creating, tweaking, photographing and writing about food and recipes is my passion, all that can often leave me tired and not too psyched to spend a lot of time making dinner every night. Just like you.
Therefore, I'm a big fan of quick and easy weeknight dinner recipes -- like these Thai tuna sliders.
I think I read somewhere that the slider craze is "over" -- whatevs, people. The Ninj isn't trying to stay one step ahead of the trends: I'm giving you real-life solutions and strategies to real-life eating situations. And one of those situations is not wanting to spend a ton of time making dinner.
(And sliders? Over? Come on -- who doesn't love cute food? Jeesh.)
So, can you open a can of tuna? Can you toast a bun? Then these tuna sliders have got dinner covered for you.
Friday, February 21, 2014
My history with Meyer lemons is complicated.
Mr. Ninj and I used to live in California, once upon a time. In The OC, in fact. However, no one who actually lived there ever called it "The OC" -- that's just stupid. Let's just say it was a very surreal experience.
My favorite part of living there, though, was that our postage-stamp-sized back yard had the biggest, most prolific Meyer lemon tree on the planet. No joke: ON THE PLANET, I'm sure. Each winter, when it produced its GIGANTIC fruit, I used to ship boxes of them back to friends and relatives on the East Coast. Yes, BOXES. I had enough Meyer lemons (and these suckers were BIG) to have my own mail-order business.
(And yes, I'm purposely using A LOT OF CAPS for emphasis, so you understand the awesomeness of my tree.)
Here's the funny part: Meyer lemons were not hip and trendy back then as they are now. I had a hell of a time finding any recipes that called for Meyer lemons -- and, unfortunately, this was before I knew how to can.
So we made a lot of lemonade. What a waste.
And now, of course, I know how to preserve and have about 17 bajillion recipes that call for Meyer lemons -- and I live in Vermont, which isn't exactly the citrus capital of the world.
God, I miss that tree.
(Hey, current residents of my old house at 21 Mallorca in Foothill Ranch, California -- can you send me some lemons? Pretty please? We fertilized the bejesus out of that tree and you are reaping the benefits. I will happily pay shipping costs and send you jam in return -- and I won't even hold it against you that you cut down those beautiful palm trees. Thanks.)
When we moved from California to North Carolina, my awesome friend Judy, aware of my pain at leaving the tree, sent me a baby Meyer lemon tree via mail order for me to grow in a pot. Yippee! I had so many visions of continuing my Meyer lemon dynasty on the East Coast.
Here's where the Meyer lemon saga gets complicated. Because I thought Judy's idea was so great, I gifted my mom with the same kind of baby Meyer lemon tree for her birthday. In 2004. The same year I got my tree. Which then got some kind of disease and died (well, Judy claims I "killed it" -- whatevs -- but I know it was a disease.) And my mom's tree did not get the same disease and lived.
So The Ninj, who loves putting up food in Mason jars and craves all things Meyer lemon, has no tree. The Ninj's mom, on the other hand, who doesn't even cook any more and could give a rat's ass about Meyer lemons, has a tree. A 10-year-old tree that produces about four big lemons each year. The universe is cruel.
Now, to my mom's credit, she generously gives them away ... but, here's the kicker, only one per person.
You know what you can do with ONE Meyer lemon? A whole lotta nothing, Mom, that's what.
So when I received my ONE Meyer lemon from Mom this year, I thought long and hard about how to use it. I even polled my Facebook users (btw, good suggestions, Feeps -- I think I'll make Meyer lemon curd next year). That's when I decided I could stretch the lemony goodness by pairing it with some gorgeous blood oranges and making them all into a marmalade.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
It's unusual to see a meatless recipe like falafel being touted by someone who regularly refers to herself as The Meatasaurus. I grew up in a household in which we did not eat unusually or adventurously; meat, potato and one veg at 6pm every night, that was us.
But you have probably noticed that, with a nod to both good health and fearless cooking, I have been trying to add more meatless dinners to my weekly menu. And not just more pasta, which has always been my meatless crutch.
However, any meatless or vegetarian choices must still meet The Ninj's stringent dinnertime recipe criteria: easy to make and free of unpronounceable, difficult-to-procure ingredients. These falafel patties check both those boxes (seriously -- they only take about 15 minutes from start to finish!) and, with an entire can of chick peas in the ingredient list, are a great source of protein. Plus, adding extra veggies like carrots, peas or even some finely chopped spinach to the falafel, together with a quick pan saute in place of the more traditional deep frying, makes them light and wholesome without sacrificing any of the classic Mediterranean flavor.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Ready for a more modern take on the classic Cosmopolitan?
You've probably heard a lot about tart cherry juice lately. The new darling of the morning show health segment, tart cherry juice is making big headlines for its anti-inflammatory properties – all the benefits of arthritis meds but wicked tastier.
Leave it to The Ninj, then, to turn this new healthy superfood into a cocktail.
I created this tart cherry cocktail for Serious Eats and it's the perfect drink for Valentine's Day. Well, for any day, in my book, but I'm going with a theme here.
Head on over to my post at Serious Eats to learn how to shake up a tart cherry cocktail for you and your honey.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
I have a new favorite quick and easy weeknight dinner. OK, it's beyond mere favorite status: I am more than a little crushing on this pineapple rice with chicken.
Rice bowls are the best, aren't they? Easy to throw together for a weeknight dinner, generally full of fresh, seasonal veggies and most of the time there's a lot leftover for tomorrow's lunch. And if, like me, you tend to add some cooked chicken, you've got a pretty complete meal in that one bowl.
This pineapple rice bowl has a great blend of flavors: Thai-style spices complement the sweet tang of the pineapple, and carrots and peanuts add just the right amount of crunch.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
I'm a huge fan of breakfast casseroles: they're perfect for feeding a group of houseguests and they just seem extra fancy. Very brunchy.
And I also love bread pudding: the dense custard is so hearty and satisfying, whether you're making a sweet pudding for dessert or a less sweet one for breakfast.
So what if you crossed a breakfast casserole with a bread pudding?
You'd end up with this savory sausage and apple bread pudding, which is equally as good for brunch as it is for dinner, depending on the ingredients you choose.
Since I had planned it for brunch, I opted for a sweeter maple sausage, although plain ground pork would well, too. (One of my favorite things about living in Vermont is that you can find local maple sausage just about everywhere.) If you'd prefer to have your bread pudding for dinner, substitute a mild Italian sausage and a really sharp cheddar cheese.
One thing you can't skip is the apple -- whether you like Granny Smith, Macintosh, Honey Crisp or Pink Lady, the apple adds the awesomesauce to this bread pudding recipe.
The apples I used actually had provenance. Last week, I attended the funeral of my dad's cousin Anna, who was a larger-than-life, kind, generous woman. She was an avid crafter, quilter and baker, and her love of using apples in her baking earned her the nickname "Apple Annie." As a tribute to their mother, her daughters, my cousins, had a large basket of apples at the funeral and urged everyone who attended to take an apple that day as a way of remembering their mother.