Thursday, January 31, 2013

Maple pumpkin mini muffins

Healthy maple pumpkin mini muffins -- great for breakfasts or snacks -- easy to make and easy to eat!

Easy, healthy maple pumpkin mini muffins -- great for breakfasts or snacks
Maple pumpkin mini muffins

Another Detox January is over and we didn't die. See? I told you it wouldn't be that hard.

Final results? I'm down nine pounds, Mr. Ninj lost more than ten and we are feeling all svelte and healthy (well, svelte-ish and healthy-ish).

Now, in past years, the end of Detox January usually meant the beginning of Retox February, unfortunately. But I've done a better job of dealing with denial this year. That is, I didn't ban all cookies and sweets or anything crazy like that so that we (hopefully) wouldn't go overboard when we were "allowed" to eat them again.

Case in point: last week's black bean chocolate cookies, which were a not-so-bad-for-you indulgence that let me have my cake and eat it, too -- almost literally.

So I thought we'd end this year's Detox January on a positive note, to keep us rolling into a Less-Toxy February and beyond.

Baked goods are tricky when it comes to trying to make a recipe healthier. I often substitute applesauce for oil or butter in cookies or muffins, but they can often end up a little too rubbery as a result. When Mr. Ninj eats one and says "This is healthy, isn't it?" (and not in an excited way), it generally means it's too rubbery.

That's where the stealthy part of my cooking comes in (again, I refer you back to those black bean chocolate cookies). I went through a bit of experimenting with this muffin recipe to find the perfect balance of taste, texture and nutrition.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Black bean chocolate cookies

Black bean chocolate cookies
We are in week four of five and nearing the end of Detox January. How is it going for you?

If you're looking for a reason to join us when we do it all again next year, how about this: Mr. Ninj has already lost nine pounds and I've lost seven by following the simple DJ rules and nothing else: not drinking alcohol, trying to exercise just a little bit (I haven't had much success with this, as I pulled a muscle in my back while shoveling snow, dammit) and eating what you read about right here.

Including cookies!

I have a huge savory tooth, but, when I deny it for too long, my sweet tooth kicks in. That's what happened this week. The post I originally planned to write today was about something with kale and squash but yesterday I just couldn't take it anymore: I needed some cookies.

However, being committed to Detox January, I compromised by searching out a recipe for "healthy" cookies (OK, really, just cookies not loaded with butter or bacon, but that makes them technically healthy in my book).

And, since you know I especially like a stealthy recipe, you can understand why I gravitated toward this one: cookies made with black beans. And no butter (or bacon, sadly). And whole wheat flour.

Keep reading: they are not only not nasty but also wicked good. Really.

(I can see you rolling your eyes, you know.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: DIY cold & flu relief

I wrote a piece for Vermont Life magazine's web site on DIY cold and flu relief. Of course, it includes a recipe for chicken soup that doesn't suck.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lightened clam chowder

Lightened clam chowder
I doubt you thought you would ever see a recipe for clam chowder show up here during Detox January, did you?

Clam chowder: practically synonymous with creamy, buttery, this-can't-be-good-for-me-so-I-only-eat-it-on-vacation decadence.

But this is a lighter version of clam chowder, which means it's Detox January-safe -- heck, it's safe to eat whenever you like.

I thought about calling it "Skinny Clam Chowder" until I read on Twitter that appending the "skinny" moniker is "so over" this year, and, well, god forbid I look "so over." (Although don't tell that to the blogger at, which is where I got the inspiration for this soup; she might just have to change her blog name so she's not "so over.")

Besides being light, this recipe is also pretty fast and easy (you know that's my favorite combo), so it doesn't have to be relegated to a weekend meal. Go ahead, throw it into the weeknight rotation. Winter is a great time for body- and soul-warming soups like this.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Maple walnut crackers

Maple walnut crackers from The Cracker Book
Late last year, I was asked to review and test some recipes from a new book entitled The Cracker Book: Artisanal Crackers for Every Occasion.

I love self-explanatory titles, don't you?

Burford Books thought I might like to try out some of the cracker recipes from this new book by Maine author Lee E. Cart. I immediately agreed because Lee's book promises that "making your own crackers is surprisingly easy."

Now, you know about my penchant for recipes that are wicked good but also wicked easy. And easy is the key word for these cracker recipes: mix the ingredients together, roll out the dough and cut out shapes with cookie cutters.

That's it! You're practically a Keebler elf.

I love the idea behind this little book: starting with a basic foundation recipe, you can add a variety of ingredients to create interesting artisanal crackers. The book includes recipes for more than 50 different kinds, including the unique and delightful-sounding
  • Bacon crackers
  • Carrot and ginger crackers
  • Cocoa and whole wheat crackers 
  • Green tea and brown rice crackers
  • Guacamole crackers
  • Rosewater crackers
  • Tequila and lime crackers

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Overnight crockpot oatmeal

Overnight crockpot oatmeal
We're into the third week of Detox January and I'm finding it easier this year than last. Not sure why, as it's more challenging this year, given that this blog gave me the Freshman Fifteen last year.

But, as always, breakfasts are challenging. If you've been following along on my special Detox January Pinterest board, you'll know what I mean. Skinny cookies? Lots of ideas. Healthy dinners? Can't cook through them fast enough.  Light breakfasts?

(Crickets, crickets, crickets.)

Then I stumbled across overnight oatmeal.

Warning: this is not that overnight oatmeal made in cute Mason jars in your refrigerator that is all over Pinterest right now like a bad rash. Maybe I'm inept, but I've tried to do that twice, using two different recipes, and it turned out like ... well, let's just say I wouldn't feed it to my dogs, even though they eat oatmeal every morning for breakfast.

(Seriously. They do. They are spoiled as all get-out.)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Detox January Mocktails: The Bul

Cuban bul mocktail
Yes, it's Detox January, but that doesn't mean we have forsaken Cocktail Hour in the casa de Ninj.

We've just turned it into Mocktail Hour.

The first week, we drank these spicy, amazing virgin Bloody Marys (hey, if I can increase my veggie intake by drinking them, sign me up).

This week, I remembered a refreshing drink made with beer and ginger ale that we used to drink during the summer when we lived in California. And that made me remember my Detox January secret weapon from years past.

Near beer.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Cherry-apricot quinoa breakfast cookies

Cherry-apricot quinoa breakfast cookies
First I gave you muffins and now cookies for Detox January.

See? I told you it wouldn't be that hard!

I find it fairly easy to find healthier, lower-fat entree ideas during Detox January (Eating Well and Cooking Light magazines are my go-to resources) but not as many breakfast recipes. Therefore, I was pleased to stumble upon this breakfast cookie recipe via Kiersten at Oh My Veggies, who adapted it from Bon Appetit.

As I stated in my value proposition for this blog, I try to emphasize both "stealthy and healthy" eating as much as I can (I do fall off the wagon and go bacon-crazy sometimes, but hey, I'm only human). The healthy recipes and ingredients are usually obvious; the stealthy ones, not always. These cookies definitely fall into the stealthy category.

Why? One word: quinoa.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Detox January: gingerbread muffins

Gingerbread muffins
Welcome to Detox January.

(Oh come on, it's not that bad, I promise.)

For new readers, let me explain. This is the Ninj's version of detox, not some scary-ass juice cleanse or eat-only-two-crackers-per-day diet plan. We take this on every year as a way of starting the new year off right, after all the excesses of the holidays. And, frankly, because I'd rather eat a muffin top than have one around my waist.

Detox January is not some overly ambitious resolution that you know you won't be able to keep (new gym membership, anyone?); it's more like a short-term, mini resolution that you know you can achieve.

The rules are simple. For the entire month of January,
  • Abstain from all alcohol (but if a recipe calls for a little bit, that's OK) -- we'll be drinking things like virgin marys rather than gimlets for cocktail hour
  • Eat a bit healthier every day (I don't expect you to get crazy here -- we just try to eat more veggies than cookies and keep our recipes more Cooking Light than Julia Child) 
  • Exercise more than you did in December 

And that's it. Simple, right?