Thursday, August 29, 2013

Banana-zucchini muffins

So, have you used up all your zucchini yet? (Snort)

Yeah, I know: bad joke. Mine is still coming in from the garden and I don't know how many more baggies of shredded zucchini my freezer can hold. I still have one in there from last year, for cripes sake.

But if you also happen to have a past-its-eating-prime banana hanging around, today is your lucky day.

If not for the pathetic banana on the counter, I would likely have made my summer harvest zucchini bread this week. But frugality (read: cheapness) got the better of me: I was determined to use up the banana and the zucchini -- and not by throwing either one into the compost bin. My challenge to myself was to find a way to use them both in one recipe.

Lucky for you, I scored. And scored big.

You know how yummy banana bread is? And you know how much you love zucchini bread? Yeah? Well, now combine them together, add some flax seed meal to make it good for you and -- voila! -- you've got The Ninj's favorite new breakfast: banana-zucchini muffins.

The best thing about these banana-zucchini muffins is that they are incredibly moist, without any added oil -- and not that rubbery, oh-you-clearly-added-applesauce-instead-of-oil-to-make-it-healthy moistness. We enjoy them au naturel (which makes them handily portable), but they are also wicked with a little butter or fruit butter schmeared on them.

And they freeze well, too.

Monday, August 26, 2013

CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2013: corn (9 ways)

Welcome back! Regular readers know that Monday is the day we share the CSA Share Ninja Rescue, a weekly feature in which you tell me on Fridays what veg you got in your CSA share box (or found at the farmers' market) that you don't know what to do with and I'll give you a whole bunch of recipe ideas on the following Monday.

(Since summer is winding down, we're getting to the last few installments of the Rescue for this year. If you need help with some veg, be sure to let me know quickly!)

This week: corn! In my opinion, it's one of the things that makes summer so wonderful.

And traditional corn-on-the-cob is always a tasty option, whether you boil it, grill it, slather it in butter or just eat it plain. But have you considered some other ways to prepare sweet summer corn?

I discovered, after making a fresh corn salad (pictured) for the first time a few years ago that I actually prefer it raw in salads. You can just zip it right off the cob and it's ready to go (the OXO corn zipper will be your new best friend).

Here are nine delicious ways to enjoy all that awesome summer corn -- and none of them involve the cob!

What's your favorite way to eat corn? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Burlington Food Tours

Whether you’re a resident of or a visitor (or even a wannabe visitor) to my home state of Vermont, you’re probably well aware that the Burlington area is a food-lover’s paradise.

Now there's even a food-focused walking tour of Burlington.

Burlington Food Tours offers a cultural walking tour of the downtown area, with tasty sampling stops along the way at various vendors at the farmer’s market as well as specialty food shops and area restaurants. The experienced guides also provide some Burlington food history and overview of the area farming and locavore culture along the way.

I recently took part in this food-focused walking tour. You can read about my experience in this piece I wrote for Vermont Life magazine's web site.

Monday, August 19, 2013

CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2013: pickle roundup (20 ways!)

It is indeed Monday, the day we share the CSA Share Ninja Rescue, a weekly feature in which you tell me on Fridays what veg you got in your CSA share box (or found at the farmers' market) that you don't know what to do with and I'll give you a whole bunch of recipe ideas on the following Monday.

But the feature may look a little different today. I decided to shake things up a little and not focus on specific vegetables but on a technique instead.

So today we're talking preserving: namely, preserving through pickling. 

Pickling is a great way to preserve a lot of the garden's excess bounty to enjoy over the winter months, when your CSA or garden isn't overloading you with delicious, colorful veggies.

Additionally, I tried to include a lot of recipes and posts from some of my favorite bloggers, rather than just recipes from professional chefs and foodie mags (although they are represented as well). Who knows? You might find a new blog to follow!

Lastly, for all of you who are thinking, "Great, Ninj, but I don't can!" or perhaps, "This is lovely, Ninj, but I don't like cucumbers!" -- don't worry, I've got you covered, too. (Come on, would The Ninj leave you hanging?!!!)

Let's get pickling, shall we?

Cucumber Pickles (canned)

Other Pickled Vegetables (canned)

No-Canning-Required Recipes

Do you have a favorite pickling method or recipe? Leave a comment below: The Ninj wants to know.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Blueberry vinegar

homemade blueberry vinegar and shrub

More excitement around Casa de Ninj this summer: the high-bush blueberries are producing!

Regular readers will recall that last year was pretty much a crapfest in the wee orchard: no peaches, no pears, no cherries, a handful of blueberries and a few measly apples. Pffft. Hardly worth the countless hours I spent hand-picking beetles off all the trees.

Of course, all this misery was courtesy of Mother Nature, who is a fickle broad indeed, giving us a killing late spring frost in 2012 -- as if we hadn't gone through enough cold all winter. Similarly, this summer she has given us unseasonably cold temperatures alternating with blistering heat and seemingly endless rain. For cripes' sake, it's mid-August and I'm still waiting on the tomato harvest; if we don't scoot this along, my unripe tomatoes will be touched with frost before I can eat them.

But it turns out there's a silver lining to all this craptacular weather: the blueberries are thriving.

I'm done complaining. We only have four blueberry bushes and I have already harvested at least six quarts, with many more out there just waiting for me. We have oodles, even with my sharing them with the birds this year (we're all peacefully co-existing now that I've started feeding them and gave them some bitchin' bird baths).

So I was delighted when the week's "assignment" from Sherri Brooks Vinton's Put 'Em Up Fruit for the From Scratch Club's virtual book club turned out to include blueberries.


I already put up some of what I'm calling Black and Blue Jam this year, using the aforementioned blueberries and a boatload of wild black raspberries foraged from the edges of our woods, so I wanted to try something other than jam. Behold: Sherri's book offered up blueberry vinegar!

Monday, August 12, 2013

CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2013: carrots (9 ways)

Happy Monday, friends! Why so happy? Because Monday is the day we share the CSA Share Ninja Rescue, a weekly feature in which you tell me on Fridays what veg you got in your CSA share box (or found at the farmers' market) that you don't know what to do with and I'll give you a whole bunch of recipe ideas on the following Monday.

Coming up in gardens this week are lots of colorful, yummy carrots. I was a little boring this year and planted small orange carrots; if they survive the swarm of bunnies in my yard, next year I might try some purple heirloom varieties. They'd look so lovely in salads and slaws.

Speaking of which, the French carrot slaw featured in my photo is deeeeeelicious and included in this week's recipe roundup below. I love it because it's not the deli-counter mayo-laden, raisin-studded salad of my youth but instead a tangy, crisp side that really lets the flavors of the fresh carrots shine through.

  • French carrot salad: It's the mustard that gives it that certain  je ne sais quoi
  • Dilly carrots: You love dilly beans, so why not quick-pickle some carrots?
  • Carrot-fennel soup: One of my favorites from Amanda Hesser (or, at least, Amanda Hesser's friend)
  • Morning glory breakfast muffins: Start your day off with a carrot-cakey muffin that's packed with healthy goodness
  • Carrot jam: Lovely on the aforementioned breakfast muffins or anywhere you'd normally use marmalade
  • Potato-zucchini-carrot pancakes: With an egg baked into the top and a crisp green salad on the side, these savory pancakes make a nice summer dinner
  • Carrot cake oatmeal: Doesn't that sounds delightful? This will become a fall favorite around Casa de Ninj for sure
  • Carrot lemonade: One of Michelle Obama's favorite summertime drinks, with a gingery twist
  • Carrot martini: Because you can always count on The Ninj to booze up your veggies

Do you have a favorite carrot recipe? Leave a comment; The Ninj wants to know.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Watermelon soda (for the blog's anniversary)

easy homemade watermelon soda

It almost passed me by without my realizing it but today marks the third anniversary of The Ninj. Well, not exactly. I personally am way older than three. WAY older. But I've been publishing the blog, in all its glory, for exactly three years.

Certainly a lot has changed in three years. Most noticeably, my photographs (thank god). I think my goal for the next year needs to be to remake all the recipes from Year 1 and rephotograph them. There's some good stuff back there but the photos do nothing to make you want to make or eat it. Really: NOTHING.

Also, I no longer refer to myself as between careers. I'm happy to have settled into the content producer role and am even happier that I've taken on some gigs that involve more in-depth writing about food but also about other topics as well (you'll hear more about that soon).

But, of course, other things haven't really changed at all. My dogs are still nuts, I'm still doing battle with the deer (there are TWO MORE THIS YEAR, for cripes' sake!) and I am still loving trying out new recipes to share with you, best-girlfriend style.

Which brings us to the watermelon soda. Holy crap, this stuff is awesome!

I'm not exaggerating. I have never tasted such a refreshing, fizzy drink. And, mind you, I am not a soda fan. I gave the stuff up many, many years ago and don't miss it one bit. Sure, I'll have the occasional natural soda every once in a while, but I wouldn't miss it if I never had another one.


I could seriously become addicted to this watermelon soda. It's fascinating to me because the combination of watermelon with a little mint and some lime juice actually makes it taste a wee bit like grapefruit (I know, right?). It's almost like getting two flavors, watermelon and grapefruit, for the price of one.

Monday, August 5, 2013

CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2013: cucumbers

Happy Monday, friends! Why so happy? Because Monday is the day we share the CSA Share Ninja Rescue, a weekly feature in which you tell me on Fridays what veg you got in your CSA share box (or found at the farmers' market) that you don't know what to do with and I'll give you a whole bunch of recipe ideas on the following Monday.

Not surprisingly, I've been asked to provide some suggestions for using up cucumbers. If you're a gardener, you know how sneaky these guys can be. One day there's a tiny little bud or two on the vine and then -- BAM! -- seemingly overnight you've got a garden full of cucumbers.

I won't bore you this with a gajillion pickle recipes, either: we've pretty much covered that in other posts, so be sure to check out The Pickling Ninjipedia for all the pickling ideas you could ever want.

And, let's face it, you're probably already weary of the raw cucumber salad, right? No worries: The Ninj has got 10 delicious, salad-free ways to enjoy your cucumbers this year:

What's your favorite way to use cucumbers? The Ninj wants to know.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Garden protection tips and Nite Guard giveaway winner

Thanks to everyone who entered last week's Nite Guard Solar garden protection giveaway. The lucky winner (picked by number generator via was Katherine C., who is hoping the units will help her in her fight against deer. Keep us posted, Katherine!

(And if you didn't win, don't despair: you can still buy your own units!)

I'm feeling rather fortunate (sort of) that I only have to contend with deer and bunnies, as well as the ocasional bear passing through. My readers apparently also have to deal with squirrels, chipmunks, cats, possums, raccoons and rats (UGH)!

In addition to announcing the winner, I decided also to include a roundup of all the other critter prevention suggestions that came in via the comments, as well as some others I've heard bandied about.

  • Raised beds (too high for bunnies!)
  • Marigolds (and fragrant herbs except basil) planted around the border
  • Dogs (but only some!)
  • Liquid Fence (US) / Bobbex (Canada)
  • Human hair
  • Coyote (or other predator) urine
  • Red pepper spray
  • Netting (for tender greens)
  • Castor oil (for burrowing voles)

Lastly, the most effective "weapon" we have ever used to keep the deer from our garden was water. Well, water in the form of motion-activated fan sprinklers. (The only reason I don't use them now is that we don't have a water source close enough to the garden; if you do have water nearby, these sprinklers are THE BEST!)

Not only did it startle the deer away when they got too close, but it also provided us with endless amusement as we watched unsuspecting early morning joggers passing by our garden. :-)

Have any of these methods worked for you? Or perhaps failed? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.