Friday, May 30, 2014

Produce call, week 2: CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2014

Friday is the weekly call for produce for the 2014 CSA Share Ninja Rescue, a summertime feature in which you can get recipe ideas by request for fresh produce from your CSA share or farmers' market simply by leaving a comment, telling me what produce you need help with. I will provide a list of healthy, creative recipes the next Tuesday.

It's Friday, so that means it's time for the weekly call for produce for CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2014. Hopefully by now you know the drill: Leave a comment on this post, telling me what produce you need help with from your CSA share or that you found at the farmers' market, and I will provide a list of recipes on Tuesday.

Here's the recap so far:

Since we're only in Week 2, it's short (really short!), but don't forget that you can also consult the recipe ideas from the past 3 years as well on the CSA Share Ideas page in my recipe index.

So: what produce is giving you fits or leaving you stumped this week? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chocolate granola bark

When you craving something a little sweet, a little savory and a whole lotta easy, whip up a batch of this dark chocolate granola bark, loaded with dried fruit and finished with crunchy sea salt. Store it in the freezer for an anytime treat.

chocolate granola bark with dried fruit and sea salt

We've been talking about vegetables so much lately that I thought I'd give you a break.

I may be a tireless advocate for healthy eating, but I'm no saint. Regular readers can attest to the fact that my recipe index is peppered with a fair amount of sweet or salty treats; Mr. Ninj can attest to the fact that I tend to make batches of cookies in the late afternoon almost every weekend (hello, late-day cravings).

Chocolate barks like this one are an ideal way to keep treats on hand without overindulging. When I make a tray of this chocolate granola bark, I break it into smallish pieces and store them in the freezer. If I need want a little treat -- say, in place of a full dessert or late in the day when dinner is still a few hours away (there's that late-day craving again!) -- I dip into the bag of bark and just eat one small piece.

One small piece is all it takes, too, because the bark made with dark chocolate, which is a great way of satisfying a sweet craving without going overboard. And, of course, we've all heard that a little dark chocolate in your diet is actually good for you, the same way a glass of red wine is good for your heart. And, just as you wouldn't drink a case of red wine in one sitting just because a little is good for you, you won't eat the whole tray of bark either: it's too rich and, frankly, that would just be ugly-ass gluttony, now wouldn't it?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rhubarb: 9 delicious recipes (CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2014)

Enjoy rhubarb in everything from a sweet dessert to a savory entree -- here are nine delicious, seaonsal recipes for this early summer favorite. Time to go beyond that ubiquitous strawberry-rhubarb pie!

Nine delicious and seasonal recipes for rhubarb, with everything from entrees to desserts!

Yippee! This is the first installment of the 2014 edition of the CSA Share Ninja Rescue, a weekly summertime feature in which you tell me via blog comments on Fridays what veg you received (or will be receiving) 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 Tuesday.

This week, my lucky readers are up to their eyeballs in rhubarb -- lucky lucky LUCKY!

If you want to go beyond the ubiquitous strawberry-rhubarb pie, check out these nine unique recipes, not only from The Ninj but also from some of my most favorite bloggers. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

CSA Share Ninja Rescue: 2014

Back for the fourth year: all summer long, get weekly recipe ideas by request for fresh produce from your CSA share or farmers' market. Simply leave a comment on Friday, telling me what produce you need help with, and I will provide a list of healthy, creative recipes the next Tuesday.

CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2014: all summer long, get weekly recipe ideas by request for the fresh produce that comes in your CSA share or from the farmers' market.

It's back for 2014: the CSA Share Ninja Rescue, a weekly summertime feature in which you tell me on Fridays what veg you received (or will be receiving) 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 Tuesday.

Yes: recipes by request, served directly to you from The Ninj.

I took the initial baby steps toward becoming The Ninj many years ago when I signed up for my first CSA program. Each week I received gorgeous vegetables and greens that I could barely identify, let alone know how to prepare. I was lucky enough to be part of a CSA that provided a big recipe booklet, carefully indexed and organized to cover all the produce one could receive from the farm in an entire year.

So I've turned myself into the virtual recipe booklet that you may or may not be getting as part of your local CSA share.

Check out one of the CSA Share Ninja Rescue posts from last year to see how it works.

A couple of things to keep in mind as we kick it off for 2014:
  1. I will offer recipe suggestions for 2-3 of the items listed in the comments (I have to be realistic and cannot offer suggestions for every single vegetable each week or I would never have time to post any new recipes!)
  2. I base my choices on seasonality and popularity -- that is, if you comment that you happen to have some pumpkin in July, I'm likely not going to choose pumpkin as one of the highlighted items for that week.
  3. I try not to be judgy about defining "seasonality" -- I do bear in mind that while I'm on the East Coast of the United States, you may not be.
  4. You must leave a comment on the blog to be considered (sorry, Facebook or Pinterest comments won't make the cut). 
Since this is the fourth year that I have been doing the CSA Share Ninja Rescue, be sure to check the CSA Share Ideas page in the recipe index regularly for many, many more produce recipe ideas.

So let's get started: whatcha got in your box this week? Leave a comment below.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Chicken and salad sandwiches

Loaded with crunchy fresh vegetables and melted cheddar cheese, chicken-and-salad flatbread sandwiches make a hearty, healthy lunch or easy weeknight dinner.

chicken and salad flatbread sandwiches, a fresh and healthy lunch or easy weeknight dinner

No, that's not a typo in the title: it's chicken-AND-salad sandwiches, not another (boooooring) chicken salad sandwich. No gloppy mayo here -- just loads and loads of crisp fresh veggies, tossed in a light vinaigrette. With some grilled chicken, if being a meatasaurus like The Ninj is how you roll.

I have a mental block against eating sandwiches for dinner. I know, it's silly. I mean, I will happily scarf down a gigantic burger for dinner yet a burger is basically a sandwich, right?

Maybe it's a hot versus cold thing. Burgers are hot, sandwiches (usually) are not, and I'm still super old-school in being biased toward a hot dinner and a cold lunch.

But these chicken-and-salad sandwiches have changed my mind. I never thought I'd describe a veggie-packed sandwich as hearty and filling, but this one is, as it's loaded with crisp, crunchy veggies like fennel, radishes and carrots. And it makes total sense: why eat a side salad with your sandwich when you can just eat the salad as part of the sandwich? WITH MELTY CHEESE?

Yes, there's melted cheese (I mean, really -- of course there is melty cheese). A nice sharp cheddar not only adds extra punch and charm to the sandwich, it also serves as the glue that holds everything in place. Which sets the sandwich apart from a taco. Genius.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Baked grapefruit buttermilk doughnuts

Baked grapefruit buttermilk doughnuts rolled in superfine citrus sugar -- better for you than a fried doughnut, as easy to make as muffins.

baked grapefruit buttermilk doughnuts

A few weeks ago, I caved. I gave in to trendiness, which I try so hard never to do. (So much so that I'm the person that will stop listening to a band once everyone else finds out about them.)

But I did it: I bought a doughnut pan.

Yep, baked doughnuts. You've seen them all over Pinterest and Facebook. Let's be honest, though. A baked doughnut is basically a muffin, only more ... well ... round. And with a hole in it. Making it a doughnut, technically. And making you feel like you're a stealthy-homemaking badass, eating a doughnut that is healthy because it's baked.

Howevs: Let's continue being honest. A doughnut, no matter what form it takes, is probably never going to be healthy. Or good for you.

Truth: You're probably never going to find a recipe for a kale-and-beet baked doughnut (and if you do, don't eat it -- that crap would be nasty). So let's put that little myth to bed.

Another truth, though, is that baked doughnuts are better for you than a fried doughnut. Not as good for you as a green smoothie but if your choice is only between baked and fried doughnuts, baked doughnuts win. I mean, better-for-you baked doughnuts win.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Naan panzanella salad

Enjoy this quick-to-prepare riff on rustic Italian panzanella salad, with lightly fried naan and a bright lemony dressing -- an easy summery meal salad, perfect for a weeknight dinner or hearty lunch.

naan panzanella salad

It's not quite summer yet, but I've been a summery meal salad kick lately.

Perhaps it's just wishful thinking. Perhaps I'm doing it to appease the weather gods so that they won't throw a late frost at me, just as I'm beginning to get my summer garden planted. (Oh please oh please oh please)

I love meal salads and am always looking for new ideas to make them interesting. Lately I've been throwing savory granola into my salads for a little extra crunch: highly recommended. For this riff on my favorite summer salad, panzanella (Italian bread salad), I've kicked it up with lightly fried naan.

Yes, naan!

I'm a naan junkie. I think the wait staff at my favorite Indian restaurant probably cringes when I arrive for the lunch buffet -- I bet they lose money that day based solely on the amount of naan that I manage to scarf down in one sitting.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Chocolate berry black bean Mason jar smoothie

Attach a Mason jar to your blender to whip up this healthy chocolate-strawberry-black-bean smoothie -- dairy-free and naturally sweetened, it's the perfect good-for-you afternoon snack.

healthy chocolate berry black bean Mason jar smoothie

OMG, y'all: The Mason jar blender smoothie is not an urban myth! I still cannot quite believe that something crafty I saw on Pinterest actually worked.

This is a smoothie game-changer for me.

I love smoothies as much as the next person. I really do. Heck, I've got a bunch of smoothie recipes on this site. But I hate hate HATE to clean the blender. Did I say hate? I mean REALLY hate. Hand-washing is not my thing, so I don't make smoothies nearly as much as I'd like.

I know, it's sadly, pathetically lazy but hey, we've all got our issues, right?

Enter the Mason jar blender smoothie. (Again, I'm still reeling that this is not a lie.)

If you separate the blade attachment thingy from the pitcher portion of your blender, you can screw the blade attachment thingy right onto a Mason jar! And then, after you whirl it up, you can drink it directly from the jar! Not even an extra glass to wash! ERMERGAHD: Lazy person's dream!

I kid you not: I have photos.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Chipotle black bean quinoa casserole (gluten-free)

Gluten-free chipotle black bean and quinoa casserole -- a spicy, hearty, meatless weeknight dinner recipe that's oh so easy and cheesy. 

gluten free chipotle black bean and quinoa casserole

Guess what? I've got another great recipe to add to your easy and healthy weeknight dinner list: chipotle black bean and quinoa casserole. And odds are you have most of the ingredients on hand on any given weeknight.

This casserole is not only delicious and filling, it's also meatless, with all the protein coming from black beans. And the quinoa provides a touch of chewiness that adds to the heartiness of the overall dish. The key to the awesome spiciness comes from Cabot Chipotle Cheddar cheese -- just enough to give it a real kick without overpowering the cheesy flavor. Served with spicy salsa and cool avocado, either cubed or mashed into a lazy guacamole, you can enjoy this quinoa casserole as either a dinner entree or a brunch casserole, if you prefer savory brunch dishes. 

And the recipe really couldn't be easier, which is why I think you'll enjoy making it as a weeknight dinner. Once the quinoa is cooked, mix all the ingredients together and bake. Easy peasy! And, as a bonus, it's gluten-free!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Baked ziti with tomatoes, broccoli and olives

Cheesy baked ziti, loaded with good-for-you veggies -- roasted tomatoes, tender-crisp broccoli and tangy green olives -- makes a hearty meatless meal!

baked ziti with roasted tomatoes, broccoli and olives

I love pasta way too much.

If you've browsed my recipe index at all, you'll understand. Not that loving pasta is bad, but all those carbs aren't the best for my quickly-approaching-middle-age waistline.

I've been experimenting quite a bit with lower-carb, gluten-free pastas made from things like brown rice and quinoa, and I really do like them. In certain dishes. Like my beet pesto and greens pasta.

But there are some hearty pasta dishes for which I have to stick to the real McCoy.

This baked ziti, loaded with good-for-you veggies (and no meat!), is one such dish. While it's familiar name is "baked ziti", I actually recommend rigatoni for this dish.  Rigatoni is larger than ziti, which means a larger tube opening to hold the thick veggie sauce -- to which I'm afraid a more delicate brown rice pasta just wouldn't be able to stand up. Additionally, I think the thicker rigatoni lends a heartier element to the whole dish.

And speaking of that hearty veggie sauce...