Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Make your own kale powder

It's easy to make your own kale powder in the oven or a food dehydrator -- a great way to sneak lots of veggie nutrition into smoothies, soups and more.

Make your own kale powder for smoothies, soups, baking and more

When summer begins to wind down, my preserving instincts kick into high gear.

I start to panic: Fall is coming. What will I do without juicy fresh tomatoes? Or handful after handful of fresh basil? Or ripe peaches? Or fresh greens from right outside my back door?

Right now, my freezer is full of peaches, blueberries, strawberries and watermelon for winter smoothies and my pantry is loaded up with marinated dried tomatoes that I can turn into an amazing pasta sauce or layer on pizzas. And making a winter store of pesto and basil chimchurri is on my to-do list for next week.

So what about the greens?

While I have tried freezing heartier greens like kale and collards, they're really only good for soups and stews once thawed, as their cellular structure really breaks down once frozen. The best way I've found to preserve fresh greens is to dehydrate them and turn them into vegetable powders.

In the past, I showed you how to make tomato powder, which is an awesome way to add a huge pop of fresh tomato flavor to soups and pasta sauces or mix with yogurt or salad dressing to create a veggie dip. All it takes is a few hours in a food dehydrator or on low temperature in your oven.

Making greens powder -- in this case, kale powder -- is accomplished the same way.

My favorite use for this kale powder is very sneaky. Regular readers know Mr. Ninj, who never met a vegetable he liked, is my equivalent of mommy bloggers' picky 3-year-old eaters, so I'm always on the lookout for stealthy new ninja-like ways of sneaking vegetables into his diet.

Mixing this kale powder into his morning smoothies has become my secret weapon!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Tomato and ricotta summer sandwich

Layer the ripest, juiciest tomatoes on fresh, hearty bread with ricotta cheese and avocado for the perfect summer sandwich.

fresh tomato and ricotta summer sandwich with avocado

I know you're back in school, kids -- well, some of you. The ones that live near me here in the South anyway.

And I know apple-picking has begun in Vermont.

And I know that we're dangerously close to the beginning of OMG-EVERYTHING-PUMPKIN-FEST 2015, but I'm still celebrating summer. ( #stillsummer )

Summer veggies, anyway.

Despite the fact that the squirrels ate every single tomato from my plants as soon as they appeared, let alone waiting until they turned even a tinge of orange, I've been noshing on ripe, juicy tomatoes as often as I can -- especially in tomato sandwiches -- thanks to the many apparently squirrel-less local Kentucky farmers.

For about two years now I've been carrying around a page torn from a back issue of House Beautiful magazine, of all publications, that featured an open-faced avocado sandwich from Gabrielle Hamilton's NYC restaurant Prune.

It caught my eye because it featured tomatoes, avocado and ricotta cheese -- probably three of my most favorite ingredients. Evah.

But I never wound up making it because it was a little too fancy schmancy for me. I don't keep preserved lemon peel, pearl onions and poppy seeds on hand -- and the preserved lemon peel was said to be the star ingredients. (Note: I first typed that as "poopy seeds" which I think is an infinitely better and funnier name and would certainly make them the star ingredient. Well, at least the most interesting ingredient.)

Whatevs. Ninj ain't got that kinda time at lunch, dig?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Basil chimichurri

Basil chimichurri is slightly spicy and full of summer garden-fresh herbs: a perfect marinade for grilled flank steak or skirt steak.

Basil chimichurri sauce

I've been rockin' the hashtag #StillSummer on all my social media posts this month, lest we all get caught up in the back-to-school rush and forget to enjoy the warm, wonderful weather.

Which for me is largely about grilling and eating al fresco!

Truth: Part of why I love grilling so much is because I don't do it -- Mr. Ninj does. Which means that I get a little bit of a break in meal prep whenever we grill. Sure, I still make the salads and sides but it's fun to have my load lightened a little, especially during the week.

(And he's such a good sport. I'll just call out, "You're grilling tonight!" and he's completely OK with it.)

Another reason I'm reminding myself and everyone else that it's #StillSummer is because of fresh summer produce. Seriously, is there a better time of the year to be a healthy eater? I could pretty much live on sun-warmed fresh tomatoes, corn and peaches during July and August and never get sick of them. Plus, the basil in my yard, which, sadly is the only thing that the squirrels and deer haven't completely decimated, is prolific to the point of being out of control.

At this point, I usually make a ton of pesto and pop it into the freezer to enjoy during the fresh-veg wasteland that is winter.

Since I have so much basil this year, I decided to use it to make this riff on chimichurri, substituting basil for the usual cilantro. It turned out to be the perfect sauce marinade for grilled flank or skirt steak.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sweet and spicy slow cooker pork bowls

Sweet and spicy slow cooker pulled pork, combined with quinoa and fresh veggies, is a no-effort, tasty weeknight dinner that's also gluten-free.

sweet and spicy slow cooker pork bowls -- easy and gluten free

I think this is going to be one of my favorite posts ever. And not only because these sweet and spicy slow cooker pork bowls are just about the best thing I have ever eaten. (Truth.)

Let me tell you why.

Regular readers are aware that I am a fur mom to a couple of nutso dogs. I consider them my babies (and, OMG, when did I become that crazy pet lady??!!). But apparently sometimes I think of them as too human and forget that they are really just food-crazed wildebeests who only occasionally listen and do what they're asked.

By now, you're probably asking yourself, what the heck does this have to do with slow cooker pulled pork?

As a food blogger, I'm always trying to get the perfect hero shot when I photograph my recipes. This photo shoot was no exception. Since I don't have a swanky expensive tripod with a crane arm like many of my blogging compadres, if I want to get a good overhead shot of a recipe, I often have to photograph my recipes on the floor.

Read that again: On. The. Floor.

I bet you can see where this is headed.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Lightened blue cheese potato salad

Lightened blue cheese potato salad, made with Greek yogurt, is the perfect side for late summer BBQs or back-to-school weeknight dinners.

light blue cheese potato salad made with Greek yogurt

I can't believe it -- kids are already headed back to school.

Seriously: that's cray cray. I feel as if summer has barely gotten started yet the new bus drivers are driving training routes through our area in preparation for the first day of school next week.

I grew up in New England, so I associate the first day of school with, roughly, Labor Day, not the first week in August. In my book, August should still be summer, given that it is still summer according to the calendar. And the thermometer as well.

Lordy, who can think about back-to-school corduroys when it's in the 90s outside? All I can think about is grilling out or eating salads so as to not heat up the kitchen.

Long live the August BBQ cookout!

And, of course, what's the best thing about cookouts? The side dishes! And nothing says "cookout side dish" like a good, creamy potato salad.

Am I right?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sweet and savory summer peach recipes

Enjoy fresh, juicy peaches in not only sweet recipes but also savory ones: try these five easy, delicious recipes while peaches are in season.

Sweet and savory recipes for juicy summer peaches


There, now that I have your attention, let's talk about peaches. I'll admit, there's little better than eating a ripe, juicy peach, still warm from the sun, on a hot summer day. But when I've gotten a haul of fresh peaches, I can't eat all of them single-handedly. After freezing them for winter smoothies or canning them as peach puree for my homemade granola, I turn to these five recipes.

For your sweet tooth, I've got a grab-and-go breakfast muffin, an easy crumble and an unusual cobbler. But peaches are just as fantastic in savory dishes, especially when paired with their summer cousins, fresh tomatoes, or even tangy blue cheese.

Yep, The Ninj is serving peaches for dinner.