Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best of 2013: your favorite recipes and mine

A round up of The Ninj's most popular recipes of 2013 and some that deserve a second look.

Yankee Kitchen Ninja most popular recipes of 2013

Yowza -- 2013 was a big year here on the blog, wasn't it?

In honor of the year's end and all the yummy recipes we've cooked together, I've created a year-end wrap-up of your 10 favorite recipes (as indicated by total page views), as well as my 10 favorites that I think you might want to give a second look.

As I mentioned last year, cooking these recipes and writing these posts is a bit like being a parent: you insist you love each one equally but, really, in the deep honesty of your heart, you have favorites.

Yankee Kitchen Ninja favorite recipes of 2013

Did any of your personal faves make it onto these two lists? And what do you want to see more or less of in 2014? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.

Top 10 Most Popular Recipes of 2013
  1. Black Bean Chocolate Cookies
  2. Homemade Nutella
  3. Overnight Crockpot Oatmeal
  4. Oat and Yogurt Breakfast Bars
  5. White Bean Burgers
  6. Cherry-Apricot Quinoa Breakfast Cookies
  7. Fruit Leather
  8. Guinness Beef/Venison Stew
  9. Watermelon Soda
  10. Maple-Pumpkin Mini Muffins

The Ninj's Top 10 Favorite Recipes of 2013
  1. Port and Cherry Brownies
  2. Chicken and Biscuit Casserole
  3. Homemade Granola
  4. Asian Pork Burgers with Quick Pickled Cucumbers
  5. Vermont Potato Chowdah
  6. Pasta Con Sarde
  7. Roasted Red Pepper Spread
  8. Lightened Clam Chowdah
  9. Carrot Cake Cookies
  10. Banana-Zucchini Muffins

Monday, December 30, 2013

Roasted grape crostini

Enjoy this recipe for roasted grape crostini, an elegant but easy party appetizer.

roasted grape crostini appetizer

I have never been a big New Year's Eve kind of person. Oh sure, I used to try to force myself to stay awake and watch Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve until the ball dropped, but I've even given up that pretense: without Dick, it's not really all that rockin'.

But these roasted grape crostini appetizers might make me change my mind this year. Paired with a lovely glass of champagne, I can think of no better way to ring in 2014.

(I seriously cannot believe that 2013 is nearly over -- can you? Where the heck did this year go?)

And, as is the case with most of The Ninj's favorite recipes, these roasted grape crostini are quick and easy to prepare.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Panettone muffins

Panettone muffins: all the sweet, fruity flavor of traditional panettone in a simple muffin -- the perfect holiday breakfast.

panettone muffins

Panettone is a Christmas tradition for The Ninj. This fruity Italian sweet bread is delicious and also versatile -- it's great for dessert or with a cup of afternoon tea yet even better as breakfast, plain, slathered with butter or lightly toasted.

(I'm pretty much drooling right now just thinking about it.)

I try to make one brand-new-to-me recipe each year at holiday time; for 2012, it was panettone. It was beautiful and fun to make -- not to mention yummy. This year, for my new-to-me recipe, I decided to try a riff on traditional panettone that's a little bit easier to make and doesn't require any special baking paper:

Panettone muffins.

These really are more muffin than panettone, to be perfectly honest. But if you're a fan of the butter, fruity panettone flavor, you're going to love these muffins.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Eggnog coffee cake

Eggnog coffee cake with a cinnamon-nut swirl and topping is only lightly sweet, making it perfect for breakfast.

eggnog coffee cake

I'm wrapping up eggnog week with a total winner: eggnog coffee cake -- no coffee required.

By now, you've made a batch of easy homemade eggnog and perhaps even turned it into some eggnog cookies. If you haven't yet completely boozed it up and glugged it all down, you can now use it in this moist, delicious coffee cake.

While I like sweet treats and desserts, I prefer my baked goods a little on the less-sweet side (some I even prefer savory). This eggnog coffee cake fits the bill, making it ideal not only for breakfast but also as an afternoon snack or a pretty after-dinner dessert.

(Don't you just love versatility?)

But I'm highly recommending it for breakfast, especially your Christmas morning breakfast, which is rapidly approaching and deserves a pretty, delicious cake.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Eggnog cookies

Enjoy this easy recipe for soft eggnog cookies, made with homemade eggnog.

eggnog cookies

Earlier this week, I showed you how to make your own homemade eggnog. Now, I'm going to show you how to make some awesome eggnog treats with it!

Like these eggnog cookies.

Now, I certainly hope you're not sick of cookies yet. Although I wouldn't blame you if you were: I can't look at Pinterest or my Facebook feed without being overwhelmed with cookie recipes.

But DAYYYUMM -- they all look so good!

Although not all of them look as easy as these eggnog cookies (who the hell wants to work hard to make a cookie??). And easy is something I appreciate, as we get into the home stretch of holiday preparations and, for some us, epic traveling.

Speaking of traveling, these eggnog cookies are not only easy to make, they travel well. Packaged in a tight container, they're perfect for shipping (not too soft to fall apart, yet not too crisp to get broken) -- or, frankly, for snacking on while doing some of that epic traveling.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Homemade eggnog

Make your holiday extra special by making your own homemade eggnog, with or without booze -- it's easy!
make your own homemade eggnog

Welcome to eggnog week! Yes, week. I've got some baking-with-eggnog holiday recipes coming up later this week, but today we're starting with the basics.

Step away from the store-bought carton of eggnog: it's wicked easy to make your own. And yours will not be full of chemicals and gross-ass preservatives. So yay for you.

We love eggnog around Casa de Ninj. With or without booze.

(Can you believe I just said "without booze"? I barely recognize myself after that.)

The boozy version is fun and great but sometimes -- say, when you're baking or when you are 10 years old -- you need a straight-up, non-alcholic version.

There's much back-and-forth debate over cooked versus uncooked eggnog (it has to do with the eggs and the risk of salmonella) -- I'm not going to get into it. Just know that this eggnog recipe is a cooked one, so entirely safe for everyone in the family.

And it really is super easy, which you know if one of my primary recipe criteria.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

White chocolate pretzel chip cookies

White chocolate pretzel chip cookies -- the perfect sweet yet salty cookie.

white chocolate pretzel chip cookies

So remember when I told you last week that Mr. Ninj pronounced my Snack Crack to be his favorite food of all time?

He just changed his mind: now these white chocolate pretzel chip cookies have taken over the number one position.

(Yeah, he's fickle that way when it comes to treats.)

Not that I'm arguing with him, mind you.

We recently got a big container of white chocolate-covered pretzels. I mean a really big container. (Damn you, cute Cub Scout neighbor boy with your sad little fundraising sales pitch.) Now, for some people this might be no big deal. But neither Mr. Ninj nor I has very effective willpower around treats. Scratch that: we have no willpower around treats. Zero. As in, "Well, if one is good, then 25 will be awesome!"

Therefore, I took decisive action. I needed to turn those pretzels into something -- and then proceed to give them away.

As it is the holiday time of the year, the time of cookie swaps and food gifts, I went with cookies.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Port and cherry brownies

Rich and decadent round brownies made with ruby port and tart dried cherries.

rich and decadent port and cherry brownies

I got a recipe for boozy cherry brownies delivered straight to my inbox. Booyah. If that's not fate, I don't know what is.

As a food blogger, I get slammed on a daily basis with press releases and other marketing emails, wanting me to promote/review/check out whatever food-related item or information is being hawked.

Most of it is crap, but every once in a while, there's a diamond in the crap pile. Recently, the diamond was this brownie recipe.

Since the recipe comes directly from Dorie Greenspan, I knew it would be foolproof. And since it's made with port wine, bittersweet chocolate and tangy dried cherries, I knew it would be completely awesome.

And it is.

I love that they are made in muffin tins which makes them not only round (Dorie calls them "broundies") but also cutely personal-sized without the jaggedy cut edges of pan brownies.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Slow cooker bread pudding

Try this overnight slow cooker (crockpot) bread pudding: it makes a delicious and easy breakfast or dessert.

crockpot (slow cooker) bread pudding

Once again, it's time to ROCK YOUR CROCK!

Regular readers know that one of my criteria for favorite recipes is that they are easy to prepare. Which is why I love slow cooker recipes so much: What could be easier than throwing everything in the crockpot and walking away?

However, if you've browsed through Pinterest much, you know that while many crockpot recipes are easy, they are also just plain gross. Gloppy, beige and full of cream-of-whatevs condensed soup: no thanks. That's not how The Ninj rolls. (Don't forget that you can make homemade cream-of-whatevs soup as a substitute!)

Trust me: this bread pudding is not gross.

A fun thing I discovered about crockpot cooking is that you can make a lot more dishes in it that you would think if you essentially turn it into an overnight waterbath: Put a Pyrex dish full of your ingredients inside the crock, surround it with water and let it cook overnight. That's how I make my crockpot apple pie oatmeal, which we eat a lot of around Casa de Ninj.

That is also how I made this bread pudding. I figured if the waterbath worked for the oatmeal, why not for bread pudding?

Ehrmergahd, peeps, this is such an amazing breakfast treat. Sure, you can serve it as dessert, but it seems so much more decadent to eat it for breakfast.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Turkey tetrazzini

Use holiday leftovers in this creamy turkey tetrazzini, comfort-food pasta made with homemade, DIY condensed soup.

turkey tetrazzini with homemade condensed soup

This recipe for turkey tetrazzini is a first for me: It's one I'm posting at the request of my readers.

Before Thanksgiving, we were having a discussion on my Facebook page about our favorite Thanksgiving leftovers. You know, the ones that you look forward almost a bit more than the turkey feast itself? For me, it's a tie between all-the-trimmings turkey sandwiches and turkey tetrazzini.

Apparently turkey tetrazzini is a favorite among my readers as well, as many of them asked me to share my recipe.

So here it is -- but with a ninja twist: NO CONDENSED SOUP!

Whoot! Yep, you got it -- no condensed soup.

And the extra bonus? Within the recipe you make your own homemade version of condensed crream of chicken soup, which you can use for any other recipe that calls for canned cream-of-whatevs soup.

Perfect: This means that you, like I, can now stop ignoring 80 percent of the crockpot recipes on Pinterest!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Sweet and spicy snack mix (aka, snack crack)

One bite of this sweet and spicy snack mix -- made with nuts, pretzels and a spicy maple glaze -- and you'll know why we call it snack crack.

addictively delicious sweet and spicy snack mix

Here's hoping you had a great Thanksgiving and are eating a kick-ass turkey sandwich on Black Friday buns while you're reading this post.

I'm so excited to share this sweet and spicy snack mix with you that I'm practically bouncing up and down in my chair. This stuff is freakin' awesome! So awesome, in fact, that Mr. Ninj told me last week that this snack mix is his “favorite food in the entire world, ever.” Seriously. You will not be able to stop eating it, which is why it has been dubbed "snack crack" at Casa de Ninj.

Today, I'm also sharing the recipe for this ahhhhhhh-mazing snack mix over at A Southern Fairytale, where Rachel is co-hosting the fourth annual Handmade Holidays extravaganza -- 30 full days of baking, crafting and sewing ideas from a fantastic group of bloggers.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Crockpot white bean chili with chicken and corn

Need a quick dinner? Try this easy set-it-and-forget-it slow cooker white bean chili with chicken or turkey and corn.

Crockpot white bean chili with chicken and corn

With less than a week to go until Thanksgiving, my Facebook feed is full of nothing but pictures of Thanksgiving dishes.

If I see one more photo of pumpkin pie, I may spontaneously combust.

So, since we've all got our hands full with planning the big meal or getting prepped for the over-the-river-and-through-the-woods roadtrip, The Ninj decided you need a break from all this holiday fallderall.

Get out yer crockpot and make yer life easy: whip up a big batch of chili so you can get on with everything else on your list.

I wound up creating this chili based on one that I tasted as part of a chili cookoff a few weeks ago at which I, The Ninj, was asked to be the "celebrity judge" (their words, not mine).

OMG, peeps, someone considers me a freakin' celebrity. I am so stoked.

At the cookoff, I tasted twelve different chili recipes in about fifteen minutes. Dudes: that's a lot of chili that, frankly, all started to taste the same after about six samples.

Except one.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dried plum and apricot hand pies

Individual dried plum (prune) and apricot hand pies make a delicious holiday snack or dessert -- and a great alternative to pie.

dried plum and apricot hand pies

Regular readers know that I am an avid home cook and food writer -- but they may not know that I came to my calling late in life. I spent little time in the kitchen during my childhood and taught myself to cook from cookbooks, and with some tips from my sister, out of sheer necessity in my 20s (basically, I needed to eat). When I read memoirs from other food writers or hear their stories of learning to cook at a young age from a loving, patient grandmother, I can't relate. Although I grew up in a large Italian family that loved to eat, we did so neither reverentially nor adventurously. Family dinners were simply what happened at six o'clock every evening, rather than a celebration of food or culture.

With five children and a full-time job, my mother viewed cooking as a chore, another task that needed doing each busy day. For her, baking a cake meant opening a box of Duncan Hines, and the microwave was her go-to tool in the kitchen. Understandably, special meals were reserved for holidays.

Yet my father adored food.

Again, he did not love food adventurously. A good steak, steamed lobster with lots of butter and anything that sported a heavy cream sauce were among his all-time favorites. But food played a starring role in his life. Whenever he told stories about places or people, they were ultimately about food – the food served at a memorable event, a special dish from a favorite restaurant, his teenaged job termination based on his preference for dipping into the restaurant's ice cream freezer rather than the dishwater.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sweet and spicy poultry rub

Try this easy recipe for sweet and spicy rub on chicken, turkey, steak, even veggies for tangy BBQ flavor.

sweet and spicy poultry rub

I've never been much on rubs. Whenever I see some kind of rub for a steak described on a restaurant menu, I think, "Meh. So what?"

But, as with so many things I have discovered since I started blogging, I didn't know what I was missing.

Well, maybe not on steak -- I'm still pretty much a purist in that department -- but definitely for poultry.

ZOMG, peeps, this is a seriously good rub. Transformational, even. In that it transforms a simple chicken or turkey into a crispy, sweet-yet-spicy bundle of awesomeness.

I don't know about you but, until I started using this rub on chicken, I never ever ever ate cooked chicken skin. Watching other people do it actually grossed me out. To me, it just was NOT something that you ate. It was merely the packaging on the outside that you removed to get to the real food.

As I said, UNTIL I used this rub.

The first time I baked a chicken with the rub, I took it out of the oven to cool and was intrigued by how aromatic and gorgeous the skin was. So I took a little nibble.


All I can say is that if you like BBQ potato chips, you'll be in heaven.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Smoked sausage pizza with arugula and caramelized onion and goat cheese sauce

This smoked sausage pizza is topped with fresh arugula and a creamy caramelized onion-goat cheese sauce.

smoked sausage pizza with arugula and caramelized onion-goat cheese sauce

I've got good news and bad news. Well, not bad -- more like disappointing. Let's start with that.

I entered this smoked sausage pizza in a contest recently. I didn't win. Now, I believe it was due in part to some seemingly suspicious last-minute rule-changing, but we won't go there. Because ninjas are gracious non-winners.

Now for the good news: Not winning the contest means I'm free to share all the how-to details of this pizza recipe with you!

So I may not have won but you certainly did.

Every Friday night is pizza night at Casa de Ninj. I know this is not very original but I can say that we have observed this tradition every Friday that we have been home for over 12 years.

Part of the fun of pizza night for me is that I don't plan it in advance, as I do with all our other weeknight meals. I simply make up the topping combination each week, based on what I have on hand. It's an end-of-the-week creative challenge I give to myself. One of my favorite tricks is taking some leftovers from the week and turning them into a pizza. Yep, almost anything you ate earlier in the week can be turned into a pizza (including salad!).

If you're skeptical about my leftovers, don't worry -- they aren't included in this smoked sausage pizza with caramelized onion sauce (although there is practically a salad sitting on top, with all the arugula that I add).

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cidered jerky (beef or venison) -- and tips on buying a dehydrator

Some great tips for buying a dehydrator, in which you can make this tangy cidered beef jerky or venison jerky.

DIY cidered beef jerky or venison jerky

A big hug and WELCOME to all you jerky fans!

Since my first chicken jerky post two years ago, I have been promising to post another jerky recipe. At long last, it's here.

Why so long, you ask? Honestly, it was the photographs. Let's face it: jerky does not photograph well.

I've made this particular cidered jerky recipe a bunch of times and the photo shoots were miserable failures. The did not pass the "would I eat this?" test.

But recently I realized that, as with so many things in life, striving for perfection was preventing me from being happy. Because this jerky is so freakin' good that it makes me really, really happy to both eat it and share the recipe with all of you.

Regular readers who know of my ongoing battle for backyard produce with the deer on our property will appreciate that the batch of cidered jerky featured in these photographs came from a big buck taken on our property last year by the intrepid young man who hunts our land.

In fact, I gave the hunter some of this jerky to try. The next day he texted me to let me know he ate it all in one sitting and proclaimed it "awesome", with FOUR exclamation points. So it's officially hunter-approved.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pumpkin ginger cupcakes (gluten-free or not) -- and a giveaway

These delicious pumpkin ginger cupcakes with mascarpone frosting can be made gluten-free or not.

gluten free or not pumpkin ginger cupcakes with mascarpone frosting

Yes, I know it's November and therefore the all-pumpkin-all-the-time blogger recipe pumpkinpalooza should now be over, right?


As I have mentioned before, The Ninj respects seasonality. To wit, I held off this year on pumpkin-izing the blog until October, to give props to apples and pears in September.

And guess what? Pumpkins are still in season, even though Halloween is over and it is November! I mean, hello? Ever heard of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dessert?

But I'm here to do you one seasonal dessert better, since regular readers know I'm not a fan of pie: pumpkin ginger cupcakes with a creamy mascarpone-cream cheese frosting. Now THIS is a Thanksgiving dessert that I can get behind.

And did I mention these cupcakes are gluten-free? OR NOT!!? And that either way they are moist, not cloyingly sweet and perhaps the most perfect dessert EVAH?

Yeah, I'm pleasing the heck out of everyone with this one, especially for Thanksgiving. Pfffft: Who the hell would eat pie when you can have cupcakes?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Herb-infused sugar cookies

Make plain sugar cookies special with a simple-to-make DIY herb-infused sugar.

herb-infused sugar cookies

Happy Halloween!

Or, as I prefer to say, Happy Day After The Ninj's Birthday!

I don't do a whole lot for Halloween. Heck, since we moved to the farmette, we don't even get a single trick-or-treater. I guess making the half-mile walk down our driveway in the pitch dark just for  a Reese's peanut butter cup is a little too spooky.

But since I own the cute black cat treat bags that you see in the photos (they have sparkly green eyes, too!!) and I was making these herb-infused sugar cookies anyway, I decided to tip my hat to The Day After The Ninj's Birthday.

These herbed sugar cookies are really a joint effort, though, because they center on herb-infused sugar (in this case, lavender, vanilla and lime zest) made by my new blogger friend Jess of Gather Round Kitchen. We met at a local food swap, where she was swapping this simple infused sugar. Easy yet fancy: totally brilliant!

I used it to make sugar cookies but you could also use it in your tea or some simple breakfast muffins. Another swapper used it to make a lovely sugar scrub as well.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Butternut mac and cheese

butternut mac and cheese

Did you see Monday's post for pasta with butternut squash, broccoli, cranberry beans and bacon? It was a guest post from Sandra over at Kitchen Apparel. We did a blog swap: her post and recipe appeared on my site and mine on hers.

My post was for the butternut mac and cheese you see above: go check it out!

10/7/15 UPDATE: Kitchen Apparel is no longer an active site but you can find my butternut mac and cheese recipe right here instead -- http://www.yankeekitchenninja.com/2015/10/butternut-mac-cheese.html

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pasta with butternut squash, broccoli and cranberry beans (guest post)

pasta with butternut squash, broccoli and cranberry beans

Hello fellow Ninja followers. Let me introduce myself. I am Sandra, and today we get to hang out together here in Julianne’s space. She was awesome enough to play a little blogger switch with me. That’s right, I am a fellow food blogger, but also a huge fan of The Ninj. I don’t have to tell you why she is so awesome because you frequent here regularly, too. The Ninj and I happened to connect the way most bloggers do, by chance. I quickly learned how cool she is by reading through a bunch of her recipes I found out we had a lot in common.

We like to cook. We like to can. We like to have fun. Not every food blogger is fun, believe me I know. We live a few states away, I’m in New Jersey, but I wish I lived in Vermont. I guess that doesn’t count. If we lived closer I’d like to think we would be friends that would hang out every so often. Hang out in a sense that I would raid her orchards the second she went grocery shopping. Like all good friends do, right? Seriously the Ninj is not only awesome, she is “I have fruit trees in my orchard” awesome! (I’d hit up the cherry tree first, who’s with me?)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hard cider: how to make your own

How to Make Hard Cider: A Tutorial

Making hard cider is one of The Ninj's favorite fall activities. Now is the perfect time to get some fresh-pressed juice and get started. The process takes some time but the payoff is delicious! If you'd like to learn how to make your own hard cider, check out my three-part tutorial.

Be sure to read through all three installments before you begin. There are many helpful links throughout to the cider-making supplies that you will need.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Crockpot apple pie oatmeal

Crockpot apple pie oatmeal -- cook a delicious, hearty, no-sugar breakfast while you sleep. 

crockpot apple pie oatmeal, a healthy breakfast

Yes, it's true: oatmeal that tastes like baked apple pie, made effortlessly in a crockpot while you sleep.

Peeps: I may have come up with the world's most perfect breakfast.

Regular readers know that I am continually on the hunt for quick-and-easy yet healthy-and-delicious breakfast ideas. Coming up with new ones gets more and more challenging, yet who likes to eat the same thing over and over?

Not The Ninj, that's fo sho.

I've made overnight oatmeal in the crockpot before, which is extra easy (with no risk of a scorchy mess) when you use the water-bath method. It's simple: Put all your ingredients into a heat-safe bowl (I find that a one-quart Pyrex measuring cup is the perfect size) and put the bowl inside a large (6-quart) crockpot. Fill the crock with water to just above the ingredient line in your bowl, being careful not to fill too high; you don't want cooking water flowing into your oatmeal! Cover it and cook on low while you sleep and -- VOILA! -- breakfast is ready when you awake.

It's also the best way, in my opinion, to eat steel-cut oats, which can be a little too tough and chewy if not cooked for a really, really long time. 

So while crockpot oatmeal is awesome anytime of the year, this particular recipe is really customized for fall with the inclusion of chopped apple, apple pie spices and apple butter (or, since I made a ton of it last week, bourbon apple pumpkin butter) -- and, of course, sweetened with maple syrup. If you want it to be more pumpkiny, simply substitute pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice: yummy, pumpkiny breakfast nirvana.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bourbon apple pumpkin butter

Slow cooker bourbon apple pumpkin butter -- so simple to make in the crockpot, using fresh pumpkin.

easy bourbon apple pumpkin butter, made in the crockpot

It's the third week of October: Are you sick of pumpkin yet?

I hope you appreciate that I haven't been overwhelming you with pumpkin recipes; I've been trying to let apples and other fall favorites have their time in the sun. But I couldn't resist this recipe. It showcases not only flavorful fall apples but also finally-seasonally-appropriate pumpkin ...

... and booze!

There you go: Possibly the most perfect fall recipe yet, no?

I have no doubt you have seen lots of recipes flying around the blogosphere this month for pumpkin butter. But have you really looked at them or made any of them? It's safe to say that 99 percent of them involve cooking down some canned pumpkin.

Come on, peeps: We can do better. (Ninjas always do better.) And it's not hard.

If you're going to go to the effort to make a pumpkin butter, why not use some fresh pumpkin? Jeesh, and if you throw it in a crockpot and then immersion-blend the bejesus out of it, it practically cooks itself.

Which is exactly what I did.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dried fruit and cereal snack bars

easy, healthy dried fruit and cereal snack bars

I really don't think you can have too many recipes for snack bars. I mean, really: What other food can stealthily morph from a grab-and-go breakfast to energy bar to sweet dessert, all in one day and without changing shoes?

(You know The Ninj loves stealthy food, especially snacks. And shoes.)

Mind you, this snack bar should not be confused with either a rice krispy treat (too sweet) or a granola bar (too, well, granola-y). It is neither, yet it is both.

I love that it is loaded with dried fruits, nuts and grains yet still offers enough sweetness to seem more like a treat. And the puffed cereal provides just enough chewy-crunchiness to round out the whole dealy.

Oh, hold the phone: DID I MENTION IT'S A NO-BAKE BAR?


Monday, October 14, 2013

Chicken and biscuit casserole

Chicken and biscuits: is there really any more perfect comfort food?

OK, well, yes, a boatload of salted oatmeal cookies would be even more perfect in my book, so I should have clarified:

Is there any more perfect dinnertime comfort food?

I'm excited to share this particular version of chicken and biscuits with you for several reasons:

1) It's the result of a little Ninja-like recipe fusion
2) It's the perfect vehicle for Thanksgiving leftovers (because clearly you realize "Chicken and Biscuits" can easily become "Turkey and Biscuits")

And, since today is Thanksgiving for my Canadian friends (have a happy one, peeps!) and our own version is rapidly approaching, it's also very timely.

Fusion-wise, here's the story. Despite my love of bacon, I'm always trying to work more healthy, veggie-packed dishes into our dinner routine. Unfortunately, as regular readers will recall, Mr. Ninj is not a fan of most vegetables: he has texture issues. Tops on the texture issue list is squash. Even yummy squash like acorn or butternut -- even bathed in maple syrup and butter -- get a big thumbs-down.

Sniff: more foods to add to my ever-growing "recipes to make only when Mr. Ninj is out of town" list.

Therefore,  I came across a "turkey pot pie" recipe that included a sweet potato topping, I figured I'd be OK. I mean, sweet potatoes are just potatoes, right?

Wrong. Apparently they are too closely aligned with squash, both in color and texture.

(I know, right? WTF?)

I, on the other hand, loved the recipe and wasn't quite willing to let it go. Since it billed itself as "pot pie" (the only pot pie-ish thing was the filling, though), I realized I could probably substitute a bready or crusty topping and still be able to keep it in the recipe rotation.

So I pulled out my secret weapon: easy-peasy drop biscuits. I made the "pot pie" filling and topped it with some blobs of biscuit dough and baked that bad boy into a rich, comforting casserole.

Folks, we have a winner.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Make your own vegetable powders

Via Facebook and Twitter, I'm still reading about folks putting up the last of their tomatoes for the winter, so I think you'll find this post quite timely.

While I do grow my own tomatoes in my garden, my yield is often not what I hope. I have also had much better luck with small, prolific tomatoes like Sungolds than with bigger, beefier tomatoes, ideal for slicing and canning.

So, like many of you, I usually turn to my local farmers when it's time to put up tomatoes for the winter.

This year, I bought half a bushel.

Now, that may not seem like much but, trust me, when you wash them and line them up on the kitchen counter, it's a lot.

And I mean A LOT.

I didn't weigh my box but a quick search shows that the standard weight for a bushel of tomatoes in the United States is 53 pounds. So I'm guessing I had about 25 pounds of tomatoes.

Instead of simply making the whole lot into sauce for the freezer, I got a little creative this year.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sausage rolls

After the last staggeringly sugary pear honey post, I figured you deserved a shot of savory.

Bring on the pork!

(Which is actually quite fitting, as today as is my wedding anniversary and it was Mr. Ninj who convinced me, many years ago, to give sausage and bacon another shot; now I love all three of them more than anything.)

I had my first sausage roll (well, it was a pasty but same diff) when Mr. Ninj and I took a trip to the UK a number of years ago. My reaction?


Yeah, they were some pretty damned addictive sausage rolls.

I made them a few times at home but they never tasted quite the same, which meant they fell out of meal rotation.

So thank the sweet baby jesus that I have a copy of Melissa Pasanen's and Rick Gencarelli's Cooking With Shelburne Farms and I happened to pick it up last week. The book has recipes for all the seasons, but for some reason I tend to gravitate toward it almost exclusively in the fall.

(I hope it's not simply because the cover is brown. That would be so incredibly lame of me.)

It is more likely because I think fall is the perfect time to cook what I think of as the best Vermont foods: earthy squash, crisp apples, hot cheesy soups, make-the-whole-house-smell-like-a-holiday roasting meat.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pear honey

If you like jam you'll love this vintage recipe for pear honey -- sweet and spreadable with a hint of ginger. Enjoy it on toast, muffins or even as a basting sauce for chicken!

vintage recipe for pear honey with ginger

I have been looking so forward to writing this post.

And not simply for the opportunity to introduce you to pear honey (it's not really honey, honey, but we'll get to that in a minute) but rather to talk about backstories.

My sister-in-law once asked me how I decide what to put on the blog. Largely, my inspiration comes from the seemingly never-ending supply of food magazines to which I subscribe (probably too many), Pinterest pins (probably too many) and aha! moments of my own (probably not enough).

And then sometimes they are simply handed to me.

A few weeks ago, given the overwhelming number of pears we got from our trees this year (yay, pear trees -- keep up the good work!), I made and posted about pear butter. Yum. In sharing a link to the pear butter post on my Facebook page, a follower commented something Amazon-ish like "If you like pear butter, you should try pear honey."

Here's where the backstory gets interesting: The commenting follower was Margaret, a college classmate of mine that I didn't know well as an undergrad and have only come to know better and consider a friend in the past few years, thanks to Facebook and 5-year-interval college reunions. In her comment, she mentioned that her mother used to make pear honey all the time.

Whaaaa? Pear honey? I was intrigued.

I (of course) googled around and found that pear honey isn't honey at all but actually a sweet pear jam. Bizarrely, it's made with pears, sugar and ... wait for it ... canned pineapple.

I know, right? Who the hell decides to put these things together for the first time? "You know what this pear jam needs? PINEAPPLE!"


But I was willing to take Margaret's word for it. But given the variety of recipes for pear honey on the interwebs claiming to be "the best," I decided to go for a proven recipe: I asked Margaret if her mother, Helen, would be willing to share her recipe.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


OK, OK -- it's officially October 1 now. Bring on Pumpkinpalooza!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Carrot cake cookies

It's still September, so I'm still not talking about pumpkin.

(I'm beginning to think I'm the only blogger who is not.)

What we're talking about today is carrots. Well, really what we're talking about is carrot cake cookies, but that's only because I'm slightly crazy.

Seriously: Am I the only person that gleefully plans and plants a huge garden full of vegetables, only to find at harvest time that I'm trying to turn them into baked goods instead of savory side dishes?

Crap: I finally may be developing a sweet tooth after all.

Even though we have had two pretty significant frosts already here in Vermont, I'm still getting a few things from the garden. I have a little bit of kale, which I had better hurry up and harvest before the deer find it (bastards!), and carrots.

This year marked my first attempt at growing carrots: It was a success! It's so rewarding to see the little orange tippity top of a carrot poking through the ground and then to pull it up. Gasp! It's a real carrot! That I grew!

(It's the little things, really.)

The fun and wonder begins to wear off as you pull up carrot after carrot after carrot. And realize that you don't particularly like cooked carrots.

Uh oh.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Slow cooker beef chili

I feel slightly disloyal by posting this chili recipe.

One of my favorite easy recipes -- and one of yours as well, given how many times it has been viewed and pinned -- is my crockpot turkey chili with butternut squash. It's my go-to lazy day recipe in the fall.

So I tried to keep it quiet when I decided to try a beef chili. I just assumed that there was no way it would be as good as my turkey chili and I could just move on.

Well, clearly I didn't move on.

Now, I'm not going to say that one is better than the other. They are distinctly different. The beef chili is old school with a twist, while the turkey chili is new school (so to speak) with old-school comfort and feel.

I will not make you choose. There will be no contest. There will be no declaring a winner or calling one superior or even the best (I reserve "best" for the cornbread that you will want to make to go with either chili -- best EVAH).

It all depends what you're in the mood for: nouveau or traditional.

Today, we're talking traditional. Beef, beans, chili powder -- the whole nine yards.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Roasted pear and cardamom butter

Holy crap, we've got tons of pears in the wee orchard!

Regular readers will know how amazing this is, after the Great Pear Theft of 2011 (thanks to the deer and possibly a bear) and the Great Season of No Damned Fruit At All of 2012 (thanks to the weather). Although, to be fair, the animal thieves did teach me that I could harvest the fruit by shaking the tree while I waited for my fancy new fruit picker to be delivered.

We have two pear trees -- a seckel and a Bartlett (I think) -- in amongst a bunch of apple trees, two sour cherry trees, one plum and one peach, which must have heard me talking about how I thought it was dead and was going to cut it down because it yielded a number of peaches in its own defense this year ("I'm not dead yet!").

When we purchased the farmette several years ago, I was more than a little excited about the wee orchard, envisioning the lovely pears and apples that I could pick and eat or turn into gorgeous desserts.

But it's time for a reality check: homegrown fruit is damned ugly.

Unless of course you want to spend most of your time -- I mean a LOT of time -- monitoring the trees, spraying for diseases and handpicking gross-ass caterpillars and bugs, you're going to end up with ugly fruit. Mr. Ninj spoke recently with the owner of a commercial apple orchard; he talked about how they have a team that walks around the orchard with a laptop, monitoring the trees and feeding the data into special software programs that show them the short time windows they have to spray the trees to avoid massive fruit loss due to fungal infections and the like.

Um ... no thanks. The Ninj and her laptop don't have that kind of time.

Monday, September 9, 2013

CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2013: tomatoes and winter squash (13 ideas)

This is the final installment for 2013 of my 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.

Even though I'm wrapping up this feature for this year, I know that many of you will continue receiving CSA shares well into the fall and perhaps even through the winter; if you need some ideas, feel free to message me or post your request on my Facebook page.

And rest assured that the CSA Share Ninja Rescue will be back in 2014 as well.

But for now, since it's nearly fall, I thought I'd leave you with ideas for two perfect transition veggies: tomatoes, which are signaling the end of summer (and the ramp-up of crazed canning season!), and winter squash, which heralds the arrival of fall.

Please note that I am skipping pumpkin. This is for two reasons:
  1. I respect seasonality. Therefore, I recently pledged not to jump into the pumpkin patch until it is truly pumpkin season (read: October 1), no matter what Starbucks' latte menu says.
  2. I'm sure you're being inundated on blogs, Facebook and Pinterest with pumpkin EVERYTHING, so I doubt you're out of ideas quite yet.
Many thanks to all of you who have made requests or left comments this year. As I always note, this feature is only successful when you participate and tell me what you need -- and we were very successful indeed in 2013!

Now, the recipe ideas...

  • Tiny tomato bisque: Easy and quick, this bisque is equally as delicious with fresh or frozen tomatoes (the recipe is at the very end of the post)
  • Tomato jam: Made with fresh tomatoes, this is a wonderful savory condiment to use throughout the tomato-less winter
  • Green tomato cake: I make a few of these spice cakes and freeze them when I'm forced, by an impending frost, to pull all the unripened tomatoes off my plants (that should happen soon, unfortunately)
  • Bloody Mary tomato salad: A salad that tastes almost like a cocktail -- one of my faves!
  • Fresh tomato and sausage ragu: Kick your pasta up several notches with this delicious sauce
  • Gazpacho: Perhaps the easiest and most delicious way to use up nearly everything from your CSA share all at once
  • Marinated Dried Tomatoes: ZOMG -- I love these! They are so wonderfully tangy on pizzas and even better when rehydrated in a cream sauce over pasta
Winter Squash

So ... what was your favorite recipe (or recipes) from the 2013 CSA Share Ninja Rescue? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Blueberry bread

Blueberry bread -- a sturdy, not-too-sweet bread with a delightfully crunchy top for breakfast for breakfast or snacking. 

blueberry bread -- perfect for breakfast or snacking

Yes, it is September and I am a food blogger -- but The Ninj is not posting about pumpkin.

It seems to me that the "Summer is dead, long live Fall" battle cry happened far, far too early this year. Weeks before Labor Day, I saw Halloween candy for sale in the grocery store, and the number of pumpkin recipes appearing on food blogs is overwhelming.

And, frankly, absurd. I can't imagine anyone has very many pumpkins popping up in the garden quite yet.

What happened to seasonality, people??!!

Which is why The Ninj is making a solemn pledge to stay out of the freakin' pumpkin patch until October, when pumpkins are seasonally appropriate. You have my word.

This is also why I'm sharing a great recipe for blueberry bread today. I'm still harvesting blueberries off my backyard bushes, and I just passed an open Pick-Your-Own blueberry farm yesterday.

Seasonality. Say it with me. Say it to your friends. Write it on your favorite bloggers' Facebook pages.

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 random.org) 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.