Thursday, May 30, 2013

Shallot dressing for spinach salad

Do you eat enough greens?

If you're like most people, including me, probably not. Which is why I have started keeping large containers of baby spinach on hand. (Once my spinach comes up in the garden, hopefully I can give the containers a bit of a rest!)

I have two favorite ways to use the spinach:

1) Green breakfast smoothies
2) Spinach salad

The spinach salad has become my go-to side dish when I need one (I'm a big fan of incorporating the veggies into the main dish for a one-dish dinner, like this one, but sometimes you just need to have separate sides). Often, I make a true spinach salad, with dried fruit, seeds and cheese. But more often, I just dump a bunch of spinach in a bowl and toss it with this shallot dressing: my half-assed spinach salad.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Foodist (a review)

I was asked to review another book: Darya Pino Rose's Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting.

I know what you're thinking: The Ninj? Reviewing a diet book? Despite the title, it's not really a diet book. To use the author's own term, it's about developing a new "healthstyle", a new relationship with food and movement that can eliminate the need for fruitless dieting.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Foodist is that it really doesn't contain anything revolutionary, anything that couldn't be found in multiple other sources. However -- I mean that in a really good way! Rose has synthesized the thinking behind many current food theories -- eating real food, embracing sustainable and local food sources, rejection of processed food -- and put them all in one place, with a how-to element to accompany it. This is great news for those who might not yet be of a mindset to sit down and read The Omnivore's Dilemma and try to change their lifestyle but who would pick up an apparent "diet book" and learn the same information.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Homemade Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)

Make your own homemade Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)!

homemade nutella, chocolate hazelnut spread

After all the falderall this week about World Nutella Day, I almost didn't include the word "Nutella" in my post title.

But since I doubt that a multinational corporation will be coming after The Ninj for brand infringement, I'm throwing caution to the wind, as a good ninja would.

I made my own Nutella!

I know, based on my Pinterest traffic and site statistics, that y'all are Nutella junkies. I think I could make anything with Nutella and it would get 47,000 pins. Clump of Dirt with Nutella Frosting? Old Leather Shoe with Nutella Sauce? Each would still get at least 40,000 pins onto pinboards titled "OMG, YUM!" or "Sweet Awesomeness".

I love Nutella as much as you do, but I'm not a big fan of processed foods: I feel like I let myself down a little bit with each jar I buy (but notice I didn't say I stopped buying it). Yet I've never considered making it myself because I just assumed it would be too much of a pain in the ass.

I was wrong.

(You should re-read that sentence because I don't say it very often. Just ask Mr. Ninj.)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Roasted strawberry-rhubarb jam

There's a ton of rhubarb in my garden.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to inherit part of divided rhubarb patch that one of my neighbors was giving away. Given that I had only gotten turned on to rhubarb the year before, I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with the harvest.

After today, I will never again worry about that because I have discovered roasted rhubarb jam.

And now I wish I had more, more, MORE rhubarb in my garden, perhaps an entire garden of just rhubarb, simply so I could make jar after jar of this jam. It is that good.

Oh, and did I mention absurdly easy? Set-it-and-forget-it easy? No pectin or lemon juice easy?

Yep, that easy.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pinspiration: Double chocolate cake

healthy-ingredient double chocolate cake -- easy to make

This is the second installment of my new feature -- Pinspiration -- in which I make some of the recipes I have pinned in Pinterest and share some love for the original creators.

If you follow me on Pinterest, you'll see that I pin a lot of baked goods recipes. Not a lot of over-the-top baked goods, mostly breads and breakfasty items.

But sometimes you just need chocolate cake, right?

This recipe was actually described as "healthy zucchini brownies." Um, let's just be clear: these are neither brownies nor healthy. But they are less bad for you than many desserts, given the use of whole wheat flour, applesauce and shredded zucchini (just ignore the large amount of sugar and chocolate chips!).

I guess "less-bad-for-you cake" wasn't as good a title.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Savory supper muffins

I have a confession: I fell off the whole-grains wagon this month.

For the past few months, I have been featuring recipes from Liana Krissoff's Whole Grains for a New Generation, from which I am cooking as part of the From Scratch Club's virtual book club. Every two weeks, the group is assigned a different grain or set of grains from which we can choose a recipe or two to make, then share our results with the rest of the group.

I've had a love-hate relationship with this book. Well, hate is too strong a word: more like a love-annoyance relationship. Love, because I have found many great new recipes (the roasted butternut squash with quinoa and greens is seriously amazing) and annoyance because some of the grains are just too obscure: I don't want to have to visit three natural foods stores to find one cup's worth of a grain I'll never use again. Which is why I wound up skipping one of our last assignments. Just plain skipped: didn't even ask for an extension or an incomplete.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Vermont potato chowder

Earlier in the week, I posted my review of Tracey Medeiros' new book, The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook: 150 Home-Grown Recipes from the Green Mountain State. (Spoiler: I loved it.)

As I noted in my review, while the book includes the expected recipes from chefs at Vermont's most celebrated restaurants, it also offers favorite family recipes shared by the farmers who provide many of the key ingredients to those same food professionals.

(And Oliver Parini's accompanying photographs are a feast for the eyes.)

As part of the review process, I have been cooking my way through the The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook, based on seasonality, and I've come across some new favorite recipes.

Case in point: the Ski Vermont Farmhouse Potato Chowder.

According to the accompanying story, the recipe was created by chef Gerry Nooney of Timbers Restaurant at Sugarbush Resort, as a way of helping Vermont farmers sell more potatoes. (Again, I love the connection between the food professionals and producers that the book highlights.)

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook (a review)

Have you ever wanted to eat your way across the entire state of Vermont? Or get a first-hand taste of real farm-to-table eating?

Well, now you can, in your own home, via Tracey Medeiros' new book, The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook: 150 Home-Grown Recipes from the Green Mountain State

(photo courtesy of The Countryman Press)

Medeiros' book, supplemented with gorgeous food and Vermont scenery photography from Oliver Parini, is refreshing in that while it includes the expected recipes from chefs at Vermont's most celebrated restaurants, it also offers favorite family recipes shared by the farmers who provide many of the key ingredients to those same food professionals.

Additionally, Medeiros offers a profile of each contributor or the backstory behind the recipe, which makes each feel like one you received from a friend or relative.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Pinspiration: slow cooker pumpkin bread

Are you on Pinterest? If so, I'm sure you, like thousands of others, have a pin board named "Yummy Food to Make" or "Recipes I Want to Try" or "Hellz Yeah" or some other such cleverness.

Now, show of hands: how many of you have actually made any of those recipes?

(Crickets, crickets, crickets)


That's what inspired this new feature: Pinspiration.

As a food blogger, it's hard to come up with interesting new ideas for things to cook every single day, since I rarely make the same thing twice anymore. Therefore, I really appreciate all the inspiration I get from things I see on Pinterest.

So I decided to create a feature to show some love for all of your pins.

First up, a yummy pumpkin bread with chocolate chips and crystallized ginger made in the slow cooker, courtesy of Katie at Mom's Kitchen Handbook, inspired by a slow cooker banana bread recipe from Jane of The Zen of Slow Cooking.

Shut. The. Front. Door.

Not lying, not a typo: the slow cooker. Now you know why the original pin caught my eye.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Gardening: hardening off your seedlings (part 2)

If you've been playing along at home, the seeds you started indoors under a grow light are now healthy little seedlings.

Congratulations! They're nearly ready to be planted in your garden.

But not so fast. Being inside, protected from the elements, and growing in ideal conditions under 16 hours of perfect light every day is just a wee bit different than being outside in the garden, exposed to the natural elements.

You'll need to prepare your seedlings for this transition so they don't die from the shock (literally!).

Just as you would with any change in your own routine or environment, introduce the seedlings to change gradually. This is called hardening them off.

Hardening off can take anywhere from a one to two weeks. If you're pressed for time, just follow the advice I give below for about a week. If you have a little more time, stretch it out to two weeks to ensure you have the best-prepared seedlings for planting. Over this one- to two-week period, you'll be gradually exposing your seedlings to increasing levels of of sun and wind exposure, as well as temperature fluctuations, which will all be much more like the outdoor environment in which they will live for the summer.