Monday, July 29, 2013

CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2013: green beans

It's Monday once again -- 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.

While I am still desperately waiting for tomatoes to start flooding the farmers' markets, beans are more than plentiful. Speaking from experience, there are only so many times your family will tolerate dinner with a side of steamed green beans before crying uncle. So this week we've got some fun and creative ways to use 'em up.

What did you get in your CSA box or pick up at the farmers' market this week? The Ninj wants to know.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Orange-cumin chutney and chutney cheese spread

I'm doing a lot more canning this summer than in past years. Partly because the wee orchard has finally started bearing fruit (thank you, fertilizer) and partly because I'm cooking along with Sherri Brooks Vinton's Put 'Em Up Fruit as part of the From Scratch Club's virtual book club.

Our latest assignment topic was blackberries, raspberries and oranges. Now, you know The Ninj tries to cook and eat locally as much as possible but, given that I'm certain I'll never find an orange grown in Vermont, I decided to stray and buy some oranges to make one of Sherri's chutneys. (I also made a great mixed berry jam, but that's a discussion for another post.)

I'm glad I did because the chutney inspired perhaps one of the most hilarious conversations ever. Let me set the scene for you:
I'm jammin' up some chutney in the kitchen and Mr. Ninj comes into the house from the garage.

Mr. Ninj: "Wow, it smells good in here. Whatcha making?"
Me: "Orange cumin chutney."
Mr. Ninj: "ORANGE HUMAN CHUTNEY?????????????!!!!!!!" (yes, shrieking)
Me: "Yes. Orange human chutney. It's like Soilant Green but much tastier."
Dudes, I am never that quick with a witty comeback! 

So of course we now refer to it only as Orange-Human Chutney. (Sorry, Sherri.) I usually make jar labels for my canned goods: I can't wait to make that one.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Protecting your garden: a Nite Guard Solar giveaway

This is my first-ever giveaway and I'm very excited!

Being all ninja-like, this is a different kind of giveaway. Many bloggers are contacted by a brand and agree to write a post on the brand's behalf in exchange for merchandise to give away to their readers. Not so with The Ninj.

I contacted Nite Guard directly because I already own and love their pest-deterrent product.

Let me tell you about it -- and then you can enter to win it!

Regular readers are used to hearing about my ongoing battle with the deer and the bunnies in our garden and wee orchard (they like fruit and veg as much as much as we do, apparently). Since both the garden and the orchard are situated in the front of our house, I'm loathe to put up unsightly fencing around them, so I'm always on the lookout for non-fence alternatives to keeping the critters away from our plants.

Two years ago, I decided to try the Nite Guard Solar "predator control system" (doesn't that sound badass??!!!).  If you're not familiar with this product, it's a solar-powered unit, pictured above, that automatically delivers a single flash of red light each second from dusk to dawn. Nocturnal animals think it is a blinking eye (from up to 500 yards away), a potential threat to be avoided. It also has the added benefit of being mistaken for some kind of security camera on your property, thus discouraging potential human trespassers.

One great feature is that Nite Guard Solar is effective against animals of various sizes: bunnies, raccoons, coyotes, deer -- even hawks and owls. The key is to position the units at the eye-level of the animal you are trying to deter. For example, since bunnies and deer are our biggest concern, I have my units positioned at two different heights.

One of my Nite Guard Solar units in the wee orchard

Weatherproof and solar-powered, the units require no attention from us other than repositioning. You see, even the silliest deer will stop believing that the flashing light is a threat if it never changes position. So every two weeks or so, I move the lights to a slightly different location (I mount them with zip ties, so they're easy to remove and reposition).

And they have worked -- with no fencing required.

That's exactly why I decided to contact Nite Guard for my first giveaway. I wanted to share this easy, safe, effective method for protecting the garden with my readers, and the Nite Guard folks have graciously agreed to supply one lucky person with FOUR (4) Nite Guard Solar units, which normally retail for $19.95 each!

All you have to do for a chance to win is leave a comment below, telling me what kinds of critters are bothering your garden and if you have any proven tricks or tips for deterring them.

Just a couple of other details about the giveaway:
  1. Entry for the giveaway ends at 11:00am East coast time on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. Any comments left after that time will not be included in the drawing.
  2. Only comments left in response to this blog post will be considered valid entries (talk it up on Facebook, by all means, but that won't count as an entry, nor will an email).
  3. Only one comment per individual will be considered in the drawing.
  4. One comment will be chosen at random (using as the winner.
  5. The winner will be notified via the email address provided when the comment is left (so be sure yours is accurate) and also posted on the blog after confirmation.
  6. The winner will need to respond and supply me with a mailing address within 48 hours of notification, which will then be shared with Nite Guard LLC.
  7. The four units (average retail value of $79) will be sent to the winner directly from Nite Guard LLC; The Ninj is not responsible for prize fulfillment.
  8. The giveaway is open to residents of the United States and Canada only, please.
Of course, if you'd rather not leave it to chance, you can purchase your own Nite Guard Solar units right away!

(Note: While Nite Guard LLC is providing the prize for this giveaway, they did not approach me about sponsoring it nor did they compensate me in any way. The opinions and comments expressed are entirely my own.)

Monday, July 22, 2013

CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2013: basil, peaches and peppers

Happy 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.

This week we're pleasing both coasts: west coast readers want help with an overabundance of peppers and peaches (we're jealous here in Vermont!) and east coasters have a glut of gorgeous green basil.


  • Peach and bean pasta: It may sound a little strange but it is an oh-so-yummy combination
  • Peach cobbler: Described by one of The Ninj's followers as being "like angels are feeding you clouds of peach-flavoured unicorn tears." With an endorsement like that, how could you not try it?
  • Blueberry-peach muffins: A lovely breakfast muffin that's perfect for this awesome summer fruit combination


What's going on in your garden? Do you have tomatoes yet? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Roasted sour cherry sauce

I had never eaten sour cherries until this summer.

Given that we have sour cherry trees in the wee orchard of the farmette we bought two years ago, you would think I would have eaten them last year.

But no.

Last year was pretty craptacular for our fruit trees. We had nearly no apples and not a single pear, based on a late spring frost that damaged all the blossoms (not to mention the pear-loving deer). We had a peach tree, mateless and pathetic, so no fruit there.  There were also two plum trees which were the wrong types to cross-polinate with each other. And the sour cherry trees just yielded what looked like pits on stems.

Additionally, last year we were new to our farmette and still figuring out how to care for all these trees and plants -- in fact, I spent much of last year simply trying to identify what we had so that I could learn how to care for it. I spent more than one of what I call "What the Hell Is This Day" at the local nursery: I bring in photos of the plants in my yard and ask the nursery workers, "What the hell is this?"

But, so far, this year has been better. We're managing pests and diseases, and I've read up on how to care for the orchard. So imagine my delight when the trees actually starting producing fruit that looked edible.

Monday, July 15, 2013

CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2013: lavender, rosemary and sage

It's Monday, which means it's time again for 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.

I'm jealous of those south of me who are already enjoying tomatoes and corn. I am salivating just thinking about it. Here in Vermont, we're still so water-logged that the only thing that I seem to be growing is fungus.

However, my herbs are doing well, as they are for my readers, who this week have requested ideas for using up copious amounts of lavender, rosemary and sage.

(Bonus: most of the recipes below call for fresh herbs but, if you've truly got herbal bounty, don't forget to dry some of them to use throughout the non-summer months!)


What's coming in right now in your garden? The Ninj wants to know.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Bon Affair wine spritzers (a review)

Remember wine spritzers? Basically a glass of wine watered down with some club soda?

Yeah, I know I just made them sound lame and gross, but I for one enjoyed them in the hot summer months. They were light and refreshing, so I never felt that I was overdoing it by having more than one.

But really, they were still just watered down wine.

Not anymore. Behold the new Bon Affair wine spritzer:  top-shelf, all-natural, ready-to-drink.

Bon Affair is California wine (either Sauvignon Blanc or Syrah) blended with carbonated water, electrolytes and grape seed extract, and no added sugar or sweetener. I went crazy for this idea when I first heard about it. It's so smart -- so smart I wish I had thought of it. With less alcohol than wine and served well-chilled, it's the perfect drink for summer -- or, as founder Jayla Siciliano cleverly points out, "a long wedding or a night out before a big day of work."

OK, sure, you're probably with me on the concept -- but I bet you're wondering how it tastes.

I wondered, too, which is why I tried it.

Verdict? Crisp, refreshing and, thankfully, not at all like the DIY wine spritzers of my 20s. If you like the fizziness of prosecco and champagne, you'll love these.

I'm hooked -- Bon Affair is my new go-to summertime drink.

Do or did you drink wine spritzers? Would you be willing to give a more quality version of the spritzer like Bon Affair a try? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.

(Note: While I was provided with a complimentary sample of Bon Affair, I was in no way compensated for this review, nor was I influenced to provide only positive feedback. The opinions expressed above are genuine and mine alone.)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Homemade granola

I never knew one could get so freakin' excited about granola.

I bet you didn't either. Frankly, I bet you still don't. But you will, if you make this granola.

Ever since I cooked from Alana Chernila's Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making for the From Scratch Club Book Club and took part in the Cook It! 2012 cooking challenge, I've been motivated to make my own versions of some favorite pantry staples. Crackers, Nutella, ranch dressing, chicken patties -- it's been surprising how easy they are to make, but not surprising how much better they all are than their processed counterparts.

One basic I seemed to be overlooking was granola, a breakfast favorite around Chez Ninj. I think part of the reason was that everyone seems to make her own granola and everyone claims that hers is the best.

So I decided to go with one from several sources that I trust.

The winner? It's called "The Best Granola Recipe" by David Lebovitz, who, along with Molly from Orangette, adapted it from Nigella Lawson. Those are three pretty great endorsements, don't you think?

The verdict? David doesn't lie. And Mr. Ninj says it's the best granola he's ever eaten.

Monday, July 8, 2013

CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2013: Chives

It's Monday, which means it's time again for 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.

This week: The Chive Five!

So far this summer, my readers have been looking for unusual ways to use some standard veg -- to add a little variety to their vegertoires, if you will (heh). Case in point: chives.

We're all familiar with the typical ways to use this member of the onion family: as a garnish, mixed into mashed potatoes,  as a topping with sour cream for a baked potato. And, of course, you can use them in any dish in which you want only mild onion flavor.

But if you want to be all ninja-like in the kitchen, how about trying something a little different with that fat bunch of chives?

The Chive Five 
  1. Chive oil: An infused oil that is easy-peasy to make and gorgeous to behold (check out the color!!)
  2. Creamy chive sauce: A nice sauce to serve with grilled chicken breasts
  3. Chive biscuits: Ordinary biscuits? Not when you can chive 'em up
  4. Five-herb pesto: Arugula, basil, chives, coriander and oregano -- certainly not ordinary pesto
  5. Chive cheese: Easy to make and a great substitute for mozzarella in a summery caprese salad
Do you have any other suggestions for using chives? Or do you need help with another type of veg? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Flourless chocolate cake with strawberry-rhubarb jam

I need you to make me a promise. Right now.

You must promise me that you will make this cake as soon as possible. It is imperative that you promise me this because, if you don't, your life will not be complete.

(Yes, the cake is that good.)

Mr. Ninj described it as "better than restaurant-quality"; I'm calling it my new go-to dessert.

But wait -- there's more: it is ridiculously easy to make.

How easy? Well, can you boil water and use a spoon? Then you are imminently qualified to make this cake.

I'm participating once again in the From Scratch Club's virtual book club; currently, we are cooking from Sherri Brooks Vinton's Put 'Em Up! Fruit. Every two weeks, the group is assigned a different seasonal fruit or group of fruits to preserve (put 'em up) and then incorporate into a recipe (use 'em up). And we share our results with the rest of the group (and I, with you).

Our first fruit group was strawberries and rhubarb, the classic early-summer duo. I decided to cheat a little bit and use my roasted strawberry-rhubarb jam, since Sherri's book included recipes both for strawberry-rhubarb jam as well for roasted rhubarb (which was very similar) -- and I had already made a bunch of jars of my jam.

Lucky for you, one of Sherri's suggested recipes for using the jam was this flourless chocolate cake (topped with the jam). Frankly, I tried this recipe because I was pressed for time and happened to have all the ingredients in my pantry, but it turned out to be an excellent choice.

What a cake! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2013: zucchini, beets and fava beans (10 unique ways)

Welcome to another installment of the 2013 edition of 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.

Seriously: where else can you get recipe suggestions on demand? OK, other than Google? (snort)

Apparently, the zucchini giant has awoken. I'm still waiting for mine but my readers are already drowning in it. Additionally, other readers are looking for different ways to deal with an excess of beets and fava beans.

So let's jump right in, shall we?

  • Lemon zucchini cookies: Citrusy, but they still let the zucchini flavor and texture come through
  • Summer harvest zucchini bread: It's like an entire garden in one loaf (pictured above) -- and it's savory
  • Sauteed zucchini: This one is simple and comes to you courtesy of my cousin, Susan -- a little side dish her mother, Anna, created to use up zucchini. Add some olive oil to a pan, throw in some minced garlic and shredded zucchini. It tastes almost like broccoli.
Fava Beans
  • Grilled fava beans: Perfect if you hate shelling the beans first -- they pop right out after grilling
  • Fava puree: Another option for making gorgeous, delicious appetizer crostini
  • Fava bean burgers: Says the creator, "If a samosa and a falafel had a burger baby, this would be it"

And don't forget to check out my rescue posts from 2011 and 2012, too, for even more ideas -- we're in our third year of this, after all!

Now, with what veg can I give you a little help next week? Leave a comment -- The Ninj wants to know.