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 --

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!