Thursday, January 30, 2014

Rice noodle bowl with sausage and greens

Easy rice noodle bowl with sausage and greens -- a quick and hearty weeknight meal plus leftovers for your lunch bag.

rice noodle bowl with sausage and greens


Tomorrow is the last day of Detox January: how did you do?  I lost my annual five pounds and am feeling much fitter. And I'm happy to be back to eating better, too (my butter consumption is a fraction of what it was over the holidays).

Lest you think that on Saturday we will start celebrating Retox February, I'm sharing this easy, hearty rice noodle bowl so you can keep your Detox January healthy habits going.

(Well, except the no drinking part. Cocktail hour will be reinstated on February 1. I'm no saint, people.)

Part soup, part pasta dish, this rice noodle bowl is just the ticket for winter dinners. And, given how easy it is to prepare, it's a perfect weeknight dish that will leave you with leftovers for your lunch bag, too.

Two meals in one? Score.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Tiramisu bread

You'll love this tramisu bread -- all the delicious flavors of the classic dessert in a simple quick bread.

tiramisu bread

Happy Valentine's Day!

OK, I know it's not really Valentine's Day (heck, we haven't even quite reached the end of Detox January), but you are going to feel like it is a holiday all about love with today's post. Why? Two reasons:
  1. I am giving you a spectacularly yummy recipe for tiramisu quick bread that is perfect for Valentine's Day. 
  2. I've teamed up with some other blogging buddies to give you a chance to win a $500 gift card from Tiffany and Co., which would pretty much be perfect for choosing a Valentine's Day gift! (The giveaway deets follow the recipe below.)
Booyah for Valentine's Day!

Now, before you get all cray cray about the giveaway, let's talk about this tiramisu bread.

ERMERGAHD. This stuff is like candy -- well, if the candy was coffee-mocha-marsala-flavored. Just as with the traditional tiramisu dessert, the key to this recipe is rich mascarpone cheese, which I love because it's not too sweet. Add to that a great mocha-espresso flavor, accented with sweet marsala wine and you've got all the awesomesauce of tiramisu without any of the hard work.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Spanish tomato soup with smoked paprika potatoes

A unique Spanish tomato soup with olives, topped with smoked paprika roasted potatoes.

spanish tomato soup with smoked paprika potatoes

Are you familiar with smoked paprika? If you aren't, you need to be.

I'll admit, I'm not that sensitive to the nuances of different styles of spices. If a recipe calls for some weird-ass version of a basic spice, I usually just use the basic spice, rather than going to four different stores or having to mail-order it.

Remember my number one favorite-recipe criterion: must be easy to prepare. Mail-order spices don't make the cut.

Smoked paprika, however, is the exception.

I'm not sure what recipe originally turned me on to smoked paprika but, once I tried it, I was hooked. Yes, it's paprika, but it also has a not-so-subtle smoky flavor that you can really taste. And it's readily available in most grocery stores. Booyah.

This tomato soup recipe caught my eye because of the smoked paprika. And because it has olives in it (I know, right?). And because it is topped with roasted potatoes. Too crazy!

Verdict? It's fantastic! This is no ordinary tomato soup.  The flavors are smoky and spicy and the briny tang of the olives is the perfect complement. Plus, the roasted potatoes turn it into a meal rather than simply a soup.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DIY almond milk and a bonus fruit smoothie recipe

Learn to make your own almond milk (it's easy!) -- plus how to use it in a delicious fruit smoothie.

DIY almond milk

I've always been a little freaked out by nut milk when I see it in the store. Is it nuts or is it milk? And since there's no milk in nuts, what the hell is it?

Plus nut mlk always seemed a little too non-mainstream for me. You know, like it's something only vegans or latte-ordering hipsters would drink. Right up there with soy milk.

But I'm happy to report I stand corrected. Nut milk rocks. Specifically, almond milk rocks. And is wicked easy to make, which you know is criterion number one for The Ninj's favorite recipes.

Other than planning ahead the night before, making a homemade quart of nut milk takes about three minutes. Not kidding. It's simple: soak the nuts, pulverize the crap out of them, mixed with water and a little natural sweetener, strain the whole thing and -- VOILA! -- nut milk.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pineapple muffins

Easy-to-make light pineapple muffins are a great breakfast or snack.

pineapple muffins

Just because it's Detox January doesn't mean you can't have delicious baked goods -- like pineapple muffins.

This is the thing I love about Detox January. It's not about some god-awful juice cleanse (I even hate the sound of the word "cleanse"), just putting your head back on straight after the over-indulgence of the holidays. As I always say, simply try to eat more Cooking Light than Julia Child.

Or, in this case, more Eating Well. I'm enamored of the magazine for it's great healthy recipes but also because it is produced right here in Vermont. So I feel that I'm truly eating local when I make their recipes.

While citrus is in season, I was not about to hack up an entire pineapple just to make this pineapple muffins. You know my philosophy by now: the recipe has to be easy to prepare to win The Ninj's approval. So I opted for no-sugar-added canned pineapple.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lightened baked potato soup

Enjoy this easy recipe for lightened loaded baked potato soup, made with rich greek yogurt, for dinner tonight.

lightened baked potato soup

Remember the steakhouse dinner of the 1970s? Or the 1980s? Oh hell, it's probably still this way at the Ponderosa -- I have no idea. A big slab of beef, accompanied by unlimited trips to the salad bar (I somehow always managed to smack my forehead on the sneezeguard) and a "loaded baked potato", usually showing up on the plate still inside its little foil jacket, split, steaming and heaped with melting butter, sour cream, less-than-fresh chives and, if you were lucky, a big old handful of shredded cheese.

And then remember the 1990s, when the "loaded baked potato" became a meal unto itself? And purported to be a healthy meal because you jammed it full of a bunch of steamed broccoli, which  then became a joke because you "drizzled" it with a boatload of melted Velveeta.

So, remember all that? Good. Because this baked potato soup has nothing to do with those kinds of baked potatoes.

This baked potato soup retains all the warm, creamy, heartiness of baked potatoes but leaves out the unwanted fat and calories that you often find in baked potato soup when it is made with cream.

(Come on, it's still Detox January -- you know I'm not cooking with cream.)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Peanut butter and banana snack cake

Super-easy peanut butter and banana snack cake is perfect for snacking or a quick breakfast.

peanut butter and banana snack cake

We're into Week 2 of Detox January 2014 and I'm giving you a recipe for peanut butter and banana snack cake.

Only with The Ninj do the words "cake" and "detox" manage to go well together.

(See? I told you this would be easy!)

Since I'm still on my post-oral-surgery soft food kick, I've been trying to come up with ever-more inventive ways with bananas, as they are filling and a good source of protein. I've been making a version of this snack cake (peanut butter only) for a few years now and realized that, if I took small bites and mixed in some mashed banana, it would definitely be post-surgery worthy -- especially since I have graduated from drinking my meals to chewing them again.

The banana was the perfect addition, lending a bit more moistness and really highlighting the creamy peanut butter flavor. It's a new breakfast favorite around Casa de Ninj.

This cake is also very kid-friendly and would be a nice lunchbox or after-school treat.  And, as with all my favorite recipes, feel free to personalize it; for example, throw in a handful of chopped nuts, if you want to add a little crunchiness, or add a sprinkling of crushed peanuts to the top before baking.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sweet potato mac and cheese

Mac and cheese gets healthier and lighter in this creamy sweet potato mac and cheese recipe.

sweet potato mac and cheese

I freakin' love sweet potatoes.

Come on -- you've got to love a vegetable that is so naturally sweet that it tastes more like a fruit and, with a little dab of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup, practically becomes candy.

Now, take that sweetness and pair it with rich, comforting mac and cheese? Awesome. And then tell me that it's actually a healthier mac and cheese, not loaded with cheese?

Wicked awesome. It's a Detox January Miracle!

Perhaps even better -- well, at least for The Ninj in January 2014 -- this sweet potato mac and cheese is nice and soft. (You might remember I mentioned last week that I started the new year with some oral surgery -- not fun, trust me -- which necessitates eating a lot of soft foods.)

Now if you've ever have any kind of oral surgery, you know that when the dentist tells you to eat soft foods, the list includes things like ice cream. Jello and milkshakes.

Yeah, now that's a nice healthy diet for a week. Jeesh.

I survived the first post-op days by drinking my favorite green smoothie, which also made me feel pretty darned superior as it was healthy and loaded with veggies to boot.

(Go Ninj!)

But a Ninj cannot live on smoothies alone. I needed some real food.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Detox January 2014: dairy-free green smoothie

Dairy-free green fruit smoothie recipe that gives 3 to 4 servings of fruits and veggies in one glass -- and tastes great!

dairy free green fruit smoothie

It's here! It's here!

Welcome to Detox January.

For new readers, let me explain so you stop freaking out. This is The Ninj's version of "detox", so you know it's not some scary-ass juice cleanse or eat-only-two-crackers-per-day diet plan.

(Please: I like to eat way too much for that crap.)

Mr. Ninj and I do Detox January every year as a way of starting the new year off right, after all the excesses of the ho-ho-holidays. And, frankly, because I'd rather eat a muffin top than have one around my waist.

Detox January is not some overly ambitious resolution that you know you won't be able to keep (new gym membership, anyone?) Instead, it's more of a short-term, mini resolution that you know you can achieve.

The rules are simple. For the entire month of January,
  • Abstain from all alcohol (but if a recipe calls for a little bit, that's OK) -- we'll be drinking things like virgin marys and Cuban Buls rather than gimlets for cocktail hour
  • Eat a bit healthier every day (I don't expect you to get crazy here -- we just try to eat more veggies than cookies and keep our recipes more Cooking Light than Julia Child) 
  • Exercise more than you did in December 

And that's it. Simple, right?

You can do this -- and you'll be impressed at how quickly you will drop the holiday poundage and how much more inspired you'll be to eat better in 2014.

This year, I'm starting you off in Detox January with a nice healthy smoothie -- mainly because I personally am starting Detox January with oral surgery that will require me to drink my meals for a couple of days. (Yeah, lucky me.)

But I don't mind because I've got this awesome green smoothie -- even though it's dairy-free and made up entirely of fruits and veggies, you won't believe how YUMMY it is. (Remember: ninjas do not lie.) Not to mention that you can get three to four servings of fruits and veggies just by drinking one of these bad boys for breakfast! And I can guarantee that it will appeal to even a fussy eater: Mr. Ninj hates pretty much all green vegetables yet he loves this smoothie.

Why? Because you barely taste the spinach! Seriously. All you taste is the fruit.