Friday, March 28, 2014

Boozy maple bacon jam

boozy bourbon maple bacon jam

Boozy maple bacon jam. Yes, you heard me right.

This is my second post this week in which I think the title says it all and if I didn't write another word about it but instead simply gave you the recipe, you'd be perfectly happy.

I'm an advocate of homecooking for healthier eating and, more importantly, eating real food rather than prepackaged, only-microwave-cooking-required crap that is full of chemicals (and yes, I'm not perfect and occasionally indulge in Nutella but I also haven't eaten a bite of fast food in five years).

Luckily, bacon is real food, as regular readers know that I have a weakness for it and tend to throw a bit of it into nearly everything (including bacon oatmeal cookies -- yes, I went there). And I refuse to jump on the bacon-is-so-last-year bandwagon (freakin' hipsters, raining on my parade).

Yet you may notice that I haven't been packing on the bacon recipes much in 2014 (there's actually only been one, can you believe it?). Time to rectify that.

Happily, Katie from Healthy Seasonal Recipes invited me to take part in her Pure Maple link party to celebrate maple season -- and we all know that nothing goes better with maple syrup than bacon (well, I hope you know this -- it's a fact). And, even though the sap is running here in Vermont, it's still freakin' cold and snowy, so why not throw in a little bourbon to warm us all up?

(Bacon is never made worse by the addition of bourbon. This is another fact.)

Oooh! I can't believe I haven't yet mentioned the best part: you can make this boozy maple bacon jam in the slow cooker.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Nutella peanut butter chip mini muffins

nutella peanut butter chip mini muffins

A super-simple recipe for Nutella peanut butter chip mini muffins: I almost feel that I don't need to post anything else other than those words to get you to try this recipe, right?

I have posted before about how I get snack cravings -- like many of you, I'm sure -- in the late afternoon. Since we eat very little processed food around Casa de Ninj, this means that if I want a treat, I have to make it.

This is good in many ways because, if I'm feeling lazy, I just go without said treat. Which is better for my waistline.

However, there are times when the siren call of Nutella is just too great.

(And yes, I realize that Nutella counts as a processed food. Which is why I often make my own Nutella, but I don't expect you to go to those extremes. It's totally fine by me if you have a big ol' jar of Nutella in your pantry at all times. I'm not judgy like that.)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Coconut chocolate drops (and a Keurig giveaway)

coconut chocolate drops

Today is an exciting day in Ninjaland: to celebrate the first day of spring and, hopefully, the beginning of the end of all this winter snow and cold weather, I'm part of a group of awesome New England bloggers introducing you to a new seasonal coffee flavor from Keurig Green Mountain ... AND giving away a Keurig brewer!

The new coffee flavor, Island Coconut, truly lives up to its name. It's a light-roast coffee (which I prefer) with a great coconutty aroma -- it will definitely have you thinking about tropical islands and warm weather.

It also had me thinking about pairing it with chocolate, which I have done with this recipe for Coconut Chocolate Drops, a ridiculously easy, no-bake dessert. Made with very little sugar, ground oats, unsweetened coconut and cofee, these bite-sized chocolate drops are only slightly sweet and  guilt-free.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Caramelized onion bisque

caramelized onion bisque

I hate to say it, but it's still soup weather here in Vermont. Not quite I'm-wearing-three-sweaters-and-still-freezing hearty chili weather -- more like I'm-wearing-one-heavy-sweater-and-a-fleece-scarf caramelized onion bisque weather. Or, in my case, we-got-20-inches-of-snow-and-I'm-the-only-one-home-to-shovel caramelized onion bisque weather.

Being snowed in so completely that it gave me time to make a big batch of this bisque was the only good thing about last week's storm. I am seriously ovah this winter, peeps.

So let's focus on the creamy, hot bisque, rather than the cold and snow. You know how rich, sweet and tangy caramelized onions are? Well, now envision that as a soup: yum. Now add a whole head of slow-roasted garlic and some fresh leeks and make it all smooth and creamy.

Yep, it's a ZOMG caramelized onion bisque.

And, as is the case with recipes from The Ninj, it's easy. A bit time-consuming, yes, but not hard. And, on a snow day or a weekend, you'll have all the time you need.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Chocolate snap cookies

chocolate snap cookies

Lately, I've been getting a hankering for cookies in the late afternoon. I know, this is the time of day when a better snack choice would be a piece of fruit or some cheese, but sometimes you need to acknowledge your cravings.

Being The Ninj, I don't keep cookies around the house unless I have made them myself. So nine time out of ten, I'll have to bake a batch of cookies if I have a cookie craving at four in the afternoon and want to satisfy it.

Now, the great thing about being a food blogger is that, when I get said craving for cookies and must bake a batch, it's still considered working, not screwing around in the kitchen to satisfy a craving. And when it's work, it gets shared with you.

Really, we all win when I have a cookie craving.

Another part of being The Ninj, as you know, is keeping my recipes on the healthier side -- even the indulgent, four-o'clock-craving-satisfying kind.

(Yeah, you're welcome.)

I'm not going to tell you that these are healthy chocolate cookies. But I have made the effort to make them a bit lighter and they are awfully rich and chocolatey, so you're not likely to scarf down all of them in one sitting, which helps. Although, if you are a crisp cookie fan, they are pretty darned addictive.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Slow cooker mac and cheese with bacon and tomatoes

slow cooker mac and cheese with bacon and tomatoes

Today I'm going to start with a little math equation. But this is food math, so you're going to love it.

If a = I love me some mac and cheese and b = I am lazy, then a + b = slow cooker mac and cheese.

See? Food math is awesome!

The problem with some crockpot mac and cheese recipes is that they get all burned around the edges, which, frankly, is a huge letdown. This one is the exception. The texture and consistency is the same as oven-baked mac and cheese, plus the edges get nicely browned but don't char.

Plus, there's no pre-cooking of sauce or anything like that. I generally shun crockpot recipes that require you to pre-cook ingredients (read: dirty a bunch of other pans and defeat the throw-it-all-in-and-walk-out-the-door simplicity of the crockpot).

(Aside: You may notice that I use the terms "crockpot" and "slow cooker" interchangeably -- this is because, based on an informal survey I conducted on my Facebook page, so do you and I want to make sure all of you are happy. Because that's the kind of Ninj I am.)

Being the Ninj, I just had to mess around with the recipe a bit, though. You know, by throwing some bacon into it, for which I am developing a bit of a reputation. But I also added some tomatoes, which cooked down beautifully and added a little extra zing, while also making it a great one-pot dinner.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Artichoke hummus (and a book review)

artichoke hummus

I came upon this recipe for artichoke hummus in an unusual way. Knowing that The Ninj enjoys cooking and living in a generally healthy way, a college friend of mine asked me if I'd like to review a lifestyle book to which she had contributed. Since she herself is an awesome writer, of course I agreed to check it out.

So what does this have to do with hummus, you may be asking? Don't worry, I'll get there.

The book turned out to be Vibrant Living by Molly Shattuck, a health and fitness advocate and philanthropist from Baltimore who has designed a program to help people embrace a healthier lifestyle in 21 days.

Now, bear with me – I, too, was skeptical. I'm not an advocate of fad diets or “fix your life in 3 easy steps” kind of crap. You know me by now. My motto is everything in moderation: I think we often sabotage our efforts to be healthier and fitter by shunning every single “bad” food or by only eating restrictive, special diets that are too difficult to maintain, as well as setting unrealistic fitness goals.

I'm happy to report that Molly's ideals are quite similar (good thing, or it would have made for some awkward email exchanges with my college pal). She, too, embraces the idea that being fitter and eating better involves a fundamental lifestyle change but that need not be difficult or require you to subscribe to a packaged meal plan or to eat crazy-ass food. Her program emphasizes taking 21 days to establish a new routine of daily exercise (she includes easy-to-follow workout plans that don't require more than a pair of sneakers) and, my favorite part, eating “real”, unprocessed food.

Hellz yeah, Molly! High five from The Ninj.

Which brings us, at long last, to the artichoke hummus (See? I told you I would get here).