Tuesday, September 30, 2014

9 fall apple recipes

Nine apple recipes to please every palate -- sweet desserts, savory entrees, pantry staples and a 3-part series on making hard cider.

9 recipes for crisp fall apples

It's the very last day of September -- so before we start talking nonstop about pumpkin for the entire month of October, I thought I'd share a roundup of my favorite recipes using crisp fall apples, one of my absolute favorite fruits.

Whether you're looking for a sweet dessert, a savory entree, a staple for your winter pantry or just some good old-fashioned DIY hooch, there's an apple recipe here to please every palate.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Slow cooker apple bread pudding

Make these individual apple bread pudding cups right in your slow cooker. With no dairy or refined sugar, they're a perfect on-the-go breakfast this fall.

Make individual apple bread pudding cups in your slow cooker

Oh look: It's still September so The Ninj is still not talking about pumpkin.

Well, at least until next week.

You know I'm devoted to seasonality and September is the best month for apples: crisp, tart, crunchy, sweet ... GGGAAAAHHHH! I love apples! Even writing about them gets me excited to make something from apples.

So I made individual apple bread pudding cups in Mason jars in my slow cooker. Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!  But before we talk about the recipe, you have to hear the backstory on this one first. 

A friend of mine wanted to make my slow cooker bread pudding for a dinner party but was having a hard time finding a heat-safe loaf pan that would fit in her crockpot (mine is oval-shaped, so it's not an issue for me). That's when it occurred to me that I could put my crazy-hoarder-lady supply of canning jars to good use and make individual bread pudding cups.

OMG. Too stinkin' adorbs. I was practically peeing myself with excitement.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Peruvian pasta bolognese

Spicy Peruvian-style pasta bolognese is hearty, cool-weather comfort food with a garlicky ginger kick.

Peruvian style pasta bolognese with a spicy kick

I was asked in an interview recently what my favorite comfort foods are. Hmmm, let's see: well, there's pasta, pasta and ... oh wait, yes ... more pasta.

(I can't help it. I'm Italian. On both sides of my family.)

And I'm talking real pasta. Even though I'm a largely healthy (or healthier) food blogger, don't get me started on the "veggie pasta" spiralizer craze. Long strands of zucchini are no more pasta than slabs of fried eggplant are bacon. Sorry, I'm just not buyin' it.

But I do realize that regular pasta-based carbo-loading isn't the best if you're not a long-distance runner; therefore, I've been experimenting lately with healthier pasta varieties, such as whole wheat or quinoa pastas.  I have to because I don't think there's any way that I could ever voluntarily limit my pasta intake. 

Sometimes, however, a recipe is so good that it simply requires old-fashioned semolina pasta and nothing else. This Peruvian bolognese is one such recipe.

The recipe is based on a Peruvian dish called tallarin saltado, a noodle stir-fry made with beef or chicken, onions, a few tomatoes, ginger and other spices. This version takes the same flavors but melds them into a spicy bolognese-style sauce using pork sausage ... with no stir-frying required.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Salted dates

Warm salted dates: serve atop crackers or toast rounds spread with creamy goat cheese for a quick and easy, sweet and savory appetizer.

Serve salted dates with crackers and goat's cheese for a sweet and savory appetizer

I'm a huge fan of simple but delicious food, particularly when it comes to entertaining. I prefer to be part of the party, enjoying the food and sipping a cocktail, rather than stuck in the kitchen heating up trays of appetizers or tending the sterno.

(Does anyone even use sterno anymore? And what the hell is that goey crap anyway?)

So if, as I am, you are a fan of Molly Wizenberg, she of Orangette and A Homemade Life fame, you'll know that I expected simple but delicious food when I started reading her latest book, Delancey, for the FSC Book Club.

And I was not disappointed.

Molly's recipe for sauteed dates with olive oil and sea salt jumped out at me for two main reasons:
  1. I'm a new convert to the awesomeness of dates, naturally sweet and just a little chewy -- and way more ass-kicking than a freakin' raisin
  2. The name of the recipe is also the ingredient list -- nothing could be simpler than that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Black bean and avocado quinoa bowl

Easy black bean and avocado quinoa bowl, with spicy arugula, sharp cheddar cheese and homemade pico de gallo: a healthy meal in 15 minutes.

Healthy black bean quinoa bowl with arugula and avocado

Regular readers know that I'm all about healthy, easy weeknight dinners. While I can appreciate a complex and involved dinner recipe when the outcome is amazing, I reserve them for weekends when there's more time for meal preparation. During the week, I'm still into amazing outcomes, but I want to achieve them much more quickly.

I like to make grain bowls for dinner because they are easy but also really nutritious, with seemingly endless combinations of ingredients. While I used to make almost exclusively rice bowls, I now favor quinoa for these flavorful bowls -- I love the little extra crunch, plus it's easy to freeze and thaw.

This particular bowl, with black beans, creamy avocado, spicy arugula and sharp cheddar cheese, was born because I had a few extra tomatoes from the farmer's market hanging around. Rather than simply chop them up and add them to the bowl, I decided to turn them into a bold pico de gallo, using an easy recipe I picked up from Chris of Shared Appetite.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Apple zucchini bread

Enjoy this healthy, delicious apple zucchini bread for breakfast: it's loaded with end-of-summer produce and early-fall fruit, plus it contains no dairy or refined sugar.

healthy apple zucchini bread

You know The Ninj is dedicated to seasonality, and, given that it is still September, that means I'm still not showing you recipes that involve The October P-Word Vegetable. But that doesn't mean that I'm not excited for fall produce, like apples. What it does mean is that I have a bunch of end-of-summer produce overlapping with my beginning-of-fall produce.

That overlap is how I came up with this apple zucchini bread, my homage to September, the month that graciously ushers in fall while kicking summer out the back door.

You're totally going to dig this bread because it's moist, flavorful and super-addictive yet wicked healthy: It's loaded with fiber and it contains no milk, refined sugar or butter.

Whatchootalkinbout, Ninj?

(I can hear you saying that, I really can.)

Let's break that down:

Monday, September 8, 2014

Peach cake muffins (gluten-free)

Lightened, gluten-free breakfast muffins with all the flavor of fresh peach cake in a handy grab-and-go size.

healthy, gluten-free peach cake muffins

Can you tell that I'm still holding on to summer? Yep, I'm still talking about peaches.

(I might possibly be the only food blogger on the planet that is not writing about that other type of orangey produce that begins with "p.") Vive le seasonality!

I'm not having a difficult time holding on to it either because we've had a return to (or rather no respite from) the hot, humid, dog days of summer here in Kentucky. Lots of 90-degree days, which makes me continue to crave cold salads, tomato sandwiches and summer fruit.

Ah, summer fruit. Ripe berries, juicy stone fruits -- I can't get enough. I picked up a bag of peaches from my local farmers last week and they told me they were the very last ones of the season. Gah! The last ones! I turned a good number of them into a gorgeous peach puree (it's dynamite as a substitute for applesauce in my homemade granola) but still had a couple left for these peach cake muffins.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mason Jar Salads and More book giveaway

During the busy back-to-school time, don't forget to pack yourself a healthy lunch. Julia Mirabella's new book about grab-and-go layered lunches in Mason jars can help -- and you can win a copy.

Win a copy of Mason Jar Salads and More

Unless you've been living under a very large rock on the South Pole, you know it's back-to-school time.

And you don't know that simply because the calendar page flipped to September: You know it because it's being crammed down your throat everywhere you look, whether you have school-aged children or not. Major retailers have been working hard since practically July to sell you oodles of backpacks, lunch bags, plaid skirts and Number 2 pencils.

(Is there even such a thing as a Number 1 pencil? I imagine it being all uppity, like "I'm Number 1! I'm Number 1!" What a prick.)

And yes, I realize I'm dating myself with the calendar page and pencil references. Should have been an iPad reference, I guess. Whatevs: I'm still pretty analog.

Food bloggers are also guilty of riding on the coattails of the back-to-school fever. Packable snacks, cutesy lunchbox options and "kid food" boards are popping up all over Pinterest.

(Don't get me started on "kid food." Really, if I get started, I'll get all ranty and won't be able to stop.)

But while we're all focused on getting the wee ones back to school with the right supplies and a good lunch, we may have forgotten about ourselves. At least in the lunch department.

Bringing your lunch to work is a great way to reduce your dependency on fast food, processed food or other less-than-healthy food options -- and you know that helping you do that is pretty much The Ninj's raison d'etre. So put down that nasty-ass frozen Lean Cuisine because The Ninj wants to talk about a better, healthier lunch option that is still yummy and portable: Mason jar salads.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Final recipe roundup: CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2014

All summer long, The Ninj provides weekly produce recipes by request -- here's a roundup of all the healthy, delicious recipes from CSA Share Ninja Rescue 2014!

weekly produce recipes by request at yankeekitchenninja.com

With Labor Day behind us, it's time to wrap up the 2014 edition of the CSA Share Ninja Rescue, my annual summertime feature in which you tell me each week what produce from your CSA share, garden or farmers' market has you stumped for ideas and I provide you with healthy, creative recipe ideas both from my own arsenal as well as from some of my favorite fellow food bloggers.

Phew -- we were busy this year! Here's a list of links to all the produce and recipes we covered this summer (you might want to Pin or bookmark this page!):