Friday, October 31, 2014

9 perfect pumpkin recipes

Get your pumpkin on with these nine pumpkin recipes. With ideas for breakfast, entrees, snacks, drinks and more, you're sure to find a recipe to please every pumpkin-lover's palate.

9 fall pumpkin recipes: breakfast, dinner, snacks, drinks and more

Before another October draws to a close and we put our pumpkin-spice whatevs obsession on the backburner until next year (well, except for pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, of course), let's take a look at some of The Ninj's favorite pumpkin recipes.

Whether you like your pumpkin in a cool breakfast smoothie, a cheesy comforting pasta dinner or a zippy hummus as an afternoon snack -- or anything in between! -- The Ninj has got you covered with these nine great recipes:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pumpkin hummus

It only takes five minutes to make this healthy pumpkin hummus: enjoy it as a dip for fresh veggies and crackers or spread it on sandwiches for added fall flavor. 

Five minute pumpkin hummus: a great lunchbox snack!

Ah, what's a food blogger to do as October comes to end? No more pumpkin! We've probably given you more than your fill of pumpkin-themed muffins, cupcakes, lattes, smoothies, pies, cookies, donuts, whoopie pies, breads, waffles and sauces.

But I had to slip in just one more pumpkin recipe before Halloween.

One thing you'll notice about my pumpkin recipe list is that pretty much all the options are sweet. And I do not have that big a sweet tooth -- more of a savory tooth, to be honest. Which is why I love this pumpkin hummus. A bit hard to describe, it's not quite savory and not quite sweet. It's got a je ne c'est quoi that makes it a favorite for both kids and adults -- and, let's face it, how often does that ever happen with something that's not a baked good or smothered in chocolate?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pumpkin maple smoothie {$100 gift card giveaway}

This healthy pumpkin maple smoothie, made with silken tofu, is gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free. A creamy, delicious, on-the-go fall-flavored breakfast or afternoon treat.

Healthy pumpkin maple smoothie: gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free

You'd have to be living under a very, very large rock not to have encountered some kind of Pumpkin Spice Whatevs this fall. While this craze may seem -- well -- more than a little cray cray, there's a reason why we all tend to get so worked up about pumpkin in October -- other than Halloween and jack-o-lanterns, of course. One whiff of pumpkin and cinnamon and nutmeg together can conjure up all sorts of memories of cool weather, falling leaves, cozy sweaters and crackling fires.

Which is probably why pumpkin spice is such a coffee house favorite -- you need a comforting beverage to keep you warm as you site by the crackling fire in the cool weather in your cozy sweater, watching the leaves fall.

But since I'm no longer a coffee drinker, I wanted to come up with a way that I, too, could enjoy Pumpkin Spice Whatevs this fall, without falling too far off the healthy food bandwagon.

As luck would have it, I got the opportunity recently to try some Mori-Nu Silken Tofu, which inspired me to focus my pumpkin spice attention on smoothies.

Now, before you freak out that I added tofu to my smoothie, let me explain. Mori-Nu is different because it's silken tofu, which has a very smooth and custard-like texture, so it adds a great creamy texture to smoothies (with no bananas required!). And it never needs to be pressed or drained, so you can use it as-is, straight out of the box -- you know The Ninj is all about speed and simplicity in recipes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Slow cooker chicken noodle stew

Break out your slow cooker for this super easy chicken noodle stew, a hearty, filling meal with all the comfort-food qualities of homemade chicken noodle soup. 

Hearty slow cooker chicken noodle stew

When the weather starts turning chillier, I love to make soup -- especially in my slow cooker. Oh heck, let's be honest: I love to make anything and everything in my slow cooker because, frankly, I'm pretty lazy.

Yes, I am! Obviously, I love to cook or we wouldn't be chatting like this every week. But getting a homemade dinner on the table every night is sometimes just a royal pain in the ass, even for a food blogger. And that, my friends, is why I love, nay worship my slow cooker -- so much so that I now own two of them.

Back to the soup. While a hot bowl of soup is always warming and welcome for dinner, occasionally it's just not hearty enough to stand alone as a full meal for me. So if you don't want to have to also whip up some grilled cheese or a salad to accompany your soup, take my advice: Turn it into stew.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ginger-molasses spice cookies (copycat Ivins' Spice Wafers)

Super crunchy ginger and molasses spice cookies are the yummier cousin of a gingersnap -- and a copycat recipe of Philadelphia's Ivins' Famous Spiced Wafers.

ginger molasses spice cookies - a copycat recipe for Ivins Spice Wafers

So you probably know by now that Mr. Ninj and I recently moved from Vermont to Kentucky (yes, it was a big move). What you might not know is that we originally thought we were moving to Pennsylvania (don't ask, long story) -- specifically, the western suburbs of Philadelphia. Yeah, not exactly Kentucky.

To that end, we started to spend a bit of time in the Philadelphia area, looking for potential places to live. During one visit, I went into a local grocery store chain and was confronted by a wall -- literally a WALL -- of orange and black boxes of cookies.

What the ... ?

Upon closer examination, they were all boxes of Ivins' Famous Spiced Wafers. Famous? Really? Famous where? Certainly not anywhere I had ever lived before (which is TEN different states, but who's counting?). Yet I was intrigued and, since they were cookies and cookies without high fructose corn syrup in the ingredient list, I bought a box.

Copycat recipe for Ivins Famous Spiced Wafers from Yankee Kitchen Ninja
Photo courtesy of

OK, OK, I bought three boxes.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Brussels sprout and blue cheese salad with maple candied pecans

Brussels sprout and blue cheese salad is deliciously crisp and simple to prepare -- and even better when topped with 5-minute maple-candied pecans.

Crisp Brussels sprout salad with tangy blue cheese and maple candied pecans

Remember last week's maple-candied pecans? Remember that I mentioned I made them to garnish a Brussels sprout salad?

Well, this is the salad. But I bet you could tell that by the awesome candied pecans in it. Because you are wicked clever, yes, you are.

I love Brussels sprouts. And not just because they are the cutest food, like little tiny wannabe cabbages. Totes adorbs. I love their earthy flavor and crunchiness, when they're raw anyway. In fact, I may almost love them more raw in salads and slaws than I do cooked. (Well, at least I thought I did until I had these crispy Brussels sprouts with lemon, pistachios and pecorino at a restaurant called Lumber Yard in Amherst, MA a few weeks ago -- ERMERGAHD, they were seriously delish!)

You're going to dig this salad for its simplicity: a tangy shallot dressing, sprouts, rich blue cheese and those candied nuts. It comes together quickly as a side for roast chicken or fish, but I like to eat it as the meal itself -- because I freakin' love Brussels sprouts! The only thing that's slightly a pain is slicing the little suckers. But you can also shred them quickly using a food processor, if you're so inclined to want to wash more dishes (I'm usually not).

Friday, October 10, 2014

Maple candied pecans

Make these 3-ingredient maple candied pecans in 5 minutes, then enjoy them on salads, with cheese, atop oatmeal or as a sweet-and-salty snack.

Easy maple candied pecans can be made in less than 5 minutes

Sometimes the simplest things are often the best, don't you find?

Think of how many classics are little more than the combination of two ingredients: PB and J, rum and coke,  milk and cookies, Hall and Oates ...

(In fact, if you want to have your mind blown just a bit, check out BuzzFeed's list of insanely simple 2-ingredient recipes -- but be forewarned, some are just kind of creepy).

Anyhoo. I like to keep things simple. Which is why I often blow off little extra steps in recipe if it seems that they might slow down my dinner-making process -- steps like toasting some nuts to put on top of a salad. Pfffft. Sure, I know the nuts taste better toasted, but that's just going to add to both the prep time and the number of pans that need to be washed after dinner.

Yet in making a Brussels sprout salad last week, I felt that it needed a leeetle somethin-somethin to put it over the top, just a little bit of sweetness (Mr. Ninj said that removing all the Brussels sprouts would have made it perfect; I ignored him).

Sweet made me think of candied nuts. But with just a hint of salt. And, in the name of keeping it simple and fast, these maple candied pecans have only three ingredients: raw pecans, pure maple syrup and a finishing dash of sea salt.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Kati flatbread salad

Kati rolls, the popular Indian street food, deconstructed into a hearty meal salad that can also double as a unique appetizer pizza.

Kati flatbread salad has all the great flavors of the popular Indian street food

I know you're all like, "Kati? What the heck is kati, Ninj?"

Don't worry, I didn't know either until I stumbled across an article in Good Housekeeping this month about new food trends. Apparently, we're all supposed to be going completely cray cray for Indian street food. And apparently, kati rolls are uber-popular Indian street food.

Kati rolls, based on what I've read, sound a bit like gyros: a warm, meat-based filling wrapped in flatbread (although the fillings can vary widely). OK, I'm in -- sounds awesome.

However, I'm not a big fan of sandwiches for dinner. To me, they're fine for lunch, but for dinner they seem a bit like a cop-out (and no, burgers don't count as sandwiches -- they're in a category all their own). It's silly and arbitrary, but it's my thing. 

Being all ninja-like, I just took the kati roll concept and deconstructed it into a flatbread salad. Because I'm OK with salads for dinner or lunch.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pumpkin Gorgonzola pasta

Enjoy all the best flavors of fall in this hearty but lightened pasta, with a rich and creamy pumpkin gorgonzola cheese sauce.

Pasta and mushrooms in a creamy pumpkin gorgonzola cheese sauce

Now that it's October, I give all of us official permission to start talking about pumpkin recipes.

Granted, I'm probably the only food blogger on the planet that hasn't been posting pumpkin recipes since Labor Day, but I'm loyal to produce seasonality.

I don't mean to malign the poor pumpkin; I love it, I really do. Well, except for pumpkin pie -- but that's just because I'm a pie crust hater. And pumpkin spice freakin' lattes -- but that's just because they are all over the place like a really bad rash. How about a butternut latte, Starbucks? Or a kale-scented candle, Yankee Candle people? I'd buy either one of those in a heartbeat.

Anyhoo, we're talking pumpkin. More specifically, we're talking pumpkin pasta. Even more specifically, pumpkin pasta with a rich, creamy Gorgonzola cheese sauce.

Awwwwwwwww yeah.

This pasta recipe is an oldie-but-a-goodie around Casa de Ninj. It's a Cooking Light recipe that I have been making for 10 years.

(ERMERGAHD, 10 years!)

It's a recipe I like to make not only because it is aw-aw-awesome but also because it reminds me of how far I have come since I really started cooking. Which, frankly, wasn't until about 2000, when I got married -- and realized that if I didn't step up and do the cooking, we'd be eating non-stop takeout Chinese from the Busy Bee, which was Mr. Ninj's favorite (in fact, he just refers to all Chinese restaurants now as "The Busy Bee").