Monday, July 25, 2011

Cheezy Pesto Hummus...because it's been too damn hot to cook

Holy heat wave, ninjas!  Pretty much the whole U.S. (and apparently much of Canada) was trapped in a heat wave for what seemed like forever.  The heat broke today with some rain (finally!) but it appears we're going to be back up into the nineties by tomorrow, although compared to the triple-digit temps we've been dealing with even that is probably going to feel like a relief.  So here's a recipe for hummus, which is a great fill-you-up, high-protein food that doesn't require you to stand sweating over a hot stove.  Hummus is one of those always-been-vegan foods that is just so damn wonderful I'm not sure what I'd do without it.  It's right up there with avocados, dark chocolate, and beer on my list of foods that I like better than most people I know.  Hummus is endlessly versatile - if you walk into the grocery store you can find seemingly unlimited varieties - roasted garlic hummus, red pepper hummus, spicy hummus, etc. etc. and for those of us who aren't being duped into paying astronomical prices for a product we could make easily in about 10 minutes at home for a small fraction of the price, we can play around even more with ingredients.  I am currently attempting to grow a small windowsill garden that includes parsley, thyme, oregano, pinto beans, hot peppers, and a basil plant.  Tossing some fresh basil into homemade hummus to make a sort of pesto/hummus hybrid turned out wonderfully tasty, so of course I wanted to share the recipe with my fellow ninjas!

Eat this hummus as a dip for fresh veggies, bread, or chips, or in a pita/wrap with veggies and/or falafel.  This ninja's preferred vehicles for transporting hummus from bowl to mouth are baby carrots, celery sticks, sliced cucumber, and whole wheat pita bread.  Perfect food to fill you up when it's hot as hell outside and you can't fathom turning on your stove.

Cheezy Pesto Hummus


6 cloves garlic
1 1/4 cups tightly packed fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 a yellow onion, peeled
1 15oz can chickpeas
3/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
paprika and extra basil for garnish

Place the garlic, basil, olive oil, and onion in a food processor or powerful blender.  Process until relatively smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides a couple of times.  Add the rest of the ingredients and process until smooth and fluffy.  Taste and adjust salt and lemon juice if needed.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of paprika, and chopped basil if you wish.  Enjoy!

Tips and Tricks:

1. Blender vs. food processor - I use a food processor for this and pretty much all other non-liquid blending/grinding/processing tasks.  I've blown far too many blender motors in the past trying to make dips, that I really only use a blender for things like soups that are actually liquid.  If you're going to be doing a lot of cooking, or really, even occasional cooking, I highly recommend you get yourself a food processor.  Nothing beats one for making dips, and it's pretty freaking awesome for shredding vegetables as well if it comes with a shredding blade.  Now, go to a store and look at the kitchen appliances and you'll find lots of food processors with hefty price tags, but it doesn't need to be that way.  I got mine for free through Freecycle - if you don't already know, Freecycle is an online group where people give crap away for free to other people in an attempt to help others and keep our junk out of landfills (think "one man's trash is another man's treasure" kind of thing) and most areas have an active group so check it out!  Also try looking at thrift stores that sell small appliances on the cheap.  My processor is a totally huge, kick ass thing that appears to be from the late 1970s.  I call her The Beast.  Allow me to introduce you:

The Beast in all her glory

I've been using this thing for almost 3 years now on a regular basis and it can pulverize thick, beany sauces/dips and shred multiple pounds of potatoes for latkes like a champ with no signs of slowing down.  Not bad for zero dollars, eh?  I probably could have bought a brand new one and not had it work so well.  The phrase "they don't make 'em like they used to" is most definitely applicable here.  If the thought of using something for your food that belonged to someone else once skeeves you, just wash it really well in hot water and dish soap with a little bit of diluted bleach.  Mine smelled vaguely of mothballs when I got it (the woman who gave it to me said it had been in the back of a closet for years) and it was nothing a good cleaning couldn't remedy.  Also, get over it!  Buying second-hand is an awesome way to save money and it's good for the environment too.  I buy nearly all of my clothing second-hand and kitchen appliances too when I can find them and I'm not dead yet.  It's my theory that we mostly all have the same germs anyhow.

2. Tahini - in case you aren't familiar with tahini, it's sesame seed butter.  It's made in the same way that peanut butter or any other nut butter is, and like natural peanut butter the oil separates and floats on top so you need to give it a good stir before you measure it out.  You can find tahini in most grocery stores in the same aisle as the peanut butter.

3. "I think nutritional yeast is revolting...what should I do?"  Just leave it out.  You'll have pesto hummus but it will no longer be "cheezy."  Still a "win" in my book.  I just happen to like nutritional yeast and I put it in probably an excessive amount of food items.  What can I say, I still miss cheese and I strive to get that flavor back as much as I can.

4. This makes a TON of hummus so invite some friends over to help you eat it.  Hummus will keep in the fridge in a tightly lidded container for about a week.  Keep a layer of plastic wrap pressed down right onto the top of the hummus to keep it from drying out.

Well, that's all for now, my lovely ninjas.  I'll be whipping out the grill pan again tomorrow for some spicy chili burgers, and I've got recipes for a coconut chickpea stir fry with quinoa and braised vegetables and tofu in a fresh herb sauce forthcoming.  Until then, enjoy your hummus and stay cool!

<3 The Fur Ninja

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tequila Marinated Grilled Tofu and Margarita Vinaigrette

Hey ninjas - let's all cook with tequila!

I made this recipe because I recently bought myself a grill pan and wanted to try it out.  It's actually a double-sided thing with the grill ridges on one side and a flat griddle on the other and it fits over two stove burners.  I LOVE this thing.  I encourage everyone to get a grill pan, especially if you're like me and live in the city where there's no yard or patio to speak of where you could put a grill.  If you don't have/don't want a grill pan, you could also make this recipe on an outdoor grill, a George-Foreman-esque countertop grill contraption, or bake it in the oven.  Baking instructions follow the recipe.

Now let it be said that I'm not one that's big on eating slabs of tofu, no matter how they are prepared.  I tend to prefer my tofu as part of a greater whole, but the combination of the delicious, tequila-spiked marinde and the "yum" and firm texture imparted by grilling made this stuff downright amazing if I do say so myself.  Marinated grilled tofu is endlessly versatile - eat it on it's own, on top of a salad, layered in a sandwich, tucked into a pita/wrap with veggies and dressing, eat atop rice cooked in vegetable broth or pasta with olive oil....just remember that whatever you eat it with should be lightly flavored so you don't overpower the flavor of the marinade.  I ate mine rolled into a whole-wheat wrap with spinach, strawberries, avocado, cilantro, and topped with a margarita vinaigrette dressing, the recipe for which I have also included in this post since that's just how much I love my ninja readers.  Onto the recipe!

Tequila Marinated Grilled Tofu


1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup tequila
3 Tablespoons olive oil
zest of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon salt
several grinds black pepper
1 lb extra firm tofu, drained

*Note: you may want to freeze and thaw your tofu before using it in this recipe.  Freezing tofu before cooking gives it a firmer, chewier, and more meat-like texture.  Just throw the whole package in the freezer, freeze until solid, and then thaw completely in the refrigerator.  Proceed normally with the recipe.  If you don't want to freeze your tofu or don't have time, it will still be delicious, but the texture will be slightly softer.

First press your tofu.  Wrap it in a clean dish towel and place it on a cutting board or flat plate.  Put another cutting board/plate on top of it and weight it down with something - I use a can or two of tomatoes or a large container of oatmeal.  You're not trying to flatten/smush it; just weight it with something heavy enough to press it down slightly - you're just trying to squeeze out some of the excess water so it absorbs the marinade better.  Make sure the weight is evenly distributed so your tofu doesn't press unevenly or tilt the top plate and topple off your weight.  Leave the tofu for 30-60 minutes.  Slice width-wise into eighths, which will give you about 1/2" slices.  Set aside.

In a wide, shallow dish, whisk all remaining ingredients together.  Place the tofu in the dish and spoon some of the marinade on top.  Marinate for at least one hour, but up to overnight; turning at least once.

To grill:  make sure your grill or grill pan is well-oiled with olive oil or cooking spray and pre-heat on medium-high.  Place tofu slices on grill pan and grill each side for 7-10 minutes until browned and char-marks appear, spooning additional marinade over tofu as it cooks.

To bake in the oven:  pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place marinated tofu onto well-oiled baking sheet.  Bake 15 minutes.  Flip tofu and spoon some more of the marinade over it and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. 


Margarita Vinaigrette


2 Tablespoons lime juice
1.5 teaspoons orange juice
1.5 teaspoons tequila
1 shallot, minced finely
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
several grinds black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Whisk all ingredients until well combined.  Chill at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

I ate my tofu in whole wheat wraps with baby spinach, fresh sliced strawberries, avocado, cilantro, and all of it doused in the margarita vinaigrette.  Yum!

I suggest making yourself a refreshing margarita with the leftover tequila to accompany your tasty tofu, but hey, that's just me.

And now I leave you with this, because I haven't been able to get the song out of my head since starting this post, and I think you should all have to suffer with me:


Oh, childhood memories :)

As always, comments welcome and thanks to all my faithful ninja readers!

<3 The Fur Ninja

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pictures of my cute kitties for absolutely no reason whatsoever....

Title of post is self-explanatory:

Lucy with her "grub" toy - she takes care of it like it's her baby.

Skye napping with her "Ratta" toy that daddy Andy got her from Ikea (thanks, daddy!)

Two of a kind....

My friend Joe says her whiskers make her look like Jamie from Mythbusters.


That's all the gratuitous cuteness for now...maybe.  A girl at work just rescued a stray that had kittens and she's giving the little ones away.  Hmmm...this could spell trouble for the Fur Ninja household.  There's nothing I'm more of a sucker for than a furry kitten.

New recipe in the next couple of days - tried out my grill pan tonight with some tequila-marinated grilled tofu and it was truly bangin' if I do say so myself.  I'm just too tired, and (let's be honest) tipsy on some leftover tequila to get into a long recipe post right now.

Much love and happy furry kitty-ness to everyone!

<3 The Fur Ninja

Monday, July 4, 2011

Back from hiatus, happy July 4th, and ice cream cupcakes!

Helloooooooooo, ninjas!  It is SO good to be back and cooking again after couch-surfing and not having my own kitchen for so long!  I finally moved myself to Philadelphia, have lovely new ninja-kitchen headquarters, and Lucy, Skye and I are loving our new home.  I hope all of you are ready for some delicous new recipes because I've been itching to post some!

So today is July 4th, so happy Independence Day to all of my American ninjas, and happy random-monday-in-July to all of my lovely ninjas abroad.  Whether you're watching fireworks and happily BBQing today, or just schlepping through a day at work, here's a recipe for some easy, chilly ice cream treats to chase away the sweltering summer heat.

This recipe would be great to make with little ninjas, as it requires no baking, limited measuring (most things you can "eyeball") and lots of sticky, messy working with your hands.  This recipe is actually adapted from a recipe that was designed for kids, with some ingredients changed for the sake of vegan-ness, health, and making the final product more appealing to both little and grown-up ninja palates.  These are great little treats, especially if you are like me and tend to eat your ice cream straight from the pint (while watching reruns of girly tv dramas and drooling over hot men if you're me - something about chocolate ice cream and Patrick Dempsey is so very "yum" *hangs head in shame*), as they kind of force you into having some portion control.  Just don't eat the whole pan of them in one sitting....or, fuckit do it anyway!  No judgement here.  We've all done it.  Anyway, regardless of how you eat them, I hope you enjoy these cute little treats!

Easy Ice-Cream "Cupcakes"


1/2 cup raw agave nectar
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon creamy natural peanut butter
3 cups flake cereal
1 quart vanilla or chocolate vegan ice cream
3 Tablespoons chopped pecans or hazlenuts
1/2 teaspoon non-dairy butter, melted
3 oz premium dark chocolate
cooking spray or non-dairy butter for the pan

Spray a 12 muffin/cupcake pan with cooking spray or lightly butter the cups with a little non-dairy butter on a paper towel.  In a medium bowl, mix together the agave nectar and 1/4 cup of the peanut butter until combined.  Mix in the cereal, crushing the flakes as you mix until all the flakes are evenly coated.  Press the cereal firmly into the bottoms of the muffin cups with the back of a spoon or your fingers.
Spoon about 2 Tablespoons of the ice cream on top of the flake mixture in each of the muffin cups, pressing down with a spoon as you go.  Place about 1/2 teaspoon of peanut butter on top of the ice cream in each cup, and top with 2 more Tablespoons of ice cream, smoothing to cover the peanut butter.  Sprinkle with the chopped nuts.  Place in freezer while you make the chocolate glaze.
Break up your chocolate bar and place in a small bowl with the non-dairy butter and remaining 1 Tablespoon peanut butter.  Microwave for 30 seconds and stir.  Continue microwaving in 10 second increments until chocolate is mostly melted with some lumps, being careful not to burn the chocolate.  Stir the mixture until the remaining lumps are melted and the mixture is smooth.
Remove the muffin pan from the freezer and drizzle the chocolate mixture over each cup.  Freeze overnight until firm.
To serve, run a knife or spoon gently around each cup to loosen the cereal.  Enjoy with lots of wet paper towels handy for sticky fingers!

Tips and Tricks:

1. Your chocolate: use premium dark chocolate for the best taste - the slight bitterness of the very dark chocolate contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the ice cream.  I used a dark chocolate bar that was 85% cocoa:

but you are welcome to use whatever sort of dark, vegan-friendly chocolate you like.  Just remember to read labels - REAL dark chocolate does NOT contain milk or milk-products, but many chocolate manufacturers put milk into "dark" chocolate nowadays in an effort to pander to watered-down American palates.  You're going to have to fork out the dough for a premium chocolate bar if you want to avoid milk, most likely.  It's worth it though; trust me. 

2. Raw agave nectar?  Wtf??? - This is just what I used as a sweetener/sticky-fier because the original recipe called for corn syrup (dude....ew) and agave is far healthier, as it is a minimally processed and low-glycemic sweetener option.  You could also use pure maple syrup or possibly brown rice syrup here, but I chose agave over maple to avoid imparting a maple flavor to the finished product.  Agave is pretty innocuous flavor-wise and it melds with most ingredients well.  I'd like to try this with brown rice syrup, and that was honestly my original intention, but the store where I was shopping didn't have it and I didn't feel like going all the way to Whole Foods.  So yeah, agave was used partly due to laziness as well.  Feel free to use whatever sweetener you like!

3. Chocolate?  Or vanilla?  Frankly I'd go with vanilla ice cream if you have the choice here, because I used chocolate and felt that it was too overpowering, but again, the store didn't have vanilla in quart size and I was too lazy to go somewhere that did.  I used So Delicious brand ice cream, by the way, which is hands-down the BEST vegan ice cream I've ever eaten.  You can't tell the difference at all from regular ice cream, and this is coming from a true ice cream my pre-vegan, 20 lbs overweight phase I was basically a slave to Ben and Jerry.  So Delicious isn't much more expensive than non-vegan premium dairy ice cream is, and they donate a portion of their proceeds to saving sea turtles.  Win.  If you can make your own vegan ice cream, go for it (I would have made my own but the ice cream maker I used to use belonged to Andy and so still lives in NJ *tear*) but if you've gotta buy some, So Delicious is the way to go.  By the way, 1 quart of ice cream will leave you with some extra for eating *puts on Grey's Anatomy and pulls out spoon* so enjoy that as well :)

4. Aw, nuts....I used hazlenuts here, but you can use any kind of chopped nut you like - peanuts, pecans, walnuts, macadamias....whatever, go nuts (hehe).  Honestly, I think the dark chocolate overpowers most of the actual flavor of the nuts, so anything that goes *crunch* would work brilliantly.

5. Cereal - you can use any flake cereal here, but in the interest of attempting to offset the sugar-laden calorie-fest that is So Delicious ice cream, I used a whole grain, organic flax flake.  Again, the actual flavor of the flakes is going to be overpowered by everything else, so you're just looking for a pleasant crunch.  I figure, why not slip in some omega-3s and whole grains if I can?  Just try to get a cereal that doesn't have a lot of sugar added to the flakes because it could make the finished product too sweet.  Agave is low-glycemic but it is very sweet (not to mention the ice cream you've got going on there) so you don't really need any more sugar.

6. Peanut butter - for fuck's sake (sorry for the f-bomb but I'm pretty adamant about this) use natural peanut butter.  Natural PB is readily available in every major grocery store nowadays - most stores even have their own generic "store brand" of natural peanut butter - so there's no excuse for getting trans-fat, sugar, and chemical-laden "peanut spread" anymore.  Peanuts are absolutely delicious on their own and they don't need any of that other crap mixed in.  If you're really too lazy to deal with the oil-separation that occurs in natural PB, there are some brands that make a "no-stir" natural option (I believe JIF makes one), although I generally don't recommend these because they have added palm oil (which has some negative health and environmental impact, although not nearly has bad as hydrogenated oils) and sugar.  A great trick to avoid the oil goo on top of natural PB is to store the jar upside down.  The oil will rise to the top - which is really the bottom - so stirring it in is so much easier.  You can even make your own "reduced fat" peanut butter by skimming the oil off the top when you first open the jar, which solves your oil problem as well.  Basically, do what you gotta do as far as peanut butter, but in this ninja's opinion, the better taste and health benefits of the natural stuff far outweigh the annoyance of stirring some oil once in a while.

So that's that...hope you enjoyed the first Fur Ninja recipe in almost five months!  I'd like to try this recipe again with home-made, stevia-sweetened fruit ice cream with omega-3 and protein-rich walnuts and inflammation-reducing berries to make a low-sugar, high-protein, and nutrient-rich version to use as a post-workout snack, so look for that in the future once I can afford to buy my own ice cream maker!  I've also got lots more recipes coming - including tequila-marinated grilled tofu (to try out my new grill pan!) and much, much more.  Also, hope you're loving the new, less-crappy pictures, courtesy of my spiffy new digital camera.

Until next time, much love from me, Lucy, and Skye!

<3 The Fur Ninja