The Ninja Cooking System — Two Thumbs Up
To eat healthy, it isn’t enough to know how to put nourishing meals on the table – or to know where to find fresh local organic ingredients and how to combine them into flavorful meals. You actually have to do all those things on a regular basis. And sad to say, I don’t — even though I’m a pretty good cook. Instead, to save time and effort, I find myself picking up takeout meals – and then feeling guilty.
So when I was sent the Ninja Cooking System to try out, I thought maybe this could motivate me to cook regularly. The machine looks like a slow cooker, which is a good kitchen tool, especially in winter. But the Ninja promises to do more than slow cook.
I took it for a test drive, with one of my favorite cold-weather dishes, Yankee Pot Roast, from a James Beard recipe I’ve used for years. (The Ninja cookbook does include a very good recipe, but I figured that the first time out, I’d stick with one of my tried-and-true dishes.)
To start, I employed the stovetop setting which allowed me to sear my 3-pound seasoned and floured rump roast on all sides, using a small amount of butter and vegetable oil which I had heated on “high.” Then I added a couple of cloves of garlic, a stalk of celery, some dried thyme, a bay leaf and about a cup of beef stock. I switched to the “Slow Cook” function and let the roast cook for about an hour. Next I added some peeled carrots, a few small onions and seasoning for the vegetables – and continued the “Slow Cook” for another hour. All done except for the sauce.
After removing the meat and vegetables from the cooker, I skimmed a bit of the fat, added more beef broth and made what the French call beurre manié (little balls of butter and flour kneaded together) in order to thicken the sauce.
The result: Served with buttered noodles, this wasn’t exactly a low-cal dish, but it was oh, so, delicious.
As the Ninja can also be used to steam bake, using half the butter or oil, I tried it out with cupcakes. I had a six-cupcake tin, the perfect size for the machine, so I cut my recipe as well as the amount of oil and made just the right amount of batter. The steam baking worked this way: I put about a cup and a half of water into the cooker, then placed the cupcake tin in the roasting rack, so it sat above the water. The cupcakes baked for about 15 minutes at 350 – and that was it. They were just as moist as when I used the full amount of oil. Of course I used up the “saved” fat with my butter-cream frosting, but I believe if you’re going to have dessert at all, it should taste good – or why bother?
I give the Ninja two thumbs-up.
I know I can make healthier, less-rich and lower-calorie meals (I’m going to try chicken breasts next), but in my opinion, any good meal cooked at home is healthier than picking up fast food or takeout meals prepared with unknown ingredients.
Do you agree?