Enter the Protein Ninja


Hello there beautiful, I have a new book coming out in February: Protein Ninja.

Do you to yearn to bake chewy cookies, or savor big entree bowls piled high with veggies, noodles or grains and savory sauces, or top a bountiful salad with an extra-brawny handmade veggie burger, or fill your kitchen with the aromas of freshly baked granola? And what if these weekday staples also provided just a little extra protein to boost your weekday hustle, be it a push out a few extra squats at the gym, take the stairs instead of the elevator at work, a yoga session’s chatarunga with more chachung!, or lift with ease and grace toddlers/dogs/wallabies or stacks of vegan cookbooks.

Protein Ninja, my new cookbook out this February, is about just that: sneaking in a touch of extra plant based protein for active people of all activity levels. She’s the stealthy sister of last year’s Salad Samurai, my ode to big, filling salads packed with fruits, nuts, homemade dressings, and more vegetables beyond lettuce. I LOVE making seriously kickass salad recipes, yet soon after found myself missing my other kitchen obsessions: baking, burgers, bowls, and breakfast foods.

My year of the salad was also a year of hitting the gym with new-found purpose: free weights three times a week made my workout routine at long last give me results. I felt the boost in both my yoga practice and scaling the seemingly infinite staircases of the New York City subway system. And with weighty workout soon came adding vegan protein powders into my diet. But instead of just tossing these powders–unflavored, simple hemp, pea, and brown rice–into a blender, my chef-brain saw “hey, new ingredient here!” and many months later, the recipes of Protein Ninja came to life.

Protein Ninja investigates sneaky ways to add planty proteins (hemp, brown rice, pea protein, beans, tofu, etc.) into everyday meals, snacks, and treats. True, I do have a few smoothie bowls (decadent-tasting smoothies you eat with a spoon…think ultra healthy breakfast ice cream) but it’s all about the savory meals, breakfasts, muffins, cookies, savory and sweet scones too.

There’s no denying it, protein seems to be in the center of the plate of nearly every nutrition post or another big fat bullet point on many packaged foods. What is really astounding now is that the buzz…the mainstream buzz beyond the vegan niche…is increasing around plant-based protein. Back in the good old days we called it vegan protein. Whatever the name, it’s clear that interest in protein from compassionate and less planet-eating sources is growing.

Plant-based protein is clearly important to me, but why ninja? Like any high-school kid in the 80’s, I thought ninjas were cool. Then at 14, when visiting Venezuela for the first time, I went to ninja school. I was for a short period I was a teenage Venezuelan ninja. My dojo was not in some mist-shrouded temple in a forested mountain village in Japan: my ninja school was in the tropical sprawl of bustling little city a few hours outside of Caracas, near a little park populated with mango trees and iguanas, down the street from my cousins’ house. For a few fleeting weeks every high school summer vacation I hid my face in a black scarf, scaled some ropes, learned a few aikido moves requiring pinching, but most tropical nights just got incredibly sweaty doing 2 hour sessions of aerobic exercise in a heavily padded black cotton gi. Though an entirely awesome experience, today I’m only qualify for missions about writing cookbooks with ninja in the title.

Feel relieved that YOU don’t have to train to enter the dojo of sneaky protein cookery: you only have to pre-order Protein Ninja from these fine book slingers below.






#OnCookbookWriting | Teenage #ProteinNinja Cookbook

Green hemp smoothie, hemp protein berry muffins, and precious iced coffee

Green hemp smoothie, hemp protein berry muffins, and precious iced coffee

A little while ago, I almost posted a tweet along the lines of “writing a cookbook is like being lowered slowly into a pit full of spiders”. I stopped short of sending it out, not wanting my mom worry too much about what the NYC subway system is like these days.

What exactly that means I couldn’t tell you: only except that I’m in deep. Writing my 8th book in 10 years of cookbook-mongering, I still sometimes feel like I’m exploring a damp, vast cavern guided only by the flicker of a cheap lighter and a vague memory of a map I glimpsed for a few minutes before stumbling around that old cookbook writing labyrinth.

And what is this dark writing landscape? It’s a crazy pile of recipe research, writing, grocery shopping (never ending it seems), testing, and writing it all again. With rapidly advancing deadline in August. So little time and so many recipes to visualize, write out, test, re-write, test again (if necessary). And then there’s all the other stuff I need to write, such as readable and entertaining headnotes or ingredient descriptions. Don’t even get me started about the mad dash to the finish line that is food photography.

I’m not in it totally alone. I have an amazing recipe-ninja assistant and a small special-opts task force I emotionally lean on daily. While I’m sure there are some cookbook authors happily typing and cooking away on desert (or please yes dessert) islands, I cannot create without the loving support of some precious humans/cats/dogs/goat.

The name of my new book is Protein Ninja: after all these years, my publisher at last has allowed me to have “ninja” in the title of a book. It only took writing a best-selling book about salad with “samurai” in the title name first. My inner 12-year old is raising a katana high for victory.

What is Protein Ninja? A (hopefully) impossible to live without recipe collection of things I eat every day: muffins, scones, cookies, pancakes, soups, stews, salads, collard wraps, spreads and dips for toast or vegetables or fruits, granola, and smoothie bowls that I’d easily just as eat for dinner as for breakfast.

The uniting thread for these recipes is a boosted protein content from either the addition of vegan, unflavored protein powders or a fusion of whole foods: beans, nuts, tofu, seitan…the usual suspects. There will likely be a touch of nutritional analysis, but not too much. Remember kids, I’m a not a doctor, just a lady who loves to create piles of dirty dishes in the kitchen.

These recipes are written in between the breathing moments of a full time job, hitting the gym, going to hardcore punk shows, meditation, and connecting with some humans and animals I’m rather fond of. And if I’m lucky, sleep. But there are some really cool things I’m discovering too! I’m having fun baking again after over a year of salad making. I’m refining my cookbook writing work-flow, something that is always evolving anyway every time I hit the manuscript treadmill. And I’ve truly enjoyed exploring some of these “new” vegan basic protein powders–hemp, brown rice, pea–which I believe most any vegan can learn to love when properly prepared.

Alight, my morning caffeine slap is hitting my nervous system and it’s time to hit the pavement for a morning run. Hope you’ve savored this little update, stay tuned for more.

Hey L.A. Salad Samurai Dinner at Mohawk Bend Sept 15th


Join me and Chef Adam Levoe (Golden Road Brewing) for an evening of 4 courses of 3 hearty salads (appetizer, entree and main), 1 dessert from Vegan Eats World, and 4 super exciting beer pairings (the beer is optional if it’s not your thing). We’ll also have copies of Salad Samurai available too! Check out the event page for more about Mohawk Bend, and contact authors@mohawk.la to make reservations (seating is limited!).

Coconut Samosa Potato Salad (from Salad Sam!)

As I type this up, I’m looking to my right at a box of Salad Samurai books, unopened, on the kitchen floor. My single copy is no longer just that! This is really happening folks.

Book release dates are fickle creatures: in this instance, Salad Sam was originally slated for sometime in early June. Then a bunch of printing issues happened, the on sale date shifted all the way to July 1st, and then hurray it’s back to mid-June. Maybe the 16th? Either way, the world will get some salad and not soon enough for the warming spring weather.

But until then, here’s a loooooong overdue recipe from the book I presented at a chill cooking event with Isa in Sydney, Australia back in March. This is for the 19 attendees who lingered through the heat of that early fall evening waiting for a taste crunchy, tangy potato salad inspired by everybody’s favorite savory Indian pastries. Tender potatoes and chickpeas are bathed in a bright curry vinaigrette, lots of fresh herbs, and instead of a crust (salad after all), I toss in a handful of toasted papadum, a common find in Indian markets and a crunchy fun in a salad.

Coconut Samosa Potato Salad (from Salad Sam!)
A hearty potato and pea salad dressed with warm curry dressing, garnished with cashews, and crushed toasted papadum (crunchy Indian lentil wafers) that’s reminiscent of samosas, the essential Indian deep fried stuffed pastry. Great any time of year but invigorating comfort food in cooler fall weather.
Serves: 2 huge servings, 4 little servings
  • 2 pounds Russet potatoes
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (half of a 14 ounce can)
  • 1 red onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 ½ cups lightly packed cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup lightly packed mint, roughly chopped
  • ⅔ cup roasted, unsalted cashews, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons mild flavored vegetable oil such as grapeseed
  • 6 curry leaves, roughly chopped (leave out if you can’t find them)
  • 4 teaspoons mild or hot curry powder
  • ⅓ cup lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups gently crushed toasted papadam chips
  • ½ cup toasted, unsweetened coconut shreds (see East West Corn Salad, page XX, for tips on toasting coconut)
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  1. Either thoroughly scrub potatoes to remove any exterior dirt and carve out the eyes, or completely peel the potatoes. Dice into 1-inch cubes, transfer to a large pot and cover with 3 inches of water. Over high heat bring to boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for about 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork. About 2 minutes just before the potatoes seem done, stir in the peas and cook until bright green but firm. Drain and set aside the potatoes and peas to cool.
  2. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the curry leaves and fry for about 1 minute until crisp and turn off the heat. Stir in the curry powder to gently cook the spices in the oil and set aside to cool for 1 minute. Whisk in the remaining dressing ingredients.
  3. Transfer potatoes and peas to a large serving bowl and add the chickpeas, onion, cilantro, mint, and cashews. Pour dressing over salad and mix well. Heap on the crushed papadum and coconut, and dust the top of the salad with garam masala. Serve away!


Think! Eat! Act!


A beautiful breakfast read: all new Think! Eat! Act! , Raffa Tolicetti’s lovely vegan Italian cuisine created on a @seashepherd ship. @kickstarter #samsmith #thinkeatact