Friday, March 25, 2016

Review! Terry's Protein Ninja Popeye-erizes.

review, protein ninja, terry hope romero, vegan, glutenfree, kittee, blog
 Kitchen ninjas eatin' on smoothie bowls. Laid back. ♫ 
[LONG POST WARNING] Make room, 'cuz I'm barreling through today with a review of Terry Hope Romero's Protein Ninja, and yes, I do feel like Popeye after he's flattened a tin of spinach. Thank you for asking. The long awaited sibling to Salad Samurai is here, and rumors be true. This book is packed to the gills with wheelbarrows of protein powder, but there's plenty to make without it, too.

To use this book to its full potential, you'll need to stock up on several different kinds of protein powder. Besides the vanilla flavored Vega or Plant Fusion packets you undoubtedly have hiding in a dusty nook somewhere, you'll also need unflavored powderz in the varieties of hemp, pea, and brown rice, if you have the ca$h and kitchen real estate. If you don't, read on.

Since I'm down for PPA (Protein Powder Action©) in my smoothies and smoothie bowls, but not so much in my other meals, that's how I've explored this book. As my usual, I'm also always scopin' for gluten-freezers, and of course, my current affinity for natural sweeteners. Good news for me-- Protein Ninja has plenty for me to bust a grub on.

Vanilla protein powder, soymilk, frozen banana and strawberries, peanut butter, chia seeds, and vanilla. Topped with frozen strawberries, peanuts, and a PB powder and maple drizzle. Most ice-cream tasting nice cream of all time.
Pro tip for other gluten suppressors: most of the gluten-free recipes in this book (and there are lots and even many without PPA) are not marked as such. My advice is ignore the categorizations given at the top of each recipe. I'm pretty sure whichever editor was in charge of this task, spent a bit too much time with the hemp powder that day. So just go through the book page by page, and you'll find them. I'll list a breakdown of chapters below, so hopefully that'll help you find them, but just read everything including the sidebars (isn't that why you keep cookbooks by your bed after all?)

Here's what I cooked and munched--I aimed for picking things from different chapters. And for my own curiosity, I calculated how much protein I was eating using the My Fitness Pal app.

Peanut Butter Strawberry Bowl (Vanilla Almond Smoothie Bowl variation) --34 grams protein.
Holy shit, this made a gigantic bowl of smoothie power--I could only eat half in one sitting! This is the creamiest smoothie bowl I've ever had, and the protein powder was only noticeable, because the vanilla in mine tasted like Dandies. I always forget to add soymilk when I make these, and I was stoked on Terry's perfect ratios. Plus, this recipe has oodles of variations to try-- the Chai Bowl's next.

Tempeh, apple, kidney beans, sage and other spices. Simple and delicious.
Tempeh Apple Sage Sausage Patties --4 grams protein per patty.
Terry obviously knows what's up, because tempeh + apple is one of my favorite things. I knew these would be good as soon as I saw the recipe, and then I felt pretty dumb for not coming up with something like this myself. Don't rat me out, but I may have added liquid smoke. Since these don't have a starch binder, they're pretty delicate, and thus perfect to eat in biscuits like the book recommends, or Kittee-style shoved between pancakes. They're also a great platform for experimenting with other bean and spice combos.

Cashew Hemp Goddess Dressing --.7 grams protein per tablespoon.
I fell in lust with the cashew curry dressing in Salad Samurai, so I was excited to taste another Terry-cashew-concoction. The additon of EFA oil was a boon, too, since I try to add that in whenever I can anyways. If you don't have a lot of creamy cashew based dressings in your repertoire, this is a good place to start. The Thousand Island variation sounds really great, but I'm out of pickles! :-<

MODERN DAY MACRO BOWL (Kittee Soy Curl variation). 
This picture makes it like you were almost there with me and this tasty thing.
Modern-Day Macro Bowl 
Sorry dudes, this bowl was too complicated for me to try to calcu-protein-ate--here's what's in here: aduki sesame brown rice, orange-ginger Soy Curls, tahini-miso sauce, steamed veggies, and raw veggies.

Even though this bowl contains many parts, it came together pretty quickly. Especially since I had everything I needed in the house. I also saved myself some time by Instant Potting aduki beans a couple of days ahead. I used Soy Curls instead of seitan, and I was very pleased. If anyone wants to try, I hydrated a couple handfuls in water, then squeezed out ALL the water and weighed them. Then I just followed Terry's method for the seitan, eazy peazy. This is a very earthy bowl, and I totes would not skip out on the miso-tahini sauce for the top, 'cuz it added a lot of flavor. I topped mine with raw shredded cabbage, steamed kale, and blanched bok choy, and the bok choy really made me happy. I need to remember to add that to more bowls in the future. Dazee ate this for dinner two times, with tongue wagging, which is an extremely good report.

Calling this toast makes me laugh. I ate a delicious misnomer for breakfast. 
Edamame & Pea Avocado Toast --6.5 grams protein per slice calculated without the bread.
This might contain avocado and look a lot like avo-toast, but it really is its own uniquely delicious thing. It's pretty fancy for me for breakfast, but it was pretty quick to make. In fact, by the time my toast was done (we don't have a toaster, so I used the oven), I had all the components complete and ready to go. We have this rillly great dedicated GF bakery in town called New Cascadia, so I used their seeded bread. Also, just for the sake of comparison, a tablespoon of my normal toast topping (peanut butter) only has 4 grams of protein. This wins.

green smoothie, smoothie, flax, flaxseed, omega 3, teff love, ethiopian cooking, ethiopian, telba, recipe, kittee berns

There are two things about Protein Ninja I wish I could change: no nutritional analyses are given (it'd be nice to know how protein-strong the recipes are without getting My Fitness Pal involved). And second, the vast majority of flour based recipes have no gluten-free options, or even tips for converting them. That makes all of the brutish pancakes, waffles, biscuits, muffins, scones and flatbreads off-limits to me, and while I don't expect to be pandered to, it's still a bummer. That being said, I really marveled at how unique, creative and niche-y this book is, and I think it's pretty great that Terry was able to write a cookbook to match a vision she seemed to have.

OK! Here's Protein Ninja's chapter breakdown and my quick analysis:

Unstoppable Smoothie Bowls and Granola
This chapter was one of my favorites. The recipes all contain PPA, but are also all gluten-free. I'm so glad Terry uses natural sweeteners in Protein Ninja. I see recipes with coconut sugar, maple syrup and even an occassional date. Nothing too expensive, besides the powders.

Stealthy Protein Pancakes, Waffles and Much Much More
Besides the tempeh sausage patties, which I loved, this chapter was mostly a bust for me (see above). I'll probably go back and make the tempeh bacon and the Peanut Butter & Raspberry French Toast Sandwiches, because holy shit they sound good. But otherwise, I cried gluten deprived tears.

The Protein Bakery Basket
What I said up there ^. This entire chapter is wheat or spelt based flour concoctions with PPA. Stuff like scones, muffins, biscuits and flatbreads.

Super Toast: Savory and Sweet
Don't miss this chapter, my fellow deglutenies! Very cool GF toast toppings to be found, even if stoned editors don't agree.

Protein-Packed Patties and Burgers
Most of this chapter is gluten-free, but also has PPA. I didn't try any, because I couldn't find any unflavored pea protein in individual packets.

Better than Ever Burger Bowls
This chapter incorporates the patties and burgers from the previous chapter into really creative bowls. There are dressing recipes and sides not to be missed hiding in here.

Grain and Noodle Bowls
Another favorite chapter with oodles of gluten-free stuff, and lots of the recipes are based on legume proteins instead of PPA.

Sweet Treats
Terry focuses on healthier treats in Protein Ninja, so you'll find bean brownies here, along with cool sounding desserts like Frozen Avocado Pudding Protein Cheesecakes. This chapter also has lots of PPA and I'd guess almost half is GF.

Buy the book, support vegan authors. 
  • Title: Protein Ninja
  • Author Terry Hope Romero
  • Blog: Vegan Latina
  • Publisher:  DaCapo Books
  • Photos:  Beautiful and colorful images by Vanessa K. Rees
  • Focus: "Protein Ninja investigates sneaky ways to add planty proteins (hemp, brown rice, pea protein, beans, tofu, etc.) into everyday meals, snacks and treats."
  • 6 Recipes to Intrigue:  Peanut Butter and Raspberry French Toast Sandwiches, Ginger Lemon Cayenne Cold Blaster Bowl, Early Bird Scrambled Tofu, Baked Veggie Pan Omelet, White Bean & Cashew Ricotta Toast, and Korean Tofu Taco Salad.
  • XGFXness:  There's not an emphasis on gluten-free recipes, but if you look for them, you'll find a lot.

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This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a product link and purchase an item, I'll receive a small compensation.

I received a free review copy of Protein Ninja from DaCapo Books. No compensation or gift was exchanged for this review, and the rad opinion posted here is my own.


  1. oh my gosh, this is such an epic and inspiring post! one of my friends just gave me this book as a gift, and I haven't looked through it at all yet. I saw someone else share that avo/edamame toast and it just sounds great. Also, I can't believe that amazing looking bread is GF. You are pretty stoked to have such a great GF bakery where you live. I really appreciate your chapter-by-chapter breakdown of this book, now I feel really jazzed to dive into it! You're the best! xo

    1. The whole toast chapter is really creative! I bet you'll find lots of new recipes to make you happy.

  2. Kittee, you're the best. I don't have this book yet, but I'm wondering if THR broaches the topic of why she decided to write a protein book when vegans are so often rolling their eyes whilst fending off inquiries about protein intake. I've been vegan a good long while and have lived by the adage that most Americans get too much protein (no notable deficiencies in first world countries)- probably bc of the protein myth perpetuated by meat industries. Anyhoo, just wondering and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject as well. For the record, I know that not every cookbook is intended for everybody, but as a fan of THR's work this has me very intrigued. Finally, YES: support vegan authors!

    1. Yea! She does in the beginning of the book. She started lifting weights about two years ago and started to notice a difference in her muscle development when she started adding extra protein to her diet. Then she realized that PP was a new culinary ingredient, and she got inspired to incorporate it into food instead of just smoothies. It's all in the beginning of the book, which I bet you can read if you go on Amazon's "search inside." The scones and muffins are ways to grab more protein on the go, etc.


    2. Oh, that's awesome! Unfortunately I'm much more interested in the scones/muffins than lifting weights ;-) I will definitely read it!

  3. This is perfect timing, Kittee! I bought this cookbook about two weeks ago; it's been sitting on my bookshelf so that I could gather some protein powders. Just acquired some pea protein (didn't even know it existed before reading her book) as well as some hemp powder. Thank you for the beautiful pictures (could the peanut butter strawberry bowl look any more delicious?) and descriptions of some of the recipes. You no doubt upped the intrigue factor.

    1. Oh glad!!! You'll have to report back with how you enjoy the savory protein powder recipes. I want to try some, but I'd like to find some packets before I invest in a tub...

  4. Ooh this food looks so good! You know me and my protein love, so this book seems made for me. For some reason I was a bit skeptical because so many of the PROTEIN!! recipes online *just* focus on adding powders without much else, but this looks like it's really creative and whole-foods-based, which is so awesome!

    Also, you take pretty pictures and now I'm hungry. ;-)

    1. Yep, while most of the recipes do use the PPA, lots and lots don't.
      I'm always up for more protein too, I need it for my healing stuff.

  5. I really appreciate your review. You've been so clear in evaluating the recipes, the gluten-free possibilities and the added-protein aspect. I'm working on a review, myself, and hope I can be as helpful as you have been! That toast!!!

  6. Thanks for the awesome review Kittee! I might have to check this book out when I'm back home. I appreciate your gluten free tips. I've been paying a lot of attention to which foods make my colitis flare up recently and it seems that whilst most wheaty things are a-ok most seitany things aren't. Kind of a bummer but I love tofu, tempeh and soy curls and your tips on how to de-glutenise are gonna be super helpful when I have a proper kitchen again.

    1. It's gonna be so strange when you do, though! You'be out and about forever now.

  7. Amazingly thorough review! I was already sold on picking this one up but I love reading your take on it, the good and sad and adventures in recipe tackling. That is a bit of a bummer on the gluten end but my partner and I regularly weight lift and use a wide variety of protein powders so a lot of this book will be use-able for us. I haven't come across it in a new bookstore yet, maybe it hasn't been released in Canada? There often is a delay for some weird reason.


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