Spicy peanut noodles with carrots and kale (4-5 servings)

One of the many things I like about both Whole Foods and the more local Durham Co-Op Market is the variety of ready-made salads, meals, and side dishes they both offer. A few summers ago, I had a cold noodle salad at Whole Foods and was inspired to play around with a couple recipes I found online to make my own version. I think I’ve finally perfected it! Unless you count boiling noodles as cooking, it’s a no-cook recipe, and it keeps well in the fridge for a couple days. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do!

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

Noodles & friends

  • ~10 oz dried rice noodles

  • ~2 cups torn curly kale leaves, washed and rinsed and dried lightly (Use a towel or salad spinner)

  • 2 medium carrots

  • Canola, vegetable, or sesame oil

  • Chopped roasted peanut or cashews (optional)

Sauce

  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce (Use coconut aminos to make it gluten-free)

  • 3 Tbsp smooth peanut butter (Almond butter would probably work well too)

  • 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup or agave

  • 1-2 tsp Sriracha, depending on spice preference

  • 2 Tbsp lime juice

Steps:

  1. Cook the rice noodles according to package directions. While the water boils, you can chop (or tear) and wash the kale if you haven’t done so already. Peel the carrots into strips or use a food processor to shred them. Place the kale and carrots in a large serving bowl and set aside.

  2. When the noodles are cooked, drain them in a colander and then toss them with a thin drizzle of oil to keep them from sticking together as they cool.

  3. While the noodles cool, make the sauce. Add the sauce ingredients to a mason jar and shake to combine, or mix them together in a bowl with a fork. (If it’s cool where you are — ha! — you might need to zap the peanut butter in the microwave for a couple seconds to thin it out.)

  4. Once the noodles are cool, add them to the serving bowl with the kale and carrots. (It helps to cut the noodles into smaller pieces and spread them out as you add them to the bowl.) Pour over the sauce and toss with tongs to combine. Serve cold or at room temperature, garnished with chopped peanuts, lime slices, and extra Sriracha if you like!

Kale, apple, and pomegranate salad with spicy maple pecans (4+ servings)

I have a pal who thinks she hates kale, once describing it as tasting like shattered dreams. Every time she pronounces "kale," she spits the word out of her mouth with disgust, wrinkling her nose and glaring at me with disapproval.

(If looks could kale.)

And no, before you criticize, I'm not a kale chauvinist; I mean I love it, but I'm not one to get in your face about it. It's healthy, satisfying, and versatile, and it makes me happy. It's my kale-iwick, you might say. 

(I also enjoy terrible puns.)

But I'd like to think that this salad could turn even my dubious pal into a fan. It's topped with tangy cranberries, sweet apples, salty feta, and toasty-spicy pecans, so what's not to like? The kale is only a conduit for those embellishments anyway.

So this one goes out to my skeptical friend. Give it a shot and tell me what you think. Then kale me... maybe? 

Click here for printable version.

Adapted from VegetarianTimes.com

You will need:

Spicy maple pecans

  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces
  • 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ground chipotle or cayenne pepper to taste

Vinaigrette (Note: I like my salads lightly dressed, so you might find you need more vinaigrette than I prefer. You can always double the quantities below and then save any remaining dressing for another purpose later.)

  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • a dash of onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Salad

  • 1 12-oz. bunch curly kale, washed, de-stemmed, and chopped
  • 1 large firm apple, cored and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (If you live in the Triangle and can get some of Prodigal Farms' goat feta, I highly recommend it!)

Steps

  1. First, make the pecans so they have a bit of time to cool. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Toss pecans in a small bowl with syrup, oil, salt, and chipotle or cayenne (or hot sauce, even). Spread the pecans on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the pecans smell good and toasty. Set aside to cool.
  2. Use a small jar to shake up the vinaigrette ingredients. Take it easy on the salt since the feta will make the salad salty on its own. Set the vinaigrette aside.
  3. Place kale in a large serving bowl. Drizzle the vinaigrette over top and use your hands to massage (yes, kale likes to be pampered) the dressing into the greens briefly. Then add the apple, pomegranate seeds, feta, and pecans and toss gently to combine.

This salad keeps well in the fridge for a couple days!

Quinoa, kale, and parsley salad with lentils, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts (4 servings)

Wait. Wait a second. Was the Vegan Month of Food (affectionately known as Vegan MoFo) always in September? I thought it was October! I swear it was always October. It doesn't matter much either way, seeing as I totally forgot about it until a couple days ago. Two out-of-state weddings plus a new job have made the last six weeks very, very busy for this humble food blogger. But it's great to be back, whether this is the vegans' month for celebrating or not!

I'm not vegan myself, but I do cook vegan meals anywhere from two to five times a week and I'm always searching for new recipes to test out. When I saw this audaciously-hued salad on Kale Me Maybe last week, I knew I had to have it. The ruby red and emerald green colors sold me first, but then I read the list of show-stopping superfoods and was absolutely convinced I had to prioritize this one. What's not to like?

I kept all of Carina's original ingredients but doubled the recipe, although I changed up some of the ingredients' proportions. I tend to like my salads dressed lightly, so I used a lot less dressing than the original recipe suggested. Of course, it's all up to personal preference! If you're a fan of tangy-sweet flavor combinations and chewy-crunchy texture pairings, you will not be disappointed by this one -- I promise!

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa
  • 1/2 cup dry brown lentils
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice from half a lemon

Steps:

  1. In separate saucepans, cook the quinoa and lentils in broth or water, according to package directions. Be sure to not overcook either. Once they're each just tender (my quinoa took about 20 minutes and the lentils took 40), set them aside to cool.
  2. In the meantime, rinse, de-stem, and dry the kale and parsley. Measure out 2 cups of kale and 1 cup of parsley leaves and place them in a large serving bowl. Use a pair of kitchen shears to finely mince both the kale and parsley. 
  3. Once the quinoa has cooled, toss it with the kale and parsley. Then, add in the lentils, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, oil, and lemon juice, and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature as a main dish or side.

Vegan skillet supper with greens, beans, and sausage (4-5 servings)

Skillet suppers are glorious. If composed well, they boast all the nutritional necessities of a filling meal, plus they require very little cleanup. This is one of those meals, and it has two added bonuses: It's vegan and it doesn't take long to make. The sausage, with its crisp and browned exterior and slight kick, pairs well with the creamy beans, brothy tomatoes, and chewy, just-barely-cooked greens. So what are you waiting for?

You will need:

  • 1 Tbsp olive or canola oil
  • 2 vegan Italian sausages, sliced into thin rounds (I used -- and would recommend -- Field Roast brand)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 15-oz can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water or broth
  • One bunch collards or kale, washed, de-stemmed, and cut or torn into ribbons

Steps:

  1. Heat the oil in a large rimmed skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sausage. Cook and stir until the sausage is browned fairly evenly.
  2. Add the garlic to the pan; cook and stir another minute.
  3. Lower the heat to medium. Add in the bean, the undrained tomatoes, and the water or broth; stir gently to combine. Pile the greens on top and cover. Let cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the kale/collards are bright green and wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Hardy greens should be in season in most places in the U.S. right now!

Kale salad with warm maple dressing (3-4 servings)

Kale is the James Franco of salad greens. First of all, both kale and James Franco began their careers with a small but dedicated underground following and later enjoyed a quick rise to fame. Public interest in both peaked about a year ago, although both continue to have a ubiquitous presence on Pinterest. (In fact, did you know that at any given time, the number of pinned James Franco selfies equals the exact number of pinned recipes for kale chips?*) Finally, like actor/writer/student/artist/director/mime/seamstress/Senator James Franco, kale can do just about anything. Whether you boil it, bake it, juice it, braise it, roast it, or serve it raw, kale can stand up to the pressure of your demands and come out the other side looking great.

Like James Franco, kale's merit is often overlooked because of its pretentious attitude and tendency to snap at interviewers.

This salad showcases raw kale's crispy yet supple texture, balancing its slightly bitter taste with a light, sweet dressing. It's perfect for a fall supper -- filling and healthy and infused with the autumnal flavors of maple and smoke. It's easy to put together on a weeknight. The original recipe calls for spinach, but I hate wilted, slimy spinach. Kale holds up well to the warm dressing and keeps nicely for leftovers the next day, providing you keep the toppings separate from the rest of the salad.

You will need:

  • 1 bunch kale (I prefer Lacinato/dinosaur kale because it's easiest to wash), de-stemmed (watch a tutorial here), rinsed, patted dry, and torn into bite-sized pieces 
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp pure maple syrup (I don't want to hear about any of this Mrs. Fancypants' Pancake-Flavored Syrup Concoction, people. Only the real stuff will do.)
  • dash of onion powder
  • salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1/8 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes without oil (if you can find the smoked variety, your salad will improve tenfold)
  • 1/4 cup shredded or diced smoked cheese (Whole Foods' perpetually helpful vendeur de fromage suggested a lovely naturally-smoked Gouda)

Steps:

  1. After your kale is de-stemmed, rinsed, dried, and torn, toss it into a big serving bowl and give it a massage. (No, really! Squeeze and knead the leaves a couple times to break them down and make them less bitter.)
  2. Pour the vinegar, oil, maple syrup, onion powder, and salt and pepper into a microwaveable mug or measuring cup. Microwave it in 30-second increments until it's warm but not super hot. Stir the dressing with a fork or small whisk until it's basically uniform, but don't worry too much if you can't get it all mixed together.
  3. Pour about half the dressing over the kale and toss to combine. If you need more dressing to cover the leaves, go ahead, but you probably won't use all of it because it's thin.
  4. Place equal portions of the kale on dinner plates and top each serving with pecans, tomatoes, and cheese. Serve immediately. 

 

*Really, really not true.