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!

Favorite summer recipes

It’s probably hot where you are, and if you’re like me, your motivation to cook is low when the temperature is high. Below is a collection of some of my favorite summer recipes — all easy, quick, and light. Some don’t even require heat from a stove! (And yes, many of them are pasta, but it’s a good variety of types of sauces!)

Light meals

Sides and sweets

Moroccan four-bean salad (6-7 servings as a main dish)

Can we just  get a #Sundaysalads trend going already? I'm sure I can't be the only one who preps a make-ahead recipe on Sunday afternoon to eat throughout the week.

Today's offering comes from the May/June issue of Eating Well with a few changes to make this dish even easier. I added a pop of color by throwing in a handful of thawed green beans from the freezer, and I saved myself the hassle of chopping carrots by using shredded carrots from the grocery store's salad bar. I used garlic powder instead of fresh garlic, and rather than chopping up the fresh herbs, I blended them with the oil and lemon juice to make a velvety, viridescent-speckled vinaigrette. (Plus, doing this keeps the mint leaves from turning brown.) I also decreased the oil, as I've found most bean salad recipes too greasy for my taste. Some of the Moroccan-inspired ingredients may seem a bit strange, but they all work together to make an intriguing, exotic flavor combination that will make eaters think, "Oooh, what is that?" And I can imagine that once the flavors have a chance to get to know each other in the fridge overnight, they'll taste even better than they did just after meeting!

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

Salad

  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained thoroughly 
  • 2 15-oz cans beans (I used dark red kidney beans and black eyed peas), rinsed and drained thoroughly 
  • 1 cup chopped green beans (feel free to thaw them from a freezer-aisle bag)
  • 1 cup shredded carrot

Vinaigrette 

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder (If you can find roasted garlic powder, it really pumps up the flavor)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp cumin

Steps:

  1. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Starting with the parsley and mint leaves, place all vinaigrette ingredients in a wide-mouthed mason jar or the bowl of a food processor. If using a jar, use an immersion blender to blend all ingredients until smooth; otherwise, blend the vinaigrette in a food processor. Once the vinaigrette is smooth, pour it over the salad ingredients and toss gently. Taste to see if more salt is needed. (I needed more because all three cans of beans were sodium-free.) Serve cold or at room temperature.

So to sum up, this recipe doesn't require any heat for cooking, it's super quick to make, it's vegan, and it's gluten-free. I can't think of a better #Sundaysalad or potluck dish!

Cheesy broccoli orzo (4 servings)

Sometimes my stomach's rumblings are more eloquent than my mouth's... worderings.

Some days, I excitedly plop down in front of the blog with a clever, funny, or unique intro ready to go, the words flying from my fingers almost as quickly as they flash, lightning-like, into my brain.

Other times (like right now), I thunk myself into my chair with a weary, "I guess I should update the blog," as the cursor blinks at me on the blank template, a mocking middle finger flashing in front of my empty head. "This recipe is... good," I start to type, my brain carb-addled and sun-tired from the holiday weekend. 

But maybe there's something to be said for a simple introduction for an easy yet delicious recipe. So here you go:

Pasta + cheese + broccoli = Creamy goodness.

Enjoy. (And happy day-late Independence Day!)

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

  • 1 cup dry orzo pasta
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (Gouda works nicely too!)
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped

Steps:

  1. Start a pot of water boiling for the pasta. Once the water boils, cook the orzo according to the package directions. When 3 minutes remain, add the broccoli to the boiling water. Rinse and drain the orzo and broccoli.
  2. Return the orzo and broccoli to the hot stockpot, adding in the cheeses, butter, and 1/4 cup milk. Stir well to melt the cheese. Season to taste with salt, adding more milk if the sauce becomes too thick. Fold in the chopped tomato and serve.

Zucchini chips (or How to Eat a Whole Zucchini Without Really Trying)

These were thin and light enough that the breeze blew a couple out of my hand after I took a picture!

I read somewhere once that people crave crispy foods when they're angry because the crunch provides a physical release for stress. In that case, I must be angry all the time, because as long as I'm awake, there's a pretty good chance I'm craving something crunchy and salty.

And thanks to a recipe sent to me by my lovely mother-in-law, I've found a healthy, low-calorie way to satisfy that craving! Zucchini chips are easy to make (although they do take quite a while to bake in the oven), crispy, golden, and delicious. And since they require only a tiny spritz of oil, I can't imagine they'd rack up many calories at all. So what are you waiting for?

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

  • Zucchini
  • Oil in spray form (I used olive oil in my Misto sprayer, but if you don't have one of those, I'd imagine any olive oil, coconut oil, or canola oil in spray form would work well.)
  • Kosher salt
  • Optional seasoning, such as garlic powder, crushed oregano, or chipotle powder

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 225° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick foil and set aside.
  2. Slice the zucchini very thinly -- I recommend a mandoline slicer if you have one. Lay the zucchini slices between two paper towels for several minutes to draw out some of the moisture.
  3. Lay the zucchini slices in one layer on the baking tray. Spritz them with oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt (this will help draw out more moisture to make them crispy.) If desired, sprinkle with a tiny bit of seasoning (I used roasted garlic powder).
  4. Bake zucchini chips for 1-2 hours, depending on thickness of the slices. (I sliced mine at 2 mm and they took an hour and 20 minutes to get crispy.) You'll know they're done when they're golden brown and dry.

Supposedly, these last for three days in an airtight container, but I wouldn't know, since I downed them all in less than 10 minutes.