Spicy Cashew Zoodles

This recipe has been a long time coming – I’ve actually made it three times this summer with the intent to photograph and post it, but each time the sun was being temperamental and the pictures just came out terrible. Fourth time’s the charm in getting at least moderately passable photos, so you finally get to enjoy this delight.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles {{Baking Bytes}}

Many moons ago when I was still in college, a friend regularly served this dish at potlucks and her house, and it was always a favorite of mine. Al dente spaghetti and a lightly spiced cashew sauce came together in a dish served equally well cold as it did warm. I made it semi-regularly throughout my college career and typically enjoyed it straight from the fridge. Versatile in its uses from lunch to dinner to side, it’s a great dish to have in your repertoire.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles {{Baking Bytes}}

Amusingly, I all but forgot about this recipe for like five years until I was cleaning up my Facebook “notes” and came across it again. My current love affair with my spiralizer and lower carb inclinations inspired me to use this sauce with zoodles rather than the called-for pasta. A couple of light tweaks later, and I now have a new favorite side dish and another fantastic meal prep option for my work lunches.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles {{Baking Bytes}}

Most of the active time involved here is with slicing the veggies, but you can easily do that in advance and store everything in the fridge. Likewise, the sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use. It’s a delicious way to use an abundance of zucchini and is a definite crowd pleaser since it’s both vegan and gluten-free (watch your sauce ingredient labels to be sure). It’s also more interesting than your typical salad but still a healthy veggie side. I nearly always bring a vegetable to potlucks (unless I’m requested to bring dessert) to ensure there’s healthy option alongside the numerous starches sure to grace the table.

The one caveat with taking it to potlucks is that I recommend not mixing it till you get there. Zucchini releases a lot of water and it has a tendency to get soupy after not too long. This does not affect the flavor in the slightest – just makes it a bit messier to serve and eat. If desired (I never do), you can mitigate this by salting your zucchini and setting it in a strainer for about 20 minutes, then rinsing thoroughly and using a cloth to squeeze any excess water from the zoodles. Follow directions as normal after that.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles {{Baking Bytes}}

For a tasty lunch, add your protein of choice. Steak or chicken is my personal preference, but eggs (I’d do fried, poached or soft boiled) or a vegan option like chickpeas or tempeh would go beautifully as well. Pick your favorite and include that to bring it up to a full entrée. Alternatively, if you think I’m crazy for preferring zucchini instead of spaghetti, you can make the original by cooking a pound of spaghetti to al dente and thinning the sauce with some pasta water. (A mix of spaghetti and zoodles would also be great! I would toss with the zucchini and let it rest for about 5 minutes, then fold in the spaghetti. You likely will not need to add any additional water if you are using zucchini at all.)

Spicy Cashew Zoodles {{Baking Bytes}}

This recipe does not keep particularly well after it’s been mixed, so plan to eat it all or drain as much of the sauce as possible before storing the rest of it. (Excess sauce is great as a salad dressing, on breakfast bowls, or for dipping a wrap.) If you’re still in search of a Labor Day BBQ contribution, you can stop looking now.

Note: I recently discovered the Toasted Sesame oil at Olivelle and basically fell in love. It has a much more prominent sesame flavor which blends really nicely in this sauce. However, it’s plenty delicious with your run of the mill sesame oil, so feel free to substitute that.

Spicy Cashew Zoodles

Adapted from epicurious
Serves 4 (entrée1) to 8 (side dish)

Ingredients

Sauce
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
2-3 garlic cloves (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
1/4 cup Olivelle Toasted Sesame oil (or regular sesame oil)
2 1/2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce,  to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
3/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes, to taste

3-4 medium zucchini, spiralized 3mm (6-8 cups, but I never measure too hard)
1 small cucumber, spiralized flat
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced (I like red or orange best)
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

garnishes: 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cashews, sesame seeds, additional red pepper flakes, protein of choice

Directions

  1. Purée sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor until well combined and there are no large chunks of cashew or garlic. Taste and blend in additional red pepper flakes, if desired. (Sauce can be made in advance2 and refrigerated until ready to use.)
  2. In a large bowl, toss zoodles with about 3/4 of the sauce.
  3. Add remainder of sauce, onion, bell pepper, and cucumber, and toss to combine.
  4. Garnish as desired and serve promptly.

Notes

For a more filling entrée, include your protein of choice: keep it vegan with chickpeas, tofu, or tempeh, include poached or boiled eggs if ovo vegetarian is more your thing, or appease the omnivores with thinly sliced steak or chicken. Add in your choice with the veggies in step 3.

This recipe works great for meal prep: Portion your produce into a 4-cup bowl, and refrigerate until ready to eat. Top with 3-4 tablespoons of sauce, microwave for about 30 seconds, then gently toss until coated. Garnish as desired and enjoy!

To use this sauce without zoodles, thin it with water to your desired consistency. Toss with pasta, use as a salad dressing, or drizzle over breakfast bowls to your heart’s content.

Tuna Zoodle Salad

During the month of May my personal challenge was to try a low-carb diet. Well, I should say lowER carb, I was not even close to the keto level. (20 grams per day? I eat that in my salads.) It was a surprisingly rewarding journey and I intend to keep up the change (about 100 gram per day) at least through the month of June. Admittedly this challenge is substantially easier in the summer, when fresh produce is in abundance. It also gave me the incentive to finally try out the spiralizer my mother gifted me for Christmas. I don’t know why I waited so long because I am 100% all aboard the zoodle train. Seriously, I may never eat traditional spaghetti again. They are pleasantly crunchy, just as noodle-y, and the substantially lower carb (and calorie) content means I can eat a lot more sauce and cheese, which is the best part of the meal anyway.

Tuna Zoodle Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

During this adventure I discovered it was a lot harder to get enough protein (as an athlete) since my go-to vegetarian proteins, like black beans, are all pretty high carb. I have ended up increasing my intake of lean meats, eggs, and cheeses, and somewhat surprisingly I actually feel great. Since M’s uncle generously gifts us with an abundance of wild-caught tuna each year, one of my favorite creations makes use of the many jars in the pantry.

Tuna Zoodle Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Crispy zoodles and a colorful array of crunchy vegetables are rounded out with tuna salad and plenty of cheese. I like to use avocado mayo (it’s a bit lower fat if that matters to you; I just think it tastes better) and a sweet & spicy mustard. Feel free to substitute any combination that you like and tailor it to fit your preferences. You can definitely just use all mayo or all mustard and add some spices for extra flavor; paprika is always a great option.

This salad is a light but delicious lunch and the mound of veggies makes it pretty filling. If you’re not low-carb, focaccia would make a fantastic side. I did not feel it needed a dressing, but if you want to add some saucy goodness to your bowl then a honey mustard vinaigrette would be a delightful choice. If you don’t want to make your own, Annie’s and Newman’s Own are excellent pre-made options.

Tuna Zoodle Salad {{Baking Bytes}}I enjoyed this both chilled and lightly heated with excellent results. For the warmed option, heat everything except the cucumber for about one minute in the microwave and give it a good stir. (Heat another 30-seconds if it’s still too crunchy). Then top with cucumber and enjoy the melty, cheesy goodness.

Tuna Zoodle Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

For my fellow preppers – meal-preppers that is – this is one of my new go-to recipes. A serving just fits in my 4-cup glass Pyrex Snapware containers (I got them as part of a Costco set, but they look like this) which is easy to take to work and then I can choose whether I’d like it chilled or heated on the fly. Just keep the tuna/cheese in a separate smaller container inside the big one so the veggies don’t get soggy over time. Just as crisp on day four as it was on day one, and I bet it’d keep longer if you haven’t eaten them all by then.

Tuna Zoodle Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Switch up your summer salad game and give this concoction a try. Be sure to let me know what you think and how you make it your own!

Tuna Zoodle Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

15-16 oz tuna canned in water, drained
3 Tbsp avocado mayonnaise
3 Tbsp sweet & hot mustard
spices, to taste

2-3 large zucchini, spiralized 3mm (about 8 cups)
1 large or 2 medium carrots, spiralized 2mm (about 2 cups)
1 large bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1+ cup grated cheese (I used cheddar)

1 cucumber, spiralized flat (about 1 cup)

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, use a fork to mash together tuna, mayo, and mustard until completely incorporated. Stir in additional spices, if desired. (Paprika is a great addition.)
  2. Divide zucchini amongst four bowls, and arrange carrots, onion, bell pepper, tuna, and cheddar on top. If enjoying warm, microwave each bowl for about 1 minute.
  3. Top with cucumber and serve immediately.
  4. For meal prep: Divide zucchini amongst four 4-cup (or larger) storage containers.
  5. Press tuna equally into four 6-oz containers. Fill remainder of containers with shredded cheese.
  6. Make a well in the middle of the zucchini and nestle tuna into the hole.
  7. Arrange carrot, cucumber, onion, and bell pepper in remaining area. Affix lids and store in the fridge until ready to eat.

Lemon Quinoa & Kale Salad

Happy May, friends! With the weather (hopefully) starting to warm up and Mother’s Day just around the corner, I have a lovely citrus quinoa salad to share with you. It is light but filling, and complements a multitude of protein choices for any dietary restrictions.

Lemon Quinoa & Kale Salad with Halibut {{Baking Bytes}}

Those of you here in Montana will know the eternal battle between snow and 70s that is springtime. When the warm weather begins, and the snow melts from my yard, my thoughts first turn to citrus and secondly turn to entrée salads. I eat salads all winter long but usually as a side rather than the main course. In order to satiate both cravings without freezing to death when a snowstorm invariably hits, quinoa-based salads are excellent both warm and cold. This one is inspired in part by my lemon poppyseed breakfast quinoa as well as by The Cafe in Ames, Iowa (a rare healthy gem in a sea of deep-fried abominations) as well as my love all of things lemon.

Lemon Quinoa & Kale Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Lemony quinoa and crisp kale are complemented by crunchy zucchini, a sprinkle of dried cranberries, and, of course, goat cheese. Tossed with a lemon tahini dressing, the whole experience is light and springy and excellent both warmed or chilled. Add your protein of choice (I chose baked halibut; grilled chicken or white beans would also be delightful) and you have a filling entrée equally great for company as it is for meal prepping. And if you’re fortunate enough to be with your mom on Mother’s Day, this would be a perfect lunch to share.

Lemon Quinoa & Kale Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Each piece comes together fairly quickly, and could easily be made ahead of time for a quick weeknight dinner. Alternatively, keep each component separate and assemble when you’re ready for lunch for a perfect meal-prep option. Jumpstart your summer (whether the weather agrees or not) with a new go-to for your repertoire and give this tasty salad a try.

Lemon Quinoa & Kale Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing
Serves 4

Ingredients

salad
1 cup quinoa
1 ¾ cup water
¼ cup lemon juice

1 large bunch kale, de-veined and chopped into 1” pieces
1 small zucchini, spiralized or julienned
½ – 1 cup goat cheese (or feta)
½ cup dried cranberries

optional
Protein of choice (e.g. halibut, chicken, smoked salmon, white beans, chickpeas)

lemon tahini dressing
½ cup tahini
6 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup Garlic Olive Oil (or regular oil and 2 cloves garlic, minced)
2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tsp dried herbs (I used a mix of basil and rosemary)

Directions

  1. Bring quinoa, lemon juice, and water to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until all water is absorbed. Let cool briefly before using.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing: combine all ingredients in a pint jar and whisk together until thoroughly combined. Thin to desired consistency with additional lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, one tablespoon at a time.
  3. To serve immediately: toss kale and zucchini with half of the dressing until evenly coated. Gently fold in quinoa.
  4. Divide between four dishes and sprinkle each with 2-4 tablespoons of goat cheese and 2 tablespoons dried cranberries.
  5. Optionally, add protein of choice.
  6. Drizzle with remaining dressing and serve immediately.
  7. For meal prepping: Portion one serving of each item into separate containers (I keep them all separate so I can heat individual components) and store in the fridge until ready to eat.
  8. To assemble, gently heat dressing until pourable (about 10 seconds) and toss with kale and zucchini.
  9. Heat quinoa (if you want) and fold into kale mixture.
  10. Top with cranberries, goat cheese, (and optional protein), drizzle with additional dressing, and enjoy.

 

 

Roasted Red Pepper and Bacon Salad

I’ve written about my favorite Italian restaurant in Bozeman, Fresco Cafe, as the inspiration for one of my grilled cheese concoctions from April. This is probably the place I go to with the most regularity, both for team lunches with work and with out-of-town visitors. It has delicious pastas and paninis, several delightful salads, and the specials are always on point. Although a semi-expensive place to dine, it is worth every single dollar to have amazing food and service every time. (As an aside, it’s also one of the few places that serves plain water rather than ice water, which is always worth a lot of points in my book.)

A couple of weeks ago during team lunch, the special salad was basically the combination of all my favorite things: bacon, bell peppers, goat cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette. Served atop a bed of mixed spinach and arugula, it was one of the best salads I’ve ever had, in addition to being the perfect size for lunch. I expressed my ecstatic review, as well as requested they put it on the regular menu, which is something I’ve never actually bothered to do at a restaurant before. Since they haven’t heeded my advice yet, I set out to recreate a similar experience in my own kitchen.

It might sound plain and possibly too light, but with a slice of bread and a latte (I always get a latte at Fresco) it was properly filling without leaving me feeling overstuffed and heavy for the rest of the afternoon. Roasted red peppers are something I could eat with every meal, and you’ve probably already noticed I have a slight obsession with goat cheese (blame Costco.) Bacon and walnuts bring a little salt and a lot of protein to the dish, and a bed of leafy greens rounds out the meal nicely.

The original uses their house-made balsamic vinaigrette, but I opted to dress mine with plain balsamic vinegar from my local oil and vinegar spot. This was mostly out of laziness but also because it’s one of my favorite ways to top any savory salad. In any case, you can substitute your favorite balsamic vinaigrette or reduction in its place for a more traditional pairing.

I served mine with the bacon and peppers still warm (which will be extra great in the winter), but you could absolutely let them cool to room temperature during these excessive heatwaves everyone is having. I made myself all four servings and then each day assembled the leftovers for lunches this week. If you do the same, you could either serve it all cold or briefly reheat the bacon and peppers in the microwave before stirring it all together, as I’ve done for the past three days. Goes perfectly with a side of focaccia fresh from the Co-op.

Roasted Red Pepper and Bacon Salad

Inspired by Fresco Cafe
Serves 4

Ingredients

8 slices bacon
2 large red bell peppers, thinly sliced

1 cup walnuts, halved

~8 cups fresh spinach & arugula (10-12 oz)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (or your favorite vinaigrette or reduction)

4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed cookie sheet (or two quarter sheets, if you have them) with foil. If you’re using one sheet, create an edge of foil in the middle of the pan.
  2. Arrange bacon in one half of the pan; lightly coat the other half with olive oil and arrange the peppers on top.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or to desired doneness. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain and set aside bell peppers.
  4. Spread walnuts on the bare pan and return to the oven to toast for 3-5 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, gently toss greens and balsamic vinegar (or dressing.)
  6. Divide greens into four bowls or plates – don’t scrape the mixing bowl.
  7. Gently toss bell peppers in the large bowl with leftover vinegar/dressing, then arrange on top of the greens.
  8. Slice bacon on an angle into bite-size pieces and arrange in the bowls.
  9. Top each with walnuts, goat cheese, and freshly ground pepper.
  10. Enjoy immediately, optionally garnished with a slice of bread.

Sriracha Blackberry Salad

Despite what looks like an excessive ice cream intake, during hot weather I also eat a lot of chilled salads and smoothies as a healthy way to keep cooler. With no stove or oven required, it doesn’t add heat to either me or the house, and they are quick to throw together. My fridge is always filled with an array of fresh produce, but during the summertime I make extra sure to have plenty of salad ingredients on hand.

Spinach is my go to base since I use it in everything from soups to scrambled eggs to smoothies, and there’s always a hefty bag of it from Costco. I don’t usually have a specific flavor palate in mind, but throw on whichever veggies or fruits I have lying around. I often add some raw nuts, cooked quinoa, or canned beans for extra calories and a protein boost. Tossed with a flavored vinegar or a simple dressing, it’s a delicious and filling meal and easy to throw together for a quick lunch or dinner.

Last year I concocted a lemon and berry combination that is still one of my favorites, especially with raspberries fresh from the garden. In these months before the berries have ripened, I sometimes splurge on a tray of blackberries from Costco to eat throughout the week. Delicious on yogurt or ice cream, in a smoothie, or just by the handful, it’s never a challenge to get through them on my own.

Since I love the berry and spinach combination, I decided to combine some blackberries with my newest favorite Olivelle discovery: Sriracha White Balsamic Vinegar. Still fairly sweet but with the slight kick of Sriracha flavoring, this is a more savory experience. It’s superb as a dressing all on its own, excellent as a condiment for wraps, and delightful mixed in with scrambled eggs. I’m already halfway through my rather hefty bottle, and I know I’ll be back promptly when I need a refill.

I started with my standard spinach based, and topped with fresh blackberries and sliced almonds. As I usually have goat cheese in the fridge as well (how do people live without Costco?), I added that for some creaminess and a little tang. The sweet and spicy Sriracha vinegar pulls everything together with a little kick, but not so much that it overwhelms all the other delicious flavors. This salad is great as a light meal with a side of tasty sourdough bread, but works just as well alongside a chicken or fish entrée.

For those of you that are perhaps not keen on buying specialty vinegar, I’ve included a recipe for a copycat version. It’s not a perfect match but it’s still delicious, and a bit more accessible than mail-order vinegar.

Sriracha Summer Salad
Servings: 1 entrée, or 2 sides

Ingredients

2 cups baby spinach, washed and dried
1 Tbsp Sriracha white balsamic vinegar

3/4 cup blackberries, washed and dried (and maybe halved, if you want)
2 Tbsp goat cheese, crumbled
1 Tbsp sliced almonds

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, gently stir together spinach and Sriracha vinegar until well coated. Transfer spinach to serving dish(es).
  2. Arrange berries, goat cheese, and almonds on top, optionally drizzling with extra vinegar.
  3. Enjoy immediately as a spicy-sweet entrée for one, or as side dishes for two.

Copycat Sriracha Vinegar
Makes about 1/3 cup

Ingredients

1/2 cup high quality white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Sriracha, to taste

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, gently heat vinegar and Sriracha to a simmer, and let simmer until liquid is reduced to about 1/3 cup.
  2. Whisk vigorously to mix in Sriracha (there may still be speckles.) Add more Sriracha to taste, if desired.
  3. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator, shaking or whisking before each use if spices have settled.