Because of the sauce ingredients this dish is not 100% raw...but oh, so close!

Just when I thought spring has sprung, the weather started getting chilly again. It rained last night and drizzled a bit today, and the creek next to our house was flowing along nicely. The snow missed us, but it looks like it’ll be pretty cold and rainy for the rest of the week. I started making some cozy comfort foods over the weekend but now it’s time to search for more recipe ideas that’s not only filling and warming, but healthy, as well.

I’ve been wanting to try some zucchini “noodles” for some time. This is nothing more than very thin-sliced zucchini that is eaten raw and in place of regular noodles, but it’s higher in vitamins and minerals, easy to prepare and there’s no cooking involved! I wanted a creamy sauce to go with it, so I searched online for a dairy-free alfredo sauce, but when I was slicing the zucchini, for some reason I just thought, “I want satay sauce!”

I love peanut butter and peanut butter-based foods, sweet or savory, they’re all delicious to me. Satay is Thai-style grilled meat skewered and cooked over hot coals. It is accompanied with a peanut dipping sauce made with peanut butter and can include a combination of coconut milk, soy sauce, or fish sauce. This peanut sauce recipe is based off the one in The Best International Recipe Cooking Light cookbook. I still had it nearby when I made their moussaka the other night, so I flipped it open and found just what I needed.

Here are the ingredients for the sauce:

L-R: Coconut milk, raw sunflower seeds, lime, patis or nampla (fish sauce,) garlic, Sriracha, peanut butter, sugar.

This Native Forest brand of coconut milk is really good. Chaokoh used to be my regular brand, then I tried this  (on sale) and noticed how much fresher the cream tastes. The Asian markets will have the coconut milk, fish sauce and Sriracha, a popular Thai hot chili sauce that is thick like ketchup but hot like Tabasco (very different flavor, though.) If your market carries ethnic foods, you’ll probably find those ingredients there.

To make the zucchini noodles you can use a vegetable spiral slicer. If you’re like me and don’t have one, you can achieve similar results with a sharp vegetable peeler and a good knife. First, remove the skin from the zucchini. Use the vegetable peeler to peel of wide slices of zucchini, rotating after every two “peels.” The zucchini was slippery, so be careful and place it on the cutting board, holding it with one hand as you cut off slices with the other.

Slice them thin like noodles then place in a bowl. I was worried they'd get brown (like apples) but they stay nice and creamy white.

Rotate and slice until you reach the seeds. Stack two or three zucchini slices and carefully slice them into thinner noodle-like strands.

I wanted something satisfying but not heavy, and this really hit the spot! And it didn’t feel like I was eating a regular salad at all. The zucchini noodles were more filling than I expected, and the savory peanut sauce was rich and velvety. I served this at room temperature and it was just right for what I wanted: a healthy, creamy, satisfying dinner with a good dose of raw veggies. More importantly, my husband also enjoyed his super-size helping of fresh veggies! There’s enough sauce for four servings, so feel free to double the salad mix, or save the leftovers for the next day. Just be sure not to store the salad and satay sauce together, it will make the veggies soggy.

Zucchini Noodle Salad with Peanut Satay Sauce

Salad:

1 zucchini, cut with a vegetable spiral slicer or sliced into thin “noodles”
1 carrot, julienned (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1 cup chopped celery

 Toss all ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

Peanut sauce:

3/4 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for 2 hours, drained
1/2 cup no-sugar/no salt peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
juice of 1/2 lime, about 1/4 cup
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon sugar (use 1/2 teaspoon if using peanut butter with sugar)

Blend all the ingredients  until smooth, sauce will be thick. Add more Sriracha and sugar to taste.

Scoop 1 cup of sauce into zucchini salad mixture, toss well to coat. Garnish with cilantro, serves two.

Drizzle Sriracha on the plate if you need some extra heat.

Two comfort foods in one: grilled cheese and mashed (cauliflower and) potatoes

This afternoon my husband seemed to have a minor case of the blues. My way of cheering him up is usually with a nice shoulder rub (not like rubbing a pork shoulder with spices, but actually massaging his shoulders!) or with some kind of comfort food. The fridge was mostly filled with veggies, but we still had some turkey, cheese, and even some purple cauliflower I was going to use for some cauliflower-potato mash. So, sandwich night, it is!

My grilled cheese sandwiches usually have the same thing: cheese, turkey, mushrooms, and slices of fresh apple. Today I added some bacon (another meat source in the fridge!) and piled it with some cauliflower-potato mash topped with more cheese. It’s an easy-prep meal that is filling, comforting, and still has a serving of healthy greens. The apple slices cut through the salty savory flavors of the turkey and bacon. The mushrooms and cheese add more flavor and melty goodness, and the cauliflower mash is light but still creamy enough to give this open-faced sandwich a special “comfort food” quality that’s perfect for a last-minute midweek dinner. Enjoy!

 
Open-Faced Grilled Cheese Sammies for Two
These sandwiches will fill you up, but the cauliflower mash won’t fill you out!

2 slices bacon, excess fat trimmed and cut in half crosswise
4-6 white or crimini mushrooms, sliced
8 slices deli turkey
unsalted butter
4 slices bread
cheese (such as Gouda, Jarlsgerg or Chevre) enough for each piece of bread plus extra for topping
1 apple, quartered, then sliced into 5-6 thin pieces
2 cups cauliflower mashed potatoes (1 cup cooked potato and 3 cups cooked cauliflower mashed with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 cup nonfat yogurt, and 1 tablespoon tahini (optional))
mixed salad greens

directions:
Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, add bacon and cook for 2 minutes, moving around the pan to distribute the fat. Flip over bacon, move to the side. Add sliced mushrooms, sautee for 2 minutes.

Put 2 slices of turkey together and add to pan, do the same with remaining slices, pushing mushrooms around to make room. Heat for 1 minute. Flip over turkey slices, pile on 1/4 of mushrooms and 1 slice of bacon on each 2 pieces of  turkey, heat for 1 minute more. Carefully transfer turkey slices with mushrooms and bacon onto plate, set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in pan. Add 4 slices of bread, top with cheese slices. After about a minute, add turkey slices with mushrooms and bacon to each slice of bread. Heat for 1-2 minutes more or until the underside of bread is browned. Transfer to a plate, set aside.

In the same frying pan, melt 1 teaspoon of butter. Spoon 1/2 cup of cauliflower mash or mashed potatoes into pan, forming a mound (this will not hold together, but don’t worry.) Heat 1 1/2 minutes, carefully flip over, don’t worry if it spreads out a little. Top with a thin slice of cheese (or dab some goat cheese like I did for mine) and heat for another minute. Add one scoop of cauliflower mash to each bread slice topped with turkey & toppings. Serve on a bed of salad greens.

The main ingredients: shiro (white) miso, sesame oil, and lemon.

Miso is a fermented soybean paste that can be used to add rich flavor to soups, as a flavor-enhancer for burger mixes, smeared on fish and broiled to a carmelized crust, or as a savory dressing or marinade.

Here is a recipe for a tangy dressing I like to use on salads or as a marinade for chicken. Do you like deviled eggs? Try mashing hard-boiled yolks with a bit of miso-lemon dressing and you’ll be surprised at the results!

Miso-Lemon Dressing, serves 4

2 tablespoons shiro (white) miso paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
juice of 1/2 lemon, plus zest (zest the lemon before you cut it in half, it’s easier!)
2 teaspoons yellow mustard OR stone ground mustard
1/4 cup water (more, if needed)
1 teaspoon golden flax seeds (optional, but good for nutrition content)

Whisk all ingredients in a bowl, adding enough water  to thin to desired consistency. Makes approximately 4 oz dressing.

For salads: put mixed greens in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon dressing. Toss well, a little goes a long way!
As a marinade: smear miso-lemon dressing on meat, seal in ziploc bag and refrigerate for 6-8 hours or overnight.
Miso Deviled Eggs: mash 2 teaspoons with 4 egg yolks, adding more dressing to taste. Fill hard-cooked egg whites with mixture, sprinkle with sesame seeds or flax seeds and chopped green onion.

Tossing a mixing bowl full of greens (about 4 cups) with just a tablespoon of miso-lemon dressing is more than enough to flavor your favorite salad. Ingredients here: mixed greens, chopped apple, chopped dates, raw beets, sliced grapes, hard-boiled egg, strawberries, soaked almonds, and goat cheese.