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


  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.

Spotted Dog-style vegan BBQ sandwich with vegan coleslaw (3-4 servings)

Today's recipe is a special reader request! Joe, this one is for you and your daughter!

The Spotted Dog is one of my favorite places in Carrboro. With a menu chock-full of both plant-based and meat-based dishes, there's something for everyone. However, it's probably most famous for its creative vegetarian dishes (plus the fact that it's housed inside a funky, triangle-shaped building!) that range from spicy, Mexican-themed favorites like flautas and pozole verde to "veggified" versions of American classics like a crabcake sandwich and chili dog. But my favorite Spotted Dog dish falls into the latter category: the veggie BBQ sandwich. The soy-based "meat" is smothered in vinegary sauce, giving it the perfect balance of smoky and sweet, and topped with a generous heap of rich, deliciously messy coleslaw. 

I've been eating this sandwich on a fairly regular basis for a couple years now but never really thought to try to replicate it until a local reader emailed me to ask if I had ever tried. Now I'll admit: I am neither a native Southerner nor a meat-eater, so I have no idea how close this comes to authentic Eastern Carolina barbecue. But I can tell you it's damn delicious, and it's very close to the restaurant's version. The chewy, tangy, sticky-sweet barbecue has just enough of a kick to grab your attention, while the creamy, crunchy (and totally dairy-free) coleslaw takes the flavor to the next level. Put it all on a soft, sesame-laden bun, and what's not to love?

This time around, I didn't make my own barbecue sauce. If you're lucky enough to be able to find a vegan sauce, go for it! (Here's a list!) However, if you have a homemade sauce you love, go ahead and use that too! This one is pretty flexible.

Click here for a printable version.

You will need:


  • 1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP) cubes or granules (which can be found in most health food stores, in well-stocked grocery stores, or online)
  • Liquid smoke flavoring (optional but recommended)
  • 1 cup hot vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup vegan barbecue sauce (Trader Joe's Carolina Gold BBQ sauce contains no dairy or meat flavorings)
  • Dairy-free rolls


  • 1/2 cup dairy-free, egg-free mayo (Check out a list of brands here; some low-fat mainstream varieties are vegan even though the label might not advertise it! Just read the ingredients list carefully.)
  • 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch dried dill
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 cups shredded coleslaw mix (green cabbage, purple cabbage, and carrots)


  1. Mix all coleslaw ingredients (except for the cabbage/carrots) in a medium bowl until smooth.
  2. Next, toss the shredded cabbage and carrots in the mayo mixture until everything is evenly mixed.
  3. Cover and chill the coleslaw for at least 30 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, place the TVP in another bowl. Mix a few drops of liquid smoke into the broth; pour the hot broth over the TVP and stir gently to combine. Allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes or so, or until the broth is absorbed.
  5. While the TVP is setting up, heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Once the broth is absorbed into the TVP, take about a third of the mixture (no need to measure exactly) and add it to the hot skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the edges of the TVP are golden brown and slightly caramelized. This will give the barbecue mixture a bit of texture and added depth of flavor.
  6. Once that portion of TVP is crisped up, add it back to the rest of the mixture. Starting with just 1/3 of a cup, pour the barbecue sauce over the TVP and stir to combine. Add more sauce if needed, but don't add so much that it drowns in the TVP. Different brands of sauce are different thicknesses, so you could need as much as a 1/2 cup to coat the mixture.
  7. Retrieve the coleslaw from the fridge. Place about 1/2 cup of the barbecue on a roll, topped with a generous scoop of the coleslaw. Repeat for remaining servings. Serve immediately.

If you love the Spotted Dog as much as I do, vote for it as your favorite place for vegetarians on Chapelboro.com! Voting closes August 26th. 

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:


  • 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


  • 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


  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!

Mexican stuffed shells (6-8 servings)

Back in college, my roommate Jess and I had a habit of opening the fridge, taking stock of the unused ingredients inside, and asking, "What could I make with _____, _____, _____, and _____?" (One particularly sketchy combination of random ingredients caused her to shudder and reply, "Danger.") Today's recipe was inspired by a similar situation: Bryan's request for stuffed shells and my need to use up a tub of homemade pineapple salsa from his coworker and some Celebrity Dairy chipotle goat cheese.

I started thinking about what kinds of molto loco Italian-Mexican fusion recipes I could create. Which ingredients are well loved in both Italy and Mexico? Why, cheese, tomatoes, and oregano, of course! And thus, Mexican stuffed shells were born. The cheese inside the shells is flavored with some traditional Mexican flavors, and chunky, colorful salsa takes the place of marinara sauce on top. Colorful, creamy, and comforting, this dish is satisfying on any continent.

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

  • 18-20 dry jumbo pasta shells
  • 15-oz tub part-skim ricotta cheese
  • Approx. 1/2 cup soft goat cheese (chipotle flavored, if you can find it)
  • Dash chipotle powder (if you're using plain goat cheese)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 cups salsa, with a few spoonfuls set aside for garnish
  • 8-oz can plain tomato sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 2-quart baking dish with non-stick foil or spritz it with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Once they're cooked, gently fish them out with a slotted spoon and place them on a tray lined with foil to cool.
  3. While shells are cooking, mix the cheeses, egg, herbs, and spices in a medium bowl, adding in a dash of salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, stir the salsa (minus the garnish portion) and tomato sauce together.
  4. Spread a few tablespoons of the salsa mixture across the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Once shells are cool enough to handle, fill each with a heaping tablespoon of the cheese mixture. Fill shells one at a time, lining them up across the baking dish. Pour the remaining salsa mixture over the shells. Cover the baking dish with foil. (If needed, you can pause here and keep the prepared shells in the fridge overnight and bake them the next day.)
  5. Bake the stuffed shells for 15 minutes, then remove the top foil and bake, uncovered, for another 15-20 minutes, until bubbly and warmed through. Serve immediately.

I think you'll enjoy this cheesy, zesty comfort food. Salute!/Salud!

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


  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


  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.

Dragon noodles (4 servings)

Everybody loves dragons. Everybody loves noodles. So who wouldn't love dragon noodles?

I (very loosely) based this recipe on Budget Bytes' recipe, eliminating the egg, adding ginger, and pumping up the veggies and protein. The nice thing about this recipe is that depending on how much sriracha you use, you can end up with gentle Figment levels of dragonness or raging Hungarian Horntail levels. For my part, I made it Trogdor level -- filled with majesty but still able to burninate some peasants.

This dish is vegan, and with some slight modifications, it can be gluten-free too!

Click here for printable recipe.

You will need:

  • 8 oz dry lo mein (rice) noodles
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup or agave
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce (or tamari or coconut aminos, if choosing gluten-free option)
  • 1 Tbsp grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup water or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 - 2 Tbsp sriracha, depending on heat preference
  • 8 oz cooked/prepared protein of choice (I used West Soy's seitan strips and chopped them into smaller pieces)
  • handful fresh chopped cilantro
  • handful grated carrots
  • handful sliced snowpeas
  • 2 green onions, sliced


  1. Cook noodles according to package directions.
  2. In the meantime, prepare the sauce. Use a small bowl or jar to combine the maple syrup, soy sauce, ginger, water or broth, and sriracha. Set aside.
  3. Once cooked, drain the noodles and return them to the pot they were cooked in. Add in the protein, cilantro, carrots, snow peas, and green onions; toss gently to combine. Serve warm.

Produce spotlight: Microgreens

Farmers' markets are the perfect place to try new foods and for several reasons. First, they give growers, bakers, and artisans the opportunity to sell interesting, uncommon foods that might not sell as well in large grocery stores. Second, they allow customers to ask questions about the products -- how they're grown, where they're from, and how best to prepare them. (Many stands also offer samples and recipes!) Third, that direct interaction with customers gives sellers immediate feedback, allowing them to customize their offerings from week to week, focusing on what customers request instead of what supermarkets (often unrealistically) demand.

A couple Saturdays ago at Chapel Hill Farmers' Market (By the way, how did I get so lucky to have a biweekly market directly across the street from me?!), I bought a box of microgreens from Open Door Farm's stand. They looked a little like alfalfa sprouts, and I was drawn to their delicate, tangled stalks in hues of eggplant, mustard, ivory, and ruby. According to Open Door's website, "microgreens are basically the harvested seedlings of vegetable and herb plants," but unlike sprouts, they are grown in soil. Open Door Farm offered a few different mixes of microgreens, but I went with the rainbow mix, a combination of arugula, amaranth, beets, broccoli, cabbage, chard, collards, kale, and kohlrabi. What a variety! 

After some online research, I found a few ways to use the rainbow microgreens in my own kitchen and took photos of the results throughout that week.

Here, colorful microgreens garnish a bowl of black bean soup sprinkled with crushed tortilla chips and drizzled with chipotle sour cream.

They added a crunchy layer in a sandwich wrap filled with sliced apples, cheddar cheese, and whole-grain mustard.

Microgreens gave an extra flavor accent in my favorite brunch sandwich (inspired by Lititz, PA's Tomato Pie): melted brie, scrambled egg, and raspberry jam on toasted sunflower bread!

Microgreens don't stand up well to heat, so they're best used in cold dishes, as finishing garnishes, or in the very last step of cooking. I'd buy them again to add to salads, throw in stir fries, or maybe even try in a smoothie. 

What will you try at the farmers' market this week?