Who wants noodles?
Noodles (and pasta in general) are one of my favorite foods. However, they are especially high in carbohydrates! Now, I’m not an anti-carb person. I still can’t believe the Atkins Diet (and its ilk) has any merit in our society, and they’re great for an exercise boost. However, with their being light in fat, even complex, whole wheat carbs can be easily overeaten; especially if you fall into one of two traps: 1) everything else I’m eating is healthy now that I’m vegetarian, so I can eat loads of pasta and it won’t affect me, and 2) one serving of pasta has an okay amount of protein – imagine if I had two (or more) servings!
Well, unless you run marathons or bike up 100-mile mountain trails everyday, pasta is best enjoyed as a single serving, and in moderation. Most restaurants give you at least 3-4 servings of pasta in a single dish, which I can easily devour; and while this is fine every now and then, pasta at home should be monitored more carefully. On the flipside, though, a single serving of pasta or noodles is not all that filling on its own. Adding a sauce might help, but what I’ve found is that ultimately, the pasta should be either equal to or less than the amount of veggies it goes with. Rethinking the noodles as a side or portion of the meal, as opposed to the entire meal, definitely helps!
One of my favorite sauces to prepare for noodles is a peanut sauce, and most recipes I’ve encountered are fast and reasonably easy to prepare. However, after I’ve done some aerobics and walked home from the gym, I want food now; and even my go-to recipe for peanut noodles seems really long and complicated (mostly because it involves heat). So, I came up with a lazy version that provides the basic flavors of peanut noodles with a lot less work. Efficiency!
To start, mix together all-natural peanut butter (one made with JUST peanuts and salt maximum – no sugar, no trans fatty acids, no palm oil, no nothing), agave nectar, lime juice, Bragg’s liquid aminos or soy sauce, and cayenne in a small bowl until well-mixed; the sauce will darken to a light molasses color when it’s done. The all-natural PB that I use is very liquidy, even when stirred (such PB tends to separate); but this will work to your advantage when stirring your sauce, as it will already be mostly smooth anyway! More reasons to ditch non-natural peanut butter.
The sauce can just relax while you prepare everything else. For the noodles, I used buckwheat yaki soba, though angel hair pasta or another thin noodle will do in a pinch. Buckwheat yaki soba is loaded with protein, but it also has a TON of carbs! One bundle (some packages bundle the noodles into individual servings about the diameter of a half dollar) has over 60 grams! Again, fine for that triathlon in the Rockies, but not for everyday consumption. However, because of the protein and buckwheat, yaki soba is very dense and so you can divide this serving in half easily. They’re also easy to prepare – once the water is at a boil, you drop the noodles in and they’re basically done within a few minutes.
Sometimes folks like to have peanut noodles alone or with some small vegetables like peas and corn; but I like adding a lot of vegetables and sometimes tofu. However, with power houses like broccoli and carrots in this dish, plus the peanuts, a protein like tofu wasn’t even necessary. I sauteed the veggies with ginger-infused olive oil, garlic, and onion; if you don’t have the ginger olive oil, you can add some fresh minced ginger root. The veggies only need to saute for a few minutes, so everything can be done in less than 30 minutes, which is key when you’re hungry! After everything is prepared, you strain the pasta, combine with the vegetables, then toss everything with the sauce. Instant lunch!
While the noodle serving has been cut in half for individual servings of this dish, there is still a high carb count; as well as a high protein and fat count; so again, I recommend eating this either before or after a workout. It is a power meal and while eating pre/post-workout is not a requirement, just know that it is indeed a full meal despite its small size!
Lazy Peanut Noodles with Broccoli and Carrots (Serves 2)
¼ cup all natural PB
1 TB agave nectar
2 tsp lime juice
1 TB soy sauce
1/8 tsp cayenne (or more if you want it to be extra spicy!)
1 bundle soba noodles
1 TB ginger-infused olive oil, or regular olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/4-inch piece of onion, finely chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, diced (if using regular olive oil)
1-2 cups of broccoli florets
2 small carrots, cut into coins
Mix the PB, agave, lime juice, soy sauce, and cayenne in a small bowl until smooth and well-incorporated. Set aside.
Prepare soba noodles according to package instructions in a large saucepan.
In a skillet, heat oil on medium, then saute the garlic, onion, and ginger (if using) for a couple minutes. Add the broccoli and carrots, and cook for no more than 3-5 minutes. You want the color to deepen and the vegetables to heat through, but not to be soft.
Drain the soba noodles and return to the pot. Add the vegetables, then the peanut sauce. Toss until sauce is incorporated. It may “disappear” into the noodles and veggies but the flavor is all intact! Serve hot.