Spicy Peanut Zucchini Noodle Salad


This summer I’ve been trying to cut back on my calories with lighter meals that are still filling. I’ve been trying to incorporate more seasonal produce into my diet as well. Although zucchini is typically available in the grocery store year round, zucchini season is still going strong. Zucchini is such a versatile vegetable – it’s great grilled, baked, sautéed, and also raw. I like to peel zucchini if I am eating it raw because it gets rid of the bitter aftertaste. I bought a vegetable spiralizer a few years ago and it’s one of the best tools to make a quick, healthy meal (click here for the one I use). Spiralized beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, and zucchini are amazing in salads. This salad is ready in minutes and requires no cooking. The peanut sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. I use the sauce as a dip for vegetable rolls, baked tofu, and also on cauliflower rice. It goes with pretty much everything. Homemade peanut sauce tastes so much better than store bought and is really easy to make. This one is tangy, spicy, nutty, and absolutely delicious!

Homemade spicy peanut sauce

I recommend tossing the noodles with the sauce right before serving so that the noodles keep their shape. This recipe makes a great side dish but can be turned into a light main course by adding your favorite vegan protein such as tofu, tempeh, or edamame. The carrots and red bell peppers add crunch and color. I decided to add healthy micro greens to this recipe instead of a traditional Asian herb such as cilantro. Micro greens have a really high nutrient content vs. regular greens and taste really fresh. They also make any dish look stunning! I definitely recommend giving them a try! They can be used as a garnish for soups, Buddha bowls, avocado toast, or added to any sandwich or wrap for extra flavor and nutrients. Zucchini noodles are tasty and filling and can be used as a substitute for any type of pasta. If you make this recipe, let me know how it turns out by posting a picture on Instagram or Facebook and tagging @thefriendlyepicurean or pin this recipe on Pinterest!


Spicy Peanut Zucchini Noodle Salad

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • special equipment to make noodles: a table top vegetable spiralizer
  • 4 large zucchini, peeled
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 cup micro greens
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, crushed
  • For the spicy peanut sauce (makes about 1/2 cup):
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tbs Tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tbs agave syrup
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 tbs rice vinegar
  • 1 tbs Sriracha sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs water


To make the peanut sauce, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Next, using a table top vegetable spiralizer, make the zucchini and carrot noodles. In a large bowl, toss zucchini noodles, carrot noodles, and red bell pepper pieces with 1/4 cup of peanut sauce (add more to taste). Top with crushed peanuts and micro greens and serve immediately. Best if eaten within immediately.




OXO Good Grips 3-Blade Tabletop Spiralizer with StrongHold Suction


Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette


Thankgiving is just around the corner! If you need vegan recipe ideas take a look at my menu from last year. I have many vegan Thanksgiving recipes in my blog archives including my favorite Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites. This Brussels sprouts salad is so easy and delicious. You don’t have to cook your Brussels sprouts, which makes it really fast. I bought pre-shredded Brussels sprouts to save on time. If you are prepping and shredding them by hand, it will add at least 30 minutes to your prep time. Cut off the stems and then cut each Brussels sprout lengthwise. Then toss them in a bowl to allow the layers to separate. You can also use the shredding blade of your food processor, which will make it quicker. I found pre-shredded Brussels sprouts at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. This salad has a slightly sweet taste because of the maple syrup in the pumpkin vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is refreshing and light with delicious pumpkin flavor.
The Marcona almonds are just so scrumptious. They add a delightful crunch and balance out the sweetness. Roasted Marcona almonds taste more like macadamia nuts. The pumpkin spice, maple syrup, and salt combine to make a fantastic sweet and savory flavor combination. Toasting them in the oven really brings out the flavors and crunchiness. I could munch on these almonds all day long! I prefer Marcona almonds in this recipe because of their unique flavor and texture vs. regular almonds, but regular almonds would also be quite delicious! This refreshing, light salad is great to balance out a heavy Thanksgiving meal. Cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts are a great, high fiber substitute for other salad greens. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Let me know if you make any of my Thanksgiving recipes by taking a picture and tagging @thefriendlyepicurean on Facebook and Instagram or Pin the recipe on Pinterest!


Here are some additional vegan Thanksgiving recipes:
Seitan and Mushroom Wellington

Truffled Purple Mashed Potatoes 

Teff Jalapeño Bread

Quinoa Stuffing with Pumpkin Seeds and Cranberries

Garlic Rosemary Gravy (Vegan, Gluten Free)

Lentil and Quinoa Loaf

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Bourbon Spiked Vanilla Pudding (vegan)

Pumpkin Oat Bars

Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 12 cups shredded Brussels sprouts (24 oz)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbs maple syrup
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbs pumpkin puree
  • For the roasted pumpkin spice Marcona almonds:
  • 1 cup Marcona almonds
  • 1 tbs maple syrup
  • 1 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbs olive oil
  • olive oil spray


Preheat oven to 350F. Spray baking sheet olive oil spray and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, toss Marcona almonds with olive oil, maple syrup, and pumpkin spice. Check to make sure almonds are coated evenly. Spread on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Next, prepare the vinaigrette. Whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, maple syrup, lemon juice, and pumpkin puree until smooth. In a large serving bowl, toss Brussels Sprouts with vinaigrette. Top with cranberries and Marcona almonds and serve. May store in the fridge for up to 1-2 days.


Vegan Panzanella Salad


Summer is the best time of year in Chicago! We have a multitude of parks that host free movies and live music all summer long. One of my favorite summer activities is packing a picnic and sitting on the lawn of Grant Park. The backdrop of the city skyline combined with fresh air, the sounds of a full orchestra, friends and family, and delicious food makes for a perfect evening! Panzanella is one of my favorite summer salads to bring on a picnic. I love French bread, fresh herbs, and really good olive oil. All of the fresh ingredients along with the red wine vinaigrette make this salad really tasty. You can use 1 day old, crusty French bread or toast fresh bread in the oven to make sure it doesn’t get too soggy once it’s in the salad. The bread should have a chewy (not soggy) consistency once it absorbs the dressing. I used vegan mozzarella by Follow Your Heart that I found at Whole Foods but you could also use extra firm tofu as a substitute. The capers add salty flavor and the bright, multi-colored heirloom tomatoes are just bursting with sweet flavor. There are several variations of this salad. You could add red and yellow peppers for tangy crispness. There’s also a version that adds arugula for a spicy kick. I think this dish is really satisfying and often have it as a light meal. It goes really well with most white wines or even rose. This recipe is so simple and super easy to assemble. If you make it, let me know how it turns out! Tag your picture with @thefriendlyepicurean on Instagram and Facebook or Pin It on Pinterest!


Fresh, simple ingredients!

Vegan Panzanella Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 (6oz) French demi baguette, cut into 1.5 inch pieces (about 6 cups)
  • 1 lb grape heirloom tomoatoes, halved
  • 4 Persian cucumbers, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 (10oz) package vegan mozzarella cheese, cut into 1 inch pieces (such as Follow Your Heart brand)
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbs capers
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
  • For the dressing:
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 300F. Cut bread into 1.5 inch cubes and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Bake at 300F for about 13-15 minutes. Remove bread from oven and set aside to cool. Next, make the dressing: whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl toss bread with dressing and combine well. Let bread absorb dressing for about 5 minutes. Next, add tomatoes, cucumbers, vegan mozzarella, onion, capers, basil, and oregano and combine well. Salad is best if consumed within 24 hours.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate calories per 1/6 of Vegan Panzanella: 307 cal


Watercress and Arugula Salad (with video)



Spring is a great time to try new things. This week, I signed up for Core Power Yoga. I’m terrible at yoga and much prefer pilates but one of my good friends talked me into trying it again… wish me luck! I also decided to try some new ingredients this week. I eat a lot of salad and get bored with it easily. Browsing through the produce aisle at the grocery store gave me the inspiration to put this salad together. I saw some really fresh looking watercress and dill. Both of these sounded delicious. I like my salad to have a variety of textures and colors. I also like to have more “toppings” compared to greens. By toppings I mean fresh vegetables, herbs, legumes, nuts, and maybe even some fresh fruit. It’s so easy to buy great, vegan salad dressing at the grocery store but there’s something really satisfying about making your own at home. Salad dressing is so easy to make and the leftover dressing can be easily stored to be used throughout the week. The dressing for this salad is surprisingly simple yet tasty. Using high quality extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vingar will makes this dressing even better. The video below shows how to put this meal together easily. I like to wash and prep all of my vegetables the day I bring them home. Otherwise, I lose motivation to prepare them during the week. Making a salad every day is so easy when everything is ready to go when you’re ready to eat. I’m a huge fan of how the French serve meals at cafes – greens are included with everything. I try to eat greens at least once a day, every day, whether they’re in a smoothie, salad, or sauteed with vegan protein. I hope you love this salad as much as I do! Be sure to tag @thefriendlyepicurean if you make it and don’t forget to watch the 1 minute how-to video below!

Watercress and Arugula Salad

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


    For the salad:
  • 2 cups (about 5oz) watercress (thick stems removed)
  • 6 cups (1, 5oz package)  baby arugula
  • 1, 16oz package mini heirloom tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 4 to 6 small radishes, sliced
  • 1 medium sized cucumber, sliced
  • 1 cup shelled edamame
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup vegan ricotta cheese (such as Kite Hill brand)
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/4 fresh dill weed (thick stems removed)
  • For the dressing:
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper


Prepare the dressing:
In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, salt, and black pepper.
Prepare the salad:
In a large bowl, toss arugula and watercress with about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup dressing depending on preference. Top with tomatoes, radishes, cucumber, edamame, avocado, vegan ricotta cheese, pistachios, and dill weed. Serve immediately. May store extra dressing in an airtight container for 5 to 7 days. Makes 1 cup dressing. Makes about 8 cups salad.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate calories per cup: 222 cal
  • Approximate calories per 1/6 salad: 295 cal


Spicy Zucchini, Squash, (vegan) Ricotta, and Mint Salad – with Wine Pairing by Chef Fabio Viviani

I’m a Chicagaon and live in a neighborhood where new restaurants open almost every week. My neighborhood, River North, has every type of restaurant and bar you can think of including a very popular neighborhood restaurant called Siena Tavern. Siena Tavern is well known for it’s amazing food and bustling bar scene. It’s also well known for its very own celebrity chef Fabio Viviani. I’ve been a fan of Fabio since his days on Top Chef and really enjoy his Chicago restaurants. I reached out to Fabio recently and he was kind enough to send me a plant based recipe and wine pairing. For this recipe, Fabio recommends his No. 4 Signature White Blend. This white blend is refreshing with fruity overtones but not overly acidic. His wines can be found at www.fabiovivianiwines.com and also at Whole Foods in Chicago. This dish is really great for the end of summer and the wine complements it perfectly. It can be served as an appetizer or side dish. It’s herby, bright, colorful, and has a spicy kick to it. So thanks to Fabio for sharing his recipe and wine!

Fabio says “This salad is super refreshing and perfect for a cool summer night. Because the zucchini squares are cooked, they keep the temperature of the dish a little warm”.


Chef Fabio Viviani


Spicy Zucchini, Squash, (vegan) Ricotta, and Mint Salad by Chef Fabio Viviani

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Paired with Fabio Viviani Wine: No.4 Signature White Blend
By: Chef Fabio Viviani


  • 4 medium yellow zucchini squash
  • 4 medium green zucchini
  • 3 Belgian endives
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for dressing the salad
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, washed, dried, stems removed
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, washed, dried, stems removed
  • 1 pound arugula, well washed and dried
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, thinly sliced
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups vegan ricotta cheese (such as Kite Hill)


  1. Wash and cut each zucchini lengthwise in half, remove the seeds with a spoon, cut the halves into quarters, then cut each quarter into strips about ½ inch wide. Coarsely chop the endives.
  2. In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and saute until golden brown, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the zucchini and the endive and stir quickly. Season with salt and pepper. When the zucchinis are cooked but still firm, 3 to 4 minutes, transfer the mixture to a large plate to cool.
  4. Roughly chop the mint and basil, place in the large bowl, and add the zucchini, arugula and jalapeno. Toss well and season with lemon juice and olive oil. Dollop the (vegan) ricotta over the top of the salad and serve.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate calories per serving: 202 cal (if using 2 tbs olive oil and 8 oz. package of Kite Hill Ricotta Cheese).

Credit: From Fabio’s American Home Kitchen by Fabio Viviani; published by Hachette Books, a division of the Hachette Book Group. Copyright ©2014 FV Legacy, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission. Page 10-11.

Recipe adapted to be plant based with permission.

Summer Quinoa Salad

Quinoa has now become a staple in my home.  I use it instead of pasta and bread because it’s delicious and easy to make.  It’s pronounced “keen-wha” and is not a grain but actually a seed. It’s on the list of “superfoods” and is thought to have anti-oxidant benefits. This quinoa salad is super easy to make and can be served as a light main course for a weeknight dinner or as a side dish.  It’s light, colorful, and packed with protein and fiber.  It combines sweet and savory flavors along with a crunch from the pistachios. Better make it soon before summer is over!

Photo credit: SJ Abraham

Summer Quinoa Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 cup uncooked Red Quinoa
  • 1 cup Pomegranate arils
  • 1 (16 oz.) can Garbanzo beans drained
  • 2 tbs chopped Red Onion
  • Juice from 1/2 Lemon (2-3tbs)
  • 1/2 tsp Lemon zest
  • 2 tbs Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Pistachios shelled
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • 2 tbs chopped Mint leaves


In a medium saucepan, cook quinoa according to package instructions (typically 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups filtered water). Remove from heat and place in a large serving bowl to cool.  In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Combine quinoa, chickpeas, and lemon juice mixture. Add more salt to taste if needed.  Top salad with pistachios and mint leaves right before serving.

Nutrition Information:

  • Calories per serving: approximately 245 cal
  • Protein: approximately 8g
  • Fiber: approximately 8.5g


Photo credit: SJ Abraham