A few people have been asking about the “noodle” dishes I’ve been Instagramming and which feature prominently in my food ideas for intermittent fasting. The basic idea is this: take any noodle or soup recipe for which you’d use pasta noodles and use julienned vegetables instead. You get the twirl-with-a-fork pleasure of pasta with fewer calories, more nutrients and, some might argue, better flavour, especially when you use really good vegetables. Soup in particular is very handy when fasting as liquid is very filling but low calorie.
My essential tool for the job is the julienne vegetable peeler pictured below. My mom gave this to me years ago and I have no idea of the brand, but an Amazon search for julienne peeler will turn up a few options (this Kuhn Rikon Julienne Peeler looks pretty flash).
The vegetables I julienne most frequently are carrots and zucchini, and occasional parsnips. Occasionally some swede (rutabaga) will come along for the ride.
Vegetable “Noodle” Soups
Here I tend to err on the Asian side. The two soups I make most regularly are Miso “Noodle” Soup and Vegetarian Pho; both are extremely quick and easy to make and basically work like this:
- Make a delicious stock
- Add some vegetables if you’d like: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bell peppers, mushrooms, potato, pumpkin (be sure to be sensitive to cooking times and add those long-to-cook veggies ahead of the rest)
- Add your vegetable noodles
- Serve with your favourite garnishes
Miso soup can be as simple as mixing miso and water, then adding soy sauce and sesame oil to taste. I usually opt for white miso and follow this recipe as a guide: Basic Miso Soup.
Vegetarian Pho requires a bit more work, so I make the broth ahead and freeze it. This recipe on the New York Times is my go-to: Simple Vegetarian Pho Broth.
In both cases, I heat up the stock to a simmer, then add my vegetables, and try to be sensitive to their cooking times. (Broccoli cooks faster than cauliflower so I’d add the cauliflower ahead of the broccoli.) I like my vegetables crisp, so the vegetable “noodles” always go in last and only get a minute or two, otherwise they go floppy and their flavours disappear into the rest of the soup. If using leafy vegetables like spinach, I’d also add this with the “noodles”.
My favourite garnishes: spring onions, firm tofu (fried or raw), fresh herbs (mint, basil and cilantro are good), sliced fresh chilli, Sriracha sauce (who doesn’t love Sriracha?).
Vegetable “Noodle” Salad Bowls
As with noodle soups, noodle salads can also be adapted to use vegetable “noodles”. I absolutely adore this Noodle Salad with Lemongrass Dressing, pictured below, made with vegetable “noodles” instead of rice noodles.
Vegetable “Noodle” Pasta
I got the idea from this zucchini pasta recipe. You can make it with a vegetable peeler rather than a julienne peeler, making for “noodles” that are almost fettuccine like. The original recipe uses the zucchini raw, but I like to cook it for just a moment, with a few added carrots because I love them. And as with many foods in life, I like this one topped with a poached egg:
Other Vegetable “Noodle” Ideas
One of my favourite comfort foods: take thinly sliced onions and cabbage and sautee slowly until absolutely sweet and soft. Add carrots and cook for a little longer. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with a poached egg and garnished with smoked paprika. A little avocado on the side doesn’t go amiss.
Another great candidate is pad thai, and I’m somewhat addicted to Rachel Demuth’s Vegetarian Pad Thai recipe (alas, I’ve always devoured it greedily before getting around to taking a picture that doesn’t suck – if you don’t mind a sucky picture, then look at this one).
Some of you may be looking for Calorie counts on these recipes but I’m afraid that despite my mathematics degree, I haven’t done the math (my mode of fasting avoids calorie counting if possible). From time to time I clock the numbers and can say that the soups tend to be very low calorie (200-300) depending on how you garnish them. Other dishes can tend more towards the 400-500 calorie range. It all depends on what you add to it. But a really useful tool I find for quickly adding up calories is CalorieCount’s Recipe Analyzer.
Alright, hit me with some more vegetable “noodle” ideas. Why haven’t I made “spaghetti” and “meatballs” yet? Maybe that would be just a bit TOO much food pretending to be other food that it’s not. And perhaps that’s why most of these dishes aren’t very Italiany. Regardless, I’m open to suggestions, and the julienne peeler is open for business!