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After all those chats we had during training I forgot to ever tell you about the REAL DEAL! I did in fact survive on race day and officially have my first half  marathon under my belt. On that weekend (which happened to be right after I started my job), Jason and I drove up to Durham on Friday night. We stayed with one of my besties Katherine (my race buddy) and her sweet parents up there. The next morning we had a little breakfast then headed out to the race expo!

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I’ve seen a ton of bloggers talk about race expos, but I’ve never actually been to one before! It was a fun way to start getting pumped up for the race and to buy any last minute things. I got one of those annoying 26.2 bumper stickers for my car (had to do it, #sorrynotsorry) and some running gels for race day. We also took advantage of some pretty sweet photo ops.

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At the expo we met up with Katherine’s boyfriend (also a race buddy!) and together we all went for a stroll at the Raleigh Downtown Farmers Market. For some reason our Georgia farmers markets are so tiny (with the exception of a giant indoor one, but it’s an international market not a local food one) so I always LOVE seeing markets in other cities. This one was amazing–tons of vendors and beautiful local goodies.

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We got some stuff for dinner and cooked some simple pasta back at Katherine’s parents house before heading to bed. We had an early wakeup call for race day–they had told us at the expo to be there by 5:30am! I could hardly sleep that night anyway…combination of excitement and nerves.

3:45- My alarm went off…not like I was asleep anyways! I made myself a cup of coffee and a piece of almond butter toast and did a lot of jumping up and down because I was excited.

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4:30- I took a quick shower and got into my race gear, a tank and capris and my new favorite Brooks shoes!

5:00-Did a little check to make sure I had everything I needed: race bib, timing chip, iPhone and armband, hydration belt, my ID, Kind bar, an espresso gel (got it at the expo, it has extra caffeine in it which seemed like a good idea), and some Clif shot blox!

And then we were off!

The three of us running together were all in different corals because we have different running paces (as you might remember from the last race I ran with her, Katherine is a speedy gonzalez) but once we walked to the start line there were so many thousands of people and we just decided to start off together sort of in the middle. There’s nothing like that feeling when you’re waiting behind the start line!

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It was pretty chilly (I think in the low 50′s) but I decided to just go without my jacket because I didn’t want to have to deal with it later in the race when I got hot. While we waited I opened up that espresso gel that I had bought at the expo, which tasted super nasty and promptly got thrown away. So much for an extra caffeine boost! But at the time I didn’t care, I had enough nervous energy to keep me going.

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Before I tell you about the race, I should tell you about my training. I started off strong and did pretty well with my long runs, but all that went out the window when I started working full-time in April. With trying to adjust myself to the working day schedule I just could not find the time to run! Not to mention we were also smack-dab in the middle of moving out of our apartment, and that was taking up any free time I would normally have. SO training went out the window. Before race day the longest distance I had ever run was I think 8.5 miles. A half marathon is 13.1. Oops. But I tried to forget about all that and just clear my mind so that I could stay excited and get through it! I had adjusted my method to Galloway (I posted about that here) so I knew I would be taking walking breaks every 3 minutes.

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(Can you spot me in that picture above? HA!)

So here (to the best of my recollection months after the fact) is how it went:

Mile 1: WOHOO! SO much excitement and energy, but I know from previous races that I need to start slowly. After about 1 minute I let Katherine and Adrien pass me by and slow it down a little because I know that their pace is like minutes faster per mile than mine. The sun had barely come out so it was  nice and cool and breezy.

Mile 2-3: CRAP. I already feel exhausted–how is that possible?? I’ve run much farther in training but I already feel totally drained. I hope I can do this thing.

Mile 4-5: This part of the race is quiet and went through a lot of residential type areas. I realize that I’m running right in front of a ‘pacer’, a runner who holds up a sign for the pace that they’re keeping as a guide for other runners. The pacer behind me is the 2 hour 15 minute one! This has me pumped because I’m estimating a finish time of 3 hours at this point. Also I see Jason cheering me on at one of the checkpoints which definitely lifts my spirits.

Mile 6-7: S.O.S. Slowing down! Slowing down big time. The pacer passes me and I don’t have much energy to care. Lots of walking going on. I’ve been slowly eating my Clif shot blox for the past hour but they don’t seem to be doing much.

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Mile 8: Right before the mile 8 marker is a water stop (there have been a few along the course already but I ignored them because I was carrying water on my hydration belt), but this time they’re passing out gels. I figure I might as well take one, so I grab a berry flavor and pretty much devour it in a minute or two.

Mile 9: I’M ON TOP OF THE WORLD! That gel gave me LIFE. I feel so energized and motivated and amazing. I KNOW I can do this.

Mile 10-12: Still feeling really good! There’s an awesome breeze that is rocking my world and I cannot wait to see that finish line. People around me are really starting to slow down and I use that as motivation to try and pass them one at a time.

Mile 13: The life that gel gave me is GONE. The only thing keeping me moving is willpower. I have never run this far before. I turn a corner and can see the finish line. “A Beautiful Day” starts playing on my playlist (not kidding, can’t even make this stuff up) and when the chorus comes I take a deep breath, gather everything I have, and SPRINT SPRINT SPRINT.

AND I MADE IT!!!!

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You’ll forgive me for repeating myself….I MADE IT!!!!! I made it.

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Even now, months after the fact, I feel so happy thinking about that moment. My time ended up being 2 hours and 48 minutes. That’s slow but it’s actually under what I expected and frankly the time did NOT matter to me! All that ever mattered to me was finishing, and I did that. Pretty much as soon as I was done I wanted to sign up for a full marathon.

I’ll keep you posted on that. ;)

If you’re never run a race before I REALLY encourage you to do it! Don’t give me all that “ugh, but I hate running” stuff. No one likes it at first. At least no one that I’ve ever met. It’s hard. You sweat and pant and hurt and it’s hard. And that’s why the accomplishment feels SO good. You get stronger. You still sweat but you pant less. Distances that once seemed impossible become no big deal. And once you cross a finish line you will understand why so many people love to race. Go find a 5K in your area and DO IT! Go now!

-Lauren

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Three cheers for summer!!! For sweet corn and bright tomatoes and juicy berries and cold beer and crunchy SALAD. Salad’s are good all year round of course, but to me it’s summertime when they really hit the spot.

20150209-DSC_0685This one is nutrition packed and simple to make. The base is a mixture of cabbage, romaine, and Brussels sprouts sliced super duper thin (use a mandolin if you have one, otherwise just slice as thinly as you can). Then it’s topped with a variety of sweet and crunchy goodness and drizzled with an addictive peanut dressing.

20150209-DSC_0697My recipe for the dressing is kind of “loosey goosey”, and that’s because I’ve found that with peanut dressing it’s best to just feel it out as you go. Depending on the type of peanut butter you’re using, how strong your sesame oil is, how warm it is, etc. it’s going to change things. So use the magic ingredients. but other than that just go with the flow and adjust until it tastes perfect to you.

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Crunchy Asian Salad
 
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Author:
Serves: 2 meal salads
Ingredients
Salad
  • 2 c. thinly shredded cabbage
  • 2 c. shredded romaine lettuce or mixed greens
  • 2 c. thinly shredded Brussels sprouts
  • ½ c. shredded carrots
  • ½ c. roasted cashew halves
  • ⅔ c. mandarin oranges
  • ½ avocado, sliced
  • 1 T. sesame seeds
Peanut Dressing
  • 2 T. peanut butter
  • 3 T. rice vinegar
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • honey (start with 2 t.)
  • sesame oil (start with 1 t.)
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Toss vegetables together for salad.
  2. Top each salad with nuts, oranges, avocado slices, and sesame seeds.
  3. Whisk together ingredients for dressing, adding more vinegar, honey, sesame oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Add a little warm water to loosen up the dressing if necessary.
  4. Drizzle dressing over salad and enjoy!

Cashews need to be a salad topping more often! With the creaminess of the avocado and the sweet oranges they really make an amazing addition. Let me know if you try it out!

20150209-DSC_0684-Lauren

 

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Climb On!

I’m not exactly sure how to begin! Since I started this blog back in 2011, I never took more than a week or so off from blogging. And now here I am, dusting off the keyboard after two months away. Stuff has happened! It’s been so long I probably forgot some of the stuff! I started my first job out of law school (which is the last thing I posted about back in March), Jason and I moved out of our apartment and in with my parents (yes, you read that right), and I even ran that half marathon that I was updating you on earlier this year! We have lots to catch up on and I will definitely fill you guys in on everything, but I figure today I’ll start small. We had a great Memorial Day and I would love to share it with you.

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I wanted to do something together as a family, and I’ve had it in my head for a while that I wanted to try indoor rock climbing. So I grabbed my dad, sister, and hubster and we went for it!

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I wanted to be able to climb without needing help from employees, so we went with the lesson option where they show you how to climb and belay properly. The class was tough! But once we got all the info we needed we were free to climb anywhere in the facility for the rest of the day. The place we went is HUGE–there were so many walls to choose from!

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In the lesson they taught us commands to use with each other, and I’m a big fan of “Climb on!”

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Once we got going we all had a lot of fun! And it’s a great workout, it’s kind of like a more interesting version of a pull-up machine! Now that we know how to do things on our own I definitely want to go back just to climb on another day.

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When we got home I got started on the grill! I got options for everyone and tried to have some healthier alternatives to traditional grilling food. On the menu was my Grilled Corn and Vidalia Onion Salad:

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Twice Baked Potatoes (experimenting with Cabot’s Tomato Basil Cheddar–YUM):

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Sausages and hot dogs from a local butcher for the carnivores (The Spotted Trotter if my ATLiens want to know):

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And veggie burgers for David and me:

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I hope you all had a wonderful and peaceful weekend too! I’ll be back soon (really. no, really.) with a recap of my first half marathon!!!

-Lauren

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Food Prep Party

This past weekend I tried something a little different that I’ve heard for years is an awesome habit to start. I planned our meals for the week, went grocery shopping (those are both things I’ve always done weekly), and then I fully PREPPED every meal that we’re going to eat this week! You might be wondering why I decided to try this now. And that reason is because I just started a new job! That’s right! I thought some of you long-time followers might appreciate sharing in the happy news with me. :) Now that I’m a working lady I need to be much more intentional about how I use my time and how I plan things out. Last week (my first week) we ate quite a bit of takeout, and that’s not a habit that I want to let sink in. So food prep it is!

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Here’s our “menu” for the week:

Breakfasts: Overnight oats, Banana Muffins

Lunches: French Lentil Soup (for me), Chicken Cesar Salad (for Jason), Fresh Vegetable Spring Rolls

Dinners: Shrimp and Tomato Pasta (for Jason)/Roasted Vegetable Pasta (for me), Chicken Jambalaya (for Jason)/Vegetable Tamales (for me), Eggpant Parmesan served with brown rice spaghetti and salad, Beef Tacos (for Jason)/Black Bean Tacos (for me)

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Some things I made to completion so that all they’ll need during the week is a quick reheat. For other things I just chopped up all the ingredients to eliminate prep time later on. Here’s the work I actually did yesterday:

  • made lentil soup
  • made eggplant parmesan (up until baking step)
  • baked banana muffins
  • made overnight oats
  • chopped veggies and meat for jambalaya
  • marinated and grilled chicken for cesar salads
  • washed and cut lettuce for salads
  • washed and cut up fruit for lunch or snacks
  • make filling for spring rolls
  • cut up vegetables for pasta

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It took a good chunk of my Sunday but I’m SO glad that I did it and I’m hoping to make this a weekly thing. It’ll keep us eating better and keep our spending from getting out of control. Just because I’m working now doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up on home cooking! Far from it.

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Some of these recipes I’m testing and tweaking for my next Facebook challenge group! Email me or shoot me a message on social media if you’re interested in joining, I still have a few spots left!

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See you later this week with a new recipe!

-Lauren

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An easy superfood packed granola recipe!

For some reason I’ve been like at oat vacuum lately. Cooked oats, raw oats, overnight oats, just GIMME OATS. Last week I started specifically craving granola and the one I bought from the store just wasn’t cutting it! I think you know where this is headed.

An easy superfood packed granola recipe!

Goji berries are really popular in America right now, but they’ve been popular in other areas of the world for a long time. The berry is native to China and is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a number of ailments. They are very nutritionally dense and have the highest concentration of protein of any fruit!

An easy superfood packed granola recipe!

When combined with the healthy fats and nutrients in the coconut (this recipe makes use of coconut oil, coconut chips, and coconut sugar), you can definitely award this a superfood granola. If you’re into that.

Coconut and Goji Berry Granola
 
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Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 3 T. coconut sugar
  • ½ t. ground cinnamon
  • ½ t. kosher salt
  • ¼ c. raw honey
  • ¼ c. coconut oil
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • ⅔ c. dried goji berries
  • ⅔ c. coconut chips or shredded coconut
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Stir together the oats, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl to combine.
  3. If the coconut oil is solid, melt it in the microwave until it liquifies. Then pour the honey, coconut oil, and vanilla over the oat mixture. Stir well util the ingredients are evenly distributed and every oat is coated.
  4. Spread in a thin even layer on a cookie sheet and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Stir the oats with a spatula and then even out again and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the oats are golden brown.
  5. Remove from the oven and let cool undisturbed for 30 minutes to harden.
  6. Toss the goji berries and coconut chips into the granola, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

An easy superfood packed granola recipe!

 

I didn’t just choose the goji berries for nutrition though, they are extremely tasty. To me they taste like a cross between a raisin and a cranberry with a little touch of matcha. Yeah ok that sounds weird. It’s hard to describe but I find them to be delicious! They add a little sweetness and tang to this granola while the coconut adds awesome crunch and a tropical flavor. Add a little coconut milk and you’ve got heaven.

An easy superfood packed granola recipe!

 

-Lauren

 

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This post brought to you by Tropicana Farmstand. The content and opinions expressed below are that of A Dash of Soul.

So excited to share a great product with you guys today! I’m big on fruit and vegetable juices, but to be honest I don’t usually have the time to take out my juicer and make a fresh one myself. Sometimes you just need a more convenient option! So, when Tropicana reached out to me about their new Farmstand juice line I was interested to learn more. tropicana-1 The ingredients in this are really great! There’s juice from apples, bananas, mangoes, sweet potatoes, kale, and more! And there’s no added sugar which is awesome. tropicana-2 I love how all the yummy fruit juices make it really just taste fruity, you can’t tell there’s even veggies in there! I asked my little sister Ashley (she’s 12) to try it and she said it tasted like a strawberry-banana juice. Then she asked for another glass! It’s definitely delicious and a great option for people on the go to get in an easy serving of fruit and vegetables. tropicana-3 Tropicana has generously provided me with TEN VOUCHERS to give away to you all so that you can try their Farmstand Tropical Green Juice for yourself! Comment BELOW and tell me your favorite fruit or vegetable for a chance to win! Winners will be chosen at random.

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A New Running Method

I took a little “spring break” off from blogging last week and I feel quite refreshed and ready to catch up with you all! Race training has been going much better lately (in other words, I’ve actually been sticking to it lately), here’s what I did in the past week:

  • Monday- Rest and stretching
  • Tuesday- cross train (Hip Hop Abs)
  • Wednesday- 30 minute run
  • Thursday- cross train (Piyo Sweat)
  • Friday- 30 minute run
  • Saturday- Yoga
  • Sunday- 8.5 mile run

I’m still on cloud nine that I finished an almost 9 mile run yesterday! I honestly cannot believe that I can run that far. It’s amazing to me how many of my limitations were in my own head.

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I ran down to Piedmont Park and it was glorious! The weather was amazing, sunny and warm but with a lovely breeze, and I just kept thinking how amazing it was that I actually ran to a place that we would normally spend at least 15 minutes driving to!

fitness post 3-16-15-2I was feeling really tired the first couple of miles but then once I got in a groove I felt amazing! I actually switched to a new running method a couple weeks ago called the Galloway method. It’s essentially interval running, where you run for a certain number of minutes and then walk for a certain number of minutes. I decided to switch to this for a couple reasons. 1) I know a lot of people who have injured themselves or had joint problems from running. I have NEVER had an injury of any kind and I’m not about to start now. The run/walk method is a lot easier on your joints and greatly decreases chance of injury. 2) I’m a beginner and I’m taking on a pretty long distance with a half marathon. I want to make sure I can finish and finish strong, which this method will help me do. I was already taking SO many walk breaks with the Hal Higdon plan that I figured I should learn how to do it correctly. So far I’m loving the Galloway method! It makes my time slower, but it’s well worth it for how much better I feel during and after the run.

fitness post 3-16-15-4 Another new thing I introduced a couple weeks ago is some new kicks! My parents got me a gift card to a specialty running store called Big Peach Running Company for my birthday. I’ve never actually had my feet/gait assessed so I was really excited about this! They used video gait analysis and determined that I do overpronate (tilt my foot inward) on my left side and I have high arches, so the guy helping me recommended stability shoes. I went with the Brooks Ravenna 4 and I love them so far! This picture doesn’t even do them justice but they’re so bright they practically glow in the dark!

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I’ve been really committing myself to the healthy lifestyle lately and I know that’s helping to support my running. I’m doing my best to eat clean (with the occasional treat) which is going really well! This my #WhatIAteWednesday from last week (Starbucks added a coconut milk option to their menu!):

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I’m also sticking with some good low impact cross-training which I think is building my strength! I did an ab routine on Tuesday with my mom and then on Thursday my sister and I did Piyo Sweat together. Piyo just about killed me, in a super awesome way. We were both sore for days!

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And yoga has been something else I’m incorporating! I have a dedicated day for it on Saturday but I do a short practice almost every day to help keep me loose and flexible.

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I’ve got a 10 mile run on the books for this weekend! Another big milestone I can’t wait to reach!

-Lauren

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Healthy Dessert Nachos

A healthy take on dessert nachos! Thinly sliced apples drizzled in deliciousness!

I’ve got another cooking video today! I think Jason and I are slowly getting the hang of making these videos, it’s definitely a new challenge. I’ve been seeing this recipe idea all over Pinterest and thought it was such a fun idea. Hope you enjoy the video!

 

Healthy Dessert Nachos
 
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Author:
Serves: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 apples
  • 2 T. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 T. peanut butter
  • 2 T. plain greek yogurt
  • 2 t. honey
  • 2 T. toasted macadamia nuts, chopped
  • chocolate sprinkles (optional)
  • other topping ideas: almond butter, fruit jam, butterscotch chips, toasted coconut, nutella
Instructions
  1. Core and slice the apples very thinly.
  2. Arrange the apple slices on a platter.
  3. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave until they are a drizzling consistency, do the same with the peanut butter.
  4. Stir together the greek yogurt, honey, and enough water to make it a drizzling consistency.
  5. Drizzle the apple slices with the peanut butter, chocolate, and yogurt mixture.
  6. Sprinkle on the macadamia nuts and sprinkles and serve!

I love this idea, I can’t wait to make it for friends. You’ll be surprised at how delicious these are with just a few very simple toppings!

A healthy take on dessert nachos! Thinly sliced apples drizzled in deliciousness!

 

-Lauren

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I’ve missed the last couple “training posts” and there’s a couple reasons behind that. The main one is that I’ve been thinking hard about exactly HOW I want to incorporate fitness tips and encouragement into the blog. In the past I’ve focused on the food and on providing people great recipes and (hopefully) drool worthy pictures during a quick visit to this site (the average visit time is about 1 minute and 20 seconds I believe! y’all are speedy!). And while I still want to focus on the food, because that’s where my heart is, I want this to become a place where I’m more engaged with YOU the readers and we can form a relationship. Which brings me to my big news–I’m now a health and fitness coach with Beachbody!

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Yeah that’s me randomly flexing in the kitchen. This is ME we’re talking about…where else would you expect me to flex?? :)  Beachbody is an awesome company that provides a lot of awesome products (ever heard of P90X or Shakeology?) and I’m SO excited to be working with them. Not much on this blog is going to change, the company has nothing to do with this site and is not sponsoring any of my content. The only difference you might notice is me being happier and getting stronger and healthier! And every once in a while I’ll post a referral link when I’m mentioning the things I love or information about challenge groups that I’m running on Facebook to give you all the opportunity to join them if you’d like. I just wrapped up a free 7-Day Clean Eating Challenge (make sure you follow me on Facebook to learn about ALL the challenges I run in the future) and I can’t even tell you how much fun I had! It felt amazing to encourage and motivate other women to strive for their best. Plus it helped me to clean up my diet too!

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Now I’m filling up the last couple spots in my next group, which is a full-on 3 week fitness and healthy eating challenge group. If you are looking to really get a jumpstart and see some awesome results, please comment below or email me to let me know! Not only do you get the great workouts, but this group includes a full meal plan that I have developed myself that has recipes which have never been published here on the blog. There’s still a day left to sign up and I’d love to have you and get to know you!

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And then of course I’m still training for the half marathon! This is the schedule I made for the upcoming month.

March-2015-training calendarI’ll be honest with you, the extremely gross and cold weather here in the past few weeks has made me skip several runs in favor of doing workouts from the comfort of my apartment. BUT with a new month I’ve got FRESH motivation and I’m ready to kill it with my training in March! Today was a cross train day and I did a Turbo Fire workout, which was so high energy and fun! And then I had a vegan chocolate Shakeology after my workout for recovery–delicious!

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See you tomorrow with a cooking video!

-Lauren

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Udon Noodle Salad

A healthy and delicious cold noodle salad with vegetables and a savory peanut dressing!

The inspiration for this one is a little random! Jason and I ended up being stuck at the airport for a while the last time we flew home from visiting his family in New Jersey. We were in the international terminal, aka the one with the awesome shopping and delicious food. I was thrilled to see a huge variety of vegetarian and vegan options, so many that I could hardly choose what to get! I asked Jason what I should get (he’s always better at picking what I’ll like than I am…#marriage), he said I should go for the noodle salad. Good man.

A healthy and delicious cold noodle salad with vegetables and a savory peanut dressing!

So I’m that crazy food blogger who tucked the container away in my carryon and then copied the ingredient list down when I got home. And it worked! Delicious tender whole grain noodles coated in a savory peanut sauce and tossed with fresh crispy vegetables. YUM.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Udon Noodle Salad
 
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Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. whole wheat udon noodles (you can use soba noodles instead)
  • ½ c. peanut butter
  • ¼ c. lime juice
  • ¼ c. warm water
  • ¼ c. liquid aminos (you can use soy sauce or tamari instead)
  • 1 T. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 t. sesame oil
  • 1 t. garlic powder
  • ½ t. ginger powder
  • ½ c. sliced scallions
  • 2 c. diced cucumber
  • 1 c. sliced bell peppers
  • 2 c. thinly shredded cabbage
  • 2 T. sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Boil noodles according to directions.
  2. While noodles cook, whisk together the peanut butter, lime juice, water, liquid aminos, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic powder, and ginger powder until it forms a smooth dressing. It will start out lumpy but just keep whisking, it will come together!
  3. Drain the noodles and rise with cold water.
  4. Toss the noodles with the dressing, scallions, and vegetables. Refrigerate for for at least 30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with sesame seeds for garnish if desired.

A healthy and delicious cold noodle salad with vegetables and a savory peanut dressing!

This the pretty much the best lunch ever. It’s cold so you don’t have to worry about reheating anything, but the noodles really make it stick to your ribs which is perfect for a mid-day meal. Plus the dressing is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. I had to stop myself from continuous “taste tests”!

See you soon for a fitness update!

-Lauren

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