One Dish, Two Ways: Cheesy Red Pepper and Hemp Noodles

Hey all!

So happy you liked the cheesy red pepper hemp dip. I’m happy to report that I’ve been eating it virtually nonstop this week, and not only as a dip! This versatile dip/sauce/dressing has made its way into raw pasta dishes, a few wraps, a salad or two, and more than one snack plates since Monday. I love it, and I’ll be making a double batch on Sunday when I prep for next week.

Well over a year ago, I blogged about one of my favorite raw foods: kelp noodles. If you missed that post and you’ve never heard of kelp, let alone a kelp noodle, let me recap: Kelp noodles are made from all natural, raw kelp that has been stripped of its outer skin (leaving a clear, thin interior). They’re then preserved in sodium alginate, a natural salt that’s also seaweed derived. They require no heating, prepping, or soaking (unless you want to soak them), and they keep for up to six months in the packaging they’re sent in. Best of all? They’re crunchy, fresh tasting, and, unlike other sea veggies, they’re not at all “fishy.”

They taste so neutral, in fact, that they’re a downright ideal substitute for regular pasta. Unlike conventional pasta, however, they’re raw, vegan, gluten free, and boast all of the benefits of sea veggies, including thyroid function, metabolic support, and iodine (for more on my adoration of sea vegetables and some fun facts about iodine, check out this post). They also contain a surprising 15% of your DV of calcium! They are not, however, calorically dense (we’re talking 15 kcal for a serving), so you have to be sure, if you eat them, to eat them with a sauce or other food that provides some proper caloric density, or be mindful of it at other moments of the day.

You all know that I love my zucchini pasta, and I’m also very fond of many whole grain, vegan pastas, such as the Eden brand kamut spirals or the Tinkyada brand of rice pasta. But kelp noodles really might top my list. You can’t beat them for convenience — I can literally pull them out of the package and plate them — nor for texture and neutral taste. They’re also delicious boiled — they soften up, so anyone who isn’t into their usual crunch will find that they’re more palatable that way, if no longer technically “raw.”

The problem with kelp noodles is that they’re devilishly hard to find. I really prefer the Sea Tangle brand to all others, but I rarely ever see it in stores, so I always have to order online. And if you’re about to ask me how to get your hands on some of them, I have to give you the same advice: I don’t know of many stores that carry kelp noodles, so ordering them directly from Sea Tangle is probably your best bet.

Fortunately, I did happen to find kelp noodles at High Vibe this week. Ecstatic, I bought three package — kelp noodles for weeks! (That’s a lie: given how I eat, they’ll probably last me, oh, a couple days.) Last night, still in the first flush of love with my cheesy red pepper and hemp dip, I decided to use it as a noodle sauce. The result? This deliciousness:

Kelp Noodles, dressed with cheesy red pepper and hemp dip and served with a big kale and spinach salad:

I couldn’t have asked for a tastier way to bring kelp noodles back into my life! This dinner got two big thumbs up from me, and it’s definitely what’s on the menu tonight.

Speaking of menus, I’m in the middle of a desk lunch, and itching to focus on my food. Before I go, though, I wanted to share a little Q&A from my last set of comments. Reader Teresa wrote:

Your meals always look so good. I especially love the wrap paired up with a gorgeous salad. I have a question….I am fairly new in discovering a whole new healthy way of eating…Do you ever get tierd of eating so healthy? Any cravings like something out of the way you eat on a daily basis. I’ve omitted coffee but still like the smell of fresh brewed beans—-I’ve given up eating meat —-but I still crave them when I see others eating them. Just curious on your opinion.

I wrote back,

Hey Teresa,

Well, if coffee is what you’re talking about, I’m sure you’ll have seen the many posts where I talk about being a coffee fanatic, yeah? I drink it every morning, and I don’t find that it interferes with my health.

As for “unhealthy” food, I hope it’s not too annoying to say no, I really don’t. I haven’t eaten red meat since I was little (by choice), don’t have a taste for any popular processed snack foods (like Cheetos or whatnot), and don’t have a problematic sweet tooth. So the closest I get to junk food cravings is usually cravings for carob covered rice cakes, or the rare hankering for toffuti cream cheese. And if I’m ever dying for either food, I go right ahead and have it (ok, the Toffuti is less likely, because its partially hydrogenated and thus pretty nast to me, but the carob rice cakes, or perhaps some soy chocolate pudding? Heck yes.).

I get asked this question a lot, and I think that the real answer you’re looking for is this: I don’t crave “unhealthy” food because I eat three very substantial, very nutrient rich meals a day, and I snack when I feel like it. I heed unusual food cravings when I have them (like the above–I have zero problem indulging a craving that’s a little out of the ordinary), but to be honest, it’s once in a blue moon, and that’s simply because I never feel overly starved or deprived. Most women I see who crave stimulating foods — like processed foods or too many sweets — are simply not eating enough, period. They’re eating mini meals or skimping at various moments in the day, and compensating with snacky or junky cravings as a result. Satiety with nourishing whole foods is really, really key!


PS. Teresa, I also put “unhealthy” in quotes because I really don’t like talking about food in good/bad forbidden/allowed dichotomies.

I should also have added that I never, ever feel like I’m trying to “stick to” a healthy diet. I eat exactly in accordance with my tastes: you’ll never see food on this blog that I ate only because I thought it would be good for me, or that leaves me only half-satisfied and wanting more. You’ll also never hear me talking about food I lust after that isn’t a part of my diet, because there are no such foods: it’s safe to say that I eat a whole lot of everything I really like. And I feel so lucky that I have the means to fill my fridge with foods that give me pleasure.

So, raw kale salads, collard wraps, beans, greens, veganism: these habits don’t stem from a sense of duty. Well, that’s not entirely true: I do feel an ethical imperative to live a vegan life, so in that sense I feel that veganism is my duty as a person. But what I mean is that my sense of obligation to live the way I live is never an unpleasant one, or one that I resent: it’s in keeping with my desires. And in that sense I suppose it isn’t duty at all, so much as choice.

Looking back, I’m pretty sure that’s where the blog URL came from 🙂

What about you, dear readers? Where do your healthy food choices come from? And equally important: what are occasional cravings you like to heed? Does anyone else like carob covered rice cakes as much as I do?

I’ll be back later this weekend from upstate. I’ll be up there for a memorial, sadly, but with Chloe, which is wonderful no matter what the circumstance.


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Categories: Main Dishes
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, Raw

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  1. Hi Gena!
    I just bought some kelp noodles & want to make your red pepper sauce. You mention the sauce making much kelp noodles would you mix with that? A bag? Thanks!!!

  2. This looks delicious. Eating healthfully is a bit of a tug of war for me. One day my appetite and taste is leading me towards fresh fruits, salads, and vegan proteins, and the next I’m wanting pizza and (perhaps) choosing otherwise because I know I should for my physical and mental health. For me, following many unhealthy cravings will lead to being overweight and then eating disordered thoughts. It’s definitely a balance, though, and pizza and pinkberry are cravings I sometimes follow. Generally my cravings are for fresh fruits, banana fro yo, chocolate chip cookies, and carob raisins. Many times I also crave fresh veggie rolls, salads, and beans.

  3. I live for these quick but creamy and satisfying zucchini noodles dishes, but I was wearing out my usual marinara. Thanks for sharing this, it was delish!

  4. I’ve been trying to find kelp noodles ever since I had them at a raw food restaurant in Austin, TX!!! They don’t carry them at WF (the only health food store here) or at the Asian supermarket. Sigh…I’ll have to order them online somewhere I suppose. I loved them!

  5. Kelp noodle crunch: To soften the noodles without heating them, just marinate them for a few short minutes in something acidic (lemon juice, tomato). If you’re having them with a marinara or other sauce with an acidic ingredient, just let the noodles sit in the sauce for a few minutes before eating. Have never had to heat them to soften them up.

  6. Great noodle ideas, I enjoy drenching zucchini noodles in raw sauces and this looks wonderful.

    Great answer too, I’ve found my cravings have gone down considerably since going high raw and I don’t crave meat anymore. What helped was having so many new recipes and taste adventures in the early days to overpower cravings for old foods.

  7. I love your perspective on eating. For some, I think it takes some time to develop a clean palate, but once you get use to it, processed foods lose their hold. happy weekend.

  8. Another interesting, great blog, with a lot of neat tips Gena. Anxious to try the kelp noodles – sounds like a better way to go than taking my usual kelp supplement for the iodine. Keep ’em coming!

  9. true story. i feel the exact same way…and (as usual) i love how you put it. im not eating things because i think its what i should do, im eating things because i like them and i want them. hence the need for a thesaurus…”yummy” gets old on a food blog. 🙂
    anyways, your response to danielle’s comment is amazing. i wish i had that kind of patience.
    oh and one more thing…about those carob covered rice cakes…now i miss gary null’s…there are a few bulk bin items that i cant seem to track down here, and thats a biggie. 🙁

  10. I adore your response. I too never feel deprived because I eat food that makes me happy and satisfied, meal after meal.

    Adding kelp noodles to my grocery list (I’ve seen them at Whole Foods but been a little scurrred). Hugs to you for your weekend memorial. 🙂

  11. Yum! I will definitely have to try kelp noodles. I was going to ask if they were fishy and where can I buy them but you’ve answered all my questions! Now I just have to explain to my husband why I’ve ordered a case of seaweed noodles online. I think I’ll just show him the pictures above. 😉

  12. hi Gena! I saw these at the health food store the other day and am so excited to give them a try. thanks for making foods that I want to try but am scared of (in a wtf do I do with this stuff kinda way) much less intimidating.

    my food choices stem from a simple desire to be healthy, live a long and vibrant life, and prevent the suffering of animals. I didn’t make the connection between these desires and what I was actually eating until the last year or so. I know what it’s like to crave nasty, processed foods after years of mindlessly going for the easy options (not 100% of the time, but definitely regularly). I truly feel that putting thought and energy into eating delicious, healthy foods as my main meals and snacks has curbed my cravings for those awful foods entirely. I enjoy my true food loves, chocolate and avocado, as often as I like and I never worry about calories. Eating well is a joy!

    This may seem a little strange, but it works for me. When I get a waft of meat BBQ-ing and my boyfriend asks me, don’t you think that smells good?, I say sure, but I picture the animal that likely suffered to make that delicious smell and it immediately turns me off. It’s creepy, I know, but I feel that it’s appropriate to take a moment and think of the reality behind it. And then I get creative and try to recreate that smokey earthy flavour vegan styles!

  13. I’ve heard a lot lately about how the sodium alginate is most of the kelp noodle. And I’ve wondered why it’s clear. I cut down on them because I just didn’t want to be eating only a filler. Can you shed any more light on this?

    You are really lucky you actually crave green food. There are times I don’t crave it, but I do feel better after I eat it so it makes me want to eat more of it. I am still getting there. And I have a huge sweet tooth no matter how much good food I eat I can always fit in a small square of dark chocolate!

  14. I really, really need to try kelp noodles one of these days! When I do, I’ll definitely be pairing some with your cheesy red pepper sauce! WOW, yum.

    I am totally, 100% in agreement with you regarding eating according to my tastes (and values). I never feel deprived, and I never “make” myself eat anything that I don’t want to. I love eating healthy because of how it makes me feel & how it nourishes my body, and I prepare these foods in such a way that they’re delicious. Like you, I don’t like to think of food as “good” or “bad,” so when I eat a cupcake, I think of it in terms of how it fits into my entire day rather than it being a “splurge” or something about which I should feel guilty. I prefer to enjoy my food WITHOUT a side of guilt, thankyouverymuch. 😉

    I guess one example I can think of where I perhaps nudge or encourage myself to eat more healthfully than I might be in the “mood” for is if I’m hungover (which is rare) or if I ate greasy (vegan) bar-type food the night before. I find that in both of these instances, all I want is MORE greasy, non-nourishing food – but I know that I will start feeling better much sooner if I get back on the crap-free road. So instead of reaching for the chips, I usually (*USUALLY*) try to encourage myself to grab a green juice or a salad instead – and once I do, I just want more healthy food. 🙂

  15. I am very similar in diet style to you, Gena, in terms of not really craving “bad foods”. I truly crave healthful fruits and vegetables most and I find that I describe my diet as balancing the “building” foods with the “cleansing” foods.
    Building foods (for me) are whole grains, tofu, tempeh, sweet potatoes, legumes and the occasional nuts and seeds although they are a rare addition these days. Alternately, the cleansing foods are the raw (and steamed) fruits and vegetables, juices, and teas.

    This is the first time I’ve written out the method to my mealtime madness but ever since shunning processed foods, I can easily identify which type of food I’m “craving”.
    Like Gena though, I plan out (or seek out) heavy fruits and vegetables three times a day, prioritize this, and let the rest follow my mood and taste. I never want “bad foods” and it’s easy to not eat them.

    That being said, I feel guilt and discouragement when my portions get out of whack and eat fruit ’til tum-tum discomfort probably at least once a week. This has a lot to do with having super subtle hunger signals, so that when I finally get around to eating, I’m ravenous. This hunger won’t lead me to choose “bad foods” but it will lead to eating way too much.

    The kelp noodles look delish. I dated this vegan guy and he got all psh-psh when I told him I didn’t eat nooch. He proceeded to tell me that nooch was “vegan crack”… One of those vegan guys who exist soley on fake mac & cheese and San Francisco taqueria. It didn’t work out and I haven’t bought nooch yet.

    omg I love “bland” food, unadorned, unsalted…yum.

  16. I love the repurposing of the dip. I have a serious love/hate relationship with leftovers because they’re usually delicious but I can’t stand to have them the same way for a second time. This sounds delightful!

  17. I choose to eat healthy because I genuinely like the things that I eat. However, I do give into cravings. I wanted chocolate cats from Trader Joes today, so I bought some. I ended up having a serving of them (along with a chocolate peanut flour smoothie) because that’s what my body and mind wanted. I eat in accordance to what my body desires, and that’s almost always nutritious, healthy, real foods.

  18. ok, now i really have to make this dip. pasta sauce is a genius use.

    like others have said, i have experienced that when i eat not only real, whole food, but *enough* food, i am perfectly happy and satisfied. when your body gets real nutrients, it keeps asking for them, and that’s what you crave. for me, this includes salad and vegetables of all kinds, but also local ice cream or restaurant bread baskets, for instance. i think it’s important to realize that healthy looks different for everyone, but when you figure out what healthy is for you, “cravings” just stop existing.

    i also think a lot of people get intimidated in the beginning of a healthy journey and have thoughts like teresa’s because they don’t let themselves experiment and find what works for them. i’d guess (correct me if i’m wrong!) that the way you eat now, gena, has evolved – at least a little – from when you first delved into raw foods, because you probably found the aspects that make you feel great and maybe one or two that didn’t. realizing there is no standard i have to adhere to (even my own) and that health is a constantly evolving, very personal journey, has made all the difference for me.

  19. I think it’s slightly misleading to recommend these noodles under the guise of a nutritional meal component. I also think it’s misleading to state in your original post that you served yourself a “generous” portion, and to imply, in todays post, that you have a voracious appetite and these noodles won’t last long. These noodles are virtually calorie free – there is less than 20 calories for an entire bag, so even if you were to eat all three bags you purchased, you would be consuming less than 60 calories total. I enjoy reading your raw/vegan recipes and I enjoy your style of writing, but I’m confused and concerned as to why you are writing about these noodles and a “big kale sald” as your dinner, when it likely amounted to well under 200 calories with the dressing. I know that calorie counting is not the foremost issue on your blog, but I find it slightly irresponsible and worrying that you write about this “meal” as if it actually constitutes one. It almost feels dishonest, and I feel like it could give people the wrong impression of what they could or should eat. I think you have a wonderful message on your blog and your more thoughtful posts are really enjoyable, but let’s be honest – kelp noodles are not a substantial food item no matter how you spin it.

    • Danielle,

      I think this is a well written comment, but you’re missing a few key things.

      First off, I didn’t say that these were nutritional in the sense that they provide macronutrients or calories. They do not. I think they’re nutritional because they provide iodine (which we miss out on, most of us) and 15% of the DV of calcium. These are nutrient rich foods in one way; they simply aren’t nutrient rich in other ways. There are many different nutrients out there.

      Second, I state verbatim in my post “They also contain a surprising 15% of your DV of calcium! They are not, however, calorically dense (we’re talking 15 kcal for a serving), so you have to be sure, if you eat them, to eat them with a sauce or other food that provides some proper caloric density, or be mindful of it at other moments of the day.”

      What am I saying here? I’m saying precisely what you’re saying: these are not calorie rich foods, at all, so you have to pair them with other foods that are, or you have to simply eat more calorie rich foods throughout the day.

      You have no idea how many calories are in my red pepper sauce (unless you went ahead and tabulated), and even if you do, you’ve no idea whatsoever how much of it I used in this dish, whether or not I had seconds, etc. You also have no idea what was in my salad, because the photo doesn’t show it (it was sweet potato, veggies, and an avocado-lemon dressing). Finally, you’ve no idea where my calories came from throughout the rest of the day. I am not a slave to typical RDA standards, but I do believe firmly that most healthy eaters of my height and weight should be hitting between 1500-2200, and I am always in there. I’m a nutritionist, to say nothing of a healthy eater who takes care of myself, so you can trust me on this.

      Also, there’s nothing wrong with saying I served a generous portion. It was generous. Generosity of portion size and calorie density aren’t the same thing.

      That you want to be sure I recommend nourishing meals to readers is quite well and good, and I’m glad you do. But you also have to read my fine print, and so do they. If I mention verbatim that a meal will lack calories without proper enhancement through side dishes/sauces, and if I also mention that one has to modify other meals during the day to fit in with a lighter one at night, I mean what I say, and my readers are all mature enough to make good decisions with that information in hand.


  20. Thanks for the reminder that when you’re eating enough, and food that is good for you, cravings are less likely. I think an appetite for junk food goes away once you’ve gotten used to eating healthy.

  21. I love carob rice cakes!!! Have you had the peanut butter ones from LifeThyme?

    Also, I have the kelp noodles from High Vibe but have been afraid to try them, afraid they’ll be too fishy. Must get over the fear!

  22. I love what you said about having 3 well rounded meals. I find that if I have some wimpy salad for lunch that doesn’t have a lot of substance to it, I will surely be binging later. I actually love the taste of “healthy” food and have since I was a kid. However if I don’t eat ENOUGH of it, I do get massive cravings for sweets. As far as cravings I’m happy to give into once in a while: dark chocolate, basically any vegan dessert when I’m out to eat and blue corn chips (yes the fried ones) with my guacamole. Sometimes I just prefer that crunch of a chip rather than guac and veggies!

  23. Gena, you have clearly been holding out on me; I have got to get my hands on carob-covered rice cakes! Where in the world would I find such a thing? I LOVE carob!

  24. any nutrition stats on those kelp noodles? coulnd’t find them on the site. for the most part, i don’t crave junk at all. since i began eating better 2 years ago, my palate has been transformed. i even find dried fruit candy like! i like a good piece of dark chocolate piece or a larabar. those are superb desserts to me! last night, i had steamed kabocha with almond butter smothered over it and it was better than any store bought “cake” i’ve ever had

    • Melissa,

      Oh, they’re negligible in everything except iodine and, surprisingly, calcium (15%% DV!) I’m going to mention that in the post, actually.


  25. “They’re also delicious boiled — they soften up, so anyone who isn’t into their usual crunch will find that they’re more palatable that way, “–

    Ok based on YOUR post and love for them, I tried them, about a year ago. It was my one and only trial. Just b/c for me, the crunchy factor REALLY threw me off. I like crunchy, just not in noodle form. I didnt know that they could be boiled so maybe Ill give em another whirl. I thought they would become all denatured and just kinda fall apart. Good to know they won’t!

    I can find Sea Tangle at the WF’s that about 6 blocks from me. They ALWAYS have them. And also at a couple other health food stores. They are readily available in So Cali if anyone’s reading this.

    As for “unhealthy” foods..thanks for putting the quote marks up. I too hate categorizing as good/bad foods. They are just choices. That’s all. Some things I choose, 95% plant based food that is “healthy” and no, I dont crave junk either. I have a sweet tooth and honor it with real sugar. Not always stevia 🙂 and I too enjoy my coffee, a drink now and then, desserts, carbs at 3am, whatever I want, I just have it if I’m truly wanting it and it’s not just some mindless choice.

    Have a super weekend!!!


  26. I’ll admit that I choke down dark greens because they’re healthy for me, not because I like them. They’re just too important. As for cravings, I definitely have fewer overall on a healthy diet, but I’ve always had a major sweet tooth that can’t be tamed with fruit alone. I have noticed that I can no longer tolerate extremely sweet things though. I can completely understand your carob habit, I might actually prefer it to chocolate!

  27. OMG Gena. Must. Try. Kelp Noodles. NOW. But I went to the Sea Tangle website, can I really only buy them by the case?!


    • Yikes, I think so! I can promise they’re worth it, and quite shelf stable. Otherwise, do some online research, and let us know if you have an alternate suggestion.

  28. I have never seen these carob covered rice cakes you speak of! I have seen carob covered other things, however, and they are lovely. Almonds in particular.

    You are a fabulous example, ma’am. That is something many others in your position aspire to but probably do not achieve off-blog. 😉

  29. Mmmm, my kind of meal! I looooooove me some kelp noodles. I call ’em “mermaid pasta” and it was love at first bite.

    Most women I see who crave stimulating foods — like processed foods or too many sweets — are simply not eating enough, period.

    You know, I was that woman. I used to live on processed foods and sweets. My M.O. was to go all day without eating. Then around four or five in the afternoon, I’d be ravenous and would go non-stop, all night.

    When I found myself at 300+ pounds, transitioning to a primarily raw plant-based diet, I was a seeming paradox: morbidly obese, yet starving to death.

    It was when I began adding nutrient-dense foods (ie. fresh fruits, veggies, sprouts, sea vegetables, seeds) to my diet that my ghastly cravings for refined carbs and sweets, miraculously vanished.

  30. Kelp noodles are definitely hard to find!

    Now that I’m a chocoholic, I don’t crave the carob like I used to…. I just crave and enjoy pure chocolate. I listen more to my body and enjoy healthy and decadent foods.

    • Ha! Well it ain’t one or the other. I love dark chocolate too. I just like carob a whole lot in its own right. And it’s very healthy.

      The carob rice cakes, I’m pretty sure, are not 100% awesomeness in terms of ingredients. But I love them for a treat sometimes 🙂

  31. i definitely find that the healthier i eat, the more my body craves healthier foods. plus i know that by eating a more health-conscious options i’ll have a lot more energy and just FEEL better!