Rainbow Mexican Salad with Avocado Cilantro Dressing

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Happy November! I know everyone is posting apple, pumpkin and squash recipes (including myself), but today I am deviating from the norm to deliver this delicious, colorful salad I made last week.  I’m not going to lie, pretty much every day I’ve been eating or drinking something fall-themed – pumpkin muffins, pumpkin spice coffee and pumpkin tempeh kale burgers, just to name a few.  But last week, Southern California decided it wasn’t quite done with summer yet and LA hit 85 degrees.  Whenever it gets hot, I get an itch for some Mexican food and a margarita.  So I made this salad in an attempt to curb my craving in a healthier way and it did just the trick!

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This six-ingredient salad is light but filling and full of protein, healthy fats and colorful veggies.  It’s a great lunch option that can be quickly prepared the night before and won’t cause a 2 PM food coma.  I paired it with Minimalist Baker’s Avocado Cilantro Dressing because, let’s be honest, you can never have enough avocado.  I always need a little crunch in my salad, so I also topped it with some leftover Tortilla Chip-Crusted Tempeh by Veggie and the Beast.  If you’re looking for something a little simpler, you could top it with crumbled tortilla chips or croutons.  The end result is a creamy, crunchy, avocado party in your mouth.  Basically, the best kind of party.  So the next time you find yourself craving a light Mexican meal, try this recipe out!  I think you’ll end up doing a little avocado happy dance like I may or may not have done.

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Ingredients:

  • ~2 cups of lettuce of your choice (I used spinach, but romaine would also work well)
  • 1/3 cup corn
  • 1/3 cup black beans
  • 1/3 cup tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • Avocado Cilantro Dressing (ingredients + directions here)
  • Optional: Tortilla Chip Encrusted Tempeh (ingredients + directions here)
  • Other topping options: red bell pepper, croutons, crumbled tortilla chips or tortilla strips

Directions:

  • Rinse lettuce and place in bowl
  • Chop onion, tomato, avocado and any other toppings of your choosing
  • Drain and rinse cans of corn + black beans
  • Place vegetables on top of lettuce + drizzle on dressing
  • Add crunchy toppings of your choosing, such as croutons

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Vegan Quinoa Salad

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Happy Monday!  While y’all are trudging off to work, we’re in Michigan visiting our grandparents, being fed all-American food and watching the fall leaves change color.  Yeah, you’re jealous.  I’ll share more about our trip (and some yummy recipes!) later.

Today I’m featuring one of my favorite staple foods – quinoa!  Adam and I eat a lot of quinoa because it’s a great substitute for pasta and even sometimes meat (like quinoa black bean burgers, soooo good).  I love quinoa so much in fact that I have a Pinterest board dedicated solely to recipes involving this magical little grain.  I’m always on the lookout for new quinoa recipes that we can use now that we’re sort of vegetarians.  Yes, we’re only “sort of” because we refuse to give up sushi and sometimes when we’re really lazy we’ll eat meat, but we try to eat vegetarian as much as possible.  So when I tried this quinoa salad at a café near our apartment, I knew I needed to try to replicate it.  Thankfully I knew what ingredients they put in it, but I had no idea what amounts.  So I had to experiment a bit, but I think I figured it out because it is oh so good!

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Basically this quinoa salad is chock full of nutritious stuff, including kale, tomatoes, radishes, almonds and pumpkin seeds.  I didn’t know until recently that you could even eat pumpkin seeds.  All these years of carving jack-o-lanterns and I’ve just been throwing away little nutrient packed snacks every October!  Turns out, pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, zinc and healthy omega 3 fats.  They have a little bit of a salty, nutty flavor that we really like.  And in this salad they blend in really well with the slivered almonds, so they make a great addition of nutrients without changing the consistency of the salad!

The highlight of this dish, though, is the sauce you mix into the salad.  Made from mixing pesto and cashew cream, the sauce adds an extra depth of flavor to the salad, but is light enough that you don’t have that weighed-down feeling afterwards (like when you eat fettuccine alfredo or some other rich sauce).  If you’re unfamiliar with cashew cream, the simplified version (which I use) is you soak cashews in water for at least an hour and then blend them up!  The result is a nutty, creamy vegan sauce.  So go ahead and try this recipe and lemme know what you think!  Since nothing in it makes it too soggy, it’s a great recipe to make in large quantities and then have leftovers for meals the next day.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 3 small radishes, thinly sliced (remove and discard leaves)
  • Handful spinach or kale, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup vegan cashew cream
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • 1 cup baby tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Directions:

  • Cook 1 cup quinoa in a medium pot (don’t know how to cook quinoa? Check out this link!)
  • While quinoa is cooking, chop radishes and spinach up + set aside
  • After quinoa cools, combine quinoa with cashew cream and pesto in a serving bowl
  • Add remaining ingredients to quinoa mixture, give it a quick stir and serve!

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Greens + Beans Salad

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I don’t know about you guys, but I love a good salad.  Sometimes I love them a little too much.  One of my all-time favorites is romaine, walnuts, mozzarella, craisins and balsamic vinaigrette.  It’s just a classic – in college I may have eaten one of those every day for a few months.  But while I have my favorites, I’m always looking for a new one to add to my list of salad staples.

So when I found this recipe in the newest Good Housekeeping, it immediately caught my eye.  Yes, you may wonder why I’m reading Good Housekeeping (I don’t think I fit their major demographic), but my mom got me a subscription and it actually has some really great stuff in it, especially in their recipe section.  (Thanks mom!)  This one is pretty straightforward and we already had most of the ingredients in the fridge, so I figured I would give it a shot.  It was delicious!  Massaging the dressing into the kale and brussel sprouts helps hide some of the bitterness that you might taste otherwise.

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I was also pretty excited to try out pecarino cheese.  I’d never heard of it before but I like the way the word sounds.  Even better is that there’s also a peppered pecarino cheese, which in Italian is called Pecarino Pepato.  Yeah, try not having fun saying that word.  Anyways, apparently pecarino cheese is an Italian hard cheese made from sheep’s milk.  I’ve had traditional cheese and goat cheese, but I’m not sure I’ve had sheep cheese until now.  Lemme tell you, it’s fantastic.  It tastes like parmesan but has a different flavor to it that’s a little nuttier.  I really enjoyed it!  Overall, the mixture of the kale, brussel sprouts, walnuts and cheese makes a really good Italian staple salad.  You could eat it on its own or as a side salad to a pasta dish.

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You can find the original Good Housekeeping recipe at this link.  I made a few alterations, but it’s still pretty similar!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups kale, ribs discarded + leaves thinly sliced or torn into small pieces
  • 1 cup brussel sprouts, thinly sliced
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1/3 cup walnut halves (they suggest toasted, I’m just a little too lazy for that)
  • 1 cup cubed pecorino cheese
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

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Directions:

  • Remove ribs from kale and thinly slice or tear into small pieces
  • In separate bowl, whisk lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper + olive
  • Combine kale and liquid in a bowl + massage liquid into kale
  • Slice brussels sprouts, add to bowl + toss
  • Add can of washed cannellini beans, toasted walnuts and cheese
  • Toss all ingredients together + serve

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Do you guys have a salad recipe you just can’t get enough of?

Pumpkin Pie Green Smoothie

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I admit it, I’m a stereotypical white girl.  I love fall.  I love pumpkins and apple cider and brown boots and sweaters and all the leaves on the trees changing colors.  And I really, really love pumpkin spice lattes.  Judge me all you want, but those things are delicious. It has been so hot here, though, that I have been trying to hold off on drinking one until it is October.  I know I can get an iced one, but they’re not the same.  I want to have one when there’s  a slight chill in the air and I can enjoy holding a warm cup between my hands.  So while it’s been difficult to stop myself from just ordering one from the Starbucks I walk by every day, I’ve been using other fall recipes to try to keep my cravings at bay.

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This pumpkin pie green smoothie is one of the ways I’ve been holding off my PSL cravings.  You would think that pumpkin puree wouldn’t be that good for you – I mean pumpkin pie isn’t the healthiest thing – but pureed pumpkin in and of itself actually has a number of health benefits, including nutrients like fiber and iron.  Now I’m not recommending you drink a pumpkin smoothie every morning, but when you’re hankering for a pumpkin spice latte or a slice of pumpkin pie, you can use this healthy recipe as an alternative!  When you combine the pumpkin puree, maple syrup and vanilla protein powder (especially Juice Plus Vanilla Complete, my fave!) it smells like fall and tastes like pumpkin pie.  Yummmmmm.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon chia seeds
  • Handful of spinach
  • Almond milk
  • 1/3 – 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • Dash of cinnamon

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Directions:

  • Blend spinach and almond milk
  • Add the remaining ingredients and blend
  • Add ice if needed to thicken!

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So what about you? Do you have any healthy fall recipes that you suggest I try?

Mango Banana Green Smoothie

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If you had told me a few years ago that I would like smoothies filled with spinach and kale, I would’ve laughed at you.  First, I would’ve probably asked you what the heck kale was.  Then I would’ve said that there was no way I was going to drink my greens.  Sure, I enjoyed a spinach salad every once in awhile, but no way it would taste good in a smoothie?

What I learned is that you can’t even taste the vegetables you put in a green smoothie.  In fact, the beauty of the green smoothie is it tastes like the fruit you put in it.  So why not add some greens to your typical smoothie and boost your veggie count for the day?  That’s why this recipe is called a “mango banana green smoothie.”  Sure, it has spinach and kale in it, but it really just tastes like a tropical mango and banana smoothie!

I almost titled this post “Perfecting the Green Smoothie” because I am constantly changing the recipe to create the most delicious smoothie ever.  I used to put greek yogurt in my smoothies to make it creamy, but I’ve been trying to cut down on my dairy intake.  A friend recently suggested adding half an avocado to the smoothie.  Wouldn’t you know, the avocado acts almost as a total replacement for creaminess?  Plus I’m basically obsessed with avocados anyway, so I was excited about this new addition.  I’ve also evolved to adding chia seeds and flaxseed meal to the blender.  As my parents would say, flaxseed meal helps the smoothie “stick to your ribs” and keeps you feeling fuller longer.  It also has a lot of nutritional benefits.  Pretty much everything in this smoothie contributes to your health in some way, though.  So I encourage you to not be afraid of a green smoothie and try this recipe out!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1/2 cup kale
  • ~1/2 cup frozen mango pieces
  • 1/2 frozen banana  (Make sure to cut the banana in half before you freeze it! Made that mistake before.)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1-2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
  • Ice cubes (if needed)

This recipe makes roughly an 8 oz smoothie – if you want more, double the recipe or add more of whichever ingredients you’d like!  I made this one with my Magic Bullet because our bigger blender was dirty.  Surprisingly it did pretty well in blending up the greens!  If you want the ultimate vegetable blender, though, invest in a VitaMix – it somehow makes green smoothies without a fleck of unblended vegetables.

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Directions:

  • Add spinach, kale and almond milk to blender.  Blend those first to get the greens as well blended as possible.
  • Throw in banana, avocado, mango and almond butter.  Top with chia seeds and flaxseed meal.  Blend until combined.
  • If it isn’t the consistency you want, add ice or almond milk accordingly.
  • Try not to drink too fast!

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Homemade Açai Bowl

IMG_3201If you haven’t had an açai bowl before, you may not understand how excited I am about this recipe.  You also may not know how to pronounce the word açai.  A-kay?  A-sigh?  Nope, it’s pronounced ah-sigh-ee.  Don’t worry, it’s a weird word and I didn’t know how to say it a few months ago.  But then I discovered a shop near us called Paradise Bowls that sells açai and pitaya bowls and now I’m totally addicted to these things.  Making an açai bowl only requires a few steps.  First, blend açai or pitaya (aka dragonfruit) with other fruit and a non-dairy milk – usually coconut or almond milk – creating a thick, icy smoothie as a base.  On top of that blend, you add granola and more fruit, and finally sprinkle some coconut and drizzle honey on top.  It’s heaven in a bowl, really.  If you live in South Bay and haven’t gone to Paradise Bowls, go as soon as you can.  Just look at this bowl.

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Is your mouth watering yet?  The best thing is you can eat it as breakfast, lunch, a snack or dessert!  All of the fruit does make it high in sugar, but on the upside you’re likely getting your daily requirement of fruit in one bowl.

So when I was at Whole Foods the other day I found some açai smoothie packs and thought I would make my own açai bowl.  The packs come in sets of 4 for $6.50, so it’s not the cheapest, but I personally think it’s worth it to make these little bowls of happiness.

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I swear, you guys, I was going to take better pictures of this recipe.  I was going to sprinkle coconut flakes and cacao nibs to frame the bowl and maybe even put some banana slices in the background.  But I went paddleboarding for an hour and a half before making this recipe and I was so hungry, and it looked so delicious, I just couldn’t wait.  Maybe another time I’ll take some prettier photos.  As for right now, I’ll just share the recipe with you.  You can mess with this recipe as much as you want, but I roughly modeled mine after my favorite bowl at Paradise Bowls.  If you’re looking for inspiration, check out their menu page.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 açai smoothie packet
  • ~1/4 cup of almond milk (or any other milk of your choice)
  • 1 banana
  • 2 spoonfuls of peanut butter
  • ~1/4 cup frozen blueberries and/or other frozen fruit of your choice
  • Coconut flakes (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 1 tbsp. cacao nibs
  • Granola (optional)
  • Honey (optional)

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Instructions:

  • Put açai packet, almond milk, 1/2 of the banana, peanut butter and frozen blueberries in blender and blend until combined.  Add more ice or milk if needed to get the right, icy consistency.  I’d recommend starting off with less milk and working your way up!
  • Pour smoothie mixture into a bowl & then put other half of banana (and optional granola) on top of the liquid.
  • Sprinkle coconut and other toppings of your choice on top, drizzle some honey if you want, and then chow down!

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Whole Foods Copycat Avocado Greens Wrap

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Whole Foods – I love it, I just wish it wasn’t so expensive!  One of my favorite meals from our nearby Whole Foods is the Avocado Greens Wrap.  Full of some of my favorite veggies and drizzled with red wine vinegar, this vegan wrap is satisfying and delicious.  Unfortunately, Whole Foods charges a whopping $8 for this wrap for some unknown reason – maybe they just like to take all my money.  So I decided to get all the ingredients and replicate it at home without the guilt of spending so much money on eating healthy.

Now, I haven’t priced it out yet, but I am 99.9% sure that making this wrap at home will not cost you $8 every time.  In fact, I’ve made 5 or 6 of these wraps for lunch since I bought the ingredients for the first time and I still have some to spare to make more.  The only thing that may cost some money is the avocado, based on where you live.  In California, though, we have about as many avocados as people, so that’s not really an issue here. IMG_3163

The other great thing about this recipe?  Completely customizable.  Hate onion?  No worries, leave it out.  Want to use spicy hummus?  Go for it.  Need some more protein in your lunch? Throw in some turkey.  It won’t be vegan anymore, but it’ll still be awesome.

Ingredients:

  • Pack of spinach wraps
  • Hummus (Regular, Garlic, Spicy, Tomato Basil, Roasted Red Pepper – all good!)
  • Bag of spinach
  • 1/6th of an onion (roughly), cut into small slivers (whatever type you prefer – red onion or sweet onion are both good)
  • 1 cucumber, sliced lengthwise into strips
  • 1/2 avocado, cut in half and cubed or sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced (I bought a box of Trader Joe’s Tomatoes on the Vine)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (Trader Joe’s also has this!)

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Directions:

  • Lay out spinach wrap
  • Spread hummus and avocado on wrap.  You can either smash the avocado into the wrap or leave in pieces.
  • Throw as much spinach in the wrap as you want.  Really, just go for it.
  • Take one or two slices of cucumber and put in middle of wrap.  This acts as the spine of the wrap.
  • Top the cucumber with slices of tomato and some slivers of onion.
  • Drizzle roughly 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar over ingredients.
  • Attempt to wrap up all of this goodness into one wrap.  It may be a bit difficult depending on how many veggies you tried to squeeze in it.  Usually I have to put it in plastic wrap and hope it doesn’t all fall out the bottom.
  • Finally, eat and know that you’ve gotten the majority – if not all – of your vegetable servings for the day in one meal!

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