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?

Cauliflower Mash & Lessons in Food Photography

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Cauliflower ranks close to beets in my list of least favorite vegetables.  Along with lacking any color, it’s my opinion that is also fails to taste good unless dipped heavily in some sort of sauce.  Despite its inherent underwhelming nature as a vegetable and less appealing color than broccoli, cauliflower is apparently supposed to be really good for you.  So, in an effort to eat what one Canadian newspaper has declared “the kale of 2014,” I bought a head of cauliflower at the local farmer’s market to try out a cauliflower mash recipe.  “Cauliflower mash” is supposed to be a healthy alternative to mashed potatoes, but in its most basic form, it is cauliflower doused in garlic and butter.  Now that’s a recipe I can try, and at least I’m getting some manganese in the process.

Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that cauliflower, and especially cauliflower mash, do not photograph well.

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My best attempt at a pretty photo (Adam added the cheese strips to help)

I should’ve expected this, given that cauliflower mash is essentially a giant glop of white goo, but I thought that possibly my D-SLR would magically turn this colorless blob into a beautiful dish.  What I also realized (too late) was that I had put the cauliflower mash right next to sauteed kale, on a dark blue plate, in a poorly lit kitchen at night.  While sauteed kale is pretty delicious, it also looks  terrible in photos.  So I regret to inform you that these pictures are the best I could do with my cauliflower mash.  Such is trial and error in the food blogging world.  I can assure you, though, that cauliflower mash does in fact taste amazing.  The garlic and butter mask any cauliflower flavor and you’re left with a delicious side dish that is also somewhat good for you – or at least likely better for you than potatoes.

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Here is the recipe I used, which I altered slightly from the one found on The Taylor House.  You should check out her blog if you want to see some prettier photos of cauliflower mash.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium cauliflower
  • 4 ounces cream cheese (we used lowfat)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

  • Cut head of cauliflower into small florets.  If you don’t know how to do this without hurting yourself, I found helpful instructions on The Kitchn.
  • Bring medium pot of water to a boil & then add cauliflower.  Allow cauliflower to boil for about 10 minutes or until its soft
  • Throw cauliflower into a food processor with other ingredients and follow food processor instructions until its smooth and creamy
  • Top with shredded cheese if you’d like
  • Enjoy butter garlicy deliciousness!