Berry and Avocado Summer Salad with Barbecued Tofu

berry avocado salad

I have been making this salad everyday for a couple of weeks now. It has all the perfect components for a summer dinner. The seasonal ingredients, the sweet and savory flavors, the cold ingredients easily thrown together in the kitchen, the hot ingredients cooked outside on the grill to keep your house cool, the bright happy colors- It’s summer in a bowl! If you don’t think you like tofu, you might not have tried it barbecued. I wouldn’t even say that it particularly tastes like barbecue sauce or feels like tofu. The sugar in the sauce caramelizes to a savory taste and the tofu firms up for a satisfyingly chewier texture. I like it better than tofu prepared any other way. This is an easy salad to throw together when you are having people over for dinner because it’s quick and looks so pretty. It is also packed with protein and  many healthy nutrients!

Berry and Avocado Summer Salad with Barbecued Tofu

Serves 2

6 oz of organic super firm tofu

1/4 cup barbecue sauce of your choice, or try this recipe if you want to make it from scratch!

3 cups baby arugula

6 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

1 sprig of dill, finely chopped

2 green onions, finely chopped

1/3 red bell pepper, very finely chopped

5 strawberries, sliced

1/2 cup blueberries

1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and thinly sliced

1/3 cup raw walnuts

1/4 cup balsamic reduction (you can buy this at the store- usually labeled balsamic glaze- or make it by simmering balsamic vinegar over low heat until it thickens, about 15 minutes)

Optional: 1/4 cup olive oil (I found that the fat from the avocados and walnuts was enough fat for me but to each her own!)

 

If you have bought a block of tofu, slice off two 1/2″ thick slabs, and slather them in the barbecue sauce. Heat up the grill to medium high heat and grease it with a little oil. Once the grill is piping hot, lay the tofu slabs on there and grill for about 10 minutes per side, or until you get those nice dark grill marks.  If you don’t have a grill, you can put them in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, turning once halfway through. I even make these in my toaster oven to keep the heat in the kitchen to a minimum.

While the tofu is cooking, get a big serving plate and spread out the arugula. On top of the arugula, sprinkle the basil, dill, green onions, and bell pepper evenly. Then, layer the strawberries and blue berries evenly. Do the same for the avocado and walnuts. I like to make a nice pattern and space everything out in an even, radial design. But, if you are not crazy like me and just throw everything on there, it will still be just as pretty, haha.

Finally, drizzle with the balsamic reduction and serve with the barbecued tofu slab on top. If you want you can slice the tofu up, which is what I did after taking the picture.

Happy Summer!

 

berry avocado summer salad (1)

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French Lentil, Arugula, and Avocado Salad with Pecan Pesto

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It’s Earth Day tomorrow! Well, really everyday is Earth Day am I right? Eh? But tomorrow’s the official one. My friends and I did a beach clean up this weekend, and tomorrow, I’m going to plant some herbs and vegetables in the yard. One of the easiest ways you can honor Earth Day is to try a plant-based diet, even if it’s just for the day.(Actually did you know that it’a also Earth Month? Just throwing that out there!)  Especially if you are in the drought-stricken state of California like me, it’s so important for us all to actively find solutions and make little sacrifices to better our environment. A salad is the perfect place to start.

To be honest, I stole this salad recipe from the Le Pain Quotidien menu, because I really loved the combination of ingredients, but I can make it at home for a whole lot less money. The thing I like about this salad is that it contains a couple things that I’m not generally fond of (radishes, fennel, yuck) but somehow when it’s all mixed together the flavors are fantastic! This salad has more than 12 different vegetables and herbs, so it’s a nutrient powerhouse. Plus the lentils contribute tons of protein, fiber, and iron.

I used a mandolin to slice the radishes, fennel, and cucumber into paper thin shavings, and I’d like to take a moment to remind you that cooking is dangerous! There’s fire, sharp objects, scalding oil– you have to be very careful. Or else, you end up like me and slice your finger open on the mandolin and have to prepare the rest of your meal with one hand. And type with one hand. And where a rubber glove to wash your hair. So yeah, don’t cut your fingers open like I do, it hurts a lot.

French Lentil, Arugula, and Avocado Salad

Makes 2 entree salads or 4 small salads

4 cups arugula

6 grape tomatoes, diced

4 tbs finely diced red bell pepper

3 green onions, sliced

1 sprig dill, finely chopped

1/3 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced

1 radish, thinly sliced

1/3 cucumber, thinly sliced

1 carrot, grated with a fine cheese grater

1 cup cooked French green lentils

1 avocado, sliced

Pecan Pesto Dressing:

1/3 cup raw pecans

1/2 cup first cold pressed olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

5 cloves garlic

a generous sprinkling of salt

1 bunch basil leaves

Combine all salad ingredients in a big bowl. Put all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. I sometimes replace half the oil with water, just to make it a little lighter, but the oil tastes richer, naturally. Poor the dressing on and toss. This would also be great with some toasted sunflower seeds on top. Happy Earth Day!

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The Cowboy Bowl

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This Tex-Mex chop salad creation with barbecue sauce is one of my all time favorites. I got the idea, oddly enough, from a tiny vegan Thai restaurant in West Hollywood called Vegan Glory. (That place is amazing by the way.) Since that would be like a 40 minute drive from my house, I decided I had to recreate it for myself. You can use Beyond Meat Chicken, or tempeh, or skip the faux meat altogether. Did you know barbecue sauce makes for an awesome salad dressing? It really does. Especially if you use homemade barbecue sauce. Below you will also find a recipe for fresh Pico De Gallo. 

The Cowboy Bowl

makes 2 servings

6 thin slices of white onion

a few strips of Beyond Meat Chicken, or a couple ounces of tempeh, chopped

1/2 cup + 2 tbs Barbecue Sauce

1 crisp romaine heart, finely shredded

1/2 c shredded green cabbage

1/2 of an avocado, sliced

1/2 cup black beans

1/3 cup organic corn (if frozen, just throw it in a bowl with some warm water while preparing everything else)

Pico de Gallo

2 tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup white onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 sprig cilantro, chopped

1/2 of a green jalapeno, minced

1 splash apple cider vinegar

a pinch of coriander

a pinch of salt

In a lightly oiled frying pan, add the white onions and cook over medium for a few minutes, flipping occasionally till they develop some good color and soften. Remove from pan and set aside. Toss your protein of choice in the 2 tbs of barbecue sauce.

Add the protein to the frying pan and cook over medium for a few minutes, until then are heated through. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine all of the Pico de Gallo ingredients and toss to combine. (you will probably have some left over after this.)

In big salad bowls, combine the shredded romaine and cabbage. (the finer the shred, the better.) Sprinkle on the black beans and corn, layer on the sliced avocados. Add the grilled onions and protein, and add a couple big scoops of Pico De Gallo on top. Top it off with the barbecue sauce for salad dressing and dig in!

Some other options might be: corn tortilla chips, some shredded almond cheese, pickled jalapenos, or a little hot sauce.

Winter Bliss Bowl

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Winter is coming. Brace yourselves!

Just kidding, it’s still 80 degrees here. But still, the holidays are coming. One of the reasons people tend to get the flu and gain weight around this time of year is that they turn to hot comfort foods as the weather cools. Not to mention the marathon of holiday feasts we lovingly prepare for eachother. This increase in warm bowls of steamy goodness correlates to a direct decrease in fresh, raw, nutrient-dense fruits and veggie consumption. While it’s natural and beneficial to adjust your food choices with the seasons, things can get out of hand- we’ve all been there!

This winter bliss bowl is just the thing to get you the cold-fighting nutrients your immune system craves, while filling that void in your soul that demands potatoes and biscuits and gravy. It comes together in less than 30 minutes, so it’s perfect for a weeknight dinner or a Thanksgiving side dish.  One serving is about 500 hearty calories, 12 grams of protein, and 9 grams of fiber.

Winter Bliss Bowl

makes 2 servings

1 small yam, chopped into little 1/4″ chunks

1 tbs olive oil

a pinch of salt, pepper, paprika, nutmeg, and cinnamon (tiny pinch)

4 big kale leaves, stemmed and julienned (about 3 cups)

2 dates, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup cooked tricolor quinoa

1/2 cup pine nuts

2 green onions, thinly sliced

4 tbs balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the chopped yam, 1 tbs olive oil and spices on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Set aside to cool while you chop everything else.

Combine the kale, dates, garlic, quinoa, pine nuts, and green onions, and baked yam in a big bowl and toss well. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and toss one more time.

For another cozy but healthy salad, try the Harvest Bliss Bowl!

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Tropical Bliss Bowl

Tropical Bliss Bowl

This is a spin off of the avocado mango salad that you can typically find at Thai or sometimes Japanese restaurants. This flavorful version offers a tropical twist with coconut quinoa and a vanilla champagne vinaigrette. I know vanilla sounds a little crazy, but give it a try, and tell me what you think!

Tropical Bliss Bowl

Makes one large serving

1 cup cooked quinoa

1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

dash of salt

1/2 vanilla bean pod (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

4 tbs champagne vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)

1 tbs first cold pressed olive oil

2 tsp agave nectar

1/2 mango, thinly sliced

1 avocado, thinly sliced

2 cups shredded kale (I used Trader Joe’s Cruciferous Crunch)

2 green onions, thinly sliced

2 tbs cucumber, cut into matchsticks

1 tsp raw sesame seeds

Toss the coconut oil with the warm cooked quinoa and a sprinkle of salt and put this at the bottom of your salad bowl. Next, in a small bowl, scrape out the tiny black seeds from half of a vanilla bean pod. Mix in the champagne vinegar, olive oil, and agave nectar. Taste it and adjust if necessary. In a medium bowl, combine the shredded kale, green onions, and cucumber, and toss with the dressing. Then lay this mixture on top of your quinoa. Finally, lay your slices of mango and avocado on top of the salad mixture in an alternating pattern. Finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. For a lighter salad, you can use butter lettuce instead of kale, and for a Caribbean spin, try adding some cooked black beans. I had a difficult mango so it’s not exactly the prettiest thing in the world, but I promise this flavor combo won’t let you down!

Rainbow Bliss Bowl

Rainbow Bliss Bowl

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day, a great day to taste the rainbow! This salad is fun to make, beautiful to look at, chalk full of healthy nutrients, and magically delicious. You can play with your food like me and make it into a rainbow as shown here, or you can just serve it as a traditional bliss bowl, with quinoa at the bottom and veggies tossed with the dressing on top. It’s pretty uncanny how much the maple-mustard dressing resembles a pot of gold isn’t it? I made the fluffy quinoa clouds by just piling up little tablespoons of cooked quinoa, but you could also make this dish completely raw and use cauliflower florets for clouds.

Rainbow Bliss Bowl

Serves 2 

1 cup of cooked quinoa (or raw cauliflower florets)

10 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 cup shredded carrot

1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced thinly

1 small avocado, sliced thinly

2 tbs roughly chopped cilantro

2tbs roughly chopped parsley

1/2 cup purple kale, sliced thinly

1/2 cup purple cabbage, thinly sliced

3 Tbs maple syrup

3 tbs stone ground mustard

Start by scooping little spoonfuls of your quinoa into a pile to form the clouds, then arrange your veggies in neat rows across the plate. In a small bowl, mix together the maple syrup and mustard to make the dressing. After marveling at your lovely creation, pour the dressing evenly over the veggies and dig in. Enjoy with a big mug of green beer. Cheers!

Pot of Gold

Harvest Bliss Bowl

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A good salad is a work of art. While I love a big green salad with every color of the raw rainbow, there is no reason why a salad can’t also be a rich and decadent comfort food, making you feel full and cozy on a cold day. The Harvest Bliss Bowl is just such a salad. With an array of textures and flavors, this sweet and savory bowl is like being wrapped in a warm blanket of yum.

Plus, I have a bonus tip for you about the beloved vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which we all know leads to stronger bones. It also helps prevent cancer, improves your immune system, and prevents aging. If you are eating a well rounded whole foods plant based diet, you are already on your way to having much stronger bones that your dairy drinking friends. Crazy you say? Actually the newest research on dairy has shown that it creates an acidic environment in the body. Your body does not want to be acidic, so it draws calcium OUT of your bones to neutralize the acidity. This is why osteoporosis is so much higher in regions around the world that depend heavily on dairy, like the UK and North America; whereas in places where they do not consume dairy, osteoporosis is almost non-existent. Think about who is telling you that milk ‘does a body good’, the company selling you milk? The government approved food pyramid created by representatives with ties to the dairy industry? Sorry to burst your yogurt bubble guys, but dairy is making swiss cheese out of your femurs.

Feel free to google it on your own. Here’s a  start.

Now back to that bonus tip I started to tell you about! We know that your body can create it’s own vitamin D just by getting a little sunshine, but guess what else does that? Mushrooms! If you leave 100 grams of fresh mushrooms out in a sunny spot, gills up, for 8 hours, they will increase there vitamin D content from 40 IU to 46ooo IU!!! Do you know what the average daily recommendation is? Only 800 IU a day! All the vitamin D you could ever ask for, just waiting to be activated in that cute little mushroom cap. This also means that leaving them out in the sun for even 10 minutes will give them a boost. And on top of that, mushrooms create an alkaline environment in your body, so not only do they not throw your PH off balance, they actually make it better!

I like to make all the parts of this salad ahead of time, then assembly is only a two minute process. This is great even if everything is served cold!

Harvest Bliss Bowl

Makes about 4 servings

for the quinoa:

2 cups vegetable broth

1 cup rinsed quinoa

Combine the quinoa and broth in a medium pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, cook for approx. 15 minutes. Fluff and set aside or refrigerate.

for the roasted veggies:

2 portobello mushroom caps (vitamin D turbo-charged preferred) cut into 1/2 inch cubes

8 ounces butternut squash, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

8 cloves garlic, cut in half

1/2 sweet vidalia onion, roughly quartered

3 tbs olive oil

1/2 tsp each of crushed dried rosemary, dried thyme, black pepper, dried oregano (or just a couple tsp of italian seasoning)

salt to taste

For the garlic croutons:

3 slices crusty bread, chopped into small cubes

1 tbs olive oil

a heavy sprinkle of garlic powder

for the roasted pecans:

1/2 cup raw pecans

2 tbs maple syrup,

salt to taste

1 tsp black pepper

Everything else:

3 cups of rocket arugula

2 tbs first cold pressed olive oil

a little squeeze of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

1 tbs balsamic vinegar reduction per portion, for drizzling (directions for reducing balsamic here.)

Assuming that you have already made your quinoa and it is waiting for you in the fridge, preheat the oven to 400. Toss all the roasting vegetables in a big bowl with the herbs, salt, and olive oil until evenly coated. Lay them out on a foil lined pan. The more you space them apart, the more they will caramelize, the more you cram them together, the more they will steam. I was in a hurry so I crammed, and they still came out great. Put the veggies in the oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, giving them a good stir every 10 minutes.

Reduce the oven temp to 375. In a small bowl toss all of the crouton ingredients until they are well coated. In a separate bowl, toss all your pecan ingredients until well coated. These can go in the oven together on separate sides of a big foil lined roasting pan to save you time. Check on them about every 3 minutes and give them a toss. Both of these items toast up fast and burn easily, so I just commit to standing there watching and tossing until they are perfect, about 8 minutes.

Finally, in another bowl, toss the arugula and oil and lemon juice until well coated.

To assemble, scoop a big pile of quinoa into the bottom of your salad bowl. Top with the arugula, and then scatter the roasted vegetables, pecans, and croutons on top. Drizzle with balsamic reduction or eat as is. Cozy and delicious!

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Sunny Curry Crunch Bliss Bowl

Sunny Curry Crunch Bliss Bowl

Do you like alliteration? Oh good, you do! Great, because just when you thought the title of this post couldn’t get any longer, I thought I’d share that the full description of this dish is the Sunny Curry Cruciferous Crunch Bliss Bowl, with Coconut Quinoa. And it’s C-C-Crazy good! I found a new salad mix at Trader Joe’s that I got probably way too excited about-  the Cruciferous Crunch mix. I was actually feeling silly for how pleased I was, but then the cashier at the register was like, ‘How exciting is this new salad mix?!’, and proceeded to tell me 3 different recipes he’s used it in so far, unsolicited. So at least I’m not completely alone in my enthusiasm. Thanks cashier guy. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, that’s fine, below I’ll tell you how to recreate it. The main thing I got excited about was the 20 minutes of chopping it saves me from. When you eat as much salad as I do, chopping is a big part of your life. This salad dressing is like a sweet and tangy cole slaw dressing, and the slaw part of this bowl itself would also be great in a raw wrap or in a pita.

Sunny Curry Crunch Bliss Bowl

Serves 2

1 cup quinoa, cooked

2 tbs coconut oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons tahini

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1 tablespoon curry

1.5 cups of Trader Joe’s Cruciferous Crunch Mix

or

2 brussel sprouts, finely shredded

1/2 cup kale, finely shredded

1/4 cup red cabbage finely shredded

1/4 cup green cabbage finely shredded

about 6 matchstick-size slices each of yellow and orange bell pepper

a sprinkle of raw sesame seeds

1 tbs hemp hearts (don’t leave home without ’em)

Gently heat the quinoa and coconut oil, either in the microwave or on the stove, just enough to melt the oil and warm it through. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir it up to evenly coat the quinoa with the oil. (I say gently because I think it’s wierd to have a piping hot ingredient under a purposefully cool/raw ingredient, but I do like it a little warm) Put this in the bottom of your salad bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix the tahini, vinegar, agave, and curry until well combined. then throw in all your shredded cruciferous veggies and toss to coat thoroughly. Put this on top of your quinoa.

Add the bell peppers and seeds, and voila! Curry coconut bliss.

Kale & Quinoa Bliss Bowl

kale & quinoa bliss bowl

I have a love affair with this particular salad from a little place here in Los Angeles called KindKreme. It’s the best salad that has ever lived. The only problem is that I cannot afford to eat it everyday, and yet I keep going back! So the only solution was to recreate it, and I think I got pretty darn close. I really wish I could get a better picture too, it’s so stunning in person! Now this salad is worth every penny I’ve been spending, because it is truly a labor of love. If you were making this for one night, I’m not going to lie, it would take an hour to throw together. It also seems like quite the unusual combination of ingredients on paper. BUT, my recipe below is something you can do at your leisure on a Sunday, and then you will have everything you need to make a fast five minute salad for the week. I know what I’m asking you to do, gamble away 5 days worth of lunches on the assumption that this is so good, you will want to eat it everyday? But trust me. I’m a professional. A professional salad eater. This salad will feel like the heartiest most flavorful meal you have ever eaten, it will keep you full for a good 6 hours (in a pleasant way, not like a pizza binge way) and yet, and YET, I have lost many a pound eating this salad every single day for a month, so really, it is pure bliss in a bowl.

Kale & Quinoa Bliss Bowl 

makes approximately 7 big bliss bowls

1 recipe for  Spicy Pesto Cashew Creme Dressing:

for the Quinoa:

4 cups water

a sprinkle of salt (to be added each time you make the salad, optional)

2 cups white quinoa (99% of the time I prefer red or tri-color quinoa, but for this, go white)

You know the drill quinoa lovers: rinse your quinoa in a sieve before hand, bring the water and quinoa to a boil in a pot, stir, cover, reduce to low, cook for 10-15 min. Fluff and set aside.

for the Pickled Veggies:

1 big mason jar

1/4 of a purple cabbage, shredded finely

1/2 c shredded carrots

5 parts apple cider vinegar to 1 part agave nectar

Now, these veggies will last you a long time (up to two weeks) and go great on a lot of things, so I’m going to let you choose your mason jar size, fill it about halfway with the vinegar/agave mixture, and then add your shredded veggies. Just make sure the veggies are completely covered. Give it a good shake and refrigerate overnight (or for an hour at least)

for Everything Else:

1 head of green kale

2 tbs olive oil

8 ounces marcona almonds (I like the ones with Rosemary from Trader Joe’s, the original salad uses sweetened almonds, so just find some fancy roasted almonds that make you happy)

1/2 thinly sliced red bell pepper

hemp seeds for sprinkling

Optional: drizzle of hot sauce, just a few dots

Ok, here we go: I like to start with warm quinoa, so if you are pulling it out of the fridge, start with about 1 cup of quinoa, give it a tiny sprinkle of salt, and heat it up, put this at the bottom of your salad bowl.

Next take about 2 kale leaves per bowl, destem, and massage the leaves with the olive oil. If you haven’t been massaging your kale, you have not been living!!! All you do is rub the olive oil onto your finger tips, then literally massage the leaves. You will see that they instantly turn a bright luscious green, as if they have just been steamed. This makes them 10 x easier and more enjoyable to eat, without losing any nutrients from actually steaming. Try it! Next, thinly slice the massaged kale into a thin chiffonade. Add this on top of the warm quinoa.

Now, sprinkle a few of the shredded pickled veggies on top, about 2 tbs. Then sprinkle on about 8 Marcona almonds, the red bell pepper, and a sprinkle of hemp seeds. Finish it off with a hefty drizzle of the Spicy Pesto Cashew Creme. Add a dash of hot sauce if you like.

The drizzled dressing looks very pretty, but another way to do this is to toss the kale with the dressing in a seperate bowl, to really coat every bit, then add it to the quinoa, then add the other ingredients on top.

I know that seemed like a lot, but I promise after the initial prep, you are only ever 5 minutes away from a complete bliss bowl.

Bon Appetit!