Chinese Chick’n Salad: A Flavor Explosion

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Sometimes you get a very serious craving and nothing else can get done until it’s satisfied. That happened to me with this Chinese Chick’n salad. Whether you chose to use faux chicken, some sesame baked tofu, or no protein at all, the salad itself also shines bright all on its own. I just love Gardein crispy tenders. They are like crack. Trader Joe’s makes a version of them as well. What can I say, I’m a sucker for vegan junk food.

I swapped out the traditional romaine for lacinato kale to give it some richer color and a formidable CRUNCH! The great thing about this salad as well, is that it holds up in the fridge, even if it’s already been dressed. This makes it a great leftovers-for-lunch-the-next-day meal. It’s also quick to throw together. And since we already have the faux chicken strips, this salad needed some healthy upgrades to off-set the greasy breaded tenders. This updated version of the salad gets a lot of added pizazz with a generous amount of fresh herbs. Gone are the canned syrup-soaked mandarin oranges and deep fried wonton strips. In their place we have fresh tangerine segments and crushed peanuts. Spicy, cool, nutty, crunchy, tangy, sweet, and refreshing, try the flavor explosion for yourself!

Chinese Chick’n Salad: A Flavor Explosion

Makes about 4 servings

1/2 head of green cabbage, finely shredded

10 leaves of lacinato kale, stems removed and finely shredded

1 cup shredded carrots

1 bunch cilantro, stems removed and leaves chopped (about 12 sprigs)

1 bunch mint, stems removed and leaves chopped (about 12 sprigs)

1/2 bell, finely chopped

1/2 cup peanuts, crushed

12 gardein crispy tenders, or protein of your choice

1-2 tangerines, peeled and sectioned

Chinese Chick’n Salad Dressing:

1/3 cup rice vinegar

2.5 tbs peanut butter

2 tsp hot sesame oil

2.5 tb agave

1 tb coconut oil

Cook the Gardein strips according to the package. I put mine on a foil lined pan in the toaster oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Toss all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine thoroughly. Taste it and adjust any flavors as needed. Pour the sauce over the salad and toss really well. The salad will shrink a bit in size as you toss so don’t worry if it seems like a huge amount of veggies when you start!

Once cooked, slice up the chicken strips.

To serve, put a big heap of salad on each plate. Top with chicken strips and tangerine segments. Sprinkle the crushed peanuts on top. DIG IN!

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Berry and Avocado Summer Salad with Barbecued Tofu

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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!

 

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Spicy Basil Mango Dressing

IMG_4271Happy Earth Day! This seemed like a good day to end my 6 month blog hiatus. I had been working very long hours on a TV show that took all of my time and creative energy, and now that the season has ended, I am finding so much joy in coming back to my happy place- the kitchen! Now I can resume experimenting with and sharing all the yummy food with you guys that I can. Today I even planted an herb garden in my kitchen window box, so I am ready to jump back in.

I’ve seen a lot of mango dressings floating around Instagram and could never really imagine if it would be good or not, I always thought it sounded too sweet or odd on a salad. Yet now I can say that this is my new all time favorite dressing. Better than my beloved pesto or curry sauce even. The flavor is HUGE, bringing your salad to life with sweet, spicy, garlicky goodness. Not only is it delicious but this dressing is like a magic health elixir- with all raw ingredients, turmeric, lemon, garlic, the digestive enzymes of the mango- it’s incredibly good for your body! I poured this mango dressing over a big rainbow salad of arugula, diced tomatoes, shredded carrot, diced yellow bell pepper, micro-greens, and avocado with crushed almonds. Amazing!

Spicy Basil Mango Dressing

Makes about 4 servings

1 whole peeled and seeded mango, cut into chunks

4 tbs tahini

juice from 1/2 lemon

1 tb minced jalapeno

6 big basil leaves

1 tb fresh raw ginger

1 tb fresh raw turmeric

1 tb fresh raw garlic (about 2 cloves)

3 tbs of balsamic vinegar

pinch of salt

Throw everything in a blender and process until smooth! You don’t really need to pre-chop anything, just peel and break off knobs of the turmeric and ginger and toss them right in. Keeps in the fridge for about 5 days.

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Caprese Salad with Avocado and Tofu Mozzarella

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I have really been in the mood for a Caprese salad lately, but I wasn’t quite sure how to replace the mozzarella. After a little research, I found the ‘tofu method’ that others have used, and very skeptically went about marinating my tofu. I was surprised and delighted to find that it is a darn close match in flavor and texture! This salad is so basic and simple, a nice cool treat on a hot summer night. And why the addition of avocado? Just ‘cuz.

Caprese Salad with Avocado

serves 2 as side salads

1/4 block of tofu

1/4 cup olive oil + 3 tbs 

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper

1/2 tsp oregano

1 big tomato

1/2 avocado

6 basil leaves, chopped

3 tbs balsamic vinegar

Slice the tofu into 1/4 thick slices. Combine the oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and oregano in a bowl and toss the tofu in it to marinate. Let it sit for about 1 hour or overnight in the fridge.

Slice the tomato and avocado and layer them one at a time with the tofu.

Top with the chopped basil leaves and drizzle with oil and vinegar. IMG_5096

Rainbow Crunch Asian Slaw

rainbow crunch raw slaw

As the weather heats up, I always start to crave raw food. Something light, crunchy, and flavorful that comes together easily without bustling around in a hot kitchen. This slaw has it all, protein, fiber, anti-oxidants, sweet and spicy flavors, and a nice big crunch. It’s also mayo-free so it’s less fattening and can survive a cook out a bit longer than most cole slaws. It’s great to make ahead of time and have ready for lunch everyday, or bring it to your next barbecue to add some color to the table.

Rainbow Crunch Asian Slaw

Makes 8 servings

2 cups purple cabbage, shredded

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup shelled edamame (optional)

1 bunch chives, minced

1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 serrano pepper, minced

1 fresh organic ear of corn, shucked and cut off the cob

Dressing:

1/2 cup white rice vinegar

1/4 cup raw agave

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp dijon mustard

2 tbs chili sesame oil

2 tbs soy sauce or nama shoyu or coconut aminos

1 tsp sesame seeds

optional: add some crushed peanuts on top

Note: A mandolin helps shred the cabbage and carrots in seconds. Combine all the slaw ingredients in one big mixing bowl. Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Then mix them together to thoroughly coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

This goes well with a big teriyaki grilled tofu steak! You can also use the dressing ingredients for any asian salad or even as a marinade!

Cowboy Caviar

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Most likely, you have heard of this recipe before. It is the easiest thing to throw together for a summer potluck or barbecue! You can eat it ‘as is’, like a salad, or use it as a dip with tortilla chips, or even pile it ontp a burger. It keeps well in the fridge for several days and has an awesomely fresh Tex-Mex flavor. If you are not going to serve it right away, wait until the last minute to stir in the avocado. Most recipes for Cowboy Caviar call for olive oil and vinegar, but I think the lime juice and avocado provide just the right amount of tangy-fatness, without overpowering the other lovely flavors.

Cowboy Caviar

Makes 6 servings

1 can black beans, rinsed

1.5 cup organic corn

3 green onions, thinly sliced

5 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 red bell pepper, minced

1 jalapeno, minced

3 sprigs of cilantro, chopped

Juice of 3 limes

1 tsp coriander

Salt and pepper

1 avocado, diced

Combine everything in a big bowl. If you are not serving immediately, skip the avocado until serving time. When serving, I like to mash half the avocado and toss all the other ingredients with it thoroughly, then dice the other half and gently fold it in. You can turn any leftovers into chimichangas 😉

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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.

B.L.A.T. Salad

B.L.A.T. Salad

Behold, a truly awesome, delicious salad! I have taken the last month off from blogging, both for the holidays and to just relax my mind a bit, but I knew when I made this that it would be the perfect recipe to kick off the new year! The flavor dynamics of a B.L.T. are pretty flawless. I think we can all agree on that. But if you are trying to live a healthier life and tackle some resolutions, whether it be low cholesterol, paleo, vegan, high raw, or low calorie, that traditional sandwich is not going to do you any favors. But it tastes so good! That’s where this salad comes in. All the amazing flavor, none of the meat sweats. Plus I’m sure you will find plenty of other uses for the delicious portobello bacon.

I always like to make about 10 resolutions every year, that way if even 3 of them stick, I’ll have made a lot more progress than if I had just made 1 resolution. 2014 was hands down the best and busiest year of my whole life, so I think my resolution strategy worked pretty well. Last year I traveled a lot (Nicaragua, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina, New York) I volunteered at the farm sanctuary and fostered and re-homed a bunch of stray kittens. I explored my city like never before, and worked out more that 2012 and 2013 combined!

This year I have intentions to build on last year: I want to work out even more, (more yoga and hiking!) I hope to learn a couple musical instruments. I want to travel and see more live music. I want to donate all my unnecessary stuff and feel more organized. I want to be kinder and more patient with loved ones and strangers. I want to save money and grow some plants. I want to tackle what I call: Laundry Mountain (a project that I hope to accomplish by 2017 haha) And as always, I want to make and share as much vibrant, cruelty-free, delicious food as possible! Those are just a few of the top items on my list. So far, so good! What are your intentions for the year? I hope you had some great holiday family time, and are starting 2015 with a bang!

B.L.A.T. Salad

makes 2 servings

2 portobello mushroom caps

2 tablespoon virgin coconut oil or first cold pressed olive oil or

1.5 tbs coconut sugar (or brown sugar, or 2 tbs maple syrup)

1 tsp black pepper

1 tbs mesquite salt (or bacon salt, yes it’s vegan!)

a tiny pinch of garlic powder

1/2 tsp paprika (for color)

1 head of romaine

2 roma tomatoes

1 avocado

2 tbs thinly sliced red onion

1/2 cup pesto

more black pepper

Scrape out most of the gills from the mushrooms, it’s ok to leave a bit of the darker stuff behind, it even makes it look more bacon-like when it’s cooked, just scrape away 3/4 of gills. Remove stems and cut into very thin (1/4″-1/8″) slices, like bacon.

Spread the sliced mushrooms out in a big shallow bowl and drizzle evenly with the oil, then sprinkle on the sugar and spices. Use your hands to gently rub the marinade in there. You will see the paprika turn the mushrooms into a deep rich red. If you taste it, it should be overwhelmingly salty and smoky and sweet (the flavors dull a bit when cooking so you really want to coat these slices in a greasy spice crust.)

For raw ‘bacon’: set your dehydrator to 115 degrees and lay them on a dehydrator rack, dehydrate about 8 hours.

For baked ‘bacon’ (bakon?): preheat your oven for 350 degrees and lay the mushrooms on a lightly greased pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, turning once. It’s ok if the get a tiny bit burnt around the edges, it really contributes to the authentic flavor. Allow to cool about 10 minutes, as this helps it set and get a bit crunchier.

Meanwhile, finely shred your romaine lettuce.

Dice the tomatoes and avocados and combine with the lettuce and sliced onions. Then drizzle with some pesto.

Chop the bacon and sprinkle it on top. Sprinkle some more pepper on top and serve immediately. Tossing is recommended, but it looks prettier right before you toss it. 🙂

Option: for a different dressing idea: combine 4 tbs of maple syrup, 4 tbs mustard, 2 tbs of vegan mayo (like Just Mayo or Veganaise) and 1 tbs apple cider vinegar. Or dare I say, use BOTH of these dressings together. Throw on some croutons for a truly authentic and deconstructed B.L.A.T.

Dig in!

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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!