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I'm Crystal Vaughn

a classically trained chef taking holistic plant-based nutrition on a grand adventure through North America. When I’m not creating in our traveling kitchen, you can usually find me on my yoga mat or a hiking trail.

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Mar 15, 2016


Spring is almost here!  The clocks have sprung forward and the days are getting longer.  Our bodies are starting to feel the energy of the seasons changing.  

I don't know about you but I am already starting to crave brighter and lighter foods.  My lunches have turned from warm dishes and soups to fresh salads.  Do you feel it too?  This vegetable packed salad is a wonderful addition to your weekly menu!


There are so many variations of this salad as well.  Feel free to switch out any of the veggies or legumes (beans) to your favorite or with whatever you have on hand.  If you choose to go soy free, switch out the edamame with green peas or leave them out all together. You could add a south of the border twist by substituting black beans, corn, cilantro and avocado (which is super delicious, by the way).  Think of this as a template recipe with endless possibilities! 


If you have any questions about a certain ingredient, please let me know.  I am happy to help :)

Wishing you bright sunny days, 


Colorful Quinoa Salad
3 to 4 servings


1 cup quinoa, uncooked
1/2 cup edamame, shelled
1/2 red bell pepper, small dice
2 green onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced (or 6-8 baby carrots)
1/2 cups (1 can) chickpeas
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil


1. Cook quinoa according to package directions and set aside to cool.

2. Thaw or cook edamame for 5 minutes in simmering water to cover.  Drain and set aside.

3. In a large bowl add red bell pepper, green onions, carrots, chickpeas, parsley and cooled edamame.

4. In a small bowl mix together all ingredients except olive oil.  Once combined, slowly drizzle oil in while stirring.

5. Fluff quinoa and add to the bowl of vegetables.  Pour dressing over the top and stir until thoroughly combined.

6.  For best result let the salad sit for 30 minutes before consuming. 


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Thanksgiving is almost here!  I have one more dish that would be a great addition to your holiday menu (it would also work great for Christmas). 

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across some delicata squash at a farmers market in Berkeley Springs.  I usually can't find them locally so I was super excited to plan  a meal around them.  I think they have a milder less sweet taste than acorn or butternut squash.  Although, either of them could be substituted in the dish.  For a "Friendsgiving" potluck I made it with acorn squash and it was just as delicious.  The cook time was just a little longer.


What really gives this salad great texture is the candied pecans.  I like to make mine with a bit of a kick so I add cayenne.  This is one of the healthier and simpler recipes for candying nuts.  I always make extra so I can snack on them.


The pomegranate seeds and arugula really add a brightness that goes so well with the roasted squash.  I finish it all off with a maple mustard vinaigrette.  


Above, I served it alongside my Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts.  What healthy additions will you be adding to your Thanksgiving spread this year?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!


Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Pomegranate and Candied Pecans
Serves 4


1 cup pecans

1 tbsp maple syrup

1/4 tsp cayenne

2 delicata squash

1-2 tbsp olive oil

5 oz arugula

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

salt, to taste


1 tbsp dijon mustard (I prefer coarse ground)

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp Champagne or white wine vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup water

salt, to taste

pepper, fresh ground, to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Toss the pecans with the maple syrup, cayenne and a pinch of salt.  Spread out on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 12-14 minutes.  Until brown and crispy but be careful not to burn.  Once done, set aside to cool.

3. Turn oven to 400°.

4. Cut the squash in half, through the middle (not end to end).  Scoop out all the seeds.  Cut into 1/3 inch slices.

5. Layout slices on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

6. Bake for 25 minutes. 

7. Add all the dressing ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined.

8. After 25 minutes, pull the squash out of the oven and flip the slices.

9.  Return to oven for another 20 minutes or until both sides are browning nicely.

10. Toss arugula with 3 tbsp of the dressing.

11. Top the arugula with the squash, pomegranate seeds, pecans and another 3 tbsp of the dressing. 

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This week you are getting two recipes for the price of one (a.k.a. free).  Both recipes spotlight some of my favorite summer ingredients: watermelon, lime and mint.

First, we have a deliciously refreshing twist on the traditional caprese salad.  A watermelon caprese with tofu mozzarella in a lime-mint vinaigrette.  This is summer on a plate.

I was recently dining at my favorite little farm-to-table restaurant in Pittsburgh and a friend of mine ordered the watermelon salad.  I was pleasantly surprised at the flavor combination of the watermelon and tomatoes.  I thought it would also work wonderfully in a caprese style salad.

This salad comes together very easy.  You just slice the tomatoes, cut the watermelon, cut and ‘brine’ the tofu and mix up the dressing. 

It could be served many different ways.  As a stacked salad (like what I have done here), or just chop everything up and toss together, you could also put it on skewers for a nice little hor d’oeuvre.

Don't forget to check out the granita recipe below!

Watermelon Caprese in a Lime-Mint Vinaigrette
Serves 3 to 6 (meal or appetizer)


1 package tofu

1 tbsp lemon juice

2-3 cups of watermelon

2 large tomatoes (I used one red and one golden)

1 tbsp fresh mint, minced

Zest of 1 lime

Juice of 2 limes

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Arugula or other greens for serving

Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Cut tofu into slices of desired shape.  Cover with lemon juice and a generous pinch of salt.  Set aside for about 30 minutes.

2. Cut tomatoes and watermelon into desired shapes and sizes.  I recommend cutting the tofu, watermelon and tomato into similar sizes.

3. In a small bowl mix together fresh mint, lime zest, lime juice, white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.

4. Toss the arugula (or greens of choice) with about half of the vinaigrette and arrange at the bottom of the plate or bowl.

5. Next arrange the tofu, watermelon and tomatoes by either stacking them or tossing them all together.

6. Pour the remaining vinaigrette over the salad.  

The next recipe I want to share with you is kind of like a fresh snow cone.  Now do I have your attention?  It does take a little bit of time but the effort is minimal and it is totally worth it. 

This recipe uses some of the same ingredients highlighted in the caprese.  All you really need to do to make a granita is to blend all of your ingredients together (the watermelon, mint and lime juice), pour into a shallow dish and scrape with a fork every hour or so until frozen and a snow cone like texture is achieved.  Typically about 4 hours is enough.  Unless, you have added alcohol and then it takes a bit longer.  You may need to continue with the process for 5 or 6 hours.  I’ll save the cocktail recipes for a later date.  If you are interested in this version sooner rather than later please let me know in the comment section! 

I apologize if you received three different emails with the last newsletter.  I hope these two recipes make up for the Chantarelle Fricasée recipe stalking your inbox.

Watermelon Granita
Serves 4


6 or 7 cups of watermelon
1 lime
2 tbsp fresh mint, loosely packed


1. Zest the lime with a microplane or small grater.  Only zest the green part.  Then juice the lime.

2. In a blender, add watermelon, mint, lime juice and zest.  Blend until everything is very smooth and liquidy. 

3.  Pour into a shallow dish.  I used a 9x9 pyrex.  Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and put in the freezer.  

4. Check the granita at hour intervals (the first hour can be skipped because no a lot will happen that quickly).  Pull it out of the freezer, remove the cover and scrape with a fork.  Make sure you scrape all along the sides, since this is where it will freeze first.  

5. Return to freezer and repeat for about 4 hours or until there is no more liquid and it resembles a shaved ice.  

6. Serve in glasses or bowls with a sprig of mint on top.

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The information on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any health condition or disease. It does not replace medical advice from a licensed professional.