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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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Spring has arrived!  It's warming up quickly here in Texas and salads are about to make a more frequent appearance at our dinner table.  The day I first created this salad, I was craving something green but still wanted something hardy. 

To be honest, I don't really appreciate salads for a main course.  It takes a special salad to make it to the dinner menu without a follow up entree but this salad works great as a meal.  With the addition of quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, toasted pecans, dried figs and mandarin oranges it packs a lot of texture and flavor that will actually fill you up.  Other wonderful additions are avocado, dairy-free nut cheese, or some grilled halloumi, a sheep's milk cheese from Cyprus.

After coming up with this recipe, we had this for dinner three times the first week, not to mention the leftovers I was eating for lunch.  I even made a big bowl of it with grilled halloumi for our neighbors who just had a baby.


If you'd like to check out two rules I follow for kale salads and my Roasted Mushroom Kale Salad, check out this post.

In my opinion, kale really needs to be paired with a creamy dressing that can hold up to this super green.  By blending the dried figs into the dressing it gives it a nice rich and creamy texture.  I also like to start by giving the kale a nice massage.  I know, it sounds silly but it really makes a difference.  After the kale is washed, dried and chopped, throw it in a bowl and (with clean hands) spend a minute pressing the leaves in your hands.

You can make this salad with many variations, feel free to switch out the fruit, nuts or omit what you don't have.  I do suggest you give this dressing a try though.  You may even want to double the recipe so you have leftovers!

See you next week,


Kale and Quinoa Salad with Creamy Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette
Makes two large salads


1 small sweet potato, peeled (optional) and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup quinoa
1/3 cup pecans
1 large head of kale (the lacinato variety is my fave)
6 to 8 dried black mission figs, ends trimmed and roughly chopped
1 madarin orange, peeled and separated into sections
olive oil
3 dried black mission figs, ends trimmed and soaked
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar*
1/4 tsp dried Italian seasonings
3 tbsp olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 375° and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

2. Toss the sweet potato with salt, pepper and enough olive oil to coat.  Spread out on sheet pan and place it in the oven.  Bake for around 25 minutes until the sweet potato can be pierced with a fork and it is starting to brown.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

3. As the sweet potato roasts cook the quinoa according to package directions.  Typically bring the quinoa and 1/2 cup or water to a boil, turn to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

4. Add the pecans to a small saute pan and heat over medium-low.  Stir frequently and watch closely.  Remove from heat once they are lightly brown and aromatic.

5. Clean and dry the kale leaves, remove the thick tough part of the stems, chop into 1/2 inch ribbons and if the leaves are wide, also do a couple lengthwise chops.  Place the kale in a large bowl and using your hands massage and press the leaves for one minute.

6. For the dressing:  drain the soaked figs and add them to a small blender (I use a nutribullet) with mustard, balsamic vinegar, Italian seasonings, olive oil, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of water.  Blend.  If it is too thick, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water at a time until desired consistency is reached.  I like mine thin enough to easily toss but still with a nice creamy mouthfeel. 

7. Toss the kale with the quinoa and dressing.  Start with about 2/3rds of the dressing and see if you want to add more.

8. Plate the kale and quinoa mixture, top with sweet potato, pecans, figs and mandarins.

Notes: *I like to use a good quality balsamic that is thick and not watery for this dish.  It gives the dressing a better flavor and texture.

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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.