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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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Our final explorations in Newfoundland took us south to Blow Me Down.  Interesting name, I know.  It was nice to see the sun and feel some warmth after the chilliness of the Northern Peninsula.  We stayed right off of the Bay of Islands and were impressed by the diverse landscapes of this province.  We hiked to bays, waterfalls and overlooks, we had a silly photo shoot at dusk on a nearby beach and took lots of panoramic photos because the regular frame just wasn't doing the landscape justice.  These were the last few days Walker (one of my brother-in-laws) would be spending with us before we took the ferry back over to the mainland and he flew home from Nova Scotia.  It was so wonderful having the company and getting to share this amazing place with him.  

Adventure on,





































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Bringing mindfulness into our day is very important to our health and wellness.  Today, I am starting a new monthly series where we will discuss different habits you can add to your daily routine.  Dinacharya, the Ayurvedic tradition of daily routine is one of the best ways to establish a healthy life.  At first, it was my plan to give you five of my daily wellness routines at once but I have found the best way to add these into your day is one at a time.  So we will start with a simple yet very important one.

Drink water upon waking up.

It is pretty much as easy as that.  There are a couple guidelines I hope you will follow but it is still pretty darn simple.  One of the best ways to do this (and help turn this into a habit) is to fill up an extra glass of water (about 16 oz.) and put it on your nightstand.  When you wake up, drink it.  You could also drink warm water and add up to half a squeezed lemon.  Just make sure the water is no cooler than room temperature, as that will freeze up your system instead of getting things flowing as explained below.

This is one of the best ways to hydrate after (hopefully) 8 hours of sleep.  It gets your digestive system up and running for the day, it helps your bowels start moving and pretty much everything in your body gets the benefit of a quick rehydration first thing in the morning. 

Staying hydrated even keeps your metabolism and hunger in check.  When your body is properly hydrated, you have less cravings and don't tend to overeat.  Not only are your organs happy but your waistline with thank you too.  As this flushes toxins out of your body, it helps keep your skin clear and hydrated as well.  Sounds like a win-win-win to me!

This week my challenge to you is to start your morning with a big glass of water before you do anything else.  Help bounce back from the dehydration that sets in after a night of sleep.  Don't stop here; keep the water flowing the rest of the day.  Typically, you want to drink half your weight in ounces (i.e. a 150 lb. person should be drinking around 75 oz. of water daily).

Over the next month commit to making this part of your daily routine.  I would love to hear any of the benefits you are experiencing!  Come back to this post and leave a comment below!

Water is life,


Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day and at last we cannot break it.  -Horace Mann

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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.