In my opinion, the best way to cleanse and detox the body is with plant-based (vegan) meals filled to the brim with fresh produce, whole grains, fiber and protein. This quinoa salad fits the bill, not to mention being outrageously delicious. The layers of flavors and textures in this salad will leave you feeling full, satisfied and energized. This salad is also mason jar friendly, making it a perfectly portable meal too!
My Mediterranean Quinoa Salad is packed with all things good and healthy. Protein-rich quinoa, fiber-filled chickpeas, quick pickled red onions, nutty asparagus and refreshing cucumber make up the bulk of the meal. The thick and creamy tahini sauce gets its bright green color from loads of kale and is flavored simply with garlic and lemon juice. This sauce is a flavor power house, but also also adds moisture and a nice creamy texture to the dish. Whenever I cook, I try to hit as many flavor and texture profiles as possible. That’s the secret to elevating healthy meals from blah to bravo!
Pretty much every single ingredient in this recipe is considered health supportive. Get to know some of them below before checking out the recipe. After all, understanding why something is healthy and beneficial is important to sustaining and loving a clean eating lifestyle.
Quinoa is an all-star in my mind because it’s one of a few grains considered to be a “complete protein.” This just means that quinoa (and other complete proteins) contains all nine essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Essential amino acids (EAA) are those that the body cannot produce on its own, and therefor must be ingested. Vegetarians and vegans can get all nine EAA’s by combining grains and produce, or by eating complete protein sources like quinoa.
Chickpeas are one of my favorite legume varieties. They are very versatile and fit into a variety of different cuisines. Chickpeas are rich in protein, fiber and other nutrients such as manganese. Protein is important because it’s the building block of muscles and organs in the body (including the brain and liver), and allows for a physically strong and fit body. Protein is also essential for important bodily functions such as metabolism, fighting off infections, and the creation of enzymes and hormones. Additionally, protein is also needed for proper brain function and clear thinking.
Lacinato Kale, my fave variety of kale, is a true superfood. While many people eat it these days because it’s become oh so trendy, kale is a staple in my diet and for good reason. Along with containing fiber and protein, kale contains generous amounts many nutrients including vitamins A, C & K, calcium, potassium, iron, copper and manganese. But my number one reason to love kale is due to its inflammatory properties. Excessive inflammation has been linked to a multitude of illnesses including some types of cancer. A diet rich in anti-inflammatories, like kale, can potentially reduce the risk of developing these illnesses. Antioxidants in kale also aid in protecting against illness. Kale is particularly rich in two important antioxidants, carotenoids and flavonoids. Both of which are associated with fighting illness and certain types of cancer. That’s pretty powerful stuff, right?
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Super Green Tahini Sauce
Servings: 4 Start to Finish: 30 minutes
1 cup dry quinoa (I used a white variety)
1 red onion
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
sea salt, fine grain
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (organic preferred)
1 bunch asparagus spears
1.5 teaspoons dried dill
For Super Green Tahini Sauce
1 bunch lacinato kale, woody stems discarded, leave roughly chopped
1 small clove garlic
1/2 cup tahini
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
3/4 teaspoon sea salt, fine grain (plus more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts, gently toasted (optional)
Cook quinoa according to package instructions. It should take about 20-25 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop red onion into a very small dice. Transfer to a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup red wine vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Allow to sit in fridge for about 15 minutes.
Peel the cucumber if desired. Cut in half length-wise. Scoop out seeds using a spoon. Chop cucumber into small-medium dice. Transfer to large mixing bowl. Add chickpeas to cucumbers.
Trim the ends of the asparagus spears. Cut each spear into 3-4 pieces. Set aside.
Make green tahini sauce. Add kale leaves to a food processor and process until broken down. Add all remaining sauce ingredients and process until smooth and creamy. Add more salt to taste (I added an extra 1/4 teaspoon).
When quinoa is finished cooking, remove from heat. Add asparagus to top of hot quinoa. Cover and steam for about 3 minutes. Transfer quinoa and asparagus to mixing bowl with cucumber and chickpeas. Add red onion and vinegar mixture. Add 1 teaspoons sea salt and dried dill. Stir to combine.
Serve quinoa with green tahini sauce. Garnish with pine nuts, if desired.
Truth – falafel is one of my all time favorite foods, it’s right up there with pizza & burritos. Falafel is a vegan & gluten-free crowd pleaser making it an easy choice for this healthy, plant-eating girl. So I obviously have my own version of falafels that’s quick & simple to make at home, and, not to mention, totally delicious & addictive.
To make my falafel patties, I blend soaked chickpeas with onion, garlic, cumin, parsley, paprika, salt & olive oil. No gluten, no eggs, no dairy. AMAZING! I pan fry them to get some good color on the outside and then finish them up in the oven for a no-fuss, no-vat-of-oil-needed rendition.
These guys are a great snack on their own or an epic meal stuffed into pitas with loads of fixings. They reheat beautifully and taste great cold so, you guessed it, meal prep friendly!
The falafels you get at restaurants are generally deep fried, so I love being able to control the quality and health-factor when making them at home. I use organic chickpeas & high-quality olive oil to make my falafels, and they’re honestly just as satisfying as the restaurant falafel patties.
I recommend whipping up some simple lemon tahini sauce for serving. Or an easy yogurt tzatziki sauce would be stellar too. Eat as sandwiches or pile onto lettuce for a more veg-heavy meal. There’s so much you can do with these guys, go for a double batch and thank me later.
Easy Falafel Patties
Serves: 4 Start to Finish: 30 minutes (not including soaking time)
1 cup dry garbanzo beans/chickpeas, soaked*
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small or 1/2 medium/large yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil, + more for browning
1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
1.5 teaspoons sea salt, fine grain
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup packed fresh parsley leaves (or 1.5 tablespoons dried parsley)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment.
Drain and rinse soaked beans. Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and process until a uniform batter is formed (it will still have a visibly grainy texture). Form the batter into 12 patties. It might seem very wet, but should still form into patties easily. You can refrigerate the batter or patties for a bit to make them easier to handle. I don’t find this necessary but I sometimes do it.
On a griddle pan or in a frying pan (cast iron recommended), heat a very thin layer of olive oil over medium-low heat. Fry patties for 3-5 minutes per side, or until golden and crisp. Cook patties in batches if needed, replacing oil between batches.
Transfer to oven and bake for 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees.
Serve the falafels on a salad or in a pita with sauces & toppings of choice. Need an idea? Check out this pita sandwich I made using this recipe!
To soak chickpeas either 1) soak in water over night in the fridge or 2) bring chickpeas and water to a boil, boil for 2 minutes, turn off heat, cover and soak for 1 hour. Drain soaking liquid off before cooking with the chickpeas.
Side note, these patties reheat really well. But I often eat them cold anyway, so reheating after the fridge is definitely not necessary.
I recently tried forming 4 burger size patties instead of 12 smaller ones, and it was great (much less work)! Bake them for 12-15 minutes instead of 8-10 after browning.