farro & cauliflower salad with orange vinaigrette

Is it normal to get this excited about a salad?

Nope, I didn't think so. Especially when there isn't bread or pasta or even avocado in it. This is just a good, healthy, green salad that's ridiculously tasty, even more insanely simple to make and, best of all, solves the issue of what you're going to have for lunch tomorrow, especially if you're working.

This recipe was created out of shear necessity. I make an effort to bring my lunch with me to work four out of five days a week since eating out in San Francisco is incredibly expensive. But bringing lunch with you to work can be a seriously negative experience from beginning to end. First you have to decide what you want to make. Which, let me just stop right there, can already feel like the worst when you just want to make something easy and familiar but the thought of having that same boring salad one more time makes you want to scream. Okay. A bit dramatic but unfortunately a reality sometimes.

Then you have to grocery shop, make the recipe, put in in your tupperware and hope that it tastes good the next day. Alright, so I can't really get you out of grocery shopping or preparing your lunch but this recipe sure does help with every other step because it's not your same old boring salad, it's easy to make, easy to transport, tastes great the next day (when salad dressing is stored separately) and is insanely delicious. Oh, and it's healthy and full of plant-based goodness so it won't make you feel sleepy or weighed down in the afternoon.

Here's why exactly this is the best salad ever: the base is peppery arugula (full of iron), then we add crunchy cauliflower florets (detoxing with antioxidants), nutty farro (fiber and protein), kidney beans (heart healthy) and salty sunflower seeds (copper and vitamins). Then everything gets mixed in a bright orange vinaigrette that's literally just two ingredients. Just make sure you store the vinaigrette in a separate container and dress right before serving.

A quick note on farro in case you're unfamiliar with it: Farro is a wheat grain prepared similarly to pasta and is available as either quick cook or regular (both are fine for this recipe).  It's full of fiber, protein, calcium and iron. You can find it at any grocery store likely near the quinoa, pasta or rice. Let me know if you have any questions!

Ingredients (Serves 2):
 - A few big handfuls of arugula
- 1 cup cooked farro
- 1 cup kidney beans
- 1 cup cauliflower florets
- 4 tablespoons roasted & salted sunflower seeds

- Juice of one large orange
- 3 tablespoons olive oil

1. For the dressing: Add ingredients to a small bowl and whisk with salt and pepper.
2. Toss all salad ingredients in a large bowl with salad dressing,  top with another sprinkle of sunflower seeds if desired.

chocolate avocado pudding with coconut whipped cream

Chocolate and avocado. Sold? I thought so. Think I'm weird? Keep reading.

I'm posted this as a bit of a present to myself because birthday is today! Yay 26! Well, kind of... When it comes to birthdays, I'm not typically of the, "getting older sucks" mindset. Instead, I try to be thankful for all the good things that happened in the previous year and celebrate the year to come. But 26 is more of a challenge since, instead of being marked by being able to buy a lottery ticket, drink legally or even rent a car, it means being kicked off your parents health insurance and having to pay for your own. Yayy adulthood.

Aside from that, I am looking forward to celebrating tonight at Shizen, a vegan sushi restaurant in the mission district with my boyfriend, Jack. I'm seriously obsessed with this place and if any of you are local to the Bay Area, or visit San Francisco, you definitely need to go there. Shizen hands down has the most creative and delicious vegan food of any restaurant I've ever been to. I'm already dreaming of their spicy ramen (with a vegan egg!), specialty rolls with ingredients like smoked beets and pumpkin tempura and fresh fruit cocktails. Tonight can't get here soon enough.

The reasons why this post is a birthday present to myself are two fold. One is because this is my very first dessert post on S&S, and I felt it was fitting for that to fall on today. The other is because I've been super excited to share this recipe with you all. It's as close to perfection as you get. It's rich and decadent but still dense in nutrients. No really! Avocados are extremely heart healthy, chocolate provides tons of antioxidants and walnuts are full of anti-inflammatory Omega-3's.

Healthy, meet Dessert.

Just to clarify, you're only going to taste chocolaty goodness here,  not any flavor from the avocado, which is just added to create that creamy, rich texture that makes this so decadent.

Also, if you've never tried coconut whipped cream before, your life is about to change forever. It's literally the most creamy, airy, magnificent concoction ever invented. When it's paired with this rich, chocolate pudding its absolute heaven. And, in my opinion, the date-walnut spread is a must since it adds a whole other level of natural sweetness to the mix. And don't forget to sprinkle some chopped walnuts and cocoa nibs on top at the end for that much needed crunch.

Side note: I don't bake all that often so, up until recently, I didn't own any kind of electric mixer. Growing up, my mom always used one of the KitchenAid standing mixers that comes in a rainbow of colors. One day I hope to own one but for now I needed something that wouldn't break the bank or take up much space in my tiny apartment, so I bought this KitchenAid Hand Mixer. It was a great price, had tons of positive reviews and was from a reputable brand. Since I've become addicted to coconut whipped cream, I've used it dozens of times and it always gets the job done. If you're looking for a mixer too, I definitely recommend it.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see! Tag #sprinklesandsaturdays so I can find it.

Ingredients (serves 6):
 For the Pudding:
- 2 large avocados
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup maple syrup (or more depending on desired sweetness)
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)

For the Coconut Whipped Cream (Optional):
- 1 can full fat coconut milk, chilled in the refrigerator over night
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the Date-Walnut Spread (Optional):
- 6 medjool dates, pitted
- 1/2 cup walnuts

To Top it Off (Optional):
- Chopped walnuts
- Cocoa nibs (or vegan chocolate chips)

1. To make the pudding: Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth, adding more almond milk if needed. Divide between small bowls or cups and cover with plastic wrap (pressing it down to make sure the puddings don't form a skin). Chill for a few hours or overnight.

2. To make the walnut-date spread: Soak dates in 2/3 cup warm water for 10 minutes to soften. Add to a food processor or blender with your walnuts and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.

4. To make the coconut whipped cream: Chill your can of coconut milk in the fridge over night. Make sure not to tip or shake the can; we do this so the cream will separate from the milk. When you're ready to whip, chill a large mixing bowl in the fridge for 10 minutes. Open the can of coconut milk and scrap the cream off the top, reserving the liquid on the bottom for smoothies, etc. Place the cream in your bowl and beat with a mixer for a few seconds until smooth. Add vanilla and powdered sugar and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes.

4. To assemble: Remove the pudding from the fridge and top with whipped cream, date-walnut spread, chopped walnuts and cocoa nibs. Enjoy immediately or store in the fridge for up to a few days.

spring pea & edamame toast

I've fit all the best parts of spring on this delicious piece of toast.

Bright green protein-packed peas and edamame, salty kalamata olives, crisp radishes, hot red pepper flakes, refreshing mint and energizing lime together create such a yummy ode to spring, you're going to want to crunch into this toast right through summer.

Warmer weather begs for a meal that's quick, easy and doesn't heat up your kitchen. It' also got to fill you up without weighing you down, because we've all got some serious adventures to get to this time of year. This toast requires nothing more than a whirl of ingredients in your food processor and a bit of prep for toppings; then you're off to the beach, a picnic in the park or afternoon hike.

Aside from the deliciousness, gorgeous colors and simplicity of this toast, it's also super energizing and will make you feel incredible. Although I've been a vegetarian for nearly 20 years, I only recently learned about the amazing health benefits of peas. Each cup has 8.5 grams of protein, which is more than twice as much as a tablespoon of peanut butter, and 9 grams of fiber. Peas are also rich in Vitamin B and C, which provide even more energy, and are full of iron. There's a reason pea protein powder has been on the rise, and eating peas that haven't processed is even better.

As if that wasn't enough, edamame is also a nutritional powerhouse, that's full of protein, fiber and antioxidants. So basically you can just laugh at anyone who asks you, "Where are you getting your protein?" Alongside my antioxidants, thank you very much.

I'd also like to note that I don't include exact measurements in this recipe excluding the pea and edamame purée. Toast is the epitome of relaxed, casual dining and I like for the prep to reflect that as well. Just grab a large loaf of fresh bread, add the pea and edamame purée, toss on as much of each topping as you want and enjoy.

- whole wheat bread, toasted
- 1 1/2 cups of fresh or frozen peas, thawed
- 1 cup edamame, shelled
- 1/2 cup lightly packed mint, plus more for garnish
- 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 limes
- Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
- Radishes, thinly sliced
- Red pepper flakes

- Add peas, edamame, mint, nutritional yeast, juice of one lime, salt and pepper to a food processor. Pulse a couple times until a rough purée forms that isn't completely smooth.
- Top toast with pea and edamame purée, then olives, radishes, mint, red pepper flakes and finish with a generous squeeze of lime.

chia-oat power breakfast bars

Before getting to these amazing little chia powerhouse bars, I want to share something with you all.

Last Wednesday night, exhausted after a long day, I was just sitting down to my dinner of leftovers when I got a text from my brother-in-law, "So what's going on the blog for Cinco De Mayo tomorrow?"

Cue feelings of guilt. "Nothing :(" I replied. I hadn't had time to create or shoot any new recipes recently so nothing would be going on the blog that week. How had I not made time to prepare a Cinco De Mayo recipe? No one is going to continue reading your blog if you're not consistently posting each week. Think of all the blogs that post five times a week or more, and you can't even handle once a week?

And on and on the self bashing went.

This thought pattern has been a common occurrence for me recently. My blog is relatively new and I'm struggling a bit to strike that balance between working hard and still having fun. But in this instance, I finally decided that enough was enough. I realized that I was trying my best, and that's what mattered most. Even at my best, I might not be able to post a recipe each and every week, and that's okay. What's really important is why I started this blog in the first place - my love for cooking and to spread the word about plant-based food. So I've decided to give myself a break and reconnect with my passion, rather than focusing on self imposed obligations.

I'm on this tangent sharing this with you all because I know most of you are bloggers as well, and I'm wondering if you can relate. Blogger or not, I imagine all of us feel at times like no matter what we do, it's never enough, its just that none of us are talking about it, right? I hope that if you're feeling the same way, you'll join me in ignoring self doubt and celebrating your accomplishments for once - I think we owe it to ourselves.

Now, if I may direct your attention to something else that needs celebrating: these delicious chia-oat power breakfast bars. Granola bars are such an easy grab and go option for breakfast, but so many of the ones you find at the grocery store are either full of sugar and preservatives or crazy expensive. These bars have very minimal sugar, are gluten-free and filled with protein, fiber and vitamin packed chia seeds, one of the healthiest foods in the world (no joke). They also take hardly any time to make and can be stored in the refrigerator and enjoyed throughout the week. Definitely give them a try the next time you're looking for something simple and easy to energize your morning.

And just a quick thank you to all of you for bearing with me during these growing pains; it really does mean so much to me that you all are following along. As I continue to get the hang of it, I intend to post a new recipe regularly every Thursday, and eventually grow to posting multiple times a week!

- 4 tablespoons chia seeds + 1/2 cup water (for the chia egg)
- 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons almond butter
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup (or more if you would like it sweeter)
- 7 medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
- 2/3 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
- 2/3 cup almonds, roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover an 8 inch square baking dish with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray.
2. Combine the chia seeds and water in a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. They will gel together and form your chia egg.
3. Add the oats, almond flour, baking powder and salt to a large bowl and mix. Stir in the almond butter, maple syrup, chia egg and an additional 1/2 cup of water. Then add the chopped dates, cherries and almonds.
4. Spread mixture evenly in the baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing into bars.

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