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alex thomopoulos

Healthy Salad with Pesto Salmon, Toasted Quinoa & Avocado

If you follow me on instagram, you know that I post a ton of salad pictures. As a private chef in LA, I am always asked to make a “big healthy salad” for lunch for my clients. It’s up to me to create unique, healthy and satisfying salads that leave my guests full and happy. I like posting pictures of the salads I create not only to create a drooling affect for the people who follow me but also to inspire them to think outside of the salad box.

I usually don’t post the recipes for my salad creations mainly because I am too lazy. Usually I just throw together whatever I find freshest at the market and it works. Most of the recipes live in my brain, but decided to do my best to recreate this salad I made the other day. Writing this recipe inspired me to start writing things down, and sharing them with all of you. I think it’s important to be able to have an arsenal of healthy delicious recipes in your back pocket:) Here is the first one:)…I am going to stop posting smiling faces now.

:) ….okay maybe one more.

Recipe note: the pesto recipe is for a big batch of pesto, it keeps for about a week in the fridge, or 6-8 months in the freezer.

Pesto Salmon Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette with Toasted Quinoa and Avocado

(serves 4)
  • Four 5-ounce center cut salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)
  • 1 avocado
  • 6 cups assorted lettuce (romaine, arugula, spring mix etc)
  • salt and pepper
  • For the Pesto:
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley (about 2 cups)
  • 1 bunch basil (about 3 cups)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • For the Salad Dressing:
  • 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, finely minced.
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • For the Quinoa:
  • ½ cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and pepper

  1. For the Pesto: In a food processor, add parsley, basil, garlic, lemon and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse until the herbs and garlic are finely chopped. Turn the processor on and slowly stream in the olive oil. Run the machine until all the ingredients come emulsify.
  2. For the dressing: Whisk lemon juice, Dijon mustard, vinegar and shallot in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. For the Quinoa: In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and water and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook until all the water has been absorbed. Then spread on a baking sheet to cool. In a small skillet over medium-low heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and quinoa, stirring frequently, until it’s crunchy and starts to pop. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Set aside. (sometimes I will add a few teaspoons of pesto into the quinoa as well for extra basil flavor)
  4. For the Salmon:Bring the salmon to room temperature 10 minutes before cooking.
  5. Sprinkle the salmon with some sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Raise the heat to medium-high. Place the salmon, skin side down, cook until golden brown and crispy, about 4 minutes. Turn the fish over with a spatula and cook until it feels firm to the touch, about 3 minutes more. Set aside and assemble salad.
  6. Assembly: In a large mixing bowl combine lettuce, dressing and sprinkle w a touch of salt and pepper. Divide amongst 4 plates. Sprinkle the tops of salad with toasted quinoa. Add salmon on top, spoon pesto on top of salmon and place slices of avocado accordingly. Drizzle with reduced balsamic vinegar if you would like

Gluten Free Baked Chicken Tenders

I don’t care if you are 5 or 50, everyone loves a good chicken tender….unless your a vegan and in that case I am sorry for you in general, because chicken tenders are freakin’ delicious.

Traditional chicken tenders are breaded and deep fried, and obviously contain gluten. 3 strikes little bueno. This recipe is so easy to make and a much healthier way to enjoy one of the greatest culinary treats on this planet of ours.



I first came up with this recipe when I had to make up a salad recipe that kids would want to eat. You can check out that recipe here. Word to parents out there if you want your kids to eat anything, just put chicken tenders in/on it and watch the wonderment.

Crispy, crunchy and so freeeeeeaking good. Dunked in mountains spicy ketchup, to me there is not greater treat. I am 27 and I literally eat these guys once a week….with a glass of wine of course because I am an adult.

Gluten Free Baked Chicken Tenders

(serves 4)

For the Chicken Tenders: 1 pound organic chicken tenders 2 eggs 2 tablespoons milk (dairy free substitute works great too) 2 cups unsweetened rice cereal (I used Chex) ½ teaspoon dried oregano ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon paprika 1 teaspoon garlic powder ½ teaspoon onion powder

  1. Preheat oven to 475. In a Ziploc bag, place rice cereal, oregano, salt, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder. Seal the top, making sure there is no air left in the bag. Using a meat mallet or a small frying pan, gently crush the cereal until fine. This can also be done in a food processor or blender. Set aside

    In a medium bowl combine eggs and milk and whisk together. Salt and pepper the chicken tenders, then one by one dip them into egg wash and then place in bag with rice cereal. Shake to coat. Remove tender and place on a baking sheet that has been greased. Repeat process. Once all the tenders have been coated spray or lightly coat the tops of them with a little cooking oil

    Place baked tenders into oven for 8-10 minutes. The outsides should be crispy and light brown. If they aren’t cook them for another 2-4 minutes. Pull out of oven and dig in!

Monsoon Black-Eyed Pea Curry

I am a cookbook junkie. I have more cookbooks than I do shoes and I would have it no other way. The beautiful Aarti Sequiera wrote a beautiful cookbook called ‘Aarti Paarti: An American Kitchen with an Indian Soul’. This is a book filled with incredible Indian and Middle Eastern recipes that you can tell are deeply close to Aarti’s heart.


Fun, light, engaging and scrumptious is how I would describe this book. It’s filled with stories that transport you to different places around the world which makes the recipes that much more special. I felt connected to this dish after I read Aarti’s description at the top of the recipe. (see below)

I chose to recreate Aarti’s Monsoon Black-Eyed Pea Curry, which is a tomato and coconut milk based curry. I added a few ingredients to the dish, like thai chili and spinach. I am a chili junkie and love some good heat, but you can omit the chili if you’d like. I also added a couple handfuls of spinach at the end because I had some extra in the fridge and thought “why not?”. I couldn’t get my hands on curry leaves, so I left them out and the flavor was still delicious. I can’t even imagine the flavor explosion that would have occurred had I put them in…a girl can dream. I am pretty sure you can order curry leaves online or at a local ethnic foods market. Curry leaves or not I cannot rave enough about this dish. It was creamy, hearty, complex in flavor and best of all it cost less than $10 to make. On top of all that goodness it’s gluten free, dairy free, nut free and vegan! I mean…come on. (if I had the fist bump emoji on my computer I totally would put it in here). I served mine over rice and I am still dreaming about it.


Make sure you go and grab Aarti’s new book for more delicious recipes.