Vegan Caesar Salad with “Parmesan”

img_4436Nine days vegan thus far, and I am not missing the meat, poultry, eggs or dairy just yet. I won’t say that I haven’t thought about them. Images of the forbidden foods seem to come bubbling up from my subconscious saying, “Oh hey. What about me?”  The strangest thing is they’re foods that I haven’t eaten in years: English-style halibut and chips, hot dogs, pastrami on rye…

I’ve noticed a small drop in weight, although still fluctuating. In this late summer heat wave, I can’t seem to find the right balance between salting the garden tomatoes and drinking enough water to flush the salt, which may be the problem.

The most fun has been exploring vegan cookbooks and blogs and watching how a familiar omnivore recipe becomes 100 per cent plant-based with just a few alterations. Caesar salad sprinkled with parmesan is a favourite around here , so thought I’d give it a whirl.

I tweaked a wonderful recipe for vegan Caesar dressing, croutons and parmesan from Vanilla and Bean. Their salad is kale-based, while I stuck with the traditional romaine. It’s pretty garlicky, but astounding how much this tastes like a “regular” Caesar salad. The capers stand in for anchovies and of course, the cashews add the creamy texture.

Caesar Dressing (For about 1 1/2 C)
  • 3/4 C Raw Cashews, soaked in water at least 1 hour but as long as overnight, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 C  Water
  • 2 Tbs Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2-3 Large Cloves of Garlic depending on how garlicky you like it
  • 2 Tbs Capers
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 + 1/8 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Vegan Parmesan (3/4 C )
  • 1/2 C  Raw Cashews
  • 2 Tbs Nutritional Yeast
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
Croutons
  • 2 slices whole-grain bread, any kind
  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder or 1 small clove crushed in garlic press
  • Pinch of dried oregano, thyme and basil
Salad
  • 1 large head of romaine
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
  • lemon wedges
METHOD
For the Dressing:
  1. In a high-speed blender, add the soaked and drained cashews, water, lemon juice, garlic, capers, pepper and salt. Start to puree on low, then increase speed to high for 30-45 seconds, until mixture is smooth.
  2. With blender on low speed, slowly pour in the olive oil until all ingredients are creamy. Adjust salt and pepper if necessary.
  3. Store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving so it can chill, develop and thicken. If the dressing is too thick, add 1 tsp of water at a time, by whisking in until desired consistency is reached.
For the Parmesan:
  1. To a bowl of a food processor, add the cashews, nutritional yeast, salt and garlic powder. Pulse ingredients until a fine meal consistency is reached.
For the Croutons:
  1. Dice the slices of bread into small crouton-sized squares
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized sauté pan
  3. When hot, put the croutons in the pan and sprinkle with garlic and all of the spices
  4. Gently toss with wooden spoon and keep stirring the croutons around until they are crispy and toasted on the outside
  5. Sprinkle a little of the parmesan before removing from heat
For the Salad:
  1. Wash, spin dry and tear the romaine leaves into bite-sized pieces
  2. Place lettuce and sliced red onions into a large salad bowl
  3. Toss with at least 3 Tbsp dressing, more if you prefer more dressing on your caesar. (NB: Leftover dressing can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. It’s also delicious as a veggie dip, or even in veggie sandwiches or wraps.)
  4. Sprinkle with at least 2 Tbsp parmesan cheese, again, more if you prefer (NB: leftover parmesan can be stored in a tightly-closed jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.)
  5. Toss in toasted croutons
  6. Add freshly ground salt or pepper to taste
  7. Serve with a lemon wedge on the side

 

 

 

Corn, Tomato, Avocado Salad

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I just stumbled upon this combination. So simple, yet so delicious.

CORN, TOMATO & AVOCADO SALAD

INGREDIENTS

2 large or 4 very small tomatoes, diced

2 ears of corn, boiled and cooled

1 avocado, diced

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Drizzle of agave or maple syrup

Salt, pepper to taste

METHOD

In a large bowl, add diced tomatoes.

Cut kernels off corn and add to the bowl.

Add diced avocado

Add lime, syrup, cilantro, salt and pepper

Mix well.

 

Eating exclusively plant-based for 365 days

Fruits And Vegetables in wooden box

Welcome to my vegan experiment of one year. The goal is to eat nothing but plant-based (preferably whole) food for 365 days starting September 1, 2016, aka my 53rd birthday. Why this? Why now?

I have been toying with vegetarianism, veganism and raw eating for the last several years. I love to cook, love to eat, love to experiment. I love animals and can’t bear the idea of cruel and inhumane factory farms. I understand there are many health benefits of eating this way and this is my main motivation.

Until now, I have been a hard-core carnivore. My Polish heritage ensured that growing up I had my share of pork chops and braised beef, schnitzel and roast chicken. A meal wasn’t a meal without a starch: bread, rice, potatoes or dumplings plus some sort of vegetable or salad and the main feature – the meat dish. Open-faced sandwiches of cold cuts on buttered rye bread topped with cheese, slabs of garden tomato and diced green onion graced the table when unexpected guests arrived. Pierogi smothered in fried onions and bits of fried bacon were the norm. Antipasto platters of more cheese and various deli meats and breads appeared at any family gathering. For barbecues and picnics, the meat on the grill was the star.

Eating this way coupled with aging saw my weight creep up higher and horrifically higher and higher still. My doctor started warning me about high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and high triglycerides (the bad fat) and I saw more and more belly fat – I am the unfortunate “apple shape” that has to worry about things like metabolic syndrome. I entered a pre-diabetic zone and like my mother before me, developed atrial fibrillation.

Enough! Right?

Bolstered by watching documentaries like FAT, SICK AND NEARLY DEAD , FORKS OVER KNIVES and many others, I started incorporating more plant-based foods into the menu. Now I’m ready to go whole hog, so to speak, and give up all meat, poultry, fish, dairy and other animal products including honey. Vegan it is – although plant-based seems less militant a label if we must label at all.

I hope to chronicle the journey here. I’m sure it won’t be easy, but I hope it will be interesting.  Stay tuned.