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  • All Hail (Vegan) Ceasar Salad

    The sun is shining! I have cacao nibs! And the confectionery course I help coordinate (woo spring break!) is over! Now, to just get through the 2-week one in July, do my research, write my thesis and graduate by December....check! No paper cuts, coffee burns or spills were had, so life is good. Know what else is good? Warmer weather, and this salad. And chocolate. But maybe not chocolate on this salad, but for sure for dessert (because hey, you had salad!). I just saw this bar at my local grocery last night, and *almost* got it...but then remember my bag of chocolate bars that my lovely, kind, caring boyfriend got me for valentines. 

    Anyways, this salald! This salad is perfect for well, anything. You can prepare everything the day before for easy day-of prep. I bet the Easter bunny would have liked it. You would think it would be heavy with the creamy cashew base, but using a generous hand with the lemon cuts the richness so well. The "parmesan" sprinkle is not to be omitted-it adds the perfect amount of salty-nutty factor. The original recipe hailed from a beloved cookbook, and used almonds for the dressing. I tinkered with it, and came up with this. To my delight, the author also posted a very similar recipe. Delish. I have brought it to several family gatherings (with people who are non-vegans, including dairy farmers!), and everyone loves it. Even the meat eating farm boys liked the kale. I was impressed and proud.  

    This salad is excellent with just about any sort of salad fixin'. I have made homemade, spicy croutons and tossed them in classic Caesar salad-style, but then experimented with making tofu "croutons" (i.e. firm tofu that has been pressed, and then tossed in coconut oil, sea salt, cracked pepper and garlic powder, then pan-seared in a hot-hot cast iron skillet). Oh my...so delicious both ways! And if you're not into tofu or bread crumbs, then toast some chickpeas (see how to below!) I love this salad with salty kalmata or salt-cured olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrot strips. But, red pepper, thinly sliced onions, marinated tempeh, roasted squash, zucchini, roasted sweet potato...etc would all be welcome addtions. Yes, not traiditonal, but really...we're already making Caeasar vegan, so you might as well go with it. In fact, make a salad bar out of it, and choose your own toppings! Take THAT, Whole Foods!

    Notes:

    The dressing as written is perfect, however, I have had mighty success with adding 1 whole head of roasted garlic (how to roast garlic: preheat oven to 400F, cut the top of a head of garlic to expose a bit of each clove, drizzel with olive oil, wrap in tin foil and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until golden and tender. Cool a bit, then squeeze the entire bulb and the roasted cloves into the blender). I have also added a few tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley after blending; a few teaspoons of fresh or dried dill after blending is great, too. Try dipping fresh veggies into extra dressing, or make this dressing soley for dipping raw veggies in. Think of it as a vegan, more awesome Ranch-y dressing...

    To make this soy-free, omit tofu. To make this gluten-free, use GF bread to make croutons. To make this paleo, use the crispy tofu or chickpea option. 

    How to roast chickpeas: Preheat oven to 400F. drain and rinse 1 15oz can of chickpeas, and dry thoroughly on paper or kitchen towels. Place on a baking tray (lined or unlined), and drizzle 1 tsp of coconut or olive oil, and sprinkle 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp garlic powder and 1/8 tsp cayenne. Bake for 15 minutes, shake the pan around, then bake for another 10-15 minutes until crispy. Toss in the salad at the last minute to maintain optimal cripsy factor. To store, place completely cooled chickpeas in an air-tight container (they may get a bit un-crispy, so beware. Re-crisp by popping into a warm oven for a few minutes on a baking tray.).



    Vegan Caesar Salad // serves 4 as an entree, or 8-10 as a side salad // Vegan, Gluten-Free Option, Soy-Free Option, Sugar-Free, Paleo option //

    Dressing:

    • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight if using a conventional blender
    • 2-4 TB fresh lemon juice, to taste
    • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic 
    • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
    • 2 tsp dijon mustard
    • 2 tsp tamari, organic soy sauce, or vegan worstershershire 
    • 1 TB nutritional yeast
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • freshly cracked black pepper to taste 
    • 2-4 TB water if needed to thin to help blend
    • Fresh parsley, chives, dill or dried dill, if desired

    Nutty "Parmesan" Sprinkle

    • 1/4 cup almonds, pecans or cashews, or a mix thereof
    • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
    • 2 TB sesame seeds
    • 1 TB hemp seeds (optional)
    • 1/2-1 tsp salt (to taste)
    • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

    Salad:

    • 6-8 cups romaine, washed, dried and chopped into bite-sized pieces
    • 6-8 cups kale of any variety, washed, dried and cut into thin ribbons
    • grated carrots, sliced cucumbers, kalmata or salt-cured olives, cherry/grape tomatoes, or any other vegetable desired

    Optional Add-Ins:

    1. Prepare the dressing by adding all the ingredients in a blender. Taste for seasonings, and adjust as desired. Stir in any fresh or dried herbs, do not blend as they will lose their potency and may become bitter. Store dressing in a glass jar or container.

    2. Chop any vegetables for the salad. 

    2. Make the nutty parmesan sprinkle, simply combine allthe ingredients into a food processor and process until finely chopped. If ambitious, toast the nuts and seeds in a shallow skillet until lightly brown and fragrant, then process them. Store in an container or jar with lid. 

    3. Add the greens to a large bowl, and add in desired vegetables, a good sprinkle of the parmesan, and any optional add-ins. Drizzle dressing over, and toss. Serve with extra parmesan, and more cracked black pepper if desired. Since the greens in this salad are pretty hefty, you may let the salad sit for up to 30 minutes to help tenderize the kale. Be sure to toss in any crispy components (tofu, croutons, chickpeas) at the last moment to retain crunch.



    Everything all ready to go. You can pre-assemble for easy smaller salads, or just make one big-ass salad and enjoy! 

    The crunchy veg in here is so refreshing...add what you like! I really love cucumbers and tomatoes (uhh, especially summer-sun ripened tomatoes! Can't waaait!).

    You can use any of your favorite greens here, but I like the heartier ones for this salad. Lacinato kale and romaine are below, all washed, sliced/chopped into thin ribbons, and ready to be dressed-up. It is kind of like salad prom...right?! Chopping the leaves into thin ribbons is key for optimal dressing-coating, as well as chewing the heartier leaves of kale. But, if you like larger chunks, than do your thang! 

    The salad, all ready to be devoured! This is the entire thing, all tossed together, with extra nutty parmesan and cracked black pepper on top. Take note that I let this sit for 10-15 minutes to help the dressing tenderize the kale leaves, but toss in the crispy chickpeas, croutons and tofu at the last minute to help retain crispness. PS: it was really sunny at my Mom's house when I took this pic! And, love that bowl set...my Mom re-finished this set years ago, and I remember her using it when I was little for salads. I only now appreciate how awesome this type of salad set really is!

    Super delicious salad for all...it is only right. Also, my Mom kills it with the festive table cloths. Always. Love her for that!This is the salad, only with the croutons I mentioned above, from Thanksgiving last year. It was devoured by the dairy-lovin' family I have. So really, if this salad is approved by dairy farmers in Wisconsin, you have to trust that it tastes pretty damn good. Go get some!!

  • Blueberry Chia "Jam" Bars

    Well, it is sleeting here in Madison. Our deck is covered with ice. My plans to do my 7 mile long run this morning are out the window. I am comforting myself with a nice pot of french press, and some toast with peanut butter and my grandma's strawberry jam from this past summer. I know it is simple, but hands down one of my favorite breakfasts. Bitter, strong coffee with slightly sweet and very crunchy toast. That breakfast got me through my undergraduate years. But note: I am still sold on smoothies for my AM meal and probably will be for a long, long time. But hey...like I said...it is cold, sleeting and I needed some comfort!

    And these bars...these bars are also very simple and comforting (read: perfect for rainy-day in March Sunday baking). Jammy and crumble-y....I think I shall call them Jumble Bars. They are very flexible, so please try using any fruit you'd like for the filling. I have had success with blueberries, strawberry and rhubarb, and frozen strawberries. So really, they are perfect: simple, comforting, flexible. Oh, and they are also not too bad on the health factor either! Packing in loads of oats (both rolled and flour!), almond meal (gives the top crumbles mega-crunch!), ground flax, whole fruit and chia seeds. If that wouldn't make a hippy-dippy food lover smile, I just don't know what will. I used coconut sugar and honey for these, but please feel free to use agave or maple syrup, and sucanant/brown sugar. And yes, I am aware that since I used honey, my bars are not 100% vegan, but you all know my stance on that (if you don't, head over the The Bee's Knees). 'Nuff said. 

    The recipe was a combination of two that I have been playing around with for a few months now (one is here, the other here). Last summer, I used strawberries and rhubarb without chia seeds to thicken; the first time I made them, I used strawberries for the jam as prescribed with chia seeds. Both delicious...but here is the current version, and the tastiest to date. Perfect for breakfast, snacking or warmed for dessert (with a dollop of coconut whipped cream!). Cheers to sleet...I mean, spring in Wisconsin...

    Note: I use "jam" to denote that although stewed fruits fortified with a bit of sugar and scented with vanilla and lemon, also thickened with technically form of carbohydrate (fiber from the chia seeds), the filling is NOT a true jam. Picky?? Yes. But for the sake of my grandmother and a dear cousin's sanity, we must not confuse these two equally delicious fruit-laden treats.



    Oat Crumble Bars with Blueberry Chia "Jam" (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free) // makes 16 small bars, or 12 larger bars 

    The Oat Base and Crumble:

    • 2 cups rolled oats
    • 1/2 cup oat flour (or 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour, but this negates the gluten-free claim)
    • 1 cup almond meal or flour (or finely ground almonds)
    • 1 TB ground flax
    • 1/4 cup honey, agave or maple syrup
    • 1 TB coconut sugar or sucanant
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/3 cup melted virgin coconut oil (or Earth Balance in a pinch, or a 50:50 blend of coconut:EB)
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • heaped 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

    The Blueberry Chia "Jam":

    • 3 cups frozen or fresh blueberries (or fruit of choice)
    • 2 TB chia seeds
    • 2-4 TB honey, agave or maple syrup
    • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
    • zest of 1 small-medium lemon
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8"x8" or 9"x9" square pan with parchment (I did two strips, overlapping). These bars could be difficult to remove without the parchment, so I highly recommend!

    2. Make the jam by combining all the ingredients except the vanilla, lemon juice and zest in a medium pan. Bring to a good simmer, then turn down and cook until thick-about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally, don't let it burn to the bottom of the pan! Take off the heat, and allow to cool a touch before adding the vanilla, lemon juice and zest. Set aside to cool.

    3. In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, oat flour, almond flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, coconut sugar and baking soda. Whisk to combine thoroughly. In a separate bowl, add the melted coconut oil, water, vanilla extract, and honey/agave/maple syrup. Whisk to combine. Add the wet mixture to the dry, and mix until all incorporated. The batter will be sticky, so have no fear!

    4. In the prepared pan, pat 2/3 of the mixture down. I used a spoon to help get into the corners, as well as wet hands to help reduce the sticky-factor. Pressing down firmly is crucial to have the bars stick together. 

    5. Spread the cool jam evenly over the entire base. Crumble over the remaining 1/3 of the oat mixture, and gently press into the filling. Bake for 25-32 minutes, or until golden brown. 

    6. Allow the bars to cool completely. You can even store them overnight in the fridge if desired. Take the bars out of the pan by grabbing onto the parchment. Cut into squares and enjoy! Store in a container with a lid in the fridge for up to 5 days, or in the freezer. 



    The "Jam":

    The jam all cozy with the oat base:

    Spread the jam into the corners for maximum jammy-oat ratio in the bars:

    The bars, ready to bake. The crumble situtation is real here...

    The struggle to not pick all the crunchy crumble bits off these out of the oven is also real....

    The bars in their chunky, jammy glory. My hand was so twitchy with excitement, I couldn't hold my camera still. Blurry Blueberry Bars. Still delicious. Go get em'!!