Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Caesar

Friends, it’s recipe time! At a barbecue last weekend—to which I had brought one amazing, reliable salad—I was reminded how much I love cooking and sharing recipes. Several non-vegan people have asked me for this one, so I’m taking the opportunity to create a post!

I adapted this salad from the original recipe, which I found in America’s Test Kitchen’s Vegan for Everybody cookbook. If you have not gotten your hands on this book yet, I highly recommend it—absolutely everything is spot-on and delicious! That said, I’m not much of a recipe follower, so once I had the gist of the ingredients for the dressing, I made this sucker my own. You should feel free to experiment with ratios until you find your favorite version.

There are a couple of ingredients you might not yet have in your fridge, but once you make this recipe, you’ll have them handy for next time. What follows is one of our family’s go-to weeknight dinners. It’s not low-fat, but it’s full of veggies!

Caesar 2.jpg

Crowd-Pleasing Caesar Salad

Serves 4 as an entree.

1 14-oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1/3 cup (or so) olive oil

1 lb. kale, shredded (do this yourself with a knife or food processor, or buy it already shredded)

1/3 cup vegan mayo (the best kind is Just Mayo, but Trader Joe’s vegan mayo works too)

1 Tbsp capers, drained

Juice of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or more if you like it really tangy)

1 Tbsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp vegan worcestershire

2-3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (depending on how much you like the nootch)

1 tsp black pepper

salt, garlic powder

1 8-oz package tempeh, cut into strips or chunks

2-3 Tbsp of your favorite BBQ sauce

  1. Start your garbanzo bean croutons. Heat 2-3 T of olive oil in a cast-iron pan and add the drained beans. Make sure they’re all touching the surface of the pan (a 10” pan should be plenty). Turn heat down to medium and gently balance a lid over 2/3 of the pan—that’s enough coverage to keep popping beans from flying at your face, while not accidentally steaming the beans (which would turn them to mush). If you have one of those neat mesh pan covers, that would be ideal. Throughout the rest of the prep, occasionally toss the beans around with a spatula, and add a drizzle of oil here and there.

  2. Soak your kale in a bowl of hot tap water. This will take the raw bite out of it without cooking it. I do my soaking in a salad spinner so I can go right to drying it off when the soaking is done. Leave the kale in the water while you make your dressing.

  3. In a blender, add all of the rest of the ingredients, mayo through pepper. Blend until just smooth, then drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil into the blender while it is running, blending for just another 30 seconds or so. Blend in a few tablespoons of water if your dressing seems too thick.

  4. Rinse your kale under cold water to stop the wilting, then dry your kale in your salad spinner or by laying it between layers of clean towels. Once it’s mostly dry, combine with your dressing in a very large bowl. Put this large bowl in the fridge and let it sit while you finish off your beans.

  5. Add a generous amount of salt and garlic powder to your beans and continue cooking and tossing until they start to get golden brown and crispy. Taste a couple of times and add more salt if needed. Do not cover the beans or attempt to store them until they are completely cool or they’ll lose their crunch.

  6. While the beans finish cooking, start your tempeh. Brown both sides of the tempeh pieces in a dry or lightly oiled pan—this should only take about one minute per side. Toss with BBQ sauce and set aside.

  7. Time to put it all together! Grab your giant bowl of salad from the fridge, serve in large individual salad bowls, then have each person add the crispy garbanzos and BBQ tempeh.


Options:

  • If you prefer romaine lettuce over kale, you can sub chopped romaine and skip the soaking bit—you want your romaine crispy! A combo of the two greens works well, too.

  • A soy-free option: Skip the tempeh and toss some quinoa on top instead during Step 7—super delicious with a lighter feel.

  • A lower-fat version: Skip the olive oil in the dressing and replace it with water. The dressing will be a bit lighter and less viscous, but still very tasty!

Caesar.jpg

Easing in with an Easy Recipe (and an Injury Update)

I've been away for a while!  As it turns out, having a stress fracture--and therefore not being allowed to run for months--did not result in me spending all that extra free time writing for the blog.  Instead, I've worked a bunch, enjoyed a busy holiday with the family, and performed in a musical (which is something I do sometimes!).  My stupid metatarsal is taking its sweet time getting back to normal. I blame the kids, of course (shhh, don't tell them).  Not being able to truly stay off my feet has taken its toll, even with the walking boot that I was rocking for 2 months.

As spring approaches and I ease my way back into running, I'm also easing/barreling my way back into the wellness-focused life I'd been living.  Yes, I know it's "wellness-focused" to take necessary time off for physical therapy, but in the moment it just feels like one big couch-bound Netflix marathon.  In the vein of easing, I tried an amazingly easy recipe yesterday that turned out to be AMAZING.

 This beautiful image--not mine--clicks through to the source site--OhMyVeggies.com

This beautiful image--not mine--clicks through to the source site--OhMyVeggies.com

As it turns out, I made a couple of tweaks to the original recipe, but they were minor:

  • I pureed 2 cups of canned corn kernels into the soup, and added 2 cups of frozen corn kernels at the end for texture.
  • I slow cooked on low (in my new Instant Pot!) for 10 hours, but the potatoes were still not tender enough for my immersion blender, so I pressure cooked the soup for 15 minutes before pureeing,  If you're using a regular slow cooker, just give it more time or cook it on high instead.
  • The only toppings I needed were some toasted and crushed corn tortillas and a ridiculous amount of avocado, but Wife stirred a load of sour cream into hers and loved it.
  • Bonus: turns out toddlers love this soup.

Next up:

  • I'm hoping to be cleared to try running on the ground soon.  I've only run in the Alter-G treadmill (which is this amazing anti-gravity thing), and I'm starting to work out on an elliptical and stair climber, but I'm itching to get back on the trails.
  • As my show closes and I have more time for cooking actual meals--much to my family's delight--I'll be messing around with (and sharing) more recipes!
  • I'll be sharing my 2017 race plan as soon as I have more info on my foot.  2017 is supposed to be Year of the Triathlon!

Soup (and Injury) Weather

Bad news first:  I'm injured.  I'm hoping to find out this week if it's a stress fracture or something called metatarsalgia, but the gist is that my left foot is killing me and I haven't been able to run.  That I have ants in my pants is an understatement.  I am just grateful that this happened after all my summer races.  Time to start swimming again!

Good news: This means more time to cook and blog about recipes!  Fantastic timing, too, because cold weather means the oven can be on in the evening and I can get more creative with dinners.  First up: my easy-peasy, go-to, crowd-pleasing Italian Soup.

 Don't pictures of big pots of simmering soup make you feel all warm and cozy?  Also, I failed to take a photo of an appetizingly artful bowl of soup, so this is what you get.

Don't pictures of big pots of simmering soup make you feel all warm and cozy?  Also, I failed to take a photo of an appetizingly artful bowl of soup, so this is what you get.

15-Minute Italian Soup

1 yellow onion, diced small

2 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 carrots, sliced thinly

1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans (or 1.5 cups cooked beans)

4 cups vegetable broth (I like the Imagine Organic Low-Sodium variety)

1 large (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes - ideally San Marzano, but any will work

2 cups chopped kale, spinach, or other greens

Oregano, salt, pepper to taste

  1. Heat a large soup pot with cooking spray or a tiny bit of olive oil.  Add onions, garlic, and carrots, and cook over medium heat until the onions soften.  Add a splash of water as needed to prevent sticking.
  2. Toss in your drained and rinsed garbanzo beans and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add broth, tomatoes, and spices.  (Go easy on the salt, as tomatoes and broth usually have quite a bit of salt already.)  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer for at least 10 minutes.  The key is to let your carrots get soft--any additional simmer time just deepens the flavor.
  4. Add your greens with a good stir when you've got 5 - 10 minutes of simmer time remaining.  Kale and other hardy greens hold up better than spinach if you plan to leave the soup simmering for a while.  
  5. Optional: add 1/4 cup of orzo pasta to the pot once you bring it to a boil, and allow to simmer at least as long as the package's recommended cooking time.  Makes it a bit heartier.  You can also cook the soup without the pasta on night one, then turn the leftovers into a pasta dish for night two--just serve over cooked pasta or heat the soup in a pot and cook your pasta right in the soup (adding a bit of water if necessary).

That's it!  So easy.  

Some serving ideas from our house: I will steal a couple of spoonfuls of this soup from the pot to serve over pasta for the kiddos--they don't really do soup.  My wife adds shaved parmesan to her bowl.  I love this soup served with a giant hunk of garlic bread.

PS - Speaking of garlic bread and not being able to run through the holiday binge fest, stay tuned for a future post on cutting flours out of my diet.  Yikes.

 

 

Summer Snacks & Simplicity

Where does the time go?  As if it weren't scary enough to be careening at breakneck pace toward my 40s, next week is JULY, people.  That means I'm just a week from being able to say that my ultra is a mere two months of insufficient training away.  It is with this terrifying knowledge (and stunning lack of time) that I'm desperately trying to simplify where I can, while also attempting to knock off a few pounds before my training mileage really starts increasing.  With that, I give you two embarrassingly easy snacks-slash-meals that will likely be in heavy rotation over the coming weeks.

Cait's Basic Fruit Salad

1 pint strawberries

2 large bananas

1 - 2 juicy peaches (as juicy as you can find)

1/2 cup+ fresh blueberries (for me, this is as many blueberries as I have the patience to pick from our backyard bushes)

Sprinkling of chopped nuts (I like walnuts for this)

1. Cut everything except the bananas into smaller-than-bite-sized pieces.

2. Combine everything but the bananas in a bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Refrigerate your (whole) bananas during this time, too.

3. Just before eating, slice your bananas and mix them into the bowl.  Sprinkle with nuts and serve!

 

Smoky Brussels Sprouts

 Best consumed outside in the sunshine

Best consumed outside in the sunshine

1 bag small-ish frozen* Brussels sprouts

1 tsp olive oil (optional), plus a dash of salt & pepper

1/4 cup prepared tahini sauce - or tahini mixed with lemon, garlic, and salt to taste

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp chipotle powder, or to taste

1. Preheat oven to 475.  While the oven is heating, toss frozen sprouts in a bowl with the oil and salt & pepper.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment (optional but recommended), spread the sprouts evenly on the sheet, and pop into the preheated oven.

3. Start checking on your sprouts after 15 minutes, and check tenderness with a fork every 5 minutes or so.  You want them just tender with a bit of charring on the outer leaves.

4. While your sprouts are cooking, mix tahini sauce, vinegar, and chipotle into a deliciously smoky sauce.  I like mine thin enough to drizzle, but it's also good as a thicker dip, so thin with water or vinegar to your liking.

5. Put all your cooked sprouts into one big bowl, drizzle with sauce, and eat the entire thing.  (There's no shame in it, because VEGETABLES.)

*I use frozen because my obsession with Brussels sprouts means that I've tried them just about every way you could think to make them.  My hands-down favorite is roasted-from-frozen---I have no idea why, but they cook so evenly and turn out almost creamy.