healthy + seasonal recipes that are gluten & dairy-free

Vegan Caesar Salad

Vegan Caesar Salad

A loaded up caesar salad featuring this creamy, garlicky, traditional-tasting caesar dressing that's completely vegan and gluten free. A mix of seeds for crunch, and extra veggies for a colourful vitamin punch. Enjoy!

Vegan Caesar Salad (vegan, gluten free) // my natural kitchen

January. In some ways, it feels like time has sped up and I find myself a little surprised that we’re in this moment in time already. But here it is: winter, post-Christmas, and fully feeling the bracing cold temperatures. Wasn’t I just saying that it was unseasonably warm? I take it back. I should also note my hibernation lately, and absence from this space that was partially due to the holiday schedule, a need to rest because I was sick, working like crazy on a fun project, and also because the days are so short that I find myself without light to shoot in after I come home from work. This past weekend was a busy one in my kitchen so hopefully I can get myself back on track :)

vegan caesar salad (gf) // my natural kitchen

Last year, one of my oldest friends got married in Jamaica and we were lucky enough to be able to attend. The Caribbean was such a welcome reprieve from the polar vortex temps, and we came back home a little sun-kissed and with enough of a boost to carry us through the rest of winter. There was a moment on that trip when I decided that from then on, Zach and I would be taking vacations in the winter. Our week was delightful, nights spent with all those people I had been close to in high school, subsequently grew apart from, and then rekindled friendships with over pina coladas and gin with Ting as we met up each night in a backyard pool-sized hot tub laughing and catching up until the very early hours of morning. Days were lazy and filled with loads of fresh fruit and juices made at the side of the road, swimming in the pool of the wedding party’s stunning villa, jumping into the ocean from a low peak (… not the craziness that happens at Rick's Cafe!), learning about new-to-me veggies and how delicious they are (have you heard of breadfruit?), as many young coconuts as I could drink, and the most beautiful, heartwarming yet heart-breaking, and love-filled wedding. As we’re approaching the one-year anniversary of our friend’s marriage, I find myself recalling our time together last February. I have also had the most intense experience of wanderlust, filling much of my time with searching flights, the gluten free options in this and that area of Costa Rica, yoga in Tulum, the weather forecast for The Algarve, and a brief moment of trip-planning to Iceland, but that was scratched for the time-being because we are trying to escape the cold. We’ve picked apart the pros and cons of all-inclusive, read through so many Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet reviews, and debated going big vs going economical. And then, our laundry room flooded during a seasonally-freakish downpour of rain – the basement that our home inspector praised for being bone-dry, without any worry of water – and I felt briefly despondent as Zach phoned his dad to come and check things out. My vacation dreams dashed, all I could think of were those home decorating shows where a quick basement refresh is on the agenda when suddenly the budget is blown as water damage is discovered. Expensive.

vegan caesar salad (gf) // my natural kitchen
vegan caesar salad (gf) // my natural kitchen

So, so thankfully, it’s not as big a deal as we had thought. Certainly it needs to be fixed and Zach’s been working on it daily since with several trips to the hardware store for supplies. But basically, there’s an old chimney intake that water had slowly made its way into and that water had broken down the seal overtime. We have an industrial strength space heater running to dry things up as Zach reinforces the whole thing, which he’ll then seal up with overkill x a billion.

All of that combined with a few other factors, and our vacation plans are now a little bit more low-key but still very exciting as we’ll be exploring areas that are completely new to us and heading to California for the first week of February. We’ll be in San Francisco for a few days, then heading to Venice Beach for the rest of the week. We’ll be out west for our (third!!!) wedding anniversary and plan to relax, eat so many delicious things, wander and just be together.

This has been my go-to caesar dressing for the last year and we love it. I’m actually 4 batches into this salad dressing in 3 weeks – we can’t get enough and I’ve even used it as a dip for carrots. Since I’ve been making it so often, I did an experiment for those who don’t have a high-speed blender like a Vitamix at home. For my experiment, I used a Magic Bullet blender and found that with a few tweaks, I got a really good and creamy version so good news! You can make this with any blender (I’ll note below the changes you’ll have to make).

vegan caesar salad (gf) // my natural kitchen

I hope that the first couple weeks of January have found you well and excited for 2015!

This dressing is adapted from the caesar dressing from the Fresh cookbook, based on the recipes used at the Fresh Restaurants in Toronto. They used tofu, but I'm not super big on it and have found that cashews, plus a few other changes in ratios, create a really creamy and delicious dressing and I'm not ashamed to tell you I've eaten spoonfuls of this stuff just by itself - it's that good. 

Vegan Caesar Salad Dressing

Makes approximately 1 cup of dressing. Note that up to half the amount of cashews can be substituted with raw sunflower seeds, raw macadamia nuts, or raw pine nuts with very good results. Be sure to pre-soak any substituted seeds/nuts for at least 4 hours before using in the dressing.

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup water

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 tsp capers

2 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

3/4 tsp ground white or black pepper

1/2 tsp sea salt

Soak the cashews for a minimum of 30 minutes (but preferably 2-4 hours). Drain and rinse the cashews. Place all ingredients into a high-speed blender, and slowly increase the speed from low to high. Blend until the dressing is completely smooth. You may need to stop to scrape down the sides of the blender's pitcher, and blend again. 

If you're using a regular blender, be sure to soak the cashews for 4-6 hours to ensure they are very soft. This will help them to blend more easily. Finely mince the capers before adding them into the blender. Rotate between blending on high speed, and stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender with a spatula to help integrate all the ingredients. Continue until you have a completely smooth dressing. 

For salad, combine a couple tablespoons of dressing with 1 head of chopped romaine lettuce, or a combination of lettuce and kale. If using kale, first massage 1-2 tsp of the dressing into the kale to help soften the leaves. Top with carrot ribbons, tomatoes, and whatever other veggies you like - to serve for dinner, I sometimes add some avocado. A mixture of raw pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds, and hemp hearts gives a crunchy bite!  

Store dressing in a jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to 5 days in the fridge, and stir before serving. 

Enjoy! xo

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