Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Not So Guilty Pleasure: Vegan Fried Chicken Caesar Salad

Say what? Yes I did, I said vegan fried chicken caesar salad. This is by far not a gourmet concoction, but it appeals to a certain hidden part of me that craves a fast food style meal from time to time. This is a waaaay healthier update to this classic and it never fails to completely satisfy whatever craving I might have.

I've always loved caesar salad (probably had something to do with the piles of salty cheese and gobs of creamy white dressing) and it's something that I started to really miss about a year ago. There are only so many mixed green salads with balsamic vinaigrette that I can handle and I wanted to try to recreate this yummy dish from my past. I looked around online for a while for vegan caesar salad dressing recipes and tried out about 3 or 4 of them. Here, I give you the very very very best one. PLUS it has like no calories. How do they do it?! To make the dressing, put the following in a blender:

2 Tbsp. ground almonds (you can grind your own or buy the almond meal at Trader Joe's)
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes (buy in bulk at any health food store or Whole Foods)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. flax oil (or olive oil)

Blend thoroughly and store refrigerated in an old, washed out salad dressing bottle. I'm not really sure how long it keeps, but I usually use it up within a couple weeks. I'm not kidding about the no calories thing. 2 Tbsp. of this stuff is 38 calories. Insane!

Usually my caesar salad sticks to the basics:
1 whole head chopped romaine
2 Tbsp. homemade vegan caesar dressing
2 Tbsp. fat free croutons
3 or so breaded soy nuggets, toasted in the toaster oven
1 Tbsp. roughly ground pumpkin seeds

Sometimes I add a little shredded cabbage and most of the time I omit the pumpkin seeds because I'm lazy and pumpkin seeds aren't that healthy. If you do use them, you'll find that the texture simulates parmesan cheese perfectly, so it's kind of fun. You can use whatever croutons you want but Safeway has these awesome fat free garlic and onion ones that I adore. Now, I normally try not to promote too many fake meat products. I'd rather make most of my meals out of whole foods rather than over-processed nonsense BUT this is one of those occasions that I make an exception. The pleasure that I derive from this recreation of a classic fast food meal is out of this world and makes it totally worth it to eat some fake chicken every now and again. I prefer the whole wheat Soy Nuggets from Trader Joe's which are dairy free over the Chickenless Nuggets which aren't. The Chick'n Nuggets from Morningstar Farms are also not totally vegan but would work in a pinch. There are also non-vegan Chick'n Nuggets from Quorn-that is if you're not freaked out by the whole food made out of mold grown in a big factory thing (I am, but to each his own).

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