seaweed

OMG worthy vegan Caesar salad

Whenever I get a recipe out in real time it’s because it was so good I can’t not share it immediately.  I basically dropped everything (except my son of course) to write this post.

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Now THIS is what I’m talking about!

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I rarely put much work into lunch.  It’s my quickie meal of the day.  I throw together whatever.  Dinner is the meal I spend more time on, prepping and planning.

But this was a very worthwhile exception.

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Sure it took a bit more work.  But actually, not really.

To me, the 90s were all about the Chicken Caesar Salad.  Maybe it was just a phase I was going through but I couldn’t get enough of it.  I ordered it every single time we went out to eat.  Seriously, look at the menu next time you go out, it’s always an option.

Obviously this trend ended once I realized I was intolerant of dairy.  Then I stopped eating meat.  So it’s been a while since I’ve had a real Chicken Caesar Salad.  But the love affair is still burning strong deep inside me.

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Now I am happy.

Because this is a vegan version that will blow your mind.  It blew mine at least.  I don’t usually set out to veganize non-vegan meals because some things aren’t able to be adapted.  And up until yesterday, I’d have told you the same thing about Chicken Caesar salads.

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The dressing is FODMAPs friendly, too, by the way.

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It’s a tight battle for who’s the star of the show – Beyond Meat’s grilled flavor chicken-free strips or my home-made vegan Caesar dressing.  Both are gluten free and vegan.

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Can you believe this is 100% animal free?  The grill flavor is spot on.  It’s so tasty.

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Seriously.  So.  Good.

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Vegan “chicken” Caesar Salad [vegan, gluten free]

Salad Ingredients:

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup roasted (white) nuts, soaked >2 hours and drained*
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp tamari
  • 3 pieces roasted seaweed snacks
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Directions:

Make dressing by blending previously soaked (and drained) nuts and water.  Store in fridge to chill and thicken.  Then add the rest of the dressing ingredients and blend until smooth.

Pile lettuce and “chicken” strips onto a plate.  Top with dressing.

*Notes:

The longer you soak the better.  It will be soooo much creamier and smooth.  I soaked my nuts (a combo of brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and marcona almonds) for 10 hours.  Then I drained them, added the water, blended them, and refrigerated it overnight.  It gets much thicker when chilled so I highly recommend you don’t skip the cooling step.  Plan in advance!  Start soaking for tomorrow’s lunch now!  You can’t over-soak the nuts.

Any combo of nuts will taste great.  I’m partial to a mostly cashew and brazil blend, but macadamias, hazelnuts, and marcona almonds all work.  I’m not racist, but the white smooth nuts are more creamy than the dark weird shaped nuts (ie walnuts, pecans).

If you don’t have roasted seaweed snacks, half a sheet of nori seaweed will work, too.  Adjust (increase) the salt accordingly.

Beyond Meat is available at Whole Foods.  It’s a fairly new product, but they are slowly getting into all the locations.  I just finally found them at my local Whole Foods.  I don’t think they are at other grocery stores, but that may be changing soon since they are already making a huge impression on the vegetarian and non-vegetarian population alike.  They are the best faux-meat product I’ve ever tasted (I swear I’m not a spokesperson, I’m just obsessed with the company’s product).

If you are FODMAPs sensitive and prefer to avoid pea protein then you could swap tempeh.  If you can’t tolerate soy, you could bulk the salad up with quinoa.  Both will give you protein, they just won’t replicate chicken as perfectly as Beyond Meat does.

Let’s see some more photos…

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I used these seaweed snacks.  gimMe is a new brand – organic, vegan, gluten free, FODMAPs friendly.

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As you can see, the only thing in the sea salt flavor is seaweed, sunflower oil, and salt.

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Unfortunately, they always cause me to break out into that Britney Spears song… “gimme, gimme, more, gimme more, gimme, gimme”.  Kyle and I have this weird thing we do with that song.  If I sing “gimme gimme” Kyle finishes off the “more” in a weird voice.  You may think we are freaks.  You’d be right.

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I used a few of the sheets in the salad dressing, but you can increase or decrease as you want.  I think it gives the Caesar that fishy flavor.

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I’m already excited to make this again.  Aren’t the 90s making a comeback?

Please help my pathetic rolls

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That thing up there.  That’s home-made sushi.

Yeah.  I know.  [The fact that I had to explain what a food photo is…speaks volumes…right?]

I’m really not sure what I’m worse at – rolling or slicing.  But it was bad guys.  Really bad.  I welcome all comments that can assist in future sushi making.  Clearly skimming the pamphlet that came with the sushi mat (back when I got it four years ago) wasn’t enough.

For filling ingredients we went kinda untraditional.

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This was a tofu spread that I made with extra firm tofu, tahini, and soy sauce.

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I also scooped out avocado and pulverized some carrots.

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I was going to shred the carrots, but after a few swipes on the cheese grater I decided that was going to take a lifetime.  The next (practical) option would have been the food processor with it’s shredding blade, but the idea of cleaning it for such a wimpy use turned me off.  So I tried using the magic bullet.  Hence the pulverizing.  My bullet’s blades are as dull as my New Year’s Eve plans.

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And since those three fillings seemed a little lame, we decided to spring for some crab.  Whole Foods didn’t have anything fresh so we randomly chose Blue Star’s lump meat.  I have no idea what makes crab meat good or how a person should go about selecting it.  This package was one of two options and it looked better.  It was marginally more expensive, so maybe that means it was superior in quality (??).  Whatever.  It tasted fine.  We only used half of it because we had the tofu too.

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The things about nori sheets is that I think maybe you’re supposed to toast them before using them?  I’m iffy on this and (clearly) didn’t bother doing any research.  Feel free to chime in if you’re Japanese or at all knowledgeable about sushi making.

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Probably the biggest issue was the fact that we used brown rice instead of sushi rice.  I figured this was going to be a problem, but I didn’t care enough to get sushi rice.  I made it in the rice cooker and added ~1/4 cup extra water in an effort to alter the stickiness of it (which didn’t work at all).  The rice cooker is pretty much the best appliance ever, so trying to outsmart it was a dumb idea all around.  After it was done I mixed it with brown rice vinegar (because that’s how real sushi rice is made).

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Assembly time!

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Nori sheet (shiny side down), rice (with an inch of free room at the top), carrots and avocado…

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With crab for one roll and tofu for the other.

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I rolled one, then Kyle rolled one.

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Don’t they look more like a burrito that sushi?  Probably would have been easier to eat that way too.  Amateurs.  Complete amateurs.

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They were fat, loose, and messy.  Not good traits, whether you’re sushi or human.  But cutting them proved to be an even bigger disaster – they basically turned into a sloppy pile.

Because I was starving (and impatient to boot), I suggested we share these rolls before going back for round two.  Chopsticks weren’t in the cards.  This was a fork, spoon and knife kind of sushi dinner.

The next round of rolls never happened…

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Eff the stupid nori.  How about we just make sushi bowls instead?

To get the seaweed flavor, I sprinkled some aji nori furikake on top.

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Maybe we’ll try again some time.  After you all leave me tips on what I can do to improve my sushi making.  Suggestions for stuffing ingredients are welcomed too.

UPDATE: I just watched this video and it turns out I wasn’t using the mat correctly at all (which I figured after reading all the tips below).  Thanks readers!!!  Keep leaving your tips because I’m learning so much from them all 🙂

Sasa in Walnut Creek

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I mentioned in this post that I went to Sasa for dinner with my family while home for the holidays.  As you can see from the menu above (or clicking on the restaurant the link), their food concept is Asian Fusion with small plates to share.  I love small plate menus because then you get to order a ton of things so you wind up sampling a lot.  And trust me, this menu had plenty I was eyeing.

In fact, the food was so freakin’ good, as a food blogger, I felt it wasn’t cool glossing over it during my two-a-day challenge.  So here’s the full story (with more than two photos).

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Edamame to start.  Standard.  Please note Kyle’s big frosty Sapporo next to it (so jealous I can hardly deal!).

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On the left: my dad’s regular miso soup; on the right: my mushroom miso soup.  I tried both (because his came first and I thought it was my mushroom one due to the obvious and confusing presence of mushrooms).  His was better as it had tofu and seaweed, whereas mine was plain with just mushrooms.  Oddly mine was smaller and cost more.  So to anyone dining at Sasa, order the plain miso.

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This was the Rainbow Cauliflower Tempura which was seasoned with togarashi and nori salt and had a parmesan lemon aioli on the side.  I didn’t try the aioli, but the cauli was awesome.  Not too heavy or greasy, but still crispy and fried.  I think it’s pretty common to like tempura anything (which I do).

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Neither Kyle nor I tried these Ginger Chicken Meatballs with teriyaki sauce, but the rest of my family seemed to enjoy them.  When I go back I want to try the veggie skewer option of sweet potatoes with a sweet sesame glaze (doesn’t that sound awesome?).

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Everyone pretty much agreed that these Roasted Asian Squash Dumplings were the highlight of the meal.  They were so so good.  Warm and oozing with flavorful squash while delicate and crispy on the outside.  They came with crispy fried sage, balsamic-brown butter sauce, and hazelnuts.  I probably could have eaten four plates of these myself.

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This California Roll was the only sushi we got all night and I didn’t even try it (I did steal some of the ginger though) because it came at the same time as the dish below.

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This is the Crispy Tofu Steak which was topped in seaweed, a three mushroom tamari sauce and truffle oil.  The best part was the outside of the tofu (which wasn’t a firm fried shell as the name of the dish implies but rather a kind of chewy coating).  Paired with the sauce and the seaweed it was quite good.  The inside of the tofu was kind of bland and basically just tasted like tofu (I didn’t mind it because I like the flavor of tofu, but it certainly didn’t wow us).

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My dad and Kyle split these Tempura Prawns Lettuce Wraps.  The battered prawns were accompanied by veggies, candied walnuts, and honey-miso aioli.  My dad said there was too much aioli and Kyle (of course) removed the cucumbers with surgeon-like precision, but other than that they devoured them.

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This Pan Roasted Salmon with celery root puree, crispy spinach, and soy-thyme butter sauce was the runner up of favorite dish.  It was larger and heartier, so we all got a sizable piece of fish and the celery root puree was all but licked clean.  I especially loved the crispy spinach.

Sasa really impressed us with their attentive service (nobody’s water glass was ever below 50% full) and diverse menu.  There are still several items that I want to try, so I anticipate going back next time I’m home.  They also have a sushi bar (and entire sushi menu that we basically ignored) and big screen TVs in the front room (where we watched the 49ers lose, boo).

The only teeny tiny critique we had was that we often needed more than chopsticks to split various dishes (so perhaps they should offer a spoon or knife to larger groups with certain plates).  Otherwise it was a lovely evening and we all left content.

A pound of seaweed

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Breakfast #1: mom’s plum jam + Earth Balance + cinnamon raisin Vital Vittles

Breakfast #2: quinoa + scrambled eggs

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Lunch: Love Grown Cocoa Goodness oat clusters + raspberries + almond milk

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I had 3 bowls of this, so there’s not much left in the bag.  Maybe one servings worth?  Stupid serving sizes.

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Snack: apple + Trilogy Kombucha

In the afternoon, Kyle went on a walk and wound up in our old neighborhood and decided to pop into Santa Monica Seafood.  This is the only place I’ve found close to me that makes delicious seaweed salad EXACTLY like the kind I first fell in love with in NYC.

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I got a lot.  1.189 pounds to be exact.  Hellooooo seaweed.

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Hmmm…my dinner kinda lacked in protein.  But I had quinoa with eggs for breakfast, so I guess I’m not a total disaster.  🙂

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This is honestly the best seaweed salad.  Ever.  I love it.

If you live in LA you should definitely hit up Santa Monica Seafood.  They are a family owned place, but they are the largest seafood distributor in the southwest and they are totally committed to responsible sourcing and sustainability.  And they are SO knowledgeable.  I’m surprised I’ve never blogged about this place before.  We used to live right across the street from them!  They have a restaurant in the store, which carries specialty market items, like fancy pasta and stuff.  But really, they are best known for their amazing seafood.  I’m a big fan of the prepared salads section (I was eyeing the tomato salad and shrimp ceviche on this particular day).

But I just came home with the seaweed salad.

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Are you a fan of seaweed salad?  Do you have a favorite place to get it?

I used to get mine form the Gary Null’s Uptown Whole Food in NYC.  It was made by Macro Vegetarian, which you can see in this post.

Just a Wednesday

You must be sick of non-food (aka house progress) posts by now, huh?

Ok, how about my work food for a change of pace (slash return to the real reason I blog).

Breakfast…

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Oats, puffed millet, white chia seeds and sunflower seed butter on top.

You want me to back up with that?

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1 cup whole rolled oats + 1 1/2 cups boiling water + 1/4 cup puffed millet + 1 tbsp chia seeds

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Once I let them sit a bit, the water got soaked up and the chia seeds gelled, so then I got to work on the sunflower seed sauce topping.

1/4 cup salty roasted sunflower seeds + almond milk (just enough to nearly cover the seeds)

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With a touch of stevia…

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Ding ding ding, we have a winner!

Lunch…

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Greens, eggs and kale.  Not to be confused with green eggs and ham, okay?

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In a pinch, using frozen chopped kale is definitely an easy peasy shortcut.

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Leftover (rice cooker) quinoa, mixed with kale, then topped with cherry tomatoes and a fried egg.  And nutritional yeast. 

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Here’s the whole shebang.

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Adora calcium dark chocolate, candied ginger, carrots, banana, maple roasted pecans, and roasted seaweed snacks.

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Roasted nut recipe here.

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Jury’s still out on these guys.

I came home and made dinner lickety split. 

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Spinach, quinoa, fried eggs, avocado, and carrots.  Unpictured: half a pound of nooch.