Grilled Romaine + Vegan Caesar dressing + chickpeas + avocado

caesar
Regular Caesar salad dressing can be chock-full of saturated fats, but not this vegan dressing! I adapted the recipe from one I saw on Eat Life Whole, and made this a serious dinner salad. I added depth to the regular old romaine lettuce by grilling it (LOVE), added some chickpeas for protein and heft, and avocado, because I pretty much put avocado in lots of things. The only thing not vegan about this is the cheese I topped it off with, but you can do without it if you like (it’s just that, for me, when it comes to cheese, it’s gotta be the real thing!)

Grilled Romaine + Vegan Caesar salad dressing + chickpeas + avocado
serves 2 (large salads) or 4 (side salads)

for romaine lettuce:
1 head romaine lettuce, cut in half lengthwise (be careful not to slice off the bottom of the lettuce or the leaves may all fall apart!)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

for dressing:
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
1/2 cup raw walnuts (soaked in water for 10 minutes), along with 1 tablespoon of the soaking water
2 large cloves garlic
freshly cracked black pepper

to assemble:
romaine lettuce
dressing
diced avocado
1/2 cup cooked, drained chickpeas
croutons or grilled bread (optional)
Parmesan cheese (optional; leave out if vegan)

Preparation:

Prepare a grill and set the heat to medium. Rub olive oil over all sides of the romaine, and sprinkle with salt and peppper. Grill the romaine until lightly charred; a few minutes on each side.

For the dressing, place all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth.

To assemble, place a romaine half, cut side up, on a large plate. Sprinkle chickpeas over the lettuce, and spoon the Caesar dressing over it. Add diced avocado, croutons or grilled bread, and sprinkle Parmesan cheese, if desired.

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Stir-fried, Veg-Friendly Udon with Black Beans

udon

This is one of the first dishes I made when we veered towards a more plant-based diet. It certainly is a well-rounded dish, with plenty of different colors of vegetables, protein and fiber from the beans, and quick energy from the carbs given by the udon. This dish is super quick to make and requires minimal usage of the cutting board (if you buy pre-cut matchstick-cut carrots and kale, like I do). I think I made this in about 20 minutes. It’s a great, healthy option for lunchtime, and gives us steady energy throughout the next few hours.

I like things minimally spicy, but if you want, feel free to up the ante and add more sriracha as needed (I know my hubs does!).

Stir-Fried, Veg-Friendly Udon with Black Beans
serves 2-4

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cup chopped kale leaves
1 cup matchstick-cut carrots
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 14.4-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons vegetarian stir-fry sauce
1 teaspoon tamari (or soy sauce)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sriracha chili sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 14-oz package precooked udon noodles (or you can boil your own)

optional garnish: black sesame seeds

Preparation:

In a saute pan over medium heat, add the olive oil. When it is hot and shimmering, add the garlic, kale, carrots, and red bell pepper. Saute for 5 minutes, until kale is slightly wilted. Add the black beans, and reduce heat to low. Add the vegetarian stir-fry seasoning, tamari, sesame oil, sriracha, and black pepper. Add the udon noodles, breaking up the noodles if they’re stuck together (if this is hard, try putting the lid on the pan for a couple minutes, and then separating the noodles). When heated through, garnish with black sesame seeds, and serve.

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Grilled Pineapple Spears

grilledpineapple
This is pretty much the easiest dessert you can throw on the barbeque. We had these for our Fourth of July get-together, and my intent was to serve them with vanilla ice cream, but I really didn’t get to the freezer in time to get any! Luckily I swiped one, stuck it in the fridge, and ate it with ice cream after everyone left. Haha! I’ll be sure to make these next time hubby fires up the grill, because I absolutely LOVE grilled pineapple with its brown sugary, caramelized coating. Yum.

Grilled Pineapple Spears
serves about 12 (1 spear per person)

Fresh pineapple spears (1 pineapple will yield about 12 spears)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup light brown sugar

Put the barbeque on high heat. Drizzle melted butter over pineapple spears, flipping them to coat all sides. Pour over brown sugar and coat all the sides of the pineapple with brown sugar. Grill a few minutes on each side, turning over once when grill marks appear.

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Mark Bittman’s Cilantro-Mint Chutney

chutney
This chutney is perfect with some naan bread, tortilla chips, or even as a topping for some grilled protein. The recipe is from Mark Bittman’s book, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It was one of my first forays into incorporating more of a plant-based diet, and has been a wonderful resource for my vegetarian cooking.

If you have any of Bittman’s cookbooks, they’re like an encyclopedia of knowledge, providing tons of variations with each recipe. For example: for this chutney, you can substitute Thai or regular basil for the mint, make a creamy chutney with some yogurt, or make long-lasting chutney by adding in some white wine vinegar. I never panic when I’m missing an ingredient, because there are always different flavor combinations to discover, but for this cilantro-mint combination, it’s a definite winner.

Cilantro-Mint Chutney
makes 1 1/2 cups
from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

1 1/2 cups firmly packed, chopped, fresh cilantro leaves (I used stems and leaves)
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh mint leaves
1-2 Thai bird chilis (or jalapeno or red chili flakes)
2 inches ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
1 small red onion (I used white onion and it was fine), quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste

Preparation:
1. Combine herbs, chili, ginger, onion, and garlic in a food processor until finely ground.
2. Add the lime juice and salt and process until evenly smooth. Store at room temperature or cover and refrigerate up to one day.

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Cinnamon Chip Cookies with Coconut Oil and Flaxseed

cinncookies
These cinnamon chip cookies are pretty bomb. I’ve adapted this from an awesome vegan rosemary-chocolate chip cookie recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and although they’re not vegan (cinnamon chips have milk in them), they’re pretty fab because I used coconut oil and flaxseed, and no egg or butter. Yay for some health benefits in a dessert!

If you’re wary of flaxseeds and coconut oil in your cookies, let me assure you, it’s gonna be okay! What I do when I buy a bag of flaxseeds is grind them all up in the food processor until they’re really fine. I then put them in a resealable bag or plastic container and store them in the freezer so the oils in the flaxseeds don’t turn rancid. When I need ground flaxseeds, I don’t have to fuss with grinding them – they’re all ready for me! As for taste and texture in this cookie – the flaxseeds really are undetectable. All you’ll get is a nice roasty, toastiness from the flaxseeds! Not to mention some plant-based omega-3s and fiber!

The coconut oil is great because it’s a solid fat, so it acts like butter in this recipe. I use coconut oil to saute baby bok choy or Swiss chard, and it’s great because it lends a tropical, subtle flavor to my greens. Health-wise, even though it is high in saturated fat (the fat you want to lower in your diet), it is high in medium-chain triglycerides, and is a good vegan choice if you’re not into using butter in this case.

Cinnamon Chip Cookies with Coconut Oil and Flaxseed
makes 40 cookies
adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s
Isa Does It

1 cup refined coconut oil, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cinnamon chips

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 360 degrees F (yes you heard that right – I find that a tiny increase in temperature lends itself to a more firm cookie). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Readjust oven racks to be in the middle and lower third of the oven.

In a large bowl, use a whisk to incorporate the coconut oil with the sugars. Add in the milk and ground flaxseed and stir until combined. Add in the vanilla; stir to combine.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add half of this mixture into the coconut oil mixture, and mix well. Add the other half as well as the cinnamon chips, and stir until it looks like cookie dough.

Scoop out about a tablespoon of dough, roll it between you hands to form a ball, and gently flatten a tiny bit onto the cookie sheet. Place the cookies about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. You’ll have enough cookie dough left over for another pan after this first batch is done. Bake for about 7 minutes, then switch racks for another 7 minutes, until golden brown and edges look slightly crispy.

Cool on the sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way.

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