In our home, I traditionally eat Vegan (no meat, dairy, fish, etc.), while my husband loves all foods, including his steaks on occasion. I am always a proponent that everyone should feel good and comfortable at my kitchen table, regardless of their diet. To me, it's not about how you restrict your diet, but more about enjoying your meal at the end of the day. I tend to stay away from dairy after learning about 15 years ago that I am lactose intolerant. And, I've never enjoyed the taste or texture of meat. Coming from an Indian family, I never needed to worry about meat because the Indian diet is so varied when it comes to veggies and legumes, delicious, and nutritious. And, because hubbie is used to variety in his diet, and because I cook such delicious, flavorful foods at home (if I do say so myself), my family tends to balk when I try to feed them non-Indian foods that are on their plate simply for the sake of being vegetarian or vegan. Meaning. Don't give them food that lacks flavor and punch - because they will send it back! They want real food - not food prepped to look and taste like chicken or steak.
So, when I find non-Indian Vegan go-to recipe that even my kids and especially husband will love I'm beyond ecstatic. My 10-year-old's favorite salad is Caesar. We've actually had family arguments where she wants to order three...yes - 3 - salads for her meal. That's when we put our foot down, and likely sound nuts to everyone around us..."No. You will NOT eat another salad! Start eating those fries!" LOL. (And no..I am not exaggerating. I am not bragging here. And YES you can do this too, with hard work and perseverance. So, stick with me and my blog and I will help you.)
I've never actually tried making Caesar salad dressing at home, which traditionally includes eggs and anchovies. But have had bites, and love the tangy creaminess of the dressing itself.
I was wowed a few years back taking a mom class at Chicago-based The Kids' Table, where we were given a recipe for Vegan Caesar Dressing. Most of the others were meat eaters and a bit skeptical. I was more of a believer knowing what amazing things you can do with silken tofu, usually found at a spot like Whole Foods Market.
This stuff comes in a small box that is often in the non-refrigerated section. Guarantee you've never know what to do with it. But, it's a great addition to recipes that need something creamy without dairy. So, at that cooking class, after one bite, everyone was sold. The salad was at once tart, delicious, and satisfying. The recipe below is adapted from The Kids' Table, but I have changed it slightly to suit my taste. I also changed the measurements to finish off the whole box of tofu, because in my house any ingredient left in the fridge in packaging tends to go bad.
The test after I made it at home, however, was my husband. I tried the dressing out on a salad without telling him what it was. He was floored that I'd made Caesar Dressing for him! And when I told him no eggs or fish, he was even more surprised - and surprisingly willing to have me make it again. This dressing is now a total fave in our home and a great go-to snack for the kids.
For Neha (10) and Aria (7), I keep a batch handy along with cut veggies. They love it after school as a dip. In fact, Neha has become so obsessed that she insists on eating a big bowl with veggies in front of the TV.
Vegan Caesar Salad Dressing
Makes 1 1/2 cups
1 12 oz. package soft Silken Tofu
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
juice of 1 medium lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 - 1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Put all ingredients in this order in a food processor and blend until smooth. Mix a few tablespoons in with a salad or use as a dip. Lasts about 4-5 days in the fridge. Tweak the amount of lemon juice if you want more tartness.
One tip: the tofu can be watery in the package, so just drain it away as best you can. My kids don't like their dressing watery, so it's a great idea to get rid of as much moisture as possible. You can also set the tofu in a strainer to drain away even more.
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