Growing up, I was always very creative. Piano lessons notwithstanding, I was always crafting and painting and in general making huge messes (much to my mother’s chagrin). However, I never really saw food as a creative outlet. At the time my favorite foods were carrots and pretzels (and still are to some degree), and getting spontaneous in the kitchen was the last thing on my mind.
But I remember when I reached my culinary epiphany – strangely enough, it occurred when I saw the premiere of “Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook-off” on Disney Channel in 2003. For those of you who missed that gem of a movie, Eddie is a baseball player who secretly loves to cook. However, in true Disney Channel fashion, his parents and friends “don’t understand” his passion (read: cooking is for girls!!) and try to guilt him into staying with baseball. But Eddie is such a great cook that he qualifies for a million-dollar cook-off hosted by Bobby Flay, who actually makes a cameo in the movie. You’ll have to watch it to find out how it ends. Regardless, there’s plenty of creative culinary concoctions made in the movie, with a few classical techniques interspersed here and there.
I remember that as soon as the movie ended, I ran into the kitchen and started throwing together all of the ingredients I could find. I don’t even remember what I made…. it was probably awful. (I was 11, remember). But I really credit that movie with the moment of my culinary awakening! And it was well-timed, because not long after I became vegetarian, and started cooking vegetarian meals for myself.
I think it would be safe to say that cooking is my passion now. I mean, why else would I spend hours and hours on this blog? Sidebar – before starting W+F, I thought food blogging would be easy. I mean, how hard could it be? You cook stuff and take pictures of it, then write a blurb about it and post it. Easy. Except…. no.
First there’s actually conceptualizing a recipe. You want to have something that is your own unique style, but that is still useful to your readers, but hasn’t been done before by other bloggers (and do you KNOW how many other food bloggers there are?!). Then you actually have to make the recipe, taste it, and make sure it, you know, tastes good. Once you have a decent recipe, you have to cook it, wait for the right lighting conditions, the photograph it – which involves styling, props, and different angles. Then there’s the simple matter of meticulously editing each photo and making sure your white balance is okay (always a struggle over here). And then you have to write some words that go along with your recipe, which introduces the whole writer’s block phenomenon. Then you post your recipe and hope that someone reads it. Pheww! Blogging is fun.
But seriously, I love every single step of it. The point I’m trying to make is that there’s a lot more work that goes into food blogging than people think (myself included in my pre-blog days). I don’t do this for my health, you know? I do this because I have this insane and insatiable passion for food! AND I WANT TO SHARE IT WITH EVERYBODY!!
Another aspect of my passion is showing how amazing and versatile plant-based ingredients can be. Something that’s continually floored me since going vegan are the incredible applications for which plants can be used. I mean, take just some simple cashews. With cashews, you can make luscious cheesecakes, mac & cheese, cashew butter, more cheesecakes, ICE CREAM, pink berry cashew cream, nachos, more cashew cream, cashewgurt, pizza, cream cheese….. the possibilities are endless! And this is just one little tree nut. Personally I think it’s fascinating how plants can be used in such interesting ways…. it makes me wonder how many other delicious uses are out there waiting to be discovered!
Cashews are also the star of this raw vegan caesar salad, creating the base for a creamy caesar dressing. To be honest with you all, I was very skeptical making this recipe. I thought to myself, there’s no WAY this will taste good. (Aren’t I so positive?!) So imagine my surprise when I dipped my finger into my blender and tasted a tangy, creamy, lemony caesar! Not wanting to mess with a good thing, I simply tossed some kale in the dressing and topped it with crunchy hemp seeds + lemon zest. Simple yet delicious. This raw vegan caesar salad is great on its own, but would also be fantastic as an appetizer for dinner (visions of quinoa fettuccine in arrabiatta sauce are dancing in my head…)! The salad is also completely raw, so it would work great as part of a detox or cleanse!
Raw Vegan Caesar Salad w/ Crunchy Hemp Seeds + Lemon Zest
Raw Caesar Dressing
- Heaping 1/2 Cup Cashews soaked
- 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Tbsp Flax Oil or sub more olive oil
- Juice from 1 Lemon
- 2 Tbsp Raw Dijon Mustard
- 1 Clove Garlic
- 1/8 Tsp Salt
- 1/8 Tsp Pepper
- 2-3 Tbsp Water to thin
- Kale or other hardy green
- Raw Hemp Seeds
- Lemon Rind use rind from lemon for dressing
Raw Caesar Dressing
To prep the cashews, soak for at least two hours or overnight.
When cashews are done soaking, combine with all other dressing ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until smooth. Add more water to thin, if needed.
Making the Salad
The dressing recipe makes enough for two really big caesar salads, but everybody's tastes are different so it can vary from person to person.
To make the salad, prepare your bowls of kale and mix with dressing. Note - combining kale + dressing by hand helps make the kale softer and easier to digest!
Once you've found a kale:dressing ratio to your liking, garnish with raw hemp seeds and lemon zest.
Song of the Day:
Riversong – Chris and Thomas