Vegan Ranch Dressing

During the month of January, perhaps a hair beyond that, I am embarking on a dairy-free diet.

Granted, I’m not one of those people that’s, “DIET! DIET! DIET!” I’m sure you’ve seen that on both my Instagram and this blog. I believe in eating healthy. I believe in eating balanced. I believe in eating two Tres Leches cake doughnuts followed by a hot chocolate from Doughnut Plant every so often. The old adage “moderation is key” is SO true, y’all.

My dairy-free diet does have a basis in my own health and not in vanity – regular dairy intake might be contributing to an increase in my body’s production of testosterone. FUN! Not that I’m becoming manly, but it’d rather have my hormones in balance, thankyouveryMUCH. Dairy can affect IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor-1) into our bodies; too much can lead to an imbalance as, in some females, it causes higher testosterone production. I might be one of those females. 💁

[Mind you, I am not a doctor! I’ve worked at a hospital for almost 9 years, but my background is strictly liberal studies and communications. Ha! Speak with your own medical professional if you think this may be a concern for you.]

Removing dairy is not a huge issue; sure, I miss cheese like WHOA, I’ve had to consciously meal-prep breakfasts more as I can’t easily grab a Siggi’s and fruit on my way out the door, and I damn near keeled over when my department’s Director of Nursing bought our office pizza yesterday, BUT…I’ve got this. I’ve just got to be creative and mindful.

I wanted to see if I could use the creamy power of pulverized cashews to make something insanely tasty. I’ve mixed in lots of things with cashew cream in the past, but as I had to sadly turn down ranch dressing for my salad at dinner the other night – damn near torture for me – I wanted to see if I could take those wonderful ranch flavors and make them into something not mixed into a cow’s utter secretions.

(I know, I made milk sound so lovely, right?)

The result was pretty damn good! I immediately texted my friend Liana – one of my best vegan friends to bounce my food ideas off of – as soon as I tasted it; I figured she’d be the only person immediately as excited as I was. Ha! I miss that quintessential buttermilk tang, but I was very shocked and pleased by what I created. In this case, the dill really saved the day when bringing that good ranch flavor to this dressing.

I can definitely survive any ranch cravings as long as I’ve got this in my back pocket…figuratively, of course. I’m sure it’d last a lot longer in my fridge. 😏

Vegan Ranch Dressing

Vegan Ranch Dressing
(Makes roughly 1 & 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:
– 1 cup raw cashews, left whole
– 3 cups of hot water, for soaking cashews
– 3/4 cup water, for inclusion in dressing
– 1/2 tablespoon avocado oil
– 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely minced or 1 teaspoon dried chives
– 3 teaspoons fresh dill, finely minced or 1 teaspoon dried dill
– 2 teaspoons fresh parsley, finely minced or 1 teaspoon dried parsley
– 1 teaspoon garlic powder
– Juice of 1/2 lemon
– 1/2 teaspoon salt

Before We Get Started…

– Oil of choice can be substituted for avocado oil here. Olive oil works just fine.

Directions:

1.) Add cashews to a large bowl and cover with 3 cups hot water. Allow to stand for at least one hour or up to 8 hours. (NOTE: I always do an hour of soaking with fine results.) Drain cashews and place into food processor or high-speed blender.

2.) Pulse cashews until a fine meal forms. Slowly add in 1/4 cup water and blend until mixture begins to thin out slightly; do this twice more in 1/4 cup water increments. With the final 1/4 cup of water, add in avocado oil. Blend until smooth.

3.) Remove cashew cream and add to large bowl. Gently fold in chives, dill, parsley, garlic powder, and lemon juice until combined. Add salt; add more to taste, if desired.

4.) Refrigerate dressing; will keep in fridge for up to a week.

Advertisements
Cucumber Salad with Garlic-Dill Yogurt Sauce

Cucumber Salad with Garlic-Dill Yogurt Sauce

Everyone has a different idea of what “comfort food” is. While the concept of a meal that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside is universal, one person’s mac and cheese may not be another person’s chicken noodle soup. I can definitely boast a few different comfort foods of mine, and they tend to be seasonal. Mac and cheese tends to transcend seasons, while homemade apple pie makes me feel wonderful come autumn. When the summer heat bears down on New York, I have my perpetual comfort food dish to get me through: Cucumber Salad with Garlic-Dill Yogurt Sauce. There are too many pros to this dish:

– It’s chock full of cucumber. (It’s not just a cleaver recipe name…) Crisp, refreshing, and full of water.

Cucumber Salad with Garlic-Dill Yogurt Sauce

– The yogurt (I use Greek or skyr) gives you a good dose of probiotics.

Cucumber Salad with Garlic-Dill Yogurt Sauce
– It’s an excuse to stock up on fresh dill at the farmers’ market.

Cucumber Salad with Garlic-Dill Yogurt Sauce
– No oven needed! (My fellow New Yorkers will surely feel me on that point.)

Cucumber Salad with Garlic-Dill Yogurt Sauce

I make this dinner for myself multiple times a week, usually supplemented by fruit, additional vegetables, or, 9 times out of 10, a giant hunk of Cabot cheddar cheese.

I always say I’m going to cut back on my dairy. Now is not the time. Ha!

Cucumber Salad with Garlic-Dill Yogurt Sauce

Cucumber Salad with Garlic-Dill Yogurt Sauce
(Serves 1 – 3; 1 as a large salad or up to 3 as a side)

Ingredients:

– 2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
– 6 ounces Greek yogurt or skyr, plain
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 clove garlic, finely minced
– 1 teaspoon garlic powder
– 1 teaspoon fresh dill, finely chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
– Salt, to taste

Before We Get Started…

– To keep recipe dairy-free, substitute non-dairy yogurt; I would not recommend coconut milk yogurt (I can still taste the coconut!), but a soy-based non-dairy yogurt, such as Silk. On Silk’s web site, they say they can not claim their yogurt to be straight-up vegan, so I’ll leave y’all to be the judge of that if making this recipe.

Directions:

1.) Peel, seed, and chop / slice cucumbers. Set aside.

2.) In a large bowl, mix yogurt, olive oil, garlic, garlic powder, dill, and salt until completely combined. Add cucumber and toss until cucumbers are completely coated. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill. Served chilled.

Cucumber Salad with Garlic-Dill Yogurt Sauce

kale salad

Kale Salad with Apples, Pears, & Cheddar

Salad restaurant chains have become big business as of late. When I first moved to NYC in mid-2009, I was kind of…well…confused by the concept of delis and sandwich shops crafting made to order salads. Perhaps it was my own introversion that caused me to not want to take a container of greens to a guy behind a salad bar and tell him what vegetables I wanted in it. Couldn’t I go to a salad bar myself and craft my own? I was capable!

In 2014, a Just Salad popped up a few blocks away from my Upper East Side office, and it was somewhat of a godsend. Still, my first trip there was dicey, because I sucked up my introversion, got a made – to – order salad…and was $15 dollars poorer by the end. From that point on, I stuck to salads that were on the menu and dealt with the loud cutting of vegetables and shouts of salad makers asking how much dressing I wanted. Though it’s certainly convenient on some work days, I’m definitely a fair weather friend. Works in a pinch, but I’ve never been blown away by the quality or price.

About a week ago, a coveted Sweetgreen opened adjacent to the Columbia campus. Boasting organic and local salad fixings coupled with a popularity swell among many of my fellow social media food friends, I could not resist the call! I stood in line for a good 15 minutes among chattering Columbia students. How I survived that ordeal is beyond me. (Were any conversation I had at the age of 20 as vacant-sounding as the ones I had to endure overhearing? GOD, I hope not…) Still, compared to Just Salad, I’ll take their higher price point for what, in my opinion, is a much superior salad. It was crisp, fresh, and filling.

IMG_5018

That being said, I am not a person that can afford to spend a lot of money on a salad. $10 – $13 a pop is a dent in my already hemorrhaging wallet. I’m a person that easily can go to my local Fine Fare, grab a couple of things, and spend $5 on enough ingredients to make many salads. Case in point:

Kale: $2.99 a bunch
Macintosh Apple: 39 cents
Anjou Pear: 45 cents
Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese: $3.99
Walnuts: $6.99 for a one pound bag

I used a 1/3 of the kale, half of the apple, half of the pear, two ounces of the cheese, and an ounce of walnuts. I made the salad (sans dressing) comparable to my Sweetgreen’s salad for roughly $2.87.

IMG_5026

Seriously. If you can, make your own damn salads, people. 😉

kale salad

Kale Salad with Apples, Pears, & Cheddar
(Serves 1 as a meal salad, Serves Two as a side salad)

Ingredients:

Salad:
– 1/3 of a average-sized bunch of kale, rinsed, ribs removed, and torn
– 1/2 large apple, rinsed and diced, skin on
– 1/2 large pear, rinsed and diced, skin on
– 2 ounces cheddar cheese, diced
– 1 ounce walnuts
– 1 tablespoon olive oil

Apple Cider Vinaigrette:
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1/3 apple cider vinegar
-A few shakes of garlic powder, to taste
-A few dashes of salt, to taste

Directions:

1.) In a large bowl, add kale and olive oil. Massage olive oil into kale for approximately 30 – 60 seconds or until leaves are evenly coated in oil.

2.) Toss fruits, cheese, and walnuts into kale.

3.) Toss with Apple Cider Vinaigrette or vinaigrette of choice.

4.) Serve immediately; if storing, place in airtight container. This salad will stay fresh in fridge for up to three days.