One hot Toronto summer, a little over two years ago… then 28 year-old Aleyda was getting used to the rhythm of every day life with a baby girl & a toddler boy. We were enjoying a spell of glorious June weather; Grace was 4 months & Ethan was about to turn two and a half. A handful. More like two. But summer was about to get busier & crazier (if that’s even possible! hmmm, turns out it was…) One of my best friends, Petya, was getting married & I was absolutely thrilled to be her maid of honor. Well, more like, matron of honor. I was also a bridesmaid at my sister-in-law’s wedding, AND both weddings were a week apart from each other! Madness. Mayhem. Joy. I was feeling ALL the feelings. I had also organized bridal showers for both girls; which had just taken placen in May. Talk about a busy start to the summer!
When it comes to weddings, we all want to look fabulous & put our best foot forward for our loved one’s big day. As it turns out, I was feeling ALL but fabulous. I had not been sleeping through the night since February & my body was certainly feeling the strain. I didn’t fit into any of my old clothes and part of me was still embarrassed to be wearing my maternity jeans. I was on a desperate bid to shed some weight before both weddings; and I was doing it mainly through a low-carb diet which meant plenty of salads. Turns out I should’ve also been eating lean protein, oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat and a bunch of other healthy carbs that my body really needed to be able to turn them into fuel and food for my newborn baby.
One such salads I was often eating (more like, eating every single day) was practically the only green salad the old Aleyda ever enjoyed, a mighty Caesar salad. Except, I had it all wrong. I was buying creamy, sugar-laden dressings. I always thought making your own would take forever, and as it turns out- it takes less than 5 minutes folks. I was loading it with crunchy, salty, high-sodium bread croutons. I was adding processed parmesan cheese because, heck, cheese is not a carb, right? And processed parmesan is cheaper. Just not in the long run!
I was eating salads for both; lunch and dinner, but I wasn’t adding enough protein (think salmon, or chicken) to fuel me up. Merely an hour after my meal I was outrageously hungry and ransacking my fridge again. I was always eating toddler snacks at the park with my son & cleaning falling crumbs out of my baby girl’s hair, who happened to be bundled up against my chest on an ergo carrier all summer long. I joke that Grace lived in my belly for 9 months, and then over my belly for another 9 months. True story. I needed both hands free to run after my eldest boy who’s just a ball of energy.
Needless to say, I didn’t lose much weight on my “salad for lunch and salad for dinner diet” before both weddings took place. However, the constant running around coupled with my ever-present clumsiness led to many mishaps. The first of which occurred when I burned my forearm with the washroom mirror lights which had been on (all-night the night before) and were burning hot despite the fact they had been switched off. A patch of skin was literally scorched off. I needed a doctor’s visit, a bandage & antibiotic cream. This happened 3 days before the first wedding took place.
And then the following day, I took a steep tumble down our long staircase, luckily I wasn’t carrying any babies at the time. Just a big, heavy basket of laundry. I injured my back and had the worst bruises I’ve ever had on both my legs & arms. I made it to Petya’s wedding (two days after the fall) with a huge burn bandage & a noticeable limp. Oh and a baby girl that needed to nurse every 3 hours. But I made it. I totally made it. And I delivered a speech worthy of my friend & raised a toast in a foreign language (albeit with a bandage-covered arm) to the lovely bride & groom!
P.S. I really hope you and yours enjoy this healthy & amazing caesar salad as much as we all do at home! My husband is not an “eat your greens guy” but he loves this salad! It’s paleo, gluten-free & if done with cashew cream cheese, completely vegan!
Creamy Caesar Salad with Crunchy Chickpea Croutons
For the Greens:
- Romaine Lettuce
- Fresh Kale (usually do a 60% romaine & 40% kale ratio!)
For the Dressing:
- 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 1.5 tbsp of Dijon mustard
- a pinch of sea salt about 1/2 tsp or less (if you add the anchovies, you don’t need it)
- 1 tsp GF Worcestershire sauce
- 2-3 small garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- juice of 1/2 a large lemon
- a generously sprinkle of fresh ground pepper (some peppercorns are also nice!)
- 1/4 cup cashew cream cheese (I use YOSO) OR freshly grated parmesan cheese if you consume dairy
- 3 whole anchovy fillets (I buy the portuguese ones, jarred in olive oil) *optional
I think what makes a caesar salad superb or mediocre is definitely the dressing. Anchovies DO add to the taste, but if you follow a vegan diet, try adding a handful of capers to bring out the flavor.
For the Croutons:
- 1 can of cooked organic chickpeas, rinsed (15 oz)
- Pat dry with a towel, you’ll notice some may lose the skin. That’s OK. They’ll roast even better!
- a sprinkle of sea salt
- a dash of pepper
- a dash of sumac
- a dash of paprika
- 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
- In a bowl, toss the chickpeas around with all the condiments & olive oil
- Spread them out evenly & roast for 20 mins. Then toss them around to change sides, sprinkle more condiments (if needed) and roast for another 10 mins.
- For the dressing: throw the anchovies into the food processor, add the lemon, the vinegar, garlic, worcestershire, & dijon mustard. Blend until smooth. Clean down the sides.
- Open the food processor and scoop on the cashew cream cheese or finely grated parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the sea salt & fresh ground pepper. Turn it back on again and through the food processor opening, slowly incorporate the 1/2 cup of olive oil to help it blend smoothly.
- The dressing must always be refrigerated & I don’t keep it more than 2-3 days in my fridge. It tastes even better the next day!
- Sprinkle generously over the salad greens and top with chickpea croutons.
Notes: if in a hurry, you can also buy good quality roasted chickpeas. I love Chili-Lime flavored ones from “The Good Bean”.
Additional toppings: grilled chicken breast, real bacon bits, or quinoa puffs like I added in these images for an extra protein boost.
Cremosa Ensalada Cesar con Croutons de Garbanzo
Para la Lechuga: Uso 60% lechuga roman y 40% col rizada (la col es opcional)
Para el Aderezo:
- 1/2 taza de aceite de olivo extra virgen
- 1.5 cucharadas de mostaza Dijon
- 1 cucharadita de Salsa Inglesa
- 2-3 dientes de ajo picados
- 1 pizca de sal (si usan las anchoas, la sal no es necesaria)
- 1 pizca de pimienta negra fresca
- 1/3 taza de queso crema de semilla de marañón (de no encontrarlo pueden usar 1/4 de taza de queso parmesano rayado)
- 3 filetes de anchoas (uso los que vienen en bote o enlatados con aceite de olivo, los Portugueses son muy buenos)
- 1 cucharada de vinagre balsamico
- el jugo de medio limón
Para los Croutons (Crutones, Tostones)
- 1 lata de 15 oz de garbanzos cocidos
- 1 pizca de sal
- 1 pizca de sumac
- 1 pizca de paprika
- 1 pizca de pimienta fresca
- 1 cucharada de aceite de olivo extra virgen
- Encender el horno a 400F y alinear un baking tray para galletas con papel de pergamino
- Pasar los garbanzos por agua y dejarlos escurrir. Secarlos con una toalla, si las cascaras se caen,aún mejor, se van a rostizar mas fácil!
- En un tazón, mezclar todos los condimentos para los garbanzos y el aceite de olivo.
- Se esparcen los garbanzos sobre el tray para el horno y se hornean por 20 minutos. Se mueven para cambiar de lado y se ponen mas condimentos (si es necesario) y se rostizan otros 10 minutos hasta que se doren. Se van a hacer crujientes al enfriarse.
- En un procesador de comida, dejar caer las anchoas, el limón, el vinagre, el ajo, la mostaza dijon y la salsa inglesa. Se deja pulsar hasta convertirse en una pasta uniforme.
- Se abre el procesador de nuevo y se le deja caer el queso crema de semilla de marañón, sal y pimienta al gusto o el parmesano rayado (si consumen lácteos). Usando la ventanilla que esta disponible en la tapadera del procesador, se integra el aceite de olivo, dejándolo caer poco a poco mientras se mezcla todo. Mezclar hasta obtener una consistencia uniforme.
- Se deja caer el aderezo sobre la lechuga romana y la col. Se le ponen los croutons o tostones de garbanzo.
Toppings Opcionales: pechuga de pollo a la parilla, pizcas de tocino, semillas de ajonjolí o yo use quinoa puffs (parecen semillas y están llenas de proteína)
Esta ensalada cesar esta super rica y es mucho más saludable; sin los tradicionales croutons de pan baguette. Tienen la opción de ponerle lácteos o queso hecho de nueces, todo depende de que tengan disponible. Que la disfruten!