Cheesecake Factory Kale Salad with Vegan Low-Fat Buttermilk Black Pepper Dressing

IMG_2654    I’m obsessed with this Kale Salad with Vegan Buttermilk Black Pepper Dressing.  It’s a low-fat vegan copy of the Cheesecake Factory restaurant menu.  Finely shredded kale, sweet golden raisins, salty roasted Marcona almonds, and tart apple batons tossed in lemon juice, all drizzled with a cool Buttermilk dressing.  So damn good–even better than the original.  Thank you to Susan Voisin for her brilliant Hidden Cashew Ranch Dressing.  I found that adding one more Tablespoon of cashews to Susan’s dressing (bumping the cashews up to 1/3 Cup) made the dressing thicker and richer, without affecting fat and calories hardly at all.  Nutritional values below.

For each individual salad, use about 2 Tablespoons chopped Marcona almonds, 2 Tablespoons golden raisins, 50 grams small, unpeeled apple batons tossed in lemon juice, and 33 grams finely shredded kale.  Be sure to chiffonade your kale.  Any leftover acidulated apple batons will keep in the fridge for a day or two.  Notes:  I like using Penzey’s Buttermilk Ranch dry seasoning and in that case, you would use 1 Tablespoon of it and omit the other seasonings in the salad dressing.  Trader Joe’s has salted Marcona almonds that have been roasted with rosemary, but any will do.


Makes twelve  2-Tablespoon servings

1/3 Cup cashews, soaked at least four hours, or overnight
1.25 Cups organic unsweetened soy milk  (I like WestSoy)
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt  (adjust to your taste)
1 to 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley,  orfrozen parsley cubes, thawed and drained
1-2 teaspoons finely-snipped chives  (optional)

Drain and rinse cashews.  Place all ingredients except parsley and chives into blender and process on high until smooth.  Add parsley and/or chives and pulse just until incorporated.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Nutritional Values per 2 Tablespoons of dressing:  Calories 33,  Fat 2g,  Saturated Fat 0.3g,  Trans Fat 0,  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5g,  Monounsaturated Fat 1g,  Cholesterol 0,  Sodium 128,  Potassium 32,  Carbs 1,  Fiber 1,  Sugars 0.3,  Protein 2g,  Vitamin A  0.7%,  Calcium 1.3%,  Iron 2.4%.

Sweet and Pungent Spinach

IMG_1447    The title of this recipe is a traditional Chinese one, in honor of the upcoming Chinese New Year on January 31, 2014.   This year, Chinese New Year officially begins on February 4, and it will be The Year of The Wooden Horse,  or The Year of The Green Horse.  As an Earth Dog, I’m predicted to have a very good year, hurrah!  This fast and delicious recipe is from a Chinese cooking class my Mom took back in the 1990’s.  I’ve reduced the oil and sugar, and added the flake salt.  See photos of the original recipe below, including the Chinese teacher’s chop (seal).


Serves 2

5 ounces fresh spinach  (142 grams)    (I usually double it, see notes below)
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1/4 Cup peanuts  (I like salted cocktail peanuts)
a sprinkle of fine sea salt, or any good salt

1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

In a large, non-stick skillet, heat oil on medium or one click below medium.  In a little bowl or cup, mix dressing ingredients.  Stir fry spinach until crisp tender but not too wilted–this happens very fast!  I turn my heat off half-way through and let the hot skillet do the rest as I stir.  Toss spinach with dressing and put into individual serving bowls.  Serve immediately with peanuts and salt.

Notes:  Because American spinach is generally very small and tender, I do not remove the spinach ribs.  The spinach cooks down a lot.   I usually double the amount of spinach for the two of us, but I keep the dressing amounts the same.  Spinach is loaded with iron, calcium, protein and Vitamin A.
IMG_1451 IMG_1452

Salad in A Jar

IMG_1079    I saw Salad In a Jar in a great blog post on these make-ahead, packable salads.  A few times a year, I have to attend a meeting where a lunch of dead animals is provided for everyone (except me).  This time, I had a beautiful meal instantly constructed on my plate, with just a shake and a tip of the wide-mouth canning jar.


wide-mouth canning jar(s), quart size
salad dressing
salad fixings

Put salad dressing on the bottom of the jar(s) and start building.  First, add ingredients that benefit from a marinade in the salad dressing, things like beets or beans or lentils.  As you build up further away from the dressing, you could add chopped nuts, dried fruit, diced vegetables, drained mandarin oranges, greens or lettuces, cooked quinoa, croutons, etc.  Make sure to leave an inch or two of space at the top–this will allow you to shake the salad, and it will also keep your food away from any BPA in the canning jar lid.

Notes:  It’s easy to fill more than one jar at a time.  I prefer to cut my greens or lettuces into smaller pieces.  Ingredients can change with the seasons–in the summer, you could tuck some nasturtium flowers from the garden on top, and in the Fall you could use roasted root vegetables.   Take these flavors in any direction by changing up the dressing and fixings–Mexican, Greek, etc.   I’m thinking cold Japanese somen noodle salad with smoked tofu, green onions, fresh peas and seasame seeds.  Or Middle Eastern with tahini dressing, roasted chickpeas, cucumbers, pistachios or walnuts, and dried apricots.

Kale Quinoa Salad with Spiced Lime Vinaigrette

This salad is so delicious and pretty and healthy; packed with fiber, protein, calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, etc.  Kale is lower in oxalates than spinach, making the calcium it supplies easily absorbed.  Kale is one of the Dirty Dozen, so it’s important to buy organic.  Of course, the vinaigrette could be used on lots of other salads or even cold steamed vegetables, such as beets or green beans, etc.  And it’s flexible; you can use whatever vinegars or whatever you have in the house.  However, I think the spices and ingredients lend themselves to paler vinegars, as opposed to dark heavy ones.  To save time, I toasted the almonds and made the dressing the day before.  I washed and spun the kale, and made the quinoa in the morning, and it was a snap come dinner time; I just had to do the chiffonade.  p.s.  Keep in mind that you will only use 6 tablespoons or so of the vinaigrette, for two people.  You will have leftovers if only making salad for two people.  I’ll just make more salad tomorrow, and use any leftover kale in the juicer.
Kale Quinoa Salad with Spiced Lime Vinaigrette

Serves 2

1/4 C of dried cherries, chopped coarsely, rehydrated with water for 15 minutes, and then drained.
3 cups chiffonaded fresh, raw organic kale, rinsed, spun-dry and chilled
1 C cooked quinoa, chilled or room temperature
1 or 2 ounces of sliced almonds, toasted

For the Vinaigrette:
juice of one lime
3 T sherry wine vinegar
2 tsps fig-infused white balsamic vinegar, such as Alessi brand (inexpensive and available in my local grocery stores) (or any white balsamic)
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C canola oil
1/2 tsp fine sea salt (or 1/4 tsp, to taste)
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp curry powder

Whisk vinegars together in a medium bowl.
Slowly whisk in each of the oils.
Whisk or froth in all seasonings and spices.
Chill in a glass jar.
When you remove it from the fridge, whisk or froth again, and it will hold together better once chilled.

Toast sliced almonds under the broiler for a few minutes (watch closely).

Plunge organic raw kale in cold water and swish, and let drain.  If you have a salad spinner, spin it dry.  Dressing will cling a bit better if it’s dryYou can also put the kale in a clean cotton pillow case and swing it dry.

To chiffonade the kale, cut the thicker parts of the ribs out of kale with a sharp knife.  Then stack and roll kale leaves and slice thinly, so you wind up with thin ribbons of kale.

Note:  I think dried cranberries would also be good in this.

Dark Leafy Greens With Sesame Miso Dressing

I had a bunch of curly kale in the fridge and needed to use it up, so found this recipe in The Vegan Table cookbook.  I cut and pasted this recipe from another web site for you here below.  I only changed the cooking time, as 5 minutes of steaming is not enough for really fresh greens (in my opinion), they come out a bit tough.  I was able to find a very small tub of Mellow White Organic Miso at my local health food store.  Starting off with a mellow miso is a great way to introduce this seasoning to your palate.  This dressing has a really nice, decidedly Japanese taste.  If your bunch of greens is not really large, don’t use all the dressing, as it would overpower the dish.  Since sesame seeds are rich in magnesium, they help your body absorb all that calcium in the dark leafy greens.  You’ll also get some zinc and iron from the sesame seeds.  I transfer the sesame seeds into a recycled glass jar and keep them in the fridge, so they don’t go rancid.  This is a good rule of thumb for all nuts and seeds.

1 large bunch greens (kale, turnip, mustard, collards or chard)
2 tablespoons raw sesame seeds
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon light or dark miso
1 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce

Wash greens and remove tough stems and ribs from leaves, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Insert a steamer basket in a 3-quart pot with a few inches of water. (The water should come up to the bottom of the steamer basket, but the vegetables should not touch the water.)  Steam the greens for 10-15 minutes, then immediately plunge them into a bowl filled with cold water. Drain, gently squeeze out excess water, and set aside.
An alternative way to cook the greens is to boil them for three minutes, shock in cold water and then sauté.

Meanwhile, in a large dry sauté pan, toast the sesame seeds over medium heat, shaking or stirring constantly until they are fragrant or begin to pop.

Combine the oil, miso, mirin, lemon juice, and tamari in a small bowl. Add the greens to the sauté pan with the seeds in it, turn off the heat, and stir in the dressing, and toss all of the ingredients using non-stick tongs. You are not cooking the greens as much as just warming them up along with the dressing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 2 servings

Note:  Miso, a traditional Japanese food, is a thick paste used for sauces, soups, and spreads, made by fermenting rice, barley and/or soybeans, with salt and a fermenting agent. The different types of miso available (found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store), such as light, dark, red, vary according to how long they have been fermented, how much salt is added, how sweet it is, etc. In general, light/white miso has a sweeter, more mild flavor, and red/dark is a bit stronger.

Also: Though soybeans are the common ingredient in miso, chickpea-based miso exists for those allergic to soy.

Per serving:  257 calories, 11 grams fat, 4 grams protein, 40 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams dietary fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 376 grams sodium.


OK, this dressing might sound a bit odd, but trust me, it’s DELICIOUS on greens, and so simple and healthy.  One caveat is that on first making this dressing, it looks like it won’t blend together, like oil and water.  I have a little tool I bought almost 20 years ago that is indispensable in the kitchen, especially for whipping dressings or egg substitutes.  It’s called the Bonjour Caffe Latte Frother, and costs about $15,

OK, here we go.  For the greens, choose whatever you like.  This time I used kale, and just removed the stems and ribs, cut it chiffonade-style, and steamed until just tender and slightly limp.  An alternative way to cook the greens is to boil for three minutes, shock in cold water, and then sauté.

Tahini Salad Dressing

1/2 C water
1 T Umeboshi plum vinegar
1/4 to 1/3 C tahini

Combine all and blend.  Once mixed, this will not separate for days.   At first, it will be a bit thin, but it is perfectly usable right away.  It will thicken in the fridge and be even creamier once it’s chilled.  Great to make ahead.  Tahini and Umeboshi plum vinegar can be found in any health food store, and in the international aisle of most supermarkets.