Big on Taste, Low on Sin: My Low-Fat, Vegan Ceasar Salad

Vegan Bill

There’s a lot of press about former President Bill Clinton – whose appetites for fast food and interns were legendary – chucking away a preference for cheeseburgers and adopting a vegan diet.

He did it not for ethical or environmental reasons (although these are quite numerous), but just for the sake of good health. Clinton has had two heart surgeries so far and wants to avoid a third. Based on his own research, a plant-based diet is the best way to clean up his arteries and possibly even reverse his condition.

This isn’t medical voodoo. Much of this theory of disease reversal is documented in the book The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, the same book Clinton read.

Veganism refers to a diet of all plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains), no meat (seafood, pork, beef, or anything that had a face or mother) no dairy (no cheese, and especially no milk) and no eggs.

I think it’ll work for Bill. I’ve tried to adopt a vegan diet since May 2010 – can’t say I have been an ultra-strict practitioner but I try to stay vegan for the most part. I can’t attribute any big medical miracles to it yet, but I have managed to avoid being sick for most of this period – and I used to catch colds and coughs all the time. I also do pretty well on physicals lately, and I attribute that to cutting out meat more than any prescription drug.

 

Weight loss was an early side effect, but my problem is, as a foodie, I just love to eat. So as I got used to eating meatless meals, I grew to love them and just ate more of them! So the weight has creeped back in. Well at least there are the health benefits.

Finding vegan-friendly food in a sea of carnivores is not the easiest thing, so I had to pick up and refine my rudimentary cooking skills so I could prepare tasty vegan dishes to eat. The Internet is the best source of this information.

One Internet recipe I quickly mastered (through endless repetition, mainly) was Vegan Chili. The recipe is posted elsewhere on this blog.

I also needed a quick easy-to prepare meal since I don’t always have a lot of time to spend for food prep. I settled on salads because this is so easy to put together assuming you already have everything prepared in tupperware containers in the fridge. Just toss together the chopped veggies, add a little dressing, season, and top with croutons or some other source of crunch and you’re done. Drink with a tall glass of ice water and you feel full right away..

Ceasar Salad has always been my favorite, even during my pre-vegan days. But the traditional ingredients are so sinful they practically negate the health benefits of the veggies.

Take the typical ingredients of a Ceasar: eggs, oil, bacon, anchovies, cheese. Nothing healthful abouth these ingredients!

You could go the modern way and use a pre-prepared commercial Ceasar dressing from a bottle, but just by reading the ingredients, you can see that they even add chemicals and preservatives to the mix.

By trial and error, I have devised a dressing that has the tang of a Ceasar dressing but is fat free – and it’s mainly Dijon mustard. I use Grey Poupon, which is available in very large bottles and has that kick and pale yellow color similar to a traditional Ceasar dressing. Dijon is also surprisingly creamy for a spread with no fat in it. In one fell swoop we eliminate the need for eggs, oil, and anchovies!

I toss the salad vegetables (mainly the traditional Romaine Lettuce, but I sometimes add chopped red onions and green peppers). Then drop two tablespoons of Dijon mustard on top and toss it with the lettuce until the leaves and stems are evenly coated. I season quickly using a little salt (optional) and pepper, cayenne pepper, and “Italian Seasoning” – that bottled mixture of herbs used to flavor pastas and pizza. No cheese needed – the Dijon is pretty tangy already.

For the crunch – you can use fake bacon, i.e. “Bac-os” or a similar meatless “bacon bits” (actually bacon flavored textured vegetable protein). However if you think this ingredient is too processed you can eliminate that ingredient altogether. As a substitute I have tried Boy Bawang cornicks. Yep, you can argue that this is actually fried salty popcorn, but you don’t need much, maybe a tablespoon and a half at most. The salt and garlicky taste add that missing garlic punch to the salad. And this is a more natural ingredient than Bac-os.

Croutons are optional. I would use oven toasted squares of whole-wheat rather than the commercial boxed croutons. But if you use Boy Bawang, this provides all the crunch you need.

So that’s my “fake” Vegan version of a Ceasar Salad. It’s surprisingly good. Trouble is I end up eating too much of it!

If I ever bump into Clinton I’ll make him a salad.

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