Thanksgiving is next week and I’m giving you… a salad! I know, typical dietitian move, but you have to hear me out about this salad. For me, and I would assume for many of you, it is challenging to keep my diet in moderation this time of year with all of the delicious sweets and traditional, yet heavy, holiday dishes. For balance, I usually resort to eating salads each day for either lunch or dinner. After awhile though, green lettuce salads start to get a little mundane. Sure, there are lots of awesome salad recipes out there, but I can only buy so many ingredients for one person before it starts getting a little ridiculous. This Thai carrot salad is the perfect answer. I always have these ingredients in my pantry and it changes the salad pattern up just enough to keep things interesting! Another bonus is that carrots are always available, so you can make this salad year round and not have to worry about finding everything that you need.
Japan loves Halloween. It’s a fairly new holiday here, as it used to only be celebrated by foreigners before it became popular among the locals too. Every store and restaurant has displays and decorations (some will even give a discount if you show up in costume this weekend) and all of the typical treats and candies have special Halloween packaging. There are costume contests and other Halloween type events at the local malls and trick or treating on base for all of the military and local Japanese kids. Since pumpkins are so iconic in America surrounding Halloween, Japan has also adopted this specialty flavor for the month of October. As exciting as this may sound, it’s not the typical pumpkin spice flavor that Americans know and love. In Japan, their “pumpkin” is what we know as kabocha squash. You can imagine how this has become very disorienting when buying, for example, pumpkin Kit-Kats and having them taste like raw squash, and not like the warm fall flavors that we are accustomed to. (My apologies again to my siblings and everyone else that I convinced to try the “pumpkin” Kit-Kats I brought back with me.) The pumpkin ice cream that I found was better, probably because it was made by Häagen Dazs, but the best thing I’ve had was the pumpkin ramen from one of our favorite ramen shops. To summarize my taste testing experiences so far, pumpkin specials in Japan are much better when they are savory rather than sweet.
Colin loves to remind me that “the lowest calorie salad is the one you don’t eat.” It’s not that Colin does not like vegetables, or salad for that matter, but he thinks a salad is not worth eating if it does not taste good. To his credit, salad can easily fall into the “not worth it” category. Think back to all of the salad bars you’ve ever been to at buffets or dining halls: tasteless iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, croutons, ranch dressing. It’s really not that appealing. But, being a dietitian and someone who grew up eating lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers grown in my mom and grandpa’s gardens, I love salad. As you can imagine, telling Colin that we are having salad for dinner does not always go over well. Luckily, he knows that pretty much anything I make will be good, so he doesn’t complain too much.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t tell Colin what was in this dressing the first time I made it. He was wary enough about chicken Caesar salads for dinner and I didn’t want to scare him off completely by telling him that the salad dressing was made with cashews. I have to admit, I was even a little hesitant myself. I’ve always looked for healthier options for creamy dressings, I love them, just not the calories, but I wasn’t sure if cashews would significantly change the flavor. Plus, I couldn’t find raw cashews (of course) so my only option was roasted.
As predicted, Colin and I both loved the dressing and the salad for dinner. I had warned him it was not a traditional Caesar dressing, but he didn’t comment on the “apparent” cashew flavor until after I told him what was in it. (I think if I had been able to use raw cashews like the recipe calls for, he would not have noticed.) To me, this dressing tastes exactly like Caesar dressing should: creamy, tart, slightly salty and nutty. It’s excellent on a traditional Caesar salad, but we love it for side salads or any random salads we come up with using leftovers in the fridge. Using cashews in the dressing makes it lower in calories than it’s traditional creamy counter part and it has lots of healthy fats from the cashews, rather than egg yolks or mayonnaise. I’m happy to say I finally have a creamy salad dressing I can feel good about eating.
Crunchy bread, a runny egg, creamy spinach, spicy mustard, all sprinkled with feta cheese…need I say more? What about how this takes 10 minutes to make from start to finish so you can eat it for lunch, or breakfast, or even dinner? I know, it’s genius and it’s absolutely delicious. It has become my go-to lunch on the days I don’t work, so much so that I make sure to always have these ingredients on hand.