Creamy Café Dressing + a Review of Pig Out Bacony Bits from Wayfare

Little known fact: About 15 or 16 years before I said adios to animal products, I made a one-day attempt at vegetarianism.  I was a self-proclaimed animal lover.  One of my best friends and constant companions was my Doberman.  To continue the compassion that I already had for her and other dogs and cats to include pigs, cows, and chickens made all the sense in the world.  There was only one problem standing in the way.  I was just starting high school, and I had no idea what a meal looked like without meat and cheese.  In my repertoire a sandwich was meat, cheese, and bread.  A pizza was meat, cheese, and bread.  And a salad?  Well, it was iceberg lettuce, carrots, bell peppers, celery… and meat, cheese, and melba toast (i.e. bread).  To top it off, I’d add bacon bits and a creamy dressing.  Salads are healthy, right?

I liked the vegetables, sure, but what kept me going back for more salad was the mix of crunchy, smoky, salty, and creamy.  There’s a reason why it’s hard to stop with one bite of a restaurant appetizer, and that’s because they hit us just right in our pleasure sensors with all of that salt, fat, and crunch we crave.  Add those elements to a salad, and I might as well have been a rabbit.

So on this day that I decided to be vegetarian, I made the one thing that I knew vegetarians ate – salads.  I wish the internet had existed at that point, because I know I would have gone vegetarian sooner if I’d had the resources.  If I’d learned more about the processes behind raising animals for food and if I knew more about what to eat once animals were off the plate, I would have transitioned earlier.  However, on this day I was flying blind, and as I plucked the vegetables from the refrigerator and put them onto lettuce, it all felt very meager.  It didn’t look like a salad with substance.  It looked like a starter.  Eventually, after feeling vaguely hungry for a day, I gave up, and believed for years that I wasn’t quite up to the challenge.

I’ve been vegan for nearly five years now and vegetarian for a couple of years before that, and now a salad for lunch, dinner, or even breakfast feels far from meager.  I’m not saying that that’s all vegetarians eat, of course, but I do love them.  I pile on as many different vegetables as I can: sugar snap peas, cauliflower, broccoli, artichokes, avocado, oranges…  But some days there’s something deliciously simple about returning to the standards.

No, I’m not adding bits of smoked pig to my salad.  However, it is interesting to note that many of the bacon bits on the shelf of your ordinary grocery store are actually vegan.  The first ingredient is often textured soy flour, and it’s followed up with partially hydrogenated soybean oil, caramel color, hydrolyzed soy, corn gluten, and food coloring.  Of course, I wouldn’t eat those bacon bits regardless of their vegan status, but they are surprisingly animal-free.  Instead, I’ve been eating the new whole grain bacony bits from Wayfare called Pig Out.  I’m already a big fan of their hickory cheddar spread.  (Have you tried my hickory cheddar cauliflower soup?  It’s a keeper!)

So when I saw that they were offering free samples with a self-addressed stamped envelope, I went for it.  (I’ve since gone to a favorite specialty store to pick up a full-sized bag.)  They’re made with whole grain cereal, whole grain oat flour, torula yeast, safflower oil, sea salt, and natural hickory smoke powder.  They’re not gluten-free, but they are non-GMO and soy-free.  I like to put them on top as the finishing touch to a salad, so that every bite gets a little hit of salty, smoky crunch.  I top it with a mild, creamy dressing, squares of easy lemon baked tofu, and add it to my favorite greens with a few familiar vegetables.

If only I could go back in time, I’d offer it to my teenage self.  (Although, I’d have to trade out the kale for lettuce.  My soda-guzzling palate wouldn’t have known what to do with that hearty green.)  I’d say, “Here, Cad.  This is how you do it.”  Then while I was there anyway, I’d give myself a talking to about my sky-high bangs.  I’d let it slip that Doogie Howser’s career will only improve in 20 years, but my then-beloved Adam Sandler will be putting up Jack and Jill.  Once I’m ready for it, I’ll break it to myself about why it isn’t going to work out with my 15-year-old, theatre-loving, show tune-singing boyfriend.  Maybe I’d better bring dinner too.  It’s going to be a long day.

Creamy Café Dressing

Makes enough for 4-6 meal-sized salads

This mild, creamy dressing reminds me of what you’d find at a café where they serve salads in bread bowls.  It lets the vegetables take center stage without too much focus, but throws in its own tangy ranch-like flavors for good measure.

  • 2 heaping Tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp tamari
  • 2/3 cup raw cashews
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp onion granules
  • 1 clove garlic

Blend all of the ingredients in a Vitamix or high-speed blender until smooth and creamy.  (If you don’t have a high-speed blender, soak the raw cashews in additional water for an hour or more and then drain before blending.)  This dressing keeps for several days in the refrigerator, but it will thicken over time so add more water if necessary.

21 thoughts on “Creamy Café Dressing + a Review of Pig Out Bacony Bits from Wayfare

  1. bahahahaha. Wow even teased hair girls who eat iceberg lettuce can become vegan. Um why didn’t it workout with your boyfriend ;)
    I might have to send away for some of that. Does it come with a back comb?
    Great post.

    • I know, isn’t it mystifying? We had so much in common. I loved Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. He loved Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis. I guess you just never can tell… ;)

  2. Hmmm… Now you’re married to me, and I’m very excited about the new “Les Mis” movie. Maybe things turned out more like you would have imagined? :D

    • Oh, your dressing sounds tantalizing! I like the additions of miso and dill. I’m definitely going to try that one!

      Isn’t Kristy great? I’m glad you found me and am so happy to hear that you’ve enjoyed my videos. I look forward to checking out your blog more thoroughly!

  3. I tried vegetarianism once in highschool. It was short-lived because I found that I couldn’t really thrive on Wonder Bread and iceburg lettuce. I think you need to go back in time and talk to my teenage self as well!

    This dressing sounds delicious and I love that there is no added oil! Between you and Somer, I’m going to be well-stocked with creamy dressings. :-)

    • While I’m time traveling anyway, I’d be more than happy to pop by and say hello to your high school-aged self. Maybe I’ll bring along a nice crusty baguette, so that we can begin the bread transition slowly. Speaking of Wonder Bread, I was at the grocery store the other day, and the lady in front of me was buying some. It’s one of those things that I’d completely forgotten about because it seems like a relic of the 80′s. It seemed so foreign to think that some people are still putting it on their grocery lists.

      I agree, I always prefer a dressing without added oil. I’m looking forward to trying Somer’s miso ranch. It sounds delightful!

  4. You were one step ahead of me in high school — I didn’t know vegetarianism existed, though if I had, I’m sure I would have wanted to try it. Even if it was only for a day. Now you’ve brought back the smoky memories of bac’n bits, and I’m sorry the new pig outs aren’t gluten-free. I guess I’ll just have to add a few drops of liquid smoke to my dressing. :)

    • I knew a couple of girls in school who were vegetarians. I vividly remember hearing their transition stories while sitting in one of those 24 hour diners. One of the girls went vegetarian after she read Charlotte’s Web and saw slaughterhouse footage. I was baffled at the time about how she came across slaughterhouse footage; I didn’t know where she’d get access to that.

      I’m kind of surprised that they didn’t make their bacony bits gluten-free. Have you tried the Smoky Soy Curls from Vegan Diner? The smaller broken pieces of Soy Curls make excellent gluten-free vegan bacon bits.

  5. when i was 16, i attempted to be vegan for a week, and it lasted a day. i had NO IDEA how to eat properly, and i’m fairly positive the only thing i ate all day was baguette bread..it was pretty ridiculous.

    i, too, wish i could go back in time and say, “caitlin!! there are SO MANY THINGS you can eat!! go forth and be fruitful!” alas, that is not a possibility. i have been vegan for nearly 7 years and i am still learning about all the delicious food possibilities ;)

    i know of the gross vegan bacon bits you are referring to. every time i see them, i pick them up and read the ingredients, always hopeful that they have changed. but they don’t. the wayfare bacon bits sound so much healthier!

    AND! (longest comment ever!!), i love that creamy cafe dressing. it’s amazing what cashews can do ;) and i need to get my hands on some onion granules now.

    • “I have been vegan for nearly 7 years and i am still learning about all the delicious food possibilities.” You’re so right! Many people assume that veganism is about rigid limitation, but my diet only becomes more varied, interesting, and expansive. There are so many different plant based foods and cuisines to discover and sample!

      What did we ever do without raw cashews? They’re the wizard of foods – changing forms into sauces, desserts, dressings, cheeses, and spreads.

  6. Ooohhh, I haven’t seen these Wayfare grain bits! Now I am going to be on the lookout because I too have found memories of putting Bacos on my salads, baked potatoes, cereal, etc. ha.
    And I’m hoping that the talk that you are having with your 15 year old self in regards to the sky-high bangs is that they need to be HIGHER!!

    • Maybe you’re right! My fifteen-year-old self will probably want to school me on how “flat” my hair has become. I remember in those days looking at pictures from the seventies and feeling embarrassed for people that their hair was so straight. :)

  7. Sounds like my story as well…. I spent a few months at the age of 13 eating white bread sandwiches with American cheese. We didn’t have tofu back then, let alone Diet for a Small Planet, which I discovered at the age of 17. My 17th birthday was my first day of “the rest of my life” of vegetarianism, and of course now veganism. Those youngsters have it so easy now!!! Thanks for your story.

    • It sounds like it was a common occurrence for many of us that the seed of desire was there, but the tools for implementation weren’t available. I’m glad that there are so many resources available to people now, and that transition foods have become more popular and convenient for those who are ready to make a change but don’t know how.

    • I can understand why! I love that smoky crunch to add another dimension to salad. Plus, the ingredient list is so natural. My husband likes to make BLTA’s with them. He smashes the avocado in the sandwich, so that the bacony bits will stick to it.

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