Sunday, July 15, 2018

Singapore Noodles with Tempeh

According the recipe notes, this recipe, “Singapore Noodles with Tempeh”, (page 241), is a popular Indonesian dish also known as bami goreng or mee goreng. Since tempeh originated in Indonesia, it makes sense there would be many regional dishes showcasing it.

The preparation consists of four parts:

1) preparing the tempeh (dicing, steaming, and sautéing); 

2) preparing the sauce (blending peanut butter, coconut milk, water, lemon juice, sugar, cayenne, and soy sauce); 

3) preparing the noodles; and, 

4) sautéing the vegetables (bell pepper, cabbage, garlic, green onions, and ginger).  

Once the components have been prepared, fresh or frozen peas are added to the sautéed veggies, along with the tempeh and noodles, and finally, the sauce, with everything simmered just long enough to heat through. Top off with chopped peanuts and cilantro, and get ready to enjoy! There are so many complementary tastes and textures in this dish, it’s impossible to attribute the bursts of flavor to any one thing. Each bite unfolds into a delightful, multi-layered, taste experience.

Oil was called for in this recipe for tossing with the cooked noodles, sautéing the tempeh, and sautéing the vegetables. It was easy to leave it out in all instances. Rinsing the noodles thoroughly will prevent them from sticking, but if you wanted to include the sesame oil here for flavor purposes only, used like a condiment, a teaspoon or less would be effective, instead of the tablespoon called for. The tempeh and veggies can be sautéed in water, broth, sherry, or soy sauce.

In lieu of the coconut milk, I used soymilk with a few drops of coconut extract, to avoid the adding this source of highly saturated fat. This is a good way to include the coconut flavor without the fat.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:

  • Instead of using oil for sautéing the tempeh and vegetables, use a non-stick skillet and/or use sherry, broth, water, or soy sauce as a sauté liquid.
  • Instead of coconut milk, use ¼ cup soymilk with ¼ teaspoon of coconut extract.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Pinto Beans & Corn

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Pinto Beans”, page 88, is made for those summer days when hot and heavy food just doesn’t sound appealing. Happily quinoa is a relatively quick cooking grain so stove time is minimal. I’ve been using my Instant Pot to cook whole grains, which puts out very little heat, also a definite advantage on hot days. Once you have cooked quinoa on hand, the salad goes together in a snap. The rest of the ingredients include corn, pinto beans, celery, chile pepper, cilantro, and garlic. The dressing, as written, consists of lemon juice, sugar and olive oil. I replaced all of that with the juice of one lime which provided the right amount of liquid to moisten the salad, and a nice bright flavor that wasn’t too tart. On a whim, I added sliced black olives, providing complimentary flavor and texture.  

Quinoa has become an increasingly popular whole grain recently, and I have to admit, I haven’t been quick to embrace it. But I did discover that it really does improve the flavor if you rinse the grain thoroughly before cooking, and I’ve also started adding a teaspoon of lemon pepper and a pinch of garlic powder to the cooking liquid for additional flavor. Also helpful is cutting back just a tad on the amount of cooking liquid so the grain doesn’t stick together. These three adjustments have made a big difference, and I am actually starting to appreciate it more and more.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
Replace the dressing ingredients with the juice of one lime, or try using a bottled oil free Italian style dressing

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wasabi Mayonnaise

It  doesn’t get much easier than this: “Wasabi Mayonnaise”, page 574, is simply ½ cup vegan mayonnaise mixed with a teaspoon of wasabi powder. That’s it! You can use the fat free homemade mayo recipe in this book (Vegan Mayonnaise), or store-bought if you can find a fat free version you like. Either way, if you are a fan of wasabi, you will really enjoy the kick from this spiced up mayonnaise. 

Use on sandwiches, vegetable salads, or, as the recipe suggests, as a spread on sushi. I found just using one teaspoon of powder wasn’t quite enough. It’s likely the heat level varies with brands, so start with one teaspoon, and add more if you want it spicier.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Spicy Southwestern-Style Coleslaw

There are nine coleslaw recipes in this book, and the “Spicy Southwestern-Style Coleslaw”, page 76, is the 5th one I’ve tried. Coleslaw dressings usually fall into two categories: creamy (mayonnaise based), or tart (vinegar based). The dressing in this recipe calls for two tablespoons of vinegar, and ¼ cup olive oil, so  not quite creamy, and not quite tart. In this case, it’s hard to just completely omit the oil, as it makes up 2/3 of the dressing volume. My solution was to use ¼ cup water and 1/8 teaspoon of guar gum to thicken it up. Along with the southwestern spices (cumin, chili powder, and cayenne), this made a very delicious dressing for the salad, which consisted of both red and green cabbage, red bell pepper, and parsley (or cilantro, which seems more authentic for this dish).  

This salad is pretty to look at, tastes delightful, and gives you a super dose of those important cruciferous vegetables!

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
For the dressing, replace the oil with water and add 1/8 teaspoon guar gum to thicken.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Farro & White Bean Soup with Italian Parsley

How can you go wrong with a vegetable based soup? The “Farro & White Bean Soup with Italian Parsley” (page 156), is very similar to vegetable barley soup, and in fact, I find I can use farro in place of barley in just about any recipe. This soup also reminded me of a light minestrone, with the veggies (celery, carrots, onion, garlic), tomato, beans (cannellini), and grain combination. It was very easy to prepare, and omitting the oil required no extra effort or substitute ingredients. This is a delicious and nourishing soup, hearty enough to serve as a main dish, perfectly rounded out by a tossed green salad and whole grain bread.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Replace the oil with water, broth, soy sauce, or sherry for sautéing the veggies and/or use a nonstick pot.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Chickpea, Tomato, & Eggplant Stew

I’m now just about convinced I’m an authentic eggplant fan. Having recently tryed a handful of recipes from this book that include eggplant, a vegetable that in the past, I was only mildly fond of, I find I’ve changed my mind. Either these recipes are perfectly made for eggplant, or I’m getting better at working with it, or my tastes are just changing. In any case, I’m glad I am finally able to happily include this beautiful vegetable in my regular recipe rotation. The “Chickpea, Tomato, & Eggplant Stew”, page 258, is an elemental, earthy combination of onion, eggplant, carrots, potatoes, red bell pepper, chickpeas, and tomatoes, brought to full flavor with garlic, parsley, oregano, and basil. There are only two steps in the recipe preparation, sautéing a portion of the veggies, and adding the rest of the ingredients to simmer for a bit. Easy, satisfying, and tastes even better the next day, if you have any leftovers.

The recipe as written only calls for 1 tablespoon of oil. It’s easy to omit this altogether, using any other liquid you prefer for sautéing the veggies.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Replace the oil with water, broth, soy sauce, or sherry for sautéing the veggies and/or use a nonstick pot.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Creamy Artichoke Dressing

“Creamy Artichoke Dressing”, page 101, is versatile, zesty, and tangy, and makes a great topping for crispy lettuce salads, pasta salad, or even steamed vegetables. Although the recipe calls for a jar of undrained marinated artichoke hearts, meaning packed in oil, this worked out perfectly well using a can of water packed artichoke hearts instead. My first choice was frozen artichokes, which are superior in flavor to the canned, and are also oil-free, but I couldn’t find them the day I shopped for this recipe. The remaining ingredients are garlic, fresh lemon juice, salt, and cayenne, plus additional oil, which I omitted, using water instead. Everything goes in the blender and is processed until smooth and creamy, adding the water 2 tablespoons at a time until the dressing reaches the desired consistency. Because the artichokes add a lot of bulk, there really is no need to add any thickening agent, such as guar gum, if you leave out the oil. In fact, you may find you actually need to thin it down.

This is an easy dressing to make, whips up in a flash, and one I will likely make again. I can imagine it as a dipping sauce for oven fries, and as a topping for grilled tofu, tempeh, or seitan.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Replace the ¼ cup of olive oil with water, 2 tablespoons at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sicilian Penne with Tomatoes & Eggplant

Once again I was happily surprised to find another way to enjoy eggplant. For most of my life, I really thought I didn’t like it, but lately it seems I am acquiring a taste for it, and I have especially enjoyed it just recently in a couple of dishes from this book. 

This latest recipe, “Sicilian Penne with Tomatoes and Eggplant”, page 197, was rich and pleasing, which belied the simplicity of the ingredients list – onion, garlic, eggplant, tomato paste, and crushed tomatoes, with enhancements from a splash of red wine and fresh basil. Somehow this combination tasted like much more than it would suggest, and I continue to be amazed and pleased at my new found appreciation for eggplant.

It’s easy to leave the oil out of this dish by using a little water or broth to sauté the veggies, and with all the other rich flavors, I didn’t miss it all, and you probably won’t either. Once simmered and thickened, serve this delightful sauce over penne pasta, or really, any pasta of your choice. The recipe suggest mixing the cooked pasta and sauce together, but I prefer to top individual servings, in order to monitor the ratio of pasta to sauce. I tend to like more sauce than most recipes suggest, and this was no exception, as the recipe called for a pound of penne, and I cooked about half that much.
Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Replace the 2 Tablespoons of olive oil with a little water or broth when sautéing the vegetables.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Tuscan White Beans & Broccoli Rabe

“Tuscan White Beans & Broccoli Rabe”, (page 256), is a main dish that can be on the table in 30-minutes or so, providing you have cooked beans on hand. Five simple ingredients – broccoli rabe, garlic, beans, broth, and fresh rosemary – make up this stove-top meal, with broth standing in for the oil called for in the recipe. If you look closely, you might notice I did not use broccoli rabe, substituting broccoli instead. I have tried broccoli rabe a handful of times, and so far I’m not a fan, so I opted to take the safer route, and use broccoli crowns in their place. The dish seemed a little dry, so I included a cup of broth to make it more soupy. The recipe notes also suggest the optional addition of cooked pasta for an even heartier meal.

As simple as this dish looked, I was pleasantly surprised to find the combination of flavors exquisitely pleasing. Was it the broth? The fresh rosemary? The overall combination of everything? I can’t say for sure, but my husband and I ended up eating the entire potful in one sitting, that’s how much we both enjoyed it.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Replace the 2 Tablespoons of olive oil with ½ - 1 cup of vegetable broth.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Beets with Greens & Slivered Apricots

Not only is the humble beet a nutritious powerhouse, it is beautiful to look at, delicious as well, and the recipe for “Beets with Greens & Slivered Apricots”, (page 357), also takes advantage of the tender greens. Once you have cooked the beets, the dish comes together quickly and easily, and although this was written to be a warm vegetable side dish, I kept envisioning it as a salad, so I changed things up a bit. The best news is, the recipe, as written, is oil-free, so no adjustments in that respect were necessary.

I agree with the recipe, that baking or roasting beets, as opposed to stovetop cooking, intensifies the flavor, and is the preferred method. Pressure cooking yields similar results as oven cooking, and I will use that method if I don’t want to turn the oven on and heat up the house. Since our house is so small (a 325 foot 5th wheel trailer), turning on the oven on a warm day is something I try to avoid.

The recipe calls for softening the apricots in hot water, which is probably necessary if the apricots are very tough and chewy, as some varieties are. The apricots I had were already very soft, and soaking them in hot water might have made them dissolve, so I skipped this step. Then, there are further instructions to simmer the pre-soaked apricots with the dressing; I skipped this step also. In fact, I did not simmer the dressing at all. I simply whisked the lemon juice and brown sugar together in a small bowl.

After cooking the greens until they were just slightly wilted (which only takes a couple of minutes), I placed them in a ring around a plate, placed the sliced beets in the center of the ring, arranged the slivered apricots on top of the greens, and sprinkled the dressing over all. I chilled the “salad” for about an hour before serving. This made for a very attractive, not to mention scrumptious, addition to our meal.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • No changes necessary!       

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Mustard-Chive Mayonaise

As you can see from the photograph, I thought the “Mustard-Chive Mayonnaise” (page 574) was a perfect topping for fresh steamed asparagus, especially this time of year when asparagus can be found in abundance. 

Such a humble combination of vegan mayonnaise (homemade, or store-bought), Dijon mustard, and fresh chives. Simplicity and utter satisfaction, good as a vegetable topping, a sandwich spread, or on grilled tofu or tempeh. 

If you use the Vegan Mayonnaise recipe from this book (page 573), you will automatically be keeping this an oil free topping.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Use oil free vegan mayonnaise as the base.      

Monday, April 2, 2018

Creamy Tahini Dressing

A good salad dressing can elevate ordinary greens and vegetables to star status and make any meal special. Since eliminating store-bought oil-laden salad dressings from my diet, I’ve discovered a whole new world of possibilities. I admit to being a bit of a salad dressing addict, and there are times I enjoy the dressing more than what it actually dresses. I have a couple favorite go-to recipes, my version of house dressings, but I love trying new recipes and expanding my repertoire. 

The “Creamy Tahini Dressing” (page 102) could easily become part of my regular rotation. The combination of tahini and lemon juice is so satisfying, and the basis of this dressing. Additional ingredients include soy sauce and parsley, salt and cayenne, and if following the recipe, sesame oil. With the tahini already providing the sesame flavor, as well as a bit of natural oil, I didn’t see any reason to add additional sesame oil. For a more intense sesame flavor, a few drops of sesame oil would do the trick, but I don’t think an entire tablespoon would be necessary. The tahini also provides enough body to keep this dressing thick, so no additional oil is necessary.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the sesame oil. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Water Cress-White Bean Soup with Toasted Pine Nuts

I never get tired of soup. The variations and possibilities are endless, limited only by what’s in season, what's in your pantry, and your own imagination. Soup can start a meal, or be the meal. My favorite meals consist of a bowl of soup, a plate of salad, and a nice hunk of sourdough bread. I never tire of the ever changing combinations found with this type of meal.

The “Watercress-White Bean Soup with Toasted Pine Nuts”, (page 177), can be puréed, or not, like the recipe notes suggest. I opted to purée, which I agreed, yielded a more elegant presentation. The flavors are subtle, yet elementally satisfying, comprised from a few simple ingredients: shallots, watercress, white beans, and broth, with a small amount of soy milk to give it extra body. The toasted pine nuts are used as garnish, but add a nice little crunch to the first few bites. Leaving the oil completely out is easy in this recipe, and I’m quite sure nobody will miss it.

Note: This soup can end up quite thin, and it is important to simmer uncovered so it will thicken up. Otherwise, you can blend 2-4 tablespoons of flour with a cup of water, and stir into the bubbling soup to help thicken it up.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
  • Use water instead of oil when sautéing the shallots and watercress.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Arugula & Apple Salad with Creamy Mustard Dressing

 The “Arugula & Apple Salad with Creamy Mustard Dressing” (page 50) is a bright and delicious blend of greens and fruit, dressed with a tangy mustard dressing, as the name suggests. Very quickly assembled, this salad makes a great starter to any meal, and is open to variation – different greens, different varieties of apples, mixing up the choice of fresh herbs.

The dressing calls for a lot of olive oil, 1/3 cup to be exact, which packs 630 calories and 71 grams of fat. Not to worry, though! It is easy to make this dressing fat free, without sacrificing any of the flavor. The secret is guar gum (see guar gum here). An emulsifier and thickener, a little goes a long way, and if you can find it in bulk, likely ½ cup will last you all year. In this recipe, I substituted 1/3 cup water for the oil, mixed it with the rest of the dressing ingredients (white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and parsley), and added just ¼ teaspoon of guar gum. Mix thoroughly, then let it sit for about 15-30 minutes, and the dressing will thicken up perfectly! I liked this dressing so much, I plan to make it in the future for other salads as well.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
  • Use water instead of oil when making the dressing, adding ¼ teaspoon of guar gum to emulsify and thicken.