Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sicilian-Style Tofu

When I read the ingredients for the “Sicilian-Style Tofu” (page 287), I knew I would like it, as I have a great fondness for kalamata olives and capers, and most anything that includes them. I wasn’t disappointed, and in fact, I liked it a lot more than I expected!
                               
The basis for the dish is pan-fried tofu. It can be a little tricky trying to get “crisply fried tofu” (as described in the recipe headnotes) without using oil, but once you realize alternate preparation methods also yield satisfying results, you won’t be disappointed. After pressing a 16-oz block of tofu to extract the excess water, I cut it into 9-10 slices, and “dry-fried” it in a non-stick skillet without using any oil at all. It didn’t get as crispy, or as brown, as frying it in oil would have, but to me, it was still completely acceptable, especially after being topped with the zesty and flavorful sauce. However, a very good quality non-stick skillet is ESSENTIAL for this to work!

Speaking of the sauce, this consisted of canned diced tomatoes, onion, garlic sherry, olives, capers, and red pepper flakes, simmered on the stove, then spooned over the prepared tofu, which can be served “as is”, or over pasta for a sort of cacciatore effect. The combination of flavors is supremely satisfying, and I admit to upping the red pepper flakes to give it a bit more bite. The sauce would be good on other foods as well, such as potatoes, pasta, scrambled tofu, or polenta. I see a lot of possibilities here!

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
  • Instead of frying the tofu in oil, use a very good quality nonstick skillet and “dry-fry” it.
  • Use the same nonstick skillet and a little broth, sherry, or water to sauté the veggies.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cabbage Rolls Stuffed with Bulger & Chickpeas

“Cabbage Rolls Stuffed With Bulgur & Chickpeas” (page 337) is a perfect cold-weather dish, even though these are prepared in a skillet on the stove, not baked in the oven.  (There is something so satisfying about a long slow bake of anything in the oven on a cold winter's day!). Because I had a beautiful bunch of collard greens that begged to be rolled around something, I decided to use this instead of the cabbage, which you can plainly see in the picture. The slightly steamed leaves are stuffed with a delicious mixture of cooked bulgur and sautéed onion, cooked garbanzo beans, dillweed, salt and pepper. These tidy little bundles are arranged in a large skillet, covered with tomato juice, and simmered until the greens are cooked and everything is hot throughout. Hearty, satisfying, and wholesome, and made from ingredients you might already have hanging around the kitchen.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
  • Instead of sautéing the onion in oil, use a nonstick skillet and/or a little water, broth, or sherry. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Flower Power Granola Squares


Being a child of the sixties, just the name of this recipe was calling my name! The “Flower Power Granola Squares” (page 8) may not be brownies, but they will satisfy your munchies all the same, and it doesn’t take long to put a batch together when the urge hits. :-) Basic ingredients of sunflower seeds, oats, chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and flaked coconut are mixed with soy milk and a small amount of sweetener (just two tablespoons of maple syrup), popped into the oven, and baked until done. The recipe does call for two tablespoons of melted margarine as part of the wet ingredients, but I used peanut butter instead – more flavor, and no hydrogenated fat – in fact, less fat all the way around. I put the milk, maple syrup, and peanut butter in the blender for a fast whirl to make it smooth before adding to the dry ingredients. Despite not being overly sweet, these little nuggets are very rich, and it only takes a couple of bites to satisfy an urge. Here’s a couple of hints: 

1) Don’t cut into squares for at least 30 minutes, as they will keep their shape better the cooler they are. 

2) Store in the refrigerator for even better sticking-togetherness.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist: 

  • Substitute peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter for the margarine.
  • Use a non-stick baking dish or line with parchment paper instead of oiling the baking dish.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Kale & Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes and yams come in many sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. I find there isn’t a lot consistency in how they are identified in the markets, or in recipes, for that matter. Varieties include white, garnet, Japanese, Okinawan, Jewell, just to name a few. I think any variety of sweet potato or yam would work in the “Kale & Sweet Potatoes” (page 371). I happened to have a “white” sweet potato on hand when I made this dish, although I think it was more of a pale amber, than white. Nothing could be simpler for a colorful (red onion, green kale, and any color of potato), healthy, and delicious side-dish. Sautéed onion starts things off; the kale, potatoes, and broth are added to the mix, and in 20 minutes or so, all is done and ready to eat. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:

  • Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies and instead use water, light vegetable broth, or sherry. 

Satay Sauce

The Tempeh Satay below would not be complete without the “Satay Sauce” (page 41). A simple blended mixture of onion, garlic, chili paste, peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and coconut milk, it whips up in a flash and is an absolutely essential sauce for the satay. Rich, spicy, bursting with flavor, this would be good on a  multitude of foods. As I mentioned below, I avoid coconut milk because of the very high fat (and very high saturated fat) content, so instead of that, I use a mixture of almond milk and coconut extract (1 cup almond milk + ¼ teaspoon coconut extract = 1 cup coconut milk.). I find this gives me all the flavor of coconut milk without the fat. If you do this, be sure to make an entire cup – the Satay uses ¼ cup, and the Satay Sauce uses the other ¾ cup.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:

  • Instead of coconut milk, use almond milk flavored with coconut extract (1 cup almond milk + ¼ teaspoon coconut extract = 1 cup coconut milk). 

Tempeh Satay

“Tempeh Satay” (page 40) is a delicious vegan adaptation of the popular Indonesian dish of seasoned, skewered, and grilled meat served with a sauce. Tempeh also happens to come from Indonesia, so there is actually an authenticity to this dish it might not otherwise have. In this recipe, tempeh strips are marinated in a sauce of coconut milk, soy sauce, lime juice and spices (sugar, coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt, and pepper), threaded onto skewers, and grilled or broiled. I avoid coconut milk because of the very high fat (and very high saturated fat) content, so instead of that, I use a mixture of almond milk and coconut extract (1 cup almond milk + ¼ teaspoon coconut extract = 1 cup coconut milk). I find this gives me all the flavor of coconut milk without the fat. If you do this, be sure to make an entire cup – the Satay only uses ¼ cup, but the Satay Sauce uses the other ¾ cup. And, the crowning glory is the Satay Sauce – food doesn’t get more fun or delicious than this!

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
  • Instead of coconut milk, use almond milk flavored with coconut extract (1 cup almond milk + ¼ teaspoon coconut extract = 1 cup coconut milk).
  • Omit the oil when grilling or broiling the tempeh strips. Instead, use oil free Italian style salad dressing or broth (if grilling), or broil on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or Silpat. 

Cream of Fennel Soup

Creamy soups rank high on my list of comfort foods (maybe I’ve mentioned that before!). There is something so completely satisfying about the mingled flavors of simple vegetables – one, two, or many! – that I never tire of the seemingly endless combinations of puréed soups. “Cream of Fennel Soup” (page 171) is especially nice if you are a fan of the sweet and delicate flavor of anise. This soup calls for the bulb and the fronds of fennel (the bulb cooked, the fronds used for garnish) allowing the flavors of both parts of the plant to shine through. Potato makes the soup thick, peas add a touch of green, and soymilk makes it creamy. With just a handful of other ingredients, this soup is simple, yet elegant and the perfect beginning to any meal. The oil called for to sauté the veggies can be skipped altogether; instead just use a little water, broth, or sherry.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
  • Substitute the oil for sautéing the veggies with water, light vegetable broth, or sherry. 

White Bean & Broccoli Salad with Parsley-Walnut Pesto

If you happen to have leftover broccoli and potatoes in your refrigerator, the “White Beans & Broccoli Salad with Parsley-Walnut Pesto ” (page 81) can be prepared in no time at all, since the longest part of this recipe is the time it takes to steam these vegetables. (This of course assumes you will be using canned beans – it’s a whole other story if you plan to cook the beans from scratch!) The rest of the salad consists of white beans, kalamata olives, and walnuts, tossed with a parsley-walnut based pesto. The pesto portion of the recipe calls for ½ cup of oil, but as with all my pesto, I substitute the oil with an equal amount of light flavored veggie broth, such as the Frontier brand powdered broth. With nuts already in the mix, there is ample richness and I find I don’t miss the oil at all. Essential, earthy food showcased with a rich and flavorful sauce, this is a filling and satisfying salad that can be the centerpiece of any meal.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
  • Substitute the oil in the pesto with an equal amount of light vegetable broth. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mango-Ponzu Dipping Sauce


Sauces can take a dish from ordinary to extraordinary, providing complimentary layers of flavor and complexity.  The “Mango-Ponzu Dipping Sauce” (page 558) is a fresh and bold sauce with just a handful of ingredients – fresh mango, ponzu sauce, and chili paste. If you have trouble finding ponzu sauce (normally found in well stocked grocery stores or Asian markets), you can make it from scratch without much effort (recipes abound on the internet). This sauce is hot, sweet, and piquant, all at the same time, and is wonderful served with tofu chunks, spring rolls, tempeh, seitan, or just about anywhere you would enjoy salsa or chutney. I thought it was especially good with the Potato Samosas I reviewed below. Happily, this dish was McDougall Friendly as written, and no modifications were necessary!


Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:



·       No changes necessary!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Potato Samosas


You will find the “Potato Samosas” (page 44) in the Appetizers and Snacks section, but I found these hearty enough to serve as an entrée. I could probably live indefinitely on samosa-like food – hot pockets of dough stuffed with a savory filling. The possibilities are endless, and the comfort food rating is high. I did have to make a few adjustments to omit the oil, as samosas are traditionally fried in a skillet, or even deep fried. The recipe also calls for a significant amount of oil in the dough, and for sautéing the vegetables that go into the filling. The filling consists of potatoes and onion, with the optional addition of green peas, spinach, or cauliflower. (I like adding peas for a burst of color.) The dough is basically a mixture of flour, salt, water, and oil, plus a splash of soymilk, but I replaced the water, oil, and soymilk with 1 cup of plain, unsweetened soy yogurt, which keeps the oil-free dough tender. This recipe does take some time – it is a process – but the results are well worth the effort. If you have a Pocket Pie Crimper for forming the samosas, you will end up with a perfectly formed and pretty pocket, but you can also make these by hand following the recipe instructions. Instead of frying this in a skillet of hot oil, I baked them in the oven for 40 minutes at 375 degrees. Eat these plain, or with one of the dipping sauces suggested in the recipe notes.


Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:

  • Substitute the water, oil, and soymilk in the dough mixture with 1 cup of plain, unsweetened non-dairy yogurt.
  • When sautéing the veggies for the filling, use a nonstick skillet and/or a little water, broth, or sherry instead of the oil.
  • Instead of frying the samosas in oil in a skillet, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake them in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes, turning once halfway through.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Millet-Stuffed Bell Peppers with Watercress & Orange


“Millet-Stuffed Bell Peppers with Watercress & Orange” (page 336) puts a novel and delicious spin on the traditional stuffed pepper. Millet isn’t a common grain for most of us living in this country, but the more ways I find to use it, the more I appreciate it. It is versatile, nutritious, and as a bit of a chameleon, can adapt itself to dishes ranging from sweet to savory. In this simple preparation, cooked millet is mixed with sautéed onions, watercress, chopped orange segments; mildly seasoned with pepper and coriander; then stuffed into bell pepper halves. These bake in orange juice until the peppers are tender, and the millet stuffing is heated through. Use any color of peppers that pleases you; I found red peppers on sale at the market the week I made these, so that is what I used. I made a couple of changes to the recipe to suit my own tastes. First, I didn’t pre-cook the pepper halves in boiling water before stuffing and baking them. I find this step softens the peppers more than I like, and the bake in the oven is enough for me. I also spooned the orange juice over the stuffed peppers, rather than pouring it into the bottom of the baking pan so the millet could soak up the delicious flavor. These keep well, so you won’t mind if you end up with leftovers – in fact, you’ll be glad of it!
  
Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist: 

  • Substitute the oil for sautéing the veggies with sherry (which added a nice flavor), or water, or soy sauce