Monday, April 27, 2015

Baked Chocolate Pudding

I've made a lot of pudding in my life, going back a long, long way. I've made many different types of pudding, from that instant powdered stuff that comes in a box, to the "from scratch" versions that are cooked over the stove, to baked puddings and custards in water baths in the oven. In recent years I've started making vegan puddings using everything from silken tofu, to soymilk, to corn butter as the base. My favorite flavors are chocolate and butterscotch and I've been able to master beloved versions of both in my plant based diet. And, if there is one consistent thing about all these puddings, it's that they more or less wind up with similar outcomes, that is, the end product is sweet, soft and creamy. I've never made a pudding, for instance, that ended up being cake…until now! The "Baked Chocolate Pudding" (page 473), whether by accident or design, is really a recipe for chocolate cake. I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out if this was the intended goal, or if there was a misprint in the ingredients list in the recipe. The ratio of liquid (1 ½ cups soymilk) to flour (1 cup) seemed odd to me, and as soon as I had all the ingredients mixed together, including baking powder, it was clear that this would result in a cake, not a pudding. But what the heck - chocolate cake is good too!  I scraped the batter into individual serving dishes, baked as directed, and enjoyed these petite cakes very much! For the small amount of oil called for in this recipe (only 1 Tablespoon), I decided to use a tablespoon of peanut butter instead. That amount is not enough to interfere with the chocolate flavor, although I happen to really enjoy the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, and I will think about this idea for future baking projects.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use a tablespoon of nut butter instead of oil.
  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose (white) flour.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Quick Herb Bread

"Quick Herb Bread" (page 399) is the first of twelve quick breads (meaning non-yeasted) in the Breads chapter of this book, and the ninth one I've tried so far. I really enjoyed this bread, and found it made especially good toast. Besides the herbs listed in basic recipe (basil, thyme, and marjoram), the recipe suggests using any combination that sounds good to you or complements your meal. I went with the recipe as written, and if I were to change anything, I might increase the amounts of herbs, as the taste was quite subtle to me.  This bread is easy to make, and goes together quickly. Flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour), baking powder and the herbs are mixed with soymilk, and if you followed the recipe exactly, oil as well; I used a scant ½ cup applesauce instead of the olive oil with excellent results.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole wheat pastry flour or spelt flour (a suggestion in the recipe notes) instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Substitute applesauce for the oil, about double the amount.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Molasses Spice Cookies

If cookies are what you are craving, you might want to try the "Molasses Spice Cookies" (page 433). The recipe uses molasses as part of the sweetener (along with sugar), and a list of spices that you might find in pumpkin pie - ginger, cinnamon, and allspice. And, as you might expect, the recipe also calls for margarine, in this case ¼ cup. However, I have been so pleased with the results of my fat-free baking efforts lately that I wasn't at all daunted by substituting ½ cup applesauce for the margarine. (Pureed prunes would also have worked here, since the cookies are already a nice brown shade from the molasses). The instructions say to form the dough into two logs, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least one hour, at which point you are to cut thin slices off of each log to put on the cookie sheet and bake. I'm not sure, but I think the fact that I didn't use margarine interfered with being able to slice the dough. The dough didn't firm up, as I'm thinking it might have had I used  margarine. But this did not stop me from forging ahead. I simply formed dough balls instead of dough slices, placed those on the cookie sheet, and baked as directed. These cookies were delicious, and I can't imagine the flavor was compromised whatsoever by my modifications. As the recipe notes say, these cookies are wonderful with a cup of hot tea.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the margarine and substitute ½ cup of either applesauce or prune purée.
  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose (white) flour.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Fiery Pumpkin Seeds

The recipe for "Fiery Pumpkin Seeds" (page 6) was very easy to modify to omit the oil. All nuts and seeds have a considerable amount of natural oil in them that can be utilized without having to add any more. This particular recipe calls for a lot of oil - ¼ cup, which I think would have resulted in overly oiled seeds. I thought using a small amount of pure maple syrup would be a good substitute for the oil, coating the seeds with something sticky for the spices to adhere to, plus the combination of slightly sweet, slightly salty, and a bit spicy really appealed to me. This approach worked like a charm, and the end result was fantastic! The "fiery" part of this recipe comes from Tabasco sauce, and the seeds are further seasoned with paprika, cumin, and salt. These are a great snack to set out at a gathering - otherwise, you might find yourself eating them all too quickly by yourself!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Line your baking pan with parchment paper instead of oiling it.
  • Do not use the oil called for in the recipe for coating the seeds. Instead, stir 1 Tablespoon of pure maple syrup or agave nectar into the seeds, then add the spices to coat.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Roasted Chickpeas

The recipe for "Roasted Chickpeas" (page 5) conjured up gustatory visions of those crunchy wasabi peas found in bulk sections of some grocery stores or in cans in the Asian food section.  Crunchy and salty, even spicy if so desired, definitely one of those addictive foods. But leaving out the oil in this recipe transforms the texture considerably, so I realized that I was not going to end up with this kind of snack after all. No matter, these are still fun munchies, either eating warm out of the oven, cooled to room temperature, or tossing into a salad. If you have cooked chickpeas on hand, these are super easy to make - drain and rinse, spread in a pan, top with seasoning, and bake until browned (in this case, they won't be "crisped"). The small amount of moisture left on the beans after rinsing them will help the seasonings adhere to them. Start with salt as a seasoning, but add whatever else sounds good to you, the possibilities are endless!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Do not toss the chickpeas in oil. Instead, do not pat dry after rinsing and draining to allow the spices to stick.
  • Line your baking pan with parchment paper instead of oiling it.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Very Vanilla French Toast

When people find out I don't eat any dairy or eggs, they invariably get around to asking me how I manage without French toast. The answer of course, is I don't go without at all! Making French toast without cow's milk or eggs is so easy, and there are so many ways to do this, that nobody can tell the difference between the two. "Very Vanilla French Toast" (page 519) uses silken tofu and soymilk for the liquid component, and cornstarch to thicken things up, thus eliminating the need for both cow's milk and eggs. Flavored just slightly with sugar and pure vanilla extract, this is a simple recipe that allows the quality of the bread to shine through. Get the best Italian, French, or sourdough bread you can find, it really makes a difference! We used sourdough bread from Panera, and it was exquisite! Top with warmed pure maple syrup, or fruit topping of your choice to complete the presentation. The recipe calls for a tablespoon of oil to be added to the liquid portion of the dipping mixture, but leaving it completely out is no problem at all, you won't even miss it.  

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the oil in the liquid portion of the dipping mixture.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Angel Hair Pasta with Olive Oil & Garlic

When I saw the recipe for "Angel Hair Pasta with Olive Oil & Garlic" (page 211), I had to smile. This was an exact replication of my standby, go-to fast-food I turned to when I wanted something quick, and something representing the epitome of comfort food.  Consisting simply of cooked pasta, olive oil, and fresh garlic (and sometimes topped off by parmesan and/or freshly ground black pepper), I think I could have lived on this food at one time. I never realized this was a bona fide recipe, a classic dish that actually had a name - Aglio-Olio (which means Garlic-Oil).  To me, this was nothing more than a pantry staple that I dearly loved, and had a hard time letting go of when I began to cook and eat oil-free. So when it came time to make this recipe, I was balking at the idea, knowing I would be leaving out the olive oil and significantly changing the entire presentation and experience. But I gathered up my courage and plunged ahead, using an ample amount of flavorful veggie broth to replace the ½ cup (yes, ½ CUP!) of oil called for in this recipe. Wow - that's 142 grams of fat! Somehow knowing that helped me move past my reluctance, and although I will always have fond memories of the way I used to eat this dish, using veggie broth was quite acceptable, especially if you are lucky enough to find fresh homemade pasta to mix it with. Be liberal with the veggie broth, the "juicier" it is, the better.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the olive oil, using an equal or greater amount of flavorful veggie broth instead.
  • Use whole grain pasta of your choice.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Citrus Vinaigrette

For a light and versatile topping for salads or steamed vegetables, you might want to try the "Citrus Vinaigrette" (page 103). Using freshly squeezed orange, lemon, and lime juices combined with agave nectar and Dijon mustard, and spiced up just a tad with cayenne pepper, the flavors here are bright and vibrant. The recipe also calls for ¼ cup of olive oil. This actually comprises more than half the volume of the dressing, so it didn't seem workable to just "leave it out". Instead, I used ¼ cup water, and added ¼ teaspoon guar gum to thicken the dressing. I used this on a green salad made from butter lettuce and red onion, topped off with Agave-Glazed Pecans. Delicious simplicity!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the olive oil. Use water instead, and thicken the dressing with ¼ teaspoon guar gum. (This needs to be thoroughly whisked or shaken into the dressing and allowed to sit for at least 30-60 minutes to thicken up.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Agave-Glazed Pecans

The "Agave-Glazed Pecans" (page 6) are a sweet treat that can be enjoyed in multiple ways. I placed them on top of individual servings of pudding; I added them to simple salads of leafy green lettuce and red onion; I munched on them all by themselves. However you decide to try these, you likely won't be disappointed, unless you simply don't like pecans. A tasty combination of nuts, sweetener, cinnamon, and vanilla extract (I left the margarine out altogether), these make a great contribution to a holiday party spread. They are quite sticky, so I stored them in single layers separated by pieces of parchment paper so they wouldn't meld into one another. They should probably be eaten fairly soon after preparation. I cut the recipe in half since it was only two of us eating them.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the margarine altogether.  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Personalized Trail Mix

"Personalized Trail Mix" (page 6) isn't so much a recipe as it is a suggestion, a list of possible ingredients, completely customizable, for creating the trail mix that most suits your tastes (or what's currently in your pantry!). I decided to make this one day when I was cleaning out my dry goods drawer, and discovered I had several dibs and dabs of various nuts and dried fruit. I ended up combining slivered almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, dried cherries, and golden raisins. You really can't go wrong with this "recipe", quite reminiscent of GORP (Good Old Raisins & Peanuts). For added flavor, toast the seeds and nuts first, but this is completely optional.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

No changes needed!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Spinach & Almond Pesto

I never knew pesto could be made with so many variations! This book has recipes using everything from pine nuts (traditional) to walnuts, to almonds, to sunflower seeds as the base (and some with no nuts at all), combined with basil (again, traditional), or parsley, or spinach for the "greenery". There is even a red version using no greens at all, rather, basing it on tomatoes. The "Spinach & Almond Pesto" (page 566) is made from spinach, parsley, almonds and garlic, and with the expected call for oil (1/3 cup in this case). I used light vegetable broth in place of the oil, and found this completely acceptable (as I have with all the pesto recipes I've tried so far). My husband and I enjoyed this delicious, pretty, bright green pesto served over whole grain fettuccine.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the olive oil, and use a light vegetable broth instead. One-third cup olive oil contains 71 grams of fat!

Monday, March 2, 2015


"Cornbread" (page 401) is one of my favorite quick breads. It is a wonderful accompaniment to bean dishes, is lovely warm out of the oven with a drizzle of pure maple syrup, and is a great take-along on hikes when you need a snack to hold you until lunch. Since I switched to oil-free baking, perfecting cornbread has been a challenge, and the end product is often too dry, too crumbly, or both. However, I was happily surprised when this particular recipe yielded a moist and tender loaf that restored my faith in achieving a (more than!) acceptable oil-free cornbread. This is a basic recipe consisting of cornmeal and flour, curdled soymilk (using vinegar to create "buttermilk"), a small amount of sugar, and leavened with baking powder. The recipe also calls for ¼ cup of oil, but I replaced this with ½ cup unsweetened applesauce. I have discovered recently that when replacing the oil with applesauce or banana, more is better. So, if the recipe calls for ¼ cup oil, I'll up the amount of applesauce or banana to ½ cup. This has made a positive difference in the final outcome of my oil-free baking, as well as being careful not to over-bake (something I had not been as attentive to in the past). Try this recipe the oil free way, and see if you don't find it as delicious as I did!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Substitute ½ cup of applesauce for the ¼ cup of oil.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Black Bean & Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

Bean dips invite endless combinations of beans, vegetables, and seasonings, and each variation has something special to offer. The "Black Bean & Sun-Dried Tomato Dip" (page 13) is a simple mixture of sun-dried tomatoes, black beans, balsamic vinegar, parsley, and basil. Everything is whipped up in a food processor just to the point of leaving a bit of texture. This makes a wonderful topping for toast or bagels, a filling for tortillas, or a dip for crackers or veggies. You don't have to use the oil-packed sundried tomatoes as the recipe calls for. Look for the a brand like California Sun Dry for dried tomatoes packaged without any added oils.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use oil free sundried tomatoes.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Asian Fusion Party Mix

I always get a little stressed when I see a recipe that calls for margarine, and especially when it calls for ¼ cup or more, because there often isn't a good way to leave it out, or make an adequate substitution. When reviewing the recipe for "Asian Fusion Party Mix" (page 4), I mulled over my options for replacing and/or omitting the margarine before finally settling on just leaving it out altogether. In this recipe, the margarine is melted to blend and fuse the seasonings, and coat the Party Mix (popcorn, breakfast cereal squares, cashews, pretzels, and wasabi peas) before baking the entire concoction in the oven. Because I opted not to use the margarine at all, the baking step became unnecessary, and much simplified the overall preparation. Granted, this alteration decidedly changed the intent of the recipe, but if you can get past the concept of a baked and oiled snack mix, this was quite enjoyable in its own right. The spices (garlic powder and seasoned salt) won't stick to the uncoated ingredients as well, but if you give the mix a little shake or stir before each serving, it helps to keep the flavors distributed. You can also spray Bragg's Aminos or soy sauce on the mixture before adding the spices to add a little extra flavor, and help the spices stick.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Select whole-grain, oil-free pretzels and breakfast cereal squares.
  • Select or prepare air-popped popcorn.
  • Use raw (or roasted without oil) cashews.
  • If possible, use oil free wasabi peas (may be hard to find!). Or, omit them altogether. 
  • Omit the margarine altogether. Use a little spray of Bragg's Aminos or soy sauce on the mixture before adding the spices to help them stick.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

White Bean & Dill Hummus

There are four hummus recipes in this book, two using traditional garbanzo beans, one using pinto beans, and one using white beans in the "White Bean & Dill Hummus" (page 11).  What keeps this rendition in keeping with traditional hummus is the inclusion of lemon juice and tahini. What makes it a little different is the addition of dill weed. Call it bean dip, call it hummus, but call it good! This ends up being a tasty blend of beans, tahini, fresh garlic, fresh lemon juice, dillweed, and a pinch of cayenne for a little zip. This is wonderful spread on toasted bagels, or used as a dip for crackers or raw veggies. Since tahini contains a fair amount of natural oil, you won't miss the olive oil by leaving it out altogether.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the olive oil altogether. If you find the hummus is a little too thick, add a couple tablespoons of water or broth to reach the desired consistency as you are blending in the food processor.