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.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vegan Margherita Pizza

The Italian "Vegan Margherita Pizza" (page 129) is a scrumptious presentation of the colors of Italy with red tomatoes, green Basil Pistou, and white tofu (standing in for the cheese in this vegan version). According to the recipe notes, pizza in Italy is not as cheese laden as pizza in America, and it was only with the advent of Pizza Margherita in the late 1800's that any Italian pizza included cheese. Happily for those of us who don't include any dairy in our diet, the tofu, simply seasoned with nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper, makes a wonderful pizza topping. For the pizza crust, use the Basic Pizza Dough on page 128, or another one of your choice, making sure to keep it whole grain and oil free. Top this with the prepared tofu, Basil Pistou, and sliced tomatoes, and bake in the oven. This combination of flavors is highly tantalizing, and quite addictive. Find someone to share it with unless you don't mind eating an entire pizza in one sitting! Maybe it's the pesto, which adds a flavor layer not typically found in pizza. Maybe it's the homemade crust. Maybe it's having something fresh and hot out of the oven, instead of out of a delivery box. Try it and see what you think!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use a pizza dough recipe or pre-made crust that is whole grain and oil free. 
  • Omit the step that has you spreading olive oil on the prepared pizza dough. You don't really need it, and you definitely won't miss it.
  • Do not add any oil to the pesto; again, you don't need it, and you won't miss it.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Basil Pistou

Found in the Pesto section of the Sauces, Relishes, and Condiments chapter, "Basil Pistou" (page 565) is a basic pesto, minus the pine nuts. Made from just four ingredients - garlic, salt, basil, and olive oil (or broth, if you choose to omit the oil, as I did) - it blends together quickly in a food processor to be used right away on cooked pasta, vegetable soups, or even on pizza, as called for in the Vegan Margherita Pizza (stay tuned for a review on this next). Without the pine nuts or parmesan cheese, this version of pesto is a little lighter and thinner than most, but the flavor is still fantastic. Skipping the oil and using a lightly flavored vegetable broth instead keeps this tasty version of pesto completely guilt free.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Instead of olive oil, use an equal amount of lightly flavored vegetable broth. Start with ¼ cup and increase as necessary to reach desired consistency.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Apple "Waldorf" Bread

The "Apple 'Waldorf' Bread" (page 405) helped restore my faith in oil free baking. After experimenting with the Breakfast Bran Muffins, which came out pretty dry, I was a bit discouraged. But the combination of ingredients in this recipe seemed to provide the magic formula for very moist, oil-free bread. I almost think this bread could be moved to the dessert section of the book, it is rather sweet, but oh-so-delicious! The same ingredients that go into a Waldorf salad (apples, walnuts, and raisins) are found here, and I think including the grated apple really contributed to the extra moist finish. Add to that the use of soymilk (instead of apple juice - the recipe gives the option of one or the other), and using one entire mashed banana to replace the ¼ cup of oil, this may be a formula in the making for future oil free bread adventures. And not to be forgotten, raisins also add some moistness. The batter is spiced up with cinnamon and allspice, the perfect complement to the fruity flavors, with vanilla extract adding to the dessert-like taste of the bread. This bread was delicious warm out of the oven, at room temperature, toasted, and even straight from the refrigerator (if you find you need to store it for more than a few days).

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Use the soymilk option for the liquid, as opposed to the apple juice, for a moister outcome.
  • Substitute one mashed banana for the ¼ cup oil.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Strawberry-Banana Smoothie

There are 11 smoothie recipes in this cookbook, and the "Strawberry-Banana Smoothie" (page 530) is the 6th one I've tried so far. This, to me, is my basic smoothie recipe - strawberries, bananas, and soymilk. (Sometimes I'll use orange juice in place of the soymilk). Easy, tasty, and uses ingredients that are usually on hand. The twist in this recipe is the optional addition of strawberry jam to intensify the flavor, especially nice if you have less than stellar fresh or frozen strawberries. Since I've started making my own soy yogurt at home, I will sometimes substitute this for the soy milk for extra nutrition and a little more complex flavor.

 Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • No changes necessary!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Giant Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

The recipe notes fittingly ask, is the "Giant Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake" (page 452) a "cake that thinks it's a cookie or a cookie masquerading as a cake?" My husband and I ate this dessert for several days, and after we finished every last delicious bite, neither one of us could rightly answer this question. It doesn't really matter, though, since no matter how you slice it, or bite into it, the bottom line is how good it tastes! And making it even more appealing to me was that the recipe does not call for any added oil or margarine. Not that it isn't rich enough, with ¾ cup peanut butter, this is a very indulgent dessert, and a little goes a long way. Besides the peanut butter, the cookie-cake contains maple syrup and brown sugar, soy milk, flour, baking powder, and vegan chocolate chips. Like I said, this is a very rich treat!

 Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole wheat pastry flour or King Arthur's brand of White Whole Wheat flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hot Cocoa

Sometimes nothing else will do but a steamy mug of "Hot Cocoa" (page 540), and since it is so easy to make, satisfaction is only moments away. I recently discovered a way to make cocoa in my Vitamix blender, simply by adding all the ingredients to the blender jar, and blending on high for six minutes. You end up with hot steamy cocoa without worrying about stirring, burning, or scorching in a pan over the stove. Of course, the stove top method works perfectly fine, but I admit, I am very excited about using my Vitamix for all future hot cocoa experiences. (I'm not sure if other blenders would work this way, but the Vitamix is able to heat liquids to high heats such as soups and gravies, and now, hot cocoa!) Simple ingredients in this recipe: non dairy milk, cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla extract. Perfect to chase away a winter chill!

 Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:


  • No changes necessary! :-)