Friday, October 9, 2015

Salsa Verde

If this "Salsa Verde" (page 569) looks familiar, that's because it is very close in appearance, ingredients, and flavor as the Tomatillo Salsa I wrote up not too long ago. Made with the same base ingredients (tomatillos, onion, cilantro, hot peppers, and lime juice), the "Salsa Verde" includes fresh garlic, which I happily included, but also ¼ of oil, which I left completely out. One of the best things about salsa in general is that it is typically a naturally fat-free treat, so I had no qualms about omitting the oil in this recipe, and didn't miss it at all .The recipe calls for both parsley and cilantro, but since I am a big fan of cilantro, I left out the parsley and doubled up on the cilantro. Adjust the peppers to your taste. If a serrano chili doesn’t seem hot enough for you, consider using a jalapeño, which is what I did - and it came out quite hot! I love green salsa, and this one really delivered! It was good as a dip for fat free tortilla chips, corn thins, and as a topping for rice and beans. I also think it would be good on baked potatoes, scrambled tofu, or just about anywhere you would use any salsa.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  •  Omit the olive oil. No substitution is necessary.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Black & Gold Gazpacho

This book has four unique gazpacho recipes, that delightful chilled soup that is so totally perfect during hot weather. The "Black & Gold Gazpacho" (page 181) uses yellow tomatoes and yellow bell pepper for the "gold", and black beans for the "black". Half of the tomatoes are blended with the bell pepper, cucumbers, green onions, and garlic, to which the black beans and remaining tomatoes are added. Plan on at least a couple of hours for a thorough chilling, then top each individual serving with parsley and croutons. The recipe also calls for the addition of olive oil, but I left it out and didn't miss it at all. This unusual and dramatic rendition of gazpacho just might become one of your new favorites!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the olive oil. No substitution is necessary.
  • If using croutons, try to find a whole-grain oil-free variety (or, make your own!).

Monday, September 28, 2015

Yellow Beet Salad with Pears & Pecans

"Yellow Beet Salad with Pears & Pecans" (page 64) takes advantage of fall and winter fruits and vegetables, and if you are lucky enough to find the beets and pears from your local farmers market, this wonderful salad will be even better. (If yellow beets are hard to find, the recipe suggests using red beets in their place. Either way, you really can't go wrong.) A bed of red leaf lettuce is the layered with cooked beets and diced pears, topped with a creamy-herby dressing, and sprinkled with toasted pecans. The combination of sweet, savory, and crunchy creates some sort of culinary magic, and I could have made an entire meal out this salad. I suggest baking the beets (each beet individually wrapped in foil, and baked for about 45-60 minutes, depending on size), rather than steaming them as the recipe calls for, as baking really brings out the best flavor. Pressure cooking them is also an alternative, which is almost as good as baking. This salad takes a little advanced planning, since everything is made from scratch, including the dressing, but you won't be disappointed for taking the time.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
  • Use vegan oil-free mayonnaise in the dressing, either store-bought or homemade.
  • Use vegan oil-free sour cream in the dressing, either store-bought or homemade.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hot Coffee Mocha

Here is another example of bringing coffee bistro fare into your own kitchen, every bit as delicious, and for much less money. "Hot Coffee Mocha" (page 538) is a pleasing blend of brewed coffee, non dairy milk, chocolate syrup, and vanilla extract. Everything is heated together, poured into individual mugs, and topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Impress your family and friends with this easy and scrumptious treat whenever the mood strikes!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • No changes necessary!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Tomatillo Salsa

"Tomatillo Salsa" (page 568) is green salsa, made from the small tomatillo which looks like a green tomato, and is in fact, a member of the nightshade family of vegetables, as is the tomato. An easy salsa to make, combining tomatillos, onion, cilantro, jalapeño, lime, and, as a surprise ingredient, capers. The instructions call for chopping and mincing all the ingredients, but I was feeling lazy the day I made this and decided to throw everything into the blender and make a smoother version of this salsa. If you are a fan of green salsas, this is definitely a recipe you will want to try. The recipe notes suggest this would be an especially good topping for rice and beans, and I would have to agree. It would be delicious anywhere you normally enjoy salsa!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • No changes necessary! :-)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Three Bean Cassoulet

With Autumn just around the corner, you might want to add the "Three-Bean Cassoulet" (page 257) to your upcoming menu. Cassoulet, which traditionally combines some sort of meat and white beans, is a classic stew from the south of France, but one that is baked in the oven, not on top of the stove. This recipe incorporates three separate varieties of white beans - Navy, Great Northern, and Cannellini - calling for a total of 4 ½ cups in all. Sautéed carrots, onions, and celery are mixed with the beans and tomatoes, and generously seasoned with parsley, savory, and thyme. Everything is transferred to a covered casserole dish and baked in the oven for about an hour. Autumn, to me, signals the beginning of heartier, warming meals such as this kind of stew.

I took a few liberties with this recipe. I only used one kind of bean, an heirloom variety called Orca, which I cooked from scratch, which didn't turn out to be the best choice, but I had them to use up, and so I did. I also used just three cups of the cooked beans, and threw in some white and blue potato chunks to make up the difference. Instead of using 1 cup of broth, I used ½ cup of red wine and ½ cup of broth for a richer flavor. I also opted not to top with the breadcrumbs called for towards the end of the baking time because the stew was so juicy (not a bad thing), it seemed to me the crumbs would have just dissolved into the broth instead of sitting atop the veggies.

In retrospect, and especially since I didn't use the breadcrumbs, I think this could just as easily have worked on the stove top in a big Dutch oven or stew pot. But however you make it, as written, or with your own substitutions and tweaks, you just can't go wrong with a pot or a pan of stewed beans and veggies floating in a flavorful broth.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Do not use oil to sauté the veggies; instead, use a nonstick skillet and/or water, broth, or sherry for the cooking liquid.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Spinach Salad with Orange-Dijon Dressing

Almost any fruit seems to combine well with fresh spinach, and the "Spinach Salad with Orange-Dijon Dressing" (page 55) is a prime example of this. Baby spinach leaves are topped with orange segments and sliced red onion, and I couldn't resist throwing in fresh strawberries, too, even though the recipe didn't call for them. The dressing consists of Dijon mustard, orange juice, agave nectar, plus fresh parsley and green onions, processed in a blender until smooth. (I left out the olive oil, and didn't miss it at all.) This salad makes a lovely starter to any meal, but is especially nice on a warm summer evening when you want something light.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the oil in the salad dressing. No substitution necessary.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Noodles With Spicy Peanut Sauce

"Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce" (page 243) is a recipe found under the Asian Noodles section of the Pasta & Noodles chapter, and is one of my favorite ways to enjoy Asian noodle dishes. Using any variety of flat noodle, the flavorful sauce is what makes this dish go. Fresh garlic and ginger, soy sauce, chili paste, and peanut butter make up the base sauce, with the addition of onions, bell pepper, and cilantro. This is a classic combination of ingredients for first class Asian dining. If you are feeling more casual, you can serve this dish right out of the skillet from the stovetop, making it a one-dish meal - that's what I did! If you have any leftovers, this dish holds up well in the refrigerator for a nice lunch a day or two later. Feel free to up the spice level by increasing the amount of chili paste. The recipe calls for ½ teaspoon, and I used 1 tablespoon. Could be some Asian chili sauces are spicier than others. There is a sizeable amount of oil called for here; 3 tablespoons of sesame oil to toss the cooked noodles in, and 2 tablespoons of oil for sautéing the veggies. If you chose to use the full amount - 5 tablespoons - you will be adding 69 grams of fat and 608 calories to this dish. I opted to leave out both oils. The peanut butter in the sauce adds plenty of richness and flavor, and packs its own wallop of fat and calories. As I usually do, I used only 8 ounces of noodles instead of the one pound called for, as I prefer my pasta dishes quite saucy.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole grain noodles.
  • Do not toss the noodles with sesame oil; instead rinse well with running water after they are cooked.
  • Do not use oil to sauté the veggies; instead, use a nonstick skillet and/or water, broth, or sherry for the cooking liquid.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Soy Latte

You don't have to go to expensive trendy cafés to enjoy designer coffee drinks. You can easily create them in your own kitchen at a fraction of the cost and without leaving the comfort of your home. The "Soy Latte" (page 538) is made from two ingredients: Hot strong coffee, and soy milk. (Sugar is optional). Simply top hot coffee with steamed soy milk (using a milk steamer, or whisking over the stove), and that's it! This is a nice indulgence when a little pick-me-up is needed.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Select soy milk with no added oil.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sesame-Baked Vegetables

"Sesame-Baked Vegetables" (page 319) presented me with a big challenge. Since my goal is to try to keep these recipes oil free and whole grain, I quickly realized I wouldn't be able to use the puff pastry this dish called for. As it turns out, one of the defining ingredients of puff pastry is solid fat (butter, shortening, or lard) that is combined with white flour in a particular way that causes it to "puff" during baking. I perused the frozen foods section of several stores looking for any puff pastry that might be made with less fat (most of it seemed to be close to 50% fat), or at least not a solid fat. I totally gave up on finding a whole grain version - that was much too esoteric. But I soon realized that anything called Puff Pastry, by definition, is going to be some sort of solid fat combined with white flour. The puff pastry in this recipe is used as a topping for a mixture of sautéed and seasoned veggies (broccoli, onion, carrots, and tomatoes), creating a sort of vegetable pot pie. (The sesame in this recipe comes from seasoning the vegetables with sesame tahini and soy sauce, and sesame seeds are sprinkled on the "pie" as well.)

I finally decided to use phyllo dough instead of the puff pastry, a flaky dough product dramatically lower in fat (Puff Pastry = 60 grams of fat and 1606 calories per sheet / Phyllo Dough = 1 gram of fat and 57 calories per sheet). As you can imagine, using phyllo dough significantly changed the intended presentation of this dish, and to be honest, I'm not sure this was really a good substitution. For one thing, I'm not all that experienced working with phyllo, and I wasn't quite sure how to turn it into a veggie pot pie topping (I used 3-4 sheets to obtain the desired thickness in the "crust"). In retrospect, I think maybe just sprinkling seasoned panko breadcrumbs over the veggies in the baking dish would have been a better choice. But despite my fumbling attempts to make this dish into something it was never intended to be, I still enjoyed the baked and seasoned veggies which were flavorful regardless of what was put on top of them.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
  • Omit the olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead, use a nonstick skillet and/or a bit of water, sherry, or broth as the sauté liquid.
  • The only way I can think of to keep the topping on this dish whole grain and oil free is to use whole wheat panko breadcrumbs as the topping.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bok Choy & Ginger-Sesame Udon Noodles

If you want a quick, delicious, and nutritious meal, think about making the "Bok Choy & Ginger-Sesame Udon Noodles" (page 238). Cooked udon noodles and steamed bok choy are tossed with a flavorful sauce of tahini, soy sauce, mirin, and ginger, and slightly spiced with red pepper flakes. This easy dish comes together so fast, you can have it on the table in about 30 minutes. I've noticed many of the recipes in this book use a "rule of three" (my interpretation) where a particular ingredient is incorporated in three different forms. In this recipe, it's sesame that comes in three ways: sesame oil, tahini (sesame seed paste), and whole sesame seeds. However, I opted not to use the sesame oil to coat the cooked udon, figuring the tahini and sesame seeds (sprinkled on top of the dish at the very end) would provide plenty of sesame flavor, and it really isn't necessary to toss cooked pasta in oil if you rinse it well after cooking. The recipe notes suggest the addition of sliced shiitake mushrooms as a variation, something I might try next time around.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the sesame oil. Instead, rinse the cooked udon under cool running water.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Carrot Bread with Cranberries & Walnuts

The "Carrot Bread with Cranberries & Walnuts" (page 406) wraps up the section of Quick Breads in the Breads chapter of this book. I do believe this was a case of saving the best for last. I opted to make muffins instead of a loaf, a suggestion in the recipe head notes, and these were among the tastiest muffins I've ever made. Not so long ago, it would have been hard to convince me that a muffin containing no oil, dairy, or white flour could be so tender and moist, but I've been perfecting my skills when adapting recipes to this way of eating, and it's finally paying off. Any baked good containing fruit or vegetables will have a boost when it comes to staying moist, so the carrots and cranberries in this recipe helped with that. Spiced with cinnamon, allspice, and ginger, sweetened with brown sugar, and using applesauce instead of oil, all combined to make these muffins fruity and delicious. I will definitely be making these in the future, both as loaf bread, and as muffins.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use a nonstick loaf or muffin pan, or if making muffins, line the cups with paper liners.
  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Use ½ cup applesauce in place of the 1/3 cup oil.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Stone Fruit Smoothie

The "Stone Fruit Smoothie" (page 530) takes advantage of the summer stone fruits - peaches, plums, and apricots - to make a more unusual smoothie, straying from the typical berries, orange juice, and banana combinations. Mixed only with nondairy milk (plain or vanilla), this is a simple concoction and a great way to enjoy part of the summer bounty. Again, I like to pre-freeze my smoothie fruit so I have a thick end result, but the recipe does not require this, calling for the addition of ice cubes instead. If your fruit isn't super ripe and/or sweet, you might want to add a small amount of pure maple syrup, agave syrup, or other sweetener of choice.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • No changes needed!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Yellow Squash with Corn, Edamame, & Dill

"Yellow Squash with Corn, Edamame, & Dill" (page 384) puts a modern twist on succotash, a dish popular during the Great Depression in the United States. Because of the availability of ingredients (and being relatively inexpensive) during this era, any combination of lima beans, corn, and shell beans fit the description of succotash. In this variation, edamame stands in for the lima beans (good news for all those lima bean haters out there), and is jazzed up with fresh dillweed, lemon juice, and cayenne. The recipe calls for the addition of olive oil, but I just left this completely out and didn't notice the difference. If you wanted to add some liquid to the mix (not really necessary), you could drizzle it with veggie broth.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the olive oil. If desired, stir a small amount of veggie broth into the mixture for added moisture.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Favorite Fruit Smoothie

"Favorite Fruit Smoothie" (page 532) is one of the author Robin Robertson's favorites, and so explains the name of this particular smoothie. A winning combination of mango, strawberries, orange juice, and frozen banana, no wonder it earned this title. Easy to make, as are all smoothies, and if you like your smoothies more on the thick side (as I do), try freezing the strawberries and/or the mango at least a day ahead of time, as well as the bananas. You might need a spoon instead of a straw using this approach!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • No changes needed!