Saturday, November 22, 2014

Green Bean Bake with Crispy Leeks

Just in time for Thanksgiving, "Green Bean Bake with Crispy Leeks" (page 370) presented me with a fun challenge - how to prepare the 'crispy leeks' portion of the recipe without using ½ cup oil to fry them in. But first things first: preparing fresh green beans (trim and cook in boiling salted water); sautéing garlic, shallots, fresh mushrooms, with herbs and spices; thickening the sautéed veggies with a roux of flour and sherry; simmering all this in broth until it thickens; adding soy creamer and the prepared green beans to this mixture. Now you've got the 'Green Bean Bake' portion of the dish. 

(Note: when I try to use flour as a thickening agent in a skillet of sautéed veggies, I usually end up with a lumpy mess, especially when cooking oil free. To avoid this, I usually add whatever liquids will be used in the dish to my blender, along with the flour, and whirl on low to a smooth consistency before adding to the skillet. It may not be as "gourmet" as creating a roux, but I find I get much better results with no loss of flavor. In this recipe, I blended the flour, sherry, and veggie broth (mushroom flavored broth was an excellent choice here!) before adding to the hot skillet of sautéed veggies and was rewarded with a rich, flavorful, and lump-free mixture.) 

Now, for the challenge of preparing the crispy leeks. The instructions ask you to cut one leek in half lengthwise, into two long this strips. This didn't seem right to me, and I even wondered if it was a typo. Instead, I opted to slice the leek from the top, creating several small rings, and working my way down to the tough green part before I stopped. I ended up with about 10 small "onion rings", which I further separated into smaller rings. I put these rings into a bowl of soymilk to soak for about 10 minutes. I then placed the seasoning mix of flour, salt, and pepper into a small brown paper bag (like a lunch bag). I removed the onion rings with a slotted spoon, placed them in the bag of seasoned flour, shook them up good, then spread them on a parchment lined baking sheet. I baked these at 375 for about 30 minutes, checking at 10 minute intervals to make sure they weren't burning. When they were browned and crispy, I took them out of the oven and used them for the casserole topping. 

This dish did turn out to be a little time and labor intensive, but if you are looking for a delicious, and impressive, vegan alternative to the standard Green Bean Casserole that shows up every year around this time, it could be well worth your effort! 

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the oil when sautéing the shallots and garlic; instead use a nonstick skillet and/or a little water, broth, or sherry as the sauté liquid. (Also, see my note above about incorporating the flour as a thickening agent in the skillet.)
  • Use whole wheat pastry flour when for thickening the vegetable mixture and for preparing the leeks instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • See my method above for creating the crispy leeks, as opposed to frying them in oil.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Quinoa & Pinto Bean-Stuffed Peppers

The "Quinoa & Pinto Bean-Stuffed Peppers" (page 336) is a very festive dish, especially if you use different colored peppers. Many grocery stores carry the pre-packaged, multi-pack, multi-colored peppers, a great choice for this recipe. As you may have read in some of my earlier posts, I'm not a huge fan of quinoa, but I am starting to warm up to it, the more I experiment, and the combination of ingredients for the stuffing here - quinoa, red onion, and pinto beans - was simple, but good. I did find the filling just a tad bland, however, and a bit dry, so I added ½ cup green salsa to the mixture before stuffing the peppers. This added a nice amount of moisture, and the extra flavor boost I was looking for. Most recipes for stuffed peppers call for par-boiling or quick cooking the peppers prior to stuffing and baking them, but I always skip this step. I find the peppers get too soft for my liking when doing this, and baking them in the oven once they are stuffed yields the best texture. You might end up with extra filling, which makes a nice side dish for another meal.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
  • Omit the olive oil when sautéing the vegetables; instead use a nonstick saucepan and/or a little water, broth, or sherry as the sauté liquid.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Asian Noodle Salad with Tempeh

If you are a fan of Asian dishes that incorporate peanut sauces or dressings, you will surely enjoy the delicious "Asian Noodle Salad with Tempeh" (page 94). The salad consists of four components: the noodles (linguine or rice noodles, I especially enjoy the Eden brand Brown Rice Udon); the vegetables (carrot, red bell pepper, peas, and green onions); the tempeh; and the peanut dressing (a spicy combination of peanut butter, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, rice wine vinegar and more). Something about the combination of these flavors, colors, textures, and spiciness are addictively pleasing to me. Good thing my husband was around to share this with, otherwise I might have embarrassed myself by eating it all in one sitting!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
  • "Brown" the tempeh in a non-stick skillet, omitting the oil called for. Although you will not end up with truly "browned" tempeh, it will still be completely suitable in the salad.  
  • The recipe calls for tossing the cooked noodles in sesame oil; you can skip this altogether and just rinse the noodles well under cold running water to prevent sticking (this is what I did). However, if you really want the flavor of the sesame oil, use just ½ teaspoon (instead of the tablespoon called for).
  • Use whole grain noodles of your choice.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Tagliatelle with Porcini Bolognese Sauce

"Tagliatelle with Porcini Bolognese Sauce" (page 200) is an Italian dish, which in this rendition takes advantage of the chewiness of mushrooms to replace the traditional use of ground meat. This is a tomato based sauce with the addition of onion, carrot, and celery making this a hearty and healthy presentation. A small amount of soy creamer is added at the end of the cooking time for an extra layer of smoothness. After the sauce has simmered to perfection, it is served over tagliatelle (long flat noodles which can be interchanged with fettuccine if hard to find). Keep in mind that fresh porcini mushrooms can be scarce in the markets, although the dried variety can be readily found. You might have to substitute another fresh mushroom to make this dish - if so, pick one of the more flavorful wild mushroom varieties, if available. You can also use a combination of fresh and dried mushrooms for additional flavor and texture.
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
  • Omit the olive oil when sautéing the vegetables; instead use a nonstick saucepan and/or a little water, broth, or sherry as the sauté liquid.
  • Use whole grain tagliatelle (or fettuccine).

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tropical Smoothie

Nothing is as easy or pleasing as a smoothie poured right out of your blender! Any combination of fruits, juices, nondairy milks, sweeteners, and flavorings, not to mentions greens, chia seed, or flax seed somehow magically combine to yield delicious drinks that can be part of a meal, an entire meal, or a healthy snack. The "Tropical Smoothie" (page 529) reminded me of a Piña Colada (minus the rum), combining the flavors of mango, pineapple, and coconut (a cherry on top would have been a great finishing touch!). The mango was fresh, sliced right off the core and into the blender; the pineapple came from a combination of fresh chunks and canned juice; and the recipe called for one cup coconut milk, but I avoid this product due to the high fat, and high saturated fat content, so instead I used an equal amount of soymilk with ½ teaspoon coconut extract added for flavor. Even lowfat coconut milk, which this recipe calls for, contains 16 grams of fat (12 grams of which are saturated fat) and 180 calories, versus soymilk which contains only 4 grams of fat (0.5 saturated) and 81 calories. This made a full blender of drink, enough to serve 2-4, per the recipe, and my husband and I managed to drink it all in one sitting!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Technically, no changes are necessary to keep this McDougall Friendly, but coconut milk contains a huge amount of saturated fat, so I opted to use soymilk with ½ teaspoon of coconut extract for flavor. This worked exceptionally well! By the way - were you to use full fat coconut milk, you would have been adding 57 grams of fat (51 grams of which are saturated fat), and 552 calories!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Double-Sesame Tofu with Tahini Sauce

"Double-Sesame Tofu with Tahini Sauce" (page 292) is a perfect example of taking tofu to the level of fine dining. You can feel quite comfortable serving this quick and easy dish to guests of all dietary persuasions, vegan and non vegan alike. Tofu slices are dredged in a mixture of sesame seeds (white and black) and cornstarch, and cooked in a hot skillet until browned. A rich sauce of tahini (sesame paste), lemon juice and soy sauce is drizzle over the browned tofu, and that is all there is to it. If you have extra sauce, thin it out with a little water and turn it into gravy to serve over a side of rice or mashed potatoes. A steamed green veggie rounds things out for a complete meal.
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
  • Omit the oil for browning the tofu and use a nonstick skillet for this. You might find it necessary to use a very small amount of oil to prevent the tofu from sticking; if so, spray the skillet very lightly, then wipe out with a paper towel before adding the tofu.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tricolor Rotini with Pesto Bianco

Nothing is quite as satisfying to me as tender pasta coated in creamy pesto sauce, so of course I loved the "Tricolor Rotini with Pesto Bianco" (page 202), and was delighted with this white version of pesto, something I had never tried before. Made from pine nuts (traditional for pesto), plus cashews, artichoke hearts, and soymilk, the pesto is creamy and delicious and perfect with any pasta of your choice. I should mention, the recipe also calls for ¼ cup of olive oil, but instead I used ¼ cup of light vegetable broth with excellent results. The pine nuts and cashews add so much richness, in my opinion no additional oil is necessary, or missed if you leave it out. If you want to add a splash of color to this otherwise monochromatic dish, the recipe notes suggest sprinkling with minced parsley, basil, green peas, or black olives. I added a bit of parsley only, and thought this was delicious simplicity.
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
  • Omit the olive oil in the pesto sauce, replacing it with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of light vegetable broth.
  • Use whole grain pasta of your choice.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mixed Lettuces with White Radish, Snow Peas, & Yuzu Dressing

"Mixed Lettuces with White Radish, Snow Peas, & Yuzu Dressing" (page 52) is a simple salad that is pretty much summed up in the title of the recipe. The dressing calls for Yuzu vinegar which is made from the juice of yuzu, a sour Japanese citrus fruit. Since I was unable to find this, I used my favorite balsamic vinegar as a dressing instead (the recipe suggests substituting a mixture of rice vinegar and lemon juice for the yuzu if you can't find this specialty product). The recipe as written calls for 1/3 cup of olive oil, and simply omitting this completely will result in a purely vinegar based dressing. This works great if you use a mild, slightly sweet natural balsamic vinegar such as the one I used (Fustini's). Otherwise, you can use water instead of the oil and thicken the dressing with a ¼ teaspoon of guar gum (put all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously; let sit for about 30 minutes to thicken). Very simple, colorful, and tasty, this salad makes a great start to any meal.
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü  Omit the olive oil. Use a mild and slightly sweet natural balsamic instead, or a water based dressing thickened with guar gum.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Magical Mystery Chocolate Cake

"Magical Mystery Chocolate Cake" (page 446) truly is mysterious! The biggest mystery to me, though, is how I even ended up with something edible, after realizing halfway through I failed to follow the instructions correctly (note in instruction #2 you are to add just half the cocoa powder at this point, oops!). Upon discovering my mistake, my first thought was to start completely over, but I had used the last of my cocoa powder and sugar, and I didn't feel like going to the store for more, or throwing out my efforts altogether, so I improvised and continued on. Luck was with me! The magic pulled through and I ended up with a most extraordinary and delicious cake. The unusual preparation (spreading a thick batter into the bottom of a pan and topping with a very liquid concoction of sugar-cocoa-water) results in a final chocolaty confection that is densely cake-like on the bottom, moist pudding in the middle, and like the crispy top of a brownie on the surface. The recipe calls for ¼ of oil, but I replaced this with prune purée  (I used a small container of baby food prunes; applesauce would work just as well). Try this cake if you are feeling adventurous!
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü  Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
ü  Replace the oil with an equal amount of prune purée or unsweetened applesauce.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Black Beans & Wild Rice

A one-pot meal, substantial and filling, and made with just a handful of ingredients, the "Black Beans & Wild Rice" (page 255) is very elemental and satisfying. You start by cooking the rice by itself until it is done, then adding cooked black beans, diced tomatoes, and herbs and spices. Last of all you throw in 3 cups of baby spinach, rounding out this dish of varying colors, tastes, and textures. The recipe says you may have to add a little water if the mixture ends up too dry, and I did end up adding about ½ cup (as opposed to the suggested "splash"). I also thought the dish could use a little pizzazz, so I added a teaspoon of smoked paprika and ½ teaspoon of garlic powder. This dish keeps well and makes a great filling for wraps.

 Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü     No changes required! J

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Peanut Butter & Banana Smoothie

"Peanut Butter & Banana Smoothie" (page 529) is the first smoothie recipe in the "Smoothies and Blender Drinks" section of the "Beverages" chapter, and is suggested as a quick breakfast alternative for those who might otherwise opt to skip this meal. That wouldn't be me. Not only do I always eat breakfast, it is usually fairly substantial, and this smoothie would likely be only a part of my overall meal. That being said, this was still a tasty treat (I had it as a mid-morning snack), made up of just three ingredients: chilled nondairy milk, frozen bananas, and creamy peanut butter. I found it a little too thin for my liking; I could have thickened it up with the addition of ice cubes or more frozen banana (per the "smoothie tips" provided in the sidebar), and if I make this again, I will keep this in mind.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

üBe sure to use peanut butter that contains no added oils.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Thyme-Scented Sweet Potatoes with Black Olives & Garlic

The "Thyme-Scented Sweet Potatoes with Black Olives & Garlic" (page 380) was another recipe that struck me as calling for an unusual combination of ingredients, but which turned out to be delightfully pleasing. This is a one-dish-meal, or side-dish if you will, where all the ingredients are combined in a skillet and cooked on the stovetop until done. I opted to use about ¼ cup of light broth instead of the oil called for which supplied enough liquid to steam cook the sweet potatoes. As luck would have it, and what sometimes happens when we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere, I was unable to find cured olives (i.e., kalamata), so I ended up using "regular" sliced black olives. I think the kalamata olives would have been better, but working with what I had available, I wasn't disappointed in the least.
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü Omit the oil and replace with about ¼ cup light vegetable broth.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cucumber & Green Olive Dip

At first glance, I wasn't sure how the combination of ingredients in the "Cucumber & Green Olive Dip" (page 14) would taste. Made from about equal parts cucumber, green olives, and tofu combined in a food processor, seasoned with garlic, parsley, and lemon, and just a pinch of cayenne to give it a mild kick, the resulting texture is rather soft, and surprisingly the cucumber flavor is more prominent than you would imagine. The recipe notes describe this dip as light and refreshing, and I would agree with that. It also says it is best eaten on the day it is made, but I found it kept pretty well for several days. It was especially nice as a dip for raw veggies and whole grain crackers.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

ü     No changes necessary! J

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Creamy, Crunchy, Fruit-and-Nut Sandwiches

The "Creamy, Crunchy Fruit-and-Nut Sandwiches" (page 111) wraps up yet another section in my journey to test all 1000 recipes in this book. This was the last of the twenty entries in the "Sandwiches and Wraps" section of the "Sandwiches, Pizza, and More" chapter, but most certainly not the least! Of course, I don't think I've met a sandwich I don't like. It's amazing how almost anything between two slices of bread can be transformed into a delicious and satisfying breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This spin on the everyday PB&J combines almond butter with agave nectar, chopped walnuts, and dried cranberries, which is then spread on whole grain bread, and filled with sliced fresh pear. What a winning combination! This recipe is open to endless combinations - vary the nut butter, use maple syrup instead of agave, switch up the walnuts with any other nut of choice, and use bananas or apples instead of pear. I used the Irish Soda Bread when I made these sandwiches, and it was a match made in heaven!  
 Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

ü Make sure the nut butter does not contain any added oils.

ü Chose an oil-free whole grain bread for the sandwiches.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Refried Bean & Salsa Quesadillas

Nothing could be easier for a quick lunch or snack than "Refried Bean & Salsa Quesadillas" (page 126). Whole pinto beans are cooked and mashed with a bit of chili powder, folded into a tortilla, topped with salsa and minced onion, than grilled in a skillet. Although not technically a quesadilla (derived from queso, the Spanish word for cheese, combined with the word tortilla), the idea of a Mexican style grilled tortilla sandwich has expanded to include any number of tasty fillings, sans cheese, this being a good example. Try to find a high quality oil-free tortilla if you can. I really love the Food For Life sprouted whole grain tortillas, made from whole grains and seeds with no added oil (Ezekiel 4:9 Srouted Whole Grain Tortillas). They are substantial and chewy, and brown nicely in the skillet without adding oil. I have now tried all seven entries in the "Fajitas and Burritos" section of the "Sandwiches, Pizza, and More" chapter of this book! J One by one, section by section, I'm closing in all 1000 recipes! ;-)

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

ü Omit the oil when cooking and mashing the beans. Just use a little bean broth or water instead.

ü Use oil free, whole grain tortillas. These can be hard to find! It seems you can find oil free or whole grain, but harder to find one that is both!

ü Skip the oil when grilling the quesadillas; cook in a non-stick skillet.