Thursday, January 3, 2019

Tofu Pizzaiola

At a glance the name of this recipe, “Tofu Pizzaiola” (page 286), gives you the impression it’s going to be some sort of tofu pizza. But in reality, the word pizzaiola describes a sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, and oregano. These are definitely ingredients found in pizza sauce, so my initial impression probably wasn’t too far off. This recipe calls for canned diced tomatoes, and oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes. I prefer to use the oil-free sun-dried tomatoes that come in a resealable pouch. They are soft like raisins, already cut in julienne strips, and contain no oil at all. Added capers and olives provide a bright burst of flavor and round out this rich and delicious sauce.

The second part of this recipe consists of preparing the tofu. The instructions say to brown the tofu in heated oil in a large skillet. While it is very easy to dry-fry tofu in a good quality nonstick skillet, using no oil at all, you won’t get as much browning as you do when cooking in oil. I have no problem with that, and is typically how I would have worked around this. But recently I’ve added an air fryer to my kitchen collection, and it was easy to “fry” the tofu strips in this handy appliance, achieving both crispy and browned tofu strips, without using oil.

The pizzaiola is served over the prepared tofu, and I was more than pleased with the flavors and textures. I only wish I’d doubled the recipe, it was that good, and the small portion of leftovers even better. There is something about flavorful tomato based sauces that improve overnight, and this was certainly the case here.  

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Use oil-free sun-dried tomatoes instead to those packed in oil. Alternately, you can try rinsing the excess oil off the oil-packed variety before adding to the sauce.
  • Omit the oil when browning the tofu. Use a high quality nonstick skillet and “dry-fry” instead, or, if you have an air fryer, try “frying” the strips using this method.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Moroccan Spice Chickpea & Sweet Potato Stew

“Moroccan-Spiced Chickpea & Sweet Potato Stew”, page 262, is a colorful and boldly spiced stew that can stand alone, or be served over a whole grain of your choice. The vegetable medley alone is enough to impress – carrots, onions, celery, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and green beans. Add to this a blend of exotic spices, including ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and the mixture really comes alive. One thing it didn’t seem to have, though, was a hot spice, so I added two tablespoons of chile paste to the pot. This might be too spicy for some, so if you decide to turn up the heat, start with a little at first, and add more if necessary. I served this delicious stew over a bed of whole wheat couscous the first night, and for a leftover lunch, I added a little broth and served it as a thick soup/stew. The only adjustment I made was to leave out the oil when sautéing the vegetables. Healthy, pretty to look at, delicious to eat. What more could you ask for?

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the oil when sautéing the vegetables. Use a non-stick pot and/or replace the oil with broth, water, or sherry. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Cherry Vanilla Nice Cream

In the early days of my transition to a plant-based diet, finding vegan ice cream in the market was often difficult, if not impossible. I didn’t have an ice cream habit, but on certain special occasions, it was definitely something I wanted to include in the mix. While dairy free sorbets and fruit juice bars are nice, if what you want is ice cream, they just don’t quite fit the bill. If I was lucky, I might be able to find Tofutti, the closest thing to a dairy based ice cream on the market for a very long time. But now, I can’t even keep track of all the vegan ice creams available, and I don’t always have to search out a specialty store to find them. There is a drawback to this, though. Most of the ice creams on the market, even the vegan ones, are high in fats, saturated fats, and sugars. The solution, of course, is to make your own, where you have control over the ingredients.

This cookbook has four recipes for Nice Creams with six additional variations, enough to satisfy anybody’s particular ice cream cravings. Initially I was avoiding this part of the cookbook because all these recipes call for an ice cream maker, something I don’t have, and likely won’t have as long as I’m living and traveling full time in a 5th wheel trailer. But along the way, I discovered a workaround for making delicious and creamy vegan ice cream using pre-frozen ingredients and my VitaMix blender. While my rendition of the Nice Cream recipes in this book will stray far from the original preparation instructions, the flavors will all be present and delightfully delicious. (Robin provides a very thorough primer on making her Nice Creams in this section, very worth taking the time to read.)

The first recipe I tried was the “Cherry Vanilla Nice Cream”, page 492. The basic ingredients listed are arrowroot powder, thick vegan milk or cream, sugar, vanilla extract, and pitted cherries. Using this list as my ingredients guide, I used frozen cherries (2 cups), 1 frozen banana, ¼ cup soaked cashews (soak for at least an hour, then discard water), ¼ cup pure maple syrup, and soymilk as needed. Put everything except the extra soymilk into a high speed blender, and process until completely blended, smooth, and creamy. If necessary, stop the blender to push down unblended ingredients, and to add soymilk, a little at a time if the mixture is too thick. The cashews add richness, and the bananas contribute to a smoother texture. Not quite as rich as a full fat version, but delicious and satisfying all the same.

If this is too much to eat at one sitting, place the leftovers into a freezer container, and save for another day.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • No changes necessary! J

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Tom Yum

“Tom Yum”, page 153, is a type of hot and sour Thai soup. The base is a lemongrass flavored broth, further enhanced with the bold flavors of onion, ginger, Nothin’ FishyNam Pla (vegan fish sauce from this book, see my previous post) and chili paste. After a short simmer, the broth is strained and the solids discarded. To this very flavorful brew you add tofu, green onions, fresh tomatoes, straw mushrooms, baby peas, cilantro, and lime juice. Depending on how spicy you like your soups, and to me, this soup begs for a good spice up, you can add additional chili paste to the final mix. I added another tablespoon, and possibly it could have handled more. I loved this soup, it was elementally satisfying, healthy, and according to the recipe notes, a surefire cure for a cold. I also appreciate that this recipe is oil free as written, and no changes were necessary to keep it McDougall compliant.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • No changes necessary! J (If you do use broth instead of water as part of the soup base, just make sure it is oil free.)

Friday, November 23, 2018

Nothin’ Fishy Nam Pla

Much to my delight, my husband is in charge of stir-frying in our house. About once a week he’ll pull out the wok, chop veggies like crazy, whip up some sauce or another, do his magic with the pile of assorted ingredients he’s amassed, and voilà, a delectable stir fry emerges, usually served over freshly cooked brown rice. In traditional Thai and Vietnamese cooking, fish sauce known as nam pla or nuoc mam is a popular ingredient. But never fear! Robin Robertson has provided us with “Nothin’ Fishy Nam Pla”, page 560, a vegan version of fish sauce. So easy to mix up, with ingredients you might already have handy. The base is lime juice and soy sauce, spiked with garlic, brown sugar, and kelp powder. So easy, and the sauce adds such a nice dimension to traditional stir fries gone vegan. There is no oil in this sauce, so no changes were necessary to keep this McDougall compliant.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • No changes necessary! J

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Roasted Rosemary Yellow Squash & Chayote

Roasting vegetables without oil can be challenging, most particularly if it is one of the drier vegetables, like carrots, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts. You can cover a pan full of veggies, add a little broth, cover and bake, and get excellent results, but that really isn’t roasting, which requires direct heat, i.e., no cover on the roasting pan. However, the moister vegetables, such as the two used in “Roasted Rosemary Yellow Squash and Chayote”, page 384, are able to roast without added oil, because they baste in their own juices.

I loved the color contrasts in this dish. The pale yellows and greens of the two squash varieties and the deeper green of the rosemary was set off nicely by the addition of bright red cherry tomatoes (added during the last 15 minutes of roasting). 

Besides the rosemary, the vegetables are simply seasoned with garlic and salt and pepper to taste. You might want to start with a small amount of broth to coat the veggies so they don’t stick to the roasting pan before they start to cook, but not too much, if you want them to stay somewhat firm. I used a ceramic casserole dish which has pretty good non-stick qualities, but still ended up adding a little broth along the way. Check midway into the roasting time to determine if you need to do this or not. Another option is to line the bottom of the roasting pan with parchment paper.

I find roasting (or baking) vegetables brings out the best flavors, and this delicious dish was no exception. The house was filled with the lovely aromas of garlic and rosemary as the veggies cooked, a wonderful prelude to actually eating them. Pretty to look at, healthy, delicious, and easy to make, my kind of recipe!

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:

  • Instead of coating the vegetables in oil, use a very small amount of broth, and/or line the bottom of the roasting pan with parchment paper. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Penne Baked With Eggplant-Tomato Sauce

If you have a family divided over eggplant (love it or hate it), I’m guessing the “Penne Baked with Eggplant-Tomato Sauce”, page 221, would satisfy both sides. The eggplant, especially if you peel it first, will melt right into the tomato sauce, adding a rich creamy texture, and if someone didn’t know there was eggplant in the mix, they probably wouldn’t guess it. The sauce itself is pretty simple, consisting of crushed tomatoes, eggplant, and onion, then seasoned with red wine, parsley, and marjoram. Cooked penne is mixed into the sauce, spooned into a casserole, topped with vegan Parmesan and breadcrumbs, then baked in the oven. It makes a lot for two people, and I even cut back on the amount of penne called for, from 12 ounces, to 8. But, the leftovers warm up very nice, and provide great ready-made meals throughout the week.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead, use a nonstick skillet and a little water, broth, or sherry to prevent sticking.
  • Use whole grain penne pasta instead of the white flour variety.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Tarragon-Chive Vinaigrette

Finding healthy salad dressings that also taste good used to be challenging. I discovered that the reason I liked salads so much was due to the flavorful but often unhealthy, high fat, or dairy laden dressings I used. I made it a mission to find ways to make salad dressing at home that would satisfy both my taste buds and my health criteria. As I’ve mentioned in previous salad dressing posts, finding the secret of guar gum powder has allowed me to explore many oil based dressing recipes by simply replacing the oil called for with an equal amount of water, then adding a pinch of guar gum at the end to thicken it up. That’s how I approached the “Tarragon-Chive Vinaigrette”, page 100. The recipe called for ½ cup of olive oil, which I replaced with ½ cup of water. When the dressing ingredients were all mixed together, I added ¼ teaspoon of guar gum and shook vigorously to incorporate, and it thickened up perfectly.

The dressing itself is a flavorful twist on a basic vinaigrette. Tarragon vinegar, plus dried or fresh tarragon, provide a lovely herbal base with a subtle anise flavor, and if you have fresh chives it makes all the difference, adding just a touch of peppery spice. I used it on green salad, but the recipe notes also suggest it would be good drizzled over roasted or steamed asparagus.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Instead of using ½ of oil (which adds 108 grams of fat, and 955 calories), use ½ cup of water, and thicken with ¼ - ½ teaspoon of guar gum, as described above.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Tamarind Chickpea Stew

I never get tired of soups and stews, and this time of year I really crave them. To me, there is nothing better on a brisk autumn day. Recently the “Tamarind Chickpea Stew”, page 260, found it’s way to our table, and it fit the bill perfectly. Simple, whole foods, hearty and satisfying, pretty to look at, and delicious flavors. Tamarind paste is made from the fruit of the pod of the tamarind tree, and in fact, you can buy tamarind pods in some ethnic and specialty grocery stores, and make it yourself. A much easier way is to buy prepared tamarind paste in a jar, but this isn’t an easy item to find either. Happily, you can also prepare a tamarind substitute by blending three parts lime juice with 1 part molasses, which is what I did for this recipe. I have had tamarind in my kitchen in the past, but I use it so seldom, this combination is a perfect substitute for the small amount used in most recipes.

This stew consists of onion, potato, chickpeas, tomatoes, green chilies, peas, and a combination of Middle Eastern spices, including coriander, cumin, and black pepper – and of course, the tamarind. It is slightly sweet from the addition of maple syrup, with everything somehow coming together in a most pleasing manner. That’s the magic of soups and stews!

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the tablespoon of olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Use water or broth and a nonstick skillet instead.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Black Bean & Pumpkin Lasagna

Showing up just in time for fall festivities and pumpkin season is “Black Bean & Pumpkin Lasagna”, page 219. Although this might sound unusual, lasagna is eternally flexible, and just about any kind of filling, sauce, and seasoning, in some combination, will work. You can’t really go wrong layering thick noodles with delicious fillings, and topping with a flavorful sauce. This seasonal combination of ingredients starts with black beans enhanced with sautéed veggies (onion, bell pepper, and garlic), sauced up with crushed tomatoes, and spiked with chili powder. A mixture of pumpkin purée and salsa fill in for the traditional marinara sauce, and seasoned tofu stands in for the ricotta cheese. You can make this dish more or less spicy by your choice of salsa. We like things on the hotter side, so I used a hot salsa.

The final addition is a sprinkle of ground pumpkin seeds, a nice touch that ties the overall theme together. I discovered at the last minute I had no pumpkin seeds on hand, so a quick substitution of sunflower seeds did the trick. Next time I make this I’ll make sure I have pumpkin seeds available.

I love lasagna, and I love experimenting with spins on traditional preparations This dish satisfied on both levels. Fun, pretty, and delicious, and it makes a lot! I’m pretty sure you could freeze leftovers, but the two of us managed to eat up the entire pan over the course of a week.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the tablespoon of olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Use water or broth and a nonstick skillet instead.
  • If possible, try to find whole grain lasagna noodles.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Spicy Sautéed Broccoli Rabe

As soon as I saw the recipe for “Spicy Sautéed Broccoli Rabe”, page 359, I balked. My limited experiences (aka experiments) with broccoli rabe have not been favorable, or flavorful, for that matter. I love greens of all kinds, even those most people seem to eschew, so I was perplexed when I didn’t immediately warm up to rabe. It is truly the most bitter green, bitter vegetable, I’ve ever tried. When I read in the recipe notes that spinach, chard, or escarole could stand in for the broccoli rabe, I breathed a huge sigh of relief! I opted to use spinach, and was very pleased with the results.

This is a simple combination of cooked greens, freshly minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. The recipe also calls for olive oil, but I omitted altogether, no substitutions required. I’ve been cooking and serving all varieties of greens (except broccoli rabe!) oil free, for so long, that I don’t even miss it. In fact, nowadays when I am served greens that have had oil added to them, they taste very peculiar to me.

I can’t imagine a more pleasing combination of flavors, or a better way to serve greens than this!

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:

  • Omit the olive oil altogether; use a nonstick skillet and/or a teaspoon of water or broth to sauté the garlic. Most greens don’t require any extra moisture for sautéing, as they release their own liquid as they cook.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Roasted Potato Salad with Chickpeas & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Whenever I see the words “roasted vegetables” I think “oil”. I’ve tried several times to roast a variety of vegetables, using a variety of methods, but without oil, I have been unable to obtain vegetables that come out with that nice crispy outside and a creamy center. Some things can’t be precisely duplicated when you omit oil, but if you are okay with an alternative approach, there is no reason you can’t have an equally satisfactory outcome. For this recipe, “Roasted Potato Salad with Chickpeas & Sun-Dried Tomatoes”, page 69, I opted to precook the potatoes in my Instant Pot. I love the texture of potatoes that have been cooked whole, waiting to peel and dice after they have been cooked and completely cooled. The resulting texture is a very creamy, yet firm, and perfect for salads. That is what I did for this recipe.

The next challenge in this recipe was making the dressing, which includes 3 tablespoons of oil, half of the total dressing (three tablespoons of white wine vinegar makes up the rest). I mixed up a concoction of 1/3 cup light veggie broth, 3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon of guar gum to thicken it up. This worked out perfectly!

The final challenge was finding sun-dried tomatoes that were not packed in oil. I like a brand called California Sun-Dry, a pouch of julienne cut oil free sun-dried tomatoes. They are soft, moist, and ready to eat right out of the pouch. I can’t always find these when I need them, so when I do find them, I get a couple of extra packages to save for later.

Once all these adjustments were in place, I was ready to compose the salad: diced cooked potatoes, diced shallot (or red onion), cooked chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, sliced green olives, parsley, and the dressing, all tossed together into a delicious salad, hearty enough to stand in as an entrée.    

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Instead of roasting the potatoes in oil, cook the potatoes whole, and when completely cool, peel and dice.
  • For the dressing, substitute the 3 tablespoons of oil with 1/3 cup of light veggie broth, mix with the vinegar, and add ¼ teaspoon of guar gum to thicken.
  • Use oil-free sun-dried tomatoes.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

White & Wild Mushroom Barley Soup

“White & Wild Mushroom Barley Soup”, page 162, marks the 500th recipe I’ve made from this cookbook. I am now officially half way through the recipes!!! It has taken me a long time to get this far, 8 years, to be exact. I didn’t set a specific time goal for working through the recipes, and if asked back in 2010 how long I thought this project would take, I probably would have guessed I’d be done by now. The world and time move so fast, and since the publication of 1000 Vegan Recipes, there have probably been 1000 more vegan cookbooks published – which is a wonderful thing! But since I’m doing this just for fun, and hopefully to provide encouragement to others embarking on this path, I’m not too worried about the length of time it’s taking. I thank all of you who have hung with me over these last 8 years, some maybe there from the beginning, others joining along the way. I appreciate all your visits and feedback, and hope I’ve helped make a positive difference.

This soup was very easy to make, with simple whole foods (onions, carrot, celery, mushrooms, barley, dill weed, seasonings). Mushroom Barely soup is a classic, and this version includes the same basic ingredients to make it as pleasing as ever. The difference here is using a combination of both white and wild mushrooms, which as Robin Robertson notes, gives the soup an extra dimension. She also suggests using mushroom broth for a deeper flavor, but that isn’t strictly necessary.

I topped each of our servings with minced parsley, as called for, plus a dollop of homemade soy yogurt. I am quite sure I will never tire of this delicious soup.

Now – on to the next 500 recipes!
Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Sauté the veggies in a little broth, soy sauce, or sherry instead of oil, and/or use a nonstick soup pot.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Breakfast Parfaits

“Breakfast Parfaits”, page 526, are fun, festive, and delicious. Even though if feels like you’re having dessert for breakfast, these parfaits are full of whole grains, nuts, and fruit. It is the perfect way to start the day, and with this on the menu, you can happily look forward to breakfast. While the dish can be prepared in a bowl if you wish, the parfait glasses do make a pretty presentation and add to the fun factor. The layers consist of granola, a puree of nut butter-banana-maple syrup, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, sliced banana, and blueberry. I was able to get two layers of each into the glasses, and topped it all off with fresh strawberries.

This dish can be altered in several ways, depending on what’s in season, what you have on hand, what you like most. Any dried fruit can stand in for the cranberries, try almonds or cashews instead of walnuts, vary the fruit choices, sprinkle with flax or chia seed, use yogurt instead of the nut butter mix, use cooked oatmeal along with, or instead of, the granola. The possibilities are endless! I added a splash of soymilk to my glass to soften up the granola, adding yet another layer of goodness.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • No changes necessary!