Sunday, July 23, 2017

Vegan Pound Cake

The traditional recipe for pound cake includes a pound each of flour, butter, eggs, and sugar. The way to make this  “Vegan Pound Cake” (page 448), while still a rich and satisfying treat, is much lighter. And, when you replace the oil with applesauce, like I did, the health profile improves a bit more. The recipe is very simple, using flour, sugar, baking powder, non-dairy milk and tofu for the batter, flavored with vanilla extract. Initially I was concerned that leaving out the oil would cause the cake to be dry and crumbly, so I opted to stay with the all-purpose (white) flour instead of substituting whole wheat  or whole wheat pastry flour. I also used a scant ½ cup of applesauce to replace the ¼ cup of oil. This is the amount of applesauce found in the snack size containers sold under many different labels (look for the no-sugar added varieties). Happily, the final result was a delicious cake both moist and delicious.  

Slices of this cake are perfect for topping with sliced fresh fruit, vegan whipped cream, or dessert sauces, but is equally delicious with no additions at all. I made this treat for a 4th of July gathering, and topped each slice with strawberries, whipped cream, and blueberries for a red, white and blue theme. This was a fun and festive presentation that was met with rave reviews!

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
  • Replace the ¼ cup of oil with a scant ½ cup of unsweetened applesauce.
  • Although I didn’t try this myself, to make this even healthier, substitute whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose (white) flour.  

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tempeh & Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

My husband and I recently returned from a trip to Ireland, a place I have wanted to visit for a very long time, and my first European adventure. Traveling is often a challenge to healthy eating, especially when you add the word “vegan” to the criteria. Ireland was no exception, and in fact, we really had to go out of our way to find the healthiest options available during our time in Dublin, Cork, Killarney and Galway. Shepherd’s Pie seems to be a mainstay in this part of the world, but we weren’t lucky enough to see any vegan versions of this almost completely plant based dish on any of the menus in any of the restaurants we dined in. By the time we got home, I was really craving a Shepherd’s Pie, so I decided to try this version of “Tempeh and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie” (page 304). While even a further departure from traditional Shepherd’s Pie, with sweet potatoes used as the topping, it was very delicious and really satisfied my craving.

This dish can take some time to prepare, so plan ahead, and as the recipe notes suggest, everything can be assembled ahead of time at your leisure, then popped in the oven to bake when you are ready to eat. The recipe also suggests using seitan, veggie burgers, or vegetarian burger crumbles instead of the tempeh if you want, and depending on which option you use, there will be a degree of preparation time needed for that. I opted for seitan this time around, using the recipe from this book (see my review here). You will also need to prepare the Mushroom Sauce from this book (see my review for that here.) Then of course, the sweet potatoes have to be cooked and mashed. I spent a leisurely afternoon putting everything together and rather enjoyed being back in my kitchen after a couple of weeks away. I found the effort well worth it!

Onions, carrots, peas, and corn round out the rest of the pie filling, and with the bright orange topping of sweet potatoes, this makes a bright, beautiful, and colorful dish, not to mention delicious! I took my picture prior to baking it in order to show a “cut away” revealing all the pretty colors.

It is quite easy to omit the oil called for in this dish – see my notes below.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:

  • Omit the margarine when mashing the sweet potatoes. I just used the soymilk called for, adding a little more as needed to achieve the correct level of moistness.
  • Omit the oil when sautéing the vegetables and tempeh; for the veggies, use a nonstick skillet with a little water, sherry, or broth instead. If you are using tempeh, you can bake it or “dry fry” it in a skillet to crisp it up. You will not get the browning you would with oil, but as an ingredient inside a mix of moist ingredients, this becomes less of a standout. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Seitan with Ancho-Chipotle Sauce

If you like cooking with seitan, and if you like a well-seasoned sauce with a pop of smoke and spice, you will no doubt enjoy the “Seitan with Ancho-Chipotle Sauce” (page 310) as much as I did. Making seitan from scratch is super easy, and there are an abundance of recipes available if you want to try, including from this book (see my review here). You can also purchase seitan in most well stocked groceries and natural foods stores if you are so inclined. Either way, once the seitan is ready, the rest of the work is in the sauce, which consists of onion, carrot, garlic, fire-roasted tomatoes, and three dried chilies (ancho and chipotle). I substituted 1 tablespoon of chipotle powder for the chile, since I didn’t have one on hand, with no problem. The sauce is simmered for nearly an hour to thicken it up, and then everything is blended smooth in a blender.

Slices of seitan are dipped in seasoned cornmeal and, according to the recipe, should be pan-fried in 2 tablespoons of oil. Your options for reducing or eliminating the oil include baking the seitan on a parchment paper lined pan in a moderate oven for 30-minutes, turning halfway through; or, using a very fine mist of spray oil in your skillet; or, using a very high quality nonstick skillet without any oil (this will tend to stick to any but the best of non-stick cookware). Whichever method you choose, you can get by with much less than 2 tablespoons of oil, if not eliminating it altogether.

The final step is topping the browned seitan with the warmed sauce. With the very first bite, I think you will agree, the flavors are indescribably satisfying and delicious!

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:

  • Omit the oil when sautéing the vegetables; used a nonstick skillet with a little water, sherry, or broth instead.
  • Instead of pan-frying the seitan in 2-tablespoons of oil, you can bake it on a parchment paper lined pan in a moderate oven for 30-minutes, turning halfway through; or, use a very fine mist of spray oil in your skillet; or, use a very high quality nonstick skillet without any oil (seitan will tend to stick to any but the best of non-stick cookware).

Friday, April 7, 2017

Strawberry Parfaits with Cashew Crème

“Strawberry Parfaits with Cashew Crème” (page 478) is the perfect recipe for those times you want to indulge, but without all the guilt. While this isn’t a fat free dessert, with ½ cup cashews in the mix, it is split between four servings (if you can be that disciplined!),which comes out to just two tablespoons per serving. The Cashew Crème is made by blending cashews, sugar, soy milk, and tofu into a rich and creamy mixture that is refrigerated for at least 30 minutes. I would recommend even longer, though, as I think the flavor improves both by letting the ingredients blend for a longer period of time, and by being thoroughly chilled. Once the crème is ready, it is just a matter of layering the strawberries and crème in parfait glasses. An easy, yet elegant dessert and wonderful this time of year when strawberries are coming into season.

Hint: I recommend soaking the cashews in 2 cups of water for a couple of hours (or longer) before making this for improved blending and increased smoothness. Drain and discard soaking water before proceeding

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
No changes necessary! J

Monday, April 3, 2017

Macaroni Salad

One of the really great things about switching to a plant based diet has been exploring the plethora of new recipes, foods, approaches, flavors, tastes, and textures. I’ve always been very experimental when it comes to food and my vegan adventure has been one of great joy and discovery. But, there are some dishes so dear to me that the thought of altering them too far from my concept of the original recipe just doesn’t appeal to me. I’ve been able to veganize just about all my favorites over the years, but sometimes just making that tiny change is as much as I want to do, because I want to keep the dish as intact as possible. Such is the case with macaroni salad. I am rather attached to my veganized version of this childhood favorite, and when I looked at the recipe for this “Macaroni Salad” (page 92), I wasn’t sure how I would react to it. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I finally took the plunge.

This is really a very simple recipe, and I must admit, I was more than pleased with the outcome. Since I had penne pasta available, I used that instead of elbow macaroni, which I think was probably equally as good. However, if you are a purist, you will likely want to keep with the elbow variety. Cooked pasta is combined with celery, red bell pepper, pickle relish, and red onion. The dressing consists of vegan mayonnaise (homemade or store bought), Dijon mustard, soy milk, cider vinegar (which might be the secret ingredient, it really gave the salad a nice little tang), and a bit of sugar and salt. The fat content in this recipe can add up fast if using a commercial mayonnaise, even of a vegan variety, so this is the area that needed to be addressed. Making vegan mayonnaise from silken tofu (see my review of this book's recipe here) drastically reduces the calories, and there are oil free brands on the market as well, though not nearly as tasty. 

I had no trouble bonding with this new version of Macaroni Salad and will definitely make it again!

Fast facts
¾ cup commercial vegan mayonnaise = 504 calories, 48 grams of fat (12 of which are saturated fat)
¾ cup commercial brand silken tofu (which can be used to make homemade vegan mayonnaise) = 168 calories, 7 grams of fat (0 gram of saturated fat)

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
  • Use a whole grain pasta of your choice.
  • Use an oil free mayonnaise, either purchased or homemade

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Coconut-Peanut Chickpeas & Vegetables

“Coconut-Peanut Chickpeas & Vegetables” (page 259) has the combinations of ingredients and flavors I find immensely appealing. Chickpeas are one of my favorite legumes, and the blending of peanut butter, coconut milk, garlic and tomatoes (plus throw in a little heat – a lot, in my case) is just irresistible to my palate. This is a very quick and easy dish to put together, as long as you have cooked chickpeas on hand. Sautéed onion, bell pepper and garlic are combined with a touch of curry, and added to the chickpeas. Coconut milk and peanut butter provide a smooth richness, but as I always do, I substituted soymilk flavored with ½ teaspoon of coconut extract for the coconut milk to omit the highly saturated fat that comes with it. I have come to prefer this to coconut milk, which seems overly thick and rich to me anymore. You still get the wonderful flavor of coconut, and I never feel like anything is missing.

Fast facts

14 ounces of full fat canned coconut milk = 700 calories, 70 grams of fat (60 of those are saturated fat)

14 ounces of full fat soy milk = 141 calories, 8 grams of fat (1 gram of saturated fat)

At the very last minute, fresh baby spinach is added to the skillet and cooked just long enough to wilt. A lovely, colorful, and delicious addition, really making this a one pot meal if you so desire. I ended up serving it over rice for a heartier presentation, and to collect the delicious sauce. Crushed peanuts for the garnish are the crowning touch.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
  • Omit the oil when sautéing the vegetables; used a nonstick skillet with a little water, sherry, or broth instead.
  • Substitute the coconut milk with 14 ounces of soymilk flavored with ½ teaspoon coconut extract.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

White Bean & Artichoke Spread

Another selection from the Appetizers and Snacks chapter, “White Bean & Artichoke Spread” (page 18) is very easy to make oil free and healthy without sacrificing an ounce of flavor. This is a simple yet satisfying blend of artichoke hearts, white beans, parsley, and lemon juice with just a pinch of cayenne to liven things up. The recipe is not written to be oil free. It calls for marinated artichoke hearts, and a tablespoon of olive oil. I opted for canned artichoke hearts packed in water because I couldn’t find them frozen in my local market (I think frozen artichoke hearts are superior to canned), and I simply omitted the olive oil altogether. The blended spread is topped with a small sprinkle of chopped kalamata olives (which I forgot to do before taking this picture), and is wonderful on crackers, toast, sourdough bread, or as a dip for raw veggies.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
  • Omit the olive oil all together.
  • Use frozen artichoke hearts, or canned, packed in water instead of marinated. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Black & Green Olive Tapenade

“Black & Green Olive Tapenade” (page 9) is an easy appetizer that can be whipped up in just a few minutes, and is especially good if you have access to a fresh olive bar in your local grocery or natural foods stores. I learned that the word “tapenade” actually means capers, one of the ingredients in this spread, and if you leave them out, you’ll still have a delicious olive spread, it just won’t be authentically tapenade.

It can’t get much easier than this – combine the capers, olives, lemon juice, thyme, and black pepper in a food processor and process until finely chopped. At this point the recipe calls for the addition of olive oil, ¼ cup to be exact, to be added to the chopped olives and blended until the mixture is a smooth paste. But I wasn’t at all worried about omitting the oil altogether, after all olives are the source of olive oil, and chopping them up in a food processor will release a measure of oil into the mix. (A quarter cup of olive oil contains 477 calories and 54 grams of fat, so it’s no small thing deciding to leave this out.) By contrast, 1 cup of black olives only contains about 15 grams of fat, and ½ cup green olives about 8 (these are the amounts called for in the recipe). This of course, if you purchase olives not cured in oil. If you do, be sure to rinse them thoroughly first. You may want to add a bit of water to the food processor while it’s running, in place of the oil, a tablespoon at a time, to reach the desired consistency.

This spread is very rich, and a little definitely goes a long way. It is excellent on fat-free crackers, toasted bread, or stuffed into mushroom caps.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
  • Omit the olive oil all together. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, to the food processor while it’s running if necessary to reach desired consistency.
  • If your olives are cured in oil, be sure to rinse them thoroughly before using. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ginger-Peanut Tempeh

Browning tempeh oil-free can definitely be a challenge, and if you’re like me, you may have to decide you’re going to end up with something a little different from the original recipe intent. Such was the case with “Ginger-Peanut Tempeh”, (page 301), which called for browning previously steamed diced tempeh in a skillet using two tablespoons of oil. In all likelihood, this would have kept the tempeh cubes intact, as intended, but what I ended up with was more of a tempeh scramble, especially since the addition of each new ingredient required more tossing and stirring in the skillet. Not a bad thing, necessarily, at least I didn’t think so. This dish was quite flavorful with red bell pepper, garlic, green onions, fresh ginger, peanuts, and cilantro, all seasoned with a combination of soy sauce, sugar, and crushed red pepper. I ended up serving it over brown rice, and thought it would also have gone well with mashed potatoes, or grilled yams.  Bright steamed greens on the side made for a complete meal.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
  • Instead of frying the tempeh in oil, use a very good quality nonstick skillet and “dry-fry” it.
  • Use the same nonstick skillet and a little broth, sherry, or water to sauté the veggies.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sicilian-Style Tofu

When I read the ingredients for the “Sicilian-Style Tofu” (page 287), I knew I would like it, as I have a great fondness for kalamata olives and capers, and most anything that includes them. I wasn’t disappointed, and in fact, I liked it a lot more than I expected!
The basis for the dish is pan-fried tofu. It can be a little tricky trying to get “crisply fried tofu” (as described in the recipe headnotes) without using oil, but once you realize alternate preparation methods also yield satisfying results, you won’t be disappointed. After pressing a 16-oz block of tofu to extract the excess water, I cut it into 9-10 slices, and “dry-fried” it in a non-stick skillet without using any oil at all. It didn’t get as crispy, or as brown, as frying it in oil would have, but to me, it was still completely acceptable, especially after being topped with the zesty and flavorful sauce. However, a very good quality non-stick skillet is ESSENTIAL for this to work!

Speaking of the sauce, this consisted of canned diced tomatoes, onion, garlic sherry, olives, capers, and red pepper flakes, simmered on the stove, then spooned over the prepared tofu, which can be served “as is”, or over pasta for a sort of cacciatore effect. The combination of flavors is supremely satisfying, and I admit to upping the red pepper flakes to give it a bit more bite. The sauce would be good on other foods as well, such as potatoes, pasta, scrambled tofu, or polenta. I see a lot of possibilities here!

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
  • Instead of frying the tofu in oil, use a very good quality nonstick skillet and “dry-fry” it.
  • Use the same nonstick skillet and a little broth, sherry, or water to sauté the veggies.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cabbage Rolls Stuffed with Bulger & Chickpeas

“Cabbage Rolls Stuffed With Bulgur & Chickpeas” (page 337) is a perfect cold-weather dish, even though these are prepared in a skillet on the stove, not baked in the oven.  (There is something so satisfying about a long slow bake of anything in the oven on a cold winter's day!). Because I had a beautiful bunch of collard greens that begged to be rolled around something, I decided to use this instead of the cabbage, which you can plainly see in the picture. The slightly steamed leaves are stuffed with a delicious mixture of cooked bulgur and sautéed onion, cooked garbanzo beans, dillweed, salt and pepper. These tidy little bundles are arranged in a large skillet, covered with tomato juice, and simmered until the greens are cooked and everything is hot throughout. Hearty, satisfying, and wholesome, and made from ingredients you might already have hanging around the kitchen.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:
  • Instead of sautéing the onion in oil, use a nonstick skillet and/or a little water, broth, or sherry. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Flower Power Granola Squares

Being a child of the sixties, just the name of this recipe was calling my name! The “Flower Power Granola Squares” (page 8) may not be brownies, but they will satisfy your munchies all the same, and it doesn’t take long to put a batch together when the urge hits. :-) Basic ingredients of sunflower seeds, oats, chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and flaked coconut are mixed with soy milk and a small amount of sweetener (just two tablespoons of maple syrup), popped into the oven, and baked until done. The recipe does call for two tablespoons of melted margarine as part of the wet ingredients, but I used peanut butter instead – more flavor, and no hydrogenated fat – in fact, less fat all the way around. I put the milk, maple syrup, and peanut butter in the blender for a fast whirl to make it smooth before adding to the dry ingredients. Despite not being overly sweet, these little nuggets are very rich, and it only takes a couple of bites to satisfy an urge. Here’s a couple of hints: 

1) Don’t cut into squares for at least 30 minutes, as they will keep their shape better the cooler they are. 

2) Store in the refrigerator for even better sticking-togetherness.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist: 

  • Substitute peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter for the margarine.
  • Use a non-stick baking dish or line with parchment paper instead of oiling the baking dish.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Kale & Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes and yams come in many sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. I find there isn’t a lot consistency in how they are identified in the markets, or in recipes, for that matter. Varieties include white, garnet, Japanese, Okinawan, Jewell, just to name a few. I think any variety of sweet potato or yam would work in the “Kale & Sweet Potatoes” (page 371). I happened to have a “white” sweet potato on hand when I made this dish, although I think it was more of a pale amber, than white. Nothing could be simpler for a colorful (red onion, green kale, and any color of potato), healthy, and delicious side-dish. Sautéed onion starts things off; the kale, potatoes, and broth are added to the mix, and in 20 minutes or so, all is done and ready to eat. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:

  • Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies and instead use water, light vegetable broth, or sherry. 

Satay Sauce

The Tempeh Satay below would not be complete without the “Satay Sauce” (page 41). A simple blended mixture of onion, garlic, chili paste, peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and coconut milk, it whips up in a flash and is an absolutely essential sauce for the satay. Rich, spicy, bursting with flavor, this would be good on a  multitude of foods. As I mentioned below, I avoid coconut milk because of the very high fat (and very high saturated fat) content, so instead of that, I use a mixture of almond milk and coconut extract (1 cup almond milk + ¼ teaspoon coconut extract = 1 cup coconut milk.). I find this gives me all the flavor of coconut milk without the fat. If you do this, be sure to make an entire cup – the Satay uses ¼ cup, and the Satay Sauce uses the other ¾ cup.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” checklist:

  • Instead of coconut milk, use almond milk flavored with coconut extract (1 cup almond milk + ¼ teaspoon coconut extract = 1 cup coconut milk).