Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Maple-Pecan Waffles (Or Pancakes)

Some people think I had to give up all my kitchen appliances when I moved full time into my 5th wheel trailer. Not so! Others think the only appliance we need is a can opener, and that all our meals are eaten off of paper plates. Also not so! I actually have a very well stocked kitchen with a large variety of cookware, small appliances, and kitchen gadgets. But alas…I do not own a waffle iron…I didn't own a waffle iron before living in my 5th wheel either, but happily the recipe for "Maple-Pecan Waffles" (page 517) states that you can use this same batter to make pancakes if you like. So I did! What an easy recipe, just basic pancake batter with the addition of ground pecans and pure maple syrup. (I also chose to add a few blueberries, easy to do by just popping a few berries onto the batter after ladling onto the hot skillet.) These delicious pancakes are wonderful topped with warm maple or blueberry syrup at the table, and even sprinkling on a few more pecans if you want, as the recipe suggests.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
  • Use whole wheat flour, or whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Omit the melted margarine when preparing the batter - you won't even miss it!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Chard & New Potato Gratin with Herbs de Provence

I was able to utilize my husband's skills with a mandoline (a tool for preparing very thinly sliced vegetables) in the "Chard & New Potato Gratin with Herbes de Provence" (page 322), as I am scared to death of slicing off my fingers with this gadget, even with the guard in place. So, whenever a recipe calls for using a mandoline, I ask my husband to do the honors. If you don't have a mandoline (or anyone in your house willing to use one!), you can still make this dish, just slice the potatoes as thinly as possible with a sharp knife. Pre-cooked onion and Swiss chard is layered with the sliced potatoes and herbes de Provence, drizzles of vegetable broth (the recipe calls for drizzling with oil, but I used broth), topped off with vegan Parmesan or Parmasio, and baked in a hot oven for about an hour. Traditionally, gratins are served directly from the baking dish, but I spooned a portion out on a plate for this picture. I love just about anything made with potatoes, and this was no exception. This was actually the first time I used herbes de Provence, an aromatic and delightful blend of rosemary, cracked fennel, thyme, savory, basil, French tarragon, dill weed, Turkish oregano, lavender, chervil and marjoram. I enjoyed this dish for dinner the first day, and diced up and browned in a skillet for breakfast the next morning.  

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:


  • Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies; instead use a nonstick skillet and/or a little water, broth, or sherry as the sauté liquid.
  • Use vegetable broth instead of oil to drizzle over the potatoes as you are layering them in the gratin dish.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Spinach Soufflé

You know how sometimes everything comes together exactly right, and a recipe that is making no sense at all turns out perfectly wonderful? And you know those times when it doesn't…? I've been cooking, reading recipes, even writing recipes for over 40 years, and consider myself comfortable enough in the kitchen to make adjustments on the fly when necessary, and able to recognize when something in a recipe will work, or not. But still, there are those times when you are caught off guard, and you end up scratching your head, wondering what went wrong. Such was the case with the "Spinach Soufflé" (page 329). The basic recipe is a mixture of sautéed onion and spinach combined in a food processor with firm tofu, to which is added flour, ¾ cup broth, and baking powder (plus some soy sauce for flavor, salt, and pepper). The first thing that didn't seem right was the addition of the broth. The mixture at this point was already like a thin cake batter, and I thought adding any more liquid would make it almost soupy. So, I decided against adding any broth at all. I proceeded with the rest of the instructions, scraping the mixture into a casserole dish and baking for an hour. And the end results were…disappointing. I'm not sure why, exactly. It was a texture thing, partly. Possibly not cooked long enough? It was blandness, partly. It really could have used some pizzazz, maybe with the addition of fresh garlic, or red pepper flakes, or both. It could have been my own alterations to the recipe - I used more spinach than called for, maybe half again as much (although it cooks down to almost nothing so it didn't seem like this would matter); I omitted the broth for reasons mentioned above; I excluded the 3 tablespoons of oil. I also have to say, having never made a non-vegan soufflé, having never made any kind of soufflé, maybe I didn't know quite what to expect? In any case, this recipe turned out to be one of the rare recipes from this book I haven't thoroughly enjoyed, truly the exception.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies; instead use a nonstick skillet and/or a little water, broth, or sherry as the sauté liquid.
  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour in the soufflé mixture.
  • Omit the oil from the tofu-spinach soufflé mixture when preparing in the food processor.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Farfalle with Crunchy Crucifers & Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing

"Farfalle with Crunchy Crucifers & Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing" (page 91) is super fast, super easy, and super tasty! The recipe calls for 2 cups each cauliflower and broccoli, and I had every intention of including both. (You might notice there is nothing green in this photograph.) But on the day I was making this dish, I found to my dismay that my broccoli had spoiled. How often does that happen? Broccoli is a hearty vegetable and should last quite a while under refrigeration. I had it in my refrigerator less than a week. Makes me wonder how long it sat in the grocery store? In any case, I had plenty of cauliflower, so not to be daunted, I doubled up on that. Maybe not as colorful as it might have been, this was still very good, and I think the secret here was the poppy seed dressing. Silken tofu is seasoned with Dijon mustard, cider vinegar, salt, pepper, maple syrup, and of course, poppy seeds. It also calls for olive oil, but I left this out altogether with no substitution needed. Served equally delicious chilled or at room temperature, and the leftovers hold well. 

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the oil in the poppy seed dressing.

  • Thursday, November 27, 2014

    Summer Vegetable Soup

    If you have your own garden, or access to a local farmer's market, you will have all the fresh veggies you need for this "Summer Vegetable Soup" (page 149). Leeks, carrots, garlic, potatoes, zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes and corn cook tender in a light vegetable broth, and fresh spinach adds the colorful finishing touch. This soup is soothing, nutritious, and delicious. But you don't have to wait until summer to make it - you can usually find these vegetables in well stocked grocery stores year round. 

    Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies; instead use a nonstick soup pot and/or a little water, broth, or sherry as the sauté liquid.
  • 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