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.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Irish Soda Bread

"Irish Soda Bread with Golden Raisins" (page 400) puts a vegan spin on this traditional St. Patrick's Day treat. Buttermilk is normally used as the liquid, but here soymilk soured with vinegar stands in for the dairy, providing the acidic environment needed to activate the baking soda. This is a free form loaf, rounded by hand on a baking sheet and crisscrossed with a big "X" just before popping in the oven. In the quick bread category, meaning non-yeasted, this hefty loaf is still quite firm and chewy, enough so to use for sandwiches (I found it made the most wonderful bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in particular). Just slightly sweet from the two tablespoons of sugar and the golden raisins, this also makes wonderful bread for morning toast. It made a large loaf for just the two of us, but kept well in the refrigerator for the week we had it around.
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

ü To keep this completely McDougall Friendly, the all-purpose (white) flour should be replaced with whole wheat pastry flour. You might find the loaf a bit too heavy with all whole grain flour, so at the very least, try a 50-50 blend of white flour and whole wheat pastry flour.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Red Bean & Bulgur Chili

If you like a little chew in your veggie chili, but don't like the idea of using faux meats, which are mostly comprised of highly processed soy isolates and other questionable ingredients, try the "Red Bean & Bulgur Chili", (page 251).  Adding bulgur provides the perfect texture and mouth feel, adding a level of pleasing complexity. The red beans are dark red kidneys, but any of your favorite beans would be equally as good here.  The vegetables include red onion, tomatoes, red bell pepper, and salsa (see the color theme here, utilizing red foods?), and is seasoned with garlic, mild green chiles, chili powder and oregano. The bulgur is added right into the chili pot, and doesn't take long to cook tender. If you have cooked beans on hand, this chili can be ready in just about an hour. Top off with diced red onion, vegan sour cream, and chopped cilantro at the table, if desired.  
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

ü Omit the olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Use a nonstick pot and/or substitute water or veggie broth for the oil.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Black Bean & Corn Burritos

Nothing could be easier for a quick meal than the "Black Bean & Corn Burritos" (page 127), and likely you have most of the ingredients in your pantry already. Sautéed onions, mashed black beans, corn, and salsa tucked neatly into tortillas, and lunch (or breakfast, or dinner!) is ready. The recipe calls for cooking the onion in oil, but that isn't necessary, just use a little water instead. Feel free to add a few more condiments to the burritos - I included shredded lettuce and sliced avocado to mine. Delicious!
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
 üOmit the oil when sautéing the onion. Use a little water, sherry, or broth instead.
üUse whole grain, oil free tortillas. I find the Ezekiel brand of whole grain sprouted tortillas a great choice.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Lime-Cilantro Dressing

There is no end to what can go into a salad dressing, once you step outside the limited realm of Ranch/1000 Island/Italian/Blue Cheese. While these standard choices are good, especially when made vegan and healthy, there is so much more that can constitute a dressing or dip. Consider the case in point, "Lime-Cilantro Dressing" (page 103). This dressing was so good, I was using it on everything, including salad, steamed asparagus, wraps, as a topping for Mexican food, and putting a sour cream-like dollop on my chili. The base for this dressing is vegan yogurt, but since this can be hard to find, and it isn't always made with the purest ingredients, I opted to use homemade Tofu SourCream instead. Mixed into the yogurt (or sour cream) is fresh cilantro, fresh lime juice, a smidge of sugar, ground cumin, and cayenne. I also added a fresh clove of minced garlic, as it seemed to be begging for this, at least to someone like me who is kind of a garlic fanatic. I opted to pulse everything together in the blender to really infuse the flavors throughout, but the recipe just has you mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl. Although the notes mention this is best used on the same day it is made, I kept it around for a week with no deterioration of quality or flavor. Quite surprising to me, this recipe did not call for any added oil - a definite bonus!
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

ü     No changes necessary! J

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Miso Soup

"Miso Soup" (page 152) is a simple, yet elementally pleasing soup popularized in recent years in Japanese and sushi restaurants. Although this may be relatively new to us, it is a staple in Japanese cuisine where it is consumed daily, even for breakfast. At times I find myself craving the soothing salty broth of miso soup, it seems to be just the thing I crave when feeling a bit under the weather. The basic recipe is just water, and miso paste (fermented soy beans), with maybe some soy sauce. Additional add-ins can include tofu, green onions, mushrooms, sliced carrot or daikon, and sea vegetables. This rendition stops with mushrooms, green onions, and tofu, and the end product is delicious simplicity. Happily, the recipe as written had no added oil, so no changes were necessary to keep it McDougall friendly! J

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

ü     No changes necessary! J

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Grilled Tofu With Tamarind Glaze

"Grilled Tofu with Tamarind Glaze" (page 289) is bursting with flavor, and is best served with something that will soak up the spicy sauce, such as rice, quinoa, potatoes, or cous cous. The sauce is comprised of sautéed shallot, garlic, and fresh tomatoes (fresh really makes a difference!), simmered with tamarind concentrate, spices, and sweeteners, and eventually puréed in a blender until smooth. The end result is a deliciously spicy and smoky barbeque-style sauce (an entire tablespoon of smoked paprika is used here), and there is enough extra to save for other uses after you use what you need on the tofu. (You won't be sorry, either, I found myself putting this on grilled potatoes, veggie burgers, scrambled tofu, just about anywhere you would use ketchup or barbeque sauce.) The tofu is marinated in the sauce for at least two hours before either grilling, sautéing in a skillet, or baking in the oven (all options are mentioned in the recipe). I chose to bake it in the oven on a baking sheet, using parchment paper to prevent sticking, set on top of foil for easy cleanup. Note: If you can't find tamarind, an easy substitution is mixing equal parts fresh lime juice, molasses, and vegan Worcestershire sauce.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü Omit the olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead, use a nonstick skillet and/or water, broth, or sherry as a sauté liquid.