Sunday, July 20, 2014

Brown Rice Salad with Black-Eyed Peas

If you are looking for new ways to serve black-eyed peas, the good luck dish for bringing in the New Year in the American South, you might want to try the "Brown Rice Salad with Black-Eyed Peas" (page 85). The dish is labeled as one of the "Fast Recipes", meaning it can be prepared in 30 minutes or less, but this is only true if you already have cooked peas and rice on hand. Otherwise, plan ahead. The other ingredients in this salad include red onion, celery, roasted pecans, and fresh parsley, all of which is dressed with oil-based vinaigrette, if you follow the recipe as written. Naturally, I looked for a way to get around the oil-laden dressing (it calls for ½ cup!), and decided to use light vegetable broth in place of the oil. I still mixed this with the cider vinegar and herbs and spices called for to capture the intended flavors. This alternative worked very well, providing plenty of moisture to the salad, especially since cooked rice tends to soak up the wet ingredients. I enjoyed the contrasting textures in this salad - crunchy (onion, celery, pecans), chewy (rice), and soft (black-eyed peas).
 
 Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

 
ü   Use light vegetable broth in place of the oil when preparing the dressing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Penne with Chickpeas & Rosemary

Pasta is fast food, and when you are looking for something you can put together quickly from food you probably already have in the pantry, "Penne with Chickpeas & Rosemary" (page 210) will fill the bill. Just six ingredients (not counting salt and pepper), and dinner is on the table in about 30 minutes or less. I didn't have penne on hand when I decided to make this, but I did have ditalini, the small tubular pasta often used in pasta salads, and decided this would work fine. A sautéed and warmed concoction of rosemary (or any other fresh or dried herb if you're not a fan), garlic, diced tomatoes and chickpeas is added to the cooked pasta and that's about all there is to it.  
 

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

 
ü   Omit the olive oil when sautéing the garlic and herbs and use a bit of water or broth instead and/or a nonstick skillet.

ü   Use whole grain pasta.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Corn Muffins

"Corn Muffins" (page 408) are really nothing more than cornbread in a muffin cup, and make a great accompaniment to most any bean dish. Just a handful of simple ingredients go into these muffins (flour, cornmeal, baking powder, soymilk, sugar, and salt), and they are in the oven in no time at all. The recipe does call for 3 tablespoons of oil, but I omitted that and used ¼ cup apple sauce instead. I opted to line the muffin tin with paper liners rather than oiling the muffin tin. Note: the muffins tend to stick to the paper liners initially, but the longer they sit, the easier the paper peels away.
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

 
ü Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.

ü Omit the oil and use ¼ cup applesauce instead.

ü Use a non-stick tin, or paper liners, rather than oiling the muffin pan.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Maple-Baked Rice Pudding with Dried Cranberries

You will find the "Maple-Baked Rice Pudding with Dried Cranberries" (page 475) in the dessert section of this book, but I prepared it for breakfast, as I love hot rice with sweetener and soymilk for morning fare. This dish requires cooked rice, so you will have to plan ahead a bit, but otherwise you'll find this is a super simple dish to prepare. Cooked rice is combined with soymilk, maple syrup, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and cranberries (or raisins) and baked in the oven until hot and slightly thickened. You might want to start slow with the sweeteners and taste the mixture before adding the full measure. I omitted the sugar altogether, as the maple syrup and dried fruit made the entire dish plenty sweet. The recipe doesn't specify white or brown rice, but I used brown. Wonderful hot out of the oven, or even at room temperature, but the rice tends to stiffen a little if served cold.
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

 
ü     Use brown rice instead of white.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Red Chard & Baby Spinach Lasagna

There are no less than eight lasagna recipes in this cookbook, and the "Red Chard & Baby Spinach Lasagna" (page 215) is the third one I've tried so far. I don't think it's possible to serve me a lasagna I won't like. This is comfort food extraordinaire as far as I'm concerned, and I'm always happy for the leftovers so I can enjoy it for several meals each time I make it. (I've also found lasagna freezes very well!). Cooked spinach and red chard (use all spinach or another color chard if red chard isn't available) are mixed with a blend of tofu, nutritional yeast, and a few sprinkles of herbs. Cooked lasagna noodles are layered with the tofu-spinach concoction, marinara, and vegan Parmesan cheese, then baked in the oven until hot and bubbly. The recipe calls for a pound each of firm and soft tofu, but I used two pounds of just firm and it came out perfect. This delightful lasagna would impress someone new to a plant-based diet, and makes a great contribution to a potluck. Add a green salad and warm sourdough bread for a complete meal.
 

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

 
ü Omit the olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead use a non-stick pan and/or use water, broth, or sherry for the sauté liquid.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Four-Alarm Chili

"Four-Alarm Chili" (page 249) isn't for the faint of heart or those who prefer a less spicy pot of beans. If you have cooked beans on hand (or choose to use canned), this dish can be put together quickly, leaving you free to prepare the rest of your meal while the beans simmer on the stove. This is a simple concoction of sautéed onion, chiles, and garlic, added to crushed tomatoes, cooked beans and a few spices. What makes this chili so "alarming" are the three sources of heat: serrano chiles, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. But fear not, the heat factor can be moderated to fit your comfort zone without detracting from the overall dish - just use less chili and/or spice to suit your taste. And, be sure to put a pitcher of ice water on the table!
 

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
 

ü  Omit the olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead use a non-stick pan and/or use water, broth, or sherry for the sauté liquid.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Dijon Vinaigrette

Finding a satisfactory dairy-free, oil-free salad dressing seems to be a problem for many transitioning to a whole foods plant based diet. It took me a long time to get comfortable with the different mouth feel of oil-free dressings, and there have been many recipes tried and discarded on my search for the "perfect vegan oil-free salad dressing". I do have a handful now that I really enjoy, and make over and over, but I still like to try new recipes that sound good when they come along. Today I tried the "Dijon Vinaigrette" (page 99). Like all traditional vinaigrette recipes, this one calls for oil, in this case ¾ cup. That is a lot of oil! That is 162 grams of fat. I'm not one who puts just a few drops of salad dressing on my salads. Plus, my salads are BIG! I require about ¼ cup dressing on my plate of salad. You can see how quickly and easily the fat grams can add up here. My save-the-day ingredient when making salad dressings from scratch is guar gum. I simply substitute an equal amount of water for the oil, and when the dressing is complete, the last thing I do is add about 1/2 teaspoon of guar gum per cup of dressing. This thickens up the dressing and mimics the mouth feel of a dressing made with oil, to a certain degree. This particular recipe includes white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, shallot, basil, and parsley. The parsley and basil give the dressing its pretty green color, a nice surprise! If you use the guar gum method I described, you can indulge in this delicious herby dressing to your heart's content, guilt free! (Guar gum is found in bulk at many natural foods stores and from Bob's Red Mill.)
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü Omit the olive oil and use an equal amount of water, plus ½ teaspoon guar gum.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tofu & Edamame Stew

For those of you who enjoy the humble soybean in its various incarnations, here is one for you: "Tofu and Edamame Stew" (page 293). This is a study in green and white. Green in the celery, edamame (fresh soybeans), zucchini, peas, and parsley. White from onion, garlic, potatoes, and tofu. This color scheme is pretty in the bowl, and it tastes just as good as it looks. Finish this off with flavorful herbs, spices, and a dash of cayenne, there is nothing missing from this healthy stew. The recipe directions call for browning the tofu in hot oil, but I skipped this step. Instead, I used an extra firm variety of tofu, pressed it in my EZ Tofu Press (http://eztofupress.com/) to make it even firmer, and "fried" the chunks in a dry nonstick skillet. You could even skip the "frying" or "browning" step, as long as you have firm enough tofu to begin with. The recipe encourages you to continue the green theme by adding spinach at the very end if you desire, or even introduce some color by including carrot or red bell pepper.
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
 
ü Omit the olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead use a non-stick pan and/or use water, broth, or sherry for the sauté liquid.
ü Omit the olive oil when preparing the tofu, and use the techniques I described in the recipe review.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Green Beans Niçoise

"Green Beans Niçoise" (page 369) is a hot version of the French classic salade niçoise, minus the lettuce, potatoes, and tuna. There are notes in the recipe for making this more like the classic, but I chose to try the recipe as written. Steamed-tender green beans are tossed with sautéed garlic, tomatoes, and capers, topped off with fresh parsley, and dashed with a bit of salt and pepper. Easy to put together, pretty to look at, and scrumptious to eat.
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
 
üOmit the olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead use a non-stick pan and/or use water, broth, or sherry for the sauté liquid.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Muffaletta Sandwiches

According to the recipe notes "Muffaletta Sandwiches" (page 116), are classic New Orleans sandwiches that traditionally includes sliced ham and cheese, and you are invited to include vegan versions of these here if you wish. (I did not.) The flavor of the olive salad that makes up the filling is plenty flavorful and stands on its own. The base mix consists of kalamata olives, green olives, pepperocini, roasted red peppers, capers, onions, tomatoes, and fresh parsley, along with some dried herbs. The recipe also calls for ¼ olive oil, and vinegar; I left both of these out with outstanding results. I felt no need to replace them with anything - the salad was moist enough, so no problem there, especially since it was going onto a sandwich roll; the olives are plenty oily enough by themselves; and the olives, capers, and pepperocini added enough piquant flavors that additional vinegar seemed over the top. I did include lettuce and avocado slices to tuck into the crusty sandwich rolls. I think any other condiments, such as sliced onions or tomatoes, shredded carrots, etc, would also be nice additions. These hearty and delicious sandwiches are practically a meal unto themselves!  
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
 
ü  Omit the olive oil altogether. No replacement is needed, as the filling is already very rich and moist.
ü  Use whole-wheat oil-free sandwich rolls.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Roasted Vegetable Frittata

Even though the "Roasted Vegetable Frittata" (page 509) is found in the Breakfast and Brunch chapter of this book, I cooked it one night for dinner, served alongside a tossed green salad. In my opinion, there are many dishes that are not totally meal-specific, which can be easily interchanged. This is one of those dishes, especially since there are several steps involved in the preparation, and I find I don't like to spend that much time making breakfast. The first step is roasting the vegetables - yellow onion, Yukon Gold potato, yellow bell pepper (see the golden theme here?), and mushrooms. This step takes about 30 minutes and then you are ready to start assembling the frittata itself. In order to omit the olive oil required for the traditional roasting method, I placed the prepared veggies in the baking dish with a couple tablespoons of water, and then covered the pan with parchment paper and foil. This works well and you end up with baked rather than roasted vegetables, but to me, there really isn't that much difference, and it allows me to omit the oil completely. Blended tofu and seasonings are combined with the roasted veggies, and everything is put back in the oven for another 30-minute bake, with a 10-minute rest before serving. To my delight, I found the leftovers to be the perfect food for breakfast the following morning! J
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

 
ü Omit the oil when "roasting" the vegetables. Instead, use 2-3 Tablespoons of water, and cover the baking dish with parchment paper and foil. Bake until tender, about 20 minutes.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Zucchini Walnut Fritters

"Zucchini Walnut Fritters" (page 385) combines freshly grated zucchini, potato, and onion with finely ground walnuts, and just a sprinkling of herbs and spices into a batter that you cook in a skillet like pancakes. I've made fritters of one kind or another many times over the years, yet I am always surprised that the seemingly loose batter actually comes together, coalesces, once you start cooking the fritters in a hot skillet. If you use a good non-stick skillet you will not need to use any oil at all to "fry" the fritters. The natural oil in the walnuts allows them to brown up nicely on their own. These would be delicious along side mashed potatoes and gravy and steamed veggies.
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

 
ü  Omit the oil when "frying" the fritters. Use a good non-stick skillet with no added oil. If you don't have a nonstick skillet, you will have to add a very thin layer of oil to your skillet - put about a teaspoon of oil in the hot skillet, swirl it around, then carefully wipe out any excess with a paper towel.
 

ü  Use whole wheat pastry flour in the batter, as opposed to all-purpose (white) flour.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Spinach Manicotti with White Walnut Sauce

If you are looking for a novel presentation for manicotti, you will want to try the "Spinach Manicotti with White Walnut Sauce" (page 228). The filling ingredients may be quite familiar, a tofu-based ricotta cheese mixed with spinach and shallots. But what makes this recipe different is the unique sauce, consisting of ground walnuts, more tofu, nutritional yeast, and soymilk. The closest I can come to describing this is to compare it to an Alfredo style sauce, but really, it is quite unique and stands on its own. Once the manicotti are cooked, stuffed, and covered with the sauce and breadcrumbs, they are baked in the oven until hot and lightly browned. This dish is quite rich, and you might find one or two manicotti per serving is enough to satisfy.
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

 
ü  Omit the olive oil when sautéing the shallots. Instead, use a non-stick pan and/or water, sherry, or light broth as a sauté liquid.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Butterhead Lettuce & Walnut Salad with Raspberry-Walnut Vinaigrette

"Butterhead Lettuce & Walnut Salad with Raspberry-Walnut Vinaigrette" (page 50) is a wonderful starter salad for any meal, especially when both butterhead lettuce and raspberries are at peak freshness. The list of ingredients is short: lettuce, walnuts, onion, and raspberries, topped with a vinaigrette of blended raspberry jam, vinegar, and walnut oil. (I substituted ¼ cup water for the oil, and in order to thicken the dressing up a little, I added 1/8 teaspoon of guar gum as well.) There is the theme of twos going on here - two kinds of raspberry (fresh and jam), and two kinds of walnuts (fresh and oil). I love how so many of these recipes use a food in its various stages and this salad is an example of that concept.
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
 
ü   Omit the ¼ cup of walnut oil in the vinaigrette and use water instead.  Thicken with a bit of guar gum if desired.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Chocoloate Sauce


Not every dessert has to include white flour and/or some sort of fat. Point in case: "Chocolate Sauce" (page 497).  A simple sauce consisting of liquid sweetener, cocoa powder, soymilk, and vanilla extract, warmed and stirred together to dissolve all the ingredients. However, the question still remains, what will this most delicious sauce be used on? That's where you might have to be careful! The first time I made this sauce, I used it to improve the taste of some rather tart strawberries, so all-in-all, not too rich for a dessert. The recipe notes suggest putting the sauce in a plastic squeeze bottle and using it garnish plated desserts for a fancy presentation. I liked the squeeze bottle idea, and it worked superbly for decorating my strawberries!

 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

 ü     No changes necessary!  J