Thursday, July 30, 2015

Favorite Fruit Smoothie

"Favorite Fruit Smoothie" (page 532) is one of the author Robin Robertson's favorites, and so explains the name of this particular smoothie. A winning combination of mango, strawberries, orange juice, and frozen banana, no wonder it earned this title. Easy to make, as are all smoothies, and if you like your smoothies more on the thick side (as I do), try freezing the strawberries and/or the mango at least a day ahead of time, as well as the bananas. You might need a spoon instead of a straw using this approach!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • No changes needed!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Parsley & Sunflower Pesto

This cookbook has opened up an entire new world of pesto for me, expanding the traditional basil/pine nuts/garlic base ingredients to include just about any nut or seed you can imagine, and using parsley, spinach, or even sundried tomatoes instead of basil. In the "Parsley & Sunflower Pesto" (page 567), as the title implies, the base ingredients consist of parsley (Italian flat leaf parsley in this case) and sunflower seeds, which results in a milder, and grainier, pesto. The taste of parsley is less prominent than basil, and sunflower seeds don't blend up as smooth as pine nuts, but the combined flavors still produce a flavorful topping for wherever you want pesto. Garlic and salt are still important players in this preparation, and the recipe even includes the option of a bit of miso paste, which I used. To get around the 1/3 cup of oil called for (and the 71 grams of fat), I substituted about ½ cup light flavored vegetable broth. I have found that because pesto already contains oil from the blended nuts or seeds, I never miss the oil, and the broth provides not only the liquid component, but also another layer of mild flavor.  I mixed this pesto into cooked tiny seashell pasta so the nooks and crannies of the shells could capture the sauce, and this ended up being a quick, delicious, and easy dinner I needed to make on short notice one evening.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Substitute light flavored vegetable broth for the olive oil, adding a little at a time until the pesto reaches the desired consistency.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Maple-Mustard Sauce

"Maple-Mustard Sauce" (page 559) is a quick and easy way to jazz up plain mayonnaise, and is delicious on veggie burgers, sandwiches, or as a dipping sauce. Slightly sweet, slightly tangy, and with just a touch of hot, this sauce is made with vegan mayonnaise (store-bought, or homemade) as the base, flavored up with maple syrup, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, and Tabasco sauce. Just in time for those grilled veggie burgers!!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • As long as you use an oil-free, vegan mayonnaise, no changes are needed!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Curried Cashews

Eating nuts for a snack is something I have to be really careful about. I could effortlessly put away ¼ cup, ½ cup, or even more in the blink of an eye, and although nuts have many healthy qualities, as most everyone knows, it's almost impossible to eat "just one". It takes no time at all to go beyond a reasonable amount, with fat, saturated fat, and calories adding up way too fast. However, in the future, when I do allow myself an occasional nutty treat, the "Curried Cashews" (page 7) will be high on my list. A simple combination of cashews, curry powder, and salt, I found the savory flavor more than addictive! Right away, though, I knew I would have to get creative to work around the oil and margarine the recipe called for. The directions are to heat the oils in a skillet, add the curry powder and salt, add the cashews, and cook on the stovetop. My workaround consisted of soaking the cashews in water for 5-minutes, draining, and blotting dry, thus allowing the nuts to remain moist enough for the spices to stick. Then, I tossed the nuts with the spices in a big bowl, spread them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and roasted them in a 400° oven for 15-20 minutes (until they started to just slightly brown). Much too delicious!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the margarine and oil. Instead: Soak the cashews in water for 5 minutes; drain well and blot dry.
  • Toss the nuts in a bowl with the spices, and bake on a parchment lined baking sheet in a 400° oven for 15-20 minutes (until they start to just slightly brown).

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sunflower Zucchini Bread

I  have really enjoyed making the quick breads in this cookbook, and feel that I have finally figured out the right combination of ingredients to replace the oil and white flour. My oil-free, whole-grain baked goods are coming out moist and delicious, and the "Sunflower Zucchini Bread" (page 405) is no exception. Any bread that includes fruits or vegetables already gets a head start in the tender and moist department, and is a great way to boost the nutritional value of your baked goods. This is a simple recipe using basic bread batter, with the addition of zucchini and sunflower seeds, and goes together quickly. Because of the extra moisture from the zucchini, this bread bakes a little longer than most to bake, up to an hour, if necessary. Also sweeter than some quick breads (calls for a cup of sugar), I think it would be easy to cut this amount in half and still have delicious results. The 1/2 cup of oil really surprised me - most of the other quick breads in this chapter call for much less, and a couple don't call for any at all - bonus! I left the oil completely out, using a combination of applesauce and mashed banana to equal ½ cup (or a little more, if you think your batter needs it). The sunflower seeds were a nice change (it seems most breads call for walnuts or pecans), subtle, yet distinctive. I enjoyed toasting individual slices of this bread just before eating.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Substitute the canola oil with ½ cup applesauce, mashed banana, or a combination of both.
  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Bake the bread in a non-stick loaf pan so you won't have to oil the pan prior to baking.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Orange-Date-Walnut Bread

I was so pleased with the "Orange-Date-Walnut Bread" (page 404), that I have added this one to my list of repeatable quick bread recipes. It is just slightly sweet, which I really appreciate, yet so festive and flavorful it would make a wonderful, fruity bread to make during the winter holidays. Fresh orange juice is the liquid, and since I used applesauce in place of the oil, this further enhanced the fruity flavors. Sweetened with dates and just ¼ cup maple syrup, the underlying flavors, and not sugar, are allowed to take center stage. The recipe suggests using other nuts, if you wish, such as almonds or pecans. I think any of these would be equally good. I added a teaspoon of cinnamon (the combination of ingredients just seemed to be begging for this), which was quite delicious, and filled the kitchen with wonderful cooking aromas.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Substitute the canola oil with ½ cup applesauce.
  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Bake the bread in a non-stick loaf pan so you won't have to oil the pan prior to baking.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Brazilian Black Bean Stew

The "Brazilian Black Bean Stew" (page 255) has the most unusual combination of ingredients and at a first glance, I wondered if it would really work. In fact, I glanced at it more than a few times before finally taking the plunge and deciding to make this recipe. I love black beans, and separately, I love all the other ingredients as well, so finally with a nothing ventured, nothing gained approach, I gave it a try. Most of the other ingredients are those I would expect to find in a bean stew - onion, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeño, tomatoes. And even the sweet potatoes weren't off-putting, as I do enjoy the combination of black beans and sweet potatoes in other preparations as well (such as in a burrito). Then, further down the list of ingredients, I see mango is part of the mix. Hmmm…well, I like mango salsa, so if I think of this as putting the salsa right in the stew pot, not so unusual. But I have to admit, it was the banana that really stumped me. I just couldn't figure out what the banana would add to it, and I was worried it would immediately get really mushy, and, well, I just couldn't talk myself into it. I don't know if cheated myself out of a unique and delicious culinary experience or not. I even thought about adding the sliced banana to individual servings, or maybe even using a plantain instead, but didn't do either. However, in the end, the stew was very good, a wonderful combination of colors, pretty to look at, and delicious to eat. The recipe notes suggest serving it over quinoa or rice, but I served it as-is, in a bowl, and with a soup spoon.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Happily, this recipe as written doesn't require more than just leaving out the one tablespoon of olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead, use a nonstick soup pot, and instead of oil, use a small amount of broth or water.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Five-Spiced Walnuts

I first tasted five-spice powder when my husband used it to make Chinese vegan sausages. Depending on what brand you buy, there will be a slightly different blend of spices. The one I use from Penzeys Spices consists of cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger and cloves. Some varieties have fennel, some have pepper corns, but no matter, five-spice powder is quite distinctive, and made a very tasty coating for the "Five-Spiced Walnuts" (page 7). The recipe calls for glazing the walnut halves in a mixture of oil, margarine, and soy sauce before adding the five-spice powder, but I used soy sauce only, and that gave the walnuts just enough of a moist coating to allow the spices to stick to them. Once the walnuts are prepared, they are baked in a moderate oven (I lined my cookie sheet with parchment paper to prevent sticking). I had to bake these about 30 minutes as opposed to the 15 minutes called for in the recipe, and although the recommendation is eat them within 2-3 days, mine kept well for two weeks. I found many delicious ways to use these flavorful treats including adding to green salads, topping stir-fries, and just snacking on them.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the oil and the margarine (and save yourself 31 grams of fat!); the soy sauce will provide enough moisture to allow the spices to stick.
  • Line your baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent sticking, or use a nonstick baking surface such as a Silpat baking mat.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Papaya Paradise Smoothie

So far the "Papaya Paradise Smoothie" (page 532) is my favorite smoothie in this book (although I still have three more to try). The combination of flavors is perfectly tropical and sweet, and if you make sure all the fruit is completely frozen before making the smoothie, it can be as thick as a milkshake (which is how I prefer my smoothies). The base recipe calls for 2 frozen bananas, and 2 fresh papayas, but I've noticed that papayas come in two sizes: HUGE (like the size of a large butternut squash), or small, about the size of a mango. I assumed in this case the recipe was referencing the smaller sized papaya, or roughly around two cups. The liquid part of the smoothie is pineapple juice and (optional) coconut milk. Since coconut milk is very high in saturated fat, I opted not to use it, and instead used ½ cup of soymilk and ½ teaspoon of coconut extract. This provided the wonderful coconut flavor without the fat, and excellent and delicious substitution. Garnish the smoothies with fresh strawberry or pineapple. Aloha!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • While technically no changes are necessary, coconut milk is very high in fat, more specifically, saturated fat. To make a healthier version, use soymilk  (½ cup) and coconut extract (½ teaspoon) instead.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Penne With Peanut Pesto

"Penne With Peanut Pesto" (page 203) really stretches the boundaries of what I consider traditional pesto, but notwithstanding the liberal interpretation of the concept, this preparation was outstandingly delicious! I have to admit to a huge fondness for peanut sauces, especially spicy peanut sauces, the combination found quite often in Asian dishes. And if you opt to use Asian noodles as I did (and the recipe suggests as an alternative to the penne), this dish really is reminiscent of Asian style cooking. The sauce consists of garlic, peanuts and peanut butter (a very rich combination), soy sauce, lime juice, and Asian chili paste (I doubled the amount of chili paste called for and added ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes to get the heat level up to my liking). The recipe also calls for two tablespoons of sesame oil, but I left this out altogether. With the high fat content in the peanuts and peanut butter, the sesame oil wasn't even missed. However, if you really wanted to include the distinctive sesame oil flavor, adding only a teaspoon or less would do the trick. The recipe as written would contribute 96 total grams of fat (spread over 4 servings), but by leaving out the sesame oil this can be reduced to 68 grams - still a very high fat dish! Because I like my pasta dishes a little saucier than most recipes call for, I used just ½ pound of pasta instead of the one pound called for. This dish could be quite addictive, it was that good!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole grain noodles, either penne or Asian style udon, rice, or soba style.
  • Omit the sesame oil altogether, no extra fat is necessary (although you will be omitting this particular flavor).

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sesame Pita Chips

Finding healthy snack chips can be a challenge, but you have a much better chance of this if you make them at home! The "Sesame Pita Chips" (page 4) start with fresh pita bread circles that you split into two, season, cut into triangles, and bake in the oven. Really, nothing could be quicker or easier, fresher, or tastier. The recipe calls for spreading the pita circles with oil before sprinkling on sesame seeds, and you do need something moist on the bread so the seeds will stick, but I opted to use oil-free salad dressing in place of the oil. Not only did this work extremely well, it added a nice flavor dimension to the chips as well. Using this approach also opens the door to creating many different varieties of chips, depending on what dressing you choose. I used the vegan "Cheesy Caesar Dressing" from the Forks over Knives collection of recipes, and it was delicious. Other good choices include oil free Italian and oil free ranch, or whatever sounds good to you.  

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use oil free whole grain pita bread.
  • Instead of brushing the pitas with oil, use an oil free vegan salad dressing.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Edamame With Course Salt

"Edamame With Course Salt" (page 7) is so easy to make at home, especially since edamame (fresh soybeans) now seems to be readily available in a wide variety of grocery stores. This is more of a procedure than a recipe. Simply cook whole edamame (meaning the entire pod with the peas still intact), pour on a plate, and sprinkle with course salt. Pop the beans out of the pod directly into your mouth, or into a mixture of soy sauce and wasabi, for a real flavor burst. The bag I purchased from the frozen foods section had instructions for steaming the edamame in the microwave, in the bag they came in. Nothing simpler than that! These tasty little beans are a great start to a Japanese meal, or a quick snack any time. And happily, there were no changes necessary to this recipe.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • No changes necessary!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Lemony White Miso Vinaigrette

Making tasty oil free salad dressing can be a challenge, especially when over half the volume of an original recipe comes from oil. Take for instance the "Lemony White Miso Vinaigrette" (page 102). As written, the recipe makes ½ cup dressing with over ¼ cup of this coming from oil (grapeseed and toasted sesame oils). A quick calculation on a fat gram calculator shows you this equates to 77 grams of fat, not to mention over 900 calories! After thinking about this for a while, I decided to leave all the oil out, and instead use 2 tablespoons of whole sesame seeds plus 5 tablespoons of water. I put all the ingredients (sesame seeds, miso paste, lemon juice, soy sauce, agave nectar, Dijon mustard, and water) into my Vitamix and processed until the sesame seeds were puréed and the dressing was emulsified. This was the perfect work around! The flavor was exquisite - bright, fresh, and tangy, but not overly. The texture was somewhat grainy, which I found favorable, I suppose from using whole sesame seeds, and miso paste also has a slight grainy texture. Using the whole sesame seeds instead of the oils added only 9 grams of total fat and 106 calories to this dressing, quite a dramatic difference! I used this dressing on a salad of dark leafy greens, sliced red onion, and sugar snap peas. Scrumptious! The recipe notes also suggest using this as a tofu marinade in addition to dressing salads.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Leave the grapeseed and sesame oils out completely. Instead use 2 tablespoons of whole sesame seeds plus 5 tablespoons of water, and process all the ingredients together in a blender until the seeds are puréed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Purple Haze Fruit Smoothie

Some of us of a certain age will remember the original Purple Haze, and maybe this was the inspiration for the "Purple Haze Fruit Smoothie" (page 531). This particular smoothie is bright, vibrant, and chock-full of vitamins and antioxidants. The purple comes from blueberries, which are combined with fresh mango, frozen banana, nondairy milk, and dates. Not an overly sweet smoothie (and part of this could be due to the unsweetened soymilk I use), the fresh fruit flavors are allowed to shine through. If you are fortunate enough to have a recording of the original Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix, by all means play the song while you sip this drink!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • No changes necessary! :-)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Teriyaki Marinade

Once you try the "Teriyaki Marinade" (page 576), you might find you are buying the bottled stuff much less often. Made from fresh ingredients, nothing can beat the vibrant combination of flavors that come from crushed garlic, grated ginger, freshly squeezed orange juice, mixed with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar. The recipe also calls for oil, but I found this totally unnecessary and instead added two tablespoons of water to keep the volume the same. I poured this marinade over sliced tofu and after marinating for several hours, baked the tofu for about 40-minutes in a 375 degree oven. This is better than any baked tofu you can find in a store!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Replace the oil in the marinade with an equal amount of water.