Saturday, August 29, 2015

Soy Latte

You don't have to go to expensive trendy cafés to enjoy designer coffee drinks. You can easily create them in your own kitchen at a fraction of the cost and without leaving the comfort of your home. The "Soy Latte" (page 538) is made from two ingredients: Hot strong coffee, and soy milk. (Sugar is optional). Simply top hot coffee with steamed soy milk (using a milk steamer, or whisking over the stove), and that's it! This is a nice indulgence when a little pick-me-up is needed.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Select soy milk with no added oil.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sesame-Baked Vegetables

"Sesame-Baked Vegetables" (page 319) presented me with a big challenge. Since my goal is to try to keep these recipes oil free and whole grain, I quickly realized I wouldn't be able to use the puff pastry this dish called for. As it turns out, one of the defining ingredients of puff pastry is solid fat (butter, shortening, or lard) that is combined with white flour in a particular way that causes it to "puff" during baking. I perused the frozen foods section of several stores looking for any puff pastry that might be made with less fat (most of it seemed to be close to 50% fat), or at least not a solid fat. I totally gave up on finding a whole grain version - that was much too esoteric. But I soon realized that anything called Puff Pastry, by definition, is going to be some sort of solid fat combined with white flour. The puff pastry in this recipe is used as a topping for a mixture of sautéed and seasoned veggies (broccoli, onion, carrots, and tomatoes), creating a sort of vegetable pot pie. (The sesame in this recipe comes from seasoning the vegetables with sesame tahini and soy sauce, and sesame seeds are sprinkled on the "pie" as well.)

I finally decided to use phyllo dough instead of the puff pastry, a flaky dough product dramatically lower in fat (Puff Pastry = 60 grams of fat and 1606 calories per sheet / Phyllo Dough = 1 gram of fat and 57 calories per sheet). As you can imagine, using phyllo dough significantly changed the intended presentation of this dish, and to be honest, I'm not sure this was really a good substitution. For one thing, I'm not all that experienced working with phyllo, and I wasn't quite sure how to turn it into a veggie pot pie topping (I used 3-4 sheets to obtain the desired thickness in the "crust"). In retrospect, I think maybe just sprinkling seasoned panko breadcrumbs over the veggies in the baking dish would have been a better choice. But despite my fumbling attempts to make this dish into something it was never intended to be, I still enjoyed the baked and seasoned veggies which were flavorful regardless of what was put on top of them.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
  • Omit the olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead, use a nonstick skillet and/or a bit of water, sherry, or broth as the sauté liquid.
  • The only way I can think of to keep the topping on this dish whole grain and oil free is to use whole wheat panko breadcrumbs as the topping.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bok Choy & Ginger-Sesame Udon Noodles

If you want a quick, delicious, and nutritious meal, think about making the "Bok Choy & Ginger-Sesame Udon Noodles" (page 238). Cooked udon noodles and steamed bok choy are tossed with a flavorful sauce of tahini, soy sauce, mirin, and ginger, and slightly spiced with red pepper flakes. This easy dish comes together so fast, you can have it on the table in about 30 minutes. I've noticed many of the recipes in this book use a "rule of three" (my interpretation) where a particular ingredient is incorporated in three different forms. In this recipe, it's sesame that comes in three ways: sesame oil, tahini (sesame seed paste), and whole sesame seeds. However, I opted not to use the sesame oil to coat the cooked udon, figuring the tahini and sesame seeds (sprinkled on top of the dish at the very end) would provide plenty of sesame flavor, and it really isn't necessary to toss cooked pasta in oil if you rinse it well after cooking. The recipe notes suggest the addition of sliced shiitake mushrooms as a variation, something I might try next time around.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the sesame oil. Instead, rinse the cooked udon under cool running water.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Carrot Bread with Cranberries & Walnuts

The "Carrot Bread with Cranberries & Walnuts" (page 406) wraps up the section of Quick Breads in the Breads chapter of this book. I do believe this was a case of saving the best for last. I opted to make muffins instead of a loaf, a suggestion in the recipe head notes, and these were among the tastiest muffins I've ever made. Not so long ago, it would have been hard to convince me that a muffin containing no oil, dairy, or white flour could be so tender and moist, but I've been perfecting my skills when adapting recipes to this way of eating, and it's finally paying off. Any baked good containing fruit or vegetables will have a boost when it comes to staying moist, so the carrots and cranberries in this recipe helped with that. Spiced with cinnamon, allspice, and ginger, sweetened with brown sugar, and using applesauce instead of oil, all combined to make these muffins fruity and delicious. I will definitely be making these in the future, both as loaf bread, and as muffins.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use a nonstick loaf or muffin pan, or if making muffins, line the cups with paper liners.
  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Use ½ cup applesauce in place of the 1/3 cup oil.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Stone Fruit Smoothie

The "Stone Fruit Smoothie" (page 530) takes advantage of the summer stone fruits - peaches, plums, and apricots - to make a more unusual smoothie, straying from the typical berries, orange juice, and banana combinations. Mixed only with nondairy milk (plain or vanilla), this is a simple concoction and a great way to enjoy part of the summer bounty. Again, I like to pre-freeze my smoothie fruit so I have a thick end result, but the recipe does not require this, calling for the addition of ice cubes instead. If your fruit isn't super ripe and/or sweet, you might want to add a small amount of pure maple syrup, agave syrup, or other sweetener of choice.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • No changes needed!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Yellow Squash with Corn, Edamame, & Dill

"Yellow Squash with Corn, Edamame, & Dill" (page 384) puts a modern twist on succotash, a dish popular during the Great Depression in the United States. Because of the availability of ingredients (and being relatively inexpensive) during this era, any combination of lima beans, corn, and shell beans fit the description of succotash. In this variation, edamame stands in for the lima beans (good news for all those lima bean haters out there), and is jazzed up with fresh dillweed, lemon juice, and cayenne. The recipe calls for the addition of olive oil, but I just left this completely out and didn't notice the difference. If you wanted to add some liquid to the mix (not really necessary), you could drizzle it with veggie broth.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the olive oil. If desired, stir a small amount of veggie broth into the mixture for added moisture.

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.