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.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sesame-Crusted Seitan

If you are looking for a meat substitute that doesn't rely on soy isolates for that chewy texture, you might want to try seitan, a much healthier alternative made from wheat gluten. (Of course, if you are gluten sensitive, this wouldn't be the choice for you.) The "Sesame-Crusted Seitan" (page 309) is a flavorful way to prepare either store-bought or homemade Seitan chunks, and can be made in under 30-minutes if you have a batch on hand. Small chunks of seitan are dipped in soymilk and dredged in a mixture of ground sesame seeds, flour, salt and pepper, then quickly "fried" in a skillet on the stove. Instead of adding a lot of extra fat to this dish, I used a non-stick skillet and bypassed the two tablespoons of oil called for to fry the chunks. (The natural oil in the ground sesame seeds help with browning.) The final result is delicious and chewy! For a complete meal, serve with a scoop of brown rice and a side dish such as Crunchy Sesame Slaw, as the recipe notes suggest.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole wheat pastry flour, brown rice flour, or potato flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Use a high quality non-stick skillet and omit the two tablespoons of oil called for when "frying" the seitan chunks.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Chipotle Aioli

One of the happiest taste discoveries I've made over the past decade is that of the chipotle chile. Made from dried and smoked jalapeño peppers, the distinctive flavor is smoky, sweet, and slightly hot, and I can't seem to get enough of it.  I have chipotle chili powder in my spice rack, dried chipotles in my pantry, and I always have a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in my supply of canned goods. The "Chipotle Aioli" (Page 556) combines Vegan Mayonnaise with canned chipotle chilies, garlic, smoked paprika, and lemon juice for the most luscious spread I've had in a long time. The recipe also calls for olive oil, but I completely omitted this and didn't miss it at all, the other flavors make this aioli so vibrant. And, if you don't want to open an entire can of chilies to use just a couple, you can use ½ to 1 teaspoon of chipotle chili powder, and that works just as well. The first time I made this I used it as a dressing for a salad I put together from hominy, corn, black olives, and green onions - a wonderful combination of flavors! But you'll find many uses for this, from a topping for Mexican food, veggie burgers, sandwiches, rice and beans, grilled vegetables…you get the idea!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use oil free mayonnaise as the base, such as the Vegan Mayonnaise in this book (with my changes).
  • Omit adding any extra oil to the aioli - you don't need it, and you won't miss it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Chocolate-Cranberry Otameal Cookies

The more practiced I get with oil-free baking, the more of a feel I get for which ingredients (and how much) make good substitutions. Take the "Chocolate-Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies" (Page 431), for instance. In the past if I saw a recipe that called for ½ cup margarine, I would probably skip over it altogether, believing I wouldn't be able to make tasty cookies without the margarine. Now, I enjoy the challenge! The instructions in this recipe say to cream the margarine, sugar, and apple juice together. My work around for this was to take one large banana (you want at least half a cup, maybe a little more), the sugar, and ½ cup of applesauce and blend them in my Vitamix blender (any blender would work). I followed the rest of the directions as written at this point, increasing the amount of flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour) just a tad as the dough didn't seem quite sticky enough. These cookies were delicious, and although still a rich food that should be reserved for special occasions, I felt that they were made much healthier by my adaptations.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the margarine and apple juice, following my instructions above for using  bananas and applesauce instead, blending with the sugar.
  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Root Vegetable Bisque

"Root Vegetable Bisque" (page 172) is a wonderful soup that can be served as a starter to a larger meal, or paired with a big salad and bread rolls for a lighter meal. The roots vegetables used in this recipe include shallots, carrots, parsnips, and potatoes, simmered in broth, and seasoned with garlic, thyme, and marjoram. The cooked vegetables are puréed and mixed with soymilk, and topped off with parsley and freshly ground black pepper. This soup is very elemental, satisfying, and warming on a cold day. I especially liked the golden color, but if you aren't overly fond of the vegetables listed, you can vary it to your liking, using any root vegetables of your choice.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the olive oil for sautéing the veggies; instead use a non stick soup pot and/or water, broth, or sherry as a sauté liquid.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Baked Chocolate Pudding

I've made a lot of pudding in my life, going back a long, long way. I've made many different types of pudding, from that instant powdered stuff that comes in a box, to the "from scratch" versions that are cooked over the stove, to baked puddings and custards in water baths in the oven. In recent years I've started making vegan puddings using everything from silken tofu, to soymilk, to corn butter as the base. My favorite flavors are chocolate and butterscotch and I've been able to master beloved versions of both in my plant based diet. And, if there is one consistent thing about all these puddings, it's that they more or less wind up with similar outcomes, that is, the end product is sweet, soft and creamy. I've never made a pudding, for instance, that ended up being cake…until now! The "Baked Chocolate Pudding" (page 473), whether by accident or design, is really a recipe for chocolate cake. I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out if this was the intended goal, or if there was a misprint in the ingredients list in the recipe. The ratio of liquid (1 ½ cups soymilk) to flour (1 cup) seemed odd to me, and as soon as I had all the ingredients mixed together, including baking powder, it was clear that this would result in a cake, not a pudding. But what the heck - chocolate cake is good too!  I scraped the batter into individual serving dishes, baked as directed, and enjoyed these petite cakes very much! For the small amount of oil called for in this recipe (only 1 Tablespoon), I decided to use a tablespoon of peanut butter instead. That amount is not enough to interfere with the chocolate flavor, although I happen to really enjoy the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, and I will think about this idea for future baking projects.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use a tablespoon of nut butter instead of oil.
  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose (white) flour.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Quick Herb Bread

"Quick Herb Bread" (page 399) is the first of twelve quick breads (meaning non-yeasted) in the Breads chapter of this book, and the ninth one I've tried so far. I really enjoyed this bread, and found it made especially good toast. Besides the herbs listed in basic recipe (basil, thyme, and marjoram), the recipe suggests using any combination that sounds good to you or complements your meal. I went with the recipe as written, and if I were to change anything, I might increase the amounts of herbs, as the taste was quite subtle to me.  This bread is easy to make, and goes together quickly. Flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour), baking powder and the herbs are mixed with soymilk, and if you followed the recipe exactly, oil as well; I used a scant ½ cup applesauce instead of the olive oil with excellent results.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole wheat pastry flour or spelt flour (a suggestion in the recipe notes) instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Substitute applesauce for the oil, about double the amount.