Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Roasted Baby Potatoes with Spinach, Olives, & Grape Tomatoes

As you might know if you're a regular visitor to my blog, my husband and I live and travel full time in our 5th wheel trailer. Turning on the oven in such a tiny space can quickly heat up the entire house. This can be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on the weather! When I decided to make the "Roasted Baby Potatoes with Spinach, Olives, & Grape Tomatoes" (page 376), we were staying in Yuma, Arizona in March, with temperatures outside usually running in the 80s to 90s. Not an oven day! I figured this dish would probably be just as tasty if we roasted the potatoes outside on the grill, instead of inside in the oven, so that is what my husband did. I prepared foil packets containing the potatoes, savory, salt, and pepper, and my husband cooked them on the grill. In the meantime, I finished with the rest of the recipe preparations inside: sautéing the spinach and olives just long enough to wilt the spinach, and adding the grape tomatoes after everything else was done so they wouldn't overcook and disappear. When the potatoes were done, I tossed everything together in the skillet and the dish was ready to serve. If I were to cook the potatoes inside, I would leave out the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and coat the potato chunks with a bit of veggie broth instead so the spices would stick; I would then cover the cooking pan with foil for the "roasting" process. It's true you won't get a "browned and roasted" end product this way, but you will get deliciously cooked and creamy potatoes that are completely oil free. (You also eliminate about 40 grams of fat by leaving out the olive oil). If you are concerned about using aluminum foil, use a layer of parchment paper between the potatoes and the foil. This also helps prevent sticking. The is a very delicious preparation, and the leftovers make a great breakfast!
 

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
 
ü     Omit the olive oil, and follow the cooking instructions outlined above.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Pan-Seared Seitan with Artichokes & Olives

"Pan-Seared Seitan with Artichokes & Olives" (page 309) is labeled with the "f" symbol, for "Fast Recipes", meaning it can be ready to serve in 30 minutes or less. For this recipe, that is true only if you have premade seitan (purchased or homemade) and Tofu Feta on hand. Otherwise, this takes a bit of advanced planning to have all the components ready to assemble. Browned seitan is combined with sautéed garlic, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, and capers, and topped off with fresh parsley and (optional) Tofu Feta. I used the feta, since I had some in the fridge, and I thought it added a nice flavor layer to the dish. This recipe is another example of how versatile seitan is. This preparation offers pleasing textures and flavors, and is delicious served over brown rice.
 

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

 

ü Omit the oil when browning the seitan and veggies; instead use a nonstick skillet and/or use water, broth, or sherry as a sauté liquid.

ü     Use oil-free seitan.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Gnocchi with Red Wine-Tomato Sauce

At first the thought of preparing homemade gnocchi might seem daunting, but really, they are quite easy to create, and in my opinion, make the best little dumpling that can be used in a variety of dishes. Most people think of topping gnocchi with a red sauce of some sort, as is the case with "Gnocchi With Red Wine-Tomato Sauce" (page 232). And they are indeed delicious in this recipe! The gnocchi themselves are nothing more than cooked potato and flour, mashed thoroughly together, with a little parsley, salt and pepper thrown in for good measure. What was different for me this time around (I have made gnocchi in the past) was using baked potatoes, rather than boiled, and using them still warm from the oven. I do believe this made a positive difference in the texture of the finished dumpling. The prepared dough is shaped into rolls, and cut up into small pieces, which are added to boiling water to cook until done (which happens when the dumpling, the gnocchi, floats to the top of the pot.) The red-wine tomato sauce was a perfect Italian style topping for these, made from crushed tomatoes, dry red wine, basil, oregano, and garlic. You might want to add a pinch of crushed red peppers like I did to give it a little zip! Top with some vegan parmesan at the table. Truly comfort food!
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
 
ü  Omit the oil when sautéing the sauce ingredients. Instead, put all the ingredients into the sauce pan at the same time, and simmer per the recipe directions.
ü  Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose (white) flour for a heartier dumpling.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ginger-Spice Brownies

The recipe for "Ginger Spice Brownies" (page 437) is definitely a different approach to traditional brownies, but I found the deep and warm flavors of ginger (both fresh and powdered), cinnamon, and allspice combining wonderfully with the chocolate cake base. The chocolate comes from both cocoa powder and chocolate chips. The sweetener is from both molasses and sugar. And if all this wasn't enough, chopped walnuts provide additional richness and texture. This is a complex and sophisticated dessert, and with every bite I found myself focusing on a new dimension of flavor, texture, or aroma. I actually thought the finished product resembled a cake more than brownies, but that might have been because I completely omitted the oil, using puréed prunes instead. The brownies were exquisite still warm out of the oven, but actually seemed to improve upon sitting once they had cooled down, tasting best on the second or third day. This seems to be the case with most no-oil added baked goods - that is, they improve after a day or two. I opted to sprinkle individual servings with powdered sugar, but the recipe suggests poached fruit or a scoop of vegan vanilla ice-cream as possible toppings.
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
 
ü  Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
ü  Omit the oil and use an equal amount of puréed prunes (or a jar of baby food prunes), or applesauce.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bourbon-Baked Squash

Acorn squash is my least favorite of the winter squashes. I much prefer the solid texture and sweeter flesh of the butternut squash when it comes to the winter gourds. So anything that might up the flavor ante for the humble acorn squash, such as this recipe for "Bourbon-Baked Squash" (page 383) is likely to catch my eye. Each side of the halved and seeded squash is filled with a splash of bourbon, a sprinkling of sugar and allspice, and per the recipe, a dab of margarine (I omitted the margarine completely). The prepared halves are then baked in the oven until tender. The picture I used here was prior to baking, so you can see the small pool of bourbon sitting in the cavity, and the sprinkles of brown sugar and allspice. This is definitely a nice way to capitalize on the otherwise mild flavor of acorn squash!
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
 
ü     Omit the margarine - you won't even miss it!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Green Beans & Grape Tomatoes

"Green Beans & Grape Tomatoes" (page 369) is another quick vegetable side dish that makes a delicious accompaniment to just about any dinner you can think of. Steamed green beans are tossed with sautéed shallots and garlic, embellished with grape tomatoes, and seasoned with fennel seed and basil - a wonderful combination of fresh flavors.
 

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

 
ü  Omit the oil when sautéing the shallots and garlic; instead, use a nonstick soup pot and/or water, broth, or sherry as a sauté liquid.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Brussels Sprouts with Shallots & Dillweed

If you are a Brussels Sprouts fan (isn't everyone? J), you will love "Brussels Sprouts with Shallots & Dillweed" (page 360). This is a simple side dish that consists of just Brussels sprouts, shallots, and dillweed, like the recipe would suggest, with a dash of salt and pepper. What can you say about Brussels sprouts? It seems that people either like them, or not, and it's hard to get the non-fans to the other side of the ledger. I happen to love them, and found this particular preparation very tasty. On an aside, the author says that the key to great-tasting Brussels sprouts is to not overcook or undercook them. Maybe something to consider if you haven't acquired a taste for them yet.
 

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

 

ü  Omit the oil when sautéing the shallots; instead, use a nonstick skillet and/or water, broth, or sherry as a sauté liquid.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Linguine With Ligurian Pesto

According to the recipe notes for "Linguine with Ligurian Pesto" (page 201), Pesto, the famous basil sauce, originated in Liguria, where it is more mellow than most of the pesto made in America.  This is because in Liguria the basil is both milder and more tender, the olive oil is lighter and fruitier, and the garlic is smaller and milder. I struggled philosophically with changing this recipe to make it oil free, since it would appear that the Ligurian olive oil is an integral component to the dish. In the end, I decided to swap out the olive oil for a light veggie broth, and use my imagination to transport myself to Italy. As I've mentioned before, pesto is so easy to make without oil, and in my opinion, it's a shame that the authentic recipes call for so much! (This recipe calls for ½ cup, and urges you to find the authentic Ligurian variety if possible). Pine nuts add a hefty amount of natural oil, and using veggie broth provides the additional liquid, so I have never missed the olive oil in what I considered an over-oiled sauce to begin with. This dish goes together fast, consisting of just the pesto (made from pine nuts, fresh basil, garlic, salt, vegan parmesan (purchased or homemade), and in my case, veggie broth) and the cooked linguine. Buon Appetito!
 

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
 
ü     Substitute ½ cup light veggie broth for the olive oil.
ü     Use whole grain linguine.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Herbed Millet & Pecan Loaf

Every once in a while even a seasoned cook has a failure in the kitchen. When that happens to me, I am left wondering what went wrong, especially when following a recipe. Did I read the directions wrong? Was there some important detail left out of the recipe directions? Were my ingredients not an exact match to those listed? My recent experience with the "Herbed Millet & Pecan Loaf" (page 281) was one of those occurrences. The failure, or "what went wrong", was that the loaf didn’t hold together, with the exception of the two pieces sliced off of each end. Why it didn't hold together, I haven't figured out. My best guess is it might have been undercooked a tad. This recipe required some work, so it was especially disappointing when it sort of dissolved under the knife blade. Intended to be a vegan substitute for meatloaf, I was stumped when I ended up with something that resembled crumbles. What in the world was I going to do with this? My first impulse, after salvaging the two end pieces, was to just throw it all away and chalk it up to one of those disappointing kitchen experiments. But it tasted so good…and it took so much work…how could I just toss that all away? Instead, I scooped it up and set it aside in the refrigerator, waiting to see if any ideas would come to me. And what do you know? I ended up using this concoction in a number of delicious ways! I added a big scoop of the "Herbed Millet & Pecan Crumbles" to homemade gravy, and served that over mashed potatoes one night, and over toast for breakfast the next morning; I added it to cubed potatoes and made a breakfast hash; I made tacos, and used the crumbles as a nutty filling. I liked this so much as a vegan ground beef substitute I can see myself making this again for that reason alone! The ingredients in this serendipitous loaf-turned-crumbles include cooked millet, sautéed veggies (onion, celery, garlic, cloves), pecans, and fresh herbs (green onions, parsley, and basil). I would love to hear from anyone else who has tried this delicious loaf and the experience you had.  
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
 
ü  Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies; instead, use a nonstick skillet and/or water, broth, or sherry as a sauté liquid.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sweet Potato & Peanut Soup with Baby Spinach

The "Sweet Potato & Peanut Soup with Spinach" (page 158) contains just a few simple ingredients, but delivers deep and complex flavors. Orange sweet potatoes and onions are cooked tender, peanut butter is dissolved in the cooking broth, and a few seasonings are thrown in, with several cups of fresh spinach added as the final touch. The peanut butter gives this soup a smooth richness, and a pinch of cayenne gives it just enough warmth to make it interesting, but doesn't blow the dish away. This soup is easy to make, light enough to be a meal starter, but with a salad and a loaf of bread, it could also be the centerpiece of your meal.
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
 
ü Omit the oil when sautéing the onion; instead, use a nonstick soup pot and/or water, broth, or sherry as a sauté liquid.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Soy-Glazed Tofu

Baking tofu before using it in a recipe is a great way to firm up the texture and soak up delicious marinades. The finished product can be used in sandwiches, salads, stir fries, or as a main dish alongside a couple of vegetable side-dishes. I have a few favorite recipes for baked tofu, and now I can add "Soy-Glazed Tofu" (page 283) to this list. A simple mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and sugar is the basis for this marinade, which is heated on the stove, poured over tofu strips, and allowed to sit for at least 30 minutes. The strips are then baked in the oven for another 30 minutes (along with any of the marinade that hasn't already soaked into the tofu), and that's it! The recipe calls for a lot of sesame oil, ¼ cup, but I opted to use just 1 teaspoon to impart that unbeatable sesame oil flavor, but without an excess of fat. You could leave the oil out altogether if you want, and it would still be delicious.  
 
Keeping it McDougall Friendly" checklist:


  • Use just 1 teaspoon, or less, or none at all, of the sesame oil.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Barbecued Tempeh

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm usually not a huge fan of tempeh; but given the right recipe, this humble concoction of fermented soybeans can be truly inspiring! Such is the case with the "Barbequed Tempeh" (page 296). All the tempeh recipes in this book begin by having you simmer the tempeh for 30 minutes to mellow the flavor and aid in digestibility, and it seems that I have enjoyed it more since I started incorporating this step; it seems to take the slightly bitter taste out of the product once it's been simmered in this fashion. The barbeque sauce in this recipe is made from scratch, a concoction of onion, red bell pepper, garlic, crushed tomatoes, and molasses, along with some herbs and spices, all cooked for about half an hour on the stove. The simmered tempeh is browned in a skillet, the finished sauce is added to the browned tempeh, and all this cooks for another 15 minutes to blend the flavors. After the three methods of cooking the tempeh (simmering in water, browning, and simmering again in the barbeque sauce), the texture is superb - chewy, but not tough, and soft, but not mushy. The chunky sauce is tangy, slighty sweet, and piquant, very satisfying flavors. (Blend the sauce until smooth if you're not fond of chunky barbeque sauce). This would make a great barbeque sandwich on a crusty french roll.
 

Keeping it McDougall Friendly" checklist:

 
  • Omit the oil when sautéing the onions, bell pepper, and garlic. Use a little water in a non-stick pan instead.
  • Omit the oil when 'browning' the tempeh, using a good non-stick skillet instead. Try not to use a liquid substitute for the oil, as you don't want to soften the tempeh.  The tempeh won't be as crispy or brown as it would be when using oil, but once you put the barbeque sauce over the top, you really don't notice the difference.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tofu Waldorf Salad Wraps

Anything tastes good in a wrap, according to my husband. Not sure what to do with those leftovers in the fridge? Put 'em in a wrap! But if you are in the mood for a more elegant approach, try the "Tofu Waldorf Salad Wraps" (page 114), inspired by the classic salad of apples, celery, walnuts, and mayonnaise served on a lettuce leaf. While this recipe uses these same ingredients, it also incorporates tofu, red onion, and parsley, creating a hearty filling to stuff inside a tortilla or lavash flatbread (I opted for whole grain tortillas this time around). This makes a big bowl of salad, enough for much more than the four wraps indicated in the recipe notes. However, it keeps well so you can enjoy the leftovers, even outside the wrap, maybe on a bed of greens. Don't be alarmed if you notice the salad has a faint purple hue after storing it for a day or two; the walnuts have a tendency to do this in certain dishes, which isn't such a bad thing! J
 
Keeping it McDougall Friendly" checklist:
 
  • Buy or make oil-free mayonnaise (see my review of Vegan Mayonnaise here)
  • Use whole grain, oil-free tortillas or flatbread.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Barbecue Sauce

In my perfect kitchen world, I would have unlimited time to make everything from scratch, including all my condiments. Having discovered the "Barbecue Sauce" (page 549), I may be one step closer to that dream! I might do whatever is necessary to make time to include this in my condiments repertoire. Did I say I love this barbecue sauce? It is good on hash brown potatoes, veggie burgers or loaves, baked beans, just about anywhere you want that rich tomato-y smoky barbeque flavor. This is a cooked sauce, consisting of sautéed onion, bell pepper, and crushed tomatoes, with added zip and flavor provided by garlic, jalapeño, vinegar, sugar, a couple of spices, and the key ingredient, liquid smoke. The recipe says the liquid smoke is optional, but I consider it essential! The recipe also says to serve this sauce hot, as in just off the stove, but I found it was wonderful right out the refrigerator as well. Make this sauce today and let me know what you think!  
 
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü  Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies; instead, use a nonstick saucepan and/or water, broth, or sherry as a sauté liquid.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's hard to imagine anyone who doesn't like "Chocolate Chip Cookies" (page 428), but even when you discover that making them vegan is ridiculously easy, you still have to be careful not to eat an entire batch in one sitting! The challenge with most recipes for vegan cookies is figuring out how to get around the added oil or margarine. This particular recipe calls for an entire cup of margarine, which equates to around 176 grams of fat (gulp!) and over 1500 extra calories. Not to mention, even vegan margarine or shortening is still not health food, and is something I try to minimize. In this recipe, I decided to use a blend of 2/3 cup peanut butter and 1/3 cup applesauce. Not that peanut butter is low-fat by any means, but 2/3 cup only adds 86 grams of fat and around 1000 calories, significantly less than margarine, and adds nutrients such as fiber, protein, and carbohydrates.  But what did I say about being careful about eating too many cookies in one sitting? This still hold true regardless! The peanut butter definitely adds a distinctive flavor to these cookies (which I really liked), and cookies made without butter or margarine definitely have more of a cakey nature than a crunchy cookie, but they are certainly no less delicious! This recipe does not include any "extras" such as walnuts or raisins, just your basic cookie ingredients - flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, etc.
 
Keeping it McDougall Friendly" checklist:
 
  • Substitute the one cup of margarine with a blend of 2/3 cup peanut butter and 1/3 cup applesauce.
  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Instead of oiling the baking sheet, use a non-stick pan, parchment paper, or a silicone product.