Monday, March 2, 2015


"Cornbread" (page 401) is one of my favorite quick breads. It is a wonderful accompaniment to bean dishes, is lovely warm out of the oven with a drizzle of pure maple syrup, and is a great take-along on hikes when you need a snack to hold you until lunch. Since I switched to oil-free baking, perfecting cornbread has been a challenge, and the end product is often too dry, too crumbly, or both. However, I was happily surprised when this particular recipe yielded a moist and tender loaf that restored my faith in achieving a (more than!) acceptable oil-free cornbread. This is a basic recipe consisting of cornmeal and flour, curdled soymilk (using vinegar to create "buttermilk"), a small amount of sugar, and leavened with baking powder. The recipe also calls for ¼ cup of oil, but I replaced this with ½ cup unsweetened applesauce. I have discovered recently that when replacing the oil with applesauce or banana, more is better. So, if the recipe calls for ¼ cup oil, I'll up the amount of applesauce or banana to ½ cup. This has made a positive difference in the final outcome of my oil-free baking, as well as being careful not to over-bake (something I had not been as attentive to in the past). Try this recipe the oil free way, and see if you don't find it as delicious as I did!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Substitute ½ cup of applesauce for the ¼ cup of oil.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Black Bean & Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

Bean dips invite endless combinations of beans, vegetables, and seasonings, and each variation has something special to offer. The "Black Bean & Sun-Dried Tomato Dip" (page 13) is a simple mixture of sun-dried tomatoes, black beans, balsamic vinegar, parsley, and basil. Everything is whipped up in a food processor just to the point of leaving a bit of texture. This makes a wonderful topping for toast or bagels, a filling for tortillas, or a dip for crackers or veggies. You don't have to use the oil-packed sundried tomatoes as the recipe calls for. Look for the a brand like California Sun Dry for dried tomatoes packaged without any added oils.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use oil free sundried tomatoes.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Asian Fusion Party Mix

I always get a little stressed when I see a recipe that calls for margarine, and especially when it calls for ¼ cup or more, because there often isn't a good way to leave it out, or make an adequate substitution. When reviewing the recipe for "Asian Fusion Party Mix" (page 4), I mulled over my options for replacing and/or omitting the margarine before finally settling on just leaving it out altogether. In this recipe, the margarine is melted to blend and fuse the seasonings, and coat the Party Mix (popcorn, breakfast cereal squares, cashews, pretzels, and wasabi peas) before baking the entire concoction in the oven. Because I opted not to use the margarine at all, the baking step became unnecessary, and much simplified the overall preparation. Granted, this alteration decidedly changed the intent of the recipe, but if you can get past the concept of a baked and oiled snack mix, this was quite enjoyable in its own right. The spices (garlic powder and seasoned salt) won't stick to the uncoated ingredients as well, but if you give the mix a little shake or stir before each serving, it helps to keep the flavors distributed. You can also spray Bragg's Aminos or soy sauce on the mixture before adding the spices to add a little extra flavor, and help the spices stick.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Select whole-grain, oil-free pretzels and breakfast cereal squares.
  • Select or prepare air-popped popcorn.
  • Use raw (or roasted without oil) cashews.
  • If possible, use oil free wasabi peas (may be hard to find!). Or, omit them altogether. 
  • Omit the margarine altogether. Use a little spray of Bragg's Aminos or soy sauce on the mixture before adding the spices to help them stick.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

White Bean & Dill Hummus

There are four hummus recipes in this book, two using traditional garbanzo beans, one using pinto beans, and one using white beans in the "White Bean & Dill Hummus" (page 11).  What keeps this rendition in keeping with traditional hummus is the inclusion of lemon juice and tahini. What makes it a little different is the addition of dill weed. Call it bean dip, call it hummus, but call it good! This ends up being a tasty blend of beans, tahini, fresh garlic, fresh lemon juice, dillweed, and a pinch of cayenne for a little zip. This is wonderful spread on toasted bagels, or used as a dip for crackers or raw veggies. Since tahini contains a fair amount of natural oil, you won't miss the olive oil by leaving it out altogether.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the olive oil altogether. If you find the hummus is a little too thick, add a couple tablespoons of water or broth to reach the desired consistency as you are blending in the food processor.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vegan Margherita Pizza

The Italian "Vegan Margherita Pizza" (page 129) is a scrumptious presentation of the colors of Italy with red tomatoes, green Basil Pistou, and white tofu (standing in for the cheese in this vegan version). According to the recipe notes, pizza in Italy is not as cheese laden as pizza in America, and it was only with the advent of Pizza Margherita in the late 1800's that any Italian pizza included cheese. Happily for those of us who don't include any dairy in our diet, the tofu, simply seasoned with nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper, makes a wonderful pizza topping. For the pizza crust, use the Basic Pizza Dough on page 128, or another one of your choice, making sure to keep it whole grain and oil free. Top this with the prepared tofu, Basil Pistou, and sliced tomatoes, and bake in the oven. This combination of flavors is highly tantalizing, and quite addictive. Find someone to share it with unless you don't mind eating an entire pizza in one sitting! Maybe it's the pesto, which adds a flavor layer not typically found in pizza. Maybe it's the homemade crust. Maybe it's having something fresh and hot out of the oven, instead of out of a delivery box. Try it and see what you think!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use a pizza dough recipe or pre-made crust that is whole grain and oil free. 
  • Omit the step that has you spreading olive oil on the prepared pizza dough. You don't really need it, and you definitely won't miss it.
  • Do not add any oil to the pesto; again, you don't need it, and you won't miss it.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Basil Pistou

Found in the Pesto section of the Sauces, Relishes, and Condiments chapter, "Basil Pistou" (page 565) is a basic pesto, minus the pine nuts. Made from just four ingredients - garlic, salt, basil, and olive oil (or broth, if you choose to omit the oil, as I did) - it blends together quickly in a food processor to be used right away on cooked pasta, vegetable soups, or even on pizza, as called for in the Vegan Margherita Pizza (stay tuned for a review on this next). Without the pine nuts or parmesan cheese, this version of pesto is a little lighter and thinner than most, but the flavor is still fantastic. Skipping the oil and using a lightly flavored vegetable broth instead keeps this tasty version of pesto completely guilt free.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Instead of olive oil, use an equal amount of lightly flavored vegetable broth. Start with ¼ cup and increase as necessary to reach desired consistency.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Apple "Waldorf" Bread

The "Apple 'Waldorf' Bread" (page 405) helped restore my faith in oil free baking. After experimenting with the Breakfast Bran Muffins, which came out pretty dry, I was a bit discouraged. But the combination of ingredients in this recipe seemed to provide the magic formula for very moist, oil-free bread. I almost think this bread could be moved to the dessert section of the book, it is rather sweet, but oh-so-delicious! The same ingredients that go into a Waldorf salad (apples, walnuts, and raisins) are found here, and I think including the grated apple really contributed to the extra moist finish. Add to that the use of soymilk (instead of apple juice - the recipe gives the option of one or the other), and using one entire mashed banana to replace the ¼ cup of oil, this may be a formula in the making for future oil free bread adventures. And not to be forgotten, raisins also add some moistness. The batter is spiced up with cinnamon and allspice, the perfect complement to the fruity flavors, with vanilla extract adding to the dessert-like taste of the bread. This bread was delicious warm out of the oven, at room temperature, toasted, and even straight from the refrigerator (if you find you need to store it for more than a few days).

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Use the soymilk option for the liquid, as opposed to the apple juice, for a moister outcome.
  • Substitute one mashed banana for the ¼ cup oil.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Strawberry-Banana Smoothie

There are 11 smoothie recipes in this cookbook, and the "Strawberry-Banana Smoothie" (page 530) is the 6th one I've tried so far. This, to me, is my basic smoothie recipe - strawberries, bananas, and soymilk. (Sometimes I'll use orange juice in place of the soymilk). Easy, tasty, and uses ingredients that are usually on hand. The twist in this recipe is the optional addition of strawberry jam to intensify the flavor, especially nice if you have less than stellar fresh or frozen strawberries. Since I've started making my own soy yogurt at home, I will sometimes substitute this for the soy milk for extra nutrition and a little more complex flavor.

 Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • No changes necessary!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Giant Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

The recipe notes fittingly ask, is the "Giant Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake" (page 452) a "cake that thinks it's a cookie or a cookie masquerading as a cake?" My husband and I ate this dessert for several days, and after we finished every last delicious bite, neither one of us could rightly answer this question. It doesn't really matter, though, since no matter how you slice it, or bite into it, the bottom line is how good it tastes! And making it even more appealing to me was that the recipe does not call for any added oil or margarine. Not that it isn't rich enough, with ¾ cup peanut butter, this is a very indulgent dessert, and a little goes a long way. Besides the peanut butter, the cookie-cake contains maple syrup and brown sugar, soy milk, flour, baking powder, and vegan chocolate chips. Like I said, this is a very rich treat!

 Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole wheat pastry flour or King Arthur's brand of White Whole Wheat flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hot Cocoa

Sometimes nothing else will do but a steamy mug of "Hot Cocoa" (page 540), and since it is so easy to make, satisfaction is only moments away. I recently discovered a way to make cocoa in my Vitamix blender, simply by adding all the ingredients to the blender jar, and blending on high for six minutes. You end up with hot steamy cocoa without worrying about stirring, burning, or scorching in a pan over the stove. Of course, the stove top method works perfectly fine, but I admit, I am very excited about using my Vitamix for all future hot cocoa experiences. (I'm not sure if other blenders would work this way, but the Vitamix is able to heat liquids to high heats such as soups and gravies, and now, hot cocoa!) Simple ingredients in this recipe: non dairy milk, cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla extract. Perfect to chase away a winter chill!

 Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:


  • No changes necessary! :-)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Breakfast Bran Muffins

The "Breakfast Bran Muffins" (page 523) didn't turn out quite as moist as I had hoped they would. Of course, when omitting oil from baked goods, there is always going to be a challenge in this respect, but I think bran muffins in particular tend to be a bit on the drier side (which is probably why most recipes call for lots of oil or butter). And since bran flakes can vary widely, depending on what brand you end up with, it's hard to know if the recipe as written will work with the ones you use. Using whole grain flour (which I did, but the recipe calls for white flour) also results in a less moist baked good. In any case, these muffins were kind of dry. My husband didn't seem to mind at all, and he is pretty good at giving me honest feedback on my cooking. Cutting them in half and slathering with jam or apple butter also made a positive difference, as did warming them up.  I liked the raisins, they helped keep these muffins less dry than they would have been without them.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:                                                                                                                

  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white flour)
  • Instead of the ¼ cup of oil, use a mashed banana, or 1/3 cup prune puree (baby food prunes), or ½ cup applesauce.
  • Using soymilk instead orange juice for the liquid measure might help with the dryness by adding a bit more natural fat to the batter.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pumpkin Ravioli with Peas & Caramelized Shallots

When serving ravioli, I typically think of topping it with some sort of sauce - marinara, Alfredo, even a vegan cheese style sauce. The "Pumpkin Ravioli with Peas & Caramelized Shallots" (page 230) was my first experience of using ravioli not as something to be "topped", but rather as just one component in a mixed ingredient dish. And, I have to make a confession. The recipe actually starts from scratch, giving detailed instructions on how to make the ravioli, using a pasta dough recipe found elsewhere in this book, and filling with a mixture of pumpkin, tofu, herbs and spices. I had been considering this recipe for quite awhile, and when I saw premade vegan pumpkin filled ravioli in a natural foods store, a complete rarity, I took it as a sign. I bought two packs and decided to make this recipe, which at this point, became quite easy! There are only two other ingredients once you have the ravioli made (or purchased) - the shallots and the peas. The shallots are cooked long and slow over medium heat in order to caramelize them, and then the peas are added to the skillet just long enough to warm through, along with the cooked ravioli. Although a quite unusual (for me) way to prepare ravioli, I really liked it. I thought it needed a little zip, so I added red pepper flakes at the table. Caramelizing onions (or shallots in this case) is usually done by cooking them in oil, but you can do it using water. Just add a couple teaspoons of water at a time to the skillet as the shallots are cooking, waiting until the skillet begins to dry out before adding water again. Continue this for about 15 minutes until the shallots are quite soft and golden brown.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
  • Use the water method of caramelizing onions instead of cooking in oil. Using a medium heat, allow the shallots to cook until almost dry, adding 2-3 teaspoons of water at a time to allow the cooking process to continue. Repeat this procedure for about 15 minutes until the shallots are soft and golden brown.
  • If you are lucky enough to find  pre-made whole grain pumpkin filled ravioli, buy as much as you have room to store! :-) Otherwise, you can make your own using whole wheat pastry flour - not something I've ever tried, so I can't really comment on how that would work. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ragin' Cajun Popcorn

What's more fun than popcorn? "Ragin' Cajun Popcorn" (page 4) just might be! The very first recipe of this book (but the 396th recipe I've tried), this offering really starts the book off with a bang!! Popped corn is tossed with a highly flavorful and HOT blend of spices, including oregano, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic, onion powder, celery salt, and cayenne pepper. These are flavorful spices known to Cajun cuisine, and they do pack a flavor punch. The biggest challenge here is getting the spices to adhere to the popcorn if you use the air popped method, thereby omitting the oil. One solution is to lightly spray the popcorn with water or Braggs Aminos prior to adding the spices, being careful to add just a spritz or two so the popcorn doesn't get soggy. If you choose to use oil, however, you certainly don't need ¼ cup of oil for 1/3 cup popcorn kernels. You will find that just 2 teaspoons is enough to pop the corn, cutting the fat content from the oil down from 54 grams of fat and 477 calories to just 9 grams of fat and 79 calories (for the entire batch). And you know how popcorn is, once you start eating it, it's hard to stop! Those calories and fat grams could add up very quickly!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:


  • Use air popped popcorn so you won't have to use oil in the popping process. Spritz the popped corn with water or Braggs Aminos before adding the spices so they will stick.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Pear Gratin with Cranberries & Pecans

Including dessert in a healthy low-fat diet can be a challenge, but if you look for those that are mostly fruit, you can find plenty of options. "Pear Gratin with Cranberries & Pecans" (page 491) is a fairly healthy choice, especially if you leave out the margarine (as I did), because all it really amounts to is fresh fruit sprinkled with nuts. I say "fairly healthy" because there is a significant amount of nuts in this recipe, which are high in fat. Sliced pears are tossed with dried cranberries, sugar, ginger, and cornstarch, arranged in a gratin dish (I used a pie plate since I don't have a gratin dish), drizzled with a splash of soymilk, topped with chopped pecans, and baked in a hot oven until the fruit is soft. This was a delightful dessert, although the cornstarch didn't seem to thicken up the juices much. In retrospect, I think I could have left out the ¼ cup soymilk without detracting from the overall enjoyment (and maybe the dessert would have thickened up some as well). The recipe calls for dotting the top of the gratin with ¼ cup margarine prior to baking, but I left this out completely, and didn't miss it at all. If you are really feeling decadent, the recipe suggests serving this warm topped with a scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream. (Of course, this would cancel out those benefits of a fruit-only, low-fat dessert!)

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:


  • Completely omit the ¼ cup margarine. You won't even miss it!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Smoothies in Winter

I like smoothies any time, but the "Smoothies in Winter" (page 530), which uses pumpkin, is especially seasonal this time of year. A mixture of puréed pumpkin (fresh, or from canned), frozen banana, pure maple syrup for added sweetness, soymilk, vanilla extract and spices, it is very reminiscent of pumpkin pie. (If you happen to have any plain vegan yogurt on hand, substitute half of the milk with the yogurt for a treat that tastes like pumpkin cheesecake!). This is a wonderful winter treat, and as the recipe suggests, could even be served in place of eggnog at a holiday gathering.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:


  • No changes necessary! :-)