Sunday, November 11, 2018

Roasted Rosemary Yellow Squash & Chayote

Roasting vegetables without oil can be challenging, most particularly if it is one of the drier vegetables, like carrots, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts. You can cover a pan full of veggies, add a little broth, cover and bake, and get excellent results, but that really isn’t roasting, which requires direct heat, i.e., no cover on the roasting pan. However, the moister vegetables, such as the two used in “Roasted Rosemary Yellow Squash and Chayote”, page 384, are able to roast without added oil, because they baste in their own juices.

I loved the color contrasts in this dish. The pale yellows and greens of the two squash varieties and the deeper green of the rosemary was set off nicely by the addition of bright red cherry tomatoes (added during the last 15 minutes of roasting). 

Besides the rosemary, the vegetables are simply seasoned with garlic and salt and pepper to taste. You might want to start with a small amount of broth to coat the veggies so they don’t stick to the roasting pan before they start to cook, but not too much, if you want them to stay somewhat firm. I used a ceramic casserole dish which has pretty good non-stick qualities, but still ended up adding a little broth along the way. Check midway into the roasting time to determine if you need to do this or not. Another option is to line the bottom of the roasting pan with parchment paper.

I find roasting (or baking) vegetables brings out the best flavors, and this delicious dish was no exception. The house was filled with the lovely aromas of garlic and rosemary as the veggies cooked, a wonderful prelude to actually eating them. Pretty to look at, healthy, delicious, and easy to make, my kind of recipe!

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:

  • Instead of coating the vegetables in oil, use a very small amount of broth, and/or line the bottom of the roasting pan with parchment paper. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Penne Baked With Eggplant-Tomato Sauce

If you have a family divided over eggplant (love it or hate it), I’m guessing the “Penne Baked with Eggplant-Tomato Sauce”, page 221, would satisfy both sides. The eggplant, especially if you peel it first, will melt right into the tomato sauce, adding a rich creamy texture, and if someone didn’t know there was eggplant in the mix, they probably wouldn’t guess it. The sauce itself is pretty simple, consisting of crushed tomatoes, eggplant, and onion, then seasoned with red wine, parsley, and marjoram. Cooked penne is mixed into the sauce, spooned into a casserole, topped with vegan Parmesan and breadcrumbs, then baked in the oven. It makes a lot for two people, and I even cut back on the amount of penne called for, from 12 ounces, to 8. But, the leftovers warm up very nice, and provide great ready-made meals throughout the week.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead, use a nonstick skillet and a little water, broth, or sherry to prevent sticking.
  • Use whole grain penne pasta instead of the white flour variety.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Tarragon-Chive Vinaigrette

Finding healthy salad dressings that also taste good used to be challenging. I discovered that the reason I liked salads so much was due to the flavorful but often unhealthy, high fat, or dairy laden dressings I used. I made it a mission to find ways to make salad dressing at home that would satisfy both my taste buds and my health criteria. As I’ve mentioned in previous salad dressing posts, finding the secret of guar gum powder has allowed me to explore many oil based dressing recipes by simply replacing the oil called for with an equal amount of water, then adding a pinch of guar gum at the end to thicken it up. That’s how I approached the “Tarragon-Chive Vinaigrette”, page 100. The recipe called for ½ cup of olive oil, which I replaced with ½ cup of water. When the dressing ingredients were all mixed together, I added ¼ teaspoon of guar gum and shook vigorously to incorporate, and it thickened up perfectly.

The dressing itself is a flavorful twist on a basic vinaigrette. Tarragon vinegar, plus dried or fresh tarragon, provide a lovely herbal base with a subtle anise flavor, and if you have fresh chives it makes all the difference, adding just a touch of peppery spice. I used it on green salad, but the recipe notes also suggest it would be good drizzled over roasted or steamed asparagus.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Instead of using ½ of oil (which adds 108 grams of fat, and 955 calories), use ½ cup of water, and thicken with ¼ - ½ teaspoon of guar gum, as described above.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Tamarind Chickpea Stew

I never get tired of soups and stews, and this time of year I really crave them. To me, there is nothing better on a brisk autumn day. Recently the “Tamarind Chickpea Stew”, page 260, found it’s way to our table, and it fit the bill perfectly. Simple, whole foods, hearty and satisfying, pretty to look at, and delicious flavors. Tamarind paste is made from the fruit of the pod of the tamarind tree, and in fact, you can buy tamarind pods in some ethnic and specialty grocery stores, and make it yourself. A much easier way is to buy prepared tamarind paste in a jar, but this isn’t an easy item to find either. Happily, you can also prepare a tamarind substitute by blending three parts lime juice with 1 part molasses, which is what I did for this recipe. I have had tamarind in my kitchen in the past, but I use it so seldom, this combination is a perfect substitute for the small amount used in most recipes.

This stew consists of onion, potato, chickpeas, tomatoes, green chilies, peas, and a combination of Middle Eastern spices, including coriander, cumin, and black pepper – and of course, the tamarind. It is slightly sweet from the addition of maple syrup, with everything somehow coming together in a most pleasing manner. That’s the magic of soups and stews!

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the tablespoon of olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Use water or broth and a nonstick skillet instead.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Black Bean & Pumpkin Lasagna

Showing up just in time for fall festivities and pumpkin season is “Black Bean & Pumpkin Lasagna”, page 219. Although this might sound unusual, lasagna is eternally flexible, and just about any kind of filling, sauce, and seasoning, in some combination, will work. You can’t really go wrong layering thick noodles with delicious fillings, and topping with a flavorful sauce. This seasonal combination of ingredients starts with black beans enhanced with sautéed veggies (onion, bell pepper, and garlic), sauced up with crushed tomatoes, and spiked with chili powder. A mixture of pumpkin purée and salsa fill in for the traditional marinara sauce, and seasoned tofu stands in for the ricotta cheese. You can make this dish more or less spicy by your choice of salsa. We like things on the hotter side, so I used a hot salsa.

The final addition is a sprinkle of ground pumpkin seeds, a nice touch that ties the overall theme together. I discovered at the last minute I had no pumpkin seeds on hand, so a quick substitution of sunflower seeds did the trick. Next time I make this I’ll make sure I have pumpkin seeds available.

I love lasagna, and I love experimenting with spins on traditional preparations This dish satisfied on both levels. Fun, pretty, and delicious, and it makes a lot! I’m pretty sure you could freeze leftovers, but the two of us managed to eat up the entire pan over the course of a week.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the tablespoon of olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Use water or broth and a nonstick skillet instead.
  • If possible, try to find whole grain lasagna noodles.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Spicy Sautéed Broccoli Rabe

As soon as I saw the recipe for “Spicy Sautéed Broccoli Rabe”, page 359, I balked. My limited experiences (aka experiments) with broccoli rabe have not been favorable, or flavorful, for that matter. I love greens of all kinds, even those most people seem to eschew, so I was perplexed when I didn’t immediately warm up to rabe. It is truly the most bitter green, bitter vegetable, I’ve ever tried. When I read in the recipe notes that spinach, chard, or escarole could stand in for the broccoli rabe, I breathed a huge sigh of relief! I opted to use spinach, and was very pleased with the results.

This is a simple combination of cooked greens, freshly minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. The recipe also calls for olive oil, but I omitted altogether, no substitutions required. I’ve been cooking and serving all varieties of greens (except broccoli rabe!) oil free, for so long, that I don’t even miss it. In fact, nowadays when I am served greens that have had oil added to them, they taste very peculiar to me.

I can’t imagine a more pleasing combination of flavors, or a better way to serve greens than this!

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:

  • Omit the olive oil altogether; use a nonstick skillet and/or a teaspoon of water or broth to sauté the garlic. Most greens don’t require any extra moisture for sautéing, as they release their own liquid as they cook.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Roasted Potato Salad with Chickpeas & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Whenever I see the words “roasted vegetables” I think “oil”. I’ve tried several times to roast a variety of vegetables, using a variety of methods, but without oil, I have been unable to obtain vegetables that come out with that nice crispy outside and a creamy center. Some things can’t be precisely duplicated when you omit oil, but if you are okay with an alternative approach, there is no reason you can’t have an equally satisfactory outcome. For this recipe, “Roasted Potato Salad with Chickpeas & Sun-Dried Tomatoes”, page 69, I opted to precook the potatoes in my Instant Pot. I love the texture of potatoes that have been cooked whole, waiting to peel and dice after they have been cooked and completely cooled. The resulting texture is a very creamy, yet firm, and perfect for salads. That is what I did for this recipe.

The next challenge in this recipe was making the dressing, which includes 3 tablespoons of oil, half of the total dressing (three tablespoons of white wine vinegar makes up the rest). I mixed up a concoction of 1/3 cup light veggie broth, 3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon of guar gum to thicken it up. This worked out perfectly!

The final challenge was finding sun-dried tomatoes that were not packed in oil. I like a brand called California Sun-Dry, a pouch of julienne cut oil free sun-dried tomatoes. They are soft, moist, and ready to eat right out of the pouch. I can’t always find these when I need them, so when I do find them, I get a couple of extra packages to save for later.

Once all these adjustments were in place, I was ready to compose the salad: diced cooked potatoes, diced shallot (or red onion), cooked chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, sliced green olives, parsley, and the dressing, all tossed together into a delicious salad, hearty enough to stand in as an entrée.    

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Instead of roasting the potatoes in oil, cook the potatoes whole, and when completely cool, peel and dice.
  • For the dressing, substitute the 3 tablespoons of oil with 1/3 cup of light veggie broth, mix with the vinegar, and add ¼ teaspoon of guar gum to thicken.
  • Use oil-free sun-dried tomatoes.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

White & Wild Mushroom Barley Soup

“White & Wild Mushroom Barley Soup”, page 162, marks the 500th recipe I’ve made from this cookbook. I am now officially half way through the recipes!!! It has taken me a long time to get this far, 8 years, to be exact. I didn’t set a specific time goal for working through the recipes, and if asked back in 2010 how long I thought this project would take, I probably would have guessed I’d be done by now. The world and time move so fast, and since the publication of 1000 Vegan Recipes, there have probably been 1000 more vegan cookbooks published – which is a wonderful thing! But since I’m doing this just for fun, and hopefully to provide encouragement to others embarking on this path, I’m not too worried about the length of time it’s taking. I thank all of you who have hung with me over these last 8 years, some maybe there from the beginning, others joining along the way. I appreciate all your visits and feedback, and hope I’ve helped make a positive difference.

This soup was very easy to make, with simple whole foods (onions, carrot, celery, mushrooms, barley, dill weed, seasonings). Mushroom Barely soup is a classic, and this version includes the same basic ingredients to make it as pleasing as ever. The difference here is using a combination of both white and wild mushrooms, which as Robin Robertson notes, gives the soup an extra dimension. She also suggests using mushroom broth for a deeper flavor, but that isn’t strictly necessary.

I topped each of our servings with minced parsley, as called for, plus a dollop of homemade soy yogurt. I am quite sure I will never tire of this delicious soup.

Now – on to the next 500 recipes!
Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Sauté the veggies in a little broth, soy sauce, or sherry instead of oil, and/or use a nonstick soup pot.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Breakfast Parfaits

“Breakfast Parfaits”, page 526, are fun, festive, and delicious. Even though if feels like you’re having dessert for breakfast, these parfaits are full of whole grains, nuts, and fruit. It is the perfect way to start the day, and with this on the menu, you can happily look forward to breakfast. While the dish can be prepared in a bowl if you wish, the parfait glasses do make a pretty presentation and add to the fun factor. The layers consist of granola, a puree of nut butter-banana-maple syrup, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, sliced banana, and blueberry. I was able to get two layers of each into the glasses, and topped it all off with fresh strawberries.

This dish can be altered in several ways, depending on what’s in season, what you have on hand, what you like most. Any dried fruit can stand in for the cranberries, try almonds or cashews instead of walnuts, vary the fruit choices, sprinkle with flax or chia seed, use yogurt instead of the nut butter mix, use cooked oatmeal along with, or instead of, the granola. The possibilities are endless! I added a splash of soymilk to my glass to soften up the granola, adding yet another layer of goodness.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • No changes necessary!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Spicy Eggplant & Tempeh Stuffed Pasta Shells

With just a few ingredients (but a bit of preparation), the “Spicy Eggplant & Tempeh-Stuffed Pasta Shells”, page 229, is both elegant and pleasing. As with all the recipes using tempeh, you start out by cooking the block of tempeh for 30 minutes in a pot of simmering water. This is done to mellow out the flavor and aid digestion, and while I do normally start with this step, there have been many times I’ve skipped it, and everything comes out okay. You can simmer the tempeh while baking the eggplant, and cooking the pasta, combing several steps and saving a little time. It is so easy to bake a whole eggplant, and once its done the skin comes right off, leaving you with a soft and creamy filling. (Line your baking sheet with parchment paper so you won’t have to oil it.)

The steamed tempeh is ground in a food processor, along with garlic (I tripled the amount, using 3 cloves), red pepper flakes (I doubled the amount, using ½ teaspoon), and salt and pepper to taste. If necessary, bread crumbs can be added at this point to firm up the filling. This simple, yet meaty and delicious filling is stuffed into cooked pasta shells, topped with marinara (oil-free homemade (see recipe here), or store bought), and baked in the oven until heated through. Top with oil-free vegan Parmesan or Parmasio (see review here).

A big green salad and a loaf of rustic sourdough bread will turn this into a delicious dinner.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the oil when baking the eggplant. Simply line the baking dish with parchment paper to prevent it from sticking.
  • Use oil-free marinara, store-bought or homemade.
  • Use oil-free Parmesan, or home made Parmasio. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Spinach, Walnut, & Apple Soup

As the recipe notes state, the “Spinach, Walnut, & Apple Soup”, page 173, is light, which makes it a perfect first-course soup for dinner, or paired with a sandwich for lunch. The notes also correctly call this soup luscious, because even though this has a quite delicate consistency, the flavors are rich and satisfying. An unusual blend of sautéed onion, apple, apple juice, spinach, and walnuts are further simmered in broth, and seasoned with sage and allspice. This mixture is puréed, and finally a cup of soymilk is added to the pot. Each serving is garnished with toasted walnuts and diced apple, and since I had chives on hand, I added a sprinkle of those as well.

While this soup was likely meant to be more thin than creamy, I decided to thicken it with a flour and water mixture to make it more hearty (½ cup water, ¼ cup flour, blended smooth, then added to the simmering soup, stirring to incorporate and thicken).

The deep green color was inviting to the eyes, and the flavors were pleasing to the palate. The walnuts and apples added a nice layer of texture as well.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies, using water, apple juice, or broth instead.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Lemon Pepper Marinade

It is so easy to turn simple tofu (or tempeh, seitan, or even veggies) into something bursting with flavor with a sauce such as “Lemon Pepper Marinade”, page 576. A few simple but powerful ingredients go a long way to transform everyday food into something quite special. The flavor stars in this marinade include lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, garlic pepper, coriander and cayenne. To avoid using the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, I substituted 2 tablespoons of water and added 1/8 teaspoon of guar gum for thickening. I used this to marinate diced tofu, which I later cooked in my air fryer, resulting in crispy and oil free chunks of tofu. Healthy, and delicious!

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Use water instead of olive oil, plus 1/8 teaspoon of guar gum to thicken the marinade

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Creamy Curry Pasta & Vegetable Salad

“Creamy Curry Pasta & Vegetable Salad”, page 93, is a very pleasing combination of pasta, steamed and raw vegetables, and a very flavorful curry dressing. I am very fond of using bow tie pasta for salads, and since I had some on hand, that’s what I ended up using. Many recipes, including this one, give instructions for adding a vegetable to the pasta pot during the last few minutes of cooking, I suppose to combine steps, and eliminate the need to cook both things separately. Problem is, for me at least, I’m not that good at accurately judging when the pasta is going to be done, and I end up adding the vegetables (in this case, cauliflower) either too early, or too late. For that reason, I just take the extra step, and time, to cook the pasta separately, set it aside, and cook the vegetables on their own. The raw veggies in this salad include red bell pepper, red onion, tomatoes, cucumber, and cilantro.

I changed the dressing up quite a bit. As written, it was calling for 1/3 cup of grapeseed oil (along with lemon juice, curry powder, sugar, salt, and cayenne). While I could have substituted an oil free Italian dressing for this, or even just used water and thickened the dressing with guar gum, I opted to take a detour and make a different kind of  creamy dressing. I ended up using 1/3 cup each of plain unflavored yogurt, and homemade oil free mayo (see review here), leaving all the seasonings the same. Finally, the salad is topped with roasted cashews, adding a wonderful texture and flavor-layer. I was more than pleased with the outcome, in fact, I had to stop myself from polishing off the entire salad in one sitting!

This makes a very satisfying main dish salad, or in smaller portions, a tasty side dish. I’m certain it would be very nicely received at a picnic or potluck as well.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the 1/3 cup of oil. Instead, substitute an equal amount of bottled oil free Italian dressing, or 1/3 cup water and thicken with ¼ teaspoon of guar gum.
  • Instead of oil, salad dressing, or water, try the substitution of mayo and yogurt as described above.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Singapore Noodles with Tempeh

According the recipe notes, this recipe, “Singapore Noodles with Tempeh”, (page 241), is a popular Indonesian dish also known as bami goreng or mee goreng. Since tempeh originated in Indonesia, it makes sense there would be many regional dishes showcasing it.

The preparation consists of four parts:

1) preparing the tempeh (dicing, steaming, and sautéing); 

2) preparing the sauce (blending peanut butter, coconut milk, water, lemon juice, sugar, cayenne, and soy sauce); 

3) preparing the noodles; and, 

4) sautéing the vegetables (bell pepper, cabbage, garlic, green onions, and ginger).  

Once the components have been prepared, fresh or frozen peas are added to the sautéed veggies, along with the tempeh and noodles, and finally, the sauce, with everything simmered just long enough to heat through. Top off with chopped peanuts and cilantro, and get ready to enjoy! There are so many complementary tastes and textures in this dish, it’s impossible to attribute the bursts of flavor to any one thing. Each bite unfolds into a delightful, multi-layered, taste experience.

Oil was called for in this recipe for tossing with the cooked noodles, sautéing the tempeh, and sautéing the vegetables. It was easy to leave it out in all instances. Rinsing the noodles thoroughly will prevent them from sticking, but if you wanted to include the sesame oil here for flavor purposes only, used like a condiment, a teaspoon or less would be effective, instead of the tablespoon called for. The tempeh and veggies can be sautéed in water, broth, sherry, or soy sauce.

In lieu of the coconut milk, I used soymilk with a few drops of coconut extract, to avoid the adding this source of highly saturated fat. This is a good way to include the coconut flavor without the fat.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:

  • Instead of using oil for sautéing the tempeh and vegetables, use a non-stick skillet and/or use sherry, broth, water, or soy sauce as a sauté liquid.
  • Instead of coconut milk, use ¼ cup soymilk with ¼ teaspoon of coconut extract.