Thursday, June 13, 2019

Spicy Coconut Creamed Corn

Now that we’re in the middle of fresh corn season, I see myself making the “Spicy Coconut Creamed Corn”, page 366, on a regular basis. Nothing could be simpler, prettier, or more delicious. Creamy and yellow, with flecks of red and green, and, as the recipe notes say, “definitely not your mother’s creamed corn”. The recipe calls for three cups of corn, part of which can be (optionally) puréed for a creamier texture. I used 1 ½ cups of fresh corn (which is all I had), and 1 ½ cups of frozen corn (which I opted to purée). The corn, coconut milk, minced green chiles, and soy sauce are added to sautéed red bell pepper, green onions, and garlic, cooked slow until hot and creamy, and seasoned with a pinch of cayenne, salt, and pepper, to taste.

Had I made this recipe as written, using olive oil and coconut milk, it would have been quite high in fat, and saturated fat. I skipped the oil altogether, and used a nonstick skillet and a little water, as needed, to sauté the veggies. Instead of coconut milk, I used plain, unsweetened soymilk and added ½ teaspoon of coconut extract. As written, this dish would have contained 67 grams of fat (45 grams saturated), and 962 calories. With the changes I made, the fat content dropped to 10 grams (only 1 gram saturated), and 478 calories. I enjoyed this dish so much, I can’t imagine I would have liked it any better with the extra fat and calories.

Hint: I puréed the frozen corn with the soymilk-coconut extract-mixture in the blender, just enough to break up the corn, not liquify it, before adding it to the remaining ingredients.

This would make an excellent addition to an Indian food themed dinner, or as a side dish to any meal.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Instead of oil, use a nonstick skillet to sauté the veggies, with just enough water as necessary to prevent sticking.
  • Replace the coconut milk with 1-cup of nondairy milk (soy or almond seem to be best) mixed with ½ teaspoon coconut extract

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Ginger-Tamari Braised Eggplant


As you most likely know if you’ve been following my blog, I choose to cook without added oil, and part of the fun and challenge of this project has been to convert the recipes in this cookbook that do contain oil, to oil-free. But I do make one exception, and that is for sesame oil, which I use only occasionally, and even then, sparingly, and as a condiment only. The deep rich flavor of sesame oil adds a unique Asian flare to certain dishes, and it takes just a few drops to impart that flavor to an entire dish.

The “Ginger-Tamari Braised Eggplant”, page 366, is one of those dishes where I made an exception. This very easy, super tasty side dish is made from sliced Asian eggplant, seasoned with garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sherry, and sesame oil, then topped off with a minced green onion garnish. Braised eggplant is my favorite way to eat this humble vegetable, as it literally soaks up all the flavors of the seasonings and transforms it to something quite special. The recipe actually calls for two different oils – one tablespoon of canola oil for sautéing, which I completely omitted, and one teaspoon of sesame oil as part of the braising liquid. One teaspoon was more than enough (even ½ teaspoon probably would have sufficed), and the very satisfying flavors of the braising sauce were deliciously infused throughout.

To get around using oil for the initial sauté of the eggplant, I added about two tablespoons of water to the skillet as the eggplant started to brown and stick (yes, even in a nonstick pan, eggplant is very tenacious!), set the heat to low, and covered the skillet to let the eggplant “sweat”. Once through that step, the eggplant was ready for the braising sauce and the final steps. This makes a wonderful side dish to an Asian themed meal. (I served it as a side to Kim Chi Noodle Soup.)

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Add the eggplant to a dry, non-stick skillet to start the sauté process, and as it starts to brown and stick, set the heat to low, add two tablespoons of water, and cover the skillet to let the eggplant “sweat”, until it has softened sufficiently before moving on the final steps.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Creamy Mushroom Soup

“Creamy Mushroom Soup”, page 177, is a mushroom lover’s delight. The dark brown broth is rich, delicious, and deeply satisfying. Most of the soup is puréed, including a large portion of sautéed mushrooms, which gives the soup an earthy and elemental flavor. Besides mushrooms there is onion, celery, garlic, and potato (which helps thicken the soup), with a pinch of thyme and soy sauce added for additional flavor. A portion of the mushrooms are sautéed and added to the puréed soup, and a parsley garnish to each bowl adds a bit of color.

I used sherry to sauté the veggies instead of oil, which I thought added a nice flavor to the soup, but water or broth would also work equally well as a substitute. I also added some re-hydrated dried mushrooms to the puréed soup for a bit more flavor and substance, and I used the mushroom soaking water for a portion of the broth, further enhancing the rich mushroom taste of the soup. The recipe calls for a cup of soy milk, added towards the end, but I found ½ cup to be enough, and kept the soup thick and creamy. I also added a pinch of cayenne to spice it up just a little.

This is a nice light soup that would make a great starter to a meal, or combined with a hearty salad and bread for a soup-salad-bread meal – one of my favorite combos!

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Instead of using oil to sauté the vegetables, use a nonstick skillet with a small amount of water, broth, or sherry.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Tamarind Eggplant with Bell Peppers & Mango


It took me a long time to appreciate eggplant, and in the past if I saw an eggplant recipe in one of my cookbooks I would quickly turn the page. For one thing, I didn’t really know what to do with it, since most recipes seem to encourage cooking it in copious amounts of olive oil, or smothering it with pounds of cheese. 

But through the years my food curiosity, combined with a few very satisfying experiences worked to change my mind about this humble vegetable, and now I seek eggplant recipes out. It really helps when you come across a recipe like the “Tamarind Eggplant with Bell Peppers & Mango”, page 328. 

The bold flavors of tamarind, chile, mango, and cilantro liven up this dish, and the finished “stew” is delicious served over grains or noodles. I went with brown rice udon noodles, giving the presentation an Asian persuasion.

This is a one-skillet stove top dish that comes together very easy. Onion, eggplant, and peppers are cooked in until soft (no oil necessary, even though the recipe calls for 2 Tablespoons -  just a little broth or sherry will do the trick). A little more cooking after adding tamarind paste, fresh orange juice, and mango, and that’s about it! I liked the bright and vibrant colors, the fresh flavors, the creamy texture of the eggplant combined with the crunchier texture of the bell peppers. If you’re not sure you like eggplant, this recipe would be a good one to experiment with.

The recipe calls for three small Asian eggplants, but I couldn’t find any that day, so I used one medium size regular eggplant. I also didn’t have access to tamarind paste, so I used the substitution suggestion in the recipe notes, a combination of lime juice and brown sugar.  

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Instead of using oil to sauté the vegetables, use a nonstick skillet with a small amount of water, broth, or sherry.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Basic Vegetable Fritters

The recipe for “Basic Vegetable Fritters”, page 353, is a very flexible set of instructions, allowing you to choose from an assortment of vegetables, spices of your choice, flour or breadcrumbs, and  varying amounts of nondairy milk to create something different each time you make them. Be sure to read Robin’s half page description, “All About Fritters”, also on page 353, for a primer on these versatile fried cakes. Just about anything goes, and you might be inspired by what you have in your refrigerator and pantry. I decided to use a combination of mashed sweet potatoes, grated zucchini, and green onions, with flour as the binder, and just salt and pepper to season. The recipe notes indicate the texture of the mixture, prior to cooking, should be like a thick pancake batter, and that is what I ended up with. No surprise, then, that the finished product ended up looking like a pancake as well.

You can choose to eat the fritters hot off the griddle, chilled as a snack, filled with something and rolled up (if they are thin enough), or topped with gravy or some other tasty sauce. I opted to top them with Spicy Mango & Red Pepper Salsa (see my previous review).

The only change I made to the recipe ingredients was to use whole wheat pastry flour in place of the all-purpose (white) flour. I think any flour of your choice would work in this recipe. Also, instead of frying the fritters in oil, use a good non-stick skillet. 


Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:

  • Use any whole grain recipe in place of the all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Instead of using oil to fry the fritters, use a non-stick skillet, which requires no oil at all.

Spicy Mango & Red Pepper Salsa

I am a big fan of mango salsas and chutneys. A perfectly ripe sweet mango pairs so beautifully with hot chilis and spices, and the “Spicy Mango & Red Pepper Salsa”, page 567, is a perfect example of this pleasing combination. This recipe is vibrantly colored, bursting with flavor, and made from all fresh ingredients. I left out the oil completely, seeing no need add anything in its place. I also skipped the salt, and didn’t miss it at all. This dish is super easy – mix together mango, red onion, red bell pepper, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime juice. Use this anywhere you like salsa, such as a dip for chips, a topping for beans, veggie burgers, or tofu cutlets. You just can’t go wrong! I used it as a delicious topping for Basic Vegetable Fritters (see my next review).

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the oil, no substitutions necessary

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Orange-Chocolate Chip Muffins


Ever have a baking experience where nothing goes as expected? That happened to me today when I attempted to alter the recipe for “Orange-Chocolate Chip Muffins”, page 410. Normally I don’t have any complaints, or problems, when tweaking ingredients in a recipe to omit oil or use a different flour. But today things didn’t turn out quite right, and I’m still trying to figure it all out. Before I go any further, let me say this – the end product tastes wonderful! There were no complaints from me or hubby on this count. But, as muffins, they just didn’t come together right. 

At a glance, this seemed an easy enough recipe to work with. The batter was flour, baking powder and baking soda, orange juice, and yogurt, plus oil, which I replaced with applesauce. Stir in chocolate chips, can’t go wrong there, right? And then there is a streusel topping made from flour, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and orange juice, and again, oil, which I again, replaced with applesauce.

The first thing I noticed was the batter was more like cake batter than muffin batter, i.e., a little thin. I think this thinner batter couldn’t support the weight of the chocolate chips, as they all sunk to the bottom of the muffins. After filling up the 12-cup  muffin tin, I still had a lot of extra batter, which I poured into a small loaf pan and baked along with the muffins. The next thing that wasn’t quite right was the streusel, which actually seemed more like a paste (was this a result of using applesauce instead of oil?). Each muffin was supposed to be “sprinkled” with the streusel, but with the thick consistency, it could only be dolloped, and in any case, I ran out of mixture after the 9th muffin. This, too, proved to be too heavy for the light batter, and those muffins that had the dollop of streusel caved in quite significantly in the oven. I had to bake the muffins and the bread much longer than 25 minutes, probably due to the batter being so moist. About half the muffins didn’t hold together very well, but happily, the bread did. In retrospect, I think this would have been better baked entirely as a quick bread, based on the consistency of the batter.

So, what happened? Maybe I made too many changes. I subbed out the white flour for whole wheat pastry flour. I used applesauce instead of oil. These two things I always do when I bake, so nothing new here, but you never know. I didn’t have vanilla yogurt, so I used plain yogurt, plus vanilla extract. I added ¼ cup sugar to the batter, since my yogurt was sugar free, and the batter was a bit tart. Maybe all these changes just upset the chemistry. I’m happy to say I didn’t have to throw anything out, and we plan to enjoy the muffins/bread. They may not be perfect to look at, but the flavor of the orange, chocolate, and slightly sweet is very satisfying.


Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list (but I can’t say for sure if these changes are viable, since my muffins didn’t come out quite as expected):
  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Use applesauce instead of oil.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tahini Broccoli Slaw


My quest for the perfect slaw recipe seems to be never ending. This is the 6th of 9 slaw recipes in this book that I’ve tried so far, and each one is slightly different spin. The “Tahini Broccoli Slaw”, page 75, introduced me to packaged broccoli slaw. I’ve seen it in the grocery store for years, but never bought any until now. I’m a broccoli fan, and I actually enjoy the munching on the raw stems, so I felt confident I would like this salad. The tahini based dressing makes it rather rich, and I found a little went a long way. The salad ingredients consist of premixed broccoli saw (which includes a small amount of shredded carrots and red cabbage) and green onions. The dressing is tahini, miso, rice vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce. The topping is roasted sesame seeds.

As Robin Robertson often does with these recipes, she used one of the ingredients in several of its forms, in this case, sesame. There was the tahini (sesame seed paste), sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds. Although I normally eschew oil in my cooking, I do make an exception for sesame oil and use it on occasion as a condiment. This recipe called for 1 tablespoon, I cut that down to 1 teaspoon. I also thought ¼ cup of sesame seeds would be too much, so I used just 2 tablespoons. These adjustments still yielded a very rich and creamy mixture.

My quest continues!

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • You can leave sesame oil out completely if you want, or cut it way back and still enjoy the strong flavor.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Two-Potato Soup With Rainbow Chard

“Two-Potato Soup with Rainbow Chard”, page 158, is elemental and rustic. Made from simple earthy ingredients – onion, leek, potatoes (red and sweet), and rainbow chard – the flavors are deep and satisfying. It also goes together quickly without a lot of fussy preparation. Sauté onion, leek, and garlic (I used sherry in place of olive oil), add the broth and potatoes, and when all the veggies are tender, throw in the chard. The broth you use can make a big difference, so select one you know will satisfy. In my experience, chard, like spinach, doesn’t have to cook long at all. Adding the chopped chard to the soup after the potatoes are done, stirring a few times, then covering the soup and setting it off the heat for a few minutes is really all it takes. The recipe has you cooking the soup for another 15 minutes after adding the chard, but that would have been too long for my tastes, I like my greens to be a little less cooked down. However, 15 minutes might be necessary if you substitute kale or collard greens for the chard, as you might want to do. The leftovers held up well, and we enjoyed this soup for lunch leftovers later in the week.


Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead, use a nonstick soup pot and/or replace the oil with water, broth, or sherry.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Carrot-Ginger Dressing

I love salad dressing, and if you have a pretty good blender on hand, the endless possibilities of ingredients guarantee a never ending adventure. Anything goes, really, it’s all about what flavors you like, and what a particular dressing will taste best on. The “Carrot-Ginger Dressing”, page 100, is a good example of using fresh ingredients to whip up a zesty dressing that is good on any raw vegetable salad you can imagine. You might have all the ingredients on hand already – carrots, ginger, orange juice, vinegar, soy sauce, and mirin. The recipe also includes 2 tablespoons of oil, but I left that out altogether, adding a little bit of water as needed while blending to obtain the right consistency. I used it on tossed green salad made from dark leafy green lettuces, a great combination.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the oil, and if necessary, add a little water to obtain desired consistency. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Persian Noodles & Lentils


If you are looking for something a little different, even a little exotic, you might want to try the “Persian Noodles & Lentils” (page 214). Boldly seasoned with middle eastern spices such as coriander, cumin, cayenne, and allspice, and decidedly sweet with ½ cup of dates in the mix, the flavors of this noodle dish are unique. I was intrigued by the complexity of textures (soft and chewy pasta, grainy lentils, crunchy walnuts) and contrasting flavors (sweet, spicy, hot), and the more I ate, the more I liked it. The recipe as written calls for three tablespoons of oil, used to sauté the onions, garlic, walnuts, dates, and spices, but I used light broth instead with excellent results.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies. Use a nonstick skillet, and replace the oil with water or broth.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Tempting Tempeh Chili


“Tempting Tempeh Chili”, (page 300), takes a vegan approach to traditional meat-and-bean chili, with tempeh stepping in for the carne. The traditional flavors of chili (chili powder, oregano, cumin, garlic) are combined with pre-cooked tempeh, pinto beans, onion, and bell pepper, then mixed with crushed tomatoes. The chili is simmered for 45 minutes to blend and develop the flavors (and I find setting the completed dish aside for a couple of hours further improves both texture and flavor), then topped with minced fresh cilantro. If you haven’t cooked with tempeh before, this would be a good introductory exploration. The recipe is easy to follow, and the flavors of the chili are readily absorbed by the tempeh. Don’t forget to pass the toppings at the table. I used hot sauce (the recipe as written has very little spice heat), fat free plain yogurt (in place of sour cream) and diced red onions. Warm corn tortillas, or fresh cornbread as the recipe notes suggest, would both make good side dishes. The one tablespoon of olive oil for sautéing the veggies was easily omitted, and I didn’t have to change anything else in this recipe.

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies. Use a nonstick skillet, and replace the oil with water or broth. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Tofu Pizzaiola


At a glance the name of this recipe, “Tofu Pizzaiola” (page 286), gives you the impression it’s going to be some sort of tofu pizza. But in reality, the word pizzaiola describes a sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, and oregano. These are definitely ingredients found in pizza sauce, so my initial impression probably wasn’t too far off. This recipe calls for canned diced tomatoes, and oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes. I prefer to use the oil-free sun-dried tomatoes that come in a resealable pouch. They are soft like raisins, already cut in julienne strips, and contain no oil at all. Added capers and olives provide a bright burst of flavor and round out this rich and delicious sauce.

The second part of this recipe consists of preparing the tofu. The instructions say to brown the tofu in heated oil in a large skillet. While it is very easy to dry-fry tofu in a good quality nonstick skillet, using no oil at all, you won’t get as much browning as you do when cooking in oil. I have no problem with that, and is typically how I would have worked around this. But recently I’ve added an air fryer to my kitchen collection, and it was easy to “fry” the tofu strips in this handy appliance, achieving both crispy and browned tofu strips, without using oil.

The pizzaiola is served over the prepared tofu, and I was more than pleased with the flavors and textures. I only wish I’d doubled the recipe, it was that good, and the small portion of leftovers even better. There is something about flavorful tomato based sauces that improve overnight, and this was certainly the case here.  

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Use oil-free sun-dried tomatoes instead to those packed in oil. Alternately, you can try rinsing the excess oil off the oil-packed variety before adding to the sauce.
  • Omit the oil when browning the tofu. Use a high quality nonstick skillet and “dry-fry” instead, or, if you have an air fryer, try “frying” the strips using this method.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Moroccan Spice Chickpea & Sweet Potato Stew


“Moroccan-Spiced Chickpea & Sweet Potato Stew”, page 262, is a colorful and boldly spiced stew that can stand alone, or be served over a whole grain of your choice. The vegetable medley alone is enough to impress – carrots, onions, celery, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and green beans. Add to this a blend of exotic spices, including ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and the mixture really comes alive. One thing it didn’t seem to have, though, was a hot spice, so I added two tablespoons of chile paste to the pot. This might be too spicy for some, so if you decide to turn up the heat, start with a little at first, and add more if necessary. I served this delicious stew over a bed of whole wheat couscous the first night, and for a leftover lunch, I added a little broth and served it as a thick soup/stew. The only adjustment I made was to leave out the oil when sautéing the vegetables. Healthy, pretty to look at, delicious to eat. What more could you ask for?

Keeping it “McDougall Friendly” check list:
  • Omit the oil when sautéing the vegetables. Use a non-stick pot and/or replace the oil with broth, water, or sherry.