Saturday, February 26, 2011

Baby Spinach with Lemon and Garlic

Spinach has been a favorite of mine as far back as I can remember.  Long before I knew the delights of fresh spinach, I enjoyed the frozen variety, and even (gulp!) the questionable stuff from a can they served up in our elementary school hot lunches.  But now I will always go for the fresh green leaves, as I did in the "Baby Spinach with Lemon and Garlic" on page 382.  Another very simple way to prepare fresh food, the title pretty much says it all.  The recipe instructs you to sauté fresh garlic in olive oil, but I left the oil out altogether, and sautéed the spinach and garlic in a non-stick skillet with no added liquid, just tossing the leaves as they cooked and released their own juices.  Flavored with fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste, this was so good, I would have consumed the entire recipe myself if I didn't have to share it with my husband!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blueberry Sauce

Although not quite as easy as Fresh Strawberry Topping (see review below), the "Blueberry Sauce" on (page 498) is still a very simple approach to preparing fresh berries (or frozen, if fresh aren't available).  Sweetened blueberries, sprinkled with cinnamon, are heated on the stove, which causes their juices to release, and then thickened with a mixture of cornstarch, lemon juice, and vanilla. That's about it, unless you want a smooth sauce, in which case the recipe gives the option of puréeing in the blender.  I opted to leave the sauce intact this time, maybe I'll try blending it next time.  Even though this sauce falls in the Desserts section of the cookbook, I used it to top my morning oatmeal, a tasty breakfast treat.  No changes were required to keep this McDougall friendly.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fresh Strawberry Topping

Really, what could be simpler than sliced fresh strawberries with a sprinkle of sugar?  That's exactly what the "Fresh Strawberry Topping" (page 501) consists of, nothing more, nothing less.  After a trip to the Farmer's Market, I was ready to go with fresh strawberries, ripe, juicy and sweet.  Adding the sugar allows juices to form after setting aside for a while, but you can accomplish the same thing by crushing the berries slightly (however, you won't end up with intact slices).  I used this on top of my morning breakfast of raw oats, Grapenuts, and ground flax seed, with a splash of soymilk, and it was just as the recipe promised - ambrosial!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spicy Black Bean Orzo Soup

"Spicy Black Bean Orzo Soup" (page 160) is a puréed mixture of black beans, sundried tomatoes, jalapeno pepper, chili powder and oregano which is ladled over pre-cooked orzo is.  A sprinkle of cilantro is added to each bowl for a little color and extra flavor.  Depending on how spicy you like your food, you could increase or decrease the amount of jalapeno pepper; I found one whole pepper to be perfect for a nice warm glow.  The slight texture of the orzo offsets the creaminess of the puréed soup, making for a nice contrast.  Once I realized everything was going to be put into the blender after cooking briefly on the stove, I didn't bother chopping up the sundried tomatoes, and only broke the pepper into a couple of pieces.  I did not sauté the garlic ahead of time; rather I threw the whole cloves into the blender when it was time to whip it all together.  This allowed for a stronger garlic flavor, which I prefer.  To keep this McDougall friendly, use the non-oiled sundried tomatoes (the recipe calls for the oil cured variety), and don't sauté the garlic in oil.  If you can, use whole wheat orzo as well (that might be a little hard to find).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Spaghetti and T-Balls

Spaghetti and meat balls is something I gave up long ago, but I'm always on the lookout for a tasty vegan alternative to the meat ball portion of this old favorite.  The "Spaghetti and T-Balls" (page 194) are just the thing!  The dish consists of spaghetti and marinara sauce (recipe on same page - see my review on this blog), topped with tiny vegan balls made primarily from tempeh (thus, the "T"-Balls).  Gluten flour is used to help bind them together, and they are seasoned nicely with fresh bread crumbs, soy sauce, garlic, parsley, oregano, and nutritional yeast.  Everything is ground together in the food processor, then formed into 1 ½" balls.  The recipe gives you the option of browning the balls in oil, or baking in the oven.  Of course, I opted for the oven baking method, on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, so no oil needed.  I also omitted the oil in the T-Ball mixture, adding a tablespoon of water instead. The T-Balls came out chewy, tender, and made the perfect topping for a plate of spaghetti.  I used the 50-50 whole wheat blend spaghetti, not 100% whole grain, but a nice compromise, and moving in the right direction.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Baby Greens with Pear, Pecans, and Ginger Dressing

One of the things I really like about this cookbook is that with so many recipes to choose from, I can almost always find something to do with the ingredients I have on hand.  I just look in the index under a particular ingredient, and I find a recipe I can easily put together.  So it was with "Baby Greens with Pear, Pecans, and Ginger Dressing" on page 54.  Although I didn't have baby greens on hand, I did have fresh spinach, which I figured would work just as well, and it did.  This salad reminded me of a Waldorf salad, with the nuts, fruit, and celery.  But the dressing was definitely the star of the show.  Slightly sweet, zingy (ginger), and mildly spicy (cayenne), the flavors were more than vibrant, and a perfect topping for delicate greens.  The recipe calls for sherry vinegar, but I thought my Asian Blackberry Balsamic, which is sweet and fruity, with a hint of ginger, would be even better, so I used that.  The only challenge was how to replace the 1/3 cup of olive oil, which made up more than half the volume of the dressing.  Since the dressing had so many strong flavors, I decided I could just use water instead, and add a pinch (1/4 teaspoon) of guar gum to help thicken it up.  This worked like a charm.  I like this salad and the dressing, and will put this on my list of repeatables.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Soba and Green Lentil Soup

It's probably my fault for making substitutions without knowing what to expect.  I thought I had soba noodles, but it turns out I had somen noodles.  But, I decided they might be enough alike that it wouldn't make a difference in the "Soba and Green Lentil Soup" (page 162).  All I know is that rather than a soup, and rather than a stew, I sort of ended up with a casserole.  Like I said…it was probably my own fault…!  However, this was a very tasty soup/casserole!  Along with the lentils and noodles, there is onion, carrot, garlic, crushed tomatoes and broth.  I omitted the oil for sautéing the vegetables, and that was the only change necessary to make this McDougall friendly.  I will try this again using soba noodles.  (Are somen noodles known for expanding to 10 times there original size and soaking up all the liquid they are exposed to?)

Creamy Cauliflower

Touted as a low-carb alternative to mashed potatoes, the "Creamy Cauliflower" (page 364) is a novel way to cook this vegetable.  Strongly flavored with cayenne and smoked paprika, and an option for including a chipotle chili, this dish has a lot of pizzazz. It's an easy dish to put together, really just whirring cooked cauliflower along with the other ingredients together in a food processor, and popping in the oven for a spell.  I'm not sure if the "creamy" part is supposed to come from the soymilk, or margarine, or just the fact that it is pureed.  In either case, I omitted the margarine and didn't find the dish the less for it.  The green onions were blended into the overall mixture, giving the cauliflower a bit of an off-green hue.  If I make this again, I think I will stir the green onions (or chives) into the mixture after blending the other ingredients together, to avoid the off-color, and also give the dish a little texture.  The recipe called for more salt than I thought was necessary, but it probably depends on how big a head of cauliflower you have.  Start with less and taste test.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Yellow Dal with Spinach

First I want to say the "Yellow Dal with Spinach" (page 263) tasted fantastic, but what I ended up with was really more like yellow split pea soup, rather than Dal.  I've made Dal before, so I was a little confused when what I ended up with, wasn’t what I was expecting.  I'm wondering if the yellow split peas I used were more "split" than what the recipe intended, i.e., quicker cooking. I've never soaked split peas before cooking them in the past, yet this recipe called for a 45 minute hot water soak, then cooking them for 40 minutes after that.  In my experience 40 minutes of cooking without any presoaking has been sufficient for split peas.  What I found was even after 40 minutes of cooking, I was left with a very brothy, soupy mixture, not thick like Dal at all.  I upped the temperature, took the lid off the pot, and cooked for a while longer, stirring frequently to encourage evaporation.  In the end, I just continued on with the rest of the recipe instructions, and served it like soup.  Like I said, it tasted wonderful, and the next day it had thickened up and was more like the Dal I was expecting.  The spinach and tomatoes were a nice addition, adding some texture to the mix, and the spices were warm and fragrant.  I skipped using the oil for sautéing the ginger, garlic, and chili, and next time I will skip the soaking step as well.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Roasted Lemon Asparagus with Pine Nuts

I love it when you end up with something left over (in this case, fresh asparagus), and find you have enough of everything else you need in the pantry to try a new recipe.  In this case, it was the "Roasted Lemon Asparagus with Pine Nuts" (page 356).  I've never roasted asparagus before because I was sure you would have to use oil.  Every recipe I've ever seen, including this one, calls for oil, and I just wasn't sure it would work without it.  But I decided to go ahead and try this using broth in place of the oil, and I'm pleased to report, the results were delicious!  Asparagus, pine nuts, and garlic are roasted in the oven, then splashed with fresh lemon juice, plus salt and pepper to taste.  I used smoke flavored sea salt which complimented the flavor from roasting very nicely.  No longer am I shying away from roasted asparagus!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Seitan and Chickpea Stew

East Texas has been hit with an arctic blast of cold air, so the timing for the "Seitan and Chickpea Stew" (page 318) couldn't have been better.  This stew is warm, comforting, filling, and oh-so-flavorful.  It helps if you already have a homemade batch of seitan waiting in the wings, but store-bought works, too.  Since I had made a batch the day before, I not only had fresh seitan available, I also had the broth I cooked and stored it in to use in the stew.  Veggies included all the earthy choices you want to see in a stew - carrots, celery, new potatoes, cabbage, and onion, and a splash of white wine added an extra dimension.  The recipe called for the seitan chunks to be browned in oil and set aside, to be added to the stew later after al the veggies cooked.  I tried browning them using just a tiny spritz of vegetable spray, but this did not work, and I gave up this experiment right away when I saw how badly the seitan was sticking to the bottom of my cast iron pot.  I decided they didn't need to be browned after all, and bypassed that step altogether.  Another change I made was to thicken the stew at the very end of the cooking time with a cornstarch and water mixture, as I like the broth in my stew to be quite thick.  This stew tasted even better the next day, just as the recipe promised!