Thursday, August 30, 2012

Corn Fritters

The "Corn Fritters" (page 366) are surprisingly easy to make, and I wonder what took me so long to try them. I read the recipe several times while browsing through the book, and finally took the time to make them. I thought the batter was going to be the same consistency of pancake batter, so when I mixed up the flour, cornmeal, soymilk and corn kernels (along with baking powder and salt), and ended up with something closer to drop biscuits dough, I was sure I made a mistake. I looked at the recipe again to make sure I hadn't left anything out, and when it looked like I had done everything right, I figured this was how it was supposed to be. The batter is dropped into a hot skillet and fried on both sides until golden brown. The recipe calls for oil for the frying, but I used my nonstick skillet and no oil was necessary. These are a delicious treat! They would go well alongside soups or stews, or drizzled with maple syrup, or just eaten out of hand for a quick snack.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Three-Tomato Gazpacho with Chipotle Crème

There are 13 recipes for Cold Soups in this book, and four of them are types of gazpacho. The "Three-Tomato Gazpacho with Chipotle Crème" (page 180) looked especially enticing (I love anything with chipotle) so I decided to try that one first. The three different tomatoes include fresh, canned, and sun-dried, each providing a slightly different characteristic. The sun-dried and canned tomatoes are puréed in a blender along with onion, bell pepper, cucumber and garlic. To this mixture is added the fresh tomatoes, more cucumber and tomato juice (I used Spicy V8). Because of all the fresh vegetables in the purée, the end result is very thick and creamy, almost like a smoothie. After the soup has been thoroughly chilled, it is topped off with the best part - the Chipotle Crème (along with minced green onions). The Chipotle Crème is a mixture of vegan sour cream and canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce. The recipe instructions say to combine olive oil, chipotle chili and sour cream in a blender until well combined, but I found it easier to bypass the blender for such a small amount of crème (which would be hard to scrape out) and just blend some of the adobo sauce into the sour cream in a small bowl using a spoon. I didn't include the oil at all, and I used homemade, oil-free, tofu sour cream, thereby omitting any added oil. The recipe does call for oil-packed sundried tomatoes, however, but you can buy the dried variety and rehydrate them in hot water, or rinse off the oil-packed variety and wipe dry with a paper towel. Here's a trick I've learned along the way: If you find the flavor of raw onion doesn't agree with you, slice the onion and heat it briefly in very hot water or the microwave before using in a recipe. This produces a milder onion taste, and since this recipe calls for one entire raw onion, that is what I did. The recipe makes about 12 cups of soup, so both my husband and I were able to enjoy it over three separate meals - and enjoy it we did!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sesame Soba Noodles

"Sesame Soba Noodles" (page 236) is a simple dish that combines cooked buckwheat (soba) noodles with stir-fried vegetables. Normally my husband does the stir frying, but this dish looked so easy and straightforward, I decided to give it a go. The vegetables include cabbage (or bok choy), onion, carrots, and snow peas, seasoned with ginger and soy sauce. The instructions say to coat the cooked noodles in a tablespoon of sesame oil, and buckwheat noodles do tend to be a bit stickier than other varieties, but even ½-1 teaspoon of oil is plenty to for a light coating, and to provide that unique sesame oil flavor. Another two tablespoons of oil is called for to stir fry the veggies, but I used my non-stick skillet and a splash of sherry and no oil was necessary. The cooked noodles and stir fried veggies are tossed together, heated through, and topped with sesame seeds. This dish comes together quickly, and in fact is identified in the cookbook with an "f" for fast food. Doesn't get much simpler or fresher than this!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cajun-Style Tofu

"Cajun-Style Tofu" (page 284) proves that you can still enjoy flavorful Cajun spiced foods even after you give up animal products, and put deep fried foods to the wayside. Sliced tofu, dredged in Cajun seasoning, is browned in a skillet, and added to a piquant sauce of onions, bell pepper, celery, garlic, and tomato for a short simmer. No need to use the oil for browning the tofu if you have a good non-stick skillet, and aside from that, there are no other changes necessary to keep this dish McDougall friendly. I served this with grilled potatoes and steamed broccoli. These cutlets would also be great over a bed of brown rice.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Green Bean & Mushroom Stroganoff

If you are lucky enough to have garden fresh green beans on hand, the "Green Bean & Mushroom Stroganoff" (page 327) is a wonderful way to prepare them. Cooked green beans are combined with sautéed mushrooms and onions (I omitted the oil, and just allowed the onions and mushrooms to release their own juices in my non-stick skillet), simmered in broth and wine, thickened with tomato paste and flour, and made rich with the addition of vegan sour cream. In this recipe, as in most recipes where a sauce is made in a skillet with sautéed veggies, flour is stirred into the mix, and some sort of liquid is slowly stirred in until the flour-veggie-liquid mixture is smooth. However, I have found this methodology doesn't work well in the absence of fat. The flour will not dissolve into the veggies and I end up with a lumpy sauce at the end. To get around this, I have started putting the liquid ingredients plus the flour into a blender and processing just long enough to combine, then adding that back into the skillet for the cooking and thickening. I've had excellent results doing this. For this recipe, I combined the broth, tomato paste, and flour in the blender, then added this back to the sautéed onions and mushrooms, then proceeded with the rest of the recipe as written. This worked out great, and the final sauce was smooth and delicious. I served this over wide noodles with steamed spinach on the side.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sweet Potato Vichyssoise

I love soup year around, and especially enjoy chilled soups in the hot summer months. The "Sweet Potato Vichyssoise" (page 182) is a delicious variation on the traditional white potato version, although the recipe states white potatoes can be used if desired. The preparation is quite simple, basically puréeing cooked sweet potatoes, broth, and sautéed leeks, adding a few seasonings (cayenne adds a nice kick), and blending in a little soymilk. Snipped chives add a sprinkle of color and flavor as a finishing touch. The only adjustment I made to keep it oil free was to sauté the leeks in a splash of broth instead of oil.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Corn & Red Bean Salad

The centerpiece of many a summer meal for me is a hearty salad that doesn't require any cooking, and that can be made ahead to pull out of the refrigerator after a busy day enjoying the outdoors. "Corn and Red Bean Salad" (page 62) falls right into that category. Corn and kidney beans are mixed with fresh chopped veggies (celery, green onions, and parsley) and tossed with a flavorful vinaigrette style dressing. I noticed right away that the dressing called for a ¼ cup olive oil, so the first thing I did was figure out a way to work around that. I ended up replacing the oil and white wine vinegar with the juice of one lime mixed with two tablespoons of salsa. This not only worked well to moisten the salad, it also added exceptional flavor. I still included all the spices called for in the original dressing, but I also added fresh minced garlic (the salad was crying out for this!), and a few sliced jalapeño olives (I do like things a bit on the spicy side). The recipe notes suggest adding cooked brown rice to make this a one-dish meal, which I did. With a big wedge of watermelon on the side your meal is complete!