Friday, December 28, 2012

Green Bean Casserole Redux

For some people, green bean casserole is a big part of holiday meals, especially Thanksgiving. This year I decided to try the "Green Bean Casserole Redux" (page 370) as a part of our vegan Thanksgiving meal. The improvements in this modern makeover of an old classic include using fresh green beans instead of canned, and fresh cream of mushroom sauce instead of canned soup. Typically this casserole is also topped with canned French fried onion rings, and this recipe still offers this up as an option (one last holdout), but also includes an alternate suggestion of using slivered almonds instead. I opted to go with the healthier almond topping, and found a package of peppery seasoned sliced almonds that were perfect here. Leave out the oil when sautéing the onion, and opt for the slivered almonds, and this once nutritionally lacking favorite is transformed into something delicious and healthy.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pumpkin Pie with a Hint of Rum

Vegan pumpkin pie recipes are very easy to come by in today's world, especially with the internet at your fingertips. I remember my happiness at finding one vegan pumpkin pie recipe in a magazine about 20 years ago, and I still use that recipe to this day, it's fool proof, delicious, and still my favorite. But in the interest of being fair and working my way through all 1000 recipes, I relented this past Thanksgiving and made the "Pumpkin Pie With a Hint of Rum" (page 460) from this book. This recipe is actually quite similar to the one I normally make, minus the rum, so I wasn't disappointed at all. The rum really is just a hint - only one tablespoon, and as the recipe notes say, you can even leave that out if you wish. In addition to the pumpkin, the filling consists of silken tofu, sugar, egg replacer, pure maple syrup, and the normal pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg). The most challenging part of this recipe to keep healthy is of course, the crust. Pie crust is extremely hard to duplicate using healthy ingredients. First of all, it's the fat, usually shortening or margarine that gives crust its characteristic tenderness. And whole wheat flour, even whole wheat pastry flour, isn't the greatest for a tender and delicate crust. My solution? I don't eat the crust anymore. I purchased a pre-made crust to bake the filling in, and to serve at Thanksgiving for those who wanted it, but I just ate the filling like it was pudding. And the good news is, the filling ingredients didn't require any modification at all!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Triple Cranberry Relish

I automatically liked the recipe for "Triple Cranberry Relish" (page 571) because no changes were necessary to meet McDougall guidelines. As the name suggests, three forms of cranberry go into this dish: Fresh, dried, and cranberry juice. The only other ingredients are sugar and lemon zest, all of which are cooked on the stove until thick and bubbly. This sauce can be served warm, at room temperature, or chilled. I found I didn't have to cook it for the full 25 minutes, it started thickening up much sooner, and it continues to thicken as it cools, so something to watch. We had this with our Thanksgiving dinner, a much better presentation and taste than anything that comes out of a can.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Vegan Whipped Cream

Finding a suitable substitute for dairy whipped cream has proved to be quite difficult, especially if you are after the fluff and airiness of those concoctions that come in a spray can or those blue and white tubs in the frozen section. In recent years natural foods stores have started carrying  spray can vegan alternatives, both soy and rice based. These are no doubt highly processed, just like their dairy alternatives, but might be okay for a once a year indulgence on pumpkin pie, for instance. I have also tried a handful of homemade vegan whipped creams, such as the "Vegan Whipped Cream" (page 501) in this book. All I can say about these alternatives, including this one, is that they are really more like a sauce than a whip. That's okay in its own right, but don't expect something stiff or fluffy from this recipe, rather enjoy it as a sweet vanilla flavored sauce to spoon over the dessert of your choice. The recipe is made from silken tofu, pure maple syrup, vanilla extract, and canola oil, processed in a blender until smooth and creamy. I left the oil out and thickened it up a bit with 1/2 teaspoon guar gum.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Black Bean & Corn Soup

"Black Bean & Corn Soup" (page 160) is a very satisfying, delicious, and healthy soup. Full of whole foods such as beans, onions, bell pepper, carrot, tomatoes, and corn, seasoned perfectly, and partially puréed to add a creamy thickness, there isn't much more you can ask from a soup. This recipe is a snap to make McDougall friendly, simply omit the oil when sautéing the veggies. Nice dish on a cool autumn day.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Lemon & Garlic Marinated Mushrooms

The recipe notes for "Lemon & Garlic Marinated Mushrooms" (page 22) speak true - once you try this quick-to-prepare and delicious appetizer, you will not want to go back to buying these from a deli. Small white mushrooms are marinated in fresh lemon juice and herbs (marjoram, fennel seed, fresh parsley and garlic), salt and pepper, then chilled for a couple of hours. The recipe also calls for oil, which some people might think a necessary ingredient in any kind of marinated mushroom. But the lemon juice is really the ingredient that does the marinating and flavoring and the oil really can be omitted without detracting from the fresh flavors. Be sure to get the smallest whole mushrooms you can find for the best results.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Baked Pasta Shells & Broccoli

"Baked Pasta Shells & Broccoli" (page 224) really hit the spot for me the other day when I was craving a hot and creamy casserole style dinner. Pasta dishes usually equate to comfort food for me, and this dish was no exception. Small pasta shells and steamed broccoli are mixed together with  Mornnay-Style Cheeze Sauce , topped with breadcrumbs and baked in the oven until hot and bubbly. I had the same problem this time around thickening up the Mornay Sauce as I did the first time I made it. I'm not sure why, I normally don't have an issue with sauces, but in this recipe either less soymilk is needed, or more thickening agent . I added flour (instead of additional cornstarch) both times I've made it to get the sauce to the desired thickness. The recipe calls for 3 cups of the sauce, and the recipe for it makes just 2. I doubled the recipe and used all of it, as I didn't mind a little extra creaminess. This dish is practically McDougall friendly as written, as long as you omit the tablespoon of oil from the Mornay sauce.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Springtime Rice Noodles with Coconut Crème

As the recipe notes say, "The Springtime Rice Noodles with Coconut Crème" (page 237) is like an Asian pasta primavera. Bursting with colorful vegetables (including red bell pepper, shallots, ginger, edamame, carrots, and peas), and swimming in a creamy sauce, the flavors and textures combine for a most delicious stove top dish. The recipe calls for coconut milk, which I try to avoid due to the high saturated fat content. Instead, I use an equal amount of unsweetened soymilk (13 ounces in this recipe) flavored with coconut extract (½ teaspoon). This provides both the creaminess and flavor of coconut milk without all the fat and calories. This recipe is listed in the "fast" category, meaning the dish can be made in 30 minutes or less, but it took me more like 45+ minutes. The preparation also requires a saucepan to cook part of the veggies, and a skillet to stir fry the rest, so in my mind, this does not equate to a quick, throw together meal. Eventually everything ends up in one skillet - the cooked noodles, the two batches of veggies, and the coconut milk. Fresh chopped cilantro finishes things off. To keep this oil free, use a non-stick skillet to cook the veggies, or replace the oil with a little water, broth or sherry.