Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pasta Gratin With Provençal Vegetables

"Pasta Gratin with Provençal Vegetables" (page 226) is a pasta casserole, started on the stove top, and finished off in the oven. Cooked penne pasta is mixed with sautéed veggies (shallots, garlic, bell pepper, zucchini, artichoke hearts, and tomatoes), topped with breadcrumbs, and baked until hot and bubbly. Although lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, thyme, and parsley, I found I was looking for a little something extra, so I added a sprinkle of red pepper flakes to my servings at the table.  
"Keeping it McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü     Omit the 2 tablespoons of oil when sautéing the veggies; use a nonstick skillet instead and/or a little water, sherry, or broth.
ü     Use whole grain penne pasta (or some other whole grain pasta if penne is hard to find).
ü     Use whole grain, oil-free breadcrumbs.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Avocado & Tempeh Bacon Wraps

The "Avocado & Tempeh Bacon Wraps" (page 113), make a great lunch, or even a quick dinner if you have the tempeh bacon on hand. I used Lightlife brand tempeh based "Fakin' Bacon", which consists of soybeans, brown rice, spices, and seasonings, and no oil. It makes a great stand-in anywhere bacon is desired. These delicious wraps consist of tortillas or flat bread spread with vegan mayonnaise, filled with sautéed tempeh, lettuce, avocado and tomato. Sort of like a BLT deluxe, in a wrap!
"Keeping it McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü     Omit the 2 tablespoons of oil when browning the tempeh; use a nonstick skillet instead.
ü     Use fat-free mayonnaise, either store bought or homemade (Vegan Mayonnaise).
ü     Use whole grain, oil free wraps.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rice & Pea Soup

"Rice and Pea Soup" (page 163), or risi e bisi, as they call it in Italy, is more like risotto than soup. And in fact the rice in this dish is Arborio rice, the variety used in risottos. With just a handful of ingredients (onion, garlic, rice, broth, peas, parsley), this soup is easy to prepare, and can be ready in about an hour. After a quick search online, I did discover a whole grain (brown) Arborio rice does exist, but it is not recommended for use in risotto-type dishes, which would include this soup. The white Arborio gives off more starch, which provides the satisfying creaminess of this dish. Lots of fresh ground black pepper added at the table is especially nice.
"Keeping it McDougall Friendly" checklist:

ü Omit the 2 tablespoons of oil when browning the onion and garlic; use a nonstick skillet, and/or a little water, sherry, or broth instead.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Seitan Tacos

These build-it-yourself "Seitan Tacos" (page 126) are sure to please, since each taco is individually custom made with just the ingredients you want. Cooked seitan is seasoned with chili powder, cumin, and garlic and is the "meat" of the filling. Optional toppings listed in the recipe are avocado, lettuce, and salsa, but you could also include sliced olives, shredded vegan cheese, vegan sour cream, and diced tomato. That's the fun of a taco bar! Soft corn tortillas are used here, a healthy choice to wrap around these delicious taco fillings.
"Keeping it McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü     Omit the 2 tablespoons of oil when browning the seitan; use a nonstick skillet, and/or a little water or broth instead.
ü     Make your own seitan (Basic Simmered Seitan), or make sure you purchase an oil free variety.
ü     Use fresh (soft) corn tortillas which are oil free, as opposed to the hard shell varieties, which are fried.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Orange & Maple-Baked Acorn Squash

The "Orange-and-Maple-Baked Acorn Squash" (page 383) is not only delicious, it is also very pretty to look at. The distinct ribs, or ridges, that run the length of the outer skin transform the sliced rings into adorable "flowers". It is a little tricky trying to slice an acorn squash into these rings - you need to keep the squash very steady, and use a very sharp knife. The flower rings are moistened with fresh orange juice and pure maple syrup, sprinkled with cinnamon, and baked in the oven. A delightful treat that requires no changes to keep it McDougall friendly!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hash Brown Potatoes

Duplicating crispy "Hash Brown Potatoes" (page 525) without using oil is tricky to say the least. After years of experimenting with different methods, from non-stick pans, to using a few drops of water, to keeping it totally dry, lid off the skillet, lid on, starting with raw potatoes, or using frozen, pre boiled or pre baked potatoes, and even "cheating" and using a spritz of spray can oil, I have concluded that nothing will exactly replicate the light and crispy qualities of a true oil-fried hash brown potato. Since I've accepted that fact, and have let go of that expectation, I now enjoy the healthier version for what it is. In all my experimentations I've found that using pre-cooked works best, but according to the recipe notes, that makes them "home fries" as opposed to hash browns, which evidently always start with raw shredded potatoes. This recipe calls for shredded raw potatoes and onions to be fried in oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper. I decided to try this in my non-stick skillet, minus the oil. While they did brown up nice, and they did cook all the way through, they were most definitely more like a soft potato "cake" rather than crispy fried potatoes. Still very enjoyable, and totally guilt free. Top with ketchup, Tabasco, or BBQ sauce for extra flavor at the table.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Spice Island Tofu

"Spice Island Tofu" (page 290) reminds me of a sweet and sour chicken dish I used to make in my pre-vegan life. I am thrilled to finally have a dish that brings back the old familiar flavors in a much healthier and kinder presentation. Slices of tofu are dredged in a flavorful blend of cornstarch and spices (thyme, marjoram, cayenne, paprika, and allspice) and browned in skillet. Bell pepper, green onions, and jalapeño are sautéed until tender, then simmered with tomatoes, pineapple chunks and lime juice. This luscious vegetable mixture is then spooned over the prepared tofu and garnished with fresh parsley. I served ours over a bed of brown rice.
"Keeping it McDougall Friendly" Checklist:
ü     Omit the oil when browning the tofu and sautéing the veggies (3 tablespoons total); use a nonstick skillet, and/or a little water or broth instead.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sesame Spinach Noodle Pie

Flavor alert: If you aren't a fan of tahini, you probably won't like the "Sesame Spinach Noodle Pie" (page 322). But if are a fan, you will immediately fall in love with it! The recipe notes call this an "Asian version of mac and cheese", which describes this to a tee. Cooked linguine is bathed in a rich sauce made of tahini (a lot of tahini!), garlic (a lot of garlic!), miso paste, fresh lemon juice, and cayenne. Cooked spinach is mixed into the noodles and sauce, then everything is transferred to a baking dish, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and baked in the oven. I've noticed many recipes in this book have a "theme of three", using a main ingredient in three different forms. In this recipe it is sesame that is utilized in three of its incarnations: Sesame paste (tahini), sesame seeds, and sesame oil, if you so choose to incorporate the oil into the sauce. Although I will sometimes use a few drops of sesame oil in a dish for that unique flavor boost, in this case I left it out altogether. I felt the tahini was already providing enough sesame oil flavor, so there was no point in gilding the lily, and adding unnecessary fat grams. Use whole grain fettuccini, and omit the oil to keep this McDougall friendly, although it still remains a rich and high fat dish due to the amount of tahini used. Save this for special occasions!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ranchero Sauce

"Ranchero Sauce" (page 550) is a cooked salsa, or a chunky tomato sauce, meant to be served warm. Canned crushed tomatoes are jazzed up with sautéed onion, garlic, and jalapeño (skip the oil, use just a little bit of water instead to soften), seasoned with cumin and chili powder and diced green chilies (the mild canned variety), and cooked stovetop for several minutes. Lastly, fresh cilantro is stirred in. This sauce is especially good over creamy polenta, or as a dip for oven baked corn tortilla chips.