Saturday, December 28, 2013

Banana Walnut Cake

As I've mentioned before, trying to recreate healthier versions of traditional desserts can be a bit of a challenge. When you replace the ingredients that most people associate with the familiar texture and consistency of a delicate cake, or a melt in your mouth frosting, you end up with something, while still delicious in its own right, is quite different than the original version. The "Banana-Walnut Cake" (page 448) is a case in point. After switching out the white flour for whole wheat pastry flour, and using apple sauce to replace the oil, what I ended up with was something more like banana bread, rather than cake. Mind you, I am not complaining, not in the least! This healthier version of an already vegan dessert is not only delicious, it is a guilt-free indulgence for those times I am craving a dessert. With three bananas in the batter, the "cake" is already very moist, and using applesauce instead of oil provides a complementary flavor.  The recipe suggests a couple of different toppings, but I chose to frost it with the "Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting" found on page 504, which turned out perfect!
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Substitute 1/3 to 1/2 cup apple sauce for the 1/4 cup oil.
  • Use a non-stick cake pan that doesn't need to be oiled before baking.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Red Bean Jambalaya

Red beans and rice, already a perfect combination as far as I'm concerned, really shines in this vegan rendition of "Red Bean Jambalaya" (page 252).    This Creole dish combines a tomato-based stew (a simmered mixture of tomatoes, onion, celery, bell pepper, chilis, garlic, and herbs) with red kidney beans and rice. Already tasty and delicious, this dish gets even better as it sits, so you will be happy to have leftovers (it makes a lot!). The recipe calls for one cup of uncooked long-grain rice, but I used just ½ cup so all the liquid from the stew wouldn't get absorbed into the rice. This yielded just the right amount of rice after it was cooked. The recipe doesn't specify white or brown rice, but if you chose to use brown rice, you might have better luck cooking it separately and adding to the jambalaya once it is done. Often I don't have satisfactory results when trying to cook brown rice in a pot with anything other than water (it doesn't always cook tender). If you find you still want this dish to be a bit soupier, add additional broth at the end of the cooking time.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the oil when sauteing the veggies: instead, use a nonstick soup pot and/or use broth, water, or sherry as a saute liquid.

  • Use brown rice instead of white (possibly cooking ahead for better results.)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Creamy Potato-Chard Soup

"Creamy Potato-Chard Soup" (page 178) is a puréed soup with very earthy ingredients, which somehow end up tasting quite heavenly. Onion, celery, potatoes, and chard, seasoned with garlic, fennel, and nutmeg, and that's about it. Once everything has cooked tender, the soup is puréed in a blender and served hot. I found the addition of fresh ground black pepper added to the serving bowl a perfect finishing touch.
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies; instead, use a nonstick soup pot and/or use broth, water, or sherry as a sauté liquid.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fresh Cherry Smoothie

When fresh cherries are in season, the "Fresh Cherry Smoothie" (page 531) is a wonderful way to enjoy this delicious fruit. Here is another smoothie that is much richer than one made with simply fruit, juice, and/or nondairy milk. The ingredients here include raw cashews, nondairy milk, maple syrup, and vanilla extract, along with the cherries. How can this not end up tasting good after a whir in the blender?
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü     No changes necessary! J

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Creamy Orange Smoothie

Who doesn't like a smoothie? Most of the time, they are like a healthy version of a milkshake! I save smoothies for special treats, because it is just too easy to add a lot of quickly absorbed calories to a meal, but when I do partake, I thoroughly enjoy it! Not too long ago I had some oral surgery, and was only able to eat soft foods for a few days. Perfect time for a smoothie! On this occasion I decided to try the "Creamy Orange Smoothie" (page 531), which really is closer to dessert than, say, a smoothie made from fruits and juice. Made from orange juice, vegan vanilla ice cream, and ice cubes, this goes together fast, and goes down even faster! But I didn't feel bad indulging myself under the circumstances, would you?

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

ü So far I have not found any commercial vegan ice-creams that are oil free. You could skip the vanilla ice cream concept altogether and use a fruit sorbet instead, but this would change the nature of this smoothie entirely.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Three Lentil Dal

"Three Lentil Dal" (page 264) is an interesting take on this standard dish found in Indian cuisine. This dal is made using green, brown, and red lentils, cooked until very tender, then mixed with a sauté of onion, garlic, ginger and spices. Finally, crushed tomatoes are added to the mix, and everything is cooked together until the flavors are blended. Since the three different kinds of lentils all have different cooking times, the recipe has you soaking the green and brown lentils in separate bowls, then staggering the cooking times by starting with the green, then adding the brown, and finally the red. Since I like the lentils in dal to be very well cooked, even to the point of overcooked, I skipped the soaking step, and just cooked all the lentils together until they were super soft, not minding at all if the quicker cooking lentils cooked beyond their "done" point. I also gave them a vigorous stirring to further mash them up and acquire the texture I like - almost to the point of a dish of refried beans. The wonderful spices in this recipe (ginger, curry cumin, coriander, and cayenne) give the dal authenticity, even if mixing the three types lentils was a bit unorthodox. Naan is traditionally used to scoop up dal, but it is hard to find whole grain and/or oil free versions of this Indian bread. However, any flat bread you like will work equally well.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü  Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies; instead, use a nonstick soup pot and/or use broth, water, or sherry as a sauté liquid.