Monday, June 30, 2014

Red Chard & Baby Spinach Lasagna

There are no less than eight lasagna recipes in this cookbook, and the "Red Chard & Baby Spinach Lasagna" (page 215) is the third one I've tried so far. I don't think it's possible to serve me a lasagna I won't like. This is comfort food extraordinaire as far as I'm concerned, and I'm always happy for the leftovers so I can enjoy it for several meals each time I make it. (I've also found lasagna freezes very well!). Cooked spinach and red chard (use all spinach or another color chard if red chard isn't available) are mixed with a blend of tofu, nutritional yeast, and a few sprinkles of herbs. Cooked lasagna noodles are layered with the tofu-spinach concoction, marinara, and vegan Parmesan cheese, then baked in the oven until hot and bubbly. The recipe calls for a pound each of firm and soft tofu, but I used two pounds of just firm and it came out perfect. This delightful lasagna would impress someone new to a plant-based diet, and makes a great contribution to a potluck. Add a green salad and warm sourdough bread for a complete meal.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

ü Omit the olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead use a non-stick pan and/or use water, broth, or sherry for the sauté liquid.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Four-Alarm Chili

"Four-Alarm Chili" (page 249) isn't for the faint of heart or those who prefer a less spicy pot of beans. If you have cooked beans on hand (or choose to use canned), this dish can be put together quickly, leaving you free to prepare the rest of your meal while the beans simmer on the stove. This is a simple concoction of sautéed onion, chiles, and garlic, added to crushed tomatoes, cooked beans and a few spices. What makes this chili so "alarming" are the three sources of heat: serrano chiles, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. But fear not, the heat factor can be moderated to fit your comfort zone without detracting from the overall dish - just use less chili and/or spice to suit your taste. And, be sure to put a pitcher of ice water on the table!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

ü  Omit the olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead use a non-stick pan and/or use water, broth, or sherry for the sauté liquid.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Dijon Vinaigrette

Finding a satisfactory dairy-free, oil-free salad dressing seems to be a problem for many transitioning to a whole foods plant based diet. It took me a long time to get comfortable with the different mouth feel of oil-free dressings, and there have been many recipes tried and discarded on my search for the "perfect vegan oil-free salad dressing". I do have a handful now that I really enjoy, and make over and over, but I still like to try new recipes that sound good when they come along. Today I tried the "Dijon Vinaigrette" (page 99). Like all traditional vinaigrette recipes, this one calls for oil, in this case ¾ cup. That is a lot of oil! That is 162 grams of fat. I'm not one who puts just a few drops of salad dressing on my salads. Plus, my salads are BIG! I require about ¼ cup dressing on my plate of salad. You can see how quickly and easily the fat grams can add up here. My save-the-day ingredient when making salad dressings from scratch is guar gum. I simply substitute an equal amount of water for the oil, and when the dressing is complete, the last thing I do is add about 1/2 teaspoon of guar gum per cup of dressing. This thickens up the dressing and mimics the mouth feel of a dressing made with oil, to a certain degree. This particular recipe includes white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, shallot, basil, and parsley. The parsley and basil give the dressing its pretty green color, a nice surprise! If you use the guar gum method I described, you can indulge in this delicious herby dressing to your heart's content, guilt free! (Guar gum is found in bulk at many natural foods stores and from Bob's Red Mill.)
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü Omit the olive oil and use an equal amount of water, plus ½ teaspoon guar gum.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tofu & Edamame Stew

For those of you who enjoy the humble soybean in its various incarnations, here is one for you: "Tofu and Edamame Stew" (page 293). This is a study in green and white. Green in the celery, edamame (fresh soybeans), zucchini, peas, and parsley. White from onion, garlic, potatoes, and tofu. This color scheme is pretty in the bowl, and it tastes just as good as it looks. Finish this off with flavorful herbs, spices, and a dash of cayenne, there is nothing missing from this healthy stew. The recipe directions call for browning the tofu in hot oil, but I skipped this step. Instead, I used an extra firm variety of tofu, pressed it in my EZ Tofu Press ( to make it even firmer, and "fried" the chunks in a dry nonstick skillet. You could even skip the "frying" or "browning" step, as long as you have firm enough tofu to begin with. The recipe encourages you to continue the green theme by adding spinach at the very end if you desire, or even introduce some color by including carrot or red bell pepper.
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü Omit the olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead use a non-stick pan and/or use water, broth, or sherry for the sauté liquid.
ü Omit the olive oil when preparing the tofu, and use the techniques I described in the recipe review.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Green Beans Niçoise

"Green Beans Niçoise" (page 369) is a hot version of the French classic salade niçoise, minus the lettuce, potatoes, and tuna. There are notes in the recipe for making this more like the classic, but I chose to try the recipe as written. Steamed-tender green beans are tossed with sautéed garlic, tomatoes, and capers, topped off with fresh parsley, and dashed with a bit of salt and pepper. Easy to put together, pretty to look at, and scrumptious to eat.
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
üOmit the olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead use a non-stick pan and/or use water, broth, or sherry for the sauté liquid.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Muffaletta Sandwiches

According to the recipe notes "Muffaletta Sandwiches" (page 116), are classic New Orleans sandwiches that traditionally includes sliced ham and cheese, and you are invited to include vegan versions of these here if you wish. (I did not.) The flavor of the olive salad that makes up the filling is plenty flavorful and stands on its own. The base mix consists of kalamata olives, green olives, pepperocini, roasted red peppers, capers, onions, tomatoes, and fresh parsley, along with some dried herbs. The recipe also calls for ¼ olive oil, and vinegar; I left both of these out with outstanding results. I felt no need to replace them with anything - the salad was moist enough, so no problem there, especially since it was going onto a sandwich roll; the olives are plenty oily enough by themselves; and the olives, capers, and pepperocini added enough piquant flavors that additional vinegar seemed over the top. I did include lettuce and avocado slices to tuck into the crusty sandwich rolls. I think any other condiments, such as sliced onions or tomatoes, shredded carrots, etc, would also be nice additions. These hearty and delicious sandwiches are practically a meal unto themselves!  
Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
ü  Omit the olive oil altogether. No replacement is needed, as the filling is already very rich and moist.
ü  Use whole-wheat oil-free sandwich rolls.